Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Loser's Number

19th century American women
   When the Complete and Total Loser thinks about how many women he’s had sex with, he thinks it’s five but he’s wrong. It’s four. He’s not sure why he thought five. None of the relationships lasted longer than weeks.
   The first was Mary.
   Ohio, September, 1979. The Loser is a junior in college and has yet to even kiss. Mary is a sophomore. They’re on a co-ed floor in a modern dorm, carpeted, cinder block interior walls, dark brick exterior, hallways that connect at 45 degree angles. The Loser has a single. It’s a tiny room, narrow, but air conditioned and near the bathroom. Mary lives next door in a double. Her roommate is pretty, skinny and blond. Here name is … Betsy? Great smile, huge teeth. She’s transferred to the college and though she seems to enjoy herself she decides it isn’t for her in just three weeks. Her father drives from Chicago to take her home.
   She’s forgotten soon and the Loser and Mary spend much time together. She falls for him. She’s heavier than the Loser likes and laughs too easily. They hang out in her room. Things get physical and one night he goes from stroking her velour top to kissing. Garments slide off. She glows in the dim light from the window, alabaster against the Loser’s average-shade skin. She loves being massaged with talcum powder. Caressing evolves to petting, then petting below the waist. She’s small. He has average fingers but it’s hard for him to insert two into her even when she’s wet. She loves oral sex, giving and receiving, and the first orgasm the Loser has with a woman is from a blow job. She swallows. He wonders whether he’s still a virgin.
   A cool Saturday night in late September. She’s out, he’s in the dorm. He goes upstairs to the floor above his, which isn’t coed but all women, most of them jocks. In the hall’s lounge five of them are playing a drinking game. One names a favorite animal, sport, color, state or other thing while drumming their hands on their thighs, then points to another who has to repeat it back and name her own, all with a prescribed rhythm. If it’s wrong, they must drain their glass of beer. The Loser plays this for awhile. The game intoxicates with minimal consumption. Before long he’s pleasantly drunk. Buzzed. By eleven the game breaks up and the Loser returns to his floor.
   Mary is back. They go to bed, his for a change. He’s giddy and exhilarated by the autumn air and booze. His spirits are high and he makes Mary laugh. His cock is hard. Soon they’re in bed. He enters her for the first time. This is different from oral sex. No crimped neck or element of work on his end, no performance and feeling of teeth from her. This part of Mary is warm, even hot, but soon he can’t tell where she ends and his cock begins. He comes. Thrilled with his success, he lies back. The booze and post coital endorphins catch up with him and he dozes.
   This doesn’t please her, but flush with his success the Loser is getting ready to move on from Mary.    
   He’s noticed that he gets looks from other women who are sexier than she and he is too dumb to know that he’s only getting those looks because they see him with Mary and deem him safe and desirable. He does the usual cowardly thing: acts distant and aloof until she breaks up with him. The two move on and remain friends.
   Later that year the Loser falls for a bewitching woman named Lisa. He is crazy about her. They will neck twice over the next nine months and both times she will let him fondle and suck on her breasts, which are flawless. The second time he will ejaculate into his Brooks Brothers boxers. They will never actually have intercourse because she is, it turns out, a conflicted lesbian.
   In the first week of the Loser’s senior year Mary visits the campus for a few days prior to her departure to England, where she will spend her junior year. The two have sex in the Loser’s room the night before she returns home to pack. This time he stays awake, cuddles, talks, and has sex again.       
   They part on good terms and correspond during the rest of the year.
   Other than Mary the Loser remains sex-free the rest of the year until senior week, when a friend he’d had his freshman year came for the graduation ceremony. The Loser had made arrangements for her to stay in a room in an empty freshman dorm and was puzzled by the hurt look she took this information with.
   Petra had been a teenage alcoholic but beat it in high school. She’d left the college for Boston University and a degree in nursing. She loved sex. As the two talked into the night on the Loser’s narrow mattress, which he kept on the floor, they got physically close. Then, a nudge, touch, an embrace and a kiss. Soon, she got up to put in her diaphragm. It surprised the Loser that she had brought it from Boston to Ohio. For the next two days they had sex often.
   The Loser moved to Minneapolis, a city he couldn’t place on a map but decided to move to rather than returning east. His first residence there was a house near the university. He had no job, $600 his parents had given him, and a ten-year-old Ford Torino. He met Teri, who lived next door. Teri was Catholic, 22, and had a five-year-old daughter who lived with her father. Teri was a high school dropout who wore tube tops. The two had sex in her apartment, which was directly across the Loser’s house’s driveway from his own. He liked the way she winced as he entered her, complaining of his penis’s girth.
