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.
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.