submitted to N0b0dY on 2 May 2001

"There are no flights of fancy. Imagination should make you feel dirty. Guilty. Because you are guilty - you long to exist in a higher world without experiencing or understanding the one you were born to. That's a sin. It's called pride, or vanity, or some fucking thing."

That's the radio. It's tuned to an AM station and we're somewhere in North Carolina, on the big highway where you never see any of the actual state, just a thick sleeve of tall trees on either side of the road. The trees are cool, because they're completely bare except for the very top. The top's like a green pom-pom.

(i remember i was very young and my father was watching the people's court with judge wapner. a high school kid was testifying against a football coach. the kid said he'd walked in the locker room and saw the coach in a whirlpool with a cheerleader. he said the cheerleader had her pom-poms out, and gestured to indicate large breasts. now whenever i hear the word pom-pom i think of a horny naked cheerleader and i become very aroused. i wish i'd been a cheerleader.)

It smells like swamp. The road's stunk since the middle of Virginia. It's hot and we have the windows open. Ryan's saying: now there's a guy who could stand to be a little less funky. I've got my elbow out the window and I hope my arm's getting a tan.

We're both very scared. We admitted this to one another last night, and now the mood's a little lighter, and we can talk without feeling uncomfortable. I wish we had time to get to know each other a little better. Under different circumstances, I mean. Real different.

(i wish i'd been a cheerleader and i wish i had the confidence to bare my breasts to a football coach. i feel trapped in my body. everyone who ever told me i was pretty was lying. most of them wanted something from me, but a lot probably didn't even know they were lying. other girls don't feel like this. i wish i were one of them. hopefully i will be soon.)

Ryan is saying: whatcha thinkin about baby? I hate being called baby. Especially in the South in the passenger seat of a car. But I don't care because it's Ryan and there are more important things to worry about. Ryan's like the third guy I've met that hasn't made my skin crawl but I don't think I love him. I don't know if i like him. He doesn't know me very well but he acts like we're boyfriend and girlfriend. Kind of. He's kept his hands off me, but he acts all sweet like he's being romantic. Which means he doesn't know me all that well.

But last night was good. Just saying I was afraid felt good, and hearing him say it. Neither of us wants to do this thing. Ryan needs money bad. I need money bad too, but if I really wanted to I could just go to my dad and he'd give me as much as I want. He's a pushover about giving me stuff, but I don't think he ever feels good about it. He looks nervous or embarrassed or something when I ask him for money. He makes a point of telling me he'd give me whatever I want.

Ryan doesn't know why I'm doing this. I didn't tell anyone why I'm really doing it. I just want to love my body. I don't care how it happens. Nothing else worked. My ultimate dream is to accept an award completely naked in front of a huge audience.

In less than seven hours we'll be in front of the camera, Ryan and me. We've never even kissed.

Substitutes for Love, Substitutes for Love III

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