Chapter Six — Monogamy
When I woke it was dark. You know that moment of inchoate panic coming out of a dream, when you’ve forgotten who you are? I could be a character in a novel or the philosopher’s dreaming butterfly. Maybe Trevor’s right and my imagination’s a runaway horse – but am I the horse or the rider?
I admit I like thinking that poets get to be always partially disembodied, like souls in Limbo awaiting incarnation. Who wants to ossify? Once you’re “set”, you’re done.
A shape moved around the window against the light and I sat up in bed and gasped but it was only Trevor lighting the scented candles along my windowsill.
“Thanks.” Fell back, relaxed. Trevor knows I don’t like sleeping without a light.
He came to sit beside me. His tie and jacket and shirt were gone and there was a hole in his t-shirt. I put my finger through it and shook loose the comforting smell of his lemony sweat.
“So how are you feeling?”
Through the semi-darkness his eyes boiled at me, like this was going to be a question very hard to answer. He always meant so much more than he said. If words are symbols, his are clues.
“Better, thanks. Maybe a little funny. Do you think I should make myself throw up?”
“No,” he said. “It’s so bad for your teeth. I brought you a ginger ale.”
In a Tom Collins glass. I accepted it gratefully, enjoying the spark of prickles up my nose. He was right. Enough throwing up already. There had to come a time to learn how to keep things down.
As I drank, I admired his avian profile in the half-light. Talk about a palimpsest! – I could see not only his face now, but the way he had looked as a boy and how he would look when he as old. A sharp, spare, dignified old man.
“Did you buy a Christmas tree?” I asked him.
“Did,” he said. “I bought everything you asked for and some things you didn’t.”
“Was it a forty-footer?”
Trevor always went for the biggest trees. It was given to Oz to cut his dreams down to size, using a chainsaw.
“No. Twenty feet I swear. Just a little guy.”
He stroked my face, the little bit of goldish fur along my cheek-edge. A legacy, says Trevor, from my bobcat ancestors.
He sighed, “A mourning tree.”
“A mourning tree…” how Colleen would have appreciated that! Her Regency desk in the kitchen bay was well-stocked with mourning cards and notepaper for every degree of closeness and respect. Mourning is a Southern art form. Our wakes and funerals are legendary. The food is fantastic, better than at any other kind of event, weddings included. It is just when you are most bereft and suffering that you need to force down peaches, marshmallows, ham and whipped cream for the good of those who must remain behind.
In my mind’s eye I saw Colleen writing, writing with her mother-of-pearl fountain pen on a dove-grey notecard in her backward-slanted script, “Sorrow doesn’t last forever. Love does.” Believing it, too.
If she had really loved the lost one, she would enclose a pressing of one of her “resurrection” irises, flowers no one can transplant or plant, flowers which come up when they want to all by themselves. That’s how we know it’s spring. For Colleen irises, not lilies, were the “resurrection flower”.
“Are you crying?” asked Trevor. He touched my tear.
“I guess so,” I sighed.
“That’s why I’m giving you your present early,” he said, lobbing a black and gold gift-wrapped box into my lap.
I sat up and squealing with glee. “But it’s not Christmas yet.”
“Oh,” smiled Trevor, the delayed-gratification poster child, “Call it an Advent gift. You should get one every day of Advent. Why wait?”
“Why wait for breakfast when the eggs are scrambled now?” That’s what Oz would sing, so that’s what I sang. I tore into the package.
It was a huge bottle of perfume. Trésor.
“See how its name is almost like mine?” he teased me. “When you’re away, it will remind you of me.”
When you’re away…I shivered. I wanted to travel, I wanted to conquer, I wanted adventure. I didn’t want to be “away”.
“Must have been expensive,” I said feebly. It weighed a ton.
He shrugged. “The best things always are.”
If he had given this perfume to Fayette, would she have left? He wouldn’t give poor Fayette a dime-store ring.
