When I was a boy, I fell in love with a pig.
Our farm had one of those old circle driveways at its heart, ringed with odd buildings and groves. Some of the buildings were so old as to have fallen out of use; at least, use in line with their original purpose. The old smokehouse; The blacksmith shop; the outhouse, all out of use, except as occasional hiding places for boys’ secret sins, or storage for items that were still too useful to throw away but not useful enough to ever be needed again.
Hmmmm – the outhouse – terrible place for hide-and-seek, but it had some fascinating allure, and once or twice I felt compelled to look down into its dusky bowels, simply overcome at the volume of stuff that had passed there. Wood so old it was blackish-grey, and warped as far as it could warp. The three abandoned buildings all shared this timeworn flesh.
The old smokehouse, which I never actually entered as its door wouldn’t fully open, but pried far enough to glimpse a secret mass of spiders in the darknesses there, massive, unholy knots of web, as if this could have been Spider World Headquarters, where they hatched their nefarious baby-stealing plans, or where the Spider-Pope held unspeakable rituals over writhing masses of hatching eggs…
The last of the dead buildings was the blacksmith shop, the least dead of the three dead ones. Many generations had gone by since the hammer rang on the anvil there. Many generations of boys had hidden there, indulging in their particular secret sin. I found tawdry pornography from many decades, hidden different places, most of it so dated that it seemed silly, not dirty. A book, a magazine, a comic. A drawing. I violated these guilty vaults with a fascination and revulsion, knowing I had become less for seeing them. A bottle of Five Roses Whiskey; you know, the kind that falls out of a bum’s pocket when you catch his elbow to keep him from falling. There were other odd knick-knacks as well, but none of them were sinful so none of them stick in my memory – all I see are rusted bits of metal. I can’t focus enough to discern their purpose. These were mostly, of course, in the loft.
I think she takes something so that the pain will stop so that she can go out and enjoy herself. At some point I notice she is no longer behind her eyes. Often, the day after, I wonder whether she remembers anything from the evening before. I think she’s accustomed to not remembering, and, when asked about a particular detail she just smiles and agrees to avoid any discomfort. I did not give her my seed, at least, not where she wanted it. I think it hurt her badly. One last dying gasp to grasp at creating life stifled.
I am a Shaman, come back to the world from a weekend in the underworld of the Inland Empire. A mythic parable. Many wonders I have seen there, and many things I have learned. Much sustenance have I brought back for your hungry suckling souls, and I will feed you if you will but eat. I wore Dean’s parting words about my loins and mind and heart to protect me, a sacred vestment, a mantra: sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneed and I have come back safe, at great peril. Remember, it takes fifty-six raccoons to become a man, all a year old to the day. A clumsy automaton at first, some mis-made puppet with the string leading down into the earth instead of up, as it begins its first clumsy dance called WALK, and as it WALKS, brustle smoothes and snouts blur into smooth, white skin.
There’s the amnesiac scientist living in the park, there’s the escaped clone, unaware of his origins, there’s the ghost of the last man to die before the secret of immortality was discovered, there’s the man who discovers that the teleporter is not moving people, but rather destroying and recreating them. There are the secret convocations of every species, each with its own purpose, weaving through time with varied degrees of success. And where is Dr. Roy Hammer? And where the Hermes Trismegistus? But those were just ideas.
There were other buildings as well, besides the dead ones. Some were very alive: Big Red Barn, Rolltop Treehouse, the chicken coop, the rabbit cages, the goat pens. All ringed by hundred-foot pines, buildings and groves: groves of Lilac and Currant, fields of grass rife with rabbit trails, avenues, and burrows. Two giant anthills where the washer drained, fat, juicy red and black ants as big as crickets. The barnyard, the fields beyond, the orchards and the sled hills, the woods beyond, and I remember a campfire ring in a clearing, and s’mores and marshmallows and wondering why the smoke always came at YOU, no matter where you moved….
The pig – my pig- lived in a building somewhere between the live and the dead buildings – it was sort of half-dead, or half-alive. I think we called it the pig pen. It was where the pigs lived, except one giant pig we housed in the basement of the Big Red Barn in what must have been a foot and a half of mud. The basement walls were stones, a foot in diameter, mortared clumsily. The big pig ate its way through and escaped, which was our cue to butcher it, apparently. Yup. Big enough to eat.
