Do You Want Whiskey?
“What I hate to say is that sleeping with you isn’t a meaningful experience to me. Do you understand that? I’d rather eat an egg salad sandwich.”
Who was she to me anyway? I didn’t get her. If she thought I did she was mistaken. I was tired. I wished she’d leave me be. But she’d only started, I could tell, a kind of wind-up.
“There’s more important things in life,” she said. “Gerry, you must realize? You’re not the be-all and end-all, Gerry. You’re hardly in the photograph. That’s you, a leg over in one corner.”
That’s not what she really thought.
“You know what I think, Gerry? I think it’s a game, a damn game. I don’t know the rules. I don’t know the parameters. But I know you’re playing.”
She was an older woman, older considerably than me. She had adolescent sons. She had books. She had female lovers.
I didn’t know how I felt. She was a dervish, is what I felt. She was outrageous. She had a mouth the size of a windfall apple. She had a lot of talk, she talked like a man. The honest to God truth is she could make me blush. That was the truth. She was capable of anything. Her mouth drove diesels.
“In respect to fucking, Gerry, that’s what I’m saying.” She leaned towards me. She smelled of cigarettes and chocolate. She ate a finger of a Kit Kat bar and licked her skin, long and slow. She could dazzle me. She was a slip of a thing, that woman. When I’d hugged her she’d risen on her toes to reach me. “I could have taken it or left it, did you know? You thought you had me running.”
Without thinking I said, “Dancing.” She danced like she’d fall through you, saucy. Let me say persuasively. When you watched a long time you started to notice the control, the years of lessons, but at first it was just a spill of hips and breasts. I said, “This doesn’t make any sense.”
I said, “Can’t we just go back?”
I said, “I’m lost, Susan, I’m truly lost.”
I said, “Never in my life did I imagine this.”
“I was prepared to do it,” she said, “you know that. I thought about running my tongue up the inside of your thigh. I thought about taking you in my mouth. I had lots of thoughts. But it was a big mistake. I’m saying it was a big mistake, Gerry. One of the largest. But it was just a brain burp. I burped and you’re gone. Vanished.”
I didn’t believe her. Not for a second. She was just trying to take her face back. I could hand it to her but I didn’t see why I should. But any moment she could say something – something in her repertoire from her long-ago years with men – and I’d be stuck like a pig, a goner. I had everything but she could take it back. That woman could say Strip and I’d say How fast? Her carnality was hot lightning.
I said, “I don’t want to sleep with you.”
She said, “You just want to flirt around the edges. This is formal notice, Gerry. Fuck or get off the dyke.”
There was nothing I could do about it, about her. I could see the future.
“It never occurs to you to look at this, does it, Gerry? You remind me about what I dislike in men. Men won’t let themselves be touched. If men can’t handle something, they just don’t handle it. Am I right or am I right? Pop! They’re gone. Do you want some more whiskey?”
She poured more, three neat fingers into my glass.
“You have to create walls for women. You say there’s doors in women you can’t pass through. Maybe you yourself are the reason, did you consider that? Maybe you’re the guy with the mortar. Maybe you build the walls because you can’t tolerate what might happen.”
Maybe I did. So what? Watching her whiskey glass touch her lips, liking her lips, how they moved, how I had flashes of my body under them, I thought how maybe she was right. Once the going got tough, the tough got going. I was going somewhere else, away, and maybe I was tough.
“I’ve lost a lot of my admiration for you,” she said. “Because of how you’ve handled this. You’ve avoided me. Don’t think I don’t know it. Don’t think you go over my head. Once we’d said, Yeah, there’s sexual tension, once we acknowledged that, it was cat and mouse. Sexy looks, you fucker. Or how you tweaked my toe.”
Leave me alone, I was thinking. I’d heard her read from her work now four times. She’d move to the podium like a million dollars, dressed in silk and a black fedora, and her voice would be as soft as skin. She’d make it crawl over you, the text like a snake, no theatrics, just that voice. Her territory was family and she knew family, how families talked to each other, the recriminations and sorrows, the words of it all. She knew families. She’d be sweet like a double fudge sundae and you’d be holding your breath and not know it. And then she’d slip in the knife. You sat in the audience and tried to reconcile that she made love with women but you couldn’t. You couldn’t make the pictures. I walked in on her giving another woman a neck-rub and I looked and it was just a neck-rub over clothes, over a purple sweatshirt, a neck-rub like a thousand other neck-rubs a guy could walk in on, but I couldn’t say a thing for the pictures it made. It made pictures so risky and terrifying for a moment I was dead on my feet, absolutely dead. Before this, this scene, how today she’d cornered me and mainlined me whiskey neat, a week or so ago, she’d told me dykes – she used that word, no jangle on her tongue – fuck like the wind. She said, Dykes are women’s fuck fantasy come true. She said, There’s no better sex in the world. She said, I wouldn’t mind boinking Lisa Meyers.
“The lucky fuck lottery,” she said now. “Who gets to fuck me?” She sat back and stared out the window, over the city streets below. “Gerry, you shithead.”
“I love you,” I said. I didn’t mean to say it, it fell out of my mouth like marbles. She could sit on my lap and waggle her breasts – she had great breasts – in my face. So I knew it. So what did it mean?
She didn’t say a word. Right at that moment, that woman didn’t say a word. She didn’t look at me either.