New York in Winter

New York in Winter

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Terence Hughes

Kyle T. and Fisher O. have been married for 8 years and partnered for 20. They have longstanding issues regarding jealousy and irritating habits.
Kyle, 58, is a highly successful, semi-retired entrepreneur. A big, expansive man who is quick to laugh and sulk, he seems to be emotionally dependent on Fisher. Kyle has a sympathetic, compassionate manner.
Fisher, 43, is a social studies and gym teacher in a large suburban high school. A fit, youthful-appearing man with a tendency to hold grudges, he is dependent on Kyle for a comfortable lifestyle. Fisher is combative and self-absorbed.
Their counselor is Dr. Priscilla Silverman, who is transitioning to Jim Dodd.
“And when he sneezes he shakes the whole fucking house down. I say to him, ‘Can’t you cover your mouth, for Chrissake?’ What does he do? He gives me that hurt puppy look.”
“Is this sensitivity to Kyle’s sneezing is an old phenomenon? Or is it new?”
Kyle Tarbox piped up, “It’s new. Only in the last year.”
Fisher O’Dill turned to him. “It’s always bothered me. But since we moved into our cozy little mansion – I can’t stand it any more.”
Kyle appealed to Priscilla/Jim. “See what I mean? He hates me. He’s sorry he ever met me. He despises what my wealth brings him. Twenty years…” His eyes welled up.
“Hear that? My wealth. Not our wealth. My my my.”
“No, Fisher, I meant our.” Kyle brooded. He appealed to Priscilla. “No matter what I do or how I phrase things – he jumps all over me. He hates me.”
Fished exploded. “I love you, idiot. I’m glad we decided to spend our lives together. But now your annoying habits are too much.”
“What other annoying habits are there, Fisher?”
“He drops his clothes all over the bedroom floor. He never puts so much as a glass or coffee mug in the goddamn dishwasher. He drinks too much wine and squawks all the next day how tired he is. And he never helps me clean the house! After a long day dealing with those spoiled brats, he expects me to vacuum, clean the bathrooms, wash the clothes, clean the kitchen after dinner – everything!” He added sardonically, “I do windows, too. You should hire me.”
“You can quit teaching. I’ve told you that how many times? You want to have that to hold over me. Admit it.” He added jovially, “Besides, you have Saturdays to clean the house.”
“Kyle, I thought you said you have a net worth in eight figures. Surely you could hire a housekeeper to take this burden off Fisher, who does work all day at a hard job.”
Kyle looked abashed and said to Jim, “To be honest with you, we’re in a bad way. I paid 80% down on the house last year – but we got it at a discounted price of $4 million! I bought a Maserati – paid cash. And we spent a month on the QE2 last year.”
“I told you we shouldn’t do it,” Fisher muttered. “But no, the big baby pouted and dragged himself around pathetically. I caved.” He shook his head in disgust. “He spent more on that cruise than I make in three years. We are not liquid.”
Kyle took exception to this. “I prefer to spend almost nothing of the principle. We have to be prudent. I’m not getting any younger and I want to leave my husband comfortably off since I will most likely die first.” He spoke with insufferable nobility. Fisher snorted with derision.
“Until you want the next new toy. He’s been talking about a Bentley convertible.”
“Oh, that I’d lease.”
“Meanwhile I drive a five-year-old Accord. I prefer to live within my means,” Fisher said primly.
“I said you could quit – “
“Oh shut up.”
Priscilla sat back and looked at them. He had the ghost of a smile when he looked at Kyle, a little frown when she glanced at Fisher. “Well, fellas, our time is up for today. It’s Friday and you’re my last appointment. Try to have some fun this weekend.” He stood up, a solid fireplug of a person.
Kyle got up and said, “Thank you. See you next week.”
Fisher muttered and strode right out the door. Kyle apologized for him. Priscilla said, “He’s upset.”
“Everything makes him upset. Especially if it puts him out in some way.”
Jim patted him on the back. “Be strong,” she whispered.
Fisher was propped on a bollard, studying his kicks. He looked up when Kyle came out. “Thanks for making me the bad guy. As usual.”
Kyle opened his arms, palms of hands raised to the heavens. “Where is all this anger coming from? I think you’ve lost interest in me. We never have sex any more. There’s another man, isn’t there?”
“You always go there! I only wish it was true! Give me the keys. I’ll drive.” Fisher stalked off and got in the car. He revved the engine and peeled out of the lot while his husband stood there, incredulous. Priscilla was leaving the building.
“He took my Maserati!”
Jim smiled up at him. “I’ll give you a ride. You be the captain, I’ll be the pilot.” They got in her Subaru and left the lot sedately.

