Orgy

Orgy

The orgy date was fast approaching and Frank was getting more and more anxious by the day. He berated himself on a daily basis now for having agreed to it.

‘I must have been mad,’ he’d say to himself. ‘What was I thinking? An orgy for Christ sake. Me in an orgy? What on earth was I bloody well thinking?’

He agreed to it because of her. She was always bullying him about something or other. But usually her demands were for things like holidays or cash. Occasionally she’d come up with some barmy idea like the time she insisted on trying a bungee jump. She went on about it for months on end. He expressed his usual reluctance.

‘A bungee jump. Are you serious?’

‘Yes, I’m serious and don’t give me that look. I hate that look and you know damn well I hate it.’

‘Helen, of all the things you could choose to do this weekend why a bungee jump?

‘Because Frank, I want some goddamned excitement in my life. Lord knows if I left it up to you we’d never leave this bloody house. They’d find us in here covered in cobwebs with rats and mice gnawing on our bones.’

‘Yeah knock off the drama will you? I’m just saying we could go for a drive out the country. Have a lunch someplace nice. Book in somewhere, spur of the moment type of thing. Just see where the road takes us.’

‘Frank, you know bloody well where that road will take us. It will take us to a pub that looks and sounds and smells like any other goddamn pub in Ireland. And then what? Frank will stare at a pint of Guinness for half the day, while I sit there trying to pretend I’m having a grand old time. Then as the day wears on, I’ll get completely pissed and you’ll still be sober.’

‘Would you rather I get pissed too, then get caught for drunk driving and banned off the road? Would that suit you better?’

‘Well, it would be different at least. A bit of drama for once.’

‘Helen what the hell is it with you lately? You’re obsessed with drama and adventure like you’ve got some kind of bucket list. Like your time is running out. Is there something you’re not telling me?’

Helen didn’t answer her husband. She continued sipping her red wine and blowing smoke while staring blindly at the telly. She appeared to be in a trance.

‘Helen. Answer me. Don’t be so fucking rude.’

‘What? What?’ she snapped. ‘Answer what?’

Frank walked over to the window and opened it to let in some badly needed fresh night air. The room stank from her cigarettes.

     ‘Is there a problem you’re not telling me about? Are you sick or something?

     ‘Yes Frank, I’m sick. Fucking sick of this house and sick of you, and sick of this endless boredom. I’m gravely ill from the catastrophic effects of boredom. I’m in dire need of something before I crack up.’

     ‘Typical. You talk as though the two holidays we’ve had so far this year mean nothing. How many people do you think can afford two luxury foreign trips in the space of eight months? Most people would count themselves lucky, but not you Helen. Somehow you find a way to complain anyway. You’re extraordinary you know that?’

‘Yes Frank, I’m extraordinary.’

‘Yeah keep taking the piss Helen. You’re an ungrateful cow.’

‘I want an orgy.’

‘You want a what?’ Frank said, genuinely stunned.

‘You heard me. I won’t say it again.’ There was a coolness in her voice now.

‘An orgy? Why do I get the feeling you’re actually serious.’

‘Because I am actually serious.’ She turned to look her husband straight in the eye. ‘I want an orgy because I’ve never been to one and I quite fancy the idea. I reckon it could be a lot of fun. And I want to have some goddamn fun for a change. Not a holiday, not a pub lunch or a quiet country drive. I want fun! Real fun. Grown up fun.’

Frank looked at his wife and it felt like he was face to face with a total stranger. There was venom in her eyes and revulsion in her voice. He knew she was tipsy but not drunk. She couldn’t pass this one off as a typical outburst. There wasn’t going to be the usual morning after shrug of the shoulders. You know what I’m like when I’ve had a few. Stop going on about it Frank.

‘Helen you’re not pissed. You’re tipsy, but you’re not so inebriated that you can hide behind the booze. You mean to say you actually want to have sex with strangers.’

‘Yes Frank. And please stop saying the word actually. It’s getting on my fucking nerves.’

‘Never mind that. Are you even thinking about what you’re saying? You’ve just told me you want to sleep with another man!’

‘No I just told you I want an orgy.’

‘Oh screw you. Stop trying to be clever.’

‘Careful Frank, you’re losing your cool.’

‘Fuck you! It’s all coming out now isn’t it? So you want to shag another man. And this is your way of saying it. “I want an orgy,” she says. You fucking coward. You couldn’t just have an affair like a normal wife. No not my Helen. You have to make up some crap about an orgy.’

‘Why don’t you stop shouting Frank? You’re giving me a frigging headache.’

Frank walked to the window and took a deep breath. A slight panic had set in and he felt cornered. He hated fighting with her, but this was no ordinary fight. This time he could feel her slipping away from him.

‘You’ve already done it haven’t you? You’ve already had an affair. You may as well come clean Helen. You obviously wanted to get this off your chest. It’s been burdening you hasn’t it? You’re tired of the guilt. You want to unburden yourself and you’re hoping I won’t mind. That’s what this ridiculous orgy business is really about. It’s about you and your…’

‘For the love of God Frank! Shut up. Shut up right now!

