Between the sheets
When we got back to her place, she asked me to come up.
I didn’t want to.
It was already getting late and I still had work to do, which meant dragging my was back the way we had just come to the mall.
Lack of sleep over several days had worn me down. I could hardly think straight.
“So you don’t want to fuck me after all?” she asked when I hesitated too long.
“I never said that.”
“Well, you’d better come upstairs, Alfred, or you may never get the chance again.”
So I went upstairs.
The first thing she did was to make a drink. She had not had a drink for the whole trip west and back, the longest period I had seen her go without one. Then finishing half of it in one extended sip, she went to change, returning in her usual skimpy t-shirt.
But she didn’t direct me to the bedroom.
Instead, she carried the sheets into the living room and converted the couch into a bed.
“Get your guitar,” she said.
“I thought you said…”
“Get your guitar,” she said more firmly.
I retrieved the guitar from the bedroom. But when I went to sit on the couch, she shook her head.
“Over there,” she said, pointing to the chair.
“I can’t exactly do anything if I’m sitting over there,” I said.
“I don’t want you to do anything. I want you to sing.”
“But downstairs you said…”
“SIT DOWN, ALFRED, and play!”
So I sat, took up the guitar, spread open the binder on the edge of the coffee table.
“Anything particular you want to hear?”
“You know what I want to hear.”
I started with her songs, but the moment I did, she spread her legs.
I stopped playing.
She closed her legs.
“Didn’t I tell you to play?” she asked.
“I got distracted.”
So once more I stroke the guitar, each note lingering in the air as the vibration rippled through the body of the guitar, and then up into me.
Gradually, Peggy’s knees parted again, both legs folded before half raised, she staring through the elevated knees at me, her eyes bright with the reflection of the lamp behind me.
The three feet between me and Peggy seemed like light years, filled with obstacles such as my guitar, the coffee table and even our own clumsy limbs. Yet someone I managed to over come the distance, the obstacles and even Peggy’s feeble protests to entwine my limbs with hers.
Luke Skywalker could not have delved into that trench as accurately as I managed to; using some force of nature I did not know I had access to, her limbs encircling me as my mouth found hers.
I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed or if over those moments I even breathed. I recalled the small of her later, the acute scent of an expensive perform some other man had given her, tainted by the sharp tang of nicotine and alcohol – which I also tasted on her lips, adding something magnificent to the moment like a shot of adrenaline running through me from head to toe.
But Peggy grimaced when I entered her, an expression of such pain, I drew out again, and re-entered only when she insisted – but by then, the whole moment had fallen in on itself.
“It’s all right,” Peggy said after a moment. “We’ll get it right the next time.”
“It’s not supposed to hurt you,” I said.
“It doesn’t hurt exactly,” she said. “Please try again.”
So I rolled over, but nothing
felt quite the same, now more of a duty than a pleasure, and I eased once more
into her, her face cringing the whole time like a torture victim’s.
“I can’t do this,” I said.
“It’s okay – really. You just have to calm me down,” she said. “Tell me everything’s going to be all right.”
So I whispered things in her ear more like a parent claiming a child over a nightmare than a lover.
It all felt wrong – and my
mind raced with questions about why she had become this way, felling in the
gaps of information with theories of my own: Had she been raped or abused in
some other way I could not imagine?
I kept talking. But it was less for her than for myself, as if I needed to keep up my own wilting resolve and she clearly unable to handle it.
Finally I fell back, sweat dribbling into my eyes, stinging. I couldn’t make it work – and I could not look at her in my shame.
“I have to get used to you,” I mumbled, keeping my face pointed away from her, though in doing so, I invited the scorn of the multiple images of John Wayne looking down at me from the wall. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry doesn’t do it,” Peggy said angrily.
“What do you want from me? If I can’t do it, I can’t do it.”
“I want to please you,” Peggy said angrily.
“Why don’t we watch TV and get our minds off of it.”
“I don’t want to get my mind off of it,” she yelled. “How do you think I feel not being able to turn you on?”
“You do turn me on.”
“I’ve tried; I can’t.”
“But it’s hurting you.”
“Not doing it hurts me. Are you going to fuck me, Alfred, or do I have to go down to the club and find someone who will?”
It felt like a slap in the face and I got angry.
Somehow I had gotten to my feet, and stood above her. But she was the one who seemed in the superior position, mocking me from where she lay on the couch.
“Are you coming back into bed or what?” she asked.
“All right,” I said, and slipped back down to her side.
“Now we’re going to do this again,” she said, “and we’re going to do it right. But you have to make sure you don’t do it inside of me. I don’t need to get pregnant.”
“You mean you’re not protected?”
“What did I just tell you?”
“I know but…”
“Just do what the fuck you’re told.”
As angry as I had been, I suddenly felt tender towards her, different than before, attracted in a more fundamental way. Somewhere deep down inside of me, I wanted to heal her wounds. So I didn’t plunge in, choosing instead to caress her, my lips finding her lips, my fingers linger on the tips of her breasts, and when I entered her this time, it was more the extension of these caresses, and for the first time, she did not cringe.
For a long time, we just rocked, arms and legs in an embrace against all the horrors of the world beyond us, as if we protected each other against the world’s furies and out of this emerged something bigger and more potent than both of us, a serge of something scalding come out of me and flowing into her – every part of my mind and body exploded with the intensity of it, a super nova I knew we could never repeat had we ever tried.
Then from what seemed like a great distance, I hear her screaming at me: “Pull it out! Pull it out!”
I had no clue as to what she meant I was so deep in that fog.
Then with both hands, she shoved my chest and pushed me off, and I fell away.
I fell away, spent, leaving a trail of wet across the sheet, and a red-faced infuriated Peggy saving her small fist in front of my face.
“What did I tell you about pulling out?” she roared.
I looked over at her and the rage on her face.
“I did pull out,” I said finally.
“Almost not in time,” she snarled. “I thought I was being nice to you. I thought I’d let you do me. But next time, you’re going to wear a condom.”
“Next time?” I asked innocently.
“Don’t be a wise ass, Alfred. Nobody likes a wise ass.”