Given: a stranger appears in your life, a scholar in your own field, here on a research visit. You offer her a place to stay. Now, what is the very best thing you could hope to happen? … Be careful what you wish for.
One day, early on
That evening we consumed a lot of alcohol and smoke, came home and built a fire. We stayed up till after two, talking, and beginning to touch and kiss. At some point in the evening I had to bring up the subject of herpes. I hated doing that, took a long time to come to saying it.
“You have a Tragic Secret?” she asked, trying to fathom what I needed to tell her. When I finally got it out, she said, “Herpes? What’s that?” So I had to explain the whole thing, and talked about my whole history with it. She was very sympathetic; and to my surprise, she did not seem to consider the possibility of getting herpes much of an obstacle. Or she was sure there must be a cure. Or a wrong diagnosis. And she kept touching me, loving me, as we talked. Her hands can be very gentle.
…Yes, we have made love. Twice, so far. It was Thursday night that years, by now, of celibacy for me were broken. We stayed awake into the wee hours on the couch opened out before the fire. As a result of this debauchery my herpes flared up, so, the next time, I could not let her make love to me. She didn’t like that at all.
But I could make love to her. And that night I learned that she is a woman who wants to be filled, who wants all my fingers inside her, whose pillowy convolutions welcome me in with powerful convulsions… I, also, love, yearn, sometimes to be filled, and nearly pummeled; but I have seldom had lovers who did. However, my tissues are more delicate now since menopause, so, delicate, in fact, that I had given up sex even with myself for more than half a year, now, acknowledging the costs too high for such a temporary pleasure, and insignificant, alone.
I like that Alexa is able to articulate what she wants, to say, “I want more of you inside me,” and “A little higher. Yes!” and sinr ply “More!” How nice it can be when someone asks.
I was feeling so open that morning that I made love to her in her bed. At the moment she cannot make love to me, or, rather, my labia are off limits, due to one little red dot I am not sure about. Frustrating. She said the other night it’s like being teenagers before contraception. But I don’t really mind; I love to be held, kissed, stroked. And even to feel a little unfulfilled desire is a nice state for me. I am a patient person. And, anyway, I have had plenty of orgasms in my life. And, surprisingly, I find there is a tinge of the stone butch in me in this relationship, of not being entirely ready to yield to her my vulnerability, to give her the power to make me quake and whimper and give myself up to my longings past all disguises.
As things are now, if I never see her again after next Tuesday, I will thank the universe for a pleasant, loving, and instructive interlude, and eagerly tum back to the rest of my life, hopefully enriched and stimulated by the experience… Not that my being brought to orgasm by a woman means I couldn’t let go of her, or hold her lightly in my life… No, it’s in the act itself. In my not easily feeling the trust needed to be naturally that open.
Snow falling. Yesterday I performed my writing and songs at my “Faculty Lecture.” Afterwards we went out for lunch, and spent the afternoon running errands. It was all very pleasant and fun. And when we got home she fixed me a simple shrimp dinner with champagne. “For the weary Frau Professor after her big lecture,” she said.
It was very nice to put my feet up before the fire and eat, and watch her give the cats their new toys. Afterwards I lay with my head in her lap, and she stroked me, and I stroked whichever cat was in my lap at the time. And after that she stroked me long, until, almost before I realized it, she was making love to me, and was reaching inside, and bringing up moisture, and stroking my clitoris in a wonderfully pleasurable way, though I could have told her that does not bring me to orgasm. Except that there did come a point where I found myself in the grip of that river of pleasure and excitement and single-focused need. And then there did come a point where I gave up my last defenses, and came, in an orgy of needing and having, needing and having.
Afterwards, we slept together in my bed, expressing love for each other, and gladness that this was not the last night we would be together (as per her original plans to fly home this morning, changed only yesterday). Half way through the night I woke with a tickle in my throat; she transferred to her own bed, and I made again my nest of pillows.
Another day, much later, after she had left
Was Alexa right? Do I prefer money-grubbing over the glories of love?… After a certain point, yes.
“You know, class really is a factor here.” I said, one evening toward the end.
“Oh, intellectuals are classless,” she protested.
