by Adrian Flange
"So what's with the polar bear fetish?'' Ellen asks, after reading my
first pathetic attempt at an erotic story. Her laptop screen cast a faint
white glow on her breasts, like milk.
I can't meet her big black eyes, so I look up and to the left, making up
right-brained shit, like I do.
I go: "I don't know. Polar bears. They're soft but massive. Soft white
fur, sharp black claws. I remember the rearing-up stuffed one in the
Natural History Museum, from when I was a kid."
"Yeah?" "What age?''
"I must have been about eight. This thing standing behind the glass must
have been twice as tall as my dad. It could have well fucked him up. He
was always getting angry with my mother for no reason. The bear could have
responded. To protect her. Like the whole Arctic suddenly turned Slavic
and got a big furry hard-on to wreak vengeance on stern-faced married
Ellen frowns for a minute and goes, "So you wanted to protect your
mother, good. But you know, nobody actually talks in real life like you
do. It's too accurate grammar, and trying too hard to be clever and
"Actually, I do talk like this," I say.
She looks me in the eyes and I look her in the eyes. My seeing-brain is
really happy with how her eyes look, and with her face that goes all the
way around them so expertly. Like she'd been practicing this face-growing
thing for a million generations to get it just right.
But my ego-brain is all defensive about the bear/surgeon/mom story, and
this makes my sex-brain retreat a little, cower a little, hiding out,
biding time, waiting for an opening. It is a patient, carapaced little
thing, and it knows. My sex-brain knows from real experience of fucking
real women that it can let me talk, act, gesture, talk more, make shit up,
charm her circuits, work the seduction. And if I do my job for it, it will
give me the keys to the only true heaven on earth: a woman will use her
judgment to betray her judgment. She will let herself be carried off to
the alien planet of Sex with a New Man. The universe will turn inside out,
and she will surprise herself by backing into the warm pool of her own
acquiescence. "Oh my!" she will say. "I seem to be all rubbery-boned,
flush-lipped, squirmy-hipped, and wet, wet, wet. However did this happen?''
Women take pride in being grounded, pragmatic, embodied. A thousand books
they read, a dozen feminist courses to get in touch with their bodies. Yet
they still can't tell when they're going to choose me. It always, always,
always surprises them. Their sex-brain's been planning everything from
the start, doing all the casting, stage-work, costuming, lighting, while
their ego-brain thinks it's the auteur up on the gantry. Experience and
culture are nothing against six hundred million years of selection for
I think this all in a flash while our eyes are still locked, because I'm
good at thinking stuff like this very quickly. I've had years of practice
running the messengers between my science-brain, my sex-brain, and my
ego-brain. Those messengers are swift and silent, like nuclear subs, like
nanotech. A million fireflies behind twin suns. They run around behind my
eyes without giving anything away.
She's got no idea who she's fucking with.
We're in the ground floor lounge of a hotel near the airport. She's flown
here on a whim, a last-minute Expedia ticket on some shitty little Delta
commuter plane out of Burlington, onto a 767 at La Guardia, to Nashville. To me.
But not right to my house. To this hotel, which lets us pretend nothing
will happen. I bought my house, she paid for her hotel, our accounts do
not co-mingle, therefore our bodies need not co-mingle. This is what the
Inner Calvinist, the accountant-brain, tells the sex-brain. The sex-brain
smiles, and says, "Sure, separate bedrooms. Perfectly safe."
Check this out for what a spazzy nerd I can be: I arrive 40 minutes early
to meet her at the security checkpoint, after spending an hour messing
around with my face, trying on five different shirts, cleaning junk out of
my car. When she finally comes through the one-way security corridor, we
recognize each other from the pictures in the articles we've read about
each other over the years. I should receive her graciously, cool like a
good host, like Nosferatu in his castle, like James Bond. Instead, I have
this irrelevant, fleeting thought: she's stuck here with me until her
return ticket; if she tried to run back now to her airplane, the fat TSA
security hag sitting on her security stool with her .40 Glock would shoot
her in the leg. And her airplane couldn't even fly her back to Vermont,
since the pilot's fragged with exhaustion, the crew are gone, the fuel
tanks are empty, so she's trapped now on my turf. Hah!
