sex diaries

The M.F.A. Student Spending Her First Night With the Surfer

Photo: Photo-illustration: James Gallagher

This week, an art student experiences the power of touch after a long time without it: 24, single, Bay Area.


6:50 a.m. I’m dreaming about my new surfer crush, S. In the dream, I’m trying to tell an old friend to leave so that S and I can make out. But suddenly the friend’s hands are all over me, touching every inch of my body. I wake up right before it goes any further, horny and confused.

7 a.m. I ask my roommates if they’re around to talk. After meeting on the beach, S and I have been on a few socially distanced dates and he invited me to come over to his place later in the week. I want to, but need to figure this out. My roommates and I have been super careful about COVID precautions, and I don’t want to put us at risk just to make out with a surfer. We try to compose a text asking for some more details about how he and his housemates are handling things, but the list ends up sounding formal and weird so I put the whole thing on hold.

2:30 p.m. I FaceTime with my grandpa. He shows me all the art he’s been making lately. It’s really inspiring to see how creative my family is. Then he asks me about my ex-boyfriend, D.

After three years of dating, D and I broke up about a year and a half ago, partly because of distance, and partly because we both needed to do some personal growth. My relationship with D is that it ended so slowly so there wasn’t one clear moment of pain, just little jabs along the way. When we broke up we lived in different cities, but since then he moved to the Bay Area. Having him around is both comforting and incredibly annoying. I’m always worrying I’ll run into him in moments when I want to be incognito (like on my recent dates with S) or that I’ll see him on a date with someone else and my heart will break. So far we haven’t had anything like that happen, but it still terrifies me. He and I don’t see each other very often, but we met up casually with some friends the other day and it made me realize we need to have a conversation about how things are going. We’re pretty good at communicating, but I haven’t initiated any big conversations lately. I text him and we arrange to meet up tomorrow morning to talk.

10 p.m.  I’m high and watching TikToks.


7:30 a.m. I wake up and try to organize my thoughts for my conversation with D. I spend the morning cleaning my room, writing in my journal, and trying to get some work done before my day gets lost. I’m in an M.F.A. program for painting (over Zoom) and today is the first day of my last semester.

12:30 p.m. D and I have been walking and talking for a few hours now and I am feeling so many things at once. I want to kiss him, punch him, and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. It’s sort of nice to have this conversation socially distanced, because it rules out the possibility of making physical contact. He’s a really sweet person, and being reminded of that hurts. I miss him, but I also know that I can’t be with him. We’re on the same page about this, which feels weirdly good. He tells me he’s not seeing anyone, and doesn’t plan to for a while. I struggle with whether or not to tell him I’m seeing people, but decide not to, as I don’t think it’s worth complicating things. Knowing he’s not seeing other people makes me happy, but I also know it won’t last forever.

4 p.m.  First class of the semester!

6 p.m. My roommates and I are making dinner together tonight. Sometimes I get annoyed by living in such close quarters with three other people but tonight it feels so nice to cook together and chat about nothing. We all agree that it is the highlight of our day.

9 p.m. D sends me a text thanking me for the conversation today. He’s such a good person. S sends me a selfie. He’s hot.


10:50 a.m. Talking to my therapist about my conversation with D. We agree that when we were together he and I were codependent and enmeshed, and that we probably need to take time apart to become our own people again. We also talk about whether or not I should go over to S’s house later this week. My therapist asks me what my “desire” is telling me to do, and it’s definitely telling me to get my butt over there.

1 p.m. I overhear my roommates talking about how they are all going away this weekend. Should I invite S over here? It feels like a huge leap in intimacy to bring someone into my space in the midst of this pandemic. Almost no one has set foot in my room in the past year, and I still hardly know this person. But being in my own space could help me feel more relaxed? More to ponder … I should probably work on my covid safety text.

3:30 p.m. It’s rainy and I have a headache. I take off my clothes and climb into bed with the idea of taking a nap but end up sort of masturbating and sort of stressing about this weekend.

8 p.m. I really wish this was all over and I could go sit in a bar and space out, eavesdrop, lose myself. I’m sick of my thoughts! Instead I go for a drive and listen to the radio. When I get home I text S that I’m excited to hang out this weekend, but ask if we can check in about COVID safety before. He says of course. For now I fantasize about being touched by someone and fall asleep listening to the rain.


10:30 a.m. I have a doctor’s appointment this morning and feel a rush of attraction to the nurse as he examines me. I’m not usually like this, getting turned on by men wearing full PPE. I guess the prospect of having a sex life again is reigniting the flame.

2:45 p.m. I’m feeling super anxious all of a sudden. I think it’s about the prospect of hanging out with S tomorrow. As much as I want to touch and be touched by this man, it also feels like a much bigger thing than just having sex. I’m trusting him with my and my roommates’ health, which is a lot to put on someone I’ve only met a handful of times. And it also escalates the intimacy, requires really direct communication, and a level of vulnerability I’m not sure I’m totally ready for.

