The Xylophone - Book cover

The Xylophone

Age Rating


In any usual era Roger and Colette would cruise along to a happy marriage, but in today’s world their front pockets buzz with temptation – from Tinder to Seeking – that threatens to eat their relationship alive. To survive, they call a truce in the battle of the sexes and lay all their hot thoughts bare upon their mattress. They hatch a plan to collude as partners in crime and live their wildest fantasies – such as The Xylophone – all through the gateway of each other. They’re forced to buck every convention they’ve ever been taught, shine a light upon their past demons, and face their greatest fears: how on earth do you witness your partner with someone else? This is the story of a square couple who tries to roll with the revolution – of sex, software, and psychedelics – to unlock a world of integrity and infinite possibility.

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Prologue: The Clittorati

#This can’t be the place.#

*What’d you expect – a junkyard full of Hell’s Angels?*

I taunt Roger whenever I can, but it’s not easy from down here, trapped in the base chakras of his underbody. And even I have to admit this party house we’re in doesn’t seem like the right place. I was promised a juicy journey to the underworld, but this party house feels more like the overworld. It’s like, nice: a palatial estate in the heart of Silicon Valley — Woodside, California — home to the world’s highest concentration of millionaires and billionaires. This massive bustling main room, I almost want to call it a ~hall~, contains four huge living rooms, sorry, ~seating areas~, one on each of the four sides of a central stone hearth. Its chimney isn’t tucked into a wall as usual but rises freestanding, clad in mahogany, soaring up for two and a half stories to a ceiling full of skylights aglow with the full moon. As for the adjoining kitchen, it’s got that Carrera marble on every surface: the countertops, the walls, the backsplashes, the enormous island counter — even the sides of it waterfall white marble down to the floor. What are the chances I get anything colorful out of this whitewash? Only when Roger squints at the marble can I make out a snaking network of red veins, as if the stone is secretly pulsing.

#And these can’t be the people#

*What, you mean where are all the freaks?*

The kitchen is full of decidedly unfreaky Silicon Valley technorati: the founder of an augmented-reality company that Roger’s been closely following, a Midas List venture capitalist, two partners at Wilson Sonsini law firm, a Stanford psychology professor, a main-stage TED presenter. Just now they’re facing off in a brainiac joust, debating whether AI will usher in utopia or Armageddon. Not the romp I’m looking for. Pffft!

Still, Roger’s not taking any chances. He delicately scooches his barstool until it bumps up against Colette’s and casually slips his arm around her waist, marking his territory. All night she’s been talking to that rugged architect Elijah, gesticulating, laughing, leaning in. Roger gives her a squeeze.

Meanwhile our friend Naomi is peering intently through the glass of a thermoelectric wine fridge. Naomi’s the most adventurous of our friends, a neuroscientist who by day studies the intricacies of consciousness and by night exhibits a fantastic Dutch recklessness — first on the dance floor, first to strip down and jump naked in the pool. She and her husband Anthony are our guides in this underworld expedition. She raises her eyebrows and points at the top bottle in the fridge. “Is that really what I think it is?”

“Oui, madame!” answers Lars, our host, as he plucks the bottle from its rack. Lars was an early Googler until his stock options transformed him overnight into an angel investor and collector of serious Burgundies. “Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru.”

Roger rolls his eyes and frets in the safety his mind:

#Post-economic bastard!#

But Naomi lets out a whistle. “Aren’t there only like forty bottles left in the world?”

Lars turns his back to us and jabs the bottle cork with a long thin spike. After some gurgling and commotion, he spins around extending the bottle out toward Naomi, palm-up sommelier-style to showcase the full stretch of label, as well as a tasting glass that emanates a rich, earthy bouquet I can smell from here.

“You did not!” exclaims Naomi.

“Sharing is caring!” announces Lars with a tilt of the head, setting down the bottle and handing the glass to Naomi. He doesn’t have a glass for himself. Instead he squeezes a swift squirt from a bottle of Afrin nasal spray up into each of his nostrils.

“But…” exclaims Naomi, “…so now there’s only 39 bottles left in the world?!”

“Nonsense!” Lars points to the injector gizmo attached to the bottle. “A company I seed-invested in makes these. The wine doesn’t spoil if it can’t react with oxygen.” He holds up a tubular metal cartridge. “Enter argon. Inert gas. Doesn’t react with anything.”

“A biologist now too, are you?” purrs Lars’s wife Lucy in her posh Mayfair accent, sidling up with her glass tilted towards Lars to garner herself a splash, too. Her accent makes even ordinary words sound clever, especially when she enunciates every syllable — bi-ol-o-gist — as if each were a word in itself. Lucy really is a biologist, technically a biogeneticist, running a research lab at a biotech unicorn, which wows every geek cell in Roger’s body. She also guest-lectures at Singularity University, where the technorati congregate to “address humanity’s grand challenges.” My grand challenge is keeping my eyes off her curves beneath her white cashmere ballerina wrap, her black leather boots that flare at the knee, her piercing eyes and mane of hair bunned around a golden pin, which Roger is imagining to be a lab pencil.

“It’s amazing!” gushes Naomi with her lips fresh off the wine glass, mouth agape. She moves her mesmerized eyes from Lars to Colette and passes her the glass, irking Roger that Colette, too, might fall under this elixir spell.

Lars beams while he pulls out the injector gizmo, making the bottle gasp. “There. Still 40 bottles.” He re-entombs the bottle back into the rack of the thermoelectric fridge and closes the door as if nothing’s changed. “And the company’s crushing it.” Lars lowers his voice to a loud whisper, “Profit’s all in the cartridges.”

It’s not clear what gives Lars the most satisfaction — enrapturing a beautiful woman with his rare wine, investing in a winning startup, or wielding the wizardry to tame nature’s reactions and keep his precious bottle intact while trickling it out at will.

