The End of Romance
August 27, 2011
Looking back. At these stories. (now over 30 years old) I recognized that so much of my dealings with life had to do with sex. I had a lot of trouble of separating it from love. Even now I’m not sure that in some cases that there was any difference. I do recall that sex without affection was very uncomfortable. Unless you played a role. The jokester. Or the drunk. Or the beach bum. Sex with affection was also uncomfortable. Especially if it was one sided. And affection without sex became physically nauseating. And bewildering. I was always afraid to come right out and say what was bothering me. (I need to get laid!) Instead you made something up. (I need space.) Well the whole thing became a knotted mess. But I guess that’s what being young is all about.
The End of Romance
Laughter in crowds. The functioning of glasses. A rock group called PARADISE. Throb. Throb. Throb. The instruments of flesh. Teeth rattling piano keys. Music pumped out of house plants. A Party. Internal bleeding. I held my hand to my ear and listened to the sea.
Ray turned to me. ‘She was the kind of chick who made you feel personally responsible for the existence of boredom.’
Ray is an orphan. From Greenland. Abandoned on an ice flow. Moses of the Inuit. Ray says some day he will return to the North and part the polar cap.
Ray loved to plunder. The dresses of beauty. And rape. The vaults of women’s bank accounts. Ray has a tattoo. It looks like a scar. Divides his left eyebrow. He claims women. Are attracted to men who look battered. Ray winked. A lamb in wolf’s clothing.
Another rum’n’coke. From the flash he keeps in a drawer below his heart. I was humming Handel’s Messiah. Drinking Gilbey’s Gin. Ray leaned over. ‘Have you ever been in love? Felt the blood burning in your arteries? Your eyes drifting through the day like leaves in the fall? Not me. I’m wondering if love exists. And it exists, why? Tell me Michael, what is the end of romance?’
Modestly. Lit up a cigarette. Tried to remember. Something clever. ‘My affair with Monica. I suppose that’s love. The word must have been invented for something.’ I tucked a smile behind an ear. And shrugged.
Ray laughed. A cloud of rum. Streamed out of his nose. ‘Love is just a front. To launder our desires. To make our terrible longing palatable. To see cold cream. And life insurance. And a college educate. Love is an enema. Keeps everything moving.’ Ray licked his fingers. Looked at me from beneath his eyebrows. ‘Did you ever see THE THIRD MAN with Orson Welles?’
Ray leaned over. A table. Touched a girl by the hair. His ring got snagged. Apologized. ‘It seems our fates have become snagged.’ The girls was from Michigan. A fluorescent smile. A laugh too loud. Too many daiquiris. She said her name was Thetis. She was doing research on the possible nutritional content of seaweed. Then Ray turned to me. Muttered. ‘Do you think she’s beautiful enough?’
The far side. Of the room. A Chinese girl. An ultramarine see-through blouse. A mermaid. In a goldfish bowl. I set across the room. To find the mystical east. Fell into the music. With my semi-natural rhythm. A fellow with striped pants. His legs like escalators. Asked if I’d seen the exit. Felt like he’d been lost for weeks. Tapped a girl on the back. She was talking as she turned. Wished she had a dime for every man who had turned her. On. Someone backed into me. I caught a current. Drifted toward the rubber plants. Monica appeared in my arms.
Years ran out of her eyes. Streaked her hair with grey. Don’t grow old without me, I wanted to say. She put her hands in my back pockets. I placed each one of her ribs between two of mine. We danced. ‘I’ve got to see you alone.’ I whispered in her ear.
Outside the parking lot was filled. With cars. All their doors were open. The moon was yellow. Like a single headlight. The moon multiplied. In each windshield. The night was soft. I reached out for Monica. Monica stepped back. ‘Someone might be watching.’
Put my hands. Under her breasts. Nipples pointing through. Her silk blouse. I could feel. Her thoughts slapping me. ‘You’re doing it again.’ I apologized. ‘I’ll have a talk with my hands. Its the Algonquin in my blood. I want you back.’
I looked into her eyes. Tried to hold her gaze. This time I was determined. To listen. She bit off my hands. At the wrists. Stuffed them down the front of her jeans. ‘You’re addicted to the idea of love.’ I leaned back against a Studebaker. Lit up a cigarette. Felt like my feelings were being buried. Alive. A cloud passed over the moon. And then she was on me. Thrashing like a captured bird. Beating against my head and shoulders.
She began. I wish she hadn’t. ‘You fall apart. Just to make me feel wanted. Call out my name in your sleep. Just to make sure I’m in the directory. Want me to pump out your tears. But my right hand is cramped. Your legendary melancholy is just a trumpet. Your smile is a drum. Your life is a parade. You’re the happiest person I ever met. You don’t need me or anybody else.’
Closed my eyes. Concentration. This was like a quarrel between clouds. While the real world busied itself below. There was a reality that all of our melodrama chose to ignore. The bending of the long grass. The rustling of the silverware. The dissolving of automobiles in the melting snow. The movement of eyes. In the head of a pigeon. An abandoned farm house. Moaning like a loon. A hole wrapping its arm around. A snake. A coin passing through the mouth. Of a parking meter. A tape recorder turning. With nothing to record. This reality functions quite well without us. Invaded occasionally by those. About to die. By catastrophes and their survivors. Robinson Crusoes. Weight watchers. Monks who momentarily forget their prayers. Assassins reading People. The pope’s wet dream. God when he’s looking for company.
I mention this reality because. I was using it as a bulwark. Against Monica’s voice. Against her despair. Her resignation. I wanted to stop her. To scream out NO. No. No. I could feel something. Black. Gleaming. Coiling and twisting. Around my heart. I wanted to tell Monica about our moments of beauty. Smuggling innocence into each other. Touching each other’s private. Thoughts. I could not hold on.
I looked up. Monica glared at me. ‘You’re just like them. You think there is some new found land to be found. Between the thighs of each new woman. The end of romance for you is a tramp moving on. I want something more permanent.’
My eyes grazed the ground. A bus ticket. A candy wrapper. An apple core. When I looked up Monica was gone.
Cold. In the distance a siren. I walked across the parking lot. Toward the bar. On the way I found Ray. Sitting in a Dodge Desoto. With the back door open. He looked at me with glassy eyes. Stoned. Ray lit up a joint. Handed it to me.
‘I brought that chick from Michigan out here. She gave me half a tab. She was carrying in her purse. She called it Aspirin. Big joke. Said it was a sex drug. After I undid her blouse. Lifted her dress. I plugged in. At first… same old, same old. Then she changed into Marilyn Monroe. I crawled inside her. In a hospital. She was pregnant with me. Marilyn Monroe was having a child. Me. I could smell the iodine. And fresh paint. I could hear the air conditioners. Sucking off the air. Someone screamed. Marilyn Monroe was having an abortion. Air sucked up through a tube and along a black hose. And then. I was the hose. Alive. Turning and twisting. A house. Burning. Being swallowed by a television camera. A television burning. In a million living rooms. Sending its message into a million brains. Dissolving into death. The end of romance.’
‘And when I slipped back into consciousness. I was by myself. In the back seat of this Desoto. My cock in my hand. And when I looked around. I saw you. Standing in the middle of the parking lot. Arguing. With someone. Except you were alone.’