Several editors have worked on this story which was sitting in my file, but Demirath did the last and most extensive work. This is a long story broken into four short parts. The first and second parts could stand alone, but they just felt so incomplete even for me.
I apologize to all who were offended by my last story. Sometimes, I just go very dark. There is no BTB here, and the sexual attitudes of the characters are closer to my own for those who are interested.
You couldn’t hear the roar of the Boeing 737 Turbofan jet engines from the airport observation deck, but you could see the tremble of the large plane as the twenty thousand pounds of thrust kicked in. A jet engine is a marvelous creation. It is as beautiful as any work of art and has the deceptive simplicity of a flower, each delicate part intricately dependent on the others. I have spent the greater portion of my life in the pursuit of my passion for these beautiful and powerful creations. They are the first of my great passions, the second being my wife, Karen. My two great loves: my wife and jet engines.
You may find it odd that I hate planes and airports. Part of this is no doubt that the worst moments of my life have taken place at airports. Leaving home for the first time to enter the Navy, I said goodbye to my parents at the airport. I returned home to the same airport four years later to no one. My parents both died while I was in the service. I am an only child, and lonely does not describe how I felt coming home. But eight years later came the worst time in my life. I left my wife and children to fly off to war, knowing they would be alone with no family to depend on while I would be half a world away fighting Arabs. That was more than twenty years ago, but the pain and the guilt still burn.
Today I brought Karen to the airport at five forty-five a.m. on a rainy fall morning. It was depressing, parting for two weeks. We have been married for twenty-six years. She was leaving to embark on a cross-country trip visiting our adult children. My wife was suffering an exceptionally bad case of empty nest syndrome ... or so I believed. I buried my feelings and sent her off with a smile and a plea to come home, “soon as you can.”
We have two boys; the youngest left home at eighteen to attend UCLA, and I have seen him all of four times since then. Twice he came home and twice we traveled to California, but none of the four visits lasted more than two days. All four visits were strangely uncomfortable and awkward. The older boy was a bit more of a home body. Make that exceptionally hard to get rid of. He had gone to the university up the hill from out Victorian row house home, and but for his first semester freshman year, he had resided on the uppermost floor of our four story house. He had gone through grad school never leaving home, and only six months ago did he move out to take a job in Chicago.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my sons. When they were little, I enjoyed their company and loved them more than life itself. Now, though, the children I loved are two adult males with whom I have nothing in common. In each other’s company, we are bored, awkward, and in my opinion better off with our memories of each other. With my wife, it’s different. She has some inner need for more than I can give her. My oldest son moved to Chicago. For the first several months after his move, Karen seemed alright, but after that, it was as if one day I came home to find her in mourning. She was grieving, and there was little I could do about it.
Having worked for the State of New York Department of Health for twenty-eight years, Karen has an extensive amount of leave time that she earns each year and accumulates year to year. Since we had taken no vacation time this year, she planned a visit to see the kids as she referred to my two tall, well-built sons. I was not able to get the time off from my current research work at the University. My current government contract is behind schedule, and my work provided an excuse for my not schlepping cross-country to see children who would rather keep their interaction with me to brief conversations on the phone.
I will miss Karen. We have, as I have said, been together twenty-six years—more if you count our courtship. We met when I transitioned out of the Navy after four years of active duty. I am a mechanical engineer with a specialty in jet engines. I spent my Navy service aboard a carrier where I made my reputation as a man who could fix anything. I guess it’s a talent, almost a feeling, for what is wrong with an engine. I seem to have an uncanny knack for spotting the problem before it happens and brings down the plane. Four years of fixing engines were more than enough. Naval work was grueling. A carrier can be a pressure cooker for those who are in charge and, therefore, responsible. Every time a plane took off you said a silent prayer it would come back safe, and more to the point that you had not missed something.
I met Karen one day at a health fair at the Empire State Plaza, which the locals call the South Mall, about two weeks after I had returned from the Navy. It is a massive complex. Seen from the outside, from the street or better yet from across the river, it is an impressive set of monolithic structures. The most distinctive is a flying saucer shaped building which lends a futuristic presence to the Mall. The saucer is referred to as the Egg and is a theater complex. Inside the mall is a long sterile set of corridors running between the State Capitol, the State Museum, and the State office buildings. The sterility is broken by the modern art collection that is on display in this very public space. There is shielding in place due to the attacks the art has suffered from deranged individuals in the past.