“There may be truth in that,” I said. “But some intellectuals have more leisure and money than others. I have work I have to do to hold my life together.”
“I work, too,” she said. “But I somehow manage to do it when other people aren’t around. I always have time for my friends. I don’t know, different values I guess. I work, but I don’t get in people’s faces about it.”
“The only reason you even know about my work is because you’re living in my house!” I protested, incredulous. I had come home late from a meeting, after a very hard day, the fifth, of building fence at my rental house. My body, unused to physical exertion after a recent injury, was learning again what it is to move, and have energy and strength; but by suppertime I was very tired. And I had to get up early tomorrow to finish the job.
“You’re living in my house, driving my car every day, and you’re upset because I’m not paying you more attention?” “But Pearl! Our time is so short! There are so many wonderful things we could be doing! That seems not to matter to you!”
Often before my defenses were caught up with the realization, “This woman loves me!”… But not this time.
“I could move away to a hotel,” she said. “But then I’d never see you. I’d rather stay here and fight with you than that.”
“Did it ever occur to you to wonder,” I thought, but did not say, “what I would prefer?”
On the morning she left, we sipped Riesling in the airport restaurant. Her plane had been called to board, but she was ignoring it until the last moment. She was in the mood for summations, the good and the bad.
We had just had a nice time together as I drove us, with a side trip to the ocean, to the city where she would catch the plane. I’d enjoyed showing her my favorite beach. The tide was the lowest I’ve ever seen; a full moon coinciding with a particularly close perihelion. We saw lots of anemone, and studded starfish. “Sea stars,” she told me they are called in the languages of Europe. But when she pulled a mussel or limpet or whatever it was from a rock and exclaimed in excited interest, “Look! It bleeds!” I could not help but feel a little horrified. All the Same, I ate seafood afterwards, and acknowledged that both it and the wine were delicious.
She bought a second bottle to have in the motel later: but I drove there slowly, because of the dark, and the winding road, and the wine I’d had. And, even more, to make it be too late by the time we got there, so that I would not have to make clear to her my new determination not to further mix our body fluids. She seemed to sense it anyway and did not press the point. There was one bed in the room; and we shared it comfortably, even affectionately.
There had been something nice about being able to reach out and touch hands, touch bodies, comfortably, attractedly.
And it had been nice to be so clearly lesbian in public, in all those restaurants she’d taken me to in those past weeks. Even while I sometimes thought, “She doesn’t have to go on living here. I do.” But mostly it was nice not to worry if our hands touched, held, even caressed, or played with each other absently as we talked and ate.
Now, in the airport restaurant, we let our hands touch again. We had spent the morning talking about her novel; it had been good to remember some of the reasons we had for connecting. It is not so usual for her, either, to know another woman in her field, who is also a lesbian, and a writer. I’m sure I am special to her.
She said, “Maybe it’s good we spent this much time together. Now we know both sides.”
I did not say it was a too-expensive lesson, or that I had seen “both sides” coming early on.
Now, for all the goodness of holding hands, and being at the end of an intense experience with someone, I was clear about my reservations. “For example, the way you were that night, about the fence,” I said, “that was just not acceptable.”
“But how about the next night?” she smiled. “When we ended up at the French restaurant, and I showed you Irish creme? Was that acceptable?”
It had been pleasurable, rolling the liqueur around on my tongue as she instructed, holding it in my mouth, attending to the series of delicious changes it underwent as it heated, mixed with the juices of my mouth, explored the regions of my tongue.
“Yes,” I answered her, smiling too. She was leaving in ten minutes; what was the use? “Yes, I don’t deny there have been many enjoyable times, and that there were reasons we got together.”
I saw her through the check-in gate, and even felt a little poignant as she disappeared up the escalator. As I turned to leave, I noticed the security guard who had witnessed our goodbye. With short-cut hair, and a capable manner of sitting, she was looking at me with what surely seemed to be an expression of sympathy. We shared a tiny smile of recognition.
I walked to the parking lot, and sat in my car, collecting my feelings… A touch of sadness… And the first little waves of relief.
“Still,” I thought, finishing our last conversation, ”an unacceptable and an acceptable – don’t add up to an acceptable.”