It was the very end of our relationship, when it was past the point of ever being good again. We both knew it but neither one of us wanted to say it, because that would mean letting go and both of us were still clinging. Old habits, especially those born out of intimacy, are the hardest to kill.
Several weeks earlier, after having returned from a month in Vancouver, I confessed to having an extended affair with a French barista, with whom I was still in contact. Visibly shaken, but not surprised by this news, my girlfriend, Jeannie, confessed to having had a drunken threesome with two of her old college buddies—Lenny and Marcus.
While I’m pretty sure I didn’t come across as visibly shaken, I was surprised by this news, and after several hard swallows and a brief spell of indigestion, I decided to continue our confessional carousel. I told Jeannie about several other women I had hooked up with over the course of our relationship, which had spanned almost three years. Our cards, unmarked, were laid on the table. What next?
We decided to stay together and tried to turn the corner. The thing is, the corner we wound up turning turned out to be darker than we had expected. Dark, not as in black, but a thick deep blue with the power to distort and obscure.
A specific night comes to mind as a quintessential reflection of the corner we had turned: My friend, Pierre, a French-Canadian whom I had met in Vancouver, was visiting New York and staying with us. Pierre was a tall, clean-cut, handsome young man, twenty-one at the time (Jeannie and I were in our mid-twenties), studying to be an architect. Pierre possessed an appealing boyish quality, and reacted with unfiltered enthusiasm to things that moved and fascinated him. He was constantly snapping photos of streets and buildings and churches when we walked around the city. Soo fucckk-innggg amaa-zzzinnggg, was his trademark expression.
Anyway, it was Pierre’s fourth or fifth day with us, and he was out strolling the city, camera in hand. Jeannie and I were at home, seated on the couch, drinking chilled vodka. Weed was Jeannie’s main squeeze. I was the drinker in our duo. But that had changed. I don’t know if it was an if-you-can’t-beat-him-join-em-type-thing, but Jeannie began drinking more regularly and started keeping a couple of bottles of Absolut in the freezer. I noticed that, after our respective confessions, I had a hard time being sober around Jeannie at all. I had to be inebriated to be around her, and sex with her had become impossible without copious amounts of alcohol.
Can’t you fuck me sober anymore, she once asked, and I shrugged my shoulders and said nothing.
So we’re on the couch and we’re both pretty lit by this point, and Jeannie started talking about Pierre, how handsome he was.
Yes, he is, I agreed.
Then Jeannie planted herself on my lap and said: Alex, can I tell you something?
Yea, I said.
Okay. You might get mad at me but I’m gonna tell you anyway. I think Pierre is so hot and I’d love to fuck him. I’d love to have your friend fuck me. And you could watch. Would that make you mad?
I could see where this was going. I understood the implications of the gauntlet being thrown. It was too late for us anyway, I figured, and we were both drunk, so I decided to play the game.
We went back and forth, taking turns building on the Jeannie-fucking-Pierre fantasy. The more intense it got, the harder Jeannie rubbed her skirted ass against my groin, and the more she wanted me to touch her. So I did. I massaged her clit, tweaked her nipples, bit her neck, and all the time, between low animal moans, Jeannie provided a detailed narrative about what Pierre was doing to her, how it felt, how she knew she was bad but couldn’t help herself, etc.
I felt turned on and sick to my stomach at the same time. Yet the sicker I felt the more turned on I got and when we finally did fuck, there was a passion, a sense of urgency that had been missing for months.
Was that where we were at, I wondered. Would this sort of thing now be the requirement in order for us to feel each other intensely?
Part of me thought: Maybe this is what all relationships turn into eventually. You’ve got to find things—barbed, prickly, perverse—to rise up out of the blankness you share with the other person on an all-too-regular basis. Yet another part of me couldn’t believe that’s the way it was, or had to be.
There’s Got To Be More, and, This Is The Way It Is Or Always Will Be, were two factions opposing one another, and the fire-sparked result: drinking. So as not to think about it. A bypass, as opposed to a breakthrough or breakdown.
Pierre came back some time later. I saw him differently: not as a threat, but as an instrument. Or a point of leverage placed in the middle of an unseen war.
We drank, chatted, listened to music, and when I suggested we should call Zora, one of my ex-girlfriends who I was still good friends with, Jeannie was more than into it—she needed it to happen.
Make sure you get her to come, Alex, use all your charms and get her over here.
I could tell by the tone in Jeannie’s voice and by the look in her eyes, what she had in mind: a foursome. Zora was a tall, sinewy Croatian girl, open to both sexes. Jeannie knew I had a couple of threesomes with Zora in the past, and as a “straight” girl, she had been fascinated, but had never done anything with another woman. Now, with Pierre thrown into the mix, Jeannie was ready.
I got in touch with Zora, who was living on Orchard Street with her boyfriend, and after much cajoling and manipulation I convinced her to drop by. She arrived about an hour later. Instantly I could tell that Pierre was attracted to Zora, and they sat on the couch together and chatted. Eventually, Jeannie issued her request. She said she wanted to watch me fuck Zora and wanted me to watch her fuck Pierre. We could start with that and go from there.
Zora smiled, talk like that never shocked or offended her, and while she was intrigued, she said she couldn’t because of her boyfriend, which surprised me.
That never stopped you in the past, I told her.
I know but I’m trying to be good now. I’m trying not to cheat anymore.
Pierre, who looked more boyish than ever, said: I don’t think it’s a good idea for me and Jeannie to . . . I can’t do that.
Pierre smiled the whole time, trying to express: No hard feelings.
There was a bit more discussion and eventually, what happened: Jeannie and I decided to make ourselves the Show and fuck in front of Pierre and Zora. They would watch and if they were inspired to join us in some way, they should feel free to do so . . . but there was no pressure. That’s how Jeannie had put it.
So working our fingers and mouths and genitalia in various configurations, Jeannie and I played to the audience, though, surprisingly, I was able to forget they were there and that we were being watched. When I was fingering Jeannie, she begged Zora to touch her, even if just a little bit, and Zora obliged by fondling Jeannie’s tits while complimenting her on their shape.
After Zora was done, I told Pierre he could do it too, if he wanted, and Jeannie confirmed this, saying—Yes, it’s okay—and with a sheepish grin Pierre fondled Jeannie’s tits lightly, and cautiously, as if they were snare-traps that would snap up his hands if he applied too much pressure. When he made his way back to the couch, Pierre tried, unsuccessfully, to engage Zora sexually.
A short while later the night came to an end. Zora left, Pierre went to sleep in the guest room, and Jeannie and I passed out. I woke up around dawn, dehydrated and filled with lust. I woke Jeannie by rubbing my hard-on against her warm bare ass and we did it in a dreamy feverish haze.
Jeannie and I, in what I imagine was our desperate last attempt to salvage our relationship, decided to leave New York and move to Taos, NM, which we did about four months later. She went back to New York after three weeks. I stayed in Taos.
That night sometimes comes back to me as bitter backwash, or as a point of disillusionment, sharply defined. Yet most of the time I feel that none of it ever happened: There was no relationship, no infidelities, no Pierre and Zora watching Jeannie and Alex pathetically attempt to fuck their way through or past despair.
It’s like it happened to someone else, some stranger who confided everything to me in a dark room, an isolated confessional, where very little light gets in.