CONTRARY TO THOSE WHO THINK THAT WHAT HAPPENED WAS PART OF a conspiracy of sexually insatiable black women bent on further dogging the brothers, it wasn't. It also had nothing to do with confronting the system, celebrating decadence, or making a political statement. Really, all we wanted was to find a way to give women more pleasure, without the pain it often takes to get to it, and the way it all started was simple.
I was just sitting around catching some rays with my best friend Acey on a Sunday afternoon. We always got together on Sundays, because just about the time Acey got home from church and changed her clothes, I'd have dragged myself up out of bed, thrown something on, and made myself ready to spend some time laughing and laying around with my best friend. We were sprawled out on the deck of her house in Oakland drinking Taittinger, and-since we were alone-not having to worry about spreading thighs or looking cute.
We're in our early 40s, still fly, and while we're not yet ready to call ourselves middle aged, we're old enough to know it's gaining on us, although so far we've manage to keep a few yards ahead. Acey's my best friend since forever, a semisweet chocolate-brown sister who's a perpetual size six and always clean. Me, Lydia, I'm anywhere from a size eight to a fourteen, depending on what's going on in my life and ifI'm able to eat just one bowl of Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream a day. What'd be funny if it weren't so annoying is that just when you get to that age where you start getting your head together, realizing that most of the stuff that used to make you crazy isn't worth it, and that the really important battles are few and far between, your body starts to turn on you. But me and Acey were putting up a fierce resistance, which wasn't so hard since Acey owns and runs a small spa in downtown Oakland. The massages and facials were the easy part-the hard thing was forcing ourselves to go to the gym a few times a week. The radio was playing softly in the background, and we were talking in that lazy, few-words-needed, secret-code language that old friends have, when the conversation, inevitably, came around to men.
Mostly Acey was doing the talking, giving me her post-Saturday night date debriefing. I've been in date recovery for six months, after being married to one of those men with "potential" for the ten years it took me to learn his would probably be permanently unrealized, and that if I stuck with him what was left of mine would erode. It didn't help that during the last two years we were together, both Lorenzo and sex had become as scarce as water in the Gobi Desert. I'd dated for awhile right after we separated, but soon got tired of all the work dating requires for the usually low returns. It doesn't help that I'm now in the middle of a nasty divorce suit-Lorenzo's suing me for alimony, if you can believe that!and right through here a real relationship, the kind that requires work, commitment, and trust, is the farthest thing from my mind.
The truth is that when it comes to men, the only relating I'm interested in right now is sexual, and even that's not as easy to find as it used to be, what with AIDS, STDs, a plethora of closet switch-hitters, and that good old-fashioned male ego. I mean, damn, a lot has changed since I was last out there and single way back in my late twenties, but one thing that hasn't is men's need to feel they're the hunter and you're the game. Right now, I simply don't have the patience for it. So I'm on hiatus, although I do keep a friendly vibrator and an extra pack of C batteries in my bedside table.
Acey has been dating the same guy for a little over a year. Her father was a big muckety-muck in the Baptist church, and she was raised with a firm belief in God and family, if not country. (Since her dad had served in the segregated army during World War II and spent most of his time scrubbing the latrines of Caucasian soldiers, he wasn't strong on preaching patriotism.) The guy she's dating, Matthew, is a lawyer who's rich, intelligent, and profoundly self-important. Acey thinks he's distinguished looking, but to my mind he bears a distinct resemblance around the head to Homer Simpson. But she's hanging in there, hoping something will become of them, I'm not exactly sure what. Sometimes I think in the back of her mind she's praying she'll kiss him goodnight one evening and when she wakes up the next morning he won't be a middle-aged toad but will have miraculously morphed into an Afrocentric Prince Charming. Me, I'd rather have LL CoolJ.
Anyway, last night Acey had planned a romantic evening with Matthew. She grilled red snapper, mashed potatoes with garlic and basil, spent an hour fixing haricot verts sauteed with mushrooms. She'd even stood me up for lunch in order to find a gorgeous black lace teddy at Victoria's Secret, and served raw oysters because she'd heard they were an aphrodisiac. So after dinner they went into the bedroom, where she'd lit a few pounds of mango-scented candles.
