Wednesday

AND DON'T GO BRINGING UP RAY

There are certain things I know not to tell my husband: that although he does very well as a creative director at Young & Rubicam, I wish he made the kind of money they do at Goldman and Morgan Stanley; that back in grad school, the T. A. I fantasized marrying every single night as I got into bed, came back from spring break engaged to his high school sweetheart, which, when I think about it these nineteen years later, still leaves me feeling like I can’t get enough air; that I find our son Adam, who many say is the spitting image of Ethan, oddly unattractive; and that in less that 45 minutes Raymond Phayer, a man who plays a pivotal role in Ethan’s and my sex fantasies, will come walking through my office door to pick my brain about his problems with his wife.
Yes, yes, there are certain things my husband knows not to tell me as well. But, in general, men have more latitude. Ethan has told me he would love to see me and my dear friend Lizbeth go down on each other; that he’d like to fuck our niece Elena; that I ought to stop limiting my number of patients and earn some real money for a change.
What Ethan doesn’t tell me is that last December at Y & R’s Christmas party he tried to have sex with his secretary standing up in a stall in the ladies room just outside the conference room on the 14th floor but that she was so drunk she just kept slumping to the floor; that sometimes when he is having trouble coming during intercourse he fantasizes sucking off our extremely handsome El Salvadoran doorman; that every year he pads his expense account by about $18,000.
But, then, on at least some level, I know all that. As he knows I sometimes think how wonderful it’d be if he suddenly keeled over with a heart attack climbing the seventh fairway at Anastazie, leaving me to begin life anew as the sole beneficiary of his $3,750,000 life insurance policy. As Freud wrote, There are no secrets from the unconscious.
The phone rings. “What’re you doing for lunch?”
“I’m uh just going to eat a yogurt and catch up on some paperwork.”
“Grab a cab across the park and meet me in the restaurant at the Mark. We just got the Molson account.”
“Oh, my God, that is so great.”
“We’ll have oysters and Dom and then run home and fuck.”
“Can’t.”
“What do you mean can’t! This is my campaign they’re buying. Do you have any idea what this is going to do for my career?”
“I can’t. I’m just too far behind.”
“That’s ridiculous. You can catch up on paperwork any time.”
“Yes, but I never do. And besides I have a patient coming in less than an hour.”
“Who?”
“Somebody you don’t know.”
“Who don’t I know?”
“Somebody new?”
“A new patient?”
“Yeah, a new patient.”
“A man or a woman?”
“A woman. Somebody with marital problems.”
“A referral?”
“Yes. A referral.”
“From whom?”
“Listen, I finish up tonight at seven. I’ll meet you at Café Lux at seven fifteen, we’ll have oysters and champagne and steak and crème brullee and then we’ll go home and be in bed by ten and really fuck.”
“The whole shebang.”
“The whole shebang.”
“What about the kids?”
“We’ll pick up ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ on the way home. That’ll anesthetize them till at least one.” For some reason, the movie has become our children’s favorite. They identify. They think of us as a family of quirky, offbeat geniuses, although not one of us has ever cracked 587 on any of the college boards.
“What about their homework?”
“Hey, do you want to get laid or not.”
I don’t feel guilty because Ethan’s the one has who made such a big deal about Raymond in the first place. We met the Phayers last winter in Arizona, golfing.
We own a little cottage in a vast, sprawling gated community built in and around six golf courses, all with Indian names. It is odd. A century ago the Hopi, the Navajo, the Anastazie were beneath contempt, there only to be slaughtered. Now the affluent hold them in awe. How did abomination so quickly and utterly metamorphose into reverence?
The couple we were supposed to play with, the Posnicks, cancelled because the temperature was somewhere in the low forties. My experience is only Gentiles golf when the temperature dives below forty-five. Gentiles, that is, and Ethan. So the starter paired us with a coupled named Phayer.
