Wednesday, 23 July 2008

HIDDEN MEANINGS - married to a bi-sexual?


In 25 years of marriage I never once saw her naked. We conceived our children huddled under a sheet, with her nightgown held just so, and she locked the bathroom door whenever she took a shower.

She dressed as the nuns taught her to. In layers. With as much as possible hidden from view at any given moment. A work of art, the way she did that. 



In a way it was sexy, having to guess the sum of all the individual parts I glimpsed over the years. An occasional nipple. The soft skin between her breasts. The vision of brown fluff as I entered her. 


I can’t even swear to it that she really ever had an orgasm, although I did try with her. Time and again. She didn’t seem all that interested, but I wanted to witness the explosion of her emotions for the first time. All that penned up sexual energy … The release would have been a mighty sight to behold. So I caressed her softness, and worked at her button whenever I got the chance. But it seemed worse than useless. She never seemed to get a release. And more often than not she was as bitchy as hell all next day.

So, even while she lived, I mostly pursued my own path to satisfaction …

* * *
It was steamy, the night he first came to her room. An enclosing, fierce tropical heat. Sweat seeped from the pores of her skin into the gossamer stuff of her negligee, and little droplets of it clung to her cheeks. She hadn’t known he was coming.

‘It’s so hot,’ she said.

‘Yes, it is,’ he agreed, and sat on the day bed in the corner. ‘So very hot.’

‘A wine?’ And she brought the clear crystal glass to him, and took hers to the deep chair across the room.

‘It was special, last night. The dinner ... You ...’

She said nothing, and sipped pensively.

‘I haven’t been with a woman for so long. Nor even sat with one since she died. My wife. Since she died …’

He raised his glass. There. On the daybed. His sienna eyes pierced the space between them; his silver-grey hair glinted in a shaft of bright light.

She sat in the chair. Occasionally moving to him to pour more wine. And when she did, a shaft of light, perhaps the same one, penetrated her thin gown. It penetrated her gown, and threw her body into relief. When this happened, he could sense the silkiness of her. Sense more than see, the curves of her. Almost see. But not quite. Sense the erectness of her. The roundness of her. Almost see. But not quite.

They spoke for ages. Desultory. In fits and starts. Spoke. Touching here and there on the past, the present, the future. Touching. Almost touching. But not quite.

And then: ‘Will you do something for me? Do something very special?’

She looked towards him. Wondering.

‘Will you? Will you show me you? All of you?’

His entire being asked. Sought her consent.

‘Please?’

Her body had already agreed to his petition. Everything about her poised to meet his need. His need so apparent, so urgent. She nodded.

Nodded and placed the glass on the small table beside her chair. And she rose to stand in the shaft of light. To stand there, and accede to his necessity.

* * *
How to pin down the past, in order to understand the now … To make sense of the half truths, and the contradictions. To apply the filter of reason to the mix of happenings so that one might rid one’s view of contamination by passion and idealism and trust.

To remember the beginning. The comfort of having each day planned on your behalf. The enjoyed laziness of not having to think. Such a contrast to competition in the larger world. Lulled. Lulled into inaction. Lulled into a trap which tightens oh so gently. So gently that soon it surrounds and engulfs you, leaving you incapable, ineffectual … without value.

His first wife was supposed to be ‘a lovely person’. A talented cook, good at flower arranging, sewing, interior design. All those traditional wifely things. 



But in recent times her friends cast little gems of information about. How hard she worked. Always at his beck and call. How she would choose some dress or other at a local store, but couldn’t pay for it until he’d inspected it and given the go ahead. Her distress when he insisted the children go off to boarding school at an early age. Her loneliness when they had gone.

* * *
I put women on a pedestal, to live there untouched by the filth in life. I guard a woman and protect her so that she may go on nurturing and caring. A woman is the mother of my children, so I look after her. Cater for her every whim and fancy.

Men deal with the rubbish.

Even my young second wife … We’ll have no children. Or dogs or cats for that matter. That’s our deal. But I will protect her. Protect her from life at large. In return, I bed her. She’s good in bed. A new age woman, unafraid of impropriety. Exciting. Abandoned and exciting.

Around the time I met this second one I worried quite a lot. Whether I was doing the right thing ... what people would think. In some ways, whether I could keep up with her. She was pretty bookish. An independent sort of person too. I wondered whether this was the way to go at all really. There were so many options …

She’s no madonna. My first wife was my madonna. This one is an exhilarating pastime. An alibi as well. A legal wife removes suspicion. Provides unmitigated respectability.