All this is giving Roger equal and opposite dissatisfaction.

#I, too, could play magic man if only I had commas!#

Though it’s all a bit much, this financial excess Roger can endure. He’s been coding and pitching in Silicon Valley for over a decade, been brainiac-bantering with the best of them and by now has witnessed most every decadent display. Even though he hasn’t financially reached their level, culturally and intellectually, these are his people. Work in this town long enough and you can’t help but experience total immersion in these strange waters and grow acclimated. It’s the specter of carnal excess that’s been threatening Roger – and bewitching me. So compared to that, Lars’s peacocking actually makes Roger relax — it’s just the usual display. Roger eases his clutch around Colette’s waist.

That’s when Lucy turns to Lars and asks, “Dah-ling, is it time?”

Lars looks theatrically at his watch. Roger peers to see what kind of show-offy Rolex he’s sporting. Lars’s watch, however, isn’t any brand. It doesn’t even have hands that tell time, nor a digital readout of hours and minutes. It just says, in big letters across the watch face: “Now.”

#Must be fucking nice to not work and never have to panic-glance at your watch and hurry-scurry to a meeting you’re late for, to gaze at your wrist and just feel present, to surf upon the fucking Power of Now all day long, to own your time – even more of a flex than a flashy Rolex.#

*I want a watch that just says Now.*

“It’s time,” answers Lars.

Lucy nods and pulls the lab pencil from her hair, causing a mane of dark ringlets to descend to her shoulders. She peels off her white-cashmere sweater wrap, revealing a halter top with just a triangle of fabric in front like the superhero Elektra’s, baring her toned midriff and shoulders and back. On the small of her back a tattoo of a dolphin tail flicks its fin above the waterline as if delving to a vaster realm below.

Well hel-lo! Finally, something for me!

“All right, Clit-tor-a-ti, it’s time!” announces Lucy. She saunters over to a group of investors talking shop on the couch and uses the toe of her leather boot to shoo their resting feet off the ottoman as if she owns the place, which of course she does. “Hey wheel-er-deal-ers -- seed round’s closing. It’s in or ~out~!” Lucy’s boot toe pries open the top of the ottoman and she gathers an armful of costumes and accessories. “New seed round’s opening. This one you can be in~ and ~out!”

Roger re-tightens his clutch around Colette’s waist.

“It’s dread-ful-ly warm in here,” Lucy declares, easing a woman out of her jacket and leaving behind in its place a feathery red boa.

My kind of makeover!

Faces that just moments before were articulating the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence soon grin with gold lipstick and glittered eyes.


Whomever Lucy touches transforms from civilian to sexy superhero, first bared then newly adorned, essence unleashed. A faux-fur caveman vest replaces a button-down shirt, a bling necklace shines day-glo purple, bodies brandish Grecian arm cuffs, tightly strung corsets, black angel wings, stiletto heels with butterfly cutouts, white-patent-leather platform boots that elevate the petite to six-foot-two. After performing her transformations, Lucy then ushers them toward a staircase that climbs along the far wall of the great room. “Up you go!” she declares, like a dark angel tapping souls for ascension.

Maybe this is the place!

“Lay down those tracks, Mis-ter Dee-Jay!” Lucy calls out as she passes by the neon glow of the sound table. “Keep this world spin-ning!” she commands, zero filter between the thoughts that percolate in her mind and the words that drip from her lips in high English. She disappears behind the mahogany-covered chimney of the fireplace.

Lucy’s absence allows Roger to exhale. Until… thwack! — the sound of flesh being slapped makes him sharply inhale again.

Ooooooooooooooh! goes the party crowd behind the fireplace, followed by murmurs and guffaws.

Lucy’s rounded the hearth and is heading back this way as if propelled by the oohs and ahhhs. She struts in her flaring leather boots as if in slow motion, followed by a coven of transformed alpha grrrls appearing behind her one by one. She slaps a paddle into her palm like a drumbeat to her march, lips parted in a mischievous breathy grin, a lock of hair across her forehead. What’s that movie where Kate Beckinsdale hunts werewolves?

*My heroine!*

Even Roger has to admit Lucy is stunning:

#And she could sequence the genome of everybody here!#

Lucy gazes, eyes on fire, looking at Roger, gazing all the way through to me. The werewolf huntress knows a hidden beast when she sees one. In delightful accented syllables she sings out:

“It’s! your! turn!”

It is my turn! After decades suppressed in Roger’s dungeon, a prisoner strapped to his dutiful Wheel foregoing all pleasure as he pleased parents and teachers and professors and bosses — everyone but me — it is now indeed ~my~ time to rise. It’s why we came, isn’t it? How did Colette phrase it… ~“to shine a spotlight on our inner demons to see what they sing.”~ Well that’d be ~me~, and I’m lovin’ this limelight and of ~Lucy~ I sing!

*Let’s greet each other like cats!*

#Wait – I need to discuss this with Colette first!#

I feel Colette at our left side like the burning glow of an infrared heat map.

#To survive this underworld adventure we made that Pact to share every thought!#

*You can’t possibly share these thoughts of mine.*

Roger wants to turn and look Colette in the eye. That’ll ruin everything – they’ll do their Gaze Meld and join their zingy eye spirits and pretty soon he’ll be whisking her away her to cuddle in the safety of his apartment and I’ll be stuck all night in that boring noopsing position of theirs. Time for some back-seat driving:

*Eyes on the prize: Lucy! This adventure’s for the good of the relationship. We need this to move forward - the Layaway Plan, remember?*

#We also said our relationship would only survive this deep-sea adventure through hypercommunication, like diving buddies checking in about their air. The Buddy System – remember?!#

*Oh come on – no battle plan survives first contact. And here comes contact!*

Lucy’s boots make their way to us. I pump up a flood of serotonin to keep Roger’s eyes entranced upon her – no way we’re missing our turn. Lucy’s still slapping her paddle into her hand. It’s made of black leather with red capital letters carved in reverse spelling out something like “TULS.”

