Sarah and Simon had been married five years and together eight. They had two children, Octavia and Penelope, ages two and four. Their angels and their succubus. Sarah and Simon shared a collective post-partum stress disorder that manifested itself in the certainty that their daughters would be felled by whooping cough, kidnapped by infertile women, attacked by the neighbor’s Rhodesian Ridgeback (which are bred to kill lions and small children) or would just generally be short-lived.
Doctors prescribed them both a regimen of anti-depressants to eliminate their symptoms of anxiety, which included insomnia, restless legs syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and Dendrophobia (an inordinate fear of trees). The medication held the insanity of raising small children at bay, but Zen did not come cheap. Simon and Sarah paid for it in the currency of lust. Leaving none between them.
When every living creature was asleep, well after a long day of the various ministrations that came with the role of wife, mother and pet owner, Sarah had taken to pleasuring herself while watching Cabo San Lucas Nights on TV; soft porn included in the basic cable package.
She’d burrow beneath the family afghan in the deep wallow of the living room couch, one hand clutching the TV remote lest a sleepless child interrupt, the other hand thrust beneath her shapewear. She became a rigid mass of perspiration and effort, her orgasm as elusive as calculus.
She was twelve years old again, in the basement of her childhood home, furtively reading Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club, a novel sensitively detailing the gang bang of an abducted movie star by a nefarious quartet, one of whom manages to bring her to orgasm.
Sarah worried that, should she ever interact with other adults again, she might have an affair. That her languishing libido would rear its ever-morphing, capricious, hela-monster head and she'd be compelled to consider their late 50s gardener, Porfidio, as something other than the person who mowed and watered their lawn every Thursday at three. Suddenly she'd notice he was tall for a Mexican, over six feet.
Did that mean he was Oaxacan?
Perhaps he wasn't Mexican at all. Were men taller in Ecuador? She'd notice his stoop from hard labor, his composure and dignity, his bemusement at her fumbling Spanish. She'd notice his hands, the long, calloused fingers that might've coaxed sonatas from a baby grand, or steadfastly repaired an aortic tear, an esophageal rupture, a pre-frontal aneurism. Not to mention what they might elicit from the female body.
Sarah decided it was time to act. "I'm concerned about our sex life," she said to Simon as he watched TV. His eyes glazed over the way they always did when she interrupted South Park, his one selfish pleasure.
She told him that she didn’t want to be lulled into sexual complacency, leaving herself vulnerable to Seven-Year-Itches, Zipless Fucks, ménages a quatre. She said she wasn’t above being blindsided by a hidden force lying dormant in her pituitary that could fight her for the wheel, ultimately driving her off the road, into the desert of betrayal with a soccer coach (she left Porfidio out -- he did such excellent work with their bougainvillea).
"You never initiate," Sarah badgered. Simon shifted position on the couch, but didn't look at her. It was his lack of entitlement, she continued. It was the Catholicism he'd disavowed, religious guilt still lurking in the sub-glacial berg of his psyche. It was because he thought she was better looking than him. On some level, he felt he was trying to grope the Prom Queen.
“I’m not a fern, Sarah," Simon said, “I have a sex life.”
In the garage office Simon logged Sarah on to one of his bookmarks, fleshbot.com. His secret lover. The site wasn't Richard Gere having a small ferret encased in a condom removed from his rectum, but there were over-worked salivary glands, pneumatic breasts and Olympian throats. With something approaching relief, Sarah confessed her nocturnal trips to Cabo, happy at last to be laid bare to one another.
They would have to stage their own intervention ...
Sarah and Simon scuttled like cockroaches from their Sienna minivan across the parking lot to the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood. It looked like a former Liquor Locker from the outside; a cinder block, split-level building replete with loitering sex offenders from Central Casting; a guy with half a nose, a woman with a tongue thrust issue.
Entering the Pleasure Chest was like exiting a midday matinee into the blinding sun: the same sense of disorientation, blinking and staring, of being blinded, in this case not by the sun, but by unguents, oils, lickable lotions and leather collars with spikes.
