Ben shares his bedroom with the resident demons. The lights flicker on and off, the TV set goes on and off, on and off, like a strobe light—all by itself. Ben’s not doing it. Ben’s not making it happen. And he just can’t take it. And even worse, his Mother/Angel/Older Woman (Claudia? Heidi? Claudia?) comes to him at night. She pushes the hair off his forehead and strokes his hand.
“You need to move, baby,” she says.
Ben groans. He rolls over on his side.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
The older woman climbs into bed with him. She strokes his back and tickles him.
“You need to move, baby.”
Ben climbs out of bed.
The Older Woman—his mother, his angel, his lover—is just an illusion. A hallucination. In other words, she’s not real. And the whispering voices in his head—her voice, so soothing, so insistent—they aren’t real, either. (Are they, Dr C? Tell me they’re not, Dr C.)
He brushes his teeth. He stares at his reflection in the mirror. His hair is dirty, and he could use a shave. He ducks his head, spits into the sink, and straightens up again. His angel, his mother, his lover is standing there behind him—she’s smiling into the mirror at him.
“This house isn’t good for you, baby,” she says.
How is he supposed to listen to an illusion? Better to listen to his Perplexity. He tries to just ignore her. But it isn’t easy.
She pokes the back of his head. Hard. She tells him: “I am not an illusion.”
He continues the attempt to ignore her.
“You’re not going to be able to ignore me forever,” she says.
Maybe not forever, Ben thinks, but for as long as I need to.
“And how long is that going to be?” his illusion asks.
How the hell is he supposed to get the voices out of his head when they can read his every thought? When they know what he’s thinking even before he does?
“Not every voice,” she says. “Just me. And trust me, Benjy, you need to move out of this house.”
She pauses for dramatic effect.
“It’s haunted.” The demon mother snickers. “I know. Because I’m haunting it.”
He knew it. He knew it all along. The fucking place really is haunted.
“With demons?” he asks.
“With memories,” she tells him.
He would rather have demons.
“Who wouldn’t?” she says. “Memories are so much harder to get rid of.”
Ben twitches and tics, bobbing his head to the right and then the left and then forward. He raises his right eyebrow and grimaces.
“You don’t like memories, do you, baby?”
You’re just an illusion! Only a hallucination! Georgie silently screams. I don’t have to listen to you, because you’re not real.
Still twitching and ticcing madly, he heads into the kitchen for an energy drink. His illusion follows right behind, tsk-tsking the entire way.
“Caffeine,” she says, “is the absolute worst thing for tic-in’.”
“I know that,” Ben says, sniffing. He sniffs so hard that he seriously worries, for a second, that his brains will leak right out of his ears.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” his illusion says.
“Shut up,” Ben tells her.
But she ignores him. “First,” she says, “Ya don’t have brains. Ya have a brain. And it won’t leak out yer ears from sniffin’. The only way it’ll leak out is if ya decide to shoot yourself in the head. Then it’ll leak out, that’s for sure. Out yer ears, out yer nose—do ya wanna try?”
His illusion is even crazier than he is! It figures, doesn’t it? John Nash gets a CIA operative for his illusion; Ben gets a cross between Carol Kane and Sandra Bernhardt, neither of whom appeal to him sexually, and neither are the least bit emotionally stable.
His illusion, dressed in white gossamer, appears directly in front of him. Is she some kind of succubus, or incubus, or whatever? Which one is which? He can’t remember.
She clears her throat. “What I said,” she says, “is: Would ya like to try?”
Okay, okay, okay—now he knows she’s an illusion. Now he knows she is not real. Which means that he’s on dangerous ground. The more you talk to an illusion, a hallucination, the stronger it becomes. And still he can’t help himself. Shut up! Just shut up! he tries to tell himself. But the words are out of his mouth before he’s had a chance to think.
“Try what?” he asks.
His illusion, his gossamer mother–angel hands him a blue steel, white grip .38 special. “Blowin’ yer head off,” she says. “Watchin’ yer brain leak out yer nose and ears. Ya wanna try it, Ben? Ya really wanna?”
She presses the gun into his hands. “Nobody’ll know,” she says. “Yer all alone. Who’s to know?”
She is the devil. She’s a demon, Ben tells himself. He’s got to stop talking to her. He’s got to stop listening to her—or she’ll catch him in her spell, and she will kill him. So Ben backs away from the apparition, letting the gun slip from his hands down to the floor. His angel/demon/mother picks it up. She presses the sleek, cold blue steel grip back into his hands again—and smiles at him.
He just now notices her crooked teeth. They’re yellow and snaggled, sharp-edged. Her crooked teeth scare him. He shudders. He fights the urge to hop—first on his left foot, then on his right. First left, then right. Like reading left to right. Left to right. He’s going to hop; he’s going to tic. He’s got to. He’s going to.
The teeth, the breath—they’re his mother’s—and that’s his mother’s lipstick smeared on the enamel. His mother scares him. She’s always scared him. But somehow, he just can’t get rid of her. He just can’t get away from her.
He wants to go home. But he is home. There’s nowhere left to go. Why not? Why not pick up the gun? Wasn’t it his mother who always said to him:
“Benjy, if ya wanna check out, now, remembah: Check out fast. No drugs. No hangin’ yerself. Ya jump, Benj—from the 32nd floor. An yull never live to tell about it.” Then she laughs. She screeches. She cackles.
And Ben knows now—his mother was a witch. She had these long, pointed fingers. Her nails were always filed sharp, like claws; they were always grabbing at him, digging into his flesh.
Is she really dead? Ben wants to know, or only living dead? Ben prays: Oh Lord, please hear my prayer. Kill her, Lord. Kill her so I don’t have to. Please, Lord. Don’t make me kill my own mother.
And then Ben flashes back to another memory of his mother:
They’re in the Hamptons. It’s 1987, and Ben is 11 years old. Mom has gotten heavier, this year she’s up to 250 pounds, at least. She wears this massive, red-striped bathing suit with a white gossamer cover-up. She floats, bounces, and galumphs into his bedroom, night after night. She’s crying. Always crying.
“Ya don’ know what it’s like, Benjy. Ya really don’ know what it’s like—when yer husband decides ta leave ya.”
He loves his mother. He really doesn’t want to see her cry. He will do whatever she needs to get her to stop crying. Stop crying.
He sits up in bed. The blankets slip from his skinny, naked, 11-year-old chest. His mother is sprawled at the end of the bed, sobbing.
“He’s leavin’ me, Benjy,” she moans. “He’s leavin’ me. I just know.”
“Mother, don’t cry,” he begs. “Please don’t cry. Please.”
She creeps him out. She makes him shudder—but she is his mother. She buries her head in her hands. She sobs; he sees her giant bosom heaving.
She sobs and heaves. And Ben watches. He watches the sleeves of her nightgown slip off her bare shoulders, exposing the top of her breast, the massive brown areola. He doesn’t know what to do. He can’t remember ever seeing her breasts before. He wants her to cover them back up, but she’s crying, crying—and she won’t stop.
“What’ll I do, Benjy?” she pleads. “Where will I go?”
He hates to hear his mother cry. It’s worse than hearing his sister cry, and almost as bad as hearing his father cry. Mothers shouldn’t cry, he thinks. They should be happy. Happy always.
“He’s the only man I ever loved, Benjy,” she whimpers. “What’m I gonna do?”
Ben doesn’t know what she’s going to do next. He just wishes she’d cover her breasts; he doesn’t want to see them. He shouldn’t have to see them. They’re gross and too big—and scary. My mother’s breasts are scary.
“And the only man who ever touched me,” she moans, “like that. Oh, Benjy.”
Ben thinks about his father touching his mother. He thinks about the porn mags and all those exposed pussies—those wide-open pussies. And he thinks about his father touching his mother . . . like that, there. He thinks about his father fucking his mother. And putting that . . . there. It’s gross. Oh God, it’s gross. Ben knows it’s gross, but he is still getting a hard-on. He can feel it tenting his pajama bottoms. He wishes his mother would leave. Just go away. Go away, mother.
Instead, she flops to her stomach across the bed. Her hand rests on Ben’s thigh. Her fingers are cold, her nails sharp. Ben can feel them scratching, tattooing his skin. Groineology. They’re massaging his legs, working their way up—they’re moving toward his balls, his dick—his shaft. Oh God she’s touching . . . that. He groans.
Ben tries to move away, but his mother’s hand holds him tight. She begins to stroke him.
“Your father,” she says, “was the only man who ever touched me.” Her voice drops. “Sexually, I mean.”
Ben wants his mother to stop, but he’s paralyzed. It’s like he’s turned to stone—he can’t talk. He can’t move. Not even when his mother slithers up his body. Not even when his mother’s naked breasts smash against his bare chest. Not even when she kisses his neck and drags her tongue across his bare skin, and slides her mouth down his chest, to his belly, to his cock. Not even when she takes him in her mouth and begins sucking on him. And not even when, a few seconds later, he cums with a spasm and a shudder that shakes his entire body, leaving him ashamed and humiliated, wishing he was dead.
Even then, Ben can’t say a word. He can’t even move a muscle. It’s like he’s dead-invisible. He’s floating high above the world. He watches his mother discreetly cough into her hand and deposit the prepubescent cum she’s sucked from him onto her fingers.
“Oh, my,” she says, tugging the straps of her nightgown back over her shoulders. “Oh my.”
And Ben, still floating high above the whole world, doesn’t know why she’s saying, Oh my, oh my—like that. He doesn’t know why she keeps repeating herself. He doesn’t know why she won’t leave and go back to her own room.
She slides off the bed. She readjusts her nightgown. She flips her hair behind her ears.
“Benjy,” she says. “What we did right now—I don’t want you thinking there was anything wrong with that. I was just giving you a bit of relief. Okay, honey?”
Ben still can’t talk.
“The thing is, though, baby . . .” his mother stops. She bites her lips, lowers her brow—still searching, Ben thinks, for just the right word. His mother’s like that. She always wants exactly the right word.
“So, okay,” she finally says. “The thing is, some people—your father included—don’t always understand how things are between mothers and sons. So, I’m not saying don’t tell anyone. I’m just saying you probably should be kind of careful about who you do tell—because I know you, Benjy. And I know how you never want anyone to . . . disapprove of you.” His mother waits, then adds, “Or be mad.”
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) People who start a conversation with, “I don’t mean this the wrong way, but . . .” or “I’m telling you for your own good.”
Ben says nothing. His stomach is in knots, remembering how it feels, when people disapprove of you, when somebody is mad at you—when nobody is happy with him.
“Or not even talk to you anymore.”
Ben can’t take it. He starts crying.
“For God’s sake, Benjy, lighten up,” his mother says. Then she takes his nose between her fingers and twists. Affectionately. But it hurts.
Ben’s tears fall harder.
His mother, her nightgown slipping from her shoulder again, bounces out of the room.
“Lighten up, baby. Life is just too fucking short to go through it all hang-dog. Know what I’m saying?”
And then she’s gone.
The room is quiet and Ben can’t stop thinking about her. Mother. I did that with my mother, or she did that to me.
He thinks about how his mother goes to every single one of his Little League games, and he thinks about how she bakes chocolate brownies from scratch, and makes fudge sundaes with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. He remembers how on his ninth birthday she took him and three of his friends to McDonald’s, and then over to Coney Island, even though she said that nothing but niggers and spics ever went to Coney Island these days. He remembers how his mother, when she bandages his knees, kisses them with her mouth open, to suck out the germs, slathers them with medicine, and then sticks colored Band Aids all over them. She’s a good mother, Ben thinks. A mother who loves me—a mother who takes good care of me. She doesn’t smack me around like my buddy Luke’s mother. I’m lucky, Ben thinks. I have a mother who loves me like that.
Finally, Ben falls asleep, still thinking about how his mother loves him and how his father is leaving them both.
Tough writing session today, but I remain centered and balanced. I do miss the beach though. I used to go there a lot to feel centered. Water seems to ground me.
© Jonathan Harnisch 2014
Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography
It is 3:10 am. This chill night air really makes my skin crawl. It’s so quiet here that it gives me the creeps. I ought to be in bed, I guess, catching a few Zs. But the twitches and tics just keep me awake and these meds I’m strung out on won’t let me sleep.
I haven’t slept in three days. But hey! I’m not complaining. At least I’m out of rehab and I can get back to my writing; my cryptic transsexual writing. My creepy secret wet dreams—my perplexity, my perversity--The Secret Sex Diaries of Benjamin J Schreiber.
Yeah, that’s me. Benjamin J Schreiber. Or at least I think that’s me. (But does Dr C think that’s me? That’s what I want to know.) See, Dr C? I’m writing again just like you told me to. Writing therapy, shite! Does this feel like therapy—does it look like therapy? Does it read like therapy? Tell it to the doc! Not me. I’m not buying it.
But the doc buys it. Dr C that is. She’s the latest psycho brain-picker in a long, long line of shrinks my dear old dad and stepmom have hired to try to make me cop to the crazy rap. Yeah, dear old dad and mom—they slap me into rehab and expect me to come out as some kind of wholesome, normal, healthy human being—or something. Huh! Just think. Me! Benjamin J Schreiber? Like I ever was some kind of wholesome, healthy, normal human being—or something. Imagine that if you can. (I know I can’t. And if I can’t, it’ll never happen.)
It’s like I tried to tell the doc. “Doc,” I said, “it’s like I have these sleazy snuff flicks, these schizophrenic sex-and-drug skits, these skuzzy blue movies playing in my mind all of the time. Sleeping or waking, on the street or at home, whatever, wherever, it doesn’t matter. I have these schizophrenic sex fantasies and psychotic porn movies playing in my mind—and Georgie Gust. He’s in them. And Claudia Nesbitt, she’s in them. And sometimes I’m in them. Sometimes that Dr C, she’s in them too. And sometimes, creepy people I don’t even know are in my dreams and somehow I just can’t make them stop. (You know what I mean, doc?)
Yeah, right. That Doc C—she knows, doesn’t she? She sees those schizophrenic porn flicks and psycho blue movies playing in my mind, or somebody’s mind anyway, somebody just like me. But she isn’t talking. She just keeps asking me these sneaky questions trying to poke around in my mind and pick my brains. Trying to get inside my brain and see what makes me twitch and tic like I do—like she’s trying to cure me. I don’t even know if I want to be cured. (You’ve got to want to be cured, Ben, Dr C tells me. Otherwise, it just won’t work.)
But I’m not buying that, either. Believe me. I know these psychos—I know these shrinks. They’re crazier than me, and that’s saying something. They’re a bunch of loonies and freaks, creeps and perverts. And I’m not letting any shrink poke around in my secret sex fantasies and stick her fingers into my sleazy pornographic dreams and try to take them away from me—or maybe get me stuck back in rehab again. For life. So I keep that Dr C at a safe distance. You know what I mean? I keep her at arm’s length, and I don’t tell her anything that isn’t good for her, don’t say anything that she doesn’t need to know. Which is nothing at all, if you ask me.
But at least that Dr C got me over my writing block. I’ve got to give her that. She cured me of my writer’s block. If you can call it cured. So now I can write, write, and write. I can write my brains out (or my crap out, whatever). I can finally write whatever shite I want straight from the schizophrenic subconscious, from the psycho-porno underworld. Just me and my psycho sidekick and schizophrenic alter ego, Georgie Gust (that’s me)—and, of course, Georgie’s lifelong porno-chic obsession and freaky cheeky perplexity, Claudia Nesbitt. Claudia Nesbitt; my kinky sex goddess; my creepy, peeping nemesis; the number one love-and-hate object of my whole twisted love and sex life. (Keep writing, Ben, Dr C says. Just keep writing.)
At least this way, if Dr C catches me writing this crap and busts me to my ex-wife for alimony or something, I can always say, “Hey, that isn’t really me! It’s just Georgie and Claudia, see?” Georgie Gust and Claudia Nesbitt, who keep stalking me and haunting me and making me write this crap. Who keep acting out these schizophrenic blue movie skits and creepy porno-flick wet dreams that keep running through my mind. Because, see, I was supposed to be cured. I was supposed to be clean. I was supposed to be off this sex, drugs, and porn obsession I picked up somewhere along the way. And I swore (honest to God!) that I wouldn’t go back again. (Of course I’d say anything, just so they’d let me out of rehab.)
Well, now, here I am. Sure as shite! Benjamin J Schreiber! I’m back for another schizophrenic blue movie and sleazy sex-and-drugs flick. Along with Georgie Gust—my creepy schizo-sidekick, and kinky sex partner in Perplexity and perversity—and Claudia Nesbitt, our freaky sex goddess and sado-bondage mistress. Yeah, and all these other freaks and loonies too—all these other creeps and pervs, those other schizophrenic bitches and ho-ho-ho’s. They’re real. Or aren’t they? Don’t ask me. (And don’t search me, either.)
All I know is that I keep on having these schizo-fantasies, these psycho-porno interludes or whatever. So I write them down in my secret sex diaries and let Dr C try to figure out what they’re all about: what’s real and what not—what’s me and what’s Georgie. And what is this thing we have (Georgie and me) with that Claudia Nesbitt?
What a freaky threesome we’d be now, wouldn’t we, Dr C? What a kinky hook-up for the creeps and pervs’ wet dreams, you see—just Georgie Gust, Claudia Nesbitt, and me.
Benjamin J Schreiber and a cast of millions out there in the invisible studio audience—we’re all ready for another freaky blue movie skit and schizo-psycho episode in: The Secret Sex Diaries of Benjamin J Schreiber.
I am confined but only by the walls I build myself.
© Jonathan Harnisch 2014
Georgie’s Big Break
The secretary is standing over him. She waves her pencil in his face. “Mr Gust?”
Georgie looks up. He smiles at her. That’s what people do, right? They smile?
She jerks the pencil toward the heavy wood door.
“The doctor’s ready for you now,” she says. She walks back to her desk, her tight little ass traveling smoothly in a clinging grey skirt. She props her yellow pumps up on the desk as she watches him. She grimaces and pulls out a nail file.
Georgie shuffles slowly over to the door, trying to keep his feet from lifting off the floor.
He leans over to open the door with his elbows, wanting to avoid the static shock he can feel rising in the roots of his hair; the electric charge traveling up his leg hair and his white, commercial-grade, psych-ward pants.
Then he realizes that sane people don’t open doors with their elbows. Sane people just get shocked.
Georgie takes the shock with a snort and pushes the dark door open. Before him is Dr Abrams, a middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair.
“Good afternoon, Georgie,” Dr Abrams says.
“Good afternoon, doc . . . Dr Abrams,” Georgie replies.
