Sylvia winced in delight as he dragged his long jagged fingernails down her back.

"Harder," she demanded. He obeyed. She half sighed, half moaned as she felt her skin breaking, and a burning sensation cooled her body. The pain drove her wild, and she forgot her rhythm. She began bouncing and bucking her hips much faster now, which caused him to loosen his grip on her butt. She realized this, and slowed down a bit. "Harder," she said again.

***

Sitting cross-legged on the beige, ratty couch in Dr. Chicone's office, Sylvia watched the clock. Only three more minutes.

"Miss Oviedo?" came the soft, yet masculine voice of Dr. Chicone. Sylvia hated the way he said her name. The syllables were all awkward and hard sounding. She loathed the cautious way in which he addressed her, as if he were trying to convey some sort of sympathy. He leaned forward in his armchair and rest his cheek on his fist.

"Miss Oviedo?" Dr. Jerkass called again. Sylvia raised her eyebrows to acknowledge that she had heard. "You haven't made any new entries for a week. Why aren't you taking advantage of this therapeutic opportunity that your mother is paying 75 dollars an hour for? Aren't you grateful to her at all?"

Sylvia smiled. It was probably inappropriate for the given moment, but she couldn't think of anything else to do. Of course she appreciated her mother. Most moms would kick their little lying sluts of daughters out of the house the second they finished watching a homemade tape of them engaging in sadomasochistic intercourse, but Sylvia's mother had patience enough to think it through.

"You're going to see a shrink," she said plainly.

Sylvia's first instinct was to laugh, but when she did, her mother took hold of her ear.

"You think I'm joking? 7:30 next Monday. Don't do anything stupid until then." She let go, and Sylvia looked away. She was trying to look remorseful, but she was considering telling her mother what she was actually thinking.

But Mama, Mondays are my Jose Days…

Sylvia almost laughed again, picturing the chaos that would ensue.

Her first appointment with Dr. Chicone was not as unpleasant as she thought it would be. Her only qualm on Day 1 was how Dr. Chicone said her name. She was sure that Dr. Chicone was just trying to piss her off. She'd concluded that that's what psychologists do to make money: They piss off their patients until the patients actually go insane, so they can keep them there for as long as they damn well please.

Her second appointment was annoying. Dr. Chicone kept asking her all these stupid questions that had nothing to do with her sex life. She thought that that's what they were supposed to be talking about. Then Dr. Chicone told her she should start keeping a journal of all her sexual encounters, starting with the first.

"It would also be helpful to both of us if you would record your feelings prior to the particular sexual encounter and after. Maybe you could rate your self-esteem."

Dammit, she thought. She was terrible with words. This was one of the arguments she had used to try to persuade her mother that this was a waste of money.

"That's why they go to college, mija. They learn all these fancy mind tricks so that they can figure you out without you having to think too hard."

She'd been seeing Dr. Chicone for nearly half a month now, and she felt more fucked up inside than when she started. Actually, the only person that seemed to have a problem with Sylvia's lifestyle was her mother. Things had been fine before Ms. Oviedo had found that fucking tape.

"I told you, you should have taken it," said Sylvia for the millionth time to Ray-Rae, her Thursday Lover. He smiled down at her sheepishly, and she felt her anger melt away. She smiled back. He was just too cute to stay mad at.

"So, whatchu doin' today?" he looked her up and down. She returned the gesture. He was so damn sexy. She bit her lip, looking up at him in that innocent Girl-Next-Door manner. You would never guess that behind those round, childlike brown eyes she was undressing him in her mind. She stood on her toes so she could whisper in his ear.

"Whatever you want me to do..." Ray-Rae bit his lip, still smiling, and slyly moved his hand down her back onto her ass. He gave it squeeze as he brought her closer. With his free hand, he tilted Sylvia's chin upward, and she welcomed his tongue into her mouth. He broke away to say:

"We can go to my place, but we gotta make it quick. Tanisha's comin' over around 5."

***

Sylvia stared at herself in the compact mirror Dr. Chicone had handed her.

"How do you feel?" he asked politely.

"Hot," she confessed. Dr. Chicone tightened his mouth. Sylvia couldn't tell if he was stifling laughter or not, so she asked: "You don't think so?"

