by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 6


Their first lively lusts gratified, the young men lay facing each other on the bed, curious fingers already seeking new ways to pleasure, stimulate and reignite passion. The next time it was slower, more deliberate, more centred on the desires of their lovers and therefore even more rewarding. Eventually they lay back, sweating and satisfied.

'Do you really think it's a magnificent organ of desire?'

'I think the last hour has made that perfectly clear.'

'Yours is more beautiful.'

'No it isn't—and yours is longer.'

'But yours is thicker.'

'Every part of you is beautiful, sexy, hard, and lickable.

'Every centimetre of you is smooth, delectable, incredibly sexy, desirable and I can't imagine anyone on the planet I'd rather be caressing, kissing and jerking off with than you.'

'Fuck, I'm stiff again!'

Twenty minutes later they resurfaced.

'Fancy you getting stiff like that in front of Nimffo! Did she turn you on?'

'She looked like a plucked goose spread out for gutting. Soft white sickly skin. Not a sight to turn me on. Your professional stroking was the stimulant.'

'Shame there was no battery in the camera; I'd like a photo of that. But as you said it's best never to keep incriminating evidence. I must say it was brilliant of you to suggest we were the fathers.'

'And of you to get her to confess to screwing those boys.'

'We have to admit we're brilliant.'

'I wonder how Stephen's doing. He seemed a bit down, don't you think?'

'He's lonely, Zeno. None of the women teachers will even talk civilly to him. Old Mr. Adams is decent enough, but not an intellectual giant. It's good Stephen's retiring this year.'

'He's got a wife though.'

'A bit of a dragon, if the rumours are correct.'

'Poor bugger.'

'Poor bugger indeed. I'm never going to marry a woman! They're impossible. They don't think like us. Have no sense of humour, are irrational, hate men and boys…' Jarek sighed and grew silent.

'Mum's not like that, nor is Grandma.'

'You're right, your Mum's brilliant. And I'd like to meet your grandmother.'

'You will, because I'm taking you there in the holidays. We'll have Christmas with her and Sebastian and…' Zeno stopped talking and looked at Jarek. 'What's the matter?'

'Nothing… I mean, nothing for you to worry about. I suppose your grandmother will also be as easy with us as your parents?'

'Of course.'

'Well, my parents will certainly write me out of their wills if they discover I've an intelligent, thoughtful, caring handsome young lover instead of a termagant of a wife.'

'Then don't tell them.'

'They'll expect me for Christmas.'

'Don't go. It's easy.'

'It should be…but…'

Watching the young men drive away to collect Jarek's gear had left Stephen feeling empty. As if unable to support himself he had staggered a little on returning to Edgar's house.

'What's the matter, Stephen? You're looking pale and wan.'

'Nothing, Edgar, it's just…'

'You're becoming a recluse. You don't visit like you used to.'

'It's Violet. She doesn't like me to…'

'To what?'

'She thinks visiting friends, socialising and all that stuff is vanity. Not useful. She reckons we should spend every waking minute making the world a better place.'

'Sounds exhausting.'

'It is. She's recently been consumed with women's rights and has even less time for men than before—if that's possible. Reckons all male pleasures are sinful. She's always out at meetings or doing 'good' to people who wish she'd leave them alone. I don't understand and don't want to; but its driving me mad.'

'Then you're staying for dinner—if you'll trust my cooking. Afterwards, Vanni, Derek and Angus are coming over. They've been asking why you don't join us so often.'

'Thanks, Edgar. That's exactly what I need.'

After the first meal he'd been relaxed enough to enjoy for months, Stephen helped wash up and when the others arrived they sat on the verandah in the dark, sipping beers and talking about this and that until Derek told them about yet another divorce among their acquaintances.

Giovanni shook his head sadly. 'There's something wrong with marriage. Just about every married bloke I know is unhappy with his life. They don't say much but you can tell there's something eating away at them'

'You too, Vanni?' Stephen asked gently, unsure if he was surprised or pleased to learn he wasn't the only disillusioned husband.

'Yes, me too.'

'I'm the same,' Derek admitted. 'Sometimes I can't bear to go home.'

