Given a most coincidental of chance reencounters, Trevor and Lesley, long-ago lovers, have erased the years and resumed their intimacy. Revelations and observations between them are as naked as their post-coital state.
Lesley stood at the hotel window. Some activity occurring outside in the Southern Arizona night intrigued her. She gazed out, her back to Trevor. The autumn hour mild, their exertions having singed the sheets and heated the four walls, the couple had cracked the window wide.
Ambient city noise rose up to the sixth floor and lapped over the sill inside. Light from exterior sconces clearly illuminated Lesley’s front. Dimmed room lamps threw her side into shadow and cast her rear in murk.
Trevor appraised her still pleasing figure from the bed. Reclining there legs loosely crossed, one arm thrown behind his head on pillows, the other along his side, he addressed Lesley’s back.
“Say, wasn’t there a time you wouldn’t have been caught dead standing in front of an open window stark naked?”
He’d gained Lesley’s attention but not enough for her to turn. She responded.
“As always it depended on who walked by. I’m not a big ranchera fan, but when Mexicans drive by with their windows open and that stuff blaring I fantasize where they’re going. It’s the only kind of music that makes me think that way. A few plaintive bars of keening, some wheezing accordion, and then as sudden as it rolled up, the light changes and it rolls away taking longing with it. I love that kind of sadness. It’s brief.”
“Maybe there’s a part of you that needs to steal away to a cantina,” Trevor said. “Or a tequilera.”
Lesley shrugged. “Funny. Getting older, I’ve come to prefer Spanish food to Mexican recipes.”
Trevor went along with her meandering line. “Does that mean your palate has improved or worsened?”
“All it means is more Spanish restaurants have set up in Tucson since I was a kid and my initial tastes were formed,” she said.
He grunted to acknowledge her point. She continued.
“About standing here now like this, we’re high above the ground. Unless there’s some commotion, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone looking up.”
“How about pervs with telescopes?” he asked.
Lesley challenged him. “Isn’t that an urban legend?”
“I own a telescope,” he said. “It’s spends more time parallel than elevated. I can’t tell you what phase Venus is in but I can eyeball exhibitionists.”
She considered momentarily, then accused him of lying.
Trevor laughed, confessed. “You’re right. Woman’s intuition thing?”
“No,” she said, “the usual 50-50 break. Anyway, as I’ve aged I’ve become less inhibited. Strange how what might’ve caused me to pause in fright –”
“– Before you did it anyway,” he interjected.
Lesley nodded in reluctant agreement. “… Before I did them anyway … Now all that old caution gets tossed into the wind. That’s true liberation. Besides, I like a nice breeze against my body occasionally. Reminds me I’m alive in ways the sun against my skin no longer does.”
“When we were younger, when we were reckless because we didn’t know any better –”
Her turn to interject. ” — Because we didn’t care.”
His turn to agree. “Okay. We didn’t care. Taken to the extreme, we were inconsiderate. Selfish, uncaring looking back on it now. All that, oh, never acknowledged guilt. Free as we pretended ourselves, weren’t we the most uptight pair then?”
“Even after Beryl,” Lesley said.
“Eh,” he said. “Certainly during Beryl. I think her presence lingered for the longest afterwards.”
“Ah, I was agreeing with you,” Lesley said. “We hid too much of a good thing. We had too much sex in the dark. In dark rooms. In dark cars. And even too much of that was furtive in the beginning. Rushed sex in dark places makes it dirty. In a bad way. Worse than our parents’ own, um, moments. Uh, imagined moments.”
“Yes, I regret we never had enough slow sex in well-lighted places,” Trevor said.
“By that I’d almost take it you’re not taking me seriously,” Lesley said.
He let that pass. She let him, and said, “The only truly memorable time we made it anywhere under daylight must’ve been our last.”
“And look how swell that turned out,” he said. “Doesn’t that sort of disprove what an improvement it would’ve been to have screwed more often with our altogethers in plain sight?”
Faced away as she was, Trevor still imagined Lesley rolling her eyes at him. He decided on a different tact.
“How about this then — can you imagine us out in the fun tubs during the day? Wasn’t it a more spiritual activity at night, under the stars, coyotes and all those Indian spirits white man’s religions had supposedly vanquished admiring us, possibly envying our unfettered delight as cavorted and communed as we commingled our vital forces in a cauldron, in a cauldron …”
She waited a beat before concluding, “… In a cauldron of love. Anywhere else, with anyone else, say, a far more casual acquaintance, and ‘cauldron of love’ would sound soooo fucking corny. But it’s you. It was with you. Joking aside …”
Hers was an instance of words trailing off saying plenty. While their long-ago affair had been entered casually with neither intending it to deepen, once or twice human nature almost sidetracked them into seriousness.
Lesley asked him had he ever contemplated them testing exclusivity.
“You mean commitment?” Trevor asked.
“Or were you just extending that to Beryl?” Accusation weighted Lesley’s question.
“I wouldn’t put too much stock in commitment,” he said. “Especially mine. I never have. Probably too late to bend that way now. After all, you saw how wonderfully well that worked between Beryl and me.”
“If it hadn’t been me, would it have been some other girl?” Lesley asked.
“Are you asking in the glutton for punishment sense or the interchangeable part one?” he asked. “Who knows? I was different then.”
“Yeah,” Lesley sniped. “You were a bastard and a half, then. Now, you’re just a bastard.”
Airily, Trevor said, “And they say age doesn’t improve men.”
