"In married life three is company and two is none."
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
When you think about it, and I often do think about it, Susanne Aurelia Pitts should never have married me. Come on, admit it, I was too old for her. I was too old for anybody. Add to that the way we met, the way we found each other after Tooie had died and there was bound to be a disaster ahead for us. Still, she was so sweet and pretty, in her way, and I was so lonesome after my wife passed, and so much in need, and so much alone without Max to talk to, that marriage to someone must have been inevitable. And there was Susanne.
Sheís a very nice woman. Thatís the worst of it. Very nice woman tend to "like" me and I am far too carnal a beast to like "like" when what I want is someone whoís lust is just heating up. Susanne was carnal, but her appetite went to the mixed buffet and not just the meats. My appeal, for her, was solidly vested in the triple, not the double. She had come to me through Tooie and it was the two of us she had enjoyed so much, not me. Of course neither of us was willing to admit this for the first few months of our marriage.
Oh, she tried to be a single spouse. She cooked for me, cleaned for me, kept my clothing neat and tidy, kept the apartment the same. Weíd go out to a movie or over to Roseland Ballroom for some dancing. She liked wine tastings and I went along with her trying to drink as much in case she needed a solid arm. I liked book signings and readings and she would accompany me, sit by me, hold my hand and try not to yawn. We were very capable, if not compatible, companions.
Weíd been legally joined for about six months when she decided to have the "conversation" with me. It was her doing, not mine, her choice, not mine. When it was over, things were permanently different. Permanently.
"Vinnie, Iím not happy," she started, even before I could sit down with my glass of Scotch and cross my legs.
"Whatís wrong, sweetheart?" I asked her. I already had a theory, thatís who I am, but I wasnít letting on.
"Itís us," she said. "Itís just us."
"Us, yes." She frowned and shook her finger at me. "Weíre nice people, but weíre dull, just us. I donít know...but I think weíre both in need of further stimulation."
"What does that mean, Susanne?"
"I donít. If I did, I would say so."
"Well, when you and Tooie were married you had others to help you both with your sexual needs."
"Thatís correct." I was right, I knew, about my theory and here it was, coming at me like gangbusters.
"I need others, too," she added.
"Donít you, Vinnie?"
"Youíre my dream girl," I said simply, "my dream wife. Iím perfectly happy with you alone."
There was a pause, a silence between us, or between her and me as there really was no "us" just then.
"That was sweet," she said.
"Itís the truth, Susanne."
Another pause. I could almost watch her thinking, see her thoughts played out on her face.
"I think we should try," she said.
"Try to make this work, you mean?"
"Try it with others," she replied.
"What do you mean, exactly? What do you really want to do?" I was afraid sheíd tell me that she wanted to take a lover. In fact, I was sure that was the way she wanted to go.
"I think a threesome now and then, Vin, would be stimulating."
My mind and my loins jumped back a decade. This had been Tooieís idea also. The difference was that she was a Lesbian and she and I only had sex together a dozen times or so in our marriage. All of the rest of the time it was with another woman. Somehow she could find satisfaction in my pleasure with a pretty girl. This time, however, things were slated to be different.
"What do you really want?" I asked her.
"I want you to make love to me, Vin, like always, but I want another man involved at the same time."
"I donít understand," I said.
"I want to watch," she said.
"You want to watch what?"
"I want to watch you and another man making love."
That was her declaration of independence, I thought. She would make me over into a homosexual man and then expect me to pleasure her in some way. I wasnít sure how, or if, this could work. I told her so.
"Well, it wouldnít anything so radically new for you, Vin. You made love to Max, you told me."
"I kissed him once. He looked his Lainie, his grandmother. I was drunk and got carried away. Thatís not being attracted to men."
"I donít know that I want you attracted to men, Vin, just screwing one now and then, for me, for my pleasure."
"Susanne, you are something else," I said, not knowing what else to say and not wanting to offend her or hurt her feelings.
"Iím your wife, Vinnie, and I want to go on being your wife, but sex with you is ... dull. I donít want dull."
"Yes. Dull. Almost humiliating itís so dull."
"Susanne.... I ...." I was speechless.
"You try, dear, and you try and you try and you try. And all you try is my patience."
"What does that mean?" I could my voice rising - louder and higher.
"Can I speak frankly?"
I thought that was a bizarre question after such a conversation, and I told her so. She laughed, or rather giggled out loud, then coughed a few times to regain her composure.
"I havenít had an orgasm since we married," she said.
"Well, thatís pretty direct," I remarked.
"Itís the truth. I donít know what to do. I went to my doctor and he talked about auto-stimulation, but I donít know."
"So you want us to take a lover, then?"
"No. Not a lover. Pickups. One-night stands. And, not a lot, not often Vinnie, but now and then."
"Susanne, I donít know what to say to this. Itís not the lifestyle I want."
"Well, we can try to behave, I guess," she said, "but Iím afraid Iíll just get bored with you and bored with us and want to leave you."
"So, youíre threatening to leave me."
"Itís not a threat, Vinnie. How can you say that? Itís just the natural progression of a dull marriage."
"You know," I said to her, "I never thought you were an ordinary girl, a person without colors. I always imagined you were special. You have been for me, Susanne. You really have satisfied that part of the dream for me. But now you bring me an idea that is so much the opposite of what I hoped for that I donít know how to handle it."
"Iím a little bit surprised myself," she said. "I thought with your wonderful history as Tooieís husband that this would seem natural, ideal almost."
"So what do we do now, then?"
"Sleep on it?" I suggested.
"Okay, but maybe in separate beds," she replied.
"Okay. For now."
I leaned over to kiss her, for I really do love her you know, and she leaned in for it. It was a sweet kiss, tasty and sweet, gentle and sweet. I licked her lips with my tongue and she smiled - I could feel that smile. When we parted I sat looking at her, into her beautiful, trusting eyes and I realized that she had taken a giant leap in our relationship, telling me how she felt and what she felt she needed. I also knew that I wasnít all that interested in doing what she was asking of me.
"Iíll think about it," I said.
"Threeís company," she said.
I nodded but added, "Apparently two isnít."
She shook her head. This was the shortest time Iíd ever spent contemplating the changes in my life. Different faces, different times were playing out in my head like a melange of delicate fruits and nuts. There was Lainie, of course, and Tooie and Max and Lana and a hundred nameless faces and limbs, women who had spent a few furtive hours between Tooie and me. They all swam around now in my memoryís lake of love-making. In all this time Max had been the only man I had ever kissed. It had been pleasant, refreshing and frightening. I wondered if I could attempt that again with another man, with a stranger.
"How would it work?" I asked my wife. And she proceeded to tell me. When she finished, I knew I would do it. After all, she was my wife and I loved her and her happiness was sacred to me. Itís what husbands do, or should do: please their women.
But my life was permanently altered. Permanently. And every time I climbed into the threesome-bed, unlike the years with Tooie when I thought about Lainie during our intercourse, now I thought about Max. Permanently.