We pinned the awkward on our second date.
She told me she was pregnant on the fifth.
She told me it was a pregnancy scare on the seventh. That’s probably why God rested on the seventh, because Gaea told him she was pregnant with a deformed daughter. I’m sure he did a magical abortion and put his dick and nuts on a six thousand year-spell of sterility.
No wonder Jesus was a bit loony and God banished sex ‘til after Marriage.
I say, Jesus should have been sex-neutral. So should everybody else. That would have solved a whole lot of problems.
She wanted to meet at a motel because she said it was a neutral zone and because we had to talk. That’s because she was telling me to move in with her, “because it isn’t sensible for me to buy an escort for my Tupperware parties while I could have a perfectly fine gentleman like you escorting, now with the dollar being so low,” she said or something like that.
But I didn’t want to move in. I told her that I would move in when I felt ready.
“But you won’t until my boobs sag, and by then you’ll leave me because I don’t look like Lolita no more,” she said.
I said no, but she kept on sayin’, “you’ll leave me just like every other man.”
“Mary Ann, look at me,” I said, “Do you think I give a flying robin’s damn about your looks? If I’m a so-called gentleman, there’s got to be a lot more I look for in a woman, so much more than good make-up and a good sense of fashion.”
And, “Can we just wait a bit before we argue again? We just got here, for goodness’ sake.”
She nodded and smiled, and said I Love You, and began to watch Seinfeld. And she muttered, “You know, I’m glad that you’re not as picky as Jerry.” Jerry was always finding flaws in women he dated. Mary Ann chuckled herself to silence as cable stole her from me.
As she rested on my chest, I stared into the afternoon sky, and began walking out of my eyes, through the windows of the Bartleby’s Motel, and into the heavy afternoon sky.
I brushed against the cars that sat in the parking lot, a few unused, some more than others. I saw a Thunderbird, radiant yellow against what was a grayly sky, thick with the tactile roar of an imminent storm. Felt the wind coming against me, shrilling against the pearly skin of mine. Decided that I had to take a breather from Mary Ann, from her acoustical world, from the question with which she burnt me. Leaned between the Thunderbird and some other car parked tightly, and my eyelids leaned as well, almost closed.
As I put my hand on the hood, I remembered how I loved the feel of a running engine. The deep buzz buzz boom. I remembered my uncle. “Don’t you hear this?” Uncle Richard would ask me in awkward, incumbent sign whenever I sat on the hood of his Thunderbird. Waiting for the reply, he would look at me so eagerly, thinking that this time I would answer different.
“No, I don’t,” I would reply.
Uncle Richard would ask me the same question incessantly—whether I could hear the engine. Monday, Tuesday and Fridays, the days he picked me up from soccer practice, out by the trash pile on which he chucked away his Coors, half-a-field away from the sappy evergreen Pine where everybody else parked. It didn’t matter if it rained a bit. It didn’t matter if Pops told him that he himself could pick me up from practice.
He would be there and he would ask and always ignore my response and say, “You don’t hear that at all?” He would shake his head in chagrin for the entirety of the ride back home, “It’s too bad that you don’t hear that at all. You don’t know what it’s like, too bad—it’s too bad.”
I would ignore him, not because I didn’t understand him, but because I felt squashed by the heaviness of the disappointment that filled the front seats. He had no senses but hearing, or so it seemed to me.
But I didn’t care about the disappointment, I didn’t care, because I loved—because I loved. deeply, the feel of everything that I could see. Beyond the heaviness as Uncle Richard drove, beyond sound: rain banging on my wet, cold fingers that stuck outside the window, the squeaking of the ridges on my finger rubbing against the skin of the soccer ball in my lap, and the feel of the deep bass that seethed from the side speakers.
In spite of that, he would continue to shake his head from left to right, right to left, undulating slowly, as he drank his Coors and kept his eyes on the yellow stripes painted on the wet, lustrous asphalt.
His face, saddened, for what?
It was for me being unable to hear. “Just like your father, always poor and stuck,” he said once. Yeah, my pops didn’t really earn that much, but he had his dear, energetic, affectionate, fantastic wife, a sailboat he’d half-built with his own hands and me. Uncle Richard only had his vintage Thunderbird. But I didn’t say that. I couldn’t have. I wasn’t that rash.
I remember once as I was exhausted after practice and stretched myself across the Thunderbird hood, I asked Uncle Richard what he thought of the sunset that was rolling against the sky like a platoon of marines firing tracers in all directions (I loved war movies then.) Then I told him how good the heated hood felt. I told him to put his head on the hood near where I had put my own.
“What are you talking about, boy?” His face bewildered, “Are you telling me you can hear the rollin’ of the engine?”
“What are you saying?” I responded. “Of course I’m hearing it very well, buzzin’ sweet and dainty. But do you realize I’m not hearing it with my ears but with my whole body?”
He looked at me for a bit. Then he started shaking his head from side to side, slowly.
But I felt it, I did, lying there: the smooth rollin’ of the engine, some heat and good buzz on my head and my butt on the hood, buzz buzz boom. The sky was growing away and away from me, the sunset was, with a slender hazy fade about it, warming up to a pink yellow finale, and the engine was growing buzzier, my head felt that and my head was the hood and my eyes the sky, buzz buzz boom pink yellow engine sky, don’t you feel it, Uncle Richard, the world coming into you?
But he didn’t never give me no time of my life, never shared no buzz buzz boom. He just drove on.
