“Come on, little one, pack your bags, we’re off!” Joe stood over the bed, gently shaking me awake.
“Off? Where to?” I grunted, turning over to see what the heavy lump was at the end of the bed. It was Joe’s battered old suitcase, already packed, and waiting to be locked.
“The Caribbean!” he replied nonchalantly, “Hurry, otherwise we’ll miss the plane!”
“What is this?” I asked, half asleep, “a joke?”
“No, a little holiday. We’ve been invited to the opening of the new Sheraton Hotel in Aruba. I bet you’ll be out of bed in a second when you see the guest list!” He dangled a piece of paper tantalisingly above my head, which I feebly attempted to snatch out of his hand.
“You can do better than that!” he laughed, walking out of the bedroom. “Come, get it. I’ll fix you some coffee.”
I pulled back the sheet, swivelled my legs over the side of the mattress and tested the cold hardwood floor with my toes. This was the daily routine I always dreaded. I knew the moment my feet touched the ground I would recoil and snuggle back down into the bed again. When it was hot weather outside the interior of Joe’s studio would be stifling. But if it was cold outside, despite the effective central heating, the bedroom rarely warmed up enough to make getting out of bed a welcome part of the day. I never could get used to dragging myself out from beneath the blankets and standing on that cold hard floor. And I never could find my slippers when I needed them. They almost always got lost somewhere in the dark narrow abyss beneath the bed.
I stumbled out onto the minstrel’s gallery and played with the idea of shinning down Jeannie’s rubber tree, which I could have sworn had grown and swelled a good few feet since its arrival. It seemed to have a mind of its own and, attracted by the light from the huge picture windows on two sides of the room, its tentacle-like branches appeared to be spreading to all corners of the studio.
When I reached the bottom of the staircase Joe handed me a cup of steaming coffee.
“If you hurry up and pack,” he said, “we’ll have time to have breakfast in the deli before we leave.”
By “the deli” he meant our neighbourhood Horn and Hardart’s, the cut price, over the counter, fast food eatery that served as our breakfast club. It was clean, cheap and convenient.
“So who’s going with us?” I asked,
“Your friend, Caterine, for one.” Joe replied. I was relieved to hear that. Caterine would be a good companion on a trip like this and, after all, it was she who had been instrumental in arranging the blind date between Joe and me in the first place. Since then we had all spent many memorable weekends together with our mutual friend, the sculptress Barbara Mortimer, in her idyllic Connecticut retreat.
“Who else? Where’s that piece of paper?” I asked impatiently.
Joe picked it up and read off some of the names. I shrugged my shoulders. Typical New York socialites, I wasn’t that interested.
Then he hesitated, “Here’s the good part,” he teased.
“Let’s see it!” I made a grab for the paper but he pulled away.
“Come on, I’m not in the mood for teasing.”
I made a second grab, spilling the coffee down my dressing gown. This time Joe gave in.
I devoured the list quickly. It was peppered from top to bottom with society names but then there, staring me in the face, were the names of some of my favourite authors: “JOHN STEINBECK”, “TRUMAN CAPOTE”, “JAMES MICHENER”, “TOM WOLFE” and “GORE VIDAL” . Other equally impressive names were there too, some of whom I’d already met. Charles Addams, creator of the Addams Family, Art Buchwald, satirist and columnist for the Herald Tribune, Burt Bacharach the composer and, someone who I hadn’t yet met, Al Capp, creator of the L’il Abner cartoons.
For a moment I stood rooted to the spot. In all my life I have never been “celebrity-struck”, nor, like some people I know, ever thrilled at the prospect of meeting famous people. I have never, in fact, been a name-dropper or a social climber. But all this was all about to change. The idea that I was soon to meet some of my favourite authors convinced me it wouldn’t take much for me to become “author-struck” – or, as Christina more crudely described it, “author fucker”. I giggled aloud at the thought.
“What’s funny?” Joe asked, “Aren’t you impressed?”
