by: Maggie May Ethridge
Meet me in this hotel at this time? We can go to this restaurant?
I Googled and found an image of the hotel restaurant, a frozen image of the bartender caught throwing a drink midair, grinning underneath a pirate mustache. Finally, I texted back.
OK I’ll meet you at this time. See you then. Weird, huh?
He texted, Yup.
I didn’t like that. I texted back, Are we sure about this? I didn’t like that either. He texted, Of course not!—That was true. I left it there.
I slept next to my husband and woke from a dream where Thoren was drinking pistol-steely gin and laughing at something. His hand lay warm on my thigh while he laughed, and I woke wet and anxious. I had dreamed of Thoren more nights than not for a year. One year of birthdays, office parties, holidays, sick days, teeth brushing, cooking, cleaning; one year of a full and blessed life. One year where my sexual desire for a man I had never spoken to had worked free from dreams and long car drives and penetrated even the most mundane moments.
I started shaving. When my husband felt the bare heat, he smiled calmly. This is new, he said, neither approving nor disapproving. I turned away immediately to pee, or so I told him. In the bathroom I made faces at my husband and whispered under my breath that he was a mutant, a shit heel, an idiot, a robot. Back in bed I said I had a bladder infection and went to sleep.
My next dream of Thoren was of him licking me clean exactly as one licks a dinner plate when no one is looking. Long, strong, deliberation without a thought to the plate. Yet then I did not mind being unconsidered. If I was not being seen, being worshipped was a desirable replacement.
Thoren is Scandinavian and his name comes from Norse mythology—god of the sky, god of fertility, Thor. In his photos and videos, Thoren is tall, broad-chested, thick-thighed, with arms that were made to work. He is so white-blond that it almost turned me off. He could be an elderly man from a distance. Yet on the held gaze, I saw his hair is coarse and wavy and surprisingly thick for one so light. He rarely shaves, and his facial hair comes and goes without much thought, it seems, and he has an assertive nose; flashing, secretive eyes; and an expressive mouth. He often has a wry twist to his eyes and mouth, as if he is enjoying a private joke. When we text and he makes these private jokes, I understand. When I make sarcastic remarks, he understands. When I make a cultural reference, even just a few words, he already knows what I am referring to and where I’m going with it. I feel that his expressions now include me. His secrets include me.
He moved from Scandinavia for a girlfriend in 2014 and stayed for America. He fell in love with Bruce Springsteen in concert, tattoo shops, the beach scene on the West Coast where we live; he fell in love with the idea of “youth in America” running wild and free; he fell in love with vineyards and Brooklyn accents; he fell in love with himself as a brave, young man in a strange country, left heartbroken by his girlfriend but forging ahead into a new, meaningful life.
We met through a friend on Facebook who had bought a painting from Thoren. Thoren made pen-and-ink drawings, watercolor paintings, and sculptures, and after breaking his leg falling off Oceanside Pier, he had been astonished at the out-of-pocket expenses he was expected to pay. With a friend, he put together a Go Fund Me, and offered a piece of art to everyone who contributed fifty dollars or more. When our mutual friend posted his painting, I liked it and commented,
This is fucking amazing! Wow. Thoren commented back, Thank you.
An immediate friend request followed. He liked a few of my pictures over the next month, not too many, including one of my husband and me. In the photo of my husband and me, we are on vacation and I am in a bright orange bikini, beaming and looking lithe and luminous. My husband is in shorts and a long-‐sleeved shirt, having been sunburned the day before. He holds me close and his nose shines pinkly.
Thoren liked this and commented,
I love this beach, it’s never too crowded (for San Diego)
I liked his comment.
A month or so later, I went to his page and commented on a post about environmental poisoning. It was a long, passionate tirade, if somewhat lacking in meat. An hour later he responded in agreement with what I had said, and I liked his response. Then I got a Facebook message,
What’s your number?
I sat for a minute, twisting my mouth around. I could ask why. It seemed rude to just say Why? but then I thought it wasn’t feminist to think about being rude, or to worry about asking a perfectly reasonable question. Then I thought that it also wasn’t wrong to care about being polite. Then I thought that he had already seen that I viewed the message and was now probably wondering why it was taking so long to respond to a straightforward question. Then I thought, so what? He can wonder; it won’t hurt him. Maybe I’m saving a child from choking to death. Maybe I’m vomiting. Then he messaged.
