Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Hundred

“You have 100 orgasms left, and then you’re done,” said Ethan's doctor Kozen Simian. He sat beneath an M.C. Escher painting where the stairs all tummbled over each other then dispersed into different directions, and Ethan thought to himself, well, thatÊ»s my world now. His entire existence had been deconstructed and recombined in a single diagnosis. 

“A hundred women?” Ethan asked with dismay. 

“No. I didn’t say that," said Dr. Kozen. "I said a hundred orgasms. However you spread them out, is up to you,” he said. 

“A hundred per would be ideal. From a procreative standpoint,” Ethan stated, making an attempt at humor and grace. 

“That’s your prerogative, and it's very ambitious, albeit unrealistic. If I were you, I would spend every last one fostering and strengthening a substantial relationship. It can happen sooner, or it could happen later. But, at some point, you’re going to need it. I'm really sorry to have to tell you this.”

This was bad news. One hundred climaxes before idiopathic fibrosis would make its way down Ethan's corpora cavernosa, making erections and ejaculations impossible. A hundred rounds. “What about nocturnal penile tumescence? Or, nocturnal emissions?” Ethan asked. 

“We have medications to stifle those mechanisms. Dulling desire.” 

"An anti-viagra," Ethan snarked.

"Not quite, but that would be the ancillary benefit if it," Dr. Kozen said. His hands were clasped on his lap. "There may be side-effects."

“Like what?" Ethan asked. 

“Well, an incredible sense of," Dr. Kozen made his left hand into a fist, covered it with his other hand and squeezed. "Density.”

* * *

Ethan Thompson's social life for a man in his thirties, was quite ordinary. He had a few friends with whom he had kept close since college. He exercised regularly, rarely drank and was a non-smoker. He had a close and loving family back in St Louis. He had burned his way through a number of long term relationships, and although they ended for reasons beyond his comprehension, they ended amicably. 

On weekends, he conducted mentorship workshops for upstart entrepreneurs, advising them on their business plans, and teaching them methods for assessing demand for their endeavors. 

During the week, he hid in his office where he worked as a data analyst at a research company, and spent much of his days at a desk mired in the intricacies of automotive fuel inefficiencies for a small company developing a new kind of conduit for electronic vehicles. He had been analyzing the competition, pitting them against each other scenario after scenario. This was fulfilling to him, although, in the end, these endless spreadsheets would be mulled over by marketing executives as irrelevant peripherals.

That week, after Ethan left Dr. Kozen's office, everything changed. He left horrified, and walked carefully as if every step sent a crystalizing burst of blood into his pelvic region.

When he told his Val, his girlfriend of six months, about his new condition, she shrunk away, withdrawing her hands from his. He watched them retract along the woodgrain surface and disappear under her side of the table. 

"Well, then that has got me thinking," she said. 

"Really?"

"Yes. Intimacy is an important part of a relationship. And, well. This isn't really working out. And to hear that you only have about a hundred — what would you call it — rounds? Well, I think that maybe we should rethink things."

"I see," said Ethan.

"I know it seems cold, and cruel. And selfish," she reached out again and rested her hand on his wrist. "But we've only been casually dating. And it can't end well for us. Not with this added complication. I feel like such a horrible person. But I really have ben thinking about it. This new circumstance is just forcing me to reveal my hand. And not in a selfish way. You should use the remainder of your… times doing what your doctor told you — fostering a lasting relationship. And I would hate to keep taking something from you that is limited, when you could be with someone else. Someone you know would be worth it. Someone in for the long haul. Please understand, this is really difficult for me. "

After she left,  he popped the pill with a beer and did, as promised, feel a creeping sense of density.

That night, he dreamt of a having sex with three women on a catamaran. Two blonds, and a brunette. The brunette held a hammer the entire time, threatening to use it at any given moment.

* * * 

"I feel heavy," Ethan told his co-workers over lunch one day. "It's as if I were made of steel and if you were to hammer my hand with your fork, the tines would bend. Now, I know that's not true. I'm describing a feeling." The social embarrassment of full disclosure stopped him there. "Allergy meds," he shrugged. "Side effects," He elaborated.

"Well, I hope you feel better," said one.

"Change your meds," Said the other.

Over time, he withdrew from all circles of life. He averted his eyes when ever anyone drew near, as if mere eye contact would betray his condition, illuminating a cloud of angst around him.

He googled. Visited the forums of charlotans for cures and treatments, looking for methods of staving off the inevitable, and ways of coping.

Within a few weeks he concocted a few ill-conceived homespun remedies, methods and self care techniques meant to repulse him and curtail arousal at any stage. He created and bottles a biological odor that would thrust him into state of disgust whenever necessary. He kept his eyes to the sidewalk and wore dimming glasses to prevent him from seeing the more alluring details of people. He later had them modified to warp the shapes of them as well. He ate poorly. Became sedentary. Went to work in a fog and returned home in a haze. People avoided him, which was all the better.

At work, he had trudged himself knee deep in statistics involving the production grid of a new kind of genetically modified meat substitute while tracking weather systems in the North West. Donut charts abound. Although this provided him with his only illusion of normalcy, in the end this data would be mulled over by executives who were only expecting a line chart that started low on the left and climbed it's way to the top right corner of wall-mounted flat screen monitor.

He began to make mistakes. In light of his recent development, information from two different planes began colliding into each other, and tabulations weren't presented correctly. Ethan's report for Le Beef concluded that rainfall in 2014 hinged on whether or not an ignition lock cylinder was properly coated. His colleagues shared a laugh. Ethan retreated to his office.

