She flipped one pancake gooey side down onto the griddle, then turned another to the top of an existing stack, super thin and finished, sitting on a platter beside her. The children had been out the door and on their way to the bus for nearly 20 minutes, which meant Jay should be out of the bedroom in about 10.
He came into the kitchen early, stretching through a nod. “Good morning,” he said, still yawning, kissing Caitlin on the cheek with breath still reeking from the evening before.
“Morning,” Caitlin smiled as Jay turned from her to the coffee.
“You made pancakes for me?” He picked up the pot and poured it into the mug Caitlin had left out for him. The mug said, Dad needs sleep, but he’ll settle for coffee.
“I made them for the kids, but had some batter left. I figured we’d share. Sound good?”
“Sounds great.” Jay took his first sip, winced like he always did before he added his milk, then opened the fridge, grabbed the milk, added a splash, took a longer sip which he finished with a smile, and came up behind Caitlin, pinching her softly on the ass.
“I assume you don’t want chocolate chips in yours?”
“However…” he nibbled her neck “…you want to make them is fine.”
“Just tell me what you want, Jay, while the batter’s still runny. There’s not much left so the pancakes are thin.”
“Is your batter still runny?” he said, slipping his hand down her yoga pants and palming her pussy.
As always, Caitlin was immediately uncomfortable.
“What?” he said, injured as she pulled away. “The children are gone, right?”
“Yes,” she said. “But that’s not the point.”
“What’s the point?”
“I’m in here making breakfast, not thinking about my ‘runny batter,’ so when you come in here like that it catches me off guard.” She paused, then added, “It makes me uncomfortable.”
Jay looked like he’d been slapped, even though he’d been told the same thing many times before. “Okay,” he said. “Sorry.”
He turned from Caitlin then went to the fridge, opened it up, pulled out the milk, and poured too much into his coffee. Now he would take two more sips and let it get cold.
Caitlin cut a honeydew in half, grabbed two spoons, then traded the spoons for forks and cut the melon into much smaller pieces. She split the four pancakes onto a pair of plates, added melon on the side, then joined Jay at the table where he was reading one his iPad.
“Thanks for breakfast,” he said, not looking up.
Caitlin sat beside him. “You’re welcome.”
They chewed in silence for several minutes until Caitlin broke it, “So what’s on your agenda today? Big stuff at work?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Not really. I do have one morning call from Insight that I’m looking forward to not at all, but I’m going to take it in the den since it’s in an hour and I don’t want to drive in that early. Oh, and I’ll have to stay at the office tonight, just a little late.”
“Oh?” Caitlin looked up from her melon. “How come?”
“Because Kirsty messed some stuff up, and because she didn’t dot her I’s or cross her T’s, I have to stay late and do it for her.”
“Why doesn’t she stay late and do it?”
“Because she has to stay late and finish the copy for Kick Dog.”
“Oh,” Caitlin spooned more melon into her mouth as she studied her husband. He looked so happy when he first came into the kitchen, but the earlier sweet seemed to have soured from his face.
“Are you mad at Kirsty?”
“No,” he shrugged. “Same shit, different day. She’s been doing stuff like this more lately, which is annoying, but she’s so damn good when she’s on, it’s hard to fault her for not being perfect.” Jay smiled, though it looked thinner than the pancake.
“Not sure. If the call doesn’t take too long, and I can get into the office relatively soon after, and Daniel’s not being a dick when I get there, and I can start mopping Kirsty’s shit straightaway, then I don’t think I’ll be home past eight.”
“So definitely after dinner.”
“I’d love to be home for dinner, Honey, you know that. But yes, I think it’s safe to assume it will be after dinner, and that I won’t miss bedtime.”
After another few minutes of mostly silent chewing, Caitlin finally gathered enough courage to ask about the night before. At least sort of.
“You were yummy last night,” she said.
Jay looked up from his iPad. “Thanks,” he smiled. “You were yummy too.”
