“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 8

Image by Mario Savioni

Chapter 8

Frank felt relieved. She opened a door to further their communication. The fact that she was taking a course on character development was a coincidence. She “Swiped right to do something spontaneous.” At least she was up for an interesting interaction, but she qualified her engagement: “I have a boyfriend, I am not looking for a romantic partner.”

Frank thought about this. Was he looking for a partner or someone to have sex with? He did not think beyond that simple, single transaction — the satisfaction of his baser needs, not realizing that his needs might go on given the possibility of this opportunity and mutual attraction. 

Nicole added innocently, “It’s fun to talk to different people sometimes.”

In this Frank thought that yes it was fun to talk to different people, but in doing so, there was also the question of underlying motivation. He was taking chances in communicating with someone he would otherwise be afraid to engage in person. The potential was a sandwich of rejection. He already knew that society would not support his interests. His unmet needs were defined as sex, but his attraction required someone beautiful. He couldn’t help this. Even with his beautiful past partners, he was not able to get satisfaction. This correlated to his sense of accomplishment in life, to the fact of his small dick, how she smelled, how he smelled, if he had a loss for words when they conversed. All of his lovers eventually left him. He could not hold on to them. He didn’t know what to say. He had no friends and he obsessed over his past lovers as if they were the works in a gallery, a series of lines connected to his longing. They were shapes, sounds, and ideas that he looked at and listened to and thought about. All of his relationships seemed like the affirmation of an agreement to allow obsession, which would eventually turn creepy. None of them were in his life at this time.

Frank went for years until he would eventually reel one in. These innocent birds looking for freedom, you might think, eventually he went for it. Cheating girlfriends, angry spouses who wanted out, even someone needing a green card, all seemed damaged in some way, but he had never thought about it. As he got older, these affairs grew less and less, and the last time he made love to someone he was interested in and thus not sickened by, was about 13 years ago. His reaching Nicole and continuing their conversation, without of course meeting, seemed hopeful. That’s where he was in his pathetic life. Yes, there was other evidence of a disinclination—the facts were strewn about the landscape of their discussion and he had even changed the conversation to one involving writing a short story together.

Frank worked on that part of it promising to get back to her so that she might grant him the response he wanted. He worked carefully and the days went by as he crafted the piece. He looked out of his sliding glass door onto the apartment complex approximately 50 yards from his balcony, which looked out over a pool. He had a cold. He was dressed in a gray top and bottom sweat suit with a hood. It was loose-fitting. He wore slippers. They were black Crocs-like in design with a soft black fur lining that came over the edges. Underneath the sweatsuit top were layers of black long-sleeved shirts, one of which was a female long john that he’d bought at REI on sale. Although it was a ladies large, it was tight on him and the cuffs never went all the way to  his wrists. He had to pull at them. The shirt had helped him during the winters in California when he was never quite warm enough and would always get sick, sometimes four times a year. He used to think that it was because he was allergic to wheat, but even when he wasn’t eating it, he still got a cold or a flu. He would submit easily and lay in bed for days. When he couldn’t, he was miserable. This embarrassed him. He wasn’t a man’s man. He took his body seriously, like a woman might, listening to every emotional nuance.

“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 7

Image by Mario Savioni

Chapter 7

The cafe had graphic paintings: reds, greens, pinks, yellows, triangles, lines, circles, a heart in the middle of one of the paintings, a movement toward the center were these forms, painted with thick lines. A brassy meringue came from the speakers. It was loud. You couldn’t help but be affected by the music. Before he realized it, Frank was tapping his foot. Then, he looked around the room to see if anyone noticed. He saw an Asian woman on her computer on the right. He wondered if she noticed him, just as it seemed to him that she was thinking about him, but maybe it was his imagination. She was attractive and young. She was sitting with a man, who was wearing ear buds connected to a phone. He was Asian too. They were wearing running shoes, three white stripes on his shoes and a black and gray background. They matched the stripes going down the length of his long-sleeved gray sweatshirt. His socks were red, black, and white. He scratched the back of his neck. Her shoes were hidden behind his from Frank’s point of view and her feet were together. She wore a dark, gray jacket with a fur-edged hood. Her black-brown hair poured over her hood. Her mouth was open and she wore earbuds too. It was a cold night. They sat sipping tea and looking at their respective computer screens. 