Frank fell silent and now Helen took a deep breath. She tried to calm herself.

‘I haven’t slept with anyone. Not that you’d notice even if I did, but the fact is I haven’t. You got that? But when I talk about boredom Frank what do you think I mean? Do you really think I mean vacations? My God it’s as if you can’t read me at all. How could we be married all these years and you can’t pick up on anything I say to you? I always end up having to spell it out, like I’m your teacher and you’re a fucking child.’

She knocked back the last of her wine and refilled. Frank didn’t know whether to believe her or not. She could always sound so convincing, but he had tripped her up on stories before. She could lie about anything. She was a compulsive liar albeit a benign one; she never told vicious lies designed to cause irreparable damage. Helen never considered her lies to be real lies. She would quickly dismiss any suggestion of malice on her part.  

‘Our sex life is dull Frank. It’s beyond dull. It’s lifeless.’ She looked up at Frank and smiled at him.

‘We’re in trouble kiddo, and it’s the worst kind of trouble. The kind that can destroy a couple. The kind that slowly but surely erodes the very love that once seemed so full of strength and joy; the boring sex-life kind of trouble. The kind that’s wrecked God knows how many marriages.’

‘But an orgy Helen.’

‘Oh Jesus Frank. I’m desperate here. I’m trying to reach out for something…for anything…and you. You just stand there feeling all threatened and insulted and hurt.’

‘Well what am I supposed to feel…what am I supposed to say?’

‘Oh figure it out, I gotta take a pee.’ Helen got up and went to the toilet. Frank paced around the room. The TV was annoying him but there was no point in turning it off. She’d go mad if he did. She always liked having the TV on, even when there was nothing to watch. 

She returned with a smile on her face. She sat back down on the couch and took a sip of wine, then lit another cigarette. She started laughing; it was a familiar laugh. Her forced semi-drunk laugh designed to irritate him. He ignored it.

‘I’m still trying to take this in.’

‘Take your time Frank. We’ve got all night and all day tomorrow. And every day after that.’

‘Until when Helen? Until I cave in and agree to your ridiculous request. Oh what am I saying? It wasn’t a request. It was a statement wasn’t Helen. You weren’t asking me if I wanted to go to an orgy with you. You were telling me that you were going with or without my consent.’

‘Consent. Ha! And when have I ever asked for your consent. Who the hell do you think you are? My fucking legal guardian? Get a grip Frank.’

‘You get a grip! You’re the one seriously suggesting that having group sex with total strangers is the answer to our boring sexing life. And speaking of which, exactly when did you come to the conclusion that our sex life was…how did you put it…”beyond dull” that’s how you put it. When did you discover this sad matrimonial fact?’

‘You don’t wanna know sweety.’

‘Oh yes I most certainly do. I’ve never been more curious, and you’re dying to tell me so just spit it out Helen.’

‘Fine. Fine.’ She swivelled herself around on the couch to face him.

‘Two years…thereabouts. Well you did ask Frank.’

‘Two years,’ Frank muttered to himself. He walked back over to the window to get away from her cigarette smoke. He sat down on the sill.

‘Well you kept that quiet didn’t you. So what’s changed? Why are you coming out with it now? Why didn’t you just carry on with your little secret frustration and have an affair to soothe yourself.’

Helen jumped up from the couch and threw her glass at the wall. It shattered and sent the Shiraz splashing in all directions.

‘I swear if you say that shit to me one more time I’m going swing for you. Do you hear me? I’ve had enough of your condescending crap. Can’t you get it through your thick skull? I want excitement Frank, but I want it with you. Why should I have to go and have an affair? Why should I skulk around and spend my life lying and cheating? Wouldn’t it be better if you just liven up and show some goddam interest in me?’

She was roaring now and he knew better than to interrupt her. He had heard plenty of tantrums before but none like this one. She had a real look of anger and pain in her eyes, and he could hear that same anger and pain in her voice. She was waving her arms around and pacing quickly back and forth across the living room floor, moving only a few feet in either direction. He wanted to go to her and put his arms around her, but now wasn’t the time for that.

‘Well I refuse. Do you hear me Frank? I fucking well refuse to be the bad guy. I won’t be called slapper or whore by your friends or your goddamn family. I wouldn’t give any of you the fucking pleasure. I’m not having an affair and you know why Frank? Because it’s not fucking fair to me that’s why. Never mind you…it’s not fair to me! You get that Frank? You better get it, and get it quick because I’m sick of this shit.’

She sat back down, still furious but out of breath. Frank bent down and started picking up chunks of glass.

‘Oh just leave it,’ Helen said calmly.

‘No I won’t just leave it. I’ll just clean it up and while I’m doing that you’re going to listen.’ He spread some newspaper on the floor and carefully started placing bits of glass on it.

‘I don’t know where you got the idea that initiating sex is the sole responsibility of the man. You know for a modern woman like yourself, that’s pretty old fashioned Helen. But ok, you reckon our sex life is lifeless and dull. And of course implicit in this observation is that it’s my fault not yours, right Helen? Nothing to do with you. It’s all me, all boring old me. Although it seems reasonable to assume that if a couple’s sex life is lousy they are equally to blame. If our private life is boring, you’re half the reason why it’s boring. So there it is, our modern equal marriage is lifeless and we’re both to blame. Why? Because I say it is. And if you want to say something else feel free.’

