Once Upon a Time...
This was turning into a disaster. Megan squirmed in her seat.
"I'm a guy, you know? I like head, and Megan hasn't been willing to go down on me since our honeymoon. When we were dating, she was this champion fellatrix -- then I put a ring on her finger, and it's bye-bye oral!"
Megan teetered between shame and anger, then decided she could choose both. She stopped hiding her face and glared at him, her cheeks crimson with mortification. How dare he?
She opened her mouth to speak, but Dr. Esmer held his hand up like he was cop directing traffic. "Hold on, Megan, I can see you want to speak and I promise you will get your chance. But right now we are listening to Eric."
Megan crossed her arms in front of her chest, and seethed. This is an outrage. She turned her incinerating gaze to Dr. Esmer, and thought, in what field is your doctorate?
"Keep going Eric. What else is troubling you about your marriage?" Dr. Esmer had this ingratiating look on his face, like he wanted to keep everyone happy. That ain't happening
"A lot of it is sex. Before we were married, and shortly after, we were fucking like minks. Now I am lucky if I get laid twice a month. Plus it's turned vanilla. Before the wedding she was opening up. She would attack me when I got home from work. I would wake up in the middle of the night and find her straddling me. We would go out on dates and she would surprise me by showing me she wasn't wearing underwear. On our honeymoon in Hawaii we had sex 50 feet from molten lava, on warm volcanic rock, with a tour group just barely out of sight. She used to give me lap dances. Now she never initiates. It's like I am begging for it."
Begging won't be enough from this point, Megan thought to herself. She continued stewing as Eric continued his litany of Megan's marital sins, exposing all their secrets in front of this stranger.
"She had promised me she would open up more after the wedding. I like to watch women masturbate, you know? It's hot. Megan would never do that. I wanted to try anal. 'Maybe after we are married', she said. That particular cork is still in the bottle."
Dr. Esmer noticed Megan's discomfort, and addressed it. "Megan, I told you when we started. I have a unique method of marriage counseling. I promise to fix any marriage in one session, with a money back guarantee, but only if couples are completely honest with me. We need Eric to say what is exactly on his mind."
Megan bit her tongue, tasting acid.
Dr. Esmer shifted his attention back to Eric. "Anything besides sex?"
"She has turned into a nag. 'Put your shoes away. Don't set that glass there. Wash the counters. Don't leave your books on the counter. Your laundry is piling up. Clean the bathroom.' It's like she follows me around the house looking for messes for me to clean up."
Megan could hold back no more. "They are your messes!" This was his sin, not hers, and he was making himself out to be the victim.
Eric shrugged his shoulders and looked at Dr. Esmer as if he were vindicated.
"Eric, is there anything else?"
"No, Sex and nagging is more than enough, thank you." Eric turned to face her. "Megan, I want the amazing woman I married. Where the fuck did she go?"
"She's exhausted and cranky from cleaning up all the shit you leave around the house." She felt a surge of satisfaction, which was quickly followed by a feeling of guilt, and then annoyance at feeling guilty.
"Hold on Megan." Dr. Esmer wasn't letting her follow up. "I also want Eric to tell us what is strong in your marriage."
"Right now, nothing." His lips twitched after he spoke, like he was flinching from his own words. He looked away from her.
"Come now. You married her. You were in love. What drew you to her in the first place?"
Eric's face transformed from annoyance into bemusement. "The first thing most people notice about Megan is her strength, although they don't always put it that way. But she can also be very sweet if she likes you. I thought Megan was the most wonderful person I had ever met. She is generous, always helping people out. She always tried to see the best in people."
Not right now, I don't, Megan thought, feeling guilt at the dissonance between Eric's words and her own anger.
Eric continued. "I'm a cop. We spend too much time dealing with garbage. I see a lot of bad people in the world. Even most of the supposedly good people I meet are just posturing. They only do the right thing when someone is watching. If no one is watching, they will either make sure everyone is looking at them so they can get credit for being good, or they will do the wrong thing. Not Megan. You know that bumper sticker that says 'commit random acts of kindness'? That's her. There is an old couple that lives down the block. She drops off meals once a week, and salts their driveway in winter."
