There was something arousing about watching herself drink, but then nearly every action had sexual connotations when observed by someone desperate. At this moment, the invisible man might well be checking her out. He might be watching, undetected, deciding if he wanted to go through with this or not, while all she could do was wait, nurse her Napa Chardonnay, and try to look as if she felt laissez-faire about what she hoped would become her first adulterous affair. If Max didn't like her, she'd be back at square one. Unless Max was the type of guy willing to sleep with someone he didn't like, not because of compassion for her situation, but because he'd already blocked out the time, and what the hell?
At this stage in the game, there were plenty of things that could go wrong. She wasn't sure what to expect; she envisioned the scene from The Invisible Man, the one in which Claude Rains wound a bandage tightly around his face to prove to Gloria Stuart that he was a man of substance. Her standards, this early into the night, were high enough to hope for a man of substance. She knew that after a couple of drinks, a little more time spent in anxious waiting, she would be happy with a good lay but would settle for a bad one. She wanted to leave Barry, but she needed some pretense, some excuse.
If you didn't tell the lawyers something, they made you go through mediation. If she had to tell the truth, Barry could go to jail for his underground activities. She hated him, just not enough to lock him away. He refilled her goblet, waving away her hand when she reached for her wallet. The invisible man was easy enough to spot in a crowd, but only because he must have recognized Jaclyn from her photograph and sneaked up to sit on her lap. His clothing rustled and he was wearing after-shave with the sweet scent of purple grape juice.
Apparently he felt no need for introductions. The invisible man whispered, "I do fine," in her ear, which might have, given another scenario, turned her off. But she had no experience beginning an affair, and an invisible man seemed like a safe bet, and she wasn't about to let a slight faux pas turn her off when she had come this far.
She hoped he wasn't too unattractive, not that she would ever find out, but just, well, because she deserved that. Barry had bragged that his latest lover was eighteen. His icy breath against her earlobe triggered a shudder. She gestured toward the bar. On his way to the glass, some part of him brushed one of her nipples. That caused a slight tremor. Butterflies, she remembered.
The excitement of a new relationship, when lust was so powerful that nothing else mattered. The invisible man had mentioned in passing that he wrote speeches for politicians. It pleased her, knowing he had deep and important thoughts. She had always been attracted to intelligent men. She wanted this to work into more than a one night stand. She felt Max's lips explore her neck.
It had been a long time since she had been seduced; one almost forgot the excitement of the game. The invisible man whispered, "Thanks," and used his tongue like a feather to tickle her ear. She drained the glass and signaled for another. So, he wasn't exactly a brilliant conversationalist. That made sense, in a way, that he saved the important words for his speeches. No doubt the spoken word was too ephemeral for a guy like him.
In any event, his discretion was a plus, just one more reason to go for an invisible man. If any of the truth about her life came to light, especially Barry's illegal activities, she might have to find another job.
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Which would be difficult, as Barry had recently pissed off the guy who had manufactured her technical school diploma. Max slid his arms around her waist. He seemed to be about the same size as she, a good quality for a lover. She dreaded the thought of sleeping with a man with a smaller butt. Trying not to be too obvious, she ran her fingers through his hair, to see if he had hair, which he did.
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Thank God he wasn't bald or covered with keratinous skin growths. Max was clean-shaven, another plus.
Her husband grew hairier by the year. She ran her fingers along Max's chin, trying to imagine his face. When she touched his mouth his lips parted and he circled her knuckles with his tongue. The bartender worked his way over to refill her goblet. He slid one hand beneath her buttocks and gave it a little squeeze. Not being invisible, Jaclyn blushed, certain that despite the dim light, the bartender had noticed her rising color. She picked up her wine and took a hasty sip. They followed the hostess to a low table near the back; Jaclyn's walk degraded into wobble. They removed their shoes; Max took his seat on the cushions facing her as she took hers.
She hoped her descent to the floor was not without grace. Wildly ethnic fabric, so bright it glowed in the dark, hung like mosquito netting around each table and provided privacy screens. It was very romantic. The hostess lit a floating candle that smelled like pine-scented Sterno, yet gave off no perceptible light, then handed Jaclyn a menu. Jaclyn did not ask for another. After the hostess left, Jaclyn pushed the menu across the table and said, "Just tell me what's good. She disliked spicy food, which always seemed like it was trying to cover up something rotten with an unnatural heat.
She didn't want to talk about it.
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He gave the air of being independently wealthy, something difficult to confirm just by looking at him. He could have been wearing a Timex and claimed it was a Movado. His leather goods could have been Mexican, not Italian, and she would never know. She worked to keep her suspicious inclinations from getting the better of her, easier to do when she felt his barefoot toes curl around her calves.
