The windshield wipers are driving me crazy, but it's raining. It's Seattle rain, heavy and slimy--you have to use the wipers. But I'm confused and tired, and I wish for silence. I don't want to hear anything monotonous and repetitive. It reminds me too much of life as I know it, of the way the Xerox machine sounds when it's doing its thing, of the way my rowing machine sounds every morning when I do my responsible 25 minutes. It even reminds me a little of the dutiful, slightly boring way in which I jerk off. Of the wheel in a hamster cage, spinning, spinning, spinning. I didn't ask to feel this way -- confused, wanting, strangely afraid. I didn't want it (even if I want it now). So it's not my fault that I'm not handling it well. I think I'm in love. And I'm not even sure who with. It's a girl, her name's Sandra, and she has wonderful soft brown eyes and blonde hair. I like the way her small curving mouth moves when she talks, the way she touches the skin under her chin or tucks her hair behind her ear when she gets nervous. I like her. After tonight, I maybe even love her. But I don't know her. I know what she thinks I want. Through some bizarre psychological blink of the eye, I can see her putting on the garment of The Sandra I Want Her to Be each time we meet. I am beginning to understand that I will never meet the authentic Sandy, the person she is when she's alone. I am also beginning to understand that there is a very real possibility that the true Sandy does not, in fact, exist at all. We live in that kind of world, don't we? The television and the movies, they teach us the words to say when we love someone, how to kiss, how to take off their clothes elaborately garment by garment -- even how and when to turn over and go to sleep, or what to say the next day. I'm part of a whole generation who's studied these actions from the same primer. But all that plastic education only goes so far. It's all well and good to imagine you love Catherine Zeta-Jones or Gillian Anderson. And happiness -- an eternity of navel-gazing -- only a DVD freeze-frame away. But me, I want a real girl. I tell myself that I'm not like so many superficial others, that I would reject the fantasy for the real thing, bad breath and flat tits and all, if only there was something more. And so I continue to forge ahead with the young women, the dates, the initial charm followed too often by the banal and the disappointing. I want to be charmed, to be surprised -- but, too often -- both of us only want to please, so we end as inevitable strangers. Like Sandy for instance. But Sandy's different. Sandy's in a class by herself, Sandy's the goddamn Leonardo da Vinci of artifice. The girl's smart, polished, creative and funny. But, let's be real -- who the hell is she? She won't show me who she is anymore (I guess) than I show her who I am. It's a completely feminine thing, a quality that intrigues me even as it unsettles. We all put on the best masks at first. It's not as if this territory is strictly ruled by women. As a guy, I certainly do many of these things myself. However, I can't help but think that for women the masks are thicker and more complete. The more I see of any woman, the more nervous I get. Because, so often, the more I learn, the more I realize I am not seeing the woman herself but the woman she thinks I want her to be -- or, more rarely, and more subtly, the woman she herself imagines herself to be. It's all a game. And it always ends with me wondering who the hell that was I fucked the night before, anyway. Sandy, for instance -- oh, she's a master. She wears colors she knows I like. A casual comment on my part about jazz means that when we next meet she is armed to the teeth with knowledge about everyone from Chet Baker to Charlie Parker. She glances at me when she orders, to see if she's chosen something that will intrigue me, and watches to see what I'll order myself. When we decide to go see a movie, she will never ask me to see something I'm not interested in -- none of that typical female "dragging a guy off to a chick flick" stuff in this girl! Instead, she invariably says, "Well, what do you want to see? It really doesn't matter to me." The first time we kissed, she did not kiss me, but waited instead for me to kiss her. It was not timidity on her part, either, but an indefinable sense of the right way of doing these things, an innate understanding of strategy and how to use it to her advantage. To wait for me to kiss her gave her time to study me, to see what I wanted, how I did things -- did my tongue seek hers, or did I wait for her to lead me through it? Did I slide into something moment by moment, or was I intent on going for the tonsils and reminding her of which of us was the man? As always, in case you're wondering, I chose the middle road, with your basic nice-to-meet-you kiss, mouth