by Irving Kenneth Zola

"Where's Carl?" I asked nervously, noting that the table was only set for two.

"Didn't I mention that he'd be out?" she asked, a little too innocently.

"No, I don't remember that . . . I'm sure I'd have remembered that." It was almost as if such repetition would convince me that there was nothing to worry about. After all, what was there to worry about? She said that she had this problem, and that I was the only one who could help her. And why not me? After all, we had been quite close friends for several months now. But all this rationalizing had little result. I was sweating profusely and ate my dinner as if in a race for my life.

But if she noticed my unease, she made little of it. In fact, without seeming hurried, she matched me bite for bite.

"You look tired," she said solicitously, as the meal drew to its rapid end.

"I am," I sighed as if that would explain something. "Why doesn't Carl come home?" I thought to myself.

She rose from her chair and walked across the room.

"Why don't you come over here? It's more comfortable" and she patted the pillows on the now somber looking couch.

"OK," I answered with mock seriousness. Pushing myself to a standing position, I limped over to the couch and tried to maintain a serious posture. But as I tried to lean against the side, its lush softness gave way and I literally plummeted into the cushions. That my canes crashed to the floor seemed not to phase her in the least. And when she sat down the sinking brought us even closer together. At this, I laughed, "Hell, I can't get out of here without a derrick."

"Maybe you weren't supposed to," she said softly and with that, she leaned over and kissed me.

The time passed quickly, and somewhere between 'Oh my God' and 'Oh what the hell,' the feel of her cervical cap made me realize that the events of this evening were considerably preplanned. However, all I could muster was an unconvincing, "What if Carl comes home?"

"You're right," she said, jumping up from the couch, "Let's go to your place."

"That's not exactly what I had in mind," I said with some trepidation, for there was a part of me that felt that one should put up at least some sort of defense when with married women. But after she picked up my canes, slipped her arm gently through mine and led me to the door, resistance began to fade. And once in my apartment, it faded completely.

For once, the slowness of my own disrobing - there's no quick way to take off my braces, corset, and bandages - had an advantage. It let me watch hers. As she slipped her dress over her head, I could for the first time appreciate what was generally hidden in her tent-like clothing. Tall, thin-waisted and full hipped, she was the most full-bosomed woman I'd ever been with -- visible even with her back turned towards me. It was thus with great anticipation that I slipped into bed beside her.

As I reached over to pull her close, however, she pulled back.

"I think there is something you should know."

"What's that?" I asked.

With a slowness that foretold trouble, she drew out her words, "I've never done this before."

"This?" I said, trying to search for the right calming tone.

"I mean I've never been with another man besides Carl. Don't you want to know why I'm doing this?"

"Not really," I answered.

"But I have to tell you," she said persistently. "After all, you're my friend, perhaps my best friend."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked with a certain unease.

"Just that I feel very close to you."

I was beginning to get a sinking feeling and it wasn't just in my stomach.

"Well, you know Carl and I have been having trouble lately," she began. And so commenced in detail a story I already knew in outline: how Carl wanted an open relationship; how she did not; how she fought it, argued, cried, until finally as she put it, "I said to myself - well, if he's going to do it then so am I. And so I decided that I would . . . and so that's why I'm here . . . with you."

"Terrific," I said without much enthusiasm.

"Do you think he'll be upset because I chose you?" she asked earnestly.

"I hope not," I gasped. My answer was inspired by the concrete fear that Carl could break me in two if he wished.

Pleased at herself for having cast aside this burden, she concluded, "Well, . . please touch me."

It was not with any great eagerness that I reached over, but when I did, she came in rapid-fire bursts.

With a sigh and with what I interpreted as a quite expectant smile, she said, "Well, now I'm ready."

"Ready for what?" I asked.

"To make love with you," she smiled.

"Hmm," I answered and rolled my eyes upward.

"Oh!" she responded as she in turn looked downward at my rather uninvolved member. "What can I do?" she asked rather earnestly.

"You've done quite enough already," I said rather sadly.

And then as she held me softly in her hands, I added an old Yiddishism, "Ken mir gur nichts helfen."

"What does that mean?" she said with the wide-eyed innocence that began this evening.

"Well essentially, that at this point . . nothing can really help."

"Oh!" she said again. "In that case maybe I'd better go . . . before Carl worries."

Before she had a chance to tell me why he might worry, I answered, "Maybe you'd better."

And she did.

copyright Irving Kenneth Zola