by Donna George Storey
Roots of an Obsession
John Updike made me do it.
He definitely deserves a lot of credit anyway.
Because when I think back on that night in Tahoe, it's almost as if he were right there in the hot tub with us, his lips stretched in a patrician smile as he guided my hand over to caress the rock-hard cock of a man who was not my husband. Of course said husband was too busy sucking the rosy nipples of the German woman, Katharina, to notice or care. And Jurgen and Jill were already kissing as if they'd done it dozens of times, which they hinted they had when Jill spent her junior year in Bonn. None of them seemed to need John Updike's help, although no doubt they had his blessing.
Updike had been softening me up for this night for years. Sitting in the effervescent spa water with five other horny married people, the Sierras soaring around us into the star-flecked sky, it was just like stepping into the pages of a steamy novel. In fact, it was the same surreal excitement I felt as I devoured Rabbit is Rich or Couples under the blankets as a teenager. Sneaking them from the bookshelves in my parents' room, I instinctively knew I could only read them when I heard the soft click of their bedroom lock at night.
While my parents "did it" the customary way -- with each other in their marriage bed, their lust invisible to the world -- the couples in John Updike's stories were fearlessly experimental, so they ended up all jumbled together like Halloween candy in a plastic pumpkin. They'd jet off to the Caribbean where the wives would confer to redistribute sex partners for the night. Or they'd fall into affairs, then confess to their spouses who would graciously consent to sleep with their cuckolded counterparts to even the score. Even Updike's memoirs glittered with shocking transgression. I can't tell you how many times I masturbated to the scene of Updike fingering a neighbor's wife through her ski pants as they drove back from Vermont through a starry winter night.
I knew these were just stories, maybe even pure fantasy, but I sensed, too, that John Updike was giving me a glimpse of the hunger and restlessness of the adult world. What were these people looking for in their swaps and affairs? Did they ever find it?
The Games Begin
We'd just passed Auburn on our drive up to Tahoe to spend the weekend with Nick's old friend Jill when the snow started falling hard. Before long, Nick had to pull over and put on the chains. I suppose I started playing the "swinging" game because the poor guy was half-frozen when he got back in the car. With the traffic inching along I-80, we were sure to miss dinner at the cabin. He'd need more than Power Bars and trail mix to warm him up.
I explained the rules to him: we'd take turns naming a couple we knew, then describe what we thought it would be like to swap for the evening. I opened with the most obvious couple in our lives. "How about switching with Grace and Jack?"
Nick's eyebrows shot up. Grace was one of the most talented programmers he worked with and he once mentioned casually that he found her attractive. With her porcelain skin and hourglass curves, I doubt he was alone in that opinion.
"I could see that as a possibility," he said cautiously.
"A possibility? Come on, you'd love it. Grace straddling you cowgirl style. Those melon breasts jiggling as she rode you, her pale skin all flushed with arousal. You could grab her nice round butt and knead it while she creamed all over you. Then you'd tickle her ass crack -- you're good at that -- and when she came she'd probably give that sweet little laugh, like she did when she was drunk at the Christmas party." I giggled in what I thought was a decent imitation of his favorite colleague.
"Jeez, you don't have to get so graphic." It was already dark, but in the glow of the surrounding headlights, I could see he was blushing.
"What's the matter? Am I giving you a boner?"
Nick shifted in his seat. "So what about you and Jack?"
"I don't know. He's not the worst candidate. But to be honest he's too good-looking for me."
"Yeah, blond muscle boys like him are used to being worshipped by women. They don't try hard enough. If I'm fucking someone just for the sex, I want a guy who has something to prove."
"You're hard to please." Nick narrowed his eyes at me, but I suspect he liked me that way. "How about Michael and Heather? He strikes me as the ambitious type."
I shook my head. "He's so hairy. And he is ambitious, but not in a good way. He's bound to be selfish in bed. But Heather? With that limber little body of hers you could do it in all kinds of kinky positions. Maybe push her legs to her shoulders until she was practically bent in half? Her vagina would be all stretched and tight like a warm, wet glove, gripping you with every stroke. She's so light, you could do it standing up, too. You could take her up against the wall, her ass banging against it like you were spanking her. I'd bet you'd make a lot of noise, you two."
