I watch Cindy gracefully get out of bed. She pauses for a moment, sitting on the side of the bed, languidly stretching her slender arms over her head. She’s in no hurry, but the morning light will not find her outside of her home, the home she shares with Ned, her second husband. He will wake up next to her as is his contractual right. She will return to him as guiltlessly as she leaves me; and we will both let her get away with it, as we always have. Me, perhaps for more obvious reasons. Although Ned’s reasons could be pretty obvious too. Cindy is beautiful, and it is Biblically alleged that a woman is the glory of a man, assuming, I suppose, that the man is her husband.
I push myself up into a sitting position, resting my back against the padded headboard. As usual Cindy has reserved a great room for me, although maybe the room is also for herself as well. She’s not your Motel 6 kind of woman. She demands nothing less than four stars, five if such a room is available for a negotiated lower price. She takes her fiduciary responsibilities to the firm very seriously. Even though the fact that I had to fly from Phoenix to D.C., instead of going back to Atlanta this week, is due to her urging Hal and Dave to hold an in-person senior staff meeting. She confessed as much to me over dinner tonight. “Things are really working out in Ohio,” she said. “I just thought you’d like a chance to brag.” When I told her it’s too early for that, she just smiled and replied in her west Texas drawl, “Aw shucks, Elijah, strut a little. Everybody does.” The accent is strictly for effect. Small town America may have produced her but it could not contain her. Like Lorna, Cindy bolted, and never looked back. One would never know that she hails from a west Texas town that’s too small to even have a post office.
Without a word now she smiles at me over her shoulder. Her rose-colored lipstick has staying power but just barely. Her eye makeup is smudged. We went at it pretty hard tonight. It’s been a while since we had the chance. I guess she must have missed me. I’m surprised the noise she was making didn’t earn us a call from the front desk, which has happened on occasion.
She rises. The soft light from the bedside lamp strokes her creamy nakedness. Her supple back tapers into her narrow waist, and then rounds out into her slightly curvy hips. Her butt is flatter than it used to be and it has slipped a little, but one would have to know her as well as I do to detect the imperfections. I see things about her that Ned can’t, but I suppose one day he will.
Cindy doesn’t like to fuck in the dark. If ours is an afternoon rendezvous, then she insists the hotel drapes be open. If it’s at night, we leave on a lamp. Even when I begged her to let me hide my broken body she wouldn’t let me.
“I like looking at you, Eli,” she told me. “It’s part of your magic.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “A limp dick is very charming.”
She just smiled at my bitter joke and the light stayed on. Which is a good thing, I guess. An important part of my recovery, my therapist told me, and eventually I did get used to it.
Except for every single first time I go through it again. Lorna will be another one of those first times, if we get that far. I can tell she thinks she’s ready for it, and I keep wondering if she’s done this before with another man like me.
Cindy closes the bathroom door behind her, and next I hear the water running from the tap. She’s probably pissing. Women don’t want you to hear them pissing. Cindy can buy my bowel and bladder supplies, but God forbid I hear her take a dump. I should probably get up and cath too, but I’ll wait until she leaves. I’m vain just like she is. She may like looking at me, even now, but I don’t like what she sees. Now that we’re done for the night, I keep the inoperable part of my body draped like a cadaver with the white bedsheet.
A few minutes later Cindy emerges from the bathroom, still naked, and comes back to the bed bringing a warm wet washcloth. She’s prepared to wash my face. I am wearing her scent, though in the aftermath it is less a hot scent and more a fishy odor. I need to brush my teeth too. My guess is she’s at her sexual peak, capable of flowing with the force of a river off a mountain top. I take the towel from her hand and wipe my face myself. I hate it when starts that maternal shit with me, especially after we’ve fucked. I’m not her baby boy, and I don’t like being constantly reminded that I’m the kid in this relationship. My abrupt assertiveness only earns me another one of her pretty smiles, as if she’s amused by it.
“I got you a late check-out,” she informs me walking over to the closet. “I’m sure Hal won’t mind if you telework until it’s time for you to go to the airport.”
“I need to come into the office,” I say.
Must she always be the arranger? I can take care of myself.
“All right,” she says, stepping into her panties. “Suit yourself. I can swing by and pick you up.”
“I’ll take a cab,” I reply.
She faces me to put on her bra. For Cindy, putting her clothes back on is just as much a part of the ritual as taking them off. She does it for effect and it is effective. She’s methodical, deliberate, one piece at a time. Time was watching her, before and after, my cock would be hard enough to cut steel, big and thick, the blood vessels bulging beneath the skin. By the time she was finally done I’d be all dick, starving for her, without a will of my own. If we were at the beginning, she’d come to me, and pressing herself against me, push me down onto the bed and straddle me. Like the needle in a compass, my dick would find its true north and disappear into her warm wetness. She’d look down at me and say, almost triumphantly, “Slowly, Eli, take me slowly.” And I’d try to, but a lot of times I’d just explode. No hang time at all. She’d laugh and say, “Now you have to come back for me.”
