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David Kirby

Sex Therapy

Miranda (not her real name) and I
are having dinner with another couple
and really enjoying ourselves
when suddenly the husband
puts his arm around his wife's shoulders
and gives her a little squeeze,
and she says, That's three, Wally!
and Miranda says, You count hugs?
and the woman says, The therapist
says Wally has to hug me
three times a day, and on my side,
I get to talk about sex
whenever I want to,

and I can feel my face burning,
and I look over at Miranda,
and she's got this expression that's like,
Whoa! Thin ice here, thin ice!
So I say, Ah, therapy, and jump in
and tell my story about the therapist
my first wife and I saw
when it got to where we couldn't
stand each other anymore
and whose idea of a trust-building
exercise was for one of us
to blindfold the other
and lead that person around the mall,

a truly appealing opportunity
if you consider how humiliating
it would have been for me to run into
one of my students (neither "Dr. Dave,
is that you!" or "Who's the woman
in the blindfold, Dr. Dave?" held
any special appeal for me) and
therefore one that soon had
my then-wife and me laughing so hard
that for a brief time
we forgot about the problems
that, of course, eventually
caught up with us,

though who is to say
it was for the worse,
since the failure
of that marriage made it possible
for me to meet, court, and marry
the woman I love now
and in whose company
I am desperately trying
to salvage the evening by telling
an excruciating story on myself
so that I won't have to listen
to an even more shameful
one from someone else.

Therapy! It's best kept to one's self,
is it not, for it is reasonable,
is moderate, is therefore
embarrassingly inadequate
when put up against the now-dead passion
it is meant to revive.
Earlier that same week I'd had lunch
with a friend who'd told me he and his wife
were driving south to spend the weekend
in a little fishing village
when suddenly his wife said, Oh, damn,
and he said, What?
and she said, I forgot my diaphragm,

and he said, Hold on,
I'll get some condoms,
and he pulled into a convenience store
and surveyed the offerings
and came out and said,
Okay, they have A Hint of Mint,
Super Safe with Nonoxynol-9,
Extra Ribs for Her Pleasure, and. . . .
Get the ribs, she said, and he said,
Hold on, there are four more choices,
and she said, No, get the ribs,
I want the ribs,
and I said, Right, that's how love should be,

and another guy at the table,
an art historian by trade,
was so encouraged by my enthusiasm
that he decided to tell his story,
which is that he and his wife
had gone out and had a great meal
and a bottle of Puligny Montrachet
and when they got home,
they started making out
in the garden, and he was checking out
his wife's breasts in the moonlight
and just about losing his mind,
and then she knelt and unzipped his pants,

and he said, Wait,
let me go in and get a blanket,
and they ended up doing it in the yard
with her on top,
and as he lay on his back
and looked at the night sky
he remembered a saying
he'd seen on an old German engraving
in the Prints Room
of the British Museum: Nox et amor
vinumque nihil moderabile suadent
or Night and love and wine
urge nothing moderate,

and I thought, Yes, yes,
that's how love should be,
all wild and a little artistic, sure,
but mainly just crazy,
like Prom Night, when David Neer
put his tongue in Kelly Holmes' mouth
and she fainted just dead away, pow,
like St. Teresa, only in Baton Rouge.
Back in the restaurant, Miranda says,
Will you look at the time!
so I signal the waiter for the check,
because there really is no reason
to tell our dinner companions

that a few months after
my first wife and I had tried
to get our derailed marriage
back on track and were now
looking at the double unhappiness
of the failed relationship
and the failed sex therapy to boot,
I read in the paper one morning
that our therapist had sailed
a little boat into Shell Point Sound
and shot himself in the temple
with a short-barrelled .38, and I thought,
Honestly, reason can kill you.

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