I thought, “We are because we are. Can you forgive me for being what I am? We all are water droplets of what is a greater river, forever flowing into, out of, and back again into ourselves.”
Water droplets reminded me of rain. I checked, and yes, rain had started to fall. I travelled back through the windows and the half-drawn curtains, out of what was an Amazonian river gushing from the sky. Mary Ann was still resting on my chest. Now she spoke.
“My dear, I need to know.”
It was raining pretty hard now, I could feel what the glass window felt as water from a few thousand feet above beat against it, boom boom buzzin’ blackish blue.
“Whether you’d really prepared to invest.”
“Into what? Securities?”
“Yes, this, you and me, this.”
I stared into her eyes as my white shirt beneath strained against her face, and I thought about Uncle Richard
“Maybe, Mary Ann, maybe.”
“I don’t want a maybe. I want a yes or no. You know, I don’t want be sitting alone in the toilet when I find out I got some cancer in my ass. I need to know if you’re going to wipe for me.”
“I need time, my darling. And some bath tissue.”
“Look, why do you have a hard time deciding? There’re only two choices: wipe or consider yourself wiped out of my life.”
“You’re a born poet, Mary Ann.” I looked away into the window again, paused. “Look, Darling, I’m afraid.”
I didn’t say why. I didn’t want her to become conscious of herself. I got up and walked into the bathroom and turned on the light, which flickered against the weak darkness and the face of Mary Ann, across the room, her eyes reduced to reflected light, white dots. As I stood, my feet felt the cold porcelain hoardin’ the winter on me. I watched as the water turned into a different color and closed the lid, a boom in the lavatory closet. The bathroom looked clean under the iridescent light, and a nice grid of pale blue tiles worked against white drywall midway in the wall. The mirror felt clean to my face, as I rested on there. I needed to feel the world: the demystifying cold, the purifying mirror, the exposing fluorescent.
Boom boom buzz. What if she didn’t understand? I thought about whether she would love the feel of the engine under her hands. I stared deep into my eyes and reached for the metaphysical stuff inside, the boom boom buzz, the world that I knew through my eyes. What am I to do? Do I smile Yes and move in her and hope that she doesn’t turn into an Uncle Richard? Or do I just call it quits?
But I’ve done that before.
Boom boom buzz. I closed my eyes and saw Mary Ann laughing in the rain, her shirt wet, her hair soaked. Happy, affectionate. “C’mon, guy, come out and liven up the world for me,” she told me as I stood inside drying myself. So I did liven her up. I undressed her. Then I went back inside. I asked her when she came in, “Well, how do you like the rain now?” She smiled but she didn’t say anything.
Was she holding back something? I opened my eyes to what was a welling blackness. Boom buzz boom. Went out the lights, the city couldn’t handle the blaring rain outside. I thought, “Is she okay?” And: “Maybe I was wrong.”
As I glided out of the bathroom into the small motel room lookin’ for her, I felt the sealer running between the tiles, jagged on the edges, and several of these were rough to the touch, the shower curtains slimy, and the door felt hollow and cheap. The more I looked for Mary Ann, the more I felt the motel fall apart, in the irregularities of the wooly blanket, the chips on the limestone surface of the bedstand, the uneven painted-over drywall patches, the feel of the rug strings that had unraveled tugging at my toes. What was worth $60? Sixty dollars to make me relocate? Was that my price? I was afraid, she was unaware, and we both stood by the cliff staring at the hole along with Uncle Richard.
Eventually, in the middle of the sixty-dollar bet, I found her. The electricity feeling, the pink yellow buzz came on when we made contact, the soft skin, the small follicles as I rushed a hand over her thin forearm, the threadbare silk sleepwear, the slender curve of her spine, the coolness of the silk against the back of my knuckles.
One hand roamed her back, and the other surveyed for messages that her hand sent—her hand in mine like a ball, saying things:
“I don’t know.”
Hands. Touch and feel. No light, no sound, just the ridges on your fingers, all nerves searching and interpreting, in a world where there’s no definite things, language, codes, and rules anymore. Pink buzz boom, I could feel the smooth and cool rollin’ of the engine that was buzzin’ under my hand: oily and soft, her hands, like the heat of the hood. She kept on moving, touching, reaching… I paused to make sure.
“Okay. What do we do now?” I asked
“Why wait?” I tested her.
“To appreciate the ridiculous beauty of the situation, you silly.”
“My god, my god,” I muttered to myself.
I could feel her cutting through the dark, through the field of tall rye. We flew into that cliff and became darkness. God, I was so off: she already was so deep in the river that she didn’t mind being drowned because she’d already taken the water in her lungs.
No, I didn’t go too far by undressing her before. She didn’t say anything before because she was lovin’ the rain. How could I have missed that?
Uncle Richard sure couldn’t have put that $60 to as good of a use. If I was holdin’ him instead of Mary Ann, he’d say, “Don’t you hear the car? Doesn’t it feel nice, having my penis pressed against your thigh?” He’d grin naughtily, he’d speak to himself, he’d panic—not knowing how to talk to me, he’d look away into the darkness, listening for the sign that he was alive; he’d shake his head. But as I held Mary Ann in the blackness, I felt the cool, smooth engine buzzin’ under my fingers. She finally said,
“Don’t you feel the rain out there…”
She smiled, “and in here, dear?”
I didn’t reply, but thought about how the cost for this room, $60, was astoundingly cheap.