GIVING SPEECHES IN YOUR UNDERWEAR by Emily Painton

You are stirring onions, slowly caramelizing them. You can’t believe you’re married again. He’s in the other room, well not the other room. The long galley kitchen you’re standing in is attached to the living room. You can see him, sitting on the couch with his football game on, the volume turned way up, waiting for his dinner. He will not appreciate these onions you are laboring so long over. His favorite meals are ground beef tacos or chili. Two dishes you’ve grown to despise. 

Later that week, you come home for lunch because he asked you to. He’s not ready to go when you arrive. Maybe his part-time teaching job at the university down the road allows him to get high and nap all day, but you only have an hour for lunch. There are endless convenient restaurant options nearby, but he hasn’t given a thought to where he wants to eat. Your only request is, “no Vietnamese today.” You had it yesterday for lunch. He can’t seem to come up with any place he wants to go to aside from the pho place down the street. You give in, besides half your lunch break is over, you don’t have time to argue about pho. 

He wants you to have sex with his friends. He thinks you’re kinky because when you first started hooking up with him, you were also dating a woman, and seeing another guy on and off who would visit but still lived in your hometown. 

Your husband has swinger friends, they are a very nice couple and you like them, but you don’t like-like them. Before you came along, he used to be their third and they’d often add in another female friend or sometimes two. They all have great hopes for you. You’ve only had a threesome with two guys before, and only once, when you were in college. You were drunk and high on hash in Germany, and you knew that if you wanted to you could never see those two guys again, but you enjoyed yourself. Well, there was that one other time, in high school when you and your girlfriend did it with your boyfriends next to each other in the same bed. The guys were buddies and, of course, had thought up the whole idea. It seemed silly to you. It didn’t leave you feeling bad but it wasn’t at all interesting or sexy. You kind of blocked it out, except for that moment when you and your girlfriend gave each other a goofy look for one second in the beginning as if to say, what the hell were we thinking? You don’t even remember if you all were completely undressed or not. You were young then, maybe it could be fun now that you are grown up and with a man who loves you.

You give it a try with your husband and his friends. It isn’t fun. It reminds you of giving a speech, except the audience wants to spend the night and you have to have breakfast with them the next morning. You hate public speaking. You try to give your best performance, memorize your lines, get up behind the podium, and then you look down at all those expectant faces waiting for you to impress them. You rush through it all, fumbling your index cards—you could swear some of them are out of order—you resort to ad-libbing. When it’s finally over you can’t remember much of it, but everyone seems satisfied and praises you, then they start making plans for the next time. Maybe a little weekend getaway, they say. Perhaps a cabin somewhere with a hot tub and a fireplace.

He’d also really like it if you would bring your best friend over to have sex with him. You can join in, of course. In fact, he’d like it better that way. He doesn’t seem to understand your friend isn’t interested in him, not that you’ve asked her. Nor are you interested in sleeping with her, she’s not your type, and even if she was, you wouldn’t share her with him.

An old friend from high school calls you at work out of the blue. A mutual friend told him you both live in the same new city now. He asks you to go out for an after-work beer. You agree and soon you find yourself sitting across from him at the pub, feeling a little tipsy and immensely enjoying his company, something you didn’t expect. Before you walked into the bar, you took off your wedding ring and slipped it into your pants pocket. You weren’t sure why you did it at the time, but when your hometown friend grabs your gesticulating hands midair, holds them in his, and looks deep into your eyes, you understand. He asks if you want to go back to his place and you do. 

In his bedroom, he puts on 80s music, turns the lights down low, and asks you to dance. You let him wrap his arms around your waist and you rest your cheek against his chest. He smells of some familiar cologne. It feels like old times like you’re back in seventh grade again at a school dance, except this time the boy is taller than you. He asks if he can kiss you and when you say yes, he bends down to press his soft lips to yours and sparks fly. You want him. You almost forgot what it’s like to feel that kind of deep-down desire.

You don’t tell the husband when you get home, except to say that you ran into an old friend and had a couple of beers. To lie well, it’s always best to stick close to the truth. You suggest that your old friend might be down for a threesome though you admit it’s hard to say at this point. It will require further investigation on your part. Your husband seems excited about this news like maybe he’s finally got you on board, but you don’t plan to include him. Your friend has no idea you even have a husband. It just didn’t come up.

ART BY BOB SCHOFIELD @anothertower

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