“Impressed? I’m dumbstruck. I’ve just decided I’m going to become an author-fucker!” I announced laughing. I wasn’t joking.
I didn’t need any more encouragement from Joe to get packing. I grabbed my suitcase from the cupboard, raced upstairs and flung open the wardrobe doors. Fortunately, I never did have many clothes so never suffered from the usual problems of “What shall I pack? What will I need? What shall I wear?” My packing was probably completed in less than ten minutes, plenty of time to eat breakfast around the corner and contemplate how I would “fuck” my first real author.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this trip before?” I asked Joe while munching on a chocolate fudge brownie.
“I thought it would be a nice surprise for you.” Joe smiled. “Besides we have nothing better to do, do we?”
“I certainly don’t. What parties will you be missing though?”
“Don’t worry about that, little one. A few days won’t be a problem. There’ll be enough people to write about in Aruba to cover all my columns. That’s why they invited me, after all.”
“Do you think I could get to interview some of the writers?” I asked eagerly.
The thought of interviewing the incomparable John Steinbeck suddenly filled my stomach with butterflies. What would I ask him? Had I read all his books? Could I remember them sufficiently to conduct an intelligent discussion about them? And what could I say to James Michener, a man who, I was acutely aware, took seven painstaking years to research each of his books on Hawaii, Japan and Spain. The adrenalin rush had faded. I felt faint. I pushed aside the plate leaving my fudge brownie, for the first time ever, half eaten.
Joe smiled at me in a fatherly way. I realised then that compared to him I was just a child. I must have sounded idiotic, naïve and ingenuous. Why would any of those heavyweights want to be interviewed by me, a young, untested journalist, particularly when top newspaper writers from all over the country had also been invited along on this trip.
“God, I’m an idiot!” I announced aloud. “Why don’t you just shut me up?”
“Because you’re a delight. You’re curious about people, you’re refreshing and you’re positive. You’re a breath of fresh air in New York – and that’s why I love you.”
Joe kissed me on the forehead and got up to pay the bill.
“Come on, let’s get to the airport before we miss your chance to ‘author fuck!’”
The plane had been chartered by Sheraton hotels. Everything was free and the people on board were definitely in party mood. Although not everyone on the guest list had showed up (Truman Capote and Gore Vidal were noticeably absent), the plane appeared almost full. While Joe wrote his column ready to file on our arrival, Caterine and I meandered up and down the aisle stopping to chat with friends or being introduced to new ones.
“Caroline, I’d like you to meet good friends of mine, Art Buchwald and Al Capp.” Earl Blackwell grabbed my arm as I passed his aisle seat. “Art, Al, I don’t think you’ve met Caroline Kennedy, Joe Dever’s great love.”
Earl winked at me. I stretched out my hand across him to shake theirs in turn. Al Capp held onto my hand far longer than was necessary. A slight thrill of anticipation ran through me as I felt his thumb very gently exploring the erogenous spot in the centre of my palm. His eyes, dark, intense and unblinking, pierced mine.
“Charming,” he smiled. I thought I detected him biting his lower lip discreetly but somewhat lasciviously. I wasn’t mistaken,
Earl had obviously noticed it too.
“Don’t worry about him, darling girl, he’s a well known lecher but he’s completely harmless. I vouch for it.”
Caterine was beckoning me to join her further up the plane. I withdrew my hand with some difficulty from Al’s forceful grasp leaving us both in no doubt at all that there was some unfinished business between us that would have to wait for a more opportune moment. I blushed at the thought as I felt the cartoonist’s persistent and appreciative stare continuing to penetrate right through me. I made my fumbled excuses and left. But I was still acutely conscious of his eyes piercing my back as I made my way towards Caterine.
On the way down the aisle I noticed John Steinbeck, drink in hand, eyes closed, deep in thought. I felt a sudden urge to touch him on the shoulder, wake him from his reverie, introduce myself and ask him for an interview. But, being a professional wimp, I quickened my pace as I past him lest he should open his eyes and notice me staring at him open-mouthed, like the dumbstruck fan that I was.