Dr. Chicone smiled an awkward smile, but said nothing. Sylvia studied him. He had a handsome, man face, but he looked ridiculously young to be a psychologist. Sylvia couldn't stop herself from wondering how old he was, so she asked: "How old are you?"

"Old enough to be your father."

"No you're not."

"31."

"I'm 17."

"I know."

"You would have had to have been quite the sexy beast yourself at 14."

"How old were YOU when you made this 'sexy beast' metamorphosis?"

"…14."

"Uh huh."

"You're not 31."

***

"SYLVIA!" Mai Tren squealed. Sylvia lifted her head from between Mai Tren's legs to shush her. Her brother was home. Mai Tren didn't care. She uh-ed and oh-ed until Sylvia's head started to hurt. Everyone always thinks these Asian girls are so quiet. The ones that study a lot, anyway. But know what to do with your tongue and when, and oh boy, you'd know you've fucked quieter hoodrats. When at last Mai Tren tensed, relaxed, and fell to the floor from her chair, she asked breathlessly, "Where did you learn to do that?" Sylvia shrugged and got up to brush her teeth. She figured if she stayed in the bathroom long enough, Mai Tren would put her damned pants back on and go home. But 11 minutes later, after Sylvia had finished brushing her teeth and shaving her legs, Mai Tren was still there. Sylvia rolled her eyes and climbed out of the bathroom window. She was meeting Brandon at 8.

***

Dr. Chicone was typing furiously into his laptop when Sylvia arrived for day 18. When he didn't look up to greet her, Sylvia took it upon herself to say:

"Hi."

No response. More taptap tap tap taptaptap tap taptaptap.

"HI." Sylvia said a little louder.

Taptaptap taptap tap.

"Hey!" she demanded.

Tap tap tap.

Sylvia snatched the mirror off the wall and flung it to the floor. "LISTEN TO ME!" she screamed as it shattered.

Dr. Chicone stood up and pulled out his ear phones, which were blasting Mozart. "What the hell is the matter with you?!"

***

In her History class, Sylvia noticed Diondre Parker kept looking at her. Whenever she'd meet his eyes, he'd avert them to stare at his paper. Sylvia counted these happenings and found that they added up to a total of seven times. She felt her heart beat a little faster. She thought he had a girlfriend, and even if he didn't, he was out of her league. People that were out of her league, like Ray-Rae, were not interested in Sylvia as a person. They would not ask her how she was feeling. They did not care who else she was fucking. People like Ray-Rae were out of her league because they were popular. But Diondre was out of her league because he had class. He kept a steady girlfriend for longer than six months, and acted as if she was the only girl in the whole school. She never wanted to admit it to herself, but she was jealous. Secretly, she yearned for real intimacy, the cuddly, handholding type of intimacy.

"Sylvia, what did I just say?" inquired Mr. Dbellis. Sylvia glanced around nervously.

"We sunk the Bismarck in May of 1848." Mr. Dbellis was not pleased.

"Miss Oviedo, we are in the Vietnam Unit."

"Oh." The class giggled.

When class ended, Sylvia approached Diondre, who gave her a nervous smile.

"Hey," she said casually.

"Hey." Sylvia was hoping he'd give her a little more to go on.

"So, uh… I know we don't know each other well, but… do you think you'd wanna call me sometime? I'd like to get to know you."

He bit his lip and looked uncomfortable, which made Sylvia uncomfortable.

"I…"

And along comes Quantrice Watkins. She wrapped her arms around him from behind and kissed him on the ear.

"Hey y'all."

"Hey," said Sylvia. She looked back at Diondre. "So it was pages 386-392?" He nodded. "Alright, thanks."

In the bathroom, Sylvia felt the need to reapply her mascara. Quantrice was brushing on some blush in the next mirror.

"Sylvia, right?" It seemed more like a rhetorical question, but Sylvia gave her a meek "yeah" anyway. Quantrice's friend Latoya came out of one of the stalls.

"'Scuse me," she said to Sylvia. Sylvia moved aside so Latoya could wash her hands. Another girl walked out of another stall. It was Angela Reedowsky, the Polish One.

"Hey, girl," Quantrice greeted.

"'Sup."

"I wanted to talk to my girl Sylvia here about something. Could I meet up with y'all outside?" She waited until she heard the voices of her two friends die down as they got further away from the bathroom before she turned to Sylvia again.

