After all those years of sex with Satan, so many years of his dry husky embraces, freezing cold until your blood heats them, you’ve forgotten how warm a real man is, especially when you’ve come in chilled to the party from one of those late fall nights when your breath is starting to be frosty and even your hair feels chilly as you take off your coat in the hall and laughing, after you’re introduced, he first wraps you in his arms close against him and then pulls you down the hall and into bed before you’ve had time to warm up at the hissing old-fashioned radiators.
That starts at a party thrown by the cinematographers who are in town for the film festival. You’ve invited Satan to go with you but he says he has a headache, you should go and enjoy yourself, so you do. Before you leave the party, you wrap up some garlic-stuffed mushroom caps, blini with caviar, and tiny hazelnut creampuffs in a napkin to take home to Satan. When your new lover catches you, you grin and say they’re for your boyfriend.
After that, until you move on to someone else, you meet your new interest every day for lunch and love when you’re supposed to be at your yoga lesson. You’ve lived with Satan so long that you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be with someone who agrees yes, you should spend all that money to fly to Japan, where a heretofore unknown director’s cut of Toshiro Mifune’s Seven Samurai has surfaced, and rumor has it the opening is going to feature sake ice cream and carelessly cleaned fugi fish.
Satan has said his contacts told him there was going to be a huge nuclear terrorist attack in Tokyo, and so he wouldn’t spring for the ticket.
Satan hasn’t made an effort for years, not since he conquered you at fourteen by dangling a goth rock recording contract in front of your eyes and bankrolled the recordings, the world tours, the mansion with an olympic-size swimming pool and all the hashish you wanted.
Now at twice that age you’ve been replaced on MTV by other fourteen-year-olds and you’ve stopped smoking anything. A purseful of charge cards isn’t a lot of consolation when you’ve got a spring-and-winter marriage, and Satan does nothing but hang around the house and hint for you to fix him tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches while he watches daytime cable.
After the first one, infidelity follows you easily. You catch yourself looking all the time.
A pair of strong legs with golden hair in shorts and construction boots. You fall in the construction trailer at lunch time.
A pale young man with one dark lock falling onto his forehead and a slim volume of Cole Swenson shoved in his pocket. You fall on a wooden chair deep in the stacks at the University of Pennsylvania where you’ve gone to get some books on the Inquisition for Satan.
When you hear about a priest who always knows when he has a suicide in his confessional and gives an especially loving blessing, you go with a list so damning he’s reluctant to let you leave, says you need spiritual direction so the two of you go back to the rectory, where he makes hot chocolate with real cream and a splash of brandy. It‘s inevitable that you fall.
For a long time you still go back to the apartment afterward, moist between your legs and glowing with love. Satan always has some nice little snacks fixed for you, and he’s kept the kettle hot to make herbal tea. While he fusses around warming the teapot, he keeps asking if you still love him, and you say of course with your fingers crossed behind your back.
While he’s been waiting for you, he’s been wrapped up in the granny square afghan your mother made and watching old movies on the Nostalgia Channel. Now since you’re way overheated, his cold body feels refreshing as you go to sleep and he starts on Jay Leno.
It grows harder to keep up your double life. You’re in a sailors’ bar down on the waterfront when you meet the best one you’ve ever met. He can touch all your hot buttons like no one before. It’s like he knows everything about you. It’s like he is you. The epitome of lovers, all the characteristics of all the others all rolled up in one. It’s as exciting as it was when you first met Satan, even accounting for the fact that then you were naive and now you’ve been around the block a few times. You think this is the one who is meant for you, the one you can spend the rest of your life with, and you decide to leave Satan.
After several hours of warm firm love, your new lover knows to have a plate of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and two glasses of your favorite Cabernet waiting, the glasses filled too full, with his characteristic abundance, causing the wine to bell up slightly with surface tension at the level of the rim so that the slightest touch of your lips, as you bend over to take the first sip of the glass too full to lift, causes a few drops to run down the outside of the glass and be swept up with your tongue tip.
Nothing like Satan who’s gotten so he saves the good bottles for the company you never have and buys jug wine and even boxes for every day.
Although life with Satan has become sad and boring, for some time you kept up your interest in goth rock, which after all was where you made your mark. You’re still a little famous and sometimes you see one of your videos on afternoon MTV, on the type of program that shows early Michael Jackson and sometimes even the Monkees.
