from the completed novel
or the little almanac of
Famous Black Philosophers & Great German Comedians
a novel as poem or symphony or joke
—-(download the 231-pg pdf HERE
”The best reader,” he says, ”is one who is most open to human possibility, to understanding the great range of plausibility in human actions. It’s not true that modern life is too fantastic to be written about successfully. It’s that the most successful work is so demanding.” It is, he adds, as though our better writers ”feel that the novel’s vitality requires risks not only by them but by readers as well. Maybe it’s not writers alone who keep the novel alive but a more serious kind of reader.”
—-Interview with Don DeLillo, 1982
This is the best time to be a Writer. These are shitty years to be a Writer. Current Digital processing capability is a gift from the Gods if, as a Writer, you are a chronic reviser and I am a chronic reviser. I polish and polish. Try that on onionskin with Tipex. On the other hand, who will read these subtle revisions, nowadays, in a completed text, with any care? Very few. Likewise: digital distribution offers miraculous reach at zero cost. On the other hand: who cares?
There is a roiled mass of fearful, tetchy, confused citizens out there, pushed and pulled to their emotional limits by propaganda, and social engineering, and, as a Writer, you’re expected to somehow find the little pockets of a readership in that angered cloud. People with enough leisure time, and few enough Existential worries, to curl up with 200-to-400 pages of anything deeper than escapist entertainment? Good luck.
Sometimes I’m on the U-Bahn, here in Berlin, and some beggar will shuffle through the carriage with her or his well-rehearsed lament, little knowing that he or she is the third such beggar in the past ten minutes. Good luck, chum! The Military Industrial Entertainment Complex got there first.
Still, we do it. Partly a gesture of Existentialist defiance. Partly, in my case, because I think this mini-dark-age will pass. There will be a second Enlightenment. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for it. I had a friend, a gifted Writer, to whom I sometimes refer on this site: he held his breath too long.
I’ve been working on several novels for quite awhile and some of them are now beginning to come in; to fall like big red apples in the August of the very long year. A couple of weeks ago a novella, Jesus in Vegas, came in after lingering in the 99%-done zone for a year. And today I finished a nearly-100,000 word novel, This Incredible Sex Comedy, started in 2016.
Some of the novels (three of them: Germantown, Kootchie Towers and The Brotherland Miracles) are written in a straightforward, more or less traditional, style. For This Incredible Sex Comedy I wanted to write a little closer to how Life writes it, or how I read what Life writes… so many parallel memories, thoughts and sensations. So many secret connections and twists. So much Death hidden in Life and vice versa. So messy! I tried to keep the mess Poetic. I put some real people in there, too… real people and historical sex… and tried to keep it accurate. I worked in a few embarrassing details (my first orgasm was got in c. ’72 by masturbating to a rerun of the TV show The Flying Nun, the eponymous star of which I didn’t even consider attractive! Ah, Youth! laugh) to give the text emotional ballast.
Whose impulsive idea had it been?
It must have been Charlotte’s.
To throw on their coats and leave Paul’s nice warm flat to go get a drink somewhere at four in the morning. As one does. Which collapsed very quickly into lazily crossing the bridge and hanging out with the leathery residue of the Radikal Arts Kollectiv (KRK) blowout, two dozen or fewer tattooed men spongy with inertia and mulled wine, to drink mulled wine and look at fire reflected in facial hardware as the hardware meandered at various heights around them. Sound system still pumping out march music but unenthusiastically like an audio ghost ship becalmed in a disco Sargasso, no hands on deck. Fire-jugglers were long gone or gone fetal on tarps in fuscous corners or busy in a fire-juggler’s circle-jerk in the mysterious symbol-festooned camper van parked at a careless angle near the abandoned DJ tower. P, C & G had had to keep their eyes on the torch-lit ground to avoid tripping over the many thick black cables writhing in knots in all directions. The torches were affixed at 45-degree angles to metal stands that looked designed for the purpose and must have been purchased at a Medieval Festival Supply Shoppe. Torch stand, 29.95. Gibbet, on sale, one time only, 299.99.
“I think it would be so fucking fun to run a disco called In-Box!” shouted Charlotte, impulsively, over the zombie march music.
“Yes!” shouted Greta. “Paul, you’ve got some money, lend us some so we can open our own disco!”
“Really?” shouted Paul. He suddenly thought of his father, who seemed to be opening a trendy new club or restaurant every week.