‘Wonderful Frank, great speech but I never said this was all your fault.’

‘You implied it.’

‘Oh bollocks I did! One of us had to raise the issue sooner or later. So I raised it, so what? Does that mean I’m automatically the villain here? I wasn’t blaming you Frank I was just getting it out there. But I should’ve known you’d read it all wrong and start taking it to heart, instead of just talking to me without all the wounded pride getting in the way.” She finished off another glass of wine and began refilling. She wasn’t drunk when their exchange began but she was getting there fast.

‘Ok, ok Helen. Can I just have a minute to get my head around this?’

Frank rolled up the newspaper and brought the glass remnants out to the recycle bin in the back yard. He grabbed the sponge mop and a bucket and brought it into the living room. As he mopped up the wine he glanced at Helen who sat perfectly still on the couch, staring vacantly at the TV. He then grabbed a sponge from the kitchen and began cleaning Shiraz off the wall. He emptied the bucket down the kitchen sink and rinsed the mop and sponge. He felt like a drink himself now. He poured himself a large glass of white.

‘Want one of these?’ he asked his wife. ‘There’s no more red left.’ Without answering she held out her empty glass and he filled it. He sat on the armchair and said nothing for a long time. Eventually he spoke, but wasn’t quite sure what he even wanted to say.

‘Helen, the thought of you with another man would kill me. And that’s just me finding out about it after the fact; but to actually witness it…to be a willingly participant. Well to me that’s for masochistic types with no self-respect, and certainly no respect for their marriage. I mean who do they think they’re fooling? Wanting sex with other people is basically saying “I have given up on you, I don’t respect you anymore.” But then they want permission to betray you as though your collaboration is somehow a sign of the depth of your love, or the strength of your character. What bullshit! An orgy is just infidelity wrapped up in the guise of adventure and freedom, but it’s neither. I’m sure it’s a different story for single people Helen, but for couples? How on earth any couple could respect each other after an orgy is beyond me. I think those couples are pathetic and I’m not going to be one of them. If our love life is dull we’ll have to spice it up some other way, but an orgy is out of the question. That’s my final word, like it or lump it.’

Another protracted silence ensued and Helen thought about breaking another glass, but then decided a repeat performance probably wouldn’t have the same impact. She also knew she consumed the last glass of Shiraz too quickly and her head was starting to spin. She didn’t have any more energy for shouting and she felt mad at herself for that.

‘Damn you Frank,’ she whispered. ‘What do you want to do? If an orgy is out of the question then you suggest something. Don’t just shoot me down and then sit there offering no alternative. Let’s hear some of your bright ideas?’ She fixed her stare firmly on him and would not look away until he spoke. He couldn’t look at her for long and instead stared down at the glass in his hand. He took a sip and could feel his wife’s unrelenting gaze. He made a desperate impromptu attempt to answer her.

‘Well…we could start with something a bit more realistic. Like…say…like…what about role play?’ He broke a wide smile as if the very suggestion had already solved the problem. ‘You know, uniforms and things, dressing up as characters and all that jazz. That could be fun right?’ Helen glared at him with drunken eyes.

‘You mean like you as a cop and me as a hooker?’ she said, her face still sullen.

‘Yes, or me as Superman and you as Catwoman!’

‘Yes, or you as an accountant and me as a bored wife…oh wait we don’t need to dress up for that!’

‘Oh you bitch,’ he said solemnly. ‘Now I’m the one trying to reach out and all you can do is mock me, you…’ He couldn’t finish his sentence, opting instead to refill his glass but not hers.

‘Yes nice try Frank but dressing up ain’t gonna do it for me.’

‘How do you know, have you ever tried it? Actually tried role play?’

‘I don’t need to try it, just saying it turns me off. We’re not children Frank. I stopped playing dress-up and role play games when I was ten. You’ll have to do better than that.’ He felt like hitting her; he hated the way she spoke to him sometimes. Several minutes of silence ensued with only the sound of the TV to help them cope.

‘Stop it Frank,’ she muttered without looking at him.

‘Stop what?’ he replied.

‘Stop trying so hard. I can hear you thinking from over hear. I can see the gear levers twisting round and round in your brain. Jesus Frank you go from not thinking at all about our private life to thinking about it so hard you’re virtually sweating.’

Yeah there’s no winning with you. No pleasing some people.’

‘Alright goddamn it, I’m gonna save us both a lot of time and just spell it out for you.’ She sat upright and suddenly seemed almost sober. She spoke clearly and there was real determination in every word.

‘I want an orgy because I want to be around people. I want sex and fun and excitement and danger all in one gloriously sleazy night. I want to know what it feels like even if I only feel it once and never again. I want to do it even if I end up disappointed with it. I want to try it even if the real thing makes me want to puke. I want the company of other people Frank, other grown up people living real lives. People like us Frank! That’s what I want.’