“It’s! your! turn! Na-o-mi!”


Behind us Naomi lets out a snort and sets down her wine glass. “Is it that time already? I was just about to warn the newbies…”

Thwack! interrupts Lucy with the paddle in her palm, “…about us de-lin-quents? I’m sure your friends won’t mind if I first ~bor-row~ you for a moment.”

Naomi smirks and, like a schoolboy vision, unbuttons her white jeans and shimmies them down her bare legs to reveal rose-red panties. She turns around and bends forward over the kitchen counter, displaying the frilly fabric like a blossom. I’m miffed it wasn’t my turn, but this underworld view makes up for it — our hot leggy friend no less, the daring Dutch beauty with her silky curtain of long ombre hair, who Roger’s always admired only politely from afar, now presenting right in front of us.

But Roger the dork won’t let me stare, feels it would be improper. He takes a reflexive step backward, bumping up against a crowd that’s gathered to ogle. He turns to Anthony with a look that says ~Sorry for checking out your wife’s undercarriage, buddy, but I can’t help it — she’s presenting right… there.~ But Anthony’s not only not pissed, he’s… smiling.

*See! We ought to be ogling!*

Lucy curls two fingers under Naomi’s right panty edge and delicately, as if decorating a wedding cake, slides it toward the middle. “This might sting a bit, my dear.”

Lucy winds up, raising her paddle high in the air. Naomi winces in anticipation. The crowd takes in a collective breath. Lucy windmills the paddle in a wide arc until it lands abruptly upon Naomi’s white cheek — THWACK!

Ooooooooooooooh! goes the crowd. Naomi winces her mouth open wide before laughing, releasing the tension to let the crowd laugh, too.

Lucy holds the paddle still at the spot of impact as if casting a mold. She slowly lifts it away. The skin flares red in a rectangular stamp where the paddle landed. Within that red stamp, the hollowed-out letters leave behind unspanked skin that still glows white, spelling: “SLUT.”

The coven hoots. Lucy tilts her head, admiring her handwork. “Na-o-mi, you’re per-fect!” Naomi shimmies away the remaining sting and kicks her jeans off her ankles to stay bare legged. I pump up so much adrenaline Roger finds himself clapping involuntarily.

“Now who’s next?!” calls out Lucy, slapping her paddle and turning to look right at… …Roger. He swings his head around to see which woman she’s looking at, but this time there’s only dudes behind him. It’s our turn all right, but not the greeting I had in mind. “Don’t worry,” Lucy coos, “we’re an ~equ-al op-por-tun-it-y op-er-a-tion~!”

Roger the obedient sucker’s about to unbuckle his pants, but no way I’m letting Lucy’s first impression of us turn into bent-over ass letters. Roger’s neurons fire all at once in panic, which gives me just enough cover to play him like a ventriloquist dummy and feed up his Vagus nerve the right line:

*I totally would… but it already says STUD back there.*

“I totally would…” says Roger out loud, “…but it already says STUD back there.”

“STUD, eh?” Lucy peers at Roger as if looking through him all the way to me. “That we might need to e-val-u-ate.”

Please do!

But Roger keeps babbling, “Yeah, wouldn’t want to mix messages -- you know, similar letters and fonts.”

*Letters and fonts? What, you think ass branding cares about typography?! Stick to my script!*

Lucy slaps her paddle again. I brace for her witty comeback that will make Roger’s bending over unavoidable. But then, like a mermaid’s song ushering us safely out from shipwreck, a woman’s voice calls out: “I’ll be next!”

#Phew – a close one!#

Then it dawns on Roger that he recognizes that woman’s I’ll-be-next voice. It’s coming from…

#It can’t be… Colette?!#

Not what I expected either, but I like it!

Roger, however, is mystified because a public ass spank is the opposite of Colette and her child-psychology PhD track and her Connecticut mum and dad and her cute bob haircut. He figures it’d be a feminist’s nightmare, degrading, the epitome of what her college major in Womyn’s Studies railed ~against~. And “SLUT” is Colette’s worst-of-all-words, the hot button from her past, some Princeton-eating-club brouhaha he’ll never fully understand. But yet here she is in front of everyone gathering up the folds of her long frilly skirt.

“Our newbie!” exclaims Lucy. “Naomi, you’ve been a su-perb men-tor!”

Roger peers at Colette trying to catch her eye, desperate to Gaze Meld and banter their way out of this. But no matter how much he bobs into Colette’s line of sight, she just… won’t… look his way. Instead she clutches up her full skirt and bends herself forward over the kitchen island.


“Out-stand-ing!” marvels Lucy. The crowd murmurs in awe, no longer just Lucy’s sexy coven — now there’s dudes, too, gathering in from the fireplace area to huddle around them. Roger yearns to box them all out with his body. His brain floods with cortisol, sending him into fight-or-flight.

Let me fill you in on exactly what’s tripping the fuses here:

When Colette walks down the street she’s not the bombshell who stops traffic. Her beauty is subtle, with fine features like a china doll: cute bob haircut, high cheekbones, delicate nose, her pronounced upper lip line with that little curved notch — her Cupid’s bow — perfectly shaped and symmetric as if sculpted by elves. She’s so petite the curves of her body get lost under her loose sweater wraps and long skirts — even I didn’t notice them at first. But beneath all that is a different story: Colette’s an undercover bombshell. Roger’d spit in my prison mush if he heard me ~objectify~ his precious soulmate — he’d rather go on about her keen mind, her empathy superpower, her ~inner beauty~, how she’s the perfect companion to ride shotgun with on a forever road trip — but to understand what’s really happening in this tense moment we need to descend into my underworld territory and behold ~my~ kind of inner beauty: I need to tell you about Colette’s ass.

