“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 9

Chapter 9

It was sunny outside and the sky was relatively blue, except Frank could see a light gray cloud cover and he knew having learned the lesson, after arriving from Honolulu in 1993, that just because the sun was out it didn’t mean that it was warm outside. Frank looked down at the words Nicole had sent and he looked up too at the reality that they both must be aware. In Frank’s mind he was hopeful.

“That’s fabulous,” Frank said, “I was talking about a short story built out of this experience. It felt weird, my being physically attracted to you, but it also appears that we both have an interest in writing, unless this is a class you have to take.”

“Well,” Nicole said, “if you were to write a short story about this meeting what would you say? And no, this class is an option. I decided to take it.”

Nicole, in Frank’s eyes, was flitting about the issue that most concerned him, but he was also either ignorant that she had answered the question about her sexual interest in that there wasn’t one, or he dismissed it and was feeding off the contact she was giving. His desires were stronger than his better judgment.

“I think” Frank said, “that we’ve already said a lot: The implication of your short responses and then your grand explosion of statements, where you could finally relate, you were spontaneous. What was on your mind when you took the leap? That is what is interesting. My pressing the green button when I saw you with perhaps the same spontaneity is not. The short story, or what I would say, is to put our words into quotes going back and forth and filling in the blanks that the conversation left. There were intentions on both sides of our conversation.”

“A short story,” Frank continued, “gets at those with the intent of informing. It’s been a theme with me of late. I told my friend Lani that I felt like a dirty old man now that I’ve gotten older but my tastes in women have remained the same. As an artist, perhaps as the son of a television model, I can’t help but find impossibly beautiful women attractive. That would be something I might explore. What about you? What would you want to say? I pictured you laughing at the absurdity of my trying to maintain a conversation. It must have felt trying. Was it uncomfortable? ‘Why is this guy writing?’ you may have thought? ‘Is he crazy? I was just kidding. I’ve got a boyfriend. Doesn’t he know this?’”


  1. And now you have hit on key issue – reading beneath the words people say. How much do we really understand about what others say, and how much is simply what we want to believe?
    I await the next chapter!

    • This is a good point. You hint at another point, I want to make. Frank is just a construct of my awareness. The point is that what is he to you? Or who is Nicole to you? There are so many things I don’t know about these people. I am just a writer. I am flawed in that I cannot even communicate them except from myself.

      • Which I guess is all we can do when we write – try to create something that strikes a chord with the reader, something tgat stimulates them in the same way that the idea first stimulated us. And I think that you are doing a fine job with this.

      • Yes, first stimulated us. Thank you so much! I remember writing the introductory parts about the type of day it was, and how I hoped it drew people in. It was just what was happening that day, which seems that Heidegger is correct. He says there is no “time” per se, but that everything remains the same and hence we are all seeing and feeling the same things. It’s just that people look different, say different things. We are too busy within ourselves to hear and see that others are just like us, maybe taller, younger, and better looking.

    • Yes, I think when I said he had no friends, it was a general statement. He knows people. How could he not? But, he is searching for intimacy. He isn’t really close to most of the people he knows. He remains at a distance until he falls for someone.

      • If a person like Frank has friends that are acquaintances but no real close friends in life, not a single person whether female or male, we can talk with and help each other, both in good and bad times, he must feel very lonely. If he had someone like that he would not feel so unsatisfied even without a love partner. To have at least one close friend in life is vital. If Frank is that kind of isolated character as a reader I can only feel empathy for him.

      • I think Frank wants true intimacy, he believes he will find with a romantic partner. He is independent otherwise. Here is something I read this morning that might explain his position: “I was born without the need-to-belong gene, the gene that says you have to be in a little group to feel secure,” (“Fifty years ago, a teenager wrote the best selling young adult novel of all time” by Anna Godbersen https://link.medium.com/u532AHY8WU)

      • Sure, but no one is completely independent in this world. We are a gregarious species. To have at least from 1 to maximum 5 close friends is very important in any human life. If we can also find a romantic partner it is even better because we can share intimacy at all levels, intellectual and sexual, “true intimacy” as Frank wishes. But what if the love relationship fails and we end up having no one to talk with? No one we can share our joys and sorrows with?

        Many people find a romantic partner and when they do, they often neglect their friends from both sides. Both partners do almost everything together, always the two of them alone, with no friends from either side, without giving each other enough space of freedom. One day their relationship fails and they have no one. People should avoid that. Otherwise I think it is one of the greatest mistakes in life. Friends are the only people we can choose. In doing so, we are independent in choice and co-dependent in giving and taking.

        Your Frank character looks very much socially isolated. While he wishes a romantic partner he should have non-sexual close friends. At least one person. Doesn’t he have any friends from former times that are closer than pure acquaintances? Or has he recently moved out and found no one yet? Can’t he engage in any course or activity to make friends that share his interests? There must be other people in a similar situation especially in our current society where more and more people suffer from isolation.

        To me Frank appears in your novel as the prototype of the loneliness and isolation our Capitalist heteropatriarchal model promotes. And, as you already know, I strongly rebel against this.

      • “The Outsiders” looks very interesting to read. I remember how much I enjoyed J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”.