Then one day he met a woman. He was having an off day at awfulness, sitting in a courtyard, having lunch alone. She had reached into her purse, and, losing her grip, flung her iPhone out at his feet. He picked it up and handed it to her. She thanked him. Seeing something sad, she made a joke. This made her beautiful. She had ten bracelets on one wrist and none on the other. A tiny birthmark kissed her cheek. Huge chunky jewelry was doing its best to keep her weighed down among the corporeal. She sat down next to him. She said she was a grant writer and had secured a big one for an upstart animal welfare group. She was excited and jittery. Ethan told her he was a statistician. That the odds of them having the same name were infinitesimal. She asked him his name, and he answered Ethan. Her name was Myra. "Bad joke," he shrugged. She laughed nervously, raised an eyebrow, then asked about his glasses. He said they were gag glasses, and slowly took them off. Her molten figure swirled through the lenses as the glasses wept her out whole. Her features solidified. He asked for her number and wrote it down wistfully on his soft taco tortilla.

That very night, he called her.

"Hullo!" Ethan said.

"Hey!" she sounded surprised. "Well, I'm glad that tortilla didn't fall apart," she laughed.

"You knew it was me?"

"Well, I recognized your voice. It's only been a few hours."

She was right. He felt he should have waited a few days — should have remembered that a three day wait period increased receptivity by 20 percent as presented by a recent social model used by the new APEX software. And also, a greeting such as "There she is" was met with more openness on social media sites as opposed to something like "Hullo!" Luckily, he was still within the margins — having called too early made things unpredictable again and leveled the playing field. So he began by making some small talk. "Fifty-three percent of automobile owners under the age of 30 would be making modifications to their cars in the next two years," he said.

Then he asked her out.

"So, how's the weekend shaping up?" he asked. "Any plans? Wanna do something?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I have family coming in over the weekend. I'll be running around a lot. I really want to though. How about… Ummm."

"Well, how about next Wednesday?" Ethan interjected.

"Ouch. I have a work project due on Thursday morning. I'll be really behind from my family being here. So I feel I may be playing catch up, and working late."

"I understand," he said, taking in a deep breath. "Well… How's about that following Friday?"

"Ooooh my gosh, I'm sorry. I leave on a short trip. Damn it! Please don't get the wrong idea. I'm not just making up excuses."

"Strike three," Ethan said.

"I know. I'm sorry. Look, how about Tuesday evening?"

"I can't. Darn! I'm working that night." He said. There was a new shipment of peas coming in for one of my clients. Peas were used as a protein source and made for a more fibrous texture when pressed into faux chicken patties for La Beef, and the crop figures would be in with them on this year's yield from Oklahoma. A new resource. He'd use this for another prediction model he was working on in conjunction with a co-worker. Two birds with one stone, and all that. He wasn't about to call in sick for that. "I'm free two weeks from now. Thursday?"

"Can't. Visiting my mother."

"When do you get back?"

"That Friday. But there's a fundraiser I'm helping to organize. Saturday?"

"I have a few appointments. Sunday?"

"I promised a friend I would babysit for her. Monday?"

This went on for a while — the two carrying on an act of nonlinear estimation before reverting to  the basest of nonparametrics. Then:

"September 21, Saturday night," she said triumphantly. "I have a good feeling about this date."

"Works for me. I'm free that night," Ethan answered, relieved. Excited. Although September 21 was ten months away.

"It's a date," she said. "Can't wait to see you!"

"I can't wait to see you too!"

And he hung up.

That evening, he dreamt of sex with a smart phone, a tongue slipping in and out of the screen.  

* * *

At times, Ethan felt like he was collecting data as a lower life form — a crab on the bottom of the ocean, an earthworm in the soil, a snail in the moss, a mollusk on a rock — projecting his human consciousness and contorting it into unfathomable postures and swirling it around in sensory disarray. His mind was an octopus making it's way through a twisty straw. He felt these contortions as a result of the cross fire between his condition and medication. He felt subhuman.

Dr. Kozen was right about the density being unbearable. It was as if Ethan had acquired his own event horizon. As if crossing the street would warp the street around him, cars folding into his body. 
This prompted him to halt his medication, if only for a day. He got up and made sure his arms were still there. His legs. He got dressed and went to a bar and began looking at people. He eyed their details, neck lines, archs, curves, wrists. A woman looked at him with concern. She tapped counter in front of him and asked me if he was alright.

"What does the data show?" Ethan asked, densely.

She laughed awkwardly and walked away.

That night, he had nightmares of strange shadows groping at him in an alleyway. He gave into it and fell into a pit of blackness.

* * *

Time drifted. Clouds slid over a mountain. Contrails of tiny planes formed like cuts over the sky. The sun rose and set behind a vertical bar graph.

One morning, Ethan took a shower and felt as if he were about to shed his skin and fall out of it limbless and lidless, coiled up and liquified into a gelatinous mucoid. This had become his morning routine — the shedding of skin, becoming a gelatinous mucoid.

Then one day a potential cure arrived. An emerald pill shaped like a pyramid came sailing at him cradled in a palm.

"Experimental," said Dr. Kozen. "You can appreciate that, can't you? In your line of work? You'd become a part of valuable study." He smiled weakly.