Caterine meanwhile had been chatting to the notorious Venezuelan playboy millionaire, Reynaldo Herrera. I had met Reynaldo some summers before. His niece, Mercedes, was a neighbour of my family in Formentor, on the island of Mallorca. Ever the gentleman, Reynaldo, despite his advanced age and his dependence on a cane, rose from his seat to greet me. He kissed my hand.
“Two beautiful unattached girls,” he drooled, “I must be in heaven! Come here, little Carolina, let me give you a big hug.”
I drew closer and he enveloped me in his arms, squeezing me against his chest.
“You hear my heart, mi amor?” he whispered in my ear, “that’s how you…. how you say it….. turn me on.” I was relieved he didn’t refer to another part of his anatomy that was obviously also being turned on by the company of the “two beautiful, unattached girls”.
I glanced back down the aisle and noticed with satisfaction that Al Capp was still following my every move. I watched him subtly parting his lips and rubbing his finger very lightly over the tip of his tongue. I smiled as chastely as I could under the circumstances lest my impure thoughts be recognised as such by other passengers.
“Don’t worry, Al,” I reflected, secretly hoping he could read my mind, “there is no doubt you and I will have our moment.”
During our three-day stay in Aruba, I managed successfully to avoid Al Capp until the last evening although, try as I did, I couldn’t banish him from my mind. On the surface I acted modestly enough but beneath the façade unchaste thoughts of him constantly swirled around in my head threatening to ruin the trip. There was little doubt I was experiencing my first real sexual obsession. Not as a schoolgirl crush on my delectable but unattainable science teacher. Not, as a lovesick teenager drooling over a fading movie poster of James Dean. Not even, as a would-be writer, with one of my beloved and revered authors. But simply as me – to date a fairly composed, normal and intelligent young woman fantasizing over a middle-aged cartoonist with a pair of dark piercing eyes, an exploratory thumb and an erotic limp.
I tried to make sense of it all but failed. And, in order to prevent this obsession from taking hold of me completely, I suggested to Caterine that we rent scooters and spend our days exploring the island’s coastline. If I had hoped that charging around Aruba on a moped would dispel the prurient images of Al and me in bed together, I was bound to be disappointed. The combination of driving over bumpy dirt tracks and a rough saddle between my thighs only served to add a physical thrill to my over-stimulated imagination.
On our first day Caterine and I passed the Shell oil refinery, a vast, imposing monument contrasting starkly with the flat, treeless landscape surrounding it. Caterine remarked that she thought it resembled a giant spaceship landing on the smooth surface of the moon. But, in the strange mood I was in, I could only visualize its huge towers as giant phalluses of gleaming metal thrusting their way up through the earth’s crust and exploding into the sunlight.
I had asked Joe to accompany us but he said he needed to work. Catching up with him later in the day I told him about our moped jaunt and he told me about his lunch with Al Capp. I feigned disinterest although the truth was I was hanging on his every word.
“He asked about you,” Joe said, “He had hoped you’d be joining us. He said I’m a very lucky man. He thought you were gorgeous. It’s the English accent again, I bet, because he’s mad about the Brits too. He spends a lot of time in London, did you know that?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “How could I know, I’ve only just met him.”
“It’s just that he was chatting away about you so much and the people he mentioned in London, well some of them I know are your friends too, that I thought, well…well maybe you’d bumped into him before over there?”
“No I never did.” I replied emphatically. I was getting to feel a little uncomfortable. Where was this conversation leading? Did Joe suspect anything? Had Al been indiscreet? Had I given it away? Rather than change the subject abruptly, I steered it in a different direction.
“Who else have you interviewed besides Al today?”
“No one, really. I’ve been lazy, hanging around the pool writing, chatting.”
