The Gasman's Wife

Posnick was wandering through Debbie and Artie Van Nostrand’s expansive first floor looking for somebody to talk to. He’d left Stella in the kitchen chatting with two women from her Thursday golf group whose names he couldn’t quite remember, both of them wearing their hair cropped close as a man’s.
This is something he’d run into quite a bit over the past several winters in Scottsdale. He called them The Man-Wives of Desert Vistas. Slim, toned, sinewy women wearing little makeup and their hair in crew cuts. He wondered what they and their husbands did, if anything, in bed.
Posnick wasn’t quite sure what he was on the hunt for. A young, pretty woman with blond hair, bare shoulders, and slim arms? A landsman with an equally strong sense of irony about finding himself living among the golf-loving goyim of Arizona? A tall, slender WASP with a single-digit handicap who might offer to include Posnick in one of his high-powered golf games?
There was an empty seat on the L-shaped couch near the fireplace, and Posnick placed his plate on the coffee table and sat next to a gray-haired woman with a handsome face and a long, regal neck. Her skin was tightly pored and without wrinkles, yet there was something about her that suggested late sixties, even early seventies.
“….documentary on one of the cable channels,” she was saying to the elderly man to her left, “ and they were interviewing this woman whose husband had just died and she was saying something about getting on with her life, not curling up into a cocoon just because the man she had shared the last 48 years with had passed. I thought to myself right on.” The woman was talking with what sounded to Posnick’s ear a slight southern accent.
This was not the kind of company Posnick had been seeking, but something about the woman’s powerful sense of self appealed to him. It was clear that even at this age she was accustomed to being beautiful. Yet there was nothing arrogant about her. Some people are born with a musical ear, others with an ability to scoop up grounders, still others with fine features and eyes in which richly colored hazel irises sit in unusually clear pools of white. Accidents of birth.
“I don’t know,” interjected Posnick, “I’m kind of hoping that when I die my wife takes to her bed for the rest of her days, reading the classics and occasionally weeping over my absence, never once thinking about making love with another man.”
Posnick. Always the provocateur. The woman swiveled her head toward him with astonishing grace. She focused her hazel eyes directly upon his. “Why would you ever want that?”
Because I’m a conniving, pathologically jealous sneak who wants the run of the walk for myself while I monopolize every waking moment of my wife’s life, who, it turns out, cuckolded me with her boss in the very first months of our marriage. I lost my first born son, who made me happier than I have ever been in my life, in a car accident and ever since have been unable to sleep more than an hour or two a night. I’m out of the house before dawn, wandering the fairways on which he brought me such pleasure, hoping against hope, since I am a life-long atheist, that he will emerge from the early morning mist and make my life worth living again.
Posnick blinked, mesmerized by the woman’s gaze, reaching into the far corner’s of his brain for a response that might rescue him. “Because…” Posnick vamped, trying to make it seem as if he were searching for the absolutely perfect way to express his thought, “…because…I would never want some other man to hurt her.”
The older woman smiled. “Well, I guess that’s okay,” she allowed.
“Are you two guys married?” Posnick asked, knowing that there was no possible way she could be the wife of such an ordinary looking old man.
“We’re on a blind date,” she said. “He’s Deb’s father. I live up the road.”
“Wow, a blind date. I thought those only happened when you were seventeen.” Posnick stuck out his hand. “I’m Alex Posnick.”
“Good to meet you, Alex,” said the older man. As he reached across the woman to shake Posnick’s hand, his elbow grazed her not insubstantial bosom. Posnick was buoyed that she neither flinched nor pulled away. “I’m Pete. Pete Peterson. And this is Joelle Norsgaard.”
The woman simply nodded without offering her hand. Posnick, feeling an overpowering urge to touch her, stuck out his hand. She took hold of it, and shook it with neither firmness nor slackness. Posnick noted her long fingers and large, square-edged nails coated in clear polish. He felt her begin to withdraw her hand, and held it for an additional moment, not wanting to let it go.
“So how’s it going?” asked Posnick. “Any sparks yet?”
Pete shook his head. “She’s in love with another man. I’m very disappointed.”
“I would be, too. What’s he like?” he asked the woman.
“I’m not sure I can describe him. I knows he’s tall, which is important because I’m 5’ 10” and he just towers over me.”
