Certainly there are sexless men out there somewhere, people who feel that erotic pleasure is utterly uninteresting. The guys at work who spend all their free time checking out sports scores or fantasy league standings, or who are devoted exclusively to their model airplane collections. Admirable things, to be sure.
Certainly. He knew that. But it had never been like that for him. He had always noticed the curve of a calf, the sheen of stockings, the rosy flash creeping up a neck as a sign of embarrassment or incipient excitement. It was like a kind of radar or ESP. Sure, it had created awkward moments, a restlessness that wouldn’t go away. Every day, it seemed, there was a moment – an image, a thought, a flash of recognition in a passing glance, a sight that took his breath away – that resonated in his mind as he pleasured himself. Yet it was never right, never enough, and increasingly he imagined darker but unarticulated things. But several months ago, things started to go haywire, and it was only now that he realized things had gone beyond his control.
It started at the carousel at the airport. His bag was identical to Hers. By the time they’d sorted it out – he’d been helpful and deferential, of course – he’d not only been intrigued by Her perfume and the dangle of the bracelets on Her slim wrist but by the lacy hem of the leopard print slip he’d seen in Her bag when he’d opened it to show Her that the bag was his. He felt silly, of course, but also flushed: the rosy tint creeping up had been on his neck, not Hers. She’d simply smiled.
The shared cab ride, the drink at the bar of the bistro near her home with the twin bags on the floor, side by side, the dinner, the exchange of phone numbers, and then dropping her off and helping only to the door and the soft kiss of her hand on his cheek and the lingering scent – had she freshened it in the restaurant’s bathroom while he paid the bill? – as She said goodnight.
In time he’d discovered that She was every inch a lady, down to the tautness of Her neck as She arched her back before thrusting Her hips forward when on the edge of orgasm.
She epitomized the woman that had danced darkly in his imagination for so many years. Yes, of course he’d looked at porn and knew the allure of leather opera gloves and garter belts. But he’d never before felt the smooth bindings of stockings around his wrists as they were pulled out to be tied to the bedposts or the insane pleasure of being mounted and ridden as She rubbed herself to orgasm and collapsed against him, still hard, panting, and more aroused than he’d ever been in his life.
For the first time in his life, he discovered the most intoxicating form of arousal of all: the pleasure of a woman who feels no shame in the pleasure She experiences and is without reservation in making it happen.
Soon, things he’d started to say seemed to remain stuck in his mind. First it was during their lovemaking – how amazing She felt, how intense the pleasure was, how he’d all but begged her again and again to slow down so She would come first and how She’d breathlessly complied, often leaving him fully engorged until She’d regained Her composure and finished him off with a few twists of Her fingers. Not that he was complaining. For some reason, even with the minimal, casual, almost forgetful touch, he would come more intensely than ever.
And for the first time, when he was alone and making himself come, he thought only of his partner, of Her, and not the open, expectant gaze of an attractive woman waiting for him to approach her.
And soon, also, the things he’d routinely said to soothe the ego of a partner when out in public – “you look stunning,” “there isn’t a man here that wouldn’t want to be in my shoes,” “how can you stand being so sexy” – had a resonance and solidity. The words didn’t evaporate but stayed with him when they were apart. And when She had him repeat them, as She had him massage Her feet and kiss the tops of Her arches, they stuck even more.
When he confessed those feelings to her – surprisingly, after he’d released and was normally inclined to get lost in his regeneration – She’d smiled slightly and Her tongue would slowly and unconsciously glide across Her lower lip.
And then, things changed. There was a problem with Her bank account. Could she write him a check for $500 and get cash? He’d be able to deposit it later. Later became later and later still. And then one night when he was snugly bound and deep inside Her, She asked if he wouldn’t mind forgetting about the check. He said, ‘No, of course,’ and She paused and asked him to speak more clearly, asking if he was sure it didn’t matter, and that he was happy to forgive the debt, to admit that actually he was the one in debt to her. Which he did. Careful to articulate every word. She shuddered as She came, and he spasmed to his core.