I text one of my best friends about it, and she validates my feelings. I love my friends so much. They are so emotionally intelligent and supportive. I have lots of long distance friendships, which has been sad to navigate at times. But I feel like this pandemic has really strengthened so many of them, and I feel so grateful to have these people in my life!

6 p.m. I haven’t heard from S all day and suddenly feel like I’ve gotten way ahead of myself. I hardly know the man and he’s still totally in the safe zone to quietly disappear. I feel kind of dumb.

7 p.m. I send a text about the COVID of it all and ask what he’s been doing for safety. Then I get high. Now we’ll have to wait and see if he’s ghosting me or not …

9 p.m. He’s not ghosting me! And it sounds like he and his roommates are as careful as me and mine! We make plans to meet at his place tomorrow evening.


9 a.m. I’m busy today, which is good because otherwise I would just be a tsunami of nervous/excited energy. Class is boring, just going over the syllabus and reintroducing ourselves to people we’ve known for two years. I surf the internet searching for outfit inspiration for tonight.

1 p.m. I’ve barely eaten anything today and the idea of food makes me sick to my stomach but I’m also fading fast. I make myself some toast but even that is hard to eat. I forgot about how stupidly thrilling the beginning of a new romance can be. It’s fun to resurface these long lost feelings, but psychosomatic nausea is the worst.

4 p.m.  I spend all of class texting with my friends about tonight. Everyone is buzzing to live vicariously through me as I go on a real outing for the first time in months. We joke about live streaming the whole event, something along the lines of “come into a stranger’s home with me!” It’s so weird how much times have changed, where the prospect of going into someone else’s home feels adventurous and foreign.

6 p.m. WHAT DO I WEAR!? I haven’t had to get dressed for an occasion in 10 months and let me tell you, getting back into it does NOT feel like riding a bike. My entire wardrobe is on the floor as I try to figure out an outfit that makes me look and feel sexy/cool/comfy. Part of me wants to look super feminine, but when I put on a dress I feel alienated from the whole situation. I end up wearing jeans and a shirt. I blast Normani as I finish getting ready for some … motivation.

7 p.m. I arrive at S’s house. We make weird conversation in the kitchen for a few minutes, but I can hardly focus because he’s standing so close to me and I want to kiss him so badly. Suddenly he pushes me against the counter and we start making out. His body is so warm and strong, and I realize I haven’t touched another human in weeks. His roommate walks in the front door so we straighten ourselves out and proceed with the evening.

9:45 p.m. The sexual chemistry is there! It had been hard to know for sure when we went on our dates and stood 6 feet apart from each other. I’m so relieved … and turned on. After making out for a long time he flips me over and pulls off my jeans and we have quick, but hot, sex. I love the way he throws me around. It’s also sort of bizarre to be so close to someone. Every touch feels so much more intense than it would have a year ago, because my life has been devoid of physical contact.

11:45 p.m. We’re both getting sleepy and I struggle deciding whether or not to stay or go home. I really want to stay, which for some reason makes me feel like I should leave. When I tell him that he laughs and tells me I don’t stand a chance as a logician. He’s not wrong. I climb under the covers and have a fitful first night of sleeping next to someone new.


9 a.m. I drag myself out of S’s bed. We woke up early (well, I didn’t have to wake up because I didn’t really sleep) and lay in bed talking for a long time. I really like him, which freaks me out. I went into this thinking it would be a fun fling with a hot surfer, but he’s surprising me by also being smart, kind and wonderful to hang out with.

11 a.m. It would be easy for me to spend the whole day with him, but I remind myself that maintaining my independence right now is important to me.

1:30 p.m. I update friends and roommates on all the details. I tell them that the way I feel about S is catching me off guard, and that I’m not sure I’m ready to be in a relationship yet.

8:30 p.m. I’m in bed drinking and writing in my journal. I decide that it’s a waste of my time to over think this whole situation with S and that I should just go for it with him. I masturbate with noise canceling headphones on to drown out my roommates. I hope they can’t hear me …


8 a.m. I can’t believe it’s Sunday! This week has been such an emotional roller coaster. It’s a nice counterpoint to the general mundanity of COVID life, but I’m really drained today.

10:30 p.m. Walk with a friend in the park to catch up. We talk about love and friendship. We conclude that love is fun but friends are the best.

3 p.m. I feel like I spent the whole weekend on the phone. By the end of my last phone call words stopped making sense. When I have a lot of feelings I need to talk them out, but it often ends up meaning I tell the same story to about 15 people. Everyone I talk to tells me that you can’t control timing and if you find someone you like feelings override logic.

3:30 p.m. I need a mental reset so I drive to the beach and pick up rocks out of the surf. Then I jump in the ocean near a bunch of tween boogie boarders. The icy water clears my head.

7:30 p.m. Thinking about my night with S while cooking dinner with my roommates. I gasp a little, thinking about the way he picked me up and flipped me over, and my roommates look confused. I blush and leave the kitchen. Then I text S to see if he wants to hang out tomorrow. He replies almost immediately to say yes. I guess I’m going for it.

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The M.F.A. Student Spending Her First Night With the Surfer