"I heard you talkin' to Diondre, and I was wonderin'…did you know we been together for about eight months now?"

"No," Sylvia said quietly.

"So you never saw us together?"

"Yeah, I have, but I thought you guys split. Sorry."

"What made you think that?" Sylvia said nothing. "Huh? Why would you think that we split? Was he trying to talk to you?"

"No."

"Then why would you think that?"

"I don't know."

"You're lying."

"I'm not."

"I'm usually a nice girl to everyone, ain't I?"

"Yes."

"Which is why I didn't say this in front of my girls. They woulda smashed your pretty little face right into that mirror, you know that?"

"Yes."

"I wanted to get the facts straight first. But you're not givin' me the facts. I asked you if he tried to talk to you, and you said no. I asked you why else you would think that we split, and you said you didn't know. I don't know what you're not tellin' me, but you better think of somethin' real fast, because I'm about ready to bust you upside your head myself."

"I don't know why I thought that," Sylvia said truthfully. "I just thought he was looking at me." Quantrice raised her eyebrows.

"Lookin' at you?" Sylvia looked away. Quantrice must have noticed the tinge of pink in her face, because she said quickly,  "I didn't mean it like that."

A moment of silence.

"We real different. It's hard to explain. But its like… when it comes to looks, we both got it goin' on and all. But one thing makes us different. One thing makes the good men want me, and the dogs want you. The only thing I got that you don't is class."

Sylvia couldn't respond. She suddenly forgot how to speak English.

"The things I been hearin' about you make me real upset sometimes. You know, my cousin Ray-Rae tells me everything. We may be blood and all, but that boy is a dog, straight up. Stay away from him. I'm not playin'. Same with Diondre. We cool as long as you just stay away from him."

The bell rang, and Quantrice said, "Late."

***

It was day 21, and Dr. Chicone kept saying, "I can't believe you broke my mirror because I didn't say hi to you." Sylvia shifted uncomfortably in the sofa.

"I wrote in my journal yesterday." Dr. Chicone sat down.

"May I read it?"

"Duh."

***

16-3-01

I hate the silent treatment. My mama used to always give it to me when I was younger. She would go for days without talking to me. I tried everything to get her to pay attention. I screamed, I threw things, and eventually I'd just leave. I figured I'd just find someone else to pay attention to me. This one time, when I was 13, I held a kitchen knife to my left wrist. I called to her, but she didn't look up from her stupid cookbook. I called her louder. I screamed at her. She didn't do anything, so I cut. I cut as hard and as deep as I could. The sight of the blood coming out so fast kind of scared me, and I dropped the knife. When my mother still hadn't looked up, I got it off the floor and cut again. I noticed that my mama's eyes were moving back and forth across the words a lot faster than they had been, so I cut my other arm three times. I just stood there, staring at her, waiting for her to notice me. Even when the room started spinning around me, I did not take my eyes off her. Not until I felt my knees collapse under me, and I only saw black. I heard my mama's voice about a hundred miles away. When I realized that it wasn't me she was talking to, I wished I had already died. She was calling 911.

When I could see again, I saw them pouring iodine on my arms, and I heard screaming. It took me a few seconds to realize that they were my screams. It fucking hurt like hell. I fainted again.

This is how I met Carlos. I was strapped down to the gurney, and my arms were still sore from being stitched up. I looked and felt like shit. Then I hear this voice asking me if I slept alright. I asked him who he was, and he just said, "Carlos." Then he asked me my name. I told him, "Sylvia Oviedo." And he repeated it. I loved the way he said my name. It flowed like one word. I never thought my name was beautiful, until he said it. It turns out he was supposed to watch me until the doctors finished speaking with my mama. He had to make sure I wasn't going to try to kill myself again.

We talked for a long time. He said he was 23, and this was volunteer work. He had been in college for the past five years. He wanted to be a doctor. I asked him what kind of doctor, and he blushed and said, "gynecologist." I told him that I hadn't tried to kill myself, I just wanted attention, and he smiled a sad smile and said, "That's what they all do." The more we talked, the more I wanted to see him again. But when I asked him if I could, he laughed and said I was too young for that kind of talk.