I’m not a stalker, or nuts, or trying to hit on you. Just wanted to talk more about your comment and hate these messages. No big deal if you aren’t comfortable, I get it.
I shook my head. It seemed very complicated. I’d have to tell my husband. Or maybe I only needed to tell him if I gave my number and this guy flirted? Then I’d need to tell him, otherwise who cares if I’m texting about deforestation and water pollution and the coral reef emergency. I tapped my number in and then added.
It’s just my number so no, not a big deal. It’s fine to talk, I have guy friends!
Which was a lie. Every single guy that I had been friends with had distanced himself from me since I had married David. That is, every single guy. The married ones were more comfortable around me now. I had a band and a husband and their wives were more comfortable, too.
He texted me immediately.
Hey! It’s Thoren. I’m 6’2, I like water-‐sports, large cats, aggressive rodents of unusual sizes, travel and long walks on the beach.
I texted back a laughing face with a devil face next to it. This, I thought, perfectly conveyed my message: Haha, you are funny, you funny funny guy who isn’t hitting on me because we just get along well and wink wink isn’t this fun you funny guy I totally get what you are doing pretending you are trying to date me when clearly we both know that’s exactly not what you are doing so yeah, haha.
He texted back a long paragraph continuing our conversation about the environment. He had strong opinions that I could tell were not formed overnight and which were backed with information. He was intelligent and had read many more books and articles and blogs than I had on the subject. Still, I was somewhat informed and deeply concerned and so we went back and forth easily for quite some time, until I had to go back to work.
Over the months we spoke through text once a week, then twice, then daily. Short, friendly texts that had little subtext until suddenly they did. We had texted for hours one night; David was on a work trip and I was drunk off of brandy and a little stoned, too. Thoren had texted me,
Left bar, so stupid, you up?
I texted back,
yup up way highhhhh
haha ok then. The bar was boring. Some girl’s tank top, or tube top or whatever popped off when she was dancing, and this asshole grabbed her tit, and her boyfriend rushed the guy and a fight happened. After that it just felt suddenly like I’d been awake forever, but once I left, I immediately woke up.
Am I boring you?
No smiley face. He rarely if ever used icons and I liked this. I admired this.
YES! haha I’m so drunstoned
I think that is a Norse legend
Yup I’m Norwegan and we are related
You spelled Norwegian wrong and we are definitely not related…I’ve never thought my sister was hot.
I felt immediately an enormous sexual desire that I knew was going to absolutely consume me. My pussy swelled up and pressed like a heartbeat into my thighs, hungry, starving, desperate for this dick. I wanted to text back,
please give it to me
I stared at his comment and texted,
I felt limp. I was without sass. My breasts ached so that my nipples exclaimed in tiny nipple voices for the pain, the beautiful pain.
I thought of David and David’s sex schedule, so that we could be “fair” and each one of us “get a turn” and I felt ashamed and cruel. I also, overwhelmingly, felt horny. I thought of David’s small cruelties, his lack of passion beginning at such an early stage of our marriage, his infuriating conservatism, his devotion to me parceled to a manageable level so that he could have balance. Who the fuck cares about balance when your forty-five with no children and no debt and not a crack in the gleaming lining of this lovely life we had worked fifty-hour weeks to claim? Not me. I cared about deep dicking. I cared about sex beyond tricks and toys; I wanted more than anything to be obliterated inside desire and to emerge back into my body unaware of what I had wanted, what I had done, what I had said or begged or whimpered; I wanted to be consumed by a context beyond reality and without drugs or drink. I wanted to goddamn transport myself along with another human male who understood adult secrets, desires, who understood the difference between “good sex” and ecstasy. I was telling the story of death approaching in middle age—the story of delirious sex as an antidote to the fear of death. Death before dying! I wanted to eat up my aliveness, to be flung apart into the salt water and stardust of elements and re-formed, exhausted, rivulets of snot, semen, and sweat running over all my skin, to become reacquainted with myself and my body. To be ravenous without shame, and to allow my body to be used in a way that cannot be captured in a porn or a dirty story: to be reborn by a beautiful, hard, ravenous dick. And to be desired to distraction by the man attached.
Thoren texted back,
It’s true. You know, I will say one time, just once, I promise I’ll never bring it up again unless you do, so we are clear.
That I am insanely attracted to you. I would meet you anywhere at any moment that you request. That’s it.
I texted back,
OK, yeah, just don’t say it again. Like you offered. Because yes, and, I am married.
