Pantisex Time

 
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Andrew Miller

Art by Olive Hayes

 

Judith had on lime-green panties she had ordered from a shop in Guadalajara. I wore a misty-blue pair straight from her clothesline—I love that sun-dried smell. Starting with both of us wearing panties was her idea. She has an entire dresser stuffed with different colors, all skimpy and chic.

Pantisex time starts every Friday night at eight.

We’d just stretched out on the mat when she spotted an ingrown nail on my right big toe. She said I should go to Mariana’s Hand and Foot Spa and have a clipper person take care of it.

I told her those places were for women; men don’t go there.

She flicked my big toe with her middle finger. “Listen, little twit, tell Raymond to get up there. Otherwise, he can figure out something else to do Friday nights.”

Uh-oh, this wasn’t the time to argue about who goes where for nail work. Besides, I was anxious to get started.

“All right,” I said, wiggling my toe in her face and speaking in falsetto.

“If you won’t go to Hand and Foot, see a podiatrist.”

“Okay, okay.”

 
 

I got involved with Judith after Felicia, my previous lady friend, stormed out. We’d gotten into a big argument about my Sexual Position Spread Sheet. She didn’t like “Cowgirl’s helper.” As the discussion progressed, she brought out lots of things she didn’t like about me. Like the way I treated her brother. Referring to him as “Lawrence of Loafdom” was disrespectful.

Later that afternoon, Lawrence drove up in a rental truck. They loaded all her belongings and took off to who knows where. For a couple of days, I enjoyed the solitude. Just me and Pepperflakes, my gray-and-white cat. When that became tiresome, I decided to find someone else. This time, it would be a woman closer to my age. I clicked the “Over 60” button on SilverMatchUps. Within an hour I was having a flirtatious dialogue with a lady in South Georgia. She was just my type: witty, liked to read, couldn’t dance, and loved cats. Owned an orange long-hair named Buttercup. Our virtual relationship went well until I decided Pepperflakes should send a message to Buttercup. Seemed like it was time for them to correspond. I prepared a letter that Pepperflakes might write—how he loved mouse meat, sometimes coughed up hairballs, and occasionally drank out of the toilet—and signed it with a hand-drawn paw print.

That was the end of my correspondence with Ms. South Georgia.

Several days later, I connected with Judith, a local several years older than me. We would only get together if I agreed to her terms. First, this was to be 100% sexual, 0.0% emotional. There would be “fringe activities.” Starting with both of us wearing panties was one. Also, prearranged sexnarios featuring role-playing, costumes, masks, and garden vegetables.

And Felicia thought my SPSS was weird.

Judith lived in a neighborhood just north of downtown Tallassee. The action took place in her living room on an exercise mat. She didn’t want me in her bed or the rest of her house. The first time we pantisexed, I orgasmed in seconds. Having my parts crammed inside extra tight raspberry-red panties—plus her ravenous kissing and writhing—got me there quick.

After we untangled, she said, “Take a little break?” When I said yes, she went into her bedroom and shut the door. We got back to it in fifteen minutes.

We kept to her terms. She never quizzed me about my day, my plans for the weekend, or what I thought about political goings-on. She didn’t talk about her childhood, how she made a living, or past relationships. I wondered if her partner just died or she was recently divorced. That might have explained why she wanted to keep emotions out of our relationship.

And she never smiled, which bugged me.

 

The podiatrist’s waiting room was awash in bronze casts of human feet, each stuffed with a different kind of live plant: philodendron, English ivy, aloe, bird’s nest fern. Dr. Pod was about half my age. He barely looked at my ingrown toenail, instead pointed to a small red dot under the nail of my other big toe. He called it my “great toe.”

“Humm,” he said, squinting at left great toe, “you don’t look so good.”

He whipped out his phone and snapped a photo. “We better biopsy this guy.” Before I could ask questions, he jolted my toe with four lidocaine shots. A few minutes later, he returned and sucked out a tissue plug with a giant hypodermic needle.

