Willy meets a headstrong hedonist who shares her body as others would share a joint, but he is convinced their relationship is something special; by Bill Tope.
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“There’s Rick,” said Te, pointing out the car window at a slight man in bellbottom jeans and a t-shirt and with a long blond ponytail. Willy looked. He recognized the young man, who was about his own age, from college and from various parties to which they had both been invited.
“How do you know him?” asked Willy idly.
“Last year we were lovers,” replied Te. “He saw you and me together,” she went on. “And now he thinks that we’re lovers, which we are,” she observed reflectively. Willy glanced at her again.
He hadn’t really considered it in those terms before, but actually they had made love last night for the first time. Several days ago, shortly after moving into the Big Yellow House, so known for its truly awful mustard colored exterior finish, Te had told him, “I think I want to sleep with you.” He had been rubbing her shoulders – any excuse to touch her fair skin – in the living room of the huge house that they and three other students occupied. Theresa was a diminutive, scary smart, very together, beautiful and sexy woman. So far as Willy was concerned, there was no down side to such an event.
“But the first time,” she insisted, “we won’t make love.” He recalled blinking in surprise at this suggestion, then shrugging.
“Okay,” he agreed. And that first night they had slept on his queen-sized mattress, which lay, sans box springs, upon the carpeted floor of his third-story attic apartment. No expectations, no pressure – that was how she had explained it. Despite being curled up next to perhaps the sexiest woman he had ever met, he had fallen fast asleep, completely at ease. After that night, he decided: beds were not designed to be occupied by only one. Then, the next night, he assumed that Te, like him, was just lonely and tired of spending her nights in a cold bed, and he rolled over to sleep. Her amazingly soft kisses and warm caresses brought him back to the land of the living.
Returning now to the present, Willy asked, “Will Rick be jealous?” He hadn’t known that Te even had another recent lover.
“He’ll get over it,” she said confidently. “I told him I wouldn’t be exclusive,” she explained. “Besides, he knows about Kevin.”
“Who’s Kevin?” Willy asked.
“Kevin’s my boyfriend,” replied Te. “My real boyfriend,” she added pointedly.
“I don’t understand.”
“Kevin and I are committed,” she stated. “If I slept with someone and Kevin asked me to stop, then I would. And that goes both ways.”
“He doesn’t mind?” asked Willy in surprise.
“We have an open relationship, Willy,” said Te. “He finds his own little side pieces, when he chooses, and I have sex with other men.” She arched her brows a little defiantly.
“I see,” murmured Willy, who clearly did not see at all. “How long have you been seeing each other?” he asked. She told him, and, doing a little mental arithmetic, Willy deduced that Te and Kevin had been an item since she was barely eighteen.
When he seemed to struggle with the concept of an extremely open relationship, Te summarized it for him: “I’m a hedonist,” she proclaimed proudly.
Willy and Te lay upon his mattress in the atelier, making slow, lugubrious love. They had been doing so for more than an hour. She was sitting astride him.
Te turned her head in the quirky manner of a bird and said to Willy, with a smile, “Did you feel that?” He shook his head no. “I just came again,” she announced.
“Again?” he said. “When was the first time?”
“Right after we started,” she replied. “I like this,” she said, “making love for hours. I shouldn’t tell you this,” she confided, “but Kevin has a quick trigger.” Then she looked guilty.
“Too bad,” murmured Willy, who proceeded to pump away.
“Yeah,” she said dreamily, now giddy and smiling contentedly.
Willy stood at the top of the stairs to his apartment, listening to one end of a telephone conversation.
“Sure, Mark, I like motorcycles,” Te was saying. She laughed. “Yeah, I’ll rev your engines.” Willy frowned. Why was his woman being playful with some dude named Mark? Then he caught himself. This wasn’t his woman, it was the mysterious Kevin’s woman. She was only on loan to him every other night or so. And it was only that often, he supposed, because they occupied the same residence. Who was Mark? he wondered. Chiding himself, he began to turn away when he heard a tromping up the stairs. It was Te.
“You going to help me fix supper tonight?” he asked her. “It’s our turn.”
She shook her head. “Can’t. Got a dinner date tonight. With Mark,” she answered his unasked question. “You know Mark Schafer?” she asked.
Willy squinted in thought. “Little Mark?” he asked, referencing a small man with a beard and a motorcycle.
“He’s not small all over,” she told him smugly. Willy’s lips twisted sardonically.
“You doing anything right now?” she asked. Willy shook his head no. “Come on,” said Te, pushing him towards his bed. Willy was confused.
“But I thought you had a date tonight with Mr. Big,” he said.