"We were kissing and that was nice, Matthew has those big pretty lips," Acey says. "I was really into it, because you know how these workaholic, successful men are, between the job and golf you're lucky to make love once a week, and my day of the week is Saturday night. Plus, ever since his triple bypass Matthew's been afraid to make love, even though his doctor told him it's not only medically safe but good for him. After a while I can feel him relax and I'm getting turned on, so I start trying to get him out of his clothes, which isn't easy, you know, he is a big man-"
"Kind of like undressing Godzilla, huh?" I interrupt with a snicker.
Acey ignores me.
"I finally get his clothes off. We're lying front to front, getting that full body contact, you know that wonderful, warm, romantic feeling, still kissing, when he suddenly rolls on top of me. And I mean he's hard, but you know, not really hard-hard. It's as if he just wants to get it over with."
"Besides which, where is the foreplay? Excuse me," I say, squinching up my face and rolling my eyes. "Kissing is just not enough, there are many other uses for mouths, and this man is over fifty, he should know these things, am I right?" Acey doesn't respond but just continues her story.
"So I say, 'Honey, how about some oral loving?' " And really, I want to bust out laughing when she uses that quaint-ass phrase for what is more commonly know as head, but that's Acey. The sister can definitely be counted on to walk that walk, but most of the time she's way too ladylike to talk the talk, even with me, her best friend for more than thirty years.
"Well, Matthew gives one of those put-upon snorts like I've asked him to fix the water heater-which actually I did a week ago and he still hasn't, I'm stuck on lukewarm-and then he kinda scooches down my chest and belly and-"
"Eats that pie!" I yell.
Acey's perfectly shaped eyebrows furrow into a pained expression, then she tosses her hair. Or I should say her weave, all twelve inches of it, tosses her. Ever since we met in second grade, Acey has been hair obsessed, changing the style, length, color, even the texture, as casually, and maybe more frequently, as I change my bed linen. I used to wonder if this was because she was insecure, didn't give a damn, or had a great sense of humor. I've decided it's all the above.
"Not exactly," she continues. "Remember that show we saw on the Discovery Channel, the one about how they find truffles in France?" I guess I look blank, because Acey says, "Come on, Lyds, you remember, it was amazing. They take these enormous pigs into the forest, let them loose, and they just sense where the truffles are growing under the earth and go right to that spot ... " Even though I want to scream, 'Forget the pigs and truffles, what about Matthew?' I don't. Instead I gently prompt, "And this story concerns Matthew in what way?" I ignore Acey when she rolls her eyes at me as if I'm an impatient child, which I sometimes am, only full grown.
"My point is that Matthew reminded me of that documentary. I mean, he slides down and snuffles and snorts around between my legs as if he's one of those truffle-hunting French porcines. Except, unlike them, he isn't finding my precious nugget of fungi! He is so far off the button, he might as well be on another continent," Acey sighs. I'm tempted to make that motion with both my hands that means speed it up, but manage to restrain myself. "So there I am, squirming around, trying to contort my pelvis in such a way that he'll accidentally hit the right spot. He's swinging his mouth back and forth so fast I'm afraid he's gonna give me razor burn with his five 0' clock shadow, but he still isn't hitting it. I'm getting frustrated, so I take my hand and try and guide his head to my love spot, but he won't let me. You know how-"
"-men think when you're trying to show them how to eat you that you're trying to push them away because it's too good for you?" I interrupt sarcastically. I would toss my hair, but I've been wearing a short natural since 1985. The most loathsome position in the world to me is both hands above my head trying to extract a coiffure, so I don't have anything to throw. I don't even own a comb or brush. When my hair gets long enough to use either, I get it cut.
"Exactly," Acey nods. ''I'm trying to show him, he's trying to tell me, and the next thing I know he's looking me in the face, full-lipped, panting, and fumbling around trying to stuff his semi-hard penis in. I want to scream, 'I'm not ready!' But it's too late. He's half in, half-hard, and, forgive me Lord, half-assed. Pounding away for all of two minutes like it's the greatest lay he's ever had-which it might have been-but the feeling is definitely not mutual. The next thing I know he grunts, howls, and falls on top of me. Girl, I swear, when I saw him coming, I wanted to holler, "Timber!" and run for cover. It took me hours to finally fall asleep, between being unsatisfied and his snoring ... " Acey's voice fades away. She sounds disappointed, but me, I'm horrified at the thought of big tall Matthew crashing down on my five-foot-four homegirl, and relieved the only damage she suffered was compounded sexual frustration.
