1. The White Geisha
He is a man in his forties with a strong unlined face, just the faint traces of teenage acne scars, light skin and light hair. On Halloween he is allowed to wear the white silk wedding dress of a Japanese woman friend of his. She fixes him a wig of dark hair in a smooth bun, and paints his hands and face Kabuki white. Gives him tiny perfect red lips. And lets him loose. No one recognizes him, except two people, because of his eyes which are somewhat intense. All night he is the White Geisha, and he flirts and grabs dicks wantonly, with enormous pleasure. In the john a man rips his dress and so he beats him up. Later he realizes it was one of the best times he’s ever had.
2. Tex, Max, My Ex. No Sex.
In the dark barroom, the Mexicans making a sweet kind of trouble in the back, white powder going round and round, I run into Tex, best friend of my ex. He asks me, What’s that hanging in the corner? and when I turn to look he sneaks his arm around me and squeezes my breast. It’s a fish, I say. It doesn’t feel like a fish, he says.
It’s windy and left-over dead leaves blow down, it’s end of March, I’m bleeding and the radio is soothing me in a fierce way. The phone rings. It’s Tex. He wants to meet at a restaurant called Cilantro’s. My ex hates cilantro.
At the restaurant Tex shows up with Max. Max will be five on April Fool’s day. He is tiny for his age and very blond and he scarcely talks but mimes eloquently and makes it apparent he doesn’t like me at all.
I am wearing funny riding pants but I say they are writing pants and am enormously happy and it’s not the first time a child hasn’t liked me.
Tex says he had bad shrimp before seeing me and he tells me he once killed a man in San Diego in self-defense and I don’t like this story. And he says things about Max’s mother I also don’t want to hear, about her being so drunk all the time and coming out of the house to get Max with her robe wide open and falling down and now he’s got custody but it cost him $8,000.
And Max says, I don’t like you to talk about her like that.
When Tex is away from the table Max calls me Farty. And Stinky.
Max gets a dessert with sopapillas and strawberries and cream and gets upset when Tex comes over to my side of the table and feeds me the sweet red berries. Tex and I both agree it’s better to get into trouble than stay out.
When we arrive at the house where Tex is staying Max turns on the weather channel. And stays next to Tex on the couch and won’t sleep even though it’s after eleven.
Tex has beautiful sensitive hands and he jokes about being bad but he doesn’t act on this.
Which disappoints me.
And Tex says he’ll take me for a ride on his motorcycle. Honey lurks in the corner, in the possibilities. My ex is the silence we speak around.
He shows me his bedroom with Max’s tiny little nest next to him on the floor. And something whole glows in the space next to Tex, though the house where he’s staying is filled with macrame. There is a hot tub that isn’t hot.
So we abandon that idea, nuzzle a little and then he sends me home.
I drive down the valley listening to pounding dirty guitars and wonder is it wrong to feel so good after something so inconclusive.
And certainly there are fewer and fewer solitary spaces here, all are becoming peopled and the same. We have our tangled back road routes, our tumbled destinations.
How can I explain the sweetness of this betrayal that never happened.
I wake alone feeling perfect — in a comfy gray morning littered with inexplicable demands. The yellow dogs run aimlessly in the yard.
3. The Silver Dress
Two men who have been friends for sixteen years and have between them five ex-wives and seven children find themselves with simultaneously unraveling relationships. For a while they share an apartment, and in the evenings they drink and talk and watch an elegant blue heron feeding in the pond. Tensions grow between them however, and they fight bitterly about money. One of them packs his bags and leaves. The man left behind dreams that night of a dress: long, narrow, low cut, decorated with beads of silver. The dream haunts him, and he finds himself sneaking looks in fashion magazines and store windows, but he sees nothing like it in this town of cowboy hats and fancy fringed shirts. He begins going into clothing stores, searching methodically through racks of gingham and spangles. Finally he finds a dress; much simpler, much less beautiful than the one in his dream, but cut the same way. It’s a size four, and not cheap, but he buys it without hesitation. As he has the salesgirl wrap it, it occurs to him that it might fit the woman his friend recently left. He hangs the dress in the back of his closet next to the expensive handmade silk shirts he no longer wears. Every now and then he takes it out and smoothes it carefully across the bed.
4. Tex, Sex, My Ex. No Max.
And there is his voice, sexy, dramatic, calling me from a bar with reggae music where he says he’s having a few cocktails, which is a funny word here in the West where people go out for beers. And he’s not from Texas anyhow, but from Westchester.
Tex leaves Max behind with his mother. For his April Fool’s birthday he has bought him a little two hundred dollar electric car he can drive. Then Tex drives three hours for his second date with me.
He shows up with a large bag of clothes, toilet articles and a chunk of cocaine the size of a brick. I get a little up my nose, the one side that works, before it starts to bleed.
