a c t   o n e :

j a m i e

THE FIRST ONE had a crooked nose and shoulders that didn't quite match up and I tell you she could move. I was never good with these things, the leading up to. I lay down next to her and she asked me why was I shaking, trembling—that is not a manly way to be. She didn't say the last part, but she didn't have to.

I asked her what in her life had she ever been afraid of—I'm not shaking as I say this, but just a little. You have to say something for this little space in time, some distraction as you move in closer.

"What are you afraid of?" she said back with the universal female imperative to turn any question on its ass——

"Hey!" says Jamie.

Hey what?—it's true.

I thought about the question and told her, for all the big talk, I was afraid I wasn't much of anything, either, just like everyone else. (I could always do the honest bit pretty well.) Then I told her it was her turn to answer and put my lips on her neck.

I tensed for violence but she just laughed and moved toward me. Even when I know it's welcome I still fear the knife or teeth or elbows the first time I move in on a girl. Every time I'm shocked at how pliable and willing she is——

Yeah, I say, this girl, she did have a name, but I promised her I wouldn't tell.

"Oh, I don't think she'll mind," says Jamie.

No, not anymore. But now that I told you I won't tell you, you have to be all impressed by my loyalty and sensitivity and so on.

"Oh my God," says Jamie, giving me eyes, "You're right!" Then she makes one of her private sounds, sort of a laugh she has every time she's being sarcastic.

God, I say, you're so fucking cute when you try to out-immature me.

r i c h a r d

THE SECOND ONE I had. Sara. She was the type of girl who doesn't realize how fucking mind-blowing she is . . . but she's starting to. Just tits, man, she's falling all over me out of these tops, blouses, whatever-the-fuck, because she's starting to catch on. We'd be playing pool, and I suppose that's a euphemism for something but I mean the actual game, she leans over across the table from me. Then she teases me about public erections. God damn, I say, whadda you expect?

But back before she figured this shit out . . . I was her first time and——

"Uh-huh," says Rich.

I'm not fucking making this up, Rich, serious—it's just a pain in the ass trying to convince her to relax. Afterward she says to me she's glad she's finally done that. You know, "done that," direct quote. Gotten it over with, she said——

"How old was she?" says Rich.

Twenty-whatever. Twenty-two, maybe.

Look, here's the thing. You tell them how good they look enough times, they start to figure out how you're just a self-esteem boost. There's another league to move onto. Never tell a girl you're amazed she's interested in you—I mean, there are some girls who remember everything you ever said so they can win all the arguments (there's a definite type that does that), but every girl is gonna remember being told you think you're out-classed.

From that point on, she's gone.

But fuck it, it was doomed anyway: How long can you stand a girl who's afraid of blow jobs?——

"Heh," says Rich.


a c t   t w o :

r i c h a r d

IMAGINE IT, MAN. We come to Jamie. You now have the one you're going to be using as some sort of basis. Like you come into the game, the relationship game, and for the first few years your scale is based on this whole fiction, this expectation of the kiss and the screaming orgasm and the beach-side property. The cinematic image. And then eventually there's one or another approximation of Jamie, wrestling you to the ground with her impassioned beliefs and irrational fears and carnivore's teeth. Becoming your ideal.

At first we have coffee and talk and she doesn't try to hold my hand, but she does this absent-minded reach that's horribly endearing—and maybe she knows exactly the effect it has.

. . . or not. That's the cynicism kicking in, me assuming the girl who's never been anything but sincere to me is calculating. This is what you get if you ever looked into one of these charming faces, what film and media would call "fresh," fresh-faced and smooth and eyes crisp like fruit in a magazine glossy, hair that all falls into this straight black line next to her chin when she looks down at her coffee, and . . . And she looks up at you and starts telling you what she finds attractive. The parameters. The hair color and particular dimensions. Because you asked. And you think Jesus, she's just like me. You realize it's a game of how-well-can-you-do for her the same way as it is for you.

What it comes down to is the girl wants something harder than she is, and the guy wants something less calculated than he is. I mean you don't want to have to be romantic in some traditional sense, but you sort of want her to be——

Is any of this making any sense at all? I say.

"By 'harder' you mean . . . ?" says Rich.

An erection.


That was a joke. Laugh.

"Jokes are supposed to be funny, dude."

Fuck you too. The serious answer is she wants you to be stronger in situations where she can't be.

"Okay," says Rich, "so here's a serious question: You've only had three?"

Some of us don't just fuck anything, I say.

"Heh. That was a joke too, huh?"

You hurt me, man. To the fucking bone.

I know I started this story going somewhere, fucker. Somewhere else. You always lead me off course. Macho facade. Fucker.

Look, what I'm saying is with Jamie and me, this is new, this is nothing time-tested, this is probably not long-term material (I don't know if I believe the long term is possible anymore), but whatever it is, it's not about living up to expectations. It's a whole different approach.

j a m i e

"WHAT ARE YOU thinking?" says Jamie for like the fifteenth time today.

Breasts, I say. If you ever see a guy with glazed eyes, you're pretty safe assuming he's thinking of breasts.

"I'm trying to be serious—"

That's not a serious question. That's the sort of question that only exists to fill up all the silence. A serious question would be "How do we ensure peace in the Middle East?" or "What ever happened to Right Said Fred?"

"Okay, punk," she says, sitting on my chest, "tell me something true. This ironic detachment was cute for a while, but it has its limits. Tell me something true."

