by Adhara Law
The good thing about being snuffed out with a quick death is that it's painless. So don't worry -- you won't feel a thing if you're lucky enough, like me, to step off of a curb at the wrong moment in downtown Manhattan, as a laundry truck driver rounds said curb without even looking to see if there was a pedestrian in front of his grill. Or maybe your death will be different -- maybe you'll be struck by lightning and go in a matter of
seconds, or you'll have a sudden heart attack in bed with your mistress. Either way, try for the quick and painless route. The only nasty part is that you have no idea where you are when you come to, so to speak.
I woke up sitting in a plush, comfortable chair, a magazine on my lap and soft jazz playing from speakers I couldn't see. I knew something was wrong when I noticed that my nails were perfectly manicured. Red polish on my long, even tips, a clean and unmarred coat of gloss over each one. No snags. Perfect, symmetric lengths. Ha! That wasn't my handiwork -- only one hand could have treated those nails. The hand of perfection. It was God's Manicure.
I giggled. Thank you!
A young man came out of a door in the spacious hallway beyond the waiting room. Not just spacious -- swanky. The walls were accessorized with mahogany molding and baseboards. Framed art hung everywhere, evoking the air of museum. Tasteful brass lamps cast a low-key, buttery glow.
Taking in the room, one particular piece of art caught my eye: a bronze casting of Christ on the cross hung at head level on one wall of the waiting room. The disparity between the gaudy, tacky piece (the horror of Christ's vacant eyes and open mouth, the bright, headache-inducing shine of it ) and the otherwise subdued décor was troubling. It made me nervous.
The man wore a gorgeous suit. Sleek, modern, the kind of style you'd see in next year's fashion mags. Nice tailors. The man waited with a smile.
I rose from my chair and walked toward him, and he extended his hand toward the open doorway. The question flashed in my mind in neon lights: Is this Heaven? Hell? Limbo?
The room I walked into was just as ornate and expensive in taste as the hallway and the waiting room, but much bigger. One entire wall was pure window, and it looked out onto the most breathtaking view of the ocean (which ocean?) I'd ever seen. Another man, good-looking and maybe in
his early thirties, sat in one of two plush chairs tastefully arranged in front of the window. He rose to meet me.
"Joy Brandenberg," he said. Like the man in the hall, this wasn't a question. He knew who I was.
He took my hand. It wasn't a routine handshake, the kind you'd see between two business partners — this was the lost art of taking a woman's hand delicately at the fingertips and squeezing the tiniest bit as you pull it toward you. It was refreshing, and even a little tantalizing. I could like this guy. "My name's Peter," he said, and then
gestured for me to sit down in the empty chair.
"So..." he began, opening a leather folder. "Can I get you anything? Water? Fruit juice? A glass of wine?"
"No, thank you."
"Are you sure? We have a nice selection of wine. And I promise—" he held up his hands. "No transubstantiation tricks." He laughed as if we were sharing an intimate joke. "All right, then. Let's get started."
I shifted my legs and recrossed them while he pulled out a pen. He tapped the pages on his leather pad. "Let's see...married..."
It was a friendly question. He knew the answer but he was making conversation, putting me at ease.
I smiled. "Yes. Twenty-six years, in fact."
At that moment, Bob's absence from this surreal, waking dream came into abrupt and painful focus. My stomach felt hollow. He was at home, and someone was giving him the news on the phone. He was crying. He was at my funeral, giving a touching eulogy about our life together. He was packing up my things and putting them in the basement where their sharp reminders couldn't cut jagged tears into a new life without me.
"Your husband loved you very much," Peter said, putting his hand on mine with a small pat. I dabbed at a tear and nodded.
He smiled and continued. "Catholic. Went to church regularly as a child." I nodded. "You continued to attend church as an adult, although infrequently. Yes?"
I jangled the bracelets on my wrist as my fingers tangled and toyed with them. "Yes," I admitted. "Bob wasn't really a church-goer."
"Oh, don't feel the need to apologize, Ms. Brandenberg. It's all here." He tapped the portfolio.
It's all here. Only a few words, but the tone implied everything. There would be no need for defense or justification. There would be no trial. There would be only the truth. This was my entry interview, and they had the best background check in the universe.
He continued to scan the pages, flipping to the next one with a few quiet "mmm-hmm"'s. I heard the occasional "I see" and "very good", but I had no idea what he was reading. My childhood? Adolescence? I tallied up the moments of my life, taking inventory as quickly as possible of those moments where I might have fallen too far from grace to be on the A list. My heart beat faster and my palms dampened. I knew exactly when he'd stop and examine the pages more closely.
There it was. Page twelve, second paragraph from the top. It continued for at least twenty more pages.
Peter looked up at me. I smiled weakly and studied my nails. I smoothed my Christian Dior skirt over my thighs.
"I think we'll need to take a closer look at this," he said.
