Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

The Egotistical Death March of Success

by Ty Gorton          

Saturday began as Saturdays begin, with a calm uncertainty draped over the morning hours.  I woke to the sound of squirrel chatter, that grating “Hrrrmm! Hrrrmm! Hrrrmm!”, how those first Model T’s must have sounded as men in Panama hats cranked away to get them started.  The realization that the hours ahead held no defined obligation sunk in slow and grand.  Those free hours stretched out to make the day feel gigantic, making oxygen sweeter for pulmonary capillaries, and did wonders to subtract the weight of the past five days.
            “You awake?”  Her voice broke the free-fall sensation of nowhere to be. 
            “Maybe,” I said things like this, statements that could go either way.  As in, maybe I’m not entirely awake but anxious for it.  As in, maybe I’m half awake and wishing I weren’t.  The trick has always been letting the other person decide and formulating an appropriate strategy.  Divulging a minimum of information allows mystery to prevail, and from the grab bag of mystery, anything is possible.
            “I don’t see how you can sleep,” Desiree said this from the bathroom, mid beautification.
            “Well, it is a prerequisite for life,” from the bathroom, she laughed.  It always amused her that I used words like “prerequisite” in everyday conversation.  The first time I became aware of this unintended comedy was a few years back.  Desiree had gotten blisters from a pair of high heels, and days later wore shoes that aggravated the healing wounds.  Of the shoes, I asked, “Did they exacerbate them?” to which she laughed out loud.  I realized such words sound odd rolling off the tongue on a lazy afternoon with no cameras rolling. 
            “I didn’t sleep for you,” she said, exiting the bathroom and sliding through the bedroom door.
            “Thank you,” said with appropriate theatrics, the “Th“ extended to absurdity.
            “When do you think they’ll call?”
            “Right around the same time we stop waiting for the call.”  It was an important day.  A hurry up and wait day.  The kind of day fame and fortune pivots on.  Desiree wrinkled her nose, a gesture of mock defiance.
            The phone rang.  She let out a little squeal, hopped slightly toward me, still in bed, then away, toward the phone, then kind of shrugged, her eyes headlight hypnotized.
            I laughed and stretched beneath the thin layer of sheet, fully awake.  No more middle ground, no more hazy Saturday morning indifference. 
            “Hurry up!” Desiree placed a foot on the mattress and started a mini earthquake.  I let out an exaggerated yawn that quivered with the vibrations.
            “Let the machine get it.”
            “You’re horrid.”
            “It won’t change the outcome,” I offered, eyelids fluttering, phone doing its high pitched best.
            “OK Mr. Too Cool.  Your lack of enthusiasm pisses me off,” I knew her well enough to know she half meant it, despite the sarcastic tone. 
            “Sorry darlin’, blame independent cinema, blame the Tarantinos and Rosenbergs.”
            “Cool Hand Luke.”
            Desiree turned her head, lips pursed, “The fifty eggs guy?”
            “Yep.”  The phone rings.
            “Answer it.”
            “I hate you,” which I took to mean sex was assured later, the good, rough kind.
            “Yeah, fun ain’t it?”  The phone stopped ringing.
            Our recorded duet kicked in, “We’re probably in, we just don’t care.”  Beep. 
            Desiree visibly tensed up.  From the call, I hoped for opposite things concurrently; either way, life was about to shift in directions incompatible with now.  Crisp lines of sunlight pulled along the wall from cheap Venetian blinds, cool air from the floor fan rippled the sheet, Desiree, standing there, caught up in my dream of literary success with the kind of selfless enthusiasm I could never comprehend.  A moment, terse and fragile, hopelessly doomed.
            A familiar voice filtered through the tinny speaker of the answering machine, “Hello Mr. Gorton, this is Warren Blight calling from the Dutton office.  As you know, Mr. Tart didn‘t want you to needlessly wait until Monday for the news.  ’In The Worship of Women’ has been green lit with all negotiation points accepted as put on the table by your agent.  Despite some editorial changes, all trivial I‘ve been told to assure you, the book will go to print as is.  Congratulations Mr. Gorton, and we’ll see you on the 14th for final paperwork.”
            “Baby, you ok?” Desiree was on top of me, black hair falling straight down to form a tunnel from her face to mine, “You did it…you did it…you did it…” she kept whispering, coming closer each time, until our lips touched and she mouthed it once more, “you did it,” so slow that time, inaudible, yet it sent a violent vibration down my spine and out toward each pinky toe.
            I laughed…sort of.  One high pitched, “Hah!”
            And then I wept, unashamed, into her arms.  A tear for all those hours at the keys, for the hours spent in dreams, tears for all the fucked up dreadful hours wanting one thing.  This thing, suddenly real.  Suddenly mine. 

