As they make love, he thinks of spreadsheets and Visa bills, the spinning wheels of the electricity meter stuck to the wall of their house. To do otherwise is to give in to his wife’s beauty, and that would never do. For once he comes, he falls instantly to sleep, and his wife would be left dissatisfied in their palace of disordered sheets.
It had been a problem from their earliest days together. In college, once, he came just from the act of slipping on a condom. Had he not mastered himself, he felt sure she would have left him, that they would not have their son and daughter, the attic window from which they could see the ocean sparkling between evergreens, or the cat that curls into their bed each night.
Now they are switching positions, which is always tricky for him — a time when he must be vigilant. Things are going well. His wife is responsive. She is doing that thing where she props one leg over his shoulder and encourages him to lean into her. But he must think of dissections when she does this — how back in biology class he pulled two grasshoppers and a crayfish from the stomach of the bullfrog pinned to the tray of wax.
She is beginning to pant and make noises she later will be embarrassed by. He has to stopper his ears against such music. So he imagines the corpses at Dachau bulldozed into an open pit, the twin towers imploding, a fox leg getting left behind in the jaws of a steel spring trap. It is too much, but his wife has gotten everything she needs, and he lets go of himself for the briefest moment.
They lie together gasping in the jumbled bed and the gathering dusk. A dog down the street is barking. The man’s sleep approaches like a loaded barge fitting against a dock. He pulls his wife close and thinks, as he sometimes does, that sex is different from what he imagined back in high school, as he flipped through the pages of Penthouse and Swank.
He turns over to look into his wife’s eyes, but already she is asleep. He is alone with the crickets coming on like little switches in the moat of roses surrounding their house. He is about to slip off himself when the cat leaps softly onto their bed, curling in between them in its usual spot.