After I had visited the Civil Service Office seeking employment, I wandered through the South Mall because I had no actual job other than the naval reserves. I remained in the reserves for years after my active duty. In the corridor of the Mall, I passed a set of tables set up to do health screening.
Karen was working the tables doing the screening. She is a nurse but had become a health administrator with the State. Her employer had a new commissioner back then, and he was big on outreach. With her seductive smile and a blink of her golden brown eyes, she talked me into a blood pressure check that I failed. I could see the concern come over her lovely oval face as she flipped back her shoulder length hair. She is what they call a strawberry blonde that’s a red head with that temper that sometimes comes out. However, her the color is more golden and blond than red. The brown eyes with the hair were an unexpected combination, but they looked fantastic together.
“What do you do for a living?” she said.
“Nothing right now, just got out of the Navy,” I replied.
“Oh, and did they check your blood pressure there?” she said.
“Yes, it was a bit high but not to worry. I had a high-pressure job,” I said.
“And what did you do?”
I explained, and then she told me that my pressure was 170 over 120 which is way too high. I needed to get it checked again by my family physician. One thing led to another since I did not have a doctor, and she ended up taking it for me the following day. My blood pressure was high normal then, and we proceeded to take it for a week getting high, low, and normal readings. She made me an appointment at the VA where a very experienced doctor explained that I needed to monitor the pressure and get into a relaxation or lowering stress program.
“This is not uncommon; for a while, your body will be trying to adjust to the lack of the incredible stress you were under. You can help this by learning how to control your stress,” he said.
I followed the doctor’s recommendation and went back to Karen giving her the line that I needed her to help me control my stress. I am sure she did not buy this, but she apparently wanted to date me as much as I wanted her.
Our first date was at a neighborhood Italian restaurant that Karen knew. It was a great little place with homemade food called Citone’s, sadly it is gone many years now. At dinner, Karen showed her bubbly extroverted personality and wanted to know all about me and what it was like to be in the Navy. I must have talked for hours, which is rare for me. She has that effect on people, you want to talk to Karen.
“A carrier is the top of the line as ships go. It’s really a floating city. The pilots are the princes of the city, but the place is run by the chief petty officers and a handful of officers,” I said.
“Were you one of the officers?” she asked.
“Not really, I ran the planes. Once they know you can do the job, they leave you to it. I guess my problem was, I took it to heart. Too much responsibility can be difficult,” I said.
“Your blood pressure sure shows that,” she said.
I laughed although it was not very funny.
“People don’t realize that we lose as many crewmen as pilots. It is a very dangerous environment full of fire, fuel, and explosives. Accidents happen; you just keep praying, not on my watch. You know all too often you have no option but to place someone at risk,” I said, and she must have seen I was getting melancholy.
“Well, visiting all those exotic places must have been fun. Did you have a girl in every port?” she said.
Now I did laugh.
“No, I am afraid that I have no luck when it comes to the ladies,” I said.
“Now you are putting me on, a handsome man like you, and I bet you are to die for in your uniform,” she said.
“But I have no luck. When we docked in Manila, my shore leave was canceled to upgrade the F-14A’s with new radar. Again when we were in Thailand, I was with a beautiful girl in a bar, and the place was raided. But the worst was the girl that I dated for six months in Sidney. I thought we were getting real serious then one night we were out at a club, and this man walked up to her and gave her a big kiss. Then he told me to treat his lady right. When I asked her who that was, she said, “That’s my husband.”
“You are mighty friendly with your ex,” I said.
“No, he is my current husband. We have an understanding. He doesn’t mind my dating,” she said.
“So, as I said, I have no luck with women.”
Then Karen took my hand and just looked at me with those deep brown eyes she has. After a moment, she said, “Maybe your luck has changed sailor, but not tonight. I am a twenty-four-year-old virgin and need to get to know you better,” she said.
“That is just as well, as I’m still a virgin, and I think rather lucky after all.”
Three months later I was working at the University and married to the most wonderful woman in the world. We were both virgins, but we remedied that before we married. I believe we both wanted to make sure there was no problem.
We didn’t have a big wedding. Neither of us had any family. We each had a few cousins in some remote places, but no one but a few friends to invite to the wedding. Karen made a deal with me.