“Why not?” shouted Greta, who didn’t mean it. She wanted to kick herself for suggesting it.
“Let the idea sink in and get back to us!” shouted Charlotte.
This disco idea of Charlotte’s hadn’t been entirely spontaneous. Charlotte had remembered, over dinner, that a psychic, ten years before, during an aleatorily exhaustive “Fusion Session” (tarot/tea leaves/ palm reading/ i ching/ magic eight ball) in Brooklyn, had predicted that Charlotte would “go into a very successful business venture with an older, charismatic, dark-skinned man” when she was 35. That this older, charismatic, dark-skinned man would be a mentor of sorts. And she’d been sitting at the table forking Paul’s rice in her mouth when it hit her that the older, dark-skinned man was Paul. The same psychic, on the other hand, had seen Charlotte with a “talented” sister that Charlotte was damagingly envious of, though Charlotte had always been an only child. On the other other hand, the woman, Madame Zöe, had been very, very black, with a great accent and hazel-colored eyes. Seemed quite authentic. Highly recommended as the go-to psychic for the greater Park Slope area.
The Edgar Cayce of Brooklyn, Ryan had called Madame Zöe, to her face, ten years ago.
Replace Berlin’s pre-dawn diesel-darkness with the muted sealight of an overcast Brooklyn at lunchtime.
Now lift the curtain on Charlotte’s sepia tone memories of a previous decade. They look like flickering Daguerreotypes, her memories, flickering impressions of a 19th century Brooklyn. Men with handlebar mustaches and women on preposterous bicycles and Walt Whitman sipping coffee by the fancy-lettered window.
“Edgar fucking who?” whispered Charlotte, side-mouthed, while smiling at Madame Zöe.
Charlotte had just turned 25.
Ryan was clasping her hands together within his and advising her to have her palm read to help her get her shit together. Because: about what to do with herself she had clue none. But, see, for example, Madame Zöe had advised Ryan to quit his bands Potemkin Village People and Vaginanauts and start a new one (The Dunning-Kruger Band) with his best friend Turkey and she had been so right it was spooky. All Charlotte knew for sure about anything after that whole Brooklyn escapade was the numbing certainty of the arc of the hydraulics of a magenta erection in her terra cotta hand.
But now for a brief (essentially heterosexual) word about Art Movements, Manifestos, Dada, Punk, Bebop, bands. Simply put: it’s all a matter of young men desperately needing to get laid. The same old incredible sex comedy. Each era of successful (breadwinning, pussy-earning) males establishes and guards, with jealous violence, the criteria by which a male can reasonably expect to get laid (which occurs, traditionally, on three tiers: entry level success means being able to afford a wife; the next level: an attractive wife; level three: an attractive wife and a mistress… the modern development, so dependent on the invention of mass media, introduced level four: Lord Byron… ie, being a figure so famous that women would seek one out and fuck one for free just to say they’d done it). Organized Males excluded from possessing these mate-attracting criteria rebel, organize and introduce a Movement with criteria of their own (with Punk , fleetingly, it was safety-pinned cheeks, day-glo Mohawks, the ability to spit) in order to get laid: the “avant garde” cultural movement is nothing but a work-around that rebellious and organized young men forge into existence when the angry ore of masculine community meets the hot loud nuclear steam of sexual desperation. The Fauves did it, the Surrealists did it, Sonny Rollins participated in just such a Movement (working around the fact that he, and other young musicians, couldn’t play like Lester Young or sing like Billy Eckstein, though maybe I’m mixing eras there). Young Picasso, young Braque… they couldn’t paint like whatever traditional, conservative Superstar of the Era was getting laid. So they worked around the criteria; they were so canny and horny they invented a succession of New Criteria for Getting Laid (with their Meccano phase and Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism what not) and thereafter Got Laid in Torrents. By the soaking boatload.
Here’s the mysterious part: is it not, still, in the end, up to the woman’s individual fancy?
How permeable to external, hive-mind influences are these fancies?
Are the desperate-to-get-laid-young-men dictating the tune or dancing to it?
Remember Brooklyn, Charlotte? You formed quite a few mean and ugly cockcunts there.