On the drive home, my mama decided to start speaking to me again. She told me I was lucky she didn't agree to have me locked up somewhere, and I had better not pull anything like that again.

The next day, I took the bus back to the hospital. I wanted to see if Carlos would change his mind now that I had cleaned up. When he saw me, he smiled and asked me what the hell I was doing. I said I needed someone to talk to, and told him if he didn't take me out to lunch, I would try to kill myself again just so I could see him at the hospital. He laughed and agreed.

For the next few months, Carlos took me to lunch every week. He never asked me anything too personal, or tried anything, which made me want him more. He just told me all these stories about girls who tried to commit suicide. He said, "How you can tell if a person really wants to die is, you look at their approach. If they try to slit horizontal lines in their wrists, they are just desperate for attention. If they slice along the veins, they are a little more serious. If they down 50 Excedrin headache pills and 26 sleeping pills, depending on their weight, and just completely sever one or both of their hands somehow, plus, have someone hired to finish the job if they don't quite off themselves, they are dedicated as fuck."2 months later, on my 14th birthday, Carlos bought me a ring. He told me it was to remember him by, because he was graduating college and he couldn't see me anymore. I couldn't handle it. There was so much I wanted to say. I always told him I was never good with words. When I started to cry, he kissed me on the cheek. I know that was all he had meant to happen, which is why I grabbed his neck and kissed his lips. I was almost surprised when he kissed me back. The next thing I knew, he was on top of me. We were on the floor, and his shirt was off. I was a little scared because I'd never had sex before. I told Carlos I had, because I knew that if he thought otherwise, he wouldn't have done it with me. He told me before, "Sex is the most intimate thing two people can do. That's why you wait until you know you love someone. You have to make sure you're going to be comfortable being that close." He started to pull down my skirt, but stopped to look at me. I knew he was considering not doing it, so I kissed him again to reassure him that it was okay. When he put it in, I gasped, because it hurt. But it was like a good kind of hurt. I liked it. He was moving very slow because he thought I didn't want it to hurt. I told him to go faster, and he did.I tried calling him the next morning, but the number had been changed. I didn't remember how to get to his house, because I never paid attention to where we were when he was driving. I looked for him at the hospital, but he hadn't been there for weeks. I never saw him again. No matter who I have sex with, or what new things I try, it will never compare. I miss Carlos.

***

Dr. Chicone threw down the diary and put his hand to his head. Sylvia found a stain on the carpet to look at.

"Jesus Christ, he was ten years older than you."

"I'm sorry," Sylvia muttered."You were a little over half his fucking age. It isn't your fault. Christ."

"What's wrong with you? You must have heard worse stories." Dr. Chicone began to pace.

"Look… Why don't we leave it here for today… Just… write more in that little book of yours. Write about your other lovers. Do that thing I told you to do with the self-esteem. I'll see you next week."

When Sylvia got home, her mother was on the phone.

"Yes, I'll talk to her about it," Ms. Oviedo said. "Okay, thanks. Yeah. Mmhm. Bye." She hung up.

"Hi," Sylvia said. Her mother said nothing. Sylvia felt her anger begin to surge. "I said hi."

Nothing.

"Alright. Whatever. What-the-fuck-ever. I'm out of here."

She didn't know where exactly she was going. It was cold, but she didn't want to go back home to get a coat. Jose lived a few blocks away; she'd tough it out until she got there.

It took all the effort she had to cry out with his right hand so tightly gripped around her neck. She had no idea how she was supposed to signal him to stop when she was about to pass out, because her wrists were bound painfully to the bedpost with a jumprope. With his other hand, he held her ankle to his shoulder. After a few minutes, he felt he needed to support himself with that hand, so he held her ankle with his teeth. When he threw hishead back to utter his orgasm noise, she saw that her blood was on them.

"Jose, dammit, I didn't finish." But he wasn't listening. A few minutes later, after he caught his breath, he sat up and began to untie the rope.

"My mom is going to be home soon. You should go."

***

20-3-01

I fucked Jose today. Just like every Monday. He is starting to bore me. I tried to tell him about what happened with my mom, but he just started kissing my neck to shut me up. I figured I could just as easily let off my stress by fucking him, but it just pissed me off more when I realized that he doesn't give a fuck about me. None of them do.

