Monday, October 15, 2007

the devil in the afternoon

One day last week I woke up late and crying for the third day in a row. The idea of spending the day at home alone was too terrifying to endure and I went searching through my mind for someone I could call. There was not anybody.

I have some of the best women friends a girl could ask for, but sadly they are all highly motivated individuals who have moved away to pursue wild dreams in exotic locations, while I pursue my own wild dream right here. I have not made a new friend in years. I haven't needed to. I had C.

But that morning I felt shaky and helpless and I needed someone. Someone who would be home with nothing to do in the day time. Someone who could supply me with copious quanitities of coffee and cigarettes. Someone who wouldn't mind a distraught girl weeping on their sofa all afternoon. I picked up the phone and called the Satanist.

"Hop on your bike and come right over," he said. I blew my nose and brushed my hair and pedaled west, watching the leaning foundations and dusty door-yards of my marginal neighborhood give way to the tricked-out Edwardian cottages of his. He met me at his door with a hibiscus flower and tucked it in my hair.

His house is somewhere I've always wanted to be. It's big and rambling, dark and cornery, full of little alters to strange gods. Being there is like being ten years old on a rainy afternoon in the attic of a haunted museum.

We smoked a joint, talked about China, listened to records. In little bits, I told him some of what was wrong, but he didn't pry and I didn't gush, and it was better that way. I cried on and off, but it wasn't painful, and the Satanist sat by me and stroked my hair and rubbed my shoulders and all those little pacifying gestures C. won't stoop to. It was nice. Then he started kissing my neck and I had to ask him to stop. Oh, well.

I knew, of course, that there was an ulterior motive or two to all this kindness, but I needed someone to be kind, and I took it where I could get it. This is really the strip-club customer's dilemma, isn't it? You've got something that someone wants, and you'll trade a little bit of it for what feels like affection. Once you've made that trade, you can't start to torture yourself about whether the affections is real. It's real enough.

I wasn't brought up to think of myself as the kind of girl that people are nice to just because she's pretty. I was brought up, in fact, to consider myself pretty fiercely plain -- the kind of girl who would always have to be smart and work hard to get by. In this, my people did me a great service but they also left me a little unprepared for the real world, in which beauty is quite plainly and commonly commodified. Everyone else seems to know already what they can trade and how much they can trade it for, and I'm a little in the dark.

Under most circumstances, people are pretty nice to me. I always thought it was because I had such good manners. Now I wonder.

The afternoon I spend with the Satanist was lovely and long and at the end of it I felt much better. I really like the Satanist and would really like to be his friend, but I'm not sure this is possible. He knows me as a stripper, after all. I'd like to think the force of my charm and intellect could displace all the times I've straddled his lap in Lucite heels, but maybe that's not realistic. I'm not offended -- but if this "friendship" involves the constant rejection of sexual advances, well, that's just more work than I'm up for right now.

When the light got long, I told him I should go; I had to work that night. We smoked a final cigarette on his front porch. After he stubbed out the butt he put his arm around me, kissed my temple. "Stay and work here," he said. So I left.


Anna said...

Hi Grace,

A difficult situation. *I* would say that there's no reason why you can't be friends with someone who knows you as a stripper (and in my experience, making new friends whom you don't have to hide your identity from is always good, so why not give it a try?). However, from what you've told in your post, I hardly think the Satanist, as kind as he can be, will be able to be a friend of yours. Friendship is not about ulterior motives and that guy's got an agenda, even if it only ever comes to show when you're "in the moment" with him.

It's another well-written post though, my favourite line is this:

"he didn't pry and I didn't gush, and it was better that way"

I love how you can write beautiful, concise and meaningful sentences in such few words. Kudos. :)



ps: I hope you're not quite as spinning as in the last post - I could really identify with that: I couldn't work as much this month and now I have to buy a new laptop (as in: pronto!), a new bed and a vaccuum cleaner. Ugh.

Susan said...

Oh, honey. Your friends who you think are fabulous and motivated have their own deep-seated insecurities to worry about rather than look down on you in your time of need. Also, I wish I could just slot you right in with my wonderful, kind, generous friends I left behind in Austin and tell them to show you a nice time. They won't proposition you or anything.

old gringo said...

From the previous post:

"That sound like leaves underfoot is my heart breaking. It's a softer sound than you'd expect."

That was a deep insight beautifully put.

You got talent kid.

Pamela said...

Urgh. Wish you were here / I was there for mutual coffeeage and shoulderage in times like these.

As for the Satanist -- in the end, biology is always there, especially for guys. What we call "ulterior motives" is really just the most natural possible reaction to being near a beautiful, amazing girl. And independent of biology are the genuine human feelings. The two can get mixed up sometimes, and that can be dangerous. But as long as a boy stays civil and doesn't get either pushy or defensive and weird...

I have guy friends whom I have inappropriate thoughts about sometimes, and I just file it away as biology -- something that, for the most part, my cerebral cortex is wise enough to keep in reasonable check -- and go on with my enriching, higher-level interactions. For me, if I was the Satanist, I mean, when there's a really great guy in my life whom I'd really enjoy having sex with but can't, that in itself is not a reason not to interact with him at all. Right? And it's certainly not a reason for him to stop interacting with me.

A wise person once said, "Love is not like a checkbook. It doesn't always have to come out even at the end." Enjoying people is a positive thing, even if you (or he) can't always get precisely everything you want.