It was like he was complimenting his mother’s lasagna, which was always made with too much sauce and not enough meat, but needed an empty pan and a round of applause to keep the biddy from crying.
Jay pushed his plate forward, with three pieces of melon and one-half pancake still on it, then moved his eyes back to the iPad as he swiped a finger across it. Caitlin ate in silence for several more seconds, then swallowed and pulled more courage from somewhere inside her.
“Was I really yummy?” she asked, trying not to let her voice crack. “Or are you just saying that?”
Please don’t fight, please don’t fight, please don’t fight.
Jay set his iPad on the table then looked at Caitlin. She couldn’t tell if he was confused or annoyed.
“Last night,” she twirled her fork in front of her, tempted to shove the melon in her mouth to delay her words, wishing she’d never said anything at all. “Was the sex really good for you, too? It seemed like you wanted … more.”
Jay swallowed hard enough for Caitlin to see the thick ball in his throat, just like she always could when they were skating the edge of an argument. Like her, he was clearly uncertain about whether this would be that.
“I’m not sure we should have this conversation again,” he said, stealing a glance at the stove clock. “I have 37 minutes until my call, and it’s Skype, so I really would like to take a shower first. While I can fake it by throwing a collared shirt on top of my pajamas, I’d really rather not.”
“We don’t have to argue,” Caitlin reassured him. “That’s not what I want at all. I’m just feeling insecure and I want you to make me feel better.” She smiled, but it was even thinner than his.
“Okay,” he said, controlling his breath. “What is it? What would you like to know?”
“Am I enough for you?” Caitlin’s second sentence rear-ended the first. “I mean, our sex, is it enough for you, or do you want more?” With two sentences already crashing, Caitlin didn’t wait for Jay to respond before adding a third. “I feel like it’s not.”
Jay measured his words before he opened his mouth. Then, after a half-minute of silence he said, “Our sex is beautiful, Caitlin. Wonderful. Probably better than any couple I know who’ve been together as long as we have.”
Jay smiled. His words stung her anyway.
“That sounds like a backwards compliment,” she said.
Jay’s face started to twitch, betraying his feelings.
“What do you want from me, Caitlin? This conversation never goes well. If you don’t want to argue, or feel bad, I suggest you either stop asking the question, or start giving me permission to lie. Because I’m doing my best and tired of feeling like that’s not good enough, and that I’m somehow rejecting you by giving you my best possible answer whenever you ask.”
Jay stood and grabbed his iPad in one hand and his plate in the other. He set his tablet on the counter, then scraped his dish into the trash without looking at Caitlin.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “You’re right.”
And he was. The cycle was tired after a year and a half of spinning. This was the part where Caitlin normally surrendered, when she said OK and then nothing else, because anything else would lead to a fight. In the midst of discord was the only time when they didn’t make love, and not making love turned the shadow of a problem into a stranger living in their space.
It’s time for a change.
Caitlin said, “I want to make things better.”
Jay looked tired, and impatient. “I have to get ready for my call.”
“Okay, but can we talk about it later? Maybe tonight?”
“What is it you want, Caitlin?” Jay sighed. “I really don’t want to fight, especially about this.”
“And you think I do?”
He smiled, the thinnest of the morning. “No, I don’t think you want to fight, but that’s exactly what happens every time.”
“I just want to know your fantasies,” she said. “That’s all. Maybe if I know your fantasies, I could be better.”
“We’ve tried this,” he said.
“We can try it again.”
Jay sighed, deeper than the first time, then went around from the kitchen and sat back at the table beside Caitlin. “Look, I get it, and again, I’m not complaining. We have sex a lot more than most couples and I couldn’t love you any more than I do. So I really don’t see why this is a problem.”
“Because you’re not happy.”
He laughed, though not like something was funny. “I am happy.”
“You could be happier.”
“Everyone could be happier.”
“You could be happier with me.”