Fisher was shaking with anger when he pulled up to The Four Horsemen. He forced himself to calm down. He tried entering an inner place of serenity, no drama, no passion.
He sat in a booth. He intended to order coffee and a goodie since it was only 5 o’clock. He looked around. Other angry people were coming in to numb themselves after the grinding week. As he peered at the bar he saw a figure that seemed familiar. With a slight shock he recognized the surgeon who had repaired his shoulder. Dr. Medina. Carlos Medina, the handsomest man Fisher had ever seen in real life. He had the sudden urge to pick up the diminutive doctor and carry him to the men’s room. Fisher canceled his order and sat by Medina, ordered a martini, and made discreet noises until the doctor turned and said, “I know you, don’t I? Mr. O’Dell?” Fisher, grinning, said, “Close enough.”
They commiserated. Their spouses didn’t understand them. They felt lonely inside. Nothing seemed to be right. They had everything – yet nothing. Carlos’ wife was named Amanda. She was Irish by blood, a beautiful little redheaded firecracker. She was very possessive. If he so much as glanced at another woman there was hell to pay. Carlos smiled in a secretive way. “If she only knew.”
Fisher’s heart skipped a beat. “What do you mean? You’re having an affair?”
Carlos blushed. “Um, not exactly.”
Fisher knew where this was going. “What’s she like?” Fisher the fisher of men. “Your girlfriend.”
Deeper blush – crimson. The doctor leaned toward him and whispered, “I guess I can tell you. On the downlow.”
Feeling dizzy, Fisher went, “You are full of surprises, Dr. Medina.”
Hand on hand. Leaning in again. “Carlos.”
Fisher felt his blood rising, and more. Carlos said, “Do you fool around?”
He really never had fooled around, much to his own shame. He had had his crushes – so had Kyle – but nothing had ever come of them. But at the moment Fisher’s balls were throbbing painfully. “I wish I did,” he said.
Carlos rested his hand on Fisher’s thigh. “Maybe it’s time you did.”

Kyle thanked Jim for the ride home and invited her in for a glass of wine and a snack. He rustled up a snack consisting of three kinds of cheese, cornichons, paté, two kinds of crackers, olives, and chunks of Iberian ham with their individual party toothpicks, each one complete with a merry little bow of colored cellophane. Priscilla’s eyes grew wide. “This is dinner!”
“Don’t feel like I’m forcing you to eat it all,” Kyle laughed. “Red or white?” Jim said white. Kyle opened a white (Swiss) and a red (Oregon) for himself. They munched in silence for a while, Priscilla grunting softly with pleasure. When they were on their second glass of wine they leaned back, sated for the moment. They chatted about one thing and another until Jim said, “I should be going.”
“Don’t. I don’t feel like being alone right now.”
“Are you angry with Fisher?”
“Apprehensive.” Kyle hesitated. “I don’t trust him. I think he has affairs all the time.” He broke down and Jim got up and sat by him. She patted his shoulder and murmured, “There, there. You know, you may be torturing yourself for no reason. He may be as true to you as you are to him.”
Kyle wept bitter tears. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Jim stared at him with rapt joy.
“He’s a very unpleasant man.” Kyle used his cocktail napkin to dry his eyes. They sat in silence for a while, sipping their wine. Jim poured herself another glass.
Desperate to change the subject, Kyle cleared his throat and said, “You know, I’ve always wondered how anybody could do what you’re doing. I don’t understand it at all.”
“You know that feeling when you’re not comfortable in your own skin?”
“Sure. But it didn’t make me want to become a woman.”
“I always wanted to be a man. Always. I love men. I want to be one. I want to be with one. I want a long-term gay relationship.”
The confusion on Kyle’s face had him – Jim, the declared man -- chuckling. “Dude, nobody’s more perplexed than me.” Kyle poured a third glass for himself and waited for a further explanation. “I’ll tell you something, Kyle. I want nothing more in the world than to have a dick flopping around in my pants and a pair of balls and some big man to give it to me straight up the old pooper.”
At length Kyle asked where he was in the transition. He felt great empathy when Jim said, “I’m kind of early in the chemical treatments. I’m a long ways from completing Transition.” Sigh. “But at least I become Jim Dodd officially next week. I’ll be Dr. Dodd – that’s what it’ll say on my shingle. I already had it made up.”
Kyle absorbed all this and let himself imagine how Jim must hate his Priscillaness. What empathy he felt! But curiosity got the better of manners. “How will you get…outfitted?”
“Here’s the deal. Promise this won’t gross you out? Well. I’m going to have a genital donation from a young man whose organs are being harvested. I’m on a list. They’ll be real. They won’t function perfectly. But I’m okay with that. Just to feel it all down there swingin’ as I walk down the street! I’ll be reborn.”
Jim’s yearning and vulnerability touched Kyle. He reached out to him and held onto his hand. “You’ve suffered so.” Jim rubbed at his eyes with a napkin.
“I hate to cry!”
“Men cry. Just not as often as women.”

