Lo sauntered down stairs looking like sex descending a staircase. She greeted everyone good morning. The kids had already scampered away from the table to make mischief elsewhere. Lo proceeded to load up her plate with a pancake and a mound of strawberries. She picked up one of the strawberries with her hands – hands that I knew had been up to no good just moments ago – and she took a slow, seductive bite of it as she locked eyes, first with me and then with Carl. It was a slightly uncomfortable moment until Lo said, “Mmmmmm, these are so good. Do you have any cream to go with them?” Then it was a very uncomfortable moment.
Lo paid nobody no mind. She felt that Hollis had already pegged her as a Jezebel, and so she would play the part to the hilt.
After breakfast was over, Lo and I hopped in the car and went food shopping because, being guests, we wanted to be considerate and we had promised to make a special New Year’s Eve chili and other fixins for the little party that Carl and Hollis were planning for that night.
“What the hell was that?!” I demanded of Lo once we were alone in the privacy of our sedan.
“What, ole man?”
“Don’t ‘what ole man’ me. You know very well what.”
“Well, which part – the masturbating, the noisy orgasm, or my love of strawberries?”
“All of the parts.”
“Oh, come on,” she said flirtatiously, rubbing my arm up and down, “don’t be mad. I was just having some fun. Their life is stiflingly boring. Give ʼem something to think about, to talk about; something other than that God-forsaken stove!”
I had to laugh because with the amount of praise, veneration, description, and care Carl paid to that stove, one would have thought he married it and not his wife!
“Maybe you’re right,” I said as I drove away from their house, “their entire existence is an eternal recurrence of the same.”
Lo and I picked up groceries and then we returned to the quaint little cottage. After unloading the groceries, Carl said to me that we had better get going because the movie theater was a forty-five minute drive from their house.
Suddenly the anachronistic absurdity of it all dawned on me. Here I was with Carl, speeding around the winding road, off for some entertainment, whilst the children scampered about with their friends, leaving Lo and Hollis to their “women’s work” in the kitchen, preparing for a soirée that evening. What the hell?! Had we traveled into another era when we crossed the border? I thought this was a progressive state.
As Carl and I drove, he and I had a chance to talk. As Lo and Hollis were alone, they did too. Here’s a bit of each of our conversations:
Carl: I can’t tell you the last time I went to the movies. Thanks for the suggestion and giving me a chance to slip out.
H.H.: Really? What the hell do you do for fun around here?
Carl: HH, we’re really just scraping to get by. Hollis doesn’t even know this yet, but I’ve started to get my stuff together for taxes and it’s looking like this year is going to be worse, financially, than last. And last year was worse than the one before that. We’re completely strapped.
H.H.: Oh, I didn’t realize it was that bad. Why don’t you get out of here? – This rural area is still in a recession. Pick up and move down toward us.
Carl: I’ve thought of that. I think of it every fucking day. But our house is worth less than it was when we bought it.
H.H.: Are you underwater?
Carl: I don’t know. Probably. But the point is, if we sold, we wouldn’t ever be able to afford something down by you – especially not with our credit score.
Lola: So who is coming over tonight for New Year’s?
Hollis: Some neighbors, mostly parents of the kids’ friends.
Lola: How many should we expect?
Hollis: It’ll be four adults and six kids.
Lola: That makes nine kids total and eight adults!
Hollis: Do you think you can handle cooking for that many?
(At this point, Lo had to bite down hard on her lower lip because the snarky jibe at her culinary abilities set her off.)
Lola: Oh, no problem. I just hope HH and I bought enough food. It’s such a trek to go shopping around here, or to do anything. Don’t get me wrong, it is so quaint being here surrounded by nothing but nature and rolling hills covered in snow. Such a needed break from our busy social life in the city.
Hollis: (Nasty scowl.)
Lola: You and Carl must be so content out here.
Hollis: (Putting down the pan she was holding and looking directly at Lo.) Look, you don’t like me and I don’t like you. There’s no disguising it, so we can stop pretending.
Lola: That’s fine by me. I knew you never liked me. I just didn’t know why. I have tried to be nothing but nice to you – I brought your kids gifts, we have invited you and Carl to our house, I’m even making dinner for your entire family and house full of guests tonight!
Hollis: Why should I like you?
Lola: What does that mean?
Hollis: Isn’t it obvious?
Lola: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Hollis: HH is in his fifties, like Carl. You’re what, twenty-two?
Lola: Twenty-five, thank you.
Hollis: Twenty-five. So what? You were twenty-two – at least that young, who knows? – when you came into his life.
Lola: What of it?
Hollis: Are you really that blind?
Lola: Are you really that judgmental? You have this image in your head: older married man with kids goes through midlife crisis, finds young floosy, drops his wife and kids, runs off into the sunset with a young trophy wife.
