A day off would buy me another day. I had been stuck with a
sickness from the day I was born. I wished there was a name for my disorder so
I could stop confusing it with my existence.
For many years we used to score our orgasms. When we had sex,
we worked toward the moment of orgasm. We were goal oriented. The point of
having sex was to be closer as a couple, because it was something to do on a
Wednesday night, because it felt awesome -- sure -- but there was more to it
than that: the score
Yes, the point of sex was also to receive or deliver a high
score like a video game. We used a ten point system. My girlfriend was careful
in delivering the points. You wanted to leave room above the highest score
because it was always possible to discover some knew technique or pressure
point on my body, or her body that would unfold into previously unimagined numeric
possibilities. We had started very high. It might have begun as these things do
after we had sex in the early days in our early twenties, and we were sweaty
and tangled in the sheets having just come home from class and not really
scheduled for work until the evening and in the long grey hours of the
afternoon having sex and then afterward in my post coital slumber and her
relaxed and lethargic way she asked, "How was that?" "It was
good." "How good?" "A seven," I said and regretted the
statement on one hand because a seven was pretty good. A seven was a C. It was
more than a passing grade, but it wasn't stellar. She seemed a little put out
by the number, I recall. She didn't really like the idea that it was just a
passing grade. She was not a C student for one thing. She either dropped the
class or got an A or even an A with something extra. I apologized. "I
don't know how to calibrate," I said. She smiled and said hers was maybe
five. I was happy she had lowered my score somehow. I liked it that there was
room. And we worked on it, and gradually the numbers increased to the high
These were indeed fantastic. The build up, amazing. The room
flashed. I felt a wave of electrical current pass out of my fingertips. I could
not imagine that it could get better. My ratings though stayed in the low
eights. We discovered new things. She discovered a pressure point known as the
million dollar point on the perineum and pressed when I was very excited, and I
was suddenly into a new territory of numbers. The previous system while
perfectly good in its day did not do justice to the new order. But, I had to
calibrate those numbers between eight and nine. I left the real estate of nine
to ten uncharted. Too, I discovered a knot of nerve endings in her vaginal canal,
what is known as the G spot, and when she was aroused, for instance if she had
a mild say a four or five point orgasm, then the spot was easy to touch while I
touched her and she would climb into a realm where the first time she screamed,
holyholyholy cow. It was the middle of the
day. I'm sure very few people heard her, but if anyone was in the building or
on the street, the heard something. We lay in the bed. "Well?" I
finally asked. "Oh a ten," she said. We didn't say anything, and then
she finally said, "Well, I guess I should say a nine. I suppose it's
possible there is something more than that. I don't know what that would be
like. But I'm curious to find out someday."
The addition of a baby and then a child into our household
altered things such that I no longer slept in her bed. Before, we would find
ourselves at home in the afternoon with no money and that is the perfect
situation where you say, "I'm bored. What do you want to do?" In the
absence of that kind of activity, we began to schedule sex. There was the night
I took our daughter out. There was the night I taught night school. There was
the night we turned the lights down low. In the regime of scheduled sex, the
ranking of orgasms assumed the metrics of a quality control system. They had
the precision of inspections at bottle factory. I desperately wanted to have
that old-style sex where it was an activity to kill time not something to do
like doing laundry, but hell, sex was sex, and I preferred having sex as a
chore like laundry over not having sex at all. The ranking of sex no longer
came into it. The scores would have been depressing. We did our business. We
moaned and caressed each other's hair. We lay in the bed afterwards and said
vague things like you would say about a book someone had loaned you that you
didn't really feel like reading and hadn't read. "That was awesome."
Or "I really needed that." Then return the dishes or laundry or
watching the movie we had been watching.
Gradually our daughter became older. She was in school during
the day. Our sex became more inventive but hardly any more sustained. It became
inventive the way you might get inventive with the same old ingredients, and
you were trying to achieve novel flavors out of the same old stuff.
In the last year of our marriage, we became as skilled as
chefs working in a time of famine. To rank an orgasm in this last year by the
old system would have been impossible because these orgasms left us speechless
and addled. They were like drugs or electric shock therapy. We knew each
other's bodies as well as we knew the passages of our favorite songs. We knew
our kinks and fantasies in the same way. The last time we had sex, I could tell
it was the last time. We had fought. I was sad and sitting on the couch. She
sat on the other couch, and then sat on my lap and licked my tears. We had sex,
and I kept thinking, this is it I guess. I asked her after, “What is the score?
We are bathed in a world not visible to the naked eye. Johann
Wilhelm Ritter’s discovery of ultraviolet light unsettled the old order. Our
own bodies as instruments of observation were not adequate to perceive our
world. Silent sounds, invisible light, imperceptibly hostile elements threaten
our survival. Radiation pierces the earth. Interstellar storms shot gamma rays
Although we can't see the invisible we can smell it. The
odor of lavender from a cement planter in front of the bagel house where I get
my morning coffee reminds me of the woman I've been seeing. She runs lavender
scented oil into the back of my legs. I fight not to drift to sleep.