Georgie raises his left foot and his right knee quivers. It’s trying to hop, or something. He looks at the man seated behind the polished mahogany desk. With a silent growl, Georgie places his left foot on the floor. In front of the right. He sinks into the small leather chair and smiles tentatively.
“Well?” he says, daring the doc to say he is not cured. (Cured? Hah.)
“Well, Georgie. How are you feeling today?” Dr Abrams smiles right back, in that pseudo-friendly way he has.
“Great. Fantastic. I think I could walk right out of here today.”
He stresses the word “walk.”
The doc grins. “Well, there are good days and there are bad days, Georgie.”
Georgie can see this is Dr Abrams’ game, and he is not going to play it.
“I got a lot of good days ahead of me, doc. And I don’t want to spend them in a nuthouse.”
Dr Abrams sighs. “Georgie, you committed yourself. Six months ago, you knew that you had a problem. Now you’ve regressed. You’re in denial, Georgie. Trust me, and the other physicians. You have a long way to go yet, Georgie. A long way “
“A g-great point, Dr Abrams,” Georgie says. He curses himself for letting the stutter slip. On today of all days! But Georgie perseveres. “A great point—that I committed myself. If I committed myself, I can uncommit myself.”
Dr Abrams shakes his head sadly.
“This is me, uncommitting myself,” Georgie insists. “Look, I’m better. I walked in here without a hop. I haven’t said a word about the voices. But do you know what? They’re gone. Totally gone. And the Tourette’s? Well, I’m stuck with that forever, but that’s hardly a committable offense—”
Dr Abrams cuts him off.
“Georgie, to tell you the truth, your therapist gave me a call this morning.”
(Dr C? Is it you?)
“I looked you up. Your family. And you are a high-ticket in here.”
“What do you mean?” Georgie’s first hint of fear is a tic in his right cheek. Not today! Georgie commands himself.
“I’d like to keep you in here,” Dr Abrams concludes.
Georgie shrugs, playing it cool. “I’m outta here. I will walk right out of here.”
“Against medical advice?” Dr Abrams rolls his eyes to the ceiling. He presses his fingertips together.
It’s all an act, Georgie knows. All Dr Abrams needs is to know that Georgie is not bouncing off the walls, shredding his precious books, or ripping the leather from the chairs. . . . As long as Georgie doesn’t do that, he can do whatever he wants. Except leave.
If they only knew what trouble their money was going to bring, Georgie thinks, my wretched parents would have thought twice.
No they wouldn’t have.
“Georgie,” Mr Abrams continues. “Georgie, you tried to kill yourself. For your personal safety, we have to keep you here until we are sure that you won’t try to do it again.”
This time that “friendly” smile is gone. Replaced with a smirk.
Georgie stares silently, not saying a word. He wants to stand, to shake Dr Abrams until his tonsils fall out on the floor, to throw him out the window, them jump out himself, and use the body as a cushion. Then steal Abram’s car . . . . Georgie wonders if Abrams keeps his keys in his jacket pocket or somewhere in his desk.
No, stop it, Georgie thinks. Sane people don’t think about that.
(Isn’t that right, Dr C? I’ve always wondered.)
Dr Abrams sighs again.
“Okay, that’s fine. You’ll still have to wait for us to get your paperwork together.”
Georgie’s eyes light up. Then he sees something in the doc’s face.
“How long will that take?” he asks.
“As long . . .” Dr Abrams’ voice trails off, a funny glint coming into his eyes. “As long as it takes,” he concludes.
Georgie screams, but there is no sound.
To worry is to waste time. Worrying doesn’t change anything. It only robs one of his or her joy and peace of mind, simply keeping one busy doing absolutely nothing, when it comes down to it.
Georgie Gust Takes a Stand
Claudia, that bitch, whore, that woman I love and hate. (Who’s Claudia?) She created a paradise and set it aflame. She is my world and its end, my kinky sex goddess, my creepy-crawly nemesis.
Remember her, in all her glory. Sleeping soundly under a teal-colored dream catcher in her red and white four-poster. She never stood a chance. I never stood a chance. We love and hate no matter whose face she’s wearing, whose heart she’s tearing.
I want to see her in those slingbacks, her perverted, cotton candy-blue toes peeking out to play.
But I won’t. Not this time.
Georgie Gust loops and ties a thick piece of rope into a noose.
Not this time, not this time, not this time.
For Georgie, everything comes in threes. His stutters, his mutters, his women, his crazy step, step, hop. Everything.
(This time is different. This time, Ben controls my destiny. But this time, I end it all before any other bastard has a chance to end it for me, even Ben.)
He tosses the rope’s looped end over the supporting beam in his old-world style, country living room. Then steps onto a chair and ties it tight. He cringes slightly, and lowers the loop over his head and tightens it around his neck.
He steps off the chair and kicks it away.
The rope burns his throat; he gurgles, trying to cough. His hands scrabble at his neck. His feet kick wildly, wanting to stand. Not this time.
Georgie Gust gasps, and a small trickle of air cools his throat. It’s not enough. Not this time. Lightning bugs, fireworks burst behind his eyeballs. His whole body trembles and tingles and yells at him. He tries to scream again, this time emitting sound, but he cannot.
His heartbeat drums in his ears, pounding and pulsing with the blood in his eyeballs.
Thud . . . thud . . . thud.
Georgie moans, as the world turns black in his eyes.
Thud . . . thud . . . thud . . .
We’re often asked, “How are you?” When I ask myself, and really think about it—good or bad—or in-between, it always seems to come down to the “overall” picture. Overall, I am well. Overall, I do my best. Overall, I am OK. Nothing’s really black or white, but rather, overall. . .
Proof You Can Go Home Again
The black sedan pulls up to the curb outside Georgie Gust’s old-style country home. The driver, Ben (Ben? Ben, again? The same Ben? You, Ben?) jumps out and runs to open the back door. Georgie pulls himself up out of the back seat.
(I thought Georgie was dead, Ben.
Well he is and he’s not, Dr C. You know those creepy-crawly walking corpses—those dead but not-quite-dead people?
Like zombies, Ben?
Sure, sure. Like zombies, Dr C. If that’s what helps you sleep at night.
Whatever you say, Ben. It’s your story, now.)
Ben is at the trunk, pulling suitcases up and onto the sidewalk. Georgie pauses for a minute, looks at him. Then shrugs and walks up to his front door. His face is calm, peaceful. Not a tic in sight.
A brand new man, he thinks, his hand on the doorknob. Everything starts over now.
Thud . . . thud . . . thud.
A week later, a knock sounds on Georgie’s front door.
He opens the door. It’s Margaret, Georgie’s only friend, as if he’s ever had any actual friends, and true friends. He finds her annoying because she seems to care, but a tad too much, for whatever reason, though she does answer phone calls for a national crisis helpline, so it must simply be a part of her nature, to help the disenfranchised, desolate people who otherwise roam the world in their quiet introverted solitude.
Though surprised, he acts normal.
“I didn’t call,” he says.
“I know,” Margaret says. Her perfect brown curls flood over her creamy skin. “I just wanted to see how things were going.”
“Of course,” he says. “Uh, come in. No, would you like to sit on the porch?”
She nods. “Water.”
When Georgie comes out to the porch she is sitting comfortably on his dusty, handmade wicker chair.
“How’ve you been?” she begins. “I know it’s only been a week, but . . . ”
“Oh, great,” Georgie says. He nods a little too enthusiastically. “Really. I’m like a new person.” He smiles, his face a comfortable mask.
“I’m so glad to hear that,” she gushes. “I had a really, really great time on the trip, you know. I can’t believe it. Already, it’s like a dream. We met the Dalai Lama! And trekked over the mountains. Do you remember that guy? With the chickens?” She sighs. “It was an amazing trip.”
“Yeah. Amazing,” Georgie nods. “The Dalai Lama. His spirit is so beautiful. Just being around him, everything felt easier, or something.”
Margaret shines. “I’m so glad, Georgie, I just, you know when I found you, that day, when you were trying to . . .” Her voice fades at his blank stare.
“Well, I’m just so glad I found you. Just think, you couldn’t have met the Dalai Lama if you were, well . . .” She shakes her head rapidly.
“Yeah, I know.” He smiles sardonically. “Life is just great. Super.”
“Yeah. Thank you, for thinking of me when your therapist recommended the trip.”
Georgie shrugs. “Sure, the doc, you know, Dr C, she thought I should ask you.” He doesn’t say: Because you’re the only person I know who actually seems to give a crap.
Margaret looks at him from the corner of her eye. She inhales, then pauses, opens her mouth.
“Georgie,” she asks softly, “why did you do it?”
(You need a reason in this shitehole world?)
“I don’t know. I . . .” He can’t tell her about Claudia. Claudia hasn’t happened yet.
He fixes on a memory.
“It was hard to grow up with Tourette’s,” he says quickly. “And my parents were sh-shitey, I mean, well, even now I don’t ever see them. They weren’t around when I was a kid, either. All I had was this nanny.”
He pauses. Margaret glows at him, so proud of herself for having gotten him to open up.
(You think you can fix this?
Why not, Ben? Are you unfixable?
Georgie stifles an overwhelming urge to laugh. He coughs instead.
“Go on,” Margaret whispers.
“So, this nanny, she was horrible. Bad in every way. Like, she used to pinch me and uh, grab at me and stuff. You know, inappropriately?”
Margaret leans back and inhales through her teeth. “That’s horrible!” she says.
“Yeah, they had to do surgeries and stuff. To uh, make me normal-looking.”
Margaret looks at him inquisitively, not getting it.
“She used to hold me in the air, by my dick. Basically, nothing but . . .”
He trails off at her fierce blush.
(Is that even possible, Ben?
I get it, Dr C, it’s yet another delusion, eh?)
One day, Georgie is going to learn when to speak and when to shut the hell up.
But today is not that day.
“So, I don’t know. The doc says I’m all messed up about that,” Georgie concludes lamely.
Margaret shifts in her seat. Georgie suddenly notices her toes, which she painted jungle-red for the trip to Tibet. The edges are chipped now—worn out from weeks of sandals and dirt roads, from chlorinated water and unadulterated sunlight.
“Well, I think you’re so, so much better now.”
She smiles warmly. Then she leans over and hugs him, awkwardly, since they are sitting in separate chairs. His brain whirrs at her smell.
Then she stands.
“Thank you so much for having me over, Georgie. And thanks for the trip. It was amazing.”
She smiles down on him. The bright afternoon sunshine glows at the tips of her hair, making her face a blank mask. “I’m so glad that you’re doing well.” With that, she leaves.
Shortly thereafter, Georgie leaves, too.
Georgie might or might not be all better. He thinks to himself: Maybe I am, and maybe I’m not. And either way, I certainly don’t seem to care much.
(See what I mean, Doc? It’s the best indication of Georgie’s sanity. Sane people do not go around wondering whether or not they are crazy. They just know they have nothing to worry about.
Georgie wanders through the kitchen, making himself a bowl of cereal.
But crazy people, Georgie thinks, crazy people are exactly the same way.
There’s only that brief transition period, somewhere between sane and insane, where a person is truly able to fear that their mind has gone.
Georgie sits down in his dark living room for a moment, then glances at the window blinds. Fortunately brief, Georgie resists the urge to descend into a catatonic stare. But he doesn’t ask himself why. Instead, he stands and decides to eat his cereal on the porch. Healthy people spend lots of time outside. In the light.
In the morning, Georgie shuffles slowly into the kitchen. The coffee machine is just burbling out the last ounce of coffee; its clock reads 10:00 am. Georgie glances at the refrigerator, and his magnetized eraser board that reads: “To Do List.” Beneath the line, the board is blank.
Georgie pulls a clean mug from the cupboard and pours himself a cup of coffee. He moves over to the back door, admiring his beautifully landscaped backyard with the Italian cypress, the trimmed hedges. Such a contrast to the old-world, country-feel inside. He breathes in the aroma of the coffee then walks back through the kitchen, towards the front door.
From the corner of his eye, Georgie sees that the light on his answering machine blinks red. He stops, takes a slow sip of coffee, and presses the play button.
“Hi Georgie,” Margaret’s voice echoes from the machine. “It’s Margaret. I was just thinking about what we talked about yesterday, remember? Anyway, this morning when I woke up, it occurred to me . . . Well, I thought it would be a good idea for you to maybe, maybe find your old nanny, you know?”
Georgie frowns as he stares at the machine.
“And you could confront her about everything she did to you and maybe get some closure or something? I don’t know. Talk it over with your therapist maybe, but it came into my head like lightning.”
Georgie’s finger plunges toward the answering machine.
“Message deleted,” the machine chimes. “You have no new messages.”
It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Claudia Moves In (Part I)
Georgie moves out the front door, his coffee in hand. He pulls the mail from the mailbox and sits on the porch. He takes a sip and then sets the coffee mug down.
A woman’s voice tickles his ear.
“Come here, little boy. Come here.”
Georgie turns. The woman who stares at him is in her 40s, with wild-frizzy red hair.
“Hi,” Georgie says.
“Hi, neighbor. I’m Claudia. I know we haven’t met yet . . . but, well, I just moved in.”
“Yeah? I hadn’t realized.” Her gaze entrances Georgie. Then he looks down.
Her bare feet. Her big pale feet. Her perfect, long, skinny toes. Her adolescent pink nail polish partially chipped off. She intoxicates him.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you,” Claudia says. He looks up at her, dizzy.
“Yeah . . . I’m Georgie.”
“I’ll see you later, Georgie,” she says.
Later that week, Georgie goes to the grocery store. Now that he has met the Dalai Lama, now that he is a new man, he goes to the store once a week. Or so he says.
When he turns the corner, there she is. Margaret.
“Georgie!” she calls. There is no escaping. He stays put, lets her approach him.
“Georgie,” she says again. “How have you been?”
“Great,” he says, “Just great.”
“Did you get my message?” Margaret asks. “The one . . . about your nanny?”
Georgie shifts uneasily. “Yeah, yeah,” he says.
“What do you think? Did you try to find her?”
“Uh, no. Well, I’m going to, you know. But it’s not easy. I was going to do it to-tomorrow.”
“Oh, that’s so wonderful Georgie! I’m so glad.”
He nods, looking around him carefully. He fixates on a can of creamed corn.
“I just know it will help Georgie, I just know it,” Margaret gushes.
“Y-yeah. Me, too,” Georgie says unconvincingly. “Well, uh. Gotta go ” . . . .”
He gestures to the end of the aisle, then shuffles toward it, engrossed in escape. Escape from Margaret and all she wants to say. He is so engrossed, he almost forgets to check out, and is reminded by the alarm that sounds when he strides toward the door.
“Damn it,” Georgie mutters. He turns around and holds his basket high in the air. “Sorry. Sorry!” he announces, showing everyone that he is not a thief.
Somewhere, Margaret is watching him. Somewhere, Margaret has seen this almost occurrence of shoplifting. Somewhere, Margaret knows exactly how not fine Georgie really is.
Georgie sighs and stands in line with the rest of his fellow shoppers.
Later that day, Georgie walks up the front walk to his home, bags of groceries slung from his fists. On his front porch is an unexpected note:
Having not seen you in some time, my affection toward you has cooled to mere fondness. I’m becoming indifferent. I don’t want that. We’ve been separated from each other far too often, though you live right next door. I want to see you again, Georgie. Tonight . . . .,
Affection? What is this woman talking about?
Georgie wonders if they have met before, maybe in another lifetime he can’t remember, maybe last week at a bar. But he can’t think, can’t think . . . .
Georgie’s mind is stuck on repeat. His balls scream for release.
Claudia is a bombshell.
That night, Georgie abandons his bright new self and rushes over to Claudia’s. It’s there that the two are surrounded by vanilla-scented candlelight.
(Lust always wins over self-enlightenment. That’s why we are at once so prolific and so infinitely ridiculous.)
Georgie wears a light blue dress shirt with a loose tie and ripped denims.
Claudia is completely naked.
“I can’t believe you’ve never given a girl a pedicure,” she purrs.
“Believe it. I’m a virgin, Claudia.” Georgie is solemn.
She sits in the candle-lit bathroom, her plump cushion perched on her toilet bowl.
Georgie holds her foot in his lap. He is in agony, and enjoying every minute of it.
(Are we being sensual? Good God damn! You bet we are!)
Claudia hands over a bright red container of Tiger Balm. Georgie massages her feet with his eyes closed.
“Mmm. That’s so relaxing. It tingles. It’s warm,” she moans.
He removes her old pink nail polish with store-brand nail polish remover.
“Well, aren’t you the quick learner?” Claudia smiles.
Georgie fills a small footbath with a vanilla-scented soak. In five minutes, Claudia is asleep. He carefully removes her beautiful, clean, pasty-white feet from the warm water and pats them dry. He greases the palms of his hands with a hefty dose of rose-scented heel balm. Then he massages her feet from the toes down to her heels. Her feet twitch a little. She shivers.
By the time Georgie finishes, Claudia’s feet are cotton-soft. He kisses them, hoping she will not wake up. A sad smile passes across her face. Is she dreaming? She is heavenly and peaceful. He can’t stop staring.
Her eyes flash open.
“Well done. Well done, mister.” She smiles. “How do you know so much about pedicures, if you’ve never done one before?”
Georgie blushes. “Well, I’ve seen . . . I’ve watched how they’re done. At the sa-salon.”
“Good boy,” Claudia says.
Georgie buffs her toenails furiously, starting to have a little fun.
“What color would you like?” he asks.
“What do you think? What would look good on me?” Claudia looks him up and down meaningfully. “What would you choose, say, if you could have my toes?”
Georgie’s groin stick straightens up as though by command. Pre-cum leaks into his denim crotch. He touches it for a second, a nano-second.
“What are you doing?” She busts him. She laughs.
“Nothing.” Georgie pouts.
She pouts right back at him, raising her eyebrows.
He flinches away from her all-too-knowing gaze.
He carefully paints her nails, separating her toes with cotton balls. He colors them with two coats of “Hooker Blue.” He paints them rapidly, sweating and breathing heavily. When he is finished, he stands and swivels, making his way to the doorway. He has to get out of there, back across the yard to his own peaceful sanctuary . . . that sterile environment where his cum is safe to splurge. He will splash it into the bathtub and wash it down with a shower, safe. Safe to fertilize the fishes and alligators and rats of the sewer.
“Neighbor, wait!” Claudia calls.
“Gotta go. Sorry.”
“But now I’m too late for the party,” she exclaims.
Georgie stops in his tracks.
“I want to congratulate you on what a great job you did on my pedicure! And on such short notice, too.”
He smiles, horny as all hell.
“Now it’s your turn.”
Georgie’s face gets that dreamy look.
