The church bells were clanging. She had never heard their peele before. Had someone died? Had more than one person died? The onerous tone wafted in through her open window steadily barking out a tragedy of some sort. It wasn’t a holiday. It was eight in the morning. The sky was a soft grey. The air was moist. The bells clanged for ten more minutes, then stopped. The momentary hush of silence was replaced by the woosh of cars in the distance.
“My credo is,” he said to her, “first, do no harm….then second, have fun!” She heard his words and looked at him as he spoke. She knew he truly meant it, but, the fact was, if he got caught…he’d blow the first part. His wife wouldn’t like this at all. The woman, looking at the man, periodically wondered if his wife had a gun. The woman also wondered how his wife might feel if she ever found out, deeply saddened and angered, or mildly relieved?
‘If handled properly, affairs could save a marriage. It’s a concept not lost on the Europeans,’ the other woman thought. She had briefly met his wife, by accident….while she was with him. The other woman knew that American culture was partially built on deflection. She wasn’t the cause…she was just a side effect of the problem. She did not buy into the whole villainous other woman thing where the other woman pounces out of nowhere on someone’s unsuspecting husband who is lured away by the unrelenting, hypnotic command of the other woman’s Circe-like summons. The other woman knew she was just the scape goat. Was it always the wife’s fault that her marriage wasn’t working? Clearly, that would be unreasonable. The other woman knew that from personal experience. She knew that you just aren’t in control of other people’s foibles or character flaws. Infidelity was perceived as one of them. If not for the duplicity, was it really a failing? People have needs.
‘Why, take for example,’ the other woman thought,’Sixty-four.’ Sixty-four had some needs. Sixty-four had unbridled passion when it came to Sixty-nine. He chased Sixty-nine, shamelessly. Sadly, he was married to Eighty-six. Eighty-six annoyed the fuck out of Sixty-four, so he ran to Sixty-nine. The other woman knew all about Sixty-nine. Sixty-nine had needs too. Sixty-nine’s cravings were so exciting and delicious that she often made a meal of them. Their opulence left her wanting more. The other woman sighed, at least, she wasn’t the only one, ‘There seemed to be a safety in numbers here.’
The stranger officiates the meal and gives an unguided tour of lust and passion, love….even. It’s a nine course meal, to be served over weeks, even years. Sixty-four comes asking for bread. The stranger, delighted to oblige, smiles as he seats Sixty-four at the table. Eighty-six is screwed and so is Sixty-nine.
‘Hmmn,’ thought the other woman,’ a glittering gem is not enough. Or, is it? Aren’t people’s desires just that? Glittering gems and nine course meals, to be admired and consumed? Who would, in their right mind, take that away?’ Eighty-six would. The stranger saw what was coming and twiddled the ends of his mustache nervously trying to figure out how to get Sixty-four to excuse himself from the table. It would be too rude of the stranger to ask Sixty-four to leave, he was having such a good time! The stranger could see that Eighty-six was having none of this and he ducked.
She appeared at the head of the lavish table, extended her arms and cocked her gun pointing at Sixty-four. “I told you we were out of bread,” Eighty-six said flatly to him. Sixty-nine was sitting across from Sixty-four at the table; her eyes opened wide at the instantaneous thought of permanently losing her lover to Eighty-six. Eighty-six caught Sixty-nine’s eyes and then, pointed the gun at her. While keeping the gun pointed at Sixty-nine, Eighty-six said to Sixty-four,”The memory we used to share is no longer coherent. I must rid myself of these unpleasant thoughts.” Sixty-four leapt from his seat at the table attempting the wrestle his wife’s gun from her as he struggled to keep it from being shot at Sixty-nine, but the gun went off. Sixty-nine slumped on the beautifully prepared seventh course. Sixty-four loosened his grip on the gun and ran to Sixty-nine.”Please…not yet,” he said. Eighty-six smiled wryly and said, “Now, that’s better. All gone. See?”
The other woman sat at this table many a time, but, as luck would have it, was a no show that evening. Earlier that morning, the stranger told her what had happened last night,… about how Sixty-nine had been Eighty-sixed. Was that why the bells were tolling? The other woman saw that dining at Desire’s table came at a very high price. What was life to her without the jewels that glinted? What was it to her without the passion and the love of one possibly, poorly chosen paramour? The stranger, host to all of Desire’s soirees, asked if the other woman was going to stop coming in light of the price increase. She looked at the stranger and said, “No, I don’t think so. Not yet.”