Brooklyn had started as great fun but had become increasingly “realistic”, as Ryan ( Ryan Arder of the St. Louis Arders), C’s boyfriend at the time, invariably put it. “This shit is getting a little too realistic,” he’d say, out of the side of his mouth and its blonde mustache, when they were walking through a dodgy neighborhood or when a passenger on the F-train was jerking off into a Pepsi can or, even, for example, when that Vote Cal mother in big round glasses lost it with her obviously-adopted toddler on a nearby picnic blanket in Prospect Park, loudly guilting the shit out of the kid for knocking the thermos of miso soup over with an inflatable red hockey stick while Ryan and Charlotte were trying to read each other passages out of Bukowski while forking each other pieces of carrot cake from The Carrot Company and have a romantic experience to remember and post on the early version of Fishbook.
Shit is getting way too Realistic.
And, soon enough, maybe three months after they’d met, Ryan was saying the very thing about Charlotte.
For example. Charlotte had complained about unusually dramatic period cramps while standing in line for the Jackson Pollock show at the Guggenheim (Ryan called it the “Judenheim” , with a German “J”) and she even doubled-over a little, in line, so people noticed and Ryan had said, out the side of his blond mustache, away from Charlotte, “This shit is getting a little too realistic,” but to whom had he said it?
To his ideally unrealistic, imaginary friend (lover), obviously. The imaginary lover-friend who would never let Ryan Arder (from Missouri, “The WTF State, HaHaHa” ) down with all the ugly Reality Charlotte was threatening to destroy Ryan’s existence with and that she was coming to exemplify and embody more and more each day of the narrative arc of their sexually-convenient romance. Charlotte was killing Ryan’s dreams by actually existing, in a way. Charlotte needed to be a painting that could come down off the wall whenever Ryan was horny or bored and go back up in the frame as soon as Ryan was finished medicating his boredom with her big sweet jiggly bumps and her tight little sucking holes. Charlotte needed to learn to be less Real.
And that’s what Brooklyn had turned out to be for Charlotte: an amusingly amazing experience among people in active epic continual flight from Reality, a local Nth-dimension of people adept at constructing interlocking simulations of a bespoke (utterly unreal) “Experience”, which was where and why Social Media got its hooks in the decade: because it is so wonderfully and ongoingly editable. It is under your control. And your sacred, Gnostic Profile is what mystics have been trying to nail down and in whatever way tangible-ize for ten thousand years, for it is the content of the avatar of your editable SOUL. You can, you must, color-correct the visuals and moderate the texts. All you have to do, then, after the ritual of the editing, is to Believe as a group. So of course you’ll walk into the F-Train or The Carrot Company or the Judenheim or an Opera or a university lecture or the scene of a terrible traffic accident and 90% (100%, under the age of 30) of the eyes present will be locked on these little screens which deliver the perfectly-filtered product of Preferable Experience in real time. The perfectly editable, reassuring Unreal.
(It is not an illusion if everyone believes it.)
Bad enough in Berlin these days but Brooklyn then was already the anticipatory apotheosis of Unreality… they were improvising, already, a mindset that would serve them well when the technology caught up… and that was before Instadrag, that was before Snagchat, that was weeks before Twitter dropped. That was back when all they really had was MineSpace and Fishbook and early YouTube and their primitive mobile phones may as well have been housed in bakelite and stuffed with vacuum tubes (not that Charlotte had ever heard of a vacuum tube) and the Internet was mostly accessed with gigantic, feverish old PCs on desks from Ikea at home or on primordial MacBooks they lugged on their shoulders but they compensated for the technological limitations with all kinds of coping mechanisms, all kinds of compensatory delusions, kaleidoscopic strategies of evasion and denial… until the technology finally caught up and made the delusions Realer. Imagine how bad it is in Brooklyn now.
“Holy shit,” Ryan gasped, once, Charlotte remembered, after Ryan had come like spatters of a tiny candle’s wax on her back, “I just tried to use the back-button!” Ryan who considered the gifted mediocrities Prince and Steven Spielberg and Marc Chagall and Norman Mailer and Queen to be gods.
“Back-button?” Charlotte pictured a literal button on her back. “What?”
Ryan laughed. “I wanted to undo. And I couldn’t find the back-button. And I realized there isn’t one in meatspace. Yet.”
“Well, what did you want to fucking undo, Ryan?”
“I wished I’d had the balls to come in your ass instead of wasting my jizz on your shoulder blades.”
Which had started the clock ticking on their relationship, frankly.
