”Til Death’ paints a lonely picture of a woman facing the onset of middle-age after her husband has been executed for murder.
“’Til Death” originally appeared in:
Stirring Up A Storm: Tales of the Sensual, the Sexual, and the Erotic; edited by Marilyn Jaye Lewis; published by Thunder’s Mouth Press/ Running Press, 2005.
Dirty Filthy Lovely : Dark Erotica by Marilyn Jaye Lewis; published by Renaissance eBooks SizzlerEditions, 2010.
Contains sexually explicit material and non-eroticized themes of rape, murder, and execution that could be upsetting to some readers.
How could it have come to this, that I could be such a creepy loser? I used to have so much to offer, to dream about. Now I’m pushing fifty, for chrissakes. And I’m nearly flat broke again, earning just enough each day to secure a room at night in this dive motel. With maybe a little change left over for beer and smokes when I don’t blow it all on food.
Waiting tables again at my age; it’s such a glamorous life. And the breakfast shift, no less; up at 5 a.m., walk across the parking lot to the diner while it’s still dark out, then sticky eggs and greasy bacon, over and over, morning after morning. Not exactly a cash cow, like the cocktail shift always was — in the years when I had better legs. When I could drink like a fish and not feel so god-awful hung over the next day. Not that they were any longer or slimmer back then — my legs. Yet they were somehow sexier in those days. They were shapely legs, just made for those short black cocktail skirts and a cheap pair of sling-back K Mart high heels.
The booze shift was definitely where the money was at and it was all mine before I decided to give it up and get married. Now those were the years to be waiting tables, when I was young and had energy to burn. Always getting the prime shifts. Not like it is now — breakfast. Because who cares what a girl looks like at breakfast? Nobody’s gonna cough up some huge tip because they have a hard-on for your ass at breakfast. No one’s even got a hard-on that early, or if they do, who has the energy to do something about it? Not me anymore.
And here I thought I’d turned my final table that first time I said, “I do.” How many years ago was that first marriage, fifteen? No, it was closer to twenty years ago, maybe twenty-five. Jesus, life was exciting back then, before the marriages. Even the fights; the fights were exciting, too; they were mean but very sexy at the same time because those fights were just a prelude to giving up the goods, to getting nailed hard. Sometimes right here in this motel, in fact. “Fucking” is what we called it back then when we thought no one could hear us. Nowadays, people use the f-word as if it’s just a regular part of the English language. They use fuck to describe every mundane thing.
However, my life in this motel room is no longer the hopeful smell of whiskey and sloppy sex it once was. Now it’s the smell of burnt coffee and grease. It underscores my thoughts all morning at the diner and has saturated my clothes by the time I come back to the room after lunch. And then here I sit clear into the night, until I’m almost in complete darkness except for the monotonous steel blue glow of the TV — cable comes with the price of a room here.
This is a big night for me, though. A six-pack of ice-cold beer in that tiny refrigerator under the sink. All of it mine and the night is young; the cigarettes, fresh. I know this motel too well, from when it was first built and didn’t seem quite so tacky. Back when it was considered to be on the very farthest edge of town. It used to be that after the Lone Tree Motel, there was nothing but scrub grass and empty desert with no wells dug, yet, for drinking water or indoor plumbing.
We used to come around here on Friday nights. Right after high school–that summer when everything was on fire; my heart, my dreams, all that impatient virgin ignorance galloping between my legs. Or practically virgin, anyway. Technically, nothing about me was virgin by then, that summer after high school, but it turned out that there was so much more to know about sex than just the technicalities.
But we’d all pitch in whatever money we could scrape up in those days and we’d rent rooms here at the Lone Tree to party in, or we’d use the swimming pool. Management didn’t care. Those were different times, when kids were kids. We drank, got loud and had fun. So what? We got laid, got married — if we couldn’t get out of town and stay gone for good, that is. And the pool… in those days the swimming pool was new; a glistening, pristine blue, just like you’d picture some pool in Hollywood might be, especially at night. Brightly lit and nothing but black sky and stars up above. It was glamorous, that pool.
Look at it now, the faded blue paint peeling and the fence a rusted mess. Lights burnt out. No white patio chairs or tables with the striped umbrellas, those are long gone. Just like me, or the girl I used to be anyway, and Saint Christopher. Both of us, long gone. But good lord, wasn’t he the boy of my dreams then?
