Samantha Wallen, MFA is a poet, writer, steam-punk time traveler, writing and book coach, and a purpose mentor. She is the Founder/CEO of Write In Power, which offers transformative writing workshops, retreats, and private coaching programs designed to awaken your voice, heal your spirit, create your content for change, and clarify your true purpose so you can express it more fully on and off the page. Her work has most recently appeared in Urban Howl, Bombay Gin and 100 Naked Words. She currently lives in Mill Valley, CA, land that was originally home to the Miwok coastal tribe. www.writeinpower.com
a point at which everything changes:
self-pleasure in four acts
In the dark space of the Fox Movie Theater, in a small Wyoming town, I was pulled toward the pleasure of my own body. As little orphan Annie lived her hard-knock life on the big screen and wished for parents and a home of her own, I discovered my clitoris. It wasn’t the first time. I’d climbed trees with my legs wrapped wide and my groin pressed firm against the trunk. I’d inadvertently brushed a hand, a doll, the warm spray of the shower against my genitals and felt a faint, but curious sense of pleasure. This time it was different. This time my hand found its way under my floppy red plaid skirt and my fingers began to rub the soft cotton of my Wednesday Smurfette panties in a constant, steady rhythm that told me—yes, there is definitely some place your body wants to go. The tension and momentum built. I knew, without knowing that there was going to be a point at which everything changed, where I would cross a threshold, and something would burst open. And there was.
On the old, floppy fold up movie seats, between my mom and older sister unaware, and in front of little orphan Annie singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow,” I had my first orgasm. I was nine. It was just the beginning. In the dark theater, I discovered my ecstasy and how to keep it quiet.
The air was cold and crisp as we drove out Highway 30 toward Wheatland in my red ’67 Volkswagen bug with no heater. It was my first date with the man that would become my husband. Our time had been occasional late-night visits where we hovered in the small space of his apartment to study Russian. At the foot of his brass bed, drinking plastic tumblers of white zinfandel poured from the box in his fridge, I’d look for the right time to say, “I have a boyfriend,” as we’d abandon the foreign sounds and symbols of the Cyrillic alphabet and instead spill the stories of our lives into a language we both understood. After two years of random study nights, sporadic phone calls, and me circumventing what was building between us, we went out together for the first time. Our destination: a ten-hour, 650-mile road trip to my sister’s house in a sprawling South Dakota town for Easter weekend with her, her husband and two kids.
I smoked one cigarette after another and let the frigid air slip through the open crack of the window. After the awkwardness of the Sybille Canyon turns and his question, “What are the sleeping arrangements?” and my lingering “I don’t know” answer, we fell into the rhythm of the road. The bounce of our bodies warmed our tongues into familiar conversation that became long and effortless, like the stretch of highway leading into Sioux Territory. The deeper we got into the Rosebud Reservation, the more awake I became to the space between us. My skin became an instrument sounding a quite hum. By the time we got to my sister’s house, it was the only thing I could hear. I knew, without knowing that there was going to be a point at which everything changed. And there was.
We colored Easter eggs. We ate ham. We chased and captured Grace, the dog, when she ran out the front door to run down an alley cat. In a dark movie theater we held hands and quietly cried through Shindler’s List. We listened to Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” and undressed in the living room by moonlight after the house had gone quiet. We moved slow and deliberate to temper the low creak of the old wood floor and the high squeak of the fold out couch. A delicate slip and pull of skin. Penetrating. Something deep inside was resurrected. He looked me in the eyes, arched his back and bent his body into the question, “What do you need to be whole?” I saw that my body was safe in his hands, my name safe in his mouth, my spirit safe in his eyes. I reached my hand down to my clitoris. For the first time while making love to a man, I used my hands to please myself. On the eve of Easter Sunday, I had my first orgasm with a man deep inside me. I was nineteen. It was our beginning. Under the light of the full moon, we discovered a long and elegant intimacy and how to keep it quiet.
I walked out onto the balcony off my third-floor master bedroom in the house my husband, my two kids, and I were losing to foreclosure in a hip Colorado town. It was dusk on a temperate evening in May. No one else was home. I sat down on the hard wood planks of the deck, leaned my back against the rough stucco wall in the dark shadow of the overhang, unbuttoned my jeans, slid my hand down in and began to rub the smooth polyester of my Kohls buy-one-get-one-free underwear.