Carlos had suggested that they go to a nice place for dinner. He said he’d been up since 4 AM and was starved.
They were dining at an upscale Italian place near the beach, all gleaming white and silver. Fisher marvelled at how a man of 5’4” could shovel in so much food and still have such a tight body. He tried to engage the doctor in conversation on various topics, but nothing sparked until he spoke about real estate. Carlos lived in Victoria Park, a leafy, genteel neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale. He went on about the restoration he had done on his Keys-style house, the loving detail lavished on the intricate woodwork, and so on. Fisher didn’t mean to shut him down when he said he lived in a big glass house on a canal. “Thank God Kyle hasn’t bought a fucking hundred-foot yacht to match.”
Carlos talked about his work and what a pain in the ass Amanda was. He veered away from talk about men and his experiences with them. As he watched the handsome surgeon chow down he had vivid fantasies about seeing him naked, and he imagined small but handsome equipment that went along with the rest of him.
They lingered over dessert and coffee until the restaurant began to fill up. “It’s getting noisy!” Carlos shouted over the clanking of silverware and the shrieks of rich old ladies who were mwahing each other with air kisses. Then he was up and off to the john. Fisher fumed. He had planned to get him in the men’s room and do it there. Too late.
Out on the sidewalk he put his arm around Carlos and said jokingly, “What a night for a romantic walk on the beach.”
Carlos looked up at him. “Good idea.”
A few short blocks east and they were beyond all the bars and eateries, strolling quietly by the tranquil ocean. The coconut palms whispered in the caressing breeze. A sliver of a moon had just risen over the water. “Nice night,” Fisher remarked. Carlos said nothing and walked on, staring at the sand. Fisher stopped and decided to lay it on the line.
“The first time you walked into the examining room, you took my breath away.”
Carlos smiled. “I felt the same.” He took a deep breath and was clearly forcing himself to speak. “I thought, there’s one sexy papi.”
Boom. In the clinch. Carlos stood on his toes and Fisher bent down to kiss him. They felt for each other’s dick and groaned with pleasure when they found it. Fisher dragged him away from the damp sand by the water and lay Carlos on the ground. They were side by side kissing and feeling each other all over. Carlos gasped, “Now, papi, now.” He pulled his pants down to uncover his handsome little bum.
Fisher froze. What was he doing? He had a vision of Kyle with his puppy dog eyes and pathetic, infuriating face. He went limp. He got up and Carlos turned and asked what was wrong.
“I’m sorry. I can’t. I can’t.” Fisher left as the doctor stood and brushed sand off. He felt virtuous. “I didn’t even see his lovely little dick.”