After a week, I was back in his office. He handed the lab results to me. “CANCER DETECTED,” printed in red, was at the top. Below, “Malignant melanoma, acral type.”

The entire left great toe would have to go. ASAP. Cancerous cells could be running amuck, streaming up my leg. “Look at it this way,” he said, “that cancer is as far away from your brain as it can get.” The next stop would be a plastic surgeon since they were experts at toe removal.

I texted Judith, told her the news.

She texted back, “You okay?”

I texted back that I was. Those little dots blinked on and off for a long time like she was composing a reply. But she didn’t, and the dots finally evaporated.

 
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Judith met me at the door in a Donald Duck mask wearing pink panties with white polka dots. She handed a pair of red silk panties and a Goofy mask to me. I gave her a brief rundown on my meeting with Doctor Pod. She nodded and motioned for me to lie on the mat. She brought three wine bottles from her bedroom, each with a candle stuck in the neck. She lit the candles and placed a mirror behind each. Gigantic mirrors, big enough to see ourselves in. She lay on top of me, repositioned her arms and legs so that every part of her touched every part of me. Our fingers, our legs, our arms, our lips. Then we offed each other’s panties and got to it. Afterward, I snuggled in close, wrapped my arms around her, and rested my chin on her shoulder.

I thought about asking if she knew anything about plastic surgeons. My appointment was on Monday. They had put me on the fast track.

Before I could ask, she said, “Hey, you’re pushing me off the mat.” She peeled my arms away.

“Right.” I scooted away so we didn’t touch.

“Next Friday?”

“Sure.”

 
 

The plastic surgeon was a big guy, well over six feet, and must have weighed two-fifty, two-eighty. He studied my left great toe, then measured from the red dot back to my foot with his thumb and forefinger.

He laid one hand on my shoulder. “It’s curtains for Mr. Left Great Toe.” He explained that since the melanoma was more than 1.0 mm thick—1.5 mm—cancerous cells might have spread to lymph nodes in my groin and maybe to the rest of my body. When I got to the hospital, he would inject errant toe with radioactive dye, then wait for the dye to creep up to my lymph nodes. He’d only biopsy the radioactive nodes.

After finishing the lecture, he leaned back in his chair and started talking about being a sharpshooter in the army. I wondered how he went from sharpshooting to plastic surgery. Maybe he planned to shoot off my toe with his rifle. A one-person firing squad for expendable appendages.

I asked him if going left-great-toeless would affect my gait. He said I could get a prosthetic toe and wear it like a glove. That didn’t sound appealing. One more thing to put on in the morning.

 
 

I was on all fours, wearing maroon panties; Judith was crunched against me from behind. Her breathing picked up; she locked both arms around my stomach. Off came our panties, first mine, then hers. Her lips locked onto my shoulder, and she bit down hard. Her chest heaved. She made a noise deep in her throat and exhaled.

She flopped down on the mat, rolled in close, and spoke directly to my penis, “What’s outside our universe?”

No one had asked my penis a question before. Maybe there was more to Judith than I had imagined.

“Judith,” I said, “There is much beyond the observable universe.”

“Exactly what?”

“Everything. All time, all life, all death, all birth, all love.”

She rolled over and jammed her elbows into the mat.

“How about ‘nothing?’ Any of that out there?”

“There must be plenty of nothing,” I said, “since everything is out there.”

“Are there places where there’s ‘less than nothing?’”

“Nothing is the absolute limit of nothingness. It’s the end of the trail, the last hurrah, the dead-stop end point. If there were a place with less than nothing, nothing would have to be something.”

“But you said everything was out there. That must include less than nothing.”

Ever since childhood, I’ve been a nuance aficionado, always looking for subtle change. Several days ago, I was in my backyard when a light summer breeze began to murmur, carrying a whiff of dryness, a hint of crispness. The fluttering leaves showed the barest tinge of red, brown, and yellow. They whispered: fall is coming.

