[Author’s note: This was written before the recent terrorist attacks.]
As a fatherly hypocrite who preys on frizzy-haired young women and rides a Harley when he isn’t voting for prayer in schools, Congressman Gary Condit is sort of a parody version of my father and therefore perfect fantasy fodder for the solitary side of my libido. But he was so vile and queasy-making when interviewed by Connie Chung the other week that any attraction I might have ever felt towards him would normally have disappeared suddenly and utterly without a trace if it had not been for a weird twist of events.
It’s my husband, Max. He gets all hot to make a film about the brittlestar, this starfish he read about in the Science Times. Ophiocoma wendtii. Its entire exoskeleton consists of thousands of tiny crystals that act as lenses so the whole animal is one big compound eye, a voyeur’s wet dream. It also can’t have escaped Max’s notice that Dr. Joanna Aizenberg, the scientist who discovered the brittlestar’s unique crystal-lens array, looks like the young Bonnie Bedelia in Heart Like a Wheel. Which is all maybe why, in bed that night, I start to imagine that Max’s body can see mine all over and that to his critical vision every iota of my physiognomy appears inferior to Joanna’s.
Because I want to get this over with quickly, I am trying to fake my first orgasm. I squint my eyes and pull back the corners of my mouth; I blither with what I hope will never pass for ecstasy, but none of it fools my brittlestar husband who shakes his all-seeing head knowingly. Suddenly I have this flash on how it feels to be Gary and his wife Carolyn, hostile little lenses turned on them from every angle, their fall a stimulating distraction from a tumbling Dow. And even though on camera they look for all the world as though they killed and ate Jon Benet raw, I am moved to a certain tenderness towards them.
By the time Max shifts into a slow, sideways sliding action to give me another chance, I am imagining the Condits as a young couple of nineteen speeding through the streets of Tulsa in his dad’s Corvette just after she’d given birth to Chad, their firstborn. They’re only doing sixty-five but it feels fast. The car is yellow and there’s a hot wind in her blonde hair and he’s flying into the sun. Even after the cop tickets him for reckless driving, they still feel golden. Her body’s sore yet from the baby so she gives him a handjob and he can smell the street-dust on her, baked by the Oklahoma heat. Gary’s just bad enough for Carolyn, and she’s just the right amount of better-than-him for him.
Then, somewhere along the road, their good-girl/bad-boy deal goes metaphysical. They begin to turn each other on and turn on each other, too in ways beyond their comprehension. She’ll be raising money for some orphan when she’ll subliminally feel him poking his crutch into some pitching, moaning, big-haired woman clear across the country until her head starts to explode. Or he’ll be sitting with some babe at his favorite café, The Tryst, in D.C. and he’ll feel her delicacy wafting East over the plains like a nuclear test ban treaty, begging to be violated.
Then I come along, half his age and every bit as ambitious. I feel twisty about power like he does, playful, game. I know, for example, not to mess his hair, even though it’s blow-dried in a way that makes you want to ruffle it. I know to lick all the muscles that middle-aged body he works so hard to pump up. I’m hard to shock, easy to snow and he loves it. We do the usual hide-and-seek adultery stuff the pretend-we’re-not-together two-step, the elevator trick where you get off on the floor marked “preacher’s son” and I get off on “Israeli sabra” but although the breaking of commandments and flouting of parents’ mores excites us, we stop needing it. I ban the handcuffs. He can just knot together a couple of neckties, because I’m already bound to him. He stops desecrating his wife’s goodness, because I let him desecrate mine. Looking into his eyes while we’re fucking, I’m touring the pit of hell because everything interesting and everything wrong about people is there. Desire and anguish, a ferocity of ambition that feels murderous. We reek, the two of us, of original sin. Fuck me, California Gary. Move that Mister Modesto, Blue-dog soon-to-be-redistricted-out-of-existence-Democrat butt of yours, every defect of which is precious in my all-encompassing gaze. Let me love you whole. Fly into my sun. Let me take you down . . . where I’m going, too. And I promise I’ll never, ever tell. Oh, oh so sadly ever, ever, ever.
And Max, who sees everything visible, doesn’t know that I just came for the