James Christopher Loggins, Jr., but we all called him Saint Christopher. He was quieter than the rest of us, less likely to get into trouble. The first to say, “No, we shouldn’t do that, we might get caught.” And so we all called him a saint. We thought he had more will power or restraint than the rest of us had. Turned out that it couldn’t have been further from the truth. While the rest of us were exploding, Saint Christopher was quietly imploding, living in dread fear of his alcoholic father. A man who, from the moment Christopher could talk, beat him with a belt; hollering obscenities at him and sometimes shoving him into furniture or across the room hard into a wall. Saint Christopher played it safe on the outside, but on the inside he had us fooled. He was no saint; he was just living in fear and biding his time.
But back then, boy, I was head over heels in love with him. I almost chewed off my own tongue in search of the right words that could convince him to love me in return.
It happened right here in this motel, in fact, the night I found out that he did love me. We were all down there by the pool when it started; all the craziness, those tentative gestures so full of juvenile hostility that are only meant to be overtures to getting some sex. What the hell did we know about it? Sex was a weird thing. You could see the pictures in the dirty magazines, watch a porno movie if you were lucky — all of this was even before videos, not to mention the computers that everyone has now. But it all still came down to feeling your way blind when it was finally you and another person, getting ready to have sex. Verging, verging, verging; the energy push-pulling you toward the other for hours, it seemed. The horny frustration could make you crazy-exhausted.
That night, it was down to me and two boys. Funny, I wound up marrying them both at different times. Saint Christopher and Randy — the man who’s divorcing me now after twelve years of marriage because I can’t come to terms with the idea that Christopher is dead. Randy says that I still love Christopher more than I ever loved him, loved Randy, I mean. The impending divorce that I never asked for is the reason I’m living alone now in such high style at the Lone Tree Motel.
But it was me and Christopher and Randy carrying on down there by the pool that night. Everyone else was up here in one of these rooms that overlook the pool, blasting music, eating pizzas and getting screaming drunk, as usual. Lord knows, we were drinking, too. But what is the lure of a pizza when you’re caught in that magnetic web of desire and near clueless about how to proceed? And what the hell do you do when it’s three of you, and not the accepted — or the expected — two? You’re only eighteen years old. You can’t know better. You dance on in that sticky web, hoping it’ll all get clearer as the night unfolds, the lust barreling down on you and you can’t get out of its way.
I was so desperately in love with Christopher, in the way only a teenager can love, deep infatuation. But he was shy. I think he wanted Randy to take the lead. I think he wanted to live out some thrill through Randy first, to learn what route to follow when it came to sex with an actual girl. Randy was always bombastic, even then; loud, bold, the fool always willing to rush in. We were in the deep end of the pool. Partly treading water, partly holding onto the side. Circling closer and closer, all three of us, until it couldn’t be denied that we’d have to either start touching one another or start wearing one another’s skin. We couldn’t get closer.
To be honest, at first when I felt the fingers creeping up inside my bathing suit bottoms, I wasn’t entirely sure whose fingers they were. That was a peculiar thrill, the kind that jump-starts your urge to misbehave. I think I wanted to believe it was Christopher, that it was his fingers down there between my legs, discovering the secret of my very wet hole. I moved closer to him, in fact, hoping to kiss him at last. But Randy yanked my hair suddenly, pulling my face up close to his, his open mouth latching on tight to mine.
When it happened, when that kiss erupted, devouring my mouth, my eyes were open in shock, taking in the equal look of surprise on Christopher’s face. For the entire time we were in that water, he watched. Sticking incredibly close to us in that glamorous well-lit pool on the black edge of nowhere, never once touching me in any overtly intimate way. Yet having him that close to me as Randy’s bold exploration of my private parts continued — Christopher’s dark eyes wide, his breathing as erratic as ours as my bikini bottoms were inched down my thighs and my top was pulled discreetly up, my hard nipples exposed in the water — having Christopher that close to me watching and breathing heavy, felt as exciting as if he were the one touching me instead.
I didn’t have sexual intercourse that night in the pool. Fucking was still too new to me and in my limited experience it was an act that required, if not privacy, then at the very least a bed. I did let Randy put his fingers in me. I let my bikini bottoms come all the way off so that I could spread my legs in the pool — I let these things happen because they felt incredibly good, but also because I had only Christopher’s gaze to work with, I wanted at the very least to show myself to him.