"You should cut his ass loose."
"Lyds, you're too hard," Acey says, shaking her head. "Matthew's a good man. He's hardworking, intelligent. He's not threatened by me. And the sex was good, before the bypass. He just needs a little work in the love-making department."
"A little work? Please. That's like being a little pregnant. Stories like that, my friend, are why I'm the founding and sole member of Dater's Anonymous, trying to avoid spending the next ten years dealing with too many Matthews," I say, and suck my teeth. "Plus recover from a decade of unholy matrimony with Lorenzo the Insane."
"Now, Matthew's not that bad," she says defensively.
"That's true. We've both had worse. But wouldn't it be nice to have better? I just don't have the energy to put into getting fly, going out, and not meeting anyone. Or meeting a marginal loser and hoping he'll magically turn into something. Girl, I've kissed so many toads my lips are slimy, and still no Prince Charming. Been there, done that. I'd rather stay home alone, eat cookies in my bathrobe, and break out Mr. V. if I'm desperate. "
"My vibrator, girl." Acey manages to looks both disgusted and curi0us simultaneously.
"You named your vibrator?"
"Hell yeah. I gotta call someone's name when I'm coming. And better 'Mr. V' than that bullshit Lorenzo insisted on." Acey giggles.
"He was kinda strange, wasn't he? What was it he wanted you to say?
Oh yeah, 'Take Daddy to the bank, take Daddy to the bank,' wasn't it?"
"Don't remind me, especially since that was the only bank that no-count Negro ever got close to on his own steam. Yuck. Ace, right through here it's me and Mr. V. I've been telling you to try it, but you're afraid you might like it."
"I'm not afraid, but I'd like a little romance, some tenderness, and I can't see how I'm gonna get that from six inches of plastic."
"Anyway, about Matthew ... "
"He's not all that bad, and besides, what's the alternative? I want sex, but I also want a gentle, loving man I can depend upon along with it. A relationship," Acey says wistfully. She holds up five fingers, the better to admire her nails (freshly painted in whatever the most popular shade of MAC red is at the moment) and avoid acknowledging the skeptical expression on my face, which is just as well. "Say what you will, but with a little tweaking, Matthew would be, well, not perfect, but-remember that Grace Jones song?-perfect for me."
"What Matthew needs is more like a major overhaul," I mutter, gnawing at an annoying hangnail. It's been so long since my nails have seen polish, they'd probably have an allergic reaction if! even walked too close to a salon.
"Now, you know you're exaggerating. All he needs is a little work, some TLC, a little training," Acey admonishes. Acey's spa is one of those places women go for a day of pampering: massage, wrap, facial, nails, hair, the works. She's a firm believer that anyone can be improved with the right amount of attention and money, and that if you look good, you feel good. Let's face it, beauty may only be skin deep, but most people really are superficial.
"What he needs is a training bra, and you know it," I tease. "His breasts are almost as big as yours, his hips are wider than mine, and he's got one of those big, squishy asses. If there's one thing I cannot tolerate, it's a man with a soft butt."
"It's not all that big," Acey protests, and even though we both know his ass is way wide, we also understand she has to protest. Afterall, Acey's been alone for almost twelve years, ever since Earl, who she married her first year in college, went sailboarding in San Francisco Bay one afternoon and never came back. Last we saw him he was skimming over the waves toward Alcatraz and waving back at us proudly. By the time they found his body two weeks later a closed casket funeral was mandatory. Acey'd used Earl's life lnsurance to buy this house and start the spa, and refused to date at all for seven years. I finally convinced her to start going out again with the argument that there were a few good men out there besides Earl, but they sure as hell weren't going to walk up to her door and ring the bell. Even so, she'd spent the last five years trying to recapture the past in every man she met, beginning again with where she was as opposed to where she is.
So I'm not surprised she's trying to talk herself into believing Matthew is Him, whoever He is. You know, The One each of us is waiting for. Me, I'd been there, done that, and don't want to be there again. I'd partied hard until I was twenty-nine, then gone for the 'til-death-do-us-part bit and ended up with my soon-to-be-ex-husband Lorenzo. Fine as a he could be, but lazy and crazy as hell, too. I'm not interested in seriously hooking up again-though I would like to have fabulous, regular, safe sex with a man who doesn't hurt my eyes. But that's me, and being that Acey's my best friend, I love and support her unconditionally, even when we disagree. If she thought Matthew was a catch, well then, right on.