'I know what you mean,' Angus sighed. 'Sometimes I get so upset it gnaws at me like a cancer. Perhaps it's an inevitable consequence of marriage.'

'Perhaps it's because kids aren't taught how to have a balanced relationship with the opposite sex. We're fed crap about love conquering all, but we confuse lust with love, and when lust is satisfied there's nothing else. I know my wife's not happy. I know I'm not.'

'Why should we be happy?' said Stephen despondently. 'I don't ask to be happy. I'd settle for peaceful boredom. But there's always been something acid in our relationship that eats away the joy of life for both Violet and me.'

'I know the feeling,' Edgar said with a shake of his head before turning back to Giovanni. 'Enough of the vague analogies, Vanni, what's the real problem?'

Giovanni sighed. 'When my wife wants sex, I perform. But when I'm randy and ready for it, she says, not now, not now, I'm tired. I'm not well. I don't feel like it. She puts me off till I feel frustrated, insulted and angry and don't want her any more. So what does the bitch do then? She puts her arms round me and caresses me till she rouses me again—and so I fuck her. It's a power play. She doesn't want it unless it's she who initiates desire. And it makes me mad. But if I tell her what she's like she says it's not true. She says all she wants is that I should love her and desire her. But again, that's putting her will first!' Giovanni was intense. His face was strained, his brown eyes so stretched that they showed the whites all round as he gazed into his friends' faces.

'Does it matter which one of you initiates sex?' said Edgar slowly. 'Isn't the result the same?'

'It bloody well does matter!' cried Giovanni.

'It sure does,' Angus interrupted.

'Yes, it does!' agreed Derek.

Giovanni looked from one to the other. 'It used to be that men seduced the women, chatted them up, kissed and aroused them to awake desire. That's why young girls used to be kept more or less innocent before marriage, so that women would learn the pleasure of being desired. But now they just see men as dildos to use when they feel like it; taking no account of our wants. I hate my wife when she just sees me as someone to serve her lusts, who'll fuck her if she feels like it and leave her alone if she's not in the mood.'

'Ha! Women have always been like that. They pretend to be charmingly pliable and innocent to trap their man, and once they've got him they rule the roost. Read some old classic novels—they knew what women are like. Men have always been their playthings. Why can't you let it go and be satisfied you've at least got something?' Edgar asked.

'Because I can't! I'm not a shopkeeper whose job it is to serve a fat and happy wife who says she loves her man but only on her own terms. I don't want to be the car and she the driver so when she presses on the pedals I must respond. Men who are satisfied with that are still little boys sucking at mummy's breast.

'You're right, Giovanni,' said Angus. 'You are quite right. They've got the remote controller and we've got to turn on whenever they press the button.'

'My wife tried that crap on me,' Edgar admitted with a wry smile, 'so once the kids were independent I turned the tables. She didn't like being treated the same way she treated me, so found a bloke prepared to be her slave and I've been free and contented ever since.'

'You are all correct,' Stephen added sadly. 'Women are the very hottest hell and there's nothing they won't do to you once they've got you. If you don't submit she'll hound you into submission and make a lap dog of you. When it suits she'll lie and cheat. The worst thing is that if she steps out of line she'll claim it was you who transgressed and force you to apologise, buy her presents and tell her you love her. A woman has an uncanny, hellish strength when she thinks she has the upper hand. Marriage is a terrible life if you're not one who likes to be terrorised.'

'Why can't marriage be a balance of rights and obligations?' Derek sighed.

'Like a seesaw you mean? When one goes up, the other goes down?' cried Giovanni. 'One acts, the other takes? Dream on! In a marriage women give orders and men obey—not very manly, is it?'

'Perhaps it's the natural order of things, Vanni?' said Derek.

'Fuck the natural order,' said Angus. 'No man with a drop of real spunk in him can stand it long.'

'I think,' Stephen said softly, 'that most men prefer it. All they want is for a woman to want them, and they're happy to satisfy her when she rouses them. Most men like to think they're the chosen one and are prepared to praise, worship, sacrifice and abase themselves to be her man.'

