I imagined the two of us sitting in front of a fireplace, crackling embers shooting skyward, a snifter of brandy cupped in my hand, a glass of sherry being sipped by wife, whom I call "Mother," an Irish setter stretched out at our feet, carols playing softly in the background.
Instead, Rebecca and I were sprawled in front of the TV in mismatched sweats, our thick-socked feet propped up on corduroy-covered pillows piled on the cocktail table, and our Wheaten terrier curled up on the throw rug, grooming himself with accompanying slurping sounds. I thumbed past It's a Wonderful Life and vapid, warmed-over holiday specials headlining irrelevant B-listers, searching for the "yuletide log" - the ultimate television experience - just to piss her off.
"Would you please find something to watch? Anything, for chrissakes, already," said not so gently by my wife of 36 years. I knew channel surfing irritated her, but at least it was better than the hooting and whooping on Family Feud, which was what she would have chosen.
"You want the goddamn remote? Here, take it." I flipped it onto her lap. "You gotta know that on Erev Christmas, there's nothing on."
"This is ridiculous." She tossed the remote back. "I'm going upstairs to take a bath."
As she stood, the phone rang. She went to answer it.
I tuned out, as usual. It was probably one of her sisters or our daughter wanting to gab, having nothing better to do. I switched over to ESPN and turned down the sound.
There was a concerned look on her face as she walked back towards me. Her thumb was over the mouthpiece. "It's for you, Davie."
"Who is it?" I mouthed.
She shrugged and handed me the phone.
"Hello?" I said.
"Hello. Is this David? David Wexler?"
"Uh, yeah. Who is this?"
"Don't you ... remember me? It's Sareet."
"Sareet ... from North Babylon?"
There was only one Sareet I knew, from so many years before, just before meeting Rebecca. The husky, smoky voice didn't sound at all like the cheery, flirty voice of the seventeen-year-old I had gone out with then.
Rebecca now had a puzzled look on her face. I gestured for her to wait a minute.
"So, how're you doing? It's been a long time."
"Not good ... David. Not so good ... at all."
"What's going on?" There was something in her speech that put me on edge. I beckoned Rebecca over and patted the couch cushion. She pointed upstairs but I shook my head. My worried look must have alarmed her. She sat down next to me.
"Life's been ... really rough. After graduating from Maryland, I got a job with the NIH ... in Bethesda. Began working ... on my doctorate. That's when the, uh, shit began to hit the fan ... pardon my French."
"That's okay." I chuckled. "I've heard much worse."
"It's been bad. I've been in and out of hospitals. Mental hospitals. But I can trace it back ... to when it all started." She paused. "It's when you called me, uh ... a bitch."
A bitch? This was crazy! Suddenly wary, I asked, "What exactly are you talking about?"
"Don't you remember, David? The night you told me you didn't want to see me anymore? You said I was a bitch. You called me other names ... and you said a lot of other hurtful, hurtful things about me ... and about my family."
I thought back. I remember the housing development, the curving dogwood-lined, tree-named streets, the white split-level surrounded by overgrown evergreens. I remember sitting with her in the kitchen late that night, my coffee and crumb cake untouched, telling her I couldn't see her anymore, telling her that Rebecca and I were getting more serious, telling her that we were even thinking about getting married. And Sareet sobbing and shaking her head, repeating over and over, "I don't believe this" and "I thought you loved me." and "Why are you doing this to me?" And throughout we had to keep our voices low because her parents were asleep upstairs. But I definitely did not remember calling her a bitch or bad-mouthing her parents. Well, maybe a little, but not the way she must've meant. It was not at all like me. Especially back then.
It was the second summer after my graduation from Stony Brook. I bombed out after just one term of graduate school in Texas, and was well into my second welfare-worker job. At 22 I was gobbling down Rolaids and already burning out with over 100 impossible-to-close cases. It was the late 60s, man, and I was drifting.
My unit supervisor suggested a marathon encounter session: a dozen people, a weekend in a therapist's home, staying up all night communicating, catharting, "getting down to the nitty-gritty." When I left, that Sunday afternoon, I was energized, emotionally freed, and chomping at the bit to, as they put it, "go on with the rest of my life." That evening I met Sareet.
A local synagogue was having a singles mixer, the type of get-together I usually hated to attend. I was never good at small talk, never good at picking girls up. That night, though, I must still have been glowing with vulnerability and openness. After several slow, really slow dances, Sareet and I left together. The fact that I had a new Chevelle parked outside and a full-time job probably added to my seemingly irresistible allure. The fact that there was a five year age difference probably put us on the same emotional level. "Where do you want to go?" "I don't know, where do you want to go?" We went parking down at the marina.