Nick laughed, discomfort mixed with definite arousal. "Well, I've always thought Heather was nice. So that makes it two to nothing. Can't you think of anyone you'd like to be with?"
I paused. To be honest, I was having so much fun turning him on with my dirty words, I hadn't even thought about it.
"Maybe Jill's German friend will be right for me. If you believe John Updike, vacations are a good time to do a little swinging. The rules of ordinary life don't apply. How about you and Jill?"
Nick grimaced. "Don't even mention Jill, okay? She's practically my sister." He turned and studied my face. "I know you like Ben, though."
"For his mind, darling. He's a little...soft...for me."
"True, he's not particularly athletic," Nick agreed. "Hey, what's with all of this swinging talk anyway?"
"I was just rereading Updike's Couples and everyone's screwing around and swapping like crazy." I closed up the bag of trail mix and leaned back in my seat. "I always wondered how often it happens in real life though."
Nick glanced over at me again. "Is this something you'd like to try?"
"No, I'm just curious," I replied rather too quickly. "How about you?"
"I guess if the right opportunity arises, for both of us, I'd be okay with it. Not that there's much of a chance being married to Ms. Choosy."
"How could I top perfection?" I said, reaching over to pat his crotch. He was still hard from the fantasy romps with Grace and Heather no doubt. I was pretty damp myself. I knew at least one couple would be having sex at the cabin tonight.
The truth was the idea trying a swap with another couple did turn me on, but I never thought in a million years it could ever be more than a game.
We finally got to the cabin in King's Beach around eleven. Good old Jill was waiting up for us in the kitchen with a pot of cinnamon tea.
"Sorry about the bad luck with the weather, you guys."
"No problem," Nick said, giving Jill a peck on the cheek. "Maria and I had a nice long talk in the car."
"Actually there's another little complication tonight. I thought this place had three bedrooms, but the third queen bed is the sleeper sofa in the living room. Katharina and Jurgen took the bedroom on the other side of the house and they'll be walking through your room to get to the bathroom."
Nick and I exchanged glances. That could put a damper on the sex part of our holiday weekend -- unless we decided to live dangerously.
"And...um," Jill began with an apologetic smile.
"What is it now, Jilly-bean?" Nick said, in not-quite-mock annoyance. In fact, they did act a lot like brother and sister.
"So, you know how Germans are more comfortable with their bodies than Americans?"
Nick shot me a what-the-fuck grin. We were both a bit punchy from the drive.
"Just so you're prepared, sometimes Katharina and Jurgen walk around the house in the nude."
We held our laughter until we were snuggled together on the sofa bed, snowflakes still battering the windows.
"Beware the naked Germans," Nick whispered as I muffled my giggles in his shoulder. His hands slipped under my nightshirt and he slowly, teasingly inched it up over my breasts.
"Hey, are you sure you want to do this? A naked German might walk in on us any minute."
"We can pull them into bed with us. That's what you want, isn't it?" Without waiting for my answer, Nick scooted under the blankets and eased open my thighs. He knew once he got to work with his mouth down there, I'd stop arguing.
Sure enough, the instant his tongue met my clit, jolts of familiar pleasure shot through me. I arched back on the bed, but remembered where we were just in time to swallow down a moan. However, to be honest, the thought of fucking in a semi-public place where a stranger might see us turned me on in a big way. Besides, keeping quiet seemed to increase the sensation, sounds of my pleasure trapped and throbbing in my belly. My mind was teeming with images, too, fragments from the evening all tumbled together like trail mix. Nick fucking Grace, while Heather rode his face, their sweat-slick breasts swaying as they writhed in ecstasy. I watched the lewd scene before me while Jill's faceless German friend groped my nude body, pinching my nipple, twisting it, just as Nick was doing in real life now.
I bit the corner of the pillow to keep from crying out. Every moist click of his tongue, every creak of the cheap mattress as I rocked my ass up for more, seemed to roar in my ears like a jet engine.
They could hear everything. They all knew exactly what we were doing.
Suddenly I heard a soft knocking filtering down from Jill and Ben's room in the loft. Tap, tap, squeak. It took a moment before I realized what it was: a headboard nudging the wall, another mattress protesting under the thrusts of joined bodies.
Ben must have been waiting up for Jill. He had to watch the German woman parade around naked all evening and he was desperate for release. Jill was now paying for her friend's provocation as she lay beneath her husband's big body, his dick sliding in and out of her swollen, pink pussy. Tap, tap, squeak.
