I liked his calloused hands running over the smooth skin on my back, us standing there, me in my thong that he bought for me and a pair of flats, he shirtless in his boxer briefs.
He loved flats, loved to see my feet in them, to marvel at them.
He would extract my feet from the flats like a precious artifact from the ruins of a lost city, taking care that each toe left its place with the minimum disturbance and he would kiss my feet and be grateful that I let him.
He did not say thank you, but I could tell in his eyes that he was grateful.
Then he made his way to my breasts, slowly, stopping by my thighs and navel and hips first, he worshiped at their altar. He performed this ritual with piety. We were both believers.
I wouldn’t have worn the underwear otherwise, but he made me a believer. He told me if I didn’t wear the underwear, if he didn’t honor my body, if we didn’t make it different then it was adultery.
But if we honored the ritual then it was special, baby.
I don’t know if I believe him now or if I ever did.
The way he said baby planted a seed of doubt in me that I was unaware of at the time. I do know that I felt special standing in those motel rooms in nothing but a thong and flats. I had never worn a thong before; the idea had never occurred to me until he said it was special. This wasn’t just good girl meets bad guy, it was more than that. But of course, it was also that.
It was hair pulling, face smashed in pillows, squeezing my legs around his thighs and pulling him deeper into me, deeper and deeper and stealing his strength from him, conquering him.
It was a fight that he always lost, a fight that he knew he would never win, in the end, I would fuck him, and he would worship at my altar again.
He would finish and then kiss my body, my feet again, my nipples, my eyelids, paying reverence to each part, grateful that he was given permission to do so.
We did this for three years, but now it’s one moment, one unit of time with his name on it, strung together like a panoramic photograph.
All I ever do now is feel him like he never left. I can feel him when I breathe in, that little pressure above my abdomen and below my heart, which is a part he never touched.
He used to pick me up when he saw me. I’m not short, about 5’6”, but he was really tall, about 6’4”, and he had broad shoulders. He would hug me to his chest, holding me by the waist and we would kiss until his arms got tired, me floating, too high to think right.
That’s what it was with him. He was a drug and not even a good one. He was a midnight run to Jack-in-the-Box for fried macaroni.
But we made it special, baby.
I was 24 when I met him, only a couple years out of college but I was already married. Well, legally married anyway.
My husband and I were so excited to get married that after college we went to the courthouse at 9 in the morning (actually 8:30) to wait outside and make sure we were the first couple of the day. I don’t know why it mattered that we were first but it was the kind of flourish that our relationship thrived on, all of the little things that made it special.
We sat there in the late June sun, on the steps of city hall that were decorated with age-old gum and cigarette butts, and we didn’t talk, we were both thinking about the future I guess. Eventually someone opened the doors and we went in and signed the papers, but we didn’t tell our families. His mom and sisters were very excited about having a wedding and they were really fond of me, so we didn’t say anything about the marriage.
So when I met him I had been married two years but hadn’t had the ceremony because my husband was finishing his master’s degree and we thought it would be smart to wait until he graduated. I supported us with my job. That’s where I met him. Did I mention that he was older?
My husband is the same age as me, so it was different to be with an older guy, even if he was only four years older.
It’s always something. A little bit older, a little bit taller. He had this confidence about him, power, not physical strength but a force of his persona that emanated from him and filled a room. He could be charming but his charm wasn’t unique, it was textbook. In fact, he was a textbook, almost a gentleman in the American sense of the word: clean cut, polite, strong jaw, good manners. He made me feel special; that’s what gentleman ought to do anyway.
My husband was as much of a gentleman as he could be, but he wasn’t cut from that stock.
He belonged to the set of thinkers and brooders and kvetchers, the ones who have crumbs on their clothing and miss spots shaving and the ones who spend hours taking apart an old remote control or tinkering at a work bench or in front of a laptop. My husband was never bored.
We would go to a flea market, and he’d talk to the woman who sold knitted blankets with images of her “kitties” printed on them for an hour. He’d be fascinated by her; for him, every person was a watch, an infinite set of gears and switches working mysteriously in concert. He was always studying, but not from a book. Life was one big case study.
We would meet in these dingy little motor lodges, I mean literally these god awful motels off of the 15 freeway. I don’t know how he found them. They have those big tacky signs that advertise on the side of the road, $39.99 a person/night, so you can’t miss them, but how did he settle on which dump? Did he just drive down the road and choose at random?
