Writing “American Holidays” I found that it was liberating to write each story from a different first person point of view. It gave me a new voice to play with; a new way of looking at what I thought I knew about the story and the people in it.
When I write in the first person, I try to get in the person’s head and just let them speak. When it works well, it gives the story an immediacy and intimacy that makes it very powerful but it’s a scary process to experience. These people aren’t real. I’m making them up. So where do these voices come from?
The main character in this story, Mark, is a nightmare figure in my head. He is the man I could have become, could still become, if I let myself do what was easy all of the time. So what does it mean that I understand him so well? I hope it means that there’s a better chance that I will never become him. Anyway, I hope you find Mark convincing and that perhaps you can see what it’s like to live your life the way he does. Please feel free to let me know what you think.
“So how often do you fuck my soon to be ex-wife, Peter?”
Peter looks the way he always looks, calm to the point of not being there. I wonder if he even sees me.
“Is she good? Does she moan for you? Or does the frigid bitch freeze your dick off?”
I don’t want to be saying this. I don’t plan it. It just comes.
“Or maybe it’s your bull-dyke wife that she has between her legs?” I hear myself say.
My mouth fills with blood, my jaw is on fire and the floor of the bar is much closer than it was. The bastard hit me.
By the time I make it to my feet he’s gone. People are trying not to look at me. No one offers to help.
Who would have thought Peter would know how to punch? I knew he was the silent type, but I didn’t think he was the violent silent type. Shit, this is a man who lets his wife tie him to the bed before they fuck – not exactly Mr. Macho. I haven’t seen him hit anyone since grade school. And then he just walks away like he’s John Wayne and I’m a bit part player from central casting.
So much for trying to arrange a meeting with Barbara for tomorrow. Just once I wish I could keep my smart mouth shut. My wife’s been living at Peter and Helen’s since she left me on Memorial Day. Great sense of timing she has. We’ve all been friends for years, Peter, Helen, Barbara and I. At least I thought we had. Now I wonder when I became the odd one out; an unfortunate addition that arrived whenever they invited Barbara anywhere.
I’m sure there’s nothing going on; Barbara is just staying with them while she sorts herself out. At least she hasn’t tried to throw me out of our house. I should be grateful, but you know how it is in the dark hours of the night. I keep imagining them in a continuous three-way. If Peter wasn’t so terminally monogamous and Helen wasn’t such a control freak, I could almost believe it.
All I’d wanted out of the meeting today was to arrange to see Barbara face to face. She won’t talk to me on the phone, but Peter agreed to meet me here. We used to do a lot of drinking here once. Well I did. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Peter really shitfaced. So I get him here and insult him badly enough that Peter the placid actually hits me. Good job!
I decide to stop being the bar-room floorshow and go to the restroom to clean myself up. The man in the mirror looks older than me, he hasn’t had enough sleep, and his bottom lip is split just below the left incisor. My shirt is history, blood all over the collar. I’m meeting Kirsten for lunch in an hour. “Welcome to the fucked up life of Mark Grady,” I say. Even my reflection in the mirror doesn’t smile.
My cell phone goes off and the “Mission Impossible” theme tune, my latest choice of ring tone, bounces around the restroom. This strikes me as absurdly appropriate. “Your mission Mr. Grady, should you decide to accept it, is to get a life.” I start to laugh, way too loudly. I’m still laughing when I answer the call.
“Well you sound like you’re having a good time,” Kirsten says, “did you start to party without me?”
“Listen Mark, I know it’s a bummer but I’m going have to blow you off for lunch today.”
“Why?” I say, sounding petulant even to my own ears. I hate the but-mom-you-promised whine in my voice.
“I’ve got to work, Mark. To get things done before the holiday tomorrow.”
I hear a male voice I almost recognize calling out impatiently, “Come on Kirsten or we’ll lose our table.”
I pretend I didn’t hear that, and put a leer into my voice to say, “I’d rather you were blowing me than just blowing me off.”