So I laughed and said, "Hey, sister, we both know big ain't all bad, especially not in the right places. What size is his dick?" Cutting to the chase. As I said, I'm not the patient one.
"Have I mentioned lately that you're crude?" Acey asks.
"I prefer to think of myself as direct. Now give up the goods."
"Matthew's a nice size," Acey murmurs coyly. "Not that it's doing me any good." She sighs, reaches for her champagne flute, pushes the strawberry floating on top down with her finger, then takes a steady swig. I shake my head.
"Now that's a shame. And a waste," I snicker.
"I'm praying we can work it out," she says sincerely.
"Hey, if he's willing to do the work, anything's possible. But damn, he sounds so uptight since the surgery, and how long ago was that?"
"Seven long months," Acey sighs, "And that's how long it's been since I had an orgasm, too. The doctor's been telling Matthew for months it's okay to make love, it's even therapeutic, but he's afraid, I guess, since he won't talk about it, just keeps saying he doesn't feel like it. Given that, maybe I should consider myself lucky for last night's quickie. I suppose it beats a blank."
"Damn, a brother who doesn't feel like screwing? He must be terrified. "
"Yeah, but I feel like I'm slowly petrifying, know what I mean?" "Sister, you know I hear you," I say, reaching over to slap her high five.
"The truth is, we are not alone. Sisters come into the spa six days a week talking about their man troubles. I hear so many sad stories I might as well be a hairdresser-or a shrink. Sisters either don't have anything going on, or if they do, it ain't right. Their man's too busy, too brusque, or they've just been with him so long they're bored. Did I tell you about my regular who came in the other day? She's the manager of the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. Told me this crazy story about her man wanting her to dress up in raggedy clothes and pretend she was a house slave cowering in her shack in the slave quarters and he was a Mandingo field slave come to rape her?" We both fall back, laughing, but it's that laughter that's funny and sad at the same time.
"We're laughing, but it's really pathetic," I say when the moment passes. "I mean with men, it seems there's usually something missing. The ones who are great in bed are broke; the ones who have money are either freaks, boring in bed, or too busy getting paid to take time out for loving. The young ones are fun, great for sex, but don't have a dime or a frame of reference. They look at you like you're Miss Jane Pittman when you play the Temptations or AI Green-and don't even mention life before cell phones, they'll drive you straight to the retirement home. Then if you do meet one who's easy on the eyes, has money, likes to go out, and is good in bed, he's probably married, a player, secretly gay, or on drugs. Anyway, to my mind they all need too much attention, take too much time! Wouldn't it be great if we could just create our own man?" Under the effects of the champagne I sway toward Acey, seize her upper arm, and gaze at her intently, barely managing not to topple my chaise lounge and spilling only a little bubbly. Acey's eyes have a glazed, faraway look; I'm not sure if it' s from thinking about Matthew or consuming nearly a bottle of champagne, but I need her here, with me. I apply pressure to her arm. "Wouldn't it?"
"You mean go to a store and buy bigger, better parts to replace the ones men come with?" Acey asks. I nod. "Yeah, I guess it would," she agrees. "Once you found a man you liked you could just improve him."
"Yep. Firmer abs, nicer buns, fuller lips, and the requisite bigger penis. "
"In Matthew's case lose twenty pounds," Acey adds.
"Make that thirty," I say, and this time Acey can't help but laugh with me. Both fat as adolescents, we became friends by necessity when the other kids in elementary school lumped us together as Roly and Poly. Even though we were never sure who was which, we knew it didn't matter, since we were both twenty pounds overweight and more often than not thrown together by default. Last to be chosen for teams during gym, last into the pool for swimming class because we were both so embarrassed to wear bathing suits, last invited to the school dance, and then only because Acey's dad forced or bribed two boys in the church choir to take us. I always suspected he did it more because he knew they were safe-he had them so frightened of eternal damnation they wouldn't even think about laying a hand on us-than because he felt sorry for two adolescent social rejects. Together we suffered the thousand tortures of the fat preteen, and in the process discovered that we had a lot in common besides a love of food and too much adipose tissue. We read books and whispered secrets lying side by side on Acey's bed or mine, went fishing off the piers around Oakland, swam together in the YWCA pool during summer vacations, dreamed of growing up to be beautiful career women with nice husbands and happy lives.