The time would come when Ryan would ask (nicely, at first; perhaps in the form of a “joke”) and Charlotte would say “no”. And Ryan would let his boyish disappointment show but back off with “Okay, that’s cool,” and he’d wait a week and ask again (this time, probably, in the form of an “honest” discussion of the topic over breakfast or something disgusting like that) and Charlotte would say “No”, again, but more forcefully, in sonic italics, and this time there’d be a pregnant pause before Ryan’s response. He’d stare at Charlotte with a psychoanalytically-serious facial expression and offer an “objective opinion” about her “issues”. And she’d be forced into going into great detail on a very private and vaguely humiliating topic she should never need to address with anyone other than a physician: the topic of Charlotte’s anus. Charlotte’s anus and how the social/private contract between Ryan Arder and Charlotte Chang, with implicit rights and duties on both sides, excluded their respective anuses, pretty much as it excluded their kidneys/ livers/ intestines, et al. Anal sex was not a part of the package, whether or not it was standard on Tumblr. No, wait, Tumblr didn’t exist yet. Fishbook.
“Are you afraid of the size of my dick?” asked Ryan, four months after their first kiss, pretending to be a little drunk, gripping Charlotte’s wrist, at a party, a birthday party for Ryan’s best friend, the redheaded fish-breathed Trustifarian with a Confucius beard that tickled the top of the t-shirted dome of his nascent beer belly, cornering Charlotte in the guest bedroom they’d left their coats in, on a bunk bed Ryan had obvious ambitions to buttfuck Charlotte on while the guests sipped ironic mint juleps and played their mean-spirited Scrabble in the other room.
“Are you afraid of the size of my dick?”
“Hardly,” quipped Charlotte, and, “So are you going to fucking punch me now?” (with your soft white hand?) and that was the end of that.
Bye to Ryan and Brooklyn both. Bye to the USA. Bye to The Carrot Company. Bye to the Cal Babbitz Voters with big round glasses and all their obviously-adopted toddlers. Bye to F-train race relations and doughnuts for breakfast and still-warm shell casings on all the bridle paths and bye to all the yellow crime tape like a traditional decoration for a pagan holiday that happens every single day of the week.
Charlotte had had to laugh (long and hard), years later, when, in a self-pitying moment of weakness, she finally got around to finding that movie that Ryan had always raved about (a masterpiece! so real! the human condition! Burt Reynolds! ) and watched it on Netflix on the worst New Year’s Eve on record, with a bottle of wine and a box of stale crackers, wearing the never-washed “wife-beater” t-shirt she’d stolen from Ryan the day before leaving. And Oh! she gasped/ laughed (hand over her mouth) so hard at the pivotal scene. Holy Shit. There but for the grace of … and so forth.
Yeah: poor Ned Beatty.
And, ugh: fucking banjos.
How had she even hooked up with that guy?
She’d gone to Brooklyn to find herself as a writer (maybe)! What she’d found was a guy with few endearing (and no unique) characteristics who wanted to fuck her in the ass! That’s all he thought about it! Her anus with his penis in it! His penis as an ersatz turd attempting to return to the womb!
“Ryan? Cogito Ergo Sum!”
“Can I fuck you in the ass?”
“Ryan! Quilty is Lolita’s biological father!”
“Can I fuck you in the ass?”
“Ryan: there is a spectre haunting Europe!”
“Can I fuck you in the ass?”
“Ryan! 48% of the world’s population lives in a state of sub-replacement fertility! And Ernest Hemingway didn’t commit suicide, he was eliminated for his dangerously outspoken views on the Vietnam war! And E = MC Squared! And even if God were to manifest His/Her/It Self in the sky for all the people of the World to see and announce itself as GOD/ JHVH/ ALLAH/ KRSNA/ BAAL/ ODIN/ ZEUS today, how would we know, irrefutably, that we were really seeing The Supreme Deity of Creation and not merely a locally powerful trickster or Warlord of the Galaxy, more powerful than us by orders of magnitude and easily capable of fooling us for eternity (just as we could fool ants) but not even the most powerful being in this quadrant of the Universe? How would we possibly know? And doesn’t this simple but powerful thought-experiment undermine a couple of thousand years of Eschatology? What do you have to say about all that, Ryan?”
“Can I fuck you in the ass?”
She’d gone to Brooklyn for the opportunity to think, undistracted by the relentless environmental imposition of her native tongue(s), the idiotic thought-diluting small talk and permeating nagging advertising chatter and horrifically talentless graffiti. She was fluent in English but it was easier to tune out English than German and Charlotte didn’t know anyone in Brooklyn. Perfect place to try to write.