Strangely, in all the months I had been living with Joe, I had been anticipating, and hoping, he would ask me to marry him. And one question that had been nagging me on this trip was could my current behaviour, perhaps, be a way of trying to provoke Joe into proposing? But right at this minute I had the answer. Now, I realized, the idea of marriage scared me. I adored Joe in many ways but, with these feelings about another man churning me up inside, I came to the sudden and unwelcome conclusion I didn’t really love him enough to commit myself. The fact had just dawned on me that I would never be faithful to him. If it wasn’t with Al it would be with someone else. This realization truly saddened me at that moment and I shed some tears.
“Hey, little one,” Joe reached over and took my hand, “what’s the matter? I thought we were having fun here, what is it?”
I couldn’t tell him, of course. After all, I was a wimp, wasn’t I? And what made it doubly poignant is that, many years later, Joe revealed to me that it was in Aruba, perhaps even at that very minute who knows, that he had decided he wanted to marry me.
“Then why then did you never ask me?” I was hurt and puzzled.
“You were so young. I thought it was unfair to you. I didn’t want to clip your wings. But now I see you with your children, I so regret not having children with you.” I could see the conversation was upsetting him. Several times before his death of a stroke in 1997 he repeated this to me. I believed at that moment, and our mutual friends have since confirmed it, that I definitely was the love of his life.
Back in Aruba, Joe, in reflective mood, wanted to be alone to interview some of the other guests that evening so Caterine and I arranged to meet up with Reynaldo who turned out to be a generous benefactor. After treating us to champagne at dinner he thrust $1000 dollars into our respective palms and sent us off to the hotel Casino.
“Here, sweet ladies,” he smiled erotically, “have some fun with this. If you lose you come back and find me. There’s much, much more! My room number is 507, remember that!”
There was no doubting the inference of his last remark but, purposely ignoring it, Caterine and I set off for the gambling tables. We both chose blackjack because, being comparative innocents, that was the only game we knew how to play. Needless to say, by the end of the night we left the table empty-handed but neither of us had ever enjoyed losing money so much. It didn’t belong to us so we didn’t care and we could afford to be profligate, taking foolish risks and placing large bets on dubious cards.
We didn’t, however, take Reynaldo up on his offer for more money. Neither of us felt tempted to go tapping on his bedroom door in the middle of the night. I strongly suspected, though I could have been wrong, that the price we might have to pay was, at worst, an hour or more in his bed struggling to avoid any physical contact with him and, at best, an awkward, fumbling grope in his darkened room, neither of which appealed to us.
On the last day it occurred to me I hadn’t yet plucked up the courage to interview either John Steinbeck or James Michener, my main reasons for coming to Aruba. Subconsciously, I suppose, I had been putting off approaching either of them in case they rejected me. In the case of Steinbeck I was also worried because I had seen him and Al Capp a couple of times strolling in the grounds of the hotel together, deep in conversation, and assumed they must be good friends. I dreaded conducting an interview with John if it meant Al would be present too. Under the gaze of those disquieting eyes I knew I would be incapable of talking sense, let alone conducting a serious c0nversation.
When, on the last evening, I did eventually find Steinbeck on his own, I introduced myself and asked if I could sit down beside him. Gentleman that he was, he appeared genuinely flattered by my attention. Sadly, though, our talk had only lasted about five minutes when his friends approached inviting him to join them for dinner. When I looked up, sure enough, there was Al. His eyes hooked onto me immediately and lingered just long enough to make me feel nervous. I was beginning to be concerned there was something seriously wrong with me. Never before had lust provoked such a compelling and troubling reaction. What on earth was going wrong? I prayed he would keep his distance but, at the same time, knew he was just as incapable of staying away from me as I was from him.
“Won’t you join us for dinner, Caroline?” he asked, drawing up behind me and placing his hand firmly on my shoulder. “We’d love it, wouldn’t we John?” Steinbeck nodded.
”Of course,” Steinbeck smiled at me, “and perhaps Joe can join us too.”