The room lights dimmed, the window darkened, and a screen descended from the ceiling. Slowly, as if coming into focus in a lens, the image of two people sharpened on the screen. They were on a bed, a man and a woman. The woman was on her hands and knees, her toes dangling off the edge of the bed, and the man stood behind her, his hips moving against her ass in quick, sharp thrusts. The color of the toe nail polish and the familiarity of the bedspread struck me like a slap across the face. Those were my toes. That was his bedspread. I could hear her gasps and moans -- my gasps and moans -- as they escaped her lips with every push of his cock into her pussy.
The warm creep of dampness soaked into the silk of my panties. Even here, I thought.
Peter watched with a clinical expression. "He was the first, yes?" He asked, his voice, to my surprise, tinged with no judgment.
"Yes. Yes, he was." My fingers went to the waistband of my skirt before I realized where I was, and the vertigo of the situation hit me full force. I blushed, my palms began to sweat, and yet I was getting more aroused by the second watching myself on the screen. Peter, however, appeared unmoved. He was an entomologist watching a hive of ants and
Charles Padgett. He was -- or had been, at the time -- 37 years old, trim, graying slightly but still with a full head of hair. A banker. One ex-wife and two lovely teenage children, neither of whom I would ever meet. Despite the fact that the scene was nearly fifteen years old and I couldn't see the man's face, I knew it was him. I would have recognized
that ass anywhere -- broad dimples on each side (which I could now see were even more pronounced when he was fucking a woman), tight full moon cheeks with almost no blemishes or detractions. I'd always loved that ass.
The view shifted and panned to take in more of the scene. My 34-year-old face came into view. My eyes were mostly closed and what little you could see was pure white as they rolled back a bit into my head. My tits -- much firmer in those days -- swayed forward and back as Charles' cock rocked into me. I watched myself reach underneath now to touch my clit and bow my head, fingering myself in time to Charles' thrusts. I was getting
louder and Charles was getting faster. I was getting wetter watching it all. I wanted to cry out as I sat there in my plush armchair and watched myself moan and tell Charles that I was coming and then watched Charles groan deeply and make one final, hard, rough push inside me.
"You had been married for almost ten years." Peter's gentle voice cut through the sexual fog that had me reeling in confusion.
"Yes," I said. It was all I could manage, though I wanted to say more. He didn't understand. He didn't know anything about my marriage and what kind of circumstances would lead to me being fucked joyfully from behind by a man who was not my husband. What he didn't know, what I wanted to explain, what that my marriage was wonderful and complicated. I wanted to tell him that Bob was the perfect husband in every way, except for in bed.
Oh, it had started off differently; all marriages do. We were the proverbial newlywed couple -- we made love, had sex, and fucked in every room of our house, consecrated every available surface large enough to hold the two of us. At five years of marriage we were down to one night a week in our bed and only in the dark. At year eight we were down to once every three months. By year ten I couldn't remember the last time
we'd made love, had sex, or fucked.
And yet, Bob was the perfect husband. He took care of me, loved me more than ever as the years went on. It was almost as if he were trying to make up for the loss of interest in sex. He just didn't have it in him. But how could I be angry with him? Every day he told me how much he loved me. I had everything I could ever want. Except for a regular,
I'd thought about counseling and I'd tried gently bringing up the matter, but there was no getting around it: sex simply no longer registered for Bob. And yet I couldn't bring myself to leave him over it. No matter what, I loved Bob, he loved me, and he was my husband.
Enter Charles Padgett. Always at the coffee shop that I frequented early in the morning, and always reading the paper at the same table. It took one week of morning chats with him before the scene that I had just watched took place. A year later, we were still meeting in the afternoons at his place when he could get away from work. I did things
with him that I'd never thought about doing before. The missing piece I'd felt with Bob was being replaced, in every orifice and in every position.
When he asked me to leave Bob and be with him, I had to break it off.
"Let's move on." Once again, Peter's quiet voice brought me out of my memory's well. I looked over at him to see him smiling gently. It was not a knowing smile or a vindictive smile. It was, well, angelic.
This time the movie showed me on top, straddling a man whose face I couldn't yet see. The viewpoint was at my back. I was grinding myself into the man's pelvis, forcing his cock into me as deep as it could go. My hands were stretched back behind me, palms gripping his thighs. Then one hand snaked back and began teasing the spot under his balls with one fingernail. The man groaned and his thighs twitched.
Ahh, yes. Darren...what? Darren Something. I couldn't pull his last name from the recesses of my memory. He came shortly after Charles, but he didn't last as long and was replaced eventually by two different men, neither of whom knew about each other. He liked having his balls teased while he watched me fuck him, and that's precisely what I was doing at the moment on screen. I was getting warm and wet again, trying not to squirm visibly on the chair with Peter beside me. How can he sit there without reacting at all? I thought, almost angrily. I turned back to the memory and saw that the camera was focused on my face.
