Jessica Anya Blau

Fishnet

At one point the hole in Jane’s fish­net body­suit was a cir­cle, per­fect­ly sized for a golf ball.  Now, after numer­ous nights with Fred paw­ing at the hole, you could get a vol­ley­ball through it.  Jane won­ders who would choose to wear such a flim­sy device (it holds noth­ing in, lifts noth­ing, obscures lit­tle) if not for the plea­sure of anoth­er per­son.

The knee-high boots, Jane must admit, are for her own plea­sure.  Four inch­es high and shiny like wet nail pol­ish, they make Jane feel as tall and pow­er­ful as Fred.

Alone in the bed­room, Jane low­ers the iPhone to her baby-smooth crotch and snaps a pho­to.  She takes one of each breast.  It is hard to cen­ter the tiny eye-hole of the iPhone.  The pic­tures come out mis-framed in ways that seem artis­tic and edgy.   Jane places the phone behind her­self and tries to get her ass.  She miss­es three times, her fin­ger hit­ting noth­ing but the glass screen.  Finally she nails it: her white flesh expands in dia­monds where her body sen­su­ous­ly bulges.

Fred is in the kitchen read­ing email on his iPhone.  There are dish­es in the sink that he wouldn’t think of doing; plates and wine glass­es on the table that he wouldn’t think to clear.  It is as if he doesn’t see this stuff and Jane hates him for that.  She hates him for oth­er things, too: his chil­dren, his indif­fer­ence to her desires, the smell of his breath when he drinks cof­fee, the nois­es he makes when eat­ing cold cere­al.  Still, Jane has put on this out­fit and is wait­ing to have sex.  Sex will make Fred hap­py.  He will be kind to her when she asks him to take his twins (it is their week­end with the boys whom she pri­vate­ly calls Thing One and Thing Two) to hock­ey tomor­row morn­ing so she can sleep in.  Jane doesn’t work, she doesn’t even clean her own house.  But late­ly, when­ev­er Fred comes home from work, Jane feels inex­plic­a­bly exhaust­ed.

Jane taps on the crotch pho­to.  She types F-R and the email address aris­es.  SEND, Jane hits, and then she does the same for the remain­ing shots.  Jane gets on their bed, posi­tions her­self with her knees up, stom­ach inhaled inward, arms above her head, and waits.

After five min­utes, Fred has not emerged.  Jane can’t yell to him, Things One and Two are sleep­ing.  She doesn’t want to walk down­stairs because the pic­ture win­dow in the stair­well will reveal her to the neigh­bors.  Jane sends a text.

Soooo horny.  Not true, but Jane knows she can ride with it, she might even enjoy it if Fred does his tricks on her.  Fred may be fat, but Fred is skilled.

Thirty sec­onds lat­er, Fred is in the door­way.  His tie is wrapped around his head like a scarf, he is unbut­ton­ing his shirt.  Fred drops his slacks and boxers—his stom­ach juts like a drum, hair swirls and swoops around his navel.  Below the can­tilevered bel­ly is his penis, point­ing at her like a dous­ing rod.

Did you like the pho­tos?”

What pho­tos?” Fred crawls across the bed.  He looks like a giant baby in a brown­ish-grey wig.

I emailed you pho­tos.” Jane scoots toward Fred.

I didn’t get them,” Fred says, and there he is: hands, bel­ly, dick, every­thing rub­bing against her so that she purrs even with the hate like mer­cury in her blood.

But-” Jane says.  Fred is kiss­ing her.  He pulls away, knocks her boots open with a fist and goes in deep, face-first.  Jane gasps, but she can­not turn off her mind, why didn’t Fred get the pho­tos she sent?  She reach­es to the bed­side table and picks up the iPhone.  Fred’s tongue is mov­ing in a rhythm she has grown to respond to.  Jane holds the phone low along her side so the light won’t dis­tract him.  In her sent emails, the last four mes­sages say Fran and Dad.

SHIT,” Jane shuf­fles away.  Fred pulls up on his knees.

What?”

