Erica didn’t talk to her dad very often of late. There was a certain age gap between them that tended to make it difficult for him to understand her life choices. Like moving to New York City with no savings, let alone any money to speak of. But she had done it at age twenty-three, when bouncing back was easier than getting over a fling. Of which she had been having many of late. It was summer, and people were in a certain mood. She went through men the way she went through wine bottles most nights. And this, of course, wasn’t the sort of conversation that would be ideal fodder for Charles LaSalle, a stern man who was still working at the same office he had been at for almost forty years now. He was in his sixties, and had managed to actually climb the ladder like they’re always talking about in old movies and dated history books espousing the American dream. This is what he wanted Erica to do. He couldn’t understand that hard work paying off was as much of a myth to her generation as monogamy. She tried not to argue with him about it as a means of keeping the peace, as a way to keep the few conversations they did have civil. But he always wanted to bring it up. “Have you got a plan yet? How much longer do you think you can stay out there without any resources?” he would ask with more than a tinge of judgmental concern in his voice. She would return in an almost comical monotone, “Not exactly, but I’m working on it.” This is typically when their dialogue would start to taper off, and Erica would specifically avoid answering questions about Leighton, her mother, who had abruptly left Charles about three years ago seemingly without warning for a younger man. Though, when Erica really thought back on her mother’s behavior, all the signs were there. The disinterest, the looks of utter disappointment mixed with vitriol she would flash at her father at the dinner table.
Seeing how it could all fall apart like that at a moment’s notice after so many years together–nineteen in total–Erica didn’t want to risk ever having the rug pulled out from under her heart that way either. So she made a vow, unbeknownst to herself thanks to that thing called our deepest psychological defense mechanisms, that she would never get too attached. And yet, like all vows and declarations of “never” doing something, Erica found herself gradually spending a lot more time with a certain one of her bedfellows recently. Lambert, a surprisingly tan 34-year-old with curly black hair and a style that bordered on 1920s golfer, had managed to ingratiate himself into the good graces of Erica long enough for her to forget that she had been hanging out with him too readily and for too long–their time spent together now grand totaling almost three months.
And just as she was about to cut the chord, write him off for good as another false attempt at that quaint notion they call monogamy, she was abruptly kicked out of her apartment right at the very same time Lambert had achieved the impossible: moving in by himself. It was even he who suggested that she “move in semi-permanently” until she figured out another situation, allow herself some time to save up the small fortune of a deposit and last month’s rent to find a place not run by shyster Hasidic landlords (another impossible dream in New York). Though the better part of her knew that this would be the wrong decision, the ill-advised mistake every couple in a new relationship makes–acceleration by co-habitation–she didn’t have a much better offer. Sure, she had made many “friends” since she had lived here, but one quickly finds that the friends you make in the city very soon turn out to be merely acquaintances when you actually ask them for a favor. So she did what she had to: persisted in carrying on with Lambert, whom she was starting to like a little too much for her own good. It was fine when she had the power that comes with detachment. But now, she was involved–very much involved. Her job as a receptionist at an architecture firm was supposed to help her get her foot in the door; she figured it best to always start at the bottom of any industry (so maybe she had managed to procure some of her father’s work ethic). And before, where she might have researched what terms like “bousillage” meant when they were used in casual passing amid the architects she overheard walking past her desk as though she wasn’t there, she had, of late, taken to finding recipes she could make for dinner before Lambert got home from his own job as a creative services manager at an up and coming boutique ad agency called Shill.
At first, Lambert was grateful, showing his appreciation through the art of his bedroom selflessness. As the weeks flew past in this, for all intents and purposes, wedded bliss, Erica began to realize that it had been the longest she had ever gone without talking to her father on the phone. They generally always spoke on Wednesdays in the evening, but she had missed his last few calls and simply never bothered to return them, so enraptured was she with the domesticity scene. When the revelation of her neglect finally dawned on her, it just so happened to be upon finishing dinner with Lambert, whose erection materialized like clockwork after every meal. This time, however, Erica wasn’t so eager to oblige, insisting, “I have to call my dad, Lambert. I’ve been a delinquent daughter.”
He pulled at the strap of her high-low hem dress. “Ah come on, can’t it wait?” He started kissing her shoulder, now bare without the strap to cover it.
“No, it really can’t,” she said, playfully shoving him away. “Just give me a half hour.”
“A half hour? Who the fuck can possibly talk to their parents for that long?”
“People who care about them.”
“I guess that’s what separates us,” he remarked somewhat bitterly. Come to think of it, this was the first instant in which Erica could recall Lambert ever having even alluded to his own parents. Yet, she didn’t feel this was the appropriate hour to further broach the subject, which would inevitably only further detain her from contacting Charles.
Managing her escape well enough into the room that had been dubbed the office, Erica sat down in the easy chair in the corner and dialed her father’s number on the rotary phone–because yes, Lambert was that sort of person, riveted by the concept of being in possession of “old things.”
Charles picked up on the first ring. “Hello,” he stated grimly.
“Well, well, well, my only daughter remembered she had a father. For a second, I almost forgot about the word ‘Dad.'”
