Jackie 2

15 Jul

Jackie almost broke my dick in a very real and literal sense, is what I’m getting at.

Let’s gloss over some of the contextual details for this story, shall we? I mean, I could really get into it and bloat and recursively/discursively follow my head up my own ass with this story, which is, really, usually what I do, which . . . okay, fine. Let’s abbreviate. Jackie liked to drink, and to fuck, and to listen to The Tragically Hip (a Canadian alt-rock outfit referred to consistently and gratingly as “The Hip,” a fans-only shibboleth used to identify persons as insufficiently tragically whatever and therefore suitable for shunning), and to date old. In that order, as far as I could tell. I ascribe no particular value to any of these traits and present this data to you with anthropological detachment.

Trust me.

For example, I don’t think we ever met in the absence of at least a mild buzz on someone’s part. I also don’t think we met past our first date without sleeping together. As I recall, her preferred positions were cowgirl, which I tend to enjoy for voyeuristic reasons, and what is commonly termed “doggy style,” which arrangement I enjoy but which also can have unforeseen complications. I mean that I couldn’t not see, and therefore not read, the text of her back tattoo, a Hip lyric highlighted with graphics in primary colors. She’d located it maybe six inches north of the traditional location for tramp stamping and therefore centered in my usual visual field. It distracted me profoundly. As an analogy, imagine trying to masturbate with the same song stuck in your head, stuck on the same line, every time, without variation, forever.

My logistical difficulties didn’t seem to practically matter. Jackie came at the slightest touch, often hitting her first climax in very few seconds and regularly reaching numbers in the double digits. By the way, I should mention that this part of the story meets with extreme skepticism. People (lady people, often) insist, when I speak these events aloud to them, that if it isn’t me who is making shit up, then it has to be her. Jackie.

I mean, maybe. It’s possible, but I kind of believed it. Jackie had a larger than average clitoris, and it was sensitive to the point that even the laziest cunnilingus sent her in to paroxysms and vibrators caused her genuine pain. What I’m saying is that, if my reporting these events is boasting, it’s only boasting insofar as someone who witnesses a spectacular, high-speed, multi-car accident boasts. Sure, I was there, and I witnessed it, and it was amazing, but it probably didn’t have all that much to do with me.

For further example (relating back to my earlier list of things Jackie likes) Simon, her recent ex and reason for her being both on OkCupid and in Cincinnati at all, had been old in a relative sense . . . we’ll say mid-forties.

I’m not that old (revising, as aging people do, my subjective marker for the beginning of old to some deliberately hazy point in the next decade). Her father figure (stepdad, I think) had apparently congratulated her on becoming involved with someone roughly her own age after she and I had been seeing each other for a week or two.

She and Simon first met and impressed each other in The Tragically Hip forums (I submit that any internet forum can be hip only to a very discrete, finite maximum), and fandom constituted most of their points of commonality (my possibly flawed inference drawn from admittedly limited and secondhand accounts of their relationship). She moved to Cincinnati to be with him. As the younger, hotter, and more objectively desirable (that is, more obviously conforming to norms fetishizing femininity, youth, beauty, and sexuality) half of the partnership, she could, for a while anyway, indulge herself however she liked.

One of the things she liked to do, and one reason why we were less sexually compatible than we might have seemed at first, is to dress in pornstarishly seductive costumes bought expressly for the purpose and then tease, sometimes for hours. I can cope with teasing for a hard limit of seven minutes, eighteen seconds after which time, if no resolution (coitus, escape, or whatever) is forthcoming, every blood vessel in my head will rupture. .

Simon could neither commit nor, ultimately, put out, and after a consecutive series of relatively sexless months, Jackie jettisoned him into the cold void of middle-aged singledom. Who wouldn’t.

We came home drunk one night, I slightly and she very. I’d taken her to a now-closed bar called Grammer’s in Over the Rhine, a venue distinguished by having the occasional copyright-infringing public movie night and by having a second-floor dance area that, when in use, caused the ceiling over the bar to terrifyingly buckle. We watched a film and talked to some people I knew. She spent the ride home slumped on her back in the passenger seat with her heeled boots up on the dash, kicking and convulsing with laughter, having loud, lascivious, Philadelphian conversation on her cell phone. I rolled down the window. The wind through it became loud. She was one of those persons through whom all information flows unobstructed (if not unaltered). While I was not necessarily shocked to know that my penis and the relative merits thereof were a topic of conversation, actually being party to the exchange as a passive, third-person participant felt new and strange to me.

