FRESH YARN presents:
Look at me. I am on the second floor of Borders Books and Music, shuffling nervously around the Fiction section, at 7:04pm on a Wednesday night. I am wearing brand new dress shoes, gray and black striped slacks (with faux-gold pocket watch chain clearly visible), and a light blue dress shirt, opened at the collar. Look at me. I am the most obviously single twenty-two-year-old male in the western world. I might as well be wearing sandwich boards proclaiming the fact. I am on the prowl. I am off the charts.
Look at me looking.
In the store for only three minutes, my heat-guided pupils have already located several young women I would have jubilant sex with. They are all probably under the legal age for Pennsylvania-style intercourse, but that doesn't matter to me. We both know I am not going to have real sex with them anyway. Real sex, no. Eye sex, definitely. My eyes are lucky. My eyes have been around the block. My eyes have plenty of sex. Just look at them. Their tans are a perjury; their precious breasts energetically poke out from beneath their shirts like reluctant Klansmen attempting to claw their way out of their sheets after a moral awakening. If their jeans were not applied to their legs and rear ends with a paintbrush, then I am the lyingist bastard that ever wrote a word.
I am done with these girls relatively quickly. I have a want for what they have to offer, but I have no need for any of it. I do not care about them, because they appear false to me on the outside. They cannot be true on the inside. Impossible. I try to imagine having a real conversation with any one of them. Also impossible. Even my vivid, oftentimes colorful imagination cannot fathom the required parameters. Could any of these silly little flits be counted on to survive an entire dinner with me, consisting of appetizer, main course, dessert and coffee/tea? Conversation? What would they discuss with my mother, the finer points of Maybeline versus MAC? Could they raise my children-tenderly and patiently negotiating the little ones' neurotic, paranoid wants and needs? More pressingly, could they tenderly and patiently negotiate my identical, though more deeply entrenched wants and needs? No, I quickly decide, as I take one last mental photograph of the taller one's ass. Click! Mmpf. Like a McIntosh apple.
After devoting just four minutes more to pretending to look for books, I have forgotten all about the three breathing Barbies. Take note, you mean world, you; I have found a suitable life-partner. Look at her. She is sitting, cross legged, on a bench by the Periodicals section (Borders does not call magazines "Magazines." Borders calls them "Periodicals" because they're "Borders"). She reads her magazine -- excuse me -- periodical so intently and I can only catch her profile as I pass, deftly wedging myself behind the shelf containing the International Newspapers. I am sly. Tonight I do not trip. Tonight I have skill. I sashay inconspicuously by her again, this time I am able to process more details. She is wearing a tight-enough-to-see-a-bit-of-the-old-you-know-whats-but-not-tight-enough-to-see-too-much-of-the-old-you-know-whats shirt. Lavender. Nice. A long khaki skirt covers her mid-to-lower section(s). Also nice. There is a conservative but noticeable slit in the skirt that reveals a bit of leg. The bit of leg, from what I am able to quickly ascertain, is fair and smooth and shaved and, consequently, should be touched. I am willing. I notice that her shoulders are inverted and hunched as she sits and reads. Her posture needs work. But, then again, so does mine. Perfect. Grand, even. Perfectly grand. We could work on our lousy posture together. It could be a collective process. Learning and whatnot. We could do joint physical therapy. And have sex. As I look at her curved spine, I picture our children. They will be humpbacks by their Bar Mitzvahs (I am pretty sure she's Jewish too) but, look, what are you going to do? Kids are bastards; they'll always find something to make fun of. If it's not your humpback, it's your sneakers. Kids are always on you for wearing the wrong kind of sneakers.