After she spoke, I sensed a bit more depth in her eyes, an extra flicker to her eyelashes. Lips more moist than usual. But no smile.

 
 

Judith drove me to the hospital in her little red truck but didn’t come in. “You guys are on your own,” she said. Inside, the receptionist asked to see my photo ID. His eyes flitted back and forth between me and my picture. I became anxious.

Finally, he handed back my ID. “You can’t be too careful,” he said.

They sent me to the X-ray department. Once sprawled on the table, two doctors appeared, a man and a woman, both about the same age. He was short and skinny. She was about the same height but had the build of a weight lifter. An X-ray technician popped in and began to fuss with the equipment.

Doc Weightlifter said, “These injections will hurt like holy hell. Like angry hornets.”

“I’ll give you the worst one first,” Doc Skinny said.

Weightlifter pressed on my leg with both hands. “Five bucks says he yelps.”

I closed my eyes while he counted backward. “Three, two, one,” then blam. They were right; it was excruciating. I’ve been stung by hornets a few times, but nothing like this. He did another, then stepped aside and let Weightlifter do the last two. When finished, she handed a five-dollar bill to Doc Skinny. He started to pocket it, then passed it on to me.

“I’ve got no pockets,” I said.

Mr. X-Ray said, “Stick it in your underpants.”

 
 

I hobbled out a few hours later and climbed into Judith’s truck. She was eating Cheetos and listening to country music. Her fingers were a light orange and left powdery smudges on the steering wheel.

She closed the Cheetos bag. “What took so long?”

“They were signing me up for penile length reduction surgery.”

“I thought you were here for butt enhancement. You are boney back there.”

“Hurt yourself the other night?”

We tore out of the lot and zoomed down Magnolia Street.

“I have a cane you can use.”

“They said I’d be back to ballroom dancing in a couple of days.”

“I’m taking you to my place,” she said. “You’re in no shape to care for yourself.”

“How long have you had this truck?”

“What do you mean?”

“It has an antique plate.”

She parked little red truck in the driveway and led me through the house to a room behind the kitchen with a bed by the window. Masks covered an entire wall: Dracula, Frankenstein, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck. Faces of celebrities, ex-presidents, politicians, plus others I didn’t recognize. A shelf was lined with kid stuff: old metal lunch boxes, puppets, half a dozen windup metal trucks. On the opposite wall, a line of multicolored kilts hung suspended on coat hangers.

“I’d like to see you in one of those.”

I lay on a couch in the living room. She appeared a couple of minutes later wearing a blue-and-red kilt, a bright-red sports bra, and a Lone Ranger mask. She wore a pair of soft, moccasiny shoes with leather straps that swirled up to her knees.

“Well, now,” I said.

“I’m going to order Thai food.”

We watched an old Twilight Zone episode. The one about the bank clerk who tossed a coin in a vendor’s box that landed on edge and stayed there. That gave the bank clerk the ability to read people’s thoughts, which he did for the rest of the day. The spell was broken when he returned after work and knocked the coin over.

The doorbell rang. Judith grabbed tip money and ran for the door.

After he left, she said, “Did you see him?”

I shook my head. She said his face was all messed up. Purple-red bruises on his forehead, cheeks, and chin. Around his left eye, the skin had turned completely black. Maybe his nose had been broken. Someone must have beaten the living crap out of him.

“Recently?”

She said it might have been a couple of days ago.

“What’d he say about your outfit?”

“Didn’t even notice.”

I couldn’t eat much and went into the bedroom and lay down. I couldn’t fall asleep. Maybe it was the drugs. I wondered about this room and all the paraphernalia in it. Judith must have used this stuff for sexcapades with other people before me. Was she married—did someone live here with her? Around midnight, she opened the door. She stood there for a long time looking at me but didn’t say anything. I pretended to be asleep.

The next day she dropped me off at my place.

When I unbuckled my seat belt, she said, “Take care of yourself.”

