By Mike Sauve
“I have never seen anything sweetly beautiful in this world without desiring to touch it with all my fondness.” — Andre Gide
As I went out one morning to replenish my supply of scotch whiskey, I met a girl of astounding beauty. Knowing brown eyes revealed her as either a dissociative drug user or an accidental mystic. Either way, that was my kind of girl. She was 18 at most and perplexing from that first very instant, an instant in which I could tell she would do me harm, or at least no good, but still I proceeded.
The first thing she said was, “Hey man, you got a toonie so I can get a can of beer?” I was heading to the liquor store so I figured I could help her out. It’s always easier to help out a pretty girl. She was decently-dressed and didn’t look poor, just out of place.
“Well I’m not homeless or anything,” she offered. “I was just at this party and now I’m out of cash and I really feel like a beer. I’m a little sketchy. I was at the Comfort Zone all weekend.”
I knew the Comfort Zone well. There was no sanctity found there on Sunday morning. DJ’s played hard drum and bass from 8am to 4pm for the aging scene queens, Vietnamese gangsters and aspiring break-dance champions who’d closed the all-night clubs and still needed a place to party. Hulking shirtless gay men danced in one corner. Ketamine and GHB zombies slumped on filthy couches. Everyone was grateful for the darkness. A purple light made everyone appear like monsters with their dilated pupils, gazing into some awful oblivion. It was intolerable without the emotional crutch of an ecstasy tablet.
I inquired as to how many E’s she’d taken. I had gone on my share of two and three day runs. The first E gives you the majority of your serotonin in one rush, the second will give you a little more, but each subsequent tab just scrapes the bottom of the tank, making you grind your teeth, bipping and bopping against your will to the ever-receding beat.
“Oh my God, I don’t know, at least twelve probably over the three days. I’m still high kind of. I’m super sketchy too. I did a lot of Ketamine and some G. Everything is like, in the fourth dimension you know?”
I spend a lot of time in the fourth dimension with or without drugs, so she seemed an ideal companion for a cool June morning, with her lovely girlish face and impressive figure. She was wearing a tank top that if any smaller would have to be called a sports bra. She had this way of pressing herself into my arm as we walked along.
“Listen,” I said, “I’m buying a big bottle of Johnny Walker Red. That’s what I always buy. If you aren’t doing anything why don’t we get six king cans with that and we’ll have a nice little drinking party.”
“But it’s only 11am,” she said, sarcastic.
“I know. The exact hour the liquor store opens. I rarely emerge earlier. How old are you?” I asked.
“19,” she said.
“I wouldn’t get into the Comfort Zone otherwise.”
“Let me see your ID.”
She smiled in a knowing way and produced an obviously fake ID.
“This will suffice,” I said.
Some barefoot kids were visiting their mother on a halfway house lawn adjacent to the liquor store. A boy about twelve leered at my new friend. “That little boy is ogling you.”
“He’s probably closer to my age than you are, how old are you?”
“Ya, so he has more of a right to ogle don’t you think?” She was bouncing all over the place and with this she leaned completely into me, almost falling into my arms.
When I bought the Johnny Walker the clerk who saw me every other day looked disapprovingly at my new companion. He saw me with my wife as often as not and this clearly wasn’t her. I hoped he might speculate that I was this girl’s whiskey-loving social worker. But there was a strong hint of sex in the air. It was probably in the air wherever she went with her button nose. She had a certain kind of lips you don’t see often. Maybe the clerk couldn’t feel it in the third dimension. I was hungover in the life-shortening way where you still feel good from the night before, so I didn’t really give any kind of fuck what the clerk thought of me.
On the walk back to my apartment I asked her what she did. “Nothing. I dropped out of high school. I live at my mom’s house most of the week, and usually stay out Thursday to Sunday, or sometimes Monday, depending how hard I party at church on Sunday.”
She wanted me to ask what she meant by “church”, but I knew. I’d been on their Facebook page, church was the Comfort Zone.
“Church is The Comfort Zone,” she said. “My mom says I should go to a real church. What for you know? Hear a bunch of lies? Get felt up by some peddy?”
“I think the stereotype is that they like boys, though if I were a priest you would certainly be a difficult temptation. Do older people ever add you to Facebook? If so I bet some must masturbate to your pics in their terrible attic and basement apartments. I would do that even if I were some city councilman I’m afraid, and then they’d bring me down for it. Do you have lots of bikini’d vacation photos?’
“No, but me and my friend took all these pictures where we’re just wearing our bras.”
