I fall in love with people all the time—men and women, single and taken, gay and straight.
My husband knows this.
I have an extraordinary fantasy life. When I see someone across a coffee shop, or see a dead writer read his story on YouTube…and there’s something in the eyes, a knowing, a spark, something so compelling that my soul gets a tug; I feel all the feelings, I smile. I give a bit of my heart away. And then I go home.
I have loved: Hélène Cixous, Judith Butler, Marvin Hamlisch, Alan Watts, Paul Bowles, Liv Tyler, Lindsey Buckingham, Leslie Feist, Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Robbins, James Joyce, Ryan Adams, lots of thin pale brunettes wearing raincoats as they glide over crosswalks, lots of short, bespectacled, balding Jewish professor-types riding bikes. Priests and monks too. And more.
Just a couple weeks ago, fiction writer Lorrie Moore was in town reading at Vanderbilt. Her voice melts my insides. When I asked her to sign Birds Of America, I became tongue-tied. She was right there. My husband and I both wanted to go, but someone had to watch the kid, and he sweetly told me, grinning, “You go. You’re the one in love with her.” He was right.
A week before, he came home from a fiction reading and told me a few women had chatted him up after, crushing on him. He knew I would love hearing this: how scintillating to know that pretty girls thought my man was delicious. They confirmed that I had chosen well. “Why didn’t you bring them home?” I asked.
I was joking, of course. But really? I’m not opposed to having trysts. It’s just that I’ve never done this because it comes down to logistics for me: how do you find the time and energy and money? How do you guarantee the absence of disease? And what if I got pregnant and had to get one of those Jerry Springer paternity tests?
One of my favorite nonfiction reads is Mating In Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and Domestic by psychotherapist Esther Perel. There are lots of yummy tidbits in the book, but the general theme is the importance of eroticizing a domestic partner—in essence, viewing someone so familiar through the new eyes of a third party—so that a person’s sexual nature is not taken for granted, and is awakened and reawakened. Sometimes, a real—living, breathing, licking—third party stokes the fire like nothing else can.
It takes a committed relationship—a place of safety and respect and trust—for these tricks to work magic. This, I think, is why I secretly eroticize people in passing: I feel safe enough, loved enough already. I feel sexier when I have these mini-fantasy-affairs all over town. When I feel super-sexy, my husband benefits. So his naturally jealous Italian instincts have calmed down a bit, and in turn, he gets a girl who dances in the living room, grows her hair long, wears dresses, slaps his ass as he walks up the stairs.
And me? I get a dude who doesn’t give me crap about not wearing my wedding ring, because I believe commitment is deeper than that. I get a dude who surprises me with orchids, writes cards about how lucky he feels, dedicates his book to me, makes me huevos rancheros on the weekends. I get a dude who lets me be me.
This week I turn thirty-five, and this week I get a dude who’s taking me to see THE Marvin Hamlisch at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center (named after Kenneth Schermerhorn, the gorgeous white-haired—and now dead—conductor of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, on whom I had an intense crush which culminated in a moment in the Wild Oats cafe, where our eyes locked over our bowls of soup…). So, this week it’s only natural that my music collection is getting an intense workout. Here’s your playlist. Then after that you’ll find your guide to the lover-ly fiction and poetry this week. Ciao, sexy readers.
The first week of February in 1977, the number one song in the country was “The Morning After” by Maureen McGovern, so even though, yes, it qualifies in the “secret lovers” category, and even though it’s crazy-cheesy, I included it mostly as a nod to my newborn self. Robbie Dupree was the first singer to awaken my pre-teen eroticism (sitar solo, anyone?). And have you ever really listened to the lyrics of “Midnight At the Oasis”?
It’s the premise of “The Utility Room” that is especially distinctive, and Michael Nye’s impressive writing only strengthens the story. What would you do if you, post-divorce, found yourself with a mortgage you couldn’t afford and a spare room? The narrator is quiet, observant, and curious—unsuspecting, but not reproving—and seeing the plot unfold through her eyes is a pleasure.
Our flash’s title alone should intrigue you plenty, but “Manga Girls Need Love: Two Is More Than a Dozen” is even more intriguing split open and read. It’s a tiny world Kyle Hemmings has created, with two lovers nesting inside and thinking, loving, imagining, loving, snuggling, loving. The shades close at the end, bringing our voyeurism to a halt, so enjoy it while it lasts.
“Oregon Blonde” by Coop Lee verbalizes the warm and cold of love, the trust and mistrust of lovers, the smack on the head after an embrace of the heart. One night, there forever, its warmth unforgettable even after the jarring morning.
Art by Sheala Denning on flickr