Fifty Tints of Beaver
I give the cat tuna, and the turning of the can opener has a peculiar effect on me. Grind. Grind. Grind. I like the way the can resists the strength of my wrists and fingers. I fight with its feistiness. I twist and turn, my whole body getting into the action until wetness spills out onto my thumb. The can is open, and I can smell the wet tuna. I slide my thumb into my mouth and lick it clean. I discard the can top into the trash and dump the cat’s meal into her bowl. I watch her eat. Look how she devours it. There is no shyness in her animal instincts. Shyness is learned, and I’m tired of being a good little student. I’d rather let loose my own inner feline, the one that’s been clawing and meowing at my cervix for almost 60 years now.
The phone rings. I answer impatiently. A startled voice responds from the receiver.
“Stefan.” There’s silence. “Stefan, is everything all right?” He’d been having trouble in class last week. Rather than seeking extra help from his professor or a counselor, though, he’d called to talk to me about it. He calls to talk about everything. Last week, even ten minutes ago, I would have cherished this attention. Now, after the encounters with the books and the tuna, his constant need only makes me feel used up.
“Mom, I have a problem.” This news doesn’t surprise me. “It’s Anna.” I gasp. “What’s wrong with Anna?” There is more silence, then he says, “I don’t think she wants me anymore.” I feel a tingle at the word ‘want.’ His timing is poor or perfect.
“Tell me more, honey.”
“Well, last time we . . .” There is more silence. “I shouldn’t talk about it,” he decides. Is it wrong to ask for more information? Is it sick to exploit Stefan’s openness with me in order to gain access to the love life of someone still in their prime, anyone in their prime?
“You can tell me anything, sweetheart.”
There is more silence, then Stefan says, “I don’t think she’s satisfied with . . . with my manness.” This conversation has crossed a line, but I can’t help myself. I want to know more. Like a car accident, or like a terrible book that you just can’t put down, my attention is fixed.
“Did she say that?” My voice quivers. “No. I can just tell,” he says. I hear the mailman outside and turn toward the door. When I do so, the phone cord wraps around my upper thigh. I don’t adjust it.
“How, honey?” I ask. “How can you tell?”
“Well . . .” he says. I pull on the phone cord and turn three more times around.
“Do you rush?” I ask. The other end is silent. “Where do you put your hands? Is she ready for you when you take her?” The phone cord is now cutting off my circulation, and the pull I’m exerting on the line is squeezing even tighter, tighter. I hear my son’s voice from the other end of the line. “Mom, you’re freaking me out.”
I blink and hang up abruptly. He’s right. This morning was exhilarating, but it was too forgiving. Now, my insatiability has driven me to the brink of madness. I’m out of control, and I need someone to take away my power. I pull the phone cord from the wall. It pops out with a satisfying flaccidness. That will be a start, a start to my retribution. But only a start.
Suddenly, I hear a knock on the door.