For this reason the first order of business when we entered my apartment was friend-requesting her on Facebook. No matter what happened I hoped to have those bra pictures saved on my hard drive for a rainy day. Her memory, the illusion of her sex appeal, would ferment into something finer with time. She’d be a sexy memory in JPG format. I could live with that. I told her she could check her Facebook, ostensibly so she would approve my friend request. But she declined, “I hate that stupid website,” she said. I loved it. It had made the girls I knew and desired into pornography, which made things easier.
I mixed a couple of doubles with ice and soda then I split a large beer into two glasses. “Here’s to you,” I said, “You’re a beautiful girl you know.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I haven’t slept in a long time.”
After a long pause I tried in a clumsy fashion to lean in and kiss her. She moved away, feigning horror rather effectively. “Hey come on man, I thought you were cool. Why does every guy think he can pull this?”
The initial rejection increased my need ten-fold. After a few sterile moments spent discussing her favourite television programs, I tried a different tactic. “You seem like quite a dynamic individual, do you write or paint or anything?”
“I used to draw a little bit, and I keep a journal. Maybe I can publish it as a book sometime.”
I used to think the same thing when I was young and naïve and attending the same clubs, but it’s hard to bring the same meaning back to the third dimension. What seems profound at the Zone or at Film Lounge turns out to be mostly bullshit.
“I’d like to read that,” I said, “I had to stop going myself. It was always the same painful illusion. I’d meet a bunch of people while high and they seemed like the real friends I’d always wanted. They’d listen to all my stories and interests better than any friend I’d ever had. They cared. And I cared about them. They seemed like the libertine circle I needed. We’d make all kinds of plans to be friends for life. Dinner parties, basketball games, whatever shared interest we could fix on. But then inevitably we’d go back to the after-party and as the drugs wore off everyone’s personality flaws would re-emerge and the whole thing would be revealed as the sham it was from the start.”
“You think too much.”
“That’s astute. As a result I try to focus on things that warrant a lot of thought.”
“Visions of hell. MSN conversations with girls I meet on dating sites. Cryptic use of Bob Dylan lyrics in everyday conversation. Religion, faith. I am a person of faith.”
“Hmm, anyone ever tell you you don’t really act like one?”
“Look sister, that’s the whole reason I didn’t accept the ringing call to the priesthood. It came on to me like rolling thunder. There were trumpets and a light.” I started shouting, “‘Oh glory, glory, somebody touched me! It must have been the hand of the Lord.’ I’m not making this up. I knew I’d be here either way, giving in to this temptation. I knew I wanted to live, but I didn’t know how depressing it would get.”
“You’re funny. So what did you choose instead? To get drunk all the time and look for teenage girls?”
“I get drunk all the time, but I’ve long given up on meeting a girl like you.”
“Well that’s good. You don’t seem like a pervert. You just seem lonely.”
“That’s what I’m shooting for. Also, the harder I live, the harder my face gets, and women seem to like me better. I think most women want a third-rate soap opera villain.”
“You don’t look like that. You look like a sad dog. You just need a friend.”
She took my hand in her warm, little one. She was still high and this was the ecstasy altruism I’d always loved. Her high was long overdue to wear off however. The alcohol would only eradicate what little serotonin there was left for me to work with.
Since I didn’t dare kiss her again, I put my head down in her lap to play the puppy dog role she had projected. We talked about her ethnic heritage.
“French and Spanish!” I exclaimed. “All that dark beauty beneath the paleness of that soft French skin. You have such nice skin.” I put my palm on her forearm.
“Thank you,” she purred as a matter of habit. She wondered why so many men came onto her. She was just giving this off as who she was, not as deliberate flirtation. At the moment she was filled with a genuine affection and had hit the absolute peak of beauty in her gloomy time on earth, later she’d maybe have a big pot belly, or big black circles under her eyes, and even later than that she’d be in a hospital room with a stinking colostomy bag for all anyone knew, and I would be dead by then for sure. But today I was still alive and she was at maybe the only period of real life I ever cared about, so I considered myself lucky. I can’t help it if I’m lucky.
I was experiencing some of the E effects by proxy. Normally a few glasses of whiskey, particularly in the hangover morning, would bring out my more prurient interests. Pornography had killed my sexual soul and what I desired was a nice concise gonzo clip. This girl would be the crown jewel of the teen amateur category. My tastes grew darker with each year the oldness progressed.
I asked if she wanted to go to the park, but she liked it where she was.
“You’re more than welcome to stay. My wife will be home around 5 though. We should get out of here before then.”