“Honey,” he took her hand. “Caitlin, sweetie, you’re taking this personally and you shouldn’t. I am happy. I love our life. And I’m not asking you to do anything different.”
“But that’s just it, Jay. I’m asking you. I’m saying I want to make a change for the better, so why won’t you let me?”
“Because you won’t like what I have to say, and honestly, it’s not like I even feel a need to say it.”
“But I feel the need Jay. I want our lovemaking to be better than it is.”
Jay’s face suddenly changed, shifting to one Caitlin didn’t particularly like, the same one he wore when flirting with anger.
“That’s the thing, Caitlin. Our lovemaking doesn’t need any improvement. We’re just fine in that department. A+, perfect 10, blue ribbons all the way. We make love just fine.”
“What are you saying?”
“That sometimes I want to fuck you, Caitlin.” His voice was creeping toward a yell. “Sometimes I want to hold you down and fuck you to tears. Sometimes I want to come home from work, slam you against the wall, lift your skirt, tear the panties from your ass and fuck you until I’m finished. Not slow and without an I love you before or after. I want to fuck you hard, just to get off. Like I don’t even know you.”
A tear fell from her eye and she could tell from Jay’s face that he wished he’d said nothing, that he’d held it inside since the conversation was clearly headed where she promised it wouldn’t. Caitlin knew she should say nothing back, just take the feelings she asked for and process them later. He didn’t have long to shower before his call.
She said something anyway.
“Like a whore then? You want to fuck me like a whore?”
“Yes,” Jay said, holding her eyes.
Caitlin expected just about any answer other than yes. Honest as it might have been, she expected Jay to backpedal, or maybe reassure her, especially with half of her face so wet.
They suffered through a minute of silence, then Jay took her hand and said, “Look, baby, I don’t want to fight, but you asked. You sure you want to talk about this? Especially now?”
He sighed. “Okay. I’m sorry about what I just said, I wasn’t trying to be vulgar, and truth is I wanna have sex with you slow just as often as I want to have sex with you fast. But that’s it, sometimes I want to have sex how I want to have sex.”
Caitlin was calm, listening, giving Jay the confidence to continue.
“One of the biggest differences between men and women is how we think about sex. Sure, our genders have been different for thousands of years, but I think they’re more similar than ever. Men are growing more feminine, and women more masculine. As a general rule, men can separate sex from emotion far more than women. Yes, there are women who are pure sexual creatures and are able to separate sex from emotion every time, but as a general rule, guys usually separate sex from emotion and girls rarely do.”
Caitlin could only stare at Jay, horrified by what might be coming next, so he kept going.
“Men like whores because it puts them in control of their sex, it helps them feel like they have a say, makes them feel dominant for 15 minutes to an hour, even if in real life they’re not intelligent or attractive or noble.”
“But you’re all of those things,” Caitlin said. “You are intelligent. You are attractive. You are noble. And I want you. I desire you. That’s why we have sex all the time!”
Jay shook his head. “It’s not the same. An escort charges for sex. That turns it into a client/vendor relationship. In that relationship, the client is always in charge. That’s why I’m taking a call in 15 minutes and staying late at the office tonight. That relationship appeals to the male desire for fantasy.”
“The desire for fantasy doesn’t belong to your gender,” Caitlin snapped.
“Yes, but that’s exactly it. Female fantasies are usually geared toward love and affection, not quickies and one-night stands.”
“That’s not entirely true.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “But it’s true more often than not, which is the point. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sex, Caitlin, but there are generalities and cliches and stereotypes, none of which are almost universally acknowledged by accident. Of course, the world is always specific to the individual, but if we’re talking biology, men are hardwired to spread their seed, while women are hardwired to find and latch onto a provider. It only makes sense that women fantasize about a white horse while guys are thinking about bending the stable girl in half.”
“Nice Jay,” Caitlin scowled at her husband.
“You asked.” He didn’t snarl, but there wasn’t a note of apology in his tone.