'Exactly, Stephen,' Edgar agreed. 'Women must be loved and adored and above all obeyed, particularly in their sexual desires—or lack of them. There she must not be thwarted or she becomes a devil. The trouble is, if she is obeyed she wants more. She's never satisfied. If you don't do as she wants she becomes a misunderstood woman looking round for the next man she can bring under her control.'

'That's so depressing,' said Giovanni. 'What's the solution?'

'For me the only solution is divorce,' Stephen surprised himself by confessing. 'My wife despises me.'

'Mine's losing interest in me,' said Angus.

'Mine too,' said Giovanni with a frown.

'What about yours, Derek?' asked Stephen anxiously.

'Not very different,' he responded. 'There seems no way to satisfy her. Everything I do makes her angry.'

'Things must change,' Giovanni said morosely.

'It'll never change,' Edgar stated firmly. 'It's the nature of humans. Disillusioned older men marry young women who know nothing, because they think if they possess them while they're young, they'll learn to be soft and gentle and always respond to their wishes. But they're mistaken. Even the will of a young girl is strong enough to force a man. Today all females are liberated.'

'Frightening things, liberated women,' mused Stephen. 'I've a school full of them.'

'So what should a man do?'

'A real man leaves his wife, like Edgar did,' said Stephen.

'And seeks another woman?'

'Only if he's a masochist,' Edgar said wryly. 'I've never been happier since my wife shot through. I'm my own master. If I feel like sex there's plenty of casual, or I pay for it. That's the best. All the fun with no strings. The best thing about no wife is I don't have to spend all day in the shed because she wants to keep the house clean.'

'I don't think I could live alone,' said Giovanni.

'Even living with someone we're alone.' Stephen observed with a sigh. 'Essentially, at the very core we are alone. Not sentimental or lonely, but alone because by nature one is alone. Being with another person doesn't change that.'

'One is alone,' said Angus, 'except when having sex.'

'No,' responded Edgar, 'when screwing someone we are most intensely of all, alone.'

'This is all completely incomprehensible to me,' said Giovanni. 'I've no idea what you're talking about.'

'Because we are individuals, we are alone. Happiness lies in accepting and living with that fact.'

'Edgar, you are becoming metaphysical, and that's as bad as softening of the brain,' said Angus.

'I was taught that the hearts of men and women beat in common purpose as ordained by god.'

'How disarmingly Catholic, Vanni. But I'm afraid the heart beats alone in its own silence,' Edgar replied with a sad smile.

On returning home Stephen tripped on the doorstep, twisting his knee. He limped into the lounge where Violet was sitting reading, dressed in her usual severe manner; hair pulled tightly away from a face devoid of colour or interest. The thought that he might be injured was intolerable to her because it would interfere with whatever she was doing, so in a voice empty of sympathy she asked if he needed help. He said he'd love a cup of tea, but the dishes had been washed and the kitchen tidied so she suggested a glass of cold water would be better, setting it down on the table with unnecessary force before retiring to her room.

Knee aching, alone in his single bed in the cramped little room that doubled as an office, the discussion with his friends at Edgar's kept spinning round and round in Stephen's head, increasing the feeling of emptiness, hopelessness and despair. He wondered when the leaden clouds that obscured his happiness had arrived and if it was his fault. When they married he'd thought himself the most lucky of men, but on the first night of their honeymoon when Violet refused to sleep with him he suddenly realised she didn't love him, and he didn't love her.

What a cruel tradition it was to lead young people blindfolded to the altar with promises of living happily ever after. At first he thought things would improve, but they hadn't and he became aware of the sad truth—the saddest a man can know—that he had missed the great delight of youthful freedom. His chance had come and gone without his realising it. Approaching retirement he was already dead in half his soul and was existing with the other half as well as he could, but the effort exhausted his reserves and the struggle no longer seemed worth the effort.

He had done no wrong. He had done his best. He had not sold himself to the flesh or the devil. He accepted that if you put your finger in the fire you'll get burnt, but where was the justice in punishing a simple mistake with a lifelong curse?

Biblical anathemas from his childhood sprang into his head. Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he in sleeping, and cursed be he in waking; cursed in going out, and cursed in going in. Surely, no one was made a better person by such a punishment, for it is too late and solves nothing. It felt like death by slow strangulation that lasts a lifetime.

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