barely open, the barest wet flicker of tongue, and the whole thing a bit briefer than either of us would have wished. In other words, perfect. But it's not just behavioral stuff. She changes herself too -- she's done it from Day One. On our first date, Sandy'd had a sweet, waifish hairstyle -- the short tousled locks made popular by actresses like Meg Ryan. That night, however, we saw a Helen Hunt film, and I commented on how much I liked the actress's long, feminine hairstyle. The next time I saw Sandy, what do you know, no more Meg Ryan -- her hair spilled to her shoulders, paler than its previous buttery yellow by several shades. "Extensions," she'd smiled nervously, tugging at a handful. "Like it?" "Love it," I'd answered. I'd been flattered that she would change herself for me. I even felt a little intoxicated by the fact that I'd wielded that much power over someone else. Then next she gleaned out of me that I often preferred women with a hint of gold to them -- just a bit of a tan -- and lo and behold, there came Sandy with the prettiest golden sun-kissed skin you've ever seen. But these are minor things, things any woman could do. But there were other things, other instances which were far more disturbing. Things, you see, I know she could not possibly have changed... and yet she has. The first time I took her to bed, for instance, her belly button was a funny, pert surprise, a little blob on her stomach that I had stared at in surprise. Her cornflower blue eyes had widened in amusement. "Never seen an outie?" she'd asked, and grinned. "No," I'd said, laughing -- and we'd progressed quite happily from there, thank you. But next time, sure enough, I'd looked down -- and presto, no more cute little blobby belly button. Her navel was now a tiny concave hollow like those of the belly-button majority. And her breasts were larger, a bit plumper and fuller. The shape was different too. But there was no sign of surgery on the pale skin. It was as if she'd known, somehow, had simply known that I prefer women with slightly larger breasts than those she'd possessed. Which, of course, being a guy -- I do. Spin, spin, spin. She's weaving a spell, perfecting herself, leaving me with a woman who will eventually be perfect for me in every way, and will therefore be unleavable. Now I seem to be helpless, standing aside as she rules me with myself. She's creating her version of me even as she colors my version of her. I'm weirdly frightened -- I want to see her dressed in pink, for God's sakes! I have visions of watching her walk down the aisle to me, radiant in ivory. I want to have wild sex and ten kids with her -- as long as she remains a virgin no matter what. I want to kiss her softly and make love to her and even hope that it disgusts her a little -- because she is so good. So soft. So pure and shy. So malleable. See, I don't even care that she's not so good in bed. She's so beautiful she can just lie there, golden hair sprawled around us on the pillow beneath her. I probably love it even more, the thought that she is suffering through sex only because she loves me. Who wants that? Somehow, it seems that I do. I don't know what's wrong with me. I've been programmed to want the most unwantable things, to find desirable traits that in a non-sexual state would disgust or alarm me. The movies teach you that love is something you're supposed to wait your whole life for, breathless and pink-cheeked as a girl. But whether you are that pink-cheeked girl or someone else entirely, someone like me, a tall skinny guy who thinks with his dick and still talks too much when he gets nervous--no matter which category you fit into, the real world is something entirely different. The real world is that people react to things in entirely different and unforeseeable ways. Last night, for instance, when Sandra pulled me down to her in the back seat of my old BMW and scared the hell out of me. There I was, just sliding down her sweet plain white cotton underpants, when in a quiet cool voice she told me "Not to worry about it," that I could be as rough as I wanted. I shouldn't have been able to get it up for Mary Magdalene herself after that, but the sex had actually been great -- hard, clean, uncomplicated. An acceptable violence for both of us. But this wasn't what truly scared me. What had frightened me was the fact that I broke her hymen. Despite the fact taht we'd been having sex for weeks. But it was like something within her told her that I was wistful for that first time, maybe, wistful for the moment in which I could have known so much more than she. Instant virginity? If it's what I want, Sandy can do it. I'm willing to admit to inexperience, to some possibilities I'm not necessarily aware of. I'm a relatively young guy in my twenties, so I'm still learning about sex. Funny to admit that but it's true. I've