My pig lived among two dozen or so other pigs. He stood out: most of his snout and most of his right side were white, not pink. Half of his right ear was white, with coarse white hairs sticking out its center in a brush, and the whiskers on the right side, the white side of his nose were brown, while those on the pink side were white. There was a stick-fence corral behind the pig pen, with two ancient board troughs we slopped daily, all shadowed in weeping willow which hung nearly to the ground and buffalo grass, lush and light lime-green spreading out and up as the hill rose into the woods. Buffalo grass was so soft you could lie there as comfortably as in bed, maybe more so. There must have been a nut tree too; I remember pointy tricorn nuts lying around.
He was a cute pig, and stayed small, as the others grew to slaughterability. We doted on him, and he liked us. Now, this next will tell you something about me, and something that hasn’t changed. The Christmas of my forty-fourth year, my cat caught and crippled a bunny, which I set out to put out of its misery, but wept for the tragedies of all mankind instead as I held its tender neck, and ended up trying to nurse it back to health. Four days, and it died on Christmas Eve, 2009. I buried it deep in my yard, shrouded in the five or six T-shirts I had made into a bed for it. One of the T-shirts sported a jumping marlin, and said “ Florida Keys” on it. Another was pink, and in big black letters read “ TOUGH GUYS WEAR PINK”. I don’t remember the others.
At one point I set up a telescope (which I had gotten for Christmas, and my darkest secret to this day is that I found it in the freezer before it was wrapped), focused it on a particular point in the yard for a month or so and carefully diagrammed a little circular drawing every day. A drawing of what was there.
Another time we lynched a chicken – I and several of the neighborhood boys. We hung it from a gnarled crab apple tree by the neck and took turns hitting it with a shillelagh. One boy there, Mitch, (who introduced me to Gilbert and Sullivan, Monty Python, and the wonders of chemistry via liquid nitrogen and flash-freezing pinky mice before I was five, and whom I still remember very fondly), always dressed like an English Gentleman and wore patent leather shoes had the misfortune to get a fresh, bloody gizzard flung onto his shoe after one of the strikes was horrified, although I believe he participated. I think his concern was for his shoes, not the chicken.
Incongruous? I don’t know. But the pig was another story. I resolved to let him in the house. So I took him, and washed him with a hose until he was sparkling clean, and snuck him up the dumbwaiter to my upstairs room. Did you ever try to wash a pig? He looked sparkling clean when I hoisted him up, but after an hour the mud and shit seemed to seep out from under his skin and he was filthy again. Not as filthy as before, mind you, but filthy nonetheless. I tried again, this time with a washrag and soap. He seemed clean when I bundled him up and went to sleep. But by morning, he was filthy again. What? Was this pig oozing shit from its skin?
After two days, I finally succeeded by degrees in keeping the pig clean. Not totally, but the ooze minimized to the point where it was barely noticeable, overridden by the pig’s cuteness. Understand now, we lived in a huge farmhouse, and my brother and I shared a spacious second story, so I was able to secrete the pig successfully for a while. I had to sneak him outside periodically, to avoid my mom.
Remember Thích Quảng Ðức - sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher sheneedsyoumorethanyouneedher
I had kept the pig relatively clean for a couple of weeks now. But on one of our sojourns out-of-doors, he saw some shit. Now, I had elevated this pig, and brought him in the house. He was clean, and well-fed, and had no need to fear slaughter, as I was certain Mom and Dad would accept him lovingly once they saw how well-adjusted he was. Why would he want to wallow in shit? My cute, clean little freckled Irish pig? But he dove into the shit. Not as a guilty pleasure – not as a secret sin, but openly and unashamed. No attempt to hide it at all.
I put him back in the pigpen. Slaughter away.
So – this weekend, I rented a car and drove to Riverside, California – a real shithole, if you’ve never been there. There is a bright light in the town’s center, though – a lovely downtown walkabout and the historic Mission Inn. I had reserved a Spa day and room on Authors’ Row for the weekend. Authors’ Row is the top floor at the back of the mission, overlooking the veranda and the Spanish Courtyard.
My girlfriend the girl I’ve been seeing had been suffering from what she interprets as menopause for a while. It’s like inverted womanhood: cramping and bleeding most of the month, with one or two days of respite. Now, I have this condition called a fistula, which was surgically engineered many years ago to prevent a recurring boil on my anal sphincter. Periodically (pardon the pun) it fills with blood for a couple of days, swelling to moderate discomfort, and drains. Beats the hell out of a boil, let me tell you. And yes, I typically use a maxi-pad or tampon. I sort of fancy myself a hermaphrodite. Hurry Hurry step right up!