At 5’ 6”, Posnick felt hurt to the quick. “He must be younger, right?”
“No, he’s 78. But he’s not in love with me.”
“Oh, he must be thinking you’re not in love with him. Just like in high school. Everybody feels that way,” said Posnick.
“How could he not be in love with you?” said Pete.
“He doesn’t return any of my calls anymore. We went out for about four months, and then he let it be known he really wasn’t that interested.”
“He told you?”
“He said it was a long drive up here to Desert Vistas. He lives way down in Tempe.”
“Why doesn’t he stay over?”
“He did – once.”
Posnick couldn’t contain himself. “Did – did he stay in your bed?”
Joelle nodded. “Yes.”
Posnick was drilling her with his eyes, willing her to reveal more. He looked over at Pete for some kind of support. The older man shrugged.
“Did…you…make love?”
“He didn’t seem to want to.”
“Oh.” Posnick waited for her to go on, but she said nothing. He realized she was not being coy, that it was simply not in her nature to volunteer information.
“You wouldn’t have had that problem with me,” said Pete.
Nor me, thought Posnick. “You’re still sexually active?” he asked Pete.
“Well, I would be if I had anybody to be active with,” he answered, then burst into a rush of laughter.
“Well, why didn’t you initiate things?” he asked Joelle. He was beginning to feel increasingly like Havelock Ellis.
“I’ve never done that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure I would know how.”
“Just grab the guy by his Johnson,” chortled Pete. “That’ll get the ball rolling – no pun intended.”
“Wait a second, I want to understand this. You’ve never once in your entire life initiated sexual intercourse? Not even with your husband?”
Joelle shook her head.
Posnick turned to Pete. “See, that’s what happens when you’re so beautiful. You never have to be the aggressor.” He turned his focus back to Joelle. “When you’ve got a puss like mine you’ve always got to be the one who gets things started.”
Posnick really didn’t think of himself as ugly at all, but he was hoping to wring some kind of compliment out of Joelle. She simply smiled.
“Her husband was a Texan,” added Pete. “Maybe that explains it.”
“You’re from Texas?” asked Posnick.
Joelle nodded. Posnick remembered his first sales trip to Houston, walking from boutique to boutique in the Galleria showing his fall line of sportswear, his head spinning as one after another tall, blond, full-bosomed, wasp-waisted, long-legged Houstonian sauntered by. So this is how they turned out.
“What kind of business was your husband in?”
“Farm equipment. Daddy was in the same business. Edward bought him out. He came to Daddy one day and said, ‘George, I want to buy your business and marry your daughter. He was 32. I was only 17 at the time.”
“Like out of an Edna Ferber novel.”
“I don’t believe I’ve read anything by her.”
Pete stood up. “I’m gonna see if Deb needs any help in the kitchen. Anybody want another drink?”
“I’ll have another red wine,” said Posnick.
“You can bring me one, too, Pete.” Joelle handed him her glass.
With Pete gone, she turned her body around to face Posnick more directly, giving him the she sense she was glad to be rid of her date for the moment. Perhaps she was enjoying being the focus of such an avid interviewer.
“So let me get this straight, you’re 17 – a junior? A senior?”
“Just finishing my junior year.”
“What year was that? You don’t have to tell me, I just find this fascinating. Trying to set the time in my mind.”
“1949. Truman was president. God, did Daddy hate Truman.”
Posnick thought, holy shit, I wasn’t even born yet. He did the arithmetic in his head. The woman was seventy, exactly twenty years older than himself.
“1949, smack in the middle of the Korean War. And your father comes to you and says, ‘Joelle, Mr. Edward Farm Equipment here wants to marry you and I think it’s a good idea.’ I mean, what did you think? Oh, good, he’s so handsome. Or, Damn, and I was gonna be captain of the cheerleading squad next year?”
“I’m not sure I was thinking much of anything. Mama and Daddy knew I’d be well taken care of and it just seemed the natural order of things.”
“Didn’t you want to go to college or anything?”
“Well, in those days not that many girls in our part of Texas went to college. I did finish high school, though. And as a matter of fact, I was captain of the cheerleading squad.” She smiled broadly for the first time, revealing just a suggestion of a sense of humor that Posnick hadn’t been sure was there.
