“They say when sex falls out of a relationship, the relationship is over. Intimacy is a precious thing you know, Corinne,” said her wise elderly friend, Geneva.
The two were neighbors who had become friends and Geneva knew what she spoke of all too well. It was why she’d left her first husband. Jack was still attractive and she longed for intimacy with him so strongly, she thought she might burst with the longing to have relations with him. She simply could not get past his stubborn mud prints tracking through the house every single night. Nothing for it but a mop and bucket for no matter how she plead, he would not take his boots off at the door. It really wasn’t the tracks that bothered her, she could have lived with that and she knew it.
It was all those nights he crept down into the den to talk on the phone for hours without telling her who he was talking to. In the cyclical way that scrubbing it all up and forgetting about it until the next time it happened, he began blaming her for not satisfying his sexual needs when she pulled away from him emotionally. Geneva had tried and tried to tell him that his nightly secret phone calls were coming between them, that it would part them as surely as Jesus parted the waters.
Just stop it, she’d said a thousand times if she said it once, Just stop doing it before I lose all feeling for you. I love you, I don’t even care who you are talking to or what you were doing in the past, just stop it right now, why won’t you just stop it before it is too late for us?
“If he would just get it through his head that the way to my heart and keeping me wanting him is to stop hurting me, shutting down my valid feelings with callous behavior and remarks, we might have a chance,” Corinne’s words were so similar to those Geneva had said, she shivered at the eerie similarities with her first husband.
Geneva’s first marriage had lasted five years. Still, some days there were moments when she wondered what it might have been like if Jack had just stopped doing the secretive things that shoved them apart, the things that made her start hating every little thing about him. It really is not ever about the toothpaste cap left off or the toilet seat up. She knew this all too well. Just as she knew it was never about his muddy boot tracks. She looked at her young friend and hoped for the best for her, hoped she could comfort her in some small way.
A tender thirty, Corinne expressed longing to have her intimacy back with her husband, Shawn. He came in an hour late every single night and would not tell her why, what he was doing or what delayed him. It wasn’t like Corinne would mind if he had a beer with a buddy or just shot the shit after work with his friends. ‘I’m here aren’t, I?’ he’d say every time she asked what he was doing, why he was late. As if the fact that he showed up should be good enough.
At first Corinne thought she could beat it, just keep overlooking it. Shawn’s remarks shut her down, he never did explain what he was doing out or why he was consistently late. But the not knowing what or why he was late every night sexed itself right in between them as if one of them had taken on a secret lover until one day, she imagined forward that she just wouldn’t be able to have sex with him anymore, she was afraid it was already happening. She’d flung his hand away more than once.
Like Geneva’s first husband, Shawn was shoving her right out of his life, his secrets winning his loyalties … whatever they were. Geneva was pushed over Sex Falls and had to save herself. Corinne knew this story very well, she was afraid it was becoming her own story.
Whenever she and Shawn were intimate, in those last few times, the what and why were all over the ceiling, gigantic question marks speckled among the cottage cheese spackle poised to drop on her head any moment. The what and why were in the sheets, the warmth so deceitful that when you shifted even a little it was ice cold cotton hitting you all over again.
“If he stopped it, would you want him again or have you gone past that already?” Geneva asked.
Corinne appeared startled, her hazel eyes confused briefly as she recalled this morning before the birds began singing when Shawn had tried to kiss her goodbye before leaving for work. The still unresolved issues stuck out like a sore toe between them, so blatantly disrespectful of her love for him that she didn’t want his lips against hers. She had turned her cheek to him.
“I don’t know. He’d have to stop it for me to find out, I suppose,” she said.
Geneva nodded. She could see the signs. She wondered what was wrong with so many men, why they didn’t understand what her Max did: sex never stops if you just fix the simple things before they get blown right over Sex Falls, never to be rescued again. Geneva was more than twice Corinne’s age but she still enjoyed her husband and, yes, even ‘wanted’ him.
“Shawn tells me I am cuckoo, that he is not doing anything wrong and still won’t say why he is late or what he is doing. It feels like he wants to continue hurting me instead of just stopping the thing that is driving me away from him. I just want to be with him, nothing between us anymore… that’s all I really want. Do you go off sex as you get older, Geneva? “
Geneva laughed, her long grey curls tossing in the sun rays of late afternoon.
“No, sweetie. It just gets deeper, richer somehow. The thing a lot of men don’t understand is it’s not about being great in the sack. It begins way before that… in the kitchen, in the living room, talking, over dinner, wherever. Sure, great sex is a bonus but that can be worked on. It’s about keeping the connection between you clear and the great sex will naturally follow. My Max and I still have great sex. Honesty is far more attractive to me than any other feature in a relationship or person. Anything muddies that up and it’s a hard road back. If you can even do it. I couldn’t.” Geneva said all this while petting Corinne’s long, fiery hair.
Corinne’s hand flew up to grasp Geneva’s, the contrast of time meeting in the hand of youthful hopes and dreams right alongside the hand of reality and future.
“You are such a good friend and neighbor. I’m so lucky to have you to talk to, ” Corinne said.
Geneva tightened the tortoise shell barrette holding her steely grey hair back off her face.
“Think nothing of it, you just be happy my lovey,” Geneva said and she really meant it. Her memories of emotional torment over dark secrets were something she never wanted to revisit.
Corinne left the house a little lighter, crossing the field between their country homes in the sunlight of an afternoon spring, the gentle steady light that spurred the run-off down the mountains to flood the basins so that main arteries were cut off by the very thing everyone longed for, warmer weather.
Geneva watched Corinne and saw herself at Corinne’s age, saw thousands of women being shoved over Sex Falls, the unresolved run-off swirling them all down as fastly as if caught in the whirlpooling suction of a sinking ocean liner.
Fighting for your life in unresolved run off, Geneva knew, could kill the purest of love just as surely as a bullet kills a human. It was only a matter of time.