“And you can’t keep your hands off me or your pants on…”
He was insanely aroused. He’d never been with a woman in his short life and ached constantly, every day, to feel their bodies and the sensations of penetration he’d only fantasized about. He was an average straight guy longing to fire his seed into any available (and preferably willing) receptacle, too young and pure to care about love or emotion or using the right words to butter up his prey. He was real and untainted by deceit, his motives natural and perfect, still connected by his age to animal instinct, realities frowned upon and systematically ‘cleansed’ by a puritanical civilization afraid of its own lineage to wild beasts. The boy needed to fuck.
Didn’t her body address that? He gently ran his fingers over the areas that always caught his eye: across the flat stomach, along the hip, down the side of the thigh. There were goose bumps growing on her flesh, a faint odor of suntan lotion from earlier in the day, but he was hit by something altogether unique as her legs inched apart, an intoxicating aroma, an amazing aphrodisiac he yearned to taste. His erection, never harder, fought against his pajama bottoms. They’d be off and he’d be fucking were it not for those last words, “you have to keep the door open.” Why?
To understand you need to backtrack to a power play between two women, mother and daughter, who instinctively hated one another and who both placed conditions on everything. It began in the early 1940s when the mother gave birth to the daughter, her first child, and the father gradually transferred his affections away from his wife to his stunning new progeny. We won’t get too involved with his role in this, other than to say that when I think back on the situation my mind wanders to that jaw-dropping passage in Nabokov’s Lolita when the author outlines Humbert’s game plan for replenishing his stock of young girls by impregnating them (with future daughters/sex partners) when they hit ‘middle age’ (re: their twenties). In our scenario, however, I doubt the father had sex with his daughter, but as she got older the air grew thick with innuendo, saucy chitchat peppered with double entendre, much to the chagrin of the mother who, quite frankly, would’ve been happier living out her days in a convent.
They went at it tooth and nail like Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth in Mildred Pierce, intense skirmishes over politics, religion, lifestyle, culture, music, art, the way one walks or wears their jewelry, mother diagnosing daughter as ‘self-centered’ (her favorite and often misused criticism) when, in fact, neither had room on their plates for anyone other than themselves. Decades away from Xanax and Prozac, some form of mental illness tossed them down a rabbit hole without the guidance of professionals, who could’ve come in handy the time the girl faked a suicide. There was something decidedly off, be it the outlook, the intellect, the lies. At an early age she claimed not only a belief in God, but a direct connection to the Almighty to justify her judgments and actions. She was not spoiled, at least not in the conventional sense. Indeed, she could thrive in squalor — “When you ain’t got nuthin,’ you got nuthin’ to lose” — while mom spent every waking hour extolling the virtues of the high life.
In four years a second daughter arrived and, twelve years after that, a son. There were rumors that the three marked the only occasions the couple ever had sex. Dad liked his second daughter well enough, but showed little interest in the boy, whom he regarded as something of an interloper in his Humbertesque harem. The second daughter proved to be academically gifted, socked away her earnings from after school jobs, and acclimated nicely to the conservative upper middleclass. But the firstborn rebelled at every turn. She was sent to psychologists and psychiatrists, carefully guarding the craziness she whipped out at home to drive mom bonkers. Her creative side blossomed in her mid-teens when she picked up a brush and applied oil colors to canvas, churning out dozens of portraits and landscapes — many of them quite excellent — at a frenetic pace. A natural talent, she bore no personal attachment to any of it and left her paintings behind wherever she went, most of it to rot from neglect and mildew in stuffy closets and damp basements.
Mother tried to homogenize the girl by sending her to Katherine Gibbs, back then (we’re now in the mid-1960s, by the way) a school for secretarial skills which also honed one’s manners and sense of couture. They enforced a strict all-hours dress code and if you were spotted on the street, on a subway or in a restaurant without your white gloves, hat and tailored suit, you’d either be reprimanded or expelled. The daughter gave it a whirl but ended up in jeans and sweatshirt, or, when she felt like getting laid (which was often), low-cut tops, tight short skirts and sandals, hanging and drinking with the artists, writers and musicians down in Greenwich Village. She rented a microscopic apartment on 10th Street, and briefly dated an artist from Marvel, back when they published comic books and the term ‘graphic novel’ had yet to be invented, the antithesis of a Gibbs girl’s target provider, the briefcase-wielding, nine-to-five corporate hotshot. “You’re seeing a cartoonist?” the mother cried, nearly throwing up over the word. “How could you do this to me?!?”