“Sit down,” she commands. Georgie seats himself on the toilet; she sits herself on the floor. Perfectly naked. Her shaved pussy smiles up at him coyly from the cold, white, sterile linoleum.
He wants to smell it.
“Take off your clothes,” she commands.
Georgie attempts to undress slowly, but misses the mark completely. When he sits again, his boner stands at attention. Claudia tsks playfully.
“This has become your night, after all,” she teases. “I need to thank you for the great job you’ve done, neighbor.”
She stresses the word “job.”
“Uh, well, thank you,” Georgie says awkwardly.
“You like feet?” she asks respectfully.
Before Georgie can respond, her freshly pedicured feet creep up his thigh and begin to gently rub his balls and shaft. Georgie is queasy, sick, dizzy, in heaven, in agony. He can see right into her crotch. Her shaved pussy drips wet on the tile. Her vagina looks so lonely.
Within a minute, he can’t take it any longer. He cries out in a strange squeal that makes her flinch slightly.
“Claudia, you’ve got to make me cum!” Georgie demands. “Fast. Please? Please?”
Her feet begin to stroke his erect cock up and down. It is tall, proud, rising toward his face. All his boiling love-sap about to explode.
“Do you want to cum in my mouth?” Claudia asks.
“On your feet. Just like that. Don’t stop. Don’t stop,” he begs.
“Are you close?”
And, before he can answer, his white nut cascades over her toes.
Georgie wakes up on the cold tile of her bathroom floor early that morning. Claudia is sleeping, leaned up against the bathtub, her jaw slack. The light slanting in through the doorway shows every line of her face. She is old, but fertile. Her hair glows like flame.
Claudia represents flashes of a future, a world on fire. Georgie, seeking his lifelong orgasm, knows that she is trouble. But that’s just what he needs—a world on fire.
Forget the Dalai Lama, that happy, self-sufficient self that Georgie has always known he could be. Fuck that shite.
He just wants Claudia, and all the joy/hate/love/torture/sex she promises.
Georgie leaves her place early, while she is still sleeping.
In his kitchen, he glances at the refrigerator door. The magnetized board still reads “To Do List,” and nothing else.
He doesn’t hear from her at all that day.
Or the following week.
He doesn’t hear from her, but he sees her. Watches her, more like it. The side of the house that faces hers?—he lives on that side of the house now. Every movement from her yard sends him running for a window. He can’t help himself. That wild hair, those purple-circled eyes, that feral laugh, those toes. Those toes.
He can’t see her toes without using binoculars, so he keeps the binoculars right on the windowsill.
He is sick. He has a problem.
(You’re telling me? Shite.)
Georgie hardly ever leaves his cage of paradise to enter the real world. Even though he feels pretty damn good lately, even though he is a new man.
(Yeah. Right. Exactly who does he think he’s kidding?)
But sooner or later, he has to eat.
Georgie shuffles through the kitchen; his countertops and sink, cluttered with dirty dishes, soggy pizza boxes. He lifts his favorite mug. Sniffs it. Not too bad, he thinks. A little grungy around the edges. The coffee machine clock reads 2:02 pm. Fuck the swill, man, he commands himself, just drink the shite.
Georgie pours the coffee into his mug and wrinkles his nose. He stands and stares at the refrigerator door. The eraser board. His hand twitches.
Georgie pushes his cart through the grocery store. Every third step, he takes a small hop. Just a small one.
He turns the corner, and there she is again.
He would turn and escape, but he can’t. Instead, his cart slams right into hers. They are tangled now, a mess of intertwining wires.
“Georgie!” she says.
He nods. Once, twice, three times.
“Georgie,” she says again, “how are you?”
“G-great. J-just great.”
She looks at him from the corner of her eye and backs away a little. “You sure, Georgie?” she whispers.
He coughs. Straightens up. “Yes,” he says. “Of course.”
“Did you get in touch with your nanny yet?”
“Uh, yeah. Well. I’m still tracking her down. I’ll let you know.”
Georgie looks down at his feet, at the shelves, at anything.
Margaret wrinkles her brow. “Yeah, I guess that would be hard.”
She waits, but he will not speak.
“Well, uh . . . I guess I’ll catch you later, right?” she says finally.
“Good to see you.”
Georgie shuffles into his kitchen and drops a single, lightweight grocery bag on the counter. He stares at the refrigerator, at the eraser board, at the to do list, which has “GET CIGARETTES” scrawled on it in thick pen. He lifts the pen and checks cigarettes off the list.
Georgie sits on the front porch, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips. Healthy people spend time outside, he thinks to himself. He inhales smoke deep, deep into his lungs. He feels the reassurance of the thick black stuff spread from his lungs outward.
He smiles, calmed.
Georgie is a bundle of purpose, a self-made man. Self-assuredly, he steps from task to task throughout the day. By the end of each day, he is exhausted, and pleased with his progress.
Oh, yes. Georgie is a man of energy, a man whose drive to succeed, to excel, is surpassed by very few.
It’s a sunny day outside, but every blind is turned down inside Georgie’s home, making it feel like one gigantic, single, dark shadow. As he wanders through each gloomy room, he eventually stops in the study, and glances down at his answering machine.
The light is flashing.
When did the phone ring? Georgie wonders. Why didn’t I hear it?
He presses the play button.
“Hey, Georgie,” a familiar voice echoes. “It’s your mo—”
Georgie’s finger jams down hard on the delete button.
“Message deleted,” the machine informs him coldly.
Still, Georgie can hear his mother’s voice echoing in his head: “You ungrateful bastard. You never appreciated a thing I ever did.”
“You have no new messages,” the machine chimes.
Georgie takes a cigarette out of his pack and puts it in his mouth. He doesn’t light it. The cigarette dangles loosely from his lips as he walks over to the coffee pot—always on, never off; it is still half-full of old coffee. He fills a dirty coffee mug and takes a sip. The coffee’s so hot it burns his tongue. Georgie drops the mug on the kitchen floor. Coffee spills everywhere as the mug shatters into countless pieces.
Georgie stares at the spilled coffee, the remains of the broken mug, and walks to the bathroom.
On the can, Georgie looks at the silver toilet paper dispenser. The roll is empty. His bleary, worn-out face is also blank, empty.
He steps into the shower, talking to himself.
The soap drops, thudding as it strikes the porcelain tub.
Georgie bends; he slips and falls.
“God damn,” he moans.
What a way to start the day, eh?
Georgie tries to start anew in the kitchen. He lines up 10 espresso cups on the counter, each filled with black liquid tar. He pours sugar into each cup, running back and forth across the lineup, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips.
Georgie pours each cup into a large thermos. He walks out of the kitchen, stepping right into the spilled coffee and porcelain shards. Coffee splashes up over his feet, but Georgie doesn’t notice.
He walks into the living room, carrying the thermos. It doesn’t look quite comfortable enough, so he opts for the porch; but something doesn’t feel right there either. Sipping from his thermos, burning his tongue with espresso, Georgie stumbles through the house to his bedroom.
He collapses onto the blankets, groaning as his legs and back relax into the mattress. He props a pillow under his head and sips, sips, sips away at his black liquid tar.
After downing half the thermos, Georgie steps into the bathroom. He turns on the hot water in the shower and just lets it run. Steam fills the air and moistens his lungs.
Georgie needs something to satisfy him, to give him that everlasting orgasm he craves. Claudia is caput, now nothing but a ghost. She is out of the picture.
He walks into the house, a lightweight shopping bag spinning from his fingers. He erases the check mark next to “CIGARETTES” on his to do list and then rechecks it.
I need to finally forget about being impressive and commit to being real. Because being real is impressive!
Emptying His Pockets
On a desert highway, the midday sun reflects off the tinted windows of a moving stretch limousine; its pearl-white paint muddies with the billowing clouds in the sky.
Inside the limo, up front, a street map is open.
Our driver, Ben, focuses on the long, straight road ahead. He sniffs.
Georgie has a face full of self-help literature. A pair of trendy new shoes lies on the floor beside his socked feet. Georgie takes a long breath through his nose, closing the book that he has just finished. Its cover reads Twelve Steps for Stupid People.
“Why are you always reading those?” Ben asks.
Georgie’s right eyelid flutters exactly nine times. Georgie knows. He counts. He likes to count.
“I like to see what will happen if I do the exact opposite,” he says.
Ben nods. “That sounds reasonable.”
They both pause, contemplating the anti-wisdom of self-help books. The desert rolls by, silently mocking.
(Mocking Ben? Really? It’s just an ecosystem.
‘Course, mocking. There’s no bigger “fuck you” to a man like Georgie, a man living a sterile existence, than life as an ecosystem.
A man like Georgie, Ben? Or a man like you?
Let it go, Dr C.)
“Here we are,” Ben finally says.
The limousine pulls up to the iron gates of a palatial mansion. A trio of security guards in uniform open the door for Georgie. Ben is directed to a smaller outbuilding around back.
On the hot, black asphalt just within the gates, Georgie strips to nothing. The desert swelters behind him, sending up wavering gusts of invisible heat. Georgie shuffles along carefully on the burning asphalt, keeping his head down.
He is quickly joined by staff members wearing psych attire—white shirts, black belts, white pants, and shoes. They are clean, sterile people—perfect for Georgie.
“This way,” one says, his lips pale against the blanched cream of his skin. Georgie steps through the open door of the mansion and turns to the right.
The patio and interior are slate and marble, clean and cool. The floor is coated with naked people, all lying on their backs. Georgie meanders through them like a zombie, unsure of his place in the carpet of bodies. The house seems dead, but is somehow breathing. The rank scent of vinegar assails his nose.
Georgie finds a small space. He lies on the floor on his back, waiting. He shivers, slightly.
A loud siren screams and screeches and a horde of young, naked women flood the room and scatter. Rushing among the naked bodies, one by one they match themselves to pairs of feet. Georgie’s woman is creamy-skinned, with wild, red, frizzy hair and a scarred lip. She grins, and her scar turns the smile to a grimace.
Georgie holds back a momentary panic.
As one, the women drop to the floor. Georgie’s redhead rubs his toes a few times then sniffs his feet. She grins again—that same lopsided smile. This time, Georgie is able to relax. He is in a safe arena—he and she are nothing but strangers. Their nakedness means nothing. They are surrounded by wriggling, mewling grubs.
She strokes his ankles lightly, and his dick springs to attention. She grins her approval. Then swiftly she lowers herself over his toes. His eyes zoom in on her pink crotch. It quivers, glistening wet.
She pulls his toes inside of her. Georgie gasps, jerking slightly at the feel of her. Her wet flesh sucks at him as she imbeds his foot inside her slick pussy.
“Oh, God,” Georgie moans. His eyes close in ecstasy.
Around him, similar noises rise as his fellow fetishists have their dreams fulfilled. Some are having their feet bitten; others are having razors drawn lightly through their skin. Many simply enjoy a foot massage or pedicure. Most, however, most . . .
There are cries and moans and yelps around him, but Georgie seems to be at peace, as he lies on the marble floor naked, stripped of inhibitions. Everyone is so wrapped up in themselves it is like he is not even there. He is a nonentity . . . . A nothing.
Georgie’s face spasms, his eyes tighten. All his peace condenses into a single, surging spark. With one last, piteous moan, Georgie cums; his dick jerks. It is like a fountain, a continuous spurt. An everlasting orgasm. Perfection. It looks to him like he has splashed the red-haired, foot-smotherer—a small spot glistens brightly on her pinky toe.
And then it is over. She stands with one last suck, a parting flex of muscle, and then she is gone. Her white, broad bottom trotting swiftly away.
Georgie sighs and smiles.
Afterward, Georgie partakes in a foot trampling, an egg stomping, a salt crystal crawl. He wanders from room to room in the mansion, feeling the cool, sweet air conditioning on his naked skin. He is not worried about his penis, which shrivels to an embarrassing size in the chilled air. In this place, Georgie feels as invisible as anyone. Everyone is invisible, in this place.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Glasses that fog up when you go outside from air-conditioned room, car, or building.
The foot trampling is fun as always, but still, Georgie would prefer to lie on the ground and have someone stomp him with her feet. Crush him under her strappy sandals. Georgie seems overwhelmed with pleasure, but doesn’t feel quite satisfied. He longs for something else.
Rather than stomping on eggs, feeling the messy yolk and white exploding beneath his arch, he would rather be cracking the egg over someone else’s foot, rubbing it in.
Georgie’s own feet hold only momentary interest for him.
By late afternoon, Georgie needs more than what the mansion can offer. After much searching, he finally finds an ample-sized woman behind a small, out-of-the-way booth in the far corner of the first floor.
“I need something else,” Georgie says. “This is all very nice, but . . . Well, it’s just too nice,” he explains.
He gives a smile to the woman behind the booth. He reminds himself that, even though she can clearly see him, he is still invisible.
The woman smiles back at him politely. She knows more about what happens in this place than anyone, yet she seems to see nothing at all of what is in front of her.
That is the secret to being a good front-desk clerk.
“Did you try the foot smothering?” she says. “Many of our clients find the foot smothering to be entirely satisfactory.”
“Well, I tried it,” Georgie admits, “but it’s over now. I need more, now.”
She nods in agreement. “Of course. Quite understandable.” She glances over the multi-tiered schedule in front of her. “You are Georgie Gust?”
The woman scrutinizes his day’s schedule.
“I would much rather be walked on by other people’s feet,” Georgie says helpfully.
“Oh, I’m afraid we don’t have much of that here,” the woman sighs. She looks at Georgie appraisingly. “But I think I’ve found something that will work well for you. Yes. It’s just the thing, really.”
She points at a small square on the schedule, and Georgie leans over to take a look. His eyebrows rise.
“Starts in 15 minutes—either on the tennis courts or in the shed. Depending on whether you’d rather do it in the dark . . .” she drifts off.
Georgie nods enthusiastically.
“Thank you,” he says.
“I’m here to serve.” The woman smiles vacantly, her eyes seem to look miles and miles past him, as though Georgie is not really there at all.
Twelve minutes later, Georgie is standing in the doorway of the shed. It’s dark inside, but he can hear the sounds of other masochists as they shift around within waiting for something to start.
Minutes pass. Georgie takes his place against the shed wall, watching the lighted doorway as a few other stragglers come in.
Then, there is a long shushing noise as a hard and granular substance pours out of a large container and onto the floor. Salt rock crystals, Georgie remembers. The bits of mineral ping slightly as they strike the hard cement floor.
The door slides closed and Georgie is plunged into utter darkness. The other masochists, who have been whispering and muttering amongst themselves the whole time, suddenly hold their collective breath. For a moment, there is silence.
A voice booms from the darkness: “Get down on your knees, filth!”
Georgie complies with joy. The salt rocks thrust up at him mightily from the floor.
“Now, crawl, like the vermin you are!” the voice booms.
Georgie and the others begin to move around. With every motion, the crystals bite into his skin and the salt begins to burn just beneath the surface. He moans at the pain, the degradation of it all. He hears his fellow crawlers moaning likewise, their voices released by his.
Before he knows it, the room is filled with groans and moans, the pitiable cries of help from the damned; the self-hating salt-crawlers. A part of Georgie longs to get sucked into the orgiastic swirl of pain, the communal hell that they have created. But another part of Georgie (Who? Me, Ben?) floats above him, and watches the scene despite the total darkness. Georgie foreshadows how pathetic he would become if he gave into the moment, if he got carried away with the passion of the crowd. And, seeing himself so clearly, he could not possibly allow himself to become anything else . . . especially a pathetic salt-crawler.
He is both interested and uninterested, enthralled and bored. The self-doubt, the worrying, begins to make him tire of the whole experience. It all falls short of the constant, never-ending orgasm he longs for. His appetite will accept nothing less.
Afterwards, back in his limo, Georgie is dressed anew, in white shirts and shorts, a black belt. He is filthy, yet clean. He sighs, unfulfilled.
His driver Ben glances at Georgie’s knees, which are badly bruised.
“What happened to your legs?” Ben asks.
“Oh, that. I crawled on a floor covered with hard salt crystals.”
Ben pauses a minute, seeming to assess Georgie’s mood. He’s been Georgie’s chauffeur for five years; he knows his boss pretty well by now. He speaks again. Quietly. “And why did you do that?”
Georgie stares at his driver, whose face is reflected in the rearview mirror. He doesn’t seem to judge.
“I don’t know. It feels kind of good to crawl around on the ground. To feel pain.”
Georgie is lying. It feels fucking great.
“Hmmm,” Ben nods.
“It does!” Georgie insists. He realizes he might sound a little crazy.
“My nanny used to do all kinds of sick and twisted things to me,” Georgie says quickly and defensively. “You know, like if I didn’t do my homework or forgot to flush or something. Stupid shite like that.”
“Oh, man, I’m sorry,” Ben says. A canned response.
“Anyway, I’m all messed up about it,” Georgie finishes lamely. “You know?”
“Yeah, that makes sense. Anyone would be,” Ben says, nodding again.
There is a long, uncomfortable pause.
“I bet she was just jealous of you, all your money” Ben says finally. “It wasn’t your fault, man.”
“Yeah. Yeah! No shite.”
Ben pulls the limousine slowly over to the side of the road. Georgie sags back in his seat, and then reaches to the floor between his legs and pulls out a self-help book, which he tosses to the other side of the car.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Car alarms.
The limo stops; Georgie and Ben get out and lean against the back bumper, staring out at the desert. A tumbleweed blows by as Georgie takes a drag on his cigarette.
Ben exhales. “You know, somebody actually takes the time to think up all these fucked up ways of torturing other—keeping them in brightly lit rooms for days, like in Iraq, so that they lose their sense of time. Somebody actually sits down and imagines these twisted ways to warp people.”
“Nanny used to get off to the torture stuff, she must have!” Georgie blurts.
That’s sick. That’s perfect, Georgie decides. But how could I get into that kind of shite? I should hate it more than anyone.
I’ll fake it until I make it, until it works.
(It works if you work it.)
Ben sniffs. “Yeah, probably,” he says. “You can’t turn around these days without bumping into one sicko or another.”
He blinks as his words register in his own mind, and glances swiftly at Georgie.
“She must have,” Georgie mumbles.
It is clear Ben hasn’t heard a word.
He tries to redeem himself. “But that’s in the past,” he says, playing counselor. “Maybe it’s time to move on. To make something of your life, instead of letting your past own you.”
Georgie scoffs. “Yeah, I’ll make a mess is what I’ll do.”
“What is it that you want, Georgie, for real?” Ben insists. “You have everything a person needs and more.”
And Georgie responds. “The never-ending orgasm. A peak experience that will last my lifetime. That’s what I really want.”
