Part 2 of 3
You got the job at Sears you had applied to six months earlier when I told you, "Get a damned job." You started selling high-dollar televisions to old lesbian couples who didn't understand what a 16:9 ratio was, even when you got out the special chart that explained it all in kiddy terms, even though you stifled the subtle, ironic homonym sixty-nine.
It's just a longer rectangle, you said, almost laughing, about a thousand times. The pay was piss-poor, but there were health benefits, so you decided it was good enough.
You worked hard at the Sears job, trying to ignore the fact that all the other salesmen were disgustingly obvious in their virginities (especially Lou, who sold washer-dryer combos and asked you for a ride home every night and always went on about the Famous Maritime Battles during lunch). To also ignore the fact that every single day you were becoming more like them.
You shrugged and sauntered into that big arena. There, on the fake-grassy floor, a bunch of naked man-corpses, all with brows knit thoughtfully, perhaps by rigor mortis, all clutching copies of Leaves of Grass.You saved six thousand dollars over eight years at Sears. You loved it. You knew your mother bragged about it to me.
You did your research on the internet while you were on the clock. You saw that the Great Death Orgy was finally near. This year, The Great Death Orgy VII in Atlanta. You did the math on your hand in the break room while Lou went on about phalluses and submarines. You were fifty dollars short of a bus ticket, proper attire, and the expensive cost of admission. You quit Sears that day, sticking a wad of cinnamon gum on the boss's desk and saying, "Fuck you, virgin." You went home, stole a hundred dollars from your mother's tweed satchel and hopped a Greyhound down to Georgia.
As most Death Orgy-sponsored buses go, your ride was half-full of transvestites. Well, that or moderately attractive young women. You couldn't tell. The other half were easier to define: men wearing thick-framed glasses, berets, and high, choking turtlenecks. Artists.
Everybody was reciting Keats and drinking merlot and yelling.
It was raining, so the bus was muggy and because your seat was by the bathroom, it smelled like shit for ten hours. You watched the rain spatter the window, then congeal into a stream and run down to the rubber lining. It was all very disappointing. You played your Game Boy for most of the trip, until the batteries ran out and you asked the bus driver lady if you could plug your AC adapter into the cigarette lighter. The whole bus must have been poised for a virgin like you to say something unpoetic like that. They stopped gesturing to the heavens with their fake, foam skulls and looked in the long mirror that beheld the bus driver's lady reflected image and held their breath.
When she responded their needs with, "What the fuck? No. For smoking only," the entire bus alighted with cheers and the snapping of fingers. So, you asked for a cigarette, but nobody gave you one.
It took another hour or so, after this fiasco, to get to Georgia. It felt much much longer. Your armpits were soaked. Your eyes felt like over-filled water balloons. Your neck was so tensed it felt like it was swallowing your head. But, a bell finally dinged. The bus driver pulled the door open and you made sure you were the first off. You got off the bus and looked around the tall, glassy buildings and then thought you would take an intentional wrong turn. You were not about to follow those artsy bastards to The Great Death Orgy VII.
You walked down Peachtree Street and had an onion bagel and a glass of orange juice at some restaurant called Lunchtime! A bum with no arms played the harmonica at a two-seated table beside you and you tipped him half your bagel, debating first if you had to feed it to him.
Then, you hailed a cab and got to the Georgia Dome and stood outside, looking up at it, and something seemed odd. No, something didn't feel right at all. You had insight back then, enough. You expected music to be playing or something. Something with a lot of bass.
You shrugged, still, and sauntered into that big arena. There, on the fake-grassy floor, a bunch of naked man-corpses, all with brows knit thoughtfully, perhaps by rigor mortis, all with hands clutching copies of Leaves of Grass. The women were putting on their coats and smiling at each other. You wondered why they didn't kill themselves, thought, isn't that the way this works? You didn't ask, however. You couldn't get up the nerve.