The M.C. Escher knock-off had been replaced by a framed poster of Vladimir Malevich's supremacist painting, Black Circle. It was merely a black circle sitting slightly off center on a white plane. There was something anonymous about it, yet defiant in it's placement. It was either empty, or full. Universal, or remote. The more Ethan stared at it, the more it refused to be categorized. It upset him. 
He plucked the pyramid-shaped pill from the doctor's hand and held it between his thumb and his index finger. “Wouldn’t it be easier to swallow if it were an ovoid capsule?”He asked him.

“Well that's the pill. Specific delivery mechanism,” he said.

Ethan popped the pill and within minutes the fog and darkness lifted.

“Wow. What a great feeling, let me tell you,”  said Ethan.

“There’s only one side effect,” Dr. Kozen said.

“Oh no,” Ethan said. “What is it?”

“You…" he rubbed his left temple with his thumb, "you, may develop an attraction to the occasional odd thing. An inanimate object, for example. ”

“Like yakelope?” Ethan asked.

"Pardon?" asked Dr. Kozen.

“It's a hybrid between a yak and an antelope.”

"I know that they are, but…"

The word shimmered with eroticism. "Yak—Uh—Lope."

That night, he dreamed he was along in a room full of naked women, each with the head of a yakelop. He took a step forward to touch one of them, and they all laid down at his feet. 

* * *

Ethan had achieved a small amount of success in his company. Research had shown that people who needed their medication the most were more likely than others to actually forget to take them. It had been a year-long study, and in its fruition, a new product and service was created. 1) beeping medication vials and 2) automated phone calls and text messages. Another study helped to tailor those messages to sound non-judgmental and caring. He was very pleased.

This lead to his own personal development. After some of his own research, Ethan signed up at invisiblemate.com, an online, crowd-sourced service that sent text messages masquerading as messages from your significant other in order to deceive your doting loved ones who worried too much about your overlong tenure at bachelorhood. You create the shell of your significant other, and those hired to do so, would breath life into it.

Ethan registered and created an account. On the dashboard, he named his invisible mate, Yakelope, and then uploaded his own profile image of a yakelope in a field. He selected "kinky", from a list of personality traits and submitted his request. After a few minutes, Ethan got his first greeting text.

HER: "Hi! It's Yakelope. How's my sexy guy?"

ETHAN: "Good. How's your tail?"

HER:"Oh, it's a little cold."

ETHAN: "Oh is it? How's your coat?"

HER: "I'm not wearing it. And you want to know something else?"

ETHAN: "That's impossible. Stop right there."

HER: "What's up?"

ETHAN: "Look. I know that you are actually a composite of separate freelance writers who get paid for each text but remember I need you to come at me from the perspective of a kinky yakelope. This is a performance I'm requesting. I'm sure as writers you'll appreciate the creative aspect of it."

HER: "Oh my poor hooves. They need massaging."

ETHAN: "Yes. Yes. Go on..."

* * *

At times Ethan felt himself slipping away from himself. He would be standing in a fixed position, and another version of him would take a step forward and walk away. Then another Ethan would step outside of himself and soon there would be ten Ethans all queued up, walking off. He had become like a slow release pill version of himself, dissolving into the ether.

So he stopped taking the pyramid pills and resumed his life. Time passed again. Rain fell on a sidewalk. The moon slid beneath the skyline as if descending down an escalator.

Then september 21 arrived.

Ethan called her.

"There she is."

"Hello?"

"Myra? Mara? How do you say it?" I asked.

"Oh, it's you! Hi!"

"You remember me?"

"Of course."

"Myra? Was it?"

"Myra. Like the wine, shiraz. We talked about this the first time. Ten months ago."

"Ah, very nice. So… Uh… are you still free tonight?

"You know, I've been wondering if you'd call. I mean, would've called sooner. Just because our date was set for today doesn't mean we couldn't have called each other."

"I suppose I was just following what I thought was protocol. Also, things have just been crazy for me."

"Oh don't worry about it. It's been crazy for me as well. I've been working as a part of an animal activist group. We're working to change the way animals here are treated. To spread awareness. It's such a beautiful country, but there's this dark side to it. Bullfighting, for example."

"Where did you say you were?"

"Spain!"

* * *

Ethan would look back at this time as one of the strangest and loneliest periods of his life, although he would never fully conquer that lonelines. He would look back and feel grateful that he had gotten through it, although, in most ways, he had not.

That night, Ethan took a walk along the beach. The moon hung low. The ocean was as smooth as teflon. Tourists strolled along the rocks. Children were still playing near the water, as if they were playing with the ripples of moonlight.

He watched a three-legged dog run by joyfully untethered along the shore before disappearing into shadow. Someone called for him, and the dog loped out of a dark pocket and into the arms of its owner.

This gave Ethan hope. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

THE HUNDRED

“100 orgasms left and then you’re done,” said my doctor. He sat beneath a dumbed down version of an M.C. Escher painting. The stairs all led somewhere that made sense, and I thought to myself, the world doesn't work that way. That is, of course, contrary to the statistics.

“A hundred women?” I asked with dismay. 

“No. I didn’t say that," said Dr. Kozen. "I said a hundred orgasms. However you spread them out, is up to you,” he said. 

“A hundred per would be ideal. From a procreative standpoint,” I stated, arms crossed. Petulant.

“That’s your prerogative, and it's very ambitious, albeit unrealistic. If I were you, I would spend every last one fostering and strengthening a substantial relationship. It can happen sooner, or it could happen later. But, at some point, you’re going to need it. I'm really sorry to have to tell you this.” 

