What would Annie Sprinkle do? I thought I knew the answer to that question. I just needed to make sure that ‘I first did no harm.’ Doctor Sarah Bartolino could not tell me what I needed to know; but she could tell Kelsey, and she thought nothing of explaining it to him while I changed his IV and listened.
Kelsey had no idea why his doctor was answering an unasked question, but he didn’t stop her. People don’t argue with doctors. He had no idea at the time what a good decision that was.
I guess that small subterfuge could have turned out to be a little bit cruel if Lydia had not agreed with my idea. But the benefit of being with someone that you have known since you were both five is an amazing ability to predict how they will react to any given circumstance. Lydia would agree to, and almost certainly participate in my hare-brained scheme.
Growing up in the seventies and eighties my brother, like all the other boys probably, had a collection of magazines reserved for his private viewing. At least he thought that they were for his private viewing. I found them one day when mom and I were spring cleaning. I did not tell mom about my find; instead from that day on I would sequentially borrow one of his many magazines for my viewing pleasure.
I only ever took one at a time; figuring he wouldn’t notice having just one fewer; especially when it would mysteriously reappear in a day or three. I don’t really think he would have minded; but I would have been mortified if he had found out. That’s why I couldn’t just buy my own; it would have been way too embarrassing.
I shared them with Lydia, Darcy and Diane, we were a pretty weird foursome,’The Gang of Four.’ Hey, it was the seventies. Diane, who sometimes only answered to ‘Diana of Themyscira,’ was the weirdest but it was by photo-finish. The four of us would read the magazines together and study their contents. ‘The Steiner Bureau’ was scary, and yet totally intriguing at the same time.
My favorite however, were the diary like stories by Annie Sprinkle. She was everything that I was not, urbane, experienced, popular, over the top beautiful, openly erotic and sexual. I didn’t even officially lose my virginity until the night of my honeymoon at Elephant Butte.
I married the boy who had sorta halfway chased me through our last two years of high school; and I must have been a horrible disappointment to him. He just stopped coming home thirty-seven days after we returned from that honeymoon.
Lydia moved in with me; that way she got away from home, and I didn’t have to move. At first we were just roommates. Darcy moved away to go to college in Albuquerque, without even saying goodbye to us. Diane was busy running her parent’s farm; over time we did less and less together. It happens. Lydia was not having much success on the romance front either. We spent a lot of evenings together just talking.
Philadelphia Texas, our hometown, had self-destructed years ago. The economy was in the toilet. Diane’s parents went down to Odessa to work in the oilfields. Nobody would buy land for what it should have been worth, so her and her brothers bought a few distressed properties. When my lease was up she gave us a deal, and Lydia and I moved into a little house on one of those farms.
Diane acquired a girlfriend, Meiko. She didn’t flaunt it, but she didn’t hide it either. She had to go all the way to Lubbock in order to find someone even weirder than she was. Maybe that is what we would have to do, expand our search parameters.
There was this convergence of themes. Lydia and I moving out of town. Moving out of a little apartment where everyone knew what you were doing. We were watching Diane and Meiko together and happy. Having, both of us, exhausted the male romantic leads available in Philadelphia; we simultaneously expanded our search to include the other gender and narrowed it to include only those we trusted.
Lydia and I slowly, tenuously became lovers in addition to being best friends; that was ten years ago. Darcy came back and offered us a route to earn nursing degrees. It beat working at the Piggly Wiggly and the Roxy, so we followed her out to Nuevo Mejico; Las Vegas and University Hospital where that conversation with Doctor Bartolino just occured.
As we washed the dishes and put them away after dinner that night, I asked Lydia. “Remember at Doc Samuel’s funeral you said what a shame it was everyone was up there thanking him when he wasn’t there to hear it?”
“How folks should be nicer to each other when they are here on earth,” I said. “How one ‘thank-you’ in person would have meant more than all of the accolades given to him on that day.”
“Yup, that’s what I said.”
“Remember when we ... You, me, Darc and Di used to sit at the rusty old ice cream table behind your garage and read Duane’s ‘girly-books?’”
“Sure Mave,” she said. “‘Don’t wrinkle them, or get them wet,’” she mocked.