My mind separated itself from the immediate scenario. I thought about the relative wisdom of having introduced her to friends, for one of whom I harbored, then and now, a mild but enduring crush.

At her apartment and in her bed, I tried to sleep. Or rather, I closed my eyes and waited for nothing to start happening, having undressed and laid my head on the pillow with the introspective melancholy that, for me, is a decay product of lessening drunkenness.

Jackie tugged my boxers down to my knees. I opened my eyes to see her begin to straddle me, supporting herself with one hand on my chest and reaching with her other to guide my autonomically generated erection inside her. I didn’t much feel like having sex and mumbled something to the effect of maybe the morning might be better, I’d sincerely participate in the morning, and maybe we could both go the fuck to sleep right now. She began to rock her hips against me in ascending rhythm, and I thought, well, there are worse things than being in bed with an attractive woman who literally can’t wait to have sex with me. I decided to enjoy myself, making the appropriate gestures and noises and waiting for her to wear herself out.

In her bucking enthusiasm sometime after her fifth or sixth apparent orgasm, she pulled entirely free of me. Before physics or biology could return my erection to a position of safe repose against my lower abdomen, she brought her hips crashing down against my glans with the force of a truly resentful carpenter driving a nail.


Jackie 1

14 May

Jackie was a recent transplant from Philadelphia, a mid-Atlantic city of sufficient age to have pretensions of being East Coast, never mind that all of New Jersey lies between it and the ocean. I’ve been to Philadelphia. It’s nice. However, it’s not New York. Neither is it Boston.

I mention these things not out of some need to diminish Philadelphia, but rather to obviate the whole émigré pissing-contest instinct that impels recent arrivals to extol the superior virtues of their former cities vis-à-vis wherever they happen to have landed while also skirting the observation that those virtues, virtuous though they might be, proved insufficient to inspire them to stay. This phenomenon happens with particular frequency when someone moves from the coasts toward the Midwest, which, as far as the coasts are concerned, perverts the apparent natural order of things. Cheesesteaks from Philly taste good, it’s true. But cheese sauce, steaks, onions, and grease taste good pretty much anywhere. GPS coordinates do not appear as ingredients in cheesesteaks. That’s all I’m saying.

I suggested we meet at Sitwell’s. The most tired ideas seem fresh to someone unfamiliar with them. I go there often, but not so often that it becomes unignorably obvious the staff or the regulars that it’s where I take first dates. The principle is similar to crop rotation or sustainable fishing; you don’t want to exhaust any one area, particularly if it’s a good spot.

Jackie had a wide mouth and she laughed a lot. She smiled widely also. She had high cheekbones, pixie cut hair, and a long face of the sort that cruel internet people sometimes describe as “horsey.” Which is not to say that she was unattractive. Probably I ought to establish that. Certainly she was attractive; not necessarily in a head-turning way, but in a notice-you-across-the-bar way. Somehow, though, her attractiveness added to less than the sum of its parts. Her eyes, hair, mouth, and cheekbones, all striking as individuals, seemed to have been pulled from other bodies and then aggregated without considering their effect as a gestalt.

I sort of expected all that. The full effect rarely comes through still photographs, but she’d sent me a wide variety from a number of angles. One was of her dressed in a sailor costume and striking a costume-suggestive pose. Another was of her dressed as a schoolgirl with knee socks, a plaid skirt, and a blouse unbuttoned to her sternum. She sat on the edge of a bed and bit her lip, sincerely suggestive.

Judging by the picture’s proportions, she’d cropped out the side of the mattress, stage left, along with whoever happened to occupy it. I opted not to bring it up.

I don’t really remember our first date. That might seem callous, but it’s just how my life works. I don’t really remember my sixteenth birthday, or my twenty-first, or my thirtieth. I don’t really remember my first kiss or the first time I drove a car. But I remember what it’s like to do these things. Jackie laughed at my jokes, I think. People who choose to go on more than one date with me typically do. Quite soon, she developed a habit of describing things I did or said as “precious,” with heavy emphasis on the initial plosive. I tolerated that with easy indifference. Sometimes I’ll come up with a few seconds of memory that deliver the experience’s full semantic weight. After Jackie and I left the coffee shop, she walked south on Ludlow with an aggressive Philadelphian gait indicative of her tribe. It seems to me that she wore some sort of black shirt beneath a dark jacket complemented with leg-hugging jeans. I recall with moderate assurance that I admired the decisive scissoring of her legs as she walked with apparent purpose ahead of me, although we did not know where we were going. She wore suede high heels with the sort of folded-down top that reminded me of Robin or maybe Peter Pan. I remember that.