I fuck Mai Tren on Fridays. I could probably talk to her about my problem, but she gets on my nerves. After Mai Tren, I'm never really satisfied, so I go fuck my next-door neighbor, Brandon.

I used to fuck Ray-Rae on Thursdays, but his cousin doesn't want me to anymore. It's sad that out of all of them, Quantrice has shown me the most concern. When I told him I didn't want to see him, he just laughed and said, "A'ight then girl. It's been fun."

Why should he care? He has plenty backups.

Sundays I fuck whoever I'm in the mood for. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I rest up.

***

"You didn't do the self-esteem thing," said Dr. Chicone.

"Out of 10, my self-esteem is about a 3. Okay?" Sylvia stared at the carpet stain again. "Don't you ever clean your floor?"

"Sylvia, I didn't want to ask this before, because I wasn't sure how you'd react. But as a professional, I need to ask you, do you actually get physical pleasure from this kind of sex?"

"What kind of sex?"

"Well, you've told me you like it rough. You're sort of into mild S&M, aren't you?" Sylvia shrugged.

"It keeps it exciting."

"So, there's no more to it than that?" Sylvia was getting irritated.

"Why does there need to be more? Sex is sex; you do what you can to make the most of it. There's nothing complicated about it, nothing sacred. It's just a dick shoved in your cunt. How hard, how fast, what you're doing with your hands, it doesn't matter. You do what you have to do to get off."

Dr. Chicone let it drop. "Well, I guess we'll leave it at that. Thank you for writing in your journal. I'm looking forward to your next entry."

***

"What was mom's problem yesterday?" Sylvia asked her brother Josh. He took a minute to respond, because he was making a sandwich. He hates to be disturbed while he's making a sandwich.

"Your profesor called. He said you're failing history." Sylvia rolled her eyes and went upstairs to her room. She rolled her eyes again when she got there, because the downstairs phone started ringing. She stomped hurriedly down, because knew Josh wouldn't get it. He was preoccupied with the sandwich.

"Hello?" she said irritably.

"Hi… Is Sylvia home?" came a Mysterious Man Voice.

"Yeah, it's me. Who's this?"

"It's Diondre… from history class." Sylvia's breath caught in her throat. She pulled her hair and did a silent Happy Jig before responding.

"How'd you get my number?"

"Quantrice's cousin gave it to me. I hope you don't mind…"

"No! I mean… it's okay. So what's up?"

"I dunno… I… I just need someone to talk to right now. Could you meet me at the park by the pool?"

"I can't," Sylvia lied. She hadn't shaved her legs. "Is tomorrow okay?"

"Yeah, sure…"

"Call me with a time, okay?"

"Okay… Thanks. I'm looking forward to seeing you."

Before Sylvia could respond, he hung up. She did another jig.

***

"Hey, baby. Where'd you run off to?" Mai Tren said over the phone. "I woke up and you were gone."

"Well, I needed someone awake to return my favor."

"Awww, I'm sorry. Where'd you go?"

"Brandon's."

"Oooh, Brandon Caponio?"

"Yeah."

"He's sexy. How big is his cock?"

"Christ, I don't know… 8?"

"Oh… Well, I guess that's okay. When are you seeing him again?"

"Friday."

"You need some company?"

"Sure."

"Ooh, I'm so excited… Are you excited?"

"Mmhm."

"Can you come over today?"

"No. I'm seeing Diondre."

"You slut!" Mai Tren giggled. "He is so fine."

"Hold on, there's another call…" Sylvia hit the flash button. "Hello?"

"Hey," said Diondre. "I'm at the park. Can you come right now? I really need to talk to you."

***

When Sylvia got to the park, Diondre was sitting on a swing, staring at his hands. She thought he looked so solemn and childlike, she just wanted to cuddle him to death.

"Hey," she said as smoothly as she could. Diondre looked up and gave a shy smile. She smiled back and seated herself in the swing next to his. "What's going on?"

Diondre moistened his lips. "Me and Quantrice are having some problems." Sylvia was half excited, half afraid. What if Quantrice was trying to get him to set her up? She decided to be cautious just in case.

"What kind of problems?"