Jane opens the first mes­sage that has gone to her sev­en­ty-year-old father and his thir­ty-year-old wife.  Jane’s ass in fish­net.  She clicks on each image, as if one of them may have failed, until she is at her bald labia framed by the tat­tered fish­net.

Jane thinks she might vom­it.

What?!” Fred is pissed.  He is a man who has arranged his life so that he is the boss of every­thing: the insur­ance com­pa­ny he start­ed twen­ty years ago, his sec­re­tary, his secretary’s sec­re­tary, and numer­ous employ­ees.  He would like to believe he’s the boss of his thir­ty-five-year-old wife.

I sent this to my dad and Fran.”  Jane turns the phone so Fred can see.

Seriously?” Fred is smil­ing.

I sent all these pic­tures.”  Jane fin­gers through the pho­to his­to­ry.

Nice.” Fred takes the phone from Jane and flips back and forth between shots.  “Why did you send them to them?”

It was an acci­dent!  I start­ed to type in Fred, put in the first cou­ple let­ters and I guess their email came up instead.  I’m so fuck­ing stu­pid.”

I love these.” Fred is motion­ing on the glass phone with his fin­gers so that the images zoom and enlarge.

This is hor­ri­ble.” Jane tries not to cry as cry­ing always illu­mi­nates the imbal­ances between her­self and her hus­band.

Call and tell them to delete them.”  Fred reach­es down and touch­es his dick while look­ing at the phone.  Jane takes it away.

Give it back!” Fred snatch­es the phone and blocks Jane with his stony elbow.

Her hands are shak­ing as she calls her father’s house from the land­line.

Fran?” Jane says.  Fran is gig­gling, squeal­ing almost.

Fran!” Jane says.

Your father is crazy!” Fran laughs, and then says, clear­ly to Jane’s father, “I didn’t send you pic­tures, will you relax!”

Oh god.” Jane’s head is swirling like poured paint.  Fred is abscond­ing with her phone to the bath­room.

Jesus!” Fran says.  Jane’s not sure who she’s speak­ing to.  “Do you know what it takes to keep your dad hap­py?”

Fuck his hap­pi­ness,” Jane says.  “Do what you want.”

I want him to be hap­py.”

I want to be hap­py,” Jane says, “I’m sick of mak­ing every­one else hap­py.”

Fran is laugh­ing again, Jane can hear her father mum­bling some­thing in the back­ground.  She doesn’t want to imag­ine what this moment looks like.

Can you call us back?” Fran says, and then she hoots like she’s been goosed.

Yeah, but will you delete those pho­tos from your email, I acci­dent­ly-”

Fran yowls again.  “Jane, I’ll call you back in twen­ty min­utes!” she says, and hangs up.

There is bile in Jane’s throat.  Fran is tech­no-savy, Jane thinks.  She’ll even­tu­al­ly fig­ure out what hap­pened and delete the pho­tos from her phone or com­put­er and Jane’s father’s, as well.  Fran and Jane’s father share an email account—a sym­bol of uni­ty that repuls­es Jane.  Who wants to be that attached to some­one?  Who wants to dis­solve their exis­tence into a we in every dimen­sion: email, postal mail, home address, car reg­is­tra­tions, mort­gages.

Fred emerges from the bath­room, with the iPhone, naked.

That was more fun than being with you in per­son,” he says, laugh­ing.  Jane can’t laugh.  There is some­thing pro­found­ly wrong with that state­ment.

So maybe I should leave and you should live with pho­tos of me instead of the actu­al me.” Jane unzips the boots, removes them and toss­es them on the floor.

Maybe I should,” Fred says.  “Would be a lot qui­eter.”  He thinks he’s hilar­i­ous; Fred is actu­al­ly guf­faw­ing as he crawls into bed, picks up the remote con­trol and turns on the news.  A blond woman with a lop­sided mouth is speak­ing about a ter­ror­ist attempt in London.  Fred is still smil­ing.

Well, why don’t you let my pho­to wake up tomor­row morn­ing and dri­ve the boys to hock­ey.”  Jane gets up and peels off the body suit in one swift motion.  She bun­dles it into a spongy ball, goes into the bath­room and drops it in the trash.