“So where is everybody?” I asked.
“Mina’s driving Craig to the airport, Shelley and Jake unpacked the groceries and ordered a movie.”
“Lean forward and let me fix your hair.” His cowlick was acting up again. It’s short everywhere except for the little piece at the front, which stands up like a steeple above his face. It’s not enough hair for a true faux-hawk, so it’s often crooked. I’ve been “fixing” it with water, gel, spit — anything I could find — since I was three; loving the submission on this tall man’s face while he bent down allowing me to play with it. For that moment I’m the boss, and I’m in charge. The universe is my toy-box and Trevor is my unicorn to ride. He can take me anywhere.
“There,” I said, “That’s better,” dragging my fingers over the prematurely silver paths.
“Feels good,” he said. Surrendered while he closed his eyes.
That’s the moment I decided. Why wait indeed? Oz says men have an extra, primitive brain in the penis. Evolutionary holdover from when dinosaurs needed a special brain to control their tails. I dropped my hands and threw back the covers.
Trevor opened his eyes and looked at me. I let my hand run down his shoulders into his lap. He was hard, all right. I was thinking even if I had him only once that would make him part of me forever. I would never be “away”. Or maybe I thought that later. Anyway, nobody ever needed to know, and actions unseen can be mentally canceled. It has been definitely proven that Trevor keeps his secrets.
He shuddered at my touch but didn’t pull away. He clamped his hand over mine. I sat up, feeling the trapped heat pouring off my naked body. I pushed my chest forward and he brought up his against me. I wanted that t-shirt “gone”.
“Why shouldn’t we comfort each other?” I suggested. A line too good to waste. Jake doubtless got it from someone else and I was just passing it along. Trevor groaned, but clutched me so tightly I was almost afraid. They say a girl can always pull back, but we ladies know that isn’t true. There’s a point of no return, and it always comes sooner than you think. Had I reached the point of no return with Trevor?
“God I want to,” he moaned.
Lovely giving someone something they so badly want, extra nice to banish that customary moment of regret before someone sees me naked. Trevor knew my body well. He wouldn’t be disappointed that I didn’t have the biggest chest in the world.
“Tell me you’re not a virgin,” he gasped.
Poor Trevor! He wanted me to be a virgin, yet if I was, he couldn’t touch me. Cleft stick! Poor guy! If you ever get trapped into answering a question like that it’s lose-lose. They’re angry whatever you say.
“I’m not a virgin,” I said in my siren voice, tearing off that repellent t-shirt and throwing it away. Dust to dust and dustcloths to dishcloths. Trevor has such a beautiful chest. I had to do something pretty outrageous. Oz told me that when I grew up I would have to “beat them away with a stick”, and Trevor had always been my stick. Trevor went all “stick” on me.
“Was it that dude with the dreads? The guy you were with at the graduation party?”
Yes, Indio, the “dude with the dreads” whose snakebite piercing and plethora of ink seemed so glamorous to me at the time — Indio and others. A girl has to experiment. I mistook Indio for a revolutionary, but even revolutionaries have a line for you to toe. Can’t admit any of this to Trevor. Duck and cover.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” I teased. This bed was too small for two people, much less four. Or twenty-four.
He shook my shoulders like an angry parole officer. “What about birth control?”
“Shelley and I are both on the pill.”
“Do you take it every other day and twice on weekends, like Fayette? Couldn’t trust that woman, so I had to use two rubbers. Tell me you take those pills as recommended.”
“Strictly as recommended.”
I was determined to kick Fayette out of this bed and I was not looking for the rubberized boyfriend experience. In my opinion, condoms are too “penocentric”. Sex goes wrong when it becomes penis worship. Once the condom appears, foreplay’s officially over. And how can that ever be good? You’ve lost the battle to get the guy to take his time. Who wants to race a timer just about to go off?