done almost everything -- hell, I've even kissed another guy once, at a party--but a regenerating hymen, breasts that enlarge on my command, a belly button that collapses because I will it to be so--all of this is out of my depth. I know that sex is in your head. I know in theory at least that it's what your mind makes of it. I used to think there were two kinds of people--those who enjoyed sex for what it was--and those who enjoyed the idea, the fantasy of what they were doing, in their minds. Now I think it's all the same. It's all in your head. It's never uncomplicated. I'm learning that--just like I learned in junior high that I could get hard just by closing my eyes and envisioning the legs of my seventh-grade music teacher, Miss Tarleyton. Miss Tarleyton had had slender, sweet pale legs tapering down to tiny ankles and delicate feet which would not have looked alien on a unicorn. So I know this weirdness, this willingness to make it better, to improve on the reality with the help of the mind--is within me. It can't just be what it is, it can't just be sex, enjoyable and forgettable or potentially serious. It's all something else up there. I kissed Sandy again today, and when her eyes closed I didn't think of how delicious her pale reddish lashes looked against her white skin, I didn't think of how sweet her breath was or how soft her hands were on my neck. No, I saw those pretty pale lids come down, sweet as petals, and I prepared for the coming of the fiction. I heard the spinning of the webs that would bind me, and welcomed them--I saw behind my closed eyes the bedrooms she would inhabit so beautifully with me--even as she pretended unwillingness. Even as I loved her for her disgust and eventual boredom because they were part of a script I'd commissioned from her myself. The spinning of the hamster cage, yes, I heard that too. The turning of twenty years, thirty--the turning of the wheel as we existed side by side and quietly loathed one another and somehow I gloried in it. I won't leave her, not yet--I am too enamored of the light on her neck, the way her skin looks flawless even in sunlight. No, I'll call her. But not today. Tomorrow. Or even the day after. I'm not an addict. It's not as if I'm really serious about her, shape-changer or no . . . It's still raining, but the traffic has calmed down so that I can drive without tension. The wipers now sound soothing to me. I make a left onto Harrison, and even as I do, the phone quivers on the seat next to me, the gentle shhhhrrrrring of the car phone barely registering above the rain. A moment of indecision, but a single moment only. I pick it up. I answer, and wait to see what I'll do or say. Will I be rude, hang up, or merely weep silently with frustration? Instead from somewhere inside I find a smile for myself, tired though it is, and the smile goes with my voice right into the phone. "I was just thinking about you," I say. "You were?" she asks. "Oh yes," I say, teasing, making my voice low and warm for her, as if I can caress her with my voice. "James," she says, and my name sounds strange to me. "What?" "I was -- I was just thinking about you." "Were you?" "We could do something," she offers hesitantly. "What?" I'm being an asshole, not letting her draw me out, pushing her to activity without my help. "Oh," she says and already I know what she is going to say. I can picture her standing on the soft blue tile of the kitchen, her eyes on the ceiling with embarrassment (today perhaps they'll be green--clear as glass and equally deceptive), the requisite flush dappling her pale cheeks with pink. Tonight I already know that she will be smaller, shorter, than she was the day before (because I like them waiflike, you see). I already know she will have a perfect dusting of freckles across her slender nose where this morning there were none. Her mouth, too, will be a little plumper than when I first saw it. And I already know her waist will be longer so that I can hold her more easily and that her earlobes will now be attached and more delicate than they were yesterday because I like them that way. I already know she will give me whatever I want--a waif, a goddess, or a virgin every night--and that there is no escaping such exquisite boredom. I'm trapped. "Well?" I ask. "Oh," she says. "Oh, I don't care." I can hear the shrug, the small smile in her voice -- don't ask me how. I'm lost, tantalized in spite of myself--and she knows it. I can hear the smile in the silence. She takes a breath. I know, somehow, that her eyes have closed even as she speaks. And I will never know what it is that she is picturing. I accept it, revel in it, glory in it. "Oh," she says again. "Whatever you want."
x x xGuys, are we going to stand for this? Gals, do you agree with it? Things, aren't you glad you don't have these problems? Comments to the BBS, please.