Tex orders a hundred dollar bottle of wine with dinner. He keeps going off to use the telephone and buy drinks for friends he sees. He has lamb, rare and I have a kind of pasta with walnuts and cheese. It is Easter. Last Easter I remember going home after a wonderful night with a new man and feeling resurrected. Tonight I realize I’ve rarely had such a good wine. I recall a line from a poem: “It’s this sly little wine I sip . . . Chateau Abracadabra.”
Tex talks about how “a certain somebody” is a good man, just confused. I say, you notice I haven’t mentioned “a certain somebody.” He says how “somebody” was always impressed with his ways with women. I say, yes, he told me so.
The coke makes my heart pound. We are here to betray his friend and also because we love his friend. It seems so stupid and innocent. Back in my barren apartment Tex lays out so much coke an army could get stoned. He licks some off my nipple. I feel strange because there isn’t much sex charge with him at all.
“When I was a teenager I got a job as a masseur to large ladies at a golf club. My first wife had 38 DD breasts,” he says. “Now that’s a handicap. That’s like if you walked around with your top off everywhere.” Later I realize I should have told him big dick stories in response to his big boob stories, but it doesn’t even cross my mind at the time.
Wait till you see my ring, he says.
We’re both staying in borrowed houses.
His hip is twisted just like mine, something originating in our backs, shooting down our left legs. He explains special exercises to me in an authoritative way — I don’t like his tone when he instructs. I haven’t been with someone as tall as you before, he says, and I say, it’s something that tall men miss, being with someone bigger than them, while tall women get to be bigger and smaller with different size men.
Cocaine silences me, as it does my ex. But not Tex. He talks of fear and edges around me. Stories of Aztecs, games of blood in bed. I become vulnerable and empty. He is the invisible white disaster. My voice gets weak, it kind of runs away, and then I just let him talk, I feed on his words, waiting for the new ways I have yet to be crushed.
I think at first his cock ring is a condom and am impressed with how he has put it on without my knowing. He says he hasn’t really looked at my eyes before, my hair was in the way; when he sat to my side he hadn’t noticed. None of which seems real to me except that perhaps my face isn’t falling apart under his gaze. After he comes he keeps me vibrating and delicious for quite some time with his fingers, though I feel a little like a pinball machine he’s scoring points on. Every now and then he shouts out numbers. I notice at times he is grinding his teeth. But he leads my body into some kind of bliss and my energy merges with his and we’re comfortable in each others arms.
Tex leaves the ring lying on the bureau where the candle burns down and scars the wood. He is very concerned and tries to see if he can scrape the burn off with a small knife he has with him but it is too deep. The ring is kind of a dull metal. It’s four or five in the morning and in the bathroom mirror I look kind of glowy and wild but I don’t look too closely in case things get weird.
Once while making love to my ex I became a young oriental slave boy with long fingernails. I was self-contained, seductive, naive. I don’t mention this to Tex.
I leave my body soaking in his sweat. I think of a man as a white object. I think of a room of desires. I think of him and me standing over a bureau smeared with cold heat. The other room where the radio plays quiet jazz. I’m still influenced by who I am with him — nobody really. Vacant of soul of self and yet infused with some closeness, an interactive radiance. Thinking he’s still looking for women’s breasts large than life. My mistake to follow him this far and yet I’ve followed.
5. Black Leather
Through the snow and scrubby sage by the roadside, a tall man sheathed in leather rides his Harley, a tiny boy in his own miniature set of leathers perched on the front of the bike. It’s a cold spring and the man has not found work for the summer yet. There are eleven men, going a hundred MPH on a narrow road winding down the mountain. A cop pulls them over, but one of the gang is also a cop, so no tickets are issued. They stop at an old Victorian hotel in a famous mining town and the little boy, whirring around his father like a tiny satellite, warns strangers sharply away from the bikes. The man showers, gets a drink from the bar, excuses himself and calls a woman from his hotel room. He describes the ornate furniture, the velvet and brocade, the meals he’s eaten. He tells her that among them they have 37 knives and guns. He says, “I bet you’d look good in leather. When I think of your legs I think of a favorite pair of sunglasses of mine. You know, wrapped around my face.” Cradling the receiver the woman lies the book of poetry face down on her lap. “He shoots forward like a malignant star. The edges of the journey are ragged.” The words press against the skin of her thighs.
6. No Ex. No Sex. No Max. And finally No Tex.
I lie entwined in Tex’s arms the whole day while the snow falls outside. My eyes grow dry and satisfied. My throat is slightly sore and I think of birds flying low over a dark river into night. In the pasture next door young calves wobble. A man digs a new waterline.
Tex must go, Max awaits. Before Tex leaves he kisses me and mentions the price of the wine as if to reassure himself.
That must have been either really wonderful or really awful, my sister says when I appear at 7:30 PM the next day.