Is Your Pet Ruining Your Sex Life?
The following is an excerpt of “Pearl and the Swiss Guy Fall in Love,” from Lauren Holmes’s collection of fictional short stories, Barbara the Slut and Other People ($27, Riverhead Books, amazon.ca).
I hadn’t had sex in over a year, partly because I didn’t like anyone I met on the internet and partly because I adopted a pit bull who wouldn’t let men into my apartment. In August I decided to try again and agreed to meet a Swiss guy at a bar that served Swiss absinthe. It was hot as fuck outside, and as soon as I got out of the subway, sweat started collecting on my lower back and between my boobs. I stopped to mop myself off and got a text from the Swiss guy that said, “I conquered us places at the bar!”
When I got there he stood up and waved. He was wearing round, very Swiss glasses. He had a goatee, but he had a great smile. He kissed me on both cheeks and we sat down. We started talking and couldn’t stop. The bartender kept coming over to get our order, but we kept forgetting to look at the menu. Finally we ordered whatever fancy drinks we could pick out on the spot.
The Swiss guy had a PhD in economics, and he was in New York doing a postdoc on wage inequality and the American gender gap. He was thirty-six,which meant he was an actual adult. He showed me pictures of his two brothers and their families, and it seemed like he loved them all a lot. He wanted to know everything about me, which was a nice change of pace from the dates where I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He was especially excited that I was a teacher because his mom was a teacher. I thought that was sweet, even though she had taught kindergarten in rural Switzerland forty years earlier, and I taught humanities in an inner-city middle school with metal detectors and police.
We each had another drink. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I realized I was tipsy. I made my way to the back of the bar in a heightened state and then sat on the toilet, peeing and thinking I might marry this guy. If he didn’t want to stay in the U.S., I didn’t hate the idea of living as an ex‑pat in Switzerland. I was enjoying the Swiss absinthe and I also liked cheese, chocolate, and mountains.
When I washed my hands I noticed that the neckline of my dress was way too low. I fixed it and when I got back to the bar I apologized for my wardrobe malfunction.
“I like it very much,” said the Swiss guy. “You have a beautiful décolletage.”
“Should we get another drink?” I said.
We each ordered one more and then asked for the bill.
He got out his credit card and I got out mine.
“Shall we split it?” he said. “That’s very nice of you. I thought in America the guy had to pay.”
“We can split it,” I said.
We left and started kissing as soon as the door closed behind us.
“I don’t usually make out in the street,” I said.
“It’s okay,” he said.
“Can we at least go around the corner?” I said.
Around the corner there was a stoop.
“Sit down,” I said.
“Is it dirty?” he said. “I think it’s too dirty.”
“Do you want to make out or not?”
He sat down and I straddled him and we kept going. I knew it was past one in the morning and I should go home, but I was full of absinthe and it had been a long time since I had made out with anyone and it felt good. I told him that I had to go home to walk my dog, and we made out for a while longer.
“I could come to your house,” he said.
“I don’t think so.”
“I just met you.”
We got up and started walking.
“It would be nice to go home together,” he said.
“I never have sex on the first date,” I said.
“We don’t have to have sex,” he said. “We could just coddle.”
“Cuddle?” I said. “No. Even if I wanted to, my dog has problems. I can’t just show up with a stranger.”
I had adopted Pearl a year earlier. She was a beautiful cream-coloured pit, and she had been on death row at animal control because she was so scared that they couldn’t do a behaviour evaluation on her. But when I went to meet her she approached me with her tail wagging and she licked my face. I begged them to try the evaluation again, and the behaviour supervisor conducted it herself. Soon I realized that that was the only reason Pearl passed—she was fine with women but very scared of and very aggressive toward men.
“Why can’t you just show up with a stranger?” the Swiss guy said.
“You would scare her,” I said. “And she would bite you.”
He considered this. “Can she go in a different room? I’m a bit afraid of dogs.”
“No,” I said. “You can’t come over.”
“Okay,” he said. “What is the dog’s name?”
“What kind of dog is she?”
“She’s a pit bull.”
“Bwah, then she will definitely bite me.”
“She’s not going to bite you because she’s a pit bull.
She’s going to bite you because you’re an intruder.”
“Fine, so I don’t come. What are you going to do tomorrow?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“I’m going to go upstate to do some research. You could
come with me and we could stay in a motel.”
“I can’t leave Pearl.”
“It would only be for one night.”
“It doesn’t work that way.”
We got to the subway and started kissing again.
“Good-bye,” I said.
“Good-bye,” he said.
“Good-bye,” I said and pushed him toward the subway.
I hailed a cab. I should have taken the subway too, but I didn’t like walking back from my stop late at night. When I got home, I took Pearl out and then we both ate some strawberry ice cream.
From Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes. Reprinted by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Lauren Holmes, 2015.