By Lisabet Sarai
I was primed to want him long before I met him. Was this a deliberate ploy on my husband's part? Or just the consequence of my hyperactive sexual imagination?
“James is a really good friend,” K told me. He'd known James for years before I appeared on the scene, during his tumultuous period living in San Francisco. “He's a physicist. Does research at UCSF hospital.” My ears perked up. I've always found intelligence to be an aphrodisiac. “Oh, and you should see his paintings and sculpture. He's really talented.” Oh my! An artist too! Was I wet already?
We were on our way cross country and planned to stop in the City by the Bay before heading south to Los Angeles. Having spent the last few years in grad school on the East Coast, K hadn't seen James in a while, but he assured me that we'd get a warm welcome.
“And did I tell you about his time in Japan?” K executed a neat maneuver to pass a battered, dusty pickup, then pointed the Subaru straight across the sere plains of eastern Colorado. The Rockies were blue-gray shadows hugging the horizon.
I squeezed my husband's thigh. “No, I don't think so. What was he doing in Japan?”
“Working in a sex show.” He gave me a quick glance, as if to gauge my reaction, before returning his gaze to the empty, monotonous highway.
A tingle swept through me. “You're kidding, right?” At that point I hadn't yet visited Japan, but everyone had heard bizarre stories about the Japanese sexual underground.
“No, not at all. For three months James and his partner performed live in some club in Tokyo. Fucking on stage six nights a week.”
I sat silent, staring into the distance and pondering this thrilling and disturbing concept. I considered myself a free spirit, a bit of a sexual outlaw, but public sex, for money? What sort of person would engage in such behavior?
“Why?” I asked finally, expecting some wild tale of extortion or human slavery.
“He was curious to see what it would be like,” K responded with a chuckle.
I was quiet for a long time after that, contemplating with excitement and trepidation the prospect of meeting this “friend”. I had no idea what he looked like, but I was already half in lust.
James turned out to be lean and loose-limbed, a good half a head taller than K, with unruly hair, a soft voice and an easy laugh. As K had promised, he offered us the spare room in his Mission District flat. We shared take-out Chinese, red wine from a gallon jug and lots of pot. We talked about art, science, philosophy, politics. Well, K and James talked, mostly, catching up after years apart, reestablishing the bonds of their friendship. I listened, uncharacteristically mute, watching James' long, expressive fingers trace patterns in the air as he explained some nuance of electromagnetic theory, wondering how those fingers would feel feathering across my nipples.
K asked about James' partner – ex-partner as it turned out – but the one subject we didn't discuss was sex. Still, the entire evening buzzed with erotic tension. When James looked at me, I felt the heat simmering in his lanky body. What had K told him about me?
I honestly don't recall how we ended up in bed together. All I remember is how easy it was, how light and relaxed - how friendly. I didn't worry about jealousy; that seemed a non-issue as I mounted K and James slid his cock (long and thin like his fingers) into my rear hole. My first double penetration - only the second or third time I'd ever experienced anal sex, actually. I can hardly believe, looking back, how little resistance James found. At the time, I was too turned on to even think about the question. I was neither surprised nor shocked. It was obviously the natural thing to be doing. We all agreed about that.
Sandwiched between a man I loved and my new lover, I felt not only acute pleasure but a delicious sense of connection. I was cherished and desired, giving and receiving. The brazenness of our actions thrilled me. The three-way intimacy kindled a new kind of joy.
I remember the details of the next day more clearly now than I do that incandescent night. The three of us went to see a matinee of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. We strolled down the San Francisco sidewalk, arm in arm in arm, with me in the middle once again. I wore a flouncy white cotton dress I'd bought in Tijuana, with nothing underneath. I felt like a dirty angel, high on residual arousal, perversely proud we'd been brave enough to push friendship to its next obvious level.
Even after K and I moved back East, we remained close with James. We attended his wedding. Later, after their son was born, we visited him and Priscilla in their redwood-encircled cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains. We never had sex together again, but our mutual erotic history gave the relationship a special poignancy. I knew James remembered, as I did.
We're still in touch, more than three decades later, though James' struggles with addiction and psychiatric problems have weakened the connection. I regret that deeply. As I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate more fully how remarkable that episode really was – despite the fact that it felt inevitable at the time.
Enumerating a list of my long-time friends, I'm a bit embarrassed to realize how many of them were once my lovers. One might point to this as evidence of my unbridled promiscuity during my twenties and thirties. I interpret this fact differently, though. I've always been sexually attracted to people I like and admire, both women and men. Although I've had close friendships that were completely platonic, that's not the norm for me. All too often, the intellectual and emotional buzz from meeting someone special transmutes into sexual desire.
In most cases, I've refrained from acting on my lusts, especially in recent years. Instead, they spill over into my dreams. Even people I haven't met in person – people I've come to know and love remotely, in the guise of Lisabet Sarai – have found their way into my night visions. That's one reason why I am reluctant to get closer to some of you in the real world. Friends are always welcome. At this stage in my life, though, I probably don't need more lovers.