the felicific calculus.
i’ve been feeling better since i went to scotland. happier, i mean. after i got through the first two days—which were rather weepy. admittedly. what with crying into my fajitas and so on.
but it sort of restarted me, i think. i didn’t have any momentous insights or experiences; it wasn’t that kind of a trip. it was low-key—i drove my car, took walks, took pictures, watched tv. and that was pretty much it. and that was plenty. i guess what i’m saying is that it wasn’t very exciting and it wasn’t really supposed to be. although a lot of people apparently think it’s brave and exciting just to be a woman travelling by yourself and driving on ‘the wrong side’ of the road—these are not very brave and exciting people. (i’m guessing these are the people who do not get kicked out of the peace corps.) (but also probably the people who don’t join it in the first place…but i’m digressing.) in any case the simple novelty did me good. it’s good to get up and have to figure out what you’re going to do that day and how you’re going to get there. good for the mind. you don’t have to travel to have new experiences, obviously, but it makes it a hell of a lot easier. you’re forced to have them.
i have been trying to force them on myself since i’ve been back—keep up the mindset—with very very limited success. let me be real with you. ‘well gee every day i’ll just try one new thing or go one new place and zipadeedoodah i’ll be feeling fantastic before i know it! i’ll just be a perfect human being!’ well, no. it’s sweet that you’re making the effort, Dora, and you may get the hang of it yet, but actually you’ll be procrastinating and drinking too much, just like you did before.
wednesday night my friend Gomez asked me to hang out after work—there’s a bar near the bar where i work that i (fondly/not fondly) call the Bar of Despair. it’s a lot hipper and a lot more fun than my bar, and the music is always 100,000 times better, and it is just generally a place that’s better for hanging out in—but this bar has seen me making a lot of bad choices. and the regulars are generally of a despairful persuasion. thus: Bar of Despair. (no, it’s not a particularly creative name.) with a heavy heart i walked into the Bar at about 11:30 on wednesday, eyed up the talent, and lo and behold: six people sitting at the bar, i know all of them. i’ve slept with one of them. one of them doesn’t believe we landed on the moon. one is my friend, aforementioned, and he’s deep in a conversation with the owner and the moon-guy about strip clubs—and not just strip clubs in general, but in the nasty particulars. like where you can get a really cheap lap dance on york road. where you can touch the dancers. etc. Gomez was a little embarrassed, i think, and yet my presence did nothing to alter the course of the conversation! which was kind of impressive, actually. they just kept at it.
and after strip-chat wound up they started getting into a music nerd conversation, which was almost worse, so i went over to talk to Dolor, the guy-i’ve-slept-with of the evening. he was extremely drunk and (thus) extremely pleasant. nothing like as dolorous as usual! it wasn’t entirely the booze, he’d also just gotten a good job offer. ‘that’s wonderful. congratulations. you deserve it,’ i said. ‘you…you are a very kind person, aren’t you?’ he said. ‘well, i’ve been told that. i’d like to think so, i guess.’ we had a long pleasant conversation. we played the etymologies game. (the rules are pretty simple: you guess etymologies.)* i like it because i’m a lot better at it but Dolor’s good enough for it to be sporting. an ideal situation! damn but can he kick my ass in backgammon, though. being a professional math-person. (he won’t say he’s a mathematician because he doesn’t have a phd). actually, with backgammon, i never even got close to remembering what the rules are, so the couple of times we played, Dolor had to make all my moves for me, and so essentially played himself. which was fun to watch—or at least it was a lot more fun than having to play backgammon.
