Copyright© Autumn Writer 2006, 2007
A thin glow of light shone through the drapes in the bedroom. Perhaps it was the reflected light of the moon, but more probably from the streetlight in front of their house. It was late, about eleven-thirty on a Saturday night. Rose had stayed awake, waiting for him. John knew it when he climbed into bed. Her meaning was clear, he could not refuse her. That had been thirty minutes earlier.
John lay alongside his wife propped on his elbow. By now their nightclothes had been discarded. He looked at her in the half-light. It was fitting. She looked as beautiful to him as she had as a bride. The dearth of light was gauze over the camera lens, filtering out rough edges.
She lay on her back, contentment drawn on her face. Her breasts lay placidly on her chest that was moving up and down more deeply with her building desire. John's free hand searched between her spread legs, below her soft triangle. His gaze traveled from her breasts further down. She was still pretty slim for a woman of fifty-five. Her thighs retained that outward softness with the firmness underneath. How he loved to feel them. She believed that he did so to tease and excite her in their foreplay. In truth, he enjoyed the feel of them as much as she enjoyed him feeling them.
"How nice it was," he thought to himself, "that desire had stayed alive over the years." There was a tear in the corner of John's eye. He wiped it away, ashamed.
He forced his thoughts back to her, rechecking the serenity of her countenance, the beauty of her soft breasts. The nipples were not soft. As her breasts heaved up and down with the movement of her breathing, the nipples stood up like little soldiers at attention. John bent his head down and to attend to them. After all these years he knew just the way she liked to have them suckled.
He ignored the nipple at first, kissing the underside of the breast. After he had savored her softness, he moved to the nipple, licking the flesh surrounding it for a few moments, then taking the little soldier between his lips, sucking gently at first, then harder. Rose began a pleasant moan. The pleasure from his hand at her center, added to his face at her breast, started her approach toward climax. Her hands surrounded his head, pressing him harder on her. He let his tongue swirl around the nipple. She was approaching her critical point quickly.
John released his oral grip and his skilled fingers from her. He slid lower on the bed, placing his face between the softness of her spread thighs. With his fingers he parted her lips and placed his tongue between them. He searched about for the place of sensitivity. He had learned that with Rose the sensitive spot was never the same. Her aroma and taste in her arousal always pleased John's senses. His tongue struck Rose's clitoris and it danced over it in a joyous reel. She was rushing to orgasm. John pressed in a little harder and slowed his tongue to a waltz. Rose crested with a high-pitched sigh and John felt a deep satisfaction.
He wiped the wetness from his face with his discarded pajamas that he found nearby and sidled back alongside her. He held Rose and kissed her as she slowly descended from her release.
"John, that was so good!"
"It was good for me, too, Rose."
"What would you like, John?" She thought to have him mount her so she could take him deep inside herself. After his oral service, however, she might, reciprocate in kind. That would be pleasant, too. She waited eagerly for his response.
"I can't, Rose. It just won't harden."
"Oh, John—not again!"
The couple spent the next minute in silence. Finally, Rose spoke.
"Do you feel alright?"
"I feel great, at least physically," he answered. "I'm not sick or tired. I'm ready to go!"
"Is it something that I have said or done?" she asked.
"No, Rose. I don't know what it is. It's not you. It's not me, either. At least, it's not in my head. Everything is as it should be; everything, except that one part of it. I try to will myself to be hard. It's no use. The more I try, the less anything happens."
There was silence. John lay on his back, helpless and humiliated. Rose lay next to him, feeling the need to respond, but not knowing how. She wanted to hold him and reassure him. The right words would not come to her. The wrong choice would portray pity, and she knew how that would hurt him.
It was not the first occasion that John had been unable to achieve erection while making love to his bride. A month earlier the same scenario played out. Rose was gracious, and John allowed himself a week's time for recovery. By then, normal function returned and the two were back in their routine of marital bliss. They thought that the episode was an anomaly and behind them. The recurrence had a serious message. The malady proved that it was not something to be forgotten
At the age of fifty-eight, John was a man in pretty good shape. He did suffer from diabetes, but his blood sugar was held in check with drugs. The illness forced him to control his weight. Rose enjoyed watching the excess pounds melt off him. It gave him a more youthful appearance. It excited her sexually, and she was happy to see his weight return to a more healthy level.
As 'empty-nesters', they were determined to take pleasure in life and each other. Their thirty-three year marriage had been a good one. Now the toil of raising a family was behind them. They were financially secure. It was a time of life to relax and enjoy. They took steps toward that end. Their sexual activity increased. Alone in the house, they could approach one another, or discuss anything, whenever they chose. After a short time, it was no longer work to achieve their new openness. They sought out the pleasure of it.