“Really?” The image of a short pleated cheerleading skirt flying up over her panty had blood pounding in Posnick’s temples. “Alright, so you’re a married woman walking through the halls holding your books against your bosom just so…” Posnick held an imaginary book to his chest, “…the way girls did back in those days, and like how do all the other girls treat you?”
“Oh, a whole dozen or so of us must have been married. We sort of were a clique. We’d joke about it. The M.G.C. – married girls club. Two of the girls were even pregnant.”
Pete arrived and handed them each a glass of wine. He remained standing. “I’m going to turn in for the evening, Joelle. Do you mind? Maybe Alex’ll give you a lift home.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“I’ll see you at the Navaho course at about 10.”
“We’re playing golf tomorrow,” Joelle explained. “Great, see you at 10.”
Pete leaned down and kissed her on both cheeks, then disappeared down the long hallway in a defeated sort of shuffle.
Posnick said, “This is extraordinary. I mean, you have to excuse me for being so nosy, but this is so different from how I grew up.”
He watched her put the wine glass to her lips and take not a gulp but a rather long sustained drink. When she put the glass down it was less than half full.
“So you’ve got this new husband whom you barely know and now you’re sharing a bed, a bathroom, meals together, and yet he’s almost twice your age. It must have been weird.”
“Not really. Edward was a very good businessman, very strong, very forceful, and when I graduated high school he bought me this big brick house in the nicest part of Houston. A few months later I was pregnant with Edward, Junior. Edward was away on business most of the time and Mama lived just down the road and she helped with the housework and taking care of the baby and it was all very nice and normal. Then this big national chain offered Edward a whole ton of money for the distributorship – way more than it was worth according to Edward – and he retired. Wasn’t even 40 years old. Got himself a plane and a big Harley and souped up an old ‘55 Chevy. He loved to go roaring around all over the place. He’d grown up poor and had always dreamed of owning a ranch and so he took a whole bunch of the money he got for the business and bought a 3 thousand acre spread in Louisiana, just over the Texas border. So we left Houston and moved out to the ranch, Mama and Daddy as well, and by now I had all 3 kids, Edward Jr. and the two girls, Mary Pat and Jolene. And that was it.”
“And during this whole time, you, uh, never once cuddled up to him in the middle of the night and got things going.”
“I cuddled up if I was cold, and then sometimes he would start the process.”
“Oh, sort of passive aggressive.”
“After we were on the ranch about 12 years, something weird happened. Edward discovered there was natural gas on the land. He had an instinct for these things. Without really trying, almost everything he touched turned to money. Anyway, the Baton Rouge Power Company bought the drilling rights, and we began getting royalties, and Edward set up trusts for the kids and all, and then Edward died and I don’t think he had any idea how much money would come rolling in.”
“Sounds like he was a good man.”
“He was a wonderful man.”
“You must miss him terribly.”
“Not really. I don’t know why. I just don’t. When I saw this show on cable about this widow who got right back into life, I admired her so much. I thought that’s the way to do it.”
“Maybe there was just too big an age difference.”
“I don’t know, Alex, I really don’t.”
“Do you mind if I ask something very personal?”
Joelle shook her head. “Ask me anything. Doesn’t mean I’ll answer, but it’s okay to ask.”
“I mean, this is really personal.”
“Go ahead.”
“Did you guys have a good love life?”
“I think so.”
“ Were you…orgasmic?”
“There you are.”
Posnick whipped his head around to see Stella coming toward him with a cup of coffee and a plate of desserts. “I was looking all over for you.”
He leapt up and gestured for Stella to sit. “This is Joelle….”
“Joelle, this is my wife Stella.” Stella was wearing a black décolleté dress with a satin-edged slit up the right thigh and Posnick hoped that her stylishness would boost his value in Joelle’s eyes.
“I thought you’d want to try some of these cakes. They’re yummy.” She held the plate out to Joelle. “Would you like to try some?”
Joelle picked up a petit fours. “Don’t mind if I do,” she said and popped it into her mouth whole.
“Have you been sitting here the whole time?” Stella asked.
“Just about. Joelle is on a blind date with Deb’s dad.”
“Oh, how romantic.”

They drove six blocks north of the Van Nostrand’s, then made a left turn onto Cochise Trail, which stretched up into the most exclusive section of Desert Vistas.
