He stands there, dripping, with his head tipped a bit. Just a bit,
but hoping that this slight tilting forward of his eyes will prove that he is sorry. Very
"Say that again," she says, after
studying him. Watching.
"What, about before?"
"Yes, that. Please."
"Well, see, we, ummm . . ." He creeps
forward cautiously with this next thought. True, she seems less hysterical now, ready to
listen, but who knows? ". . . the two of us
had actually met before."
"I mean, before we met." He thinks about
this for a moment, about the genesis of the thing.
"From before we, that is you and I, knew one
"Yeah. We went to the same college and . .
"Oh. So ... you were in school
"No, no, not together. It was in Kansas,
but not overlapping or anything. No, we actually ran into each other in the city one time,
during this coed softball game of alumni in Central Park."
"Which is kind of funny . . ."
"Why? Why is that funny?"
"Well, it's, you know . . .
"And that's where we went to school, too.
Manhattan, I mean. In Kansas. Because Kansas State is in. .
"Yeah, Manhattan. I get it," she says,
without changing expressions.
"It's just not that funny."
"Right," he acknowledges, then moves ahead.
"Anyway, that's where we were, over by the softball fields, and, see, we got talking
about stuff, had a couple drinks, you know, and we just hung out a few times or
"I think they still call it dating,' even
in New York."
"No it wasn't like a 'thing'! We didn't
date or anything, we just . . ."
". . . something like that." He falters a
bit but plows on, spitting out the truth. Well, part of it, anyway. "Yeah, this one
time we did, yes. Do that, I mean. Not sleeping together, though, just some sex
stuff. Sort of. But it was nothing . . ."
"So that makes it all right, then . . . what I
"No, not all right, I'm not saying that, I just
mean . . ." He considers where to go next, what minefields to avoid and which to
blunder off into.
". . . hell, I dunno, just that there's
some background there. A shared background between us."
"Right. I see." She responds quickly, in
small, staccato bursts of language, rather than really thinking through her next sentence.
"I get it. I do. I do get it."
"So, it's not like, I mean ... a 'fling' or
"Well, OK, yes, a fling, but ... a fling with
qualifiers. With history." He throws the last part in just for effect, the
history bit, but hoping that it sticks somehow.
"You didn't tell me, though. About this 'history'
of yours, I mean. All this time and you didn't say anything."
"No, I didn't do that."
"I thought that I wouldn't, you know . . ."
"Uh-uh, no, I don't know. What?" Then she
"No." He stutters twice before saying,
"Well, you're right, you wouldn't b-b-be,"
she says, obviously mocking him.
"But that shouldn't stop you from telling
me!" She says this louder than she means to, but it's out now. Hangs there in the air
for a moment, her dark cloud of disbelief, then drifts off.
"What was I gonna say?"
"I don't know, it's not really my moral dilemma,
"It's not a . . ." He thinks carefully now,
a misstep here could be fatal. There's definitely some sort of morality involved in having
sex with your neighbors, he muses. ". . . OK, yeah, it is, like, a moral
thing, but I think we can still . . . "
"Still what? What?" She stops for a moment,
stops loading clothes into her flowered Laura Ashley day bag and turns to him. Faces him
directly. "I'd love to hear how that sentence ends. Tell me."
". . . work something out? Or . . ." He
tries to hold her gaze but can't. If he wasn't wearing his Tommy Hilfiger swim trunks he
might have a fighting chance, but standing there in this moist orange suit it's just not
possible. He looks away and out a window, catching a hint of the gray Cape Cod next door.
Their place. The neighbors'.
"You think we should work it out, do you? Is that
what you think?"
"I think we could try."
"Try what, talking? Just, like, talking,
you and me?"
"We could, yes. That would be . . ."
"What about therapy?" she challenges
back. "Or how about just sharing, the two of us and the two of them? The four of
us could swing on various nights, try new positions. How's that sound?" She studies
him a moment, but he can't meet her eyes. "Probably great, doesn't it? I mean,
if you're not too possessive, that is. And then once weve paired up the kids we'll
all be just one big, happy family!
"If we can't talk about this like adults, then we
might as, well . . ."
"Adults? Oh, you wanna talk like ad-ults,
is that what you'd like?"
"It's why I came back over here, yes."
"No, you came back over because this is your
house, OK, this is your home. Where you live!" She throws a handful of
perfumes in on top of her blouses, the bottles clinking dully together in the sea of
fabric. The sound itself is not very impressive, not as resounding as she'd hoped for, but
she'd needed to pack them anyway. "What'd you think, you could just live in the pool
house there, set up a little place for yourselves or something?"