“I don’t want a big wedding, but a house would be nice,” she said. We only waited nine months before we began trying for a baby. In the interim, we house hunted. We found Karen’s ideal house in one of the old industrial cities on the east side of the river, a huge rundown row house. It was down the hill from the University where I worked and where our first born would one day go to school. The neighborhood was anything but ideal, the forgotten core of a dying industrial city. Its Victorian houses were broken into tiny apartments for students and the elderly, the riverfront buried behind layers of dead factories. The house was a four-story brick edifice with what is called an English basement, which is a floor half above and half below ground. The first floor you enter by a short set of steps called a stoop, and there is a separate front entrance below the steps. Presumably, this is where the word stoop comes from, as you must bend to enter the lower door. It was a mid-nineteenth-century house with all the Victorian gingerbread charm and with all the problems that go therewith. By the time, we moved in Karen was pregnant.
“I am the happiest woman in the world,” she said.
And I believed her.
Twenty-five years later, I took Karen to the airport on a Wednesday morning unaware of how my life was about to change. Actually, how it had changed without my knowing it. She called that evening and each day after that. Saturday began clear and bright. I decided to do yard work. I was just entering our basement to switch from the light leaf rake to the heavy iron rake when I heard the doorbell.
If I were still out in the yard, I would not have heard it. If it had rained and I had gone to see the new Ben Affleck film, then I would not have answered. It rained Friday making the leaves too heavy for the light rake, but it was sunny and clear on Saturday. Such are the vagaries of the weather and the fortunes of life. It was this bare chance that shattered the myth of my happy marriage—rain one day, none the next.
I crossed our small vestibule and opened the outer door, and saw a small Asian woman standing outside. She was even smaller than she at first seemed. Her petite body was perched atop sexy high heeled black leather boots. In its dark shading, the rest of her clothing matched her boots from the expensively cut black dress suit to the gray silk blouse showing under her dress coat. She was, I thought, dressed a bit young for her age, which I guessed to be about my fifty-two years, but she wore it well. She was one of those women who hold the visage of a rare beauty well into advanced age, and she knew it. Something about her brought Karen to mind. They were very different in appearance, but something about the way they held themselves and looked at you was the same.
“May I help you?” I said.
“Oui, I am seeking Karen,” she said shifting a large rectangular package wrapped in brown paper. She had a grip on it with her right hand as it rested against the iron stair rail of our front steps.
“I’m sorry, she’s not home at the moment. Would you like to come in and leave a message?” I said.
“Oh, I’m sorry I missed her. I’m Avril Du Monte. I just stopped on my way to New York to bring her painting,” she said, indicating the package that had the right shape for a fairly large work of art.
“You must be her husband Robert. Could you help me with it? It has gotten a bit heavy between my car and your front door,” she said, crossing our threshold while attempting to pick up the picture.
I took the package from her and followed her into the house. She seemed to know the floor plan as she headed straight for the large front parlor. The way she said her name as if I should know her was confusing, as was her clear knowledge of me and my home. I had never met anyone with the last name of Du Monte or heard the name used. Avril spoke English with a light but decided French accent. Her accent fitted her name, and I was rethinking my first impression of her race, she was not fully oriental.
I seated Avril in the old fashioned loveseat that we had inherited from my wife’s mother and offered her refreshment. She asked for tea.
“Formosa Bai Hao, if you still have any. I am afraid Karen has gotten me addicted,” she said, naming the expensive tea my wife loved and kept on hand for visitors and special times.
“No problem,” I said, now thoroughly confused as to how this woman knew my wife so well.
With my guest’s tea served I took a seat opposite her in the big wingback leather chair with my coffee—the Formosa tea is a taste I had never acquired.
“Please excuse my appearance, I was working in the yard,” I said.
“Nothing to excuse, you are just as roughly handsome as Karen described you. Any fault is mine. I called this morning on a spur of the instant as I remembered that I had her portrait to deliver. I’m driving to New York for the discussions on Philippe’s retrospective exposition at the Museum of Modern Art. I left a message in her mail, but perhaps she did not get it,” she said between sips of tea as if I should know who Philippe was.
“She could not have been here for you. She is, I believe, in California as we speak ... or just arriving as it is early afternoon here and still morning there. She is visiting our son, Oscar,” I said.
“Oh dear, I should have called sooner. I so wanted to see her hang it. I think it is one of Philippe’s best works. Certainly, the most lovingly done, if a bit out of his usual style,” she said.
