I don’t want other men, Eli. I want you. Oh God—did I actually say that? Inside my condo, my back pressed against the locked door, I take a long moment to assess myself, while an impatient Freddie rubs himself against my legs. So much for decorum. Mother would be horrified. I’m pretty horrified myself. I even suggested that we go to his place next time. A: that assumes there will be a next time and B: what am I a sex maniac? But it’s the truth. I do want him. I’ve wanted him since the moment I saw him at the airport, and he flashed that brilliant smile at me. Was that only a week ago? Thank God he didn’t call me in D.C. I probably would have met him in his hotel room. I’m all for being a modern woman and everything, but this borders on throwing myself at him. Heaving a huge sigh of surrender I finally move away from the door and put my purse and sweater in the foyer closet.
Leaving Freddie contentedly crunching on his generous portion of late night cat treats, I head to the bedroom and get undressed. Look, it’s obvious that I conceded the white wedding gown a long time ago, and I’m wise enough not beat myself up about the “right-nows” who ultimately became the “let’s-be-friends”. In fact, maybe it’s commendable that I never married just to fulfill expectations that may or may not be my own. Divorce rates being what they are, it would appear that the marriage contract doesn’t exactly guarantee happily-ever-after. But I’m not promiscuous. And a woman wants a man’s respect. And that usually means he makes the first move.
In the shower the warm water feels wonderful washing over me. I’m still a little shaky from all that kissing downstairs in Eli’s James-Bond of a car. I cover myself in the lavender foam of bath wash and it calms me down too. After all Eli did make the first move, with that ruse about needing an SME on homelessness. I smile just thinking about it, but I’m wondering too why he couldn’t just ask me out straight-up. I must admit it was a smooth move. He played the game so easily. Does he do this all the time?
I can’t function like other men. I guess that would make him a little nervous about asking a woman out. You can’t just overlook a wheelchair. It’s not like height or weight, or questionable oral hygiene. I mean, if it wasn’t for the wheelchair he’d be up here right now, wouldn’t he? Inside me instead of inside my head. No, you can’t look over the chair, you have to look right at it, and accept it for what it is, what it means. Like the fact that he can never be here because I live on the second floor.
After the shower I step out to dry myself off, and when I’m done I stand naked before the full-length mirror that’s attached to the bathroom door. Alonso said he read that it’s psychologically healthy to look at yourself in the buff. It’s supposed to teach you self-acceptance. He may be right. The figure before me isn’t so bad. My neck’s okay and I kind of like my collar bones now that I’ve lost enough weight for them to show. The price you pay for fuller breasts is that they aren’t as perky as the ones belonging to the models you see in the lingerie ads. I always try to do the right exercises to keep my chest muscles strong, but let’s face it, breasts are not made of muscle tissue. My belly’s a little soft too but reasonably flat, still, thank goodness for the hidden elastic in waistbands and let’s not forget the forgiveness of spandex. Although my butt’s really pretty good, and I’ve got strong legs, which I’ve always appreciated, and decent ankles. However I wish my feet were smaller, but there’s nothing I can do about that. All in all, I can consider myself attractive even though I wish there was a way for me to lose ten pounds before I see Eli again.
In the bedroom, I sit on the side of the bed to finish my skin care regime which means applying lavender-vanilla scented lotion all over my naked body in the never ending quest for commercial-grade skin. Mainly I use the simple creams and fragrances that you can buy at Bath and Body Works, and vanilla is my signature scent. Mother’s penchant for expensive and overpowering perfumes long ago taught me to steer clear of the perfume counters in department stores.
I get into bed, slipping between the cool cotton sheets. They’re 500-count. I don’t mind spending extra money for good linens, well—luxury linens. I like spa-quality towels and high-end-hotel sheets. Yes, I feather my nest. My condo décor is carefully designed to suit and reflect my tastes, to say who I am. I enjoy having people over to share it and admittedly to show it off. I’m sorry Eli can’t see it.
The house I grew up in is my mother’s house, all of it, including what was once my bedroom. It was and is all about her tastes, her style, her art. Sometimes it would feel as if Daddy and I were just two more fixtures, like the leather Barcalounger and the china cabinet. But this is my place. And when Mother comes to visit she wonders why I spend so much money on fresh flowers instead of buying silk ones that last and look just as pretty according to her. She reminds me that the towels in the guest bathroom and the sheets on the guest bed don’t have to be expensive. And if I wouldn’t spend so much on custom framing for my art prints I could save more to take nicer vacations. I don’t argue with her, but I don’t change either.