“Next driveway,” said Joelle, and Stella turned the Toyota pickup with the extended cab into a sweeping circular driveway in front of a house that seemed every bit as long as a football field.
“It’s beautiful,” said Stella.
“You live here alone?” asked Posnick.
“I have a Mexican couple that lives in the casita.”
“Ah,” said Posnick.
“Alex, walk Joelle to the door for goodness sake.”
As they walked among the shadows of the front walk winding through the palla verde and the saguaro, Joelle hooked her arm in his. The cool night air of the desert filled him with a sense of possibility and optimism. They climbed several steps to the front door, and Posnick could see his truck gleaming in the moonlight. He wondered if Stella could see him as clearly, but the several glasses of red wine seemed to have dulled his sense of caution.
“Well, it was really lovely talking with you, Alex. You certainly have an unusual way of looking at things.” Joelle held out her hand, and as Posnick took hold of it he pulled her to him. He had to raise his head to kiss her, but felt a sudden rush as he realized she was offering him not her cheek but her lips. He held the kiss two or three seconds longer than was polite, hoping somehow to ignite a passionate response. He didn’t, but then she didn’t pull away either.
When they got into bed and turned out the lights, Stella hooked her leg over his. As often happened on nights when he had consumed more than his usual quotient of alcohol, Posnick had trouble reaching orgasm. He ran the usual cast of characters through his mind, Tarni, the Indian friend of his daughter, Mrs. Kershaw, his 8th grade teacher with the sculpted ass, Merril, the 14 year old daughter of his wife’s best friend whose tiny pink nipples he could see through the sides of her bikini top. Nothing showed promise, and then he replayed the kiss with 71 year old Joelle Norsgaard on the front porch of her stone and steel palace in the bracing desert air among the palla verde and cacti and he was off in a moment, thrashing about wildly atop his dark-haired wife. As he collapsed at her side, he wondered whom she had been thinking of. Intercourse is a union of four people. Sigmund Freud.
Although he kept his eyes peeled in the stores, restaurants, and supermarkets around town, on the driving range, pro shop, golf courses, mixed grill, he didn’t see her until six weeks later in the fitness center at Desert Vista’s main clubhouse.
She was lying on her back on an exercise bench, pressing a weighted bar repeatedly into the air. Over navy tights she wore a short-sleeved maroon workout suit. Her mane of silver hair hung down toward the floor. Posnick watched her for several minutes from afar, his eyes running up and down her legs, her arms, her torso. Certainly, she was not a hard body, but her limbs were long and toned, her waist narrow, her bosom full, her shoulders wide, rib cage small. Posnick couldn’t help but think of his own poor mother at 71, a plump, hunched woman with enormously heavy upper arms and thinning, patchy hair. Even their names were in stark contrast. Joelle and Florence. Whom would you rather fuck?
He came up behind her. “Would you hold my ankles down while I do my sit-ups?” he said.
She had sat up and was wiping her arms down with a towel. She looked up and smiled as if she weren’t quite sure who he was.
“Hi, Joelle, Alex Posnick. We met at the Van Nostrand’s party.” Awkardly, he stuck out his hand.
“Oh, you don’t want to shake my hand,” she said. “I’m all sweaty.”
Sweaty. Posnick felt his member beginning to stir.
“How are you and your lovely wife?” she asked.
“Stella’s back in New York for the week – shopping.”
“Oh, I’d love to go to New York. Edward and I went once for Christmas. The store windows were so beautiful.” She stood up.
“You should come and visit us. We go back for the summer. It’d be great showing you around – the museums, the theatre, the restaurants.”
Joelle simply smiled and began strolling toward the front desk. Posnick fell into stride beside her feeling ridiculously short in his lumpy sweat suit. “Would you like to have an ice tea or a cup of coffee?”
“Thanks, but I really need to shower.” She took two towels from the pile on the front counter.
“Don’t be silly, I like my women on the gamey side.”
She shook her head.
“Come on, I need to shower, too. We’re even.”
“I don’t think so.”
Posnick put his cards on the table. “Joelle, I’ve been looking all over for you for the last six weeks. I finally find you, and you blow me off. Come on. One ice tea, fifteen minutes. I so enjoyed hearing all about your life.”
She tilted her head. “My life? You must be starved for entertainment.”