For our second date, she invited me back to her apartment to watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which she admired with the same home-team possessiveness that people from my city used to hold for WKRP in Cincinnati. I dislike It’s Always Sunny for the same reason that I dislike Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm: If I want to watch irredeemable people behave horribly to one another, I can just go outside.  This, I sensed, was a strike against me. Instead, we ignored the television and began to have an actual conversation.

She pressed her thigh to mine and began to tell me about her live-in boyfriend who’d just moved out.


Kelly coda

26 Apr

I talked to Rachel a few nights ago.

Rachel (who reads this blog, as does my current girlfriend, as well as my most recent former paramour, along with some indeterminate number of the subjects of my past and future stories) reminded me that my reasons (related to Rachel while these events were current but unrecalled at the time of writing) for breaking things off with the pseudonymous Kelly were not entirely sexual in nature. Or, rather, they were not directly related to sex between the two of us.

To be clear (well, clearer, anyway, and to address previous commentary, which, rhetorically speaking, is a terrible habit for me to be getting into, given conventional wisdom against feeding trolls, etc, but maybe just this once), Kelly’s partner number did not and does not intimidate me in terms of mere magnitude. Although the Catholicism of my youth had become so gonadally entrenched in me as to render inevitable an involuntary visceral reaction brought on by erotically charged disgust (or maybe disgustedly charged eroticism, which, really, is pretty common, and is expressed in our culture with phrases like “you’re a dirty girl,” et alia), the parts of me tasked with overriding the occasional baser instinct quashed the disgust part pretty quickly, mostly by subsuming it into the vast lake of internal shame already extant.

Which is how I cope. Which must be obvious.

At the end of some movie, Marlon Brando’s character says something like “you must make a friend of horror and moral terror. You must make a friend of them; otherwise they are enemies to be feared.” Probably that quote is inexact. I didn’t look it up. The point is, blanking out horror and terror so that they become emotional variables, the expressed sentiment outlines my approach to disgust and shame. (Soon after, Martin Sheen’s character, Brando’s conversational target, enthusiastically machetes Brando’s character to pieces. It’s an imperfect analogy. Don’t read too much into it).

Ultimately, I interpreted Kelly’s number through the lens of an inspirational childhood aphorism: practice makes perfect. And it does. Which is to say that both in terms of carnal and conversational enjoyment, I prefer sluts to prudes. Rather, my uneasiness stemmed from her story wherein she used sex as a bludgeon to punish her impending ex through his platonic relationships.

That, and (as Rachel was kind enough to remind me . . . you know, we talk) Kelly, for some reason, espoused a religiously motivated opposition to gay marriage.

Note that, as with all other political issues unlikely to directly affect my life, I’m unable to get particularly worked up about this particular controversy. I observe that I share this apathy with most humans who have a secure grip on the bottom tier or two of Maslow’s hierarchy. Which is to say that I don’t particularly care whether anyone agrees or disagrees with me, and I react to opinions on the matter with bemusement in direct proportion to their vehemence. However, also like most humans, I get along best with people who agree with me.

Recently I met a guy, a bearded corporate lawyer who seemed young to be a bearded corporate lawyer. I think, somewhere inside himself, he thought so too. He struck me as smart and lonely. He loosens but does not remove his tie to play bar trivia, giving passionate answers to irrelevant questions. The prospect of winning points can have that effect on a person. This story might seem non-sequitur, but stay with me for a minute. One night, he told a story about how a nascent girlfriend had lately dumped him for quote unquote no reason during what he’d hoped would be a nice dinner with her. No reason, as it happened, took the form of his political, philosophical, and lawyerly opposition to gay marriage.

My friend Jeanne and her (also nascent) boyfriend had taken me with them that night to a bar for trivia, which is where I met corporate lawyer, name unremembered. She sat at the opposite end of the table from C.L. and had drunk herself into the liminal zone between inappropriate honesty and criminally impaired driving. Through cowardice or some other motive, I’d chosen not to rise to his comment—although, like his date, I’ll apparently dump someone over it. She responded immediately to the story by telling him “You deserve to die alone.” C.L. shrank into his chair, assuming a primate defensive posture and remarking without irony about the intolerance he encountered from his political opponents on this issue. I laughed and laughed. Clearly on some level, his feelings had genuinely been hurt, which only made it funnier to me. Because here is a way to interpret a statement of his position, without weighing questions of rights or law or morality: “Because you are gay, you deserve to die alone.”