Despite her pique, Lesley laughed at his audacity. Or was it his indifference? Trevor joined her laughter in relief. He’d stumbled across her again after a lifetime. She revived someone he believed long missing. Doing this Lesley also made him remember how superficial he’d been. His earlier blitheness had been a much younger man’s bliss. That same sort of flightiness had let her taken wing.
Her absorption with whatever transpired outside finally roused Trevor from bed. He edged off the queen size and padded behind Lesley. He pressed himself against her back and wrapped arms around her waist. She further accommodated him by belting her forearms atop his own.
Although Trevor’s jury remained out deciding whether he preferred her new hair style, permed now into clipped curls instead of the remembered short straight sheen, he found its soft fuller body pleasant upon his cheek.
Naturally as their renewed love-making lacked much of any earlier couplings’ fervor, so too was this contact and the caresses accompanying it low voltage. Had she been a stranger discovered, one who engaged him in casual relations, there ought have been excitement. The excitement of the new and unknown. Rather she was a partner rediscovered, one whose familiarity resisted being imagined anew. Lesley regained couldn’t help but be compared against her prior version.
Having known her “when” erased a lot of anticipation.
She asked Trevor whether the likelihood of “perverts with telescopes” bothered him. He chuckled.
“With all the locker rooms and clubhouses this boy’s walked through and used, I think I’ve overcome my fears of being lusted after from afar or nearby,” Trevor said. “Besides, isn’t being so nakedly objectified flattering?”
“Yours is a male perspective, all right,” Lesley said.
“I didn’t arrive at the Adonis point of view overnight,” he said. “I had to grow. Uh, what’s the new word? Ah, I needed to ‘evolve.'”
“I noticed you’d lost your tail,” she said.
“There’s plenty to be said for opposable thumbs,” he replied. “However I reached this stage, the delay prevented what I’m sure would’ve been a provocative display of art. Erotic art at that.”
Lesley snickered. “Oh? Some sensitive artist recognized how you excited his muse and desired immortalizing you in oil on canvas? Or in oil on sheets?”
“‘In oil on sheets?'” he quizzed. “One of us has gotten around, hasn’t she?”
“Twister,” she said. “Old game, new way. Another new word for you: ‘Repurposed.'”
Trevor explained. “Beryl was the artist. Or would’ve been the artist had I agreed. She, she wanted to sketch my cash and prizes. Something about the complexity down there challenging her skills. Wait. That didn’t come out right.”
“Nothing like a little unintentional truth, is there?” Lesley sighed.
“Anyway,” he continued, “she intended to hone her hand below my belt. Sort of like the male version of Courbet’s ‘Origin of the World,’ if I may flatter myself.”
Lesley turned her head and eyes up at him. Sharply foreshortened as her face presented itself, he recognized his reference escaped her. Trevor explained.
“Gustav Courbet, French painter, reduced a model to her essence by focusing on her crotch,” Trevor said. “His detail, no, his loving devotion to the subject, is so slavish viewers could’ve burrowed up there. And I do mean burrow. Her muff is so thick you could mistake it for fescue.”
“Fescue!?” Lesley said, laughing hard enough for her belly to tremble beneath his arms. She calmed, and returned sight outside. “When gorse just won’t do, huh? Sort of like yours.”
“I’m a man. I’m supposed to be hairy. That trait separates men from boys.”
“So, you didn’t want Beryl combing through your fescue?” Lesley said.
“Geez, you make it sound so Wild Kingdom,” he said. “Uh, back then didn’t we have an overly inflated sense of ourselves? Oh, yes, we did! The idea that our rod and reel might hang casually off her wall shook our otherwise unshakable cool. And then wonder if she copied that shit and passed it out willy-nilly?”
“Trev, you never seemed the sort who shied from popularity.”
“Popularity is one thing,” he said. “Her suggestion threatened to take away my biggest mystery.”
“Your biggest mystery?” she asked. “Did that come out right?”
“That came out exactly the way I meant it,” Trevor said. “And as you noticed, now that we’re older our inhibitions have dropped. Or would we be standing in front of this open window?A lot of the old standards we maintained, the ones that propped up our then less sure selves, have weakened.”
“Or we’ve discarded them,” she added.
Trevor agreed. “Or discarded.”
Slight melancholy entered Lesley’s voice. “Propriety is good for a while. Even necessary. But after a time, after a time being strait-laced, or stiff-necked, or obstinate, gets in the way of living. Fuller living. When I think of all the stuff I never did because I worried more about how others might’ve seen it, then judging or misjudging me, rather than any personal pleasure gained or what I may’ve learned about myself …”
“I feel the same way,” he said. “Not all that necessarily about Beryl’s project … Although there may be something to be said about one’s main stem and berries being between the crosshairs of lustful fantasy …”
Lesley interrupted him. “– Wondering about what the rest of the dick is attached to could spoil the daydream. Pardon the expression, but women contemplate the whole package. Not just parts. Unlike men.”
Then she added, “Too bad you didn’t let her commit yours to paper. She might’ve titled it The Big Bang.”
“I don’t believe you said that,” Trevor said. “Because given half a chance it’s something I would’ve said.”
After a pause, Lesley said, “Was that the crazy thing you mentioned about Beryl? That she wanted a, um, peculiar trophy to mount on some wall somewhere?”
“No,” Trevor said. “No. That’s nowhere near it. Fact is compared to the crazy stuff, drawing my veiny splendor and exhibiting the goods looks downright sane.”