“You’re married?” she cried out.
“Oh ya. This is adult life kid sister.”
“I’m not freaked out or anything. I just think it’s funny, you know, none of my friends are married. But you don’t seem old you know. You seem like you’re a kid too. It’s hard to picture you married. But I’m glad. It makes you less pathetic. I mean, I find it kind of cute how sad you are, but if your life was really empty then it gets awkward you know. Like you have me here to fill some void in your life.”
“Well that might still be the case.”
“Well that’s just a void you dreamed up. If you’re married you have a good life.”
“Oh boy,” I said. “Listen, what I’d like to do is kiss you just one time. My ego can’t handle a rejection and still function at the highest level. Please give me one kiss. I won’t press for more I promise.”
I gave her a long sad look. It would have been too awkward if she said no for a second time, “All right,” she said, with some resignation. I kissed her full lips gently and was surprised how moist they were after her three day E-party.
“Oh that was nice.”
“Let’s just hold hands,” I said.
“Okay, but bring that bottle over here.”
“That’s a line from a Bob Dylan song!” I exclaimed, “From I’ll be Your Baby Tonight. We should listen to it. It’s on John Wesley Harding, considered his most literary dense album, full of biblical references. Hold on. I have it on vinyl.”
When the title track began she looked skeptical. “I don’t really like country,” she said. “Got anything with a hard beat, grandpa?”
“This isn’t country. You might call it folk, but it isn’t really that either. It makes me sad young people don’t care enough about it. Sure, some pay lip service inevitably, but at most they listen to the Greatest Hits a few times.”
“I heard them compare Lil Wayne to Bob Dylan,” she said.
“Well, I feel that may be somewhat over-reaching.”
“Do you have any Lil Wayne?”
It was a losing battle. I allowed her to play whatever she wanted on YouTube. Weezy’s guttural extemporizing didn’t create the romantic mood I desired. But beggars, in the lusty teenage early afternoon, are not choosers.
“Hey I almost forgot, I’ve got half a vial of K left, you still do K?”
I hadn’t done K in several years but I once swore a standing oath never to refuse a dissociative drug. So I agreed to dissociate myself from the situation.
“Okay, I know this will be weird since you gave me this booze and everything, but this K was like $35 so maybe you could give me like $10?”
I agreed, admiring her. I took the bill out of my wallet and pressed it into the pocket of her small purple shorts. She divided the white powder into six large lines. Within five minutes they were gone and we were planted squarely in the fourth dimension.
“Oh my God,” she said, “I’m not in the K-hole but everything is so like…rich.”
“I’ve always loved this shift in perception.” I took her hand again but both our hands were clammy, and it seemed silly now. There was a better connection going on in this dimension that didn’t require the validation of the hand-hold. My carnality had almost totally receded.
“Let’s go to the park now,” I said, “It will be awesome.”
I dragged her up off the couch and I could feel the weight of her body. This stirred some biological imperative in my nerves. I looked at her, and then kissed her again, long and hard this time. We started pawing at each other and my confidence was through the roof.
“Let’s still go for that walk,” she said. “We should do that now. We’ve got all day together.” She gave me a very girlish peck on the lips and it made a loud smacking sound.
In the park she said, “Everything is so much more complex. Do you notice the contrast between the buildings and the sky, how sharp it is? And look at that man with the top hat? Doesn’t that seem, somehow, unreal? Like, scripted?”
“It does, but we see weird things all the time and just don’t notice. Of course there’s the possibility that it is all a script. That this is just a reality studio and there is a director calling the shots somewhere.”
“When I’m in the fourth dimension like this I can see patterns to things. Like I’ve met you a hundred times before or something and I’m going to keep meeting you throughout eternity. Like everything is just repeating some big cycle throughout all time.”
“Archetypes,” I said.
“In the Jungian sense, popular among the new-age type who you’re sure to meet if you keep going to raves, they are universal needs seeking fulfillment…like what you said, patterns through history.”
“You’re smart,” she said. “I could learn from you.”
“You’re probably smarter than me; I’m just older and have met more jerks. Noticing the contrast between the buildings and the sky, I’d say one in maybe every 100 people is capable of that perspective. That’s what counts. You’d probably dig a Bob Dylan tune once you got over the reservations this cheap and empty culture has imposed on you.”
“I’m having an awesome time. This is a great way to come down. Do me a favour and don’t ruin this by trying to fuck me. I really don’t feel like being touched. Or you’ll be just like those people who always ruined it for you, like you were saying about the personality flaws. It’s so nice to meet a guy and not have sex as his total reason, cause guys always try stuff with me lately.”
