The lowering skies open abruptly, hurling fat, horizontal drops into our faces. We have set out on our weekly walk wearing sweaters, sure we’ll beat the onslaught. It is quite late in the afternoon. There has been no rain all day, and we’re sure the storm will pass us by. We’ve guessed wrong—so here we are, nearly two miles from our destination and shelter. As the downpour swells, soaking us, we look at each other and shrug, as if to say, “Well, we can’t get any wetter than this.” We walk on, already wet to the skin, our hair plastered to our faces.
As usual, we keep a brisk pace, chattering like best-friends schoolchildren, ignoring the torrent. The wind seems to drive the rain straight to our skin. We were sweating a moment before, but now begin to feel the chill from our soaked clothing. At last we reach the car, wet to the bone—and cold. She shivers slightly as I start the engine. I push the heat control to maximum and drive toward town.
I look over at her; her dark hair is pasted to her face in long strands. One drop hangs from the tip of her nose. She hugs herself as though willing warmth into her body. I have never seen a more adorable castaway. We drive on, the wipers slapping at their highest speed.
“Hotel?” I ask.
“Hotel!” she says, clenching her teeth to keep them from chattering. I call the Lafayette Park on my cellular. There is one room available immediately. I tell the clerk we’ll take it and will arrive within fifteen minutes. I resist the urge to ask the rate—it doesn’t matter.
The car’s heater has begun to work only minutes before we pull into the Park’s broad circular driveway, under the sheltering portico. A uniformed doorman opens the passenger door. He is surely suppressing an urge to sneer at these two bedraggled intruders to his hotel. I slip him a five dollar bill and he touches the brim of his cap, bowing slightly.
We squish toward the desk, leaving twin trails of water on the marble floor. The clerk smiles graciously as we approach.
“We have just the one room available, sir. I hope you will find it satisfactory.” I nod as I sign the registration card and push it across the desk along with my credit card. “Luggage, sir?” I shake my head, feeling a little sheepish. I remember walking home from fourth grade in a downpour. My mother laughed, plopped me into a warm bath, fussed over me and gave me hot cocoa. I half expect the desk clerk to scold us for arriving in such a state—but he simply returns my credit card to me, writes the room number on a folder containing two key cards and directs us to the elevator.
As we ride the elevator to the third floor, I recall that she has earlier referred to me as her lover. I turn the word over in my mind, enjoying the feel of it there. The doors slide quietly open and we step into the hallway. The room is three doors down, to the right.
I push the key card into the slot and open the door. I am unprepared for what I see: the room is huge, dominated by an oversized bed in the center. Some kind soul has started a fire in the fireplace; it crackles invitingly, providing most of the light in the room. There are two chairs and a small table in the corner. A single lamp, turned down low, hangs over the table. There is an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne, two flutes and—I am not making this up—a bowl of chocolate covered strawberries. We stand there for a moment, speechless.
I open the champagne and pour two glasses, handing one to her. We clink glasses and take a sip, looking over the rims at each other. I feed her a chocolate strawberry, then follow with a kiss. Her mouth is soft and warm, pressing against mine familiarly. I wrap my arms around her damp body, pulling her to me. We hold the kiss for a long moment, then fumble our champagne glasses back on the table. We are back in each other’s arms, mouths pressed together, hungry. I slide my hands under her wet sweater and shirt, stroking her soft skin, feeling warmth return. Her hands are on my skin, too, stroking. I lift her wet sweater and shirt over her head and drop the soggy bundle on the floor at our feet.
There is always something magical in a woman’s breasts as they are first revealed. That magic never seems to abate for me, regardless of how many times I may undress a woman. This day, standing with my…my lover in this warm room I feel the magic more strongly than ever. As she pulls my sweater over my head and draws me to her, some lines from a favorite Herrick poem dance in my head:
Have ye beheld (with much delight)
A red rose peeping through a white ?
Or else a cherry, double grac’d,
Within a lily centre plac’d ?
Or ever mark’d the pretty beam
A strawberry shows half-drown’d in cream ?
Or seen rich rubies blushing through
A pure smooth pearl and orient too ?
So like to this, nay all the rest,
Is each neat niplet of her breast.
My mind insists on substituting my lover’s name for the “Julia” of the poem.
We embrace again in the soft light, wrapping our arms around each other, swaying gently to music only she and I hear. The fire crackles companionably.
Soon the rest of our wet clothing is on the floor. We press against each other, seeking closer contact, drawing warmth from each other. I guide us to the bed. It has been neatly turned down, two foil-wrapped mints placed on the pillows. I pull the covers open, and we fall as one onto the broad mattress.
