William Quincy Belle is just a guy. Nobody famous; nobody rich; just some guy who likes to periodically add his two cents worth with the hope, accounting for inflation, that $0.02 is not over-evaluating his contribution. He claims that at the heart of the writing process is some sort of (psychotic) urge to put it down on paper and likes to recite the following which so far he hasn't been able to attribute to anyone: "A writer is an egomaniac with low self-esteem." You will find Mr. Belle's unbridled stream of consciousness here (http://wqebelle.blogspot.ca) or @here (https://twitter.com/wqbelle).
“How do you know he’s not gay?”
Kate glanced at Sally as she fiddled with the cleavage of her dress. “I don’t.” She looked at herself in the mirror. She took a deep breath, cupped both her breasts and let them fall into place. “What do you think?” She turned to her friend and struck a pose.
“If he doesn’t get a boner and try to jump you, he’s got to be gay.”
Kate chuckled. “Listen, he told me he’s been married, divorced now for ten years.”
“Maybe he got divorced because he finally admitted to himself he prefers men.”
“Oh stop it, ya silly. He’s a nice man. I’m sure he’s a little gun shy. Who isn’t after a divorce?”
“You talk. You dance. You have drinks. But he doesn’t try for a kiss? Cop a feel? Nope, there’s a story.”
Kate turned back to the mirror and traced the V from her collarbone. “Okay, if this doesn’t work then I’ll agree with you. But you can’t blame a girl for trying.”
Sally sighed. “Beggars can’t be choosers. I haven’t seen many eligible men on this cruise. This isn’t exactly what I would call a single woman’s dream.”
The instructor called out, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re all going to start with the rhumba by going through the basic box pattern. Please make sure your frame is solid. Gentlemen, you have to guide the ladies.”
Larry took Kate’s right hand in his left and slide his right arm around her waist. She took a deep breath and stuck out her chest as he held their arms up in position.
“Let’s begin. Count, one, two, and three, four. One, two, and three, four.”
Larry and Kate looked each other in the eye as they concentrated on stepping to the rhythm. Left leg out followed by right. Right leg to side followed by left. The two of them acted as a coordinated team.
“Gentlemen, lead your partners into a turn. Let’s add what we’ve practiced this week.”
Larry held up his left arm and removed his right, guiding Kate into a turn. She finished and came back into position and they successfully completed their box step.
“Excellent, folks. That’s it for tonight. Let’s regroup tomorrow for our next lesson. In the meantime, there are refreshments on the side table and you’re more than welcome to take your drinks out onto the deck. The last rays of sun are still visible over the ocean.”
“Thank you, Kate,” Larry said. He nodded his head politely.
“You’re most welcome, kind sir.” She glanced at the table. “I’m feeling a little parched. How about you?”
“Let’s see what they have.”
They walked over to the table and looked over the various items. He held up a ladle from a punch bowl. She leaned against him as she peeked in the bowl. “Something tropical?” she said.
Larry gave her a side-long glance and stepped down the table to examine other offerings.
“I wouldn’t mind white wine,” she said pointing to a bottle.
He set a glass on the table in front of him and poured from Kate’s choice. As she reached for the glass, she brushed against him so her left breast touched his arm. “Thank you,” she said.
Larry poured himself a Perrier and held his glass up to her. “Cheers.”
Kate clinked glasses with him. “Would you like to go out onto the deck?”
“Sure, why not?” He gestured for her to go first.
They walked over to the balustrade and looked out over the water. The sun had set, but the sky glowed in the twilight.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” he said.
“Yes.” She looked at the ocean but glanced at him. “Larry?”
“May I ask you a personal question?”
He turned to her with raised eyebrows. “Sure, what?”
“Do you like women?” She sipped her wine and studied his face.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’ve been sending signals but getting no response. My girlfriend wondered if you were gay. I wondered if you don’t like me.”
Larry snorted. “You don’t beat around the bush.”
“Life is short; a cruise is short. Nobody has time to wait. You must act and you must act quickly. She who hesitates and all that.”
