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Double Penetration

Late May, 2001

Patient: I suppose you’re just dying to say ‘I told you so.’

Counselor: I don’t think I need to. I’d rather talk about the ‘now what?’

Patient: Now I need to figure out what happened. I don’t even know why she’s avoiding me. But if I come on too strong, it’s going to scare her away. Arrgghh! It’s so frustrating!

Counselor: Maybe it’s better to just leave it at that? It could have ended a lot worse.

Patient: (sharply) I don’t like how you assume it’s over.

Counselor: (sighs) It was over before it started, in my opinion. I’m worried this whole incident is going to set you back.

Patient: (calming down) I’m not thinking of killing myself again, if that’s what you mean. It’s more like the opposite. I feel like I’ve got more reason than ever to live. Maybe you should be encouraging that instead of trying to squash it.

Counselor: (shakes his head) False hope is the most dangerous thing. False hope is what landed you in my office to begin with.

*******

“Vicky, I know you told me never to ask you about this…”

Her expression changed when she realized where I was going with our conversation. We had been nibbling on a shared pastry while trading meaningless chit-chat. “Amelia, don’t do this to yourself…”

I paused and searched her eyes. There was genuine worry there. Fear. Concern. That meant there was something bad in my past that she didn’t want me to know. It was Sunday afternoon, a few weeks after that last night with Ben. I had felt relieved when I awakened in the middle of the night to find him gone, just as I had requested. I soon resumed my peaceful slumber.

Then, when I had risen in the morning, I had found the kind note he had left thanking me for ‘being a wonderful person and a very sexy woman.’ He had optimistically left his number, which I tossed into a drawer without much thought. That note and the condom in the bathroom trash can were the only evidence that he’d ever been there.

I kept thinking about the things I had seen and felt that night, and once I found myself thinking in circles, I called Vicky and asked her to meet me for coffee. She could tell from my voice that I was distracted, and I think she feared I was dealing with Scott issues. We met at a cafe a few blocks from my place.

“I’m sorry, but I have to know, I…”

“No. You don’t. Let sleeping dogs lie, remember? Some things are better left in the past. Be glad you don’t remember him! Most people wish they could just forget about their ex.”

“Tell me about my ex-husband,” I demanded. I stared at her, willing her to break down and give in. I clenched my jaw and gripped my mug.

Vicky stared back for a few moments, then slumped her shoulders and looked away. “Fine,” she said dismissively. “Tell me what you know and I’ll…” she waved her hand around in the air, “I’ll fill in some details,” she mumbled.

“Thank you,” I said sincerely, softening my voice as I relaxed a bit. I hadn’t realized until just then what a burden it was not knowing these things.

Vicky was still looking away, and the sun of the late spring morning hit the back of her head and made it shine. She looked positively angelic, and I felt frumpy and self-conscious in her presence.

“My mother told me that he took advantage of me when I was too young to know any better. She said he ‘wooed me with sappy romantic garbage,’ then ruined my life. I changed my major or something? I don’t know. But she seems to think I was going to be great and successful but then threw it all away because of him.”

Vicky shrugged and looked sideways at me. “Yeah, sounds about right,” she mumbled. “You being with him was definitely a mistake. What else?”

“After a few years he got tired of me, cheated on me, and left,” I summarized.

Vicky straightened up and turned a bit towards me. “He didn’t just cheat on you, Amelia. It wasn’t a one-time thing. He fell in love with someone else, and even though he was married to you, his heart was never there. He told you the other woman was his true soul mate. They moved away together and that’s the last you’ll ever hear of him.”

She spoke harshly, without compassion. And even though we were talking about people I no longer knew, the words still stung. I felt protective of my former self, and on her behalf I felt betrayed. I wanted to fight for her sake. But fight whom? Fight what? Fight how?

“My mother said I ‘took it like a sissy,'” I continued. “She said I moped for months until she convinced me to get rid of his name and try to forget about him.”

“Oh yeah. And you listened. You went back to your maiden name, got rid of his pictures and everything that reminded you of him. You were dead set on moving on. It was like the whole marriage had never happened.”

“Did he… Was he abusive?” I asked, afraid to hear her answer.