The girl had been cramping and bleeding for ten days or so – miserable, bedridden, and I had 1500 dollars worth of reservations for the weekend – The Romance and Renewal package at Kelly’s Spa, Dinner at Duane’s, and rooms for Friday and Saturday. I really thought about cancelling, particularly since I don’t have my own functional car at the moment and believe I am a wanted man in California. But I rented a car and went anyway.
Now again – my fistula rarely acts up anymore – once a year maybe, and is never very painful. The day of my departure, however, it began to irritate me. I wasn’t overly worried, because the discomfort is usually minor until the little bag of skin drains. By the time I made the three-and-a-half hour drive to Riverside, though, I was in a great deal of pain – I took her and her kids to get food and a video, (The Ugly Truth), and at the video store I had to be helped out of the car, blaming my condition on the dislocated knee I had suffered moving a multifunction printer the week before. By midnight, everyone was asleep and I was in agony –I tried gentle pressure, which usually releases the fistula-skin-bag’s contents, but it was not working. I had a swollen, burning grapefruit juxtaposed with my anus. Finally, about three AM in the kitchen of a slum house with broken windows where my date lives with three of her four children at the mercy of their truck-driver father, I sterilized a kitchen knife with a lighter, prayed to God to let me enjoy this next day, folded a little pinch of skin over and punctured it with the knife. I immediately felt bloodsplatter clear down to the backs of my calves under my flannel jammies. Relief, while not quite immediate, was welcome. Pressure, yoga, and several black ankle socks as tampons got me through into morning, and I was pain-free. Miraculously, when she awoke, her pain was gone. I believed it was empathically removed by virtue of my temporary vagina. Got the kids off to school, helped pay some bills, (which involved running off a twelve-foot embankment in a construction zone with my rental car, no harm done due to my ability to NOT PANIC when I should), and got to our noon spa appointment at 11:30 AM, just as prescribed. Okay now – this was a $500.00 two-hour session -I had a private eucalyptus sauna, changing room, shower, razors and all manner of toiletries, and an attendant who kept bringing me iced rags and cucumber slices, which not only felt good on my eyes but on the bloody spots on my nose and my fistula. Half-an-hour of that and I donned my robe and slippers and met my date in the relaxation room, where a roman platter of fresh fruit, chocolate, and champagne was laid out for us.
The primary thing on my mind at all times is to never let anyone know what I’m thinking, and never to lie. I ask you: if you hear a thing, and believe it, and tell others, only to find out that the thing you believed was a lie – have you lied to those you told? Yes you have.
A nice couple from Napa valley who were in the Pharmaceutical business, Paul and Debbie, joined us after finishing their massages. We talked pleasantly for a bit, and it turns out that they know the casino at which I am an executive, and stay there often. I did my usual “Just pick up a house phone and ask for Jay” routine, promising to wine and dine them on their next visit. Then our Masseuse came for us.
When I made the reservations for the spa, the girl asked if I had “male or female” preference. This being my first spa, I had no idea how to handle this. Would I be comfortable seeing a man massage my date? Would she be comfortable seeing a woman massage me? I asked the reservations girl what most people do, and she seemed flustered, not knowing how freaky we were, I suppose, but she finally defaulted to all female, which was fine with me. Thankfully, my masseuse was matronly, hers was young and sexy, and all was well with the world. They put my date in a rose-petal bath in an adjoining room while my matronly masseuse began with my Geranium-Grape Seed Body Polish and we talked about my growing up on a dairy farm in Michigan and Garrison Keillor and The Red Green show and she said my date had found a prince. By the way, if you’ve never had a body polish, get one as soon as possible. After about a half hour, I was taken to a shower and it was my turn in the Jacuzzi bath (lavender bath with reruns of I Love Lucy playing and chocolates and strawberries on the side, I felt like Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green) while my date got her body polish. I was in a cold shower when my date joined me, we warmed it up and shared a shower in preparation for our massage, which was simultaneous, 50 minutes, Enya, and wonderful.
