"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Sexual Fantasies - Indelible Recollections Of The Past

Pete and Lisa Cummings were an ideal couple at least at the beginning and to all their friends.  Compatible, intimate, respectful, and perhaps most importantly sexually attuned.

Theirs was not a showy, exaggerated public display, but there was no mistaking their intimacy.   They were too well brought-up for anything suggestive, but no one in their company could miss the unmistakable  signals.  They would rather be by themselves, in bed, and alone.

Which is the way youth is supposed to be - unconcerned, alone, apart and happily so with sex at the center and everything else, friends, family, ambition, progress on the periphery.

Which is why in Pete’s later years he remembered those sexual times, although so late in life it was hard to recollect its uniqueness, and so he happily disassembled and reassembled his fragmentary memories into a whole, an erotic fantasy combing what was, what might have been, and what still could be if only in his mind.  

For unique the original was, and not only for the exotic, made-for-Hollywood locales, but for its particular nuances.  No two people could have performed this way – with such emotional acrobatics.  The ups-and-downs of life on the cultural margins – Cotonou, Abidjan, and Luanda – were nothing compared to the surprises of their sexual life. 

Who would have expected this young woman of American heritage and Catholic schooling to be so complaisant, willing, and adventurous?  For her, marriage was a convenient cover, a traditional homecoming after years of unmarried sex.  ‘All is permitted’, especially within the sanction of the Good Sisters.

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Pete, who had never doubted marriage but who had always wondered at its longevity, was daily surprised at the sexual dévoilement of his wife – her engaging sexual maturity, her respectful marginalization of her Catholic and Early American background, and her surprising frankness.  Where did she come from?  And where was this easy, uncomplicated sexual permissiveness born?

He never found out because the marriage was a good one.  It never fractured because of his dalliances or her increasing disillusionment, and continued long into sexual middle age because of inertia, a residual attraction of one to the other, and most importantly his fabulist recreation of his early erotic life with his wife. 

Pete had had his moments. If it hadn’t been for circumstances – the stage-left arrival of the man his love-at-a-distance had been waiting for her whole life – Pete might have gone with her to Ethiopia, Chad, or East Timor.  
If it hadn’t been for a hardwired propriety and for a peripheral, Catholic morality, Lisa might have slept with Brent Arthur and gone with him to Trieste.

Neither strayed far from home, and the marriage lasted; or in the view of Edward Albee, persisted.  Marriage is the crucible of maturity, he said, and without its confines, one can never evolve. They did not ‘endure’ and certainly did not suffer; but after the birth of their first child, Lisa’s attention turned elsewhere.  They reverted to a pre-sexual existence; or better to a common, unfortunate post-partum one.  Their unique sexual relationship had been displaced.

Now, decades after the birth of his children and decades closer to the end of his life than the beginning Pete wondered what had happened.   Where had his sexually complaisant, willing, and adventurous young wife gone? Was she a fiction? Had she ever been? Had her concerns about investments, grouting, and charitable giving totally displaced her formerly unconcerned sexual desires?

It was as though he had been living with two different women.  What to make of his serial infidelities? Sexual adventures with young women to recall or relive those he had had with his wife. A final existential compromise? Life that could never be relived but only reconsidered.

He could never square the young, sexually talented Lisa with the old mother of his two children.  Growing old and still in love was a grotesque Hallmark Card fantasy.  Marital longevity would never be more than convenient accommodation – getting used to each other at best.

Which leads to sexual validation.  If unmatched days of sexual union are past, faded and almost unrecognizable; and if a September-May liaison cannot match earlier and original sexual enthusiasm, then what is left?

God’s greatest irony, is, it is said, that having created an intelligent, sentient, sensitive, insightful being, and allotted a few short decades to enjoy this uniqueness, he consigned Man to eternity beneath the cold, hard ground.

Worse is the attenuated longevity of modern times.  Men live longer, think of sexual conquest daily, but are progressively unable to do anything about it.

So, after years of marriage Pete found his sexual fantasies changing from other women to his wife – or at least to  the young, uninhibited, physically irresistible woman that she once was.  He fantasized less about young women who, although satisfying and remarkably agile and uninhibited had no emotional staying power – and more about his wife of forty years.  She became his sexual poupée; and after decades became, once again, his object of desire.

How surprising.  One minute he was imagining a young lover with her pajama bottoms half down in the stairwell, and the next his wife beside him breathing into his ear.  How quickly he had moved from the hope of a sexual encounter to an imagined one to a remembered one.

Pete was not the first to have decided that a virtual world – or at least a vividly remembered past one – was as good if not better than the real thing.  A function of age, he reasoned; but still no denying its allure.  What was so pertinent about the immediate ‘real’ world after all?  Wasn’t our fantasy far more accomplished and ‘pertinent’ than any roll in the hay?

This was old age, he figured sadly.  At some point, physical or emotional,  reality begins to hold less and less interest.  We care less about what is than what was or what might have been.

Pete still enjoyed his imaginings of a Graham Greene affair in the Olaffson in Port-au-Prince, or A Thousand and One Nights fantasies with seductive Arab women, or Scandinavian fantasies of yellow-haired princesses but he kept coming back to Lisa The Young.

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There was something about secure love that bridled irrelevant emotion.  She was his most enduring in life and in fantasy  He pursued her in his fantasies as he had in reality many years before. 

There is something about fantasy that can indeed light banked fires or reconstitute a past thought long gone and done with.  An erotic fantasy of fifty years ago can sadden - a beautiful thing no more - but it can exhilarate. If virtual reality has taught us anything, it has forever blurred the distinction between what is and what might be or might have been. 

A sexual fantasy is never a reproduction but a recreation of it - bits and pieces of circumstances, events, and images reconstituted into one erotic whole.  The fantasy Lisa was not necessarily better than the real one, but a mistress with whom Pete played out unexplained sexual desires.  He needed both women and kept them from each other, the fantasy Lisa in a separate inner room, the real one in brick and mortar, at the kitchen stove or at her desk. 

There were times when Pete doubted himself - why had he been so continent, so faithful, and so loyal? Why, with the world of women around him, did he not taste from the smorgasbord?  Was it an inherited timidity which had held him back?  An early sense that fantasy would do just as well as the real thing.  His erotic fantasies were adult versions of his Child's Garden Book of Verses, Grimm's fairy tales, and Wonder Woman. 

So, were his fantasies a Freudian compensation for his sexual reticence? Or an elaborate meta-eroticism that in its virtuality was even more appealing, satisfying, and real?

Unanswerable questions of course, but cause for reflection - was he really this or that? As he got older and his sexual imaginings replaced every trace of experience, the real thing, he gave in, capitulated to his confabulation of memory, added Picasso touches of color where they usually don't belong, and felt as complete as he could possibly be.  

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