Um. I probably use humor to hide my remarkably-inadequate personality, and, sometimes, to say things I really mean so that people who should be insulted will think I'm kidding. And—Jesus, you look like some Greek goddess up there, what I mean is out of proportion with the rest of the world, and I'm afraid you might just might smite me if I don't give you the right answer.

Something true.

Almost every great, powerful, romantic thing I've ever said to you, I either said to someone else first or wrote earlier in some fumbling literary chickenscratch—and anything that came to me spontaneously with you in mind I will use in the future for someone else, some writing, something. Meaningful or not, it's all more an expression of who I am than who you are. The truth is that's the way I figure it works for everyone.

Of course you can now dissect anything I say and disbelieve it all if you want, but if you do, that's you missing the point. I think when you're wholly honest you end up deflating the other person, the relationship, there's too much to misread and too many ways to cut yourself on the exposed edges . . . but, fuck, just don't do that.

More truth? When I playfully say I hate your country music and Meg Ryan flicks I'm being serious. Except When Harry Met Sally—some of that Billy Crystal dialog is like a guilty pleasure.

I hate every male friend you've ever had or ever will, myself and homosexuals excluded—even the ones I understand, intellectually, are all-right——

"Would you like me to pretend to be surprised?" says Jamie.

Well. . . .

"You look like you think I'm going to stab you," she says, smiling, sliding down upon me.

Um, I say.

a c t   t h r e e :

j a m i e

"WHAT THE HELL do you mean by that?" says Jamie.

It's such a female thing. To, to, to . . . "I understand" you say in so many words, but to not believe what you understand. I know it's sexist, but you like me a little bit sexist, like it's a cute eccentricity or maybe a confirmation of your own, more personally-acceptable sexist ideas. The ones where you just want to yell "Men!" in a frustrated wail. We all want to be exasperated once-in-a-while——

Now what are we going to do?

"Go," she says.

But, but, but. . . .

r i c h a r d

HONESTY, RIGHT? We all want honesty. The cardinal fucking rule of all the teaching, the relationship psychobabble, all of it, is you must be honest——

"What did you say to her?" says Rich.

It doesn't matter. These things are inevitable. There is no female prepared for complete honesty. You discuss her looks or her family or her God and one time or another she's going to break down.

"Yeah, but what did you say?"

You ever had the "long-time male friend" come visit from wherever-the-fuck, Arkansas? Comes on with these tiny glasses and carrying one of those bubblegum Mac laptops, comes on like some fucking old friend of yours—and when he leaves, she asks the question that you know she's going to ask, which is. . . .

"What do you think of him?" says Rich.

And that's not the whole thing. She also says, "I want you to be honest." So you're honest and it turns out you're calling her a . . . a . . . I want to be more literate and invent a better word but I can't so I'll just say slut, easy, loose, whatever, and it turns out in the ensuing debate that you hate everyone she knows and everything she stands for, not to mention that last haircut-and-dye-job of hers, which you, by-the-way, didn't mention.

Which is all cliché, which is the problem.

"You know, dude," says Rich, "there is a difference between being honest and being cruel."

Sure. Cruel. Over the phone she tells me it wasn't just that, it was aggregate, and she lists a dozen things or so, like how the sex wasn't there, which she goes into in more detail than I'm going to repeat, and how I wasn't being sincere which is just so out there I don't know how to respond. Just this stream of aggression she's held back for months until I hang up saying nothing at all.


e p i l o g u e :

r i c h a r d

YOU CAN HOLD her out the window by her hair if you want, but sooner or later the scalp's gonna give. This inverted Rapunzel, her a bloody bald missile screaming downward at 32 feet per second per second, you with the wet rip still in your ears, yelling "Close your legs you hollow cunt, I can hear you whistle all the way up here." This organic wig, it's a tangle in your fingers; your tears come in a stream of anger and frustration and guilt and regret and fucking desire.

I mean how can you argue that whole Rapunzel story isn't just the chick going multi-climactic over the prince with the shoulders pulling down fist over fist of mane. Talk about submission. Jesus——

"Poetry," says Rich, "you sick fuck."

There's tobacco bags made of tits, you got Martin Scorsese inserting a .44 Magnum into the offending orifice in Taxi Driver, you've got a very strong strain of aggression——

"There's something distinctly wrong with you, dude."

What, you think I—you think I did any of this? You think, Rich, it's an actual act I'm talking about? You never hit the woman, you never . . . this is a cultural thing. It's been adopted within my lifetime, it's new. And it applies to me just as well. Jesus, what do you think I am?

This is about, what I'm talking about is you have to have the proper response. What I'm saying is, there's a certain human instinct that says lash out whenever you get into a situation where you feel helpless. When you have no appropriate response. We call it "crimes of passion," legally, and what that means is you don't think. At all. You do something stupid and inhuman, something that only hurts everyone. Because you have no response.

I mean, Rich, what do you do? Do you call her a name? A whore? A fucking cunt? How much more painful can you make it? You call her sprung and loose and compare her to an old, beaten catcher's-mitt? Tell her that the ultimate revenge is that she won't be able to elicit any desire five years from now?

Jesus, I guess that's something.

You have to save something as a parting shot. It's always the ineffectual fuckers who just pop and unload with the semi-automatics at close range. Just picture in your mind the last postal worker you seen——

"So what was your parting shot?"

God, I played out all my words long before I had the chance. I guess, somehow, this is. We're all evolved, we just talk it all out of the system, right?

"Uh-huh. And whatever happened to her?"

Whatever happens to a girl? Died, got married, fuck if I know.

"I'll bet, man. I'll bet."