* * *
In the rainforest one day, not long after they met, she glimpsed a deep and private moment. He was walking a few metres ahead beneath the thick green canopy when he came to a sparkling trickle of a stream. The waters tinkled over round coloured pebbles. 



His frame seemed to lose its strength as he came to that stream, and he sank, slowly, to his knees, to his knees at the edge of the crystal water, and bent forward as though to taste the coolness of it.

But she was wrong, for the sound of his wrenching sobs gushed from him as the water stain spread, unnoticed, on his dampened shirt. His head on his arms, there in the shallow water, he sobbed deeply and painfully. A private agony, flooding from a hidden spring.

After thirty-two years of being there, his wife was gone. His wife and the mother of his children. It hadn’t been the same without a dependable woman to call his own, a woman who was known and respected by everyone in the town. You didn’t get the same respect, as a single man …


And now, with someone new, especially so quickly, they looked at him sideways. A bit shocked. No, it wasn’t the same without her.

Watching nearby, his second wife walked away. Excluded. Excluded and numb. What was the source of this agony? The memory of his first wife, she supposed. He was entitled to his privacy, of course, but would she ever truly know him? Would he ever cry for her?

He seemed so caring, so considerate of my every caprice. He’d plan each day for me. Plan my day ahead for me. With suggestions and arrangements and quiet insistence. Until I found I simply fitted into the mold he prepared. Which, incidentally, also served him well.


We didn’t fight, each day was peaceful, and he seemed quite happy. We were the ideal husband and wife. I cooked and cleaned for him. Wrote business letters for him. Dropped my career for him. Looked good by his side. Made birthday cakes for his grandchildren. Enjoyed our intimate moments. I loved him.

My trust secured my complacency.

* * *
Sex can be a tyrant …

Women seem relatively uncomplicated about it, in my experience. My madonna … Sex passed her by. She didn’t seem to feel much at all. A block of stone in bed. Unbent enough to be agreeable, that’s all. Let him have his way …

The new one. She’s different. She enjoys a bit of rough and tumble. She’s really something. It’s exciting to play with her. Bring her on just when I want. And withhold satisfaction too. To see her reaction. And maybe punish her a bit for bad behaviour …

Sex. It rules from day one. We were a big family … four girls and five boys, and there was always some hanky panky or other. The farm was our education. Animals leave nothing to the imagination, and here was an avid scholar.

I was a big boy. And attractive. Big for my age. So there were plenty of opportunities. I could have whatever I wanted. The trouble was, I suppose, I didn’t really know what I did want. So I dithered around not doing much, keeping myself to myself most of the time. I think I was shy.

We had paying guests at the house when I was about eleven, and there was a knot hole in the wall near the linen cupboard. It was easy to prise a bit bigger hole in the gnarled wood. Enough to see into the bathroom beyond, and I crouched there, and after time I could have passed almost any exam you could throw at me. It’s amazing what bathrooms are used for.

My graduation came that very year, and my tutor was a woman I’d been watching through the knot hole for about a week. One morning I was there, mesmerised by another subject. A man on the other side of the wall. She caught me watching.

The changing expressions on her face were something to behold ... amusement turning to realisation, turning to grasp of opportunities presented, and finally, to lust.

She didn’t do anything just then. But next day I was throwing stones into the creek down the back of the farm, as was my wont, when she walked by, casual-like. She sat down in the long grass, and patted a spot beside her. Inviting me to join her. Inviting me to touch her. Inviting me to undo her buttons. Inviting me to explore her hills and valleys. Inviting me to undress. Inviting me to slip my finger inside her pants. Inviting me …

That was a blowout. The memory stayed with me at school where I concentrated even less than usual. And the nuns thrashed me for inattention, not understanding that I was living my experience all over again, surprised and tremulous at what had happened. There, sitting in the fifth class desk, thinking about it.

* * *
He was such a mixture. Always just out of my reach. The essence of him just out of my reach. Always. There was always something. Something unexplainable. Curious and inexplicable.


With him I felt secure and insecure, loved and hated, central and marginalised, needed and repelled, manipulated, used, cherished, cheated, beguiled, passionate and plundered.