His knack for guilt tripping was going to be particularly brutal during this conversation.
“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy.”
“So you’ve met a boy, have you? Is he worth a damn?”
Erica tittered, assuring him that her beau was perfectly gentlemanly–and just then Lambert sauntered into the room, opening the door with a mischievous look in his eye. She shooed him away, but he continued approaching, slowly kneeling in front of Erica and delicately removing her thong as she froze while listening to her father talk about the high cost of beets at the grocery store.
“How am I supposed to make a beet and goat cheese salad without beets for Chrissakes?”
By now, Lambert had planted his face fully inside her parted legs. Erica had never been in this strange position before. On the one hand, she could easily excuse herself to her father with some abrupt explanation and an offer to call back, but on the other, she so rarely had an opportunity to talk to him anymore. She couldn’t very well shout “Stop eating me out!” to Lambert while on the phone either. So there she was, about to have one of the best, most intense orgasms of her life with her dad talking into her ear and her boyfriend talking into her vagina. It had to be Freudian.
As she bit her lip and gripped the arm of the chair through the height of the orgasm’s wave, she wondered if maybe Lambert wasn’t slightly more psychologically damaged than he had previously let on. Before, it had appeared to her that he was a beacon of mental health, while she was the bundle of emotional wrecakge deterring the well-being of their rapport.
Incidentally, as Lambert finished her off, removing his head from underneath her skirt and licking his lips as he did so, Charles decided this was a good stopping point for the conversation as well.
“All right sweetie. I’m glad you called. And for God’s sake, answer the phone when I try to reach you–let’s pick up our Wednesday tradition again.”
She nodded, staring wondrously at Lambert, who simply smiled back and walked out of the room. “Okay Dad, I love you.”
“Me too, take care.”
She hung up the phone, wondering if she hadn’t just partaken of some sort of incestuous orgy.
Lambert didn’t bring up the incident to her when she walked back out into the living room, instead burying his head in a book–he had been re-reading Ulysses for what he said would mark the fifth time in his life. And because of his serious, impenetrable demeanor, she thought it best not to say anything either.
The next week, when her father called their landline as she instructed, she responded promptly, practically breaking some of the multiple dishes she was clearing from the table as she did so. This didn’t give Lambert any room to protest or comment on the delay in his sexual gratification.
“Hi Erica. What’s going on?”
“Oh, just finishing up dinner, what about you?”
He proceeded to tell her the latest update in the beet saga–he had gone all the way to the next town to go to a farmer’s market someone had told him about that sold moderately priced vegetables, but when he arrived, another patron had just bought the last batch of beets for the day.
Somewhere in the middle of the tale, Lambert had seen fit to creep in again, that devious grin on his face. And though Erica was irritated by what she knew was going to happen, her physical response was automatic dampness. This time, Lambert undressed her from the top, unbuttoning her blouse slowly and sucking lightly on her nipples until they were protruding with razor sharpness.
As he entered her at full force, Erica practically blacked out from the pleasure, her dad’s voice droning in her ear about some frivolous suburban story enhancing the experience of her sexual ecstasy. Lambert went on like this for weeks, never opting to have sex with her at any other time except when she was on the phone to her father.
While Erica couldn’t deny that a sick part of her enjoyed every minute of their encounters this way, she was starting to feel more than slightly disgusting and repulsed by her behavior. This was beyond disrespectful to her father–to the very fiber of father-daughter relations, which ought to be wholesome, not perverse. This is how so many men get labeled as pedophiles–their daughters are complicit. The very word “Daddy” was foul, and any girl who used it knew exactly what she was doing, how she was wielding it to manipulate via the guise of “sweetness.”
So finally, she said to Lambert at the table one Wednesday, “I’m not going to let you fuck me while I’m talking to my dad anymore. It’s weird and wrong and it’s got to stop.”
He raised his eyebrow at her. “And what do you intend to do to stop me?”
“I’ll goddamn scream RAPE if I have to, and my dad will call the cops on you.”
He grinned. “I can tell you feel rather strongly about this.”
“Yeah. I do. I’ve been feeling sick almost every day since this started.”
“Then why didn’t you say something sooner?”
She blanched. “I don’t know.”
He took a bite of the broccoli orecchiette she had made. “I’ll tell you why, Erica. You’re in love with your dad, like all women are. No girl I’ve lived with has ever said no to me fucking her while she was on the phone with dear old Daddy. They don’t think any guy will ever compare.”
“What the fuck Lambert? This is, like, an experiment you conduct?”
He shrugged. “As a matter of fact, it is. The truth, Erica, is that I’m not in advertising. I’m getting a PhD in behavioral psychology. And I’ve been recording our encounters on video since you moved in… you’re going to make quite a nice addition to my other case studies.”
She felt like vomiting. And right then, the phone rang, triggering some sort of PTSD-ridden response within her that led her to actually projectile vomit. Everywhere. All over the table, splashing right onto Lambert’s plate and even getting a little bit on his glasses.
He smirked. “This is what’s know in psychiatry as: the breakthrough.”