1. What I Am is Passionate
Patti sent me this email:
"You have to understand, I'm working my ass off on my thesis (if only that were true, the ass part!). I don't have time to fool around. There's too much to do. Anyway, I think of you and your ~ often. But probably won't call. If I called when I wanted to call, like now, before bed, that would be bad. Or good, since I'm drinking, since that's what I do when I clean this dump. Well, I have a flipped day, this is what I do. I flip the day. Your wife should try it! Although she might not like you walking into a filthy house—dishes piled in the sink, laundry scattered on the floor, shit speckled against the toilet bowl—that only gets less cluttered and shitty at eight, after the flipping takes place. Did I mention I had Five Guys for dinner? I hear those wheels turning, I hear your burger loving mind at work. A yank and a suck and forty lashes for ignoring you, P."
I read Patti's email and fucked my wife, Allie. It was quick, but that's not my fault. Allie refuses to come anymore. She says she's having a personal crisis and there's nothing I can do—which I believe, as nothing I do seems to make her happy. I thought I was making Patti happy. Now instead of having lots of great sex with two gorgeous women I'm having zippo sex and lots of questionable conversations. I considered fucking around on them both, but my luck the new girl would develop migraines, or nose bleeds, or a fear of hard cocks. Like I'm developing—fear of getting a hard cock and no one to share it with. Allie might as well have rigamortis; she barely moves and keeps her face glued to the ceiling. Hey, I want to say. Am I some stranger who jumped you in the driveway? And ripped off your undies? And stuck it to you while grunting incoherent hip-hop songs? Allie bores me to tears in the sack, but when she speaks I'm supposed to listen without yawning, make encouraging eye contact, and offer discriminating comments about her titillating career as a veterinarian. Big deal, she saves a terrier from eating too much chocolate. Snips the balls off a poodle. Inoculates the entire county's pet population for Lyme disease. I'd be more impressed if she petted me and sucked my balls and licked chocolate syrup off my dick.
Patti told me once I'm addicted to sex. Fuck you, I said. She laughed. Exactly, she said. At least she did me after analyzing me. Allie likes to analyze me and then call her sister, giving her sister an update on my peculiar wants and needs. I don't think I'm peculiar. What's the difference, an elbow or an eye? The face just has a bigger following. Me, I really love a smooth, oiled joint. Allie's sister likes to rub it in. Whenever I see her she raises her arm and jabs at me. Little sister bitch better watch her step. She forgets her sister, my wife, is a blabbermouth. I know all about Garrett, hairy-chested Garrett, who's not above blackmail for a video he took when sister bitch had an itch to arch her back and spread her legs and cream at the camera like a pro. Allie showed me a copy of the video. I hate her sister, but I have to admit, she looked hot.
C'mon, do that for me, I asked Allie. She rolled her eyes. C'mon, do that for me, I asked Patti, and she snapped her gum and then twirled it around her finger and then said, Why not? We have some excellent footage. I love that girl's sense of adventure, wriggling like her hair is on fire, making slutty motions with her mouth. Why she's too busy to perform anymore I don't get. Which is why men are superior human beings. We have our priorities straight —physical relief comes first, or there can't be any prolonged discussions about Front Line, or grad school, or my alleged addiction to sex. I can talk all night long about sex. All. Night. Long. But don't think I'm addicted, because I'm not.
2. Elements (Did Someone Say Elephants?)
Women tend to overlook Dr. Blaine's fat neck. For some reason, he never has trouble getting laid (although the ladies he makes it with generally aren't much for passing up donuts, either). He can't believe his last score: that knock-out babe with the leather thong should've been blitzed on cocaine, straddling a rock star. A she-devil, she bit his chest while they fucked. "Looks like animal tracks," Blaine said, "walking across my heart." His chest hurts like hell today, his dental smock scratching the sores. He keeps telling the dry cleaning clerk, no starchie! She must think the sharp white creases disguise his pudge, give the thickness dignity.
He'd nailed her, too, the dry cleaning clerk. And now that he thinks about it, she'd left a painful calling card also. Suckered his neck for so long he'd had to tell her, Tamia, I don't mind odd. I like nibbling. But I'm not into asphyxiation. He'd had rings around his throat for weeks. Great lips, though. Bountiful, bossy bows, whenever she snaps, You pick up Wednesday! he wants to leap behind the counter, press her snitty chops to his cock. You can never tell about women. She accepted his dinner date, ate a salad, and then dragged him back to her place. Disrobed in a whip and went right for his neck. It worked out fine once he redirected her efforts, and she turned down the suction a notch. Now and then he takes her candy, and still gets a discount.
Here come Fat Neck. He bring candy. Hello, Fat Neck!