For what it’s worth, Jeanne felt bad afterward.

All of which to say is that, like everyone else, my dating life is informed by my prejudices.

Next time, I will tell you about the local someone. Did we fuck on the first date? It is with the extreme lack of affect borne of true dispassion that I tell you we did not. Did we fuck on the second date?





Kelly end

31 Mar

Kelly had a landing strip.

At least, I think that’s the right word. She sported a narrow band of trimmed hair stretching northward from the clitoris. I’ve never really understood it. The name, I mean, not the fashion. To my mind, the landing strip should be the part that’s shaved completely smooth, maybe bordered by two lines of unshaved territory. You know, like a runway. But I guess “landing strip” sounds better than “clit mohawk.” Besides, nobody asked me.

Learning my status as her number seventy five really wasn’t all that devastating. With sex, I flatter myself that I take a realistic approach based on realistic propositions. That means, among other things, that I don’t tell myself that she’s never had anyone other, bigger, or better than me. I don’t imagine that no one’s ever faked an orgasm with me. These are unattainable secrets. It does, however, also mean that the impact of uncomfortable information can be deflected by math.

So, I’m thirty. Well, thirty-one. Thirty-two this summer. Look, it doesn’t matter. Thirtyish. So let’s assume the average age of my sexual partners is also thirty. Let’s further assume that they became sexually active at twenty. (For the purposes of this exercise, we’re defining sexually active as “activities that could result in pregnancy.” Like I’ve mentioned before, my densely Catholic upbringing left me paranoid about the possibility of parenthood through unsanctioned sex. As a consequence, it also left me with the period between my fourteenth and twenty-first years inclusive as an uninterrupted era with which to practice cunnilingus. Sometimes, there are people who practice things with focus and dedication for the better part of a decade. Some of those people go to the Olympics. I mention it only by way of an aside, but y’know. I’m just saying). So we can further assume that, given an interest in dating and an absence of impediments like the smoldering wrecks of marriages or long term relationships, a sexually active adult could easily sleep with two people per year. Two people per year sounds way, way less slutty than “I’ve fucked twenty people.” Two people per year is a number that says you’re trying.

Of course, applying this formula to Kelly gives a result of seven point five partners per year (which includes me, so if we’re concerned only with past partners, we get a result of seven point four partners  per year and can easily round that down to seven), a number which, I’ll admit, could engender some discomfort, even if it was mitigated by her assurances that she remembers the names of everyone she’s slept with, a claim I’m only reasonably sure I can make. So, okay. We can push the start date back to fifteen, a perfectly reasonable (meaning not completely abnormal) number for roughly millennial adults in America. Still, that leaves us with five. Me, I’m comfortable with five. Probably she just had a really good year. Every year. For fifteen years.


Post-coital, we talked. Like you do. We talked about past relationships, also like you do, and we discussed how they ended. Emotionally, this game is equivalent to showing scars and saying “That’s nothing, lemme tell  you how I got this.” You already know how I got this, so we can move on. Her story that I found most interesting involved her breakup with her college boyfriend. She broke up with him by having sex with two of his friends.

It wasn’t the sex with the friends as a means to breakup per se (to an extent, I’ve become jaded to that sort of thing) so much as the simultaneousness thereof that really raised the warning flag. It just seemed like an unnecessary cruelty. Perhaps it was a deserved cruelty; we didn’t get too deeply into this story’s particulars. However, I could make inferences. For example, I could infer that the sex had been, at most, simultaneously oral and vaginal as opposed to the more classically pornographic DP. I could infer this because she abhorred anal penetration, saying she’d never engaged in it. Not that this isn’t a particularly stupid hair to split, but I have now and had then a really hard time not drawing wholly unnecessary conclusions. Also, she lived in Dayton.

I couldn’t look past it.

My OkCupid account stayed up. Soon, I began talking with someone more local, and soon, Kelly asked me to accompany her to a wedding. These two tenuous pressures proved sufficient to break us up. Kelly retreated back into pharmacy school where, last I heard, she met a very nice boy. I don’t know what happened after that.

As for me, I’m nice, but not very. And I went on a date with the local someone.