This was bad news. One hundred climaxes before idiopathic fibrosis would make its way down my corpora cavernosa, making erections and ejaculations impossible. A hundred rounds. “What about nocturnal penile tumescence? Or, nocturnal emissions?” I asked. 

“We have medications to stifle those mechanisms. Dulling desire.” 

"An anti-viagra," I snarked.

"Not quite, but that would be the ancillary benefit if it," he said. His hands were clasped on his lap. "There may be side-effects."

“Like what?" I asked. 

“Well, an incredible sense of," he paused for a moment.  "Density.”

* * *

I'd like to tell you, that at my baseline, my social life for a man in his thirties, was quite ordinary. I have a few friends whom I've kept close since college. I exercised regularly. I rarely drank. Was a non smoker. I had a close and loving family back in St Louis. Have had a number of long term relationships, and although they ended, they ended amicably, and for different reasons. On weekends, I did mentorship workshops for upstart entrepreneurs, advising them on their business plans, and teaching them methods for assessing demand for their endeavors. 

That week, after I left Dr. Kozen's office, everything changed. I left horrified, and walked carefully as if every step sent a crystalizing burst of blood into my pelvic region. When I got home I popped the pill with a beer — a nice IPA — and did, as promised, feel pretty dense.

Over time, I withdrew from all circles of life. Within next few weeks I concocted a few ill-conceived homespun remedies. I created and sprayed on a biological odor that kept me in a perpetual state of disgust. I kept my eyes to the sidewalk and wore dimming glasses to prevent me from seeing the alluring details of people. I later had them modified to warp the shapes of them as well. I ate poorly. Became sedentary. Went to work in a fog and returned home in a haze. People avoided me, which was all the better.

I hid in my office where I worked as a data analyst at a research company, and spent much of my day at my desk mired in the intricacies of automotive fuel inefficiencies for a small company developing a new kind of conduit for electronic vehicles. I was analyzing the competition, pitting them against each other scenario after scenario. In the end, these endless spreadsheets will be mulled over by bored marketing executives as irrelevant peripherals.

In the coming weeks I would also be knee deep in statistics involving the production grid of a new kind of genetically modified meat substitute while tracking weather systems in the North West. Donut charts abound. And in the end this data will be mulled over by bored executives who were only expecting a line chart that started low on the left and climbed it's way to the top right corner of wall-mounted flat screen monitor.  

So you see, in light of my recent development, information from two different planes began colliding into each other, and tabulations weren't presented correctly. My report for Le Beef concluded that rainfall in 2014 hinged on whether or not an ignition lock cylinder was properly coated. My colleagues and I shared a laugh at that one. The saying goes, I laugh so that I will not cry.

Then one day I met a woman. I was having an off day at awfulness, having lunch alone. She was sweet. Saw something sad. But sweet as well. Very beautiful. Had ten bracelets on one wrist and none on the other. A tiny birthmark kissed her cheek. Huge chunky jewelry was doing its best to keep her weighed down among the corporeal. She said she was a grant writer and had secured a big one for an upstart animal welfare group. We talked for a bit and I finally asked her out. She laughed a lot. Gave me her number and I wrote it down wistfully on my soft taco tortilla.

That very night, I called her.

"Hullo!" I said.

"Hey!" she sounded surprised. "Well, I'm glad that tortilla didn't fall apart," she laughed.

"You knew it was me?"

"Well, I recognized your voice. It's only been a few hours."

She was right. I should have waited a few days. I should have remembered that a three day wait period increases receptivity by 20 percent as presented by a recent social model used by the new APEX software. And also, a greeting such as "There she is" was met with more openness on social media sites as opposed to something like "Hullo!" Luckily, I was still within the margins. Having called too early made things unpredictable again, and leveled the playing field. So we made some small talk. I told her that fifty-three percent of automobile owners under the age of 30 would be making modifications to their cars in the next two years.

Then I asked her out.  

"So, how's the weekend shaping up?" I asked. "Any plans? Wanna do something?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I have family coming in over the weekend. I'll be running around a lot. I really want to though. How about… Ummm."

"Well, how about next Wednesday?" I interjected. 

"Ouch. I have a work project due on Thursday morning. I'll be really behind from my family being here. So I feel I may be playing catch up, and workin' late."

"I understand," I said, taking in a deep breath. "Well… How's about that following Friday?"

"Ooooh my gosh, I'm sorry. I leave on a short trip. Damn it! Please don't get the wrong idea. I'm not just making up excuses."

"Strike three," I said. 

"I know. I'm sorry. Look, how about Tuesday evening?"

"I can't. Darn! I'm working that night." I said. There was a new shipment of peas coming in for one of my clients. Peas were used as a protein source and made for a more fibrous texture when pressed into faux chicken patties for La Beef, and the crop figures would be in with them on this year's yield from Oklahoma. A new resource. I'd use this for another prediction model I was working on in conjunction with a co-worker. Two birds with one stone, and all that. I wasn't about to call in sick for that. "I'm free two weeks from now. Thursday?"

"Can't. Visiting my mother."

"When do you get back?"

"That Friday. But there's a fundraiser I'm helping to organize. Saturday?"

"I have a few appointments. Sunday?"

"I promised a friend I would babysit for her. Monday?"

This went on for a while — the two of us carrying on an act of nonlinear estimation before reverting to  the basest of nonparametrics. Then:

"September 21, Saturday night," she said triumphantly. "I have a good feeling about this date." 

