Knowing What To Do

One day as I was busy finishing my notes on Mr. Adolph Kleys, he suddenly began telling me something. A strange thing I thought because with Mr. Kleys it was usually me who had to take the initiative in our conversations.

"Still having the trouble, Doc."

I had the feeling the mountain had spoken. So I looked up to see if it was Mr. Kleys or some other phenomenon that pricked me into consciousness and away from the scrambled rubbish I was automatically placing on the paper. Though he was already past eighty, had had to have at least two cardiac pacemakers put in, and had a tachycardia which had been mollified when his a-v shunt had been repaired, he had the body of an offensive lineman under his impassive and chocolate face and eyes that were as clear as cat's.

The puzzlement in my face must have been obvious because he didn't hesitate.

"It curves and it won't stay hard."

I loved that. We must have talked about sex, but I couldn't remember when and I definitely did not remember the details.

"How often do you and your wife have sex?"

He never looked at me. Just into the sink and into and beyond the walls.

"Maybe every two, maybe every three months." Like pronouncing the death of a child, a sweetheart, the destruction of all his property.

"You don't sound satisfied. What does your wife say?"

"She doesn't say much."

"You think you could bring her by one day so we could all talk about it-all three of us?"

He got off the table with no shoes, no socks, no shirt, his bare powerful chest exposed and headed to the door, his skimpy, paper examining gown and waist string lifting off his chassis and trailing behind him like a kid with a kite.

I shot up off the stool. "You mean she's here?" I got to the door before he did. Outside in the passage, two young people and their baby cart filled the space. I dodged around them. The waiting room was filled with people. My eyes plucked Ms. Kleys out oblivious of everything around her. She hid behind her thick catarract glasses. Her swimming eyeballs and her swinging irises were the only things moving. She was startled when I called her but she didn't ask any questions as she followed me.

She settled in the plastic chair next to the desk waiting like a passenger for the journey to start. Her husband sat on the examining table one buttock on and one off.

"Your husband tells me he's been having problems with sex and you haven't been interested since you had the operation on your eyes."

She didn't look at either one of us. She stayed behind those grass bricks in her spectacles.

"I don't think about it."

Mr. King hitched up one buttock on the table, then the other.

"God put people together in marriage to have sex. It's a good thing and it's healthy. And that's what it was all the fifty six years we been together until she had that operation."

"Is it painful to you Ms. King?"

"It's not painful. When he does it, he's in and then he's out."

"I just think people who are married should have sex."

"I don't even think about it."

"Do you ever hug each other?"

"Doc. We don't sleep in the same bed. That's OK in the summer. But it's getting on to winter."

"What do you think Ms. King?"

"I don't even think on it."

The huge man got off the table and began reaching for his clothes. He was sort of looking at the room and at us, but mostly the air between us.

"That's OK, Doc. I just needed for you to tell me it was OK. Now I know what to do." There was just a sunset of smile on his face. He dressed. His wife followed his big shoulders out of the room. My throat and my afternoon, my dinner and the night of that day that swallowed me followed them too.