He didn't answer right away. Sylvia continued to study him. She wondered why his face seemed so boyish, even with his light goatee. More and more, she began to realize that this was the man of her dreams. The guy who could make everything right again. He could fill Carlos' shoes, and then some. He could treat her like she was special. She saw him do it to Quantrice. He walked her to class everyday. He'd bring her flowers for no reason. He didn't care who saw them holding hands. He knew how to show her love, without showing her his penis. Sylvia couldn't think of anything she wanted more right now. She had always been second best, the girl on the side. She would have given anything to be cared about, held, listened to. Even if it meant Quantrice and her bitches would break her face.

"Quantrice don't know this, but me and Ray-Rae talk. She don't like me talking to him, says he's bad news. But that boy's always had my back. If he needs something, I got it for him. And he does the same for me."

"Uh huh…" Sylvia didn't know where he was going with this, but she was hoping she'd tie in somewhere.

"Quantrice is a good girl and all. But that's not what I want right now."

Sylvia's hopes continued to rise.

"I just need to let off some stress. Quantrice won't give me any, and Ray-Rae said—"

"Are you fucking kidding me?!" Sylvia got up from her swing and stood in front of Diondre with her hands on her hips. She was even more infuriated when his eyes lowered from her disgusted face all the way down her body. She slapped him hard across his cheek. He stood up, and she shielded her face with her hands, expecting him to hit her back.

"Well what the fuck were you expecting?" he shouted. Sylvia could only stare in disbelieve "Fuck it," he muttered as he stormed off. She couldn't restrain the tears that welled up in her eyes.

"Better from you…"

***

24-3-01

Usually, I fuck Mai Tren and then go see Brandon, but yesterday, I fucked them both at the same time. I always thought threesomes would be really great, but it's just kind of complicated. Either I'm paying too much attention to him, or I'm paying too much attention to her, or they're both not paying enough attention to me. Mai Tren knew that was going to happen, so she brought her vibrator. I didn't go anywhere near it, because besides Mai Tren's vagina, who knows where it's been. I don't have sex for the orgasms anyway.

First, Brandon fucked Mai Tren while she ate me out. Then Brandon fucked me while Mai Tren occupied herself with her vibrator. I wouldn't eat her out because Brandon already splooged in her. Swallowing splooge is one thing, and licking pussy is another, but swallowing splooge out of someone's pussy is just fucking gross. I wouldn't do it.

I told Brandon I didn't want to do any more threesomes. He asked me to do just a few more, and I said ok.

Diondre sees me as everyone sees me, as I've always seen myself, and I'm okay with it. I think sex, I know sex, I AM sex.

I'm not totally into S&M. Just sometimes, if the sex is too good. If something is too good, it doesn't feel real. There has to be a balance somewhere. Good and evil, right and wrong, pleasure and pain. Classy and skanky. They coexist to make a perfect world.

***

"What do you mean you don't have sex for orgasms?" Dr. Chicone asked politely. He expected Sylvia to get irritated about it, but she only looked thoughtful.

"Orgasms are great. But you can't always count on them." Sylvia could tell Dr. Chicone was anticipating a better response, but he was going to have to wait while she found the words.

"Sex is the most intimate thing two people can do. That's why you wait until you know you love someone. You have to make sure you're comfortable being that close. For most people, anyway. Most people look for love before sex. Me, I look for love during sex, because it's a sure thing. The reason that certain people I know, like Mai Tren, are promiscuous is because they feel that sex has lost all meaning, and it's purely physical."

"How do you feel about that?"

"I wasn't finished. I told you, I'm no good with words."

"You never told me that."

"Yes, I did."

"Continue on with what you were saying."

"For me, it's the emotional part of sex that I like. It was never the orgasms I was addicted to. It was that feeling of… of oneness. The comfort that comes with feeling like you'll never be alone again. You're a psychologist, I'm sure you know all about how right

before climax, a person feels more complete than they've ever felt. They look into each other's eyes and truly believe that they're in love. And no matter how short-lived that love is, it's real. That's what I'm addicted to. Love."

"I don't know what you're talking about. You're great with words."

"Well, some of them were yours." Dr. Chicone shifted uncomfortably. Sylvia got up from the sofa and sat on his lap. She stroked the side of his face softly. "Why did you leave me?" He sighed. Her eyes began to water, and he kissed her on the cheek. She knew that was all he had meant to happen, so she grabbed his neck and kissed him on the lips.