And besides the husbands part-and the dependable sex that's supposed to come with them-both of us had pretty much realized our dreams, at least for now. The summer before we entered high school, sick and tired of being reassured by Acey' s parents and my mom-my dad died when I was twelve-that it was just baby fat and would miraculously melt away like lard in a hot skillet when we got older, or that pretty is as pretty does, or that men liked women with some meat on their bones, we busted our asses and lost the weight. It didn't hurt that I suddenly shot up to my present five-eight. It was that summer, slim and suddenly desired, if not popular, that Acey later told me started her thinking about finding a career that made women look and feel good, if only for one day.
In college Acey majored in business, but me, I was too busy checking out the men and writing steamy love poems to think much about a career. Now I work as a copy editor at an advertising agency, writing catchy lines for generally unnecessary or useless products, most of which promise women they'll look or feel better but seldom live up to the sales pitch. Afterfifteen years, I'm bored, but not sure what to do next with the skills I have. What can you expect from someone who majored in poetry?
"I can see it now: The Male Replacement Parts Store," I continue.
"C an you imagine how crowded that jammie would be? Sisters would be
standing in line, shelling out big bucks to build their very own highperformance, low-maintenance bro." Acey drains her glass and reaches for a refill. Her eyes stare ahead, focused on a scene in her imagination. She looks blissfully happy. Do visions offirm buns dance in her head?
"We'd be rolling down the aisle with our shopping carts, stopping a clerk and asking, 'Can you direct me toward the penises?' 'Yes, ma'am. What are you looking for today, medium, large, or extra large? What ethnicity are you ladies looking for? Black, white, Latino, Native, Asian, or indeterminate? We have some lovely new arrivals in aisle four." Acey grasps her stomach. She's laughing so hard tears roll down her chocolate cheeks .
"Stop, you're going to make me wet my pants." She manages to choke the words out between guffaws. But I can't stop, I'm on a roll.
"Ladies! Ladies! Alert! Blue-light special in aisle seven. Firm, round, squeezable buns, two for 19.95' Thick full lips, soft and sweet as candy, complete with long agile tongues, 39.50 the pair, satisfaction guaranteed. Today only, aisle nine," I hawk, trying to make my voice sound like a carnival barker's. Acey stops laughing, wipes tears from her eyes, shakes her head.
"It'd be fun, but women would still be doing most of the work," she says, shaking herself out of the moment. "You know the men would resist accepting replacement parts, and even if they did, it'd be us who'd have to go to the store, wait on line, lug them home, install them, keep them tuned up." Acey shrugs and sighs. It sounds like she's already tired out from thinking about it. I'm whipped just listening to her.
"It'd be better if we could just go some place where the men were already equipped with the basics. By that I mean a great body, sexual stamina, nice teeth ... "
"And a big Johnson, sister," I interject. "Because let's be real: It's the meat and the motion!"
"And they'd have to know how to be tender and romantic," Acey adds, ignoring my last comment.
"Fine, romantic, tender-and sexually expert. Forget building the man ourselves, it'd be too much work and they'd put up too much resistance. But what if there was a place sisters could go where there'd be all kinds of men available to fulfill their every fantasy, no questions asked? The only requirements would be they'd have to be committed and able to please women."
"Kind of a brothel for sisters. A place where you could fulfill your sexual fantasies without all the complications of a relationship," Acey says dreamily.
"We could call it a Bro-thell. A Bordello of Bloods." I laugh when I say this, and Acey laughs, too. We sit on the deck, sipping champagne, thinking lazy thoughts. I'm imagining myself in bed with a fine young blood, having hours of fabulous sex with an enthusiastic partner, then going on about my business. No emotional complications, no drama, no wondering if he'll call, no disappointments.
I sit bolt upright, spilling a little more of my champagne.
I put my glass down, reach over and lower the volume on the radio, and clutch Acey's forearm again. "Ow!" she squeals, sitting up and looking at me. Her eyes aren't glazed any more.
"Acey. This just might work." I look into her eyes and can almost hear that serious business mind of hers snap to attention. I sit up straighter and blink.
"Lyds, don't tell me you're serious?" she asks.
