"So, do you want to talk about sex?"
I watched her from the couch as she put a bite of cake into her mouth. I had to smile slightly at her blunt attempt to return to the conversation of the previous day. Megan just looked at me as she chewed.
"Sure," I said as I moved to join her at the table. I took a bit of the frosting from the scraps on the plate, remnants from the cake we had constructed for a friend's party earlier that day. A long but satisfying five-hour collaboration had produced a rather impressive castle, complete with moat and drawbridge.
We had left the party early to come home and watch a movie, but the intensity of baking and frosting in a small kitchen had drained me. Particularly when Megan was in such a sprightly mood.
The movie was out of the question now, I thought, looking at my watch. Megan had insisted on cleaning the confectioner's sugar and food coloring off of the counters and table before doing anything else. Then I had waffled on whether I felt like starting the movie at all, and now it was getting too late. I hate starting movies and not finishing them in one sitting. It wasn't an easy decision to bag the film, since it looked like a particularly romantic one. Megan had admitted to me just the day before that watching romance on screen got her excited. Not that I hadn't figured that out in the last twelve years with her, but she had never voiced it.
But there was no point in starting a romantic movie if we were going to be too tired to finish it, let alone take advantage of any post-movie feelings.
"So have you had any thoughts?" she asked, licking a few last crumbs off of her fingers.
"Since yesterday? No, not really," I said. The frosting was too good, so I grabbed a chunk of cake, a ruined turret. Probably not a good idea, given the amount of cake I had already eaten that day.
"You?" I asked back, through filled mouth.
"I don't know. I still feel the same."
"I know that, but have you had any revelations?"
Megan shrugged. I wondered if she was tired too, since her mood seemed to be suddenly drooping. I had had an idea the night before. I decided to try it.
"Okay. Right now," I said. "Let's go to bed. You take charge. Make love to me."
"Now?" Megan said, staring at me.
"Yeah. Time for action," I pressed, trying to get her excited about the idea.
"No! Talk about spotlights on! The pressure..."
"Pressure? Spotlights? That's my whole point. They're not there. You're putting the pressure on yourself."
"I just wanted to talk," she said quietly.
I sighed. "Well, I don't know what the answer is." My tone was more heavy than I wanted.
"Well, that's why I thought we could talk about it," she said. The defensiveness crept into her voice, and I took another deep breath. Perhaps we should just go to sleep, I thought.
"I kind of said my piece yesterday," I said. "I don't know that I have much more to add, without some sort of response from you."
Megan just stared at her paper towel, dusted with cake crumbs.
"What did you think of what I said yesterday?" I asked finally.
"I don't know. I... I don't remember exactly what you said," she admitted with downcast eyes.
"What?" I slumped back in my chair, looking at her. So much for having had a conversation the day before.
"We were busy, and things were crazy, and I didn't have my full attention in it."
I sat stone-faced. So she hadn't really listened. What was the point of talking then? Some resentment started to brew up, but then I quelled it. I knew I was guilty of such ignorance as well. How often would I drift off during conversation and then have to ask about already-told details? Enough times not to get mad at Megan now, surely. Besides, the subject was already touchy.
"What?" she asked tentatively, after I didn't say anything for a long while.
"Let's talk in bed," I offered, moving the cake to the fridge. Maybe we should just sleep and take the subject up on a better night.
I lay in bed a little while later, as Megan got ready in the bathroom. The long weekend had been exceptional so far. We were in the midst of a sexual renaissance of sorts, and this weekend was a highlight. The night before had been magical, a quasi- spiritual experience. Megan had completely let herself go, and I had driven her to thorough satisfaction. And today, making the cake was more fun than I would have thought. She wore my favorite skirt (wholly not a baking outfit, for sure, but I didn't complain), and teased me with peeks down her top as she would express some frosting here or there. Sharing the creativity of making the cake with her was refreshing and exciting. I had been hoping the movie would fire us up into a climactic evening. That was lost now, but the weekend was still memorable nevertheless.
Despite having somewhat crashed, I didn't want to mar the night with a confrontation. So turning out the lights was an option. On the other hand, Megan was open to discussing the topic, even having reinitiated it. That was an opportunity that was hard to pass up. The whole weekend she was talking about things which I never expected she would. We had reached a new level of sharing, both fantasies and fears.
Megan walked into the bedroom and took off her clothes. I smiled as I watched her pull her black bra and panties off, tiptoeing to send them through the laundry chute. As she dug through her dresser, her bottom swayed a little. Her resolution to work out had paid off: her body was almost back to the form she had when I first met her, the delicate yet firm curves of a dancer.
A promising ballet career had disappeared with a pop of a tendon in high school. It would never be the same, so she decided to leave it all behind and do something else. Geology, then art history, before finally settling into education. Was there resentment for missing out on a dream? Surely, although that was a layer I had never dared to fully peel back. But at the same time, we would not have met had she gone on to dance. She would never have come to the same university, sat next to me in English class, agreed to get some coffee, come in my dorm room. We both knew that but for the strange turns in each of our lives, we'd likely be unknown to each other now.
I was surprised to see her pull on a pink negligee. Sure, she wore the piece every now and then, since she had gotten it for our honeymoon cruise eight... was it really eight years ago? Time slipped around us so slowly, and yet already eight years ago she was dressed like this, reclining on the bed in a cabin over the Mediterranean sea as I poured more champagne. I could still smell her perfume if I needed to.
But her putting it on after the tense moment in the kitchen suggested she had not let her openness flag.
She lay down in bed and pulled the sheet over her body. Summer nights round here are hot, and the sheet was more for contact than warmth.
We looked at each other for a while.
"I'm sorry," she said.
I smiled away her impending explanation. My brief resentment from earlier was long gone.
"Don't worry about it. Let's just start over."
Megan nodded, as I took a breath and began again.
"So," I started, "first off, your worry about losing me as your husband because of sexual performance is silly. I mean, look at our life together? Do you think with everything we've been through, I'm going to leave you because sometimes you aren't into sex?"
"I don't know, maybe you get frustrated. I worry about that."
"Look, Megan, we've been together for twelve years. Yes, life has been busy and we've slowed down that part of our lives, while speeding up others. But still, I have to say, when we have good sex, it's not just good, it's incredible. So sometimes you are not in the mood, so what? And besides, there are so many other reasons that I'm really married to you, this is just one facet."
"I know, but I want to make you happy in this too. We get all worked up, you do something nice for me, and then we get to the moment and it's like someone turns the faucet off," she said sadly. "I know that must be frustrating for you."
"It's not about me," I said. "It's about us. I'd rather go great a few times than just do it for my sake more often."
"But I do want to do it more too, and then I get these weird moods. I get worried, and feel awkward. It's like I don't know what to do."
I laughed. "I don't know why you say that. There's very little that you could do that I wouldn't like. Barring pain, I think anything goes. Just try whatever comes to mind."
"I don't even know what that is. Sometimes I just feel like I'm not any good at sex."
"Well, when you open yourself up to the mood, you are incredible. Like just the other night," I added.
"I know, but I can't always let go. It's a vicious cycle. I start worrying about letting go, or thinking about everyday stuff, work, you know. Then that gets in the way of the moment. Then I tense up, and then it starts."
I looked at her with a smile. "Don't hold on for my sake. I want to see you share this like we share everything else. You're the person I want to be with. I'm not going anywhere. Why not let go?"
"Because you can get hurt."
.... There is more of this story ...