Now it seems like too much effort. You don’t bother to accept an invitation to open the new used-CD store that’s come into the neighborhood and wants a few has-beens for a little free publicity.
You let all the exotic birds in the conservatory go free and call the caretakers to come over and drape the pool in the end-of-the-season cloth.
You begin to eat oatmeal for breakfast and clean up your language.
For years Satan has ordered all your clothes from catalogues that come in plain brown wrappers–red and black satin, monkey fur from species so new they don’t even have names yet. Your closets are stuffed to bursting with costumes for every century, bustiers and fish-net stockings and the entire stock of leftover costumes from Tom Jones that he got at an online auction.
You bundle them all up and leave them at the Salvation Army thrift shop.
Now you dress in surreptitiously bought pale silks and cashmeres, meet other softspoken girls with ash blonde hair carelessly piled on top of their heads, escaping in soft tendrils that curl down their slender necks, for coffee and cakes in pastel salons where you pile the extra chairs with shopping bags of fragrant purchases reverently wrapped in tissue paper by slender middle-aged clerks who live with their mothers and work in pearl-grey-carpeted department stores where the eponymous pianist gently plays Satie, and you talk about love.
Not a place where the memory of dry husky skin and inarticulate second-language-learner speech should, could intrude.
You ask Satan to move out and he goes away, but he isn’t letting you go that easily. When you come back from an evening of welcoming your lover’s warmth into your body and go to draw the shades before sinking your exercised and musky body into sandalwood and bubbles, you see him standing grey and loveless under the street light, his horny skin glistening from drops of midnight rain.
On your birthday, you’re awakened at dawn by the happy music of the Mexican mariachi band he has ordered to bring you a serenade, and later a delivery truck brings you a chihuahua puppy curled up in a sombrero; a take-out meal of enchiladas suisas, margaritas and caramel bread pudding is delivered by donkey.
You wonder why Satan has thought an ethnic birthday might bring you back to him, but you write a thank-you note and fasten it to the street light with duct tape. You stand at the window and watch him read it, but when he looks hopefully up at the window, you shake your head and go to bed.
As you go to sleep, you know he’s still there and know when you wake up early and go down to the corner cafe, he’ll be at the counter with a cinnamon-raisin bagel, a capuccino and an unread newspaper lying before him, looking at you from the corners of his eyes with that terrible humble quality I know I’m not good enough for you but please please please let me come back.
It’s hard to order your almond croissant and your double latte to go.
The day comes when you haven’t seen him for so many weeks that you think he’s finally found some other fourteen-year-old and gone away, but you’ve forgotten Satan’s loving heart.
You’re lying numb from relaxation in bed watching your new lover, who knows to order matching bottles of Chateau Latour 82 for lunch, one beside your plate and the other beside his, who has a pilot’s license and puts the plane on automatic while he plays the guitar and recites Rumi, the one you thought maybe was the one for you for the rest of your life.
He slips for a minute when he’s taking his shirt off, handmade of the finest Egyptian cotton, and greedily drinking his body in, you see the scar from the amputated tail at the base of his spine, and you realize your lazy, slipping-into-middle-age, tomato-soup-and-toasted-cheese Satan has changed.
When he sees you’ve noticed, he falls on his knees and asks you please to forgive him, tells you he’s seen the error of his ways, tells you he wants you so much he’s willing to stay warm for your whole lifetime. What can you do? He’s figured out you’re a sucker for romance.
You fall again and gently, shyly, tell your new lover you think maybe now he can come home again.
He accepts happily and suggests going together to Ethan Allen to buy some new furniture, including a few sets of slipcovers so you can have a new look often. You have to work to keep a relationship alive, he says, we have to be constantly growing, constantly evolving. Let’s shake things up, have a whole new look, hell, even a whole new way of being. But I don’t think we need a TV, do you, he says anxiously, I think they take the romance away from a relationship.
Because you love him, you relent and say you think he could have a small non-plasma TV for the news and weather, but definitely not satellite and probably not even high-definition cable.
You send a little prayer to heaven for your new-found maturity and say you’ll slip down to the lobby to get him a Sunday paper for the ads.
You might stop at the bar for a quick nightcap, you say, but you’ll be back before he finishes his evening programs, absolutely.