 
 

A couple of days later, I showed up at sharpshooter surgeon’s office. Right off, he told me the good news: cancer wasn’t detected in my lymph nodes. Very likely, I was cancer-free. No need for PET scans or chemotherapy. His assistant unwrapped the bandage and he studied my foot. Then they scrutinized the incision on my groin. I had my underpants on but pushed my parts to one side so they could see better. I didn’t want any unexpected slip-outs.

“Humm,” he said and placed a thumb and forefinger on each side of the incision. He pressed down, and it popped open. Yawned like a little mouth. Lymphatic fluid squirted out.

“It’ll drain for a couple of weeks,” his assistant said. She rammed a big wad of gauze into the slit. “I’ll give you extra gauze.”

He asked how I was walking and if I felt any pain. I said the worst part of the deal was getting the shots of dye before the operation. He rested his arm on my shoulder but didn’t say anything.

Later I called Judith and explained about the lymphatic fluid spurting out. I thought that might bother her and she’d want to cancel the next PST. She said, don’t worry about that, then said, up for a party?

“Sure.”

“See you Friday. Same time.”

 
 

The sun had set. We carried the mat outside, spread it on the grass, and toked up. Judith had stuck a joint in a twelve-inch piece of bamboo harvested from her neighbor’s backyard. She was wearing purple panties, me chartreuse. We had drifted through a series of Moody Blues pieces, and “Nights in White Satin” had just started. This was gorilla mask night.

She exhaled a column of smoke and asked, “How was your adolescence?”

I said that during those years, I was an apical meristem—whenever a part of me was nipped off, I branched out in multifarious directions.

A sliver of moon crept above the treetops. Our exhalents roared past the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, made straight for the stars. Her neighbor fired up a grill with a whomp.

“Seems a bit late to grill a steak.”

That last inhale had scorched my throat. I hadn’t done this in years.

She said, “Speak to me of things beyond the universe. I didn’t understand what you said the other night.”

The guy next door yelled at his wife. Something about the steaks being too lean. I flopped onto my side, inhaled, and held my breath.

I said, “Imagine you’re at the center of the universe in a powerful rocket. Head due celestial north, travel for an eternity of eternities, and you’ll end up right where you started, except pointed in the opposite direction.”

“Let’s listen to more Moody Blues.”

She punched away at her phone, then lay on her side, rested her eyes on me. For a moment, I thought we might kiss. Not the hungry kind, like when we were having sex, but soft and gentle. But we didn’t. She rolled on her back, stretched out both arms. “Look up,” she said.

We drank in the stars.

“What would sex be without life?” she asked.

She wriggled across the mat until our foreheads touched. After slipping out of her panties, she pulled mine off, then climbed on top. When we were finished, she didn’t roll off, just lay there. For a long time. She was asleep.

 
 

I’m scheduled for once-a-year dermatological checkups, but when I told the receptionist about my toe, she had me come in that afternoon. As usual, I had to strip to my underpants and put on a flimsy paper gown wide open in the back. Doc Dermy was upset that the podiatrist, not him, identified my melanotic toe. I didn’t tell him it was all because of Judith.

This exam was more thorough than usual. His assistant, a female many years my junior, took notes. Doc Dermy droned on and on about the need to wear a wide-brimmed hat and slather on plenty of high-octane sunblock. He recommended special shirts and pants that filtered out the sun’s rays.

As I left his office, Judith texted me. We couldn’t meet this Friday. Something unexpected had come up. I wondered if she was seeing someone else. Sometimes when people make things up, their voice sounds a little different. But it didn’t sound like it.

She called Friday night. She asked if I was okay. I told her that me and Pepperflakes were eating chicken and sausage gumbo. She said, your cat eats gumbo? No, I said, just the chicken. He doesn’t even like sausage. Okay, she said and disconnected.

Judith had the door open before I rang the bell. She wore bright yellow. The pink pair was for me. She told me I looked good in pink, and I said she looked good in yellow. We lay on the mat.

“You got some sun.”