My thighs began to shake. I was close. Nick pulled away and rose to his knees, guiding his cock into my very wet cunt.
He bent forward and his lips closed over mine. We began to move together in our familiar rhythm, making love as we always did. Except tonight we had company.
Tap, tap, squeak.
Now another voice joined the chorus, a low feminine moan, with a hint of Bach. Jill's friends from Bonn were fucking, too. On top of the blankets, of course, their nude bodies fully exposed. The heady mix of sex sounds swirled through my head in an aural orgy, dancing down my spine to gather in my cunt.
We're all fucking. Together. Friends, strangers, fucking, coming.
It was too much.
I climaxed, my teeth biting into the pillow. Nick was right behind me, his face twisted in a mute grimace of pleasure.
A few moments later the knocking above and the moans from the front room subsided. I heard six pairs of lips exhale in a collective sigh of carnal contentment.
John Updike couldn't have planned it better.
On My Ass in the Snow
"The Winter Olympians have descended from the slopes," Ben announced, taking the last swallow of his third Irish coffee.
I was still on my second drink, but was definitely feeling the effect. I aimed a jaunty salute at Nick, Jill, Jurgen and Katharina from my perch by the fireplace in the lodge.
Nick swaggered over to me, with that cool-yet-clumsy gait of a man in ski boots. "Don't you look comfy?"
From his tone, he didn't exactly approve. Okay, so I did have my stocking feet resting in Ben's lap, but that was only because my legs were sore from doing the snowplow all morning and Ben kindly offered a massage. At that point it was all completely innocent.
Katharina strolled up and stood close to Nick -- too close. They made quite the dashing couple in their ski togs, frosty goggles pushed up on their foreheads. "Your husband is a very good skier."
Her feline eyes twinkled like a German Christmas tree.
"She's being kind," Nick said, giving her a fond smile. "It took me all morning to get back up to speed. I haven't skied in about six years. You were very patient with me."
"On the contrary, I had trouble keeping up with you. You were very daring."
Maybe it was the whiskey but I watched all of this with a detached interest, as if I were observing someone else's handsome husband flirting with another woman. It occurred to me, too, that Nick had stopped skiing when we met. Had he stopped being daring, too?
Jill and Jurgen joined the circle. Amusingly, they made a good couple, too. Jurgen was tall with a close-trimmed blond beard and ponytail and looked every inch the Olympic skier. Jill wore her golden hair in a ponytail, too and the stylish red outfit showed her long legs to advantage.
Ben and I were definitely the low-rent pair of our happy group in our rented gear. But I strongly suspected we had just as much fun off the slopes critiquing the elitism of winter sports and redefining our sorry performance in the snow as a protest against the tyranny of consumer capitalism.
"How was your day, sweetie?" Jill gave Ben a quick hug.
"Well, I spent most of the morning on my ass in the snow but things improved considerably when Maria and I decided to hit the bar instead."
"Don't listen to him, Jill. He was the king of the bunny slope. I, on the other hand, spent the
whole morning on my ass in the snow," I added.
Katharina laughed. "'Bunny slope?' That is very adorable. In German, we call it the 'idiot's hill.'"
Nick grinned at her, as if he found her adorable.
Ben lips shifted into a crooked smile. "I definitely feel like an idiot with those skinny sticks on my feet. Give me food, wine and the hot tub. Those are my gold medal events."
I giggled conspiratorially and drained my Irish coffee, tipping my head back like a floozy in a beer ad. When I rocked back up again, licking the last bits of whipped cream from my lips, Nick was staring at me, eyes glittering, as if he saw the stranger in me, too.
Since Ben and I had the easiest day on the slopes, we offered to make the fondue dinner, which also meant the two of us got to loll around in the hot tub in our swimsuits while the others did the dishes.
Fortified by the Riesling, I was telling Ben about John Updike and how I couldn't seem to get him out of my mind. That led to a discussion of Updike as the chronicler of a particular moment in American cultural history -- the generation who came of age in the 1950s and experienced the allure and angst of the Sexual Revolution after they were married. It was exactly the sort of mildly provocative intellectual bullshit Ben and I had indulged in all afternoon, but when Nick joined us in his swim trunks, he seemed to feel the need to explain.
