I have a wonderful husband. Max is tall and broad-shouldered. A superhero type. Lantern-jawed. Piercing dark eyes. An ass so tight you can bounce a quarter off it. One you just need to slap or grab in passing. It’s like there’s an electromagnetic current around him. When he touches me, I shiver from the current. I don’t know how to tell you what it is to make love with him except to say it is weeping bliss. That is, it always has been.
We don’t talk much. Max doesn’t have interests. He goes to his job at the warehouse, comes home, does whatever needs to be done around the house, and we go to bed. Eight o’clock every night. He has to be up early and says he can’t sleep if I’m not near him. I’m okay with it. Twice a week, Wednesday and Saturday, he makes love to me like it’s the moment before the world ends. At least it felt like that for a long time, Cyrano. Like it really was the end of the world or could be.
Then Max rolls over and goes to sleep. Sometimes I read for half an hour. Sometimes I take a valium, or I lay there counting his snores until I drift off. This, Cyrano, is where we get to what I want your advice about.
Every night, around 10 PM, Max becomes an incredibly old woman. This is not a metaphor. It started a month ago. Some strange, sweetish odor wakes me. It’s not a good scent, but it’s not entirely unpleasant. A mix of wet vellum and hyacinth. It startled me the first time. I snuggled closer to him in the dark and felt surprisingly soft lumps of flesh. My hand rested on a tightly bandaged leg.
“For my veins, sweetie,” Max whispered, switching on a light. Then she pulled a cigar out of the pocket of her yellowed night dress and, gripping it by its ends in doughy fingers, moved it from side to side under a peach-fuzzy nose. “It’s no Cohiba Esplendido,” she winked. “But it’s all right. Got a light?”
I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t think we had matches in the house, but I searched anyway. When I returned to the bedroom, still naked and clutching a barbecue utility lighter I’d dug up in the garage, Max was out of bed. She had on a curled wool jacket and cloche hat, and she was sitting in a chair with her feet, now shod in sleek, pointy-toed shoes, up on the mattress. Taking the lighter, she put it to the stogie, puffed several times, and sighed, “We’re getting out of here.”
Max leapt to her feet. Despite appearances, she was dexterous beyond my usual Max who, for all his muscles, tends to move slowly most of the time. Like he’s avoiding invisible holes and puddles. He plods. There’s not much to him aside from sex. In the sack, he rolls like a Ferrari; otherwise—I don’t know. The tires are flat. The gears freeze up.
Old lady Max jitterbugged from drawer to drawer, flinging clothes at me—a sweater, panties, my short black skirt. Despite the compression bandage, an osteoporotic posture that made her look like an upright turtle, and a bottom that would be tremendous on a woman twice her size (the top of her head wouldn’t reach my breasts), she moved in rapid twists and unpredictable bursts of energy. Cigar smoke whirled in her wake.
We had a great time that night. Every night since then has been like that. We hit cafés and bars along Park and King. We sip Macchiato or down boilermakers. We totter and weave down the street, chomping cheroots, chattering as we go. She teaches me things. That first night she taught me how to pull a guy to our table and make him open his wallet.
“Tight sweater and a short skirt,” she explained. “You’ve got to put out a little leg, so let the skirt ride up when you sit down. Have a book in your hand, a college textbook is perfect, and bite your lip from time to time while you pretend to read it. Then, when you feel the heat of a guy’s eyes on your thighs, pull the hem down. You know, demure-like. But just slightly. A little bit schoolgirl, a little bit whore. That’s the ticket. They’ll come over and offer to fill your cup.”
Max favors skinny men in their early twenties. “They’re so pretty,” she says, “and I can hit bone when I pinch them.” The guys are stunned. This belching, farting, brazen old crow in shiny winklepickers knocks them over. She says it’s me. And sure, I reel them in. But she surprises them. She dazzles. We hardly pay for anything.
There’s more, Cyrano. This Max knows all sorts of things. I don’t know how. The other Max hardly talks at all. I don’t imagine he has anything to say. He’s never been anywhere or done anything of interest. He doesn’t read. I’ve never even seen him pick up a newspaper. But geriatric Max tells me about the men of secret bird cafés in Istanbul. They trap finches to capture birdsong and cover the cages with fabric to make the singing more sublime with uncertainty. She describes frozen arctic lakes where frost blooms at sub-zero temperatures into enormous meadows of crystal-white flowers. She explains how since there’s only a certain amount of matter in the universe, then all combinations must eventually occur and even repeat themselves. Think of it. There are, have been, and will be other Maxes and every conceivable variation of Max forever.
We’re only out a couple of hours. Round about midnight, we go home, undress, and crawl into bed. By morning, the new old Max is the old young Max again. He’s not aware of any of it. He lumbers off to work and back, does whatever needs to be done around the house, and we go to bed. As ever, he makes love to me twice a week like it’s an instant before the end of the world. But it’s not.
I ought to do something, Cyrano. Maybe he should see a doctor. Maybe there’s a name for what happens to Max and treatment for it. Should I tell him? I haven’t said a word yet, and I feel guilty about that.
Are you out of your mind? Squash the guilt and keep your yapper shut. You’ve got it made in the shade. Good sex that you can count on twice a week is money in the bank. Security. Solid ground. But it’s not everything. It cleans the engine and greases the wheels, but you’ve got to roll out the door. Life is elsewhere. It’s on the street. In those cafés and bars you write about. It’s in playing the boys, too. A new one every night if you like. A bit of bawdy banter burnishes the brain pan and lights it to cook rare and remarkable ideas. You’re not maxed out, you’re maximized. Look, one gabby geezer is worth two bangs in the bush, and you’ve got it all. That’s blackjack, little bird. Shut your trap. Stand pat.