Georgie’s face appears dreamy. He is in some other world, a roller coaster fantasy he can’t escape.
Ben snorts and takes another drag. “Speaking of which, that woman you fancy—Margaret? Is she still employed as a helpline operator?”
Georgie waves his hand in front of his face, brushing Margaret off.
“Nah, she’s old news,” he says.
“Huh,” says Ben. “She’s the one you went to Tibet with, right?”
Ben raises an eyebrow. “Did you guys, uh . . .” He sneaks a quick look at Georgie. “Yeah?”
Georgie snorts. “‘Course.”
He is lying. They didn’t.
“But that bitch, she’s just so full of herself,” he continues. “Walking around with that fucking holier-than-thou attitude . . . I swear, she’s stalking me.”
“It was pretty cool of her to go with you on the trip,” Ben says.
Georgie gets what Ben means. “Yeah, I mean, she’s great and all. Whatever. It’s just she likes her job too much. She’s one of those people.”
“At least she has a job,” Ben mutters.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) The fact that people have to play such dishonest games to get a job.
Georgie continues as if he hasn’t heard. “I mean, who likes their job? She’s so fucking happy all the time. Happy and fulfilled. That’s Margaret. It makes me sick.”
(Does it make you sick, Ben? Is that what makes you sick?
Shut up, Dr C. This is my story, see?)
“Yeah, I see what you mean,” Ben says.
For a long time, they stay—leaning against the limo and staring out at the desert.
“So you’re seeing someone else now?” Ben sniffs and spits softly from the side of his lips.
“Y-yeah. Kind of,” Georgie says. He kicks at a tumbleweed that has embedded itself in the back tire of the limo. “My neighbor. Claudia.”
Ben whistles and nods. “Nice,” he says.
“Yeah?” Georgie sneaks a look at him. “Yeah, she’s all right. She’s so clingy, though, you know? I’m thinking about calling it quits.”
“Hmm,” Ben mutters, holding back a cough. “Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out,” he says.
A few hours later, the limo pulls up in front of Georgie’s bungalow.
Ben opens Georgie’s door.
“See you later,” he says.
Georgie gives a half-hearted wave as he unlocks the front door and walks in. The door closes behind him, and he is alone again.
Georgie glances at his answering machine; it sits silent and dark. He presses the play button anyway.
“You have no new messages,” the machine chimes.
Georgie turns the shower on and proceeds to shuffle around his filthy living room in the near twilight.
The room is an overkill of every fancy modernization, every electronic doodad, and every entertainment gadget he could possibly squeeze in. There are photos and drawings framed across the walls of every past girlfriend. The bookshelves boast awards, trophies, and posters from his travels. There are seriously intellectual books—endless piles of them—most of them in three copies. His video and music collections feature an equivalent overabundance.
He owns an absurd assortment of things. Sketches and notes are left lying around, some only half-complete. His drawings and paintings are scattered, unfinished, but still indicative of brilliance.
Then, there are the graph paper illustrations; intricate designs clearly drawn with some vague purpose. It’s obvious that Georgie has a strong mind, maybe too strong for his own good. He also has an exorbitant number of projects in process—arbitrary projects, redundant and grandiose.
The elements of his house, although artistic, are placed according to obscure mathematical relationships. Everything somehow corresponds. Quantum physics material is neatly clustered, labeled, and placed with the complementary videos and books; an MC Escher print hangs in close proximity.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) The valuing of form over function, image over substance in modern society, the fact that Albert Einstein would likely have a hard time getting a job himself if he were alive today due to his messy hair and wore ratty clothing.
Similarly, his stationary bike is surrounded by trophies, workout tapes, sports magazines, and signed baseballs.
The metal ceiling fan reflects light while it spins slowly above the bike. Georgie peeks out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Claudia. He rushes over and crouches by the curtains when he hears the door to her house open and close. He wonders if she notices him watching, and wonders whether she counts on the fact that he stares, still waiting. Waiting for her. Waiting for something.
Maybe she is showering. Maybe she has forgotten her towel and will have to walk through the living room naked.
He thinks of sucking on her hooker-blue toenails. They taste like candy.
She is not home. Her house sits empty and dark.
Georgie returns to the running shower, which is now steaming.
He daydreams in the shower, even when the soap falls. He doesn’t wash his hair today, remembering someone somewhere once told him: You never look your best when you meet the one you’ve been waiting for your entire life. You are never completely prepared for that.
Georgie resolves to never be fully prepared.
“No sex. Love,” Georgie mutters in the shower. “She must’ve thought of me as the friendly type. That’s fine. I’m used to it.”
He picks up the bar of soap, runs it over his hair, and rinses out the suds.
“I enjoyed myself, that’s all that matters.”
Georgie can see God laughing at him, taking delight in Claudia’s orchestration of him, that day. That one day, that one eternal day she and he met. The day they were together.
A pensive pause. An epiphany.
“I’ll call it personal growth,” he tells the walls of the shower. “I’ll never hear from Claudia, ever again.”
He runs the bar of soap over his hair and rinses out the suds, forgetting he already has.
“My mind ran wild with quiet confusion. It soothed the senses. I could wake up tomorrow, thinking about that day, and the next day about today,” he mutters. “While I’m in love, I stop writing, for the most part. I know it won’t last forever. I’m in love: I scoff at the thought. Me? In love? In love with Claudia? Me? In love with Claudia . . . .”
Georgie’s alarm clock is set for 10:00 am. It blares and blares. He dreams of fires, and sirens. He tosses and turns.
Eventually, the bright white light of the afternoon light shines through his blinds.
Georgie crawls out of bed. The clock mocks him. It’s 2:00 pm.
Georgie shuffles into the kitchen. He’s a wreck. He pulls a mug from the sink and inspects the inside.
Not too bad, he thinks, again. Just a little grungy around the edges. Kind of like me.
Georgie mopes around and stares blankly. He can’t sleep. There’s no use sleeping, he thinks, when your every need is attended to. No use in resting when you never exert yourself.
For days on end he stares at the ceiling, at the wall-fan, at Claudia’s driveway and her empty windows.
It all boils down to nothing, and he leaves for the grocery store.
“Georgie!” Margaret calls, waving.
(Doesn’t this bitch ever go home?)
Briefly, Georgie thinks about leaving, racing out the doors and back home. Instead, he grumbles and plucks a jar of pickles from the shelf in front of him.
“Georgie,” she says again, rolling her cart up to his. “How are you doing?”
“Great. Just great,” he answers. “How’s everything with you?”
“Oh, the same,” she says. There is an awkward pause. Georgie scans the nutrition facts on the back of the pickle jar. Meanwhile, Margaret seems to be weighing whether it would be better to buy generic or go for the brand name.
“What do you think about the riots?” she finally says, at a loss.
Georgie examines an entire wall of mustard.
“The riots. On the news? I’m glad that it’s not on our side of town.”
“I don’t really watch the news.” Georgie replies.
“Oh.” Margaret looks stunned but only for a second.
“Well you should really look into it,” she says brightly. “The east side is getting so crowded now—unemployment, you know—and they’re starting to form crowds and . . . and you know they burned down the First Methodist Church, don’t you?”
Georgie shakes his head.
“You don’t! Georgie, you need to get up to speed. Like I said, who knows when this might start to affect our neighborhood.”
“Someone actually takes the time to think up this shite,” he mumbles, choosing the store brand Dijon.
“What? Well, yeah.” Margaret gives Georgie a searching glance.
He tries to appear normal.
“Anyway, it’s all about unemployment and the lack of services for the poor. Crime is through the roof now, on the east side, you know. There’s this whole Robin Hood mentality . . . .”
“She must’ve gotten off to it,” Georgie mumbles. “She just had to.”
Margaret searches his face. “Who?”
(Claudia . . . )
“What?” Georgie looks at her face. “What are you talking about?”
Margaret blinks. Once. Twice.
“Hey, Georgie, let’s get together sometime this week,” she suggests, a sympathetic, almost pitying look on her face.
“Yeah, yeah. Sure.” he agrees, thinking to himself it’ll never happen. He’ll pull his shades down, pretend he’s not home.
“I’ll drop by Wednesday,” insists Margaret. She pats his hand lightly. “You sure you’re doing okay?”
She smiles. Always with the smiling. Does she ever stop?
“Yeah, yeah. Great,” he replies, convincingly.
With that, she saunters off.
I went to the doctor’s office today. My doctor asked me, “Does anyone in your family suffer from insanity? I grinned and said, “No, we all enjoy it!”
Making it Count With Dr C
“Who is Margaret, really, Ben? Who is Claudia?” Dr C asks, crossing her slender legs. Her eyes are steady on me. She thinks she sees right through me, knows all my deepest, darkest secrets.
She doesn’t know the worst of them.
“Whaddaya mean, Dr C,” I tease her. “Margaret’s Margaret. Claudia’s Claudia.”
She nods and leans forward. “I know that. In Georgie’s world, that’s who they are. But who are they really, Ben? In your world.”
Dr C is going deep now. I can tell. Not that it will get her anywhere.
“They’re nothing in my world, Dr C. In my world, they don’t even exist. That’s the beauty of it, you see?”
Dr C sighs. She often wears that dreamy expression when attempting to connect to me on a human level. She leans further forward and her breasts are almost touching my knees.
Yeah, she has my attention now. Maybe I’m the one that gets to go deep this time, huh?
But no. Her holy nipples never make contact. Nor her feet, which I notice are decked out in those red sling-backs. She wants me, wants to seduce me. Tempting me like that. With her tits. Her feet.
“What I mean, Ben,” she says, “is do they represent people in your own life? Of all people, why does Georgie meet them? What does he need from them?”
“Why does anybody meet anybody, Dr C? It’s all damn fool luck, as far as I’m concerned.”
“What do you get out of it, Ben?” she says. It’s her attempt to redirect me, put the conversation back on track, back where she wants it.
“What?” I say.
“Out of knowing Georgie. Out of being Georgie. What do you get out of it?”
I stare at her for a moment, blinking nine times. Now she is acting like the crazy one. I may like to take a hop every now and then, may have a bit of a stutter, but even I do not believe that I chose Georgie any more than I believe he chose me.
“I appreciate the company?” I suggest.
Dr C shakes her head slow and heavy. She sighs. “You are not being very helpful, Ben,” she says.
There is a moment of silence between us.
“It’s not like I chose him, you know,” I say finally. There, Dr C. Have a gem.
“Huh?” she mutters, lifting her head slightly.
“Georgie. I didn’t wake up one day and decide: ‘Hey, you know what would be cool? Having an alter ego. I’ll make one up. Call him Georgie.’ It didn’t happen that way, Dr C.”
“Well, of course not, Ben. I would not dare suggest that you did this consciously.”
“What happened is: One day I woke up, and there he was. Right next to me. In bed. His head on the same goddamn pillow. I was him. He was me. And that was the end of that. Bam! Now we’re stuck with each other.”
“You’re right, Ben. I’m sorry.”
At this, I reel back. The chair I’m in doesn’t have wheels. It tips back and falls over, with me along for the ride.
The pain doesn’t bother me so much. Not so much as hearing those words from her mouth.
“Uh, what?” I say from the floor, rubbing my head. One, two, three times.
Maybe I misheard. Maybe it’s some sort of audio hallucination. Maybe it’s just the concussion, talking.
“I am sorry, Ben,” she repeats. “You’re right. It’s lousy of me to expect you’ll give me all the answers. I’m just tired, I suppose.”
“It’s o-okay,” I stutter. I lift myself back into the chair, keeping a constant eye on her.
“Why don’t you just pick up where you left off?” she prompts me, smiling, “We’ll figure it out sooner or later. Don’t you worry.”
I shrug. “Sure.”
I think my latest bouts with chronic insomnia are more a mental disorder than a medical disease of the body to be solved with meds. Likely caused by my other conditions, yet appearing to be a control issue—with control being determined by the mind.
Claudia Goes Deep
Later that night, it begins to rain. Georgie rushes to the window as he hears a car door slam outside Claudia’s house. He watches as she stomps to her front door with no regard for the wetness. She tears the door open and slams it shut behind her, then turns on every light in the house. He aches for a glimpse of her shadow to fall on the curtains.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) While getting packages out of the car, the car door swings back and swats you on the rump.
Her figure pauses, standing still for a moment. Then she’s back out the door.
Georgie stares as she stomps back to her car. His groin tightens as she turns up the sidewalk and then . . . up his driveway. His driveway.
He looks around frantically, grabs a handful of wrappers from the coffee table, and shoves them in his pocket. He paces once, twice. The wreck of his life is too bright, too visible, to anyone who comes through the front door. He turns off the overhead light.
Claudia’s fist pounds on the front door.
He opens the door wide.
“You wouldn’t believe the piece of shite day I’ve had.” She barges through the open door, shucking off her wet jacket and handing it to him.
“Yeah?” Georgie asks. He drops her jacket onto a chair by the door.
Claudia sways and barely catches herself with a hand on his sofa.
“Can I sit?” She doesn’t seem to notice the squalor.
“Yeah, yeah.” Georgie moves a pile of papers and books from one end of the sofa to the other. Claudia collapses into the cushions. Her eyes briefly close.
“Um, are you thirsty?” Georgie asks.
“You got any vodka?” Her voice already slurred.
“Kahlua,” he answers.
Quickly, Georgie pulls a dirty glass from the sink, wipes it with a wet paper towel, and fills it with ice cubes and Kahlua.
“Here” He hands it to her. She smiles and takes a long, slow sip.
“A little dark in here, isn’t it?” she says slowly.
Georgie looks around. If he turns on the main light, she’ll see the true depth of his slovenliness. Instead, he lights a few candle stubs on the coffee table.
“I lost my job today,” she ultimately confesses. “Those fucking bastards fired me.”
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Resume bullshite. I write, “I coordinated all company communications,” when all I did was answer the phones.
Georgie racks his brains, trying to remember how normal people respond to a crisis. (Normal? Who’s normal?)
“I’m sorry,” he says, after a long pause, trying to sympathize.
(That’s what normal people do, right? They sympathize.)
“What happened?” he asks.
“Those motherfuckers.” She gulps the Kahlua and looks around the room. She’s distracted, Georgie decides. That’s all. Just distracted.
“I shouldn’t have fucked him,” she says. “Greg. In case you’re wondering. That’s who I shouldn’t have fucked. It’s just like my dad always said, ‘Don’t shite where you eat.’ But who listens to their father? Jesus.”
“Oh,” Georgie says, as bile rises in his throat at the thought of her with another man. His penis jerks a little, a cock tic. “Who’s Greg?”
“Greg was my co-worker; my boss, actually. At the clinic. Fucking pig. He was married, you know, but I didn’t care. I mean it was sex. Just sex. Fucking. I couldn’t have cared less ’about him or his bitch of a wife—””
Georgie interrupts. “Which clinic?”
Claudia looks at him quizzically. “Mt Shasta,” she says. “I’m a paramedic.”
“Oh, good,” Georgie says, and then snaps his mouth shut.
(At least it’s not . . .
Not what, Ben?
You’ll see, you’ll see . . . )
She shrugs. “Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. But when I broke it off with him and Sara—”
Again Georgie interrupts. “Who’s Sara?”
“His wife,” Claudia says. “I was doing them both, actually. It was fun.”
Georgie’s mind reels. A married man and his wife? This woman is a mess. She sits there on his couch in all her mascara-streaked glory, her wild hair curling in a scarlet halo—sits there, in her perverted glory, her sexual freedom, her misery. Her overripe breasts sag just like the couch.
She’s perfect, Georgie thinks.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Jobs that are a professional appearance, but don’t pay a professional salary to go with it—especially for young girls.
“Anyway, when it all blew up, when it all got . . . personal . . . they fired me. He fucking fired me!” She picks up a drawing from the pile of papers next to her and blows her nose into it. She crinkles up the precious thing—the fragile child of Georgie’s genius, now covered in her snot—and throws it across the room.
(Perfect . . . )
“Sounds like a creep,” Georgie says, in what he hopes is a sage tone. “It’s probably a good thing you don’t work for him anymore.”
Claudia laughs, a tad hysterically. “Sure. That makes sense.”
She lifts the Kahlua to her mouth and drinks deep. She sighs and relaxes into the sofa.
“I just want to hurt him,” she says softly. “Punch him in the face, slice up his arm, his junk. Make him crawl naked on glass, cut him. Make him bleed. Then he’d know how I feel!” She kicks the coffee table, hard. The corner of it lifts high and the candles and a stack of papers go flying. One of the candles lands on a stack of paper and hisses out. The other lands on Georgie’s lap.
“Ow!” he howls, standing and shaking the hot wax from his groin in the suddenly dark room. His heart pounds with the jolt of fear and adrenaline rushes through his veins. His cock jerks slightly.
“Oh shite, oh shite, I’m so sorry,” Claudia says. She slides to her knees in front of him, wiping at the crotch of his pants with her hands, clumsily fumbling.
They’re lit only by the scanty moonlight that shines through the clouds. Georgie thinks he can see her blush.
“Shite. Are you okay?”
Georgie nods, then smiles. (Bliss.) That rush was just what he needed, somehow.
Claudia can’t know that, of course. And in the darkness she can’t see him smiling.
“That hurt!” he says, crossing his arms in front of his chest and frowning down at her, wanting to see her squirm.
She looks abashed, sorrowful. “I’m sorry!”
Georgie’s dick stands at attention to hear her sorrow.
She is perfect in her misery.
Why do I like her best this way? he wonders. What kind of sicko prefers to see a woman cry?
(That’s a good question, Ben.
It’s not me, Dr C. It’s Georgie, see?)
Georgie is struck suddenly by (what he thinks is) the greatest idea of his life. He sits down next to Claudia, his thigh hot up against hers. Then he leans over and kisses her softly on the mouth.
She returns the kiss with feeling.
Georgie breaks it off. They stare at each other a minute.
“That felt kind of good,” Claudia admits quietly. “When I burned you. You’re not Greg, but . . . it felt kind of good, anyway. Is that sick or what?”
Georgie laughs to himself.
“I’ve got an idea,” he says. “It might sound crazy at first but just hear me out. You’re out of a job, now. You’ve got bills to pay. And me? Well, I need someone . . . someone like you.”
He smiles again, his face almost invisible in the darkness.
When Claudia wakes up the next morning, the sun shines brightly through Georgie’s slatted blinds. She reaches out her hand to the empty space beside her then sits up. Georgie is gone.
She blinks her eyes once, twice. Then she looks at the nightstand as her eyes widen slightly.
The clock reads: 9:00 am.
There is a high stack of hundred dollar bills beside it.
(Where’s Georgie, Ben?
I don’t know, Dr C. Can’t a guy have a little privacy?)