They sat on the back deck overlooking Renegade Canyon, the rising April son taking the chill out of the morning air, the sky azure and cloudless and stretching forever.
Posnick thought, this at last is how life is supposed to be: money in the bank, health apparently okay, no job or fear of being fired from one, wife back in New York on a theatre spree with a few girlfriends, weather perfect, sitting with a tall, beautiful, dignified shikse, albeit one slightly older than I had in mind. “When last we met, you were telling me all about life with the gasman, the private plane, the royalties rolling in.”
“When last we met,” she said fixing him with her exquisitely clear hazel eyes, “when last we met you had just asked me – I’m trying to remember your exact words – if I was orgasmic.”
“I said that?”
“You’d had quite a few glasses of wine.”
“I can’t believe I said that. It’s not like me.”
“The answer is, I’m not sure.”
Posnick nodded his head as if giving her response great consideration. He took a sip of coffee. “Then I’d have to say you’re not. Or let me say you haven’t been. An orgasm,” Posnick declaimed, “particularly a woman’s orgasm, is the culmination of a build up of an enormous amount of blood and electricity in the pelvic girdle.” I am pulling this out of my ass, he thought. “At a certain point the build up is so great, the neurons in the area are so charged, that a synapse occurs. Like lightning leaping from one pole to another. That, Joelle, is an orgasm, and there is no other feeling like it in the world.”
“I guess I haven’t had one then.”
“Maybe that’s why you so admired the widow you saw on TV. There’s something you still need to accomplish before…”
Joelle smiled. “Before I die.”
Posnick shook his head vigorously in protest, but Joelle said, “No, you’re right. It’s probably what I’ve been feeling all along. I enjoyed sexual relations with Edward – sometimes – but I can’t say I was ever in ecstasy.”
He was about to ask, Do you masturbate? but a quartet of four women in exercise clothes sat down at the table next to them. “Well, thank you for the ice tea, Alex,” she said, pushing her chair back. “I really have to be going.” Joelle stood and this time it was she who proffered her hand.
Posnick hastily scribbled his signature on the check. “Wait, I’ll walk you back in,” he said.
Joelle checked her watch. “I’m going to shower at home. Talking to you, Alex, I lose all track of the time.”
“Then I’ll walk you to your car.”
Her car was a gold-hued Bentley with a convertible top, spotless, gleaming in the sun now high in the sky. She put her hand on the door, but Posnick stood in such a way that she would have had to ask him to move in order to open it.
“When can I see you again?” he asked.
Joelle looked confused. “You’ll see me around.”
“No, I mean, not just bumping into you.”
She stared at him for a few seconds. “Are you asking me out on a date, Mr. Posnick?” He detected a touch more of a drawl in her voice.
“No, not a…date. Just two adults grabbing a meal, seeing a movie together. My wife’s out of town, your husband’s…passed as they say these days. I’m lonely. I got nothing to do tonight.”
After what seemed like an eternity, she nodded her head slowly. “I guess a movie’d be okay.”
It was odd waiting on line with her for tickets. Posnick had been so thrilled she had accepted his invitation, he hadn’t anticipated that the obvious disparity in their ages would be an object of curiosity to others. True, she looked a bit younger than her years. But Posnick, too, was lean and fit, an exercise buff ever since he’d sold his dress business five years before. And then there was the Jew/Gentile chasm, Posnick with a classic New York City face, big nose, curly hair, and Joelle tall and slender-armed, with a nose that all the reconstructive surgeons on Fifth Avenue would have been proud to achieve for their patients. Posnick found himself drifting a few steps away from his new friend, looking up at the stars, pretending to be lost in thought.
But once in their seats in the darkness of the theatre, he felt the full gravitational pull of her being. He kept glancing at her profile, her long legs, her arms, her hands. He placed his elbow on the armrest between them, leaning toward her, hoping to feel her arm touch his. He was concentrating fiercely, willing her to inch her way closer, wondering if she were feeling the same mad attraction. Her right hand was resting on her thigh, and though it was the one part of her which most clearly evidenced the ravages of time, he wanted terribly to take it in his own. He made a few tentative movements toward it but could not summon the chutzpah to forge ahead.
All these ruminations absorbed him totally, and when Joelle asked him afterward if he’d liked the movie, all he could manage was a kind of blank, “It was okay.”
