Two women took the table directly behind my own in the coffee shop this afternoon. I couldn’t see them, but I heard one of these women say that she returned home last Saturday morning for her water bottle when her husband had been expecting her to have already been at the gym, and walked in on him in the living room, in front of the fire, giving himself fellatio.
“No!” the other woman said.
“What could I do? I first didn’t understand what I was seeing. He didn’t even bother to disengage.”
“Well, he didn’t. And honestly I had no clue that he was that flexible.”
The other woman giggled.
“It would explain a lot, though,” Janet said.
“Like what?” the other woman said.
“Like, for starters, why he has sores in his mouth all the time.”
“Oh, gross, Janet. Please.”
“And why, for seconds, he always seems to have a kink in his neck.”
“Please,” the other woman said again.
“And here I’d been thinking that he was having an affair with his masseuse. Now I’m thinking that an actual affair, to walk in on him screwing another woman, or even another guy, might have been better.”
“No, not really. But it was weird. Really really weird. I’d never seen anything like it. It’s like a bad picture that I don’t want to now have in my head.”
The other woman laughed and then, presumably, by the hard sucking sounds, was hitting the bottom of her cold coffee beverage with her straw.
“And you know what he tells me the next morning,” Janet said, “right before leaving for church of all things?”
Her friend waited. I waited. Janet was a fine storyteller. She had a good sense of timing.
“Only one in 400 men are flexible enough to do that.”
“No!” Janet’s friend said.
“Yes, but you know what he tells me next, the most disturbing part of all?”
“Oh, God!” the other woman said. “Don’t say.”
“Yep, you got it. He swallows.”
The other woman’s wild shriek of a laugh caused me literally to jump.
“That was exactly my response,” Janet said. “I laughed, which was part scream and part what can you possibly be telling me right now over eggs and toast before church? I’d rather him say that he was gay. I mean who does that? It’s just weird. Why can’t he yank it with his hand? What kind of guy gives himself oral pleasure in the living room on a Saturday morning in front of the fire?”
I had come to this coffee shop to read, ironically, the now pop classic, if not somewhat outdated, Men are From Mars, Women from Venus. It was part of the research for my master’s thesis in psychology. I was studying to become a marriage counselor. Unbeknownst to myself, while listening to the two women talk, I had been drawing an erect phallus and balls over the word “Venus” on the book jacket. Men Are from Mars, and Women, apparently, at least according to my subconscious, from Penis.
When I refocused, either I had lost the thread, or Janet was deliberately throwing a non sequitur into the mix. She said, “I feel like I’m Joan Baez sometimes, you know?”
“No, what do you mean?” the other woman said.
“I feel like I’m a folk singer from some other era when folk music was something cool that people did.”
“Like Joni Mitchell.”
“Yes, like her. I feel like I’m Joni Mitchell sometimes.”
“I know what you mean,” the other woman said.
I waited for them to go on, but when it was clear that they were not going to, I turned to them and said to Janet, “And who is he, your husband?”
“Excuse me?” Janet said.
“Sorry, I was listening to your conversation. And now I’m wondering: You compared yourself to Joan Baez, so is your husband like Bob Dylan or like Neil Young or what?”
“Nobody,” Janet said. “He’s just himself.”
“But that doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand.”
“What don’t you understand? And why were you even listening?”
“Why compare yourself to somebody and then not finish through with the comparison? It’s like a metaphor or something, you know what I mean?”
“No, I frankly do not know what you mean, and I’d wish you’d leave us alone. You’re a creep.”
“But if it’s a story you’re telling me here,” I said, “you’ve got to bring it to climax.”