And that was it for another few months. David and I began therapy with an older, white male who was fixated on personality types as the answer to all our problems. When I tried to talk about ravenous sexual desire, he patted his face with an actual handkerchief that he pulled out of his coat pocket and said, well, that’s part of life, monogamy is hard. When I replied that the lack of elevation beyond day-to-day life patterns was a problem, that David and I no longer had a dark life (What is a dark life, the sweaty therapist asked, and I responded, a life beyond the daytime, a life of secrets together, good and bad things, but mostly things that are in some way immoral or subversive or achingly intimate; where we share a state of being together in the world that is about our hearts and our sex only, the two of us, and nothing else, and he responded, I see) and that I had to have that or nothing else (communication of various kinds, fun activities, remembering the reasons you fell in love) was going to make a dent, when I said that, the sweaty therapist replied with a quick, silent look to David.
We should have seen an old woman, I told David, who would remember. Remember what? said David. These desires, I said, these feelings, this need. David looked straight ahead and drove without response. What are you feeling? I asked. That everything is about you all the time, he said. I said, Yes, but that’s because you don’t seem to need anything! I do, David said, I need you. His face was drawn and sad. I accept that this is what happens when people have been together for so long, he said. Well I don’t! I yelled. I am sorry, I said, for yelling while you are driving. But I don’t. I need us to be—David interrupted, and said, I know what you need. You’ve said and said and said. I wanted to slap him but I did not. I refrained.
David stopped taking work trips and we went on an overnight trip to Los Angeles and saw a play and watched a porno. The porno night was disastrous. We watched porn and had sex in different positions and David was trying to please me. The entire placement of his body, his mouth, his touch, the porno sounds, the bed, the lighting, David’s eyes—was wrong, and my nipples retracted and my clit was tucked inside my uterus and I was dry. David’s penis stayed half-hard and I started to cry while he thrusted behind me. He lay down and I lay on his chest and kissed his face wet and he put his short, muscular arms around me and we eventually fell asleep and in the morning I said I love you and he said I love you and we limped back home.
The next few weeks we talked but I began to see that David could not get himself to give me what I wanted because he could not access or work to access the energy that I wanted to unleash from inside of him, to see the raw, unclean places of David as an adult man, the tender meat—a little out of control, a little scared, powerful through the release of control—he could not, would not. Perhaps he was afraid of undoing the exhausting work of becoming an adult man. Perhaps he did not love me as much as I wanted him to. Perhaps he had changed in such a profound way that he had nothing else but these exteriors to offer.
It’s about sex, I told him, but it’s also about what kind of life I want to live. I need exalted states and I want to go there with you. This was our agreement when we married. We had an unspoken agreement.
David laughed. I hated the entirety of his physical self during and just after that laugh. The lines of his lips, slightly chapped, his slight goiter that he still hadn’t checked out, his carved cheekbones that normally were so pivotal to his good looks, his dark gleaming hair, his goddamn hairy knuckles!
I hated him. Laugh, fine, I thought. The next day I texted Thoren,
I want to meet.
The dreams had been continuous and vivid. I had never spoken to him but I knew his complicated relationship with his medically- obese mother, her refusal to properly treat her diabetes; I knew that his father was hilarious and a great cook and had left the family when Thoren was small; I knew that Thoren’s sisters had both moved across the globe as well, and that at Christmas they took turns flying to each home; I knew that Thoren was afraid of spiders and unafraid of sharks; I knew that sometimes he could not sleep and he listened to Springsteen’s Nebraska when he was sad, and felt even worse—until he made a painting, and felt better. I knew that Thoren worried deeply about his mother, thought of his dad as a great friend but resented him more than he realized, and adored his sisters.
And Thoren knew much about me, a little of everything it seemed, except my marriage. I did not talk about my marriage or David at all.
Thoren texted back,
The dreams became more detailed. Sometimes I’d wake up midorgasm, unsatisfying and meek, pattering in my vagina as if I were walking circles in the kitchen at night, an unsatisfied housewife. I dreamed of nothing romantic, no declarations of love, no sentimental talk. I simply wanted him to want me and to fuck me and fuck me and fuck me until I was elemental.
I wanted one more thing, I realized. This was to look in his eyes and see that he was on fire for me.
The time and place arrived and David believed I was meeting a best girlfriend for a weekend. I flew to our destination and dreamed of Thoren on the plane.
