The Dangerous Couple
I didnít like her. We saw her and her husband at
parties given by some people we knew who entertained a lot, and at
one of the parties, while my wife was off talking to someone in
the next room, she told me that her husband was impotent. It wasnít
that Iíd asked her or that we were engaged in some deep
conversation or that she knew me well enough to tell me such
things. She happened to be standing next to me and was watching
him across the room and she came out with it. There were other
reasons I didnít like her. She had a smirk that never let up,
and she rarely showed any interest in what anyone said.
I didnít like her husband either. An overbearing
one-upper, knew a better vodka than you were drinking, a better
car than you were driving, knew more than you did about any
subject that came up. Too much domination in his voice, wanted to
be the only voice in the room, talked over you if you tried to get
a word in, gobbled you up like food.
I didnít like them separately, and I liked them
even less together. When they were together she would eel herself
against his body, her hands moving over his torso, her eyes
searching her surroundings for other visceral stimulation. He held
a martini in one hand while his other hand wandered over her from
behind, and his eyes roamed hungrily around the room as if somehow
connected to the tour of his hand. They were like two people
masturbating publicly and in unison.
I wouldnít mention either one of them, but
something happened that I canít put to rest. My wife and I were
at a restaurant one night, a small restaurant, dark and romantic,
secluded booths, lots of angles, known for its wine list and its
veal, and we saw him there with another woman. I could see them
clearly and my wife could too if she looked back, though there
were tables and booths between our booth and theirs. He would have
had to turn and look over his shoulder to see us. The woman had a
view of us but did not know us, and I could watch everything
without drawing their attention, only my wife had to turn her head
to watch. But there was no need for her to turn her head because I
filled her in on what was going on. I told her they were drinking
martinis, made with the greatest vodka in the world, no doubt, I
could imagine him ordering it for her, the only way to drink a
martini, the exact number of olives, the exact amount of vermouth.
I told her about his hand winding around the mystery guestís
hand, how they leaned in and whispered and gazed into each otherís
faces, his other hand dropping under the table for field trips up
and down her legs. Finally my wife told me to shut up, she couldnít
stand to listen to me anymore, it was none of our business. I shut
up but kept watching, thinking that we already had an invitation
to the peopleís house where we usually saw him, and I looked
forward to finding out if he and his wife would be there again
When we arrived at the party I saw them at once,
he with his martini in hand, she with him in hand, he talking with
another couple, keeping them informed on some important topic, she
showing no interest in whatever that topic was, her eyes casting
about the room greedily for something to light on. Her eyes passed
over us as if we were invisible, no sense of familiarity at all,
and as we moved into the room and began greeting people she split
away from her husband and wound through the guests toward a food
table. It was then that I went toward her, no conscious plan,
moving on impulse, but an impulse that had been gathering wind, I
could remember seeing myself go toward her in the back of my mind.
I said her name, the first time I had ever said it
to her. She was facing the table, and she turned and looked me
over, something in the sound of my voice made her curious. I
watched her face, her smirk, and she watched my eyes taking her in
and my eyes made her more curious.
"I ran into your husband at a
"He didnít tell me."
"He didnít see me."
"You didnít say hello?"
"I didnít say hello because he was
"What was he busy doing?"
"He was busy drinking martinis with another
woman. He didnít look impotent when I saw him so I didnít
think I should interrupt."
The smirk broadened, her mouth opened. Her color
heightened and my heart thrust against my chest. Her eye teeth
were long and pointed, and her eyes were all over my face. I had
the feeling that her clothes would fall off her onto the floor,
and my mind filled with images of her body winding around me, her
arms raised above her head. She moved close to me, and I heard her
tongue move inside her mouth.
"He can respond if the situation is just
right," she said. "I know what he does. He tells me and
I want to hear it. Did you think Iíd be surprised? I am
surprised you told me. Iím interested in that."
I kept looking at her mouth, her eye teeth, the
darkness down her throat.