“I have an idea to bounce off of you,” I said.
“Doc Bartolino said it was safe.”
“What is safe?” she asked.
“One of my patients is dying. He’s got lotsa stuff all interacting negatively with each other. He’s lucid, he’s aware that he hasn’t got long and he’s all alone.”
“What did you have in mind Mave?” Lydia asked.
“In one of Duane’s magazines,” I said, “Annie Sprinkle wrote a story about going to a hospital and fucking a guy who was terminal. A kinda celebration of his life with just the two of them.”
“So my guy can’t fuck anyone, the medication for his condition has knocked his equipment all out of commission,” I said. But I noticed that he had a little paperback in his bag, a ‘girl-girl’ story.”
“And you thought”...
“He might like a live show,” I said.
“How on earth would you ask him?”
“I just would.”
“No, Mave,” Lydia said, “that’s not you.”
“You know what cheap-ass bags the hospital has for a patient’s belongings. I found that paperback when I replaced his bag, it had a tear.” I said. “I did it when he was in the shower, before but I could do it again in front of him. Make note of the book ... Ask him if he ever ... Would he like to”...
“OK, that’s Mave,” she said.
“Are you cool, if he wants to touch?” I said, “we need to set up the boundaries now, together before involving him, otherwise it’s just cruel.”
“You know I trust you,” she said. “I will do anything you do first, or say you’ll do next.”
“I love you,” I said before kissing her deeply.
“Did you really think that I would say no?”
“No,” I said, “I wouldn’t of asked if I thought you’d say no.”
“But isn’t it nice to be asked.”
“I guess it is Mave,” Lydia said. “How do you think you can pull this thing off though.”
“I have ‘Nights’ tomorrow, you could just come over and we could lock the door and give him a sponge-bath ... Together ... He is ambulatory,” I said, “he takes showers, but he just might accept a sponge-bath instead if all three of us were naked”...
“And you have to take off his monitors for the shower,” she said.
“And I can run out of tape to reattach them.”
“You little shit!” She said in mock anger.
“What?” I said.
“You are going to be on the clock while we put on this little show,” she said, “I won’t be.”
“You will receive your reward in Heaven, my child.” I said, kissing her again. “While I will be cursed for making myself a prostitute.”
She stared at me.
“Of course Jesus loves prostitutes,” I said smiling, “he hangs out with them.”
Lydia put her left arm around my head nesting my neck in the crook of her elbow. Then she placed her right hand on my hip, and did an excellent impression of the sailor in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous VJ-day photograph taken in Times Square.
God I love her.
“Alone,” she said, “and dying?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Jenny said his wife left him because she couldn’t take seeing him die in front of her.”
“Burrrr,” said Lydia.
“Yeah,” I said, “I wasn’t dying, but I know what that kind of rejection feels like.”
“I’ll never leave you,” Lydia said.
“I’ll just over-insure your ass,” she said playfully, “and push you out an open window.”
I called Lydia from the nurses station after Kelsey had accepted our offer.
It was harder asking him than I thought it would be. The first part was easy enough. Baby steps ... I just walked over to the rolling table with a new bag and started removing things from his old bag. He barely acknowledged my presence. I put everything in the new bag except his book.
“Is this any good,” I said, “the book?”
“Oh, you wouldn’t be interested in that.” He said, finally noticing what I was doing.
“No good, huh?”
“No, it’s just guy stuff,” he said.
“The picture on the cover is two girls ... Oh ... Are they?”
“Yeah, like I said, guy stuff,” he said.
“My girlfriend might like it though,” I said. I almost chickened out and didn’t say it, I’m glad I did; that word got his attention.
“Yeah, she’s coming by later,” I said. “ Would you like to meet her?”
“I’m not very good company.”
“I was married once,” I said, “for forty-four whole days.”
“Wow, what happened.”
“I must have been real disappointing,” I said, “he just left a few weeks after the honeymoon.”
“That was cold,” he said.
“Yeah, that’s what Lydia said.”
“My girlfriend,” I said, “want to meet her?”
“I guess so, but why?”
“I have this stupid idea,” I said.