She stood up and raised her glass and downed her wine in two gulps. Frank watched her like he was watching an actress on a stage bearing her soul for an audience of one. 

‘Now let me tell you what I don’t want. I don’t want to have to lie about it, or sneak around like a two-faced trollop. That’s what I don’t want. I don’t want to watch porn because it fucking bores and frustrates me. Skin mags are even worse. I don’t want to spend the night in a night club where young people stare at us wondering who let the old farts in. I don’t want another so-called night on the town with your friends, or even my friends for that matter. You know why Frank?’ He assumed it was a rhetorical question and did not answer her.

‘Well do you?’ she barked, sounding drunk again.

‘No…no I don’t. Go ahead Helen, tell me.’

‘Because your friends are boring, and so are mine if the truth be known, so a night on the town with them ain’t gonna cure what ails me. That’s why.’ She grabbed the bottle and refilled.

‘I don’t want a surprise party or a surprise hotel break for two. I don’t want adventure sports, murder mystery weekends or nurse’s uniforms. I don’t want any of those goddamned things because they don’t interest me one little bit.’ She ran out of breath again and lowered her voice, but the frustration was still there and for a moment he felt sorry for her. She dropped back down on the couch.

‘Helen look at me. Don’t shout any more. Enough with the melodrama. I have a question and I need an answer, so just answer me straight. Do you want to fuck another guy because you think you might be missing out on something? Something you think you’ve never had. At least not with me. Is that it?’

‘I guess.’                                            

‘Well thank you for the straight answer. Now answer one more question. Are you going to pursue this until you get your way? Are you going to play the long game and wear me down like you usually do? Is that the plan Helen?

‘What if it is Frank? What’s your point?’

‘I’m not sure I have one. What I do have is a bad feeling that you and I are going in very different directions. And I have no idea where we’re gonna end up.’

‘Right back here in this room probably,’ Helen muttered and then laughed as though she suddenly got her own joke.

‘I know knowing your trying hard to make light of it Helen but I’m serious. You’re talking about our marriage here. I’ve invested seventeen years in this marriage. Invested seventeen years in you Helen. To even hear you talk this way…orgies…it just leaves me cold. I couldn’t think of anything I’d least like to do.’

He stood up and began pacing again. Helen lit another cigarette.

‘Helen what is it about an orgy? Why that specifically?

His wife rolled her eyes and let out a long exaggerated sigh.

     ‘Well Frank if I have to psychoanalyse it then it won’t be much fun now will it? Or is that your intention? That is your intention.’ She started glaring at him again as he continued pacing.

     ‘You want to exorcise this demon within me, is that it Frank? You think your amateur psychoanalysis will cure me of this perverse fantasy?’

‘I hope so.’

‘Well forget it. The genie’s out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in. So take that Freudian tone out of your voice and shove it. Don’t try to analyse this Frank, don’t kill the fantasy before it’s even had a chance to express itself.’

‘But Christ Helen that’s my point!” Frank suddenly got angry and began to yell and gesture wildly with his hands.

‘I don’t want your fantasy. You want it and you want me to want it, but I don’t. It turns you on, but it turns me off. It won’t work. Goddamn it I can’t deal with it. It’s too much Helen. Every man has his limit and that’s mine. That’s my boundary right there. I won’t participate in group sex and if you think your usual long game tactics will make me change my mind, well you’ve got another thing coming. I won’t fucking do it you understand? Whatever the problem is here, there’s gonna have to be some other solution.’ Then Frank lowered his voice.

‘Which brings me back to my point; I have a bad feeling about this Helen. This could spell the end for us.’

‘And doing nothing could spell the end for us just as easily Frank. I told you already loud and clear. I want excitement and I want sex, and I don’t mean the usual, predictable, missionary nonsense that you call sex. In case you hadn’t noticed Frank our love life has been missing a rather important ingredient these past couple of years; it’s called passion. Where did that go Frank? Remember passion? Maybe you can’t remember, but I can. There was a time Frank when I used to call out your name in the throes of passion. These days the only name I call out for is God. Silently in my mind I call out his name, I beg him to rescue me from the shear boredom of our sexual intercourse. And you’re worried we may not survive an orgy. Ha!’ Frank refilled his glass then sat back down.

‘More clever words Helen, more acerbic wit.’

‘Acerbic wit my ass. It’s the truth, plain and simple. Frank our sex life is so dull it’s an embarrassment. There are old age pensioners out there who can fuck with more passion than us.’ Helen sat bolt upright again and tried to appeal to her husband.

‘Frank look me at, look me in the eye and tell me you realise there’s a problem here. Please tell you’ve been feeling it too. I think I’ll lose my mind if you just sit there oblivious to it all. Please say you understand we’re already in trouble. Tell me you get that, please.’

He looked her straight in the eye.

‘I get it now Helen, but I guess I’ve been ignoring it up till now.’

‘But you have noticed it before now right?’

‘Yes I’ve noticed.’

Helen let out another heavy sigh, but this time there was nothing forced about it.