"Works for me. I'm free that night," I answered, relieved. Excited. Although September 21 was ten months away. 

"It's a date," she said. "Can't wait to see you!"

"I can't wait to see you too!"

And we hung up.

* * *

Weeks later, I had began to feel really, really dense and began having strange dreams of collecting data as a lower life form — a crab on the bottom of the ocean, an earthworm in the soil, a snail in the moss, a mollusk on a rock — projecting my human consciousness and contorting it into unfathomable postures and swirling it around in sensory disarray. My mind was an octopus making it's way through a drinking straw. I felt these contortions as a result of the cross fire between my condition and my medication. I was subhuman.

But I continued taking the pills. Dr. Kozen was right about the density being unbearable. It was as if I had my own event horizon. As if crossing the street would warp the street around. Cars would hit me, and fold in around my body. 

So one day I decided to expend a few rounds, deciding right there to be human again. To fire some off. I got up and made sure my arms were still there. My legs. I got dressed and went to a bar and began hitting on women. But speaking proved futile. My mind was too slow. The pills! A woman looked at me with concern. Took my hand and asked me if I was alright.

"What does the data show?" I asked, densely. 

She laughed and walked away. I walked home. Expelled another round.

* * *

Time drifted. Clouds slid over a mountain. Contrails of tiny planes formed like cuts over the sky. The sun rose and set behind a vertical bar graph. 

One morning, I took a shower and felt as if I were about to shed my skin and fall out of it limbless and lidless, coiled up and liquified into a gelatinous mucoid. This had become my morning routine — the shedding of skin, becoming a gelatinous mucoid. It had gotten that bad. I even created a line graph for it. The days after I had consumed carrots were particularly heavy.

Then one day I was cured. An emerald pill shaped like a pyramid came sailing at me cradled in a palm.

"Experimental," said Dr. Kozen. "You can appreciate that, can't you? In your line of work? You'd become a part of valuable study." He smiled weakly.

The M.C. Escher knock-off had been replaced by a framed poster of Vladimir Malevich's supremacist painting, Black Circle. It was merely a black circle sitting slightly off center on a white plane. There was something anonymous about it, yet defiant in it's placement. It was either empty, or full. Universal, or remote. The more I stared at it, the more it refused to be categorized. It upset me. 

I plucked the pyramid-shaped pill from his hand and held it between my thumb and my index finger. “Wouldn’t it be easier to swallow if it were an ovoid capsule?” I asked him. 

“Well that's the pill. Specific delivery mechanism,” he said. 

So I popped the pill and within minutes the fog and darkness lifted right off of my lap like a poodle waking from a nap.

“Wow. What a great feeling, let me tell you,” I said. 

“There’s only one side effect,” he said. 

“Oh no,” I said. “What is it?” 

“You…" he rubbed his left temple with his thumb, "you, may develop an attraction to yakelopes.” 

“What’s a yakelope?” I asked. 

“It's a hybrid between a yak and an antelope.” 

“Where do they exist. If at all?” I asked. The word shimmered with exoticism. "Yak—Uh—Lope."

“Oh, they’re very rare. I know a few breeders. Not that you’d want to…” 

“What are their names?” I asked.

“John, and his wife Martha.” 

“No, the yakelopes,” I said. “What are the yakelopes' names?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Can I have their contact information?"

“No.” He stood up.

“It's a joke,” I said. "I'm kidding. Yakkity yak! Ha ha."

"Come on, let's get you set up," he said as he opened the door. "These pills, you only take once a day."

I walked out of the clinic filled with a new kind of longing. Yaaaakelopes.

* * *

I had achieved a small amount of success in my company. Research had shown that people who needed their medication the most were more likely than others to actually forget to take them. It had been a year-long study, and in its fruition, a new product and service was created. 1) beeping medication vials and 2) automated phone calls and text messages. Another study helped to tailor those messages to sound non-judgmental and caring. I was very pleased. 

This lead to my own personal development. After some of my own research, I signed up at invisiblemate.com, an online, crowd-sourced service that sent you text messages masquerading as messages from your significant other in order to deceive your doting loved ones who worried too much about your overlong tenure at bachelorhood. I had found a new use for it. 

I registered and created an account. On the dashboard, I named my invisible mate, Yakelope, and then I uploaded my own profile image of a yakelope in a field. I selected "kinky", from a list of personality traits and submitted my request. After a few minutes, I got my first greeting text.

HER: "Hi! It's Yakelope. How's my sexy guy?"

ME: "Good. How's your tail?"

HER:"Oh, it's a little cold." 

ME: "Oh is it? How's your coat?"

HER: "I'm not wearing it. And you want to know something else?"

ME: "That's impossible. Stop right there."

HER: "What's up?"

ME: "Look. I know that you are actually a composite of separate freelance writers who get paid for each text but remember I need you to come at me from the perspective of a kinky yakelope. This is a performance I'm requesting. I'm sure as writers you'll appreciate the creative aspect of it." 

HER: "Oh my poor hooves. They need massaging." 

ME: "Yes. Yes."

I expelled two more rounds.

* * *

I spent another round when I met a very beautiful woman named Janet. She had short, blond hair. Six inch heels that made her taller than me. And, to cut to the chase, after a few drinks, we ended up in bed together. I could taste the ginger and hibiscus on her tongue, and even tasted the faint aromatic of cinnamon dancing on her lips, but all I could think was Yakelope. It took some fantasizing and some role playing but it worked.

