Mike Firesmith on Relationships: The Issue

Posted on October 5, 2012


We lay in bed together and for a few seconds I was happy. But the woman next to me didn’t mold her body into mine and didn’t allow me to relax into hers. Candice wasn’t a virgin anymore, by a matter of seconds, and The Issue had been resolved.  She started calling her virginity “The Issue” after High School because that was the big issue whenever she dated someone. High School had turned to college, and as a Senior, Candice had broken up with Robert, who was supposed to decide The Issue but… That’s how I knew her. Robert was one of those guys everyone liked for good reason and I had sold him some pot a few times. But Robert had been with her for two years and The Issue still was an issue and so they broke up.

Candice and I were friends, but one night we went to the same party and the woman who she had gone with wanted to bail out early, so I offered Candice a ride home. I knew her well enough to know about The Issue and she knew me well enough to know she wasn’t interested. I drank too much. I smoked pot, which she didn’t approve of, and I was anti-religious to a degree that frightened her.

Religion, as it turned out, was more of a social function in the life of Candice than one of a spiritual nature. That’s what got the whole thing started really; we started talking about religion on the way home, and I discovered she was truly interested in the way the Universe worked. Candice didn’t believe in God as some sort of Moral Decider but rather a God Of The Glue. The church held families together and she and her family had gone to the same church forever. To her the church was all about helping other people and finding ways to stay close to the people you loved, and I couldn’t argue with that. When we got to her apartment there had been some sort of drama a couple of houses down from where she lived so she asked me to come in, just to make sure there wasn’t someone hiding in the closet. I checked the closets and the shower, and even under the bed but there wasn’t anyone else there but Candice and myself.

I stuck around because she was still edgy about whatever it was that was going on down the street and I asked her why she had moved out from living with Donna. I already knew why, because Robert had told me, and Candice wasn’t very happy I asked because she knew I knew at that point. Donna was not a virgin, hadn’t been one in a while, and wasn’t letting her youth slip away untried and untrained. She viewed sex as something you did with those men you really cared about, or those you really liked, or something that was like a drug, to relax you before a big test, or for that matter, something you did if the wind suddenly changed direction. Candice told me that Donna’s sex life was a burden to her because while she was telling herself over and over again that waiting was the right thing to do, just across the hallway was a woman who was wailing with pleasure.  Donna was a moaner to a degree that caused people to call 911. Candice once pressed the smoke alarm button to in the kitchen to get Donna and her boyfriend to just stop but they didn’t hear it. Candice wound up with sex noises and fire alarm noises. I thought it was funny as hell and I realized Candice liked that I had laughed at her story.

I asked her out and she told me no, no, it was not going to happen. We were too different and besides I knew her ex and that was a little weird to her. There was an awkward silence and I looked longingly at the door.

“I’m a virgin.” Candice blurted out.

We talked about The Issue and she told me that once again, it had arisen long before it had to in a conversation with a man. I told her I already knew and she bemoaned the fact that Donna had told everyone who would listen. Actually, Robert had told nearly all his guy friends. It was driving him nuts. I suspected a few of the guys who had asked Candice out were looking to be her first and that was the only reason they asked. But we traded a hug and she sent me on my merry way that night.

Candice and I went to a couple of parties together and I helped her move again. We never kissed and never so much as held hands but about three months after I helped her move she called me and wanted to go to a movie. Just friends, she said, I want to see the movie and I don’t want to go alone. So away we went and we held hands in the movie. We went to her place and made out on the sofa until she shooed me away. Just friends, she said the next day, I’m sorry I had been drinking. Never again. But we started seeing each other, going to movies and out to eat. One thing led to another and suddenly The Issue became an issue.

After about a month of not dating but doing all the stuff that dating people do, Candice told me she had gotten on the Pill. I was nearly shocked. We had not crossed any borders that indicated to me she was getting to the point of no return even though I had to admit she was much more passionate than I would have thought. How she had a relationship that had lasted over two years I had no idea. How Robert, poor Robert, had survived was beyond me. The man was a saint, I tell you.

One cold and rainy night Candice came over, though just the night before she had told me we needed to see less of one another. I wasn’t who she wanted to marry and she hadn’t saved her virginity this long to lose it without some sort of promise in the future. I wasn’t willing to lie to her to sleep with her, and you know, in an odd way, I think the fact that I told her the truth was more effective than lying to her. She wanted just to curl up and read part of a novel she had started at my place and I dozed beside her. I woke up, took her clothes off of her, and the issue was gone forever.

Candice lay next to me and I could tell she wasn’t very happy at all. At some level she was likely glad The Issue didn’t exist anymore but at the same time, this was not how she had planned it and it sure as hell wasn’t what she had planned, and I wasn’t who she had planned.

“That fucking hurt like hell,” Candice said, and I was shocked because she never cursed at all.

I didn’t know what to say or how to say it and I think she would have left had it not been raining and cold. I think she lay in my bed feeling trapped and wronged and terribly unhappy with us both.

“Blow the candle out, please,” Candice said, and I did. She got up to go to the bathroom and told me not to turn on the light for her. She stumbled her way to the bathroom and turned on the light after she closed the door. Five minutes passed, then another five, and finally Candice came out again, and got into bed with me. She allowed me to hold her but there was something missing in our embrace. Sex wasn’t going to happen again, I knew that, and it took Candice a very long time to fall asleep.

“I’m not a virgin,” Candice said to me the next morning. She had allowed me to try again, and this time it wasn’t as awkward or painful but I could tell she still hadn’t found a way to reconcile what her body was doing with what her mind wanted.  There was this brief period of time where Candice pretended the relationship we had was the relationship she had always wanted, but no one believed it, not even Candice.


I saw her in the store the other day. I was behind her in the checkout line and she turned around and realized who I was, and then quickly turned away. I moved back and away from her, something I should have done twenty-five years ago while there still was an issue.


Take Care,



See more of Mike Firesmith’s work at The Hickory Head Hermit.