"Sorry, Ben, my wife has this fixation on John Updike stories. She likes the spouse-swapping."
Ben arched an eyebrow at me. "I didn't know you were a fan of 'the lifestyle.'"
Before I could reply, the sliding doors swished open behind us and Jurgen and Katharina appeared. As Jill promised, they climbed into the hot tub totally nude.
I felt Nick's body stiffen beside me. No doubt he was stiffening in his swim trunks as well. I myself snuck a look at Jurgen: dark blond pubic hair, an uncut dick, gorgeous thigh muscles. No wonder Jill lingered on the deck in her robe, enthralled at this vision of Nordic male beauty.
"Get in, babe," Ben called, gesturing to the empty place between him and Jurgen.
"I'm not sure I have the nerve to do this," Jill said with a small laugh.
"You've lived in Europe, Liebchen. I remember when you were not so shy," Jurgen teased.
Jaw set bravely, she took a deep breath and shrugged out of the robe. She practically sprinted the five steps to the hot tub, one arm over her full breasts, the other shielding her crotch.
"The sky did not fall down upon you, did it?" Jurgen said with an indulgent smile. He smiled at the rest of the bathing suit brigade, eyebrows lifted in a dare.
Nick shot back with a "no thanks" and Ben shook his head.
I'm not sure why I rose to the bait. Maybe I wanted to shatter their image of me as a coward and a prude. Or maybe on a subconscious level, I wanted to nudge things along. "Oh, I'm going to get naked, I just thought I'd wait until we all start having sex."
Five heads turned to me, mouths gaping.
Jurgen's eyes flickered with approval. "I have no argument with that. Or is this an example of the famous American sense of humor?"
"Don't underestimate Maria," Ben said with his usual I'm-just-joking grin. "She acts innocent, but I'm told she has a wild side. She's into swinging."
"So are we," Jurgen replied matter-of-factly. He obviously wasn't kidding.
Katharina's serene smile left no doubt it was true. "It is very refreshing to meet another daring couple," she said, turning to Nick. "I see you agree sex is a healthy adult pleasure also. Like skiing."
Nick and I exchanged a glance. Be careful what you wish for....
But I saw something else in his eyes, too, a reflection of my own dark urges. The barriers of ordinary life had indeed softened in the thin mountain air. It was as if I were floating, beyond the rules of time and space. This could be Europe or 1968. We could be our parents or grandparents, taking that first sweet taste of sexual possibility, or characters from a novel whose very existence depended on doing something shocking to keep the pages turning.
I'm not exactly sure who actually made the first move, but things progressed quickly from there. Before I knew it, Jurgen bent to kiss Jill, murmuring something softly in German. Katharina took Nick's hand and guided it to her breast, her eyes hooded in lust. This time my husband did not resist the dare. He circled the large nipple with his fingertip then bent to kiss it.
I turned to Ben. We'd been talking all day. This time we spoke with our eyes alone.
Do you want this, Maria?
Why wouldn't I? I've had a crush on you forever.
That's funny, just last night I was imagining what you'd be like in bed.
Back when I was dating, I rarely made the first move with a man, but now I curled my fingers around Ben's hard-on. His thick, meaty cock twitched in my grasp and a jolt of forbidden excitement shot through me. At the same time, the odd floating sensation grew stronger, as if part of me were gazing at the scene from far away.
As if the hand reaching out to seal the deal were Updike's, not mine.
Compare and Contrast
John Updike didn't write orgies. His couples retired to separate rooms to explore their new partners and pleasures. So did we. The last to touch, Ben and I retired first, claiming his bedroom after stopping in Jurgen and Katharina's room for a condom.
Stripping off our swimsuits, we crawled onto the bed, again without words, as if we were playing out a script we both knew by heart. When Ben kissed me, it wasn't like I thought it would be, sex for the sake of sex. I always imagined unbridled passion, a desperate, animal coupling. But Ben's lips were surprisingly soft and tender. The strange taste of him took me back to high school, when I made out with many different boys, reminding me that kisses are like ice cream, the same creamy treat, but each with a different flavoring or spice.
I liked Ben's kisses and his satiny skin, the heat of his broad body. He was different from Nick who was sinewy and hard. My palms tingled at the new sensation.
Is this what the swingers in the stories were looking for?