‘Oh thank God. Thank God…I thought I was going mad. I really did. Like I was going crazy and you, I thought you had turned into some kind of lifeless, heartless android. So why the hell didn’t you say anything Frank? I’ve been quiet long enough. I gave you plenty of time and plenty of chances to wake yourself up, and snap yourself out of this semi-comatose state you’ve been in. But you wouldn’t snap out of it. No, instead you wait for me to do it for you, as per usual. Why couldn’t you speak up first Frank? Well? For once take the fucking initiative and speak up!’

Helen turned around and picked up the wine bottle and headed for the living room door.

‘Where are you going?’ Frank asked.

‘To bed…maybe I’ll get lucky tonight and have a wet dream.’

She walked out into the dark hallway leaving the door open and staggered up the stairs to bed. Frank sat completely still and felt a nauseous sensation in his stomach. It was all he could feel. His hands trembled and it’s as though the very thoughts within his brain were trembling too. He wasn’t ready for Helen’s moment of truth, but it’s done now and he does not know how to respond. That’s the worst part, the not knowing. Helen is so hard to talk to. Her sharp tongue cuts little wounds into him when she’s drunk, and sober she virtually ignores him. He wondered if he loved her at all anymore. Maybe their marriage was already over but he simply could not entertain such a thought, not after seventeen years.

He went to the kitchen and searched every cupboard for more alcohol. It took a while but eventually he found a bottle of vodka stashed behind some cereal boxes. He hated vodka but took it back to the living room anyway. On his way he grabbed a carton of orange juice and some ice from the fridge. He fixed himself a large screwdriver and gulped it down in one go. He felt better almost immediately, like his skull had just decompressed.

He thought some more about his feelings for Helen and realised he really did love her, and he knew it was highly unlikely he’d ever meet another woman who would care about him. Not that Helen acted like she cared. Quite the opposite, she could be a cold fish when she wanted to be. She was the cruel type too when it suited her. But he also knows Helen is as brittle as an autumn leaf underneath her angry, malevolent exterior. 

He got the feeling that tonight she wasn’t lying when she told him she hadn’t been unfaithful. Helen could lie when she wanted, but tonight she just didn’t sound like she was feigning innocence. Projecting innocence is never her concern when she’s had a few. She spoke her mind and left him with two things to contemplate; she hadn’t been unfaithful, but now she wanted to be. Only she doesn’t want any guilt trips. She wants to be unfaithful in a way that keeps her conscience calm and unhindered by paranoia or lies. She wants sex with another man or worse, with several others.

That’s another thing he finds repulsive. What exactly will this orgy look like? Where will it take place and how many people will be there? Exactly what has Helen got in mind? What constitutes an orgy anyway? Four, five people? More than five? How will she organise it? Dear God she surely isn’t planning to have it here in their house? Their marital home, their own private sanctuary.

‘No way,’ Frank muttered. ‘Over my dead body Helen. If you ever bring anyone into this house, this sacred place, why I will…I’ll kill you Helen.’ He made himself another screwdriver and turned up the TV to try and distract himself. He continued drinking and berating Helen until he fell asleep on the couch sometime in the early hours.

For the next few weeks things were strained between them to say the least. Frank did what he always does in such scenarios; he did nothing. He never raised the issue of the orgy again and instead quietly hoped that Helen had forgotten it. Better still, that she remembered it but with the advantage of sobriety realised how preposterous it was and dismissed the idea.

Then one morning at the breakfast table Helen, perfectly calm and sober, raised the issue of the orgy once again. The mere mention of the word instantly turned Frank off his breakfast. She flicked through pages of a magazine and spoke without looking at Frank.

‘Well you’ve been avoiding it long enough Frank. What’s it been? Two…three weeks since we discussed the orgy. You are obviously intent on stonewalling me, hoping I become either too disheartened to pursue it, or else suffer some kind of amnesia. Well I’m not disheartened and my memory works just fine so what’s it gonna be? Yes or no, I want an answer.’

It was a strange time of day for such a discussion and once again he felt caught off-guard. Then again she always seemed to catch him off-guard. You would assume he’d be used to such tactics after seventeen years. You would think he had developed some kind of automatic defence to her tactical ambushes.

‘You want to discuss that now at the breakfast table?’

‘Yes Frank. Now. Not tomorrow or later this evening. Right now. What’s it gonna be?’

‘I thought I made my position perfectly clear.’

‘No you didn’t and if you did I want to hear it again.’

‘It’s a recipe for disaster Helen. I won’t do it. The answer is no.’

She looked at her husband with neither surprise or anger in her eyes.

     ‘Well that sounds pretty conclusive. Thank you Frank.’

She turned back to her magazine and sipped her coffee. He didn’t feel like eating the porridge in front of him. He hated silences, specifically Helen’s silences. He could handle them with other people, but not with her. Her silences had a way of infuriating him, but it was always a quiet fury, always just below the surface. He wondered again if he really loved her. He thought he had already settled that question in his mind yet there it was again, rearing its ugly head.

     ‘Helen do you love me?’

     ‘Yes Frank. I love you and you love me and this discussion is over.’

She got up from the table and took her cup and spoon and breakfast bowl to the dishwasher. She walked out into the hallway and put her coat on, grabbed her keys and left for work. Frank stayed sitting at the table and listened until her car left the driveway. He felt relieved with her gone.