"That was different," she said the next morning, giggling. "You, Mantelope, you."

* * * 

I have to admit. At times I felt myself slipping away from myself. I would be standing in a fixed position, and another me would take a step forward. I would see the back of my own head. This other me, which is me, or a part of me, would take another step and another until he walked out of the room. Then another me would step outside of myself and soon there would be ten of me all queued up, walking away. I had become like a slow release pill version of myself, dissolving into the ether. 

So I stopped taking the pyramid pills and resumed my life. Time passed again. Rain fell on a sidewalk. The moon slid beneath the skyline as if descending down an escalator. It was all handled very tastefully. Then I remembered my date!

I called her.

"There she is."

"Hello?"

"Myra? Mara? How do you say it?" I asked.

"Oh, it's you! Hi!"

"You remember me?"

"Of course."

"Mira? Was it?"

"Myrah. Like the wine, shiraz. We talked about this the first time. Ten months ago."  

"Ah, very nice. So… Uh… are you still free tonight?

"You know, I've been wondering if you'd call. I mean, would've called sooner. Just because our date was set for today doesn't mean we couldn't have called each other."

"I suppose I was just following what I thought was protocol. Also, things have just been crazy for me."

"Do you still live in town?"

"Yes!"

"Well, I had to move to another building but it's a long story. A long, strange story, actually. You'll find humor in it!"

"I have strange story as well," I said. "But you can go first."

"Well, are you hungry?"

* * * 

You see, we had both lost someone. Someone very close. And we both remarked during that conversation, that all your life, you have tethers anchored out all around you. They can be right next to you in bed. They can be in the next room. They can be across the globe. You may have spoken a day ago, or it could have been years. None the less, in the back of your mind this tether exists. And over time, as you lose some, you feel adrift, you snap loose a little, but you live on. But then one day you lose a big one, and you feel like you've died along with them, and only your sensory perceptions remain. You see, you smell, taste, hear, touch — your body works, but you yourself have died. We said this to each other, rain on our noses, wind in our ears. Your body is your ghost. It's been abandoned. A damp hand to the chest. A melted ice cream cone. Images. Nothing more. Your mind works, but only in the way a computer works. It's doing its job. Reacting, perceiving images, sounds, interacting dutifully with the living, but you are no longer among them. You're not really there, we said this to each other. A wave crashes. We had walked all the way to the beach. Salt in the air. Somewhre along the way we procure two coffees for 2 dollars. 99 percent of you is gone, we continue the diatribe. But then time does it's job. And you limp along, all 1 percent of you, until it feels like this 1 percent of you is 100 again. You know its not. This remaining 1 percent of you just carries a heavier burden. It feels more. It aches more. It loves more. It needs more.We're on a jetty. City lights behind us. Teflon horizon before us. She takes a sip of her coffee. Plain. Black. No Cream no sugar. Who has the time? she asks, hair whipping wildly in the dark. I take a sip of mine, black, no nothing. Who has time, I agree. Life will always deal another blow.

I am not the first and will not be the last to suffer this affliction. And for many who lose something, life's strange, cosmic immune system floods in to heal and cover and alter things. Scarrification, prosthetics, phantom limbs, synaptic rewiring, adaptation, and then life again.  Sharp left turn, after sharp right turn. Curve ball, after fast ball. Emotional baggage being thrown out the window only to come crashing back in through the ceiling. That night, I watched a three-legged dog run by joyfully untethered along the shore before disappearing into shadow. They say there is no real soul, unless you include your body.

What's left to express? That hundredth was the best one.
















Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cocqui




The coqui were descending. At night, among the rattlesnake shake and hiss of the leaves, and the billowing ribbons of wind coming off the mountains into the valley, were the shrill chirps of the cocqui frogs. Scott clenched his pillows against his ears like giant earmuffs and counted leaping frogs sailing over his bed.

 “Ho-weeep!” they cried.

The morning came slowly, in increments, the light pooling into the valley and filtering into his bedroom slowly yet perceptibly. He had not slept. He was ill prepared for his meetings at work and decided to call in sick. He took short, tender steps to his bathroom and found that his bathtub was filled to the edges with cocqui frogs. They were packed together like refugees in a church, like victims of a cataclysm huddled together in a cafeteria.

Scott called the Oahu Invasive Species Committee and two men came over to his house. One of them started laughing when they saw his bathtub, then regained his composure when the other man sternly asked Scott if he was breeding them.

“No way,” said Scott. He made a gesture with his hands the way an umpire would signal “safe!” in a baseball game. “Hell no. They’ve been keeping me up all night. They might have been coming in through some crack in the walls or in the ceiling.”

"Well they're not like ants. They wouldn't just follow each other in."

"I don't know that," said Scott. "I don't know anything about this. I just woke up and here they were."

Both men narrowed their eyes at him, and then they looked at each other and shrugged.

"Do what you need to do. I'll be glad when this is over," Scott said and stepped back.

The two men exterminated the frogs with citric acid. They writhed and kicked under the mist and Scott felt a little sorry for them. The two men went out into the yard and sprayed citric acid over all the surrounding foliage, on the Hibiscus and the nearby bushes.

“Done. Sleep tight tonight,” they said, got into their van and left.

The next night, Scott could hear the frogs descending onto his home again. At first they seemed to be on the roof of his house. Then they were next to his windows. Eventually, the sounds came from under his bed. They could have been the ghosts of the murdered frogs.

“Ho-weep!” 