"Fuck me," you finally said, when the Georgia Dome cleared out. You then realized the irony and slapped yourself in the face over and over (I'm imagining here). Once you calmed down, you looked around the Dome's floor looking for Rolexes and a nicer leather billfold than your own. When you found the right one, a bi-fold with a few pictures of naked women in it, you realized you had no money for the fold, that you were now stuck in Georgia and you were still, regrettably, alive. You decided you'd stay. What the hell, you thought. All that beckoned from home now was a mother who asked, "When am I going to get another grandson? Sam gave me three grandsons, you know. All beautiful baby boys."
The Great Death Orgy people—Ceremonico International—refunded half your money (as they are legally required by Georgian statute 58991 to do), but only because you threatened to call the Better Business Bureau and report an intentional scheduling conspiracy. Even after the ticket lady gave you your money back, you told her where, exactly, she could shove it. Something seemed ironic about that, too, but six-thousand dollars were back in your pocket and that made the irony okay.
You grabbed a newspaper and called up the first roommate ad that you saw from a sticky payphone that some toss-haired black man had been screaming "No! No!" into, for about an hour.
A fellow with a cavernous Southern accent answered, "Yo!"
"Yeah, I need a place to live."
"You got money?"
"Good. C'mon and move in," he said. "It's a nice apartment."
Turns out, this apartment was actually a four bedroom shanty-house just outside of Decatur. Its rainspouting was bent and warped and it looked like little trees were growing from it. Three windows were yellowed over by pollen. To make matters worse, your roommates were all 18-year-old commandos. You asked them about it when you said hello. They were all wearing camouflage hats and pants and that was enough to tip you off. They said they had already shipped out and come home alive, obviously. "Where?" you asked. "Russia," they said. You asked why the hell the government would send somebody so young to Russia. They said, "Who the hell else is going to shoot those goddamned Ruskies? A bunch of fucking artists with their dicks in their hearts?"
This made you furious. You had a soft spot for the Russians.
You moved in with your little suitcase and sat at a mini desk that made your knees pop when you angled your fat ass into it. You looked outside into the yellowed Georgian greenery and heard a few birds chirping. You considered having your mother FedEx your parakeets, but then figured that would only kill them. You sat at that desk and wrote out your goals for the year.
- Get a job
- Lose some weight!
You pulled this paper away from your face and admired its simplicity. You sat it down and looked outside again.
We only get one virginity—only one. I'm not the kind of fellow to just go off and fritter it away. That's what it's here for. Else, why would I write that splendid thing we call fiction?It had taken you a long time to write this list and your roommates had already lost interest in you. They were now outside shooting each other with a stun gun and laughing heartily when the current caused their tiny musculature to respond with a polite little boner. One of the boys became overzealous and shoved the contact probes into his own prick and seizured around, then dropped the gun. When he came to, he looked to his crotch. "Nothing doing!" he shouted. The other boys laughed and laughed and you sat there and wondered how the hell it must feel to shock your prick and laugh about it. First, you decided, it must hurt. Second, because it hurts, it must feel like sex. It somehow made you think of what it must be to be an artist and have your prick christened by a mouth-watering woman. It made you jealous, and that made you sick, so you decided to do something about it.
You took up your pen again and drew little squares beside each item on your list. You smiled. You didn't know it then, you said, but you smiled because you had turned these simple goals from a series of vague approximations into a helpful set of requirements.
It felt good, so you got up and stole a glass of orange juice from the commando's mini-fridge, pulled down your pants, and touched the cold glass to your prick. You don't know why you did that.
Soon, you were working in a deli. Your coworkers were old women whose kids had already flown the coup or had kids or were dead. They knew they were whispering "virgin" behind your back, when you were at the meat slicer, retarding the bread, or spreading thousand island dressing on a customer's reuben. But luckily, there was another virgin at this deli—a famous virgin you had never heard of until much later. It made the old women's gossip seem much less important. The virgin's name was Russell Bright and he worked at the cash register, because, you thought, he was too stupid to do anything else. But, Russell was a famous artist. He didn't tell you right away, mainly because he was famous enough to assume you knew him.