She twitched, excited. He was like electroshock therapy, but in a nice way. An odd vision passed on its way to another table. It looked like a time-release photograph of a city of night, but was probably some flaming dish or another about to be served.
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The scent of chili peppers made her eyes itch. She pushed back the crushing feeling hit that something was wrong with a gulp of wine. It was too late to get cold feet. She didn't want to screw things up. The waiter poked his head through the curtain to ask, "Are you ready to order, or do you need another minute? The waiter said, "Of course.
Max ignored the napkin on his side of the table, and why not? Who would know if he wiped his hands on his shirt? When the waiter had left them alone, she whispered across the table, "I don't know what to do. Should we order two dinners? Or do you want to split? She looked at the menu and hoped her disgust didn't show.
The desserts were made from cottage cheese. It had been a long time since she gone on a date and she wondered if the prevailing mores still prevailed. They hadn't made clear beforehand who would pay for dinner. What if his money was invisible? This was all so new, so strange.
No one had bought her dinner in years. Barry couldn't hold a steady job, so her income not only paid for all household expenses, but the bomb supplies. Stop, she told herself -- I'm here to have fun, not to feel bad about her life. She righted the glass and dabbed at the tablecloth with her napkin. Are you wet? She could feel heat again flood her cheeks. Were all invisible men this brazen? A stranger had groped her ass and was now working his foot up her calves toward her inner thighs. Barry was gone and the house was empty. She was a bowl-of-cottage-cheese away from bringing Max home and fucking the pants off of him, assuming he kept his pants on until then.
For all she knew, he had left them on the barstool. This was everything she wanted. So why did it all feel so wrong? Given better light, grease stains would show, and she might need to use this dress again, just in case things didn't work out tonight.
The napkin fabric was the kind of pattern that would hide all stains, a thoughtful touch. The waiter returned with napkins and a salad and hovered over her with the pepper mill. It was dark enough here that he couldn't possibly see how much pepper he was grinding, but she didn't want to make a scene, or look like she was a whiner.
A waiter holding a pepper mill was all about control. He asked you what you wanted, then decided on his own how much spice you needed. The feeling that she lived in a world others dominated was sometimes overwhelming. She stared at the small mound of solid food that swam like an exclamation point in black sauce. It was a drumstick. They must have ordered chicken. She managed to sputter a thank-you. A minute of uncomfortable silence followed. It was so weird. One day, I was at the Exchange, just like always. I was working the floor, placing orders. I had my hand up and was screaming for attention but nobody saw me.
At first it was just a feeling, you know, the kind everyone gets where they imagine they are anonymous. Then I looked down, and I couldn't see my own feet. Or my legs. Or anything else. It was slightly reassuring that my dick hadn't disappeared, even if it was invisible like the rest of me. Though his story made no sense, she was intrigued. Now was when she wished she could read his facial expressions, to see if he was ribbing her.
Instead, she forced her mouth into a weak smile, like she understood yet was above all jokes. She was used to playing this role; she'd had lots of practice around Barry's snotty intellectual anarchist friends. Dinner was uneventful, if highly spiced, and difficult to wipe from her hands.
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Everything was covered in sauce that looked like it was made from tar. She wasn't a cultural snob, but familiarity would have been so much easier to tolerate. Her relief was an audible sigh. She finished her third glass of wine. It took a bit of maneuvering to get up from the table. She used the facilities and fluffed her hair with a little bit of water, hair gel, and the electric hand dryer. She retouched her lips and stared down every other woman in the bathroom to build up her confidence. Finally, she left. As she strode toward the door, Jaclyn had a fleeting fear that Max hadn't really paid the bill, that any second the waiter would run after her and drag her back to settle accounts.
She rushed out and looked around, unsure if she could count on him. Wasn't it obvious? A light evening rain had left a thin coating on the sidewalk, capturing shadows and reflections like a runny watercolor. She cleared her throat. She imagined the scene as it would appear to the police, and sobered up quite quickly. She managed to get them safely home. She unlocked the door. Because of Barry's paranoia, the house looked like she lived alone. Worried about the FBI finding incriminating evidence, Barry had long ago destroyed family photographs and official records.
He owned one change of clothes, which he carried in his backpack. He was not an easy man to love. Max was all over her the second they walked across the threshold. His soft hands swept across her shoulders and unzipped her dress. The fabric fell like a puddle of water to her feet; she kicked it out of the way.
They tumbled to the couch. He unhooked her bra without fumbling, and lunged for her breasts. This was it. This was sex, the way she remembered things from her years in the cult. This next part felt uncomfortable. In her wallet beside her fake ID. Read below for a preview of the story. I shout and curse, but the words remain stuck inside my head.
A head I cannot see. That no one can see. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. I wake up, walk to the bathroom, look in the mirror, but no one is there. I scream but make no sound. I flick up the light, but the switch remains down; the room, dark.