My eyes scanned the living room. Apparently, I had missed some party.
Two pairs of jeans were entwined near the couch. An empty bottle of wine sat on the coffee table, near an empty bottle of champagne. Crumbs were all that remained of a chocolate cake that had missed only a few slices the day before. Two forks rested in the cake platter.
My romance voodoo candles—one in the shape of a man, the other in the shape of a woman—were each burned to the hips.
Empty packages of Polaroid film were strewn about. There was a single photograph propped on a wine bottle; it showed Ray smoking from Rachel’s new pipe as she smiled, holding a wine glass. On the bottom, she had scrawled, “Thanks for the Polaroid, Santa!”
I took off my coat and cleaned the room. I put on coffee and settled in to work.
A couple of hours later, Rachel shuffled from the bedroom.
“Did you kids have a nice evening?” I asked.
“What I remember of it,” she moaned, falling onto the couch.
“That’s generally a good sign. And where’s Ray?”
“He’s spread out on the bed. He was taking up too much room, so I got up.”
“Well, you might want to rouse him,” I said, leaning to kiss her forehead. “I’m making breakfast, and then we have to go shopping before you go to your bus.”
“Oh right,” she yawned. “You are getting me a mystery present. Where are we going?”
“Nice try. Go wake your husband so I can shovel grits into him.”
We only had a few hours left before my daughter and her fiancé returned home. Much I hated for them to leave, I was looking forward to closing my holiday bed and breakfast.
In three weeks, I had slept in my own bed only once. I had been getting by on sex once a week.
I was eager to get my life back.
But first, we had one more outing in the city. I needed to acquire gifts for Rachel’s nineteenth birthday a few days hence.
Rachael Ray ate slowly, showered slowly, and dressed slowly. I kept a steady pour of coffee in their cups.
In the fullness of time, we made our way to the subway. We got off at Canal Street.
“Is my present in Chinatown?” Rachel asked.
“No, baby, it’s in SoHo.”
“There certainly are a lot of shoe stores down here . . . ,” she said, looking around.
“Aren’t there, though?” I smiled.
As we walked along Mercer Street, I stopped dead in my tracks.
“What’s wrong, Dad?” Rachel asked.
“Nothing’s wrong,” I said. “We’re here.”
Rachel looked around. “What’s this place? Babeland?”
“That’s right. Babeland is a great place to get sex toys. You see, it’s owned by these two women, and they decided . . .”
“Oh my God, sex toys? Are you for real?” She pulled open the door and rushed inside.
“I guess she’s interested, huh?” Ray said, squashing a cigarette under his toe.
“Apparently,” I replied, holding the door.
“Well, I sure hope she doesn’t find something to make me obsolete.”
“Never you fear,” I said, patting his back as he walked inside. “Toys can add to the fun. I think your job is secure.”
Rachel stood at the store entrance, looking around, her eyes as big as saucers.
“Oh my God, Dad, this is amazing. How will I know what to look at?”
“I’ve thought of that,” I said, pulling out my phone. “I’ve arranged for you to have a personal shopper.” I pushed a few buttons and handed over the cell.
Rachel held the phone to her ear. “Hello?”
“Madeline? Oh my God, is that you, Maddie?”
“Yes ma’am,” Madeline laughed. “How are you, sweetie?”
“I’m fine! Dad brought me to a sex toy store!”
“I know, awesome, right? I’m going to help you find something that works for you. Now, look over at the right-hand side of the store. Do you see that cabinet with the toys on top?”
“Yes . . . how did you know where things are?”
“Oh, trust me. I know Babeland. Okay, so go over to the right . . .”
Rachel walked to the display, Ray close behind. I held back, heading to the magazine rack to look for $pread.
Rachel was in good hands. Besides, I didn’t want her to be self-conscious about looking at sex toys with her father.
I mean, I’m cool and all, but some things are personal.
I was chatting with the store manager when Rachel came over with her selections.
“Maddie says I should get one of these,” she said, holding a Dynamic Duo vibrator. “And she says every girl needs one of these.”
“An Orchid G,” the manager nodded. “A very good choice. Have you used one before?”
“No, I’ve never used any toys,” Rachel laughed nervously.
“Okay, then let me tell you about this toy.”
I took the phone to talk with Madeline as Rachel and Ray were given an introductory lesson on g spots and playing with toys.
Soon, we were outside, Rachel smiling at the pink bag in her hand.
“Thanks, Dad,” she kissed me. “That’s a pretty amazing gift.”
“The gift that keeps on giving,” I smiled. “Enjoy.”
Rachel and her fiancé found their own way to the bus as I left to pick up her siblings.
A few days later, I got an email from Rachel.
I need to thank you again for the toys. Especially my Orchid!! All my friends are so jealous. Ray says he’s going to hide it, because I can’t leave it alone.
I don’t want to give you the idea that all I do is masturbate, but . . . well, I can’t lie!!
I love you.
PS Call me, I have to tell you a story.
You know I hurried to make that call.
On the night that they returned home, Rachel told me, they had been picked up at the bus station by her other father, Bill. On the way home, he was pulled over for driving sixty in a forty-five mile per hour zone.
“It took the cop forever to write the ticket,” Rachel went on. “Ray and me were so scared in the back seat. We were sure we’d have to open our bag, which was full of sex toys, a pot pipe and pornography!”
“Oh my God, that’s a riot,” I laughed. “But wait, what pornography did you have?”
Rachel lowered her voice. “Well, we made a lot of Polaroids that night we had alone . . . ”
I could only laugh in response.
Madeline also laughed when I called to tell her about my smuggler’s brush with the law.
“That little acorn didn’t fall far from the oak,” she teased.
“Can I tell you something? I did not raise that girl. She grew up in another state, raised by her mother and other father.”
“I think this puts to rest the whole debate about nature versus nurture.”