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pleasing everyone isn't like you

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Selina is an awful lay, but so is everybody in Washington. The only reason Amy singles her out for censure is because by all rights Selina should be slightly above average given the amount of time she spends screwing herself and everyone in a ten-mile radius over, with Amy at the epicenter of fuck, the ground zero of spinning on it. The point is that Selina is selfish and in many ways untalented and surprisingly inept at finding the clit given that she definitely has one, and Amy still keeps coming back, because that’s just the kind of person she is. Once in second grade she gave herself a fever out of spite and came to school anyway. Sometimes, when the entire office is a screaming morass of incompetence and Mike is giving her a look like he might cry if she doesn’t do something, Amy daydreams about doing it again.

Actually, given the amount of time Selina spends screwing Amy in particular, she should be much better at it. There should at least be some technique involved, some active animus even, instead of whatever this is. Selina can barely get the zipper down on Amy’s dress without breaking it, for fuck’s sake, but here Amy is sprawled out on the couch in her office anyway, one heel lost in the carpet by the doorway, entrusting at the very least her next orgasm to the last person on earth who should have anything to do with it.

The thing is that on bad days — the really bad ones, when Selina yells at Gary and tries to kick a hole in her office door and then spends an hour with a Diet Coke from the minifridge pressed to her foot — Amy knows that it’s all ridiculous. In fifty years it won’t matter if Selina has lipstick on her nose at a factory tour and meet-and-greet. Except it might, because that’s how these things work. For every time Amy thinks fuck it, in fifty years we’ll all be dead of cardiac stress anyway, there’s a little voice in her head that makes her double-check anyway. It’s always the little things: spinach between the teeth, blisters from that new pair of heels, the kind of infinitesimal coincidence that drives baseball players to superstition and staffers to smoking. If Selina skips the last five minutes of a reception because her feet hurt, maybe some half-senile representative will take it as a snub and use it as an excuse to kill a bill with Selina’s name on it before it even gets out of committee.

Amy doesn’t smoke. Selina used to, but unless she does it in her house — unlikely, since all the decor is way too light to hide smoke stains — or has figured out a way to be in two places at once, she doesn’t anymore. Amy knows a good 98 percent of Selina’s schedule, and the remainder consists mostly of spinning. She knows about the time Selina got food poisoning and threw up in Gary’s bag so that the car wouldn’t have to pull over. She knows how to tell when Selina puts half-and-half in her coffee instead of skim. She knows how Selina looks after sex, the good kind, because Amy has never half-assed anything in her life, and apparently that includes fucking her boss now. If only she could figure out where to list it on her resumé: under special skills, probably, right next to Excel and all the other technical bullshit that everyone lies about as a matter of course. Anyway, because Amy doesn’t smoke, she obsesses, and that goes in her cover letter as “detail-oriented,” which is only related to office quickies because one of them has to stay on task and Amy knows it isn’t going to be Selina.

Half the time Amy still thinks that she’s been in some kind of car accident, some horrific fuck-up involving railway crossings and school buses, and instead of lying on Selina’s couch she’s really sprawled across the windshield and her neurons are all firing at random so that she has something nice to think about other than impending brain death. There’s no way Selina is so incompetent that she has to shove Amy’s skirt up, for one. On the other hand, Amy knows for a fact that her subconscious can come up with better fantasies on short notice. Maybe it’s the champagne. Maybe it’s the long hours and the way she sees the unread count next to her inbox when she tries to sleep at night.

Or maybe it’s the way Selina lights up when she finally gets a reaction out of Amy. It isn’t much of one, because Amy is hideously high-maintenance and too drunk to bother faking it, but she gasps and shifts and Selina gives her the wicked sharp smile she saves for whenever she thinks she’s being particularly conniving. She hasn’t even gotten Amy’s underwear off, for fuck’s sake. In another minute she’ll forget what she’s doing and Amy will have to suffer through five interminable minutes of fumbling before Selina figures out how to manage it again. That’s the whole thing about politics, though. Nobody goes into it for the satisfaction, and Amy thinks that might have infected her entire life. She doesn’t want anything if she doesn’t have to literally wrench it from somebody else’s grasping little claws. When Selina finally makes her come, Amy knows it’ll be worth it, because there won’t be an ounce of pleasure in it that she hasn’t fucking earned several thousand times over.

