Chapter 3



I’m on top. Between us is a fine layer of sweat. She is wet. She is always wet, in a way that makes my desire uncoil and want to explode out of me. I change position, hooking my hands in the hinge of her knees and pushing them back. Our eyes meet before I let mine go slightly out of focus, leaning harder on the inside of her knees. There is resistance, almost imperceptible. A subtle pushback, a slight refusal, so small I’m not sure I feel it. I pause and unhook my hands, settling onto her body, less threatening, less invasive, pushing my desire back down a notch. I still feel the pressure of her legs against me, her inner thighs resisting me in a way that subtly subdues me.

In the beginning things had been different between us, more passionate, more reckless. Sex on tables and in bathrooms and on office desks. But that’s the way things always are in the beginning, and in youth. I tell myself it’s just the passage of time, the march into early middle age that slowly turns fucking into lovemaking.

Her eyes find mine and linger, maybe looking for something and not finding it, for we don’t manage to connect there and she looks away. I arrange my body in the way I know brings her to climax, guiding her legs into a place where she’ll be able to relax. She does, then so do I. A few moments later her breath deepens and she grabs at my back, moaning softly as I orgasm. I look down at her body in the half light, my cum in a neat line from solar plexus to the base of her throat. Exhaustion rushes in to fill the void where arousal had been, so fast and that for a moment it’s hard to support my own weight. The desire to fuck is replaced with the desire for oblivion. 

“Tissues?” Her eyes indicate the left side of the bed.

I lean through my haze and grab at the box, needing two swipes before catching a tissue and then studiously wiping her clean. We both get out of bed, her into pajamas and me into jeans and a button-down shirt.

“Tomorrow’s such a full day,” she sighs. “My God. It’s full of phone meetings and planning for the next quarter.”

“How many meetings?” Disconnection and a vague frustration arise like mild indigestion.

“Five,” she says. “First meeting is at eight. Then four more. I have to get some sleep.”

“Well,” I say automatically, “I hope you sleep well.”

“Sweet of you,” she replies, sticking a toothbrush between her teeth. She pulls socks over her bare feet, the toothbrush hanging from a corner of her mouth. Twenty minutes later she’s in bed, a book opened. I kiss her.

“Would you mind sleeping in the other room,” she asks. I look over our king-sized bed with its full pillows and thick down comforter. “It’s just … if you come in a couple of hours from now and wake me up, I won’t be able to fall back asleep. Or if you snore.” She pauses. “Or drink too much. It makes you smell. Tomorrow is going to be long enough as it is.”

“Okay.” I swallow against the indigestion.

I close the door and go downstairs, pouring a whiskey. Cask conditioned. Refined. Local. The batch number is even written on the bottle: #327. I look around the house. It’s modern and adult, not like the half-furnished and run-down places that populated so much of my twenties and thirties. Hardwood floors, granite countertops, new windows, furniture with matching pillows and blankets, a couch that doesn’t attempt to eat you when you sit down or steal the change from your pockets. It is all very nice, indicating that we have arrived into adulthood and can afford to spend money on design instead of just on function. I swallow the whiskey; its gentle bite is reassuring, like a warm hand on my shoulder.

Three drinks later it’s finally tolerable to be in my own body. The stress in my shoulders and low back, warmed from within, begins to release. Everything, in fact, seems softer and easier, the TV more reassuring in its self-importance, the darkness of the night an invitation to rest.  

I climb the stairs and into the small, uncomfortable bed in my study. As I turn on my side, a ghostly white fiber arises from my sacrum, a poisonous vapor of nervousness wrapping itself around my heart. At the same time, I realize the depth of my crushing fatigue. I ignore one while embracing the other, and for the next hour try and force what will only respond to surrender. Finally, defeated, I sit up and place my bare feet onto the hardwood floor. I try sitting on the meditation cushion I keep in my study, but a few minutes there is like a few minutes in a boxing ring. Dazed, I stand and kick the cushion back into the corner with a mumbled curse.

Back downstairs I open another bottle of whiskey and smile at the sound as the cork slides from the neck. I bring my nose down close and breathe deeply. The white coils of anxiety have risen to my head; my thoughts turn and circle back on themselves in neurotic loops. I walk the length of the house once and back, twice and back, ice chinking in the glass I’m holding. I know these kinds of nights, where the quiet and the dark act like a magnifying glass on all that’s warped and cracked inside. And I know the way out. I drink, and I pace, and after three more glasses I fall through the back door of my mind. I settle onto the couch and into an uneven sleep, and when the early dawn wakes me the anxiety is gone, replaced with the dull throb of a headache.