By this time, Frank conceded to the truth of his limited reading. He was only touching, not even reading the books he was referring to. This was his means to a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) education or at least to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), of which he was afraid. The GRE stood as a line that he would probably not cross in his lifetime. He was not good at standardized tests and he reasoned that studying for the GRE or Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) would require the altering of his personality just to do well enough to get into the school of his choice.

“Beyond that,” Frank wrote, “it feels weird contacting you because I saw your picture and as an artist, I thought you were a beauty.” This statement belied the fact that while Frank did indeed think Nicole was a beauty, and while he was an artist, what he thought of her was sexual. Her face was “perfect.” There was no noise with the issue of her complexion, which was clean. Other photos of her were of an innocent and kind person, one showed her with two men her age. He asked her why she chose him.

Frank was hoping she was attracted. He prefaced with “As a writer” to offer her an alternative, however, which would save his face in case she simply selected him accidentally. He figured if it had been an accident, he could fabricate the rest of her interaction for a short story. It had to be “true” and thus he hoped her response would be something more interesting than if she merely had made a mistake.

Frank had made many mistakes on the site and luckily at those times the other people weren’t interested. He never had to tell them that he wasn’t interested. He also asked her what she needed, because he had read this somewhere as a question one should ask a person. The word ‘need’ seemed to embody a direct question, it cut out the possibility for misunderstanding and the passage of emotional baggage. He hoped it would open a range of responses. He wanted to meet her in person to see if she existed. This would narrow the uncertainty.

“Hahaha, this is so unique!” she said. “You’re a writer then? I love to write. It’s funny you mention writing a short story. I am currently taking a class called ‘Short stories’ and it is focused on analyzing character development. I swiped right to do something spontaneous. I’m not looking for a romantic partner. I have a boyfriend. It’s fun to talk to different people sometimes. Right?”

“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 6

Chapter 6

“Hello again Nicole,” he wrote. “I haven’t read the books either.” He starts to think of this experience as an expression of truth and to see if he can make a connection with her based on the truth of himself and being open in all of his responses.

“I am currently reading The History of the Novel and I happened on the section,” Frank typed, “where Schmidt talks about the Brontes and their influence. Beyond that, it feels weird contacting you because I realize you are much younger.  I just saw your picture and as an artist, I thought you were beautiful. I wondered what you thought and was flattered that you would respond to me causing a match. Perhaps you made a mistake and accidentally moved my photo to the right instead of to the left.” 

Frank stopped and looked at his keyboard for a moment, giving his mind a chance to catch up.

“Also, as a writer,” Frank said, “I thought it might be interesting to flesh this out in the sense of exploring how we both feel and think about the other and turn it into a short story. I don’t know what your intentions are. What would you like to happen? Do you want to meet for coffee? Do you want to work on an article? What is on your mind? What do you need? I look forward to hearing from you again.”

“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Nicole could be a man, Frank also thought, but this was Spark, which is based on Visage, so the chances of her being someone other than who she claimed seemed unlikely, but then the GFEs were also uncertainties. It also told him that she probably wasn’t even interested in looking the word up.

Frank could imagine her, given the four or five pictures, and what this response indicated was a smile and a carefree, even quiet response. Perhaps she was being cocky. He imagined the same response might await him if he were to see her in public. Nicole would respond, “Who is this guy?” and “What is he doing talking to me?”

Frank could imagine her, her sleek, unbroken line of youthful flesh as she sat next to him. He knew it was forced, awkward. She laughed when he said they should talk: “What should we talk about?”

“I guess you’re correct,” Frank said. “It’s fairly obvious I am attracted to you.” He didn’t dare look into her eyes. He controlled his head. The truth was obvious. There was almost nothing he could relate to, except of course his wanting to write about this.

Nicole looked over her shoulder at Frank who was sitting on the couch, “Who is Brontes even?”