She swapped her roomy flat in Schöneberg for a cute and cramped little efficiency in Park Slope (the Park Slopers she’d swapped with, an older, possibly racist, Gay couple hoping to learn German in 20 weeks, couldn’t believe the height of her ceilings and the view s from her two balconies and the unreal silence of her neighbors) and set up her writing table and got ten good pages done in the first three days, rising early every sunny morning for a quick jog and a coffee and enough groceries for the lunch she’d reward herself with after getting at least a single-spaced page down before noon. And every evening there’d be a reading to attend in a bookstore or a poetry slam in a public space and real writers to very humbly interact with at Whole Foods or the local library. Her father Tim had “loaned” her the money.
I lucked into a career straight out of college, but those were different days, Pumpkin. We can afford to try a few things out while you find yourself, Tim wrote, in his fatherly block letters, on a postcard in the envelope containing the cash he left on her kitchen table while she was interning pointlessly at the socialist puppet theater that week. Tim was already subsidizing Charlotte’s rent in pricey Schöneberg. He was the world’s most generous dad. Wouldn’t it be great to write great books and dedicate each one to her great dad Tim?
There was not even a novel planned yet, or anything. The goal was to clear her writerly pipes and get the juices flowing and get enough down on the page to be able to judge, pseudo-objectively, if there was reasonable justification to devote more than a few months of her time and her dad’s money to the experiment. Every day the goal was to write her impressions of the day before. A very neat , very carefully-thought-out, (an almost too-Claudia-type) plan to honor Tim’s investment with scientific efficiency on her part. Also, she needed a break from boys and all that time-wasting drama.
Four months no fuckee, she promised herself. Four clear months of no penis. Seriously. No dicks.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Listen, Charlotte Chang could get along sexually more than adequately without a man’s help because Charlotte was a veteran vertical self-abuse prodigy in the shower; she’d been doing it since forever and then Nivea released a certain miraculous frangipani-based fragrance in a shower gel and things got serious; she’d stand in the hot gush all lathered with the gel that smelled like an ancestral jungle she could never know and she would wail at it, foaming from her crotch in a half-crouch like heavy metal shredding air guitar with her left hand a blur and come catastrophically until forced to steady herself with her right hand on the glass door while she rinsed (seeing stars) and cried sometimes. No man had ever made her come, more the less come like that, like the birth of a galaxy or something, and no man needed to, thanks, she could do it herself all day, as long as the water pressure held up and Nivea continued to offer the product.]
Her fourth night in Brooklyn, Charlotte went to a poetry slam at The Carrot Company, a cafe (specializing in carrot-based cakes and tarts and muffins and ice creams and juices and hand creams and face creams and perfumes and pies and carrot-flavored lubricants and tobaccos) that had been a filling station when filing stations looked like high modernist temples designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to service aerodynamic automobiles that looked like yachts built for families who looked like pre-assassination Kennedys. An up-angled, wing-shaped overhang supported by tapering columns shaded the s-shaped curve of the frosted-glass-walled front of the cafe. Charlotte ordered a tall spiced carrot latte shake with peppermint sprinkles and hung out, unobtrusively, in front of the shelving unit at a back corner to the left of where the reading podium was set up. She was sipping her carrot latte shake and paging through a free pamphlet called From Home Birthing to Home Schooling to Working at Home and Beyond when one of the three men who’d been blatantly (almost creepily) eyeing her since she entered the cafe came over to the shelving unit and pretended to be looking through the neat piles of free literature, with his hands clasped behind his back like a middle-aged German, weirdly. He looked like a German graduate student studying the Neo Expressionists at Charlotte’s beloved New National Gallery on Potsdamerstrasse but he was looking at pamphlets called Self-Defense for Vegans and Was Your Dog A Cat in Another Life? and An Introduction to Firearms for Buddhists and 2008: Womyn in Office instead.
He stood in such a way that Charlotte realized he was pretending to want to have a look through the piles of glossy pamphlets Charlotte was standing in front of and she smiled and took a step to the side. He was medium-tall and good-looking in a Gap-model sort of way (though he’d have to lose that blonde mustache, which managed to be too macho, too prissy, too slovenly and too anal… too Wisconsin highway patrol, which she knew about from YouTube videos… all at once) , a look that seemed to indicate that he would never ask to borrow money. As Charlotte stepped politely aside he cleared his throat and said,
“I know the woman who wrote that,” indicating, with his chin, the pamphlet she was perusing, “She’s agoraphobic. Got a special permit to bury her parents in the vegetable garden.”
