By Frieda Madland
"I used to say that if I were ever truly bored Id take a pen and connect the stretch marks on my thighs." She thoughtfully swizzled her Glenfiddich with a finger and stared at him. This was only a test.
"Really?" He tried to imagine it but wasnt sure what stretch marks looked like. He imagined concentric rings on her thighs like rubber bands. Then he remembered his wifes faint network of silvery lines and tried to think of what theyd look like outlined with a felt tip pen. But maybe all stretch marks werent created equal.
"What color? I mean, youd do it in red or black or what?"
"You really think Im serious, dont you?"
"I dont know. Its sort of a minimalists approach to fishnet stockings."
Olivia rubbed the lipstick off her glass and smiled to herself. She tilted her face toward the sun, thinking that maybe he was trying too hard.
"Tell me," she began without opening her eyes, "tell me something I should remember when we meet -- years from now when well suddenly recognize each other as we sit feeding pigeons on a park bench?"
"Despite our cataracts, you mean?"
"Well recognize each other despite our cataracts?"
She slid her sunglasses from her head to her nose and looked at him. "Youre vile."
"Really?" She had to admit that in bullshit artistry, he was right up there with the best of them. Hed even merit a 9.8 from an Eastern European Olympic judge.
"You should know all about climaxes and conflicts. Youre writing a play, arent you?"
"Yes, and I teach a graduate workshop in play writing. Its all about the power of diffused desire."
"No, the play is about diffused desire."
"Im not sure I understand what you mean."
"Havent you ever felt desire for someone who--"
"Why do you ask?" She stretched out her arms and let them drop. He should go away, she thought, this black-haired man with cerulean eyes. She felt dangerous. She leaned closer because she wanted to smell him.
"Research," he shrugged.
She rubbed the rim of her glass slowly and smiled. "Sure. I can tell you something about deferred desire--"
"I said diffused desire--"
"Deferred, diffused whatever you want to call it. Once in a restaurant -- one of those little French places with white tablecloths and smug waiters, I -- We were trying to say good-bye or something and all the while wanting to tear each others clothes off and feed on one another. We were trying to do the good thing, the civilized thing but you know, all we really wanted was a little fuck-fest, something to remember the other person by."
"Anyway, I think he left the table because he needed to compose himself. When he went off to the john, I sat there and licked his empty wine glass."
"Out of sadness or desire?"
"Mostly out of desire." Hes the one I should have married. He wouldnt have minded having all his underwear tie-dyed fuchsia."
"My first husband."
"You tie-dyed him fuchsia?"
"Something like that. In one sentence or less, he ended up in a hospital after having been run down by one of those delivery maniacs on a bicycle. He was wearing the one pair of underpants Id tie-dyed with the radiating bulls-eye over the crotch. Later on, he left me for the nurse who was majoring in psychopharmacology. Sometimes I think it all had to do with what Id done to his underwear."
"Sounds like it. But thats what you get for marrying a biped."
"Well, you do what you can for the gene pool." She liked that he was a smart-ass. Too bad he was married. At the very least, she wanted to drop to her knees and bury her head between his legs.
"You want to hear more about the play?"
She didnt, really. She wanted to be fucked, standing up against a wall, her skirt shoved up to her waist, her thighs trembling and wet. "I read somewhere that its about two agoraphobics living in the same high-rise whose grocery orders get mixed up. Is there more to it?"
"About the plot? Sure. What do you want to know?"
She wanted to know what theyd both look like with her straddling him, her cunt leaving a wet patch on his belly. Was there a black furry path leading from his nipples to the Elysian Fields? Could she make a path of matted hair with her tongue on her way there?
"What makes you think I dont already know enough?"
"The way your breasts heave when you ask me?"
"Nice line. Do you try that one often on your budding playwrights?"
"Why do you women always insist that --" He rubbed his chin and looked at her in a way that made her think hed used this tack before. "Just to illustrate my point --"
"That Im not particularly interested in pumping nubile, post-adolescents."
"I dont know, it sounds pretty good to me." She began nudging the toe of her shoe up his trouser leg.
He ignored her. "The play has a lot to do with that notion of desire. Of dealing with desire in a tangential sense or in a way that can be as satisfying as the nesting variety.