i digress. i know i’ve written about Dolor a little bit before. he came before Tread-Lightly. he once gave me a paint sample. he’s a hardcore depressive. etc. i don’t know that i ever said why i liked him—and it’s probably not worth saying—this is all a wanton destruction of microörganisms**, etc. but (as i was just lamenting) old habits die hard, and hope dies harder, and we had a nice evening and i feel like writing about him. so there. anyway. i liked him because he was nice to me for a couple of weeks. and he’s very cute. (and i’m very shallow.) flesh, curls, 6’4″…and a sharp dresser, too. (do i like what? i sure do like it, baby.) and he is smart, man. you know how you tell yourself that there are lots of different kinds of intelligence just like there are lots of different kinds of people, and you try and believe it, it’s a piously egalitarian thing to believe, but then you actually talk to a really smart person and you really feel the difference and you remember that that egalitarian stuff is really a lot of horseshit sometimes? yeah? well, it’s like that with Dolor.
he’s definitely the smartest man i’ve had the pleasure of having sexual intercourse with. no question. and being the kind person that i am—and being a slightly drunk person—i told him so on wednesday. ‘you know, you’re the only guy i had sex with that i thought might be smarter than i am. and that’s…that’s not english.’ ‘but i get the meaning.’ ‘well, of course, you’re a very smart person!’ ‘you are very kind. i used to think a similar thing—i used to wonder, “is she smarter than me?”‘ ‘you’re also the only person i’ve ever slept with that i thought might have lower self-esteem than me! which is impressive. and isn’t it weird, because you’re also the smartest! i didn’t even think of that before—but man, isn’t it weird that we’re both all superlatively smart or whatever and we have really shitty self-esteem?’ he took my hand. ‘this is a really nice moment we’re having, isn’t it, Dora?’ ‘yes.’ ‘i hope we can remember it tomorrow.’ ‘i’ll remember it.’
and i did. as you can see. they can’t take that away from me. insert music-note emoji here. (i have never understood what the hell that song was about—always felt like there was some complicated backstory, some vital information i was missing—like, who are they? who is trying to take it away from you? and whenever i hear it i usually imagine some elaborate scenario that involves nazi brainwash torture or something like that. but uh maybe i get what it’s about now.)*** that was a seriously beautiful moment between two people. whether Dolor remembers it or not, i have no idea—i don’t really care—i don’t think we’re going to start ‘dating’ again—i do think he’s probably a waste of prose—but it was a good moment, by God, and they can’t take that away from me.
the rest of the night was good too. definitely the kind of night you wish you could remember more about! he was sweet. he was cuddly. he did not need much encouragement to order himself a rather big rather decadent late-night dinner. (‘i think you might be a bad influence…’ ‘oh, i’m definitely a bad influence.’) it was a cold night and he was a warm body. (‘so…what should we do?’ ‘just come here and be held for a while, Dolor.’ ‘all right. i can agree to that.’ ‘mmmm. it’s so nice to hold you. so nice. it’s wonderful to lay in bed with someone.’ ‘you mean it’s wonderful to lay in bed with me?’ ‘no. i mean it’s wonderful to lay in bed with someone.’)
i will say that sadly Dolor is superlative in another way—he might be the smartest man i’ve ever had sex with, but it’s just about the worst sex i’ve ever had. i mean—it’s bad. real bad. the only guy who was worse was an actual virgin. i was afraid it was going to be bad when we ‘went out’ the second time (=i went over to his house) and he started talking about how he’s always thought that good sex is a product of a good relationship between two people, there’s no such thing as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at sex, etc. that kind of thing. which made me suspect the sex was going to be fucking terrible no pun intended. and indeed it proved to be. and not just the act itself—the kissing, the touching, all of it. remarkably bad. like it’s fascinating that a person could even be so inept. fascinating to me, anyway—how can such a smart and sensual man be so physically reticent?
well. i’ll probably never know him well enough to know. and that is probably for the best.
* here’s a good one for you: tweed. it’s pretty weird. try and guess.
** the diaeresis is for Dolor, who reads the new yorker.
*** “The basic meaning of the song is that even if the lovers part, though physically separated the memories cannot be forced from them. Thus it is a song of mixed joy and sadness.” thus wikipedia. (still, who are they?)