Kelly, part 3

23 Feb

We met at a Barnes & Noble that I don’t typically go to (this tactic by now having become second nature), where we shared a coffee with too many syllables and looked at display books while finding reasons to accidentally brush against one another. I flipped through a browse-worn Postsecret book and shared with her my secret that, although I think Postsecret is trite in the extreme, I remain hopelessly addicted to it. Our date followed the progression of the desperately horny: bookstore to apartment to living room to bedroom. During our couch times before our bedroom times, I slipped my hands beneath her camisole. We kissed, and I touched her between hips and ribs, waiting for encouragement to move higher or lower. She pulled away from our kiss and looked down at me. “Stop playing with my fat,” she said. I shifted my attention to her breasts. We left our clothes in a pile next to my coffee table.

I traced my fingers down Kelly’s tattooed back, touching the sprays of stars and planets that covered her shoulders and then moving my hands down her body toward where my hips met hers. I had made my bed with newly cleaned sheets just for the occasion. Her elbows and knees, bearing her full weight and some of mine, twisted the bedclothes, pulling the fitted sheet away from the corner of the bed. The exposed mattress showed faded stains; I noticed and hoped that she didn’t. Probably it wouldn’t have mattered all that much. My nearly featureless bedroom was empty of furniture apart from a tall, thin bookshelf; my unframed bed; and an inconvenient credenza whose shallow shelving held far less than its size would suggest. Nothing decorated the walls in here, and their thickly painted white length stretched ten unrelieved feet up to the ceiling.  The box springs and mattress rested directly on the carpeted floor, and before tonight I had not yet been confronted with the logistical challenges of having sex on such an arrangement. I positioned myself between her and the wall, trying to find some orientation that felt natural on a coital platform that was fifteen inches shorter than usual. She lowered her head, letting her hair cover her face, and wordlessly encouraged me with full-throated vocalizations.

I appreciated her sincerity, which I took as an article of faith. Some people claim to be able to tell when their sexual partners falsify a moment of physical ecstasy. I don’t. I don’t try. I can’t even tell when someone merely pretends to be pleased to see me, let alone uncontrollably, spasmodically excited that I’m touching her in a particular way. If you tell me, using moaning un-words that would expel you from polite company, that you are thoroughly enjoying yourself, then I will believe you. It makes things easier for everybody.

However—there is always a however—as hot as I found her tattoos, they became a distraction. Rather, I focused on one specific tattoo, a brief message stamped in the tramp zone beneath another tattoo depicting the planet Earth. I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but it had to do with God, or who God loved, or advice for staying right with Him, or something. Whatever it was, it made concentration difficult. Catholic guilt and erections tend to exclude one another. At least, my experience with guilt and erections suggests that conclusion. I shifted my hands to cover the words.

Afterward, we snuggled together on the bed up against the wall.

My bed is a twin size. Did I mention? Snuggling becomes mandatory.

Idly, I tried to stretch the fitted sheet back over the bed corner, and we got to know one another in a way that most people do prior to coitus. I twirled my fingers through her hair like I used to twirl my own hair when I was very young and very sleepy. I felt very sleepy. She asked me questions.

“How many people have you slept with?” Curious, not accusatory. It’s a fair question. I flushed slightly and mumbled.

“It depends on how you count, but twenty or so. I don’t know exactly.” This was a true statement.

I have justifications for both this number and its vagueness. I thought you should know. However, no one has ever wanted to date someone based on the strength of his justifications. This is also a true statement.

“How about you?” I asked. She shifted onto her side and lazily put her arm around me.

“You’re number seventy-five.”

My fingers stopped for a moment. Then they twirled again, moving her hair over and over between them.


Kelly, part 2

26 Jan

It took a minute before Kelly and I met.

She lived in Dayton, as I might have mentioned. It worried me. Dayton was awful then, and it continues to be awful now. Partially because of death threats from the cuckolded boyfriends of grimy hipster girls and partially because of the calculated depredations of bored suburban housewives, Dayton assumed a superstitious significance for me. There were other reasons also, ones less articulable. I thought my thoughts on the other side of my head from where I kept Dayton thoughts, much in the same way that you chew on the other side of your mouth from where you have a cavity. Dayton is like a cavity; it’s a decayed city full with decayed people. Except that it was and is nowhere full, its people leaking out from its used-up center, metastasizing to other cities, leaving behind vacant property.

So I dragged my ass, and we emailed.

In the meantime, although I had a job, I lived like I didn’t, and sank paycheck after paycheck into my credit card debt. To sell the illusion of independence to Kelly (and, realistically speaking, to the women who would come after her—I had been dating for too long to really believe that she would be where I stopped looking, but I did and do believe that all displays of independence are inherently illusory), I rented the bottom floor of a large, rickety two-story house in Avondale, moving my numbered boxes from my parents’ house to this one and filling the empty rooms with Goodwill furniture.