“Have you ever gone to a whore?” Caitlin knew it was mean, and not what Jay deserved before she said it, but the look on his face was a bullet to her gut. “Sorry,” she whispered.
“It’s fine,” he said, though she could tell it really wasn’t. “I just don’t know what you want from me. You’re complaining about stuff that I’m not, then after you browbeat me into an answer you get mad at what I say. And it’s every fucking time.”
“You don’t have to swear.”
“You don’t have to make me feel like I can’t answer anything right. That’s what Miller and Hodge are for.”
Neither of them spoke as they stood eye to eye and three feet apart, breathing heavy. Finally, Jay looked like he was going to go, pulled his eyes from hers and took a step toward the hallway, then turned back to Caitlin. Instead of an apology, he said, “Men go to escorts because they’re not looking for emotion, and because escorts will do shit the misses won’t dream of.”
“Maybe those husbands aren’t telling their wives what they want.”
“Maybe,” Jay shrugged. “Or maybe that’s bullshit. I bet a lot of guys try telling their wives what they want, especially if asked, but have their desires answered with reluctance, listlessness, guilt, or any of the rest of the crap that strips a guy’s satisfaction. Escorts are paid to please clients. For an agreed upon fee they will do nearly anything to satisfy desire. Not only without the reluctance or guilt, but freely and with enthusiasm, manufactured or not.”
Jay paused, then sighed again and stole another glance at the clock. He stepped back toward Caitlin and took her hand. “Remember when we were first together and you kept trying to blow me all the time, and you really, really wanted to get better and didn’t understand why I wasn’t digging it as much as you thought I should since, after all, my dick was in your mouth?”
“And what did I say?”
“That a blowjob was like 95% enthusiasm, and that I was over thinking it.”
Jay smiled. “That’s exactly right, and sex is exactly the same. Even if an escort is being paid, she’s there to please the man. That alone offers a tremendous built-in fantasy element. I don’t know one guy who wouldn’t admit to at least sometimes wanting to fuck in full control, his way.”
“Have you ever fantasized about being with a whore?”
“Yes, of course. But I never would.” He looked down, uncertain, then back up at Caitlin and held her eyes. “I fantasize about you being my whore all the time.”
She blinked, stuttered, then fell into stunned silence.
Jay brightened, as if he had an idea. She’d seen the face before, and knew he got it at work all the time. It was his pitching face.
“Actually,” he said, “I rather like that. We’ve never really done any role play. That could be a fun way to spice things up in the bedroom.”
Caitlin could feel her face draining of color.
“You want me to be your whore?”
“Sure,” Jay was suddenly smiling. “I could even leave money on the nightstand. It could be fun. Just pretend.”
“Absolutely not,” Caitlin crossed her arms across her chest. “I don’t need or want to be objectified.”
“But it’s not objectification,” Jay insisted. “It’s pretend. It’s about finding ways to maximize our mutual enjoyment. Isn’t that why you wanted to have this discussion right now, before my call, even though I said it wasn’t the best time?” He stole another glance at the clock and Caitlin followed his gaze — 12 minutes until his call, and no time for a shower.
“Look,” he squeezed Caitlin’s hands tighter. “You asked, I answered, and gave you what I thought was a decent suggestion. You want me to be more satisfied. Fun and excitement would do it. You know me, Cay, you know I’m playful and eager and easily excitable. That’s what makes me good at what I do. Doesn’t it make sense that I’d want my sex the same way?”
“But nothing, that’s exactly it. You don’t have to listen to my thoughts, but it hurts for you to ask and then ignore me after I give them. I’d really rather you not ask at all.”
“I didn’t expect you to call me a whore.”
“I didn’t,” he said, the ball in his throat hovering toward the top. Caitlin couldn’t tell if he needed to swallow or spit. Finally, he swallowed. “I have a call to take. I’ve gotta go.”
Jay didn’t wait for Caitlin to answer. He shook his head, almost too slight for her to notice, then turned, stepped into the hallway, and headed for the stairs.