John and Rose saw their mid-life renaissance threatened by the impotence. John's physical problem was a mystery. Their re-energized sexual verve gave them romance and newness. They saw it as a reward for lives well-led. In their life together they had graduated from apprentice to journeyman to master in bedroom arts. Some couples they knew descend into twilight with fatigue and bitterness. How thankful they were that it was not to be their fate.
"You need to make an appointment with the doctor on Monday morning," she said.
"Maybe, if I give it a week it'll be okay." He was hoping to avoid the doctor. He knew he needed to see him. He hated the thought of the red tape, all the tests, the admission of failure, the knowing, contemptuous look of the doctor's secretary. What would he tell people at work? Perhaps he should he just post it on the bulletin board: "Rose is sending John to the doctor because he can't get it up!"
He knew that all the excuses were phony ones; he couldn't help himself.
"You said that last time and it only got better for a little while," Rose reminded him. She was his wife, but her voice was his conscience whispering in his ear.
"Okay, I will." It was settled, and they held each other as they fell asleep.
John exited his doctor's office four days later frustrated and crestfallen. He was carrying a sheaf of papers. He had receipts, lab orders, appointment with a specialist. He lacked the one paper that had been his goal: a prescription for the blue-diamond pill that would remove his troubles.
"We're not ready for that yet," his doctor told him. "We have to check out blood pressure and other things first."
It was a disappointment. In John's mind, all that was required was a prescription for that magic drug. The doctor seemed to not comprehend the importance of his affliction. He did, however, congratulate John on his keeping his weight down. John, however, cared little at that moment for his weight, blood sugar, blood pressure and the rest. He sensed a need for urgent action, not the doctor's patient approach. He resented his doctor like a schoolboy angry at a teacher unwilling to sign a permission slip for early dismissal.
"He only gave me an order for tests and set me up with an urologist." He told Rose. "I told him that I needed a prescription, but he wouldn't listen. Bob Dole thinks I should have it. He said it on TV. I should have voted for him."
Rose knew the sarcasm in her husband's voice was a signal of growing anger. She was not willing to be a spectator to it. She shuffled out of the room. She would let him stew in private.
"We'll see what happens. Just be patient," she said over her shoulder as she left him alone to brood.
As John sat alone, the room appeared smaller. The walls seemed to approach to an uncomfortable closeness. He shifted in his chair, trying to feel comfortable; he couldn't. He was choked and stifled. He tried in vain to understand what he felt. It was fear closing in around him.
He was afraid of losing his bequest, the manhood that had made him what he was. He feared humiliation and sympathy. He wanted to cry in anguish or scream in anger. The vessels in his neck bulged with rage. It strained to be loosed on the empty room. He would not release it. He would defeat the demon, and thereby regain his manhood. The Satan could not be exorcised, just swept into a dark corner. He would defeat it in small battles when it dared emerge, if he could. He would not give in to it.
As she folded laundry upstairs Rose turned her thoughts to John's impotence. It was John's body that was not functioning, but it was a loss to both of them. She wanted John to see that she was crying inside. It was not that they would each suffer equally. The whole of them had been depreciated, and that made it worse.
She was relishing her husband lusting for her, in these waning years of desire. How happy she had been when they re-cemented themselves together as the nest emptied. It was a marital bliss not enjoyed by all couples. It was an earned status, now being snatched from her. She lashed herself for every lost opportunity, each headache, times she went to sleep too early. She tried to count each wasted occasion. She didn't blame John for the loss, but she blamed him for not understanding her grief. She resolved to shoulder the burden of spirit, while he dealt with the physical loss. Even at this early moment, the evil worms of despair were beginning to burrow into her timbers.
On the eve of his appointment at the urologist Rose was knitting in front of the television. John set down his book and approached Rose from behind. Standing over her, he began to massage her shoulders. John had always used this non-spoken ploy as an invitation to Rose for lovemaking. It saved him from verbalizing the offer. It would be embarrassing to sound corny or lewd. Rose didn't mind. His ploy had served him well for thirty-three years. If he had done it any other way she would have checked his pulse.
The difference this time was Johns' impotence that was dogging them. Rose was unsure. She thought that, perhaps, he sensed an 'improvement in his condition'. In that case, she would eagerly respond. She suspected that John might be out to prove something.
She had no courage to challenge him on the point. She knew that a man denied the chance to prove himself was far more humiliated than one who had tried and failed. It would be too cruel to deny an aging boxer a chance to win a last bout.
Rose stood and kissed John with affection. "Did you want something?" she asked in her coquette voice. It was John and Rose's code.
"Yes, I want you," he answered. His reply was only half-true. He was hoping for an end to his bad dream. Maybe he could perform. All would be well. Then, he could cancel the appointment and return to normal life.