“So would I,” Kirsten said, “in fact, didn’t I do that this morning?” I don’t know if she’s being humorous or genuinely can’t remember.
We always have sex in the mornings. In seven years of marriage with Barbara she never once woke up wanting to fuck. Kirsten does it like it’s part of her morning exercise routine; a warm up before she goes jogging.
The first time we spent the whole night together I was delighted to wake with my cock already in Kirsten’s mouth. She likes to be on top. She does what she calls “the jockey”. She tells me it’s very good for her pelvic floor. She squats over me so that only the palms of her hands and the inside of her cunt are touching me. Then she rides me. She squeezes me like she’s making orange juice with my cock. She looks wonderful up there: fit, young, tanned, little tits that don’t move when she fucks, topped by nipples so hard you could hang your coat on one. I was in heaven that first morning.
But here’s the thing: she does it every morning. Great, right? Wrong. Some mornings I want to sleep or just hold her. But Kirsten has a schedule and she’s never late. Last week I timed her by the bedside clock. The fuck takes eight minutes. Everyday. Exactly. If I’m slow to rise, she grows impatient. I think that if I couldn’t get it up one day, she’d just use her vibrator and then go jogging. But listen to me, I’m fucking an ambitious intern who does sexercises on my cock each morning and I’m feeling sorry for myself? Loser!
“Mark, you there? You’ve gone all quiet. Listen I have to go, I’ll be late this evening but we can spend all day tomorrow together, OK?” She hangs up before I can reply.
I put my phone away, look at my bruised and bleeding face in the mirror once more, and wonder how the hell I let all this happen. “I couldda been a contenda.” I mumble at the bum in the mirror. Not funny. Not funny at all.
Outside the bar I have difficulty getting a cab to stop. Too much blood on my shirt. So I indulge myself. I’m good at that. I walk three blocks in the noon heat to my favorite hotel and I rent a room for the afternoon. I love luxury hotels. All life should work the way they do. From the comfort of my room I order a fresh shirt from the hotel store, some paracetemol for my aching head, and a good room service meal with a decent bottle of wine.
I pour myself four fingers of J&B and relish that first-taste-of-the-day moment. Ah that’s better. So Peter hit me. I can cope with that. Maybe even use it to get some sympathy from Barbara. The day is definitely getting better, until my phone goes off and it’s Anthea the Hun, my boss, looking for me. I made a pass at Anthea once, before she was my boss. Bad mistake.
Anthea comes from that mix of Norwegian and German stock that produces blonde amazons that can work in the fields all day long and then drink you under the table at night. We’d been working late together on an important project. We got along very well. We had had some Chinese delivered to the office so we could work even later. The meal felt relaxed and fun. It also felt sexy. Something about watching Anthea’s powerful jaw suck down those noodles made my flesh tingle.
We were in the little kitchen area, the only people on the entire floor. We’d been laughing at something. Anthea bent over to dump her cartons in the trash and I couldn’t resist it, I ran my hand up the inside of her leg. She was wearing stockings. Who would have thought it? I love stockings. I love that transition from the rougher surface of the silk to the smooth warm flesh of the upper thigh. It gives me a hard-on every time. Then I got a bit carried away and let my fingers rush upwards and push into her.
The effect was dramatic and unexpected; she clamped her thighs around my hand and then turned rapidly on her heels. I was pulled off balance and ended up on the floor. Anthea stood on my wrist and pressed hard enough to hurt. I was pinned to the floor, wondering how I got there, and trying hard not to look up her skirt. She looked wonderful from that angle. If it hadn’t been for the pain I might have enjoyed myself.
The idea of fun ended the moment I heard her speak. “They told me you were a hopeless letch,” she said, “but I though they were wrong. You’re bright. You have a nice wife. You don’t need to screw around.”
She sounded very angry and I found myself wondering if she was stronger than me.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I just…”
“You just thought you’d shove your fingers up my cunt. Did you think I’d like that? Or that I’d be a good sport and put up with it anyway? Or do you just see me as a cunt on legs, a slot to be filled?”