And next to the money, a note on lined paper. Folded. Once. Twice. Three times. Claudia pulls at it, pulls at the note.
It is so bright in the light of day that she can hardly read it. She leans back into the pillow and holds the note above her head, making a shadow on the page.
Dear Claudia, (the note reads)
As per our agreement last night, here is your weekly allowance.
Claudia thumbs through the stack of hundreds, counting out a full 10. She smiles. Then she returns her attention to the note.
There are, of course, a few vital stipulations:
1. Thou shall not have sexual relationships with anyone but me.
2. Real money must be exchanged for any and all favors.
3. Failure to comply with the above shall result in double pay or loss of job.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Pay cuts.
This discreet contract will never expire, until death.
Claudia frowns as she looks at the note, then glances over at the wad of cash that has slumped slightly against her leg. She grabs the cash, thumbing through it once again. Then she crumples up the note and throws it in the trash.
Marking third day of insomnia, this condition has a mind of its own as a third party, influencing my own authenticity and reality & perhaps of our own individual colorful natures, as I see in my friends. In “confession” of mania, flitting feelings of spontaneous confessional prose spewing like Jack Kerouac writing On the Road, or as Carrie Fisher described her feeling as if a “light bulb in a world of moths,” regardless of today’s work and stresses, I continue my commitment to doing what I feel, and keeping it real, and in the now. My commitment to self: to stay in the heart of my heart, where all the healing and wholeness resides, and to remain just as I am; myself. This rare mental health condition I’m presented with often fascinates me incredibly; the mental challenges often faced & overcome. To seize the day again, in lieu of feeling guilt, apology or uncertainty for yesterday—the past, nor to anticipate tomorrow, in confession of such inspiration having derived from a product of stress & over-work . . . I move forward. I move ahead.
Ah, What a Comfy Web They Weave . . .
Georgie and Claudia get right to business. Claudia comes over later that week, with a pair of handcuffs, a feather duster, a roll of duct tape, and a waxing kit. She clinks the handcuffs together mischievously.
“Hey there, Georgie Gust,” she pouts and tips forward slightly, emphasizing her breasts. “Want to come play?”
Georgie nods his head mutely. It all looks pretty kitsch to him, but then Claudia is new at the whole torture thing. In a way, she is now a virgin.
Georgie smiles up at her as she straddles him on the bed.
“What are you thinking, Mr Gust?” she says in mock shock. She closes the handcuff around one of his hands and loops the empty cuff through the holes in his headboard.
“That you’re a virgin,” Georgie says, wanting to share with her, to make an open forum. Like when he gave her his first pedicure. He wants it to be like that.
“Oh, hardly,” Claudia grins and locks the other handcuff into place. She slides off the bed and shimmies out of her too-tight jeans.
“Not s-sexually, I mean,” Georgie stutters. “Uh, an S&M virgin. A virgin torturer.”
“Oh, Georgie.” Claudia sinks to the side of the bed, checking the temperature of the hot wax with her hand. She smiles to find that it is right.
“This may be my first time with a pair of handcuffs . . . .” She places a hand over Georgie’s mouth as he smiles.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s my first time torturing someone.”
She slowly stuffs the feather duster into his mouth. The feathers soak up the moisture of his tongue and stick to the roof of his mouth. They flutter against the back of his throat, making him cough.
Georgie tries to protest the feathers, but all that comes out is an indistinct mumble and a frustrated moan. Clamping the feather duster down with her forearm, Claudia uses the duct tape to fix it onto his face.
“There, that should keep your gag reflex from getting in the way,” she purrs. “Isn’t that nice?”
Georgie rapidly shakes his head. His panic sets off another coughing fit; he chokes, coughs, and sneezes until he can’t open his eyes anymore because of the tears streaming from them, until his face is red with frustration.
“If you don’t calm down, you won’t enjoy the rest of this,” Claudia points out, pouting. She has a dipstick covered in the hot wax, letting it drip down onto Georgie’s stomach.
“Just hold your breath for a while,” she suggests.
He does as she asks, and eventually the feathers that tormented his tonsils are still. Georgie is now able to enjoy the feel of the warm wax as it drips onto him.
It’s not too hot at all, more like a warm bath. He swims in the wax, feeling it engulf him.
He thinks of it coating his whole body, spreading up from his toes and over his genitals, up to his belly button, armpits, then up over his face, running into his mouth and locking his tongue in place, and gluing his eyeballs to a fixed stare.
Then he would be dead, but forever existing.
They could prop him up in a wax museum.
He would be famous, and he would not even have to deal with the consequences. The people. Wanting him. Wanting to be with him, touch him, get his autograph.
Georgie indulges these fantasies as Claudia spreads the wax over him. She sings a little tune under her breath as she works. After a while, Georgie is able to entirely forget that the feather duster is in his mouth. He thinks about a little girl pointing to his waxen testicles and asking: “Mommy, what are those?”
“Those are peanuts, dear,” the mommy replies.
Fantasies only last so long, however, and Claudia is still spreading and spreading when Georgie runs out of imaginary material.
Georgie starts to wonder if Claudia doesn’t have what it takes to be his torturer. This wax stuff is not half bad. But it’s not bad enough.
Maybe Samantha, down on that place at Third Street, would be better. She gives one hell of a good foot smothering.
Then, Georgie receives a slight twinge of understanding. Claudia tugs at a bit of hardened wax down by his ankle. And it hurts. A little. The anticipation of greater pain gets him breathing faster. He almost inhales the feathers, almost chokes again.
“Better stay calm, Georgie dear,” Claudia reminds him.
She crouches over his body, holding herself just inches above him. Her nose is almost touching his, her breath is on his face.
“All women are torturers,” she snarls. “It’s in our nature.”
Without looking, she catches her nail where the wax stops at his collarbone and gives a swift yank.
“Gmma!” Georgie yells through a mouthful of feathers. Then he starts to cough again.
“We know exactly what it is you are afraid of,” she continues, ignoring him. “We know exactly how to hurt you.”
She tears off another small piece.
There are no strips! Georgie realizes. He doesn’t know much about waxing, not any more than the average male human, but he does know that strips are involved. And with no strips . . . she is going to have to pull off every inch of it by hand. Every round little inch.
Georgie stifles a groan, not wanting the feathers to act up again.
“Men may be stronger, Georgie,” Claudia concludes. “But women are the true inflictors of pain.”
She rips up a quarter-sized chunk of wax affixed to his nipple, and Georgie howls. The feathers dive down his throat. He chokes, coughing and yelling and cursing Claudia in the best way he can.
Oh, what a woman! Some part of his mind praises her.
Something seems to snap in Claudia. Her eyes are suddenly full of rage. “How does that feel, huh? Does it hurt?” She tears off piece after piece, faster and faster now, until it feels like Georgie’s entire torso is enflamed. She stops for a moment, gets back in his face.
“This is what women do to make themselves beautiful for you!” she screams at him, her face red and terrible. She tears off another piece, a dollar-coin sized piece right near his groin. “Am I beautiful enough for you, Georgie?”
She tears and tears at him, at the wax, not paying attention, not even caring where the wax ends and Georgie begins. His pores scream in pain. His skin is covered in thousands of tiny scratches and a few sizeable gouges from her ripping. He bleeds. It is horrible; he’s terrified. At the same time, a sense of peace flows over him. He feels detached from his own body, and watches safely from a distance.
He feels sorry for Claudia, who is clearly unhappy.
Feels a little ashamed for taking advantage of her unhappiness.
But only a little.
Mostly, he feels a blissful sort of numbness.
He wishes he could ejaculate, but his cock is encased in hard wax.
Finally, Claudia collapses over him, sobbing. Incoherent. Georgie steadies his breathing, wondering what comes next.
It’s almost half an hour before Claudia’s breathing slows, before her shuddering ceases. Then she looks up at him, with wide, illuminated irises. Her eyes are wet and glowing. She is beautiful.
“I’m tired of this,” she says. With a sniff, she stands and leaves the room.
She leaves Georgie tied to the bedpost, his legs and genitals hopelessly covered in wax, the feather duster taped securely in his mouth.
Huh, Georgie thinks as he watches her go. I wasn’t expecting that.
Only minutes later, Georgie realizes that his peanuts itch.
“Biiiiiiiitch!!!” he screams up from somewhere in his belly. He enunciates with his esophagus, so the whole neighborhood can hear and understand. Then he chokes and coughs, snorting and hiccupping and sobbing until exhaustion overcomes him and he passes out.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Hiccupping.
Claudia hears his final screams, his despair, his infinite pain.
The shitey thing about empathy, Claudia realizes, is that even when you’re torturing someone, you can feel it yourself.
Otherwise you wouldn’t know how good it works.
Claudia is not sure if she can handle this job. She loves the feel of Georgie’s pain, loves the preparation of it, loves his screams and the sense of vindication that it brings her.
But then there is the pain, too. Claudia’s not quite sure she can handle the pain.
When Georgie wakes up, he is free of the wax, feather duster, and handcuffs.
He has no idea how that could have happened. Well, he has three ideas:
Claudia might have pulled off the rest of the wax and his subconscious mind blocked it out.
Claudia might have drugged him so he wouldn’t feel pain and peeled away the wax.
Claudia might have melted the wax, somehow, and poured it into a bucket.
(Well which is it, Ben? Inquiring minds . . .
How am I supposed to know, Dr C? You think I’m psychic or something?)
After that night, Claudia disappears. For days, Georgie stalks her house, peeking through the blinds. But she is nowhere to be seen. He calls and leaves message after message—all left unreturned. A week passes.
Georgie leaves her allowance in the mailbox.
He’s afraid that maybe she took the first thousand and ran. Maybe she doesn’t want to play his game. This fear of rejection—the terror of another failed relationship, no matter how forced—fills him with a mixture of hatred for her, the power she has to make him ill, and a longing that feels a little bit like love.
(Have you ever been in love, Dr C?)
Fear and uncertainty give him a pain that sets him free, that fills him with delicious, slimy horror. He can’t get enough of the pain her disappearance brings him. If she abandoned him forever, he might slide deeper and deeper into the cold and empty abyss, the nothingness of self that echoes. Oh, perfectly, that everlasting moment of orgasm.
Although he is spying every moment, waiting for her, he doesn’t see the moment she comes, doesn’t see her remove the money. And yet it is gone the next day.
Georgie smiles to himself. A feeling even better than pain flushes through his veins.
It is triumph.
Soon after the money mysteriously disappears from the mailbox, Claudia begins to show up at her house now and then. Still, she doesn’t return his calls, or come to visit, or write any notes to him. But he knows that she is there, sometimes, and she knows that he knows.
This is a new kind of torture, a new delicious pain. He knows she is still playing. The question now is not “if” but “when.” And as the days drag on, Georgie becomes increasingly impatient. He makes a permanent camp in the living room, keeping everything necessary for survival next to the window, within reach of his hands. He lives for glimpses of Claudia through the blinds. Sometimes, in the dark, he imagines her naked, thinks of the softness of her sagging breasts falling to either side of her chest as she sleeps.
As the days go by with no Claudia showing up, Georgie begins to run out of food. He makes runs to the kitchen to refill his water, but when the cupboards are bare he forgets the water too, and sits and sits, watching. Slowly, he begins to starve, dehydrate, melt away into the air. He feels his skin slowly tightening around him, feels the water leaving his body to feed the atmosphere. He sighs, waiting and waiting for Claudia to show up.
Eventually, Georgie becomes too weak to leave money for her in the mailbox. He slumps against the windowpane, his gaze propped up only by his nose at the sill.
The next day, there’s a knock at his door.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Door-to-door salespeople.
Georgie swivels his gaze to the door, knowing somehow, just knowing that it is Claudia. But there’s no need to answer it, he thinks to himself. She’ll come to me.
Then the door is silent, and Georgie feels a sustained moment of terror. That was my chance, that was my only chance, and I blew it.
She’s gone now, gone forever.
And I can’t lift a finger.
The terror is replaced with a sense of bliss, the orgasmic nothingness of despair. Georgie melts into it, happy to disappear. God takes pleasure in this. Claudia will not miss Georgie, not his orchestration or his loving, playful orders. She’ll enjoy her freedom. It is best.
The knock comes again at his door, louder and more insistent. Georgie realizes that it has awakened him from sleep. He has fallen to a heap on the floor, lacking the energy to even prop his nostrils at the windowsill.
He thinks for a moment about answering the door. He decides that he likes the numbness better. His ear sags down to the floor.
The door is pounding, shaking under the power of Claudia’s fist.
“Georgie, I know you’re in there!” she yells. “I know you’re in there!”
Georgie flashes back to Ben’s mother, to her voice feather-light in the dark doorway of Ben’s childhood bedroom.
“I know you’re in there,” Ben’s mother whispers. Georgie shivers.
“I know you’re in there, Benjy . . . .”
A crash of glass and Georgie screams, his voice high like a little girl’s. He feels the last bit of life in him leave with that scream. It sounds like a whisper amid the tinkling of glass all around him.
“Damnit, Georgie, what did you think you were doing?” Claudia mutters. She hoists him in her arms.
He is thin, starved, emaciated, jaundiced, and sleep-deprived. Un-showered, swollen boils and pustules adorn his thighs; he has been too exhausted to pop them. His semen-crusted pubes show a history of careless masturbation.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Dieting.
“Poor little Georgie!” murmurs Claudia. “My little paranoid poopsy. I can smell you rotting away!”
He is like a child in her arms, although she never had one. A child, that is . . . .
Georgie awakens in the white sterility of a hospital bedroom. He screams, closing his eyes. His shout is loud, clear, and resounding.
“Georgie!” Claudia cries. She has been sitting next to his bed.
Well, isn’t that sweet? some part of his brain snarls.
“What the fuck?” Georgie sits up straight in bed and then collapses backward. A nurse pokes her head into the room.
“Get me the fuck out of here!” Georgie yells, his eyes bulging. The nurse’s head withdraws, and she scurries away.
“Georgie, calm down,” Claudia tries to shush him. “You’re in the hospital. You almost died. You’ll be all right. Maybe in a day or two.”
Georgie looks at the tangle of cords, ignoring Claudia.
“Why didn’t you eat, or buy any food or anything, Georgie?” she asks.
Georgie can see from her face that she knows the answer. She wants it not to be her fault.
Fuck that shite.
Without her guilt, her repentance, this whole arrangement would be nothing better than the fetish houses he used to attend.
And at least at the houses there is a bit of variety.
He finds the clamp on his finger that measures his pulse and rips it off. He smiles sweetly as the blip-blip of the heart monitor begins to sing like a siren.
Nurses, doctors, oxygen therapists rush into the room. They glare at Georgie’s sweet smile.
“Get me the fuck out of here,” he tells them. “I will pay to have all of this moved to my house. See her?” He gestures to Claudia with an evil glare. “She’s my live-in caretaker.”
Claudia’s eyes bulge, but she dares not refute him.
“I’m a paramedic,” she explains. “Mt Shasta—”
The nurses sniff their disapproval, but the doctor eventually approves the arrangement. Claudia can’t help but notice how much thicker the doctor’s front pocket seems after his interview with Georgie.
Despite all his problems, Georgie can be very persuasive.
Hours later, Georgie is nestled snugly in his home, surrounded by wires and monitors. His heart rate beeps pleasantly. Claudia is dressed in a sexy nurse’s uniform, tending to his every whim. For the occasion, she has moved into the room next to his. Just until his health returns, of course.
Once the hospital realized who he was, whose son he was, it seemed they could not get rid of Georgie fast enough. It helped that Georgie pulled a wad of hundreds out of his wallet—a wallet thicker than Claudia’s wrist.
“You look good in that,” Georgie leers, as Claudia leans over to place a tray of food on his lap. The heart rate monitor speeds up slightly.
“Why, thank you,” Claudia simpers. She doesn’t really mind the situation, and she likes the way the outfit shows off her figure.
Lunch served, Claudia sits in the chair beside Georgie’s bed and crosses her legs, showing her bare thighs, visible through the slits on each side of her skirt. Freckles dotting her legs smile at him through the slits, teasing/inviting him. Her skin wrinkles slightly—just enough.
“Mind if I smoke?” she asks, already pulling the pack out of her purse.
“Does it matter?” Georgie reminds her.
She assesses him carefully, shrugs, and then lights a slim cigarette. She exhales into his face.
Georgie coughs, feeling a faint rush of happiness at his discomfort.
Claudia smiles a Mona Lisa smile, even though she feels momentary doubt when she sees Georgie cough. Part of her doesn’t like to see his discomfort, but a larger part wants to hurt him and all men forever and ever (amen)—to twist him and grind him into a pitiful nothingness.
His evident pleasure reassures her that what she has done is good.
It’s good for me, good for both of us, she reminds herself.
“You know what I like about taking care of you here?” she asks, smiling wickedly.
“What?” Georgie asks.
Her eyebrows raise, innocent. “The fact that we’re alone,” she says. Then slowly she drops her hand and grinds her cigarette butt into his arm. Georgie screams. She closes her eyes to pull his pain closer to her. She gives one last twist, feeling the ember crush into empty ash.
Claudia leans back in her chair as Georgie slumps into his pillows. She takes a few deep breaths then feels for his pulse.
His heart is still strong, despite all that he has been through.
Claudia lays herself down at Georgie’s side, closing her eyes. Just for a minute . . . .
It is exhausting, taking care of Georgie. She is not just his nurse, after all. She is also his torturer—his personal trainer in pain. She has to ensure she gives him that high he craves and satisfy her own perverse longings; all the while she must be certain it’s not too much for him right now. His heart must remain stable, and his body can’t go into shock.
The situation requires her to summon all her knowledge as a paramedic and then to go entirely against her training.
She wonders if Georgie took into consideration her medical training when he decided to choose her for his torturer. It would be handy to have a professional on hand, someone who understood the limits of the human body.
She doubts it. It is much more likely that her body, her face, her unique situation made her far more qualified in Georgie’s mind than any medical experience would.
“You’re one lucky son of a bitch, picking me,” Claudia whispers to him gently. “Any other bimbo would have killed you already, or have just taken the money and run.”
Claudia breathes deeply and evenly, comforted by the sound of Georgie’s heartbeat.
In a little while she will get back to work. But not just yet . . . .
“Georgie,” Claudia whispers. He opens his eyes to see her crouched above him like a predatory animal. The buttons of her uniform are open; her simple, pink nipples loom over his forehead.
“Ah, there you are,” she says quietly. She reaches down between his legs and strokes the bulge in his pants. She smiles. “Right there?”
He lifts his arm weakly; the wires drag him back down.
