Issue 3

Tim Scott

She won’t stop. She doesn’t want to stop.
      I suggested therapy: couples’ therapy or just for her. I said I’d pay for the best but she won’t go. She says it’s not a problem.
      It all started off fairly innocently. When our daughter Molly was almost two, I noticed that my wife had started incorporating it – her touch – into our sex. It could’ve passed me by because, at first, it wasn’t interfering too much. I mean we were doing everything just as often as normal and for as long.
      She does the selfless deed, oral sex, about once a month and that routine didn’t change right away. She tends to offer after we’ve had an argument or after I’ve paid for something major. The first time I caught her pleasing herself, it was after she’d offered. I’d written a cheque earlier that day to the builders for redoing the kitchen surfaces. She was sick of grey. I made a little joke that she’d have to make it up to me, that she’d have to start paying for these things herself when I retired, and she became quite angry. It was embarrassing. She put it in her mouth that night to say sorry and thank you.
      I’d cricked my shoulder you see and I had to sit up in bed. It was awkward and uncomfortable. It meant I could see her, which I normally never can. She had one hand on me, holding it steady, and her other hand was on her, between her legs, a finger hidden.
      I asked her, ‘are you touching yourself?’
      ‘I’m enjoying it,’ she said. ‘Aren’t you?’
      Well, obviously I couldn’t make a big deal out of it. But then she’d started doing it when we’d have full sex too, which happened about once a week. She’d get in the mood, or at least become willing, when I was picking out my tie for work on a Sunday night. That didn’t change for a long time. Only I’d started to notice that as she’d kiss my neck, very lightly, before we started making love or whatever you’d call it, a finger would vanish.
      She’d started asking me to wear a condom too. I’ve had my tubes crossed so I don’t know why she still felt the need for a condom. It was any excuse really, any excuse to make a bit more time for her. She’d take a little too long reaching for a condom from my bedside drawer and she’d take a little too long unwrapping it and putting it on me. She’d start panting slightly as she did it. It was very different to the affirmations, the screaming that came out of her when I was involved. When it was just her – when she was pleasuring herself, she’d shiver.
      After I’d done, her fingers would go back there. She’d deal with the condom, clean me up, and then she’d sit up, still on my lap. She’d sit there for what felt like half an hour touching herself. She didn’t want to let me free. She’d gasp and she wouldn’t care that I could see a dozen places that needed make up, that I could see how badly her breasts were sagging. When she’d finish, she’d look me in the eye. One night, she even asked me to.
      ‘Watch me, you have to watch me.’
      Well, one night I didn’t want to watch. I’d been sent a fine through the post for an illegal left turn. I didn’t want to watch her be happy. She grabbed my chin with the hand that she didn’t need. Her thumb was on my birthmark. Her fingers were on the other side of my chin: they were pressing into my skin when she tried to move my head around.
      The sex became less frequent after that. It was gradual but I still noticed the change. For her excuse, she wouldn’t say she had a headache. That would be too big a cliché for her. She always liked to think she was an individual. She’d say she was tired instead. I knew that was a lie because I’d always seem to fall asleep before she did. When I struggled, I’d never hear her snoring. I’d hear her trying not to moan or pant.
      I’d hear a slight rustling too, almost a scratching. It’s hard to describe because it was so hard to hear. I could hear it. This noise came from something else she’d started doing, or started not doing. She’d stopped shaving herself. She’d still shave her legs in the bath and shave under her arms, but she’d stopped shaving ‘there.’ I tried joking about it with her one night in bed.
      I asked her, ‘are you letting yourself go?’
      I ran two fingers between her legs, forcing her nightgown up as I did, and she batted them away.
      ‘Stop it. What do you mean?’
      ‘You’re letting hair grow there. Are you becoming continental?’
      ‘I’ll stop taking you to France so often if that’s what causing it.’
      She didn’t think that was funny. I could tell straight away.
      ‘That’s armpits,’ she muttered. She turned her back to me and put her hands under her head, like a child miming sleep.
      ‘I didn’t want to upset you,’ I said. ‘I just prefer it the other way, you know. A lot of men prefer it the other way.’
      ‘Well it’s mine and I prefer it this way.’
      After that she started finding ways to spend less time at home. She’d take Molly round to my mother’s, her sister’s, or a neighbour’s house almost every night. She volunteered at a charity shop on a Saturday. She started doing yoga on a Sunday evening, even tried going to Church in the mornings but that didn’t take.
      She decided it was very important to celebrate half-birthdays. When Molly was two and a half she wanted a big family reunion down south. She’s younger than I am so she still has both parents and all four grandparents. She had a party at her mother’s during the week, hired caterers that I paid for. I couldn’t go. I couldn’t get the time off work. She should’ve known that.
      She’d still sleep with me every night. I mean she’d sleep in the same bed every night. She’d sleep with me in the other sense a lot less often.
      Her problem kept getting worse. It seemed to become part of her daily life, not just our nightly one. She’d drop things in the kitchen, stupid things like rolls of clingfilm, but sometimes she’d drop knives and potato peelers. It was dangerous what she was doing, with Molly crawling around by her feet. She’d drop them and then she wouldn’t bend to pick them up normally. She’d crouch slightly and she’d go for the object, the knife, the cucumber, what have you, with her right hand. She’d rub the back of her fingers, then the back of her hand, then the soft back of her arm against her crotch, through whatever clothes she was wearing, even through jeans. I swear she’d do that ten times just making dinner. She’d do the dishes by hand even though we’ve got a dishwasher and she’d drop the Fairy, and then the scourer, every time. Then she’d bend to pick them up in that horrible way. I’d see her.
      She was giving Molly a bath one night and I came in with a cordless.
      ‘It’s your mother for you,’ I said.
      ‘Tell her I’ll call her back. We’re too soapy to talk. Aren’t we, Molly?’
      She said all this without looking at me once. She’d used bubbles from a bottle shaped like Homer Simpson and she was waving the bottle in Molly’s face. She had Molly balanced on her knees, held steady with one hand. I don’t know where the other hand was. There were bubbles like I said. I couldn’t prove it but I was pretty sure. She denied everything.
      That night, when I was trying to get off, I couldn’t hear any rustling.