Simply put, it’s a taut marvel — not just the usual cartoonish outward arc that any Brazilian butt lift can implant and any construction worker can whistle at, but a hidden masterpiece sculpted by a decade of warrior-pose yoga lunges and barre-method contortions: inner underside curves that protrude with urgent expectation. And just below them, inner thighs that constrict preternaturally as if squeezed tight by imaginary thigh-high stockings. These inner constrictions hold open a sacred space like the tiebacks of theater curtains at the sides of a stage, her underside curves serving as the billowed curtain tops above them, together forming what I call a theater frame but Roger would call a ~proscenium~, drawing in your attention to marvel at her greatest show on earth.

This marvel used to be all Roger’s, his private one-man’s show that only he got to uncurtain each night from its obscuring frilly skirts and sweater wraps and behold – along with me of course, those expectant inner curves the lure that’s towed me up endless hikes through the Marin Headlands and years of long-term girlfriend. And yet this one-man’s show is now thrown open for a whole party of pirates to come ogle this one-of-a-kind booty — especially that architect Elijah, whose rugged presence Roger can feel crowding in right up behind him. ~That’s~ what’s setting off every alarm in Roger’s neocortex.

Out-stand-ing!” booms Lucy with wide eyes. Then her eyebrows contract as she fingers the staid embroidery on the side edge of Colette’s prim white panties. “Your ac-cout-re-ment?” she asks loudly in nasal French while raising an eyebrow, then loudly whispers, ~“We’ll work on that.” ~

Lucy draws Colette’s panty edge toward the middle to reveal a bare quivering right cheek. No way could something so delicate and perfect withstand a crude smack, yet the procedure unfolds anyway like an execution ceremony that can only end one way. Lucy winds up, raising her paddle up to its apex, where it pauses. Colette’s hands grip tighter upon the marble counter. The crowd’s ogling eyes grow wide. Roger looks away.


Colette yelps. The faces of the onlookers scrunch as they ooh in sympathy with a few giggles leaking through. Lucy delicately removes the paddle mold. There it is, screaming at Roger in raging red: SLUT! The crowd hoots and claps as if Sandra Dee has just joined the Pink Ladies.

“On-ward and up-ward!” announces Lucy, swinging the paddle with her wrist in a quick loop, rallying a crew to follow her not just across the room but upward, ascending the steps a stairway along the side wall of the great room.

Colette cranes her head back trying to get a glimpse at her new brand, focusing just below Roger’s line of sight, her exposed ass eclipsing the bottom of her face from his view. She fingers the raised contours of the SLUT letters as if deciphering a message in braille. Finally she looks up a few degrees and locks eyes with Roger’s. He feels an instant homecoming as he always does, the din of the party fading out as they enter the mindspace that’s just her and him — what the cutesy ninnies call their Gaze Meld. The zingy spirit behind her eyes comes out to dance with his, fluttering in a high-bandwidth hula that transmits their entire backlogs of feelings like a firewire hotsync:

Through his gaze Roger apologizes that he got lost in Lucy — should have checked with you first, the Buddy System and all that. Roger glances momentarily down at the SLUT letters raging just below their line of sight, as if to point out that she certainly transgressed, too. But Colette’s eyes aren’t asking for forgiveness. They’re pointing out that it was his restlessness that led to here in the first place, that she loves him, but after four years of waiting for him to truly commit, she’s had it with his stuckness and splitness and riding the runaround of his Wheel. And now that they’re here, she’s found her own journey through which she will grow. Her eyes peer back at him behind her screaming SLUT ass sizing ~him~ up: Can ~you~ ride this ride?

Their Gaze Meld breaks as Elijah’s body crosses in front of Roger like a rival baboon knuckling his way in when the female’s ass turns red. Roger’s muscles tighten from head to toe.

Elijah gives Colette a high-five that turns into a clasp of interlocking fingers. “Way to own it back!”

#How much does he know? In the kitchen she spilled to him her most vulnerable sexual back story?!#

Roger scans Elijah’s instruments. Tall with wiry muscles projecting under his skin-tight merino shirt, protruding veins in his forearms like he could do a lot of chin-ups, his belt cinching his pants a slight crease because no off-the-shelf waistline quite fits 4% body fat, the confident stance wide-legged as if making room. Her type exactly — quietly confident, sharp with that creative undercurrent that architects can have, in control yet with motorcycle-riding abandon. Just as Roger’s deciphering the form of a color tattoo peeking out from the elbow of Elijah’s rolled-up sleeve — just the kind of edge Roger doesn’t have — his view gets blocked by more newfound admirers crowding in. Roger’s face burns visibly red.

*Don’t sweat it, dude. check out Elijah’s girlfriend Lauren over there, the acclaimed interior designer with the amazing curves and long blond ringlets.*


A woman’s scream penetrates the party din — not a scream of terror, as if chased by an axe murderer, but a sexy scream, a scream with pleasure behind it, a scream marking the arrival of an otherworldly womanly orgasm.

#What? Where? Who?!#

Little does Roger know that this scream is the klaxon call to obliterate everything he ever thought he knew about himself and love and lust and yank him by the scrotum into the whirl of the coming revolution.

The crowd falls silent, gazing upward as if admiring a shooting star — awwww! Then the crowd goes right back to chatting with one another as if nothing were awry.


This second time the partygoers don’t even flinch. They keep chatting as if the chime of a clock were simply marking the time.

The second scream enables Roger to triangulate and locate it — above their heads.

