“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 13

Chapter 13

There was a sense of compliance by the women in the book And Everyday It Was Overcast. Sexual favors were probably not even on their minds because they wanted drugs, distraction and excessiveness due to some greater or different need that seemed to have very little to do with sex. Frank could not imagine himself drugging a woman to get what he wanted. Such an action would destroy the relationship itself. Frank’s sexual experiences in the past weren’t romantic or intimate. They were sloppy and stressful. By morning, he was wracked with the possibility of having impregnated the woman or contracting some disease. In his sexual liaisons, he was irresponsible.

Frank also recalled that there was a Human Talk that was posted to Visage, called “What teens really want to know about sex,” where it said, “pleasure can’t be done in a vacuum.” What that reinforced for Frank was that relationships were contextualized by circumstances and the environment. Nicole’s interest in him, if there ever was any, had to come from something she was either compensating for or perhaps out of some dark interest she was following. The talk also asked why sex was so good? For Frank, he looked upon Nicole as sublime, her figure and face from what he could tell, aroused him. Beauty is powerful, he thought.

“Otherwise, writing a good short story considers the events and ideas in peoples’ minds,” Frank wrote to Nicole. He couldn’t get her out of his mind. “Readers aren’t going to believe something that isn’t steeped in contemporary culture. I am also interested in the age difference between us and how we might bridge that. I feel the coincidence of you taking the literature class constructed a bridge. Maybe you want to be a writer, too. I don’t know if you know about the television program Californication, but in it David Duchovny sleeps with an underage woman and he writes a novel about it and she ends up taking it and publishing it. He concedes it to her because she blackmails him. She gets famous for it and travels around doing book appearances. I would like to do a story that explores social media, Spark, etc. I need you to express yourself. How does all of this make you feel? What do you think? What do you want to say? It also explores the idea that a fifty four-year old man has your attention. Do I? Am I deluding myself? Do you want to work on the story as a submission to your writing class? As I was saying, perhaps we could write it together. Write your reactions down. I am thinking that we could write a novelette. See Bolaño’s new book at the bookstore or look for it on the Internet.”

“Writing is about telling the truth,” Frank said. “People want to know about us and what really goes on. What do you think of this?” he added.

“As for what I need from you, just the truth,” Frank said. “I looked back and saw that you like to write. You’ve also said that you had a boyfriend and that was all spontaneous. Tell me about that. What did you think when you saw me and when you pushed the green button? I think I mentioned what I would write about myself. I feel I am being completely open. I’ve told you that I liked you. What would you want to tell your boyfriend, your mother, your father, your friends?

“Now that I can look back at the whole conversation, it runs like a dialog between two people. What is missing are feelings we have that we aren’t putting down. That is what makes a short story. The dialog between characters and the context and what they are feeling. What are they feeling usually becomes the outcome, as it does in real life. People start to share themselves and take risks and the other person starts to care. There is a humanity that develops, as if they were treating themselves how they want to be treated, but is this intention always looming in the background that colors their conversation and actions? It is amazing what people do to achieve intimacy, to connect. That connection means something in the end. It is what we remember about life and what was most important.”

“To eat pickles and tarts, of course,” Nicole said.

This response startled Frank. The sexual innuendo was apparent. “Pickles” for men and “Tarts” for the young woman she was and to eat them implied a mutual phantasmagoric union, which of course was what he wanted and then for her to cooperate in the intention both tantalized him and made him nervous. Perhaps, she was just playing with him and so long as they were just doing this in cyberspace, it wasn’t real anyway. Apparently, the game was continuing.

The Parade

I met a man in a bar. He told me to come to meet Dr. Rudy.

I met Dr. Rudy again. He remembered me. Simon suggested I write him a letter. “A little step at a time. Make an appointment. Ask him if he can take a little time to hear one piece, and then ask him to make a suggestion about the next step.”

Then, I went to the lake.

I played staring across the water at a woman.

No one stopped.

They did smile. Everyone smiles when they see a man with a toy piano.

A man with a cane, one arm pulled in close, the leg on that side of his body dragged along for the ride. He wiped his nose with the hand that seemed to be freer and somewhat coordinated with his impulses. He stood halfway to the counter, then approached it like a body ready for a doctor.

The elderly woman with the large and thick 8 1/2″ x 11″ textbook ordered fruit and granola. She wore a hound’s tooth overcoat and a black dress with black nylons, black heels, with a black satchel. She picked at her skin while reading. Her head moved from side to side as if she were shivering. It was hot and sunny outside. It was Sunday. With whom did she interview? What was she studying?

I sense the end myself. The body parades all its grief eventually.