Still, one day you caught him serving up a capicola-and-mayonnaise to some young blonde number, reciting Shakespeare.
When the girl left smiling you went up to him and said in your most charming way, "What was that?"
"Oh, that," he said. "I didn't want to tell you that—you know, that personal part of my character."
"Why not?" you had said.
"Because—you know—you're a virgin."
You were two seconds from pulling a William Hornby Special Nelson on famous novelist Russell Bright when he stuck his hands up to your chest and said, "Whoa my good man. It was not an insult. I'm a virgin too."
You noticed the thick creases beside Bright's eyes and that little salty twinkle in his moustache. That same twinkle that had apparently mesmerized millions on the back of his book jacket covers. "Still, I don't know," you said. You were probably still hazily furious with him so you overestimated his age. "What are you, 63?"
Bright, being a wonderful man, took this as a genuine compliment: "I'm actually 47."
"Wow," you said, despite yourself.
"Obviously, yes, obviously," Bright said and he rubbed the back of his neck. "Ahem. I'm a novelist. I admit. Yes. I'm a novelist and if I wanted sex, I'd get at it, yes. That's the way it all goes, you know. Novelists get the glory in this crazy world of ours."
"Right," you said. "Sort of."
"What's the point of sex—the whole process—you know?"
"To make babies? A little me."
"But! Why do you want to make babies—the little rascals?"
"To spread… my genes." For some reason, this idea made your mouth very dry. You lathered your lips with your tongue and noticed what it must have meant to Bright, so you said: "I'm not hungry."
"Well…right," Bright said. "But! If you so wish to spread your genes—your genetic material, you know—more than just one generation—you know—deep, deep into the distant, distant future—generations. You must find the right girl, the right genes. Long-lasting genes. You can't just go off and boink some random slattern, you know? Any old slut, you know?"
You still didn't understand, so you said so. Still, you said, you thought of me.
"What I'm saying is. You've got the commodity here—a bit of something in demand, you know. Whether you know it or not. Women love virgins."
"But wait," you said, "but you still don't get to have any sex. What else do you do?"
"I jerk myself—masturbate? What do you think I do?"
"Fair enough," you said.
"The point is, we only get one virginity—only one. I'm not the kind of fellow to just go off and fritter it away. That's what it's here for. Else, why would I write that splendid thing we call fiction?"
"To get fucked?" you said.
Bright laughed at you. Something in his laugh reminded you of the bus ride down to the Georgia Dome. You wanted to kill him, the famous novelist Russell Bright, but instead considered that it was likely that you'd lose your deli job.
"But, what about the Great Death Orgy," you said, "all those guys are novelists and they got off and died. I'm sure a lot of them were virgins."
"Those charlatans? Pshaw." Bright affected a falsetto: "A bouquet of rag weed for you, Miss?" A higher falsetto: "Oh yes, please follow me to my chamber so that we can perform sex and our baby will come out malformed!"
"What?" you asked, and Russell Bright told you something very important.
"You ever heard of a Great Death Orgy baby, my dear friend? They come out with three eyes, you know, and no fingers."
It was five days later when the famous Russell Bright passed. You went to his funeral, which hosted only a priest, eight-hundred thousand women, and the rest of the deli shop staff.
The wind was really blowing the trees that day and their petals scattered around that graveyard. Samaras helicoptered down, too, around the humble marble stone of Russell Bright. You said it felt like your own death, in a way. Russell Bright, the last of his own genes, a stupid fucking virgin.
The whole thing made you sick. You decided right there that you were tired of Georgia. That even those commando kids had sold out and had been fucked and were now off living the life. So, you packed up for home—being mindful, this time, to bring enough batteries for your Game Boy.