I was about to ask her who Philippe was and herself for that matter when she beat me to the punch by unveiling the picture that she had positioned beside herself on the love seat. The brown paper fell away with the rustle of wrapping paper that was reminiscent of the Christmases and birthdays we had celebrated in that very room. But it should have been a loud scream. It knocked me back against the wings of the chair, as a man who sees his life passing away from him.
The woman in the picture was caught in the simple act of bending forward to recover her panties from the ornate needlepoint seat of a small delicate chair. The hint of her dressing table was fringing one side of the picture. Her golden red hair fluttered around her as if with the motion of her actions. Those gorgeous brown eyes with their hint of gold were looking out from the picture. She was a true redhead, as the triangle of lush hair between her legs proved. Her perfect breasts hung down. They were big teardrops tipped with a slightly deeper pink than the panties she was retrieving.
The woman was naked, and the light came from the window set due east at the back of our house. In the bedroom, we have shared for the last twenty-five years. We bought the house with the last of my Navy savings and a loan from her state pension. It was a battered house in a dying city neighborhood which in the time since has undergone a surprising renaissance. Our dream home was a broken down fixer upper. One of the first things we did was to hang wallpaper in the bedrooms. We purchased the green and gold striped paper for thirty cents a roll from the discontinued shop that existed at that time in the old mill city of Cohoes. We did my unborn son’s room in Ninja Turtles. My very pregnant wife and I did the work ourselves.
The picture was painted later, clearly after the birth of our second son. Karen still carried a slight swelling in her lower abdomen that she had for several years after the birth of Oscar. She eventually drove the little bump away with Yoga and running, but I missed it. Somehow the little swell suggested the deep sexual drive that my wife possessed. It enhanced her allure although she would never believe it.
The painter had not missed this or the slight suggestive smirk that her smile possessed. The smile that bid you come here and let’s see what you got. He was good, maybe even great, I did not know. He had painted my wife in the early morning as the sun shown in through our bedroom window against the background of the unmade double bed. She was bending to pick her pink lace panties up from her grandmother’s vanity chair, an action I had seen her do thousands of times in that very room.
As Avril turned from the picture to me, she wore a please and prideful smile that quickly faded. My expression must have said it all. There was no doubt in my mind the picture was a nude of my wife painted about twenty years before. How or why I could not tell, but any explanation must involve activities the least of which no faithful wife would be engaged in. I could not believe this.
“Oh Cherie, I thought you knew—after all, they lived together. They were lovers for years. Oh my god, how could you not know,” she said, a worried frown now encompassing her exotic face.
“There must be some mistake,” I said, grasping at straws, “My wife has lived with me continuously for the last twenty-six years. That is our bedroom with the wallpaper we hung together. That is our bed that we still sleep in TOGETHER,” I said.
“I should go,” she said beginning to rise.
“No! SIT,” I said, “You don’t drop this on me and then just flee. Who are you and how do you know my wife and me and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHO IS PHILLIPE.”
The story came out slowly and reluctantly. Avril’s husband, Philippe Du Monte, was a painter and world-renowned restoration expert. In 1989, he had been hired to restore six paintings vandalized on the South Mall. I remembered the incident of the man who thought he was the reincarnation of Michelangelo and needed to fix the paintings. After an extensive search, the State Office of General Services hired a Canadian firm to do the restoration. There was some controversy at the time about hiring out-of-state, but the experts were quite firm. They wanted only the best. Nothing less would do. Apparently, Philippe Du Monte was the man chosen.
Shortly after Philippe arrived to begin work, the affair started. He met Karen in the South Mall when he was working in the Museum building. She worked in the Tower building. They were virtually on top of each other. Avril and Philippe had an open marriage, at her insistence.
“We were young and did not wish to miss anything, but mature enough to understand each other’s needs,” she said.
She was happy that he found someone when he was away. He traveled back and forth to Montreal but spent most of his days and nights in Albany for three years. Then, there was the period that began in the summer of 1990 when he moved into my house and stayed. Avril visited on a number of occasions. She knew I was away and still married to Karen, but the reason was never explained. She assumed that I knew of the relationship and approved.
“I just assumed. She spoke of you lovingly and praised you as a husband and father. I understood that Philippe moved in because you could not be with her, and there were such small children. Two boys who needed a man’s influence and a lonely woman. We had two girls in their teens, away at boarding school. Philippe spent their holidays with us. Karen spent Christmas 1990 at our house in Mont Royal. My daughters loved her and the boys as I did. How could you not know?”
