The Dangerous Couple
I didn’t like her. We saw her and her husband at parties given by some people we knew who entertained a lot, and at one of the parties, while my wife was off talking to someone in the next room, she told me that her husband was impotent. It wasn’t that I’d asked her or that we were engaged in some deep conversation or that she knew me well enough to tell me such things. She happened to be standing next to me and was watching him across the room and she came out with it. There were other reasons I didn’t like her. She had a smirk that never let up, and she rarely showed any interest in what anyone said. I didn’t like her husband either. An overbearing one-upper, knew a better vodka than you
were drinking, a better car than you were driving, knew more than you did about any subject that came up. Too much domination in his voice, wanted to be the only voice in the room, talked over you if you tried to get a word in, gobbled you up like food. I didn’t like them separately, and I liked them even less together. When they were together she would eel herself against his body, her hands moving over his torso, her eyes searching her surroundings for other visceral stimulation. He held a martini in one hand while his other hand wandered over her from behind, and his eyes roamed hungrily around the room as if somehow connected to the tour of his hand. They were like two people masturbating publicly and in unison.
I wouldn’t mention either one of them, but something happened that I can’t put to rest. My wife and I were at a restaurant one night, a small restaurant, dark and romantic, secluded booths, lots of angles, known for its wine list and its veal, and we saw him there with another woman. I could see them clearly and my wife could too if she looked back, though there were tables and booths between our booth and theirs. He would have had to turn and look over his shoulder to see us. The woman had a view of us but did not know us, and I could watch everything without drawing their attention, only my wife had to turn her head to watch. But there was no need for her to turn her head because I filled her in on what was going on. I told her they were drinking martinis, made with the greatest vodka in the world, no doubt, I could imagine him ordering it for her, the only way to drink a martini,
the exact number of olives, the exact amount of vermouth. I told her about his hand winding around the mystery guest’s hand, how they leaned in and whispered and gazed
into each other’s faces, his other hand dropping under the table for field trips up and down her legs. Finally my wife told me to shut up, she couldn’t stand to listen to me anymore, it was none of our business. I shut up but kept watching, thinking that we already had an invitation to the people’s house where we usually saw him, and I looked forward to finding out if he and his wife would be there again together.
When we arrived at the party I saw them at once, he with his martini in hand, she with him in hand, he talking with another couple, keeping them informed on some important topic, she showing no interest in whatever that topic was, her eyes casting about the room greedily for something to light on. Her eyes passed over us as if we were invisible, no sense of familiarity at all, and as we moved into the room and began greeting people she split away from her husband and wound through the guests toward a food table. It was then that I went toward her, no conscious plan, moving on impulse, but an impulse that had been gathering wind, I could remember seeing myself go toward her in the back of my mind.
I said her name, the first time I had ever said it to her. She was facing the table, and she turned and looked me over, something in the sound of my voice made her curious. I watched her face, her smirk, and she watched my eyes taking her in and my eyes made her more curious.
"I ran into your husband at a restaurant."
"He didn’t tell me."
"He didn’t see me."
"You didn’t say hello?"
"I didn’t say hello because he was busy."
"What was he busy doing?"
"He was busy drinking martinis with another woman. He didn’t look impotent when I saw him so I didn’t think I should interrupt."
The smirk broadened, her mouth opened. Her color heightened and my heart thrust against my chest. Her eye teeth were long and pointed, and her eyes were all over my face. I had the feeling that her clothes would fall off her onto the floor, and my mind filled
with images of her body winding around me, her arms raised above her head. She moved close to me, and I heard her tongue move inside her mouth.
"He can respond if the situation is just right," she said. "I know what he does. He tells me and I want to hear it. Did you think I’d be surprised? I am surprised you told me. I’m interested in that."
I kept looking at her mouth, her eye teeth, the darkness down her throat. "If you want to tell me more about it, we can leave the room," she said and laughed. "Do you want to leave the room with me? You want to touch me? But if it’s not okay for him
why should it be okay for you? I don’t mean I care if you’re a hypocrite, I’m just worried about you. You may be in over your head, can’t let the animal loose. On the other hand, you can’t stop looking at me. Can I do anything to help you relax? My blood won’t be
racing in ten minutes unless you strike."