“I’m not in the market, Kate, if that’s what you mean.”
“I wasn’t looking to get married, Larry. I was merely looking for a good time, a moment of fun.”
“As fate would have it — bad luck, really — you’re in the company of a man whose days with women are over.”
Her gaze darted around. “A sexual what?”
“No, no. I mean asexual — all one word: the letter A followed by the word sexual. Asexuality is the lack of sexual desire.”
“Ah, I don’t get it. Who doesn’t like sex? You have a medical problem?”
“Amongst other things, I suffer from E.D.”
“Erectile dysfunction. I have trouble in the bedroom.”
“What kind of trouble?”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Have we opened Pandora’s box? You really want to delve into this.”
“How many times have I been rejected? I’ve been told I’m too old. I’ve been told I’m not attractive, including not sexually attractive. And yes, a guy even told me he was gay. Your story seems like a novel brush-off.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you. This isn’t about you. This is about me. As a jokester once said: If you can’t get it up, don’t bother to get it out.”
Kate frowned. “Aw, come on. It can’t be as bad as that.”
“It’s taken me a bit of time to come to accept my newfound limitations. I’m old, or at least older. I’m certainly not getting any younger. I’ve slowed down, it would seem, in more ways than one.”
“You do realize that this isn’t a race. This is supposed to be about two people enjoying themselves together.”
“I can appreciate that. However, with no reflection on you, I don’t like to start something I can’t finish.”
“What do you mean finish? Have sex?”
“Sex, percentage-wise, is a small part of our relationships. I’ve been given to understand that the average male orgasm lasts about six seconds. Just six seconds. It’s hardly seems worth going out on a date for only six seconds.” He smiled. “But there are many other important parts of any relationship: love, intimacy, closeness, sharing those personal things we don’t share with everybody. At the end of the day, I think we’re all looking to have a connection with another human being: to completely expose ourselves to somebody else, to be vulnerable, but then to be accepted unconditionally without judgment.”
“You seem to have a good grasp of relationships.” She hesitated. “So, what’s the problem?”
“An important part of that connection is sex. As I said, percentage-wise it may be a small part, but it’s an important part. I would say that it’s the thing that seals the deal. It’s the glue that binds two people together.”
“Yes, it can be fun.”
“Of course. Having a relationship can be fun: a friend, a colleague, a member of your family, even an acquaintance. But add passion to the mix, a sexual relationship, and you have something special. You’ve discovered what makes the world go round.”
“Okay. But I have to ask again: What’s the problem?”
“If you don’t have sex, what are you having? Can you say you’re in a relationship or is it something else? A friendship, a companionship, a fellowship, a comradeship: it’s some ship, but it’s not what I would call a relationship, at least not in terms of passion, of sexuality.”
“You said sex is a small part of a relationship.”
“Yes, it is. But I also said it’s an important part. It’s what makes the difference between friendship and that special emotional and spiritual connection you have with another human being through sex.”
“I’m not sure I agree with what you’re saying. A relationship is far more than sex. You yourself spoke of love, intimacy, and closeness.”
“I have felt all those things with people I’ve not had sex with. I have felt great intimacy and a closeness with people talking openly and honestly as you and I are doing right now. But you have to admit, while those nonsexual relationships are good, there’s something wonderful in those relationships where there is sex. It’s the icing on the cake.”
“I’m not sure I believe your situation is as grave as you’re portraying.”
Larry nodded. “You’re not the first to say such a thing. I can’t help thinking that our initial reaction to anything is to doubt its veracity and to demand proof. If I was blind, wearing sunglasses and walking hesitantly with a white cane, you’d still wave your hand in front of my face to confirm I couldn’t see.”
“So, let me ask you. If I was blind, if I couldn’t see anything, would you ask me to go to the movies?”
“You and other people have suggested that relationships are more than sex. I fully agree. We can have meaningful relationships with people without having sex. But what if you want to have sex and I can’t have sex?”