We listened to WABC. We talked and confided, realized we meshed. We hugged and kissed, then began making out for real. Drizzle turned to rain and I had to close the windows, which soon steamed up. On her passenger window, Sareet finger-drew a heart with an arrow and our initials intertwined. My first time with her, and the encounter fee was already paying off.
I reached under my seat, pulled the lever and leg-pushed the seat all the way back. She turned around with her back against the steering wheel and we started again, slower but with more urgency, more need, more heat.
My left arm held her tight while my right hand explored her body. I slid my hand over her blouse and then under it. Instead of objecting, she lifted up just enough so I could unhook her brassiere one-handed. She moaned as I caressed one breast, then the other, and tiny-squealed when I play-pinched her nipple. "Too much?" I asked. "No. Just take it easy" and she drew me closer.
I felt myself getting hard as she squirmed against me. It had been so long and I didn't want to make a mess. There'd been times when I had to walk into my house holding a day-old newspaper in front of me to hide the tell-tale stain.
First base, second base. I never thought like that, but I decided to try for third. I slipped my hand under her skirt to stroke the insides of her thighs. For a few moments, I thought she'd protest, but then she ever-so-slowly parted her legs as I continued upwards. Her panties were already silky-sticky-moist. I began to rub two fingers against the wetness between her legs and she shifted herself to press against my hand.
Her body undulated in time with my stroking. Between shallow, insistent breaths, she whispered, "Your fingers ... under ... I need them ... inside ..."
I gently slipped my fingers under the elastic, pulled aside the crotch material, and slid one finger into her.
"Oh ... do it ..."
Moments later, "Please ... make it wetter ... more ..."
I drew my fingers into my mouth and tasted her salty sweetness, her wonderfully pungent taste and smell. I reached back down and continued with two fingers and then a third, with my thumb nubbling in front, cycling from my mouth down to her, not like she needed my saliva.
Her breath quickened and she quivered as my hand ground between her thighs. Her body began to shudder and she made tiny, whimpering sounds. And then, suddenly, she slapped my hand away.
"Oh God ... that was so ... good ..." she said, panting. She adjusted her clothing and sat back down next to me. A few moments later, she bent over me unzipped my fly, took me out and started rubbing me with both hands. It didn't take long.
That was as far as she was willing to go during the several months we went out. Sometimes we did go to a movie or eat at Ming's, but most often we just went parking. All of this I remember, but not calling her a bitch.
"You there, David?"
"Yeah, sorry. I was just, uh, thinking back, trying to remember. It's been a really long time, you know?"
"Thirty-seven years, to be exact. Unlike you, I do remember."
"Sareet, I hear what you're saying, but I do not remember ever calling you a bitch. Or being nasty to you in any way."
"Listen, Mister. What you said to me had more of an effect on me - more lasting repercussions - than you could ever imagine."
"How can you possibly blame me?" I was getting angrier and Rebecca was giving me a "what the hell is going on" look. I shook my head and shrugged. I was wishing she could listen in, to bear witness to the looniness.
"It's your fault, goddamn it!" Sareet was shouting. "It's your fault for everything!"
I didn't know how to respond. I took a deep breath, then another, to calm myself. Then waited.
"David? Are you still there." Her voice was now quavering.
"Yeah. But I don't know what to say."
"Well, I would certainly like to talk about it." Her voice, now suddenly calmer.
"C'mon. It's Christmas Eve. It's late already. What the hell do you want from me?"
"I want ... I don't know ... yes I do. I want resolution. I really want all the years back, but I know that'd be impossible. I'm not that crazy."
I waited silently for her to continue.
"Listen, David. Can I call you again?"
I was torn. She was obviously so much in need. But she sounded irrational and menacing, and possibly dangerous. There was far too much to lose.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Sareet. Not a good idea at all."
"You mean you ...?"
"That's right. Please don't call here. Ever. Again."
There was a click, then dead air.
I shook my head, pressed OFF and placed the headset down on the armrest.
"What the hell was that all about?" Rebecca was glaring, but scared-eyed, at me.
"Let me tell you about it later, okay? Go take your bath. Then afterwards we can ..."
Rev 7 / November 12, 2007
October, 2007 Copyright © 2007, Lloyd B. Abrams