I told her about our recent office picnic on the St. Marks River, just south of town. We rented a flotilla of pontoon boats and cruised upriver. Went swimming, ate barbecue, drank beer. Except for me, the others brought wives, husbands, lovers. Kids and friends of kids.

She placed four fingers on my forehead. Her skin was soft. For a long time, neither of us spoke. I thought she might say, did you wear a hat, or why didn’t you ask me to come? But she didn’t. I lined up my arm next to hers, elbow to elbow, wrist to wrist. I stretched out my fingers. She stretched out hers. I wove my fingers into hers and squeezed. Her palm was soft, warm.

“Look.” I pointed at our arms.

If I hadn’t worn a long-sleeved shirt, my skin would be as dark as hers. I watched for a hint of a smile. But there was none.

“Hey,” I said.

She relaxed her fingers, and her hand fell to the mat. I slid closer, touched her shoulder. I could feel her breath on my cheek.

“Speak to me of color.” Her voice was low, almost a whisper.

“Color is but a theory,” I said. “Someday there will be no color.”

“All the world will be white?”

“Absolutely. To see color, you will have to fly into Galaxy 7XYC in the Delta Quadrant. Look for the solar system with three suns.”

“What do three suns have to do with it?”

“Colors are the children of light. Their planets are drenched in color. The inhabitants sing in color, dance in color, make love in color . . . ."

Judith thrust her hand into my panties and stroked me until I was stiff. She climbed on top and pressed down hard, gyrating her hips until I came. She stood up when my breathing leveled off.

“My first boyfriend and I used to make love like that.” She walked to the window, slid back the curtain. “In our underwear. We were just kids.”

Moonlight trickled in, pooled on the floor.

“Are you in town tomorrow?” She turned. “We need to talk about some stuff.”

“Sure,” I said. “Want me to come over?”

“We’ll meet somewhere. I’ll text you.”

 

“Maybe I wasn’t weird enough. Or she was looking for something different. She might have expected me to design new sexnarios. Perhaps she found someone else. I sat on the sand. Cicadas sang.”

 

I left her place and drove south on the Woodville Highway to St. Marks. The picnic area overlooking the river was empty. The outdoor eating pavilion at the biker bar was crammed with people, all older than me. No motorcycles in the parking lot, just golf carts, bumper to bumper. The wind hustled dark clouds from east to west; the moon and stars blinked on and off. I thought about renting a pontoon boat, idling upriver. But the marina was closed. And it was dark.

I thought about Judith. Wondered what was happening. We seemed to be getting along well. Maybe I wasn’t weird enough. Or she was looking for something different. She might have expected me to design new sexnarios. Perhaps she found someone else. I sat on the sand. Cicadas sang.

She said to meet at Cabrera’s Chicken Basket at 6:00 p.m. It’s a very popular serve-yourself Peruvian place south of town. I eat there several times a month with guys from the office.

Inside the front door, a kid was having a seizure. One of the line cooks raced out with a bunch of aprons and wedged them under his head that was thump-thump-thumping against the linoleum floor. The cook yelled at everyone to back away. When the kid stopped thrashing, the cook hugged him tight to his chest. Hugged him like they were best buddies. Hugged him and hugged him.

Older boys clustered around the kid and helped him to his feet. His parents weren’t there. The cook scraped up the aprons and walked back to the kitchen. I sat at a tiny table tucked under a potted palm to wait for Judith. I was glad she wasn’t here for the seizure. She showed up a few minutes later.

“Hey.”

She sat opposite me and laid her arms on the table. Our hands almost touched. I asked if she had eaten here before, and she said yes. I said we should go through the serving line separately so we didn’t lose the table. She should go first.

“No,” she said, “I already ate. Go ahead.”

Me eating and not her. That would be dumb. I considered not getting anything, just sitting. But that didn’t seem right, and she did tell me to go ahead. I loaded my plate with chicken, fried plantain, rice, green beans.

She said, “How’s your toe?”

