Kids, no matter who they are, no matter what their ages, want to see their divorced parents back together again. They don’t give a shit about how the parents feel. If they get the chance, they will put them together, no matter how awkward or impossible. They don’t even care if it’s unpleasant. They want to see the family whole again. Wrongs righted. Guilt eliminated.
Believe me, I know a little about my enormous ego needs, and I tried to keep my self-flattery in check. I think if you took some dad who was so fucked up and dangerous that he lived in prison, and was better off kept there, his kids would still want him released and back home. Kids want a family. A dad is a dad is a dad.
Even The Wimp, with her own special brand of hatred for me, and her damn good home life with her mom, wanted to see this.
So when I came to dinner, she had her chance.
Why do I call her The Wimp, this beautiful daughter of mine whose name is Rachel? Dot dot.
I call her The Wimp because…when she was a baby…I was a cruel, stupid son of a bitch. When she was very small, she cried sometimes, like all little people do. Me – I had my own ideas about the appropriate times for that nonsense. Sometimes, it was natural. I would scoop her up and give her a thousand hugs and kisses. At other times – mostly when it was inconvenient for me, or when her mom got there first – I felt it was the wrong time for crying. Thus, being the alienated asshole that I am, I called her The Wimp.
It was Gracie who suffered the real abuse of my name calling. The nickname was always for her ears, not Rachel’s.
How ironic, this whole family game. A baby is born. The greatest love in the world develops. Concurrently, husband and wife become split. Suddenly they have to stretch to touch each other – like reaching across the Mississippi. The baby grows; the love in one’s heart swells to unheard of proportions. Meanwhile, husband and wife drift even further apart; the ol’ hearts nearly burst for the touch of the child, but it doesn’t pitter-patter the way it used to for the spouse.
Well, you know the whole story. It’s nothing more than just a bunch of dots.
Rachel, when I got there for dinner (I was going there to see her, you understand; not her mother, who I could easily find at the restaurant almost any time) was leaving.
“Don’t leave,” I said. “I was going to help you with your homework.”
“Get real, Dad. That’s why I’m leaving,” she said. “I’ve got a ton of homework.”
“She’s spending the night with Margie, next door,” Gracie said. “They study together. She has a test tomorrow.”
“What’s the test on?” I asked.
“That was my major. What’s the material?”
“Oh,” I said. “Forget it.”
“Besides, her mom’s fixing fish sticks and fries. I don’t like that crap you’re having.”
“Fix sticks and fries are Rachel’s favorite,” Gracie said.
“I love fish sticks and fries,” I said.
“Too bad,” Rachel said, and she’s out the door with her book bag and suitcase. She slammed the door so hard it shook the house, and me. She inherited that slam from me.
“Wait a minute!” I screamed.
I rushed out the door and she’s already at the end of the driveway, halfway to Margie’s house.
“Is that it? Is that all I get to see you?”
“If you want to see me,” she said. “Then come over here more often. I live here all the time. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year.” She was still walking. “I’ve got a test tomorrow. See ya’.”
“Can I have a hug?”
She grunted, dropped her bags, and trudged my way. It wasn’t like she was racing to me, ready to fly into my open arms. She hung her head, let her dark curls fall down over her face, barely moved her feet. So I walked toward her and met her in the driveway. Quick hug. Very quick. But oh, it was a nice hug. So nice and wonderful. We whacked-out dads can’t be picky about the way our children treat us, after what we’ve done to them. I need to grab a few more of these in the next year or two, before she begins to refuse them altogether.
Gracie fed me tortellini `a vongole, a salmon filet, salad, and brussel sprouts, and two bottles of white wine. It was a meal she knew I loved, a meal with dots in mind, maybe.
We talked about her restaurant, her parents, and her classes. We talked about her cooking. “This is delish,” I said, chewing vigorously. We talked about Rachel. “She’s boy crazy,” Gracie said. We talked about my mom, my insanity, my medication, my trip to the courtroom. I told her about Althea and my trip to the hospital.
“We ought to go upstairs,” I said. “In order to complete the perfect evening. For old time’s sake. Purely recreational,” I said. “No meaning, no baby production. No commitments. Just you and me, two lost souls. Mono and mono. Finding a shred of happiness along the existential drift. Me, the horny shithead ex-husband. You, the good earth, the lonely divorcee.”
“You are a lonely divorcee, aren’t you?”
“Go on up,” she said. “I need to call Rachel.”
“Can I watch?”
“Watch you call Rachel.”
“Sure, go ahead.”
She called. Everything was fine. She talked to Margie’s mother. The girls had studied, and they were in bed.