Mother needn’t have worried for the girl rarely stayed in relationships or marriages for very long. She tired of any one man, despite attempts to blend into their worlds which were numerous and varied. There were executives, playboys, schoolteachers, poets, shipbuilders, all imagining a future with this young, beautiful, creative woman who they could never pin down. Alcohol played a large part in it, discovering the stuff when she was still in braces, downing the liquid leftovers of her parents’ get-togethers and holiday affairs. Plus dad, supposedly fearful of the young men who’d try to pry open his daughters’ legs with booze, gave lessons in power drinking not long before they reached high school. By the eighth or ninth grade, they’d sampled scotch, rum, vodka, gin, beer and wine, daddy getting drunk with his two little girls at the kitchen table.
She developed a taste for the grape and was always seen glass in hand, the potion unleashing a Jekyll and Hyde conversion that was unpredictable and occasionally violent. In her early twenties she got married to an executive on the rise, eloping at City Hall, relocating from New York to Boston and back again after her inner Jack Torrance popped out (screaming like a loon, she attempted to kick his Volvo to death in high heels), sending husband number one running for the hills. The 10th Street digs long since abandoned, she moved back home with her mother and brother, the middle sister now married and out of the house and dad exiled to a dingy basement apartment in a remote, dicey neighborhood after a messy divorce.
Mom was temporarily relieved with her back home, the aging woman perpetually at wits’ end and saddled with a son she considered “a mistake that should never have been born.” She hoped her daughter would shoulder some of the responsibility of his upbringing (rather than pack him off to military school, a daily threat) and the girl happily obliged. The siblings became very close, she in her late twenties, he around eleven or twelve, scouting locations for her paintings, antiquing to refurnish her bedroom, spending afternoons in bookstores to get the kid away from television and sharpen his mind in the event he’d find himself cornered in one of those pointless pseudo-intellectual showdowns she remembered from her days in the Village. She had him reading The Sun Also Rises and Steppenwolf and listening to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, making sure he knew Morton Gould’s 1812 Overture was the best because Gould used real cannons.
There were frequent trips into Manhattan, the girl’s new beau a Ken doll with bleached hair and a year-round sunlamp tan. He worked for Mobil Oil and lived in one of six enormous bedrooms in a spacious apartment on Central Park West, bathroom showers loaded with multiple showerheads, a grand piano in the living room, a highfalutin sublet for a young generation of future tycoons. There were parties galore wherein the boy rubbed elbows with corporate luminaries; Eisenhower’s Senior Naval Aide Leslie Youngblood held court once or twice over a pack of money hungry sycophants, and, although they couldn’t have exchanged more than six words, pronounced the boy “wise beyond his years.” On sleepy Sundays with the rest of the tenants meandering about town, sister and the Ken doll fucked and sucked with the bedroom door ajar, a conscious effort to show little brother what he could be doing to all of those girls in Playboy he’d been beating off to. What he fondled between his legs, however, was no match for the glistening python now sliding in and out of sis, their eyes locked, beaming in superficial ecstasy.
Despite her knowing the guy was boning her daughter — voraciously, one might add — mom, inherently old school, maintained that the poufy-looking chap was “a faggot.” Had the young woman chosen him specifically to trigger this reaction? Of course she did. Devious, sinister, she could’ve been a blueprint for the controlling, self-obsessed, homicidal Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven. She’d go to any lengths to piss off mom, revenge for some unspoken crime that may or may not have gone down eons ago. She manipulated little brother with this disdain, which had him hating his own mother once her character defects, real and imagined, were brought to light. The two plotted and hatched schemes to drive the old woman closer to the edge. At one point the boy simply asked, “Why don’t we just kill her?”
He wasn’t joking. With mom out of the way, he and sis could live alone together. He’d never been closer to anyone in his life; his sister understood him, consoled him, made him feel like a real person. Given his distance from kids, especially girls, his own age, she became not only the light of his life but also the fire of his loins. He’d seen what the Ken doll had done with her and wanted some of that for himself.
Which brings us to where we began, in that dark bedroom, the naked woman open and available… “but you have to keep the door open.” What was it with her and sex and open doors? The reality hit his bruised and battered little brain: mom was downstairs watching TV. What better way to freak her out than scream “Rape!” with little brother naked and furiously humping away on top of her? He realized it was a setup, a one-way ticket to military school. His own sister was conning him. After delicately touching her for a few seconds, moments that’d stay with him forever, he left and went to his own bedroom, knowing that from that point on he could never trust her again.