When no one here, we hide behind sew curtain. He whisper, TamiaTamia, me say sorry sorry lips stick to neck. He nice guy, let me suck little bit. He say very odd, TamiaTamia, but so what—he a married doctor behind curtain, fingers use to fix teeth slide in panties, get me wet.
Damn. No play today—Big Ears come. Look how wave to me: Hello, Tamia! I say, Pin back, but not English. Big ears bring bad luck.
Fat Neck pay for smocks. Good-bye, Fat Neck! Big Ears pay for shirts. She love gray, sometime black, look like wear to funeral. I say, Pickup Wednesday, she come Friday. I say, Pickup Friday, she come Tuesday. Big ears little brains, but regular. I give discount. Sure.
Debbie's friends and family are excited about the procedure, more excited than she is. At forty-six, with her breasts sagging and her ass expanding, she'd rather spend the money on a personal trainer, some jock with rock abs who'd humiliate her into losing weight. Her boyfriend's footing the bill, though, so in four days she's off to the River Road Surgery Center to reshape her ears. They stick out and this bothers him. "Doesn't my fat butt bother you?" she asked. Her boyfriend laughed, he liked her butt. But her ears . . . he shook his head. "Dumbo city, baby," he said, then threw up his arm and roared.
Damn! Big Ears small! She much more pretty girl. I sip tea, store safe. But whoohoo—boyfriend ugly, teeth jump through gums.
Here come Fat Neck. Hello, Fat Neck! I introduce: Boyfriend, Fat Neck; Fat Neck, Boyfriend. Boyfriend show teeth, Fat Neck give discount. I take tickets, I give discount. Everyone happy, everyone leave. Not Fat Neck. We run to curtain. Day off. No smock.
I never forget, he roar in ears. I never forget. You.
Suck on neck.
Rings of red.
(He push me down.)
That it. Good dry clean fun.
We zip and straighten. Sneak through curtain. At counter, Fat Neck smile like Boyfriend. Candy man. Sweet. Maybe kiss—? Damn! Cute lady come. Fat Neck check smocks. Eat chocolate. Eye Cute Lady.
Cute Lady wear short shorts, nice tan, back from cruise. She say, Tamia, wash sundress. Whoohoo—stink, like lilies wilting.
I ring Fat Neck up, right way.
Cute Lady smile for Fat Neck, frown for me. No starch, she say.
I write two time starch, not English.
She say, please give discount, like for Candy Man.
Guess what Tamia say.
3. In a Sentimental Mood, Exit A
Beginnings for Renata are like jumping a ravine: put on makeup, pantyhose, suit; force body onto the bus, into the city; tackle memos, coffee, mail, cubicle closing in like a toxic box, creating a dark buzz in the brain. Five o'clock, re-board the bus, re-enter the apartment, strip to skin. Sit lotus position, while chicken bakes and Coltrane plays. Mom/Dad/Brice. Inevitable, death. But why meaningless? Why cruel? One family member, only one, survived her mother's husband's rage. "Endings can be altered," Renata repeats. Repeats. "Go to Theater B."
Her mother's lover had a son, Renata's friend. "I think our parents are making it," Kevin said, hand on Renata's thigh.
"They're in love," Renata said. She took his hand, and moved it higher.
They met Wednesdays. They were discrete, and then they weren't. When they weren't, Kevin saw his father and his girlfriend's mother in his father's house. Kevin needed to see, you see, and walked in.
"At least use the bed," Kevin said.
They were discrete, and then they weren't. When they weren't, Renata's father saw his wife and his daughter's boyfriend's father kissing in his house, dying to tell.
Renata said, "They're in love." Kevin said, "They're in love?" Renata's mother said, "We're in love!" and that night her husband killed her. Brice was too young to understand, so Renata's father killed his son next, to protect him from the truth.
"You're a slut, like your mother," Renata's father said to her. He left Renata alone.
Breathe deeply. Go to Theater B.
Try not to hate Kevin. Try not to hate Kevin for being afraid your father will bust out of jail and kill his father. Try not to hate Kevin for moving to North Dakota with your mother's former lover. Try to understand how someone who strangled your mother and baby brother will be free to scramble eggs and shovel snow and take the train to North Dakota in 15 years.
Music draws the curtains open.
How content her parents look, side by side on the sofa. How gentle they kiss, like newlyweds, kind. Dad puts his hand on Mom's thigh. He moves it higher, to her neck. No, he moves it lower, to her knee. "Endings can be altered," Renata repeats. Repeats.
Renata kisses Kevin, tastes popcorn salt. She sucks his tongue, quenching her thirst. She tells Kevin, "They're in love." She tells Kevin, "We're in love." She places his hand between her thighs. He says, "Love," and moves it higher.