“Well I can’t help being motivated by sex to an extent. You are a sexy girl; the type of girl that isn’t all that available to me either. You are the forbidden fruit but also the embodiment of my physical ideal. The menace that keeps me from the priesthood as mentioned earlier. Celine, a misanthropic French writer, said something about perfect forms, can’t quite remember what, maybe that they are like a drug. You like drugs…well you have drug-like properties for me. You are like an unsnorted line of K in front of me. You’re saying, don’t snort the K. But it’s hard to keep looking at. In a jerky moment someone might be tempted to just snort up the last line; you know how that goes.”
“I should just give you a handjob,” she said, thinking out loud, perhaps teasing.
“Yes that would get it out of my system, so to speak.”
She looked up at the sky and there was such a fierce intelligence in her eyes, a fierce awareness of the sky’s many contrasts. I loved this girl beyond all the handjobs in the world but I was still a base creature, and still wanted one.
“Will you take off your shirt?” I asked.
“Maybe, but not my bra.”
“This is fantastic,” I said. I wanted to point up at the sky and thank the man upstairs, like a spiritual field goal kicker after a successful 48-yard try.
She was in no rush to leave the ever-contrasting park with its motley collection of bums and dog-walkers. There were kind old church-ladies handing out sandwiches to homeless people; some loud guys playing a big joyous domino game; and a guy who stunk like Listerine she wanted to talk to who I knew had been crazy for the last seven years, but still inhaling and living which I gave him credit for. We stood by the dog park and watched some big dogs play. A Husky with crystalline grey eyes ran up to us.
“Maybe I’m just coming down,” she said, “but everything is just terribly sad sometimes. Like this park and all these people. How that guy can’t understand what his dog is feeling? Can’t you feel something?”
I could feel this sadness. I thought if she was feeling it this early in life she was going to have a tough go of things. If I’d told her that she was young and tender, and that her time for seeking had not yet come, she would have doubted me. So there was little I could do for her. I just wanted to take something for myself. I was worried she’d change her mind on the concession she’d promised me, but I didn’t want to rush her back.
“I’m hungry,” she said. She wanted a tuna sandwich so I bought some at the store and rushed back to the apartment before she could change her mind on the concession she’d promised.
“Listen,” I said, “I could make this for you now but then I would smell like tuna. And your breath might conceivably smell like tuna also, which might interfere with what we were going to do.”
“What were we going to do?” she asked.
“Oh I was just joking about that. You seriously expect me to do that?”
The ball seemed to be in my court. “I wouldn’t mind. You had the right idea. If not I’ll be full of ugly sexual desire for you all day. If we get that out of the way we can reach a higher level, communicate telepathically like the dog did.”
“Would you give me $200 to do it?”
“No. I’m just joking. I’m not a whore. Do you think I’m a whore?”
“No. I didn’t.”
“That means you do now? You think I’m a whore. You just blew it pal. I don’t need your stupid sandwich.”
I didn’t know what to say so I went into the kitchen and started mixing the tuna. She sat on the couch and cracked open a fresh beer, even though her previous glass was still half full. “I don’t want that shit,” she said. “Who the fuck wants tuna when they are all sketchy anyway? All right, just come over here,” she said as though she were giving in. She unzipped my shorts without saying anything and started grabbing violently at me. It lacked sensitivity and wasn’t very satisfying. “Can we lie down?” I asked.
“Here we go,” she said.
“Why don’t you take your shirt off and I’ll do the rest myself.”
“I thought you were different. You’re just like any teenage boy,” she said the first bit angry and the last part flirtatious.
She relented and as we were going along she showed better technique, digging a sharp fingernail into me in a pleasing way. “Can I come on you?” I asked.
“Why do you want to do that?”
“More satisfying I suppose.”
“Okay, but then I want to take a shower?”
“Ya, can I go with you for the shower?”
“If you don’t mind I’d like to stretch this out a little bit. I could finish soon but I’d rather keep it going. This is like the best time I’ve had in four or five years.”
“Whatever,” she said, “I’ll just be lying here. Try not to salivate on me so much it’s grossing me out.”
What could I say? I was a needy, dysfunctional man. I closed my eyes and immersed myself in her holy flesh. The fluid came out on her stomach. As soon as it did I wished I’d just shot it on my own stomach. It was the influence of the pornography. This is what gets those Catholic priests, I thought; they don’t want to do that terrible stuff, but the temptation of the flesh is too strong. The devil sometimes poses as an angel of light, I knew that, but I’d been mixed up with the devil long enough to know I could roll with the punches.
