A Taste of A Life Less Monogamous – Chapter 14
As the garage door slid closed behind him, Ryan stood at the door to the house, immobile, hand on the knob, not turning. She wouldn’t understand. She’d blame herself. She’d blame him, too. He gulped. His meeting in the city had passed as though it were happening to someone else. He’d said nothing unless spoken to. He’d met no eyes, his own focused on the table, somewhere just below eye line.
To his coworkers, and surely to Brent giving the presentation, he must have looked completely checked out. Ryan’s mind had been racing, however, turning over scenarios, examining and reexamining his sexual history. He had opportunity to reexamine it many times, since it only encompassed a single other person. Only a single act, in fact.
Should he feel it’d been enough, a summer of hand jobs from a sweet girl who was unwilling to let him reciprocate?
During the meeting, while everybody else had been trying to wrap their heads around, first, why it was so important that they all be there on a Saturday, and second, who they could blame for the fact they were about to miss their prototyping deadline, Ryan had taken a tour through his adult sexual life. From his first discoveries that rubbing himself against a pillow felt really good, to stopping after “felt really good” also included an explosive finish on the pillow cases, to those furtive hand jobs from Lauren Castelletti behind the barn on their lake house property, through the first experiences with Jennifer, the first penetrative act, the first time they explored anal, to…well, that really was the end of firsts, wasn’t it?
Firsts. Ryan signed. I miss enthusiastic exploration.
They’d explored BDSM at one point, after Jennifer had been recommended the movie Secretary. The movie was hot, but their attempts in both roles dissolved into laughter, apologies, and accidental rather than purposeful bruises. He’d figured out in his meeting, while others were also problem solving, that he needed the exploration, the firsts. But experiencing firsts again really meant involving others, didn’t it?
Sure, firsts could include roleplaying and varying their sexual repertoire, but no matter how much they did that, it was unlikely to quench the deep-down desire, the deep-down need, and it couldn’t change the fact that, “I’ve only ever had sex with one person,” Ryan whispered to the door, “I don’t know what I’m missing.”
Telling the door wouldn’t do any good. Telling himself wouldn’t do any good. The entire conversations he’d held with his passenger seat on the way back from the city had been nothing but preparation. Jennifer’s car was in the driveway, it followed he’d find Jennifer in the house. Jennifer who needed to know, needed to be told these things.
On a rare occasion when he’d actually offered Ryan and Jennifer insight instead of just receiving and processing, Dr. Petrillo had told them, “One of the greatest temptations and greatest dangers, simultaneously, is not telling our partner something because we’re worried about hurting them. We’re protecting them, shielding them from pain. Pain that we’re accepting on their behalf. Pain that can become a cancer.”
“‘We must learn to communicate, to reveal ourselves,’” Ryan finished, turning the doorknob and stepping into their laundry room. He took a long slow breath, closed his eyes, and walked up to the second floor. The scent of their fireplace filled his nose. He heard the crackling as he neared. She’ll be devastated. He held for a moment before walking in, hands in pockets.
“So, I was, um—” he began, not looking up from his feet.
“I want to see what it’d be like to have sex with other people,” she said, interrupting.
Ryan paused. He heard the statement replay in his head. He felt it bouncing around in his chest. Feelings of jealousy and failure, he wasn’t worthy, he wasn’t enough. He frowned. The bouncing slowed as he calibrated his mind to this new information. Hadn’t he been about to walk in and say this very same thing? Wasn’t this what his entire day had been about? How often, he wondered, did a couple come to this realization at the same moment?
He finally did look up at her. She stared down into her lap, hands folded, sitting on the center cushion of their hunter green couch. He saw the anguish and immediately empathized. The same anguish had kept him in the garage for almost ten minutes.
He opened his mouth to share, but without looking up, she continued. “I don’t want to get divorced.”
“I don’t either,” he said.
“So I figured, well, there’s always swinging.”
Now she did meet his eyes, hers watery.
“So, drinks?” he offered after a moment.
She pointed to the sidebar, where she’d already opened a bottle of Malbec and overfilled their two largest wine glasses.
They sat side by side on the couch for a while, the fireplace crackling next to them. The blue glow of the fading day cast the only other light. Ryan’s arm lay across the back of the couch, Jennifer nestled beneath it. They’d each finished their first glass of wine, and Ryan refilled their glasses with his unoccupied hand before the discussion resumed.
“I’m happy,” said Jennifer.
“Me too,” said Ryan.
Neither sounded defensive on that subject. In the past they had, so this felt like at least the bare minimum of progress.
“We’re just not quite right,” she said. “In that department.”
“It should be fun,” he suggested. “We should want to do—”
“But we don’t.”
Ryan sipped his wine, letting the rich flavor swirl around his mouth before swallowing. “We haven’t tried things.”
“We’ve had such limited experience. Together and separately.” She looked up at him. “And Dr. Petrillo’s wisdom didn’t really help because we’re inexperienced. I mean how are we supposed to really know what we like, if we’ve only had sex with each other?”