In the meantime, she keeps her hands out of the way and tries to direct Selina through a kind of frustration-motivated telepathy that she also applies on a daily basis to their four-figure neurotic coffee machine when it isn’t brewing fast enough. It doesn’t work any better on Selina, but it gives Amy something to do other than think about how Selina is literally a full half inch too far to the fucking right. In combination, it’s almost as good as actually getting off. That probably says deeply unflattering things about Amy.

Obviously they’re drunk, because it’s after midnight on a weeknight and Selina has no sense of decency when it comes to other people’s sleep schedules or the fact that they have to get up and keep her from falling on her face every single day. She also refuses to go to Senate receptions alone, because that way she doesn’t have to actually talk to people who she wouldn’t recognize if they were wearing name tags and had a full list of cosponsored measures stapled to their faces, so Amy — as the resident pushover with no sense of work-life balance — always gets relegated to the role of combination glorified arm candy and diversion supplier. One day she swears she’ll manage to rope Dan into taking her place. On the other hand, if he ever tries, Amy might bash his smug face in with a keyboard. She doesn’t trust him with Selina as far as she can throw him, and Amy has a lot of internalized aggression and surprisingly good upper body strength, so she’s willing to bet that’s pretty far.

Dan is a shit, which Amy is trying to think about less because her inability to keep quiet about his aforementioned shittiness is how he ended up with a corner desk and executive control of the only window in the office that gets fresh air. Worse than a shit, Dan is a snake; worse than that, he’s actually half-decent at what he does, which is more than she can say for most people with a hard pass and a flag pin. A solid third of his machinations end up biting him in the non-existent ass, sure, but put him next to Gary and he looks practically Machiavellian. Amy shudders. Not a great thought. Actually, none of it is a great thought, not when she’s meant to be focused on stoking Selina’s ego and getting herself off through sheer telekinetic force of will.

That’s the thing about Selina: Amy needs to keep an eye on her at all times, partly because of her weird combination of egotism and pathological neediness, but also because Selina does a better job at basically everything when she knows somebody is watching. She’s the perfect politician, except for how the inherent contradiction between her need for flattery and her inability to admit it undercuts basically any ambition she might have been able to leverage into effectiveness. As such, she’s the political equivalent of one of those fireworks that flies around in circles before breaking a window in a burst of patriotism and faint shrieking. The idea is to make sure the sparks land on somebody else’s carpet, if nothing else. The idea is also that Selina fucks better when Amy pretends that she has at least 40 percent of Amy’s attention. 50 percent is a little much, because then Selina gets performance anxiety, but any less and she assumes she can do whatever and Amy won’t notice (see: that time she looked down and found Selina surreptitiously trying to read the tag on her underwear, which Amy never did find afterwards).

Sometime around the ten-minute mark, Amy starts running through her schedule for the next day in her head and trying to figure out whether it’s even worth going home or if she should just sleep under her desk. Around the time she gets to the hour between 11 a.m. and noon, Selina either figures out what she’s doing or runs out of ways to be ineffectual, which is a relief because it means Amy doesn’t have to figure out what she wants to get for lunch and it also means she doesn’t have to start making the weird breathy noises that Selina thinks indicate pleasure rather than a desire to expedite matters before she has to deal with chafing.

“Yeah?” Selina says, and smirks up at her. “You like that?” She says it like Amy is one of the burbling idiots in a handshake line, or maybe a lobotomized dog or a little kid. For some reason Amy’s into it. In a past life, she would probably feel bad about that, or at least make some effort to be ashamed. Given that in this one she just moans louder, there probably isn’t much point. “Yeah you do,” Selina says, because Amy’s life is hell and her sex life is cobbled together from bad porno lines and the kind of perverse premise that makes her squeeze her legs together like an intern who’s about to make headlines. “Come on, baby.”

Amy is so, so fucked. That should definitely feel demeaning. It probably is. Instead of being sensible and saying so, she just lifts her hips so Selina can get her underwear off and makes petulant noises until she leans back over, glasses slightly askew. Actually, it probably has something to do with those. Amy sets them straight, because she can’t help herself, and Selina gives her a disappointed look. “What?” she says, aware that her voice is pitched little-girl high and faux innocent.

“Nothing,” Selina says, and sinks two fingers knuckle-deep in Amy with what she would consider unwonted roughness. She gives Amy her own stare of deliberate obtuseness. “How’s that? Is that too much for you?”

