Monday, August 6, 2012

"Old Girlfriends and Other Horrible Memories" revisited

My sex life contains a finite number of sentences, arranged in a pattern and then in other patterns. These patterns sometimes resemble a Mandelbrot set, but it's way different than that, yo. Each sentence can be represented by a discrete crystalline structure. Unlike snowflakes, some of the sentences are the same: "Is that it?" "I love you (sic)" "Oh!" "Turn over." "Why are you crying?"

I am building a giant phallic tribute to my first 39 years. The phallus is modeled not on my own modest member but on someone else's penis I have chosen for both the anger and tender heart of its owner. This tribute will be a large sculpture, a multi-tiered structure of wattle and daub, fiberglass and meat. It will have nothing to do with the book called My (sex) Life. It will instead act as a scarecrow on my front lawn, keeping the neighbors at bay.

My two closest female friends wrote a song called "God at Bay" which was about Loretta Lynn. I was having sex once when Loretta Lynn came on the stero. Major mood-killer. I had to extricate myself, get up, and change the music to Arto Lindsay. Afterward, my companion said "What was that music? I liked it." Not a word about the sex act. It was all skronk and Brasilia.

I am on medication known for its "sexual side effects." Guess what that means? To be completely honest with you, I was first attracted to Michele because of her breasts. I'm a man. Then it was her voice, high and sarcastic, her wry (but somehow dorky) wit, and her great compassion. And then it was her sadness. I was in love with that part of her that was sad, but frustrated with the part that wanted the world to be a better place. The world is never "a better place." It is what we have right now. I don't think I stopped loving that part of her, and I think I grew, many years later, to love the misguided idealistic part because I too, was misguided.

I received my first handjob after a community center dance behind a green church under a halogen light. I never saw the girl again, but heard two years later that she died in a freak automobile accident. She fell asleep at the wheel and was hit by an 18-wheeler on a narrow mountain pass. Kenneth Koch wrote in "The Burning Mystery of Anna in 1951," "I don't know how to kiss." I wrote in a book published by Pilot Books, "The bike cage. The first kiss."

Lisa and I broke up in 1992. Around Christmas 1994, she sent my parents, in a number ten envelope, no note, no nothing, the silver necklace I had given her three Christmases prior. I bought Michele a lot of things for Christmas that I don't remember. She bought me a single CD. Laura decided not to break up with me at Christmastime because I bought her a lot of gifts and she didn't want to feel guilty about walking away with new loot post-breakup. Kari broke up with me on Christmas eve, her birthday. I was devastated. I hung up the phone then proceeded to eat tamales, play blackjack, and drink to excess. I was in love with her for a year following. The last time I saw her, she wore a long blue dress. She was drunk and the Pixies played from some back room. During a boardgame we said "Oslo" at the same time.

Distance equals rate times time. A nearly forgotten local band claimed that the absent lover was "just a 3x5 away." If the continent could tip, I could make someone tumble westward. Here be serpents. Here be the indelicacy that is west coast living. What's the main difference between us? Out here, nobody dresses up to go out. Funny how geography takes precedence over matters of the heart. Matters of the heart. I hate that phrase. In Ray Carver's famous story, the most inept character, the one most unable to love, is a cardiologist. This made my students chuckle. I continued my lecture.

M2 is the most frightening person I've ever known. Like other lovers, her main connection to me was food we shared. Sex was pretty good too, by which I mean, it was transcendent, it felt like love, but in a very dirty way. We didn't see eye to eye on much else. It is now and always has been my contention that our dual mental illnesses made it impossible for us to just get along. I just picked up a used copy of something called The Essential Donne. "For god's sake, hold your tongue and let me love." Easier said.

After the incident(s) with Laura she sort of moved in for awhile. I'd keep her awake long enough to serve her midnight meals. When I think of L now I think of a small yellow bird in the palm of her hand, her cartoony self-portraits, red-tailed hawks, and the CDs she made me back when our relationship was borderline inappropriate. We promised each other early on that we'd never be ugly to each other. We lied.

And with S., I made a child. That was what good came from our sex. We spent most of our time drinking, cooking, and watching television. A few things stand out--tramping through the rare Willamette Valley snows, late night walks through the sleeping town, her way with bread and all baked things. It's probably true that she never really liked me. I guess I never really loved her. I guess we both tried until trying hurt more than not trying. And now I look back with considerable fondness on a lot of our time--midnight falafel, boardgames, her belly growing. She barely tolerates me now and I suppose I can't blame her. I'm trying to get by on what was left. And not much was left. And my daughter grows, adds and subracts, reads bigger words, swims and tumbles, develops personal relationships with the birds of the air and the beasts of Northern Indiana.

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