He was charming, stimulating, insincere, perfidious, affectionate, disingenuous, generous, mean, mocking, secretive, bewitching, enigmatic, evasive, loveable, charismatic, a sham. And he drank too much.

I loved him.

Bits and pieces can be crucial. They confirm memories. Without them parts of your life slip away.


I know I’m sentimental, and I don’t see any harm in that. But he did. He resented my sentimentality, and discouraged it. Belittled me for it.

Sometimes there is a sense of loss. Loss for my mother’s silk scarf. For the pieces of rough opal my father gave me. For the marquisette ring of my first love. For the Pete Seeger platter from the sixties. My school badge with the prefect bar swinging beneath the motto. A nostalgic collection of lace handkerchiefs.

Some of my favourite small pieces went missing at times, and I believed they had been stolen. But really, there was no monetary value in any of them, so I must have been wrong.

* * *
Money’s important. It’s power and freedom. It’s necessity. Money. To have and to hold. Strength. Authority. A buttress against invasion. A baton to wield.

She’s different. Mawkish and sentimental. Money comes and goes with her. No problem. But little useless things turn her on. She touches and looks, and tears can come to her eyes. Over the smallest item.

It was a real temptation, just occasionally, to spirit away something or other, and watch her reaction. No harm in that …

* * *
I developed asthma the summer after we were married. A struggle for breath. A nervous tingle and creep through my being and a tight band around my chest.

His children came to visit. Often. An invasion of the house which was never my personal space. They were pleasant enough at first. But they spoke together of underground things. They spoke sentences with two meanings, with forked tongues. Their memories rekindled in malice to confront me. Secrets hinted at, to alienate this stranger who stole their mother’s place.

And he never took my part. Just made excuses for them, and passed me my asthma puffer …

* * *
When I was a boy we would go to town for supplies and I’d run down to the railway yards while my mother did the shopping. Maybe I’d meet a couple of mates on the way, and by this time we knew what we’d find among the tangle of steel tracks and creaking trucks. We’d find this bloke. Old to us. He’d give us sixpence if we’d stand there and watch him jerk off. A bargain eh?


Not much later I earned two bob for other duties …

Experiences with the bloke down the tracks didn’t go astray a year or two later when I went off to the Brothers. It was an agricultural boarding college and because I wasn’t the greatest with the academics, I mostly ended up looking after the stables and milking the cows. It was in the soft hay that I did my time.

My apprenticeship there began when this new brother caught me whispering at Saturday afternoon mass, and he dragged me by my ear all the way down the hall to his office, and he made me take off my knickers. My knickers and my underpants, and made me stand there, bollicky, right in front of him, shirt hitched up, showing everything below my navel. 



He kept me there for a full five minutes while he stared at me, unmoving. With a sort of a leer on his face. Finally he growled: ‘you’re for it son; bend over.’ And he grabbed the wide leather belt hanging ready on the wall behind him and, grunting to improve his technique, brought that thing down on my bum in six agonising sweeps. I bit my lip to stop screaming.

A bit later on that evening I was down checking the horses when this same brother sidled up behind me, and put his hand on my shoulder. He had that leer on his face again, but it seemed he wanted to be a bit more kindly, for he said: ‘You do a good job in this stable son.’



Anyway, he chatted for a while and twenty minutes later I found myself on my back in the hay with his face on my pecker showing me what he could do. Then he asked me if I could manage any better on him. It was weird. My knees really shook when he suggested it. But I had a go and didn’t feel too bad about it. Not too bad at all.

Strange, eh? I mean. A brother!

* * *
Sometimes you’d wonder what went on in his head. There would be hints. Clues, but nothing definite. I sometimes felt there was something hidden about him, something very private and not altogether in my interest. But for the most part I’d toss aside uneasy thoughts and get on with life.

He did some strange things which, in retrospect, and if my suspicions were correct, would give a peculiar slant to his character. For instance, when I was vacuuming the carpet, I’d discover a single coin under a chair where he normally didn’t sit. As though he was testing me. As though he could confirm by the presence or absence of the coin whether I’d cleaned under the chair that week. Did I do the housework thoroughly? It happened too regularly to be an accident, so in the end I’d leave the coin where it was and damn him for his attempt at control.