   The two coupled sporadically over the summer months and early fall. She disappeared sometime that winter. She returned the following fall, but had no fixed address and stayed just briefly. One afternoon she laughed and the Loser saw decay on one of her side teeth. Once during lovemaking he bound her hands behind her back with his only necktie. She never used contraception but swore she couldn’t get pregnant. The Loser believed her. There was no pregnancy. Teri vanished again and the Loser didn’t hear from her until spring when she called him from Fort Dix, New Jersey. She announced that she had enlisted in the Army. An excellent idea, the Loser thought.
   He never saw her again and when he thinks of her now he has to perform mental calculus to grasp that her daughter now is years older than Teri was when they were together even though she, Teri, is still 22 in the Loser’s mind.
   Insert fifteen years here.
   In those years the Loser yearned for women, of course. He stayed active and even went on a few outings that could be called dates. But nothing. The closest he got was a woman he met while living overseas, a fellow English teacher. There were two passionate kisses one night and some over-the-clothes caressing. Later, after she opted to stick with the boyfriend she’d had since college, there childish behavior on the Loser’s part.
   The Loser returned to his home city in 1990. Five years of living overseas swelled his balding head and ready to live a normal life as a successful adult, to be slotted into some sort of management position that involved interesting work and good pay. His older brothers told him he’d easily get a good job without an MBA.
   “A lot of people,” one said, “just need someone who can go to a foreign city and get around without freaking out.”
   The Loser bought his first suit and went on the few interviews he could get. His brothers, smart, married and rich, were wrong.
   “For anyone to take you seriously you’ll need an advanced degree,” a woman told him.
   The Loser input data, answered phones, punched holes in paper. In all of his jobs he sat near the photocopy machine. A job as a secretary at a hospital turned permanent. With its decent pay and steady hours, he put himself through graduate school over three years and earned a master’s degree in journalism.
   In October of 1997 Sara visited the Loser from her home in Wales. They’d been friends in the 1980s, when both taught English, and had renewed their friendship over the phone on the evening of Tony Blaire’s election when Sara, thrilled at the change in government, called the Loser. After several calls, she made it clear that her intentions with the Loser were amorous. The Loser had never seen her that way; she was a dear friend but not his physical type, but enough time had passed that he thought perhaps if the two got together a spark would ignite and he’d find her sexually attractive.
   He met her at the Newark airport. She wore a black dress. The Loser felt nothing. They had sex twice during her week in the city, but it was only possible for the Loser because of the bottle of gin she’d bought on the plane. They had many good moments together as friends and Sara did her best to make the Loser love her as she loved him, but it never happened. After her return, there were months, a year, of expensive telephone calls. Some were fine. On others, the Loser would say insensitive things that would prompt Sara to sob and hang up on him.
   Meanwhile, the Loser found a full time job for a suburban weekly. It was a broadsheet and well produced. He learned much from the editor. Once he got used to the job, he performed it well enough and took pride in what he did. He’d always assumed that when he felt good about himself and what he did for a living women would be drawn to him. None were.
   Eventually, the editor got a better job and moved on and a younger man got the position. After a year the Loser decided to make a change and got a position as an editorial assistant at a wire service in his city. The idea of the job was that he’d write stories between his editorial assistant duties and be promoted to a full time reporter. Eight months later, it was clear this wasn’t going to happen. He found that he was the dunderhead of the office, the dummy, the … Loser. He had started to look for jobs before his departure but none came.
   Sara became ill. Then she was better again. Her condition was mysterious. Malaria? Perhaps. A rare disease that made her body retain copper? Unknown. She improved, though, and after some persuading the Loser got her to use email instead of phone calls to keep in touch. They corresponded regularly this way, with phone calls every few weeks or so.
   One night, as the Loser watched television, he checked his email during a long commercial break and found that he had a message from a friend of Sara’s. Sara was dead.
   There have been no women since Sara. He had a near encounter with a coworker three years ago, but found that he was unable to complete the act with her. He might have been able to if he’d been able to overcome his anxiety with a few drinks, but she was an alcoholic and even though she said she’d be fine with him drinking in moderation around her he did not. So she would take him in her mouth until he was hard enough, then straddle him and insert his penis in her. Then she’d rock back and forth, rather than thrust, the way women do but shouldn’t, and the Loser would wilt.
The sexual ember between them died, then the mental one and after some days of pained talks and much crying (hers) the two parted.
   A memory from this time. The Loser in a drug store outside his neighborhood, looking at skin care products. He has awful skin—blotchy, huge pores—and he wanted to minimize these defects for her. Standing in the drug store aisle trying to decipher the complicated lists of ingredients and promised results the Loser nearly cried.

No comments:

Post a Comment