On closer inspection Sarah realized all the innocuous porn paraphernalia was up front (hey, a feather tickler that could be repurposed as a cat toy...hmmm) and the hardcore Lurkers'-Porn (definition: vibrating instruments that can be use for pleasure or as a bludgeon) up two stairs in the back.
Sarah grabbed a nearby lingerie rack displaying lacy garters in an attempt to orient herself. Simon fingered a garter. “I like these,” he said helpfully. “Amateurish,” Sarah muttered. They had to step up their game!
They moved on to the bondage display. "Here's a starter kit." Simon held up a small box with a photograph of a blond woman strapped to a bed with white Velcro straps that looked identical to the harness their daughter Penelope wore as an infant to remedy a dislocated hip.
"This isn’t working,” Sarah said. “Let’s split up.” They separated like CIA operatives on a train.
Sarah wanted a movie where one woman had sex with multiple partners. The Fan Club, her seminal sexual experience, was to blame for this orgy predilection. Her enjoyment of such movies was dampened by concern for the actors; their boozy childhoods, their undiagnosed ADHD, their dental hygiene and low self-esteem.
So she held off going to the back of the store where the pornographic movies were displayed, one atop the other, in tall Plexiglas cases that customers could flip through like poster art or Pottery Barn For Kids rugs.
Instead she perused the tasteful lingerie, selecting a bra and panties with attached garters. The bra had little openings over the nipples and the crotch in the panties could be tied closed with black lace strings fashioned into bows, recalling nasty parochial school girls in detachable pinafores. She passed over the lickable oils, which smelled like fermented White Shoulders and were tacky to the touch.
The dildos gave her pause. They were quite lifelike, with veins running through them, seemingly engorged with blood. One even had a little realistic mole on the foreskin, a nice touch. They came in an array of colors, black, brown, varying shades of pink, olive, ochre, aubergine. Their size ranged from slender as a toothbrush to thick as the forearm of a small linebacker. Some vibrated, some bent at all angles and some seemed pilfered from the reliquary of the Spanish Inquisition.
It was at this moment Sarah realized she was lurking. A casual lurk, which made it creepier.
“There you are,” Sarah said, panting slightly, when she found Simon perusing a DVD cover depicting several female cheerleaders performing mid-air hurkies without their underwear. "Are there any, you know, movies with women and a man...or two...or three?" she squeaked.
"Oh yeah, there're quite a few gang-bangs over there," Simon said like he was giving directions to Sarah's Mommy-N-Me Mindfulness class where they played with strings as an active meditation.
Red-eared Sarah darted to the section indicated and flipped through the phalanx of films. There was one; a cover depicting an Amazon entwined with three men in positions befitting yoga masters. That’s when Sarah saw the other married couple, paunchy, pale, suburban, flipping through the lesbian porn.
“Is this what you want?” Simon's voice seemed to boom in the quiet store as he picked the gang bang DVD up and held it aloft.
To answer “yes” was too revelatory. To answer “no” was the equivalent of aborting the mission.
“That’s the one you want,” she replied. “Of course it is,” he said. And for that he got a kiss.
The Pleasure Chest cashier reminded Sarah of a sommelier, educating them on the finer vintages of porn. The Kama Sutra line of oils, he felt, was overrated. The Motion Lotion, however, created a delicate sensation of heat with friction. Sarah listened, head cocked, an eager, mindful consumer.
She wanted the cashier to approve of their choices, to know that neither she nor Simon judged him for working in an “adult store” or thought he was a pervert in any way. Might he be free for dinner sometime? Did he have any dietary concerns? Could he eat vegan?
“That will be three hundred and eighty seven dollars,” the cashier said, handing them their purchases in what looked to be a child's small brown paper lunch bag.
Sarah and Simon stared at the cashier. He stared at them. Blink, blink. "Threehundred..." Simon began. "...and eighty-seven," the cashier finished.
Blink, blink. Customers in line behind them started to gun their dildos menacingly.
Simon opened his wallet. "Charge it," he said.