Te shook her own head thoughtfully. “Yeah, but Mark suffers from Kevin’s Disease,” she explained. Realization dawned on Willy’s face.
“Quick trigger, huh?” he asked, secretly pleased.
“Yeah,” she replied. “Hurry up, we’ve only got a couple hours before I have to leave.”
“What are you and Mark eating tonight?” asked Willy out of curiosity.
“I’ll show you,” she said, and she did.
Bo Swillert was a musician, a bass player in a rock & roll band, strictly small time. But he made friends easily, and one Saturday night at the local watering hole, “The Stagger Inn,” Te and Willy, now becoming tighter than ever, were introduced to him. After the bar closed and all the band’s equipment had been packed away, the three of them, having the collective libido of an alley cat, went back to Big Yellow. At first, a search was made for additional alcohol, because, besides being a mediocre musician, Bo was a dedicated alcoholic. Finally settling on a warm bottle of Angostura bitters, the three sat in Willy’s attic apartment, talking quietly and listening to some Pink Floyd. Te, seated in Willy’s lap, upon the floor, felt him nibbling her ears and neck. She flushed; she wasn’t nearly as drunk as the two men. Before she knew it, Bo had advanced and, upon his knees, bent to kiss Te on the lips. This went on until there was no going back.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” averred Bo, cupping Te’s breasts in his musician’s hands.
“Neither have I,” said Te breathlessly.
Willy, grinding his hips into Te’s denim-covered backside, said nothing. In no time at all, the three of them had divested themselves of their clothes and Te was supine on the carpet, the two men taking turns with her. She gave as good as she got and after a time, their bodily fluids and energy spent, they collapsed back upon the floor. Willy, looking suddenly troubled, donned his jeans and looked up in time to see Te and Bo crawling under the sheets. He scowled darkly.
“What’s the matter, baby?” asked Te in a small voice. Willy shook his head unhappily. “Don’t you want me in your bed tonight?” she asked.
“I do want you,” said Willy. “But, Bo wasn’t asked.” Moving surprisingly quickly for a person in his state of inebriation, Bo jumped out of bed, hurriedly dressed and excused himself. No one said goodbye.
“It was dirty, wasn’t it?” asked Te, looking up at him from the bed, her brown eyes huge and troubled. Willy shook his head disconsolately.
“It… didn’t feel right, Te.” She nodded.
“You know, when he was fucking me, I was holding on to you,” she remembered. “I had no emotional connection with Bo. It’s you I love.” Willy looked up sharply.
“I love you too, Theresa.”
Finally, Willy met the strange and mysterious figure known to him only as Kevin. As he walked into the living room one afternoon, Willy saw Te in the company of an average-sized fellow with long brown hair and dressed in the mod-garb that was current at the time. “Kevin,” said Te, walking hand in hand with the man, “this is Willy. I told you about him.” Willy held out his hand and Kevin, inscrutably, seized it in a firm grip.
“Willy,” he said, “what do you say?” Willy grinned. This guy wasn’t quite as imposing as he’d imagined him to be. He seemed – normal.
“Hi, Kevin. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Nothing good, I hope.” Kevin’s eyes crinkled with mischief.
“Certainly not.” Both men smiled. Willy couldn’t help himself. He liked Kevin. Would that be a problem? he wondered. He was, after all, screwing the man’s girlfriend. And, if Te were to be believed, then Kevin knew about it. But, thought Willy, if Kevin was all right with it, then so was he.
Kevin, it turned out, was a professional fisherman. Gone sometimes for weeks on end, he – unwisely, thought Willy – left his woman unattended and underserved. It was Kevin’s first visit to port in over two weeks, so it was decided to throw him a welcome home party: beer, weed, whatever. Kevin’s brother, who lived across town, grew psilocybin, and so the magic mushrooms would be plentiful. Willy was intrigued; he had never tried them before.
Kevin, it turned out, was a popular man about town, and so the fete was well attended. There were lots and lots of pretty girls, Willy noted appreciatively. Rick and Mark turned up as well, so Te would potentially have the service of at least four lovers, past and present. She seemed fazed by this fact not at all. John, the house manager and, at six feet nine inches, the tallest openly gay man in town, had a deep, heart-wrenching crush on Kevin, who was, John was convinced, like all attractive men, secretly gay.
“Don’t give me no shit,” John was heard to say, “that man be too pretty to be straight.” And he giggled huskily, taking a hit off yet another of the dozen joints snaking around the room.