Hollis: Well, isn’t that the story?
Lola: Shows you how little you know of us. And do you know why you know so little? Because you can’t see past the simple, pat narrative our society has provided you with and it’s easier to believe the simple story than actually learn the complex reality.
Hollis: What’s the ‘complex reality’?
Lola: The reality is that HH was already on his way to filing for divorce a year before I even came into the picture. The reality is that his ex was so cold-hearted, materialistic, and absent from the role of parent so often that HH might as well have been a single parent. The reality is that HH, far from dropping his responsibilities, took on even more responsibility for the kids, for his life, for us after he got divorced. He gave her everything during the marriage and way more than half of everything when they split up – way more than she deserved or would have been awarded in court.
Hollis: I am surprised to hear you say that.
Hollis: Because of your self-professed ‘feminism.’
Lola: What’s that have to do with anything?
Hollis: I’m just surprised that you’re so blind to a wife’s point of view.
Lola: Just because I’m a feminist doesn’t mean that in every dispute between a man and woman I blindly take the woman’s side.
Hollis: (Under her breath.) No, you just take her husband.
Lola: I heard that and that’s bullshit.
Hollis: Don’t you see? – What happened with you and HH is every middle-aged married woman’s greatest fear. I can’t even imagine anything worse happening to me.
Lola: Is that because you suspect, deep down, that your marriage is vulnerable?
Hollis: Fuck you!
Lola: Look, I’m not after your husband. I’m not out to wreck your marriage. I’m not telling you how to live your life, but it seems to me that your hatred of me, your false conclusions about who I am and what I’ve done, your totally unsubstantiated beliefs about HH all stem from your own insecurities, rather than anything about who he and I are and how we live.
Hollis: Maybe you’re right. But you don’t know what it’s like to be in your forties, to be stressing every single day about money, to have to raise three kids, to look in the mirror and know that you’re not sexy, not thin, not beautiful. . . anymore. To be too tired to have sex. . . or even think about it. (She sat down and almost began crying.) Do you think I asked for this life? Do you think that when I met Carl, when we got engaged, when we got married that this is the life that I envisioned? Do you think that I saw this coming? – The cuts in salary, the cuts in benefits, the overwhelming feeling that this pay check Carl’s bringing home might be his last because more layoffs are right around the corner; the feeling of helplessness that there’s absolutely nothing I can do to change my circumstances or our situation. You don’t understand. You can’t possibly.
Lola: (Sitting next to her.) I’m not trying to say I know what that’s like, but we all have insecurities about how we look, about money, about aging. And I do know what it’s like to have kids in my life. They might not be mine and you might not see them when we visit (because this is a vacation), but I’m twenty-five, single, and basically suddenly a mom to HH’s kids – yet without the full status as “mom” and without the unconditional love that comes with being their actual mom. No, I have to work for their love. I have to earn it – every fucking day. I have to walk that fine line between discipline and being the hated step-mother. You’re not the only one with problems. And you shouldn’t go judging others just cause you don’t know their problems.
After the movie on the way back:
Carl: Wow! That was a great movie.
H.H.: Yeah, it was. I mean, there’s definitely a running theme in Scorsese’s films – power and the abuses of it.
Carl: And like a lot of his movies, it was about an hour too long. I mean, I didn’t need to see all of that – and in slow motion too! But it did give me a lot of masturbation material.
H.H.: Did you really mean what you said – about being basically roommates with Hollis?
Carl: Unfortunately. If I want to get off, it’s my right hand and either my imagination or porn.
H.H.: Even in the worst days of my marriage, it wasn’t that bad.
Carl: I’ve said it before, you’re very lucky, HH.
H.H.: I am lucky. I don’t deny that. But it’s more than just luck. It’s the ability to know when things are bad and change them. You still can do that, you know.
Carl: Can I? I mean, the kids, my job, the house and mortgage. I think I’m better off married and miserable than divorced and destitute.
H.H.: That’s bleak.
Carl: Don’t get me wrong. I love Hollis. I really do.
H.H.: ‘Married and miserable’? Yeah, that sounds like love to me.
Carl: It’s more complicated than that.
H.H.: I’ll take your word for it.
Carl: I don’t want to get you down. It’s New Year’s Eve. I was looking forward to you coming up here to pick me up. So, tell me about that minx of yours. What was she up to this morning?
H.H.: Carl, I’ll just say that with Lo and me, she’s the one looking for the masturbation material.
H.H.: She has a higher libido than any man I’ve ever met. I tried to tell you this the other morning. I just can’t keep up with her.
Carl: I love hearing about this. I live vicariously through you.
H.H.: Oh, I could tell you stories.
We got back to the house and, though the tension between Lo and Hollis was palpable, the aroma of the crockpot of chili brewing and other appetizing plates was filling the air.
