The beginning of the end begins with a tit-flick and a cantaloupe, and Mike’s wife, Kalli, flipping on the light, dropping the groceries on the floor, and saying, “Oh. My. God.” Saying, “You son of a bitch.”
Behind him, on the big screen TV, this Asian chick’s taking it in the out way. Her palms pressing her tits together, her hair cinched in roped pigtails. Mouth O’d the way Kalli’s is now. Mike stands and says, “Babe, this is not what it looks.” Noticing the shadow of his prick on the wall, he holds a hand out mime-style and says, “At least I’m not cheating,” and she says, “Yeah, at least there’s that.”
He sets the cantaloupe down, embarrassed by the size of the hole in the rind. His fingers spread, he looks around for something to clean himself up with. “Thought you were going out with Caroline,” he says.
“I think I’m gonna be sick,” she says.
On the screen, the girl’s reclined back in the guy’s lap, her legs spread in a full split. Mike stares a second, then blinks away. The shadow of his dick arches over, bowing as if ashamed. He dusts a few pulpy clumps from the tip and moves toward Kalli. She steps back, a hand at her throat. Eyes on the screen. He stops, leans down to pick up the groceries, and she says, “Don’t touch that.”
He sets the bag upright, wiggles his fingers, and says, “Don’t worry, this hand’s clean.”
From behind, the cantaloupe rolls off the table and across the floor—prick-hole over bottom, prick-hole over bottom.
She shakes her head and says, “Goddamn freak.” She stomps out, slamming the door behind her, and he yells, “The Greeks were freaks, babe. And they’re legends.”
On the screen, the image skips, then freezes in a twitch.
He’s in bed, drunk and waiting for her to come home.
He’d paced the floor for hours, swigging Juarez tequila and having the argument out in his mind. He visualized her sitting across from him, fingers laced, nodding her head. Listening to his side of the story and keeping an open mind.
He would speak soft and slow, ticking his points off on his fingers: First and foremost, masturbation is healthy. It relaxes the muscles and aids in sleeping. Reduces stress and releases sexual tension. It allows one to get in touch with one’s sexual responses to better communicate one’s wants and needs to one’s partner. It also discharges neurotransmitters into the brain, which give the feeling of physical and mental well-being. Second, it’s natural. Instinct. All the way back when we were organisms bubbling in Earth’s primordial soup. When we slithered out of the oceans on our bellies, flicking our tongues for food. When we sprouted opposable thumbs and stood upright, we have had the urge to mate. It’s in our cells. Our DNA. Like eating, it’s a need. There’s a feeling and we react to it. You’re hungry, you eat. You have to shit or piss, you shit or piss. Now I know what you’re thinking: that we have minds and intellect and that’s what separates us from the animals. But I say what separates us from the animals is the ability to fantasize. Think about it, fantasy is the combination of intellect, creativity, and instinct, all of which have allowed for many avenues toward a better quality of life. Example: with this combination, we have better, healthier foods. We have indoor plumbing. We have the ability to construct elaborate fantasies. Babe, we can’t lay stencils over the wild inside us. We have to use it. Blend it. Focus it. It’s not shameful. It’s not perverted, not deviance. It’s as natural as a snake’s slither. It’s human.
You’re right, he saw her saying. I see your point, he saw.
It’s late when her headlights fill the window.
After he’d finished off the tequila, he’d masturbated twice, and went to bed. Now, a pearl of cold semen sticks his boxers to his thigh. He hopes she didn’t tell Caroline. She tells Caroline, then Caroline tells Bobby and Bobby tells Art and… He shakes the thought away and listens. She bangs around in the kitchen and his body seems to constrict an inch and hold. She slams things in the living room. Kicks and stomps through the bathroom, then comes to bed and yanks the covers up.
“Is it me?” she says.
And Mike is immediately up on and elbow, saying, “No,” saying, “It’s nothing to do with you. You’re perfect.”
“Then why then?”
“Cause it’s healthy,” he says, but his argument’s jumbled in his brain. “It’s instinct, you know. Natural like a snake…”
“I’m sure what you’re…doing…is healthy. I’m sure it’s instinct even. It’s instinct I want to fuck my boss too, but I don’t. Because when someone else’s feelings are involved, there’s also morals to factor in. There’s right,” she says, “and there’s wrong.”
“I was just getting in touch with my—you wanna fuck your boss?”
“And you promised to love me ‘til death do us part, not the fruit aisle at Wal-Mart.” She sighs. Clears her throat. “What all have you done? I mean, besides the melon?”
“Cantaloupe,” he says.
“Mike?” she says, and he feels the heat from her face. “What all?”
“I…(right hand, left hand, rubber bands to restrict forearm circulation, blow-up dolls, Pucker Suckers, prosthetic vaginas—big one’s, hairy ones, shaved ones, tiny ones: ‘Tiny ‘Giny’s with the New and Improved Itty Bitty Clitty’s,’ a technique he invented called four-play, where you thumb-rub the penis-tip while massaging your balls with your other four fingers, prostrate stimulation with an electric toothbrush, though he didn’t go A-T-M and brush his teeth afterward)…just the melon,” he says.
Then, she rolls over, facing away from him and says, “Well, it stops now or I’m gone.”
And she goes to sleep.
He wakes up the next morning to a wet dream. He’s still thrusting his hips and twitching when he opens his eyes. She’s standing over him, arms crossed, dressed for work. Watching.