"You seem to be enjoying yourself." I looked over, suppressing a small gasp as I noticed Peter smiling with one eyebrow cocked, his attention focused on the film, but his hand resting closer to his crotch. Why, that sly devil. There was some man under there after all.
Peter was right. Darren was the first man I'd ever known who so thoroughly enjoyed watching the act of fucking. It was my first time experiencing the thrill of being watched and I got my own regular show when I reached down to hit that sweet spot for him just under his balls. It was a new and forbidden feeling to me, and the evidence of my pleasure was plastered all over my face, up on the screen.
Peter flipped more pages and soon Darren and I were replaced by Alex and I. Then by Steve and I. Then by Neil and I.
"How...how did you do that?" Peter asked, tilting his head and furrowing his eyebrows as he tried to get a handle on what exactly he was seeing.
"Oh, it's not that hard if you're flexible," I said, as I leaned back into the chair and pointed toward the screen. "See, you just need get the hamstrings loosened up. It's really much easier than it looks." Peter nodded with approval.
There were more. I'd forgotten some of the names. Then it was Brian and I, followed quickly by Brian, Daniel, and I, which in turn was followed by Daniel, Rachel, and I.
"But how do you avoid, you know, getting all tangled up? I mean, it looks like it requires a plan of attack," Peter said.
"Oh, honey!" I laughed and put my hand on his arm. "You just go with the flow. You all fall into a natural rhythm, and everyone just does what feels good. Really, really good."
Mark. Scott. Jonathan. Perry. Rob. More whose names I couldn't remember. Matt. The other Steve. George and Anthony. George, Anthony, and Ronald. Ronald's wife. Seventeen years' worth of memories relived in full digital technology and surround sound. Hundreds of lovers, thousands of sights, smells, and tastes.
This was going to cost me.
I swallowed hard as I recalled the lessons hammered into me as a child about the wages of sin and the eternal life of damnation that awaited me if I partook. And like most people, I'd always thought I'd have plenty of time for atonement. I was only 51! Who knew that a laundry truck and its distracted driver would change all of that? Couldn't I get some kind of do-over?
I looked at Peter with a nervous smile. "So," I said. "What's the damage?"
Peter's smile -- that warm, angelic, peaceful smile -- never wavered, but he added a gentle laugh. "Damage? It may surprise you to know that there is no damage."
I laughed with him, but only out of nervousness. I swallowed again. "No, really," I said. "I know how this works. Where's the elevator to the bottom floor?"
"Joy," he said, "things are not always black and white. There are bigger issues to worry about in the world than whether or not two people's -- or more, sometimes, in your case -- private, mutual enjoyment of each others' bodies casts a dark shadow on the soul of humanity."
I was still unconvinced.
"Look," he said, pointing at the screen, where I once again saw Charles and I locked together as he took me from behind. "You remember Charles? Although he was hurt when you left, your time together soon became one of his most treasured memories. He knew that you couldn't leave your husband. He later fell deeply in love with a woman who reminded him of you -- alive, full of energy. They will be together until they both pass away. To this day he recalls those times with you fondly. In many ways, you were more hurt by breaking it off than he was."
I watched Charles on the screen. I'd always wondered what happened to him, and it stung to this day to recall the memory of his face when I told him that I couldn't leave Bob for him. I felt a swell of happiness and relief knowing that he'd found love.
"And Stan," Peter said. The screen focused on the face of a man in his late forties, a slight paunch in his stomach and less hair than he used to have, as he stretched my legs back with his arms and slid his cock into me full force. "Do you know that before he met you he felt that no woman could possibly find him attractive? You made him feel
wanted and sexy. A few weeks before you stopped seeing each other, he met a woman who told him she was fascinated by the love of life he seemed to have."
Wow. And all Stan had told me was that he'd met someone. I could appreciate that. I'd wished him well, told him I understood why he wanted to stop our affair. I missed his sweetness, but I had sweetness at home. It was good to see him share it with someone who was free to accept it.
"Joy," Peter said, bringing my attention to him. "You brought happiness to these people. You had a life force that they were drawn to, and you gave them some of your gift. Wherever they went in life after you touched them, they carried that gift with them and gave some of it in return."
Peter smiled. "Bob loved you. He still loves you. He understood that he couldn't give you everything you wanted. And he understood how much you loved him. You didn't just give the gift of happiness and life to these people -- they gave it back to you. And you gave it to him."
Peter closed the leather portfolio and stood up. I took the cue and
joined him, and he took my hand in both of his.
"We're not as prudish as our PR department has led you to believe," he said with a laugh.
As he walked me to the office door, I saw the same gentleman waiting for me that had shown me in. I felt Peter's hand in the small of my back as he opened the door. "Joy..." he began.
"Perhaps some time you could show me how you do that thing, you know, with your legs and all?" A blush of red climbed from his neck to his cheeks.
Yes, indeed. A man under there after all.