“I don’t understand.”
“If I was blind, would you ask me to go to the movies with you? The two of us can sit together. We can hold hands. We can cuddle. We can share a large bag of popcorn and a drink. Afterward, we can go out for an ice cream cone and talk over the movie. We’ve had a shared moment together. That’s a good thing and shared moments are an integral part of any relationship. However, while the two of us have had a shared moment, we haven’t had the same experience. I’m blind. I didn’t see the movie. Yes, I heard the sounds: the dialog and the sound effects. I heard your response and the response of the audience laughing at the humor, sighing at the sad parts, and gasping at the action. But I didn’t see anything. I only saw blackness. I was there and shared that moment with you, but I did not have the same experience as you.”
Larry paused and sipped his Perrier. “I’ve had sex.”
“I’m sure you have,” Kate said.
“No, I mean after all this started.” He leaned against the balustrade and sighed. “In the last two years of my marriage — I don’t know the exact number, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say once a week — my wife and I had sex about a hundred times. Out of that hundred times, I had an orgasm five times. That’s five times out of a hundred. Ninety-five percent of the time we had sex, I never came.” He shook his head. “That’s not normal. But at the time, I didn’t appreciate how abnormal it was. I did not understand what was happening to me and I was confused, ashamed, and humiliated. My doctor gave me Cialis and somehow I managed to get an erection, even if it was only a partial one, so I faked my way through our lovemaking. I wanted to maintain the status quo, perform my conjugal duty and all that.”
“Didn’t you talk with your wife?”
“No. In retrospect, why didn’t I? I don’t know. There was a lot going on in my life at the time, and that was one more thing I didn’t want to deal with. Life had been good up until that point and I didn’t want it to change. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way.”
“Wait. Sex isn’t about penetration.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I was talking specifically about me and my problems. Those problems had no effect on my ability to make love.”
“Relationships, well sex, is more than sex. It’s about connecting with another human being. A long time ago, I learned that is far more satisfying to give than to receive. Don’t get me wrong, I like an orgasm as much as the next guy, but to give pleasure to my partner is truly gratifying. And in turn, my partner’s pleasure comes not just from sex, but from being the center of my attention. She enjoys being the center of my universe and she pleases me by being that center.”
He shifted his weight against the railing. “I’ve always subscribed to three rules in my lovemaking. One: I always put my partner’s pleasure ahead of my own. Two: I never rely on penetrative sex to please a woman. Three: I always perform cunnilingus.”
Kate grinned. “Oh, I like you.”
Larry held his glass up and smiled. “Cheers.”
The two of them clinked glasses and sipped.
“I like to think,” he said, “we’re here to experience one another. It’s not a performance. The objective isn’t the orgasm: that’s the icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae. The real objective is to bond with somebody, that moment when we have the feeling we are one with somebody else. We’re born alone and we die alone. In between, we spend a lot of time trying not to be alone. Sex, great sex, can be that ultimate moment of bonding with someone spiritually.”
“You talk a good game.”
“Anybody can talk. I’m a flawed individual; I’m an imperfect man. In retrospect, I don’t know if the signs were all there, that I was building up to some catastrophe. My doctor discovered a number of years ago, I had an enlarged prostate. He was so concerned; he sent me twice for a prostate biopsy. Believe me, that was not a pleasant experience. And it scared the heck out of me. If I was worried about getting old and eventually dying, twice I’ve had to go through a procedure which could have ended with a diagnosis of the big C. I was lucky. But, I guess it was a sign that I had a growing problem with the plumbing.”
He glanced at his drink. “I regret not being able to talk to my wife, I mean my ex-wife,” he said. “She deserved better. I could say that I wasn’t a man about not being a man.” He chortled. “How’s that for ironic humor?”
He shrugged. “It’s for the better. I hope she’s found somebody who’s a good companion, somebody who can still function as a lover. And for me? I don’t have to have sex anymore. I no longer have to fake it.”
“You paint a pretty grim picture.”