The 12-plex was housed in a sprawling upscale shopping mall, and on their way toward the brew-pub they passed a Brookstone’s. “Wait here,” Posnick said suddenly. “I’ve got a surprise.”
He dashed in, found a salesman, and minutes later came back out with a small, gift-wrapped package. They had cheeseburgers and pale ale. Posnick watched with awe as Joelle finished every one of her outsized french fries. Over her mild protestations, he ordered each of them a second pint of ale. When the waiter returned, Posnick waited till they’d drunk a few swallows before presenting her with the package.
“This’ll help you have an orgasm.”
“Should I open it?”
Posnick shook his head. “Not here. Maybe in the car. It’s a personal vibrator. They’re unbelievably effective.”
She shook her head. “You are something.”
“Listen, I take this very seriously. You told me yourself, you’re 71 years old. Skiing the Alps, watching your kid take his first step, meeting the love of your life – nothing, nothing compares to a good orgasm. There is no other feeling like it in the world. If you were to pass into the great beyond without having had one, I would feel like I let you down. I know about the problem. It’s my responsibility to fix it.”
Once again, she took his arm as they navigated the long walk from Posnick’s pickup to the front door of Joelle’s house. She had unwrapped her gift in the car and was now holding wrapping paper, ribbon, and massager box while rifling through her handbag for her keys. Suddenly, the door popped open, and there stood a tall, powerfully built man about Posnick’s age.
Posnick recognized in an instant the resemblance.
“Oh, Edward, what a surprise? When did you get here?”
“Landed in Carefree less than an hour ago.”
“Edward this is Alex Posnick. Alex, this is my son, Edward Junior.” The man had dark brown eyes, almost black, and they bored into Posnick as he reached out his hand. Edward Junior was standing in the entranceway, a full step above the front stoop, and this coupled with his natural height advantage made Posnick feel as if he were a young child shaking hands with an adult. A very stern, unsmiling adult. The man’s hands were gigantic and muscular and it took all Posnick’s resolve not to whimper.
“Come in, Alex, join us for a drink.”
“No, no, thanks. I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to miss Stella’s call.”
“Well, then, thank you so much. I had a wonderful time.”
Posnick sensed her moving her lips toward him and he quickly reached out and took her hand, shaking it firmly, keeping her literally at arm’s length. “Good night,” he said, “Nice to meet you, Ed.” And he went down the steps, two at a time.
“Oh, wait, I didn’t thank you for my present.”
“Think nothing of it. Bye.”
As he scampered down the walk, Posnick heard the son ask his mother what present.
“None of your beeswax,” she snapped, and then the door closed behind them.

“How can you stand going to the movies alone?” asked Stella.
“I don’t mind. Never have.”
“What’d you see?”
“I don’t even know. Some stupid chick flick.”
“A chick flick. You never go to chick flicks.”
“I was in the mood for light and frothy.”
“Which one was it?”
“Sweetie, listen, can I go to bed? I’m absolutely exhausted. I haven’t felt right all day.”
“Are you okay, Alex? I’m worried about you.”
“I’m fine. I just need sleep, is all.”
“Alright, but take some Tylenol. Sure you’re okay?”
“I love you, Stella.”
“Love you, too.” He heard the phone click off and was instantly sorry he hadn’t prolonged the conversation, for almost immediately upon hanging up Edward Junior’s penetrating dark stare once again began boring down on him. And there was nowhere to flee.
He recalled the amusement/repulsion he’d felt years ago when he’d come across a turn of the century poster in a book on anti-Semitism. It read, ‘Jew Hollywood Producers Want To Seduce Our Daughters.’ The poster depicted a caricature of a short chubby man in a beret chasing a beautiful tall blond around his desk.
They were right, he said to himself. We did want to fuck their high-assed, wasp-waisted, blond-headed, blue-eyed, pretty-faced daughters till we couldn’t walk anymore. And the mamas that went along with them. He could picture the revulsion with which Junior would discuss this with his golfing buddies over bourbon and water in the men’s grill of some understated Louisiana golf club. Can ya’ll ‘magine presentin’ a goddamn vibrator to somebody’s mothah! – the incident stoking their repugnance for Jews a thousand fold.
Posnick lay in bed with a novel and the Times’ crossword puzzle spread out about him. He sipped periodically from an oversized goblet of red wine. Three pillows supported him from behind as he stared blankly at the wall on the far side of the room.