She was silent innovia escort a few seconds. “Not that you ever told me. But who knows, right? And isn’t it enough that he dropped you? Doesn’t that tell you how he really felt about you in the end?”

“What was his name, Vicky?”

“His name? What? You don’t need to know that. It’s better if you… ”

“His name, Vicky, I need to know.”

Vicky looked away and up. She shook her head a little and said, “Maurice. Maurice Knight. OK? But just let it drop, OK? Your mother and your best friend are telling you he’s the worst thing that happened to you. You have to trust us.”

I sighed and wished I had some response to that.

Vicky’s face softened and she leaned in towards me. Wrapping both hands around her mug, she said, “Amelia… honey… what’s going on? Do you want me to help you find a nice guy? Is that what this is about?”

I looked up at her a little embarrassed. It wasn’t quite about that, but maybe there was an element of wanting someone in my life – someone like Scott had seemed to be, someone who wanted to share my future.

“I don’t know,” I confessed. “I’m just… Strange ideas, or… or flashes of memories come to me now and then, and I don’t know how to understand them, how to tell fiction from fact.”

Vicky looked worried. “Memories? Oh… oh my, that must be… disorienting. You… you have to talk to me about these things, Amelia. I’m here for you. Let me help you sort things out.”

“Thanks, Vicky. Thanks for still being around,” I said as she motioned for her bill. We sat in silence, looking around at the people enjoying a stroll through the streets on that beautiful afternoon. Just before we stood to leave, I said, “Vicky, I have one more question.”

“Hm?” she said, signing her receipt and putting it back on the table.

“Should the name ‘Ru’ or… ‘Reuben’ mean anything to me?”

Still looking down, Vicky sucked in her lips and bit on them, thinking. After a few seconds she looked up and said cheerily, “Nope. Doesn’t ring a bell… unless you’re thinking of a sandwich!”

I was disappointed, but not too surprised. I had probably invested too much meaning into that brief and fuzzy thought. Ru was nothing more than a character I had lusted after, someone from one of the books I had read, no doubt.

Vicky leaned in and gave me a quick hug before heading down the street. I stood there alone for a moment, not sure where to go next. The smell of bread and meat from the deli next door, combined with Vicky’s joke about a Reuben sandwich, turned me towards the smells to buy some meats and cheeses to take home. With a smile I thought that, even if my memory was gone, I could still trust my nose.

*******

I awoke in a sweat. I had stretched out on my couch after working in the garden for a few hours. Weeding was my time to think, and in the week since Vicky had told me about Maurice, I had thought a lot about whether or not to try to learn more about him, and if so, how. But all that time in the sun had sapped my energy. As I napped, I dreamed. Maybe the scent of herbs lingering on my body had set the scene. I had pictured myself with my lover, with Ru, on the ground outside. Flowers and mint and rosemary brushed against our bodies. He slid my pants down and planted kisses along the sensitive spots of my inner thighs. I arched my back and felt the warm sun on my face.

The dream came to an abrupt end when the sound of brakes squealed on my street. My hand had found its way into my pants, stoking the fire in my loins. Dammit! I tried to lie back and rub myself the rest of the way, but the moment was lost. Being startled awake from a dream like that quickly kills the mood that your subconscious has worked so hard to create. I didn’t feel sexy or loved; what I felt was uncomfortable and horny. With an exaggerated sigh, I got up and went to the shower.

The craving was back. It had come and gone over the past few months. I was doing better resisting it, especially since I didn’t even know what my body wanted. I thought of Vicky and her cigarette cravings. Did I used to smoke?

I did have one craving that I could identify: I wanted more of that Lebanese food. I took off work early one day, just to make sure I would get there while Scott would still be teaching and that I wouldn’t bump into him. Johnny greeted me like a regular and boxed up my substantial order.

“Party?” he asked in his gravelly voice.

“No… just… feeling like eating a lot of Lebanese food this week,” I said with a smile and a shrug.

Johnny ran around the counter and held the door open for me as I walked out. “I feel like that every week!” he laughed. “You come back when you ready for more, K?”

“Sure thing!” I yelled over my shoulder.