Scott through his pillow against the dresser and his bedside lamp fell and shattered on the floor.

“Damn it!” he shouted. “Shut up! He screamed. “Please shut up!”

“You shuddup!” a neighbor called out from the outer edges of the world. It was midnight. He turned on the bedroom lights and searched behind his cabinets, dressers and in the closet and found nothing.

Scott went out to the yard with his flashlight and searched the premises. There was a light drizzle falling, and grass, dirt and twigs clung to his wet ankles. “Where are you guys!” he called out to the darkness.

“Ho-weep!” chirped the frogs.

“Shaddup!” cried the neighbor.

* * *

When Scott woke up in the morning, he gingerly walked to the bathroom. His bathtub was filled again with cocqui. They were silent and huddled together. Their green bodies were moist and glistening. They were all wiping their eyeballs in unison with their four-fingered hands.

Scott stumbled back and began searching for his bug spray. He opened the cabinet beneath the bathroom sink and a swarm of fruitflies erupted like a cloud of bats from a cave. The room was filled with the manic hovering of fruitflies. They landed on the walls and on his face and took off again as he began spraying in every direction.

The coqui began feeding. They leapt in the air and started snatching the flies out of the air with their tongues.

“That’s it!” Scott screamed.


* * *


The next week, the entire house was covered with a yellow and blue striped fumigation tent. He had called Aloha Pest & Termite Control team and they had gone through the entire house and decided that tent fumigation would be the most thorough way to make sure  no pests would return. In the home, in addition to the cocqui frogs and the fruitflies, the team had found evidence of ants. There were ghost ants, pharoah ants, whitefooted ants and carpenter ants. They also found oriental termites, cockroaches, rats, mice, mongoose, and a brown tree snake in the attic. They also noted that while they specialized in pests, they noticed some plants in his back yard that were considered among the high-profile invasive species. There was miconia along the edges climbing up the cinderblock wall. There were clusters of fountain grass, growing near the walls and they urged him to poison these plants immediately before the seeds on the tips of those wirey stems let loose and floated off into the neighboring yards. So Scott rushed off, bought some round-up and sprayed his back yard.

He then gathered a few of his things and slept in his car. His neighbors recommended a few cheap hotel rooms but he refused and he slept in the passenger seat of his car with a bottle of rum.

He was drunk by 9 in the evening and he was listening to an old Beach Boys song on the oldies channel, and it filtered in like and echo through a time portal where an alternate version of himself was playing an old vinyl record, holding hands with a girl he loved. He began to sing along.

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I'd be without you

His neighbor poked his bald head out of the front window, and then came out to the car and asked him if he would rather sleep at a motel, or at least park somewhere else for the night. Scott declined. The neighbor then asked him to keep it down. Scott noted that the volume on the radio was already very low. The neighbor recoiled at his breath and asked him again to make an effort to be quieter later in the evening. He had to wake up for work at a very early hour and Scott’s screaming and shouting late at night disturbed him and his wife. He added that if the noise continued, he would be forced to call the police.

Scott apologized about the coqui frogs and assured him that after the tent fumigation was completed, things would be much quieter and everything would be back to normal. He also explained that he had been very quiet throughout the entire evening, being alone in his car with the radio turned on very low.

The neighbor shook his head and stormed off shaking his head the entire way to his front door. To Scott, his neighbor’s head looked like a boiled peanut.

Scott became filled with self loathing. He was humiliated. He was embarrassed for his house and for himself. It wasn’t that he was apathetic to his home keeping, it was his ignorance. He mowed his lawn every two weeks and he tended to the flowers and washed his windows and cleaned the brown gunk out his gutters like everyone else on the block. There was something else that he was missing, and somehow his home had become a nest of unwanted pests because of it.

Scott got out of the car and paced about on the sidewalk for a few minutes. He took another swig from his bottle and petulantly wiped his mouth on his sleeve. Then he began to yell.

"Judge me? Is that what you do? Are you a judge?"

His neighbor's silhouette appeared in the window.

“I’m actually a hard worker!” he called to his neighbor’s house. “You think I’m lazy? Complacent to lie in my own filth? Huh? Is that what that was?!” His shouting broke the silence. The porch light went on and his neighbor came back out the front door.

“Keep it down out there I’m warning you.”

"I'm not even talking that loud!" hissed Scott, his arms outstretched. He pounded his chest with his fist. “I work! I work my ass off! I take care of this house! I take care of myself! I work all day! I come home and cook my own dinners and after that I wash the dishes and put them away! I don’t own a television! Not like you! I read! I read books! Poetry! And not the insipid type by celebrities and rock stars! The real stuff! No cheap magazines! No ipads or websites. Books!  Then I go to bed and I wake up and I go to work like you! So don’t judge me like I’m some deadbeat!”

“Brother,” the neighbor said, his hand was out. “Calm down. Now, I never said any of those things. I’m just asking for a little consideration here. Sleep it off.”

The neighbor’s wife came to the door. “Everything okay?”

“Fine,” his neighbor said. “He’s gonna sleep it off. Or we’re calling the police.”

Scott growled and skulked back into his car and turned the volume on his radio down.


* * *

The second evening, after having showered at the beach, Scott went to the liquor store and bought two ham sandwiches, a bag of chips and a bottle of Jim Beam. He drove back to his home and parked in thedriveway, and watched his tented home become a breathing silhouette at sunset. 

It had only been a day, but he missed the comforts of his living room, his easy chair, his books and his record player, an antique croseley recordplayer that his old girlfriend, Cathy had given him on his birthday.