Poor Jim! He seemed so lost. His certainty about the future of his body – his identity – was a grand bluff, an act of defiance that frightened him. Kyle gazed at his square face and felt a cresting wave of compassion. He took Jim’s hand and squeezed it in solidarity. “How you must have suffered,” Kyle told him. “I suppose you still do.”
Jim’s eyes filled with tears and he nodded. He rested his head on Kyle’s broad chest. Kyle saw tears silently make their tracks on Jim’s cheeks. He leaned forward and kissed his cheek. Jim responded ardently. To his own astonishment, Kyle found himself getting hot. Jim shifted upward and they embraced. They were gasping with passion in an instant. Jim unbuttoned Kyle’s shirt and swooned at the sight of his hairy chest. Kyle grabbed Jim’s flat-topped head and bathed him with kisses. “Do me! Do me!”
Kyle couldn’t imagine tackling Jim’s genitals, or his old pooper, so he pulled out his dick and shoved Jim’s face into it. Jim had great skill. Kyle held it in for as long as possible and then the volcano erupted, shooting lava in Jim’s mouth and all over his face.
Jim moaned and flopped on his back, wiping his face with a bunch of cocktail napkins. “Oh my God. Oh honey.” He grabbed Kyle’s hand and kissed it. “I’m all wet. Everyplace.” He closed his eyes and smiled at the ceiling. “How can I tell you – “
“Ssshh! It’s okay, Jimmy.” Kyle zipped it back in his pants, shaken by how intense the pleasure was. He put his arm around Jim’s shoulders. “Well,” he said, “that was unexpected.”
Jim’s eyes opened and he smiled slyly. “Not exactly.” He laughed in a manly way, shaking his belly. “I knew you’d tumble.”
Kyle stiffened. “What do you mean?” His charitable instincts were getting stressed. “Was I such an easy mark?”
Jim patted his knee, “I just could tell. All your pent-up frustration. Your peevishness.”
My peevishness? What about him?”
“Oh, let’s face it, honey. Your husband’s a typical gay male, hypersensitive, and kind of an asshole.”
“Is that your professional opinion?” Kyle asked sternly as he buttoned up his shirt.
“Let’s just say it’s my personal opinion. But you…” He smiled contentedly and squeezed Kyle’s thigh. “You were just horny.”
“You just lost a client, Dr. Dodd. No one’s going to talk about my asshole husband that way but me.” The lofty way he said it would have driven Fisher insane with irritation.
Jim jumped to his feet and leaned into Kyle imploringly. “Oh no, I’m sorry, that slipped out, I was speaking out of my love for you! Say you’ll change your mind, please!”
Kyle stood up and said softly, “I love Fisher. I don’t love you. I’m sorry, Jimmy, but that’s the unfortunate fact. You better go now.”
Jim’s tear-stained face darkened. “You haven’t seen the last of me. I’ll stalk you from now until the day you die. If I ever get a husband we’ll both stalk you until the day you die. It’ll be our favorite sport!” Then, by way of departure, he felt Kyle’s crotch and heaved a regretful sigh.

“Wait! Papi!” Carlos was running toward him. “Don’t leave me this way.” He was panting when he caught up with Fisher. “I want to see you again. I like you a lot. I have no one – no one – to talk with about…” He shrugged hopelessly.
Fisher was torn between desire and a fraternal compassion for the lonely man. The lonely handsome man with the melting brown eyes. Fisher stroked Carlos’ neck. “That wouldn’t be such a good idea. I’m afraid I’d fall in love with you. Then where would Kyle be?” Or himself for that matter. No more cruises to Hong Kong, no more tooling around in the absurd Maserati. Carlos sneaking around to a crummy apartment where the exiled Fisher would rot as he marked up illiterate essays on the Gettysburg Address.
Carlos shook off his hand. He was crestfallen. He walked away, slowly as if he thought Fisher would stop him and they would run into each other’s arms. Fisher called to him. “See you next Friday at The Four Horsemen.”
Carlos nodded. He left the beach and dove into the tourist crowds.
Fisher walked along the strand for a while, heaving sighs and feeling like a doomed romantic hero.

Kyle grew impatient waiting for Fisher to come home. His fear of Fisher’s infidelity rose nearly as high as his fear of being discovered a cheat. He consoled himself with the obvious fact that getting a blowjob was not, in fact, unfaithful at all, but a preliminary to real sex, which he wisely had halted before it went too far. And with this as his defense he could confidently shame Fisher into his confession from a position of moral superiority.
He showered to get the grubby day off his skin, and he retired to bed with his iPad and a snifter of Cognac. At eleven he heard the door open and, eventually, saw the lights go out downstairs. Fisher dragged himself up the stairs and yawned repeatedly. “Hi.”
“Hi.” A tense silence. Fisher stripped and got into bed without even brushing his teeth. “What a day, huh?”
“At least tomorrow’s Saturday.”
“Mm. Housework day.”
In a false light tone, Kyle asked, “How was your evening? Full of adventure?”
Fisher paused a minute and said, “Interesting. Sad.”
“I came home and watched TV, ate some bread and cheese, and here I am.”
“How’d you get home?”
“Jim – Priscilla – gave me a lift.”
“Huh. Free therapy session.”
“There’s no difference.”
Kyle was silent. Then: “Were you a good boy?”
Fisher gave him an irritated look – he wouldn’t drop it. “Yes.” He was in a rage of frustration. He drew closer to Kyle and tried to bite his ear.
“God, I’m tired. I’m glad you had a good time, whatever you were up to.” Kyle turned off his lamp. “Nighty night.”
As dawning amazement and horror took over Fisher’s face, Kyle turned over and pretended to fall asleep.