Ryan interrupted. “You had sex with—”
“Steve doesn’t count as exploration. It was one time.”
“It was one more time than I—”
“Are you going to count Lauren?”
Ryan frowned. “No.”
“We’ve been trying to figure out the sex thing on our own for twelve years, Ryan.” Jennifer sat up and turned her body toward him. “I don’t feel like Steve or Lauren provided us any exceptional insight into our wants and needs, do you?”
“So why don’t we just agree that they may as well not count.” She put her hand on his knee. “Even with their help, how’re we doing?”
“Well,” he felt that pang of defensiveness, “We’re not doing bad.”
“How’re we doing in the sex department?”
“Okay.” He turned his body toward her. “So what do we do? Most people just have affairs.”
“And most marriages end.”
“I also don’t want to get divorced.” That didn’t feel adequate. A creeping anxiety grew in Ryan. “And I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Jennifer saw Ryan’s physical presence changing. He was grabbing for breaths more quickly, sipped his wine more frequently. She felt responsible, like she’d just walked in and knocked his life over. Rationality was necessary here, to calm and soothe, to point out the obvious. She put her hand on his chest, feeling his throbbing heart and accelerated breathing. “All I’m saying is, why sneak around for something we both want to do?”
He looked at her for a long while, and she could feel his breathing slow, his heart beat return to just a touch above normal. “That’s a good point.”
She offered a smile, one he returned. The rest of the evening they left the subject alone, a restful detente as each of them processed the idea. Jennifer felt positive, she’d said her piece rather than keeping it inside. Things hadn’t exploded, the wheels hadn’t come off. The “Are you fucking kidding me?” storm out she’d imagined after her afternoon of fantasy and masturbation, hadn’t remotely come to pass.
When Ryan came out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth, he held up the red plastic vibrator, a sly smile on his face. “Where’d this come from?”
Jennifer laughed. “A girl gave it to me back in high school.”
“I meant, where’d it come from today!”
His eyes sparkled. He didn’t break eye contact as he twisted the base of the vibe and the buzzing filled the room. His pajama pants expanded out, tenting at the crotch. Her eyes drifted to it, then her hands. Before long they lay in bed, Ryan the big spoon, Jennifer the little, his penis inside her. They moved together slowly, gently. He ran his fingers up and down her exposed thigh and breast. This had long been a preferred position of theirs, as it allowed for a very relaxed mood.
She did occasionally wonder if their sex life was diminished by their somewhat laissez-faire attitude, but tonight it worked to both of their benefits as they continued the conversation, circling closer and closer to what felt like a possible resolution.
“How would it work?” asked Ryan, kissing the nape of her neck, just below the downy beginning of her hair.
“We’d both be allowed to go out and see other people.” She bit her lip and exhaled slowly.
“How does one explain that to a person you’re trying to pick up? ‘I’m married, but it’s cool?’”
Jennifer considered that for a moment, distracted by the sensations within her. “I don’t really know.”
“Seems delusional,” Ryan said, “or at least something that’d be far easier for you to do than me.”
“Imagine a guy coming up to you and saying that.”
“Ah. Whereas I have tits,” she laughed.
“You do indeed!” He found them with his hands and pulled her tighter against him, his pace quickened.
“Right there! Right there!” She tilted her head back.
He nibbled on her shoulder. “Like this?”
Her climax arrived, waves crashing for minutes before his followed. Then they lay next to each other, staring at the ceiling, sheets and blankets bunched on the floor. Jennifer thanked herself for remembering to turn the space heater on as soon as they’d come upstairs. She held his flaccid penis in her hand, her head against his chest, their breathing nearly synchronous.
“So you’re thinking open marriage over swinging?” Ryan asked.
She wasn’t sure. “I don’t know what the difference would be. I’ve heard people say ‘open marriage’ and never have any idea.”
“I think the difference is together or separately.”
Jennifer thought about this for a while. While her fantasies today had been about exploring on her own, she had to admit that the idea of doing it with Ryan there in some capacity made her tingle again. She looked down at his penis in her hand, and imagined she was holding it for someone else. For Paige? She didn’t know, but could feel her juices beginning to flow again.
“I think I’d want to do it together,” she told him.
“Like Bruce and Paige.”
Hearing their names increased the tingles. “Yeah.”
“It’s not the craziest idea.”
As she stared at it, she realized that it made her feel so juvenile, thinking of his member as his penis. She knew that’s what it was called, of course, but at this moment, as she watched it harden again and saw the glisten from their previous encounter, she knew the time had come to change their game completely. She stroked his dick. “It would solve the problem of wanting to…fuck other people.”
He stopped running his fingertips along her arm for a moment, she knew he was taking in her use of the word. “And since we’d be doing it together, it could even make us closer.”
Now he was entirely hard. Jennifer knew she wanted Ryan’s dick in her mouth.
She exploded as soon as Ryan’s tongue touched her.