"If you want to tell me more about it, we can
leave the room," she said and laughed. "Do you want to
leave the room with me? You want to touch me? But if itís not
okay for him why should it be okay for you? I donít mean I care
if youíre a hypocrite, Iím just worried about you. You may be
in over your head, canít let the animal loose. On the other
hand, you canít stop looking at me. Can I do anything to help
you relax? My blood wonít be racing in ten minutes unless you
I said nothing, denied nothing.
"Let me know," she said. "I enjoyed
I didnít watch her walk away. I leaned on the
food table with both hands and closed my eyes for a moment. I
heard for the first time how noisy it was in the room, the noise
roared inside me though a minute before I had hardly noticed it. I
gathered myself and turned, hoping my wife would not be watching,
hoping Iíd been shielded by the other guests. But she was
watching, and standing next to her was the martini-drinkerís
wife herself, the two of them talking and looking right at me. I
couldnít find the nerve to go toward them and couldnít let
myself think what they might be talking about. Was she telling my
wife what Iíd said to her and how weíd both reacted? Was she
proposing that my wife leave the room with us? Trying not to seem
in too big a hurry, I made my way toward a pair of open French
doors that led out into a garden. Outside I breathed in the air
and tried to clear my head, but my head would not clear, and I
imagined her husband approaching me and warning me to be careful
with his wife, sheíd put me between two pieces of bread and that
would be the end of me. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and I
"Itís just me," my wife said and took
away her hand. She watched my face as she spoke. "I saw you
go right to her when we came in. I wondered if you were telling
her what you saw. It was the only thing I could think of that you
could be telling her, but I couldnít believe youíd do it. She
said it wasnít news to her."
I shook my head.
"She also said we shouldnít worry about
her," she went on. "She knows who sheís married to and
her husband knows who married to. She looked at me with her smile
when she said that, the side of her mouth up, and then she looked
at you. You turned around after holding yourself up with the
table, and when you saw us together I thought you would fall over
backwards. You fled."
But I was not safe. Looking over her shoulder I
saw the husband emerge through the doorway, a fresh martini in
"I hear Iím being investigated," he
He introduced himself. Weíd been introduced
several times before, but he either didnít remember or assumed
weíd forgotten. He addressed me with a name that was not my name
but had the same first letter as my name.
"I appreciate your looking after my
wife," he said, "and she has assured me that she
understands why you took it upon yourself to tell her what you
told her, even though you had never spoken to her for more than a
few minutes before tonight, is that correct?"
"But I do not share her understanding of
whatever purpose you had in mind. Iím curious what you were
looking for and Iíve asked her, but she says itís not up to
her to explain. Can you tell me what it is that she
I didnít answer, and if I had wanted to answer I
have no idea what I would have said.
"I am sure she told you that we have no
secrets in our marriage, maybe a few, but not on this
subject," he continued. "But you didnít know that when
you told her, and you didnít know much of anything else about
her when you told her, and I can believe that you could never have
foreseen that you would reach her the way you did. Iíve seen
that look in her eye before, as you can probably imagine, and I
know when the potís been stirred. Your wife should be aware that
you are on the loose stirring pots, and she should also be aware
that your potís been stirred. Itís only right, donít you
agree, that she should know what her husband has been up to."
He paused and sipped his drink. My wife looked
ahead at neither of us.
"Youíre lucky to come out of this as well
as you did," he added. "Other people might not be as
understanding as we are, others might feel they owed you some
physical damage to get even with you. I suggest you think about
what caused you to behave so recklessly and beyond reason. For
your own safety you should have some awareness of where your urges
might lead you in the future. In the meantime, I want you to know
how much my wife appreciates your interest in her. I donít know
when sheís had such fun. Good luck with him," he said to my
wife and took a step toward her and kissed her on the cheek.
Then he nodded to me and to her and left.
"Are you ready to go?" she asked me.
We went back through the house and out the front
door and spoke to no one, looked at no one.
We didnít talk about it as we drove home or as
we lay awake in the middle of the night. I feared she would start
in on me and ask me things. My voice seemed trapped in my throat,
images of the couple silenced me. I kept seeing them standing
together at a party, her body against his, their eyes roving, she
squeezing my severed tongue in her hand, he raising his martini to
me and winking.