Then there was the cupboard in the hall which he named as his own. He told me he kept some things there which he wished to keep private. That seemed fair enough, so I respected his request and left it alone. Except for dusting. And it was then that I noticed he’d placed, ever-so-carefully, a thin strand of cotton just-so in the runner of the sliding door of the cupboard. Nice to be trusted …

He told me how he’d read once about domestic servants who wanted to steal something from their masters. The idea was to continually rearrange items in the house, each time moving the target article just a little. Maybe from a shelf to a cupboard to a shelf to another room.



Then, when it was likely to be out of sight out of mind, the item would be filched – right out of the house. He mentioned this in passing a couple of times over the years. And I noticed he was always re-organising cupboards and shifting things from one room to another.

* * *
I’d been married about ten years to her when it occurred to me she was probably approaching menopause. The thought sent prickles up the back of my neck. She didn’t seem to have any of the symptoms they talk about. You know … depression and illness and such. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind, and it started to affect my feelings towards her. 


I like full, ripe fruit. I could not stand the prospect of anything shriveling up. Suddenly she didn’t seem so attractive, and I started to encourage her to do things without me. She enrolled in art classes … that sort of thing. And I was able to spend more time in my own way.

The beach near our place had always been a magnet to me. I suppose I’d been a bit of a voyeur for years, enjoying the passing parade. I loved to watch the young people in their g-strings: succulent fruit, ripe for the picking. The boys really turned me on. 



Now, I decided, I would not try to hide from myself why I was there. I would indulge my feelings more often, dwelling on the impulses within my body as it celebrated this beauty. I would enjoy the quickening, the tingling in my swollen crotch, the breath which came faster now …

It was time.

* * *
A couple of years ago things seemed to change for us. He wasn’t so attentive. Suggested I take art classes, and he gave me time to myself. Mind you, there’d always been business trips for a week or so at a time … 



Anyway, now he didn’t seem to be so intense, and in some ways I felt free.

There was time too for thinking, thinking and remembering … remembering little things.



Like when he left a motel receipt in one of his suit pockets. Made out to him, but acknowledging payment for a room and breakfast for two. I thought it may have been his brother ... company on a business trip. 


One day I came home from art class and as I drove up the hill to our home he drove down and there was a young boy of about fifteen in the car with him. A blonde boy with curly hair, with him in the car. I hadn’t seen the boy before and wondered why he was there. I forgot to ask …

He had an unusual mannerism. When he was uptight, and didn’t realise people were watching, his hand would stiffen and he’d wave it at his side. Effeminate? Almost. But not quite.


I was raking over memories, dissecting a relationship. A search for meanings. For meaning and hidden meanings. Did I really understand our marriage? Was he the man of my dreams after all? Was this all an abomination? Something unimaginable? After all? I began to feel more unsettled each day, but I needed to comprehend some truths.

* * *
Ah… Life is such a smorgasboard. Select an experience here, another there. Taste, select, accept, reject.

I needed a wife, but she was an experiment too. How it would be with a young, vibrant modern woman. Comparing. And controlling. The opportunity for another experience. A new buzz. It can be fun to see women dangle at the end of your string …

I still want her around. She’s a good cook, and people seem to like her … that doesn’t do me any harm. But she can do her own thing and I’ll do mine. Times are different and I don’t care any more. No more double life. No more loss of real freedom.

Time to get on with life in all its possibilities.

* * *
Mourning him. As though he’d died. I am an empty vessel, somehow betrayed and cheated. Without knowing how or why.

I combed through his papers and pockets. Looking for answers. Somehow knowing of his betrayal. Knowing through a sixth sense, of his betrayal. He had been absent so often of late, hadn’t he?

It was time for me to know. To put aside the feelings of apprehension.

And so when I noticed the video tape thrust to the back of his drawer, I took it up and, without pausing, slid it into the slot of the VCR, and pressed ‘play’.

*
© June Saville 2009 All rights reserved. Not to to be reproduced without the express written permission of the author.



4 comments:

  1. Here I am again, enjoying your writing so much!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Meggie. So Pleased you're enjoying!

    ReplyDelete
  3. it was an amazing story-more like opened layer after layer of characters, situations and the plot.
    beautifully written.

    ReplyDelete
  4. MAMPI
    Thanks for this generous feedback ...
    I'm pleased you're looking at some of my short stories. They're very dear to my heart.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for leaving a comment. Its good to know who's having a peek! I'll certainly send a comment in reply.

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Cheers June