Saint Christopher. He was so hot. My young imagination wanted to try everything with him, everything naked bodies could do together. When at last I came to my senses and we got out of that pool, Randy bolted up the motel steps like a shot, eager to get more beer, to get loaded, to eat pizza with everyone else. But Christopher stuck close to me, his wet hair dripping and slicked back from his face, making him look more noticeably handsome than even I, the worshipper, had seen before. We were freezing in our wet bathing suits but our clothes were up in one of the rooms and we didn’t want to encounter other people, not yet. Not even Randy. Although he would resurface in our sex life later, after Christopher and I were married and it became clear that Saint Christopher’s lust was more suited to watching than to participating — unless, of course, he’d been out on the prowl in some bar; a secret I didn’t find out about until the minute it was too late and the cops were banging down our door with a warrant for his arrest. Something about a missing girl, and another warrant to impound our car and comb it for evidence. It all came down to carpet fibers and two blonde hairs.
Who would have thought that happiness could hinge on that, could get smashed up against carpet fibers and two blonde hairs and be obliterated? Something that normally you can’t even see and here it turns out to be so sinister, so very, very telling. But in the years before the nightmare came? Well okay, right off the bat I found out that Christopher was a little peculiar in the sex department. Still I thought of it as “unusual,” the way he acted. And that alone I found erotic. In a way that words, or my feeble grasp of them, could not adequately explain. I simply responded to him, my whole body did, as I tried so hard to accommodate his tentative cues, to figure out what it was he really wanted.
Like that first night down there at the pool. Shivering cold in our wet bathing suits in the night air, wanting to be alone, far away from the noise and the prying eyes. We found our good fortune in the motel’s housekeeping closet. A maid had left the door unlocked. Inside that windowless little room it was warmer and best of all, there were towels in there; clean, folded, bleached-white towels. Stacks of them. It somehow felt safe. There were no maids in that motel at night. I wanted out of my wet bathing suit. I wanted to spread out a stack of towels and lie down on them, be underneath Christopher and let him do what it was boys did. That alone would have made me happy, because that was the thing that made boys happy: Fucking made boys happy. I knew that, and in this instance, it was going to make me happy, too.
But Christopher didn’t follow the expected route. Instead, he wanted me to lie there alone on the towels and touch myself. “Try to act like I’m not even here,” he said. Well, that was impossible. How could I lie there naked, right there in front of the boy I was so hopelessly smitten with, touch myself in a way I never did with the lights on and act like he wasn’t there? As far as I was concerned, nothing else in the entire universe was there but him. His eyes. My world was right there in his eyes. Respond to me, was all my heart wanted. And the only way my heart could know for sure that it was getting what it wanted was by gauging the expression in Christopher’s eyes. How could I pretend he wasn’t there?
He didn’t even want to take his own wet trunks off. I had to beg him to at least do that. For a long while, he hid himself under a towel. I wasn’t even sure if he was hard. And since he didn’t want me to look at his face, I had to proceed on a hope and a prayer that what I was doing was arousing him and wasn’t just making a complete fool of me.
Eventually he got rid of that towel, though. He tossed it aside in earnest when I was finally putting two of my fingers up my own hole. He nearly straddled me then, leaning over me in all his gorgeous handsomeness but still not touching me. He had a hard-on then for sure, it was undeniable. It was out there in plain sight and he jerked himself off furiously, the sperm shooting out suddenly, startling me, landing on my tits, spattering my face, clinging in gooey drops to my hair.
Whose secret was worse? The way I’d exposed myself to him with the lights on, touched myself in ways I wouldn’t even do when I was alone? Or the way he came all over a girl, right out there in the open like that, with no dignity, with abruptness? And yet with a gesture that had at once made something so distasteful feel more like a misplaced gift. I couldn’t feel defiled by what he’d done. It had been too unexpected. And afterward, he kissed me. When we’d cleaned ourselves off, he kissed me and he said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that to you. You’re not going to tell?” He was back to being a saint.
Boy, the looks we got; wearing nothing but towels when we finally came back to the noisy rooms off this second floor balcony here in search of our clothes.
That night, I didn’t really mind that we hadn’t fucked. Any intimacy at all was enough for me then and the peculiarity of Saint Christopher only felt like an added bonus; we now had a dirty secret between us. We were bound together in the erotic thrill of strangeness, something outsiders wouldn’t understand.
It was only the other nights that came later, when I kept wondering when something normal, like fucking, would finally start. That’s when there was all that whiskey to try to calm everything down. But mostly the whiskey just made us fight. On the rare times that we did eventually fuck, he was violent. Sometimes slapping my face. Sometimes shoving me onto the bed with all his strength, wrenching apart my thighs and then fucking me too hard. I used to chalk it up to the booze. I figured the whiskey made him violent. I didn’t know better then.
