Sex - a short story
A chance encounter in a park, brings Christopher and a former colleague, Maria, back into each other's orbits after five years. What happened that afternoon changed their lives forever.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
I really miss taking my daughter to the park to play. A couple of months ago, at her birthday party, she let me know that she was officially too old for our Saturday sojourns. I was crushed. You’d think that I’d be used to it by now. This wasn’t my first time around the mulberry bush. I’d gone through this three times before. However, knowing that this was going to be the last time, I was hoping that we’d make it until at least 10 before Lisa’s independent streak set in.
So, to fill the void, I’ve been going to the park down the street from my office for lunch. I only had a few more minutes left before I had to get back, when all of a sudden she showed up almost as abruptly as she had left five years ago.
I heard that unmistakable accent, before I saw her. “What’s up, Sex?”
Most people call me Six, but Maria studied Latin in college so she liked to call me by the Latin word for six . It wasn’t as weird as it seems, because the way she said it didn’t really sound like she was saying the word sex. The irony of her moniker for me, was that she was the least sexual person that I had ever met. As a matter of fact, the guys at the office used to joke that she was asexual. No one had ever seen her out with a guy, or a girl for that matter. She exuded zero sexual energy.
Don’t get me wrong, she was an attractive woman — extra virgin olive oil skin, shoulder length, jet black hair, full lips, ample bosom and a posterior and hip combination that was hemispheric, but not quite global. As put together as she was, she didn’t really do anything for me. It was like, at some point, she placed her sexual assets in a blind trust, where she didn’t really care about appreciation or interest.
As I got up from my park bench to greet her, something felt different. While she was gone she must have decided to put her assets back in the market, because as I hugged her, I could definitely feel the Dow Jones rising.
After a not-too-long embrace, I stepped back to fully take her in. “Maria Mendes, what’s up, girl? How you been? No, no, the question is where have you been? It’s like you fell off the face of the earth. It was like one day you were here and the next day you were gone.”
“I’m good. All’s right with the world,” she replied. “I just had some things I had to take care of so I decided to go away for a bit.”
She seemed preoccupied as if she were dividing her attention.
“Where’d you go?” I asked.
“That’s not important,” she said defensively.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I wasn’t trying to pry. We were all worried when we didn’t hear from you after you left. Well, you look good and I’m glad to hear that you’re OK.”
Maria kept glancing over her shoulder. There was an awkward silence that I decided to fill by asking, “So, how long you in town for?”
Realizing that I had asked a question, she snapped back to attention and replied, “Just for a moment.”
“OK, cool,” I said. I reached down to gather the remnants of my lunch from the park bench. “If you have time, come by the office. I’m sure everybody would love to see you.”
I felt a buzz on my wrist. I looked down at my watch to check the notification. I leaned to the right, into the field of Maria’s gaze and said, “Hey I gotta get back. I got a 1:30.”
I flipped my trash towards a nearby garbage can. Some of it didn’t make the full journey and fell short. “I’ll tell the crew that I saw you.”
I returned to the bench, grabbed my jacket and started to make my way back to the office. Maria grabbed my arm and sultrily said, “Sex, hold up. I need to talk to you.”
The warmth of her touch radiated throughout my entire being. It was a touch that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. It scared me, not because it was something to be feared, but because it elicited a sense of hope and promise that was uncomfortable coming from somebody other than Josephine.
In that moment, a part of me felt as though I had somehow betrayed my marriage vows. It wasn’t the remnants of the newfound physical attraction that I felt for Maria from our brief embrace. I had been attracted to scores of women over the course of my marriage — I am a man, after all.
Being physically attracted to someone doesn’t mean that I wanted to have sex with them. As a matter of fact, when I saw an attractive woman it made me want to make love to my wife. Many of my married friends have stepped out on their spouses and have suffered the consequences. I’m glad to say that I have absolutely no idea how that feels, but I can’t imagine that it could feel worse than what I was feeling now.