“It’s all right, it’s all right,” she shushes him. With a small smile, she puts her hands on his arms, pinning him down beneath her. She kisses him full on the mouth, nibbling at his lips and drawing a little blood. Georgie moans in ecstasy.
With fingers like fire ants, Claudia unzips Georgie’s pants. She fumbles his stiffening man dagger away from the hot swamp of his crotch. She pinches the soft skin of his balls with her fingernails.
Georgie cries out in pain and joy. He lifts his head and then, with a sigh, leans back into the pillow.
“That’s good,” he says.
“I thought you’d like that,” Claudia murmurs. She pinches him again, harder. Tears ball up in the corners of his eyes.
When his lids flutter open again, Claudia slowly strips out of her nurse’s uniform. Her breasts sag easily against her chest, enticing him. Her skin is pink, spotted with freckles and pores, covered in long, thin, shimmery red hairs. Her carpet matches the drapes, a wild, orange-red, waving him in. His dick is full of blood, thick with it. He thinks it might burst open at any minute.
Georgie sees her red, dangling lips that glisten, wet for him. He strains for her.
“Condoms. In the drawer,” he gasps.
Claudia laughs low, almost purring. “Hm?” she says, pressing herself up against him.
“No!” Georgie moans. “The condoms. Please. God, please.”
Claudia slowly, inexorably, sinks his shaft inside herself.
“Please?” he whimpers.
“Oh, no,” she shushes him. “You don’t get it that easy.”
Georgie realizes this is part of the game. She is torturing him with contact, invading his sterile existence. What if she gets pregnant? Gets pregnant? Pregnant? Something screams inside him as she pushes against him, deeper and deeper. There is no protection between them, no safe place. If a child results from her torture, she doesn’t care.
The fear of this possibility, of her not caring, of the risk—real risk—rises up in him and bursts.
“Yeeeaah?” he murmurs as he comes inside her, hard. She laughs at him. And for a moment, Georgie feels it—that sweet, endless bliss he has been searching for. He laughs along with her, pulling her face down with his plugged-in arms.
Maybe this is it, Georgie thinks. Maybe this is all I’ve been looking for.
I could get used to this.
I’m a narcissist. Many have pointed this out and I’ve assumed as such years ago, I am aware of my narcissism. “Charming, loveable, inspiring,” also, might I add, and I (I-I-I-!!!) often joke about it (or feel guilty about it) but knowing that part of the definition of narcissism is one with no self-esteem (because technically one can’t have low or high levels of self-esteem—one either has self-esteem, or not, as I see and know self-esteem). It’s not intentional. It’s perhaps the “Sheldon Cooper” in me, from The Big Bang Theory on TV. Zooey Deschanel’s sister, Emily Deschanel, in the show Bones, as well. Many say I remind them of her character, Dr Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan, too. Like with my inability to pick up social cues and the like. I think everyone has a bit of narcissism in them. I’m referring to Asperger’s Syndrome, rather autism—as per the changes made in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)--at least as I’ve heard, though I remain unsure. I haven’t read it. Autism is one of my diagnoses I’ve collected over the years, yet I don’t mention much of it, generally because within the Schizophrenic and affective, or mood spectrum involving about a baker’s dozen of Axis I diagnoses per the DSM-4—ugh, just that it all makes me quite a rare case. The doctors all love me because I am “the most interesting person” they’ve ever met, they say. At least my Tourette’s has become emotionally secondary these days. As a boy, that was tough, man. But alas, here I stand!
Practice Makes Perfect
After that one, pure, perfect moment, Claudia disappears again. The first day, Georgie wanders around aimlessly, wanting her back. The second day he checks the cupboards and realizes he needs to buy food.
Georgie weakly rolls his cart down the aisle at the grocery store, leaning against the bar and shuffling along. He wonders how Claudia could leave him when he is still so weak.
He could die.
If he died, how would she get her money? She is smart enough to know that.
He smiles. Sure, she’s smart enough—smart enough to know that he would get back on his feet, if only to crawl back for more.
Georgie briefly considers dying, if only to prove her wrong.
Then he smiles and tosses a few cans of pineapple rings into his cart.
That would be too easy.
Georgie bumps into Margaret on his way out of the store. Their eyes both widen.
“Georgie!” Margaret says.
Georgie keeps walking, his head twisting as he passes her. “Uh, hey. I’m, uh . . .”
Margaret frowns. “Yeah, sure. See you some other time, then.”
Georgie nods. “Later.”
And then he’s gone.
Claudia places herself softly in the shadow of a street kiosk. The clock on her cell phone reads 2:30 pm. It has been over a day since Georgie last left his house. She knows he will need some smokes soon. She stands in the corner of the kiosk, smoking a slim and watching passersby purchase magazines, cigs, and candy.
Just as she has finished smoking her first slim down to the filter, Georgie approaches the counter. With a grin, Claudia crushes the stub beneath her shiny red sling-backs.
The clerk behind the counter hands Georgie his regular smokes. Without a word, Georgie nods and leaves a fistful of cash on the counter (way more than they are worth), and then turns. Claudia sidles up behind him.
“Fancy meeting you here,” she whispers in his ear. She savors a momentary thrill as he stiffens. His quick gasp is music to her.
“Claudia . . .” he breathes. He turns around.
Claudia takes a step back, smiling at him, just out of arm’s reach.
“I feel like we’re drifting apart,” she pouts. “I don’t want us to become indifferent to each other.”
Georgie grins, knowing her game too well already.
“I’ll call you, tomorrow.” Claudia smiles and winks at him. Then, with a whiff of perfume and stale cigarette smoke, she drifts back into the shadow of the kiosk, and Georgie is alone in the bright daylight of the street.
The day passes without a call from Claudia. Georgie paces, checking the windows. He sits on his front porch, smoking and watching her house. He builds his 10 shots of espresso and gulps them down until . . .
Night falls and he is a wraith, flitting from one window to the next. For a moment, it appears that a light glimmers deep within Claudia’s home. But then he blinks, and it is gone.
The next day, Georgie’s alarm blares at the usual time. He slams a hand down on the ever-screeching timepiece. Morning light streams through the white blinds, splashing on his dark and dirty carpet.
When Georgie finally sits up, he blinks. The clock alarm flashes 12:00 pm. Georgie moves the blinds slightly and peers out at Claudia’s house. This is now part of his morning ritual—to see if she is home, to see if she came home, to see if she has left home. Not knowing where she is, that is a sweet torture indeed.
Her car is parked out front.
He looks down at his limp dick: soft and sagging between his flat, resting testes.
Then, Georgie does something entirely uncharacteristic.
He gets out of bed.
He staggers through the lonely house. As he walks past the bathroom he decides to turn the shower on as hot as possible. The still-hot coffee, freshly percolated from earlier that morning, speaks to him.
Georgie looks around the wreck of the room—its counters scattered with broken glass and spilled coffee, the floor covered in bits of food and blue mold.
He turns and walks out, past the bathroom, which billows steam from the running shower. With bare feet, he advances to the front door. Steam pours out behind him as he goes.
Georgie stalks across the grass that separates their two homes, not caring that someone might see him violating the unspoken rule about using sidewalks.
She has upset his whole existence. He may as well upset her lawn.
Georgie pounds on the front door of Claudia’s house, knowing she is inside. He is tired of the hold she has on him, tired of the games. Ever since that moment with her, after he came back to from the hospital. Ever since that moment of pure ecstasy, of unadulterated orgasm—he wants just her. He wants her with him all the time. This avoidance-torture is bullshite, it’s like he is paying her for what she usually does anyway, and, even worse, it no longer gets him quite as high.
“This isn’t what I paid for,” he snarls, as she opens the door. Her eyes widen in surprise. “I could pay anyone to avoid me. Most people do it for free.”
For a moment, Claudia looks frightened. Then she laughs. “Drives you crazy, doesn’t it?”
“That’s not the point,” Georgie mutters.
Claudia shrugs playfully. “I’m making lunch. Would you like to come in?” she says, turning and waving. She walks to the kitchen without waiting for his answer.
Georgie follows a moment later, leaving the front door swinging open behind him.
Claudia’s kitchen glows with yellow light; it is clean but cluttered. The smell of fresh food entices Georgie to step further.
The coils of the gas-burning stove glow orange beneath a flat pan, on which Claudia is frying a sandwich.
“Would you like one?” she gestures politely.
Georgie shakes his head.
Claudia shrugs and nudges the sandwich with her index finger. She flips it with a quick flash of fingertips.
Georgie is amazed at her lack of fear. He winces when, a few minutes later, she pushes the sandwich onto a plate.
“Ouch!” she cries softly, as the skin of her finger grazes the hot pan. She sucks on the finger for a moment. Then she pulls it out of her mouth and, looking at it cross-eyed, blows. Her gaze flicks to Georgie for a moment. She smiles.
“Why don’t you give it a try?” she says slyly. She points at the pan with her burned finger. “Just a little touch.”
With a mixture of dread and elation, Georgie slowly brings his finger close to the hot pan. Searing pain blanks his mind, followed by blissful numbness. He pulls his finger off and runs it under the cold water of her sink. The burn throbs painfully, filling him.
“Owww,” he moans quietly.
“Not bad, eh?” Claudia insists.
Georgie nods, sucking on his finger. He looks at Claudia appraisingly, lingering his gaze over her hips and breasts.
“I know,” she says finally, grinning. “Why don’t you sit on it?”
Georgie looks at the hot pan. A final hiss of butter burns with a wisp of smoke from its black surface. He looks back at Claudia, thinking longingly.
“Do it,” she says. “Don’t make me make you.” She glares at him.
With one more wistful glance at Claudia, Georgie eases himself onto the hot pan. It seems only hot at first; it wobbles unsteadily beneath his pudgy bottom. Then, all of a sudden, it scorches him. With a yowl, Georgie leaps from the stove. The pan clangs to the ground behind him. Georgie feels the heat of the burn throb in his backside. He closes his eyes, waiting for the numbness and nothingness of pain to soothe his tormented soul.
“Georgie!” Claudia yells, pointing at the back of his pants. He twists, and realizes that the continued heat was not from the burn, but because his pants are on fire.
“Shite!” he screams. The flames lick up his pants, and threaten to wrap around his belt.
Georgie tugs and jerks at his pants until they crumple to the floor. He leaps away from them.
Given oxygen, the fire leaps higher.
“Jesus, Georgie!” Claudia screams. “Put it out!”
Georgie tries to pick up the burning pants and put them in the sink, but midway through the air the fire scorches his hand.
“Shite!” he yells again, throwing the fireball at the sink. It strikes the wall behind, and flames begin to climb quickly up the drapes.
“Georgie!” Claudia screams. “What are you doing?”
She runs to the pantry and grabs a small fire extinguisher. She stares at the directions on the extinguisher as the fire climbs up the drapes and begins to singe the wallpaper. The nearby cabinets begin to blacken—the laminate melts down in boiling drops that hiss as they land on the stainless steel sink. Claudia struggles with the extinguisher’s pin. Unsuccessful, she shoves the extinguisher into Georgie’s hands and takes a step away from the burning flames. Georgie looks at the extinguisher, trying to distinguish Step 1 from Step 3. The metal grows warm in his hands as the burning plastic of the laminate cabinets drips heavily onto the counter.
“My ass hurts,” he whimpers. He watches as the fire begins to eat away at the wall surrounding the windowsill.
Claudia takes another step backwards, her eyes wide and terrified.
With a squeal, she turns and runs for the front door. Georgie follows fast behind, the extinguisher still tight in his hand.
At the doorway, Claudia suddenly stops and Georgie crashes into her.
“My pictures,” she moans, and makes a move to run back inside.
Georgie stops her.
“Call the fire department,” he commands, finally abandoning the pain that swelters up and down his thighs and back.
Georgie realizes that he is not wearing any pants. He looks toward the street, where a small crowd of neighbors have gathered.
“What?” he yells at them, then realizes that his underwear is singed, his legs lobster-red. He turns to the street and roars in frustration.
“Call the goddamn police!” he screams, and they scatter.
“My cell phone’s inside!” Claudia wails, pulling at her hair. The smoke from the fire has begun to press heavily against her front windows now. Georgie glances at her, pleased with the smudge of smoke on her turned-up nose, and with the frantic, in-drawn terror of her brilliant green eyes. At this moment, he despises her for her idiocy, for her weakness in the face of this catastrophe. At this moment, she is perfect in her inadequacy.
Georgie pulls out the pin from the fire extinguisher with a confident jerk. He throws it on the grass, and scoffs.
“Use my phone,” he tells her, pointing at his house.
Without a word, she turns and races for his front door.
Georgie walks into Claudia’s burning house and stands in the doorway of the kitchen, watching as the room becomes one huge blaze. He aims the fire extinguisher at the cabinets and begins to spray; watching the white foam as it singes black spots into the fire that ignores it completely.
Like pissing down a well, Georgie thinks, and closes his eyes blissfully.
As the extinguisher runs out, the fire rages on. Georgie takes a step back from the flames, which have only grown hotter. The bulge builds in his shorts. Without warning, his huge cock peeks out between the soft flaps. It thrusts itself forward toward the flames. With a cry, Georgie erupts onto the damage he has caused. The semen spurts in short little gusts, which hiss and boil as they strike the hot floor.
Georgie takes another step back, beaten down by the scorching flames. Seeing there is no hope for the house now, his cum becomes an impossible stream, a pure, lasting orgasm that splashes wetly from the tip of his penis and dissolves into steam in the heat of the fire. Step by slow step, Georgie backs away from the fire, spewing constantly until he reaches the front doorway. The light from the midday sun warms his back, and his dick suddenly sags, lifeless. Georgie staggers backward a few more steps, an idiot grin on his face. With a drooling, gurgling sigh, he collapses backwards onto the lawn.
When the blaring red fire engines finally pull up in front of Claudia’s house, flames are flickering teasingly from the attic windows. Claudia is huddled over Georgie, whom she has dragged away from the front of the building after carefully tucking his limp dick back into his shorts.
“My God,” he mutters under his breath, his eyelids fluttering rapidly. “My God. Was it good for you?”
Claudia can’t help but think that Georgie is delusional.
“Not that great,” she mutters. She watches as the firefighters’ hoses do nothing against the roaring inferno that was once her home. “Shite. What am I going to do now?” she wonders out loud.
Georgie’s eyes open wide. He grins a slow grin.
“You can stay with me,” he says quite lucidly. Then he laughs, so quietly, and coughs the last bit of smoke from his lungs.
I’ve got to stop being unhappy with myself. I am perfect. I’ve got to stop wishing I looked like someone else. I’ve got to stop hating my body, my face, my personality, and my quirks. I should love them. Without these things, I wouldn’t be myself. Why would I want to be someone else? I’ve got to have confidence in who I am. If anyone hates me for being . . . myself, that’s their problem. I can’t let my happiness depend on others. I have to love who I am and be happy. Happiness is simple. Simple is difficult. I guess everybody has their own flaws and imperfections. That’s what makes us all special and beautiful. Therefore, to love what it is that makes me different must be the answer because I’m pretty amazing!
Claudia Moves In (Part II)
Claudia skips over to Georgie’s California bungalow. Her house is a charred pile, and the insurance company is balking at payment. It’s not the first time she has ever moved in with a guy, but it’s a step forward in her and Georgie’s relationship.
It’s not really a relationship, Claudia has to remind herself constantly. It’s an arrangement. A purely financial arrangement.
It is only going to last until the insurance money comes through on her house.
But that could take years, Claudia thinks, with a sly nod. Years . . . .
Georgie glances up slowly from his perch on the porch when Claudia crosses the lawn.
She is skipping—actually skipping.
She leaps up the front stairs with a single bound then spreads her arms above her head in a ‘V’ for victory.
Not bad, for a lady in her 40s, Georgie thinks. This bodes well on the prospects of their sex life.
“It’s just until the insurance comes through,” Georgie points out. “Nothing to get excited about.”
Claudia hangs her head, her mood crushed.
Hey, I thought I was the one supposed to be torturing you, Mr Georgie, she thinks.
She tries out an evil grin, and the look of shock on his face cements her instinct. Lesson number one learned: Never show Georgie your true feelings.
“I’m just thinking of all the fun we’re going to have,” she says, pouting at him.
Georgie shudders and gives a small smile of anticipation.
Claudia laughs. It was just the reaction she was hoping for.
Asking Claudia to move in was probably the best, and worst, decision of his life. Georgie ponders this epiphany as she plucks the hair from his forearms, one by one, with a pair of tweezers. It was the best decision because now she can’t torture him with her absence, which anyone—and everyone—could do. Now, Georgie feels like he is getting what he pays for. And maybe even a little extra.
However, it’s the worst decision because he has to see every side of her now. Sometimes she is happy or silly, even though he can tell she tries very hard to be neither of those things when he is watching. Still, no one is perfect. Seeing Claudia in a pleasant mood, in a celebratory mood, kills for Georgie the little sadomasochistic fantasy he is trying to live out with her. It’s a buzz kill, is what it is.
Georgie has the chance to examine Claudia from all angles, now. He knows about the tiny wrinkles on the underside of her butt cheeks. He knows about the shining yellow earwax that adorns the outer rim of her ear canal. He knows the yellow glow of the whites of her eyes, and the myriad arteries that grace them.
In short, he knows too much. Much too much.
On the plus side, Georgie gets to torture Claudia a little, too. After all, she is living under his roof. And it is in his nature to do so.
“Hey Claudia, you want to get me a glass of water?” he says lazily one afternoon.
“Do I look like your damn housemaid?” she fires back in reply.
“No . . . although you are on the payroll,” Georgie muses. “Unless you’d rather not be?”
Claudia slams shut the book she was reading and stands up. She glares at the back of his head. Georgie is not exactly sure how he knows this, but he does. Claudia stomps into the kitchen, muttering. When she returns, she is holding a tall glass of water. She holds it high above him, presenting it to him like a bottle of wine. Georgie nods, smirking.
With an expression that echoes the contempt of his, Claudia pours the water into his lap.
It is scalding hot. Georgie howls with pain (and pleasure).
“Bitch!” he yells. “Ah . . . !” He sucks air in through his teeth.
Claudia’s smile falters slightly. He can see he has an opportunity.
“My balls,” Georgie groans. “Damn it . . . I think . . . Ow!” he screeches. “Damnit, Claudia, you burned my nut sack! Shite!” He bends over his crotch protectively.
“Oh God, Georgie—are you okay? I didn’t think ”. . . ,” she sputters.
“Ah. Ah!” Georgie yells. “I might never have an erection again. What if you broke it? Fuck!”