When I arrived I went immediately to the hotel room, a half hour early. I turned off all the lights and changed from my shirt to a negligee and wore this with my jeans and no shoes. I added a small dab of perfume behind my ears and had a beer. It was dark outside. A knock on the door. I sat up, stomach quickening: yes?
Hello, he said. I recognized his voice from video. He walked in and shut the door and I hoped he would let me lead. I stood and placed my beer down and walked directly to him, almost touching him but not. I looked up, he is much taller than I, and I put my hands on his chest, underneath his nipples, spreading my fingers across what felt to me to be a massive rib cage. He dropped his bag (the sound of a packed bag dropping will forever be a bell ringing for sexual desire) and I stood on my tiptoes. I could feel that the energy was absolutely correct. We were in the same place, in the same room, seeing each other the same way, with the same desires that could only be scented or touched by hand or articulated in some other language than one’s own. He smelled right. His hand touched me just as I had known it would.
Thoren growled. It was unmistakable, it was as if a panther had leaped from a tree directly in front of me, placed his enormous jaws around my neck, and made a noise of pure pleasure, a noise of impending feast. Thoren growled like a cat, a mix of a meow and growl.
I meowed back. He lifted me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist. We kissed violently, I felt my lip split open on his tooth. He began undressing me. I began undressing him. He stopped me and took off his own pants and shirt; I was taking too long. Now we had only socks and underwear on, and we pawed each other to get to the hot places where the smells of sexual desire were thick and rising, then stopped again to remove our socks and underwear, and then finally freed, threw ourselves on each other. It was almost silent but for the occasional sound of a cat.
We fucked for two hours.
It was every single thing I had imagined and wanted and driven myself half-mad dreaming of. I came four, five, six times, each harder than the last. I came with his mouth on me, his fingers dipped into my pussy and anus, I came with his dick and my fingers, I came on the floor, on the bed, I came with loud growls or soft purrs. Thoren came twice, the second time his jism exclaimed with delight from his jerking hand behind my ass all the way to the tips of my ears, where it hung, white and hot.
After this, I turned on a tiny light and lit a cigarette. You want one, I asked him quietly, Thoren? I wanted to say his name out loud.
He reached his hand out and smiled at me playfully. Meow, he replied, as if saying yes. I laughed and handed him the cigarette.
After a moment I said, I can’t think of a single fucking thing to say. I laughed.
Thoren laughed too, and then meowed at me, eyebrows raised. I said, But what should we do tomorrow? Will we leave this room at all?
Thoren shook his head and said, meow. I wrinkled my nose. OK, I said, haha. Funny. Now talk to me, really, in a whole year I’ve never talked to you.
Thoren growled at me, stubbing out his half-smoked cigarette. Come on, I said, you are freaking me out. He leaned over, his chest enormous over my rashed breasts, and kissed the tips of my nipples, which then kissed directly the center of my vagina-heart. Thoren, I said, come on. But I was hardly trying. He ran a finger around my hipbones and I was arching and gone.
An hour later I was fully awake and determined to make him talk to me. Thoren, Thoren, let’s talk. He closed his eyes and waved a giant hand at me. Meow, he said sleepily. Soon he was asleep, or pretending to be. I was not afraid of him, so I fell asleep as well.
Late in the afternoon we rose and showered together and as the soap bubbles popped on his erection, I said, Look, I won’t have sex with you again unless you speak. He growled at me and I felt annoyed that my entire body responded, drawn to him, cell by cell, each one a traitor. No, really, talk to me. I gave him a persuasive face; I knew I looked lovely in the hot shower, body-flushed and buzzed with lack of sleep and full of pleasure, my hair slicked back and my cheeks cherry red.
Thoren looked at me. Eye to eye, I stood with this stranger, naked in a shower. For a moment I speculated on what was beyond lust. I should be feeling guilty, I thought. I should be thinking about years of showers with my husband. I could force the thought; I could not force a single, bright emotion. My head was making a loud humming noise. A bright shout of goosebumps appeared down my torso and legs. I shivered underneath the hot water. He growled, and put one finger on top of my pussy, and began to move it. I came in minutes, and we fucked for the next two hours.
We woke again in the evening and when Thoren leaned over me and meowed, I was suddenly filled with anxiety and I began to cry. I want to go home, I said, getting out of bed. I pulled on my clothes. Thoren sat up and opened his arms to me. Meow? he asked.
I left quickly without the hug or backward look and on the elevator my phone pinged. Thoren texted.