One reason I wanted to watch Gracie make that phone call was because she looked so good, better than she ever had, I think. Oh, it was pleasant to see her easy single-parent mothering. But I liked watching Gracie move around that kitchen. Her dark brown hair was in a pony tail; her lovely face, with those dark eyes and first rate cheekbones, was like the full moon moving across the sky of that house. Her arms looked the same as the arms she had as a girl, but now they were a skilled woman’s arms – doing things all the time. Everything with a purpose, her hands handling the telephone with a certain intelligence. Yes, she was getting a few wrinkles around the eyes. A little ridge of wear and tear above the chin. She wasn’t, of course, the girlish lass I married. She was a woman now (allow me to say this, please; I can be a gushy guy – with all the moods, the chemical inbalance, the dot dot dots) – this aging produced a fineness all its own – better than the purity of youth. Her body was better than it used to be – just as slim, with more curves. What a wonderful bottom she had, and the delicate proportions on the opposite side (always my favorite) – how sexy, how inviting. This woman turned me on more than ever. Despite the bad feet, she’s always had great legs. Wearing jeans, I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there and I wanted to.
Time, as they say, makes one’s prick grow fonder. But that was the problem.
This medication has done funny things to me. Or maybe it’s my age. Maybe you would know. I sure as hell don’t. I’ve never been normal anyway. But I was sitting there, obviously heated up, ready for the sack, waiting for my ex-wife to meet me in bed, ready to rip her clothes off, and her mine. Yet, I had no erection at all. I didn’t even feel its existence, this all-important appendage of mine. In past years, when my mind focused this way, the physical would have matched the mental (or, quite honestly, far surpassed it). I would have been in sheer pain. Now, my thoughts were utterly pleasant, but not desperate. Would this be enough? Maybe Gracie knew. She was taking her damn time about it, as usual, clearing the table, pouring me another sip of wine, taking another swig herself.
She let her hair down. More pleasantry, but still no violent action below.
“Go on up,” she said. “Get in bed. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Now she put the wine in the fridge, washed her hands, and adjusted the thermostat. Did she turn it up or down? Felt fine in here to me. What’s the difference? It was her thermostat, her home.
A few quick dots.
I once had been an integral part of this household, but there were no signs of me in it. There were probably pictures of me tucked away in photo albums somewhere. The one taken in the hospital, seconds after The Wimp entered the world, me holding her while the exhausted and euphoric Gracie smiled. That was certainly preserved. But I had never contributed any material objects to this home, at any time. Any money I ever made was quickly squandered, or used to buy more psychotherapy. Everything here was paid for with Gracie’s dollars. This was a different, newer house, with all new stuff – Gracie’s clean break from the past.
All this is just a hell of a long way of saying that I was a damn guest here in every way, and she could adjust the thermostat however she liked. Still, did she turn it down? She used to complain that she got too hot when me made love. Not hot in the romantic sense of the word hot. Not hot hot. I mean hot. She said my body was too hot, it made her hot – she needed more air space between the two of us.
I stood up, looked at my feet. Beautiful linoleum in this kitchen. It looked like real tile. I think she could tell I was nervous. After all, I was new at this non-manic lovemaking business. I was like a boy, mentally, like a man, physically. And I wasn’t sure how manly I was. She came over and gave me a kiss, a great kiss, swirled her tongue enough to show me she was serious about this. She patted me on the chest, and grabbed me with her hand.
The secret was out.
“Go up,” she said. “We’ll have to do something about this.”
“Gracie, you’re a confident woman. I wasn’t you’re first; I guess I wasn’t your last.”
“Go upstairs!” she ordered.
Of course I wasn’t her last. How could I be so stupid? Believe me, it’s easy.
“You’re staring at me like I’m a goddamn work of art,” she said. “It’s nice, but it’s about to make me nervous. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Upstairs, I took my clothes off, looked at myself in the mirror. This was not an even match.
My upper body still looked okay. I still had my great legs.
I didn’t look at my face. It could be young and alert, okay – or awful, depending upon my mood. I didn’t want to know. I knew I still had beautiful eyes. Everyone had always said so. But now, you see, they could be buried at times within these big, deep, ugly, dark, sockets. Lack of sleep. Part of the illness.
I was getting to be a flabby guy around the middle. My erection had already dwindled, and I wasn’t as funny as I used to be. I got in bed, shut my eyes, curled this way and that, and finally just relaxed, on my back.
I didn’t even hear her coming up the stairs. As bad as those feet were, somehow she was light enough on them to pop into the bedroom at a brisk pace, in silence. She hit the bedroom light, flicked the blinds, dashed into the bathroom, cut-off that light, shut the doors, and we were there, me waiting in the bed; her rummaging around the room – all in the dark.
“I’m coming,” she said. “I’m coming to get you.”
Her voice had changed. It was that gutteral, bedroom voice. The one she used at times like this. That crazy Gracie voice that blew my mind seventeen years ago, and for several years after that.
Dot dot dot.
For the few years we were still together after The Wimp was born, I didn’t hear that voice in bed. I heard an angry squeak, or no voice at all. I would stay up all night, climb aboard my sleeping wife in the middle of the night. I was naked, and erections were no problem. To the contrary, when I was manic, they hardly subsided. Sleepy, she said, “What the hell?” Then, “I’m tired. Get a job.” Then, nothing, until, “are you finished yet?”
A boost to the ol’ male ego, huh?
Conveying to her my knowledge of women, I said, “Did you come?”