After ogling her in my ramshackle, sophisticated way for a moment or two, I try to make out what she's reading. I cock my head to one side and try to read the title. I have my best glasses on. I made them. (I'm an optician). Of course, since I made them, the prescription's probably wrong, as I can barely decipher the bright pink, all-capital lettering. "DOGS"? I think it says "DOGS." Sure. Sure it does. DOGS. Good, I conclude. DOGS are good. I like DOGS. Don't I? Wait-no. I'm pretty sure I do. DOGS, generally speaking, are warm, cuddly, affectionate, prone to face licking and crotch sniffing, and love unconditionally. I wonder briefly if, by the transitive property of equality, or association, or whatever it is, my mystery bride shares any or all of those attributes. At this point, I have the impulse to walk up to her, shake her hand and tell her that I like DOGS, not the magazine, or the periodical, for that matter, but actual, furry, slobbery, dim-witted DOGS. I also have the impulse to tell her that I like HER. Of course, I do not like HER, because I know less about HER than I do about the AIRBORNE EXPRESS GUY that I see every workday at 11:00am, but I more like the IDEA OF HER. The IDEA OF HER is quiet, unassuming, gentle, pretty. The IDEA OF HER is appealing and non-threatening and it makes me want to strike up a meaningless conversation, it makes me want to size her up, it makes me want to become acquainted with her family and her thighs. However, a rather unfortunate aspect of my personality (see: "insipid cowardice") prevents me from pursuing any of these avenues and leaves me staring at her like I was a patron at some bizarre zoo. I am also halted by another jarring fact: she looks like my ex-girlfriend. Kind of. The fair skin and the long dark hair are identical matches. I sweat. Ah, but the frame is different. My ex-girlfriend is broad-shouldered; the mystery bride is not. My ex-girlfriend has large breasts; the mystery bride definitely does not. Relief. As I turn to- oh, balls- they both have delicate hands. I hate everyone.
I retreat to the second floor of Borders once again. I brood. An imaginary Greek Chorus monotonously berates me, hissing, "You're a pussy. Pussy. Pussy." in my ear. I try to quiet them, but it is no use. Greek Choruses can be pretty rough, heckler-wise. And anyway, I figure; why silence the truth? I am good at reasoning with myself. I smile. At least I have that much. Separated for twenty seconds, I already pine for my mystery bride, and, as I disinterestedly pick up a book from the Fiction section, I entertain the thought of trudging back down to the first floor for another look. I should take another look, right? I am going to marry this girl after all. But I don't go. I don't need to, because she is standing right in back of me, leafing through foreign language books. Merde! Two feet of benignly colored wall-to-wall carpet separates us. Two. Little. Feet. Her back is to me, and so I am allowed to look at it. Hmpf, I muse; it's much straighter when she's standing up. The posture issue suddenly becomes moot. Comforted, my gaze drifts to her rear. All is satisfactory. The yellow caution lights have changed to go go go green. Some blood careens to my brain, but mostly descends to my penis. The dormant beast is awakened. The fevered mind is unleashed. I imagine an altar and candles and friends -- her friends, I don't have any. Cue music, Canon in D, the good stuff. My parents crying. Her parents crying harder, (are they happy or do they hate me?). My spinster sisters jealously eyeing "the bitch." I am husband. I am crazy.
Foreign language books. ??? Is she American? Maybe. Is she French? Oh, God. They are so liberal. That could be a problem, as she will probably judge and despise me unless I lie pathologically about everything I believe in. I consider it. Does she even speak English? I hope not. No, that's not true, but it might be nice, for half-an-hour at least, for her to not understand a word that I'd be saying to her, because it would probably all be unintelligible and incoherent and self-incriminating anyway. Note: I still have a substantial erection. I half hope that she turns around and sees it. True, she will know I have no self-control, but she will also know two other important and equally true things:
a.) I'm totally hot for her, and
b.) I'm not impotent.
I hear that a surprising number of younger men are. At least I have something on them. Damn. I know that, for saying what I just said, as I hurry to get to work half-an-hour early tomorrow, I will close my car door on my penis and some vengeful, impotent ER surgeon will exultantly remove it for me. I picture it gruesomely, with great mental clarity. The procedure (doctors like to call "Operations" "Procedures" in much the same way as Borders likes to call "Magazines" "Periodicals") will be executed with great precision. The operating tool of choice, in place of a medically sanitized scalpel will be the bloodied, jagged, broken end of a six-year-old bottle of Captain Morgan, found three weeks earlier on the sidewalk outside of a bodega called "The Rusty Nail." Obviously, I will survive.