I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t meant any harm. I mean things had gone too far too fast, but it’s not like I raped her or anything. But I’d really pissed her off and she looked scary. She took her foot off my wrist and I went to get up.
“Don’t move,” she said.
I lay still.
“I hate shits like you, Mark. I could have you fired, you know that don’t you. But then I’d be the ballbreaking bitch who her co-workers can’t work late with in case she accuses them of rape.”
“Anthea, look, I…”
“I’m talking now. You’re listening. I’m going to teach you a lesson, Mark. And then you’re going to leave. Show me your cock.”
Nothing she said could have surprised me more.
“Come on, Mark, get it out. Show me what you were thinking with.”
“I don’t want…”
“Or should I get it out for you? Maybe I should just unzip you and find out what you’re made of.”
She bent towards me and I found myself shuffling backwards on the floor.
“Just a quick feel,” she said. “A compliment really. What’s the matter, Mark? Be a good sport.”
She reached for me again. I was frightened. She looked like she could kill me. I bumped into the cupboard behind me. Instinctively, I covered my cock with my hands, unable even to speak.
Then she stood up straight and looked down at me. “I want you to remember this, Mark. I want you to remember just how it feels. Tomorrow, you’re going to phone in sick. You’ll stay sick for a week and I’ll finish this project alone. Do you understand?”
I nodded. She left. I did phone in sick. She got a promotion for completing that project. We worked together from time to time after that, but always in a bigger group. She never mentioned it again, but there was always some hostility there.
When she was made head of my section, I knew she’d fire me. She called me into her new office. Before I could speak she said, “I’m not going to fire you, Grady,” she never calls me Mark any more, “because you are going to work your balls off for me aren’t you? And I will make sure you get the bonuses that go with that. OK? Good. You can go.” And that was it.
I’ve worked for her for six months now, and every week I wish I had the courage to tell her to stuff her job. One moment of weakness and she crucifies me.
So, as I answer Anthea’s call on my cell phone, all enjoyment of the hotel fades. Jesus, even my balls retract slightly. I hate her for making me feel like this.
“Why aren’t you here, Grady? Did you quit and forget to send me an e-mail? Just let me know where you want the stuff from your desk sent and I’ll have it couriered over.”
“Bitch,” I think to myself, but I put a smile in my voice and say, “Hi, Anthea. I was just about to call in. I’m not feeling too good. I think I’m coming down with something. Good thing tomorrow’s a holiday.”
“You poor thing,” she says, “Which is it, the booze getting to you, or the intern wearing you out?”
“Look, I came in above target last month, didn’t I? I always make my numbers. I can afford the time.”
“So far, Grady. You’ve always made your numbers so far. But try looking in the mirror some time. You look like a man who’s losing it. I don’t have losers on my team. Are you hearing me?”
I really want to come up with some smart remark; to tell her how wrong she is, but a small voice in my head is whispering to me “loser, loser, loser.” I empty my glass of J&B in one swallow to try and make the voice go away.
“Yes, Anthea, I hear you,” I say. I sound resigned and a bit pathetic.
“One more thing, Grady,” she makes me wait three seconds, wondering what the sting will be. “Happy 4th of July,” she says. Then she hangs up.
Shit. Not good. Not good at all.
I strip and head for the shower, wondering when the damn painkillers will kick in. I love showers. It makes me feel I can start everything again from the beginning. Clean, wrapped in a bathrobe so thick and soft it cuddles me, I pour another three fingers of J&B into my glass and I feel better.
I start thinking about tomorrow, Independence Day. I always have a BarBQ at my house. Barbara does the cooking, so the guests survive ok. I get to go round making sure everyone has enough to drink. Barbara’s parents moved down to St. Pete’s in Florida two years back and mine are both dead now, so it’s a friends and neighbors deal mostly. No one stays long, but lots of people drop by. I think having the game on the projection TV on the patio helps. I call it Al Fresco’s Sports Bar. When I told Kirsten that, she asked who Al was.