The next month became increasingly unbearable. The atmosphere remained tense with Helen’s behaviour ranging from begrudging courtesy to just plain obnoxious. The days began to wear him down and he knew they probably would break him eventually. Helen’s long game would get to him sooner or later. Ten or even five years ago he would have held out for longer. He would not give in so easily to her demands. He would give in but just not so quickly.  Now he didn’t see the point in waiting. Helen had an ability to punish people with irrational and terminal silence, broken only to utter the odd cruel comment from time to time. It had been a month since the conversation about the orgy. Helen could drag it out for another month, longer maybe.

All day, every day at work he thought about it, and the more he thought about it the more he questioned his love for her. Then one afternoon he suddenly had a moment of clarity about it Helen and the orgy. He figured if he changed his mind and said yes it could put the ball firmly back in her half of the court. She’d have to play it whatever way she wanted. So let her play. And if it blows up in her face well so be it. He arrived home and made the announcement to her in the living room as she sat staring at the television.

‘Helen, let’s do it.’

‘Do what Frank?’ she muttered without looking at him.

‘The orgy. I’ve changed my mind. Go for it, set it up. You seem to know more about these things than me so you organise it. I wouldn’t know where to begin.’

She was immediately suspicious.

‘Just like that huh? Why the change of heart Frank?’

‘Why indeed? I have no idea. But it’s changed and let’s not discuss it any further, or I might just change it back again.’

He left the room and went upstairs to shower. The shower felt great and by the time he emerged from it he felt like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He actually felt physically different. The ball was rolling now and who knows where it would lead?

The days passed and the atmosphere in the house changed significantly. Life became tolerable once again. Helen busied herself online checking various forums and websites offering kinky thrills of all kinds. She managed to strike up a conversation with a couple from Dublin who informed her of an upcoming swinger’s club night. It was to be held in a house in the south side of the city and would involve up to a dozen couples, some married, some not.

‘We’re invited Frank. It’s all arranged, this day fortnight.’

Helen seemed to have a permanent grin on her face since making the announcement.

‘How did you do it?’ Frank asked, feeling slightly nauseous.

‘Well online of course. You don’t think I’d go asking people around here do you? My God can you imagine the gossips around here. They’d drag our names through the mud if they found out. Sad fools that they are.’

‘They could still find out Helen.’

‘How Frank? Look at you. Just look at that face. You’d swear someone just told you the world was about to end. Relax sweetheart, I haven’t used our real names. In fact I don’t even use surnames. In the chat rooms I’m Lynda spelled with a Y not an I, and you’re Steven spelled with a PH not a V.’ Helen laughed at this as though she had just cracked a joke. ‘Lynda and Stephen, the swingers…hah! And we’re from Limerick not Galway, got it?’ She laughed again.

‘Right,’ muttered Frank. ‘Lynda and Stephen.’

‘Jesus Frank cheer up will you. It’s not till the end of the month. Friday the 29th to be exact. There’s plenty of time to get used to the idea.’

‘So who are they? The people who are throwing this …orgy.’

‘Swingers party Frank. They prefer the term swingers.’

‘Fine. Swingers. Who are they?’

‘Well they’re a married couple in their late thirties, although he looks a lot older than thirty. Late forties more like. But I reckon she’s thirty six, thereabouts.’

‘You mean you’ve seen them,’ Frank asked sounding alarmed.

‘Well yes of course, we exchanged photos by email. I sent her the one of us on holiday in Crete last year, the one by the fountain in Lions Square.’

‘You did what?’ Frank bellowed. ‘You mean they have my photo. Why the hell did you give them that?’

‘Frank, calm yourself.’

‘Frank nothing, you had no right to do that. Why the hell didn’t you just send your own picture, seeing as you’re the one who wanted this not me? I didn’t want it and now they have my picture. Jesus!’

‘Well if you stop shouting I’ll explain. These people want to see the merchandise before they buy Frank. Which is entirely reasonable and understandable. They don’t want Quasimodo turning up with his butt-ugly wife.’

‘Oh of course not, how unreasonable of me to even question it.’

Her tone quickly changed although she managed stop herself shouting at him.

‘Now look Frank don’t start turning this into a crisis. It was just one photo, and we’re both wearing sunglasses in it so keep your hair on.’

‘That’s not the goddamn point Helen,’ he barked unable to contain his displeasure.

‘Oh you…you pussy!’ she yelled. ‘Trust you to start panicking already. So they have a photo of us in Crete with shades on. Big fucking deal! What do you think they’re going to do with it Frank? Email it to Special Branch.’

‘You just don’t know with these things Helen.’

‘What things? What in God’s name are you worried about?’

‘The internet! These people are capable of anything nowadays. Identity theft, fraud, blackmail, anything!’

‘Oh my God,‘ she whispered to herself. ‘Ok Frank listen. I set up a phony Hotmail account specially to use for this. I gave them two false first names and no surnames. They have a photo of us virtually in disguise. What’s the worst that can happen here Frank? Huh? Talk to me.’