“You bastard. You woke me up. And I’ve got to work tomorrow.”
Then she got out of bed, left me there to sleep for awhile.
Dot dot dot.
Hey, when you’ve got to hit the job hunting trail day after day, week after week, year after year, you need a little sex in your life in order to boost to the spirits, something to keep you going. Job hunting is tough, discouraging.
Now, in this next stage of life, things are different, the tables somewhat turned.
“Can you see anything?” she said.
I said, “No,” but the word got caught, so I said it again. “No. Nothing.”
“I like to do it in total darkness,” she said.
She was in the room, I didn’t know where.
“You used to like a little light. You were scared of the dark.”
“I was scared of you.”
I wanted to argue that point, but not too much.
“You were scared of the dark too.”
“Things change,” she said. “I love it dark now.”
“Well, it’s dark,” I said. “I can’t see a damn thing. Where are you?”
Then she’s on top of me, me under the covers, her not. It’s like we’re orthodox; there’s a sheet between us.
“Here,” she said.
I got my arms out of there and grabbed her body. She wore something, a nightgown.
“Get under here,” I said.
She rolled to the side and slid back under with me.
Now I’m getting the whole Gracie, her body on top of mine, her legs on mine, her cheek beside mine, her arms around me, and mine around her.
My earlier concerns have now dissipated. I wouldn’t want to measure this aging organ of mine. I certainly wouldn’t want to compare it to those of other, more lively chaps, nor to its own proportions as a younger, fresher utensil. But it was hard. She got it between her legs and squeezed.
“You are a lonely divorcee,” I said.
“The hell I am,” she said. “I’m just in my thirties now, like you, and you still don’t know shit about women.”
“Sorry,” I said.
“That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
So what I’m gathering here is that it is not all for my selfish benefit, as it was so many times before – I think she really enjoys it. I mean, she’s on top, kissing me, giving me a hell of a good time with her legs.
Now she lets it go, slides higher, turns me to the side and asks me to please put her nipples in my mouth. After a minute of this, she goes down and takes me in her mouth. Believe me, I’m ready for all this. Thankfully, though, she stops before it ends, and I’m not asking for any more than I’m getting – that’s the difference.
The medication, I think, has cooled the juices a few degrees. I’m lasting longer. Long enough, I think, to make me a better lover. At least a reasonable lover. God dammit! I think this stuff works! Give me more pills, doc. I’m not hyperactive anymore. Women like it!
What a fucking irony: youth wasted on the young, age wasted on the old.
Now she gets to do a little fucking too.
When I’m inside her, for a long, long time, she’s still on top, getting herself worked up, cooling down, and still going afterwards. Me? Hell, I’m wondering if she’s going to go down to the basement and bring back a vice – that would be the only thing stronger than this.
Finally, though, when I do get there, it’s not the massive explosion witnessed in the past; but, nonetheless, all the necessary components are in place – force is moderate, but all systems functioning.
Then comes another reversal: my patience. I’m willing to wait around, with this blast-from-the-past wonder woman on top of me. There’s more pleasure to be had. It’s not the radical kind – with all bursting thoughts and then, bam, sleep. Just a nice, gentle soaking, a little holding, still feeling the warmth of this gentle body; it’s a civilized exchange. Certainly, this is the way it was intended to be. I had always considered it a wild goose chase, a frantic climb to the top of the ladder, and then a wild leap off the high dive, and a splash. Then getting out of the pool, drying off, going home. Now, though, I didn’t mind this at all. I could stay here all night.
But, another reversal.
Gracie is the one to slide off me. She seems happy enough about it, though. She got what she wanted. At least her little departing sigh in the dark denotes satisfaction. She gave me a friendly pat, a nice, smacking kiss on the cheek.
We held each other for a minute, then she’s up, out of the bed.
“I liked that,” she said. “I was worried about taking the whole night away from the restaurant, but I’m happy I did.” She flicked on the light. “I need to call in, make sure the place is surviving without me.”
She got in her nightgown, dialed the phone, talked for a minute.
Things weren’t okay.
“Dammit,” she said. “They got blown out. Surprise attack from the theater crowd. One of my waitresses quit, and Artie’s pissed.”
She dressed, frantically. She got the bra on, her panties, threw on a dress, even the dark stockings.
She looked great.
“You been working out in a gym?” I asked.
“Aerobics. Three classes a week,” she said.
She headed for the door.
“Gracie, c’mon. You’re not going to leave now? Not with me here like this?”
“Why not? Hey, this is important. I’ll be back. Stay, if you want. I’ll sleep with you when I get back. All night long, for old time’s sake.”
There’s more to life than sex, but I don’t know what the fuck it is. This is not true, of course, unless it is true. I mean, it is and it isn’t. At times like this it is, at all other times it isn’t. Truth isn’t the same all the time. You believe that too, don’t you? Truth changes, moment to moment.
Tell me I’m a patronizing asshole any time, and I’ll stop.
She left me there, downed the stairs, slammed the side door behind her, started her engine, and drove off. Important business matters. She left me there to inspect my mood in solitude. It was okay.