Meanwhile Al’s touch was sending a fizzing electrical current down my spine as his thumb gently massaged the nape of my neck. “God,” I thought, “if this man is a lecher, he’s not like one I ever met before!” I decided then and there he was not so much a lecher but probably a professional lover, skilled in the arts of seduction. This thought only strengthened his appeal.
Aloud, I replied, “Thanks, but I think Joe and I have other plans.”
I was lying, of course. And, attractive though the invitation was to have dinner with one of my literary heroes, I knew there was no way I could sit through a meal with Joe on one side of me and Al on the other. It was definitely out of the question.
Before he and his friends headed for the dining room, Al leant over me and whispered urgently, ”Where have you been, little one? I’ve been looking for you! I must see you!”
For some reason I was deeply touched he had used the same term of endearment for me as Joe always used.
But before I could give him an answer Steinbeck said goodbye, grabbed Al’s arm and they were gone. I picked up my glass to finish my drink. My hand was visibly shaking. I knew then for certain that Al and I would have to resolve this “business” once and for all, if only to stop this unsettling sensation of not being entirely in control of my behaviour, my speech or my emotions. It was, at the same time, confusing, uncomfortable, thrilling and terrifying. I began to revive only when I saw the group disappear inside the hotel lobby.
Though my moment with John Steinbeck had been brief, sadly too brief even to write up, the interview I had with James Michener, later that night, lasted an hour at least and it was eventually published a year later. This is what I wrote:
“A successful author, a much-honored teacher, a sometime politician and an inveterate traveller, James Michener was resting for a few days on the island of Aruba in the Dutch Antilles. Like the rest of us he was attending the opening of the new Aruba-Sheraton Hotel. Over two long glasses of fruit punch – surely a familiar drink to the author of such works as Tales of the South Pacific and Hawaii – he told me about his latest book.
“Iberia delves into the history of Spain. It took me 2 ½ years in the writing alone.”
For someone who happily spends 7 years in researching his subjects, 2 ½ years is no time at all. His books, for the most part, consist of several entities building up to one unity. His aim is perfection and his method hard work. So it is with “Iberia”
“It’s not easy to be a writer these days,” he explains, “I am trying to duplicate the great English travel writers, the literary travellers. Works that are opinionated, reflective but, by no means, conclusive.”
He quoted several examples including Isabella Bird’s Travels, Lady Calderon de la Barca’s “Mexico” and D.H. Lawrence’s “Sardinia.”
I was eager to talk, to ask questions but this soft-spoken man with a deceivingly insignificant face, had a great deal to say.
Ever caught up in the fascination of politics Michener declared, “I would run again if chosen.” His first attempt in 1962, as democratic candidate for the strictly Republican constituencies of Bucks and Lehigh, ended in defeat by his opponent William S. Curtin.
“I am a Johnson man,” he pledges, “through and through.”
In the days of John F. Kennedy, Michener was appointed co-chairman of the Food for Peace Programme to bolster the image of America abroad. Defending Johnson’s present unpopularity he offers, “I believe the Texan has been unfairly judged in comparison to his forerunner and the rest of those Boston patricians.”
Michener was, of course, alluding to the Kennedys. “Time, I think, “ he continued, “will reveal this to be true”
I asked him what he thought of Nelson Rockefeller’s chances if he were nominated on the Republican ticket.
“He has some hope but I am sure the Democrats will win the next election – though it will be a close one. We have always relied on a split in the Republican Party but now we Democrats find ourselves faced with the same problem.”
I asked him about his present activities. The former naval commander told me he had spent the last three months acting as secretary to the Conventional Institution of Pennsylvania, his home State. He was the only non-politician selected to revise the age-old Constitution rights.
“It has been worthwhile,” he concedes. “We have come up with a good piece of work unlike the disastrous one in New York which got nowhere and cost around $10 million!”
A friend of Michener once told me that the author would consider himself primarily a teacher rather than simply an author. I asked him his own views. He confessed he combines the two.