"I have a friend," he began. "A woman I know -- have known -- for some time. Shes an artist and works in one of those drafty, god-awful lofts near the docks in an area where I always remove my radio when I park. She has a lover I think, maybe two -- I havent been able to tell if one of them actually lives with her. Sometimes shell be painting when I come to see her, sometimes not. If shes busy, she just watches and if shes into it, she joins me."
"I take it were not talking about play reading here?" She found herself squinting trying to understand.
"We have never made love. But we do a lot of everything else. For example, she has two chairs that face each other, cheesy wing chairs, the kind you find at estate sales. Often, we sit across from each other. We talk about everything and nothing. Her agent, my students, her lovers, my wife, politics, recipes, plays, books, root canals, white sales, kids, feline distemper. While we talk, one or both of us begins to take our clothes off. Sometimes she starts, sometimes Im the only one who does."
He stopped. She thought he looked as if hed changed his mind about going on.
"God, dont you get frustrated? I mean its weird dont you think?" She felt she was suddenly engaging in bimbo-speak.
"Have you ever loved someone too much?"
"There are a lot of trashy books out on that very subject."
"Yes, I know, and written by female authors with psychology degrees and big hair. But Im talking about the fear of being with the person you love. Its mainly the fear of mutual destruction not to mention the fear of other more complicating factors--"
"Like wives, lovers and enough kiddies to ensure the survival of the human race in perpetuity?" She watched him finger-comb his hair on that one.
"Something like that?"
"So what do you do?"
"Mainly I like to watch her. She sits across from me with those scimitar eyes that remind me of those women in Gustav Klimt paintings. Sometimes, shell just slide off what shes wearing underneath, place one thigh over each arm rest, and begin to stroke herself with one of her paint brushes. The chairs are close enough that I can see her lips begin to darken and swell and a vertical sliver of wetness form between them. I fixate on the brush, its spiral motions gently sweeping against those puffy walls of rosewater and naturally -- I find myself pushing out of my pants. Sometimes it is enough just to watch her. But mostly I sit across from her and make myself come, just watching those eyes of hers. Sometimes shell read out loud. Once, as a joke, she covered her body in white flour and read me bread recipes from Irma Rombauers Joy of Cooking.
"Now that sounds perverted. I think theres a joke somewhere in there about looking for the wet spot."
"Maybe, but it made me rise like a french-braided onion loaf."
"And your wife? Im sure youve shared all your recipes."
"This is simply an adjunct, another part of my life, another niche."
"Well, go on. What do you do?"
"About your artist friend. Surely, you have to provide some portion of the entertainment!"
"She likes to have me come against her thighs while she paints. She says she likes the energy it gives her painting. That, and listening to Maria Callas and k.d. lang."
"All at the same time? Whats the matter, dont you like to fuck?" She imagined him endlessly jerking off in the direction of pastel landscapes.
"I like the empowerment of desire better. With her anyway. I would never want to know that things got tired between us. I value her too much to share mediocrity."
"So your play is really about the two of you -- the two agoraphobics who love but dont fuck. Love between two dysfunctional human beings."
"No, love and desire in all its breathless anticipation, pure and frightening. A marriage of lightning bugs."
She smirked and kept herself angled at the sun. "As for me, I like to fuck more than I like to glow. Im just your run-of-the-mill Noahs Ark type."
"Any particular phylum? Or arent you picky?" Clearly, the toe up the trousers had gotten her nowhere.
"Actually, I used to have a penchant for Cambrian trilobites. It was those complex, schizochroal eyes that did it -- and the fact that you could always count on them being hard as a rock. But these days, its your basic homo erectus with a good jaw line that Im after. My taste has improved as Ive grown older."
Later, she wondered when they were soaking in the bathtub and shed rubbed Vitamin E oil on their floor burns, how often her grandmothers Oriental rug had exacted these same passionate wounds from others. How many knees and elbows had been buffed, scraped and rubbed raw, how many grinding wet bodies had collapsed exhausted and spent, as the Victorians were wont to say, dribbling their juices into the dark patterns of grandmas carpet?
Quite a few that shed remembered.
While they lay soaking and sweating at opposite ends of the tub, small candles perched on the ledge, he stared at her breasts. In the dim light, he said they reminded him of perfect floating meringues. No doubt, hed been thinking of Irma Rombauer again but she was damned if she was going to read him any recipes.