The neighborhood in Cincinnati that used to give the suburbs fits is called Over-the-Rhine. It was the queasy locus of this city’s belching race riots in 2001. (We have a long history of riots with a refractory period just long enough for the previous one to be generationally forgotten). After all the smashing had been swept up, the neighborhood began aggressively gentrifying, sprouting curio stores selling ruthlessly overdesigned bullshit and pulling in a much whiter, hipper crowd who stopped talking about “Over-the-Rhine” and started talking about “OTR.” Avondale picked up the slack as the neighborhood people avoided during their evening commutes, popping up in the local consciousness as a place where landlords still tried to put up “whites only” signs on their swimming pools or where someone’s escaped pet lion might maul you. The sounds of occasional gunshots just count as local flavor.

As I’d learn later, my new house had been sold for a song to my new landlords just after one of the large neighborhood trees had fallen through the roof during the Hurricane Ike windstorm. That part wasn’t in the lease. My lease did, however, forbid me from running a take-out restaurant from my house. Apparently the previous tenants had done that using the massive kitchen they’d proudly shown to me as a selling point, perhaps to distract me from the uninsulated walls and gently sloping floors. I nodded enthusiastically along with my landlords, forgetting in my eagerness to move that I don’t know how to look and can’t be bothered to learn. Over the year of my lease, my meals would come from the microwave or delivery people, just like always. The landlords also claimed that my apartment would be a two-bedroom. This claim was true only if you believed that apartments did not require living rooms, but since the rent here for a putative two-bedroom apartment was lower than the rent for a studio in neighborhoods with fewer armed robberies, I decided not to make a stink about it. I signed the lease, arranged my new couches and called Kelly for our first date.

We’d planned to meet at a Barnes and Noble. Rather than going for one of the inexplicable Starbucksian drinks the café was pushing, I got a black coffee and waited for her to show up.


Where I’ve Been

25 Jan

In the blog, you’ll note that my record of employment has not been perhaps as buttery smooth as I’d like it to be. Its unpleasant lumpiness has been even moreso since this past July, when my employer at the time offered me a deal. You see, they wanted me to teach the same four or five classes and work the same sixty hour weeks that I’d been working, but without the marginal incentives of salary pay and benefits. So, using the politesse of corporate language, I told them to go fuck themselves.

Recently (I’m reluctant to say when for reasons I’m reluctant to tell you), I got a very unexpected offer to do proposal and grant writing on a freelance basis for a very big company, the happy (for me) consequence of their original writer having to bow out because of a heart attack scare.

I know.

So I’ve been doing that. It’s not the work I’d dreamed of doing, but it is the first time I’ve ever been paid for writing, and I’ve never been one to look a checkbook in the mouth.

However. Things there are starting to slack off (sort of), and I should be back soon. Like, tomorrow. Afternoon or evening.


Unless I wreck my car or something.


Kelly, part 1

16 Dec

Like other humans, I have chosen dates for unconscionably shallow reasons.

Did I ever tell you about the time I moved to Japan because I wanted to have sex with Japanese girls?

Well. I moved to Japan because I wanted to have sex with Japanese girls. I mean, that wasn’t the whole reason. As a whole reason, it would be blisteringly stupid; a two-week vacation could probably take care of that. (There used to be a nightclub called Vanilla in Roppongi. I heard that the cover for white men and Japanese women was ten bucks, but for anyone else the cover was about forty. I guess once they got inside, everyone sat around and talked about ice cream?) It wasn’t even the biggest reason, and it definitely wasn’t the best reason. Nevertheless, it was a reason.

How ugly is this truth? Is it uglier than other ones? I have hurt kind people because their teeth were different from teeth I preferred, or because their asses were fatter than other asses, or because their skin hung awkwardly from their cheekbones. I did these unremarkable crimes. There are varying degrees of preference. One time, I decided that I liked how Japanese girls looked.

A girl named Yuko and I dated. As an aside, I’m still friends with a different Japanese girl named Yuko. She is a lovely person who has an unfortunate, exclusionary preference for Western men. Typically, her feelings get hurt. Possibly she would have dated me, but we met through her boyfriend, my roommate, a greasy tub of Albertan suet who believed sincerely that PCP abuse led to cannibalism. He saw it on CSI. Probably he was the most sophisticated dude ever to come from his whole town, and that makes me sad inside. After he flew back to Canada, leaving a column of leaky garbage roughly his height and shape in the corner of our living room, I thought there might have been some interest, but nothing ever came of it. His name also was Dan. I think it was too weird for her.