"This doesn't seem real," Ben confessed. From the deck below, I heard Katharina laugh, a throaty, sexual sound.
"It isn't real," I said. "We're in a John Updike story."
"I'll have to read his stuff." He smiled and cupped my breast, brushing the nipple with his thumb.
I sighed to show him he got it right.
"You're beautiful, you know," he said, repeating that pleasurable motion until I squirmed and my breath came faster.
I laughed. "Are you trying to seduce me?"
Ben's expression was serious. "I want to make you happy tonight, Maria." He took my hand and guided it between my legs. "Teach me how you like to be touched."
Under the circumstances, a little hands-on tutoring wasn't a bad idea, but in truth it had taken me a while to feel comfortable touching my own pussy in front of Nick.
So I closed my eyes, touched my sweet spot and started to strum. My clit swelled beneath my fingers, a hard, aching diamond. It was just like masturbating in my teenager's bedroom, biting back my moans while I imagined John Updike rubbing me through my ski pants in the backseat of the car on a wintry night. That is, until Ben's large hand closed over mine, and his very real finger carried on with the task.
I spread my legs wider. Ben was a fast learner. He slipped his left arm around my shoulder to rub one nipple, while he suckled the other. It felt good, very good, but still it seemed more like a fantasy, my old naughty dreams made flesh. A cold winter night, a ski weekend, another man with his hand between my legs, working my clit patiently. I had to come soon, and oh-so-quietly or my husband would be pulling the car into the driveway, stopping the engine, then turning to catch us doing that naughty, forbidden thing.
Before long, I was indeed shuddering and thrashing in Ben's arms.
He kissed my cheek afterwards. "Thank you for that. Tell me what you want next."
"I feel greedy," I confessed.
"Don't. I like pleasing you."
"Okay, I want you on top now. I want to feel you all around me."
Tap, tap, squeak.
I almost laughed at his bed's encore performance as we rocked together, my legs clasping him, feet hooked behind his thighs. I didn't come again with him -- I actually pushed his hand away when he tried to finger my clit again. Instead I floated somewhere outside my body, drinking in the sounds of his ragged breath, the way he suddenly tensed, then bucked rhythmically, his quivering moan of release.
These are the things I would remember best, my small, shiny souvenirs from the land of Updike.
"Did you have a good time?" Nick asked when we were back in bed together again. I'd guess it was sometime after midnight.
"Yes. And you?"
"It was nice."
We both seemed to sense detailed descriptions weren't in order now. As if on cue, we rolled toward each other and embraced. I stroked his back and shoulders, filled my lungs with his scent, seeking some change in him, some mark to prove it was real.
"I should be tired, but I want you." His voice was hot in my ear. "I want you naked inside and out."
What happened next was the real surprise of the evening.
Because those words broke something in me, like a balloon blown to the bursting point. A sigh, more like a sob really, forced its way through my lips and I clutched him, squeezing until my muscles burned.
He groaned, too, his lean body pressing against me as if he would crush me to pulp.
When we kissed, it was more like a bite, our lips banging together, stinging from the pressure. Our hands roamed over each other's bodies, grasping, reclaiming what was ours. I wanted him, too, his naked cock buried in my wetness. And I wanted him now.
I rose and shoved him over onto his back -- I never knew I had such strength in me. When I yanked down his sweat pants, his cock sprang up like a jack-in-the-box, bobbing against his belly. I struggled out of my own pajama pants and straddled him. Our genitals met like a head-on collision, my pubic bone jamming onto his belly over and over. There were no questions. We knew just what to do. Nick grasped my nipple and rolled it between his fingers. His other hand circled around to my ass, the territory on which he still had sole claim.
I started to fuck him, angling my hips so I could feel his cock pressing against my front wall the way I liked best.
"Come for me, baby. Come for me," Nick growled.
Which is just what I wanted, too. And with his finger invading my ass and his lips tugging my tit, I did, roaring as my orgasm tore through me, not caring who heard.
Only afterwards, when I lay in my husband's arms, my pussy raw and slick with his jism, did it finally make sense. Because the story had two acts: a wandering off to glimpse the familiar in the foreign and to watch the stranger in the man I knew best. And now the rush of bittersweet pleasure you can only know when you come home to real life from a fantastic journey.
Because I never felt closer to Nick than I did that night.
I suppose I had John Updike to thank for that, too.