That evening – New Year’s Eve – the guests began to arrive. There were two couples and six children – as if every family in the town was a carbon copy of each other, making a liar of Tolstoy when he said that all happy families are alike but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. In this town, every family seemed to be unhappy in exactly the same way. But there was one welcome surprise to the monotony; one of the families had a niece in town, visiting from college about two hour’s drive south. She was a senior and so only a few years younger than Lo.
“This is Tammy,” said one of the mom’s, “my niece who has been visiting us since Christmas Eve. I hope it’s ok that she has joined.”
“It’s fine,” said Hollis, “the more the merrier.”
Tammy entered and immediately Lo’s defenses were up. I could see her snap to alert like a Great Dane apprehensive of a stranger who may possibly threaten her master – ears up, eyes keen, nose sniffing out any possible sign of danger. This Tammy character was a bit taller than Lo with long black hair, clearly carefully primped into flowing ringlets down her shoulders. She wore a nice but tight fitting dress, appropriately festive for the occasion – had the occasion been a nightclub in some swank downtown area of a major city. She wore heels and this gave her an even greater height advantage over Lo. Tammy’s eyes were just a bit too close together for my taste, but her teeth were luminously bright and her smile was friendly – maybe a bit too friendly.
Whatever her reason for being at this dreadful backwater of a town, I was glad she happened to tag along to this sullen light in the dreary darkness of the north-country foothills. She brought an unexpected unpredictable factor to what would have otherwise been a purgatory of polite society.
After some introductions and appetizers with white wine, the kids scurried away to the kids’ playroom and the adults huddled in the living room around the coffee table across from the always fascinating wood-burning stove.
Tammy’s aunt prodded Tammy, “Go on, bring it out. It will be fun. No, really, it will be.” Tammy followed her auntie’s instructions and went to the car while the jovial aunt explained, “We got her this new card game that’s all the rage with college students these days. It’s called ‘Cards Against Humanity’ and it’s a hoot!”
Lo and I rolled our eyes at each other secretly, quite amused for all the wrong reasons at Auntie’s enthusiasm for this game.
Soon thereafter, Tammy returned and made some apologetic remarks about the game, despite Auntie’s impatience at getting the game started.
“Have you played before?” Tammy asked Lo and me.
“Our friends introduced it to us, unfortunately,” said Lo with a laugh.
“Oh,” said Tammy, “then you know.”
“Oh yes,” I said with a wink, “we know.”
Back around Thanksgiving, when Lo and I hosted a little get-together for stray and stranded friends who either couldn’t go “home” for the holiday or didn’t wish to go to that place they don’t call home and which is filled with an odd assortment of people fate has conspired in a cruel joke to label as “family,” we were introduced to this silly excuse for a card game. “Cards Against Humanity” takes the most horrible and jarring images, words, phrases, and conjunctions of cultural stereotypes and politically incorrect concepts and forces the players to do a sort of mad-lib game with them. It is shocking and not for the thin-skinned or faint of heart. We played it with our circle of uninhibited, close friends. I had my reservations about how it would go over with this sexually frustrated menagerie.
To gird ourselves for it, I opened another couple of bottles of champagne and refilled glasses. Cards were dealt and Lo said to Tammy, “Watch out for him,” indicating me, “he likes to cheat at this game.”
“Cheat?” Tammy asked.
“How can you cheat at this?”
“He finds ways of storing ten, twenty cards at a time so that he always has the best one.”
“Oh!” she squealed with delight, “I’ll keep my eye on him,” and she gave me a very flirtatious look. I happened to be sitting next to her and Lo was two or three people down from me.
We got to playing and I couldn’t help commenting on the cards with wild sexual innuendo. Tammy would laugh and giggle and every so often she would do a spot check, patting me down, searching my pockets for cards. Of course I was cheating and I got away with it through most of the game.
Then Tammy saw how I was cheating and she called me out on it and made me stand up as she reached into the inner pocket of my sports coat, feeling my chest as she did so. There was a big uproar of laughter when she pulled out ten cards. Lo wasn’t laughing.
After the game and quite a few glasses of champagne, people broke off into small groups or couples to talk. I was talking with Tammy and she was telling me about how, after three years, she and her boyfriend had broken up in September. She was quite forward, saying, “Yeah, since then it’s been a long dry spell. I’ve tried dating, I’ve tried the on-line dating sites, I’ve tried blind dates, but it’s just not going well.”
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“Just to get laid. Not Mister Perfect, not a long-term relationship. I just want to get my rocks off.”
I laughed, thinking of my Lo who was across the room with her eyes on me.
“All the guys I meet – they’re so immature. They get so drunk before the night’s over that it’s not even worth bringing them back to my room. Or, they’re no good in the sack at all. They cum within two or three minutes and leave me hanging.”