Whatever doubts I still had about her tale were dispelled, as 1990 had been an ... unusual year. A monster invaded his oil-rich neighbor and sent my country and others to war. I had foolishly stayed in the Naval reserves, albeit the inactive reserves. I had left the Navy as a senior Lieutenant and was promoted in the reserves to a full Commander, the result of the work I did in the reserves and on government contracts. My skills were in high demand that August; I was surprised they waited until Saddam’s troops crossed the Kuwait border to activate me. The telegram came on the sixth of August. I was gone two days later and woke up on August 9th aboard the Ike. The next ten months of my life were something equivalent to a nightmare played out above the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq.
The one thing that kept me sane was the belief that at home waited a loving wife and two incredible boys. They were all mine, and I was going home to them. When the Grumman F-14 Tomcat engine flamed out on a flight with me in it, I knew I would survive because Karen waited. I was on my way from the Eisenhower to Saudi Arabia. It was January 16, 1991, the day before we started air combat. I didn’t worry; the pilot and I ran through the restart engine routines. Each effort failed until our last Hail Mary attempt. It should not have worked—the book said it would not—but it did.
A half-dozen times I saw men die, sometimes close enough for me to wear their blood. Cables failed, planes crashed, and more men were casualties from my maintenance crews than pilots. It’s a fact of war. The collateral casualties are always the greatest in number and the least well reported. Accidents happen while men under enormous pressure try to do what should be impossible. We were hurling heavier than air ships into the sky and bringing them down safely ... most of the time.
No matter; Karen and the boys waited safe at home for me. They spent part of the Christmas of 1990 in Montreal. I never knew why until now. I remember Kevin talking excitedly about being in a strange city and the two girls, Simone and Suzan, sisters. No mention was made of anyone else, and a not quite six-year-old was not clear on a poor phone connection from the other side of the world. I told Karen I loved her every chance I got, but it wasn’t often and apparently it was not enough, although the affair was already apparently a year in progress by the time I left.
“She loves you dearly and with all her heart. Philippe was her second man, her petite passion, her older experienced lover. She did not have much experience. They were, as the saying goes, in love with being in love. As much friends as lovers,” she said looking at me as if this explanation should mean something.
“When Philippe died three months ago from a stroke she came to his funeral. I asked for you, and she said you were well. She told me that the last of the boys had moved out, and you and she were happy and still in love. I was happy for her even in my grief. I brought the painting since Philippe requested that she have it. I should have realized and given it to her then. It is magnificent, no?” she said looking at me for validation.
I rose up walked forward, looking directly at the evidence of my wife’s complete betrayal.
“It is very beautiful. He has captured her better than any photograph. He has her exactly. A beautiful whore,” I said
Avril gasped, “No! No! You must understand theirs was a thing of beauty, innocent love. Please understand,” she pleaded.
I could only shake my head.
She tried for half an hour to convince me of something, I was not sure what. She hesitated to leave the painting lest I destroy it.
“It is very valuable. Please promise me that you will see it safely to Karen,” she said.
“Why not? I shall not move it from where it sits. She is nothing to me now.”
Avril left, still explaining and crying softly.
“Please, speak to Karen— do nothing foolish. You need not let it trouble you...” she said, as the door closed on her. And on my life, as I had known it.
My early morning flight from Chicago arrives at LAX right on time, a little after noon. LA is my least favorite city. I am, in this way at least, a typical New Yorker, although I was born and raised in West Pittston, PA. My husband, Rob, is a true New Yorker. A former Navy man, I think he would shrivel up and die in this desert.
I’m greeted at the airport by my son Oscar and his ‘friend’ Mark. Somehow I’m not supposed to know he is gay, and that he and Mark are a couple. Twenty-two years ago I gave birth to a twelve pound, eight-ounce chubby little angel. Now he is a six foot three skinny young man who embraces me with a bearish hug. He is estranged from his father for no reason that I can understand.
Rob loves his son, but there is a widening gulf between them. Men are so often a mystery —what is a woman to do? Rob has no idea his son is gay. My Rob is what other men call a man’s man. He is big, not just tall, an imposing presence that masks how sensitive a person Rob is. My husband is hurt by the rejection of his son. He would never stumble on the truth of the sexual situation.
I am convinced that there is no problem with an engine that Rob could not discern on a few moments examination, but no relationship problem that he could see without the assistance of a trained guide dog. With people, he is hopeless—except, as I have learned, men under pressure. Then he is an inspiration they follow like sheep to the slaughter. I’m not supposed to know, but I do.