  2. I always like reading stories about people who are outcasts excluded, abused… those who never seem to fit in, those who do not match the category of “normalcy”.

    Still thinking about this: “I was born without the need-to-belong gene, the gene that says you have to be in a little group to feel secure,”

    In this respect I understand that Frank is a “no man’s man” (didn’t know this expression in English). If he is so isolated no wonder he is a writer. When someone feels that lonely I think there is an inner impulse to write.

    When I look back at my life, I see myself first as a little happy five-year-old child being friends with a seven-year-old girl whose father was an alcoholic. I also remember having been bullied in elementary school when I was six. I must have spent some years without any school friends (my only close friend went to another school,lived in another city and we saw each other only on the weekend).

    The positive part of all this is that I learned the lesson to be lonely and excluded in school and to understand others that were also lonely and much more abused.I think it all made me a person who is naturally attracted (I mean sexually and non-sexually as well) to those people who, one way or another, feel themselves in such situations, people I feel the need to listen to and help. Actually these are the friends I have made because they also understand me, and not because they belonged to a clique.

    I think your novel has many underlying issues. Also, I like that your writing is always profound and thought provoking.

    Looking forward to the next chapter!

  3. Frank, in my point of view, idealizes women, love and sex. He is a being that feels incomplete and defective, and that can only be solved by him.

    In my opinion he looks too much physical attractiveness in women and that superficiality makes me not like how the character thinks and even causes me rejection. He might not feel so alone if he looked at anything other than the physical appearance of women.

    I hope the character evolves and I end up falling well or at least understand him a little more.

    The chapter very well written, Mario, as always. You make us enter the plot and provoke reactions.


    • I love this Yolanda! The idealization of women, not seeing them as human, having modified parts, but who wake in the morning and maneuver through life jettisoned by make-up and coordinated clothes. Frank keeps them at a distance in reality because, like a man, who produces art, he sees women as objects of beauty, who reflect back at him everything he desires, a crack ho indulgence, who is looking for the one novel that explains life itself, in Fitzgerald, in Heidegger, in Gluck, in Low, and Hejinian, in Picasso, in Perlman, in Hughes, in Deleuze, in Granta, in Cela, in Barthes, in Berger, in Gibbon, in Baudrillard, in Strand, in cummings, in Strand, in Merleau-Pounty, in Plath, in Sara, in Khena, in Lori, in Jennifer, in SFMOMA, in the Property Brothers, in the ultimate space that seeks to reflect back and evoke aesthetic consciousness, needs unfulfilled and constant, yearnings held and satisfied, love and loneliness lapping against the edge of a long beach. The balmy conditions of Barcelona in Summer. On vacation, in a new hotel. He sees her. He wants her. He is limited himself in terms of his power to seduce her. Wanting this object of his desire to want him as much as he wants her, thinking aesthetic desire can cure of the pangs of death, the air of constant change and demands to keep up. Just one lover, who could cure him perhaps of feeling inadequate, and who cannot see repair or solution because he is a creature of the need for catharsis and stimulation. Yes, he depends too much on looks, even to the point of deluding himself. He waits for years, decades, a lifetime, for that one beautiful soul, who will love him, but who cannot love him, because Frank chooses what he cannot have or attract, because the woman of his dreams is a realist, a capitalist, a woman seeking the most optimal arrangement, while fitting into the morays of her station and physicality. Trying to dream and experiment. Coming upon Frank in an app and pushing his picture to the right by mistake, by dare, out of curiosity, Nicole does this with the ease of opening a door unto the truth of someone older, perhaps like her father. Everything is available to the young woman, the young man. Life is a line, a form, a texture, something suggestive, but not an exact replication. It’s softness and hardness, tenderness and blunt. It’s vulnerable or predatory, or both. It’s the sound of crows in the distance. It’s waking up in the morning and hearing notes from a piano floating through space and time that make you stop and cherish. In the end, it is love, and lying close to someone dear and feeling safe. To finally “evolve,” as you say. Your truth is a form of that beauty. That’s what makes you lovely too. But, I learn that true love does come. Life is not lost. You find someone who mellows with you.

  4. Another great chapter. Frank reminds me of a man I used to work with. We ‘Group of Women’ labeled him as the 40 year old virgin. He was such a awkward being, always uncomfortable when a woman stood too close to him yet he bent over backwards to flirt with the beautiful girls/women in the office. Girls or Women who were out of his league. So who cares what we thought, he just continue to pursue turning himself into their doormat to receive attention, any attention. In the end his efforts were fruitless. A strong woman in most cases isn’t interested in being chased. A strong woman loves to chase, and in her way picks her target and moves forward with confidence. Frank in my eyes lacks so many qualities yet he pursues women he can never have forever, even if one gives him the chance, it’s only for a moment. And Nicole whom I would classify as a strong woman will always look for challenges, even in men. Maybe or even a dare, at times will go for the underdog knowing it could not last. So this is the rollercoaster in life.

    Moving ahead to read the next chapter, cheers.

    • Great. I am glad that you like the story and so impressed with your commentary. I like that you mention strong women getting what they want. This is good in light of the #MeToo! movement. A woman last night was taking how she spends hours getting dressed up and is never contacted. She said, “All these women have to do is say ‘Hello.’”

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