I felt the mattress shift as Marie yelled for her husband. “Leebo!” she said. “Leebo!”

“Yes, dear,” he called through the door.

“Ray and I are in bed here and absolutely parched.”

I thought it was important to be part of the joke. Some jokes only carry if everyone gets behind them. “It’s true, big man. Me and your wife have got a major thirst on.”

“I’m just showing my new friend the flat,” he said. “She wants to judge us and it can’t wait.”

The woman spoke through the door: “Lee’s right, Marie. I’ve been putting off these generalizations for quite long enough.”

It was good that everyone was getting on board.

As we heard them go upstairs, Marie’s hand moved on top of my thigh and nudged the edge of my crotch. She blew smoke up toward the paper lampshade. As long as I did not turn toward her, it was fine. I was helping Marie and Lee through a difficult moment in their marriage. If Garthene was here, I would fully expect her to be in the upstairs room, letting Lee cry on her shoulder and put his lips against her neck. And with that thought, I brought Garthene into the room. Garthene, who knows more than most about putting herself in challenging situations for the health and happiness of others, was in the room with us and gave a solemn nod. Neither Marie nor Lee was a bad person and they would survive this and thank us for being fluid in our conception of our selves. Garthene’s purple nurse’s tunic was taut around her waist, and she was squinting.

You cannot blame a body. That was one thing her job had taught her. You cannot blame a body for its response. Marie was looking at me without use of the mirror—she had turned her head. Her hand was on my crotch which had responded without my say-so.

“You dream about me, don’t you?” she said.

“I do,” I said, “absolutely.” It was important to work through this.

“You dream about me.”

“It’s true.”

My sex dreams were unique because if I made love to a woman who was not my wife, I would usually experience in-dream remorse. I would seek to apologize, in the dream. I felt Marie’s hand tighten and she yelled up at the ceiling. “Lee,” she said. “Lee. Thirsty work down here.”