Sex was seeping in at the edges.
With the kids in tow, I took Rachel and Ray to see the Ron Mueck exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Mueck is British sculptor who creates figurative work of eerie verisimilitude, with life-like colors and tones giving reality to bodies that are distorted by odd shifts in scale.
The sculptures seem real enough to startle by suddenly drawing breath, and yet they are impossible creations—such as a Lilliputian adult in a rowboat or a newborn the size of a speedboat—in situations often wrought with psychological disquiet.
It’s grown-up art that would appeal to kids.
As we toured the gallery, we found ourselves face to face with the lap of a seated giant.
“He’s got a weird penis,” Rachel grimaced.
“Well, he’s not circumcised, if that’s what you mean,” I said, looking closely. “As would be the case if he were from some mythic land, or, you know, Great Britain.”
“Big, too,” Ray noted.
“Look at his extremities,” I suggested. “Big hands, big feet . . .”
“Oh, is that a sign?” Rachel laughed. She held Ray’s hand to her own.
“Stop!” Ray said, yanking back his hand and blushing slightly.
“Can you pick me up?” Lillie asked, craning at the giant’s knees. “I want to see.”
The next day, the kids went to their mother’s home. Rachel and Ray would stay with me for the remainder of their visit.
I moved my pillow and quilt from the couch to another bedroom, leaving my own bed to the happy couple.
The next day, we decided to visit the Metropolitan Museum. Rachel wanted Ray to see the period rooms.
“It’s like where women go when they have their periods,” Rachel joked.
“Are you for real?” Ray asked.
“It’s an ancient custom, dating back to the Algonquin,” I nodded sagely. “The women of Manhattan are isolated in museum period rooms for the duration of their menstruation.”
“I think that’s the last place I want to visit,” Ray said, playing along.
I suggested we stop at the Gagosian while we were in the neighborhood. I had yet to see the John Currin exhibition, a much-discussed follow up to his late retrospective at the Whitney.
“I have to warn you,” I said as we walked along Madison Avenue. “I hear it’s pretty raunchy.”
“Too bad I left my fake ID at home,” Rachel said.
Sure enough, a sign at the gallery entrance warned that the exhibition contained “strong sexual content.”
“Last exit,” I said.
“Now, I really want to see it,” Rachel replied.
“Especially seeing how it’s strong,” Ray agreed.
On the gallery’s white walls hung paintings of china, candelabras and small children. Some of the paintings were lascivious.
Others, downright pornographic.
“What is it with penises in art?” Ray asked. “They are all over the art we’ve seen.”
“I blame the tour guide,” Rachel laughed.
“You people just have dirty minds,” I scolded. “Can’t you just appreciate the quality of the painting? The layered washes, the scumbled flesh, the contrasting surface textures . . .”
“. . . the beaver shot . . . ,” Ray continued.
“Fine, fine,” I said. “We’ll have better luck at the Met.”
I suggested we stroll among the European paintings before touring the period rooms.
Rachel stopped in front of classical scene by Lorenzo Lotto.
“Oh my God, is that baby peeing on that lady?”
“Sure looks that way,” Ray nodded.
“The baby is Cupid and the lady is Venus,” I said. “And, uh, yes, he is in fact urinating through her laurel.”
“I don’t know, this is kind of kinky, Dad.” She slapped Ray. “Don’t go getting any ideas.”
“What did I do?” Ray winced.
As we wandered, Ray was drawn to a Courbet.
“Well, here’s one I could get behind. But I guess it’s not good art, ‘cause there’s no penises in it.”
“No, but there is a parrot, and that’s just as well,” I nodded.
In a gallery of Quattrocento Christs, I indicated one in particular. “Isn’t that just about the ugliest Son of God you ever did see?”
“He sure is ugly,” Rachel nodded. “But that’s what it said in the Bible. Isaiah said Jesus wasn’t a ‘comely’ man and ‘He had no beauty that we should desire Him.’”
I looked at her, impressed. “Man, you do stay awake in church. But wasn’t Isaiah in the Old Testament?”
“Yeah, but that’s what the Bible says, so . . .”
“You mean that we know Jesus was fugly because the Old Testament predicted he would be?”
“Huh. Well,” I said. “I’m glad not all artists subscribed to Isaiah, as there are some damned hot Saviors in this gallery.”
“Seriously,” Rachel said, pointing. “I’d do that one.”
“I think it might be a sin to say you’d 'do' Jesus,” Ray said.
“Save it for Mary Magdalene,” I vamped. “Speaking of, let’s skip ahead a century and go find Georges de la Tour . . .”
A few acres of canvas, antique décor and mummies later, we were bushed. We headed home to rest before dinner. Maybe now I could put sex back in its box.
It wouldn’t stay put.
“Oh, there you are,” Bridget smiled as we approached the restaurant.
I kissed her and shook Conrad’s hand. “Nice to see you,” I greeted Bridget’s other boyfriend. “Conrad, this is my daughter Rachel and her fiancé Ray.”
Bridget introduced herself to Ray, and her boyfriend to my teenaged companions.
Bridget had met Rachel last year, around the time my girlfriend had started sleeping with her new boyfriend. Of course, I knew all about Conrad and he knew all about me. Rachel simply knew Bridget as my friend.
Prior to meeting for dinner, Bridget had cleared with me the acceptable subjects for table talk. “Okay, Snooks, so here’s what we’ll say,” she suggested. “You and I are old friends from college . . .”