Below even the tier of scent there is the microscopic world
that is populated by waterbears. They look like perverse balloon animals handed
out at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I dated a woman once who liked me to take her and her
son to Chuck E. Cheese’s. While her son played in the secure facility -- how
secure is it I asked -- she and I would go back to her van and have sex. We
returned breathless and damp to drink Diet Coke from the soda fountain and feed
the child another five dollars of tickets. After three months of this I
couldn't take the odor of flame retardant and the rattle of alarm bells of the
Chuck E. Cheese’s. By association I began to get an erection every time I saw
the mouse. I am no more than a lever. Entering the Chuck E. Cheese’s, which has
become for me a kind of hedonistic release, an onslaught of filthy sex in a
battered old van at the edge of a vast parking lot, I couldn't take it. Only
later did I find out she was married. She friended me on Facebook somehow,
improbably, a year later. I accepted it remembering only her taking off her
shirt in the dim light of the van, and then it all came back to me. I paged
back through her timeline and at that time in her life there was of course no
mention of me. There were however pictures of her and her son that I'd taken at
Chuck E. Cheese’s. Her son looked thrilled to be there. And then within the six
months were seeing each other -- I thought dating -- I realized at that moment
-- we were merely seeing each other.
Waterbears have a single mouth that folds in and out like a
nutrition siphon drawing in the chemicals they need. They are durable little
buggers who can survive deep space or the deepest part of the ocean. When we
have killed ourselves, when even the cockroaches have been irradiated and
mercury poison out of existence, the waterbears will still be here and will no
doubt allow new life that can withstand radiation and lead to rise from the
slick sludge remains of our uncivilized society.
In comparison we are fragile and vulnerable to infection and
Even tiny pieces of bacteria of fungus can find themselves
embedded into our skin. I have had hand warts and untreated they grow into a
little mountain of contagion and sprout like an old potato hairs, but in this
case, long viral hairs. They must be burned off with liquid nitrogen. Hot and
cold is like a circle, at the furthest margin of cold, things burn, at the
furthest margin of heat you freeze into a block of black carbon.
We are colonized by bacteria that either helps us or kills
us. Occasionally enemy bacteria migrate from the environment from contact with
another person into our bodies and we need to take medicine or do something to
We are at the tail end of the great period of antibacterial
medicine. Soon the bacteria will have rerouted itself around this roadblock to
their progress and finally they we will become sick. This type of infection
does not thrive when it kills, but rather needs to delicately keep the host
population alive while also spreading.
I am not, however, a host population.
Before I touch my cock I jump out of bed and wash. I had
just my fingers bathed in my woman's private area and she was making a soft
noise. I move to the kitchen to quickly wash my hands. The thought on my mind
is that I don’t want to mix her fluid on my hands with my fluid coming from my
cock -- it would be the same as not wearing a condom. And so this thought was
one of hygiene and contagion prevention. I do not think my woman is infected
with a contagion but who knows? It is merely a safety precaution.
I worked as a medical lab technical for a while. In training
we had a day where we stained our fingers with a water-soluble ink. And then we
were told not to touch our face or anything that goes into our mouth. The next
day we would be working on what the instructor called 'poop soup,' that is we
would be creating slides from our own fecal mater and examining it -- looking
at the e.coli and the other bacteria that are always present in feces. Our guts
are a savanna of things. And of course within an hour nearly all of the
students had a ring of the blue ink around their mouth like a 360 degree
mustache. And several of us even had blue tongues.
I caught my woman looking up from the bed, half drowsy, to
see me applying a liberal amount of soap. What is it? What are you washing off
She sat up. She looked at her body as if she were assessing
a bag of laundry.
The one thing about the apartment were having sex was that
the elderly couple who lived there had carpeted the bathroom. The bathroom was
carpeted with a beautiful white carpet, like the skin of a massive a pale
plushy, right up to the base of the toilet. It seemed to me like an enormously
bad idea to have a carpeted bathroom. I carefully emptied my bladder and then
went back to the sink for another round of vigorous hand washing.
The soap came in a beautiful porcelain container with
delicate blue flowers on it. I don't know what kind they were. It dispensed a
soap that smelled like lavender and my hands smelled like lavender.
After I washed we got back to it, and then about ten minute
later she asked me, "And what was that? What did you wash from your
"There was nothing that I could see on my hands."
I didn't think about it after that except that the next day
the soap had drawn the moisture from my hands and they cracked. I bought an
ointment to put on my hands.
A few days later she sent me a message and she finally got
around to asking, "And what was it that you were washing from your hands?
Do I need to wash more?"
I wrote back that sometimes a person just needs to wash
their hands even if there is nothing there. Bacteria
helps us or kills us