Claudia is crying now, really scared. “Georgie, I didn’t know,” she sobs. “You’ve got to believe me. I wouldn’t have done it if I knew. God, it was such a stupid, petty thing to do. Stupid. Georgie, I’m so sorry.” Tears pour down her cheeks. “Please, please forgive me,” she begs him.
“Eh, it’s probably nothing,” Georgie says simply, and sits back in his chair. He smirks in her direction once again.
Claudia rocks back on her heels, shocked, as she realizes she’s been duped.
Lesson number two, she thinks. Never believe a thing that Georgie says.
For days, Claudia mopes around Georgie’s house. At first, she was excited to move in with him. Now, there is no excitement left. Just drudgery. For one thing, neither she nor Georgie have a job. The closest thing Claudia has to a job is the perpetual torment of Georgie. This was easy when she could do so by absenting herself. But at this point, living with him, she has nowhere else to go. She has to actually . . . do stuff.
Claudia drifts into the kitchen, which she has managed to scrub to a pleasing, sterile shine. The appliances glint miraculously. Yet, when she opens the refrigerator, all that greets her is ketchup and steak sauce, a pizza box with one dry slice left, three beers in an ancient 12-pack, and a sadomasochistic porno mag.
She picks up the pizza slice, leaving the empty box, and grabs a beer. Thinking twice, she nips the S&M magazine off the middle shelf, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to get a few new ideas. Georgie seems pretty tired of the cigarette burning and pinching bit—he may even have left the magazine in the refrigerator for her to find. Or absentmindedly set it down and forgot it. Or, for some unknown reason, decided that porn belongs in the refrigerator. With Georgie, it is impossible to know.
Georgie enters the room just as she is leaving, and they both avoid each other’s gaze. For the last several days, they have been floating around like this, pretending to be invisible. It is easier, somehow, easier than reconciling her paycheck with the attachment that would otherwise grow between them.
That has been growing, whether we like it or not.
She slides past him in the doorway, looking down at the molding that lines the hall floor. Keeping her eyes on her toes, she walks up the stairs to the red bedroom that she has made her own. She flops against the red and white gauze canopy bed, enjoying the sense of disorientation and dizziness that comes over her from days and days of nothing stacked together all in a row and begins to gnaw at the pizza.
Claudia flips through the magazine as she tears at the stale pizza with her teeth, looking at the pictures with a combination of loathing and embarrassment. When it comes down to it, the pictures are just funny—she wants to laugh. But when she thinks about actually trying the whip and thumbscrews, it makes her feel a little sick.
She licks the crumbs from her fingers and softens the last bit of dry crust in her throat with a long, cool gulp of beer. She laughs, softly, and tries to blink small tears from her eyes. She chugs half the beer and turns the page.
The face on the man in the next page makes her gasp for a moment, until she realizes that it is not Greg. Not really . . .
“Oh . . . .”
She moans in disappointment. She examines what he is doing, and finally notices the woman in the picture. They are twisted into crazy, deformed shapes—his face is marked with pain, hers crazed with triumph. The blood glistens so moistly on his skin that Claudia can almost hear it drip onto the hard wood floors.
Claudia polishes off the last of the beer, touching the picture lightly with her fingertips. With a flash, she sees herself as the girl in the picture, and Greg below her whimpering in pain and desire. She sees herself standing triumphantly over him . . . with a small moan she presses herself against the pillows, touching herself carefully, a small smile spreads across her face.
When she’s done, she tiptoes to the doorway, still naked.
Claudia’s voice is a chime that echoes in Georgie’s ears as he rummages through the cupboards to figure out where she hid all the damn coffee cups. He perks up; he percolates.
He moves over to the stairs with two long steps. “Yeah?” he calls.
“Would you come up here, darling?” she says, in a deep, seductive voice.
Georgie shrugs and trudges up the stairs.
“What is it?” he says before he turns into the room. As he takes a step inside, the light goes out. He is plunged into darkness.
Claudia’s voice seems to bleed out of the walls. “Just one more step in, Georgie,” she coaxes him. “Wait, stop! Now one to your right.”
Georgie breaks into a sweat. A low rumble sounds in the darkness before him, seeming to come from the floor.
“Watch out,” Claudia purrs. “You don’t want to wake it up, do you?”
Georgie feels himself shrinking, but as he is shrinking the walls close in on him—he can’t see them but he can feel the air of the room grow tighter, denser. The air wraps around him, trapping him in place. He can’t breathe.
“Claudia!” he screams. “Let me out!”
Claudia’s laugh echoes from the walls. She is not in the room with him. There is no room.
“Claudia!” Georgie screams. He flails with his arms and strikes hard wood on every side. His wrist tingles where it has struck the wall—his elbow explodes in a series of sparked nerves. He turns back around, beating at the door behind him, which is not a door any more but a wall—not a room but a box, a dark, airless box.
This is my coffin, Georgie realizes, with a terror that chokes him and brings him to his knees. I’m dying, I’m dead; she killed me.
(Who killed you, Ben?
Not me, Dr C, not me . . . .)
Georgie collapses into dark nothingness. His slumping body knocks the side of the coffin, bringing it crashing down to the floor. Georgie lies in it helplessly, in a daze, his fingers twitching feebly against the wood.
When Georgie wakes up, he’s in his bed with Claudia. The sheets around him are thrashed, twisted up like a thick rope.
The ones around Claudia are somehow unmoved, as smooth as sand dunes in moonlight.
A dream? He wonders. Or did she wait until I passed out and haul me into bed?
Claudia rolls over, and even asleep the look on her face is triumphant, gloating.
Georgie will never know if it was a dream or not.
(Well, wait, Ben—was it a dream or wasn’t it?
How am I supposed to know, Dr C? When I’m Georgie, and he’s me—I only know what Georgie knows, and he . . .
Does Georgie know what you know, Ben?
Sheesh, Dr C. Lighten up a bit, will ya? I can’t tell you, yet . . . can’t tell yet.)
Georgie feels a cold hand wrap around his heart. He rolls himself over and attempts to go back to sleep.
The blue full moon lights up Georgie and Claudia on the white sand beach. They are a happy-go-lucky, fun couple: all white-toothed smiles and sleepy bedroom looks. It’s as if though they are posing for cheap promotional brochures for some ritzy beachside resort or spa.
Georgie and Claudia chase each other playfully around the big white sand dune. Claudia dips her feet in the white-foamed seawater as she sits at the edge, where the water mixes with the sand. Georgie tries to lick her wet, gritty feet, but she grinds his face into the salty tidewater, using her perfectly-manicured, stylish feet to hold his head down. Georgie’s hair bobs up and down with the rising and falling waves as Claudia laughs.
As the sun sets, Georgie and Claudia dance in the empty beach parking lot, near his sporty gull-winged car. The car’s CD player is set on high volume, playing ‘80s disco music with a pulsing, throbbing beat.
In the background, a silent fire alarm wails.
During the day, Georgie is a zombie. His dreams unsettle, unnerve him. He’s terrified they are real, and that he doesn’t know it. He is afraid that they are false, and the daytime is what’s actually real. He is afraid to sleep, afraid to wake up.
He is fearful he might be going crazy.
Georgie zombies through the kitchen, the living room, the front porch, onto the back stoop, and over again. Sometimes he zombies out on the couch, just staring at the wreck of Claudia’s burned-down house.
That must be real, if he can see it, if it’s there all the time. That must be real, at least.
Georgie is so out of it that when the house phone rings, he actually answers it for once.
“Geow-gie boy!” his mother’s voice cries out joyously over the line. “Lord, I thought I would never hear your voice again! How you been, Geow-gie?”
Of all the times to forget to let the answering machine get it! “Hi, Ma,” Georgie mutters.
Claudia, in the next room, pricks up her ears. Georgie can see mischief brewing in her brain, and he makes haste to avoid it.
“Hey, I can’t talk right now, Ma,” he says. “I’m pretty busy.”
“What, ya think you’re some kind of big shot, Mr Geow-gie?” his mother teases. “Mr Big Shot don’t have time for his own muh-thah?”
Claudia’s hand snakes around the side of his head and plucks the receiver from his hands.
“Mrs Gust!” Claudia says pleasantly. “I am so glad you called.” Her eyes narrow wickedly.
Georgie can hear his mother asking “And who might you be?”
“I can’t say I’m surprised Georgie hasn’t mentioned me to you yet,” Claudia schmoozes. “He’s such a secretive little devil, isn’t he?”
Georgie can hear his mother most rapidly assenting, and knows that the battle is lost before he can even begin fighting. His mother will love Claudia. Discussing Georgie’s many faults is something she can go on about for hours.
He sits down heavily on the floor and looks up at her, begging her not to do damage she can’t undo.
For God’s sake, please don’t invite us to dinner, he prays.
“I’m Georgie’s girlfriend,” Claudia reveals. “His live-in girlfriend.”
The sound of his mother babbling in disbelief rises so much that Claudia has to hold the receiver away from her ear. She grins wickedly at Georgie.
“I know, Mrs Gust. Georgie’s quite the catch.” She winks at him. “Yes, yes. Your Georgie. Georgie Gust.” Claudia nods. “That’s the one.”
Georgie can make out the sound of his mother inviting them: “Oh, we must have you over for di-nah.”
“I’d be so pleased to meet you and your husband. Oh, yes. Georgie is delighted too. Next Thursday? Perfect.”
Claudia laughs. “Oh, yes, I’m writing it on the calendar. Next Thursday. I promise. Bye, Mrs G.”
With a triumphant smile, Claudia hands the phone back over to Georgie. “She wants to talk to you,” she says.
“Geow-gie!” his mother yells at him. “Howdja get such a nice goyil-friend? I can’t wait to see you two on Thursday. I love her already!”
“She’s not one of those vegetarians, is she?”
“Georgie.” Claudia’s voice is a raspy, raw edged thing that sets Georgie’s heart beating. He runs to the stairs, knowing what’s to come and wanting it anyway. “Yeah?” he calls.
“Would you come up here, darling?” she says in a deep voice that is not quite her own.
He takes the stairs two at a time.
“What is it?” he says, before he turns into the room.
He sees her.
She’s lying on her side, facing the doorway. Naked. She pats the bedspread beside her.
“Just more of the same,” she says, with an evil gleam in her eye.
He takes two steps and a hop that lands him on the bed. He grins.
“You just lie back,” she commands.
With a few deft gestures, she frees his already hard cock from his khakis. A nip of his nipple and a quick, bruising pinch of nails at his pudgy sides, Claudia then lowers her face to his groin.
“Ah . . . all right,” he stutters, watching her intently.
She goes down, pulling his shaft up, up inside her mouth. Her tongue is moist and does a little dance around him. He moans as his blood rushes to the very ends of him.
Slowly, Claudia clenches her teeth against him.
“Ah! Ow,” Georgie warns her.
She laughs, the sound muffled by his big pussy-spear. She sucks him hard and he moans.
“Oh . . .!”
Then her teeth scrape him again.
“Ow!” Georgie yells.
Claudia swiftly pulls her head up. She glares at him with her glittery green eyes. Shut up,” she commands.
He opens his mouth and then snaps it shut.
She sucks him down again and Georgie can feel himself starting to disappear inside of her, down the black tunnel of her throat. She is scraping, scraping him away like a cheese grater, and soon he will be nothing but a tiny little carrot . . . and then a stub . . . and then nothing.
He cries out with terror and pain, but the blood pounds faster and faster into his dick. He feels the pain as a kind of ecstasy. It moves his blood. Everything throbs. The pain and the pleasure. Together. Pounding. Pounding in his ears.
Georgie screams, “Oh God, oh fuck!” as everything rises up in him all at once.
Claudia jerks her head up with one final slash of her teeth. She wipes her mouth and grins.
“What . . . what? No! I’m so close!” Georgie pleads.
Again, she flashes him a wicked, evil grin. “Aww, what a shame,” she says, lifting herself off the bed and swiftly pulling her clothes back on. Georgie’s dick and balls are screaming at him, throbbing still. He looks down, expecting the whole thing to be in shreds.
Instead it pulses purple at him, an angry tower.
Now even my cock hates me, Georgie thinks, as Claudia gives one last flip of her hair.
At the doorway, she looks over her shoulder for one final gloat. “You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?” she taunts him.
And then she is gone.
Life seems to give me answers in three ways. It says, “Yes” and gives whatever we want. It says, “No” and gives me something better. It says, “Wait” and gives me the best. If I’m committed to my dreams, I’ll win anyway—to not just dream, but to live our dreams, and to keep moving towards them.
Dinner with the Gusts
“Geow-gie!” Mrs Gust screeches when she opens the door to her son. “Geow-gie, you haven’t been over in ages!”
Mama Gust is a huge woman dressed completely in purple spandex. Her hair poofs around her thick jowls like a ball of cotton. One forgotten curler hangs from a lock behind her ear, like jewelry.
When she wraps Georgie in a hug, her body engulfs him, sucking him into the fat rolls of her enormous belly. For a moment, he cannot breathe.
“And Claw-dia!” she yells. Georgie snorts at the accuracy of her misnomer. Claw-dia has claws, all right. “Claw-dia, you’re so old!”
Georgie laughs out loud at the look on Claudia’s face. It looks like she is about to get a little more than she bargained for.
“Well, I’m sorry, dear, but you must know that Georgie here is only 32.” Then Georgie’s mother seems to remember what a “lovely goyil” Claudia is. “But who am I to judge?” she concludes. “You two are happy, arentcha?”
Georgie and Claudia nod uncomfortably, without looking at each other.
“Well, that’s that, then!” Georgie’s mother brushes her hands together and shifts herself out of the doorway so Claudia and Georgie can enter.
The front hall is enormous. It is clear to Claudia that the Gusts have money. A curving marble staircase ascends to her right. A chandelier hangs from the vaulted ceiling, dripping money.
“Your father’s at the table,” Georgie’s mother yells to them as she disappears down a long hall. “Dinner will be out in a minute.”
“Not my father!” Georgie mutters, glancing at Claudia. “Not my father, too! You know I can’t stand him, Claudia!”
She just shrugs. “I know.”
Georgie leads her into the dining room, where they are greeted by another crystal chandelier, a shining dark-wood dining table large enough to seat twelve, and Georgie’s father, who rises up from his third martini. The flush in his face and the gleam in his eye gives him dead away.
“Georgie-boy!” he says, a little too loudly. “Georgie-boy, you finally came! And with a girl, too.” He appraises Claudia with a knowing eye. “A pretty little thing, isn’t she?” he says finally.
“She’s in her 40s,” Georgie’s mother screams from the kitchen. Claudia flinches.
“Now don’t listen to her,” Georgie’s father says in a low voice, taking Claudia by the elbow. “She’s just jealous.”
He winks and guides her to her place at the table.
Georgie pops open the bottle of wine they have brought for the occasion and serves Claudia, himself, and his mother a glass. Georgie’s father declines, gesturing to the martini pitcher on the sideboard.
“Gotta dance with the girl that brung ya,” he jokes.
In a few minutes, Georgie’s mother sails from the kitchen with a rolling cart packed with food—a glazed ham, scalloped potatoes, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, tomato slices topped with basil and broiled mozzarella, and a huge bowl of fresh garden salad.
© Jonathan Harnisch 2014
I open my eyes and the room is on fire. Completely unconcerned, I, Ben, watch the fire grow larger and larger, then shrink and die out, revealing Georgie Gust, my alter ego, sitting on a matching mound of dirty clothes.
I light a cigarette.
“I thought you quit,” says Georgie.
My nurse and doctor watch me, shaking their heads in disapproval.
Kelly doesn’t know about my obsession with Claudia Nesbitt—or, rather, Georgie’s obsession with her. I haven’t told her much about the spells that haunt me either. I haven’t mentioned a lot of things to her. I haven’t mentioned how much I struggle to write anything original that comes from the heart. Or that all I hear is the chaos of the Devil and the angels, and the voice of Georgie dictating my every word and action. That I’m nothing but a trust fund baby with an addiction problem and a constellation of lurid sexual fetishes that shrink into petrified silence in the presence of any actual women and a half dozen psychiatric diagnoses ranging from Tourette’s syndrome to schizoaffective disorder.
That I was taken into police custody for trying to rob a bank with nothing but a threateningly brandished cell phone and a reference to 9/11. That my father pulled some strings that landed me in rehab rather than prison. However, as part of one of the conditions of my release—that I must begin therapy with a court-appointed psychologist, Dr C—I haven’t really talked much about it. As I began to work in therapy, the issue that came into focus was that of Georgie, my alter ego, whom I’d conceived as living a parallel life to mine that mirrors and channels my own self-aware, yet foreign, emotional highs and lows.
That with Dr C’s help and encouragement, and my own intelligence and determination—well, some determination and some pure laziness—I might peel away the layers of Georgie’s existence, so that I might find the determination to hand over to Kelly all that I’ve kept inside, so she won’t leave me, so that I can self-actualize and get over the bitch, Claudia, and be honest with her, with Kelly, and with myself to meander out of some of the confusion. After all, sobriety has not cleared up all the fogginess; it seems to have added to it, seems to have created fucking stockpiles of it. And as the pieces of my existence have begun to emerge, they’ve done so with an extremely uncomfortable, agitating, transgressive, and self-loathing clarity. The clarity is what’s frightening me more than anything. In fact, I’m scared to fucking death of all this clarity.
“I want out of the labels. I don’t want my whole life crammed into a single word. A story. I want to find something else, unknowable, some place to be that’s not on the map. A real adventure. A sphinx. A mystery. A blank. Unknown. Undefined.”
Dr C’s Introduction
What if you had such severe schizophrenia that your life was just one hallucination after another? And what if people kept trying to drag you back out of those hallucinations, to prove that you weren’t living in reality, and that reality was nothing more than a psych hospital? Would you go? Would you make that leap back into reality, leave such a vivid life, for ceramic walls and metal gurneys?”
Not everything has to be interpreted literally; often a metaphorical interpretation is far more relevant and insightful, even if it’s just some fictional nonsense.
Introductory Clause: Subject (Paresthesia and Parenthetical Pet Peeves)
I sense a tingling, fucking burning, prickling of Claudia’s character defects. Prickling my skin, by reason of her particular parenthetical pet peeves. This continuous tingling and numbness in my face and back of my head I feel, therefore it must not be unreal, nor is there any other reason so remarkable as to elicit disbelief. Claudia’s parenthetical pet peeves are real and therefore worthy of a name: Claudia Nesbitt, no less than what is stated, as insubstantial as her being, but my dream and inside my dream.
Example: Claudia especially hates when people add an “e” to a name ending in “y.” Also, contrived spellings of common names.
History repeats itself. So does the present.
Obsession is a state of mind, so make it good.
The night is quiet and still now, and at the end . . . .