"No. Of course not."
"Look, I don't know what you think you saw . .
"Oh, please, come on . . ."
"No, seriously, what? We weren't . . ."
"Your trunks were down, all right?"
"They weren't . . ." He doesn't finish this
because she moves toward him now. Quickly across the room to challenge what he'll say
next. "OK, whatever. You know what you know."
"No, not whatever. I saw you, very clearly, your
Tommy suit around your knees and your big white ass pointed right at me. Your back was
toward the door and your thing was . . . do you really wanna hear more?"
". . . no."
"I saw it out. I did."
"Not out, no, it was just caught in my . . ." He tries to mime an explanation but a wagging finger
from her stops him cold.
"When you turned, surprised by the door and
turning quickly, I know I saw your . . . thing . . . out of your suit. It got tangled in
your mesh, there in the white mesh when you tried to hide it away. I know what I'm saying
. . ."
"But . . .we knew each other in New York . .
"What does that mean?! You keep saying that but
it doesn't seem to mean anything. Lots of people know each other in the city, but
that doesn't mean they're all doing it. Does it?"
"No, but, see . . .we went to the same college
and we got talking one time, we had a lot to drink and we just . . . it wasn't like this
"But you didn't tell me."
"They've been moved in there, next door, in their
time-share for three weeks. A month maybe. Since Memorial Day . . ."
"I was going to say something . . ."
"But you decided to keep it all to yourself,
"No! God, you're so . . .we were both nervous
about it. I mean, embarrassed."
"Obviously . . ."
"We were! When they introduced themselves that
first day, out there on the deck, I could hardly look up . . ."
"Or just now . . ."
"That's what I'm saying . . ."
". . . of course, you were a little busy."
"Stop! Jesus, let me at least tell my side of
"Please . . . go ahead."
"So, you know . . .if you don't take that moment,
I mean, that first moment there and tell the truth, then you're stuck. You are."
"Like your thing in the mesh . . ."
"A little, yes . . ." He wants to smile,
since that was pretty funny, especially for her, but he can't risk it. Not right now. It
might not have been a joke. Instead, he offers, "Kind of like that.
"And since you didn't tell me out on the porch
that day, you just figured this tiny detail was no big thing. I mean, not a real problem
for us . . .sis that kind of what you're saying?"
"Sort of . . ."
"What's that mean?"
"Just 'huh,' no other real meaning to it . . ." Her head cocks a touch now, slightly to one side as
she studies him. Glancing at his eyes but then down, to settle at crotch level. Holding
this look for quite some time. He shifts from one bare foot to the other.
"What're you doing?"
"No, seriously, what?"
"Just imagining . . ."
"Imagining?" He waits for her next volley,
stepping off the wet spot he's created and involuntarily moving away from her. She takes
"Imagining what it'd be like for your son to walk
into that shed. Looking for, oh, I dunno, some diving sticks or an inner tube or
who knows what, and see that. What I saw . . ."
"What? We knew each other in Manhattan . .
"Stop saying that! " She glares
at him, obviously conjuring up a picture.
"How would it be for him to see your . .
.cockthere, do you like that better? You're always wanting me to talk dirty, does
that sound better?to see his daddy's cock out and . . ."
"We were just talking . . ."
"Please don't do that! Don't assume I've been
nearsighted all these years on top of being an idiot . . ."
". . . it was this boys versus girls softball
game we were in, that's where we first . . ."
"Would you like it, if he saw that?"
"Of course not. . ."
"Well, that's something . . ."
"But I wouldn't . . . and I'm not trying to start
anything here . . .no offense, but I wouldn't want him to see it in anyone's mouth. I
mean, including yours." He almost grimaces after that one, not sure he didn't just
step into some abyss.
"Then perhaps you should stop sticking it in
people's mouths . . . sshouldn't you?"
". . . yeah. I mean, yes, you're right."
That's the least he can say. She does have a point there, albeit a fairly simple
"So, it was in, then?" She waits.
". . . what?"
"You had your thing out and in . . ."
"Yes." Better to cut his losses now, mercy
of the court and all that. "I did, yes, for just, like, a second. A moment is
"Yeah . . ."
"Because I couldn't really see . . .my eyes
hadn't adjusted. I was pretty sure that's what was happening there, with the two of you,
but I wasn't completely. Certain, I mean. Because of the dark. But, hey, now I know . .
." She smiles weakly, finally matching one of his more pathetic grins at the same
instant. "I only went in there looking for their tiki torches. They told me we
could use them for the barbecue on Saturday. That's why I . . .anyway . . ."
"Listen, we were just . . ."
"Yeah, college, I know . . ."