Speaking of racing, in a flash he was naked beside me. No different from Sardines, crammed in close together; but this was an adult, more pleasing game. My choice; if I wanted to stop being the baby, the orphan, or the invalid, and become a sophisticated poet reeking of Trėsor. It was all up to me.
With my thumb I traced upon his back the nettle-rash of scars acquired by hauling me out of every briar patch. My scars soon faded; Trevor’s never do. Maybe he re-opens them secretly; and counts them like stigmata. They say in a big family the eldest doesn’t get a childhood.
We had kissed many times, but this was the first time I felt his tongue. Seemed so odd, when everything else was so familiar.
“You’ll never know how much I wanted this,” he whispered.
But I knew.
My faith, my hope, was justified; Trevor is a pore-explorer. He knows how to take his time, consecrate each part of me, not just pouncing on my jennies like a townie. A dream lover, like a prescription badly needed I could write myself.
He overpowered me with his desire, so I fell back, allowing him to bless and tenderize my freckly, scabby, leathered hide. That inner voice, the narrator’s voice each of us drags around to comment on our lives, said, This is the way it’s supposed to be.
Trust and surrender, two games of sex I’d never played. He kissed me everywhere, suckling at my inner creases. When he dragged my labia through his teeth I convulsed like an electroshock patient. It was like that moment in Free Bird when your eyes roll back and the top of your head flies off. I submitted while the fireworks tore me apart, a pleasure previously experienced only alone, by using fantasy, Johnny Depp and elbow grease. This is the way it’s supposed to be.
We woke up upside down and turned around, our heads at the foot of the bed, our feet locked like the claws of eagles connecting in flight.
“Wow,” said Trevor. “I never knew it could feel like this. It’s true what they say about tongue-studs.” He sighed. “I came too fast. I’ll be better next time.”
“You were perfect,” I told him. “Couldn’t you tell how much you made me come?”
“Don’t talk like such an old pro.” He shook his head. “It’s hard to tell with girls. Lots of them fake it.”
“I bet Fayette always faked it.”
He gave me a dirty look. Well, he was the one who brought her up. “Mind if I smoke?”
“Yes I mind,” I said. “Unless you give me one too.”
“Well, too bad.” He lit a Camel with trembly, nicotine-stained fingers. “They’re bad for you. And I’m only having one.”
Ours is the house of the Secret Smokers. Supposedly Oz only smokes Macanudos with his port, but I knew about the Gauloises arriving in the mail. Both Skylar and Jake are constantly sneaking half-filled packs from his jacket pockets, then ratting on each other. Colleen used to sneak outside in the evening, pretending “the children” – that’s us– couldn’t see her pack of mentholated Newports.
“I thought you gave those up,” I lectured Trevor.
“Just till I get my soul back,” he puffed. “It seems to have wandered away.”
Away. I knew where it had gone. It detached in our frenzy, and bounced up against the ceiling like Peter Pan’s untethered shadow.
I tried to snatch a smoke.
“No way,” he said, jerking away. “I’d sooner cut off my own arm.” He crushed the cigarette out in a candle bowl. “See? All gone. Last one ever.”
“But I need one if you smoked one,” I wheedled. “To match tastes. Or you’ll taste like an ashtray. What if I can’t stand kissing you?”
He shook the pack. “All gone,” he swore, “You’ll just have to put up with me. I’m going to kiss you everywhere and there’s nothing you can do about it,” and he kissed my leg from ankle to knee. He gasped.
“Look how perfect you are.”
“Except for my obese knees.”
He kissed each in turn. “Don’t be silly. They are uber-knees. They are the pattern of everything a knee should be.”
“But see how fat they are? How they stick out?” I pouted just to coax more praise.
“They stick out because they’re supposed to stick out. They stick out because the rest of your legs are thin.”
“Jake says my legs look funny because you carried me so much when I was little and wouldn’t let me walk.”