‘Oh I don’t know. I just don’t trust anything on the net. I mean what if these people turn out to be utter weirdos. Worse than that; what if they turn out to be a pair of psychos? Christ Helen they could attack us. They could do all sorts and we wouldn’t stand a chance!’

‘Get a goddamn grip on yourself Frank.’

‘You don’t have the slightest doubt do you Helen? Well it must be wonderful to have such a fearless disposition. I must admit I’m envious. I wish I could be so trusting about total strangers.’

‘Frank the only thing that worries me right now is you. Listen to you, my God you have some imagination. You think this couple have organised a swinger’s party at their own house in Dublin because they intend to kill us. Have I got that right Frank? That’s what you’re worried about.’

‘You can make anything I say sound ridiculous, can’t you Helen? It’s a gift of yours.’

The old familiar vitriolic tone returned to her voice.

‘That’s because you come out with such ridiculous nonsense sometimes!’ she shouted. ‘I searched a website based in Ireland. I went into a sex chat room. I messaged a woman. She messaged me back, then we exchanged emails and photos. She gave me a date, a time and an address. She said everyone attending will be using false identities. No one wants their personal lives revealed Frank. It’s a private get together between consenting adults. It’s one night. And we won’t be spending the night. We’ll be there for a few hours then call a taxi and go back to our hotel. And if we don’t like it, or them…then we don’t go back. We never see them again. Now what could be simpler? Why all this drama Frank?’

He didn’t answer her because he knew whatever he had to say would be instantly dismissed by Helen.  With one brief homily she could make him feel foolish and cowardly at the same time.

‘Oh for goodness sake, not the silent treatment,’ Helen said and rolled her eyes. She walked over to the coffee maker and switched it on. She stared at him for several minutes as he sat at the kitchen table.

‘You’re not worried about any goddamn identity theft or blackmail.’ There was venom in her voice now, and in her eyes too. ‘You’re worried about performance aren’t you?’

‘Performance? What are you on about now woman?’

‘You know damn well what I’m on about. You’ve got a bad case of performance anxiety. That’s it, isn’t it? You’re worried your flute won’t play on the night. Hah! That’s it. Frank is worried he won’t be able to get it up.’

‘Oh grow up Helen.’

‘Sure, I’ll grow up. When you admit what all this fuss is really about. Hah! I can see it now; all these other guys with their stiff dicks hanging out, ready to penetrate all the wet beavers in the room. Except Frank, he’ll be sat in the corner trying desperately to get his tool to work. That’s what this is really about.’

‘Go to hell,’ he muttered.

‘That’s not a denial Frank.’

‘I don’t need to deny anything!’

‘Well is it true or isn’t it? If it’s not true you should have no difficulty saying so.’

‘It’s not true. There. Are you happy now?’

Helen smiled but did not speak, preferring instead to let him stew in his insecurities. She made herself a cup of coffee.

‘You want one?’ she asked.

‘No I don’t,’ he replied.

She sat opposite him at the table and smiled a deliberately exaggerated smile.

     ‘Frank, you’re funny. You’re a funny man. Did you know that?’

     ‘Yes, I’m hilarious…apparently.’

     ‘Ever hear of a little thing called Viagra,’ she asked.

     ‘What about it?’

‘Well if performance anxiety is what this little crisis is really about, there’s a very simple way to deal with it. Go to Dr Molloy and tell him you’ve been having a little trouble with the old pecker. Tell him you want a prescription for Viagra. And I do mean tell him Frank. Don’t ask him, tell him. Then get the Viagra and pop one before the swinging dick party, and hey presto! Problem solved, another crisis averted. Simple as that.’ Helen clicked her fingers and let out another forced laugh.

‘I’m not sure I want to do that. I don’t like the idea of messing around with pills. And besides that really isn’t the issue here Helen, so stop going on about performance and pills.’

Helen gave him a long, cold stare.

‘Then tell me what the issue is Frank. Tell me quick before my friggin’ head explodes. I’m trying to be patient here damn it, I’m trying to offer solutions and all I get from you are obstacles. Then more obstacles! Christ can’t you work with me here. Why in God’s name do you want to sabotage me all the time Frank? You’d swear I was the enemy around here. I’m not the bloody enemy! I’m on your side you jerk. Can’t you see that?’

‘Yes Helen I can see that. You’ve made yourself perfectly clear.’

‘Well then?’ she snapped.

‘Ok you really want to know? You really, really want to know Helen?’ he shouted.

‘Go for it…please!’ she shouted back.

‘I’m not one bit bothered about orgies or seedy internet chat rooms or performance anxiety or any of that rubbish. But I’ll tell you what I am bothered about. I’m bothered about being married to a woman who makes me furious every time we have a conversation. I’m bothered by the stress of having a fucking conversation with you. I’m worn out from you because you’re too much Helen. You always getting your way. You know it would be nice if for once – just once – you could respect how I feel about something. And if ever you were going to do that now would be that perfect time Helen. If you could look me straight in the eye and say, “Frank, I can see that the idea of an orgy repulses you, and out of respect for you I’ve decided to forget the whole thing.” Now that’s what a loving partner would do Helen. True love doesn’t bully and intimidate and sulk when it doesn’t get its own way. True love would’ve dropped this whole sordid idea weeks ago.’