The check – the checks, actually – were only part of it. Where they had regularly seen each other a couple of times a week, it became erratic, some weeks just once (and one time not at all), others three times. Sometimes it was simply dinner out, which became more provocative than he’d expected. He spent one weekend entirely with Her. They’d planned to fix things up, and had started. But She remembered a pressing need a client had, so while She worked on some code on Her computer, he scrubbed clean the grout of the bathroom floor. She was effusive in Her thanks and, when She had him sitting on the floor, between Her legs, pleasuring Her, She said, “Careful, or I’m going to program you.” He couldn’t stop thinking about Her for days, of Her fingers tapping over his body, instilling code.
Every couple of weeks, She would ask at especially delicate moments whether he’d ever known as much pleasure as he did with Her, even if he didn’t come exactly when She did. It became easier and easier to talk about how consuming the pleasure was, how deep and satisfying and meaningful, about how much She meant to him. And each time, She’d talk about his debt to Her and he found himself agreeing more and more easily. Without even realizing it, the statements came to be true, and each time, when she said, “I’ve brought a check,” he found his pleasure reached a new height and a new level of intensity. The numbers seemed arbitrary. 200. 625. 415. They meant little, just numbers, and when She slid them into his hand, kissing his forehead lightly, She would always say, “You can hold on to this for now, can’t you?” he always answered yes.
Then the routine, irregular as it was, was broken. Then a week passed, and a second. She was busy. But not unthinking. He received a parcel with a pair of Her underwear, smelling faintly of Her perfume. They talked on the phone. She was simply busy, which he didn’t doubt: She was always there when he called, happy to hear from him, even if a little distracted. He was careful not to be pushy in saying how much he missed Her, careful not to be too pleading. Often She said only, “Hmm…” letting it dangle before reassuring him that She missed him also.
Despite the enforced hiatus, he found himself coming only to thoughts of Her. The blistering red nails of the woman who shared his table at Starbucks, even as she applied her lipstick – things that once would have consumed his erotic attention for days – were soon forgotten. When an attractive colleague at work (who had once filled many of his fantasies) dropped her cup of coffee on the floor he had been quick to help clean it up, but he’d barely noticed the color of her underwear as she squatted to clean it, as well.
Then another envelope with a note inside and another envelope, as well. The note was brief. “Please call me when you’ve received this, but wait to open the other envelope.” Excitedly, he picked up the phone and dialed, relieved to hear Her voice, which was warmer and fuller than it had been for weeks. She asked him to rub himself through his pants, asking that he hold back for now, and asking if he was free for dinner in a half hour. Of course he was, and She asked him to open the other envelope. Inside was a pair of Her underwear scented both by Her perfume and the scent of her mound, a scent he loved more than any in the world. Also in the envelope was another envelope, this one business size, with a single word inscribed on it: “Take me to dinner, unopened.”
The restaurant was quiet, the martinis were dry, the meal delicious, Her warmth and obvious pleasure in seeing him irresistible. As they swirled the cognac snifters and inhaled the fumes, She asked if he’d brought the other envelope. She slid closer to him, and brought Her lips to his when he said yes. She talked about missing him, about missing the intensity of their time alone together. Her hand slid to his crotch. He found himself saying all the things he’d said to Her when they were intimate. She asked about indebtedness and the checks and he said he’d forgotten about the latter. She kissed him deeply, her tongue forcing itself deep into his mouth. She asked if he liked the checks, Her hand taking the lower part of his crotch firmly. He stiffened more as he said, “Yes.”
She asked that he open the last envelope. He did, and he pulled out a check. It was different. It was an unsigned check of his, made out to Her, in the amount of $5,000.00. The memo line read, “Just the first.” She took his ear lobe between her teeth and said, in a clenched, slightly choked voice, “Make me come.”
The next afternoon, when he answered the phone and heard Her voice, he sat up straighter in his chair, as if She could see him. “Thank you,” she said, “it’s never been that intense for me before. And do you know what I love most? There’s nothing you can do to change things.”
The line went silent. For a moment the room seemed to darken and then come into focus with a crystalline clarity.
There was nothing he could do to change things.