I said nothing, denied nothing.
"Let me know," she said. "I enjoyed our chat."
I didn’t watch her walk away. I leaned on the food table with both hands and closed my eyes for a moment. I heard for the first time how noisy it was in the room, the noise roared inside me though a minute before I had hardly noticed it. I gathered myself and turned, hoping my wife would not be watching, hoping I’d been shielded by the other guests. But she was watching, and standing next to her was the martini-drinker’s wife herself, the two
of them talking and looking right at me. I couldn’t find the nerve to go toward them and couldn’t let myself think what they might be talking about. Was she telling my wife what I’d said to her and how we’d both reacted? Was she proposing that my wife leave the room with us? Trying not to seem in too big a hurry, I made my way toward a pair of open French doors that led out into a garden. Outside I breathed in the air and tried to clear my head, but my head would not clear, and I imagined her husband approaching me and warning me to be careful with his wife, she’d put me between two pieces of bread and that would be the end of me. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and I started. "It’s just me," my wife said and took away her hand. She watched my face as she spoke. "I saw you go right to her when we came in. I wondered if you were telling her what you saw. It was the only thing I could think of that you could be telling her, but I couldn’t believe
you’d do it. She said it wasn’t news to her."
I shook my head.
"She also said we shouldn’t worry about her," she went on. "She knows who she’s married to and her husband knows who married to. She looked at me with her smile when she said that, the side of her mouth up, and then she looked at you. You turned around after holding yourself up with the table, and when you saw us together I thought you would fall over backwards. You fled."
But I was not safe. Looking over her shoulder I saw the husband emerge through the doorway, a fresh martini in hand.
"I hear I’m being investigated," he said, laughing.
He introduced himself. We’d been introduced several times before, but he either didn’t remember or assumed we’d forgotten. He addressed me with a name that was not my
name but had the same first letter as my name.
"I appreciate your looking after my wife," he said, "and she has assured me that she understands why you took it upon yourself to tell her what you told her, even though you had never spoken to her for more than a few minutes before tonight, is that correct?" I nodded.
"But I do not share her understanding of whatever purpose you had in mind. I’m curious what you were looking for and I’ve asked her, but she says it’s not up to her to explain.
Can you tell me what it is that she understands?"
I didn’t answer, and if I had wanted to answer I have no idea what I would have said.
"I am sure she told you that we have no secrets in our marriage, maybe a few, but not on this subject," he continued. "But you didn’t know that when you told her, and you didn’t know much of anything else about her when you told her, and I can believe that you could never have foreseen that you would reach her the way you did. I’ve seen that look in her eye before, as you can probably imagine, and I know when the pot’s been stirred. Your wife should be aware that you are on the loose stirring pots, and she should also be aware that your pot’s been stirred. It’s only right, don’t you agree, that she should know what her
husband has been up to."
He paused and sipped his drink. My wife looked ahead at neither of us.
"You’re lucky to come out of this as well as you did," he added. "Other people might not be as understanding as we are, others might feel they owed you some physical damage to get even with you. I suggest you think about what caused you to behave so recklessly and beyond reason. For your own safety you should have some awareness of where your
urges might lead you in the future. In the meantime, I want you to know how much my wife appreciates your interest in her. I don’t know when she’s had such fun. Good luck with him," he said to my wife and took a step toward her and kissed her on the cheek. Then he nodded to me and to her and left.
"Are you ready to go?" she asked me.
We went back through the house and out the front door and spoke to no one, looked at no one.
We didn’t talk about it as we drove home or as we lay awake in the middle of the night. I
feared she would start in on me and ask me things. My voice seemed trapped in my throat, images of the couple silenced me. I kept seeing them standing together at a party, her body against his, their eyes roving, she squeezing my severed tongue in her hand, he raising his martini to me and winking.