            “She wore me on her sleeve, brushing me off now and again, a saucy dismissal for others to gawk at.  Parties were a cat and mouse affair, the way she weaved through guests, a slow turn, a half smile, an unrestrained laugh;  all for my benefit, I imagined.  Alcohol always warped the game as the night wore on, turned it sour and petty.  We made up for it in the second story hallway, just out of sight.  Me, arm across her neck, pressing her firmly against the wall.  Her, ferocious, eyes glazed by the smoke of fired passion, right hand pulling handfuls of pain from my scalp.  Penetration was animal in these moments, equal parts hate and love, the kind of fucking Western minds fear most.  The only kind that matters.”
            “Later, with nobody left, the half empty glass remains of the party strewn across counters and tabletops, we would topple into a kind of sentimental trance.  Slow petting.  Long stares.  Inexplicable laughter.  Gentle sexual coaxing with no intention of orgasm.  Sleep would find us curled on the floor at the foot of an eighteenth century winged back settee, or in opposite rooms splayed on anything but a bed, forced apart by a need for sleep.”
            “We proved the harmonic truth of love and hate, pounded each other into mercy, and then broke apart once we’d aged the formula to perfection.  Like a fine bottle of Glenfiddich, ready to be sent off into the world for someone else to enjoy.”

            It was my sixth stop on a twenty-two city national book tour.  Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon was filled with that indescribable musty scent of printed adultery, the kind of place word fanatics come to die.  The building was packed, the female to male ratio easily six to one.  ‘In The Worship of Women’ had hit a nerve for twenty something college grads looking for more than a garage and a two income home.  It had hit a nerve for thirty something intellectuals tired of playing dumb, and for forty something divorcees with deep pockets but no prospects, for fifty something hangers-on who ignored the three a.m. arrival of red-faced husbands, for sixty something widows past all the nonsense but still wired for pleasure.  The book bridged a gap between young and old, conservative and radical.  It spoke to the primal, whimsical philosophy of lust and unchecked emotion.
            In short, it sold like hotcakes. 
            “We’d like to talk movie rights.”
            I sat in a puddle of expensive cloth, scanning the restaurant for exotic beauty, hoping for a tug at the loins, “Movie?”
            “Yes,” the man across from me represented a company of some considerable weight, a go-between robot capable of number crunching, canned flattery, but little else.
            “Worship of Women can’t be made into a film, not without an NC17 rating.”
            “My client is aware of that.”
            “Don’t studios view NC17 as the plague?”
            “We are confident that your film would be an exception to the rule.  Sales of the book plus controversy will guarantee the kind of front page press most films can only dream of.”
            I looked down at the elegant coconut shrimp appetizer mid table, “You know, I don’t eat meat anymore.”
            The heat of the water turned my skin a lively pink.  Steam rose off the surface and condensed on pale tan tile.  The steel of the bathtub faucet gleamed in sunlight filtered neatly through the tempered glass window above.  I laid immersed to my neck, knees protruding from the near scalding, murky water.  My glasses were still on, a rational decision.  I’d needed them to get the job done.
            “Baby?”  I hadn’t heard her come in.  My hand shifted forward along the tub’s porcelain edge, quickly covering the ten cent razor resting there. 
            “Yeah…yeah, in here,” I didn’t look at her when she appeared in the doorway…couldn’t.
            “Hey…” Desiree had the look of someone caught in a perplexing moment that would never properly explain itself, “…you’re in the bathtub.  You don’t take baths.”
            I pulled the hidden razor closer to me, scooting it with fingertips along the porcelain, an attempt to reign in the shame of a child caught with a hand in the cookie jar. 
            She knelt down and pressed her chin on the tub’s edge, “I came home early.  For a fully clothed quickie,” those big eyes blinked with 50‘s style mock innocence.  She slipped a hand into the water and splashed at me half heartedly, “Owe, damn baby, that’s really hot…”
            As I drove my member home, past the skimpy g-string pulled slightly aside, I saw again the fantasy of my success, this time in exploding snippets, only those golden moments of self-approbation.  As we grappled, me naked, her adorned in business appropriate attire, the comedy of success wrapped its circus arms around me.  There was absurdity in happiness, the way it comes at you like a mugger’s knife, unexpected and brilliant and more real than birth.
            I laughed and fucked and plotted my next literary failure as Desiree clawed her orgasm across my chest.



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