Playing with someone you’ve never met before is like waiting to see who’s going to sit next to you on an airplane. Most of the time you’re disappointed. Sometimes, it’s a virtual nightmare – your seatmate is three hundred pounds, a compulsive talker, emits the aroma of a farm animal. But once every decade or so, you hit the jackpot.
Raymond Phayer – jackpot! Although his wife Miranda was a bit on the guarded side, Raymond had the most extraordinary blue eyes and silver hair. And unlike many handsome men, he wasn’t the least bit dull, spinning anecdotes, asking us questions, poking gentle fun at the Desert Vistas’ Escalade-driving, golf-obsessed, fifty-something, self-congratulatory lifestyle, all in a voice that indicated a fearless love of language.
Upon learning I was a psychoanalyst, he spent the rest of the round at my elbow, quizzing me about my practice, my methodology, my training – for a layman exhibiting an unusually comprehensive knowledge of the literature.
At the end of the round, we had lunch in the mixed grill, and Raymond suggested we all have dinner together. As Ethan and I showered and dressed, he said, “It’s not fair. Raymond looks like a fucking movie star, Miranda’s a cold fish.”
“What, are we swapping with these people.”
“They live in Ridgewood, New Jersey, for Christ sake. You know, ten years ago they didn’t even allow Jews in Ridgewood.”
“I think she’s very pretty,” I said.
“What, are we swapping with these people.”
“No way. Raymond’s old enough to be my father.”
“A lot of girls would like to fuck their father.”
There is a cowboy restaurant, Joe Steak, several miles down Cave Creek Road with a very good country and western singer named Skipper, who sings the old sad classics in a wispy base. We had several bottles of a good cabernet, and Miranda asked Skipper if he knew “Pancho and Lefty,” and when he did, “Crazy,” “Third Rate Romance,” and several other songs I’d never heard of.
About nine thirty, Joe Steak started clearing out. Ethan put twenty bucks in the tip snifter sitting on Skipper’s amp, and he launched into another set. Ethan and I danced, Raymond danced with Miranda, and we shuffled around the floor to old Waylen Jennings and Willie Nelson songs till the busboys began putting chairs up on the tables.
The next morning, Miranda called to see if I wanted to join her at the big state-of-the-art gym in the Anastazie clubhouse. A few minutes later, Ethan called Raymond because he and Alex Posnick and Tim Hanratty needed a fourth for a ten thirty tee off time way up on Hopi.
Miranda and I took a spin class together, and afterward, over coffee and scones, I invited her and Raymond to dinner that evening.
Ethan grilled swordfish on our back deck. We ate outside in candlelight, drinking more than a bottle of Chablis per person as we watched the lights down in Phoenix twinkle from nearly forty miles away. Ethan put on Dylan’s “Time Out Of Mind,” and the guitar twangs resonated in the night air. Raymond, puffing on a cigar, declared, “The man’s the finest American poet of our time.” After that, for the week or so before we were all due to head back east, we were kind of inseparable.
Mornings, Ethan and Raymond would play golf with the guys, while Miranda and I would hit the gym or find a woman’s golf game. In the afternoons, the four of us would meet on the deck by the lap pool of the Chiricaua clubhouse. Miranda and Ethan, fair skinned and sun phobic, would take refuge under the canvas awning and play Scrabble, while Raymond and I would swim languid, lazy laps, then lay on the chaises and tan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody brown up quite as beautifully as he. Even the teenaged girls eyed him, a man well into his fifties, as they sauntered past in their little bikinis on the way to the snack bar.
Our last night before heading home, we returned to Joe Steak and danced to slow Hank Williams ballads during Skipper’s last set. This time, Raymond asked me to dance and Ethan danced with Miranda.
In bed, Ethan snuggled behind me and tried to slip his hand between my thighs. “How about in the morning,” I said.
“How about right now?”
The wine had left me sleepy and enervated. “We’ll do it in the morning. I promise.”
“There you go again, mortgaging your future.”