Many photos do exist of the distraught, red-faced toddler astride the bony hip of the pale-faced boy. Look closely; you can see her furiously beating heart synchronize to his more reassuring beat.
“Jake!” he scoffed. “That’s the fetal alcohol syndrome talking.” It’s Trevor’s contention that their mother’s alcohol consumption in her second pregnancy explains everything that’s wrong with Jake.
“And I’m practically a dwarf.” I whined.
“Don’t say that.” He surged over me. “It’s blasphemy. You’re perfect.”
Blissfully I surrendered to worship and the exorcism of every painful childhood taunt.
“Yes, yes, yes,” I gasped. “More of that.”
“Well, I have things I want, too,” he said, Big Brother again, back in control. “I want you to write a letter to the University of Arizona and tell them you’re not coming.”
“I did that already. They know all about it. Delayed matriculation. Until the trial’s over.”
“No.” He glared at me over my pelvic ridge. “I mean tell them you’re not coming at all because you’re going to Georgetown.”
Trevor is a Georgetowner. He’s obligated to think the sun rises and sets over its gothic campus.
“Wow. You’re kidding. Can we afford it?”
“You let me worry about that. We can afford anything once Colleen’s estate is probated.”
“Stop kidding. I can’t get in. My SAT’s are only 1430.”
“I told you, I’ll take care of it. Besides if you don’t go to an Ivy League school there’s really no point in college at all. You’ll disappear into the desert of mediocrity and never be heard from again.”
I knew that wasn’t true. It was after Georgia O’Keefe disappeared into the desert that everything exploded for her. It’s the sort of self-serving thing they used to say at Napier. If you can’t graduate from the Big Seven, Eight or Nine (depends who’s counting) the only course is suicide.
“It’s my job to see you to fly as high as you possibly can,” said Trevor. “On your own you’re unfocused to the point of impossible. Your sense of direction just hasn’t been cultivated. Maybe it’s the curse of the poetic temperament. You know you need a business manager.”
Curse Trevor for knowing me better than I want to know myself. It would be so lovely never doing numbers, not having to keep track of things. I would lift my hand and a glass would appear. What a fantasy! I felt obligated to point out things he hadn’t considered.
“Maybe I would hate it there.” More truthfully, “Maybe they would hate me.”
“Not if I’m with you. I’ve been thinking of going back, can’t get anywhere with just a bachelor’s. We could share an apartment. Georgetown’s the perfect place for you to build your street cred and become a poet.
“Plus, I know you. You need looking after. I know all about college boys’ brains, damaged through drink. Believe me, they’re not interested in leaving you a finer, better person. They’d eat you up like gravy on a biscuit.”
Here was a delicious prospect to privately consider. Now that I knew how to make gravy, I fell back against the pillows in a second orgasm. Would a relief to shirk the hard stuff, like paying bills and arguing with bureaucrats. Too much practicality clogs and shatters the fragile artistic mechanism.
Or maybe I’m just lazy. Trevor says I never do anything I don’t want to. But according to Oz you must pick your battles and tackle them nourished and well-rested.
In my mind’s eye I summoned up tall apartment windows opening out over a leafy quad; sun glittering across the hardwood floors, desks pushed together in the intense focus of a pool of light. So much much nicer than the cell block basement pullulating with fractious roomies that I’d get on my own. Damn Trevor for a seductive devil. Who’s devil’s advocate now?
I reached my arms up to him. “I’d love that,” I sighed.
He entered me so fast I wasn’t really ready this time. I gasped. He put his mouth against my mouth as if to knock the wind back into me. “God, I love you,” he gasped. “I love you so much.”
Another first. I mean I know Trevor loves me, but nobody’s said it during sex. It’s not a word you hear bandied about in public school hookups. Truth surprises. The sympathetic gush between my legs acclaimed the gravy, the long- missing ingredient.
I said it, meant it, sighed it.
“And I love you, Trevor.”
I’ve always loved him. It’s love that brings the magic gravy, baby.