“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 15

Chapter 15

He imagined eating tarts as she so snidely stated. He wanted all of her, her fragility, her cockiness, her shyness, her discovery after being seduced and the loneliness she would feel. But, he also knew he was deluding himself. He wasn’t in control, she was. She clearly wasn’t interested in him and that’s where he lost his control. He could be as honest and forth-coming as he wanted, but he could not persuade her.

No, Nicole was not held in those circumstances. She was merely talking to Frank as if in a “chatroom” and she could easily dismiss him with the push of a button.

Frank deluded himself into thinking that he could keep the conversation going if he just continued to be honest and tried not to wield power over her. She was smarter than he was. His desires were blatant and visible. She knew what he wanted.

Perhaps Frank was willing to destroy his own power and freedom to be with her. Is that how powerful her beauty was? In reality, Frank deluded himself into believing that they were both seeking acceptance and love. The author, Elliot Perlman, he remembered reading in the  book Seven Types of Ambiguity, called it the long journey to love: “He says fetishes are about the search of love.” How better to find it, Frank thought, in putting themselves out there and being treated well?

No matter their age difference, Frank thought Nicole was perfect and Frank meant something to her — a rite of passage into her own feminine power? 

Frank’s condo was white and spare. Merely a chair sat in his living room, a white one from Ikea that they advertised in a Skinnerian box that gets pushed like a mechanical dildo over and over. A desk, otherwise, was in the room. There were two tall and thin speakers, two bookshelves, his mothers’ silver, and a table he made, white, organic-shaped, and the Ikea twin mattress on the floor with an unheard of thread count white-cotton sheets and a pillow. By the time he saw her, the condo was finally clean of everything except the essentials. Frank was only interested in experiencing this and writing about it. He wanted intimacy and true friendship and most of all he wanted to know what she thought and why, but he was lost.

Frank imagined that they would lie together on a bed talking for hours and they would touch each other. This would send electrical charges to his brain, but he would not do what he did not feel was welcome. 

Frank imagined further that they would lay on the bed like two self-administering psychological patients. His resisting and her being open was their friendship and only in this trust and discipline could they be together, or else any wrong move or word would send them spiraling out of control in protective positions. He remembered this from many one-night stands. A relationship, he thought, is only what it is. The truth is always there waiting, watching, and wondering when one or both of them got tired of lying. Even as he said this, he felt the truth had been answered.

Frank came to an understanding of why he was so interested in her despite the obvious attraction. When he was ten, he moved to Honolulu after his father died. It was just he, his mother, and sister, who at four years younger, he could not relate to. He had at least two sexual meetings, one with a baby sitter, who was eighteen, gorgeous, who had spread her legs for him and he wanted to play doctor, and the other, a neighbor, spread her legs in an ivy cave in a lot at the end of the block. That all evaporated with his father’s death and his confidence was suffocated like a candle.

“Father Figure Seeks Daddy’s Little Girl” to be loved by someone beautiful and innocent since there is innocence in the attraction that always remains veiled.”

Frank thought of this for a Craigslist ad if his conversation with Nicole got no further. 

Frank told himself that the most important thing to learn from their cyber conversation was that she lived in a different world. You’ve done things too, he thought with her in mind, “Accidents,” we call them, where “spontaneous” means, “accidentally” and for her “unique” meant that she was hoping you didn’t take her mistake as an invite because she was clear that she said she had a boyfriend.

Infatuation and dreams are like this, Frank kept thinking. They do not live in reality. She wants nothing to do with you. Her brevity, although pithy, proves that. She comes to your long, drawn out responses not to spend much time, but also not to reveal your pathetic, hopeless attempts at seduction. Everyone can see your veiled prose and intellectualization for what it is. Sometimes it feels like forever when she writes again, and you apologize, but it has become creepy as if it wasn’t before. Your drip of desperation…you are a sewage pipe full of seeping longing. Her half-smile has become a cautionary silence, a joke that reveals your ailment.