Shaking myself out of the penis-removal penny-arcade-nightmare, I briefly fantasize that the only reason the mystery bride has clamored to the second floor of Borders is to be closer to me. She doesn't care two hells about foreign language books. She hates foreigners. She does not, however, hate me. (Yet.) Right now, she wants it. Right. Now. She came for me. To check me out. To get a better view of the mystery husband. And why not? My shoes are shined. I have a gold (faux) watch chain. I am tall. My skin is clear. I have a job. I have no ring. No, no ring. Silently, I go monologue on her ass. My unadorned finger calls out,
am not married, mystery bride! I am single. Alone. Single. My ex-girlfriend
broke up with me a month ago. She has been hurtful to me since. Deliberate.
Reckless. Cruel. Loud. She has done harm to me. I have done likewise to
her, and I hate myself. Alone. I was not enough for her, but I would be
enough for you-too much maybe! Yes, for you I could be too much, because
you look delicate. But I, too, am delicate. We could be delicate together.
And go to physical therapy. And have sex. And give our humpback children
moderately extravagant Bar Mitzvahs. And buy them the right sneakers.
Adidas! New Balance! Whatever! Yes, kids will still make fun of them,
for something else, but I will go to parent/teacher conferences. I will
kick ass at parent/teacher conferences. I will be parent and teacher.
I will be DAD. I will work hard and be frivolous with money only where
you are concerned-and not too frivolous-not poorhouse frivolous. I will
dress well when we go out in public. I will dress well when we stay in
the house. I will use the right fork. I will walk our DOG and have sex
with you. I will not read Henry Rollins. I will start each evening by
slowly taking off your- Oh, Goddamnit! HENRY ROLLINS?!!!"
I snap the fuck out of it and look down. I am standing there reading a book by Henry Rollins! Well, I am not actually reading it, but it is glaringly there, right there, in my guilty, felonious dirty little palms. That's just beautiful. Henry Rollins is a musician/spoken-word artist/author who is fond of using phrases like "go fuck your sister" and "ropey jets of jism" in his prose. I like Henry Rollins. The mystery bride does not like Henry Rollins. I mean, yes, sure, I don't know that; but I know that. Suddenly I am Lady MacBeth. Will these hands never be clean?
Hastily I throw the offending "literature" down and my eyes frantically scan the shelves for more appropriate, point-winning material. I am as good as illiterate-or as bad as. I know nothing. I do know that, if I pick up some random book I have never heard of, it will wind up being some sort of sexual perversion nightmare novel about the clergy and boy-touching that will at first seem innocuous to me but be instantly recognizable to her because of something she read in some magazine -- damn! -- periodical that literate people read and she will cautiously back away from me and whisper to the frumpy Borders employee at the Information Desk, "as casually as possible," to call the police. I quickly decide to pick the first book I see that I know well, to avoid this regrettable scenario. However, this course of action, while seemingly making sense, presents its own problems, principle among them: I don't know of that many books. It is a depressing fact, one that shames me with a disconcerting regularity. I do not often read books. Apparently, I especially do not often read books written by authors whose last names begin with the letters "M" through "T" as I cannot seem to find one single, recognizable, goddamn book. Ah! Got it! Mr. Salinger kindly extends his literary floatation device. Holden Caulfield, my boy, you've saved my ass one more wait a minute. Catcher in the Rye? Misogyny, angst, depression, fear, anxiety, swearing, bad attitudes, failures, drifting, listlessness . Are these really the qualities that I want this -- oh, what the hell? Why fight it? I grab it. It is familiar and comfortable in my hands. I start reading a random page. Boy. Holden sure says "bastard" a lot.
You know what happens. You knew before I did. The mystery-bride leaves Borders and I will most definitely never see her again. This is probably a good thing. I am alone tonight writing this, and that is probably a good thing too. I don't particularly know what reading it is doing for you, but writing it is making me feel better, on some microcosmic level. Maybe I'm underestimating. Maybe it's actually more mediocosmic and I just don't know it yet. Interesting. When I wrote the word "mediocosmic," Microsoft Word (which is smarter than I am) immediately flagged me, underlining "mediocosmic" in red. This was done to alert me to the already-known fact that I had, once again, made up a word. Genius. For the hell of it, I right-click on "mediocosmic" and Microsoft generously suggests the word "seriocomic" as a more appropriate replacement. And people say that computers are just hunks of junk. I'll bet that's something my mystery bride would say. She doesn't like technology, you know.
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