The blood was rushing at the speed of life from Maria’s hand on my exposed flesh to my welcoming hurried heart. I tried my best to come to grips with what was happening. Questions began racing through my mind.
How could a woman who I hadn’t seen in five years and didn’t really know outside of the confines of a work relationship have this type of an effect on me?
What exactly is this that I am I feeling?
Have I ever felt like this before?
I didn’t know the answer to the first question, but the answer to the last two made me even more uncomfortable. My mind’s eye developed a Kodak moment of the last time that I felt something similar — it was my wife touching me in the exact same place in the hospital after the birth of Lisa.
I had to get out of there. I gently pried my arm away from Maria’s grasp and took my first step towards freedom. “I can’t talk right now. I gotta go. I told you I got a 1:30. It’s with Jacobs and you know how he gets if you’re late.”
She moved towards me and pleaded, “Sex, please wait. I got somebody I want you to meet.”
I walked away as fast as I could, and when I was at a safe distance away, I looked back and said, “I’m sorry, maybe later.”
She quickly ran past me and stopped a couple of steps in front of my path. When my forward momentum brought me into her orbit, she reached out and grabbed my hand and pulled me in the opposite direction and said, “Come on, it’ll only take a minute. Believe me it’ll be worth it.”
I reluctantly walked hand in hand with her towards the swing sets. She motioned for the little boy in the middle swing to come to her. He jumped from the swing and scurried our way through the sand like a soldier on a mission. I didn’t realize that she was still holding my hand until she released it to embrace the boy.
She kneeled down to his level, looked him in the eyes and gently said, “Sweetheart, I want you to meet Mr. Christopher Phineas Felton the sixth.”
Every time that I hear someone say my entire name I am reminded of the weight of that legacy. Carrying around a name that has been passed down for five generations over two centuries is more than a notion. For as long as I could remember, there was pressure on me to conceive a male heir and continue the line into the new millennium. My eventual son would be lucky number seven, but unfortunately my luck ran out at daughter number four.
When Josephine and I got married, she assured me that she would stay at the table for as long as we needed in order for us to roll lucky number seven. She graciously agreed to do whatever it took to bear as many children as needed to produce that precious prize. We agreed that we wanted at least four, but also that we would reassess at child number six if we hadn’t hit seven by then.
There were complications during Lisa’s birth. Josephine’s doctor informed us at her six-week check-up that she probably wouldn’t be able to have any more children. I was devastated. We tried for a couple of years with no luck, so we eventually decided to go to a fertility specialist.
The doctor wouldn’t take us on. She said that while it wasn’t impossible for us to conceive, the odds were so remote that she didn’t want to subject us to the physical and mental anguish of the process. Our second, third and fourth opinions concurred. So all we were left with were our prayers. I had all but given up on the idea of having and enjoying a son. I prayed every day for a miracle, not so much for God to grant me a son, but more so for him to somehow let me off the family hook.
The boy looked up at me and then returned his eyes back to Maria and said, “Wow, his name is just like mine. This must be him.”
Bewildered by his words, I looked down at Maria and said, “What’s he talking about. What’s his name?”
“Christopher Phineas Felton the seventh,” said the little boy.
“What?” I exclaimed.
Maria rose to her feet, grabbed my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “This is your son.”
I jerked my hand away as fast as I could. “Wait a minute, wait a minute, what in the hell are you talking about?”
She turned from me towards the boy and said, “Sweetheart, you can go back and play.” He looked back at me and smiled before he ran back to the swing set.
Once he was safely away, she sternly stared at me and said, “He’s your son. The one that you’ve been praying for all these years. I call him Septem.”
I stood there with my mouth wide open.
In a shocking change of tone, Maria laughed and said, “You’d better close your mouth before you catch a fly.”
I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was like I was dreaming. After gathering my thoughts, I looked at her and said, “Look here, Maria, I don’t know what kind of joke you’re trying to pull here, but it sure as hell isn’t funny.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t laughing at you, it’s just that the expression on your face is priceless,” she replied.
