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I can't do sex. Absolute truth. Believe me, I've been trying really hard, but it still won't come.
Oh, dear. That last sentence was a bit too Freudian even for me. Let me put it another way.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
No, no, no. Not the flesh. The flesh is as hard as an oiled-up Mr. Universe in full competition pose and has been that way for, what I've been told, way too long now. What I mean is the pen is weak. Or rather, the keyboard. Oh, damn--that's not what I mean, either. Let me explain.
The name's Pamela Flynn. Perhaps you've heard of me. Not to sound self-absorbed, but I do have three bestsellers under my belt in the Tanaka & Shields series. You know, the hot Philadelphia detective duo? All right, maybe they weren't quite chartbusters, but the last time out they did make the New York Times extended list, have a very loyal following, and my agent tells me a pretty prestigious production company is more than interested. But only under one condition.
"They gotta have sex," she told me just the other day.
A benign day, but to the uninformed, anything but. You see, I was still freaking, still hot to the touch, still so ragged around the edges, telling me I had to do sex was like telling me to speak Chinese. I just couldn't do it. I switched the phone to my other ear. "What're you talking about?"
"Holy cow, Pammy--were you home sick the day the teacher showed the video? I'm talking screw, sweetie, a bit of the in-and-out, making the beast with two backs, his love hammer in her velvet sheath, sweaty, heavy-breathing--"
"I got it, Renee, jeez." Something shiny under the sofacaught my eye; so that's where his glasses fell. I had to talk her out of this. "But don't you realize? If they screw, the sexual tension goes right out the window."
"Sweetie, listen to me, if things get any more tense, he's gonna have a full-throttle nervous breakdown. Let the man blow some steam already. I mean, he's from Japan, right? How about that scene in the warehouse? Throw in some hot tantric sex."
"Oh, that's realistic. A roomful of goons two feet away and he's looking for her 'G' spot? And by the way, he's from Seattle, don't you remember, and hardly--"
"He's a man, Pammy, a studly, healthy, woman-screwing man, and realistically, men like that have sex. And if you don't put it in, someone else will do it for you."
"They can't do that."
"You sell the rights, Pammy, they can do whatever they want. Do it now and you get it down your way."
"Which, in the end, will make all of us just a little bit richer, won't it, Pamela?" another voice cut in.
"Consuelo?" My editor. "A conference call, eh? Ganging up on me?"
"It's a gang-bang!" Renee whooped. "See? You've already started."
"Nevertheless," Consuelo said briskly, her cultured voice snapping, "in her own crudely descriptive way, Renee's absolutely right. It's essential for the protagonists to rise to the next level if we want to make this series more commercially viable. Frankly, Pamela, in addition to the movie interest, we've even been discussing franchise--product endorsements, video games, podcasts--the possibilities are endless. So it's absolutely to our benefit--to your benefit--that we take the creative initiative. Sex sells, Pamela, and you're ready to take off with this. This is your big chance. Run with it."
"Pammy, c'mon--it's just sex. What's the problem, anyway?"
Problem? His lenses caught the westing sun, shooting a shaft of light near-blinding. "I just don't know if they're ready for that yet."
"Then, Pamela, make them ready," said Consuelo most authoritatively. "Because if they can't be, then maybe we'll have to--"
"She'll do it, she'll do it," Renee assured my editor. "Won't you, Pammy?"
Suddenly I'm frozen, positively iced. "I--I don't--"
"Connie, she'll do it. Don't worry."
"Fine," said Consuelo, sounding unconvinced. "I'll expect the pages in a week."
"One week?" They had to be kidding.
"She'll have them," said Renee. "Don't worry. Right, Pammy? She's getting to work right now." And just like that, they both hung up. And hung me out to dry.
Great. Fine. Peachy. So here I sit, twenty-four hours later, out of patience and devoid of ideas, those glasses staring back at me like the painful reminder they were, a souvenir of that infamous afternoon, spectacles from the spectacle I had witnessed. I shifted in my chair, staring across to my opened bedroom door, gaping at me like I had shamelessly gaped myself.
The room wasn't the only thing that had been left wide open.
Was totally my fault, really. I shouldn't have ever let him move in. But Josh intrigued me, this slinky, urban version of the country innocent, attentive and fawning and aw-shucks self-deprecating, though underneath, I'd find out, every bit the snake. At the time I just felt sorry for the poor, struggling grad student, so for the past two months, as a trade-off for rent, I let him keep me sated, fed and focused while I wrote. He'd clean my apartment and wash my clothes, in between attending master's classes at the University of Pennsylvania and pouring drinks part time at a local bar two blocks over. Then one night, a week ago, after I had spent the day researching in Washington, I came home to the last thing in the world I wanted to see.
Karen and I have been friends since grade school, not as tight as when we were kids, but we still kept in touch. So when she called to say she was coming down from Pittsburgh for a wedding, I insisted she stay with me. And if I hadn't made prior arrangements to meet with Dr. Kettlebaum at the Smithsonian, I wouldn't have been gone the day in question. But Josh assured me he'd entertain her until he had to leave for work, and oh, boy, did that boy ever.
We'd planned on my getting home around eight, catching a meal at the diner, then meeting up with Josh at work for drinks. But I'd finished with Dr. Kettlebaum an hour early and the trains, miraculously, were running ahead of schedule, which got me to my door at a little past six thirty. And then I opened it.
Any writer can tell you what it's like to be deep in the zone of a good plot line. When the story is flowing out of you so like dictation, the Philharmonic could be right next to you blasting the cannons of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, and you wouldn't hear a damn thing. I'm using this analogy to explain what I saw when I walked into my living room that night in the only plausible way I know how. Because to think they planned it that way was just a little too kink for this Jersey girl, so properly stunned into disbelief she fell smack down into a chair directly opposite my opened bedroom door. Where, without the benefit of a keyhole, she then proceeded to watch the whole thing.