All About Sex
by Phyllis Carol Agins Phyllis Carol Agins

Phyllis Carol Agins has long found inspiration in Philadelphia, PA. Two novels, many short stories and essays, a children's book, and an architectural study of synagogues and churches were all published during her years there. Lately, she divides her time between Philadelphia and Nice, France, adding the Mediterranean rhythms to her sources of inspiration. She has recently finished The Protection of Salt, a novel about Algeria and France during the 1960's. Her website is:

Once, she only had to breathe in the spices that came from his very pores—from the skin between his legs and under his arms. Even his neck had tasted different to her, honeyed and never bitter like some of her other boyfriends.

Once, she only had to think about Tommy on her way home out of the city, and her hands would grip the wheel and her foot land hard on the pedal, that familiar hunger between her legs transporting her to a kind of madness.

"You're just a dog in heat." Tommy would laugh back then, pulling her to their bed.

She was far worse than any dog she'd ever seen. She'd watched the male dogs chase the unwilling female who never realized the passion she was inspiring. With teeth bared, those males fought until one of them won her and climbed on top, pumping away, his canines shiny with saliva. Oblivion—doggie style—only seconds away.

"Aren't you the man for compliments?" she'd answer, taking his hand to her mouth and biting softly.

They had known each other forever—her fifteen to Tommy's eighteen—when they first saw the other on something like an enchanted evening that was only a school dance. Some enthusiastic committee had pasted silver and gold foil to filament, so thousands of stars glittered beneath the air conditioning ducts that rattled louder than the DJ's tunes. Enough effect to transport her to the backseat of Tommy's car, where they steamed up the windows with their particular kind of moonlight magic.

At the beginning, she'd hoped Tommy wanted her in a way that would last more than the time of a short coupling. But it took them ten years of on-and-off before he teased long distance.

"You better get your butt down here because nobody's gonna marry you, 'cept me."

One call, and only days later she left Cleveland with the excuse of Thanksgiving with her family in Atlanta. When Tommy asked, she answered yes. Then she returned to the apartment with the happy news for her live-in boyfriend, who watched her pack those bags, his mouth open and silent.

It had been forty-plus years of driving home, panting for Tommy. Even after their three lost babies and three doctors who declared there was something wrong somewhere. They'd made love through that sadness with their dog moaning at the foot of the bed, his enthusiastic howls matching her cries.

Forty years and they never stopped grabbing at each other, even after other people's kids had found their way down the lane to their house. First a friend's son, enthusiastically troubled, begged to stay. Another boy wandered over from a neighbor's house and never left. Finally, the daughter of Tommy's nephew arrived. Three kids from other women's wombs and their family was born. Kids and pets—rocking the house with their kind of love.

Finally, the kids gone; new dogs taking place of the old ones; the house quiet; Tommy's diabetes clamping down blood gliding to here or there. The pressure medicine working against his desire.

She fought for a long time—that particular death. Sadness filled her when she curled against him in their bed. The scar from his new hip burned a red crescent on the pale skin, his beard bleached white, his reading glasses posed on the table next to hers, his arms still tattooed with her name. While he slept, she noted almost scientifically that part of him lying against her leg now like some soft worm, as if it had forgotten whatever to do. The unworking of a working organ. Sad worm. Sad woman.

"Sorry babe," he'd mutter in half sleep. "Too tired."

"It's OK," she'd answer, allowing him to turn from his truth.

Now when she thought of him, nothing happened as it once did when the estrogen flowed from her groin to her head and back again, creating that cycle of yearning. Now when she drove home, she could finally see the dogwoods that bloomed fragile white, the wisteria that gripped the pines, and the spring creek that glittered alongside the road. She finally felt her own passion float out the window of that moving car. Even the dog slept quietly at the foot of their bed. At last, she understood. She and Tommy—they were still moving together.

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