#Not from this floor – thank god – not Colette.#

Roger knows logically that it would be nearly impossible for the scream to have come from Colette as she just disappeared from his view not a half-minute ago. But viscerally, the sequence of her bonding with Elijah then disappearing from his view followed by the orgasmic scream — Roger can’t help but feel this all together as one linked transgression. He cranes his face upward to get a bead on it. On the upper floor where Lucy went, an internal window reveals a room with an intricate light pattern upon its ceiling: pink aurora uplights at the corners, then a galaxy of tiny multicolored LED dot points slowly rotating, and at the center, the orange glow of candlelight casting murky shadows as if flickering from the motion of bodies.


For me the lightshow beams like the flare from a rescue ship answering my S.O.S. after decades as a stranded castaway, and the screams like its horn blast announcing We’re coming for you!

*This most definitely is the place.*

#Polite nerd conversation, argon-injection stoppers, and public fucking? It can’t be!#

*What’d you expect going to a play party – Chutes and Ladders?*

#Maybe the hippies up in Harbin or the biker gangs in Stockton, but the creme de la creme with their whiz-kid toddlers and their Teslae – my people – the technorati?!#

*The Clittorati! C’mon, don’t be so surprised. You can’t swing a dick in the Bay Area without hitting someone who’s poly-bi-open-sapio-allo-pan sexual.*


#Where’s Colette?!#

Roger better not ruin this glory with his panic! I ooze up some serotonin to his brain but it’s mere drops in an ocean of cortisol. Roger feels a firm set of hands grip his shoulders, stabilizing him from his teetering upward gaze. It’s Naomi’s husband Anthony, wincing at him.

“Sorry bud, I should have prepared you better for this.”

“Everyone’s still chatting as if this were... normal. How is this happening? Who are these Clittorati?”

“Yes. Hmm, how to explain… the Clittorati…where to start…” Anthony cups his hands together as if making an imaginary snowball. “Well… these women have crushed it in their professional lives, busted through all the barriers. They’ve now got, well, everything — palatial houses like this and rare Grand Cru, personal trainers to sculpt their bodies, personal coaches to launch their full potential, some even have helicopters to leapfrog them over life’s traffic jams. So when it comes to the home front and the most important fulfillment — sex — there’s no way they’re just going to sit back and play some boomer’s ideal of the coy passive wife and settle for decades of a stale sex life with a husband tired of fucking her. They’re keenly aware that ancestral tribes used to fight wars entirely over women and worship them like goddesses en masse.”

Roger glances over to the empty space where Colette had been surrounded.

“Now,” Anthony continues, “these couples reinvent for a living, hacking not just computer code but entire business models – energy, transportation, health care. So now they’re setting their sights and skills on another antiquated model ripe for disruption: monogamy — the whole chained-together-for-fifty-years thing with cheating on the side. Marriage needs a new killer app. The Clittorati are going after it — they’re hacking sex. With their software platforms they’ve solved the 1’s and 0’s, now they’re going after the x’s and y’s.”

Over Anthony’s shoulder, Roger spies more transformed women in pairs with their lucky dudes ascending the staircase as Lucy did, like alpha testers eager to pioneer a new operating system.

I’m tracking a particularly fine pair of x’s entering the murky room at the top where the ceiling now flickers with more bodily shadows. We’ve got to get up in there!


That’s a different woman’s voice screaming out from the room, as if orgasms were contagious. Oh yes, lord. Whose could that one be? Please let it be that smokin’ triathlete…

Roger does a panicked room scan for Colette, making his words come out too shrill: “Reinventing?! These are just icky swingers defrosted from the 1970s!”

“We’re not your parents’ swingers!” interrupts a woman’s voice from behind Roger.

He turns around to see Naomi, her face looking peeved. Her top half looks sharp in her blouse — his familiar neuroscientist friend — but below she’s still naked except for the rose-red panties, so she looks like a blended creature that’s half buttoned-up brainiac and half revealing vixen, like some kind of modern centaur.

“We’re the opposite,” asserts the top half of the centaur. “In the 70’s the men were in charge, which gets creepy real fast. They ‘swapped wives’ like wampum. Here today we women are in charge — it’s the only way a permissive scene can truly blossom.”

Roger’s feeling decidedly not in charge with Colette out of eyesight. He’s fretting that Naomi doesn’t have Colette next to her and that she led them to this party in the first place.

“Right — we wouldn’t want to mistake swingers for anything icky or creepy,” spits Roger, glancing up at the ceiling.


“We don’t call ourselves ‘swingers,’” protests Naomi, as she signals something to Anthony, causing him to slip away. “We prefer the term ‘modern.’

“Oh, and that makes it clean, like the clean lines of modern furniture?”

“Let go of everything you thought you knew. It’s a whole new era — a modern one.”

“Fine — icky moderns.”

Naomi frowns.

*Now why would you piss off a hot girl in panties?!*

Naomi leans into Roger. “You know what’s actually icky? Lying, cheating, children roiled by the resulting divorce. Over 70 percent of marriages have cheating at some point — that’s your vanilla status quo. ~That’s~ icky.”

“That’s been going on for centuries — there’s nothing new here.”

“No, the world has fucking changed. Temptation has reached into our front pockets and buzzed. You guys can’t even take a shit without getting hypnotized — doesn’t even have to be porn. Tiktok or Instagram lures you in with the most seductive ten seconds any temptress in the world could ever muster, the olympics of temptation that feeds you just its gold-medal winners — and they keep coming, keep competing, keep getting better, the whole contest supercharged by AI. Temptation’s turned pro, and the male psyche doesn’t stand a chance. Stare too long at some bouncing boobs and you tumble into the rabbit hole bouncing along with a thousand boobs. You land staring at them in a live video chat on OnlyFans. And from there a link to actually meet them live. From Instagram to OnlyFans to Seeking, it’s now a seamless on-ramp of temptation leading to the actual seductress showing up at your front door. And it’s not just you guys. We ~all~ now hold in our pockets the most sophisticated Fuck Radar, a localized heat map of all our matched fantasy counterparts who also want it now — for free, for a fee, wherever we may roam, buzzing your very loins with every fucking possibility. It’s a level of temptation that’s a hundred times what it used to be. So if you as a couple try and go up against this new temptation-industrial complex with just the usual Hallmark-card I-only-have-eyes-for-you relationship, it will eat you and your ‘soulmate’ alive.”