*******

That night I dreamed of ‘Ru’ again. Not Ru, specifically – just a fantasy istanbul escort lover who seemed to be special to me. His face and body were more Scott than anyone else, but I felt as much love as I did lust when I thought of him. The problem was, I never found any release from those dreams. I woke up frustrated, sometimes finishing with my fingers, but it wasn’t enough; it just didn’t satisfy. It had been nearly a month since that night with Ben. God, I was craving some contact. I knew I was just trying to use something sexual and physical to make up for something emotional that was lacking, but I didn’t care. As long as it gave me a break from feeling so isolated… it would be worth it. And it cost me nothing. Right?

*******

Saturday night. Not the business crowd of after-work revelers starting their weekend. No, this was the let’s-go-out-and-get-drunk-’cause-we-don’t-know-what-else-to-do crowd. I resolved not to waste my time. I showed up purposely late – almost 10 p.m. Go in, pick a guy, size him up, slip out together. It was that simple. I was thinking I should find someone with dark hair, just to help my fantasies find substance. But I didn’t plan to be finicky.

I took my seat at the bar. When Zeke saw me, he shouted to Darla, “Hey!” Darla turned around to face him, and he nodded in my direction. Darla frowned, reached into her pocket, and handed a few bills to Zeke, who pocketed them with a smile.

Coming over to take my order, Darla chided me, “You couldn’t’ve stayed away for one whole month?” Zeke just smiled and raised his mug to me. “Just kiddin’, babe,” she went on. “I’m always happy to see you.” Her voice had that older-sister sincerity that put me at ease, even if I bristled at the thought of my desperation being the subject of a bar bet.

Just as Darla handed me a drink, a waitress leaned against the bar next to me. Chomping mercilessly on some chewing gum whenever Darla wasn’t looking, she handed me a folded scrap of paper and said, “Someone wants to talk to you.” I glanced at the note. It read, This doesn’t count as calling you, does it? I looked up and the waitress nodded towards a small table near the back.

It was Scott.

I cursed myself for being so naïve as to think he wouldn’t keep coming to the same bar. I turned my back to him and closed my eyes. I couldn’t deny that there was a part of me (maybe several parts) that still wanted to be with him. But acknowledging those desires made me feel like the poor abused woman who was convinced there was nothing wrong with her man. I heard a little voice arguing that as long as the pros outnumbered the cons, then it must be OK. I angrily countered that the cons still outweighed the pros, regardless of their number.

Still… he had never done anything to me… yet.

And I wasn’t a helpless little girl. I was strong enough to face him in public and make sure he knew that he wasn’t welcome in my life. In fact, that it was in public would make this a lot easier. He wouldn’t do anything with other people around, right? If he did, Darla’s cook, Ruslan, was always on call to take care of the bad elements who sometimes found their way into the bar. His 280 pounds of grumpy muscle would make anyone think twice about causing problems. Darla would have my back.

I straightened up, took hold of my drink, and strode across the room. Scott stood up as I arrived, waiting to sit down until after I was settled.

“Did you want anything to eat?” he asked.

“No thanks, I won’t be staying long.”

“Look,” he said, putting his napkin back on his lap, “I just want to talk. I feel like… like something happened that I don’t understand. And if any of it was my fault, then… I’m really sorry. But you have to let me know what it is, give me a chance to make it right.”

“No… it’s not like that or anything. I just… didn’t feel right with you anymore.” Even as I spoke, I realized how much of a lie it was. Things with Scott had felt right, more right than anything else had felt in the past two years. “I took some time to think about it, and I decided that being with you wasn’t what I wanted. I had rushed into it without thinking, but once I thought about it… you know, that was it.”

He sank back into his chair. Giving me a suspicious look, he said, “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

“There are plenty of things I’m not telling you,” I snapped. “And I’d bet there’s quite a bit you’re not telling me.” That seemed to surprise him, confirming, a little, that I was right.

“OK, OK, let’s back up,” he said, putting his palms out and calming down. “Millie… I… Forget about a relationship or, or anything physical. I want to at least be your friend, to be a part of your life. Do you understand that?”

“My name isn’t Millie,” I said curtly, my anger rising the more he tried to placate me. “And you are not my friend. Vicky is my friend, kadıköy escort and she says you are a liar.”

At the name “Vicky,” Scott’s face went pale. Gotcha, I thought. I even allowed myself to smile smugly.

“Vicky?” he choked out, in disbelief. “Vicky… your friend?”