“While a professor at Harvard University I specialized in teacher training. To illustrate my methods I wrote several books,” he concluded modestly. In fact his output at that time was astounding. He wrote such classics as, “Who Was Virgil T. Fry?”, “The Unit of Social Studies” and “The Beginning Teacher”.
After the war Michener completed the first-ever entire history of the Strategic Air Command which was subsequently used by the American government for the purpose of advising foreign nations of the great power of America’s Air Shield. For this he was awarded the highest civilian medal for Public Service.
For his first novel, “Tales of the South Pacific” in 1947 he received the Pulitzer Prize. Unlike most writers who would be content with this highly-desired recognition, Michener went on to produce such equally acclaimed masterpieces as “Return to Paradise”, “The Voice of Asia”, “The Bridges of Tokori”, “Sayonara”, “The Floating World”, “The Bridge at Andau”, “Rascals in Paradise”, “Selected Writings”, “The Hokusai Sketch Book”, “Japanese Prints”, “Hawaii” and “The Source”.
I asked him the reason for his undeniable infatuation for the South Pacific and he replied simply, “You’ll find out when you get there!” He added prophetically, “You will go. I can tell by your enthusiasm you’re a fellow wanderer, a natural traveler.” He was certainly right there.
Having achieved fame as a writer, Michener still remains enthusiastic and always accessible to young writers.
“I like to be around young writers,” he explains, “particularly beginners. American writers don’t interact enough with each other. They don’t stand out against the world in the way the French or English writers and artists do. They don’t hold a position in our national life, which I consider wrong. I was terribly moved, for instance, by the influence of the French writers during the Algerian crisis. I can’t imagine it happening here and it disturbs me a little that it doesn’t. I, myself, felt impelled to work in politics during the last election and shall do so again this year. But most American writers just work at writing and are judged simply on what they achieve. They should really be a community of their own.”
At this point Michener’s third wife, Japanese-born Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, turned his attention to his watch. He dutifully got up, shook my hand and whispered,
“Keep working hard. It’s worth it, believe me. Maybe one day I’ll see your name on the cover of a book and I’ll be able to say I encouraged her when she was just starting out. That will give me great satisfaction. Go ahead, Caroline, just do it!”
Not too long afterwards, Al and I eventually did have “our moment”. A few weeks later he and I met up again at a weekend party in Long Island. Joe had decided at the last minute not to accompany me so, instead, I brought my cousin, Mina, who was visiting me from London. There have been very few times in my life when just a split second glance between me and a virtual stranger convinced me, without any shadow of doubt, that we would end up in bed together – not some time in the future, not the next week nor, even, the next day – but, immediately, right there and then. Although, since Aruba, I could no longer really consider Al a stranger, this second chance meeting with him was definitely one of those times.
We had no sooner spotted each other across the room than we instantly knew the sexual spark ignited between us on the recent trip had, in no way, diminished. On the contrary, I had been thinking of little else since and the short interval between our encounters had only served to increase my need to satisfy this almost painful lust I felt for him. It was an urgent, tantalizing, all-consuming lust that demanded instant satisfaction, no matter the consequences.
I probably should have felt guilty. I should have thought of Joe and the distress it might cause him or the damage it might inflict on our relationship. I should have thought of Mina, of abandoning her at a party where she didn’t know a soul. Possibly I did, I don’t remember now. But if I did, I didn’t dwell on it for long. This was my moment to be utterly selfish, reckless and abandoned, to release my pent up animal instincts and my over-active hormones! Whether it was Al’s dark lived-in looks, his slightly debauched expression, his sexy limp or his deep, penetrating eyes that did it for me, I really couldn’t tell. But, without even saying a word, we ignored everyone else around us, swept up by an uncontrollable urge, raced headlong towards each other and greeted each other like long lost lovers.