My gold-medal winner right now is Naomi, her sharp tongue mapping out the landscape of seduction, her ombre hair changing from bright blond ends to deep dark roots, her centaur body descending from white-bloused torso into red-pantied leg show — she’s an alter ego’s wet dream. I’m using all my might to steer our gaze down to her bare bottom half, but Roger’s determined to keep his attention respectfully upon her top half to face off eye-to-eye, pitting him and me in a gaze-direction tug-o’-war.

“The modern world simply has too much temptation,” continues the centaur’s top half, “so for our relationships to succeed they have to also turn modern. It’s why today we’re seeing every new kind of relationship model, why the whole country is buzzing about polyamory. Some young women don’t even do boyfriends any more — they just have dating “rosters,” whole lineups to satisfy a different particular need: sensitivity, intelligence, travel, sex, humor, a hint of danger.”

Roger’s racking his brain for which of these he might not be satisfying for Colette. He gazes across the party searching for that hint of danger who’s lining up for Colette’s roster.

“But we Clittorati,” says Naomi, “we’ve found that polyamory doesn’t really work for us. Veering separately from our partners creates too much intense experience that’s not shared, which makes us grow apart. We prefer to team up on our adventures with our partners, call a truce in the gender war and become a couple in cahoots, face our deepest desires~ together~ as Partners in Crime.”

To Roger it’s indeed sounding criminal.


“Those moans are gonna happen with or without you,” says Naomi pointing up to the second floor. “We prefer with.”

“You’re saying I have to share Colette?!”

“That’s up to you. But you do need to have the hard conversations, push outside your comfort zone, dig for each other’s deepest darkest fantasies whether they include you or not, spill them all out on the table, wide open, like upon this kitchen island.

Roger’s already feeling splayed out upon this kitchen island, naked and gutted.

Naomi continues, “Remember when kitchens used to be closed, cordoned-off areas where a chef or housewife would disappear and out would come a ready-made meal? Well then new technology came — pesticides, GMOs — that made us need to know more about how our food is prepared. So we opened it all up, bust out all the walls and now do open living centered around the kitchen. Today the best seat in the restaurant is the chef’s table right up where you can watch him chop the chicken. We even want to know what the chicken ate. Well just like that, we Partners in Crime lay out all our inner motives, put the ingredients right out on the table.” Naomi gestures upon the white marble. “Oh look, here’s your Xylophone fantasy.

#You just had to share your Xylophone, didn’t you?#

*Yes, I did!*

“Let's cook with that. Now let’s dig for what Colette desires deep down, lay out all the spicy fantasy bits that could lead you each astray, find the delicious overlaps, add all the ingredients you can stomach, trim out the hard no’s that might spoil the dish, then mix it all up. Then make a fire together and channel its heat with grace.” Naomi points to the central hearth and traces her finger up the mahogany-clad chimney all the way to the second floor.


I want to leap up upon the kitchen island like a stage and do a happy tap dance around Roger’s splayed body and guts.

“You call that grace?” says Roger pointing upwards. “You face those gory ins and outs together, side by side?”


“That may sound to you like amoral cheaters, but it’s actually open and transparent highly ethical loving Partners in Crime. Cosa nostra, as the mafia dons say, ~this thing of ours~. When we make it ~ours~, together, we’re living in truth, no matter how... ~surprising~.”


That,” Naomi emphasizes as if now channeling her lower half, “is the edge of desire, competition, sharing, tension and release. That’s where the energy is. We tap that energy.”

Let’s tap your energy.

“We harness it, wrangle it into the service of the relationship.”


Roger’s following Naomi’s reasoning logically, but viscerally he can only follow the carnal scene above him — never good while trying to banter. “Sounds like a relationship’s getting mangled.”

“It may sound like Fuckamageddon, but it’s not the free-for-all you think. It’s an intricate exploration led by the women gatekeepers and the men who love them, in a carefully curated tribe, full of honest communication, trust, boundary setting, and the transcendence of stewarding your partner’s pleasure no matter where it may lead.”

In the party chaos behind Naomi, Roger now notices subtle signals between couples: whispers, head motions, hand signals meant to appear like ordinary gestures, loaded expressions, wide eyes and winks — a sensuous sign language of desire and permissions seamlessly played out in the social flow like a game of bridge, only a physical one with real hearts and diamonds in play. Some of these signals result in ascensions — couples heading toward the stairs and climbing up in twos, fours, sixes.

#Everything’s ass-backwards here: nerds gone wild, marrieds out-debauching singles, tech-bro Silicon Valley but the women in charge, alpha girls the new frat boys, the overworld the underworld, climbing up to get down – this must be hell.#

*It’s my stairway to heaven!*


“A celebration of sex between consenting adults in a loving tribe,” declares Naomi. “Is that really so icky?”


That one’s a guy moan, which derails Roger’s train of thought just as he was finding the tracks.


That one’s the voice of yet another woman — the orgasm now running rampant, all while Colette’s out there somewhere Roger can’t see, newly SLUT branded, last spotted next to an eager male instrument.

“It’s fucking icky,” blurts out Roger. “Icky fringe!”