“Yep. The only friend who has stuck with me since my accident.”

“Vicky Brown, the… the blonde… cheerleader… ”

“Oh, you know her?” I said with fake surprise. “Yeah,” I nodded, “We’re good friends.” OK, that was an exaggeration, but I was practically gloating and I loved seeing him squirm. If I had had any doubts about what Vicky had said, this was putting them all to rest.

“What did Vicky say about me?” he asked, his voice hushed and tense.

“She told me the truth,” I smiled.

“What did that… woman… say?”

“You really don’t like her, do you?” I teased. “What, did you try to hit her, too?”

Scott’s whole expression changed in a flash. Instead of tense and angry, he suddenly relaxed, straightened up and looked at me intently.

“Amelia, if you still have even an ounce of faith in me, please answer this one question: how well do you know Vicky?”

“Well enough to trust her, I promise you that.” Scott’s gaze never wavered. He sat expressionless, waiting for me to continue.

“She came to the hospital after my accident. She got my apartment ready for me when I was about to be discharged. She helped me get things like mail and bank accounts taken care of. She helped me get my job. She’s been filling in some of the pieces of my old life. So yeah, I’d say I trust her pretty damn much. So when she sees the two of us together and then rushes over to tell me that you’ve got a history of abuse and drugs and only God knows what else, I’m going to take that into consideration.”

Scott fell backwards, slumped in his chair and covered his face with his hands. I watched him breathe deeply a few times before he straightened up and brought his elbows back to the table.

“OK, one step at a time,” he said, folding his hands and exhaling slowly. “I don’t know how to convince you of this right now, but Vicky is lying about me. I’ve never abused anyone or struck anyone.”

“Well, why should I believe you? Why would Vicky lie to me?” I meant it as a rhetorical question, but Scott had an answer.

“Because Vicky is still trying to be with me.”

Oh dear God! Scott was Vicky’s Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome?

“We… we had a thing a few years ago. It was a mistake, a big mistake. I ended it, but she won’t let go. We used to work together… I changed schools to get away from her, but she insists that we should be together. I haven’t… ” he sighed. “You’re the first woman I’ve been close to since Vicky. That probably kept her hopes up – seeing that I was still available. But then seeing us together probably made her blow a gasket. I don’t know.”

“And the drugs?” I pressed, too stunned to really process what he had just dropped on me.

“I don’t know. I mean, well, I guess she’s talking about… something that happened after she and I… broke up. I was dealing with a lot of other shit and was in a really low place. I had hurt someone I loved – not… not hit them. You know, I had broken her heart by being with Vicky. Anyway, I… tried to end it. I took some pills – a lot of them. An ambulance ride and a stomach pump later, and I was once again face to face with my problems.”

Seeing my shocked expression, he continued. “I’ve been getting counseling, and I’m in a much better place. I’m still trying to… to make amends and regain some of the happiness I once had, but… well, there you have it. You can… you can check your sources and see which story pans out, but I promise you it will be mine.”

Instinctively, I murmured in a soft and tiny voice, “I believe you.” Some vague concerns were swimming in the back of my head, things I needed to ask Vicky about. Things she said that didn’t make sense.

On a whim, I asked, “Scott, did you know Maurice Knight?”

“Who?” His expression showed genuine ignorance. “I don’t think I know a Maurice. Who is he?”

“No one,” I said, my mind distant.

“Well, anyway, I’m sorry for not telling you some of these things sooner. It’s hard having a past that you’re ashamed of. You can feel so weighed down by it. I mean, I’m the teacher who tried to kill himself. Who wants that on their resume? And what parent wants their kid in that class?”

I looked at him with understanding. “The past,” I suggested, “is both more and less important than you think.”

The corner of Scott’s lip curled up. He said, “Coming from you, Amelia, that is very meaningful.”

“Millie,” I corrected him.

We continued talking, drifting to more comfortable, casual topics. The crowd dwindled considerably during our conversation, and after a while I looked around for the clock. It was a little past 11. “Well, I came here tonight hoping to get laid,” I said, winking at him. “I guess you’ll have to do. And I feel like I owe you an apology anyway.”

The waitress had already been signaled to bring the bill, and Scott said, “Let me walk you home and we can talk.”

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