“My foot, you mean.” I told her that sometimes my left great toe hurt, even though it wasn’t there. She hadn’t asked about it before, even right after my surgery. “Thanks for letting me stay at your place after the operation.”

“Those were special circumstances.”

She pulled her phone out of her purse. She didn’t look at it, just held it in her hand. “I can’t stay all that long.”

“Okay.”

A group of men at another table began to sing a sea shanty:

There once was a ship that put to sea

The name of the ship was the Billy of Tea

The winds blew up, her bow dipped down . . . .

When they finished, everyone in the restaurant clapped. So did we.

“The Thai food was good.”

“You didn’t eat much.” She laid both arms on the table. “Raymond, I don’t want us to get together anymore.” She cracked her knuckles against her forehead, one by one. Sounded like hickory sticks, stout ones, being snapped. “This isn’t working for me.” She pressed her fingertips together and brought both hands to her chin. Almost looked like she was praying. I thought about mirror night when she lay on top of me, and every part of us touched.

“Is it because—"

She shook her head. “It’s just too intense for me right now.”

She looked at my plate. I had only eaten a couple of plantains. On her face was the barest hint of a smile.

“Do you . . .” She set her phone on the table. “. . . do you want to buy my truck?”

I told her I didn’t need a truck and asked why she was selling it.

“I don’t know,” she said, “maybe I’m not selling it.”

I remembered the antique plates. “How long have you had it?”

“Couple of months. It was Dad’s.”

Our knees bumped. She slid her chair back.

“After Mom died, he moved to Wisconsin. Wanted to be near the Mississippi River. He never liked the South.”

Several families at a long table began to sing Happy Birthday. We didn’t talk while they sang. I wondered if the kid who had the seizure was okay.

“Dad died in May. I flew up there and drove his truck back.”

“If this is because of your dad—”

“This isn’t about my dad.”

“We could take a break for a while, get together later.”

She stared at my plate. If she left while I was eating, people would think I was a jerk, said something offensive.

I asked if she wanted a crème brûlée.

She looked at the serving line. “Get whatever you want. I’ll stay while you eat.”

“They’re incredibly good,” I said. “The crème brûlées.”

“I have to go soon.”

At Cabrera’s, they finish the crème brûlées with a propane torch. If you peek through the kitchen door, you can watch a cook firing them. The roar of the flame, the swirling motion of his hand. The crystallized sugar is like a wedge of ice. You have to bang it hard with your spoon. When it cracks, a huge sugar slab dives into the custard. When that happens, I think about polar bears in the Arctic, looking for stable ice while our planet warms.

I walked to the cooler where they keep desserts. A couple of teenage boys stood there. Looked like they were lovers but didn’t want anyone to know. They kept bumping into each other, rubbing each other’s backs. Laughing, but trying to be discreet. The kid who had the seizure was with the older boys at a table near the door. His plate was piled with chicken and French fries.

I picked out a crème brûlée and stood in line to pay.

The cashier asked, “Is that all?”

I looked back at our table. Judith was still there.

“Just a minute.”

I walked back to the cooler.

 
 

Spring / Summer 2024



Andrew Miller

Before retiring, Andrew Miller worked as a research biologist for the US Army Engineer R&D Center, then taught biology at Thomas University in Thomasville, GA. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Front Porch Review, Blue Lake Review, The Meadow, The River, Northern New England Review, Pithead Chapel, Maine Homes, Toastmasters Magazine, and Fatherly. He lives in north-central Florida, volunteers in prisons, restores antique stained-glass windows, and writes. He is the creative nonfiction editor of Mud Season Review.



Olive Hayes

Olive Hayes (BFA, Moore College of Art & Design) is a Philadelphia based artist. Her paintings and drawings express uninhibited sexuality, love, and distress through a sapphic lens. Hayes’s work has been exhibited at MARCH (NY), Commonweal Gallery (Philadelphia), Moore College of Art & Design (Philadelphia), and the Dallas Art Fair. 



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