This is not the first time we have been naked together. Even from our first date, we have explored each other’s bodies, seeking new centers of pleasure. As we find and expand the boundaries of this relationship, those pleasures seem to come more easily, as though an extension of the ease we have always felt with each other. This time seems different; certainly the setting is different—the fireplace, the champagne, all the trappings—but the way her body fits to mine seems more familiar, as though we have been lovers for years, rather than barely two months.
We have talked about our lives apart from each other. We wonder why this thing of ours, which most sensible people would label “illicit,” has not been a source of guilt or anxiety for either of us. I don’t know whether we will ever have a good answer for that—but I am always struck by the way this feels so comforting, so absolutely right.
Because each of us, in our lives away from each other, depends on a certain emotional and creative energy for our work and for our “other” lives, we wonder whether a time will come that this energy that we share might spill over to other areas of our lives and spirits, somehow interfering with other aspects of our lives. We have committed to honesty with each other, and I have to believe we can sustain what we have indefinitely. I hope I am right.
We press against each other urgently, the pace of our breathing rising. Her hips grind against me, her legs flail against mine. I roll on top of her in one motion, pinioning her arms apart, against the mattress, over her head. Her legs part invitingly.
She is warm and slick as I enter her. Her sharp intake of breath seems to draw me more deeply inside her. I do not move for a moment, surrounding myself in this most intimate feel of her, of this merging of our two bodies. Her body seems to be clasping mine, pulling me closer to her, pulsating around me rhythmically. Her legs wrap around the small of my back. Her heels strike my back over and over, as though driving nails. Her graceful fingers—the ones that I have watched drawing music from inanimate ivory, rake and clutch at my buttocks, urging me deeper.
Our hunger is a rhythm. It is as natural as breathing—and as we move together in this most intimate dance, it seems as though we are perfectly in that rhythm: not only our thrusting bodies, our breath that now comes in rasping pants, but even our hearts beat together.
Time is not.
We are. As our bodies move together as one, the room disappears. The fire crackles, the champagne effervesces, the rain still beats against the window—but we are oblivious to all that. There is nothing here but our two bodies moving against and into each other, merged as one.
I see her face, inches from mine, out of focus, yet clear. Through our ardor, our eyes are wide open, locked to each other, unblinking. Her mouth works in a grimace of pleasure, a long, silent “O.” I feel her firm, smooth breasts against my chest, her nipples erect. I feel her pelvis grinding against mine, seeking deeper contact; her arms and legs twine around me, clasping me to her body. I move in her with strokes that are at first deliberate, even languorous; but now each time I plunge into her, she rises to meet me, giving a short gasp.
Tempo rises, urgent. Breathing quickens. We lose our rhythm for a moment, pause, find it again. My vision contracts to the sight of her face, her large wide eyes so close to mine. My open mouth moves closer to hers and she fastens upon it hungrily, sucking my tongue deep into her mouth.
Our two bodies collide rhythmically. Clammy, rain-drenched bodies are now hot and slick with our mingled sweat. I hear animal noises in the room and know somehow that they come from us. I press my full weight upon her body with each deep thrust. My arms hold her arms outstretched. My legs are twined around hers as I pierce her tender flesh over and over.
I release her arms and push myself up, looking at her from a greater distance. Immediately she reaches up, pulling me back to her, kissing me. It feels as though every muscle in her body is pulling me to her. I hear my own breathing, coming in thick, hot pants. My blood pounds in my ears. Even as I squeeze my eyes shut, the image of her face, ecstatic, persists.
We cling desperately to each other in our throes, rocking side to side even as my body pistons into hers. As I wrap my arms and legs around her, drawing her even closer to me, she does the same to me. We press gasping mouths together, finding breath from each other.
There is a moment of clarity, when all feeling seems to be concentrated on that one small bit of flesh: every nerve ending in my body seems to have migrated, as though to the prow of a ship cutting through the water. A sensation that feels a great deal like pain, yet one that is endlessly appealing. It is an explosion and a slow fire. It is a point of fire and a diffusion of light.
It is an ending, but not.
It is over in a few moments, yet seems to go on for hours.
Finally I collapse onto her breast. None of my muscles will obey any of my commands; I am completely limp, but drawing energy from her. We lie together, still coupled, for a long time, making wordless cooing sounds to each other. She strokes my hair, my back, my face. We don’t speak—unusual for us. The fire chuckles in the grate. The room is warm and comforting. I hear the champagne bottle shifting in the melting ice.
Reluctantly, I roll from her. She looks over at me, smiling. She is so beautiful I feel a catch in my throat, and don’t trust my voice.
“Champagne?” she asks. It is the first word she has spoken since we have arrived. I nod, and retrieve our glasses. I drop a strawberry in each one: A strawberry shows half-drown’d in…champagne?
We toast each other and lie on the tousled bed in companionable silence, touching each other, enjoying the fire, the champagne, the company.
And enjoying the rain.