Afterward, they left us alone in a private garden for a while. They came and took us back to the relaxation room, where there was more roman fruitage and two little cocktails called “Refresh” and “Energize”. We drank them, but I am sure they were intended for the next guest, in retrospect. Back to the sauna/shower/cucumber room, and off to check in to our fabulous room at the top floor of the mission inn. The patio was incredible, the room was wonderful, we felt like teenagers and behaved like them for about half an hour, but I sort of lost it at some point, ‘cause my date was getting weird, like she was not there behind her eyes anymore. We sat out on the patio in our Mission Inn robes, and she kept trying to blow me, but nice people kept walking by, and I honestly wasn’t getting a thrill out of it. Then, as we were dressing for dinner, she brought up my three-day New Year’s binge.
To step back a week, she largely ignored me over the holidays, hinting that her old “fuck-buddy” was texting her and wanting to meet. When I asked if she was going to meet him, she said “I don’t know”. Slap me. She had bought me a wine journal with a personalized engraving for Christmas and brought it to me the week before. Upon hearing “I don’t know” I threw it in the garbage along with her picture and a note she had left me. We’ve only been dating since 11/11/09, I don’t have much. I then proceeded on a horrible three-day tequila-beer binge starting on January 1st and lasting through the 3rd, on which occasion she decided to surprise visit me. Luckily, in one of my drunken mirages, I had retrieved the offending items, presumably by way of God softening my heart.
Anyway, bringing that up sort of crushed my Euphoria, but we dressed for dinner anyway. I popped a Viagra for the first time in my life, not that I typically need it, but I wanted to perform to the extreme that night. It worked really well, by the way.
We still had a couple of hours before our dinner reservations, so we went downstairs and walked around beautiful downtown, had some appetizers and drinks and then margaritas and three serenades by mariachis, one of which I participated in, Marty Robbins’ “El Paso”, and then we went onto the veranda to smoke, out in front of the Inn, and sang “Leaving on a Jet Plane” together. She started weeping at some point, and not soon after I realized she was really not in her body at all. It was time for dinner, and I took her inside to use the restroom, and was attempting to explain to the Maitre D’ that I had to cancel our reservation ‘cause my date was scaring me, when she walked up and they ushered us in. My date wouldn’t stop singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” the whole time. She sings nicely, but this was not the place. Mortified, I ordered coffee and water, but she wasn’t having any of that.
So I took her upstairs and utilized the wonders of modern medicine to fuck the living hell out of her for about five hours. Got an hour or so of sleep after that, and she woke me up to tell me I was snoring. So I moved to the antechamber, and slept there, on the floor, in my $219-a-night hotel. On the floor.
I didn’t mind that so much. I actually sleep better on floors than on beds. But the Viagra gave me strange, meaningful dreams, and I awoke not feeling all that happy. As she slept, and the morning wore on, I began to realize just how offended I actually was by her bringing up her ex-fuck-buddy on our beautiful, perfect day. “He’s one of my best friends”, she had said, “and I’ll see him again, but not for sex”. Well, there’s just no way that was going to sit well with me. As she slept, I grew more and more agitated, until I decided it was not worth another $219 to sit there and stew while she slept. I woke her and asked her if it was alright if we checked out a day early. She agreed like a good sport, and we went back to her hellhole slum rathouse, where she proceeded to get sicker, and I proceeded to get more resentful. I stewed, bitched a little, bought a cell-phone for her daughter and a couple of bike-tire tubes for her son, took them to a carnival, picked up her older son’s girlfriend from her parents’ house, and once all my promises to the children were fulfilled, drove back to Arizona, listening to mix tapes my old friend Piker had sent me, and was overcome by a clarity of mind that I can’t remember ever having experienced.
Monday I fulfilled one more promise to her, by cleaning the house she used to live in. It belonged to her brother, who had let her live there with her kids on the cheap, but they left about four truckloads of garbage in the yard and now the city was calling him ‘cause the neighbors were complaining. Got it clean in two days, spotless, and sent her FTD flowers, chocolates, and text message pictures from my cell phone of the sparkling clean yard.
And now, I am going to stop speaking to her. I have done all the things I said I would do. Those promises were not conditional: I fulfilled them because I said I would, not in hopes of impressing her or continuing our relationship. I must quit before I become more foolish than I already am. I do not feel natural affection from her at all.
This morning just after dawn I worked out rigorously, running up and down the backyard steps ten times while curling two thirty-pound dumbbells. I had the clearest day I can remember. My mind is clear, my back is strong, and my heart is at peace.
Embrace your one-and-only, those of you who have one. Dating in your forties is a bitch.
There was no pig, by the way. It was a metaphor. Everything else is true, though.