They saw Dr. Dodd’s sign and Fisher wondered what had happened. They went into session as usual. Dr. Dodd seemed more feminine somehow, which left Kyle wondering. The couple wrangled as usual and left in a huff. Before they stormed out, Dr. Dodd said cheerily, “Next Friday, then? Have a nice weekend.” Joyously smiling at Kyle.
Fisher and Kyle drove in silence. Halfway home Fisher thought of Dr. Carlos. Was he waiting at The Four Horsemen? Was he chatting up another sexy papi? Fisher said, “I could use a drink. Let’s head for the Horsemen.”
Kyle muttered, “Good idea.” He reversed direction and drove into the lot fifteen minutes later. Fisher tousled Kyle’s hair. “Hey,” he said.
Kyle smiled grudgingly. “Hey.” They kissed.
They walked into the Horsemen, arms over shoulders. Carlos was at the bar, drooping over his drink. Fisher exclaimed, “Honey, doesn’t that man look familiar?”
Carlos turned and saw them approach the bar. He smiled. “Mr. O’Donnell? How is your shoulder?” Fisher relaxed; Carlos was playing along.
“O’Dill. Fisher O’Dill. The shoulder’s fine.”
“Of course! I’m terrible with names!” He shook hands with them and Kyle introduced himself. He sat on the stool next to Carlos.
Kyle gushed, “Dr. Medina, you did a fantastic job. He’s like a new man.” He turned on his brightest smile. “Fantastic.”
Carlos grinned at Kyle. “Call me Carlos. I’m always fantastic.” He winked. They started to chat like it was just the two of them.
Fisher, frowning, glanced away and saw Dr. Dodd sitting at a table in the corner, staring at a double vodka on the rocks.
Fisher detached himself from the fascinated duo and went to the counselor’s table. Jim Dodd asked, “Who’s the squirt with Kyle?”
Fisher told him.
“Why,” Jim growled, “I could take that little pipsqueak apart with my bare hands.”
Fisher chuckled. “I understand you gave Kyle a ride home that time. When I went off all pissed. Was he polite enough to invite you in?”
Jim’s face turned dreamy. “Oh, yeah. We had a super time. He was so understanding.” Tears filled his eyes. He looked at Fisher. “He is quite a wonderful man, you know.” The man was emphasized just a little too much.
So it was true. Kyle and his insufferable holier-than-thou attitude. His benevolent superiority was a mask. He’d worn it for years, but finally it had slipped from his lying, faithless face.
Fisher got up and went back to the surgeon and Kyle at what seemed to be a critical juncture in their conversation. Awkward silence as Fisher arrived. Kyle turned to him and smiled, saying, “I’m very tired, Fisher, and Carlos has generously offered to give me a ride home. You don’t mind, do you? You can take your time – no need to rush home on my account.”
Fisher flashed the blushing Carlos an annihilating glance and said, “Sure, sure, I’ll stay and keep Dr. Dodd company.” He waved in the counselor’s direction.
Kyle blanched and stammered, “Carlos, thank you but I think I’ll stay here after all. I must speak with my old friend over there. It’s been a distinct pleasure.” They shook hands and with feline tentativeness Kyle went to Jim’s table.
“Good to see you again,” Fisher said to Carlos, then ignored him as he sipped his drink. After a few hangdog minutes, Carlos left. Fisher considered the unfaithfulness of men. It felt like he had struggled up the mountain to a new level, to the high road. It was lofty and cold but crystal clear. Like some deity he saw them all, stupid people in pursuit of stupid things. Dogs chasing a wiener on a string.
Jim and Kyle were in the middle of an intense conversation. Jim was crying and saying something angry to Kyle. Kyle handed him a cocktail napkin; he looked afraid.
Fisher got up and left them there. He drove home. He would be in bed, alone, pretending to sleep when Kyle straggled in, because that’s what you did when you took the high road, waiting for the kill.