Our relationship bracketed itself in confusion. Which is to say, I’m not really sure why she picked me up (which she did, from a nightclub . . . I’ve rarely been one to make an unprompted approach, so my first six months abroad had been appropriately sexless), and I’m not really sure why she dumped me. I have best guesses. For the former, it’s because she thought my penis was big (her words, not mine), and for the latter, it’s because I would tell her that I loved her in Japanese but not in English.

But I digress.

Kelly wasn’t Japanese. She was American. But her family had, at some point, emigrated from an East Asian country. Maybe it was Korea? These details escape me. But regardless, I found that attractive, despite that the part of my brain that knows things absolutely knew better. In her picture, a few tattoos peeked over her shoulder. Despite tattoos’ occasional use as a prosthetic personality by otherwise bland individuals, I still find them to be really, really hot. (Generally, anyway . . . they fall under the same purview as other cosmetic surgeries. Terrible tattoos look grotesque in the same way that terrible breast implants do). And her message to me saying that she’d stayed on Match because she wanted to talk to me spoke to my ego in a way that no one had recently.

Of course, on an equally superficial level, there were drawbacks. For example, she was shaped like me, except with breasts.



08 Dec

Sometimes, you are on a date. You see the person sitting across a table from you, perhaps with a cup of coffee between her hands, perhaps not. This person also sees you. She smiles. Her smile seems typical; taxonomically speaking, it fits into the larger category of date smiles, which in turn belong to the genus of smiles smiled because the smiler feels it is appropriate to smile, not because she is happy. At some point in that smiling instant, you realize, even before you take your seat across from the smile and the coffee, that this person is yours for the asking. Although to the naïve or desperate, asking might seem like a good deal, that is not always the case.

It is the same for jobs.

After Amber drove her long drive back to Kentucky, my cycle of dates wound down into a period of low activity. My carefully numbered moving boxes gradually shifted from being mostly closed to mostly open, rimmed with the approximately folded corners of packed clothes that I moved with increasing carelessness. The basement futon spent more time unfolded into a sleeping space than pretending to be a couch. The movement of restless bodies massaged flat the couch crease at its center. Mostly these bodies were in fact one body, singular, mine, sleeping instead of sexing, which bothered me only sometimes but intensely when it did. My laptop became used less for writing, or dating, or anything else, and more for seeing what internet people looked like with their clothes off. (As it turns out, they look like other people, just naked). Growths of glasses and dishes sprouted in fungal knots from flat surfaces. Unremembered beverages clustered on the floor, an easy arm’s reach from where I slept. A particular brown species of long-legged spider shared my living space with me. One morning, as I lifted last night’s water for a sip, I found a spider, inverted with curled legs, at the bottom of the half-full glass. During the night, it must have climbed in and been unable to climb out. Afterward, I killed all the ones I saw until I stopped seeing them. Between these tiny vengeances, I watched advertising on the television while thinking about how I probably ought to read a book or something.

What made me leave this place was a job interview.

The woman on the phone sounded young with a blonde voice. My own voice came out thick and stupid. She’d woken me up, and it took me a few minutes to realize where I was, who I was, and what I was doing. Sometime during misty childhood,  my sister or one of my brothers had taken a can of spray primer and tagged our drop ceiling. Still lying on my back, I struggled to focus my eyes on a red splotch. Yes, I had applied for the teaching position. Yes, I was still interested. Yes, I could come in Monday to discuss it.

After a half-hour of unwarranted interview nervousness on my part, my brand-new supervisor crammed a full-time teaching position up my bum at a salary ten grand per year higher than the lowball rate that I, in my desperation, had quoted to her. Of course I accepted.

I should have asked for more money.

I don’t want to imply that it was all bad. Certainly the flood of trite, heartwarming stories concerning spiritual and moral metamorphoses consequent to education has some basis in things that really happen. But also, there was the time that my felonious student had me call his parole officer in a pointless effort to spare him detention for cocaine possession. And the time that one of the medical assisting students brought a veiny, cartoonish, ten-inch dildo to class as an anatomical model of male reproductive structures. And the time that the building management reprimanded my school’s administration for the biohazardous feminine hygiene products someone had left draped over doors in the bathroom stalls. I just should have asked for more money is all.