“I have a teaser headache.” Usually that stops him. When I have a headache, Ethan says he feels like he’s fucking Bambi.
“Alright, then go to sleep. Ole Raymond’s just going to snuggle in behind you.”
I smiled in the darkness. Ethan has always had an unerring instinct for knowing which men I am drawn to.
I let him push up my nightgown. “Can you feel Raymond’s penis growing against your butt?”
“Do you think at his age he can still get a hard on?”
“He’s very handsome.”
“Yes, he’s a good-looking man, but he’s got a liver spot on the back of his hand.”
“It’s a freckle.”
“It’s a liver spot.”
“Alright, just pretend we’ve gone to Santorini with the Phayers, we’ve rented a house together, you’re taking a nap and Raymond has wandered into the wrong bedroom by mistake and sees you lying on the bed naked – it’s hot and you’ve kicked off the covers – and ever so quietly he lies down next to you, but you can’t actually let him know that you know he’s there, so you lie very still and pretend to be asleep, while ever so slowly you feel his hand….”
Once again Ethan tries to reach between my legs, and this time I don’t resist quite as strenuously, as if fatigue is sapping my strength. When he rolls me onto my back and pushes himself inside me I work very hard so as not to moan for I am picturing Raymond’s striking blue eyes gazing down at me with adoration.
I never once directly acknowledge finding Raymond to be anything more than a good-looking older man, but it is rare when two or three weeks go by without Ethan invoking his name.
Sometimes I react angrily. “Will you stop with this Raymond shit,” I snarl. “I’ll come up with my own fantasies.” Or, “I’d rather be thinking of you.” Or, the old standard, “You’re the one who wants to have sex with Raymond.”
But the fact is, with Raymond involved my orgasms are more numerous and intense.

“The problem is, my career is winding down, while hers is just taking off.” Raymond is sitting opposite me in a dark blue suit, white shirt, red tie. He has driven all the way in from New Jersey. His silver hair looks almost iridescent in the dim lighting of my office. “I want to spend more time in Arizona, and she’s stuck here in the northeast wrapping metal or whatever around the bicuspids of ten year olds.”
“I see this in a lot of middle-aged couples,” I say. “The men have pretty much accomplished what they’re going to accomplish and want to enjoy the fruits of their labor, meanwhile their wives are just beginning to feel their oats.” I can sense the same attention to detail in Raymond’s appearance that has gone in to mine. I shaved my armpits this morning, plucked my eyebrows, dressed all in slimming black save for a scarlet silk scarf tied around my neck to hide increasingly crepey skin, put on a skirt instead of my usual business-like trousers. I spent a great deal of time gelling my hair just so. As soon as Ethan left the apartment, I slipped my vibrator into my pocketbook.
I ask, “Why can’t you just go out to Arizona without her?”
“I don’t know. It seems so self-indulgent, playing nothing but golf all day.” A trace of a smile flickers in Raymond’s eyes. “Who knows what might happen if I were out there alone.”
“Then again, who knows what Miranda might get into all alone in Ridgewood. Doesn’t she have three male partners?” I ask.
Raymond chuckles with appalling self-confidence. “I seriously doubt that Miranda is into other men.”
“Well,” I say, “I guess that would make her alone among heterosexual womankind.”
Raymond pulls his chair closer till his knee is almost touching mine. “Do you mind if I smoke?”
“No, no, go right ahead.” He pulls out a pack of French cigarettes that I recognize from my college days. “Would you like one?”
I haven’t smoked a cigarette in twenty-two years, but for some reason the pale blue packet suggests a certain deliciousness. As Raymond holds out his lighter to me, I place my fingers softly against the back of his wrist.
The smoke quickly fills up my little office, swirling about our heads.
“Do you think of other men, Sarah?” Raymond smiles patronizingly. He reaches over and puts my hair behind my right ear, as if simply keeping things orderly.