Despite my cock being a useless remnant of its former self, the third eye essentially blinded, I still enjoy watching Cindy do her dance of veiling and unveiling. It remains a feast for the two eyes in my head. And added bonus: it pleasures her too. Some women seem embarrassed by their nakedness, and some women should be, but Cindy is not one of those women even at her age. She delights in flaunting it. And men delight in admiring it. I don’t blame her. I was once the same way. Sometimes I almost want to tell her, “Enjoy it while you can.” I know too well that the day—the night—can come when such an advantage is ripped away from you. Watching her settle her breasts into their respective cups, I hope Cindy is lucky enough to lose it all gradually, as Ned continues to look on lovingly.
I like Ned. I’m happy for them. When Cindy first met him, Ned was a rising political star from Georgia. She will never admit it, but a number of us around the office speculate that she convinced him to trade his legislative goals for more lucrative ones he could achieve as a lobbyist. Ned may never make it into the history books now, but he’s doing very well on K Street. And Cindy is doing very well right alongside side him. I’m told the discarded first Mrs. Ned is living out an obscure life somewhere in southern Georgia.
Occasionally Ned drops by the office when I’m there, and sometimes I see him at parties. I used to be taller than him too. If he knows or even suspects anything about me and his wife, he never lets on. I never let on either. After all this time I’m sure there’s office speculation about me and Cindy too. But Ned and I are nothing but cordial to each other. He signed the office get-well card I received when I was in the hospital. A lot of people think Washington is a city of lies. They’re probably right; but so is the world. Complete and total fealty to truth-telling is for philosophers and theologians. The rest of us live here, on Planet Earth.
Facing the full-length mirror attached to the closet door, Cindy retouches her makeup. Mascara, lipstick, blush. I think of Lorna’s mostly unadorned face. Judging from my shirt collar she must have been wearing at least a little foundation the last time I saw her. It was nice when she took off her glasses. They don’t appear to be very strong as she seems to do fine without them. I wonder why she doesn’t wear contacts. She has lovely eyes, and there are times that she looks at me and I almost feel like I can walk again, or like maybe it really doesn't matter so much that I can't.
Without any obvious provocation, I commit the cardinal sin and ask Cindy about Ned. At the mention of her husband’s name, she freezes for an instant, leaving the blush brush hovering over her right cheek.
“He’s fine,” she says dryly after the instant.
“When I saw him yesterday, I thought he looked a little tired. Too many K-Street parties, I guess.” Cindy’s facial reflection in the mirror is one of disapproval. The rule is when we are sharing a hotel room, a hotel bed, we are free agents, without responsibility or attachments. It’s worked well for the both of us, for years. I’m not even thinking that I want to change it, it’s just that it doesn’t quite feel so simple right now.
There are texts in my phone confirming that I will be seeing Lorna Saturday night. I get back to Atlanta on Friday and I wouldn’t mind seeing her then, but I know I have to make sure everything’s ready, perfect—as perfect as I can make it anyway. She’s coming to my place, and despite home-base being a helluva lot easier for me than anywhere else, I’m still nervous. It could be one of those first times. The third date often means at least the proverbial third base. It’s going to be new for her and therefore new for me all over again. She wants me to believe it’ll be okay. I want to believe it too. But I never get to know that anymore until the first time is behind me, and even then there can be doubt.
I’ve endured the look, the shocked expression that’s quickly blinked away and replaced with a wanly sympathetic smile, when a new woman sees my naked floppy legs and shriveled dick for the first time, as she waits for me drag myself onto the bed. Out of my chair, the heap permanently left behind on the street that night becomes starkly obvious. My face, my brain, maybe even my connections, or just curious fascination, might have lured her to this point, but faced with the real deal more than one woman hasn’t been willing to complete the transaction.
There was a first time with Cindy too, and I remember being terrified. It had been a long time since I was a novice, and here I was one again but worse. I couldn’t rely on my body anymore, so I couldn’t trust myself. I couldn’t even trust Cindy. But she was incredible. She took charge of the whole situation. Cindy isn’t normally a talker during sex, but that first time, and times after that, she coached and comforted me, showing me what I could still do and convincing me that I satisfied her. After that first time as we lay in each other’s arms I was so grateful to her, relieved, that I couldn’t talk. Everything wasn’t over after all. “I missed you so much,” Cindy said to me that day. “Don’t ever leave me again.” And I haven’t.
As I watch her finish with her makeup, Cindy asks casually, intentionally changing the subject from her husband, “What time are you coming in? I can order lunch and have it delivered.” I want to keep talking about Ned, somehow counting on that to let me bring up Lorna. My gut feeling, and I do still have that, keeps telling me that this time is different. If we work out, then three’s going to be a crowd. However, Cindy’s smooth gear change throws me off. If I go back to talking about Ned, she’ll definitely detect that something’s up, and she’d be right.
Putting on her blouse, she follows up, “Well?”
“Don’t worry about me,” I say lamely.
“I always do,” she replies, stepping into her skirt.
To my great advantage, I think to myself. Cindy’s a wild bird, but she is in my hand. She’s the known quantity, and more importantly she already knows me. And she loves me. I love her too. It’s not pure or even practical, it just is.