"As a heart attack," I chuckle. "Now, don't take that personally."
She waves her hand casually, as if swatting away the whole Matthew dilemma. "Are you?" she repeats. Suddenly what had started out as a joke between two best friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon has turned into seri0us business.
"Bro-thell, Motel, Holiday Inn, whatever we call it, we'd get rich!" I hiss. "Can you imagine it? A place women can come, have their wildest sexual fantasies realized, have medically certified safe sex for a price? No more courtship, no risk of rejection, no games-just great sex, effortlessly. And no more of the dreaded AIDS conversation or arguments over using condoms," I add, warming to the subject. "If I hear one more man tell me, 'Baby, I know I'm clean, I haven't been fucking around,' I'm gonna go to the mountains and become a nun." Acey throws back her head and roars with laughter, as if the thought of me in a convent is about the funniest thing she's heard. I have to admit it is pretty farfetched.
"Wait, girl. My favorite is, 'It's not that I have anything against using a condom, they just don't make them big enough for me.' Have you noticed that the men running that line are usually the ones with the smallest endowment?"
"Amen to that. Now can you understand why I hang in there with Matthew?"
"Hell, yeah. Tired lines like that are why I'm on hiatus."
"A brothel for black women," Acey says thoughtfully. "We could sure use one. The situation out here is, unfortunately, pretty dry."
"Sister, it may be time to come out of the sexual desert. The drought is almost over, and we're the rainmakers." Acey laughs.
"Are you serious?" Acey looks at me hard. And while I'll admit I've got a buzz on, I'm not drunk and I'm definitely not just bullshitting. Even through the champagne and the heat, I know this idea's on a par with the invention of compact discs. At least.
"I don't know if it's legal or possible, but yeah, I'm serious," I say.
"Think about it: How many women do we both know who are single and sexless with no prospects on the horizon? Or they're simply tired of the whole dating game, need a break from the complications, but aren't into celibacy? Sisters like us who work hard, are single, married, divorced, and maybe raising children. It'd definitely appeal to sisters without a man-and I think plenty of women with a man would go for it, too. Because even the best of relationships are work, and we'd be offering pure pleasure: plain, simple, and discreet. Fine sisters, plain sisters, plump, thin, smart, not too swift: quiet as it's kept, all kinds of women, of all ages, would love the opportunity to have fabulous, safe sex on demand. I mean, we'll be fulfilling a serious need."
Acey chuckles. "You're right, we both know more than a few married women whose husbands either aren't taking care of business or who just need a break, something new to spice things up. They'd be more than welcome as customers."
"Or women whose men have medical problems. Temporarily, of course," I add, hastily, winking at Acey, "And just need an occasional fling to take the edge off until he's back up to speed." She nods.
"You're right. We'd offer private, satisfying, safe sex at an affordable price, thoughtfully delivered. No need to prowl bars, engage in chitchat, or compete with other women."
"Exactly," I say, nodding. "Sex to order. Straight, no chaser." "We'd advertise it as a deluxe, full-service spa, especially designed with the black woman in mind. Offer massages, herbal wraps, samba aerobics, Tae-Bo, facials, massage, hair, nails, same stuff! already do. The sex would be discreet, the most unique service we offer. That way, we take the edge off any embarrassment sisters associate with paying for sex," Acey adds. "Only our clients would know that our workout involves both losing pounds and gaining inches."
"Sisters need to get over it," I snort dismissively. "The truth is that everyone pays for sex, directly or indirectly. Men take us out to dinner, buy us nice things, and sometimes even marry us for sex. Women stroke men's egos, dumb themselves down, and fake orgasms for the same reasons, and none of that's going to change. What we're offering is a satisfying break from the rituals of male-female relations. A brief respite. I mean, let's face it, dealing with men is like being black. I don't want to not be black, but every now and then I sure could use a couple days vacation." Acey laughs.
"What we'd be selling is sex without stigma. Or a relationship. A revolutionary concept for women. The bottom line is every sister would arrive with great expectations and leave satisfied."
"Hey, if we planned this right we could even offer a money-back guarantee." I laugh when I say this, but I'm not kidding.
