You like the feel of a woman’s body in bed the first time you sleep together, the freaky exploration of skin, smooth spots, unexpected pleasures of a mole. You like kissing that indentation at the throat, biting an ear lobe, pinching a nipple between thumb and middle finger, her suck of breath wet in your ear, touching that button of erogeny above the vagina, the bristle of hair, wet of desire, thighs twisting as if to crush your hand. The thrilling strangeness of it all will be gone in a day or a week or month, and she’ll be looking at you like a puzzle that’s perplexing and perhaps a bit pointless. You’ll be figuring out how to leave, to be free to discover other strangeness. What you don’t realize yet is that she, and all the others, will wind back to you like ethereal ligament; even as you imagine yourself free, you’re in the shoals, banging against rock and sandbar as the line loses slack.
Imagine yourself a teacher. You like instructing, the role of mentorship, probably a big reason why your lovers are almost always younger. We’ll put you in an “alternative” school, last refuge for the unteachable, delinquents and drug-users, suicide-attempters, slackers, chronic vomiters and makeup-wearing gender-benders. One of those places where on any given day you’ll have a different group of students, where, if you venture to bore, they get up and leave, where they race to smoke a pack a day without hiding from authority figures. You’ll like the chaos, laxity—a nonconformist mentoring future rebels.
Resist attempts to create structure and form, administrative vehicles like staff meetings, teacher’s manuals and the like. When you find yourself in these meetings, stand and say loudly, “I don’t have time for this, I’ve got to go to work,” meaning your other job, a pizza-maker perhaps. Or better yet, the employee of a used bookstore.
Maybe in one of these scenes, a fellow teacher, young woman, will follow you, put her hand on your wrist. She’ll probably wear a peasant skirt, sandals and glasses, have long unkempt hair with split ends. Pale skin from too much time in-doors, a frail neck. If you were to touch her cheek, she’d tilt her head and close her eyes. You like her look.
“You know Billie Chunka, don’t you?” she’ll ask.
A former lover. “Yes, I do.”
“Did you know she was a student here once?”
“She’s kind of messed up, isn’t she?” you’ll say. “I’m not surprised.” On the one night Billie slept with you, she ran down the middle of the street with her cat in her arms after a slap from her live-in boyfriend.
“True, but she’s making improvements. She’s holding down a job at Barnes and Noble. Part-time. I also know Amanda Abbot.”
Another lover, you’ll tilt your head, wondering where this is going. “Oh really?”
“Would you give her this note for me?” she’ll say, already scrawling on yellow lined paper with a felt pen in large, sloppy letters: "Hi Amanda" she writes and that is all.
It’s their craziness, you think, which makes you run. Their craziness also reels you in though; it never wants to let go. You’re not crazy. No way.
You weren’t the one, for instance, who left the oven on until it melted into the floor, leaving a stinking mess of metal and plastic and burnt food, the house a shower of sparks and spitting flames.
You weren’t the one who, hung-over, spilt a full cup of water over a cart of books, who covered up the accident by tossing ruined literature into the dumpster out back.
You didn’t throw chicken bones at a transvestite or shout drunken racial slurs at a bartender. You haven’t been calling that bartender every day for the past three years and hanging up.
You’re not wrong for lusting. For wanting secrets hidden in women’s skin, for searching for mysteries in hipbones and sweat, tongues and sudden gasps, whispered obscenities on moist lips. You can’t go on alone though. You need help.
This is what you do: Go to a woody area and push back through the foliage there, keep going until you get to a mass of dead shrubbery lining the embankment of a river. Skirt the river, careful not to fall in, until you see the cave, almost obscured by bushes. Push back into the dark, call for Jimmy. He has been where you are, slept with many of the same women. He’s even taught at the same school, worked at the same used bookstore. That’s why the walls of the cave are lined with old, moldering books. He’s a hermit, looks completely insane, the kind of person you’d avoid on the street, or at least make fun of if you were with friends. Don’t be fooled, he’s wise and has advice. Look at all those books.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he’ll say. “Look at this great book I found.”
Yes, I know, it looks like a dead tortoise. If he says it’s a book, though, it must be. And if you look closely, you can see the writing on its shell. When he pries it open, that horrible stench wafting, you shouldn’t pull back. Put on your glasses, read.