Esmer spoke up. "That does indeed sound admirable. Is she still like that now, or did that change when you married?"
Eric looked reluctant when he admitted, "She is still like that."
Megan had been noting how Eric had been speaking in the present tense, and had felt a burst of affection, but it died now. Instead, Megan felt the rage rising again. He had to be dragged into admitting she was still a decent person? The fucker.
"She is always staying busy, doing something cool. She spent several weeks last year teaching herself Italian. Before that, it was how to make sushi. She isn't greedy. That's rare in doctors. Most of the ones I meet seem to be all about the Mercedes and the McMansion." Eric paused, and continued. "And I like her strength. Some of her coworkers at the hospital called her "Dr. Bitch", but I like strong women. You might look at her and see a petite little thing who would blow away in a wind, but she is tough. Cops need that in a wife."
Megan looked at the floor, belying the strength he had just described. She wasn't sure she loved him any more. There was too much resentment. Part of her feared this counseling session was going to be useless. She was ashamed at the small part of her that hoped it would be.
Dr. Esmer smiled. "Excellent. That is a strong foundation from which we can work. Megan, it's your turn. What do you see as the challenges facing your marriage?"
Megan had been holding back for what felt like an eternity, and the floodgates opened. "There is just so much to do, you know? I work at the clinic, and then get home and I just want a clean house. I can't relax when there is stuff to do. I have always been that way. By the time I get done making dinner and cleaning the house, I am exhausted. And he doesn't help. He wakes up in the morning, throws his clothes on the bed, and throws his shower towel on the floor of the bathroom. I find his toothbrush and razor sitting on the sink instead of where they belong and he never cleans his razor stubble out of the sink. The cap isn't on the toothpaste, his cereal bowl is in the sink instead of the dishwasher, and the newspaper is scattered on the dining room table. He can't find the recycling bin."
Megan paused for breath. "And that's just in one half hour of the morning. I ask him to do it, and he says he has to get to work. I ask him to clean up when he comes home, and he says he is too tired, or it doesn't need to be done."
"It usually doesn't."
Esmer put up the stop sign gesture to shush Eric.
Megan threw her hands up in the air. "You see? He doesn't seem to understand that things need to be put away. Everything has its proper place and should go where it belongs. He won't do dishes or laundry. He won't vacuum. The youngest detective in the history of the Indianapolis Police Department -- he can catch the Butler Burglar, but can't find the goddamned toothbrush holder. I end up cleaning up every mess, and then when I am done he starts coming on to me and I am too pissed off or tired for sex."
Esmer was writing this down on his notepad. "What are the strengths in your marriage?"
"God, I wish I could remember. I spend most of the day pissed at him." She shook her head, and ran her fingers through her long hair, then took a deep breath and let it out. "Eric has a good heart. I am proud of his job and how good he is at it. He is thoughtful in most ways -- like flowers, and romantic vacations. He is smart and funny and tells great stories." She looked into Eric's eyes. "I dated a lot of guys who couldn't put up with me. They called me a bitch, or a cunt. Eric says I've got moxie." She half-smiled at him for the first time today.
"Moxie?" Esmer looked at Eric, who scrunched up his lips and shrugged. "Well, you have enough fight in you to come here, trying to save your marriage." Esmer set down his notebook. "OK, we have two real issues so far -- sex and housework. Any others?"
Megan said nothing. Eric just shrugged.
Esmer pressed them. "Money? Most couples fight about money."
Eric volunteered. "Never been an issue. We are both pretty frugal, and have good jobs."
"How about family? Any conflicts with in-laws? That's another common one."
"No," Megan said.
Eric pursed his lips and nodded. "Her family is cool. I even like her flaky sister."
Esmer appeared satisfied. "Then let's talk about sex. Megan, are you happy with your sex life?"
"No. I mean, I used to think if I was more relaxed I would want sex more, and then I would be happy with it. But lately I just don't give a fuck. I am too pissed at him."
"We need to address that now. Do you want to save this marriage or not? If not we can stop wasting each other's time."
Am I ready to give up? "I think this is probably a waste of time, but I am here, aren't I?"
Esmer took that as a yes. "Back to sex. How about the 'edgier' stuff that your husband was discussing?"
"You think I should give him more head?"
