pas de deux
In bed beside Char, Mitchell wonders why she never reaches out, touches him. The way his slutty girlfriend Sasha used to. What's with her? He knows she's asleep. Her breath faint, a slight snore. What to do? He's got a hard-on. He could turn over and get off on the mattress. He's that desperate. Considers toying with her breasts. Char thinks they're too small. She's so silly. He doesn't care about size. Mitchell runs one hand across her T-shirt. No reaction. Char always sleeps in a T-shirt or sweat top. Never naked. Never skin to skin. They've had sex this way before. He escalating his assault, she halfway giving in to him until she's moving closer semi awake and they're actually doing it. But not tonight. He's not in the mood to be rebuffed. No way.
So instead Mitchell stares at the ceiling and wonders why Char never makes a pass. In fact to his knowledge she has never ever made a pass at him. He never has a clue when she wants to make love. Ever. In an argument once she said he just didn't notice when she was in the mood.
"Well, be more obvious then."
"That's not the point."
"And what, pray tell, is the point?"
"You have to notice. You have to be more sensitive to my needs."
Mitchell had talked to his gal Friday about it. Said that he had a friend who had a friend. She saw through that tired old gab.
"Woo her," she said.
She'd laughed and hiked her charcoal gray skirt up a tad. "A big stretch for you, I know. Woo her. Women like a little romance."
"So I do what? Bring her flowers when I want to get laid? Chocolates?"
"What happened to women just wanting to get it on?"
Mitchell often felt cheated that he hadn't been of age during the Free Love 60's. That was his idea of social change. He liked sex. Thought about it all the time. Couldn't comprehend why Char didn't seem to think about it ever. Which was a crime as hot as she looked. Char had hit her sexual peak but Mitchell didn't think she'd even noticed. He didn't think she'd ever even had a real orgasm with him. At least as far as he could tell. And even though he was supposedly on the downside of his sexual mountain he could see no difference. He worried about it all the time. Use it or lose it had been his philosophy as a young man, the only philosophy he was acquainted with. Mitchell was still horny all the time. Though it was getting weirder and weirder to lust after 20-year-olds when he was now old enough to be their father. And the few times he'd actually scored a 20-year-old in recent years he'd been disappointed, and a little ashamed.
Women used to undress him when he was younger. He liked that. They couldn't wait to slip his belt off. They'd be making out and then he'd feel fingers on his belt, his pants coming down. All he had to do was wait. Because sooner or later that's what always happened. Until this one. And it was driving him crazy. If she didn't want him then what the fuck was she doing living with him? Mitchell couldn't figure it out.
Mitchell gets out of bed, shuffles stiffly naked into the den, and pulls a Playboy from a stack of magazines. Goes in the bathroom and stands over the sink. The open magazine rests in the palm of his left hand, while he grabs his dick and starts rubbing his right hand back and forth across the head of the shaft. He's always thought the centerfold shots were too stagy. Mitchell goes for the more casual shots in the Playmate layout. This one, a blonde, reminds him of Amy who works checkout in the parts department at the Sears auto center where he works part-time changing tires. In one photo she's barefoot on rocks in the desert someplace and he feels like he's worshipping her. The camera angle is like that. Worshipful. So that Mitchell's eyes slide up from her feet, up her miles and miles of creamy leg. In another she's wearing a stark white nightie which is open revealing everything. A white toothy smile with dimples and bedroom eyes that demand submission. In another photo it's the red high heels and the way her legs are spread that gets to him. And while his eyes jump from one photo to another and he contemplates what he'd say to her, how he might try to pick her up, his hand action gets faster and faster until he shoots cum all over the spigot and the porcelain.
Winded and a little surprised that he's come so quickly, Mitchell backs away from the sink, bends at the waist to place the magazine on the bathroom rug, gently like a religious relic. Then he washes his cum down the drain.
Mitchell leans both arms on the cold porcelain. Ignores his face in the mirror. This is what I've come to, he thinks. Middle age. Jacking off in the sink while my girlfriend sleeps in the bedroom. Char has begun nagging him about everything. He let something spoil in the fridge. He owns too much junk. He won't go out and get a real job. He stays up too late. He sleeps all day. It's too much. Mitchell realizes he's through with her. The only thing keeping them together is habit. After a few years it just doesn't seem to matter any more. Time to move on. He knows it now. And with that he forgives himself his fall from Catholic grace, forgives his hunger for release, begs God to overlook his weak foolishness, and stashes the magazine back in the pile in the den, before he shuffles to the bedroom and falls instantly into a dreamless sleep.
"Dammit Mitchell, I really have to pee. I'm not kidding. Stop the fucking car."
Mitchell hits the brakes and pulls the Camaro onto the shoulder. "Can't you hold it, we're almost home," he says.
What am I doing with this asshole? Char shakes her head, "No, Mitchell, I really have to go, I can't hold it."
"But we're in the middle of the GW Parkway"
"I don't care Mitchell. I don't give a flying fuck. I'm going to go in the woods. Deal with it."
Char pulls some Kleenex out of the glove compartment, opens the door, leaves her purse, remembers her jacket, it's still April after all, and walks into the trees. Nobody's passed them yet. Good. Thank god she wore her New Balance cross trainers. Maybe they will keep her from falling and breaking her neck.