Before reaching to shut off the tiffany-style lamp on the mahogany nightstand, I look affectionately around the room, at the water-blue walls where I have hung my collection of custom-framed Claude Monet prints. I bet Mrs. Abbot would like these prints, she’d at least appreciate them anyway. But Eli will never see them, not here on these blue walls. He can’t sit at my dining room table, the one I found at a flea market and refinished myself. He can’t see the books I’ve read or listen to music played on my Bose Radio. Other men have, but he can’t function like other men.
I suspected that he couldn’t get an erection, which probably means he’ll want to go down on me. I don’t actually like the term to go down and to eat out someone sounds worse. To me both ways of saying it, saying cunnilingus, is like saying fucking for making love, and the word fuck puts my libido on ice. I know every act of sex is not an act of love, but at least I always hope it will be. To fuck is to give up on intimacy, and without intimacy what’s the point? Freddie jumps on the bed and curls up on the empty side. I turn off the light.
I’m not too fond cunnilingus either. I prefer to see my lover’s face and if it’s buried between my legs the best view I get is the top of his head. It makes me feel detached, as if I don’t need to be there as long as my vagina is. Maybe Eli can take medication to get an erection, but if he doesn’t feel anything why would he want to? Wouldn’t that just be frustrating?
Tammy loved having sex, and she used to regale me with her many stories about her sexual adventures, which too many times seemed like fucking. She told me she’d even had sex in the hospital after she got shot. I remember being a little appalled by that but keeping the prudish opinion to myself. Of course Tammy could walk a little. She had feeling below her injury, useful feeling. Eli does not.
But he wants me too. I swear to God, I nearly took flight when he confessed to tricking me into a date, and the only reason I’m not flying right now is because I am determined to keep my feet on the ground by constantly telling myself that I don’t know this man, so I can’t be in love. But the way he kissed me Tuesday night and again tonight, the way he held my hand on the plane before, the man has firepower and I’m happily blown away. Maybe his brain can’t get through to his penis, but maybe that doesn’t matter so much.
So what if his traditional physical beauty ends at his waist. The rest of him is so incredible, who cares. I don’t know how long ago he was hurt. Tammy’s legs weren’t skinny. They were just slim, sleek even. She used to like to cross them all the time, when she was wearing skirts or pants. If she wasn’t in her wheelchair or you didn’t know her, you couldn’t really tell anything was wrong. From what I’ve seen of them, Eli’s legs look fine too. Of course I haven’t seen them, and I can tell he hates the spasms so much.
When I touched his leg I couldn’t tell anything was wrong. It felt normal, a little thinner than usual maybe, but it wasn’t skin and bones. I felt muscle, and most importantly I felt him, and the feeling went all through me. Because he goes all through me. I keep imagining myself under him, experiencing his weight upon me. I confess to liking the missionary position when I’m having sex, making love. I like to look up into my lover’s face. I wonder if he can he do that, if Eli can get on top of me. Maybe he’ll just think it’s silly.
In the darkness, under the top sheet and the comforter, with Eli’s perfect face before me, I tentatively reach down between my legs, and feel the soft crinkly hair. I wonder if I should consider finally shaving here. Lots of women do. It just never struck me as necessary. But maybe if it is what Eli is used to I should. Alonso says that lots of men shave their pubic areas too. Maybe Eli does. I hope he doesn’t shave his chest though. I hope the same dark hair that trims his face decorates his chest too. I want to touch it, stroke it. He’s a beautiful man, but I’m glad he’s not pretty.
I let my imagination turn my fingers into Eli’s fingers. In reality his are bigger though, stronger. There are places in his palms that are tough, smoothed over callouses but callouses all the same. I dream my hand is his between my legs, and then I can almost feel his hands on my bare breasts. The vibrations throb. The blood rushes down, creating a swelling heated pool of desire that burns and aches, yet is somehow a lovely feeling. It’s thrilling, full of anticipation. You get that it’s different with me, he said. Whatever it is, however it is, it will be wonderful. I can’t feel that, Lorna, he said to me tonight. But he must feel something, because he wants me. I can feel that.