‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 12
We finished our meal in shaky silence. All the time, I was praying: for the right words, for the right time and place, and so that everything would be all right. After our baked potatoes we had fruit and hot drinks. From my wide selection of ‘horrible’ teabags, Arthur chose ginger and ginseng and I had peppermint. My nerves were jangling.
“So, what is your great secret?” Arthur re-opened our discussion. “What is so awful that you look as white as a ghost, Marian? You can tell me – you can trust me.”
“It’s not as bad as that!” I exclaimed, and he laughed softly. I noticed his laugh and loved it.
“Where to start?” I wondered aloud. “I have cerebral palsy, as you’ve maybe worked out by now. And I don’t do sex very well. That’s all.” Seeing Arthur’s quizzical expression, I hastened on, “I mean, I do love, and passion and all the usual emotions…but the sex has always been – difficult.” I settled on that, treading warily, cautious. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, use the wrong words. “It feels easier to just forget the whole thing, sometimes.”
“You mean you, what, you never have sex?” Arthur’s eyebrows were up, and he was looking straight at me. I tried not to blush, pretended he was a sex therapist I was never going to see again.
“More or less. I’m never very sure and it’s not something I can talk about much. Who would understand?”
“Well…” I was searching for reasons why and how and if and what and when, none of which came easily to mind. I like to understand things, but this was one dilemma that only Karl had explored with me. He had been my only other friend when it came to matters of sex. Even then, our life together had been comfortable, which is another way of saying we compromised a great deal.
“Let’s just see how it goes, shall we?” Arthur’s words cut into my thoughts, and part of me felt disappointed. Was this the usual brush off? I steeled myself for rejection, for the retreat.
“Okay,” I quietly accepted, but Arthur continued, “I just mean, let’s have fun and see how far we get, hey? I am quite happy to take a chance with you.”
“You mean, you don’t mind?” I felt small.
“Why the fuck would I mind? I haven’t had sexual relations in about a decade, so you could call me a bit rusty too. If you don’t mind taking a chance on me, I think I could stick with you. I’m sorry Marian, but either you have had lousy luck, crap lovers or zero confidence – probably all three.”
I couldn’t help laughing with relief at the honesty blazing out of Arthur’s face. The earthy obscenities sounded right at home, jolting me into the real world.
“You’ve got to realize – we all have problems, we all have things to sort through, and I don’t mind. Why would I mind? Are you contaminated or something? I don’t think so. If you are happy to be with me, then I am happy to be with you. Let’s both take one day at a time, okay?”
We finished our meal quietly. Our silence felt intimate and relaxed, as if we finally knew there would be no more surprises. Arthur got up and I thought he was going to walk away, out. But he only fetched a drink of water from the tap, drank deeply and glanced at the clock on the wall. “Perhaps it is Elaine’s bed-time?” The clock said ten past nine.
“Yes, I’ll go and see her. You could go through to the living room and put the fire on? I’ll be back in ten minutes or so.” I left Arthur clearing up in the kitchen, looking puzzled, amused and thoughtful.
“Mum?” Elaine was already in her pyjamas brushing her teeth when I got upstairs to check on her. Clothes were littered around the hallway, but I don’t mind stooping to collect them and putting them in the basket. It’s something to do while Elaine is in the bathroom, cleaning her teeth, brushing her long hair.
“Yes, what is it, my darling?”
“Is Arthur a nice man, do you think?”
“I think so, yes. He is being very kind to me.”
“Yes, but lots of people are kind. I mean, are you going to have sex with him?
“We shall see, shall we?” I answered her, with a cheerful grin. I am used to Elaine’s straight talking. In her, I encourage openness around sex, boys and making babies. Sex is nothing to be ashamed of, I have always said.