The ceiling was nothing special but I thought it was more interesting than lying on my back in bed waiting for him to finish. I hoped it would have gone quicker but he was one of those guys who liked to draw things out for as long as he could. The fan above our heads spun around and around, the blades blurred by the movement as it pushed air to our hot, sweaty bodies. He smelled a lot more like sour than the sweet I remembered many years ago. I wondered if it was his scent that changed or if it was my nose that became less tolerable. As I grew to hate his smell, I also grew to hate sex with him. With it came endless slapping of our bellies like claps of thunder before a long rolling rumble. His eyes hadn’t even looked into mine as the gregarious snake of a penis rammed into my vagina. He was always rough like he had something to prove. I wondered if he watched too much pornography and thought every woman desired to be pile driven into the floorboards as the sweat flicked off his brow like the washing of a waterfall.
My head bounced against the headboard. His eyes opened when he heard the posts dig into the wall. Bang, bang, bang. He slowed down and placed his hands on the headboard on either side of my head. I saw in his eyes it wasn’t about his fear of hurting me that he didn’t go so hard but he worried about damaging the precious wallpaper that wrapped around the room. What did he want me to do? Did he want me to say I was sorry for scratching the walls? Did he want me to just lay there like a rag doll waiting to be abused missionary style or grab the headboard as well and pretend I liked it?
I grabbed his shoulders like I was into it and I closed my eyes in apparent pleasure just to make him happy. I did a lot of things just to make him happy. I pretended to like it. I pretended to orgasm but the truth was, he was terrible at sex. I thought it was me for a long time. I read in a magazine that the older women got, the harder it was to maintain their sexual prowess. Of course, there were exceptions and I had certainly heard stories about nursing homes practically turning into a brothel for residents. But when some women reached a certain age, things in the downstairs didn’t function as they once did and sex became less pleasurable. I had been getting to the wonderful age of menopause and would certainly hit it in a few years rather than a few decades, so I thought that was my problem. However, the more I sat with him on the couch and listened to him snore while he was awake or across from him at the table while he shoveled food into his mouth, the more I wondered what I found attractive about him in the first place.
It wasn’t his charm. He was about as romantic as a rock.
He wasn’t bad to look at. Not even as he lost the colour in his hair.
He turned me around and my face pressed against the wall. The wallpaper was out of date. I hated it but I couldn’t change it. The house came from his mother after she decided to live permanently in her summer home because the sea air was better for her sinusitis. I didn’t know if that was true and I didn’t care. I just wanted to be rid of her. She meddled in everything. He listened to it all, took notes and tried to convince me that his mother knew what was best because she lived in this world a lot longer than either of us had. She said to keep everything the same in the house so that when she came to visit, she felt comfortable and didn’t feel like she was in a stranger’s house. He didn’t dream of changing a thing. Not the paneled walls or the yellowed linoleum or even the master bedroom. I tried not to think about her having sex in that same bed just like I tried not to imagine how many of her old, grey pubes were in the bathtub drain.
He was almost finished. I felt his body get tired against mine and I felt sore in between the legs. I wanted to take a shower when it was over to wash off his smell. I didn’t know why but when we had sex, I smelled him on me for days. I worried other people smelled it too and wondered what kind of man smelled like old eggs and pungent sweat.
And there it was.
He sounded like an elephant when he finally released his sperm. I saw a documentary about elephants during mating season one time so I knew what one sounded like. It wasn’t pleasant or sexy and it certainly didn’t have me begging for more. After he collapsed into the bed, I took a cigarette from the nightstand and lit it even though I knew he didn’t like me smoking in bed. He wasn’t a smoker. He didn’t hate the smell of cigarettes, he just didn’t see a point of burning away money like that even though I said people burn money away by drinking as well. I thought it was worse to drink away your money because beer added calories. Then he said smoking added cancer and we didn’t talk about it again.
When did we get to the point where we didn’t like each other anymore? When we didn’t love each other anymore? We got married young and fast. We thought we couldn’t love anyone else and it lasted long enough that we got comfortable with each other. Sometimes I looked at him because I missed seeing his face even though he sat right next to me. I couldn’t imagine being like that with anyone else.
I butted out my cigarette and looked at him just to see if it sparked feelings again. He wasn’t the same man I married just as I wasn’t the same woman he married. His belly was a little bigger. There was more hair on his body. My breasts sagged a little more. My neck was a little wrinkly. I didn’t find him the least bit attractive and was pretty sure he thought the same about me. I didn’t love him but I could never leave him. It felt like a crime after all these years just to throw it away. We put so much effort into loving each other in the beginning that I wanted it to still be enough to hold us together.
“Want some breakfast?” I asked. I felt I might regret asking him because I just wanted him out of my space. He looked at the time then swung his legs over the side of the bed I watched his back as he leaned over to pull on his pants.
“Can’t,” he said. “I have to go in early for a meeting.”
I knew that was just an excuse and he didn’t really have a meeting. If I loved him, that might have bothered me but I didn’t love him so I felt relieved. If I loved him, I might have also felt hurt that he used that excuse to hide his cheating but I wasn’t hurt. I watched him go to the door and look at me one more time. He smiled so I smiled back and told him to have a good day like the wife he always wanted me to be.
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