I’m just kid­ding,” Fred calls into the bath­room.  She can hear him flip­ping through the chan­nels, set­tling on a car­toon that’s made for adults, or ado­les­cents, at least.  There is a talk­ing dog and a baby.  Jane has nev­er real­ly watched, she’s only noticed it in the back­ground, she’s not sure if the baby talks or not.

I hate you,” Jane whis­pers to Fred in the oth­er room.  Then she lifts both hands with the fuck-you-fin­gers up and flicks back and forth toward Fred on the oth­er side of the door, as if the backs of her hands were shoot­ing darts that flew through wood.

 

Twenty min­utes lat­er the phone rings.  Jane is in bed, in white cot­ton paja­mas, read­ing a book.  Fred turns his head and looks at the num­ber flash­ing on the phone that Jane left on his night table.

Your dad,” he says.

It’s Fran,” Jane says.  Jane’s father doesn’t make phone calls.  He doesn’t lock or unlock doors.   He doesn’t send Birthday cards.  Fran does all that.  When Jane’s father wants to talk, Fran calls, gets Jane on the phone and says, “Your father wants to talk.”

Are you going to answer it?” Fred says, he is star­ing at the TV.

Why don’t you answer it?” Jane asks.

Not into answer­ing phones,” Fred says.  For the sec­ond time tonight, Jane wants to cry.  Jane is Fran.  Or maybe she was Fran.

 

Jane was the last affair Fred had when he was mar­ried to the moth­er of Things One and Two.  Lately she has start­ed to believe that she is not an end point but a dash, a face and body in a line up that will con­tin­ue until Fred is Jane’s father’s age and has land­ed on the per­fect Fran, the one who will ease him into plat­ed-tooth, bald, glut­tony.  The one who will answer the phone, and unlock the door, and send him nasty pho­tos, and let him roll his mot­tled pink­ish, hairy body all over her when­ev­er he sees fit.

The phone stops ring­ing.  Jane puts down her book and rolls to her side, away from Fred.  Jane tries to remem­ber her­self in sixth grade.  It was the last year before she had breasts, before boys were inter­est­ed in her, before she knew what a calo­rie was or how to use a blow dry­er.  It was the last time she felt entire­ly her­self.  She ate when she was hun­gry, ran if she felt like it, and was obliv­i­ous to the fact that her eyes only showed when she wore mas­cara.

How do you return to that?  Jane won­ders.  How do you feel like that again?

Can you take the boys to hock­ey in the morn­ing?” Jane asks, with­out rolling over to look at Fred.

Can’t,” Fred says.  “I’ve got to go into the office to take care of some paper­work.”

When Fred was hav­ing an affair with Jane, they met every Saturday morn­ing at his office.  They had sex on his desk, under his desk, on the receptionist’s desk and even in the pho­to­copy room.  Fred’s wife always called the office phone, and he answered every time, his voice metered to sound like he had been sit­ting on a rolling chair hunched over papers for the last hour.

Are you sure it’s not the Saturday work you did when you were mar­ried to Lois?” Jane asks.

You’re being ridicu­lous,” Fred says.  “I will not have this dis­cus­sion with you.”

I’m not going to wear make up any­more,” Jane says.

So,” Fred says.

I’m just not,” Jane says.  “I’m done with it.  Do you real­ize that if I don’t put on make up I’ll have about thir­ty more free min­utes each morn­ing?”

Whatever floats your boat,” Fred says, and he turns up the vol­ume on the TV.

I’m going to float my boat,” Jane says.  “Me.  I’m float­ing my own boat.”

~

Jessica Anya Blau’s newest nov­el, DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME, has been called “a rag­ing suc­cess” and “unre­lent­ing­ly side-split­ting­ly fun­ny.”  It was recent­ly select­ed as a Breakout Book to be fea­tured in Target stores. Her first nov­el, THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES, was picked as a Best Summer Book by the Today Show, the New York Post and New York Magazine.  The San Francisco Chronicle and oth­er news­pa­pers chose it as one of the Best Books of the Year.  Jessica lives in Baltimore and teach­es at Goucher College.