Charlotte could tell he was making his voice deeper than it naturally was. He was re-inventing (or inventing) himself in Real Time to impress her. Men did it all the time. She was a spotlight. The thing about Charlotte being that her own looks turned her on more than anything else in the world. A lot. She was sympathetic toward anyone (the overwhelmingly majority of het men born after 1500 AD) who felt the same way about her.
“In her vegetable garden,” he repeated, with comical emphasis.
“Oh, god,” she laughed, impulsively, gingerly putting the pamphlet back on the shelf. “I should have known.”
“Accent?” he said.
“Yes. I know I don’t look it.”
Charlotte lifted the back of her right hand to her forehead and looked to the heavens, eyelashes batting rapidly, and she mimed swooning in a virginal silent film brand of pure white heroine way and he laughed, extending his soft white hand to claim his prize.
Late-Model Capitalism turns pretty girls into a form of currency and any currency, as we know, is essentially amoral: it flows in the direction of the transaction.
They shook on it and Ryan bowed like a sham Duke in an imaginary comedy by Billy Wilder. He said, (while ruminating, secretly, on how much he’d like to fuck her in the ass, because just imagine how tight that ass would be)
“There’s a dinner party being given by a real writer about a twenty minute walk from here. I can bullshit our way into it. Especially if you’re with me. Have you heard of Jonathan Franzen?”
“The Elton John of American literary fiction.”
“Oh my God, that’s hilarious. So who’s the Bowie in this ranking analogy of yours?”
“Is that a dig at Bowie or Auster?”
“You take David Bowie seriously?”
“You are hilariously hilarious. And you have absolutely perfect breasts.”
Charlotte was repelled and flattered. “Perfect for what?”
“Perfect for you. What do you think of Bukowski?”
“Surprisingly sensitive under all the booze and advertizing.”
Ryan smiled as if he wanted to cry. “Wounded.”
“Deeply wounded. And wounding.”
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Charlotte Chang hated Charles Bukowski’s persona and his “work” (actually, she didn’t even think enough of the “work” to “hate” it or think of it as work; she’d never read it) but so what? She didn’t take either Bukowski or Ryan X seriously enough to be frank about the matter to either Ryan or herself. It boiled down to the bio-binary of dicks and pussies. The meatspace Zeroes and Ones. Haven’t you noticed? The Erection is clearly a One; the Pussy a Zero. The One a meagre figure, the Zero the flipside of Infinity. Charlotte’s higher self was merely a spectator to the action on the screen. And it felt like Seberg and Belmondo all over again though Ryan was pretending to present it as Newman and Redford to keep Charlotte’s guard down though of course, in reality, they were HAL and Dave and Dave was biding his time until the opportunity came to blow his way through the pod bay doors. From the silence of Lilian Gish to the full-circle silence of Kubrickian, interplanetary space in less than an hour.]
Charlotte was enjoying the banter, the book talk, the movie talk, the sex play, the engorging of the spongy, needy, Narcissistic core that gave mass to her self-esteem. Sure, a part of her got off on being a fiercely-coveted sex-commodity among mammals : she knew this. She accepted this. A thousand years ago, she’d have probably ended up belonging to a Duke or The King after a protracted adolescence of watching knights slice each other to ribbons over her. And, before that, cavemen with boners caving each other’s heads in with expensive rocks for the right to rape her first. How far we’ve come since then.
Ryan X could win access to Charlotte’s bits without killing anyone, not even Charlotte’s “harmless” father , which was progress, because there is probably a scientifically calculable and inverse relation between a man’s looks and his lethality among men. If Ryan X could, miraculously, give her physical pleasure more intense than a back rub, on top of the Ego Rush of watching him jump through flaming hoops for a shot at her exquisite vagina… that would be a welcome (but unnecessary and highly unlikely) bonus. Because:
A) Charlotte didn’t know anyone in Brooklyn (although, of course, that had been the original point of coming to Brooklyn, no?) and
B) she was on a tight budget and if Ryan X was good company and bought her dinner a few times a week and took her to a good brunch every Sunday and always brought a condom and wasn’t abusive and kept his teeth brushed and never farted (deliberately) in front of her (she’d had one of those: an Austrian), Charlotte would let him fuck her for a few months. Anyway,
C) the orgasms she could and would provide for herself in the privacy of her “own” shower. Could she even have one if she wasn’t smelling Nivea’s Frangipani Passion Flower (with Acacia) shower gel at the time? Plus
D) mental note to email Dad about FedExing more Nivea shower gel
E) “A)” and “B)” were planks in the comically-rickety construction of the faulty reasoning Charlotte used to subvert all her previous plans… again.