“I’m not sure how to sugarcoat it. Sometimes reality sucks. And sometimes that means our only choice is to accept the situation and move on. Some things we can’t change. Oh, I know somebody would counter with a hope-springs-eternal attitude: If we only persist, we can all eventually have sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but continuing to do something in the face of failure and succeeding is persistence. Continuing to do something in the face of failure and continuing to fail is ... well, stupid. I guess the difficulty is knowing how to make the distinction.”
“You make it sound like you’re never going to have sex again.”
“Oh, I did. Once. A couple of years back. I met a lady, same age as myself, recently widowed, and unsure of how to proceed in life. She was lonely. And she was very, very horny.”
“One thing led to another. I discovered her buttons and learned how to push them. She was a responsive woman.”
“But what about your problem?”
“As I said, a man doesn’t need an erection to please a woman. Even if I was having problems in the bedroom, it didn’t mean I had forgotten how to make love to a woman. Is it like riding a bicycle: you never forget?”
“So ...” She gave a sly smile. “What were her buttons?”
Larry sipped his drink. “I do a competent Venus Butterfly.”
She furrowed her brow. “What’s that?”
He looked around then motioned for her to come closer. He leaned over and whispered in her ear. Kate’s eyes widened, and she softly muttered, “Jesus.”
Larry stood up. “Over the years, lovers may have been hesitant at first, but soon became repeat customers. It can be an act of great sensuality and intimacy between a man and a woman. Can the two of them be closer than that?”
She shivered. “You’re making me feel a little flushed, you know.”
“Do I have to touch you ... to touch you?”
“Apparently not.” She shifted against the railing. “So, what happened to the woman?”
“We weren’t exclusive. She met another man, and I gently pushed her to him and bowed out of the picture. We remained acquaintances, but I thought she had a better future with this gentleman. However, she taught me a valuable lesson.”
“As I said, she was responsive. And multi-orgasmic. I don’t think any man could ask for a better sexual partner. But me? Out of the ten times we had sex, I never got an erection, and I never had an orgasm. Not once.”
She stared at him attentively.
“I wanted to, but I couldn’t. Intellectually, I knew I was with a terrific partner. She was having a fabulous time with me. But physically, I wasn’t responding to the situation. I should have been so aroused; I would have burst into flames. Instead, I felt little passion, little sexual excitement. I was amused, at best, titillated, but I felt no real physical desire. And I’m not talking about my response to her specifically, I’m talking about my response to sex in general.” He sipped his drink.
“She was understanding and kind. She told me she didn’t care if I was suffering from erectile dysfunction and that did sort of make me feel better. However, I realized that whatever problem had started in my marriage and led me to my divorce, continued unabated. My problem was permanent. I used to get horny at the drop of a hat. Now, nothing. I know I should feel different, I know I should be attracted to women left, right, and center, filled with the lust of raging hormones. Surprisingly, I’m no longer looking at them with the idea of having sex. Even I know that’s weird for a horny old toad like me. Well, for the horny old toad I used to be.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“What can anybody say? I survive a divorce. I’m a free man. I have no commitments and no responsibilities. I could be dating regularly, however, God, with his infinite sense of humor, takes away my capacity to have sex. What a cosmic joke. I have the time and the money to watch every movie ever made, except I’ve been struck blind and now I can’t see anything.”
“Don’t feel sorry for me. Yes, it’s a loss, but it’s also no longer a loss. I’ve accepted and I’ve adapted. I once met a guy who had been in a car accident and lost the use of both his legs. He would never walk again and was condemned to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He told me it was a tragedy, but not to feel sorry for him. He had accepted his condition and moved on. He had gotten over his anger; he had gotten rid of his bitterness, and now he was determined to live his life as best he could without two good legs. He was going to seek out all that life had to offer. Sometime not having legs was a pain in the ass, but he was having one hell of good time.”
“Aren’t you lonely?”