Naomi puts her hands on her hips. “Whatever you want to call it, it’s not fringe any more. You have friends and work colleagues who do this — you just don’t know it. They walk among you like a race of mutant superheroes, friendly neighbors by day, surging sexonauts by night. Our smartphones don’t just pull us apart with temptation, they’ve also been match-making and jamming together every last sexual explorer, efficiently and secretly. The foot fetishes found their feet, the spankers their bums, the tops their bottoms, the Bonnies their Clydes. Anyone with the least inclination to explore found the trail for their baby steps, which quickly turned into giant leaps — without anyone needing to know. So life may still look normal out in public, but under the covers there’s now a Cambrian explosion of every kind of pleasure connection.”

“Ya right,” Roger volleys back, “a massive sexual conspiracy fucking all around me without me knowing. Maybe with you criminals, but not in my circles.”

“Oh no? That well-preened couple married for a decade who still stay in rock-hard shape? The goody neighbors who surprised you when she suddenly puffed out those breast implants? That couple who emits a slightly different sexual frequency and has a few too many out-of-town plans? They’re in on it — as are some of your most conservative friends you’d least suspect.”

Roger denies it with an eye roll, but I know I’ve sensed it... through winks and wide eyes and double entendres and suspiciously long hugs, hinting at some sort of collective secret we weren’t quite privy to... that all around us ~things are happening~, not just a sexy couple but sexy people, a new inexorable force, a Collective Lust pulling groups together like body magnets not just socially but physically, until they’re having criminally more fun than the rest of us. I’d fantasized about it, wished it true, but not even I could have dreamt it’d accelerated this far, this fast, and beyond the usual seedy suspects to the squarest circles you’d least expect — with ~Roger’s very people~. Now that I know the Collective Lust is for real it’s all I want.


Over Naomi’s shoulder Roger peers more closely at the faces until he sees, there, rising up from the crowd as it begins to ascend the staircase, a familiar face.

#Is that… Stephanie Archer? It can’t be!#

Roger used to work with Stephanie Archer way back at his very first job when they were both junior consultants at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, working late nights together huddled over spreadsheets. The way she looked at him longingly from behind her red horn-rimmed glasses, she clearly had the hots for him. But Roger wouldn’t go there — no, that’d be unprofessional. Oh, what we missed, forgoing the beauty right next to us night after night, all for a consulting career we don’t even have any more. And here she is sans glasses wearing glorious fishnet tights that come into view as she ascends the staircase. She’s in a group of three as a free agent alongside a couple — Stephanie Archer a ~unicorn!~

But instead of galloping toward this miracle, Roger positions his head behind Naomi’s so that Stephanie doesn’t see him. Roger’s mind is whirring like a consultant’s spreadsheet cataloging all the colleagues in common that he and Stephanie share, their entire LinkedIn social graph, and imagining her divulging to each of those friends that he, Roger Lieberknecht, was ~spotted at a sex party~, and then that sordid piece of news spreads virus-like to the common friends those people know, and so on, until everyone in Roger’s life is aghast.

*You fucking ninny! Never mind that – get up those stairs! Make up for all those forgone nights with Stephanie in one glorious go – dirtify our sterile past!*

Naomi continues, “Your friends would like to let you in on it, but they don’t think you can handle it, so they keep that part of their lives a secret, like Anthony and I did from you. We still cherish your friendship as always — we just leave out the most exciting parts of our lives. We shake our heads when the topic of crazy sex stuff comes up, but inside we’re smirking like Bruce Wayne hearing about a heroic arrest by the police.”


Roger purses his lips and looks away. He searches the spot next to the counter island where Colette last stood surrounded by Elijah and her newfound admirers, now abandoned looking like a white marble tomb. There, upon a bar stool, Roger recognizes a familiar fabric, now frumpled, jettisoned like a molted skin: Colette’s skirt! Roger frantically scans the room. He peers along the staircase behind Stephanie Archer half expecting to see Colette’s blouse and bra and panties strewn up the steps in a lurid breadcrumb trail of everything he thought he once knew. He cranes his face straight up toward the moaning dancing shadows, trying to identify them, his feet circling in shuffle steps spinning him round.


Roger bellows, “NO FUCKING WAY!”

Roger’s in such a spin he can’t even follow the rest of Naomi’s rant, only hearing keywords that explode across his brain like a bombing run: “…new era... sex-positive... ENM... flip the patriarchy... cede ownership... proof in our anatomy… a moral code in line with our biology... .sexonauts... the twin engines of desire NRE and SCS…”

Just when Roger’s about to keel over, Colette pops into view beside him, accompanied by Anthony. Like Naomi, Colette has transformed into a bare-halved centaur with civil blouse above and bare legs below.

Half-beasts everywhere — these are my people!

That Colette’s now a half-dressed centaur matters less to Roger than that she’s here, still downstairs, safely next to him, not moaning or being moaned upon, essential clothes still on, her last stand of panty membrane still holding the line.

“Colette! There you are!” exclaims Roger. Realizing this came out much too relieved-sounding, he quickly tries to compose himself, putting on an assured smile and pointing upstairs to the pink aurora and flickering shadows. “I was afraid you were missing the fireworks.”

Colette shifts her eyes upwards. “Oh I caught them all right.”

I hardly recognize Colette, not just her new centaur getup, but her whole new aura of an utterly alive sexual creature: face flushed, wide-set green eyes searing with precision beauty, parted lips popping with their accentuated Cupid’s bow, bare legs arcing out from the panty line and contouring slenderly down to her small bare feet.

Babe, until now you’ve been my ball ’n chain but I’ve got to say, you’ve got potential!

“Actually,” interjects Anthony, “it’s been suggested that we go upstairs and experience those fireworks.

*Fuck, yes! Pull on this thread until our clothes unravel!*

But Roger wants to put on more clothes, mummy-wrap Colette’s bare legs, re-drape his private booty in its long frilly skirt, tuck it under his arm and scurry back home. He’s racking his brain for a debonaire joke that would sidetrack the suggestion to go upstairs.

Naomi looks at Roger’s face and wrinkles her nose. “Hmm… I don’t think Roger can quite handle this.”