Once I encountered all these people, Claudia, Heidi, Kelly, Georgie, and myself, and my self, the fantasies of everybody and every place, and everything, they continued on. They became tragic obsessions.
Let’s get the facts straight up front, to avoid any confusion later. Georgie is an alter ego. I have several of them. It’s a means of leaving some room in my experience to avoid growing entirely sick of myself. I sit in this room, in this house, because I’ve lost myself.
I used to be all right. Back when I had a concrete hold on my place in this world, at least the people who used to make up my life. I’ve gone downhill, rolling down with the light feathery tumbleweed in our backyard. It’s disgusting in here, as mist and smoke linger throughout this claustrophobic bachelor pad. They say Ben’s 30 now, and that he’s a split personality; better put: a double personality, lacking true identity, lacking any sense of self. I don’t agree. I am Ben. They say a lot—the voices and hallucinations. They say Ben’s skinny because he smokes crack. He’s alone. He’s me. He’s in this living room. The landline rings all the time, often, quite a few times and they tell me to pick up, so I do.
Undoubtedly we are all capable of doing anything for 24 hours that would otherwise overwhelm us if we had to keep it up for a lifetime. We know this because we can breathe, can we not?
To the Reader, Looking Back
Looking back on it now, now that the words that come later can drain away most of the sentiment, there’s a nostalgia that still lingers at the top of the Eiffel Tower, when those kids—three girls and two boys—defined who I was, without the slightest hint of bias or negativity.
It was the first time in my life, the first “time of my life.” I was on a school trip in Paris, with the same kids who would taunt me and bully me back in New York. And although I had forgiven them, even loved them to an extent, there was so much going on at home, and in my head, and in my body, that I couldn’t tell the difference between what was good and what was bad, what was appropriate and what was not. Kids can be brutal.
They say that those in the “Losers’ Clubs” in school will usually show up at the reunions, years later, as glittering icons, while the popular kids turn to waste. I never went to any of the reunions.
I took a left turn by not going with my class. I got permission from the French teacher who was in charge of us to hang out with another group of kids from another junior high school; they were also in Paris from Nassau County, and, although I was away from my own crowd of popular kids (that particular crowd of waste), my new group of friends and I took off by Métro that night after dinner. We climbed most of the Eiffel Tower, as it was still open to tourists, even at the late hour.
As we gazed over the city lights, the brisk wind blowing hard, one of the kids, Wesley, who couldn’t have been over 12—all wrapped up in his ski jacket, his short curly hair frozen, unaffected by the winds—smiled innocently at me, and as if it was his second nature, he said, coolly, “You seem pretty normal to me, Ben. Hey, you’re one of us.” And all the others bantered among themselves in agreement. I took a group photo of my new best friends, all of us arm-in-arm, holding on in the chill air, and holding on to the memory of being so free, without supervision. Looking back on everything now, the world, the universe, never looked as beautiful to me as it did during that cool breezy night on top of the world, where I was with my friends and nobody knew just how invincible we really were.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) The fancier the hairdo, the harder the wind will be blowing.
I haven’t a clue what happened on the walk back to the hotel and, by the next day, when Wesley’s and his buddies’ vacation meant they’d be back in the States by sundown, I had forgotten about it. I mean, I’d forgotten about everything—my introduction—and I went back to the in-crowd as they did what they did for the rest of the trip, mostly drinking French beer from the mini-bar in the Hôtel Chateau Martine.
I find that the more I keep to myself all that I do remember from that particular night out with the group from Paris, I wonder constantly if, by now, they’d ever grown up or if they just stay the same, like in the picture I still have of them. It’s under my bed, in an old shoebox—so that I can stay the same, somewhere, somehow way deep down inside.
There are times I’ll struggle and tussle with my inner demons. Other times we’ll simply cuddle and snuggle together. It’s a relationship that has both feelings of love and hate. There is a bond between us that remains ever strong, perhaps based on the myth or truth of general inherent goodness or purely due to all the variants of myself and any beast or such demons, real or unreal. My inner demons are within me, and oftentimes, they end up being the ones who save me; I don’t have such a need to be saved from my inner demons per se.
—To suddenly discontinue, dissolving and dissociating breaking for a fairly ubiquitous cigarette, but to exist nowhere and do nothing—only like the fog and itty bitty bugs, to exterminate all ambiguous thoughts for a moment.
© Jonathan Harnisch 2014
“It better be good, Georgie. It better be good.”
I take what I want and leave the rest . . . or however that saying goes.
Part XII: Coda: Benjamin J Schreiber Writes to Dr C
So you see, Dr C, it’s like I have these schizophrenic blue-movie skits, and sleazy hardcore video clips, flashing through my nightmares and daydreams all the time—night and day, and day and night. It’s not like I’m making them happen. It’s not like I’m writing the script. It’s not like I’m the director or producer, or anything—it’s more like, I’m just another spectator or bystander out there in the invisible studio audience, watching the skits and clips flash past. Or maybe I’m the invisible cameraman behind the invisible video camera, just rolling along and shooting the pictures, and watching and waiting for whatever happens next. I can’t switch the channel, or change the script, or rewrite the scene, or even make the whole stupid thing just stop!
You see, Dr C, it’s like those schizophrenic blue-movie skits and sleazy hardcore video clips just keep playing over and over again, in some kind of continuous tape-loop or endless cinematic flashback. They’re stuck on instant replay, or whatever—and sometimes the same scuzzy characters show up and the same crazy scenes keep playing, like it’s déjà vu all over again, you know? Like there’s Georgie Gust, okay? There’s that Claudia Nesbitt—and there are maybe three or four other characters who keep showing up in different bodies or different egos, even though I know they’re really just the same creepy people. They’re the same creeps and perverts, the same suckers and chumps, the same bitches and yo-ho-hos—I already know—and they’re always stuck in some kind of perpetual jilted lover’s quarrel, or some self-destructive and abusive relationship. It’s like they just can’t get out of the same stupid trap, or get away from wherever they are—or even just make the whole world stop.
So sometimes, you know, doc—sometimes I think that maybe they’re trying to tell me something. Maybe they’re sending me messages and beaming me signals through my daydreams, my fantasies, my nightmares, and my wet dreams. Maybe, someday, it’ll add up to some kind of message or moral or something—like in those old-time movies and old-fashioned radio plays—or, maybe, like those fairy-stories, folktales and myths. But you know, they just don’t fit together; those schizophrenic blue-movie scripts and hardcore porno clips—they just don’t fit together, no matter how I try to write them down, or how I try to play them out, or how I try to shuffle them and juggle them into some kind of storyline or movie plot. And then the whole stupid thing falls apart like some jump-cut, film splice flick or cut-up video clip that didn’t really work—and it won’t get taped up, or glued down, or somehow stick together again—ever. No matter what I do.
So then, you know Dr C, the only thing I can think is that maybe the whole world is crazy, and maybe I’ve gone crazy too—and the whole world’s getting crazier and crazier, every day, and in every way. Or like that Georgie Gust says to his shrink, somewhere in this whole crazy mess: in all his NYU undergrad, and Harvard graduate education, and all that Wakefield prep-school jazz, and all of that psychology, those humanities, that literature and art—it just makes him think how ridiculous he really is and how absurd everyone else is, too. It makes him think how the whole world is just wacko when you get right down to it. The whole world is stupid, and meaningless and empty. And then I think, well, if the whole world really is absurd, and everybody else is just as ridiculous as me, then why bother to write, or paint, or do anything? Why bother to make movies, or tell stories, or even get out of bed for that matter? Why even bother to go on living?
You know what I mean, doc?
What’s done is done. What’s gone is gone. One of my life’s lessons is to always move on. Getting over my first love, dealing with the heartbreak, dealing with all the death and erosion, and dealing with life itself. It’s fine to look back and think of fond memories, but I think if I keep moving forward, I will, indeed, live a much happier life, plain and fucking simple.
Codex: Doctor C Writes Back to Benjamin J Schreiber
Yes, Ben. I know exactly what you mean. You should know, too, that it’s not just you. Many other people sometimes feel like the whole world is crazy, and that they’re crazy, too. A lot of people think the whole world is ridiculous and pointless, and that their entire life is just as meaningless and absurd. Some people feel like everything is falling apart around them and they don’t want to go on living. And, they don’t have any kind of cosmic glue, or spiritual super goop, that’ll stick it all together and make the whole world work for them so they can just go plugging along. Maybe they just don’t have what it takes to make the whole world stop being ridiculous, and meaningless, and stupid, and absurd and make their whole life seem worth living again, too.
But, you know, Ben, maybe you’re right. Maybe those schizophrenic blue-movie skits and sleazy hardcore porn-flicks (as you call them) are trying to tell you something. Maybe they really are like fairytales or folktales, or old-time movies or old-fashioned myths with some kind of message or moral hidden somewhere inside them—like fortune cookies. Maybe they’re sending messages from your deeper self and beaming signals from your subconscious mind, your libido, or your ID ego (or whatever you want to call it), or even from the whole collective subconscious of the human race.
The message they’re sending you, as far as I can see, Ben, the moral they’re trying to tell you, is really pretty simple. Despite all the self-destructive, abusive things and all the hateful, hurtful things Georgie and Claudia (and everybody else) do to each other, and despite the absurdity, ludicrousness, and ridiculousness of it all, the message or moral they’re sending is really pretty simple and pretty straightforward, you know? The message or moral of the whole story, as I see it, Ben, is this:
They’re trying to show you what it’s like to get stuck in hell, and know that you’re stuck in hell, and still not be able to find the way out, when all along, Ben, the way out is right there in front of you. All you have to do is look for it—all you have to do is want to get out. You can raise yourself out of hell, you can make a new life for yourself, and you can make the whole world over again, Ben, whenever you want to—and all you have to do is want to.
Because, you see, Ben, in this crazy, mixed-up, stupid, and absurd world, everybody needs somebody or something to make everything whole. It’s to save them from the absurdity and meaninglessness, the ridiculousness and stupidity, of their existence. For some people, that somebody or something is a person, a spiritual teacher or holy man, a great lover or secret soul mate who makes their whole life complete and becomes the entire world for them. For other people, that somebody or something is a spiritual teaching or religious doctrine, a secret philosophy or work of art, that makes the whole world speak to them and convinces them they can live forever.
Georgie Gust and Claudia Nesbitt, as you see them, Ben, are people who want to find the whole world in a significant other, and build a whole world around that other person, to save themselves from the stupidity and absurdity of their empty, meaningless lives. Of course, Georgie and Claudia’s struggle to discover the whole world in each other, and build a world around themselves, are tragically doomed to disappointment and failure because neither one of them can really fulfill the other’s fantasies and dreams. Neither can carry the whole weight of the world they’re building together.
Because neither Georgie nor Claudia can really accept the stupidity and ridiculousness of their significant other, or the absurdity and emptiness of their great fantasy, they get caught and trapped in their self-destructive and abusive relationship. They’re stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle of hateful and hurtful acts, and they just keep repeating the same self-destructive actions, and playing the same stupid scenes, and somehow they just can’t break the cycle or get out of the loop, or take a deep breath and tell themselves to just stop!
Georgie Gust and “Famous Amos” Daedalus on the other hand, are people who build a whole world around a creative delusion or a life-changing illusion and try to transform the stupidity, absurdity, emptiness, and meaninglessness of worldly human existence into an immortal sculpture or an eternal work of art. The problem is that the world they want to create, to save everything from absurdity and meaninglessness, and save themselves from stupidity and ridiculousness and emptiness—the “Hall of the Unknowns” in Georgie Gust’s One & Only Original, Classical, Wax Museum!!!—can’t really support their spiritual aspirations and artistic illusions. So, their statuesque, classical sculptures and waxen talking heads of self-important small-town celebrities, and unknown street people finally become just as stupid, absurd, meaningless, and ridiculous as the world they’re trying to escape.
So as much as everybody, just like you, Ben, needs somebody, or something, to make the world whole for them and save them from the their solitary, empty lives, it’s also important to remember that no single person in the whole world can support your whole, solitary, empty existence. They can’t make the world whole for you if you can’t do it yourself. The world is what we make it, and so the whole world is only as we allow it to be, as we make it to be, as we name it to be. If it’s what we make it, then we can make the whole world over, and make ourselves over, too—but only if we want to. Otherwise, the whole world really is just as absurd and stupid, just as empty, and meaningless and ridiculous as we think it is.
Also, Ben, it’s important not to take those eternal works of art, or immortal waxen sculptures, those great passionate love affairs, or our secret soul mates too seriously—or to take yourself too seriously, either—which is maybe the only real message or moral that Georgie Gust and Claudia Nesbitt, Sir Tony Halldale, and “Famous Amos”, Stevie and Mary, and all the others are trying to teach you, Ben. Their only real purpose, meaning, or reason for existence as far as anybody can say for sure, is to teach you how to laugh.
Does that make sense to you, Ben? Or am I getting too moral? You know, you can make me stop, too—or you can make me do whatever you want me to do. Can’t you? If you really want to or have the will to do it because you, after all, are the author—which is as close to “the gods” (or God) as we get in this stupid, absurd, meaningless, empty universe. And whatever you do, Ben, it’s all up to you.
So, Ben, no matter how bad things get, no matter how stupid and ridiculous and absurd the whole world seems, even if the whole world goes crazy—remember, Ben, don’t forget to laugh.
Appendix: Final Q & A Session between Benjamin J Schreiber and Dr C
Well, okay then, Dr C. If you’re so smart, and you think you know everything, let me ask you a question: What does Georgie Gust really want?
That’s a simple question, Ben. I can give you a simple answer. You see, Georgie Gust, like countless other American men of his psychological profile, weight, age, and character type, simply wants to find a perfect and flawless, beautiful and untouched, pure woman whom he can worship and adore while writhing and groveling at her feet. Someone he can love with his entire soul while she treats him like dirt.
You mean like Claudia Nesbitt, doc?
Or maybe it’s like Georgie Gust’s idea of Claudia Nesbitt. You see, Ben, because no actual sweating, breathing, menstruating woman could ever possibly hope to live up to Georgie Gust’s supreme stereotype and highly repressed sexual fantasy of his ideal woman, Georgie Gust is subconsciously obsessed, and compulsively driven, by the unspeakable need to desecrate, defile, and compel the perfectly beautiful woman—to submit to his self-punishing, psychological abuse, and sometimes to actual physical torture, so that he can feel superior to her and make her what he wants her to be. You see, Ben, just like you, Georgie Gust . . .
Whoa, whoa, now! Wait a minute there, doc; let’s not get personal. I’ve got another question for you.
Okay, Ben. Go ahead. Shoot.
What I want to know is this, doc—if you’re such a psycho-guru and know-it-all shrink, and have such keen insight into the male character, why don’t you tell me: What does “Famous Amos” Daedalus really want?
That’s another simple question, Ben. I can give you a simple answer—in a nutshell. You see, Ben, like countless other sexually repressed, emotionally frustrated, and secretly homosexual American men, “Famous Amos” simply wants to create his own supremely idealized stereotype, and subconscious sexual fantasy, of the perfect woman who will embody his sublimated and spiritual ideal, and still submit to his disgusting, pornographic fantasies.
(Parenthetical Pet Peeve) Men who wouldn’t date anything else but a gorgeous woman even if they look like Jabba the Hutt.
Wait a minute! Okay. Yeah, I get it, doc. So you’d say, doc, that because Amos can’t ever really find some perfectly beautiful woman, or flawlessly pure babe to live up to his sublimated sexual fantasies or spiritual ideal, or whatever—then he tries to make a perfectly beautiful, flawlessly pure and ideal woman by carving her out of wax and making her into a department store window display, or wax museum mannequin, or something?
You got it, Ben. However, not even a perfectly beautiful display window mannequin or flawlessly pure wax museum sculpture can ever hope to live up to Amos’ perfectly sublimated stereotype and highly repressed sexual fantasy. Amos, like Georgie Gust, is subconsciously obsessed and compulsively driven by the unspeakable need to desecrate and defile, to debase and mortify—even his own supremely beautiful stereotypes and flawlessly pure images of the department store mannequin or the wax museum sculpture.
To shite on her, you might say, eh, Dr C?
Right, Ben. So, like Georgie Gust, and maybe like you, Ben, he can prove to himself how superior he is to those mere sweating, breathing, and menstruating mortal women. He can then reign supreme as the sublime creator-god, and highly spiritualized wax sculpture artist, within his own private universe and fantasy world of the wax museum.
Well, you know, doc—I have to admit you have a point, there. It seems like you know Georgie Gust and “Famous Amos” pretty well, now, don’t you?
You know them, too, Ben—even if you don’t want to admit it.
Hey now, knock it off, doc! It’s nothing personal, you see?
Sorry, Ben. I’ll be good now.
Good enough. Because you see, doc, I have one more question for you. What I want to know, doc, is this: What does Claudia Nesbitt really want?
Well now, Ben, that’s a little more difficult, isn’t it? But you know, Ben, despite the fact that Claudia Nesbitt is a pretty complicated character (and maybe she isn’t just one woman, but an amalgamation of a bunch of women—all lumped together into one), I really think I can give you a fairly simple answer to that question.
Okay, doc—go ahead, shoot. But watch where you’re pointing that thing, will you?
You see, Ben, Claudia Nesbitt, like Georgie Gust, like “Famous Amos,” and maybe even like you, Ben . . .
Aw, c’mon! Get off it, doc!
. . . like everybody else in the whole human world, Ben, Claudia Nesbitt really just wants to be loved. Loved wholly and completely, for who she is as a real, live, sweating, breathing, and menstruating woman. Complete with her flaws and imperfections, complaints and complexes, with all her cruelty and perversity, her craziness and insecurity—and despite the fact that she really is something of . . .
A bitch! Isn’t she, doc? I mean, she’s . . .
. . . a difficult woman to live with. Just like we all are.
Even me, doc?
Women and men—even you, Ben.
But nobody can ever really give us the complete and unconditional love we want, huh, doc? Except maybe our mothers . . . .
So, we get stuck in these self-destructive, abusive relationships and failed marriages. We do hateful, hurtful things to each other and just repeat the same stupid psychodramas over and over again.
Like Georgie Gust and Claudia Nesbitt?
So do you really think, doc . . .?
Think what, Ben?
We could just snicker and chortle and snort.
And chuckle and snigger . . . .
And laugh our way out of it?
And smile through our tears . . .
And the whole thing would just disappear?
And the whole world would be a paradise—a heaven on earth.
And we’d all be perfectly beautiful and perfectly sane human beings?
It’d be worth a try, wouldn’t it?
Okay, doc. Here it goes . . .
One, two, three. . .
Ha, ha, ha. . .
And he, he. . .