My partner and I aren't about to cancel our 72-hour prison conjugal visit just because our food order got mislaid. We can live on love. And other couples' leftovers - other couples who have come here before us and gone back to their separate lives on either side of the perimeter fence topped with razor wire. As soon as I'm checked in by a female guard and Stephen and I are "alone," I take inventory: one frozen chicken, a 2-pound bag of frozen Brussels sprouts, potatoes and two trays of ice cubes.
Years ago I read an article in The Realist that suggested applying a fistful of ice cubes to your partner's testicles at the "right moment" would enhance and prolong his orgasm. Timing being everything, it's one trick I haven't tried. Yet.
In the cupboard, I find a plastic container marked Gun Powder. Stephen insists it's just baking powder, some inmate's idea of a joke. But in baking, unlike in sex, I'm not so willing to experiment.
You can never have too many potatoes, as they said in Ireland during the famine. The question is, how to cook them. I remember a question from The Dating Game: "If I were a potato, would you bake me, fry me or mash me?" I begin to work up some enthusiasm for the barbecued chicken we'll have later, and those baked potatoes each topped with a dollop of sweet, melting... ice cubes?
As for the Brussels sprouts, I've never found a use for them in my kitchen. I'm not ever sure what they are. I'm pretty certain God had an ulterior motive when it came to their creation.
I put the potatoes in the oven to bake. Stephen is curled up on the couch, peacefully watching mobsters whack each other on TV. I curl up on top of him with How To Be A Great Lover. While the author didn't include Brussels sprouts on her list of toys for sex play, I'm reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre's comment that "genius is not a gift, but the way we invent in desperate situations."
Some men, I read, enjoy having a woman cradle the penis with one hand while gently nibbling on it as if she were eating corn on the cob. Instead of corn, I try to fantasize nibbling on a row of fresh boiled Brussels sprouts.
Then there's the legendary Happy Hooker Xaviera Hollander's Tricks With Mints. You suck on an Altoid, a Halls cough drop or just brush your teeth with Pepsodent. Once the mint has begun to dissolve, you turn your attention to him instead. I have no mints, but I could stick a Brussels sprout in each cheek and, you know...
I'm trying, with one hand, to open the bag of frozen Brussels sprouts when the room is rocked by an explosion. A premature explosion. Two baked potatoes have burst in the oven, because guess who forgot to prick them?
Stephen goes to clean up the mess; I console myself with another book, What Would Buddha Do? 101 Answers To Life's Daily Dilemmas.
What would Buddha do when potatoes burst as the passions are first awakening? For starters, he suggests chanting "Namu myoho renge kyo." I make a mental note: that, and a fistful of ice cubes "at the right moment" and I'd have my man eating out of my palm.
"What's on the menu?" Stephen asks when the kitchen is back to normal. Buddha is big on food, too, though he likes to keep it simple. What Would Buddha Do When Making A Salad?, for instance, suggests starting with a single leaf. But that's easier said than done when two 17-foot-high fences topped with razor wire stand between you and anything smacking of nature.
What would Buddha do if all he had was 2 pounds of frozen Brussels sprouts? He would probably recite a mantra. Radiate loving kindness. Remember his breathing.
"What's for dinner?" Stephen asks, a little more desperate this time. The last gangster's on his meathook in the freezer, meaning the movie is done.
What would Buddha do? Be in the moment, he would say. Start now. If I can distract my partner for long enough, dinner can wait until morning. Meanwhile, I don't plan to starve. A mouthful of spermatozoa contains only six calories but enough vitamin C, vitamin B12, fructose, sulphur, zinc, copper, magnesium, potassium, calcium and a whole lot of other wholesome substances that I won't even miss my One-A-Day multiple vitamin. A person could give up eating if she could find a man to have oral sex with once a day.
The next morning I discover some muscles that haven't been getting a workout at Lady Fitness. I can open my eyes, but my jaw aches so hard I can't pry open my mouth wide enough to stuff in the potato-stuffed blackened chicken Stephen has imaginatively created for breakfast. I go back to bed, taking the bag of frozen Brussels sprouts for a compress.
Susan Musgrave's most recent novel, about sex, death row and narcoterrorism, is Cargo Of Orchids, (Knopf).