  1. There is a lot of overtly sexual tension in this chapter which contrasts with the more subtle tension which has led up to this. I really like the metaphor of Frank’s room – stripped back and bare – as he seems to be confronting his true desires. And yet, even now, I feel that there is more that he needs from the relationship with Nicole than gratification – and I think that he realises this in what he says at the end of this chapter. I wonder, too, whether the sexual encounters that he mentions actually took place as they sound almost like classic adolescent fantasies.
    Thinking back to Nicole, Frank’s thoughts here perhaps also echo her conflicting emotions as she ckearly has some issues that she needs to address.
    I look forward to the next chapter!

  2. I like the introspective tone of this chapter because the reader gets to know more about Frank’s inner feelings, thoughts, desires, fantasies, obsessions and delusions. As a woman I am constantly trying to understand better what men’s nature is about, what comes from both biological and culturally imbued issues, how to deal better with gender differences and how to find the common within the difference in order to focus more on what brings us, women and men, together than on what separates us.

    I am still empathising with your Frank character. I have the feeling he prefers this sort of limbo state where he fantasises with Nicole. He is obviously deluding himself. He lives in a cyberspace dream and hurts himself at the same time. Bittersweet experience.

    As a reader of happy ends I would like to see a face-to-face encounter with Nicole during which they would just find out they are good friends with a common interest: to write a story together. Frank would have to accept that Nicole will just remain a friend and accept this despite his sexual attraction to her. That would be a sign of maturity even though it is hard to achieve.

    Also, as a reader of unhappy ends I would like to see this relationship completely fail. Nicole could end up simply dismissing him in the digital world or there could actually be a physical encounter with or without sex, but offering no real possibility for a longlasting complete love relationship (Frank’s dream). Whichever way, such failure could make Frank redirect his energy towards other opportunities of relationships. I honestly think he should forget the dating sites of cyber space and go to the open air to enjoy life, search for authentic relationships trying to overcome his introversion. That new attitude may also fail in finding love or not, but perhaps he is unable to do so. A good concert, art exhibition or any other social event could bring him new opportunities without looking for them on purpose and getting obsessed as he is now.

    Anyway, yours is really a novel with deep psychological insights. I am really enjoying it because it is well written and it makes me think all the time.

    Looking forward to your next chapter! – Marta

    • I find it funny that you are trying to understand male nature. It’s simple, I say. Remember my book A Man Looking at Women? I think men are less concerned with cultural issues. They’d rather be left alone with a woman and tell her the truth of his heart, but I don’t think women want that.

      Yes, I think Frank does like limbo, but frankly, pardon the pun, I think he would rather that the attraction were reciprocated. He is sad that he is in the dark. He does hurt himself, but I think that he cannot separate himself from this lust that seems dramatic vs. calm love. I would like to see this face-to-face as well and yes to write a story together so that he learns from Nicole and other women as well about what’s going on. He wants to share this understanding with other men as well. He both understands them and himself.

      We both know the relationship would fail. No one has time for people, who don’t interest them. Yes, the issue is length. There is no chance for anything more than a dalliance. I am sure he does things on his own. I think a lot of men feel disconnected. I am so glad the work is a “novel” and with deep psychological insights. That’s so wonderful. I love that what I was thinking has wings. I am glad you think it is well-written. I will continue then. Knowing that it makes you think all the time is flattering. I like books that make me do that. Thank you so much.

      • You say: “I think men are less concerned with cultural issues. They’d rather be left alone with a woman and tell her the truth of his heart, but I don’t think women want that.”

        Following your argument, Nicole seems to want to play a game where she controls the situation. What for? What are her ultimate interests with Frank? Furthermore, she does not represent all of us, women. For instance, she and I seem to be at completely opposite poles, except for our common interest in literature and writing. When I was nineteen I think I wasn’t a bit like her, well,it was the last century, another country, another cultural background, etc, but I would never have played with a man this way.

        I am sure we women are very different in what we want from men, possibly because we have long been and are still submitted to patriarchy. It all seems to depend basically on our culturally imbued issues, family background and economic status. Thus poor women will first want a man to protect them economically and love will take a back seat following Maslow’s pyramid as you always mention.

        What do you think we women want?