In the evening, we go to a dinner and dance club. It has a Mexican flavor, but the patrons are a mixed bag of mostly Anglos and Asians. There are a number of clearly gay couples, both male and females, but a decidedly straight or, at least, bi contingent as well. I get a lot of stares from men and women. At fifty, I still have it. My son and his friend think I am ancient, but I have put on a short skirt and a low-cut blouse and I intend to dance and have a good time. I am married, not dead. It is flattering to be fifty and get hit on by young men. I’m no slut. I do not fool around. I have been with exactly two men in my life, and I loved both of them deeply.
Robert McDonald, my Rob, was my first love and will be my last. Philippe Du Monte was my second, and his recent death has hit me hard. We have not been true lovers for years, but we enjoyed a deep relationship leavened by love, friendship, and deep gratitude on my part. Philippe was there when I needed him, and my husband was not.
An aggressive man that I judge to be in his early thirties asks me to dance. He is shorter than I am in my low heels, but he makes up for it in energy. He is the first of a number of men I dance with. I keep track of the time. I want to call Rob. I expect my husband took in that ARGO movie starring Ben Affleck. That would probably get him home a little after midnight his time.
At nine thirty Pacific Time, I excuse myself from my current dance partner and find a quiet spot outside the lady’s room door to call. My cell phone is off, I switched it when I boarded the plane this morning. I am getting old and forgetful, having failed to turn it back on. I have one missed call from Avril Du Monte probably reminding me that the retrospective show for Philippe is in the planning stages, and I agreed to help. I call Rob, but it goes directly to voicemail. I assume he is still at the film or like me he has forgotten to turn his phone back on. I call the house phone and get the answering machine.
“Rob I arrived safe, call me when you get this.”
Two hours later, I am danced out and wondering why my husband has not called. We head to Oscar and Mark’s condo where I collapse into a jet lag sleep. I awake too early and call Rob again. All I get is voice mail. I call the land line.
“Rob, you left your cell phone off. Call me.”
It is eight a.m. before a sleepy Mark joins me in the kitchen and offers to make breakfast. I accept, if he allows me to help. Still no call from Rob; now I am worried and trying to think who I should call. I remember the call from Avril and get a chill. No, that was all too long ago.
I met Philippe Du Monte in the old State Cafeteria in the South Mall. It was no place to eat if you liked food. I had a thermos of good dark tea. I don’t drink coffee. I had a cheap romance to read and a forty-five-minute lunch break. I could have read at my desk, but you need to get out of the office if only for a bit. I was reading a trashy romance in the hope of getting back my sex drive. Four and a half years into my marriage, I had lost it. When I first married Rob, I could not get enough of him. But after the birth of my second son, it was gone. For the last year, I had been dead from the waist down.
Why don’t they tell you this can happen? I still loved my husband deeply. He is the man you dream about marrying when you are a little girl. He is my prince charming. He has dark coal black hair and sky blue eyes. A man who could have stepped out of a fairytale, but he is ever so shy and quiet. He rises to a crisis, yet I know he feels things deeply. I watch him as he reads to our children. I see him as he leans down to place a gentle kiss on their sleeping heads. He is a man of action and courage with a gentle soul. He is the man I want with me for eternity.
I just no longer desired him physically. At first, I thought it would come back naturally. But as time passed, I dreaded sex more, not less, with my sweet, loving husband. I became increasingly desperate. I was faking it when my excuses became too much. I worried my husband would soon deduce the truth. What kind of woman was I that I was this way?
“Excuse me please, I hate to eat alone, and as I have watched you these past several days, you have been alone too. Surely that dreadful book cannot be of such interest,” he said, this tall, elegant man with a distinct French accent to his perfect English.
I learned his name was Philippe Du Monte, a painter by inclination and an art restorer by trade. He was a bit taller than my husband, and thinner—what is called lanky. He had an unruly mop of black hair on his head, flecked with gray befitting a man of forty-two, which made him more than twelve years my senior. However, he had youthfulness and a joy of life about him that sparkled from his brilliant blue eyes. His angular face was handsome in that oh-so-Gallic way.
“I wouldn’t eat that if you care anything about food,” I said, as he put down his standard cafeteria tray loaded with some chicken covered in flat paste gravy, and instant mash potatoes.