I stand up and begin undoing the buttons on the side of my skirt. “Listen, Raymond,” I say, “Let’s quit with the foreplay. My three o’clock’ll be here in about twenty minutes.”
An analyst’s office is made for fucking. Soft lighting, drawn curtains, a couch. I make Raymond lie next to me while I try to jump start my usual string of orgasms with my vibrator. Somehow, I am not quite as excited as I expected to be. Perhaps all the dress rehearsals with Ethan’s pretending to be Raymond have robbed the moment of its drama. I turn off the vibrator and pull Raymond on top of me. Just as he is coming my buzzer sounds.
“Oh, shit, it’s Mrs. Peckham.” I hop off the couch and pull up my pantyhose. I frantically comb my hair in the little mirror behind my desk and toss the comb to Raymond. “Fix your hair,” I hiss.
Mrs. Peckham is sitting with her nose buried in People, but looks up curiously as I usher Raymond out the door. “See you next week,” I say quietly, nodding for Mrs. Peckham to follow me into my office.
As I re-enter, I see the vibrator lying on the couch and toss it into my pocketbook just as Mrs. Peckham steps in behind me.
The rest of the afternoon is a steady stream of patients, and as I am splashing cold water on my face in the little powder room at the end of the hall I am torn between wanting to do a complete job of freshening up, or meeting Ethan at 7:15 as planned, for he goes ballistic when I am late. I opt for the latter.
He is sitting at a candle-lit table for two sipping a glass of champagne, and I study him for a moment before he realizes I have arrived. He waves at me warmly from across the room. Before I sit down, I kiss him on the top of the head. He smiles. “You’re on time for a change.”
He watches me carefully as I let him pour me a second and third glass of champagne. “I’ve never seen you drink this much during the week,” he says.
“Are you kidding, winning the Molson account! Come on!” I raise my glass. “To Ethan Lerner, creative director extraordinaire!”
We toss the DVD at the kids, lock our bedroom door, and tumble into bed. Ethan plays with my pussy and nibbles on my ear. “What are you thinking about, you little slut. You are so wet.” I feel the mattress shift as he climbs out of bed.
“Where’re you going?”
“You promised – the whole shebang.”
I pop out of bed. “I’ll get it.”
“It’s my job.” Ethan heads toward my closet. “Take out the garbage, fetch the wife’s vibrator.”
I hurry to catch up with him. “Get back in bed. I’ll get it.” I take hold of his arm and push him roughly toward our bed. “I’ve got to go the bathroom anyway.”
I fiddle around in my closet, opening and closing drawers.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
“I can’t remember whether I put it in my sock or underwear drawer.”
“Jesus Christ, Sarah, it’s in the second drawer down. It always is.”
“You’re right again,” I say. I unlock the bedroom door. “Do you want a glass of orange juice? I have a mad urge for a glass of orange juice.”
“I thought orange juice gives you heartburn.”
“Maybe I’m pregnant.”
I tiptoe into the kitchen, where I find my pocketbook sitting on the counter. Only Adam, my fifteen year old, turns around to look at me. “I thought you were asleep.”
“I’ll bet they’re having sex,” says Allie, just about to turn twelve, her eyes glued to the TV screen.
“Daddy wants orange juice,” I say, holding up the glass as a symbol of our innocence. I rummage through my pocketbook for the vibrator.
When I get back into bed, Ethan snuggles behind me and buries his head in my hair. For the second time today, I place the vibrator between my legs.
“You smell of cigarettes.”
“It was one of my patients.”
“I thought you don’t allow any smoking.”
“It, it was the new patient. She was beside herself.” The vibrator is beginning to have its effect. “Put your hand under my ass,” I say.
Three, five, seven minutes go by. An orgasm is close; but each time I home in on it, it recedes. I feel Ethan wanting to say something, but, tonight, for some reason he doesn’t. I employ my briar patch gambit. “And whatever you do,” I say, “don’t go bringing up Raymond.”

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