Amy wants to say yes, because after so much fumbling it almost is, but she also wants to tell Selina to go fuck herself. Instead, she shakes her head and bites her lip and watches Selina’s eyes drift to her mouth with a sort of industrial-grade inevitability. “No,” she says, almost whimpering, when that doesn’t make any difference. “Please?”

So Amy’s going to hell, sure, but in that case Selina is too, because she looks at Amy like an indulgent — Amy doesn’t blush at much, but she thinks it might be one of the very few thoughts still capable of making her squirm. Anyway — because of the way she looks at Amy. Selina curls her fingers just a little, teasing. One of these days Amy is going to completely lose it, she swears. “Please what?”

For fuck’s sake. Amy turns her face into the cushions and makes a noise that she would never describe as mewling, not if somebody put a gun to her head and a subpoena in her hand, but it definitely is. She’s also definitely blushing, more than she has since Sue looked at her for ten minutes one morning before telling her that she looked like a careerist backstabber, that it was a good look, and that she should do it more often. “Please,” she says, because it’s not a sentence she refuses to say all in one breath. “Fuck me.”

She knows it isn’t the first time Selina has heard those words from her mouth, and not just because they keep falling into — well, not bed. Sofa, definitely. Desk, on occasion. Floor, definitely more often than Amy would like. Chair, memorably, though her knees hurt for two days afterwards and she hadn’t been able to look at Selina behind her desk without having full-on flashbacks to what it felt like when Selina’s bracelet snagged in her hair and she didn’t even stop, just yanked harder and told her to suck it like you mean it, Amy, for fuck’s sake.

That isn’t even counting the number of times Amy has yelled it — at her phone after an assistant hangs up on her, at the entire office when nobody seems to be able to keep up, at the world at large when it fails to conform to her meticulously improvised agenda — but Selina makes her feel like a fucking virgin when she says it, and not the literal kind. The metaphorical kind that only exists in the fantasies of dirty old men, which is to say the 20 percent of Congress who haven’t had their sex drive completely wiped out by markup sessions and also Jonah, who was born a dirty old man without the vague ameliorating factor of actual age.

When she says it for Selina, Amy gets breathless and flustered and clumsily eager in a way that just gets her even more wet, and Selina knows it, because Selina is a force of nature like a tropical storm that was never meant to make landfall, but she has a goddamn way. Under the narcissism and the arrogance and all the bullshit that any woman in Washington needs just to get a foot in the door, never mind a seat at the table, Selina has a formidable will and truly horrifying tenacity, and apparently she’s decided to focus both on making Amy flush like an honors student getting fucked by the principal. It’s possible that Amy’s roster of similes is getting a little out of hand. Anyway, she asks Selina to fuck her because when it comes down to it Amy is a pushover and that’s particularly true when it comes to stupid shit Selina demands of her, and she says it in her most persuasive voice because she wants it to be good.

Unfortunately, it works. Selina gets bossy at the slightest hint of a power differential, and that’s exactly how Amy likes it from her, God knows why. She doesn’t even care that Selina is treating her half like bone china and half like a hand strengthener, because that just means she’ll be feeling it for days, that every time Selina hands her a stack of papers or beckons Amy to come into her office or makes the universal hand signal for get me the fuck out of here yesterday, Amy will remember why she does any of it.

Fortunately, Amy comes before she can think or say anything truly embarrassing, not that there’s much left on that list that she hasn’t blurted out to some no-name third deputy assistant copy-on-all-emails staffer at happy hour or three in the morning or two in the afternoon on a particularly bad day. Because Selina won’t stop until she thinks Amy has had enough — a lesson Amy learned the hard way, the one time she tried to keep quiet, when Selina wouldn’t let up until she kicked a thousand-dollar lamp off the end table — she makes it one of those unbelievable Katz’s Deli orgasms, loud and protracted and frankly mortifying. It’s solid work and also mostly genuine, although Amy would perjure herself before both full chambers and the Supreme Court before she admitted that.

After that, it gets easier, because Amy actually has some idea what she’s doing. If she’s high-maintenance, Selina is whatever comes three levels up from that. Amy is pretty sure that if she didn’t get Selina off, Selina would take it both as a deliberate insult and an indication of her personal and professional shortcomings, and Amy deals with enough directly contradictory crises on a daily basis that she doesn’t want to add a vice presidential sex meltdown to the list. Speaking of, she has one in her head, of what Selina does and doesn’t like. Good: silence from her partners, so that she can listen to herself and calibrate her responses accordingly. Also good: oral, because it means she doesn’t have to make small talk. Amy has listened to Selina’s mid-coitus small talk, and she would eat any amount of pussy to never have to try and discuss budget reconciliation while four fingers deep in her boss again.