His chest going in, out. In, out. Feet taut as rebar.
“You’re off to a really bad stop,” she says, shakes her head, and walks out.
At noon, Mike leaves the office and eats in his car. He’s tried calling Kalli several times but it goes straight to voicemail. Usually at lunch, he’d sit in the car leafing through one of his books. He’d gone down to the Porn Warehouse and bought Love You Some You: Hands On Techniques To Masturbatory Enlightenment and Whack On, Whack Off: How To Switch Hands For A Little Strange.
He tosses the books in the backseat. He’s terrified. She wants him to quit and he’ll try for her, but it won’t be easy. He was feeling it two or three times this morning. Out of habit, he went to the bathroom to fire off a round around ten and had to stop himself.
He’ll miss it. That freedom to reach down and take hold. Grab a few minutes of pleasure. To recharge his batteries. Capitalize on a beautiful face or rack or ass he’d seen earlier in the day and placed in the top drawer of his mental “pull-box.” It’s magic, really, the control to speed up if you want to go faster. Slow down if you want it slower. Get tighter, be looser. And the confidence you get after it’s over, and your hand doesn’t roll off, brow m’d, and say, “Is that goddamn it?”
He’s diamond hard just thinking about it. He unzips and slides his hand in.
Quitting’ll be harder than he thought.
When you love food, it’s hard to diet.
On the way home, Mike can’t shake the feeling Kalli told Caroline. He calls Bobby.
“Caroline tell you me and Kalli got into it?” he says.
“She might have said something,” Bobby says. “Why?”
Shit, he thinks. “No reason.”
“We’re grabbing a few beers tonight. Wanna come?”
“Better pass,” Mike says. “Got damage control to do.”
“Suit yourself,” Bobby says. “Handle your business.”
Mike hangs up. Wonders which business Bobby was telling him to handle.
When Mike gets home and walks in the house, he knows he’s screwed. He hears the hum of the computer as he steps in and can see without seeing what Kalli’s looking at. He’d seen this scene play out in his head several times. There was no way around it. He’d hoped if he forgot about it, it would go away.
It didn’t. And here it is.
Since he’d started masturbating, he’d used the Internet for a good deal of his porn. It started with nude celebrities—Pamela Anderson, Angelina Jolie. Then old Marilyn Chambers movies and Deep Throat. Now, it’s Brianna Banks and more amateurish stuff.
And though he knew how to get off on the sites, then get off the sites, he could not figure out how to get the sites of the computer.
“Those are old,” he says.
She looks at him, her face cinched in the center. Mascara stains under her eyes.
“Christ, Michael,” she says. “Spitnsplit.com? Warmnwoolymilfs.org?”
“Those aren’t your better sites,” he says, and wishes he hadn’t.
She looks back at the screen, shakes her head. “This isn’t right. This is so not right,” she says.
He walks toward her and she puts a hand up, closes her eyes, and turns her head.
“All guys have some,” he says, and she runs down the hall and slams the door.
Her stares at the site. “Tic Tacs To Whales: Big Chicks Blow Little Dicks.”
And his middle begins to tingle and tighten against his pants.
But he doesn’t feel ashamed.
Once you get caught with you dick in produce, there’s no more shame to feel.
That night, he gets drunk and passes out. He sleeps on the sofa. No wet dreams.
The next afternoon he comes home from work. The sun broken-yolking into the horizon. He hadn’t touched himself all day. He loves his wife. He’s gonna give this stopping a go.
He’d bought flowers and a Hallmark.
He pulls in.
The house is dark except for a flame orange glow in the living room window. He goes inside.
“Babe?” he says.
On the floor, rose petals are strewn from the door through the kitchen. He follows them into the living room.
“Kalli?” he says, peeking around the corner.
And there she is, tiger-striped in peach scented candle-flicker. Leaned back on the sofa, legs spread. High-heels in the air, she’s dressed in a red and black mesh camigarter, so tiny there’s more cotton on a Q-Tip. She’s moved the thronged crotch to the side, and with her middle finger, she’s rubbing herself in baby circles.
“Hey,” he says, smiling. “What’s this?”
She raises a hand and slips a pin from her hair. Shakes her head, letting the dark curls slide down her shoulders. She leans forward, pours two glasses of wine, and takes a sip, never breaking eye contact. She runs her tongue over her glistening lips, the edges of her teeth, then leans back. Slips the thin lace straps from her shoulders and lets them slide over her breasts. She runs a hand over one of them and twists the nipple. She moans, clenches a fist, and hooks her trigger finger twice, gesturing for him to come.
She smells of honey massage oil. His favorite. He drops to his knees, breathing heavy, and kisses her. He’s stripping. Ripping his buttoned shirt. Peeling his pants off like skin. “I’m sorry, babe,” he says, between breaths. “About it all.”
She smiles and shakes her head No.
“I love you,” he says, and God knows he does. He always had. She was the most beautiful girl he’d ever placed irises on. She’d always been the one and he’d hurt her. With his “instinct” he bruised the heart of the only person that matters to him. He’s through with it, he thinks. He’s quitting. For this sexy, smart, funny woman he’d fallen in love with years ago, he’s going to be the man she wants. Deserves. Out of this revelation, he caresses and kisses every cell of salty, sweat-glazed flesh on her body. And for over an hour, he works and works, trying to physically convey everything bubbling in his heart.
But for the life of him…