I needed answers, so I fired a series of rapid fire questions her way. Her responses left me even more confused.
“So you expect me to believe that this boy is my son? That you somehow magically had my child. That’s absolutely impossible given the fact that you and I have never had sex.”
“I don’t expect you to believe anything. You can believe whatever you want.”
“But we’ve never even kissed. How in the hell can he be my son?”
“Like I said, you can believe whatever you want, Sex.”
“What do you want Maria. Do you need money?”
“No, I don’t want or need anything from you. I’m just here to deliver your son to you. He’s the one that needs you and you need him. Isn’t that what you always wanted?”
I went ballistic. “Why are you messing with me, Maria? This is really cruel.”
I paced back and forth in a daze for a few moments and then, out of exasperation, exclaimed, “You know what, I’m outta here. You and Septem have a nice life.”
Maria yelled out after me, “Sex! Septem sucks his thumb and sleeps curled up under his bed when he’s restless just like you did when you were his age.”
How in the world did she know that? Even though she and I worked together for about three years, I never had any in-depth conversations with her. She had met Josephine and the girls a couple of times at company functions. Maybe Josephine had shared with her the little tidbit of information she was now using to get into my head.
I slowed my roll, turned around and yelled back, “Did Josephine tell you that?”
Maria methodically marched towards me while carefully keeping her eye on the boy. When she arrived before me, she reached out again to grab my hand, but I recoiled.
“Don’t be angry, Sex. Come,” said Maria. She held out her hand inviting me back inside her vise. The look in her eyes began to slowly extinguish my flames of fury. Before I knew it, she was pulling me towards a large rock near the swing set. She sat down and tugged on my hand, inviting me to join her. I gave in.
“He also has a special rocking chair that he uses when he listens to his music. His favorite album is Stevie Wonder’s Song in the Key of Life. He knows every word to almost every song.” Still holding my hand, she smiled at me and continued, “Sound familiar?”
I pulled my hand away, stood up and paced back and forth racking my brain for answers. Coming up short, I turned to her in desperation and said, “How do you know all of this? I’m serious, Maria, what the hell is going on?”
She reached out and grabbed my hand again and pulled me towards her and said, “That’s not important. The only thing that matters is your son. I’ve come a long way to bring him to you.”
My resistance wasn’t strong enough for me to escape her gravitational pull. After landing back next to her on the rock, I pleaded for clarity, “What are you talking about? What is going on here?”
She began to gently stroke the palm of my hand with her index finger. “Look at him. I mean really look at him. You have to admit that he looks just like you. Sex, come on, deep down inside you know he’s your son.”
I didn’t really remember what he looked like from our brief close-up encounter a few minutes ago. I looked over towards the swings, to see him again for the first time. He was having the time of his life, swinging as high as he could go, laughing all the way.
I was conflicted. Part of me was hoping that there was absolutely no resemblance or connection at all, and that I could eventually escape this nightmare and retire to my meeting with Jacobs and forget all about this.
Another part of me was desperately hoping that I would see my diminutive doppelgänger and that I could somehow come out of this with a son, without the invariable and accompanying consequences.
“Septum, come here,” yelled Maria.
He came running our way. I was floored. It was like watching an old Super 8 tape that my Dad made of me when I was four.
He ran up to me and jumped in my lap. My emotions began to separate and settle like oil and vinegar.
“So you’re my dad? I bet you like peanut butter and banana sandwiches just like me?”
I glanced a few feet away and saw a couple of pigeons pecking away at what was left of my chunky peanut butter and banana on potato bread sandwich at the foot of the garbage can.
It was too much for me to process. I couldn’t contain my emotions, the levy broke. I began to sob uncontrollably. I grabbed my son and held on to him for dear life. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me as hard as he could.
I felt another buzz on my wrist. It was an incoming phone call.
It was Josephine.