Love, Sex and Islam

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The Broken Condom

The year was 1993. It was early in the first year of two consulting contracts that would keep me in Montréal five days a week for the next five years or so when, after more than 10 years of marriage, I had my first one-night stand. It was a one-night affair that would prove to my wife that I still loved her and loved her very much.

1993 was also the year the Montréal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. No Canadian team has won it since. I was at one of Montréal‘s landmark bars on Crescent Street when the Canadiens hoisted the trophy symbolic of hockey supremacy. The crowd at Winnies not only erupted in cheers, but it was hugs all around. The last person I hugged, or hugged again, was a thirty-something female lawyer with whom I had gotten acquainted while watching the game.

When it was time to leave the celebrating around the corner on St. Catherine Street, Montréal’s main commercial east-west thoroughfare, had gotten out hand with looting and an overturned police car on fire. We decided to retreat to my apartment at the Chateau Royale, the only apartment hotel on Crescent Street.

She had condoms, but not very good ones, as it would turn out. Something didn’t feel right, but it felt good and she didn’t seem to mind so we continued doing what we were doing. When it was all over I noticed that the condom was rolled up like a wrinkled cellophane wrapper at the base of a drooping culprit.

The AIDS scare was at its zenith and I had just had unprotected sex, for all intents and purposes, with a stranger. It was only the second time since our wedding night that I had intimate relations with a woman other than my wife. The first indiscretion was not a one-night stand, and it left my Lucette doubting that I still loved her. A busted condom would set her mind at ease.

Needless to say, I felt a bit sheepish when she met me at the Ottawa train station that Friday around supper time. As usual, she had prepared everything for a most romantic dinner; a prelude to a special night, and often a special weekend to make up for the five days I had been away.

I was not hungry. She asked what was wrong. I told her about the condom incident and that sex was out of the question for at least ten days (from what I understood at the time was the earliest the AIDS virus could be detected) if she still wanted have sex with me.

She rose from her chair, stood next to mine and asked me to move it a little. She then sat on my lap, put her arms around my neck and kissed me. It was a lovely and totally unexpected gesture which left me wondering.

“You must really love me,” she said, “to admit having sex with another woman to protect me.”

I didn’t know what to say.

She got up and took my hand. “Let’s go upstairs,” she said. “We can use those leftover condoms in your night table from when Margaret used to visit you at your old place.”

I met Margaret in Vancouver (Burnaby) where we both attended Simon Fraser University. She was from Windsor, Ontario. She had chosen Simon Fraser because it was about as far as she could get from a man who would shortly be released from prison.

She had rented a room with a bathroom and kitchenette across the street from where I was staying. It wasn't long before I was spending many an evening at her place, lying on her bed, smoking one of her Craven M's while watching her strum her guitar and hum the lyrics to Mr. Bojangles or Janice Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee.

I never tired of hearing her sing out of tune, or watching her struggle with a difficult chord and never get it quite right. She started opening up to me. She talked about the reason for her coming to Vancouver. She had been sexually assaulted while hitchhiking between Windsor and Toronto. One of the two men was about to be released from custody and she did not want to be around when that happened.

When we first became intimate, she said that it was the first time she had been with a man since the assault. We had been friends for maybe a month before the apparent glorious reawakening of Margaret to the joys of sex. Our lovemaking progressed from a romantic type of intimacy, and it had nothing to do with me, to one less so. I knew that rape changes the victim, but I didn’t expect it to be that way. I was not into rape fantasies but I still thought we had something good together.

I didn’t have much money, but this fellow Rakesh did. Neil Diamond was in town for a performance at the old Queen Elizabeth Theatre. She asked if I would mind if Rakesh took her to see him. I said okay. When I went over to her place the next morning, she wasn’t there. Rakesh rented a room in the student residence and that is where I found her, in bed with Rakesh.

Margaret would eventually return to Windsor and I would move to Ottawa.

Lucette and I were intimate (more on that memorable evening in what I hope is respectful prose) on our third date. I called her for a fourth date, and—I kid you not—she couldn’t make it; she had already agreed to go with this Ion friend of hers to a concert. In my mind, it was Rakesh all over again. We had only been seeing each other for a short time, but I was falling for her. That did not stop me from telling her that I didn’t want to see her again as she tried to explain that Ion was just a friend. Rakesh was just a friend. I hung up the phone.

The phone kept on ringing, but I didn’t answer. An hour or so later there was a knock at the door. It was my Lucette. It was obvious that she’d been crying. She said those three little words.

I felt bad, not because of those three little words, but because I had made her cry. She had, of course, cancelled her date with Ion. It is only as I am writing this that I realize that when she told me, before she died, that she had always loved me and never stopped loving me, she meant from the very beginning.

Our first and only real breakup turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It got us talking about what mattered to both of us and why we did the things we did. Talking about us made it possible for our relationship to survive the return of Margaret.

Almost as important as trust in a relationship is fairness, and that means equity when it comes to sex, including sex with other people. Before I met Lucette I had gotten in touch with Margaret. Lucette knew all about her and me when she first came for a visit. We had come to an understanding. When Margaret was in town, if she felt like it, she would visit with an old flame, whom I never met, by the name of Sid.

When I asked her what every man in such a situation wants to know: “Who is better in bed?” she paused for a minute, enjoying the moment. “Sid,” she said, in a refreshing frankness about intimacy that was our little secret, “likes to read his newspaper after sex, while you like to talk, so I guess that makes you better in bed.” I also believe it was because she loved me and not Sid that made the experience that much more memorable.

During our time together she proved her love in tangible ways that made those other things that lovers do to express their affection for their partner pale in comparison. One of those profound, undeserved expressions of how she felt about me occurred on the Sunday following that Friday admission of infidelity.

We were in bed. I would again be leaving on an early train to Montréal the next morning. I had already put on a condom when she reached down, and instead of doing what I thought she was going to do, she pulled it off.

“I don’t think you have AIDS,” she said, “and even if you did, and I got it, it wouldn’t matter as long as we are together.” As to her needing assurance that she was loved, it all had to do with my first indiscretion—a serious one.