How it Began; How it Ended
a short story by Terrance Aldon Shaw
Molly Morse was not a knockout or a bombshell by any stretch of the imagination. On first impression, I pegged her as kind of homely. Not ugly or repulsive, but simply “just there.” Her open friendly face may have seemed a bit too round and plump, her eyes a little too small and close together, her nose perhaps a tad too big, her limbs tending towards the thick side like the old stereotype of a farmer’s daughter, her long brown hair constantly flying into her face despite all efforts to pull it back and “look professional.” She had strong shoulders, broad hips, a pleasingly meaty caboose, and ample, peasant-girl breasts. She also had a broad, open, honest smile that made her plain face come alive and seem angelic. And when she laughed in that husky, throaty, sincere, infectious way of hers, she became, as the song says, simply irresistible.
Ideals of beauty are ever in flux but always cruel. Molly was hardly fat or Rubenesque, except, perhaps, by the modern cadaver-like standards of anorexic fashion models and bulimic starlets. Back in the forties or fifties, she might even have been considered skinny. Classically voluptuous Marilyn Monroe in her heyday certainly filled out larger dresses. But my generation has taken cruelty to new levels; weaned on an endless stream of waifish eye candy, we’ve been conditioned to despise the ugly, and simply ignore the plain. You can fuck somebody you hate as long as they’re good-looking, and it’s certainly possible to have very intense, physically satisfying sex with somebody you despise. But ordinary-ness dooms—especially women—to indifference and invisibility, or, maybe, the occasional round of blind-drunk pity sex, and the truth is that you will never find yourself in love with someone you feel sorry for.
Very few people have the maturity to understand that it’s our flaws, our slight imperfections, our deviations from the norm that make us interesting. These are the things that pique our curiosity and, ultimately, kindle our desires. Something about Molly caught my eye right away, and kept me curious. It took a long time to figure out exactly what it was, but when I did, it almost knocked my socks off. Plain, unassuming Molly Morse had the inner glow of a truly beautiful woman.
We talked only for a few minutes the afternoon of our first meeting, standing in one of those endless lines at the DMV. Talking to Molly was easy, like breathing; it wasn’t hard to see why she’d become a therapist. I felt completely comfortable with her, and totally free to be myself. I didn’t have to put on a facade of cool-ness to make her laugh, or pretend to be something I wasn’t to impress her. I was lulled into a happy state of easygoing unselfconsciousness, and suddenly, without even thinking, found myself asking her out; “Maybe we could have a cup of coffee or something sometime?"
I couldn’t believe the words had come out of my mouth. I was even more surprised when Molly lit up the room with that solar-powered smile of hers and said yes; “I’d love to. The next five or six weeks are going to be pretty busy; but a little ‘or something’ about the middle of October would be great. Why don’t you call me then? I’m in the book.”
She was older than me, 37 to my 20, but when had that ever stopped me? Besides, you get a guy in his late teens or early twenties together with a woman in about her mid-thirties and there will be fireworks, I guaran-damn-tee. You’ve got two people at their sexual peak, the energy of youth and the knowledge that comes with maturity; a combination like that is utterly mind-blowing—as I was soon to find out.
I’d never been with anybody who so craved closeness without being clingy, who hung on for dear life with so much genuine passion—and compassion—so much warmth, and so much joy. The same profound empathy that made Molly such a good therapist made her an extraordinary lover. There was a wildness in our couplings, an indescribable vital force that seemed constantly to feed upon and renew itself every time we were together. Molly was full of an energy she could not burn by any conventional means; listening to people for hours and hours, inarticulate, clueless, hopeless, broken; listening with as much sympathy and understanding as humanly possible, but unable, in the end, to really do anything that could truly effect change. And the frustration, the feeling of uselessness, emptiness, impotence, the unrequited love of ungrateful humanity, it welled up within her and sought out the surest path of release.
So, week after week, we’d come back to my room, barely able to contain our excitement, unable to keep our hands off each other; naked inside of seconds, on the bed and fumbling to put on a condom before she guided me in, I’d ride her strong pale hips like a jockey, her ample breasts bouncing rambunctiously this way and that with the momentum of each forward thrust, and later, laying quietly together, her abundant warmth enveloping me, drawing me close as we made love again in a long slow dance.
I don’t know—didn’t want to know—if she loved me, or if I was in love with her. At any rate, the “L” word never passed between us. You could say we were fuck buddies, but there was more to it—a lot more—than mere itch-scratching. I honestly didn’t want to define what we had. As soon as you try to define things they stop growing, become static and uninteresting, and we were both content, having too much fun to want things to change.
Sometimes though, actions speak far louder than words, and affairs, like all living things, must inevitably evolve or die. One night, after the wildness was out of our systems, she put her hand on mine as I was reaching for another Trojan. “You don’t need that tonight . . . not with me . . . I want to feel you in me . . . really feel you!”
“Are you sure, baby?”
She nodded. There were tears in her eyes. I leaned down and kissed her as tenderly as I knew how. She held me tightly until her tears were spent, and then we made love, unhurried, unguarded, vulnerable, full of passionate newness as if it were the very first time for both of us. I’d never felt so completely naked before, and it was more exciting—more profound—than the wildest, hottest sex my lurid, teeming imagination could ever have dreamed up.
For the first and only time, she stayed the night, cuddling with me in the narrow bed, her head on my chest as we slept. In the morning she gave herself to me with a doubly-renewed passion—again waving off the condom I offered to use, turned on even more mightily by the idea of my jizz sloshing around inside her. She took that part of me with her when she left early in the afternoon, and it was a week or so before I heard from her again; this time, to tell me that she had taken a new job out of state and had to start almost immediately. There would be no time to say goodbye.
And that was the end of our affair, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I was just a little too dense—and way too turned on—to comprehend the subtext, and Molly was too considerate a lover to beat me over the head with it. But she had been trying to tell me something that night nonetheless; that she loved me, that in a perfect world we might have been more than mere fuck buddies; but that in this world she still wanted to feel like she belonged to me in some small way, and I to her, and perhaps realizing that this simply couldn’t happen, she’d opened herself completely, let me in literally and figuratively for one brief amazing moment of pure synergy, if for no other reason than to satisfy a deep psychic curiosity about what might have been.