When they’d been zigzagging around Brooklyn in the deepening dark for about thirty minutes and the mosquitoes had started biting and ambient groupings of youths of color were starting to look a little too intense to her non-Black eye, Charlotte hugged herself and asked to wear the black cardigan Ryan had knotted around his waist. Ryan said,
“The sad thing is that I realized the other day that I’ll probably never see Père Lachaise Cemetery. I think that’s sad. Isn’t that sad?”
“Listen. Neither one of us really cares much for Franzen’s work , right? And we’re only a couple of minutes from my apartment. I have this legendary view of Prospect Park and although we’ve just missed seeing the sunset from my balcony, sadly, what do you think of maybe catching a glorious sunrise together? Because, I can’t lie, your breasts are driving me pretty crazy right now.”
(Ryan obviously had no clue where the Franzen party was. Was there a Franzen party?)
Charlotte said, impulsively,
“Okay, but first you have to pass a little test.”
“First question. What have we been talking about for the past twenty minutes?”
Ryan scratched his chin while biting his lower lip, a tendency that would drive her up the wall in the coming weeks. Ryan did it, Charlotte eventually discovered, whenever he was extremely irritated. “What we’ve been talking about. Hmmmm. Yipes. Okay, fine. You got me. I give up. What have we been talking about the past twenty minutes?”
“We’ve been talking about your so-called favorite writer.”
“Nope. Alice Munro. Don’t you remember fucking saying that? How were you able to keep up your side of the conversation without even paying attention to what either of us was fucking saying?”
Ryan laughed. “Oops. Busted. Does this mean…?”
“Whatever. All I can say is that I hope you fuck better than you listen.”
“Count on it.”
Ryan touched Charlotte’s nose and mouthed the sound boop. He was one of those.
And in through the pod bay doors he blew.
And, of course (of course) Ryan Arder was no better at fucking than he was at listening (aren’t the two activities related?) but the woman who crafts her own orgasms all the time, paradoxically, will be the best at faking some orgasms (this in concert with a delusional type’s refusal to believe he couldn’t deliver pleasure that grand: perfect). So our beautiful tiny Charlotte Chang was damn good at faking those orgasms and Ryan Arder’s laughably deluded self-image as a Fuckmeister remained as protected as a King’s only golden-haired boy-child. Ryan would merely aim the tip of his pointy magenta cock at Charlotte’s left nipple and she’d go into the most convincing involuntary preliminaries of ecstatic convulsion. “Begging” Ryan to stop. Oh Oh Oh…
…god…. damn… Ry…. an….
And then there were the episodes during which Ryan didn’t even bother to pretend that Charlotte’s pleasure was a concern.
He had an in flagrante fetish, Ryan.
He seemed to get off on the idea of being “caught”. His specialty was dinner parties. Friends would invite Charlotte and Ryan to a dinner party (though soon enough they would no more) and about an hour into it Ryan would excuse himself for a trip to “the loo”. Which meant that Charlotte was supposed to count to thirty (“one Mississippi… two Mississippi… “: Ryan taught her that) and excuse herself and follow Ryan to the loo. And then suck Ryan off while Ryan sat on the edge of the bathtub (Charlotte balked at the idea of sucking Ryan off on toilets) or, even, as the affair progressed, bend over the sink while Ryan penetrated her, with noteworthy powers of concentration, from behind. Always (and this was the point) with the door slightly ajar. Sometimes while Ryan was being noisy. It was embarrassing. People (often the hosts) would clear their throats at the door or go “Ooops! Sorry!” or stand there, grinning (you could hear the grins) and watch. Once there was nothing but the slow, disgusted, mocking applause of every guest at the dinner party as they stood in a line of American Apparel and Gap-wearing Puritans from the bathroom door (ajar) to the front door (imperatively wide open ). The man (aka The Fucker) always comes off better than the woman (aka The Fuckee) in these situations, even if The Fucker is taken for a scoundrel. The very soul of Sexism but there it is. The Fuckee just seems weak-willed, desperate to keep a man, self-destructive, disease-ridden, brainless, tacky, trashy, insane, pathetic, unspeakable and so forth.