Continued spazziness: This thought seems so nasty, so uncharitable, that
I'm mentally frozen, and when Ellen comes up to me, I don't know
whether to hug her like a friend, shake her hand like a sexless colleague,
or fall on my knees to worship Beauty Incarnate. I shake her hand, which
is smoothly warm and electrical, knowing my hand must be clammy, greasy,
rough, inadequate, but figuring she probably thinks hers feels the same to
me. This is the thing about being adults: you eventually learn everybody
else still has the same dumb adolescent thoughts that you used to think
were yours alone. At least, if you read enough decent fiction, you learn
Beyond the Valley of the Ultra-Spazz: half-way through the warm/clammy
hand-shake, we both realize it's sort of stupid given the intimacy of our
emails, so we manage the world's least elegant segue into a 21st-century
metrosexually ambiguous hug. A hug like the Jennifer Aniston girl would
give to the mopey paleontologist on that TV show: just enough breast
contact to fuel his obsessive masturbation in the dusty janitor closets of
the Natural History Museum where he works, as he imagines coming all over
her cheer-leading skirt.
The blind fossils in the rooms around him don't mind that Ross jerks off
wildly at night when he should be cataloguing Miocene teeth. They have
seen it all, they will see more. They abided in the dark earth for 30
million years, were dug up to face the light reflected off school-kid
faces for a few years, and after civilization goes, they will abide in the
dark earth some more. Perhaps in some infinitesimally subtle way, the
vibrations of Ross's muffled voice resonate in their rocky innards, at
least that time he shouted, almost loud enough for Emmanuel the security
guard to hear: "Yeah, Rachel, you elusive big-assed slut, take my cock in
your tight Jewish ass!" So, what must the trilobites think of us? What
must Emmanuel, father of three daughters, think? Does Ross ever wonder?
Fuck no, he's not bright enough to be a real paleontologist. What kind of
scientist wants to date a ditzy fashion buyer from Macy's? Jesus.
Anyway, the hug with Ellen lasts long enough for that train of thought
to flash through the old imaginer, making me feel thoroughly perved-out,
like, yeah, she's really going to enjoy a week with Dr. Creepy and his
friends, the Artic/Slavic Sex-Bear, the Scuttling Sex-Brain from Planet
Spazz, and Ross the Wildly Masturbating Paleontologist. Thank god we're
not telepathic. I try to put all that to the side and focus on the real
3-D woman in my arms.
Women are always surprisingly short when you get really close to them;
even celebrities and famous women scientists like Anya Hurlbert are.
Ellen's head barely comes up to my shoulders. Her hips, which I'm now
feeling through her winter coat, are broadly womanly compared to the rest
of her willowy body, but really, objectively, they're not as broad as
mine, which is kind of weird when you think about it. The reassuring,
calming, wonderful thing is this: her hair has a smell that is utterly New
and utterly Ancient at the same time, a warm smell that says
"warm-blooded, milk-making, mammal mother." Proven fertility, full
womb-warranty. I feel her back and hips through my arms, and smell her
head-smell, and feel her breasts against my chest, and the words all drain
out of my head for a splendid minute.
The drive from the airport parking lot to her hotel took only a few
minutes. I hoped my car would impress her, but most women know nothing about
cars, so it's just a dumb sex/advertising delusion we guys have. Like women
thinking we give a shit about their Manolo Blahnik shoes. (Did I spell that
right? Do I care?) Not that she was wearing over-priced foot-fetish
floor-stabbing strappy things. She was wearing genuine mid-80s blue
leather clogs, like from my high school days, or retro-versions thereof.
This, I considered a great and good sign, since it reminded me of a
clog-wearing girl named Emily on whom I'd had a three-year crush during my
peak libido years. We imprint on this sort of stuff, you know. It stays
with us, across all the continents and decades. How did she know these
were the shoes to wear for a guy who doesn't care about shoes, who thinks
male attention to female feet is something for pervey Chinese mandarins
from the Warring Kingdoms period. I must have sent her this story before
she got on the airplane. Or did she just read it in the hotel lounge, on
In any case, here we are, in the hotel lounge, sitting next to each other.
There are five inches between her right thigh and my left thigh. It is
common knowledge between us "she knows that I know that she knows" that we
are both afraid our brains are too big for this venture. We think too
much. In our sea of love, the ego-brains have grown like runaway corals
over the sex-brains' little caves. Can the little scuttlers escape to get
out and meet on the sea-floor?
From inside our heads, they say, with shocking and total authority, "Trust
us, we know what we're doing."
And all it takes for them to break out and run riot is for me to run two
fingers, lightly, along the inside of your wrist. g
Adrian Flange is the pseudonym of a notorious primatologist.
Copyright © 2004 Entelechy: Mind & Culture. All rights reserved.