It had been a happy home. And when she left him, she had told him "I hope you find happiness. I hope you find people you like and spend some time outside of yourself. Find your way back into the world again. Because it's just too much of a burden for one person to be the entire world for another."

He leaned back in his chair and opened his bottle.

By 9, he was drunk again. And singing. 

He sang quietly along to a song by The Everly Brothers. 

Don't want your love any moooooore!
Don't want your kisses, that's for suuuuuure!
I die each time I hear this soooound!
Here he comes, that's Cathy's cloooown!

Eventually, Scott's quiet crooning became louder and he belted out the chorus to The Platters.

They said someday you'll find
All who love are blind
Ooooooooooooooh! when your heart's on fire
You must realiiiiize
Smoke gets in your eeeeeeeeeyeeeeeeees!

By the time Lorraine Ellison came on, he was singing along at full volume and was so overcome with emotion that he was on the verge of tears. 

Where did you gooooo, when things went wrong baby? 
Who did you run to
And find a shoulder to lay your head upon? 
Baby wasn't I there? 
Didn't I take good care of you? 
No no! I can't believe! You're leaving meeeeee!
Staaaaaay with me baby
Pleeeeease, staaaaay with me baby
Yeeaugh, staaaaay with me baby!

An arm reached through the passenger side window and turned the volume down. His neighbors head filled the window frame. "Look. I'm getting real tired of you and your noise. Now, I don't presume to know anyone's business, but you need to calm down, put the bottle away, get your bearings and chill the hell out. Now. I have a shower you can use. I have some food you can eat to calm you down. But you need to find a place to stay and a way to be that's not your driveway and not the way you've been these two nights.

Scott was at a loss for words. "What?" He pointed his thumb to his chest. "That's my house over there. It's like 9:30... I live here. Who are you? On my driveway."

"It's 10," corrected the neighbor, "and you're being loud."

His neighbor explained once again that his wife and he needed to sleep, that they had work in the morning. Scott politely pointed out the fact that he was being very considerate about the noise, and that he too needed to be up in the morning. 

"But your singing," said the neighbor.

"I'm quietly singing to myself," countered Scott.

"You're rattling my windows. Now, I don't want to be forced to call on the police. Just sleep."

"Do you think it would be possible to sleep off being an asshole?" said Scott.

"We'll find out, won't we," replied the neighbor.

"Care to step outside?" asked Scott.

"I'm right here," said the neighbor. "You wanna be drunk and stupid?"

"Let's do it," said Scott. 

When he opened his driver side door, Scott tripped as he stepped out of his car. When he got back up, he heard something rustling from under his backseat. Thinking his neighbor had somehow gotten in there, he whirled around. An eruption of 30 mongooses leapt from his car. They flew out and knocked him back in an explosion of fur, scampering over his body. 

The neighbor screamed and began hopping about to avoid them as they scrambled from the driveway into his yard and into the shadows. 

"What the! What the hell was that!" Scott screamed. 

"What indeed," said the neighbor. "Look, I don't know what you're up to. So I'm just going to have to call this in."

"No! said scott. "No! No! No! You don't do that! That's not your call! Those weren't mine! No way! No!"

"Screw this. There's something wrong here." said the neighbor, and he began walking toward his home.

"No!" screamed Scott. "No! No! Wait, will you? You have no idea!" Scott ran after the neighbor and put his hand on his shoulder.

The neighbor, having his shoulder yanked violently back, turned around and punched Scott in the face.

* * *


When he awoke, he knew he was dreaming. He was a large Africanized bee, and he was stinging his neighbors repeatedly. His hive was covered by a large yellow and blue fumigation tent and the rest of his hive was trapped inside. He was angry and he buzzed about stinging people thousands of times. He chased his neighbor about the yard and stung him six times on his bald, oily head and he chased his neighbor’s wife into the house where he flew a hundred miles worth in circles, around the television, bouncing off the large window pane, along the walls and along the floors. His neighbor began swatting him with a pink flyswatter, and Scott realized that his eyes were compound eyes, like those of all bees and he saw thousands of flyswatters swinging away in unison. He didn’t know which one was the right one to evade and so he flew in a panic as thousands upon thousands of pink flyswatters swung at him. There were one thousand wives and one thousand angry husbands and they swung at him until finally they opened the back door and he shot out into the vast world. 

Although he knew he was dreaming, he felt high off of a newfound madness. The wind bent to the polished, aerodynamic curvature of his new body. He flew high and then swooped down low to the ground, zipping through the legs of lawn chairs and between the legs of pedestrians walking with their dogs and strollers, and then he flew high again. He thought about the others — those like him, who through their own unique circumstances had found themselves here, against their will, outlawed, tracked, exterminated. Those who were labeled invasive, but were brought here in their sleep. 

I'm dreaming, he thought to himself. Dreaming.

He flew along the forest floor, along a tiny stream, over wet rocks and soared high again through the branches of the trees. The world was alive with colors he had never seen before.

He landed on the stem connecting a leaf to a branch and waited, scanning his surroundings for other crazed, killer bees. He rested his wings and waited. Dreaming and waiting, he thought to himself. What a unique combination.

The forest went silent, and suddenly he was filled with loneliness. There were no others, he realized. He found a small hole in the highest branch of the tree he was resting on and climbed in. The burrow ran deeper than expected, and so he crawled in further until all light was eclipsed. It was the only way, he realized, that he could close his eyes.