It never felt like he did. Everything felt planned. In reality, the motel had dirty brown carpeting and the walls were yellowing, and the porcelain from the toilets was showing signs of use and abuse, but with him, these things were transformed. They were part of this moment, part of a feeling, something that would have been diminished by their absence.
I look back now and think if my husband and I wouldn’t have signed our names on June 21st at 9:13 AM, it would have changed something. Had we not made it official it would have changed our reality; we would have been two 22-year-olds playing house, but signing our names, swearing our allegiances, that made it serious. Suddenly we were adults.
I worked all day for my pay and came home to my husband who studied all day, and we were tired, and there were bills and we ate dinner in silence or communicated in grunts.
“Do you want some more salad?”
“Good day, today?”
We had both hit the fast forward button in our minds, behaving like we had been married for 30 years because suddenly that’s all we could see in front of us, the next thirty years of boring meals, bad TV, and sex with the same person.
If my husband did elaborate on a subject, it would be about the amount of buttons on the remote control or the fact that podcasts are sometimes released in the morning at 7 am instead of 12 am which is technically the beginning of the day.
I didn’t lose my virginity until I was in college. I’ve slept with three men in my life. He was number three.
If it was only about getting to number three why do I still think about him?
He was married too. He had two kids. I knew that. That makes me horrible unless he was right and it was special, baby.
“Come in here a sec would you.”
That’s always how it would start, and then my husband would follow it with:
“Take a look at that.”
I would stare un-phased. In the beginning, I wasn’t un-phased out of boredom. I was trying to see what my husband was seeing. The trouble was I couldn’t see anything.
I would indicate as much to which he would say:
“Take a look at the packaging there.”
He was standing there in his house shoes, the same pair he’d had when we met. They were Sperry’s but he wore them as house shoes. He was dressed in a polo shirt and a pair of basketball shorts. In his hand, he was holding a pack of hot dogs. He was not paying attention to the slow, steady trickle of hot dog juice escaping from the packaging and dripping onto his left Sperry.
“Well, the package is dripping.”
I pointed out, but he brushed that aside and held the hot dogs closer to my face. I sighed. A sign of defeat. That’s what he wanted, me to admit that I hadn’t seen it, recognition of his powers of recognition.
A chance to condescend.
His wife came into our work one day, walking so fast I thought she was going to charge through the automatic glass doors. She slowed enough to allow them to open, and then she burst into the lobby. She dropped the receptionist the briefest of smiles and strode past her without stopping. Whatever she needed from him she got it quickly because she was back in the lobby and gone in less than two minutes.
I barely had time to register her appearance, but I managed. She was Middle Eastern; her hair was curly and gorgeous and thick and she had beautiful green eyes.
Why is he sleeping with me? I thought.
I’ve always considered myself to be cute or pretty at best, but never beautiful, not like his wife.
Her features were so much more defined. I have this wide, flat nose and my eyes are big and bright on my face but quite small. His wife’s nose was slender, with a bump and her eyes were huge. And her body, even after children, was thin in the right places but thick in the right places too. It was weird. He was tall and handsome, and she was this exotic beauty and where did I fit in?
“You see how the dogs are off-kilter there? They’re not stacked up one on top of another, flush like, see?”
“Now why do you suppose that is?”
As I watched the hot dog juice drip down onto his Sperry, I didn’t think about the possible reasons the hot dogs are packaged the way they were packaged.
My mind didn’t race to him either; I didn’t make plans to call him in a fit of lust and beat his door down with my uncontrollable passion.
All I could think about was how tired I was and how all I wanted to do was get back to the living room and sit and read or watch TV, I wanted to be away.
We were together for three years, but really it was one year. By the second year it was once a month, and in the third year, it was a few times before things more or less ended.
By then my husband was out of school entirely, done with his post-graduate research and he had started working for the same company that he works for today.
Later my husband found some of my sexy underwear in a box.
I had filed the underwear into the closet, in its original packaging, on top of the neatly organized plastic tubs filled with our lives up till that point. He was looking for something, some piece of his timeline gone missing when he spotted the packaging inside of the transparent box.
He brought them out to the living room with a schoolboy grin across his face. Just holding the underwear made his face flush.
“Did you buy these for me?”
And he walked over to the couch and put the underwear on me with his soft hands and then we made love.