It’s not that Kirsten is stupid, in fact she’s very bright, but she’s into numbers and the markets and good health and doesn’t have time for a lot else. The first thing she said to me was, “I really admire your portfolio.”
It was late on a Friday. Kirsten had been on staff for a week. I’d noticed her. She’d noticed me noticing and hadn’t seemed to mind. So, Friday she comes into my office just as I’m going out and hits me with the portfolio line. I don’t know what to make of it, but she’s young and pretty and standing very close, so I decide to smile and wait.
She steps slightly closer, too close for normal conversation but not close enough to touch. “I’ve been told you have the biggest one in the office.” No doubting the tone there. She looks me up and down, slowly. Then she says “maybe we could stay late one night and you could show it to me?”
“How about Monday,” I say.
“I’ll look forward to it,” she says. She stepped back and then turned to walk away. I enjoyed watching her walk. When she got to the elevators she looked back over her shoulder. “I hope you and your wife have a great weekend”. To me it seemed like she’d just offered a no-strings-attached-fuck. I couldn’t believe my luck.
That night I took Barbara to bed early and fucked her hard. She was delighted that for once, I did the asking. That made me feel bad. We don’t fuck much and I felt like a shit when I saw how pleased she was. But I was a shit with a hardon and hell, if I could win points and get off at the same time, why not? Well, because it’s the wrong thing to do and I’d feel bad about it later is why not. But with me, now always wins out over later, so I fucked her anyway.
She was a little dry at first, but once we got going, she lubed up just fine. We did it doggie style, my favorite. When I was in the rhythm, slamming into her and making those flesh-slapping noises that are sort of nasty and exciting at the same time, I closed my eyes and imagined Kirsten in her place. I dug my fingers into Barbara’s buttocks and wondered how Kirsten’s smaller, rounder ass would feel. I came hard deep inside Barbara. It was good. At least for me. I knew Barbara hadn’t come yet. I knew I should’ve done something about that. What I actually did was to pretend to fall asleep. I do that real well. I wish I had really slept, then I wouldn’t have had to lie there listening to Barbara trying to cry silently.
Shit, I hate it when I make myself think about stuff like this. It’s like part of me just wants to keep rubbing my nose in it and say “bad boy”. Well fuck that. We all do stuff we shouldn’t. It’s part of being human.
I’m glad when room service interrupts my thoughts by bringing me my meal. They know how to do this here: real linen tablecloths, heavy cutlery, and crystal glasses. For an hour I manage to lose myself in tastes and smells and textures. The wine is full-bodied and mellow. I probably shouldn’t have drunk the whole bottle, but I enjoyed every sip.
Food is a passion of mine. I don’t cook but I love to eat. Barbara is a great cook. I sometimes think food is the closest we ever came to satisfying each other’s desires.
Now I’m back on Barbara again. That keeps happening to me. It won’t do me any good. Deep down I know she’s right to divorce me. The thing is that my mother-in-law was right; she is too good for me.
I lay back on the bed, wine glass resting comfortably on my belly, and pull out the mental picture album labeled “Barbara and Mark: the early years”.
The couple in the album is young and inexperienced. Young Mark has learned how to make the quiet and mysterious Barbara laugh. Her laugh is a wonderful thing. It knows no inhibitions. It fills him with warmth, close to lust, that he thinks for a while is love. He will do anything, no matter how absurd, to provoke that laugh.
In the early pictures, Barbara is always laughing, one hand in front of her face, as if trying to cover up accidental nakedness.
In the wedding photos, Barbara has a far away look, as if she cannot quite believe that she has gone through with the wedding, Young Mark looks as though he has just won the lottery.
I know I am going through these memories because I am drunk. For all my practice, I have never learned to be a happy drunk. Alcohol makes me too honest with myself.
