by Ian MacAllen
The first time Tony rapes a woman, the violation is statutory. He is eighteen, she only fifteen, but both are otherwise consenting. They have sex in the back of his mother’s Ford Pinto while parked behind the elementary school they had both attended. A week later, he leaves for college and she starts going steady with the junior varsity quarterback. Neither thinks much about it again, although the woman briefly recalls the incident during a therapy session two decades later. She recalls his name, but his face is fuzzy. By then, several men have misused her, and her husband has done much worse. Her memory of Tony fades forever, shortly after the session.
The second woman is ten years older than Tony. He is in college when it happens and he brags to his fraternity brothers that he has fucked a cougar. As time passes, he realizes twenty-nine is not really so old. He is on during spring break. It begins in the pool of a not particularly nice motel on the west coast of Florida. He gets handsy with her at the bar.
Her month is bookended by weddings, and adding to her anxiety, for the first time in five years, she is single. Dating, it turns out, actually is as awful as her friends had claimed, and so she agrees to go upstairs to Tony’s hotel room out of loneliness. They kiss for a few minutes while his hands probe her body, but she is tired from the flight, from the tequila, from her career, from dating, and she mostly just wants to fall asleep next to a warm body. He persists. She relents because she has learned from exhausted experience it is faster to give in. In the morning, he offers her cab fare. She refuses the money. Without her consent, Tony sticks twenty dollars in her purse while she washes her face in the bathroom.
Tony realizes he might have crossed a line when he sleeps with a woman from his office. Neither is a subordinate to the other, but he treats her as if she is because he is a man who expects women to submit to him. They flirt regularly because he feels entitled to do so and because she has learned how much easier it is to flirt back than not. “Isn’t that why God gave us Rosé,” she jokes with her friends at happy hours although sometimes she cries on the subway.
They have a two-day conference in Kansas City and on the second night she and Tony have a dinner on his expense account. They order cocktails and a glass of wine each. They make out for a few minutes before he slips his finger inside of her. His first thought is that she is wetter than his wife. She tells him to stop four times before he does, although not before his penis has been inside of her. He stops because he imagines his wife finding out. The woman is of course too afraid to say anything to Tony’s wife or even to the HR manager. She avoids him in the office. Tony attempts to tell her he would leave his wife if she would leave her husband. When he can’t find her, he sends her an email explaining his position. She cries on the subway. Six months later she takes a job in Cleveland.
Tony never rapes his wife, but only because she’ll do practically anything to please him. She even offers to let him fuck her in the ass, which he tries once but decides he dislikes. He won’t let her peg him because he says it makes him feel gay.
They have three daughters and Tony jokes about the difficultly of living with all these women in his house and how they make him sit on the toilet to take a piss, which isn’t really true but he thinks is funny. He never grows comfortable buying tampons, but he will fuck his wife when she is on her period and he convinces himself that this makes him a feminist. He coaches softball for a season and drives the carpool to dance class once or twice.
His eldest daughter applies to a dozen colleges but in the end, the in-state tuition is too cheap to pass over. Her dorm assignment is the same as Tony’s had been, although on a different floor. He insists they visit his old room. The school has changed the carpeting. While unpacking, a hippie girl with long braids and an exposed midriff comes around handing out condoms. Tony never asks his eldest daughter if she is on birth control pills, but he assumes that if she is, his wife has talked to her about it.
A month later, Tony attends the college homecoming football game. He and his wife take their daughter to lunch before she abandons them to party with her friends. Tony knows party is a euphemism for drinking. He tells her to be careful. “I was in college once too,” he says, and adds that he knows how boys can be. His daughter rolls her eyes at him as if she hasn’t been fending off the inappropriate advances of men for the better part of a decade.
Tony stops by his fraternity house, shakes hands with other proud fathers, former brothers, and the new brothers like one big happy family. The fraternity brothers admire all that freshman pussy. Out of earshot of his wife, Tony trades war stories boasting of the coeds he fucked in college, about the parties their house hosted, and the tricks they employed to convince the women to disrobe. All the men laugh at the jokes. Tony tells the story of a cougar he met on spring break.
At Thanksgiving, Tony’s daughter brings home a boyfriend. The boy looks familiar, but Tony doesn’t know why. Only later when he is driving them back to school does he realize he met the boy at the fraternity. Tony chuckles at the funny stories they shared, but he never reflects that the women might have been his daughter.
As each of his daughters marries, Tony walks them down the aisle. He jokes alternately between paying too much for the wedding and how nothing is too good for his girls. He always says “my girls” when talking about them. Even after they birth grandchildren, he refers to his daughters as girls rather than women. He has a cordial relationship with his son-in-laws, even after his middle daughter divorces the one who cheated on her. The children scatter across the country, pursuing better jobs and bigger houses.
His wife dies. Tony moves into a retirement community. Old person storage, he tells his daughter over the phone, but it rings true long after he hangs up. He earns a reputation among the nurses. “If only I was twenty years younger,” he coos at them, and “give me a kiss!” They laugh, but also warn the new nurses about him. His hands wander.
His daughters call less often. Eventually, he confuses the days of the week. He dies quietly in his sleep.
Ian MacAllen’s writing has appeared in Joyland Magazine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Fiction Advocate, Electric Literature and elsewhere. He is the Deputy Editor of the Rumpus and founder of English Kills Review. He Tweets @ianmacallen and is online at ianmacallen.com.