“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Nicole wrote back before he continued: “I haven’t told them,” she said, “that I am talking to you. They don’t even know what Spark is. Why are you on Spark?”

“Well, as you might have guessed, under the veil of my intellectualizing,” Frank said, “I want to be with someone who turns me on. I’ve written pages in a state of absurdity attempting to seduce you knowing full-well that even with reverse psychology or honesty, the truth of this is obvious. What could I ever hope would come of this? Absolutely nothing. I have settled for process and you’ve given me kindness. This is the wisdom of the female, who tries out of kindness to wake the dreamer. I hear you. You’ve been kind. Thank you. I want you to know I appreciate you. Such a lovely name, such a lovely person.”

“Aw,” Nicole said, “I like talking to you too! I love to meet new people. It has been a pleasure getting to know you. Do you hope to get married, or have kids?”

“Nicole,” Frank said, “you always surprise me. I write what I feel, listening to Damien Rice’s ‘My Favorite Faded Fantasy’ and it seems to be saying what I had hoped. He sings, ‘What it all could be with you.’ It is beautiful and I had written him that since his split with Lisa Hannigan he might never achieve the beauty they possessed when singing together. I was wrong, the cut is as radiant as light. I like talking to you as well. The pleasure was all mine. I do hope to get married, but I do not want kids. You’ll make a good mother given how you find the good things in people. I believe in your latest response that I may have what I need to complete the story. I will let you know when I finish. Thank you so much for listening. I have learned much from you and I have gone through a passage in knowing myself.”

“Show me the finished draft!” Nicole said, “I would love to read it. I am glad you have personally benefitted from our encounter.”

“The word ‘personally’ is telling,” Frank told her. “That is what this whole thing is about. It is about me. None of this has been valuable to you. You have no investment in this. It was merely a spontaneous act in choosing me. It has been interesting listening to me express a position, but the truth is just that. I was watching a documentary about the Belle Knox story. The young woman who went to Duke University and ended up having to do porn to pay her tuition. She was outed and has since almost regretted it. She said that when she showed up for a shoot, her agent didn’t tell her that she would be having sex with an older man. When she did, she said she was nearly in tears. It was not something she wanted to do. I think this is what this is about. There are certain lines drawn in the sand that cannot be crossed naturally. You were never thinking of meeting me and I knew that it wasn’t correct. There is a maturity in knowing that. If you don’t listen and trust your instincts you only face ruin.”

“I will show you the draft,” Frank said. “I have to orchestrate it so that it continues to tell the outside influence as well. I hope you may want to add something, like how certain correspondences made you feel, what they made you think as you were reading them. I am still not sure how I am going to do this. I want it to be well-edited. I love The New Yorker for that. It is transcendental in its ability to communicate because there is no noise in the communication, only the importance — the truth.”

“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Nicole hands the portable computer to her friends and they laugh at Frank. It’s still too early for them to sense the sadness, but Nicole tells them it has been going on for days. “Watch this,” she says, “how I write a single word and he comes back with a myriad of interpretations, camouflaging his desire. Luckily, he hasn’t gone there saying something about roses. Yes, this whole thing is a fetish. He is probably home in a dark room just waiting for me, and I ignore him.”

“Alex says a man’s fetish begins at a moment of conjoined anxiety and stimulation when, for some reason, the man is made to feel that if he expresses his sexuality at that precise moment, he will be breaking some rule and love will be withheld from him.” – Perlman

“I know he is there, I can feel him,” Nicole says, “Can’t you? Don’t you know men like this?”

“There was a scientist,” Frank sends to Nicole, “Edward T. Hall, who described a box of rats. There were two alpha rats that would mate with all the female rats and the female rats would coyly wait for them or follow them around. There was another hierarchy of male rats that would try to mate with one or two of the females, but they were not usually welcome. So, these second-tiered male rats took their shots when the alpha males weren’t looking. There was another tier of male rats that cowered in the corners. They were quiet, almost invisible and completely ignored.

“On occasion,” Frank continued, “the female rats would find themselves ignored too or bashed by the other females or left brokenhearted by the alpha males, and as they felt sorry for themselves the cowering males saw opportunity. Each time as a charity intercourse or to cause jealousy, the females would allow themselves to be played with, touched, and penetrated by the lesser males. It never ended well for them. The ostracization always began immediately as the female rat saw her mistake.

“Weakness and isolation were not good signs for the health of the brood,” Frank continued as if Nicole were listening in her house in her room. “If the alpha males knew of the weakness they would have ripped the outcast apart, except that even alpha males need their sleep. The conniving rat saw his chance and took it hoping that the uniqueness of his circumstances would allow him what he wanted more than anything, but of course these things never really happened unless they are rape or charity. Rejection always follows this and honesty is the only way out.

“So, in this case,” Frank said, “I told you every stop and reminded you often what my intentions were and you saw it for the joke it was, a novelette, more like a novelty. I wrote instead of lived. You told your friends, thinking for a moment, what was wrong. I even had the audacity to tell you that my friend had said that our maturation levels were almost too far apart. We both know my maturation is childlike. I just couldn’t embrace the truth that you would never allow this chronological breach and even if you did, society would not allow it. If we appeared in public, it would be as father and daughter. Otherwise, it was the indication of something horribly wrong.

“I waited and wondered,” Frank said, “and she cringed from what she had started.”