I should be in love with Genevieve, and I want to be, since she will help me turn my life around, but a few issues are holding me back. She's a student of mine. I'm an adjunct English professor and she's been in one of my classes for the past two semesters, so it's unethical for me to have any close relations with her. The other problem is that she's Catholic and doesn't believe in premarital sex. And I really like sex. These two problems aren't insurmountable and can be worked out in time.

I'm mostly hesitant about dating Genevieve because I fuck transvestites, and I'm not sure I can stop that. For a number of years, I haven't had a committed relationship, because on weekends I play around a lot by hooking up with trannies from the local bars, finding some online, or fucking a she-male escort. Trannies ooze sex appeal and always want to have some kind of kinky fun. I don't sleep with guys and I like women, but the experiences with trannies give me sexual thrills and perversity I can't find anywhere else.

After class, when Genevieve and I get coffee a couple of miles from campus, she asks me if I like her essay. I hesitate before I answer. The main argument in her paper is about how disruptive and immoral porn is. I'm not sure how exactly I'll tell her I don't buy her argument. It actually makes me a tad uncomfortable, to be honest.

In my few years of teaching, I've never been as close to a student as I have with Genevieve. She approached me after the second class last semester and asked if I was single. I nodded. She laughed nervously. "Your eyes. They're gorgeous." Then she told me how my class inspired her to do well in school and that she wanted to go out with me. Flattered, I grinned and told her it wasn't a good idea since she was my student and I could lose my job.

"It's good. I'll take another look at your paper," I tell her.

"You're the best, Professor."

I roll my eyes and remind her she can call me Ian. We both laugh again before we hug each other goodnight.

I text Julia, a tranny I met a year ago at a bar in downtown D.C. and someone I hook up with from time to time, to see if she has any plans tonight. While waiting for her response, I read students' papers. When on Genevieve's again, I pause every time I come across a passage that begins "The Catholic Church says..." or "Pornography is immoral" or "The psychological damage of watching this smut is dangerous." A glass of straight vodka sits on my desk. I take a long sip after every paragraph. I need it. Her essay: no nuance, no contemplation of the other side of the argument, no evenhanded tone. When we eventually have a relationship, I'll want her to be more worldly, so to speak, get outside of her Catholic bubble, and see my point of view on the world, whether she agrees with it or not.

I run my hand through my already messy hair and sigh a few times. After rereading, I get up from my desk and do some push-ups and shadowboxing around my efficiency. The exercise helps calm me despite the vodka sloshing around in my stomach.

After all the exercise, I put the paper aside and plan to read it again tomorrow morning before I drive out to Virginia to see Genevieve. If I keep reading now, it will gnaw at me all night. It is seven p.m. on a Saturday night, and I'm ready to let loose a bit. I down the rest of my vodka and pour some more. I don't feel like going out, despite the entire city right outside my window. I text Julia again, hoping she can come over. She says she will. She usually has cocaine or poppers, but I'm not sure I want to get too fucked up tonight. The vodka has already made me a bit dizzy. I just want Julia's body, her warm ass in my face.

I have a couple of more vodka tonics and a shot before she comes by. That's all I need; no drugs. When she gets here, I take off her heels and tight shirt. I kiss her, but only a few pecks on the lips because her lipstick is bright red and she doesn't want it smeared.

"You look beautiful," I say. I'm in boxers and a white T-shirt. "Come here," I say, my arms extended as I lie on my bed.

We hold each other a bit and stroke each other's cocks. I put on a porn DVD and keep the volume low. She and I always have one on in the background. Genevieve pops into my mind, and I think of her paper. Julia and I rip off the rest of our clothes and she gets on all fours and I lick her asshole. "Come on baby, I like it," Julia says.

My adrenaline is pumping but I am relaxed. The vodka worked well. When I get hard, I put on a condom and enter her, thrusting faster and faster the better I feel. I love the taste of her ass on my face, and I can't wait to suck her off after I come. My mind briefly drifts again to Genevieve. Her face is right before me. I can never have an experience like this with her, even if she eventually changes her mind about sex.

After I come, I toss the condom aside. Julia turns around and asks me to suck her. On my knees, I put my mouth on her and bob my head up and down, my eyes closed. Like always, I feel like gagging at first. I get into a rhythm and then pause and take a breath, asking her not to come in my mouth.

"Oh baby," she keeps saying over and over as I put my lips back on her. "Harder, faster."

She touches my face with her fingertips, signaling me to pull back. She strokes herself a bit until her warm come rolls down my cheeks.

Julia and I lie there for a while and talk. Like most of our discussions, we tell each other about where we get our drugs, whom we'd fucked, and what clubs we've been to. We don't know much about each other's past, and we really don't care. We are strangers to each other. That is how we prefer it. All I know is that she is from El Salvador and her family still lives there. Her accent is thick and her English limited. We couldn't get too far past superficial conversation even if we wanted to.

She asks if I want to go to the bar with her. It is almost eleven p.m. I say no, but I want to fuck again. Her thick but muscular thighs and broad chest are irresistible to me. Genevieve pops in my mind again. My thoughts focus on her instead, and I long to call, text, be in touch with her in some way.