  3. I read the chapter again. I like the change of perspective with the use of the you pronoun form in the last paragraph. This is a good literary device to make us readers feel more involved with Frank’s thoughts and feelings. Was that your intention?

    • I like that I made that change in the pronoun. There’s a hint of self-awareness, almost sinister. I think if I really want this to be good it has to get more dangerous. I think I have written this story so many ways, that this part may have been a carry-over. I like that you noticed it. That I get my readers involved is my intention. I will take anything I can get. Thank you again for noticing!

  4. If I had Frank in front of me, I would say: ‘boy, you have too many expectations placed on love and sex. Idealize too much the possible or rather, almost impossible, relationship with Nicole. It is not real what you are living and it is becoming an obsession that will end up hurting you.

    Love yourself, you do not need anyone to do it, and look for healthy and real relationships that bring positive things to your life.
    You have already had sporadic sexual relations, do not suffer like a teenager because of the Platonic idea of love. It will not lead you to anything good.

    That would be my advice for your character. I hope he hear me.

    Thanks Mario for your work, you define us psychologically to Frank with a supreme mastery.


  5. Oh Yolanda. That’s kinda the way Frank is. He loves infatuation. He doesn’t like what probably is a real woman. He knows there’s no chance in hell with Nicole. I think that’s why he intellectualizes the connection. He hopes, but he turns it into words. He doesn’t care, I guess, about being hurt. He knows how it ends. He doesn’t live himself, I guess. He can’t stand the easy, common interest relationship, except that he wishes those he has strong feelings for, had those interests too, noting Nicole’s studying of literature. Yes, I guess he is a teenager at heart. But, what is good to Frank are words, tension, failure, for it works so well in art. That I define Frank psychologically to you with supreme mastery is perhaps the greatest compliment. You see the work is also about Nabokov’s success with words in explaining what might otherwise be seen as unsavory. I love that about Lolita.

  6. Nicole is less involved I think than even wanting to control the situation. She has no ultimate interests in Frank, only that as she admits early on that she must have thought, “Oh, what the heck?” No, she doesn’t represent all women. Just one, but for Frank, she is the “same” woman he seems to be attracted to, the indifferent ones, the ones he can’t have.

    Yes, I don’t think you would have played with a man. You are rather straight-forward. Yes, I hate patriarchy!

    Well, there is a great book that is titled What Women Want by Deborah L. Rhodes.

    I think women want the same things men want. They certainly do not want men telling them what to do.

    I approach women as being the objects of desire. And thus, for men, it’s like women see this coming, but it’s really just unwanted attention. So what? They want to get good jobs and do things they want to do. Just because someone is infatuated with them, and this is usually the case, I would guess, that infatuation is not shared. Women, like men, want to satisfy the following:

    1. Physiological needs – these are biological requirements for human survival, e.g. air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex, sleep.

    If these needs are not satisfied the human body cannot function optimally. Maslow considered physiological needs the most important as all the other needs become secondary until these needs are met.

    2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.

    3. Love and belongingness needs – after physiological and safety needs have been fulfilled, the third level of human needs is social and involves feelings of belongingness. The need for interpersonal relationships motivates behavior

    Examples include friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).

    4. Esteem needs – which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige).

    Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem or dignity.

    5. Self-actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987, p. 64).

  7. Mario, this chapter is quite entertaining, Frank is still chasing the impossible dream. Frank, middle age, with the heart of a teenager/boy/youth chasing the mature younger woman. I’m thinking maybe Frank is reliving his past, is it the babysitter or the neighbor he enjoyed the most? (Assuming these encounters were his first time.) Back then he was not in control, however, I assume a willing participant. Now I can imagine Frank wants to reverse the roleplay, but the woman he chooses or in this case Nicole is way too mature to fall for this. Still chasing the impossible dream. The saddest part of this chapter is Frank lost his Father at a young age and did not have a role model of what a real man is all about. His growth into manhood stunted. Can’t wait to see what happens next. Cheers 🙂

  8. This is what I like: “Nicole is way too mature to fall for this. Still chasing the impossible dream.“ It reminds me of a recent line I read about chasing a pretty face that has no interest in a relationship. The truth or the tenacity of the delusion.

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