It was dark in the bedroom and they undressed in silence. In a moment, they were under the covers together. They kissed for awhile, lying on their sides, holding each other. Rose waited patiently for the rising. He drew a hand up to her breast. In normal times she would have slipped her hand down to fondle him. This time, she dared not do so. She wouldn't until she felt that familiarity of him prodding her in the belly. She wanted to touch it; perhaps even assist it on its rise. It was fear that stopped her. She could not bear to humiliate him, or make him think that she was putting him to the test. In her heart she knew that failure awaited them.
At the same time, she tried to allow his foreplay to excite her. John's hand at her breast was pleasant enough. It was a pleasure of affection, however, not passion. She tried to change her mind. Rose concentrated harder and reminisced about better times when John had enthralled her with his lovemaking skill. It wasn't working as she hoped. She said nothing to John, and allowed him to continue his play on her breast.
John had always appreciated Rose's breasts. They were neither large nor small. When she was standing they hung down a little, as all women's do as they age. That didn't bother John at all. He loved how their softness reminded him of her woman's touch. His attention to her woman's softness made her touch even softer and more feminine, yet. When they set out to make love, his seizing them would ignite her passion. He would caress them until the nipples hardened with excitement and she arched her back to thrust them at him more. Then he would proceed to suck them into his mouth, tenderly, but with increasing pressure as Rose let her desire envelope her. It was so predictable on John's part to do this at each lovemaking session. It was a ritual that allowed the passing of the baton of desire from one to the other.
On this night John sensed Rose's slowness to arouse. He waited for the familiar hardening of her nipples, but they remained as soft as the surrounding flesh. His own flesh was soft, too. He felt arousal, even some pleasure in the glans, but it refused the desired hardening. He dared not push his pelvis into Rose, lest he betray his inability. He caressed and manipulated her opening with his hand and fingers. Her wetness was lacking.
John searched in desperation for a solution. He eased down her body to place his face at her center. Perhaps he could impart the wetness that she could not produce for herself. Her musky aroma, he thought, might be the trigger to his own readiness. He bent to his task.
Women have secret ways of knowing things. They will never disclose how they know them. Men will never understand it. Their intuitions warn them when timing is improper or if body and spirit are misaligned. Rose reached down and stopped John as he worked to pry her open.
"What are you doing?" she demanded. It was not a question, rather a statement of her discontent. "I'm not ready; neither are you."
"I may not be, Rose, but I'll take care of you" John answered.
"You don't have to. It's okay. Please don't." she said.
"Rose", John answered. "I just had to find out."
There was a silent pause as Rose contemplated what John had just said.
"You used me!" she screamed. "How dare you? Tou maay not just indulge yourself without thinking of me!"
In Rose's sudden rage the frustration and anger that she had stowed inside herself poured forth onto John. In the whole time since his impotence had started she had said not a cross word nor uttered a sentence of trepidation. It had been her duty to hold anxiety within. She had been sure that she could have done it. The ease at which it all burst forth shocked her.
"And you better know that if you can never have sex again, then I will not either."
She became silent, turning on her side facing away from him.
John was now at her side. He tried to measure a response, but couldn't find the words. He didn't comprehend the depth of his infraction—couldn't bring himself to retaliate. In some way, he understood why she lashed out at him.
"I'm sorry, Rose. I didn't think that you'd take it this way."
She didn't answer. He would not say anything more without a response. Lovemaking was over for the night. They silently lay apart in the bed. Eventually, they fell asleep.
The next morning John woke and found Rose's half of the bed empty. He had not heard her rise. He glanced at the clock—it was seven. He had enough time for breakfast before his appointment.
In the shower John wondered about Rose. He thought about the appointment later that morning, too. John reckoned that there were more bad possibilities than good ones waiting for him in the near future. He didn't want to face them without Rose. He wondered if she had already given up. Her outburst the night before had been understandable enough. Did she have enough strength in reserve to come back to his side? Had she already decided that sex for them was over?
As John entered the kitchen he felt better. Rose was making breakfast for him. Pancakes, a favorite; he saw it as a peace offering. Things were looking up.
Rose stayed silent.
"Breakfast looks good." Still silence. John poured himself a coffee and sat at the table.
Rose brought the food to the table and sat down next to him.
"John, I'm sorry about last night." John drew a breath to respond, but she raised her hand to stop him.
"It wasn't you; at least not all of it," she said. "You don't understand what this problem is doing to me. It's a big part of our life. Everything was going so well. We were having such pleasure together. It's being ripped away from us and there's no way to make it stop. It's not just your problem."
She stopped talking and bent her head low, sobbing.