Once, when we first got married, I asked my husband who he would sleep with if I died. “What would she look like?”
“This is wrong,” my husband said.
“Blond? Asian? Tiny little tits with perky nipples?”
He looked up at the ceiling of our bedroom, hand on his cock. “I don’t know.”
“But I’m already gone. There’s nothing for you to feel guilty about.”
“Well then,” he said. “She’s shorter.” (I am tall, stretched thin, and when we’re both standing, my pale knees graze his thighs.)
I writhed my body closer and wrapped a long limb over him. “Is that so you can dominate her?”
“No,” he said, putting two fingers in my panties. “It’s so she’d have to stand on her tippy-toes to kiss you.”
I got even wetter, and we rolled around all night, eventually forgetting the conversation that got us there.
Two years later, I gave birth, and the three of us crowded our little apartment, dining room table traded out for a crib. We stood over her, holding hands, and I felt both heart-swelling love and intimate resentment.
“I can’t believe we’ll be her parents forever,” he said.
Although still young, my body betrayed me in survivable yet catastrophic ways: an extra pocket of skin on my belly, a limpness to the undersides of my breasts, and a sensation of widening when I urinated, or when my husband entered me. I wanted him to ravage me, like before, but he was tender, careful, the inevitable transference of a new father’s love for his daughter.
In the locker room of my expensive gym, where I went to fight the changes, I examined other women. Some stood there fully nude, blowdrying their hair, and others kept their towel around their waist, only baring their breasts. A few would orchestrate a complex switch, trying to time the towel release with the drop of their hem, inadvertently exposing just a sliver of intimate flesh. Once, a petite, tan woman caught me staring, but I didn’t look away, forcing her to evaluate me back. Do you find me at all attractive? I asked silently. Would you be with me?
We looked forward to our first real date since the baby, but we’d both grown out of practice, so we stayed mostly silent, listening for cries. My stomach strained against my control-top underwear, and I ordered small plates—tuna tartare, cherry tomato bites, micro lettuce salad—to avoid feeling an ill-sort of fullness.
“I think we should have a threesome,” I said, as the server approached with dessert menus.
“What?” my husband said, kicking me under the table. “Just the check, please.”
I scowled at him. “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.”
He placed his hand on my forearm, more parental than sensual. “Sorry, yes. But actually doing it?”
We fell asleep early, my cheek on his chest and the crib beside him. Neither of us mentioned it again for a while, but I pictured it often: him between my legs, while a woman licked my chest, both hungry for me. I imagined him looking up at me, beaming, proud. “You did it.”
On our tenth wedding anniversary, we dropped our children off at their first sleepover. As we turned to leave, our girl ran inside to play, but our boy clung to my leg. Back at home, on the couch, I felt lonely. “I miss them already.”
“Do you want to mix things up?” he said, his fist flexing around the remote.
I already knew what he meant. “How will this work?”
“You choose,” he said. “You always get to choose.”
True to his word, he gave me time to look, perusing sites created just for this scenario. I was overwhelmed—did I want her to be more or less beautiful? Young enough to get excited or old enough to stay calm?
I decided on one, seemingly balanced, but she betrayed me in the flesh. When I touched her breasts, she reached around me to draw him closer, and when I dropped to my knees to fellate him, I looked up at them kissing like new lovers.
After she left, I woke up feverish, clawed the sheets off my skin.
“Wake up,” I said. “I want to do it again.”
As he thrust, I could still smell her scent, each of our movements expelling then drawing it back in.
My husband and I observe our school-aged children race each other down the sidewalk, risking only a skinned knee or a temporarily bruised ego. “Do you think we did the right thing by moving out here?” I say.
“Not sure we had a choice,” he says, with a matter-of-fact tone he has adopted since we left the city, since we stopped sleeping with other women.
I am direct now, too, or maybe just confined. When he brings up a flirtatious mom in our son’s playgroup while we’re having sex, I say, “No way. She’s practically a sister to me.”
One day, when we see a young woman, maybe a babysitter, leaving our neighbors’ house, her curves swelling through a sweater, and compact thighs, untarnished by age, peering out from under a skirt, I take her all in. Yes, I think, we could whisper about her tonight. As she passes by, she turns around, eyes narrowed, accusing us, and I feel exposed.
My husband turns toward me and raises his eyebrows, a telegraphic but now-tired gesture.
“I’m not attracted to her,” I say. “She’s not my type.”
“Okay,” he says with a sad laugh. “We should probably act our age.”
But as she disappears, a dot in the distance, he gazes with longing toward her vague form. As I watch him, I feel familiar, even welcome, jealousy, but it remains a mental preoccupation, never flaming into desire. When she turns the corner, I stay still, fixated on the scene, wondering if all of them will outlive me.