Beer flowed copiously throughout the evening, and Jim, Kevin’s brother, arrived around midnight, armed with nearly a pound of newly harvested magic mushrooms. Another house of college students reposed next door, and, with their peyote cacti and Big Yellow’s magic mushrooms, a symbiotic relationship developed. Denizens and guests of both homes traveled back and forth between the structures. At one point, Kevin, feeling no pain, passed out in transit between the two domiciles and John, discovering his inert form, had his way with him. “What could I say,” Kevin later asked rhetorically, “that it doesn’t feel good?”
Although he had a good time, Willy couldn’t help but keep an eye on Te and the people she was hugging, kissing, and shoulder-rubbing. He felt rather foolish, inasmuch as Kevin seemed quite immune from doubts of his own. By three a.m., some couples began drifting off in search of privacy, for post-party coitus; others quit the house and repaired to the backyard, where they began to smoke some serious weed. The full moon was hidden behind blue clouds and offered up a hallucinogenic vista to those noshing on mushrooms. Several times, police cars cruised down the street, but no stops were made as everyone was well behaved. At a quarter to four, Te materialized as if by magic at Willy’s side, smoking a cigarette and sipping from a glass of Kahlua.
“Come on, Willy,” she said softly and led him by the hand up to his third-story apartment, where they had furious sex for ten minutes and then made tender love for more than an hour. Willy was awakened sometime in the night by soft crying. Looking up, he saw Te, her head held in her hands, gently weeping. He placed a hand on her arm.
“What is it, Theresa?” he asked.
She didn’t speak for a long moment. but when she did, she touched his heart. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, Willy. I’m… so confused, so torn and twisted, and…” She fell into his embrace, and as she wept, he silently held her, patting her hair gently.
Rumors were rife; they blossomed with the force of a rushing wind. Kevin was lost at sea. Kevin had found a new lover – one he wouldn’t give up, even though Te had asked him to. He had asked Te to marry him. Te was involved in a torrid lesbian relationship. She was going overseas to study in France. Kevin was quitting fishing and enrolling in college; he was moving into Big Yellow. He and Te were getting a place of their own. All of it was true. None of it was true. Te disappeared for a week, and when she returned, she kept to herself, staying alone in her room all day and all night. Willy had questions, but Te was not forthcoming. No one knew anything. After a week, in the night, Te crept up to the third floor and slipped between the sheets. Once again they made exquisite love, uttering scarcely a word.
The next morning, Willy gazed adoringly at the woman in his bed. She looked as if she held, behind those brown eyes, the key to every riddle ever posed by the heart of man. She was both brilliant and beautiful. And knew it, thought Willy. He had had the nerve to object to the hierarchy of Te’s affections.
“I’m tired of being second,” he’d stated. “It’s always Kevin and then me,” he protested.
“You misunderstand,” she said. That got his attention. Perhaps he had misunderstood. He listened intently. “You’re not my boyfriend.” She sat up straighter in bed. “I have a boyfriend, and Kevin means everything to me. My commitment begins and ends with Kevin. Compared with him,” she went on, “you are as nothing.” Willy recoiled as if struck; later, he couldn’t remember what he said, but he did remember that he removed his hand from her bare breast.
“Haven’t we grown any closer in the year we’ve shared this house?” he implored her.
Te frowned. She hated scenes and the emotions they dredged up. “You are nothing. There is nothing besides Kevin,” she exclaimed decisively. “From the first,” she said, “I have only loved one man, and that is Kevin; no one else even merits mention in the same breath as him. There is no second or third place, only Kevin. There is,” she said, “no comparison.”
“Then what’s this?” asked Willy, hurt and exasperated. He swept his hand over the mattress and bedclothes.
“This,” she said dismissively, “is play. It doesn’t take emotions to have sex, you know.”
“No,” said Willy in a quiet voice. “I didn’t know that.” She continued to stare brazenly at him. “Thank you for explaining,” he added. Next he told her, “Collect your things, your shit, and get the hell out of my bedroom. And don’t come back.” She gazed speculatively into his eyes for a moment, then turned away to depart the room for the final time. “Theresa,” he called after her. She halted for a moment, her clothes and books clutched in her arms. Willy only called her Theresa when he was being deadly serious. So she listened, still facing away.
“Before I even knew you, I heard from other people, other men, old lovers – the Ricks of the world – who said you were soulless and cold, but I had to learn the hard truth for myself.” She stood there, and he concluded, “I don’t understand how you can claim to love a man you do not respect. Kevin is a good man,” he went on, “but you’ve made him a laughing stock in this town. Nobody respects him, least of all you.”
“You’re not Kevin,” she reminded him.
“No, but there’s a little Kevin in me; otherwise, I wouldn’t have put up with you for this long.”
They never spoke again.