Well am I? wondered Charlotte, philosophically, more than once.
She very nearly couldn’t be bothered to care. Nearly. Most days (or dark nights of her soul) she merely considered her “sluttery” a sort of physics experiment which happened to involve the granulated ether of her surprisingly degradable essence. Or a crazy adventure. Or a dreadful mistake she would laugh to herself about, one day, years in the future and oceans away , over stale crackers and banjo music. Or confess, eventually, to a trusted friend (or a lover deserving of the term) as her one great youthful folly. She could imagine herself one day referring to it as a “wake up” call like an American would.
Hey, maybe it’s Writerly Research?
Or was it, in a sense, that Charlotte was giving Ryan enough rope with which to hang himself, figuratively speaking? To prove to herself that men (except her father) suck?
[ EDITOR’S NOTE: They did it in half a dozen restaurant restrooms (three tacky, three fancy), three or four city parks, twice on public transport (blow jobs in the back of the Chinatown bus at three in the morning; Charlotte felt lucky that they both hadn’t ended up in jail, or raped, or raped in jail, or dead, or dead and raped and mutilated), one handjob on a sightseeing boat, one handjob in a secluded corner of a bookstore at a bookstore concert of a weird young unknown singer called Geneva Salt; one handjob at a free Temptations concert (Charlotte couldn’t spot a single original member of the group or perhaps her near-hysterical quest to pinpoint one familiar seventy-year-old black soul-singer’s face on a stage of young pretenders was really a method for diverting her own attention from the furious and interminable pumping her right hand was conscripted into, gripped as it was between Ryan’s hands, which were freakish in their single-mindedness as his mouth hung open, repulsively, near her eyes, which lasered past Ryan’s blurry face to the brightly innocent stage ); a humiliating blowjob in an art gallery in which Charlotte got semen in both eyes and up her nose and had to be led, snorting and coughing, out of the gallery as if she were blind and drowning; a terrifying handjob in a church, three or four blowjobs in cemeteries (Paul on his back across the cracked lid of a 17th century sepulchre), two consecutive underwater handjobs in a public pool, intercourse on Ryan’s lap in a Tilt-a-Whirl, intercourse on the green of a chained-up miniature golf course in the rain; intercourse, a blowjob and a handjob (in that order) on the carpet in an aisle of law books in the Brooklyn Public Library; an admittedly hilarious handjob at an exorcism ( Madame Zöe’s; Ryan’s money-shot moan blending with the moans of the possessed housewife); a horrific handjob at a stranger’s fucking bris…]
For the next four months, despite attending sixteen consecutive poetry slams and twenty three bookstore readings and seven talks at the local library and fifty seven dinner parties thrown by bookish types and/or publishing professionals and nineteen book-signings with nationally-known authors and the much-hyped launch party for a “serious” Lit Blog, on top of fucking Ryan Arder (who dreamed of starting a paper-based, Paris Review-type magazine in Brooklyn one day)… fucking Ryan, at home or abroad, in all the various ways (ibid), one hundred and seventeen times… Charlotte Chang didn’t write a single fucking sentence more literary than the captions added under the hundreds of photos (see above) she posted in her Fishbook for the duration of her stay .
In the end, Charlotte realized, despite her (second) original plan to sort of moonlight as a decorative sex object (as opposed to a utilitarian sex object, like the single mother of three that Ryan was half-heartedly fucking on weekends, while the kids were at dad’s, before he lucked into meeting Charlotte); despite her promise to herself to moonlight as a decorative sex object not more than three evenings per week, to supplement her dining budget and air herself out between feverish bouts of literary momentum, Charlotte had allowed herself to function, instead, as nothing but a sex object for all but the first four days of the entire four months in America writing nothing, conceptualizing zilch, getting precisely zero done.
Because zero is that easy to do.
Well, okay, she got ten good pages down.
And, worse (much worse), it wasn’t Charlotte’s beguiling eyes or husky voice or elegant gestures or sphinx-like smile or, even, the erotic calculus of the imperceptibly-asymmetrical lyre-curves connecting her armpits to her hips that Ryan was using to spark his interchangeable orgasms against. No. Ryan had been using Charlotte for nothing less trivial than her tits.
Ryan liked big tits.