Oddly, Selina doesn’t like to watch when Amy is going down on her. One day Amy will figure out why, and then she’ll find a way around it, because one of her persistent fantasies — the kind that she only thinks about in two-hour-long weekly personnel meetings, when she can’t do anything about it except stare into the middle distance and hope her expression passes as boredom — involves looking up to find Selina looking at her with something between fondness and exasperation. Again, Amy knows there’s a word for that, but she also has to live with herself on a daily basis. She doesn’t have time or room for self-discovery.

Other things Selina doesn’t like: too much sensation too quickly. She likes to be wooed and cosseted and spoiled. Given that Amy already does that on a daily basis, none of that comes as a surprise, so she’s happy to spend a good ten minutes getting warmed up before Selina drags her up by the hair and makes Amy suck her clit until she gets hoarse and more obscene than usual. And yes, the possible Freudian readings of that haven’t escaped Amy, thanks very much, but given that they’re in Washington it could be much worse. They don’t have an old boys’ network. Instead they have to stab each other in the back based solely on merit and personal grudges, like real goddamn politicians, and then they have to pay it forward to all the fresh-faced interns who show up every year and swear on a stack of congressional rulebooks that they won’t suck dick or sell stories for a promotion or a thrill and who need to be thoroughly browbeaten before their glamor shots end up splashed across A1 next to a headline strung together out of bullshit and innuendo.

The upshot of all that is that Amy knows how to get Selina off just the way she likes it, not too fast until the very end, when Selina just wants to get it over with so she can put herself back together and pretend her composure is perfect and perpetual. Which is fine, because Amy isn’t really the cuddling type. She starts getting a yen for C-SPAN and coffee about three minutes into any activity that involves not moving for longer than the duration of a commercial break. She knows Selina doesn’t mind lazing around for hours with men, anyway, probably because it makes her feel like a glamorous older woman with cat-eye frames and a rotation of pretty boytoys. Amy is worth a lot more than that, because she can get Selina off in five minutes flat when the occasion calls for it — in the back of a car, for example, or to help with her nerves before their Hail Mary of a Super Tuesday rally — and because she knows that Selina doesn’t like too much follow-through. Too close to actual intimacy for an office lay, probably.

Afterwards, Amy wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and tugs her dress down and goes hunting for her other heel to give Selina time to get herself together. They have an understanding like that, because nobody else has any idea what it’s like to go to sleep every night and dream about the five billion ways a woman’s political career can go down in flames. Sue might, but Amy is pretty sure even Sue’s dreams are scheduled down to the minute, so if she ever worries about that kind of thing it probably occupies a perfunctory A-block in her subconscious before she moves on to more productive thoughts. Selina and Amy — sometimes, and she knows it’s stupid, but sometimes Amy thinks that they’re stuck with each other, because nobody else gets it. Nobody else understands why they get up every morning to go to work in a hellhole where personal ambition and success come in inverse proportion to actual integrity, why they dress and talk and walk the way they do, why everything that happens in 68 square miles of pretension built atop a pit of vipers matters so much that they’ve fed their entire lives to it. They don’t have to talk about it. They know.

So it’s the champagne, so it’s the stress, so it’s the long hours and the could-be-better pay and the approximately two vacation days Amy takes per fiscal year before she gets twitchy and abuses her VPN connection to badger Sue for a side project to micromanage. Who the hell cares? It’s the best game in the only town in the world. Amy knows she’ll play until she’s so deep in it that they won’t deal her back in, and then she’ll go out for a smoke and climb in the basement window and bang on the floorboards until they have to take her back. It isn’t job security, but it’s something, and no, Amy doesn’t actually plan to sleep under her desk. She has a few hours before dawn, enough time to shower and change and maybe eat a breakfast that has actual nutritional content. Anyway, in this town, that’s an eternity, she thinks. Everything can change in a few hours. Somewhere, somehow, the next day’s shitstorm is already brewing.

Behind her, Amy can hear the creak of Selina’s chair as she spins gently, to and fro.

Amy was right. She’ll be feeling it for a while.

She closes the door on her way out.