"It isn't what I want. Sexual compatibility is important in a marriage. Couples need to discuss these things through, and determine which sexual activities are on the table. If anything is off the table, they need to be honest about it."
"Eric and I had those conversations before we got married. The only things I would take completely off the table are bondage stuff, and him cheating on me. Pain hurts, it isn't sexy. And if he tried to bring another woman into my bed, I would cut his dick off."
Eric chimed in. "You do care!" He had a goofy grin on his face.
She couldn't help but smile. Not for the first time, Megan wondered why Eric saw her abrasiveness as charming. Moxie.
Eric continued, "I never wanted to cheat on her anyway. Look at her? Why would I want to? I think it would be fun to tie her up, but I knew Megan wasn't the submissive type when I married her."
"So that leaves us with household chores."
Esmer was ready to move on to the next topic, but Eric wasn't. "Wait a minute. How does that leave us with household chores? You didn't solve anything related to sex."
"No, but I see a potential framework."
"How does that help?"
"Eric, I offer a 100% money back guarantee. You have nothing to lose by bearing with me."
Eric looked skeptical but said nothing.
"You both have said money isn't a problem. Have you considered hiring a housekeeper?"
"We discussed it. Megan doesn't want anyone with that kind of access to our house."
"So that leaves it up to you. What is the deal with the chores, Eric?"
"It's a couple things. I don't even notice that they need to get done. Most messes don't bother me. If it's something that will attract mice, or makes the floor sticky, sure, I notice it and clean it up. But she gets upset if I leave the mail on the counter."
"So why do you leave the mail on the counter?"
"I don't think about it. You know that joke where the guy says to not think about an elephant, so you start thinking of one? Its like that in reverse. It doesn't occur to me to start thinking about an elephant until someone says something."
"But you were complaining that she nags you, so it sounds like she is saying something."
"That gets to the other thing. A lot of what she wants done is useless. Why put the toothpaste in the vanity cabinet when I am just going to get it out again in the morning? She wants me to get out of bed, and put the toothpaste away. It's ridiculous. If she reminds me when I am in the bathroom, I will do it, but otherwise it just irritates me."
"Marriage requires some mutual compromise."
"Where is her compromise?"
"How about sex?"
"Isn't there room for a compromise about sex?"
"We have tried changing our behavior before, but it never takes, and we fall back into our old habits."
"It sounds like you were happy with your sex life before you got married."
"Yeah, I think it was the romance of dating. I love her, but I am afraid that this is just who she is now, and the Megan I dated was just how she acts when she is infatuated. We had kind of a whirlwind courtship. I think maybe we married before we knew each other well enough. Now it's too late. I mean, I am a cop. I see the same low-lifes in jail or court every week. You can't change who you are."
"Not even with the proper incentive?"
"What do you mean?"
Esmer stood up. "Eric, I need to talk to Megan alone for a few minutes."
Eric gave her a teasing look. "You're in trouble..." He left Esmer' office, and headed toward the lobby.
Megan turned back to look at Esmer. He was holding a metronome. He set it on his desk, and it began to tick...
Megan felt drowsy. Had she dozed off?
"Megan?" It was Dr. Esmer' voice.
"Don't be concerned. It's pretty common when we practice these relaxation exercises. Can you get your husband out of the lobby?"
Megan rose. She felt very relaxed. The cobwebs had left her brain quickly. She opened the door, and saw Eric waiting in the lobby, playing some game on his iPhone. He looked up at her and smiled.
She did love his smile. God, this would all be so much easier if he would just help clean up the damned house.
Eric joined her in the office.
Esmer shook his hand. "I think we are done here. If either of you aren't fully satisfied, call me in a week, and we can arrange for a refund."
Eric looked surprised. "We are done? We didn't do anything. You don't have anything you want us to practice? Like catching each other before we fall?"
"Would that help you?" Esmer looked curious.
"Then why would I want you do it?"
Megan could tell that Eric's surprise was turning to anger. "We just paid you $2000 and all you did was listen to us for an hour. What the hell is this?"
"I charge $2000 for one session because unlike other counselors, you get all your results from one session, and I don't get repeat business. I depend instead on referrals, like you."