I go to the bathroom and splash my face, hoping to drive away the ghosts of my marriage. They refuse to leave. I know what they want. They want a confession. I look in the mirror above the sink and say the words that will lay the ghosts.
“I am a lousy fuck and I’m sorry.”
This is what I’d always wanted to say to Barbara and never could.
Barbara, in those early years, was a good lover. She wanted to fuck the way she laughed. She was uninhibited and enthusiastic. And she intimidated the hell out of me.
I’d mainly done one-night stands and orgy fucks before. I’d never had to try and fuck the same woman night after night. It’s not that she was a bad lay, the opposite in fact. But when we had sex I had this image of her as a powerful car that I never got out of first gear. She was patient. She got into foreplay. She read me erotica. She dressed up in sexy lingerie. She shared her fantasies. And every single thing she did made me shrivel up a little more.
Eventually, in the third year of our marriage, she stopped all the fancy stuff and settled for my clumsy, short-lived fucks. She even faked orgasms. And, dumb-fuck that I am, I didn’t notice. I thought I’d cracked it. I was walking around thinking “first I learned to make her laugh, then I learned to make her come.”
The bubble burst when I came home early one afternoon. I heard her as soon as I came through the door. She was moaning. A deep, low, continuous, moan that I could not mistake. “So this is what she really sounds like when she comes,” I thought. I was angry. Some bastard was fucking my wife in our bed and making her come better than I could. I moved up the stairs quietly, looking forward to my dramatic entrance. The moans were subsiding as I reached the bedroom door. I went in via the bathroom, which has doors to the hall and the bedroom. Barbara was on her belly. Her face was buried in one of my sweatshirts. She was alone. The room smelled of sweat and sex. Her fingers were still trapped beneath her cunt. When I realized what I was seeing, I left at once. I didn’t want her to know that I knew she preferred her own fingers to me.
My drinking increased after that, and I started to chase women. I hoped that one of them would prove to me that I was a good fuck after all. None of them have. Oh, most of them enjoy themselves, but they aren’t looking for the same thing as Barbara. They fuck me because they like fucking, and I’m safe and generous and no worse than average. Barbara fucked me in the hope that we would fly together. She is the swan who married the penguin because he made her laugh.
OK, so now I’m getting maudlin. Penguin! Jesus wept, where do I get this stuff?
I should get dressed now and go home and wait for Kirsten. But what I want is to talk to Barbara. I want to tell her that I miss her and that I don’t deserve her and I want her back. With the certainty of the very drunk, I know this is the right thing to do.
I dial Peter’s number. The gods are on my side; Barbara answers.
“B,” I say, “It’s me. Mark.”
“What did you do to Peter?”
“What? Nothing. Listen. I have something to say.”
“I saw his hand. Did you hit him?”
“Yeah, real hard. With my chin.” I’m laughing and I want to stop but I can’t.
“You’re drunk aren’t you?” she sounds sad, not angry. “Is she there with you, listening?”
“Who? Can’t you remember her name now?”
“Oh, Kirsten. No she’s coming later. Listen. I wanted to tell you…”
“I don’t want to hear it, Mark. I’m not listening to you any more. It hurts too much.”
“Tomorrow is Independence Day, Mark. Take it as a sign. From tomorrow we are completely independent.”
She is almost crying now. I can hear it at the edge of her voice.
“Please B, I just want…”
“Good bye, Mark.”
She hangs up.
I feel 100 years old. The phone stays in my hand because I can’t think what to do with it. I listen to the drone of the dial tone and it seems to be singing the song of my life.
Anger helps. Anger is good.
I throw the phone away.
“Bitch”. I think.
I say it out loud, “Bitch.”
Then, “Heartless, man-eating BITCH.”
That’s better; much better.
The hotel arranges a taxi for me. Soon I will be home. Maybe Kirsten will want to fuck when she gets in. Or maybe it can wait until I get my eight minutes tomorrow morning.
© Mike Kimera 2000 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without written permission from firstname.lastname@example.org
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