When we got married, I tried to keep the whiskey out, but it always found its way back in. It was just as much my fault as his, back then. The lure of a brand new fifth on payday, gleaming and then splashing down over the ice into a waiting glass; that smoky, warm aroma. I learned to equate that smell with getting fucked. It was too erotic, whiskey was. Whiskey meant fucking like wild dogs, even though it brought Christopher’s buried rage right along with the intercourse.
When I found out what he’d done to that girl, that blonde who was too young to know any better, who’d tried to seduce him because he was good-looking and she was drunk and horny; the one he choked the life out of after fucking her orally, vaginally, anally; tying her first, punching her — the works, right in our car. It got to the point where I couldn’t figure out how to keep myself planted in that courtroom another minute. My whole world was shattering in public. In a court of law, in a town where I lived. At least they didn’t show me the photos. I was only there as a wife. I wasn’t required to be the actual judge. But when I heard what he’d supposedly done, I believed it on the spot. It just seemed like something he might be driven to do. His name was written all over that crime. When it came to sexual intimacy, once you exhorted him to move from watching to any actual touching, then he could only take and that he did with rage. When you tried to give to him freely what any normal woman wants to give a man, something short-circuited in him, something between his cock and his brain, like an electric shock shooting off deadly sparks, his heart fleeing away from the confusion like mad until you felt so sorry for him, for his paralyzed core.
Well that poor girl’s parents didn’t feel sorry for him. No one in town felt sorry for him — I didn’t mean it quite like that. But in the years before the crime, I used to feel sorry for Christopher. I knew something was wrong inside him, I just didn’t know what. Randy, our off-and-on sex compatriot throughout my marriage to Christopher, was an oak for me through the trial. Although I wouldn’t say he felt sorry for Christopher, either. He did however tend to blame the girl. “She shouldn’t have been drunk, flashing her goods at some married man. She was just asking for trouble,” was how he justified it.
Randy, in his way, tried to encourage me, to give me hope. “The death penalty is for spics and niggers,” he explained. “They don’t kill white guys in this state.” But it turned out that he was wrong. Sometimes they make exceptions and they kill a white guy, too; especially white guys who choke young blondes, raping the bejeezus out of them in the process. On the day the Judge was set to announce the sentence, I was almost too conflicted to attend. I wanted to be there somehow for Christopher’s sake, to create an invisible net for him to fall in when the inevitable decree came. But I didn’t think my own heart could withstand the impact of the words it would have to hear, the words my heart knew were coming: Death by lethal injection. That’s how they do it in this state.
We got the divorce because Christopher wanted it, insisted on it. He thought it could somehow salvage my reputation; prove that I was blameless and deserved to be allowed to go on with my life. As if I could go on with my life when all my dreams and everything I’d ever believed about love, sex, desire; the tender intimacies that are handed to you by God — all those things were subject to the same lethal injection that killed James Christopher Loggins, Jr.; snuffed out, all of it together.
Of course it took years of appeals for that to happen and in those ensuing years, I married Randy and got old. But when the years ran out, when Christopher’s number was finally up and there was no frantic last-minute call from the Governor like you see in old black and white movies, everything in my world died an agonizing death, except for maybe bitterness and a touch of exhausting rage.
Then when Randy wanted a divorce, too, that was the final icing on the proverbial cake. “You don’t love me,” he railed at me one night, “you love a ghost; a son-of-a-bitch ghost who was never any good. And he never loved you, honey; you should get that straight in your fucked-up head right now. If he had loved you, how could he have sat there all those times on the couch, watching me fuck you? Think about it. I put my goddamned cock in your mouth, woman, and all he could do was sit there and jerk-off. You were his fucking wife, for crying out loud. How could a pervert do that who feels any kind of love at all? It’s not natural. Tying up some girl in the car and forcing it up her ass — that’s the kind of man you prefer, you worship in fact, like he was all that there was in life. You’re nuts, you know that? You’re one sick fuck and I can’t even feel sorry for you. Just get out.”
It was Randy’s house long before I married him so I figured, why put up a fuss? I’ll leave. And I didn’t come back to the Lone Tree Motel for the ghosts, either. I came back here because I needed a job and I got one here in the diner. But the ghosts have been okay companions, regardless. Sort of an added bonus to keep me company at night, to reacquaint me with what was once the glory of love as I find my way back to the dust.
c – 2005 Marilyn Jaye Lewis