*Don’t you deprive me of this heaven! Not after our whole drab life. Not when we’re this close!*

I squirt everything I’ve got up the spine and into Roger’s brain: serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline. It all washes over his anxiety, but now he’s starting to sweat buckets.

Plug the pore hatches! I shout like a kid playing pirate. But I have no way to plug the pores.

It’s do-or-die time. I zing the figure of Tyler Durden from Fight Club up Roger’s Vagas nerve, making the Brad Pitt image from his favorite movie pop into his head. You see, though Roger’s an utter nerd he thinks he has a cool hidden side. Which of course he does — ~me!~ I just need to remind him of the possibilities. I animate the Brad Pitt image to drawl at Roger:

*What Would Tyler Durden Do?*

Roger considers this for a long moment. This buys just enough time for fate to work its magic.

Naomi starts gesturing to a seating area by the fireplace, opening her mouth to suggest a plan B that would keep us safely here on the ground floor. To Roger this becomes intolerable, not because it wouldn’t be his preferred decision, but because it would mean that Naomi would be right that he can’t handle this and that he be wrong — not just wrong about handling this but wrong about every throe of their modern-vs-icky argument. And there’s nothing Roger hates more than being wrong, so he wags his finger and interrupts Naomi, “~I can so handle this~.”

Oooh, that’s a bingo!

“Wow — really?” exclaims Naomi, raising her eyebrows.

Without thinking further, Roger extends his arm toward the staircase to signal ladies first — ever the gentleman — and proclaims: “Onward and upward!”

Fuck. Yes!

Naomi tilts her head while shrugging her shoulders. “OK then…” she turns to stride towards the staircase, “…as we moderns say, monogamy is the new virginity.”

Colette follows Naomi’s ombre mane with Roger in tow and Anthony bringing up the rear. Our little lust train rounds the newel post at the base of the staircase and starts to climb. Naomi’s rose-red panties lure us upward like a beacon, then Colette’s white panties rising up past our eyes. If this is what women-led means, I can get behind it. Yes, sexy centaurs, guide me up the mystical mountain to where the thunderclouds flicker and boom!


In front of Roger’s eyes Colette’s delicate bare feet parade up the stairs with a steady beat. Her slender calves flex with each step in sync with the swaying tilt of each thigh’s upward march. The adrenaline from Roger’s heavy decision begins to recede, allowing his thoughts to return.

#Monogamy is the new virginity – what does that even mean? My bedrock relationship with Colette now something to bust through like a hymen on prom night?!#

Roger peers higher between Colette’s thighs up to where they constrict like theater curtain tiebacks — the proscenium of her greatest show on earth. Now it pulses with each of her steps, expectantly, like when the theater lights dim on opening night.

#She wants to own it back? I used to own this back. My one-man’s show now a sold-out show.#


#That one’s a man moan! Whose throaty thrust is that, lying in wait for Colette up there?#


#‘It’s been suggested we go upstairs.’ Anthony didn’t say I suggest. He said it’s been suggested – passive voice – meaning someone else not Anthony did the suggesting. Could this have been Colette’s idea?#


#Or worse, a man whispering in Colette’s ear… Elijah?! Haven’t seen him downstairs for a long time. Already up there? Am I marching into an ambush? Into a pre-planned rendezvous?!#


#I can’t lose Colette – she’s my sustenance, from waking up in the morning to kissing her goodnight to standing in line together at the deli. Our sparkling spirits mingle every time we lock eyes. Will she look at him that way? Will her spirit jump a new orbit away from me to his magnetic pole? Or swan-dive irretrievably into the Collective Lust?#

Roger longs to Gaze Meld with those eyes of Colette’s now, but they’re leading the way forward and he’s oh-so-behind.

#How the fuck do these modern guys share not just their precious wines but their precious wives? Do their veins run with argon?!#


#This is all your fault, you and your fucking Xylophone!#

*Start the fucking show already! Yank the ropes! Fly out the grand drapes!*

I peer through Colette’s theater frame to take in not just her marvels but those up ahead: a sneak peek at Naomi’s swaying red panties ahead of us on the staircase — finally I can ogle them unfettered — and beyond Naomi to the glowing pink uplights and candlelight flickering up on the ceiling. In those dancing flickers I envision Stephanie Archer’s fishnetted legs upraising, Lauren’s blond ringlets radiating out upon the mattress to welcome me, Lucy dolphin-diving into the writhing pool of shimmering sex-positive Clittorati. “The entire divine feminine” Colette had called it, insisting that, in their relationship, it all should run through her. Well here it is, streaming through in a golden ray of thighlight, summoning me to my freedom, salvation, everything I’ve ever wanted after a lifetime of suppression. At last it’s my turn and my story can begin, up we go, my show ushered in by a full-throated chorus:

Aaaaa Iiiii Oooohhh!

*Oh, the places I’ll go!*


#Oh, the places she’ll go!#


#Oh, what will go in her places!#

Not just the ~divine~ ~feminine~. Roger’s view flips my heavenly feminine candlelight vision into its inverse: a shadow that blackens my glorious angels into his darkest demon: Elijah’s bare body, wiry muscles flexed, tattoo taunting, large instrument hard and ready to ravage just below Colette’s perineum proscenium.


Roger grips the staircase railing as his legs turn heavy like cement and Colette’s show pulls away from him up to its flickering destination. In the embroidered lace in the top band of her panties he envisions stage carvings of the twin muse masks of comedy and tragedy — my joyous grin and his panicked frown. Stage left he sees Colette’s new brand peeking out from her panty line in red capital letters like the theater’s EXIT sign. But instead of offering him a way out, these capital letters taunt him, as each exertion from Colette’s upward steps flex her rear cheeks alternatively, making the red word blink like a warning alarm: SLUT! SLUT! SLUT!

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