Extract – Irony and Carol Shields
. . . Quality orgasms were the only kind worth having, she told him. She said this sitting on the edge of Tom’s new bed. Her clothes were off. She flicked back her short hair meaningfully. Her face was vaporous, her eyes gelid.
They had been to a movie, a German soft-porn piece with the kind of subtitles that give him headaches. He had a headache now, looking into Charlotte’s wide open face.
“We’d better talk about the matter of precautions first,” she said. She showed him her condoms and he showed her his. “I hope you don’t mind if we use mine,” she said. “I’d feel better.”
“You don’t mind if I ask if you’re a complete hetero,” she said. She was beginning to sound not tough but toughened, which was something different. “I mean, I assume you’re a hetero, but I need your assurance, if I’m going to relax.”
“Do you by any chance,” she asked, “have a herpes history?”
“I don’t have anything against oral sex,” she told him, “but I prefer not to the first time with someone. I hope that’s okay with you. I don’t want you to think I’m against it on principle. It’s just this thing I have.”
“This may sound kind of weird,” she said, “but could you start by rubbing the instep of my feet. Both feet. My feet have always been erogenous. Only about one percent of people have erogenous feet. At least that’s what my therapist says. Also the backs of my knees and the insides of my wrists. But especially my feet. I always get there if my partner starts with my feet.”
After a while she said, “That’s good, that feels so good, but your elbow is putting just a bit too much pressure – there, that’s better. Yes, that’s a lot better. Would you mind reaching over and turning on the light. Thanks.”
“I don’t mind if you talk,” she said later. “Just say anything that comes into your head. Any words you like.”
“I’m starting to get there,” she said. “I’ll be another few minutes, though, if you can hold off. Maybe if you flick your tongue back and forth. Not like that, though, that tickles. Maybe if you tried doing it a little harder, sort of a circular movement. I think you’re getting the idea.”
Then, “Here I come, here I come. Keep me flying, keep me up there. Oh, lovely, hmmm, yes, like that, heavenly, oh that was nice.”
Finally, “Let’s just talk now. Let’s just hang on to each other and talk. Let’s be, you know, spontaneous. Oh you don’t know how I’ve needed this. Next time we can try something else if you want. You plan the menu next time.”
Never again, he said to himself. Never again.
Extracted from Carol Shields 1992 novel, The Republic of Love.