He had apparently come a long way from being the type to shout, “My dick’s hard. Is your pussy wet?” Now, almost four years later, they had found themselves playing a game of pool at a remote lodge-like bar where he tried to tell her that fucking would be out of the question for them. That it was his sole focus in life right now to be just that: focused. This, ostensibly, meant living a monk-like existence where masturbation was the only acceptable form of pleasure. “It doesn’t interest me to rub my body against someone else’s for the sake of an orgasm. For something I can do myself without having to get ‘involved.’ I actually find the whole idea of intercourse completely repugnant anymore.” That word, “intercourse,” so distancing.
Her itch to have sex seemed only further ignited by his lack of desire. “Our relationship is deeper than that now. It will be better for us in the long run if we don’t.” But what could be deeper than a penis plunging into a vagina? No, this is not a riddle. To Landon, Roma’s appetites were incomprehensible, and, most of all, disgusting. He found meekness and a feigned lack of interest in the idea of physicality far more conducive to rousing his passion. With Roma, however, there was never any question that she wanted to be penetrated, and that made the notion of sex far less enjoyable to him. Where was the hunt—the challenge—in that?
He suggested she go over to a group of men huddled around the bar and ask to go home with one of them instead. He would pick her up in the morning, he offered. “But I don’t want anyone else. It’s just you.” Her attempt at appealing to his vanity fell with a bigger kerplunk than the eight ball she had just hit too early in the game. How symbolic. Landon shrugged. “I can’t help you. That’s not what I’m after.” It would be though, in time. She knew that. Could feel it in her very bones. For as mean as he could be to her, he never had the level of mercenary coldness it would take to inform her that it was she he wasn’t interested in any longer. She had served her purpose in their time, sure, which was to enact his little Werther in The Sorrows of Young Werther fantasy, to see how far he could take the limits of storybook love and ardor. Turned out, it was not very. Roma with her drunkenness, which led to her flirtatiousness with other men. Roma who he had recently deemed a misanthrope and a narcissist after not seeing her for a while and gaining so-called perspective, in spite of the fact that it was he who had locked himself in the tower of this remote Pacific Northwest corner. He who felt that his own artistic pursuits were more important than not coming to the end of his life and finding that not only would his work not endure after his death, but that he would have no one to complain to about it.
But then, he always said that there was no better enjoyment to him than being alone. Yet this had been the very antithesis of his persona upon bulldozing into her life and carving out a relationship until she at last consented to being a part of the etching. What was the point, she wondered, of all that fanfare? To invest so much in “procuring” her only to make her feel little better than an HIV-packing leper by the end? It had to do with more than his insistence that self-discovery had led him to realize he was better suited to a life sans significant other. It had to do with more than him blowing smoke up her ass by telling her that she deserved someone who would worship her the way he ultimately could not. There was something he wasn’t telling her, and it would be a mystery that would plague her until she either died naturally or the cause of not really knowing ate away at her—drove her to madness far earlier than she anticipated.
As they took a break from the game that he kept winning, she in fact told him that she fully expected to expire herself in her forties, just a spell earlier than Virginia Woolf had decided to check out (a rare instance of a 59-year-old offing herself, to be sure). Landon guffawed, the curls on his head bouncing slightly as he laughed, asserting, “I’ll probably die in my eighties.”
“Do you think you’ll have kids?” she inquired, expecting him to instantly rebuff such a thought.
But no, he replied, “I’d like to. Continue my legacy, you know.”
She was appalled. Having kids connoted the very thing he was supposed to be standing against right now: sex. Which only served to further prove her belief that he had merely an arbitrary chastity belt dead-bolted specifically against her. But oh how she would have turned him out. Was convinced he didn’t know what he was denying so much so that when they got back to his sequestered abode, she used the viable excuse of the shower water not turning hot to go up to his room in a towel and tell him about it. Unmoved, he told her she could try the one in his bathroom. So she did. Still, no hotness. Nothing but a cold stream. She went into his room and quietly lay down next to him. He didn’t turn her away, but he didn’t touch her either. So like this they slept, she practically nude and he clothed in pajamas and unwilling.
She woke up in the middle of the night and made a beeline out, back toward her guest room, as though intuiting that the advent of morning would wash away some sort of spell. If the purpose in coming to visit him had been to rekindle his flame for her, she had failed. If it had been to confirm that it was as he believed and they were not meant to be, she still couldn’t say. The following morning, before he took her to the airport, he informed her that he called out to her as she left his room. She didn’t hear it. If she had, would the events of the evening have been different? Again, as with all things pertaining to him, she would be left to wonder.
Two decades later, Roma comes to find Landon is, indeed, married. To an Asian woman fifteen years his junior. They have a girl. Roma walks into the Puget Sound with stones in her pockets at forty-nine. The future is written in ways that damn the fatally flawed, which is to say, those that try to crack the lock on an arbitrary chastity belt.