This was supposed to be a beer review. What happened?
She has not yet begun to run up the nostrils and into the strange vaudeville act that inhabits a bent mind. A vaudeville act with emotions much like caricatures of certain late night moments during a summer carnival in a New England farming town with bright lights and fun-because-they’re-haphazardous rides. The wallets thin. The ambitions grade down. Grasses break under trample, and minds show the watery-eyed bruising signs of disappointment.
She is a beer: The Un*Earthly Imperial IPA by Southern Tier. And she is much better tasting than the above scenario is appealing. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the two are not connected.
The brew shows bubbles. The amber sports a two-inch head that looks like Cool Whip pummeled by bird shot. She tastes like the sound of 10,000 freshly post-pubescent cheerleaders shaking 20,000 carbonated pom-poms while simultaneously riding high-voltage Sybians to extreme climaxes, the chorus of which probably sounds something like an equal number of bullfrogs croaking while sucking down helium balloons, or the combined rooms of the women who ran out and bought 50 Shades of Grey when they realized there was a new porno-lit book in print.
A side note: A coworker told me in earnest that guys should read the book to get what some women like. I was offended, primarily because she was thinking I had no ideas about sex (and let’s face it, it doesn’t take too much creativity and imagination to slap an ass or figure out that a necktie can tie wrists to a bedpost or chair – it takes assertiveness and a knowledge of whether or not the partner will actually like what’s going on). I was also offended because I had leafed through the descriptions of what the male lead character was supposedly good at and found nothing original or more than pornographically thrilling. Thrills burn out fast, by the way.
Here’s an incontrovertible fact: something like, I donno, lots of guys can’t help but already know in their bones (tempted to make a really pathetic joke there, but I’m not going to) everything that EL James writes about. ¹ She’s writing her version of a fantasy that apparently lots of women burn through batteries over. In itself, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the Kama Sutra was likely written sometime between 400 BCE and 200 CE, and the book is pretty much all about how to find pleasure through sex.
And here’s a thought: the things in the 50 Shades book could happen all the time. The country is not lacking in office desks, broom closets, or Denny’s dumpsters. Vegetable oil happens to be very cheap, and last time I checked, guys are relatively almost as horny as women falsely claim not to be. However, there are reasons these things don’t happen all the time. Fair bet that if guys started to initiate these acts more often, even with women who entertain these fantasies, primary care practitioners would see a rapid uptick in broken cheek bones in their male patients. This is just a suspicion of mine, but to read and fantasize about getting spanked by gigantic waffles covered in Aunt Jemima and Land of Lakes is a bit different than when it happens in real life. I think people forget that part of the thrill involves being degraded, in some small way, which the imagination would have left out during the fantasizing. Quick note: to strike a difference in something thrilling and something just plain… is the difference between smashing a watermelon a few hundred times, and knowing how to cut it into nice-looking cubes or even sculptures. Both can be fun, and you can still eat after both, but one is remembered with a hell of a lot more frequency. End side note.
You notice when the beer is gone that this Imperial India Pale Ale is… 9.5% abv, and you drank it in ten or fifteen minutes.
The head of the beer foams and leaves you antagonized because you want the first sip to be perfect, but like the first kiss during a mutual drunk, you lean in with too much lust and nearly botch the whole affair by clinking your teeth against hers, or spilling beer in your lap in this case, which I have now done because like my father before me I often miss something so close to my face it could tell me how my pores look.
You curse yourself and squint while you keep kissing, because you know if you stop you’re fucked, and you’re hoping that if there’s a God, he thinks you’re coolshit awesome and he’ll erase this one. Thank you, God, you find yourself thinking, you must understand all these emotions you’ve given me, and also the kinky role-playing that’ll definitely, probably, but not likely, hopefully happen later on. You of all people, er… beings, I suppose… you would understand all this hilarious looking nonsense. Just good wholesome fake-baby makin’ with a convenient latex barrier, or at least a plan to get out before the great nutcracker chomps down.
Does the Big Guy understand? It doesn’t matter. She’s into you and you’re into her, and so what if it started off with a toothy clink? That happens to lots of people. Few admit it. But it happens, so stop thinking and forget it! She’s trying to say something. Do you want to lay back? Yes, I happen to agree with you at this moment, fuck those shoes. Please allow me to discard of them appropriately on the goddamn floor. What a coincidence, I also hate how some couch pillows take up too much room when you’re trying to elegantly bang.
And then you find yourself wondering if she has a scrunchie, but do you ask? Maybe if you explained first that historically speaking the scrunchie when placed on a doorknob or handle warns potential trespassers that awesome events are happening and you can’t goddamn watch. No scrunchie? Screw it. It doesn’t matter. You’re so into her and she’s so into you and you’re seeing things you’ve never seen on her before and you entertain the wisp of the idea that if anyone were to pop in for a chat they’d be very impressed and hold up a sign reading at least “8.2” if not a flat “9.0” and immediately go someplace with padding and pong paddles and fresh vegetables.
Things progress and you realize you’re obsessed with her raspberry flavored lip-whatever (gloss probably, you don’t goddamn know or care) but you’re not supposed to give a shit because you’re a dude and dudes have the feelings of a drunk walrus double-fisting pints of Jaeger-Bombs and… Focus! It hits you. You pause and she pauses and you both look at each other in the eye and you go to kiss her again but you go under her chin and kiss her neck and then there’s all sorts of body parts pressing but we can’t talk about that here… not for reasons of propriety, but because taboo topics are fun and if you talk about them too much they get less fun so the trick is to just feel it out, and yeah. Wait.