Helen’s face made him turn away. She looked hurt and her eyes seemed to be crying without any tears actually showing. Frank walked over to the sink and looked out the window. He sighed heavily and turned back to her again.

‘Helen we do nothing but argue these days. I’m not able for it anymore. I’m not an old man. I’m still relatively young, but you know something, lately I feel like I’m old, like I’m exhausted all the time. I’ve ignored it for a long time but lately I’ve been thinking about it more. I’ve come to the conclusion that this exhaustion is all down to us, all due to our constant bickering over this or that. If it wasn’t the orgy it would be something else.’

‘It’s what we do Frank.’

‘Yes I know and for years I was happy to play along. In fact it used to be fun jousting we you all the time Helen. It actually felt quite invigorating. But not anymore; now I just dread the verbal jousting and all the shitty feelings that emanate from it. Don’t you feel it Helen? Are you not feeling even a slight tinge of battle fatigue?’

She didn’t answer. She took a sip of coffee. He waited for a reply but none came. He sat back down at the table and pleaded with her.

‘Helen, don’t do the silent routine. Don’t sulk about this. I’m trying to deal with this. I’m trying to be honest here. I’m trying to tell you that I love you, but you’re bloody hard to love sometimes. I’m trying to tell you that there’s too much of the bully in you. I’m trying to tell you that once-upon-a-time your bullying ways didn’t bother me, but now they do. I’d love to hear you say you’re gonna forget all about the orgy because you realise you don’t always have to get your way, and because badgering people until they give in isn’t love, and sulking isn’t love and silent treatment isn’t love and…’

‘Enough!’ she yelled. ‘No more. You’ve made yourself clear. Crystal bloody clear!” She stormed out of the kitchen and Frank could hear her footsteps thumping their way up the stairs. There followed a loud bang of their bedroom door and then silence.

‘It had to be said,’ Frank muttered to himself. He stood at the kitchen window for a long time, gazing at the beauty of the back garden. It was a sight that usually cheered him up.

Over the next few weeks Helen’s silent treatment became so utterly appalling to him that he gave serious consideration to leaving her. He visualised it more and more in his mind. He pieced it together in his head like a jigsaw, until he had a full picture of the separation in his head. He could see himself contacting a real estate agent to help him find a suitable apartment to rent for a one year lease. Enough time for him to figure out some longer term plan. He could see himself. He could see himself packing his suitcases and loading them into his car. He could see himself turning the key of the front door of his new abode and carrying his bags across the threshold. He could picture himself unpacking his belongings and then giving the place the once-over with some hot water, rags, cleaning detergents, air fresheners, and a vacuum cleaner. Then he’d make up his new bed; a bag of fresh linen sheets, a new duvet and cover, with new pillows and cases.  Then he’d get busy trying to make the place homely with some personal photographs and trinkets he’d collected over the years. Yes, he could see it all now and it terrified the life out of him. Every time he pictured that freedom he broke out in a cold sweat. Frank was pushing fifty and he didn’t fancy his chances of ever finding love again, even dysfunctional unrequited love.

After a few weeks the inevitable happened, as they both knew it would. Frank grew weary of the silence between them; Helen knew that would happen. He also grew weary of the thought of separating and divorcing Helen, and living life on his own. Between the silent treatment and the prospect of divorce, he eventually caved in and told Helen he would attend the orgy with her.

‘Too late Frank, that ship has sailed. The swinger’s night was two weeks ago, like you didn’t know.’

‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘I forgot.’

‘Yeah right, you forgot.’

‘No really I did. Are they having another one? Maybe you could email her again? And besides they can’t be the only two swingers in town. Maybe you could go back to that chat room you were in before. There may be others there. What do you say Helen?’

She smiled a wry smile. ‘Like I said before, you’re a funny one Frank, you really are. Why do you put yourself through it? No don’t answer that. Rhetorical question. Ok I’ll see what I can do.’

Within minutes she was back to her vivacious inebriated self. It didn’t take her long to find a new swinger’s date, the same couple as it turns out. It was all arranged over a couple of emails. This time Helen insisted Frank say something in the correspondence with the swingers.

‘Go on write something,’ she snapped at him one night. ‘Just say hello.’ Frank typed a few words on the laptop introducing himself and felt immediately uncomfortable with it, but tried to act unfazed in front of Helen.

‘Hah! He’s a real chatterbox isn’t he,’ she said out loud as she typed. Frank was amazed at how easily Helen connected with it all; the way she interacted with this strange cyber world of anonymous people seeking escape from their everyday realities. Now they were joining some anonymous cyber tribe and it seemed to go against every natural instinct within him. The days passed and his distress over the upcoming event steadily grew more intense. His thoughts frequently turned to Helen’s accusations regarding performance anxiety.

‘Was she right?’ Frank asked himself. ‘Oh I must have been mad to agree to this. What the hell was I thinking? An orgy for Christ sake. Me in an orgy.’

© Copyright Des Kirby 2015

 

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