My girlfriends tell me my Ralph needs reform. They say he lacks the killer instinct but I tell them I have enough of that for both of us.
My husband is not quite a dinosaur but I do have to admit he does come from a different era. One when men folk left their women for days or weeks as they hunted or fished. When I think of those times I think the men wouldn’t — couldn’t — have had the brawling loud machismo you see in the streets at closing time. No, they would have to be sinewy and animal like their prey.
My Ralph is like that.
During winter he almost goes into hibernation, like a big bear. He starts projects around the house but loses enthusiasm and has to force himself to complete them. In the mornings, as I watch him towel down after his shower, I consider his expanding belly and wonder if this is the year it has come to stay. In the evenings we retreat early to our bed and make slow easy love. Often I wake in the middle of the night and find him laying beside me watching the stars beyond the bedroom window. Then we’ll talk quietly about everything and nothing until the sky lightens in the east and I guide him into me again.
He seems to smell the coming of spring before the birds or even before the apple trees begin to bud. One day I’ll come home from the Office and the lounge room floor will be covered in boat parts and fishing gear.
All through the winter Ralph will have cooked chowders and creamy casseroles but the night he feels spring coming we’ll eat the first of his earth foods. Yang food, he calls it — beans and lentils and leaf vegetables and rice — for muscles. It doesn’t fill me the way the winter meals do but I sleep better and wake with the sun.
When I open my eyes I lay alone in the bed smelling the jasmine outside our bedroom window. Through the open door to the lounge room I will hear Ralph at the exercises he ignored all winter. His days become increasingly busy as he prepares his boat, gathers the crew and readies his gear. Some days the kitchen will be given over to preparation and freezing and we dine on the leftovers that don’t find room in the plastic containers.
At night, too, it is as if his world is growing anew as Ralph holds my arms to the bed and his lips and fingers explore me. As if he is too eager for the sea, his favorite senses are of smell and taste. He is no longer satisfied until he has buried his face between my legs and searched me out with his tongue.
Show day holiday is the day I plant out the tomatoes, as there will be no more morning frosts. It is also the day that the dining table is first blanketed with maps and penciled paper scraps. Ralph will pour over them for the following three weeks studying long range weather forecasts and catch rates and steaming distances. We’ll eat off our plates on our knees as the table is dedicated to its higher purpose.
He’ll interrupt my reading after dinner with indecipherable descriptions ocean currents and storm patterns and spawnings. Contrarily, he must be reminded of the process of mating when we are later in our bed. I’ll roll him onto his back and encourage the part I need. I’ll mount him then watch the dreaminess in his face and feel the elegance of him inside of me as I slowly rise and fall like a tide enveloping him. My nipples win tingle as he cups my breasts in his hands but I know better to ask his thoughts. Already his mind will be at sea.
Then, one day sooner than I expect, I’ll come home from my office and the rest of him will be at sea too.
In my own way I’ll be at sea as well. That first evening I’ll wonder if they have rounded the Maatsuyker Islands. Perhaps they will have even passed the Breaksea Rocks and already be along the west coast of our island exposed, to the full force the Roaring Forties.
Each morning I’ll watch the television weather predictions as I eat my breakfast alone. In the evenings I’ll stay up until the late news then sleep fitfully. Should a storm crowd the coast I’ll wonder if Ralph has found shelter somewhere or is driving the boat into the weather and towards the safer rolling seas of deeper water. When the weather is good I’ll imagine him and his crew working the long summer hours — from four hours past one midnight to three hours or less before the next — hauling pots, removing angry crayfish, baiting and resetting.
We’ll try to keep in touch with each other but, somehow, our timetables will fail to synchronize. Ralph’s short and scratchy radiophone messages on the answering machine will only leave me wanting more and wishing for less.
Then, one day, I’ll come home from work and he’ll be there. He’ll smell of sea and sweat. He’ll push me to the floor and, as he covers my face with kisses, pull my skirt up. Toughened by sea and ropes, his fingers will force through the nylon of my tights and make way for him to enter me.
After, as I lie in the middle of the lounge room floor, Ralph will get the Hibachi and the makings of our special coming home dinner.
The oil will heat as he unbuttons my blouse. I’ll lift my shoulders for him then raise my hips. He’ll slide my skirt and torn underwear over my feet.
The first morsel will be for me. He will dip a strip of abalone into thin batter then drop it into the spitting oil. Less than a minute later he’ll capture it, draw it through the garlic-bread sauce and pop it into my mouth. The second tempura he sauces between my legs and eats it himself.
Later he will tease me with battered pumpkin and mushrooms and fish and tell me to wait, as I grow eager with anticipation. When I think I can bare no more he will take an oyster into his mouth, lean down to my sex, press his tongue deep into me. I will hold my breath as he moves his mouth to mine. And then he will feed me the treat I have waited for.