Suddenly, he pushed the book and newspaper onto the floor and reached over and turned off the light. He just sat there against the pillows, sipping his wine in the dark, for he knew it would be useless to lie all the way down. There would be no sleep for him tonight.
He began composing a speech in his mind, trying to be honest, trying to find the precise articulation of what he was feeling. Joelle, I am sorry for having stepped over the line. I feel like an ogre, hateful, perverted, ugly, selfish beyond normal human self-interest. Your beauty and your exoticness have inflamed me. All my life I have fantasized having sex with a tall, slender, beautifully-shaped blonde gentile woman. Who knows why exactly? It is theorized that a varied gene pool makes for a stronger species. There is no question that I am attracted to your differentness in a way that possesses me. I have never known a woman named Joelle before. I have never even heard the name before. I have never slept with a woman taller than myself. I have never kissed a woman with natural gas wells or a Texas accent or a house that must be over 15,000 square feet or with hands bigger than my own or –
The ringing of the telephone startled Posnick and he grappled with the receiver before getting a solid hold of it and bringing it to his ear.
“Hello,” he said tentatively. He checked the clock. It was 2:53.
“Yes….” He thought he recognized Joelle’s soft drawl, but was far from sure.
“Alex, this is Joelle.” There was a long pause. “It worked.” She was speaking in little more than a whisper.
“What worked?”
“The personal massager. I had an orgasm. In fact I had three orgasms.”
“Oh, my God.”
“Thank you so much. It was wonderful. Who would have believed it’d be so easy.”
“That is so great.”
“I just feel this tremendous sense of loss over all the orgasms I’ve missed. Must be thousands.”
“You’ll make up for lost time. I’ll – I’ll help.”
“You’ve helped already. You’re like…like my guru.” The way she pronounced guru in her Texan accent made him heartsick with love.
“Come on over, I want to know all about it.” He was picturing the vibrator sitting on her night table. He yearned to hold it to his face. “Bring the massager.”
“Don’t be silly, it’s three o’clock. I can assure you, Edward Junior’d want to know where his old mother’s going at three in the morning.”
“I told you I could help.”
“You were right about that, doctor.” She laughed at her joke. “Well, I’m going to go to sleep now. I’m plum exhausted. You didn’t tell me these orgasms took so much out of a person.”
“I’m so anxious to hear all about it,” said Posnick.
“I will call you in the morning. Good night.” She hung up.
Posnick lay back and masturbated to his own deeply satisfying orgasm, visions of Joelle’s writhing on her bed dancing in his brain. Moments later he fell into a deep and undisturbed sleep.
He hung around the house the next morning waiting for her call, killing time by doing the laundry, rearranging the clothes in his closet, doing the New York Times Friday crossword puzzle on line. At noon, however, he left for the golf course to meet the guys for their usual 12:26 tee off time.
When he got home a little after six, there was only one call on the answering machine and that was from his friend Howard back east wanting to know if he’d gotten 17 down on the puzzle.
By 8 o’clock he was in despair, enough to give him the courage to dial her number. A man’s voice said, ‘Hello,’ and Posnick immediately hung up, hoping they didn’t have caller I.D.
Two weeks later he and Stella were being led to a table in the back room of Joe Steak when he saw her unmistakable head of silver hair. Posnick stopped at the very next table and said to the hostess, “How about right here?” Stella looked at him curiously.
“I like being able to see the fireplace,” he explained. But what he really enjoyed, although it caused him no small amount of anguish as well, was being able to watch his beloved Joelle without her realizing he was there. She was seated next to a man with an equally thick head of silver hair, combed to the side with a neat, even part. He was at least as tall as she and was wearing a white shirt under a blue blazer. From behind anyway, he had the bearing of a senator or CEO of a large corporation, signaling for the waiter with a quiet authority.
Joelle touched his shoulder and arm frequently, and twice during the meal they turned to each other and kissed. After the busboy cleared their table, the man in the blazer got off his banquette to let Joelle out. She had her pocketbook with her and appeared headed for the ladies room.
Posnick whipped the wine list in front of him, burying his face in it, for he knew that if she should recognize him and stop to say hello there would be no way he could disguise the brutal disappointment that was presently engulfing him.


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