This is supposed to be a beer review. What happened?
You lean back in your chair and drink some more and think about deleting the whole thing and starting over, but you reread it and find that there’s some good in it. A lot of it is fiction, and some of it isn’t. So, you decide to leave it in and continue on with the beer review. You like the taste very much, maybe not nearly as much as the 10,000 cheerleaders bit, but the point was made so no need to change that. You notice when the beer is gone that this Imperial India Pale Ale is… 9.5% abv, and you drank it in ten or fifteen minutes. Nothing’s wrong with that, you realize. A larger than usual quantity of alcohol perhaps, but nothing criminal.
But that’s when you realize it really isn’t, that you’re not joking, because you’ve been at parties where you’ve seen friends choke down Old Crow because their parents don’t care enough about them and you know this because you’ve seen the lack of care up front, in person, in your face, it’s so silent that you can’t hear anything else above it.
You’ve seen good friends go on falsely cathartic binges full of pills crushed and powder vacuumed and balloons inflated, and a lot of the time all you could do was watch and wait and hope that none of it pushed them over that edge people get driven to when their idea of family gets taken from them, fucked and thrown aside like a worn out rape victim.
Those are problems. Drinking a little too quickly while trying to write something is not a big problem. It doesn’t even come close.
You catch yourself wondering how much of a problem you think you can have when you helped a mildly delusional, obsessive-compulsive woman wearing a leopard patterned poncho and a face like Ayn Rand’s but somehow angrier and yet she’s not angry at all, she’s just perpetually confused… you wonder how big a problem you have when you helped her count to forty-five because she couldn’t focus enough to do it? How do you have problems that compare to hers? Or lots of your friends who seem to get quieter with age, and still have something twisting in them that cuts when you talk about it and festers when you don’t.
You lean back in your chair and drink some more and think about deleting the whole thing and starting over, but you reread it and find that there’s some good in it. A lot of it is fiction, and some of it isn’t. So, you decide to leave it in and continue on with the beer review. You like the taste very much, maybe not nearly as much as the 10,000 cheerleaders bit, but the point was made so no need to change that.
Tonight is not a good night to review beer. You convince yourself that there was nothing wrong with trying to write something creative about a damn beer (as if that could help people in any meaningful way), and allow yourself a bit of slack, but you have to explore this now, because a problem we do all have is that we can ignore those small human moments that make us who we are, and we need those moments and we love those moments and it’s not fucking corny or stupid or childish or weak to feel that way. You tell people the kind of truths you pretend you don’t think about when you’re not in those moments. They matter. In those moments, sometimes we find actual catharsis for our problems.
We find relief and pleasure beyond thin thrills like empty sex and drug binging.
The screen is too bright, and you’re hands are stiff, so you throw on more clothes and go outside and smoke a cigarette and remember telling one girl once that you thought her hair as it whipped up and spread out was mesmerizing, and her eyes as they looked down at you felt like clouds slamming lightning into your brain.
You push this out of your head momentarily, unable to grapple with that sharp truth. You remember a time when you heard a laugh that only certain girls can master at making. The kind of laugh that when you hear it you know exactly what you’re allowed to do next. It’s not even that. You have to. So then you hold her wrists gently and raise them up behind her head and you feel the cotton of her blouse against your stomach and chest and her thigh rising up along yours and you can’t think about shit because how the hell could anyone think about shit right now? But she says stop thinking and you realize you were thinking, or looked like it, and then there’s a rush same as most of the highs that drugs can give you, but better because it’s a high you can be proud of afterwards.
You remember the sounds of dead things shaking in the trees and cool wind and thought you might have heard the ocean in the wind because there’s an ocean near, because in some ways there’s always an ocean near, and you both move slower than normal because you’ve been through this before with other people, and it’s not so much a matter of getting it right, because it’s hard to get it wrong, but it’s a matter of warmth and something you can’t get from Facebook. A satisfaction that’s more than sex it’s like sex went out and got fit and stopped eating shitty food and is more aware of herself and both of you can see this, well both your eyes are mostly closed but you can both feel this magnetic language, this funny romp in someplace sunny and breezy and bright. It’s so good you go back for more and even that doesn’t make you ashamed or sad or regret having had it at all.
Then you lean on the railing and exhale a long plume of smoke and remember that was long ago. You remember that you haven’t felt that way in half a decade and you wear all those negative after-effects like you’re some weird magnet tuned only to attract them. This isn’t depressing anymore. You know this because you’ve learned how to understand it. How to ride it out.
So you keep paddling against that ceaseless current Fitzgerald wrote of, and keep experiencing the visible world around you and all its ineluctable modality that Joyce confused you with. And you smoke another cigarette and remember that you went through this a few weeks ago, and a few weeks before that, and so on. It’s a cycle. You get down, but you grab hold the bar and ride it, gritting your teeth and ripping the skin off your knuckles punching that gut-wrench sick feeling back into your throat, and then you’re suddenly fine, because at the top of that next high rise of track is the fortunate truth.
Footnotes: ¹ I originally wrote that EL James is a man. She is in fact a woman. Probably. I do apologize.