I thought we understood each other . . . it’s a game, we were having fun
I texted back,
You are freaking me out
Thoren texted back,
It’s just a game
Meow meow meow, meow. Meow? Meow, meow-‐meow. xo
So this is what it is, I thought on the plane ride home. I could feel my cheeks burning. I thought that because I was not in love, or pretending to be, or involved with a man who was in love with me, that this would be under my control. That it would be what I imagined it to be. Astonishing that at forty-five, successful and experienced, I could think such a thing. Had I really believed that I knew anything about this man from a year of texting? I could not know myself. Either I thought I knew him well enough, or I was happy to believe that I did because I wanted the sex. That you can talk to someone for twelve months and then be entirely shocked by their person was in retrospect obvious. And I had slept with him repeatedly, despite the constant purring and meowing in place of words. I had not known that sex was this important to me. I knew it mattered. I had always loved sex, needed sex. I was a surprise to myself. I deleted him from my phone, my socials, and my life.
In therapy with David later we talked about my affair. I had apologized and I promised, never again, and I meant it. I would leave before I would cheat again. The therapist was beginning to annoy David and David was beginning to liquidate. I could see him losing control of the situation. He could not understand all of his emotions nor could he any longer shame me for my desires. The affair, I was ashamed of. I was done with defending what I had to have to be a person without rotting parts trailing behind me as I lived. I was done feeling ashamed for wanting a deep dicking on a regular basis. I was done feeling badly that sex was such an enormously big deal for me. I was done wondering if I was a freak or just a terrible person. I knew that my marriage had been decaying and that David was happy to allow it to decay and that one day he would have woken back up possibly in a rush of late-life hormones and shaken off his languor and looked around for a great fuck and his wife would have been dead.
I stayed because I loved him. I stayed because ten years of his hand on my thigh as we slept. I stayed because I believed that ugliness would come no matter who I loved, and I stayed because I was curious about what was possible. Months passed and David and I began to collide. I could feel him heating and cooling and trembling and I began to hope. We had moments and then we had minutes of time where we were strange together, unusual, and this was good. One night I came home and David had moved all the living room furniture outside onto the patio. I wanted to, he said. OK, I replied. We left it like that for a few weeks until it rained.
He made the expected derisive remarks about Thoren: wasn’t I happy now that I’d had my fling, was that what I wanted? We were at home undressing and the therapy had been especially boring and expected and depressing. I had to be honest when I replied that while I actually wanted David to give me what I wanted, the affair-sex had been what I wanted. David left the room and I followed him, angry. I had not been angry at David in a long time. It felt good. David, I said, I could have a great orgasm with many men at this point in my life. I’m horny. But I want, and have always wanted, you. I want you. I want you.
David looked at me and instead of doing the things I waited for him to do, he nodded and said, I know.
Oh, I said. I didn’t want to press my luck.
David said all the angry hurt things he could think of and was exhausted and I was exhausted and we slept deeply and were quiet a lot but it was a peaceful silence, with no tricks, no sharp corners. We considered each other. I felt David weighing secrets, and I was glad he had secrets, and that he was allowing me to see this in his face, his eyes passing over the world and his hands moving surely or insecurely over his body and his voice faltering, moving from weakness to strength, testing the waters.
In January it rained, and January is a depressing month of suicides and car accidents in the snow and people declaring bankruptcy. But David and I had each other.
One night in the dark David and I lay down instead of turning on the reading light and we breathed loudly at each other in a silly way. I rolled over and don’t you ever, ever, think of telling him, but it just came out and I couldn’t help it, and I wasn’t even thinking of anything but David, my David’s big, hard dick and his strong body and his hands moving me apart like waves that close back around him and his smell and his energy driving me into my bed deeper and deeper fucking until I feel like Alice that I am to fall into a dreamhole and then I opened my mouth and said
And David my husband did not laugh or stay silent or puncture me with words, but he growled, and growled, and pounced on me I cried myself silly with relief and joy when he said with his wide, warm mouth inches away from my own,
Maggie May Ethridge is a writer in San Diego, California. Her memoir Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From A Marriage, about marriage, love, and bipolar disorder, was published with SheBooks in 2014. Her high school biography of Marie Curie was published in 2017 with Cavendish Publishers. Maggie has work published in Guernica, The Guardian, Marie Claire, and The Rumpus, among others. Her novel Agitate My Heart is almost finished being polished.