“. . . although you were not a friend of Rachel’s mother . . .”
“Oh, right. Damn. Does that complicate things?”
“No, I barely knew Rachel’s mother when she got pregnant. We had few friends in common.”
“All right, good, so . . . let’s say we are old friends from college days, though we went to different colleges in the same city, like we always say, and we dated, but now I’m dating Conrad. Does that work?”
“Works for me.”
“Good, then I’ll brief Conrad.”
I almost regretted the subterfuge. In truth, I wouldn’t mind if Rachel knew the full truth about my extraordinary sex life. Rachel would see beyond the ickiness of imagining one’s parents as sexual beings, and might even get a kick out of my escapades. I know she would enjoy reading my blog.
Unfortunately, I have to keep all that under wraps. For while she might enjoy the stories I could tell, it wouldn’t be fair to implicate her in a conspiracy. If she knew, she could tell no one, for if she did, word might snake back to my ex. While I trust her discretion, I don’t want to burden her with keeping my secrets.
When her sister Lillie is eighteen, perhaps I’ll tell Rachel.
For now, I only reveal the faint outlines of my sex life. She knows I’m bisexual, as this is no secret, and she knows I have dated Celia (my daughter had visited during the height of my crush), Emma (I had to tell my daughter I was dating her doppelganger) and Rachel’s frequent correspondent, Madeline.
After we ordered, Bridget slipped her fingers into Conrad’s hand. She nudged my leg under the table.
“So,” I said, smoothing a linen napkin on my lap. “Tell us about your cruise.”
“Y’all went on a cruise?” Rachel grinned. “I’m so jealous.”
“You should be,” Bridget laughed. “It was pretty amazing.” She related the adventures of cruising the Caribbean as Conrad nodded, occasionally interjecting a nod of agreement with Bridget’s tale.
Mostly, he kept his adoring eyes on the woman he loved.
“The ship sailed from Miami, Snooks, but we weren’t able to stay at the hotel you and I visited. There just wasn’t time.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. I liked that place.”
“Wait,” Rachel asked. “You two went to Miami together?”
“Oh, your Dad and I are great travel companions, right, Snooks?”
“Oh yes,” I agreed. “We both like to eat too much and sleep too little. We get along famously.”
“I let you sleep,” Bridget said, feigning injury.
I looked at her.
“Oh, yeah,” she said sheepishly. “I did sorta keep waking you up, didn’t I?”
Rachel and Ray exchanged a glance.
After dinner came dessert—mine in the form of a thick slice of Maker’s Mark—and goodbyes at the door. Bridget said we’d have to come out to see her and Conrad sometime. I kissed her cheek, shook Conrad’s hand, and we parted ways.
We had walked a few steps when Rachel’s curiosity could take no more.
“So wait, Dad—you dated Bridget?”
“Oh yes, we’ve dated,” I answered matter-of-factly.
“Was this before or after you met Madeline?”
“Some before, some after, a good measure of during,” I laughed.
“My Dad the player! I didn’t know you were into the big girls.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t describe myself as a player,” I objected. “I mean, I just have a lot of friends with whom I have a lot of sex. And I don’t know that I would say that I’m ‘into’ or ‘not into’ big girls. I frankly prefer people who are smart and really enjoy awesome sex.”
“Oh yes, very much like Bridget.” I leaned forward. “Her boy Conrad keeps her very busy.”
“Huh,” she said. “I was thinking last night it was a shame about Lucy, ‘cause she’s still really hot.”
“I can’t really see Lucy as ‘hot,’” I disagreed, apparently on a roll to define sexual slang as applied to my life. “I mean, she is a very attractive woman, no question, and she’s very smart. But she was never into sex. I mean, the whole time we were married, I never got a blowjob.”
Ray looked at Rachel.
“What?” Rachel said. “You get blowjobs.”
“No,” Ray said, taken aback. “I mean, I can’t believe you talk about this with your Dad.”
“I know, me neither,” Rachel laughed. “I don’t know why, but I do.”
“Well, my point isn’t that one must have X number of blowjobs to be content,” I went on. “My point is that if two people commit to monogamy, then each partner takes responsibility for the sexual life of the other. I think that when I was married, I didn’t fully understand that Lucy was ‘cheating’ on our commitment when she was unconcerned with my sexual pleasure. The lack of blowjobs was a symptom I failed to diagnose.”
Ray nodded as he lit a cigarette.
Rachel thought for a moment.
“So, Dad,” she asked. “I have to ask: did you ever sleep with Marcus?”
“Of course,” I laughed. “Before my marriage and again after. I think anyone who can sleep with Marcus should sleep with Marcus. It’s an incredible, incredible experience.”
Rachel giggled. “That’s pretty hot, Dad.”
“No shit, sugar.” I stopped and turned to face her. “And now, this is where we part company. This is the one night I am giving you both to have time alone together. I’m sleeping elsewhere.”
“Oh, and we were having such a great conversation!” Rachel complained.
“I know, and we were veering close to the zone of ‘more than you need to know.’ Anyway, I want you both to enjoy some private time.”
“Dad, it’s not like we didn’t have sex when you and the kids were there.”
“See, baby?” I kissed her forehead. “That veers close to ‘more than I need to know.’ Y’all have fun. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“You’re going to get laid, aren’t you, Dad?”
“Fuck yeah, I am,” I laughed, patting Ray on the back. “Tonight, everyone’s getting lucky.”