Penis Envy
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There they are, your lilies, resplendent under kitchen spotlights. They opened in a day, just twenty-four hours from supplicant bud to deep-throated bloom. You drink more wine than yesterday. I refuse a sip, my week’s ration – half a glass, with food – already sunk. The laptop squats across the table. Your face in the flicker, the easy absorption I always envy. Earlier we half-argued, assembled supper in silence; and yet here you are, laughing at Frasier, simple, contented, contained. Sunday stubble flatters your jaw, good to look at but not to kiss. In the beginning that prickle thrilled: delicious difference between man and woman, you and me. I remember it best on the beach, a cold sun squinting through the clouds and the salt-sharp sting of your stubble. Over four years ago now.

We eat and we watch and when the baby kicks I reach for your hand and place it on the arc of my belly, a covenant as well as a peace-offering.


Yesterday. Four years exactly: and you remembered and I forgot. All day you vacuumed and varnished, my modern man in a mist of Mr Muscle. Meanwhile, I lounged in the bath with a Boost and a book. Then the lilies, fish stew, the wine, fresh bread – and no hint of reproof when I wondered why.

In the air, soft jazz and silent expectation, the weight of days – weeks? – of the thing not done.

At bedtime your prayer went unanswered. You stretched out beside me, cock to attention, yet gallantly, maddeningly mindful of my ‘delicate condition’. If you had tried, I would have felt unable to refuse – as you probably knew. I took full advantage of your chivalry and turned to prop my belly on the Comfort-U pillow, resenting your ready erection. Readier, these days, than ever. Something about my bump. You love me big, which has been the biggest unfairness. Another myth, at least for me: that pregnancy increases the sex drive. It was the thing I was most looking forward to, a return to the time when the thought of your kiss could kindle my cunt. But if anything, I feel less than before.


Tonight, we do it in the dark, as always. (An unambiguous signifier – I turn out the light and you know.) Now that yesterday’s pressure is gone I feel bad for resisting it, as I feel bad for how long it’s been, how often your appeals are dismissed. I’m not worried about you. You have the Internet and the shower. My concern is for us, for what it says about us a couple, me as a wife. The modern woman: liberated from domestic bondage, yes, but contracted (the fine print) to stay wild in the sack. For a few prickling, slippery months it was easy. I wanted it – in fact, I wanted it more than you. And since then I have never faked an orgasm, as I sometimes tell you proudly, massaging both your ego and mine. Which is true, but omits a different deceit: desire exaggerated, enthusiasm feigned.

Silently we assume our positions, you riding pillion. Although I can’t see you I can tell you are smiling, eager to receive your well-earned due. The scent from the lilies seeps through from the kitchen: brash and oddly artificial, eau-de-toilette with a hint of real toilet. You kiss my hair and we begin our elaborate preparations, you with your hands, me with my mind. Your hands are professionals. Ironic, though, that by the time you got to know my body well enough to make me come, I knew yours too well for it to excite me. Now I have to provide my own entertainment, a private peep show confined to my head. So while you pinch my nipples just like I like, I think about big black cocks, four of them at once. Nothing: I’ve used that one too often, it’s wearing out. I try the male nurse. Nothing. The female nurse. Still nothing. The old panic sets in, then faint shame, then gratitude for your patience, then straightforward envy. Penis envy. The term’s fallen from favour but Freud had it quite right. You see me in my bra and you’re half way to hard, while I put in hours of mental overtime just to keep pace. It is exhausting. When I say I’m too tired to fuck I mean I’m too tired to think. And lately, it seems that the long ebb of my arousal is no outgoing tide but a permanent drought.

I open my eyes and find I can just see the things on the bedside table: the soft nest of my full hairbrush, an unread book. An unread library book, its protective cover dimly glinting. The Secret History. My mind flicks feebly through old fantasies. I wonder how long we’ve been at this. Twenty minutes? Probably closer to thirty. If I’m this bored, then aren’t you, too? But your penis is hard and hot against my back. I must remember to return that book. Although I should really renew it, give Tartt another chance. You whisper thickly in my ear, something unintelligible but unmistakably aroused. I picture myself wanking in front of my colleagues. This isn’t working. I want to give up.

But no: I will not be beaten, not by you or by me or by the sheer predictability of our predicament. I will do what I set out to and come at all costs.

For a while, nothing works. Even rape’s lost its thrill. The baby kicks a few times, distracting me further. I feel fat and stupid and most of all lonely next to your dogged arousal. Maybe I’ll renew the book on the way to Jonathan’s house warming next week. Pick up some more recycling bags while I’m at it, because you forgot on Friday, for the second time.

Then finally – and thanks, I realise, to your diligent rubbing – a twinge, the spark I somehow need to ignite my mind. Which alights, improbably, on the sticky pistils of the lilies. Something swollen there, and wetly sexual. Each one a miniature sprinkler. Pistil pistol penis. A glistening bell-end shooting urine and come, filthy nectar all over my fanny. At long last I feel myself slicken, so I reach back and tug on the tip of your cock: your cue to slip it inside me. Still spooning, I lift my leg a little so that you can start to move. Gentle rocking only – as much as you’d like to properly pump we’ve long established that my cunt is too delicate, too easily numbed. And because we also both know it won’t work if I move, I keep perfectly still while you begin your intricate three-way routine. Left hand for my clitoris, right hand still twisting a nipple, and simultaneously moving inside me, all perfectly synchronised after years of practice. I just lie back and dream, mucky Lady Muck with her muddy mind. The pregnancy makes things awkward; at that angle, your arm can’t be comfortable. In my rising excitement I don’t really care. Your probing proboscis, my body in bloom. Spilled seed, shot seed, silky skeins of semen. Through the fog of arousal I marvel at my earlier reluctance; this is the best thing in the world, and when we’ve finished we should immediately do it again, and again. We’ll fuck through till dawn –

‘I want you so mmm…’ I mumble, and mean it, and saying it makes me come: a pathetic little burp of an orgasm, entirely unequal to the boast of the build-up. But I yell it out anyway as you sprint for the finish line with three quick thrusts, reaching your own (longer, surely more satisfying) climax just as mine ends.

Sated, you’re smug. ‘Sounded like someone came pretty hard.’ 

‘Mmmm.’ I am wondering if it was worth it. Then decide: yes, it was, for those few seconds of genuine lust. Behind the lie lies a truth. For a moment, in the moment, I truly wanted you; and even that instant of desire, painstakingly recovered, is something to be grateful for. My cunt starts to sting from the salt in your sweat as I smile and settle back into our mumbled love. Yes.


Already I love this baby

more than I love you.


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