"Absolutely. There's one major problem, though," Acey says slowly, suddenly serious. I stop laughing. Acey's always been more methodical and careful about things than I am, the one who finds the tiny tear in the back of a great dress that's on sale before she buys it, or can tell by the way a car engine sounds if it needs just a simple tune-up or a new transmission. Me, I never see the rip until I'm dressed and about to walk out the door, and more than one car has, without my noticing the slightest warning sign, died in the middle of the road.
"Who would we get to work there?" she asks, and I let out my breath, because this time damned if the catch ain't a no - brainer. I'm so relieved I toss my natural, for what it's worth.
"Who wouldn't we? We're talking sex, not brain surgery. We'll go on scouting trips to find talent: attractive, highly sexed men who like women, are undiscriminating when it comes to fucking, know how to be seductive, and-here's the key-don't want to get emotionally involved. Face it, with that criteria, we'll have more applicants than we can handle." We laugh smugly, knowingly, thrilled by the prospect of using men's commitment-phobia, a characteristic that in the past had driven both of us damn near crazy, to our benefit.
"Mm-hm, we're talking some serious research," I giggle, reaching for my glass again. "We both know men are notorious about exaggerating their physical attributes. According to them, they're all at least six feet tall and have ten-inch penises. As founders and owners, it'd be our job to audition all applicants and make sure they are up to snuff," I giggle. "Or down to muff." .
"Well, maybe that should be your area of expertise," Acey says, a bit primly. And that's my girl, able to soar right along with me for a while, but those feet always sink back into the earth.
"Excuse me, Miss Sunday-Go- To-Meeting, my bad," I laugh. "It'll be a serious sacrifice, but if! must go it alone, I shall." We sit there lightly buzzed, the smiles on our faces widening into great big grins as the idea of a brothel for women begins to become real in our minds.
"Is this legal?"
"In Nevada prostitution's legal for men, so I figure it'd have to be for women. But nobody's tried it. Plus, we'd keep it on the down low. As you said, we're starting a spa. It's nobody but our clients' business that we offer unique, in-depth services. "
"So, what's our first step? When do we start? What are we going to call the place?"
"I don't know what we're gonna call it, but we should definitely do this." I know, even if my sisters don't yet, that they are waiting for this. I'd spent my whole professional life selling women shit they didn't need; surely I could sell them something they did. "Sisters have a right to feel good too," I add, draining my glass.
We both chuckle. All at once my laughter stops and my lips turn up in the biggest smirk my face has felt since my last multiple orgasm. And just like then, I start hollering.
"That's it," I yell. "That's the name." Acey looks at me blankly. "What? 'Sisters have a right to feel good, too?' I think we have to go for a little subtlety here," Acey suggests sarcastically.
"I was thinking 'Dr. Feelgood's,' from that Aretha song."
"Love the song, hate the name. Anyway, women twenty years younger or older than us might not get it."
"I guess you're right, we do want to appeal to horny women of all ages. Plus ReRe might not appreciate it," I laugh. We're both silent for a few moments, turning the name over in our heads. I'm visualizing a name that'll look good emblazoned on towels, condom wrappers, skimpy Speedo bathing trunks. Hey, it's all about branding:
"What about 'A Sister's Spa'?" I finally say. "It's simple, easy to remember, and to the point. It's also subtle."
"It just might work," Acey finally says as a smile slowly spreads across her face. "I like it."
"If we work it right, it's a sure thing, whatever we call it."
We sit silent for a few minutes, each of us spinning slightly tipsy plans for our ultimate full-service spa. The sun is almost gone and the light has turned that rosy-peach color of just before twilight, each particle of air becoming slowly distinct. In the years we have been friends we have become comfortable with each other's silences. It's a good thing we aren't running our mouths, too, because if we had been we might not have heard the DJ, one of those Barry White-sounding brothers who haunt the Quiet Storm, Kissing After Dark airwaves, murmur, "And now, for all you lovers and lonely women out there on this sultry evening, we give you Marvin Gaye and ... 'Sexual Healing.' "
The insistent bedroom voice wraps itself around the two of us sit ting in that particular air of twilight, that brief time between day and night when great plans are hatched and all things seem possible. For the first time, we know old Marvin is talking directly to us. After all those years of singing, dancing, and-let's be honest-more than a few times making love along with that song, we finally hear it. The wonder of it is that with our brainstorm, we've figured out a way to seize for ourselves and our sisters what Marvin has been singing about-and men have been getting-for all these years. Not love, but sexual healing.