The undergrowth seems to thin at the bottom of the incline. She lets gravity pull her the last few feet down the hill, and finds a likely place. The pee hitting the ground makes a carbonated sizzling. She hates peeing in the woods because she usually gets wet but she had no choice. Her bladder was about to burst. Too many beers at Mitchell's brother's place in Manassas. She'd gone to the bathroom before leaving the party and felt sure she'd make it home but Mitchell was semi-drunk and driving slower than slow.
The sharp car horn in the dark almost knocks her out of her squat. Asshole. The frogs have started already. There's a chorus somewhere nearby. She finishes up and then decides to wander further into the woods. Fuck Mitchell. Let him stew.
Char can hear a creek. The kerplunk of frogs leaping off the bank into the water. Must be very cold water. She shivers, pulls the jacket tighter, sits by the bank. Her vision is sharpening some. She can see the water, the rocks. The night is never as dark as you think once your eyes adjust. Char leans back against a tree and finds herself bone tired, soul weary. She shifts her body and stretches out on the ground. The ground's not as cold as she thought it would be.
"Char. Where the hell are you?"
Mitchell is freaking. He's pissed. She doesn't answer.
"I'm leaving. I mean it."
Char holds her breath and waits. She hears the car door slam, the engine start, and the headlights race into the distance. It seems like it's happening on a movie screen, or to somebody else's life. She doesn't much care. Her hands have slid into familiar positions. The way she slept as a little girl. Her right hand on her heart, left breast in this case, the other shielding her opening. Back then she'd just been afraid her insides might fall out. Char couldn't sleep any other way but on her back in this position and usually needed a nightlight. As an adult she discovered that sleeping on her side with a pillow between her legs made her feel even safer.
The frogs are louder now. An occasional car drives nearby. Char's left hand is beginning to move a little nervously, to smooth the denim below her belt. She's surprised, a little disturbed, and then even more disturbed that she's disturbed. It's not like she ever has sex with Mitchell. Fuck him, she thinks. Fuck him and his ridiculous mustache, and his pretentious cowboy hat and boots. And she unzips her jeans, works her fingers under her panties, and gently begins massaging herself. Paddling the pink canoe, one friend calls it. She giggles a little. Mitchell never had managed to figure out how to please her. He drives her crazy. He attacks her like he does a car--ree, ree, ree, ree--using his electric gun to get the wheels off. Yet, never managing to get her off. Mitchell always wants to use a power tool when a pair of oars will do. She'd tell him gently, gently, and he'd slow down for a second or two, and then he'd be back up to speed, to pushing her back and forth like some sort of tiny punching bag before ramming into her with all his weight. Mitchell didn't have a clue.
Char had been thinking about buying a French tickler, something subtle, that would help him understand what she wanted, but the night she was ready to offer it and show him what to do, he picked a fight over something trivial. What she didn't even recall. What was it her oldest sis, Ellen always said'Men give love for sex and women give sex for love.' Something like that. There was precious little of either happening now.
Char stared straight up, tried to see where the tree tops ended and the sky began and couldn't. She never got to have sex outdoors. Why? She loved it. On the beach, in the rain. The chill on her body. Goose bumps. Nobody ever knows your body as well as you do, yourself. And she came like clockwork, one, two, three short huffs and puffs and she was done, her fingers sticky, her head dropping back on the ground.
When they'd first started going out they'd had sex two and three times a night. Mitchell hadn't had any finesse then either, but he made up for it with WMJQ rednecky good looks, undiminished energy, and sheer ardor. Char was impressed by his stamina, his sticktoitiveness. She never had any orgasms but she managed to feel wanted and needed and somehow less lonely. Orgasms would happen, she was sure. But time passes and now they'd been living together almost two years. Two years? No use lying to herself, she was bored. She'd thought she could train him, channel his sexual energy, but their lovemaking pretty much always had the same results. Mitchell had little imagination for the bedroom. She'd given up, Char realized. She'd taken to pleasuring herself before he came to bed. That way she guaranteed that she was satisfied. Sometimes she felt like he must have sensed it because he'd make a half-hearted pass at her while she pretended to sleep. Other times he'd just go for it and though she kind of liked being roused from a sleepy state and matching him move for move, he always quit when she was still halfway up the hill. Still, sometimes that was the best sex. Almost like having sex with a total stranger. But usually he made clumsy passes at her now, said insensitive things, or ignored her. Hard to believe she'd ever actually cared for him.
The frogs were still chorusing. The air colder. Char stood, zipped up, and wobbling slightly followed her path back. A car would eventually drive by and she'd beg a ride. She wasn't afraid of hitchhiking. A 35-year-old white woman alone on the GW Parkway would bring out the Good Samaritan in most men. She hoped so anyway. She'd get a ride home, calm Mitchell down, and begin making plans for moving out. Soon. Her next guy would make sure to please her first, maybe even deny himself some nights, and be a damn sight less goal oriented. She promised herself. And was surprised when another tiny tremor rocked her insides as she crested the hill. Hmm. Thinking about leaving was too good.
richard peabody ©2003