The shower was a different story; the ketamine produced beatific visions in droplets of water. The light of Kerouac’s golden eternity, the very same light, was shining through the window on her and on me. The full view of her nude body revealed great artistry. What a being!
Having expelled my inner desires I was able to caress her perfect arching back with real romance, not sex-wanting. “Oh that feels so good,” she said, “Keep doing that.” An electric bolt of warmth was exchanged. Application of any moral framework would expose me as a textbook sinner but I closed my eyes and felt a rare peace.
We dried off and she started looking through my books. “I was supposed to read this in high school,” she said, and held up The Great Gatsby.
“That is probably the best novel ever written. I can recite the last page from memory. The last page is certainly the finest conclusion to any novel ever written.”
“Let’s hear it.”
I recited it, the final elaborate series of dashes and ellipsis somehow registering in my voice. When I finished she said, “Oh that is nice, I should have read it after all.”
“I never understood making kids read it in high school. It’s about the futile pursuit of lost youth. Who comprehends that when they’re still young?”
“So what’s your favourite thing,” she asked, “being sad and then talking about it?”
She was funny and this probably made the whole thing hurt the most. For a minute I got this crazy idea of moving her into some apartment and her getting a job at Starbucks though she would hate Starbucks and the insecurity and fear of it all. But in her warmth I could only try to appreciate my remaining moments. “It would seem that way wouldn’t it.”
“Well, what is it?”
“I don’t know, an afternoon like this.”
“You aren’t shooting that stuff on me again, no matter what you say.”
She let me play a few records. I played My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and she said, “Hey this stuff is crazy.” We looked through some art books and she said, “This is like the coolest thing I could be doing right now.” As I got drunker I started singing along to Dylan records in an off-key warble. She didn’t seem to mind. Usually people would mock me right off the bat because off-key singing tends to make people uncomfortable. It was almost 4:30 and my wife occasionally came home early.
“This has been quite a damn day. And to think I was going to sit around with that Listerine-drinking guy otherwise. Honestly that’s what I had planned. I’m not sure what I did to deserve this, but my wife will be home soon. Every illusion ends, but this one has been concise and powerful. Can I take you out to dinner? You’re probably getting an appetite by now. We could get steaks and pitchers of beer?”
“No. I need to get home. My mom gets worried if I’m not home by Monday. I tell them I spend weekends at my friend’s cottage. I have to get back to Mississauga.”
“Okay. I’ll take you to the GO station then.”
“No, that’s allright,” she said.
“Can I have your email, in case I have any sad things to tell you?”
“In case you want any more handjobs?” she said knowingly. Then, “I can’t believe I did this. I just needed a place to kill a few hours so I wouldn’t go home so high. And look, cummed all over. Some people would call this real slutty behaviour.”
“We did have some kind of connection,” I offered.
“Ya. That should have been enough.”
“I never claimed to be a great man.”
“I’d say you’re kind of a bad man in a way, because I think you are very good at manipulating people. Every step of the way you were disarming me. You’ve got this…complicated approach.”
“Well you’re a very pretty girl, it couldn’t be helped.”
“What’s that have to do with anything?”
“I’ll probably have bad dreams. Well, I already have bad dreams. You’ll become part of that tapestry of repressed alcoholic guilt.”
She started for the door.
“Everybody loses when you take a broad view of things, so look, give me your email. This sort of afternoon doesn’t happen all the time…”
“No this sort of thing does happen all the time. It just happened a little different because you had this complex plan all along. That’s why you don’t need my email.”
“Look I really didn’t have a plan, it’s like that Bob Dylan song, all I really wanta dooo-ooo is baby be friends with you”
“K you need to stop singing,” she said, and she was in the hall.
“How else will I know what you think of Gatsby when you read it? Wait a few years to read it…think of me as Gatsby and you as the great generic Daisy of all time.”
She was halfway to the elevator, but I chased her down. She sighed and removed a piece of paper from her shorts that had a dozen email addresses on it, all new friends from the Zone presumably. She didn’t need me as a new friend. She’d just needed a friend for one afternoon. She ripped off a tiny fraction and handed it to me.
The email she gave me was: firstname.lastname@example.org. It seemed fake and it was. She declined my Facebook friend request. I never heard from her again. I went out for the steak and pitcher by myself because I wasn’t quite ready to face my wife, since she was a real sweet girl herself and she’d probably want to know why I had the half-crazed glare of ketamine in my eyes.