I had no idea how to navigate this conversation. I was actually looking to Lo for help, but she just made the “Go ahead, marry her if you’re into her that much,” look at me from the little circle she was in as one of the married couples talked her ear off.
“An older man – I used to date an older man when I was in high school,” she said. “I think that’s what I need.”
“Let me go see if I can find one for you,” I said and quickly excused myself. I went over to Lo hoping to extricate her from her circle and have a private word with her, but there was no luck. She had made up her mind that I was the one flirting and so I was to be punished.
The night carried on like that until midnight when all the kids gathered in front of the TV and the adults stood around behind them and we watched the ball drop in Times Square. Lo and I shared a very perfunctory kiss and then we were part of the receiving line saying goodnight to all the guests since they were eager to get their kids home and tucked in.
Tammy approached me and said, “I’ll be waiting to hear from you.”
“About what?” I asked as I stood nervously next to Lo.
“About finding me that older man. Remember?” she asked as she leaned into me to jar my memory.
“Oh right,” I said. “Goodnight. It was very nice meeting you. Happy New Year.”
Lo gave her a little hug as only a classy woman could and soon enough the guests were gone, the kids were in bed and Lo and I said goodnight and good New Year to our hosts before retiring.
Once in the bedroom, Lo stripped down to nothing and I said to her, surprised by her haste, “Wow! You’re naked.”
“I was born naked,” she said.
She hopped under the covers and, after washing up, I was slinking next to her naked body with mine.
“Good night,” she said, not turning to kiss me, or even face me.
“Good night?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “good night.”
“But, I’ve wanted you all night,” I said, so glad to finally be alone with her and, most especially, to be next to her body.
“You sure you didn’t want Tammy?”
“Lo, come on, I wasn’t attracted to her.”
“It sure looked like you were from where I was standing.”
“Lo, if anything, she was the one attracted to me.”
“That may be true, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t reciprocal.”
“It wasn’t. I was just being polite.”
“Well, be polite now and go to sleep. I’m exhausted.”
“Is this how you want to start the new year?”
“It’s how I want to end the old one.”
“2013 is gone. We’re into 2014 now.”
“Yeah, well, goodnight.”
“Lo, I’m going to say this and say it once,” I said, rubbing the side of her thigh, “I am hard-up for you.”
Without turning her head or showing any sign of yielding, she said, “Well, jack off, if you’re so hard.”
“Please, Lo. Don’t be that way.”
“Jack it, if you’re so desirous of me, just like so many men have done.”
“Am I just one of so many men?”
“No, but you never jack it for me or to me.”
“No, you cum on – cum on me.”
“That’s what you want?”
“That’s all you’re going to get.”
I grabbed my hard shaft with my right hand as my left caressed her. She pushed my hand away.
“Tell me about the guys who jacked it to you.”
“Tell me again.”
“Well, a lot of them would. If I didn’t want to have sex, or if I just wanted to see them do it, they’d lie there in the dark and pump it with their right hand until they came all over my back or my tum, my puss, my tits, my face – or whatever it was I felt like giving them to cum on.”
I was growing more and more excited by the thought of that.
“And you liked it?”
“I loved it!”
“You want me to cum on you?”
“I want you to cum on me and for me.”
“Where do you want?”
“You tell me.”
“Cum on my ass.”
Within seconds I was mounted over her. I had turned her face down, ass up and I was spewing all over her.
When I was done and I had fallen on my back, suddenly she was now in a loving mood – as if my offering was a sacrifice to atone for whatever indiscretions she believed I had committed.
“Let me have it,” she implored.
“There’s no more ‘it’ to give.”
“Noooo!” she cried.
She grabbed me, she tried to resuscitate me with her mouth, she pulled and teased – all to no avail.
“Oh, screw you! What a disappointing New Year’s,” she said as she lay on her back fingering herself.
Within moments she too came.
After she had some time to recuperate I asked, “What were you thinking about?”
“I can’t,” she said.
“I can’t tell you?”
“Because, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea.”
“What? Idea about what?”
“Just. . . I don’t want to lead you to any bad thoughts.”
“But Lo, you know how I love bad thoughts – especially yours.”
“What were you thinking about?”
“Ok, fine. I’ll tell you,” she said, hiding her face in her pillow so I could hardly hear her.
“I’m listening, but I don’t know what you just said.”
She peaked out from the pillow, “I was thinking about inviting Tammy into our bedroom and giving her permission to take you in her mouth, to kiss you, to blow you, to get naked and sit on your lap and, just when she is most desirous of you and can’t take it anymore, giving you permission to fuck her good, hard, and long till she finally is satisfied. That’s what I was thinking about. Am I bad?”
“Yes, Lo. You know you’re bad. But that’s why I love you and only you.”