After a prolonged and passionate kiss accompanied by some heavy groping, that must have astonished, offended and, probably, dismayed the assembled crowd, particularly Joe’s friends, Al grabbed my hand and steered me towards the door. It seemed like there was not a moment to lose. There was no question where we were going – we were heading for his hotel room or anywhere there was a bed or even, simply, a surface to lie on. We both instinctively knew we had our “unfinished business” to resolve and this time we weren’t prepared to wait. In fact I was so eager I didn’t even bother to undress and just threw myself onto his bed pulling him down on top of me.
In my fantasies of him I had imagined Al ripping the clothes right off me in a frenzy of unbridled yearning! Al, I could sense, notorious lecher, professional lover or just simply hot-blooded male, was every inch a “ripper” in a way Joe could never be. Joe was too much of a gentleman for that. Being rough, even once in a while, just wasn’t his style. But Al didn’t disappoint me. He too, he told me, had been fantasizing about this moment ever since Aruba. His powerful hands tore savagely at my dress. Breathless, we stopped for a moment, looked at each other and then smiled conspiratorially. There was no doubt about it – this was going to be the best. This was going to be special. This was going to be something neither of us would want to forget.
But like most sexual encounters, no matter how passionate, this one too had its humorous moments as Al sat on the edge of the bed, impatiently tearing off his trousers and then, very slowly and precisely, he began to unscrew his left leg.
Shock! Horror! I froze instantly, my ardour thoroughly dampened. In a split second that delicious, long-anticipated moment of fantasy fulfillment had just died. Until that minute it hadn’t even occurred to me Al had a wooden leg, I merely thought he had a very pronounced, somewhat romantic, Byronic limp. I watched, horrified but totally mesmerized, as he gently turned it round, and round and round, carefully detached it and then threw it impetuously across the room where it landed with a shattering thud.
Laughing at my barely disguised distress, he kissed me fiercely and then slid under the sheets beside me. Thoughts and questions besieged my mind. What would his left stump feel like? Would it feel repulsive against my bare flesh? Would I be disgusted at the thought of it lying there immobile beside me? Could I ignore its existence during our lovemaking or, even, am I regretting being so impulsive, of fantasizing so intensely about this man?
But, in seconds, those anxieties evaporated as I discovered that, far from being an insensate appendage as I had imagined for that one dreadful moment it must be, it was powerfully strong, even flexible and wickedly adventurous. I felt an erotic thrill as it skillfully probed, then entirely enveloped, my right thigh pinning me artfully to the bed. It was certainly a highly original turn-on that I could never have anticipated in my fantasies and, in the end, it added a rare eroticism to our delectable sexual interlude.
I don’t know how many times the two of us made love that weekend, I wasn’t counting but it certainly left Rupert and Manny out in the cold.
By the time we had to think about heading back to New York and our other lives, we both had empty bellies and I was the one suffering from a noticeable limp, one that I was not sure I could disguise successfully from Joe.
I knew there would have to be a day of reckoning some time soon. Al and I had been wanton, self-obsessed, and utterly irresponsible and we would have to face the music, each in our own way. It wouldn’t take long for the word to be out, for tongues to wag and rumours to circulate. Very soon I would have to explain my actions and my whereabouts that weekend to Joe who, I’m sure, had been trying to get in touch with me. I dreaded it but, at the same time, accepted it was inevitable. I owed him that much.
As Al and I parted late on Sunday night, he to return to his wife and me to face Joe, we agreed not to try to contact each other again. And, although we did keep to that bargain, there was no way we could possibly avoid meeting up at other social events over the months ahead. And every time we saw each other, it was obvious the spark was still very much alive and we both ached to repeat our shared experience. But, for the sake of our respective partners, we resisted.
If Joe ever heard about the incident – and I’m sure he did, gossip after all was his trade – he never alluded to it. I suspect now, in light of the conversations we had over the years, that my occasional straying was a price he was willing to pay to keep me happy and to keep me with him. He realized, too, that my young libido was much more active than his and he often apologized for not being able to fully satisfy me.
“I’m an old man,” he would joke, “and that’s what you get when you pick an older man. You better go out and find a younger one!”
Later that same year, I’m ashamed to say, that’s exactly what I did.