"Okay, baby. Call me when you want to see me again," Julia says as she leaves.

When I get in bed, I smell Julia's perfume on the sheets. I cannot fall asleep right away. I'm glad we didn't do any poppers or coke tonight. I'd be all jittery and paranoid. But I need some more vodka. I get off the bed and mix myself another drink, this one a bit stronger. It burns my throat. I wonder again about Genevieve, and what she's doing. I picture her slouched over a book, or with her laptop in front of her, or in bed sleeping. She puts me on a pedestal, and wants a life like mine—to be a writer, a teacher, a mentor. But she doesn't see all that's on the inside, the ugliness that makes me do those things I can't stop, the ugliness that doesn't allow me to love anyone. I can't admit to her or anyone that I need trannies, porn, vodka, coke, poppers. I like to argue I'm empty of some things in life but full of others. Whether I believe that is another story.

She's my last hope to help me change. I'm thirty-four, approaching middle age. Most of my friends are married and having kids, while I'm chasing trannies. I always think I have it better than they do. I'm free to have dirty sex with anyone I want while high on drugs, and they are with the same person over and over and have to change diapers and pay thousands in day care. One girlfriend a number of years ago talked of marriage, but we lasted only six months.

I never plan for the future, so settling down has never been a priority. I prefer spending my mental energy on remembering, getting nostalgic, looking back at the big events and mundane pleasures of my life. But time is slipping and I will want a slower life at some point. Genevieve forces me to think about what comes next. At certain moments, there are people who come into your life and help you understand what is wrong and lead you in the right direction. They can take you back to your deeper and better self. I text Genevieve to tell her I can't wait to see her tomorrow.

At the coffee shop in Northern Virginia, Genevieve takes notes as I tell her my criticisms of her essay. It is early March; a chill runs though the café each time someone opens the door. Her hair is down and she still has on the maroon dress she wore to church. Every time I look at her, I love her big beautiful brown eyes even more. I explain to her first what she's done correctly. She has a strong voice and is passionate about the issue.

"But," I say, in the softest tone possible, "you need to look at the issue with more nuance. Look at it from all different angles and don't use such absolute words, such as 'immoral' or 'depraved.'"

I let out a light sigh and wait for her response. She is a bit stone-faced, but she nods and writes down some notes.

"For instance, the part where you say that porn is destructive," I say, sipping my lukewarm coffee, the taste slightly bitter.

"But it has psychological repercussions and can lead to sexual misbehavior."

"Okay, but that's where nuance needs to come in. It's not the same for everyone, and the degree of any impact will vary from person to person."

"I had an ex-boyfriend who watched a lot of porn. I mean a lot, and I found out that's pretty much all he did."

I shrug, not to dismiss what she's said, but to give myself a second to think of what to say in response. "Sorry to hear that. Sure, there are some who become addicted, so to speak, but his story is not everyone's story."

The café is getting tighter and the chatter rises. We lower our voices so no one catches our conversation.

I feel a tad bit of judgmentalism from her, implicated in her thesis. Perhaps she has a point, though. The smut we watch changes the chemistry of our brains, when it comes to sex and love. When I'm honest with myself, I'll admit that it's a factor in my desire for trannies, and trannies only. Straightforward sex with a girl just doesn't cut it anymore. The blow job, the anal, the facials—all things I need. With drugs or a glass of vodka, and some porn in the background.

"One other thing..." I say, to get off the subject of whether every guy in fact indulges in porn. "The other thing is that you can't just use sources associated with the Catholic Church, or back up your argument with the Church says this or the Church says that. Important to keep your audience in mind."

"Gotcha," she says. "Nuance and more variety of sources."

She takes a few more notes and then tells me last night she read my published short stories I gave her. "I want to talk to you about them. They're awesome. You're awesome."

I stutter and thank her and feel my heart leap a bit.

"I wanted to call you so badly last night to talk to you about your stories."

I grin. "You should've called. I wasn't doing much," I say, remembering how I wanted to talk to her after Julia left.

A pause hangs in the air between us. "Let's bounce," she says.

Julia comes over a few days later, and after we do some poppers and fuck, we lie there, the TV that was playing porn now turned off. She is all worked up from the coke we did earlier. I give her some Xanax and I take some myself. I reach for my bottle of vodka next to the bed and guzzle down long sips. I can't have too many more nights like this. This would be the last time. Our relationship consists of some good fucks, nothing more. Genevieve is transferring to a four-year school in the fall. We can soon start dating, and I'd move on with my life.

After Julia lists the several bars she'll check out tonight, she asks me if I ever go to the beach.

"I used to, every once in a while," I say, sitting up slightly. "But I haven't been in years."

There's a pause and the sound of traffic on 15th Street roars.

"Why do you ask?"

"Oh, because I was remembering," she says, her accent thick. "I'm remembering my days in El Salvador."

The only story she's ever told me about her past is how she, years before she had her surgery, left her country and walked on foot to the U.S. I didn't believe it at first, until several of my students wrote essays on the same exact experience.

