pressure. No burning sensation. Normal color. No sores of any kind, nor
telltale discharge. Morgan
shakes his penis, tucks it into his pants, and zips his fly. He flushes the urinal. He
does not wash his hands; there is no soap (and the restroom sink is filthier than
usual). He walks
out past the stage—Leanne cavorting (or is it Angel?). Michelle is off,
apparently; his interest in the others has all but flagged. No clap, is
what he cares about most. Unscathed, he reminisces, conjures up minutiae
from his night of nights, his lapse—guilt and
perched on his seesaw psyche; breasts of such perfection he can
feel their firmness still, evoke their heft, their mass,
their springiness, their remarkable circumference... whereas Gillian's, so
much punier, were a snack; Michelle's a meal, their nipples prominent,
proud as toadstools, each a quivering provocation
to extract such
sap as dreams are made of, hints of mother's milk... which meant she
must have had a child, once; Gillian had aborted... free of
stretch marks, both had bellies flat and trimly shaped... Michelle's
gymnastic in pursuit
of pleasure, poised above a pocket so rapacious... or infectious, it might
jeopardize his health...
"It must be love."
Steve sits opposite the dealer.
"Huh?" Morgan shakes off his reverie. "You're splitting fives?"
"Feeling lucky. How did it go?"
"How did what go?"
"You're absolutely right; none of my business."
Steve attends to his cards. Morgan reconsiders.
"It went... It just went, is all."
"As in past tense? As in it's over?"
No. All week he has thought of nothing else.
"Suspended, might describe it best."
Steve confines his comment to a critical scowl.
Morgan feels compelled to offer a defense.
"If you're thinking one-night stand, you're entirely wrong; it wasn't like that."
"You've seen each other since?"
"No; we intend to."
Morgan's affirmation startles himself.
House busts; House pays. Crystal wends her way, collecting empties. Steve motions her over.
"Will you let me buy you a drink, Morgan? An OJ? Anything?"
Morgan, breaking precedent, nods his head.
"Bring this man an orange juice, Crystal."
Morgan countermands him.
"Make it a beer."
Steve lifts his brows.
"Don't tell me you've been smitten?" Morgan shrugs. "Oh, rich. Too rich; the Stripper and the Poet? I'll be damned. I take it back; you'll be damned." Steve, privy to some scuttlebutt, contemplates the prudence of clueing Morgan in. "Guess I oughta keep my mouth shut, eh?"
They play cards in silence. Crystal zigzags back, bestowing Morgan's beer. He takes a hearty swig. House loses; dealer pays.
"You asked me how it went? Not the way you think."
"Oh? Wanna bet?"
Steve slides two stacks of chips out front to represent his wager. Morgan, knowing better, accepts nonetheless.
Steve rubs his palms together, rests them on the felt, then warms to his task.
"First things first; you called your main-squeeze that night to see if she was home." He searches for a hint of corroboration; Morgan remains deadpan. "Called her from a drugstore, probably, where you stopped to buy a pack of prophylactics." Hit; he detects, in Morgan's face, a subtle flinch. "No answer, meaning, maybe, you could spare a little time." Steve strokes his chin, enjoying what he reckons is clairvoyance. "Michelle fixed drinks—at her place, of course—then excused herself and sashayed into the bathroom. That was when you almost cut and ran. But she came back too soon, dressed in a negligee. Black. Almost transparent. Sexy as a bunny to a hare in heat. She made the initial move, strolled across the room and gave you a slow-mo kiss. How am I doing?" Morgan, regretting the bet, stays inexpressive. "I won't say anything about the act itself, except that she had skills you underestimated. Surprisingly, she invited you to spend the night—which you declined, nervous lest your absence be over-long. And the second you hit the street, BAM, guilt set in." Steve straightens the piled-up chips, confident he will soon be their proprietor. "She, the other lady, was up when you got home. You had a knock-down-drag-out, then made up—though feelings remain tender, hers for obvious reasons, yours for having played the role of cheat. In retrospect, however, you're asking why you've stayed with her so long. Years, right? During which time you've loved her not one bit—or at least not as much as you once believed, before you got a hold of Michelle's bigger boobs, better proportioned butt, and pipe-fitter plumbing—attributes your balls won't soon forget; they keep clamoring in your ears, ringing out the old, and in the new."
Steve withholds the news that Michelle has skipped town.
Morgan, sans comment, claims only a pair of chips—one black, one white—conceding the remainder, then pushes back his chair, stands up, and leaves.