Sarah and Simon entered his vacant office. It was a mid-century Art-Deco four-plex he rented from a conveniently hard-of-hearing elderly couple upstairs. There was a kitchen, a bathroom, one large conference room and, portentously, a television.
Sarah followed Simon into the familiar environs, the mere presence of the Pleasure Chest bag charged the atmosphere with Forced Sexiness.
She ferried her lingerie into the bathroom to prepare for her conjugal rendezvous. The plastic wrap encasing her Jezebel undergarments came apart when she breathed on it. The material of the lingerie felt inauthentic, as if cobbled together with dental floss and sea kelp. The tags said, "One-size-fits-all."
The bra was one-size-fits-all if you were Heidi Montag post-op. A stiff wind would've billowed the sails and carried her around Cape Horn and back. Sarah couldn't tell which side was up on the garter belt. Deciding it didn't matter, she tried to fasten the garter belt around her waist but couldn't figure out how the plastic fastener worked.
The struggle with the garter became Homeric, the Odyssey, the Iliad, anything by William Faulkner rolled into one. There was no option but to jettison the garter and salvage what she could.
Finally she faced herself in the mirror. Her neglected Lady Garden spilled out past the little bow in the open-crotched panties. She stood with flaccid breasts, somehow still full of herself.
When she emerged from the bathroom her high heels clacked on the hardwood floor like a clown's stilts in an empty roller skating rink. Simon was naked, ensconced knees-to-chin on the tiny black leather love seat in front of the TV.
Sarah climbed on top of him, his knee in her groin, her elbow cauliflowering his ear, their stomachs grappling for turf. He clicked the TV remote and a movie began. It wasn’t Insatiable Sadie and her three Stallions. It was the movie Simon had picked with Jenna Jameson, a starlet known for actually liking sex.
Simon and Sarah tried to kiss while watching the TV, straining their ocular tendons. The movie took place in a castle seemingly made of Styrofoam where gothic dwarves and bald sex fiends wearing yellow contact lenses had taken Jenna Jamison captive.
When a self-pleasuring gnome ejaculated onto his manacles, Sarah cried, "Let's try the other movie. The other one!"
Simon disentangled himself from her and located “Insatiable Sadie,” but there was nothing sharp to pierce the DVD's plastic wrap. He tried using his teeth, but injured his gums. As they began to bleed Sarah implored, "The Motion Lotion."
Tossing the DVD aside, Simon found the Motion Lotion that heated with friction. The sheath beneath the screw-on top took some effort to remove, but he finally managed to open the bottle and pour a liberal amount of the lotion into his palm. The faint smell of rotted jungle undergrowth infused the room.
Simon knelt before Sarah, as if about to cut a ribbon at a mall opening, and doused her most private part. His face disappeared in order to apply the necessary heating friction.
It felt like Sarah’s vagina had eaten a jalapeno.
"Too much Motion Lotion!"
But Simon had already raced across the room to the kitchen sink, where he lapped at the faucet like he was trying to put out a fire on his tongue.
Sarah clacked to the bathroom, flung on the tap in the bathtub and jumped in, straddling the faucet. It was from this vantage point that she saw Simon lurch into the door frame, wearing his drug store reading glasses, scrutinizing the ingredient label on the Motion Lotion.
"It's got asss-partame in it," he lisped. Aspartame gave Simon blinding migraines.
"The aura," he cried, "The fucking aura!" As he leaned over the toilet to throw up and Sarah rinsed...
They drove home in silence. Sarah imagined what Simon's assistant, Andre would find in the morning: the Jenna Jameson movie still lodged in the DVD player, a pair of Sarah’s earrings in the office bathroom. He'd imagine a tawdry, far more expert tete-a-tete than the one that actually occurred, where a man made love to his wife through a raging migraine. And a wife made love to her husband with a benumbed vagina.
At a red light Sarah looked over to see Simon regarding her intently. She felt the blood rush, just beneath her skin, from her breasts to her cheeks. He leaned over and kissed her until the car behind them honked. Then honked again.