At ten years old, Dolores discovered masturbation, from a nondescript book on the bottom shelf of a tall bookcase in her father’s study.
From that point on, her daily self-explorations provided her with a furtive escape from the monotony of small town life in southwestern Ohio.
While her brothers roamed the countryside with rifles in search of animals, tin cans or mailboxes to shoot, or spent their summer days jumping off a tire swing into the iron-stained river, Dolores retreated to her room, or sometimes to the secluded rose garden her mother had planted at the edge of the property on the hill overlooking the valley.
With book at hand, Dolores opened into her budding sexuality, her confidence stoked by the detailed drawings contained within that dogeared text. Much of what she read baffled her, and she didn’t dare ask her sisters, fearful of their response. In spite of the joy which those stolen moments provided her, Dolores was certain that her activities would be considered an abomination by her family. But Dolores persisted, pushing aside her anxiety and confusion, using her body as a guide to work out the proper positioning of both her hands and the implements suggested by the book.
When Dolores left for college, the book was so firmly ingrained in her mind that she returned it to its shelf in her father’s study. In college, her experience with self-gratification provided Dolores with a vast repertoire of skills for wild exploration with her sexual partners. Most of the men she slept with were shocked at her boldness, but more so with her use of props during sex play. But her unbridled enthusiasm won them over, and Dolores was never at a loss for men eager to expand their own horizons.
After college, Dolores moved to New York City where she felt more comfortable among the brooding, but sexually uninhibited, avante-garde. When her father died unexpectedly, Dolores flew home to Ohio for the funeral and, for the first time in many years, walked into the house where her sexual journey had begun.
Later that weekend, Dolores was sitting in her father’s study when she remembered the book. A wave of excitement spread across her body and she thought about the simplicity of those early days when she was a young woman discovering her own truth. Dolores closed the door to the study and found the book on the bottom shelf where she had left it, a thick layer of dust now covering its yellowed pages. She carried the book to the desk and sat down, undoing the buttons on the top of her black skirt.
When she opened the book, Dolores discovered a truth that somehow had eluded her adolescent mind. She flipped furiously through the pages from front to back, the emptiness in her stomach growing as she saw her life through a new lens. The book that had enabled her to become a woman without inhibitions wasn’t what she had remembered. Turning to the middle of the book, Dolores found the pages that had started her sexual journey. These pages described the techniques for arousal and orgasm that stirred her body long ago, but Dolores now saw that they weren’t part of the original book. They had been inserted there, and hastily glued into place, as if to hide them from prying eyes.
The rest of the book was something entirely different, but it contained the other techniques and tools that Dolores had adapted to her explorations. She closed the book and looked again at the spine, brushing off the thick layer of dust that had always been there. This wasn’t a book about female sexuality, but was an old farm manual, filled with instructions on using farm tools, growing crops and caring for animals.
Short story: Literary Self Exploration © 2010 by Shawn Radcliffe / Branáin