"Yeah, John and Sandy said you were a genius and saved their marriage, but that's not the point."
"It is the point. Did they say how I saved their marriage?"
"No, they were kind of vague."
"Then you will have to trust me for one week. If not satisfied, you will get a refund."
Megan could tell that Eric was not satisfied right now. "Dr. Esmer, how many of your clients have requested refunds?"
Esmer had a gleam in his eye. "Out of the 900 couples I have treated?"
He smiled. "Zero."
Eric was cranky on the drive home. He muttered about how Esmer was a fraud, and he would find some legal loophole to screw them over.
"You really think he is going to try to defraud a police detective? Let's wait a week. If we aren't happy, we can worry about that then."
Eric appeared slightly mollified. "But he didn't do anything. We just talked. I see crooks get sent to talk therapy all the time. All it does is talk the shrink into writing a letter saying that Johnny has learned to control his anger management issues, and should be let out of jail so he can go beat his wife again. Even those quacks don't claim they can guarantee results in one session."
Eric glanced at her. "What did the two of you discuss in there?"
Megan frowned. It was a little fuzzy. She must have dozed off pretty earlier. "Deep breathing, that sort of thing."
"How is that supposed to help us?"
"He didn't say." She paused. "How long was I in there alone?"
Eric crinkled his brow. "You don't know? Thirty -- forty minutes."
"I think his techniques must have worked. I dozed off."
Eric rolled his eyes and shook his head.
Eric was in bed before Megan. She walked into the bathroom. Sure enough, he had left his toothbrush on the counter. The toothpaste tube had the cap off, and was sitting next to it. His clothes had been thrown at, rather than into, the laundry basket, and he wasn't a great shot. Eric's shoes were in the middle of the bathroom floor.
Goddammit, he wasn't even trying. Megan felt the familiar frustration building up insider her. She cleaned up the mess, and put his clothes where they belonged.
As she undressed, she felt Eric's eyes upon her. A chill went up her spine, driven by her knowledge that her naked body had that effect on him, but it wouldn't be enough tonight.
When she shut the lights off and climbed into bed, she felt Eric spoon up behind her. She felt his large erection pressing into the crack of her ass. His muscular arms reached across her and gently stroked her stomach and the undersides of her breasts.
Megan didn't respond. She was still annoyed about the mess in the bathroom, and Eric's accusations in Esmer' office. They had just spent $2000 because Eric wouldn't clean up his shit. It was like he was deliberately trying to piss her off.
Eric eventually gave up. He sighed, and rolled over.
Megan felt a twinge of guilt. He loved her, and thought she was sexy. Maybe she would be in the mood tomorrow. She was afraid that in the direction they were going, This might be the last year of their marriage. Next week was Valentine's Day and it might be their last. The counseling session seemed to be a bust, and she was out of ideas.
Megan fought back tears as she fell asleep.
Eric was almost ready to head out the door. He kept his gun on top of the cabinet next to the refrigerator, and was putting it on when Megan stopped him. "There is a full basket of laundry in the bathroom with your name on it."
"Tonight, honey. I need to be at work."
"It's only seven. You told me they don't need you at work until eight."
She saw his lips purse and his eyes roll, but he headed back into the bathroom, and returned carrying a load of laundry. It was a big load. He had over-stacked the basket, as usual. She liked the way his biceps flexed as he carried it. She thought about how much she used to love the feel of those arms around her. When he flexed, they felt like baseballs were under his skin.
Eric walked down the stairs toward the laundry room, and Megan watched how his ass moved in his khaki work slacks. On a whim, she decided to follow him.
He threw his clothes into the washing machine. He wasn't separating lights and darks, she noticed. He is such a guy. But lack of color separation didn't bother her. He was the one who had to wear the clothes, not her. If he didn't mind his tighty whities turning powder blue, that was his problem. She just wanted them off the goddamned floor.
And he had done it -- grudgingly, but he had done it. She felt a load of stress leave her mind, and she felt relaxed.
That was how she used to always feel when Eric was around -- relaxed -- safe. He looked out for her. He looked out for everybody. Wasn't that how they had met?
She had gotten a text from Carmen asking her to pick her up at St. Andrews hospital. "Nthng srs but need ride plz."