“Sometimes, yes. But I don’t want to mislead anybody. I don’t want to find myself with someone who’s expecting something in a relationship I can’t provide. Nobody wants a sexless relationship. Heck, I don’t want that. I think any good relationship should be consummated. Sex is an integral part of that connection with somebody.” Larry chuckled. “I haven’t forgotten what to do, it’s that I no longer know why to do it.”
“The question in my eyes, Kate, is not what I’m going to do for you, rather, what are you going to do for me.”
“I don’t understand.” She squinted at him. “Do you mean ... well, will I give you a blowjob?”
Larry smiled. “I would appreciate the offer, but the effort would be wasted on me. That’s not a criticism of your abilities, but a realistic assessment of my response.”
“Will you ever have sex again?” she asked.
“I doubt it. I no longer seem to feel physical desire. I don’t feel sexual excitement. It’s not about disappointing the woman; it’s about disappointing myself. I want to get aroused, but I don’t. Intellectually, I know I should get excited, but physically I don’t. I’ve tried and failed. And I’m tired of failing. I’ve been embarrassed. I’ve been humiliated. Now, I’m just tired.”
“What do you want?”
“What do I want?” He sighed. “I want to go back to the way I was. I don’t want to get old. I don’t want suffer from the physical limitations that come with age. And I don’t want ill health.”
Larry looked out over the ocean, thoughtful. “What do I want?”
He turned and looked at her. “I’d like you to make me so horny I could scream. I’d like to desire you so badly, I would climb the highest mountain and swim the deepest sea. I’d like to lose myself with you in a fit of unbridled passion.”
“You’re quite poetic.”
He exhaled and slumped his shoulders. “It’s taken me some time to redefine myself as a man. Heck, to define myself as a human being. I’m not the same. I’ve lost something and I’ll never get it back. The rest of the world can enjoy themselves at the movies, but I will never again have that pleasure. I can only accept and move on. And I must find other things in life to sustain me.”
They stared at one another for a moment then turned to lean against the railing. The occasional splash of a wave punctuated the silence.
“I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to be intimate,” Kate said.
“Ah, but we were intimate.” Larry nodded. “It’s been a while since I’ve had such an open and honest conversation with somebody about such personal matters. I call that intimate. Just because we didn’t have sex doesn’t mean we can’t have intimacy.”
“You seem like a nice guy, Larry.”
“That’s kind of you, however, I’m reminded that nice guys finish last.”
“I meant it as a compliment.”
“I know. I was trying to make light of my situation.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. This has been a nice moment together. I appreciate it. Thank you.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s getting late and this poor boy needs his beauty rest. All this dancing has worn me out.”
“Yes, ah ... I guess I should get back and see what my roommate is up to.”
“Kate, it’s been a pleasure.” Larry smiled, hesitated, then stuck out his hand.
She glanced down at is gesture. “No kiss?”
He pulled his hand back and nodded. “How gauche of me.” He came forward and hugged her, kissing her cheek. He paused, looking her in the eye, and softly said, “We’ll always have Paris.”
Larry let go and stepped back. “Once again, Kate, a pleasure. I bid you good night.” He took several steps away and stopped. Looking back at her, he half-smiled. “By the way, I’m not completely blind. You have beautiful breasts.” He walked across the deck and disappeared into the ship.
She stared after him for a moment then turned back to the railing. She looked down at the ocean and followed the movement of the waves in the light of the lower cabins.
“What happened? Tell me. Tell me. Tell me.” Sally grinned as she carried two wine glasses onto the balcony. “Sit down and give me every little detail.”
Kate took a glass and arranged herself in a lounge chair. “I’m not sure.”
“Ah ha! I knew it. He’s gay.”
Kate shook her head. “No, that wasn’t it.”
“Either I just got the most elaborate rejection of my life, or I’ve met a man who’s had a life-altering health issue and I should feel sorry for him.”
Sally scrunched up her face. “What the heck are you talking about?”
“I’m not sure.” Pensive, Kate took a sip and looked out over the moonlit ocean. “Let me tell you what happened, then you can decide what to think.”