The Yellow Notebook
‘Don’t you mind?’
‘Hell, of course I mind. But I’m not going to force myself on anyone. That’s what I like about you — let’s go to bed, you say, and that’s fine and easy. I like you.’
She lay beside him, smiling. His large healthy body was pulsing with well-being. He said: ‘Wait a while, I’ll make it again. Out of practice, I guess.’
‘Do you have other women?’
‘Sometimes. When I get the chance. I don’t chase any. Haven’t the time.’
‘Too busy getting where you want to go?’
He put his hand down and felt himself.
‘You wouldn’t rather I did that?’
‘What? You don’t mind?’
‘Mind?’ she said, smiling, lying on her elbow beside him.
‘Hell, my wife won’t touch me. Women don’t like it.’ He let out another whoop of laughter. ‘You don’t mind then?’
After a moment, his face changed into wondering sensuality. ‘Hell,’ he said. ‘Hell. Oh boy!’
She made him big, taking her time; and then said: ‘And now, don’t be in such a hurry.’
He frowned in thought; Ella could see him thinking this out; well, he wasn’t stupid — but she was wondering about his wife, about the other women he had had. He came into her; and Ella was thinking: I’ve never done this before — I’m giving pleasure. Extraordinary; I’ve never used the phrase before, or even thought it. With Paul, I went into the dark and ceased to think. The essence of this is, I’m conscious, skilled, discreet — I’m giving pleasure. It has nothing to do with what I had with Paul. But I’m in bed with this man and this is intimacy. His flesh moved in hers, too fast, unsubtle. Again she did not come, and he was roaring with delight, kissing her and shouting: ‘Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!’
Ella was thinking: But with Paul, I would have come in that time — so what’s wrong? — it’s not enough to say, I don’t love this man? She understood suddenly that she would never come with this man. She thought: for women like me, integrity isn’t chastity, it isn’t fidelity, it isn’t any of the old words. Integrity is the orgasm. That is something I haven’t any control over. I could never have an orgasm with this man, I can give pleasure and that’s all. But why not? Am I saying that I can never come except with a man I love? Because what sort of a desert am I condemning myself to if that’s true?
He was enormously pleased with her, generously appreciative, glistening with well-being. And Ella was delighted with herself, that she could make him so happy.