"I went to the beach a lot. I remember the waves."

She pauses and I stare at the ceiling. Right after we had sex, I wanted her to leave. But it's no big deal. She could stay and chat. This is kind of nice, something different.

"I remember the cool waves, how when they hit me, I felt they were... how do you say, when something..."

"Blessing, maybe. They felt like a blessing."

"When I close my eyes sometimes, I can still remember them smacking against me. I didn't want to be anywhere else. That feeling was so..."

"Liberating, spiritual."

"Yes, that's it, you finished my thought. The waves were a sign; they cleared me of my old self, and made me new."

I don't know what to say, except that I wish to find a place like that too. Then I let a yawn take over and she sees it.

"I'm sorry, you're sleepy. I'll go."

A tear rolls down her cheek.

"Oh Julia, I'm sorry."

I take her hand and we kiss.

In the days following, I stay away from Julia, escorts, bars, and drugs. It's difficult moving back and forth between lives, when both of them don't fit together. Sometimes I feel shame and dread, sometimes I feel it's normal. Every once in a while, I take a few sips of vodka at night and watch some porn, but I'd give up both once Genevieve and I start dating. I imagine myself going out with her, taking her to the movies, buying her dinner, helping her with her homework, getting married in a church. She said she dreamed of us at our son's Little League game. I imagined the same thing without trepidation. Her warm body would wake up next to mine one day. I forget what it feels like to be in love. The butterflies in the stomach, the adrenaline rush to the brain, the pop tunes taking on more meaning. I'm ready for that.

Julia buzzes me a few times asking me to hang out. I never respond. I likely owe her an explanation, but I'm not the kind of person who wants conflict or drama. She'll figure it out eventually. I'd always thought my times with trannies would get better and better each time. They didn't, but the fucking and the anticipation was good enough to keep me burning with lust, wanting more. A huge sense of relief would soon come over me, as the darkness and desires would leave for good and I'd return to the person I used the be, the one I hardly remember.

I look at the stack of papers on my desk in my apartment. I plan to stay in all weekend, just sip vodka and order carryout. Genevieve's is the third in the essay pile. The title: "Is Abortion Murder?" I lean back in my chair and let out a deep breath. I turn up the music on my stereo. The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" plays. I'm not sure I have the energy to make it through the essay. It's only 11:30 in the morning, and I start mixing vodka with tonic water. It's times like this I wish I had some of Julia's coke.

Genevieve's original topic was "The Case for Antidepressants in Therapy." She didn't like it. She asked to change. Fine, I said. When she chose abortion, I reminded her to look at the topic with nuance.

After I do push-ups to calm myself, I crave another drink. I turn my phone off, to keep myself from texting Julia for some coke—or anything else.

Before I continue with Genevieve's essay, I search her transcript online, just out of curiosity to see her history as a student. Mostly A's and B's, except for the few withdrawals before she quit school for a couple of semesters. I see her birth date. I've known her age, but seeing it on the screen, in print, tells me something. She was four when I first got drunk, five the first time I got laid, nine when I graduated from college, ten the last time I went to church, sixteen when I fucked my first tranny.

She writes that abortion offends God, it's not right to support pro-choice politicians who help proliferate the whole cycle, and the fetus should have rights.

Just yesterday, I told Genevieve I'd send her an e-mail with my comments and her grade once I was done. I don't. I write D at the top of the paper and move on to the next one.

Julia sleeps most of the way to the beach. The drive is more than two hours. She drank a lot the night before and didn't fall asleep till six a.m. The only CD in the car is by The Cure. The songs take me back to my time in high school and the good memories that feel so long ago. When "Boys Don't Cry" plays, I remember Genevieve's paper, it's lack of perspective, nuance, and understanding. But that's all I think about her today. From time to time, I look over at Julia in the passenger seat, her eyes peacefully closed. I hope she is dreaming some dream of a contented past. We all have our secret lives, right? Hers and mine just happen to be dark and inescapable.

When we get to the ocean, the sun is about to go down. We walk across the sand in our bare feet. Above us are seagulls flying through the sky in all their freedom. It's a cold April afternoon. The vastness of the ocean is before us, looking small and overwhelming at the same time. The waves hit the shore and then recede. One after one come, as they did before we got here and they'd continue to do for all eternity. The drive exhausted me and I feel a chill in the air.

Julia stands still and stares out at the water. "Let's go," she says. She's wearing shorts and a tight white top. Today's the first time I see her in something besides heels and a skirt. I like it.

She has visions of El Salvador and her past, and I'm sure she'll break down and cry when the first wave envelopes us. But she doesn't. She smiles and screams. The waves are so loud nobody hears us on the beach. She takes my hand. "Doesn't it feel good?"

I smile and scream too. Another wave breaks and comes over us. I shiver a bit. We keep holding hands as one wave after another hits us. I may cry tonight, or tomorrow, or a month from now, but as long as Julia holds my hands with the water breaking over me, I'm going to be just fine.

Title image "Refreshment" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2018.