Even so, the first checks felt magical. Most of them went to pay down the five-grand IOU held by Uncle Citibank. The fourteen percent annual interest he charged dwarfed the zero percent that would have been afforded by my parents’ charity, but the impersonal anonymity of it allowed me remain dignified (much in the same way that, sometimes, frantic pawing with a very recent acquaintance feels preferable to the abasement of wheedling a past lover into touching you). Once my debt load dropped back down to the triple digits, I felt comfortable spending money on Match again. Here is another secret about internet dating. I might have shared this with you already, but in case I didn’t: If you sign up for a Match account and then log in a bunch of times without subscribing to anything, eventually they will email you a coupon for a cheaper subscription. At least, that was true three years ago.

My resurrected subscription came complete with an inbox full of correspondence. I sifted through it. Some of it was very old, sent to me from people who did not notice or did not care that my account had been inactive for almost a year. One letter, though, came from someone recent. The message included the line “I reactivated my account just to write to you.” I thought that was nice.

I clicked on her link.


Amber end

15 Nov

Amber picked at her French fries. Late afternoon seemed early for dinner, but I didn’t trust myself to remain entertaining without some planned event.

“Well, Greg is my soul mate. We love each other.” With the reflexive ease of long habit, my face remained expressionless. Somewhere behind my face, scenes from last night unspooled. We had spent hours in my unlit basement being strangers who had undressed each other. The memory had already begun tectonically to deform, crushing itself hard against other, similar memories and then subducting, descending somewhere hot and private.

She dabbed her fries in ketchup, eating them singly and slowly. We had ended the evening at my parents’ house rather than the castle. This afternoon, I’d prepared myself with internet directions and taken her there for an anticlimactic visit. “But we’ll never be together. I’m just not attracted to him. If I were, I think I’d marry him. He keeps holding out hope that we’ll be together.” I nodded in reflexive sympathy. I thought about how Steak and Shake should change its name to Fries and Shake, or maybe Burgers and Fries, or something more descriptive about what’s enjoyable about eating there. All their steak is shaped like hamburgers or hot dogs. Memories bubbled up liminally and sank again almost immediately. Amber’s hands on my shoulders. Amber’s thighs pressed against my waist. Amber’s voice in the dark and my guilty shushing in response, motivated by the knowledge that my parents slept two floors above us.

In your parents’ house, you will always be a teenager. This is doubly true where fucking is concerned.

As a teenager, I never fucked a single fuck. During my pubescence, my environment imbued in me a certain intractable Irish Catholic faith that should my cock slip past the defenses of any vagina, the unavoidable consequence would be a trifecta of syphilis, gonorrhea and paternity. This particular article of faith outlasted all others, persisting until I was twenty-one and encasing me in an impenetrable technical virginity. However, in the absence of a more straightforward sex life, I had devoted myself to going down with the desperation and enthusiasm of a fifteen-year-old who did not yet believe that a girl might want to fuck him. This not-fucking all happened in the same basement where I now lived, and then as now, I could think of little afterward apart from a dread of being caught. In a ritual of helpless anxiety, I reassured myself that I’d safely collected and discarded every piece of the Trojan wrapper.

“This is the guy you’re staying with?” I asked. Amber nodded.

“Speaking of which,” she said, “We’d better get going. As far as he’s concerned, I’m in town to see him.” She smiled at me. “He doesn’t really know about you.”

I saw the inescapable sense of this.

Any geography that is not familiar is foreign. As far as Amber was concerned, both Greg and I lived in Cincinnati, but the Cincinnatis we lived in were nearly an hour apart. We drove the curve of the interstate 275 bypass, settling our loosened hips into the cushioned seats. I don’t remember whether we held hands. It’s possible.

“Do you think we’ll date?” Amber asked. As a post-coital question, this one is difficult. From a perspective of cold realism, after first-date sex, a couple is less strangers only in that they know what each other’s genitals feel like, or rather what they felt like on one particular night. It’s a single data point and a lonely sort of intimacy. Sure, it can be sexy. But it’s rarely something that can sustain a relationship.

I sighed. I am a champion sigher.

“No, probably not. I mean, I like you, and you’re sexy. But you also live four hours away. I don’t think I can do it.”

That is true. Ask anyone.

At Amber’s direction, I pulled in front of a well-appointed house, two stories of suburban upper-middle-class grandeur. I chose to believe that the house belonged to Greg’s parents, although I didn’t ask. A large man with dark hair answered Amber’s knock. His front door swung open, and then shut.