"The big game and all."
"Yep . . ." He fixates on a framed picture
for a moment, drifting. A Hopper print of someone sitting in a room somewhere. Alone.
Lucky bastard, he thinks to himself.
". . . I mean, you're in the city, right? And you
run into a bunch of folks from home, you know, men and women out there on the grass having
fun, and you just sort of get caught up in the thing . . .few beers . . .I can't really
explain it better than that . . ." He tries to, though, for a minute at least, his
mouth searching for a more perfect phrase. It doesn't come.
"Does that make any sense?"
"No, none." She shrugs, unwilling to say
"Oh . . ."
"But I understand. I understand that it makes
sense to you . . . somehow."
"It does. I know it sounds wobbly, but . . .'
"And since it does, make sense, I mean, you'll
need to explain it to them . . ."
". . . what do you mean?"
"You're going to need to sit them
downthey're back from swimming in forty minutesand you'll need to walk them
through this as best you can.
"No, I can't . . .what?"
"My leaving, I mean. You'll need to come up with
something for that. Tell them the rest if you want to, but you have to explain where I've
"But where are you . . .?"
"To the city, I suppose. For the night, anyway. I
need to call my sister, and the lawyers, no doubt." She seems to tower over him at
this moment, although she is only five feet three and not wearing heels, not even the
espadrilles he'd bought her at that Wal-Mart on the way in. "I need to handle a
"I can't tell them that! I mean, they're only . .
"Children bounce back. They do, that's their lot
"Wait . . ."
"You explain things and on Saturday we'll get
them on a train, back into town, and they'll be out of your hair." She smiles some
inner smile at this. "Then you can go back
over the fence . . ."
"But I don't want to."
"I want to . . .I mean, I'd like to, I'd really
like to see if we could . . ."
"What?" She waits for him to finish but he
only repeats the previous phrases over and over. Trying to jumpstart a solution but never
getting past the opening. Finally, she picks up her bag, tests the weight of it, then
moves toward the door. He doesn't stop her.
"Do you want me to carry that down or . .
"No, no, it's fine. You've done enough, believe
me . . ."
"I love you guys. I do." He didn't want to
have to pull that one out, not at this late date but he goes for it. Pitches the love
thing out there like a final horseshoe.
"Well, that's something you can hang on to, isn't
it? You can tell the kids that, if it helps . . .tell them I love them, too."
"We were just talking . . .we spent time on the
same campus, for Chrissakes!"
"Yeah, I caught that part . . ."
"We did . . ."
"And we had some . . ."
"When did you become so pathetic?" This
isn't meant to be rhetorical.
". . . I'm not sure."
"Huh." She stands at the door now, flicking
the light switch off more from habit than anything. He pulls his arms in and around his
exposed upper body now, stands in the semidark staring at his departing wife. She starts
down a step then turns back, rotates even, and comes into the room again. "Tell me
one thing . . ."
"What position did he play?"
"Our neighbor . . .the guy who was sucking
your dick." This is new for her, this strong language thing, and she seems to be
enjoying it. "When you met him, what position was he playing?"
"Oh . . . catcher. He was their catcher."
". . . I see." A pause, then a slight smile
from her in the gloom.
"I get it now . . ."
"The significance of it all."
"What do you mean?"
"Come on, he's the catcher . . .you don't
know anyone, you're lonely, it's New York, this guy's kneeling at your feet, you've got
your nice, firm bat there . . . I get it. It's symbolic . . ."
"No, come on . . ." He hesitates now, unsure
about her. Is she being ironic? "We were
just . . ."
"What? You what?"
"It . . .it was an experiment, that's all. Just .
. . guy stuff. Kind of, like, you know . . ."
"No, you're right. It happens. It does. In
'Manhattan,' anyway . . ."
"We were only . . .see, I met him before we, I
mean, you and me . . ."
". . . I hope you're very happy." Before he
can say anything else she is gone, the door clicking shut downstairs a moment later.
Normally, he would follow her, do the dramatic run down the block to the train station,
but he's got the swimsuit on and it would just look ridiculous now. He's sure of that. No,
better to talk tomorrow, let things cool down a bit. Take care of the kids, maybe get a
bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and watch a movie. Face the rest of it in the morning.
Yes. That's it.
"It's OK, it is, it's OK, this is gonna be . .
.it's all right. Things'll be fine. It's . . . OK, this is all O-K . . ." He says
this aloud but more to himself than anything, a kind of masculine mantra as he strips off
his damp trunks. He shivers slightly, then begins to wander around the room naked, hunting
down a pair of discarded Levi's in the oncoming twilight.