“I have learned in just two short weeks that food is a lost art in your ALL-BAN-e,” he said doing a good imitation of the northern New York accent so influenced as it is by Western New England.
“You are too harsh. There is good food to be found here; you must only know where to look,” I said.
“Perhaps you will be my guide. Possibly dinner some evening?” he asked.
“Sorry, no can do—married,” I said, flashing the modest wedding and diamond engagement rings I wore. “But let me do something about that drink,” I said, replacing the bagged tea of unknown content from the cafeteria with the brew from my thermos.
“Ah, that is good tea! Both beautiful and bountiful, surely you can spare an evening from your husband to bring a starving man to food,” he said.
In the end, I agreed. I stood little chance against his charm and sophistication. It was easy to arrange an alleged late work night. We had dinner, and I was home by nine, and I was alive again. I was hot for sex. The first beneficiary was Rob in our bed that night, but the man I was with in spirit was a devastating French Canadian painter. Philippe was a unique individual who was sweeping me off my frustrated wife and mother feet.
It took Philippe only three weeks to get me into his bed, or more accurately the couch in his workshop in the nearby museum building. There were no extremely late nights. I swapped around some hours at work, and we had mornings or afternoons as we pleased. I saw him sometimes in the early evening. He was sensitive to my situation. His wife Avril had a boyfriend, whom he called a suitor or companion. Thomas was his name. Philippe said that Thomas was younger, and, therefore made up for her being tied down at a young age with children. As I lay in Philippe’s workshop that first time curled into his arms, I felt no guilt. I knew the guilt would certainly come later, but at that moment, I was at peace. He understood my sexual problem, seemed to sense it.
“You will regain desire for your husband. Relax and enjoy the sex, the thrill of a new man, but remember you owe your husband the first claim on your heart and the right to reclaim your body when it is ready,” he said.
The sex had been rather conventional, but he knew how to stroke a woman, build her desire and play with her mind.
“It is mostly in the head. The mind does the arousing, but we need to give it some help,” he said.
Neither Rob nor I were very experienced. We tried different positions and practices, but we lacked any technique. Philippe showed me how.
“You like rear entry?” he asked.
“So, so, I guess.”
He showed me how to get down, front low, rear high, wiggling and spreading my legs.
“Now bend just so and use your inner muscles. Pull me,” he said.
It was an explosion of feeling. We were working together to achieve our mutual coupling. Mostly that is what he taught me: how to participate. Be active, and yet be the acted upon party.
“Who taught you all this? Avril?” I asked.
“No, No, I taught her just like you. My mother arranged for my schooling,” he said.
He told me the story of the young Philippe and Colette. She was older, his mother’s age, and a friend of his mother. She was by profession a companion that is the word that he used for mistress. She went from man to man as a kept woman.
“She was not a prostitute,” he said, “Just not a woman who would marry.”
“I did not call her one,” I said.
“No, but you thought it— my American housewife.”
“You need to understand us,” he continued. “My parents immigrated from England right after the War. The Germans made them flee France for England. My mother was a prominent Communist before the war. It was easier for them in Canada, but never easy. Papa was a museum curator and art historian. He was, of course, an armature painter. In Canada, my mother was a secretary. Colette was a friend from France. Mama believes that sex is a natural thing, but one that should be taken seriously. Colette was tapped to be my teacher. She was well experienced for the task. Once a week for a year, I studied under, over, or behind her, as the course required,” he finished with a laugh.
“And now you will teach me?” I said
“But of course. I owe it to Colette,” he said, with another of those little laughs that I was becoming fond of.
My biggest problem became my desire and need to share my new found skill and knowledge with my husband. I could not just sit Rob down and say listen, honey, I met this great French lover, and he taught me everything we have been doing wrong and a whole bunch of things we should be doing.
But you know, I am nothing if not inventive.
“What’s that?” Rob said, climbing into bed.
“A book,” I said.
“Yes but the title is ‘The Joy of Sex.’ Is there something you want to tell me?”
“Well, since you asked ... after Oscar was born, I have not been all I should be as a lover, and I feel I need to be proactive here. So I think you and I should push things up a notch. Let me show you rear entry,” I said.
One evening and weekend at a time, we did it all. Everything Philippe taught me, I taught my husband. There were a number of books before we finished. I don’t believe Rob read any of them, and I was only skimming the syllabus at the time. But the sex sure got pretty hot.