Lip Service, Part 2

He put down his salad fork and turned to me, his eyes were far away. “Yes, there was a woman who lived in England. She was a professor at Oxford.”

“What was her fantasy?” I prompted.

“She said she wore perfume for herself. It was her one extravagance and she spent more money on it than she could afford. I think she was a single mother. It was food, she said, for her soul. In the most intimate way she described how she applied our fragrance to the back of her knees and down her cleavage. She said that each morning, when she applied the perfume, she imagined it wasn’t her fingers, but a man’s fingers putting the scent on her skin.”

If the conversation had been happening over the phone, if George Helprin had been a client, I would have used his story to move him into a fantasy. It would be his fingers on the skin of this well-educated woman whose only indulgence was perfume.

I imagined leaning closer to him and whispering an offer – I can make you come just by talking to you, by telling you a story, will you let me try?

After the main course was served, I turned to the man on my left. James Romer was a venture capitalist who was quite stiff and very proper with wire rim glasses and a bow tie.

I was being good, chatting about the charity and what an important function it fulfilled. From the charity it was a natural segue into fatherhood and I asked James about his children. He reciprocated by asking about my children and I told him Max had just begun his freshman year at Princeton, which impressed him and so I asked him where he had gone to college.

“Harvard, but before there were any women there,” he said implying that was the way it should have stayed.

“I imagine the school changed drastically once they let us women in?”

“Yes, there were traditions, fine traditions that have all but disappeared,” he said. Not wanting to get embroiled in an argument about feminism and the old guard, I steered the conversation in another direction. “Did you meet your wife when you were in college?”

“No, I didn’t meet her until my first year of law school.”

“So who did you take to all those college football games?” I asked.

He cocked his head and looked at me quizzically as if I had asked the oddest question, but he answered me. “Used to go out with girls from Radcliffe.”

I calculated back and figured out it must have been the early fifties.

“Girls in poodle skirts and tight sweaters with shining hair.”

His eyes softened.

“What was your girlfriend’s name?” I asked.

“Sarah. Sarah Gould.”

“Do you remember the first time you kissed her?”

He was lost in telling me his story. “There was a spot around the side of her dorm where a big elm tree created sufficient shadows for the two of us to hide. We’d sit there for hours and neck. And then it would get late and Sarah would have to rush back to her room. There were curfews and dorm mothers back then.”

If he were on the other end of the phone, I’d tempt Mr. Romer with an illicit tryst in the dark, under a tree. There’d be a fully clothed, virginal girl who would do everything but go all the way. After dry humping this pony- tailed girl, he’d walk back to his dorm with aching balls and find me waiting for him. I’d tell him I’d sneaked in and bribed his roommate to bunk down the hall so I could fuck him in his single bed, in his room at Harvard, while the good girls at Radcliffe slept tight.

Later I overheard James Romer telling Paul what a delightful wife he had. Paul looked over at me curiously, wondering what I had said to this straight- laced businessman to make him compliment me so effusively.

That night, everything was slightly more exaggerated. Colors were more intense, sounds were louder, the wine was drier, the food spicier, the room more opulent, the women more interesting, the men… more sexual. Suddenly I was aware that each of them had a penis. Could get an erection. Could come.

The room and the people hadn’t changed. I had.

Excerpted from Lip Service by MJ Rose – all rights reserved. ©1998

Lip Service: On the surface, Julia Sterling’s life is enviable. She lives on Manhattan’s tony east side, is married to a renowned psychiatrist, deeply loves her stepson and is forging her career as a journalist. When a writing job exposes Julia to phone sex, she glimpses a world that stirs her erotic fantasies but threatens her carefully constructed reality. As she probes her emotional and sexual connections to the men she knows and several she will never meet, she confronts evil, perversity and her own passions.

MJ Rose is the president of Lady Chatterley’s Library, a publishing house for fiction written by new women writers. A former advertising whiz, Rose’s commercial for the NYPD is in the broadcasting collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Lip Service is her first novel in the public eye.