“Jane Eyre writer,” Frank said, “Amy, Charlotte, and Emily were sisters who wrote. I know you’ve at least tried to read one.”

“Nope, I haven’t,” Nicole said. Her shortness, her certainty, spoke of her investment in the conversation. He could feel the futility in his having started it. He studied the words, something he could say, the space was both expansive in possibility, but also limiting and obvious. He tended toward the negative, and the word “nope” was staring at him, almost like it was another hint of the predictable outcome, but he chose to ignore it.

Three Meals a Day and Housing

I read in a book on psychology, that when someone helps another person it is a cry for help. They help out of a deep empathy and fear.

For those who do not know how to help themselves or are denying what they should do, helping others stands as a distraction from what they should be doing, and for those, who may seek an external source for help, like God, it can mean irresponsibility.

Helping another person can be like taking the easy way out: “I do not know what to do, but I can help another person, so I will do that.

Hopefully, someone or something will know my heart, and help me too.”

I heard the story of a woman, who poured her heart and soul into a restaurant, which was very popular. She helped people and charged prices that were not high enough, and despite her success, she ended up with nothing. She may not have known how to run a business, that part of her was blind, and whether she should have sought help with that weakness and made that part of her personality less self-sacrificing, her eventual failure spoke of having faith that someone or something would swoop in and save her. She lived in a small room in another person’s house and was poor despite she was so well known for her cuisine.

I am an iPhone piano player. I have sent my music to famous musicians and famous record companies and will compete in America’s Got Talent. I am deluded to think that with all the musicians, who have actually studied music, that my sound, will somehow be the one, a kind of flute that will lead the children into a cave. And it will cost me money to fly and stay in Pasadena. Will the spirit hear my heart and lavish me with money enough to live well and retire? Or will I be the cheesy act, a John Cage, who brings his toy piano on stage, and who by this act of silliness gets notoriety?

The truth is something we must face, or perhaps as Bashar has said, we can choose our reality?

I don’t know for sure, but I believe that the truth is like a small voice that whispers in our ear. Perhaps, my sound is the deviant’s advantage, and like someone else said of contemporary music that there are only three notes used and everything is played with this sound. And while it isn’t necessarily a good sound, our ears adapt to it, and want it like the combination of sugar, fat, and salt.

I choose my reality of a house on the beach at Huntington Beach, CA and a top of the line car, but of course not really. I just want to retire with books I love, and the ability to travel the world, and to no longer worry about my health and money.

I hear in the back of my head the story of elderly, who are committing crimes, so that they can go to jail to get three meals a day and housing.

“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 4

Chapter 4

It was a few weeks ago that Frank was on the dating site Spark and selected Nicole’s picture. She must have selected him too because they were both notified of a match.

It surprised Frank. She was very attractive but also very young, thirty-six years younger. He didn’t know what to say. Too often on Spark, he’d pushed the green button when he saw these cute, but much younger women, and usually if they matched, they would promptly send an invite for a girlfriend experience, or a “GFE” as the phrase had been abbreviated. Not only was he unwilling to pay for something that should be willingly given, but the act of engaging for money was also incriminating. It was bad enough that he had a clue that his advances were unlikely supportable, if not by the young woman herself, then certainly not by the community they lived in. Her friends would not accept the romantic affections of the two, who were so different in age.

Despite their age difference, Frank was still interested in communicating. He saw this as a chance to pursue the inevitable rejection of society, but he needed to experience it for himself.

Frank said something briefly about the fact that she looked like someone who had read the Brontes. Frank felt like an authority on this matter after having just finished reading about Charlotte Bronte’s life in Michael Schmidt’s The Life of the Novel.

“What is Brontes even?” Nicole wrote.

What this said to Frank was that she probably wasn’t a prostitute. There was an innocence in Nicole’s response, plus a prostitute would have already sent him a link to another page coupled with a girl friend experience (GFE). It seemed like she was a nineteen-year-old girl, who just hadn’t been exposed to the writers. He figured, or hoped she had, since it seemed to represent what a young, intellectual female would feel compelled to read, besides the Brontes were young when they crafted their masterpieces, Charlotte was 31, for example, when she published Jane Eyre.