Pink and orange sunset cloud fingered their way into the soft indigo sky above me. The dark rocky slabs of granite jutting out of the Rocky Mountain foothills stared down at me like black mirrors and held my gaze. I didn’t want to look away. I wanted those jagged peaks to see me and I wanted to see them. With wide eyes and a steady hand, I found a constant rhythm and connected to a tension that didn’t seem to be my own; it was bigger than me.
The breeze blew and calmed, crows flew and landed, flies darted and hovered, neighbors’ voices erupted and quieted, sirens wailed and faded, trees quaked and hushed, light glowed and darkened, muscles contracted and expanded, pleasure arose and fell away. The tension of aliveness built a momentum. I knew there was someplace life needed to take me, that my body wanted to go. I knew there was going to be a point at which everything changed. And there was.
I didn’t think about the bill collectors, the eviction notices, the possibility of having to live in my mother’s basement or our minivan. I didn’t think about being wrong, being a failure. I didn’t imagine my husband entering me from behind. I didn’t picture the woman I once made love to in a Holiday Inn. I didn’t imagine making love to other men, other women, other people. I imagined making love to the universe. I wanted to feel it inside me. I needed to receive what it could give me.
On the hard wood balcony deck of the home I lost to foreclosure, I had my first orgasm with the universe alive inside me. I was thirty-five. It was a new beginning. In the space of sorrow and loss, I discovered my supple trust in life and how to let it speak.
I sit on a lopsided counter stool, eating crab cakes and eggs, in a tiny colorful building perched on a pier in a small costal California town. My husband is in a leadership training. It is our first trip away from home as empty nesters. A smooth and undulating reggae beat comes through the speakers and my body can’t help but move to its rhythm. “Siri, what song is this?” I speak into my phone. “Fire on the Horizon” by Stick Figure” she answers. I add it to my Spotify playlist. I pay and wander down the path and sit by the sea and watch harbor seals bake themselves in the sun, and pelicans land on rocks and toss their big-beak-slender-heads back in such a way that allows the sunlight to illuminate the veiny-thin skin of their throat pouches. I continue on and pause when I reach the Marriott conference center, where the business I started four years ago was born in moment of inspiration, in a room full of budding coaches and want-to-be-entrepreneurs. I remember my moment of inspiration, and feel how tired I’ve become. I notice how this place teems with life, still. A faint, but curious pleasure spreads through me; a sensation, an energy I’ve lost touch with calls to me.
I walk into an empty restaurant, request a table by the window. I drink two vodka gimlets, watch two men in yellow rubber suits heave giant tangles of kelp into their little silver boat. I hand write a card to a new friend and swirl my finger around the bottom of the bowl of clam chowder I just ate to catch every drop before the waiter takes it away. I meet my husband and his co-workers for dinner, drink a lemon drop, talk openly and eat too much homemade pasta. We go back to our room at the Hilton Garden Inn and my husband falls asleep early. I want to stay awake. I put on my swimming suit, find my way to the vacant courtyard patio in the belly of the hotel, and climb into the steamy, bubbling waters of the hot tub. A fire dances in the pit for the four empty lounge chairs huddled around it. I stand in the middle of the hot tub and dance to “Fire on the Horizon,” playing through my wireless headphones. My hands twist and twirl their way up into the cool night sky and then down into the warm water as I move. I run my hands along my thighs, my belly, my arms and neck; I linger on the grooves in my face. I remember the pleasure of my own touch, how it teems with life.
I reach for my phone and open the Notes app. In the steamy bubbling waters of the Hilton hot tub, I write a poem:
life into my body
on my own terms
not in control
but in trust
I trust Life to enter me
and be gentle
to fill me
even when I am left
I don’t know what self-pleasure is to me now. Here. At forty-four. Mid-life. I know there is a place my body can’t go. I know, without knowing, that there is going to be a point at which everything changes, where I will cross a threshold, and something will quietly close.
I know I am still here, curious. I know my ecstasy, my long and elegant intimacy, my supple trust, and my poetry speak loud and clear through me.