Moving an Aquarium

     I needed to move a heavy glass aquarium to a different position in my apartment.  Even after I’d mostly drained it of water, it was still too cumbersome and weighty for me to handle by myself. 

      I consulted Craigslist and made a few calls, and eventually hired two fellows from a moving service to come over and do the job.  They did it in less than ten minutes.  Cost me fifty dollars–that was the cheapest quote I could find.

      Afterward, I was struck by a realization and a terrible sadness.  Not about the fee I had to pay, which I considered frankly exorbitant 

      There was not a single male in my life, much less two, that I could have called on to help me accomplish this chore.  I had to hire strangers. 

       The pain this realization caused me was not self-pity.  I have no sympathy for myself whatsoever.  It is I who have done this to myself.  

I would do anything to experience this, anything, anything at all.

I remember one of the most erotic sexual fantasies I had before I became sexually active (much less experienced).  The fantasy, miraculously, has retained its appeal and excites me to this day. 
            I was approaching seventeen and envisioned myself lying in a bathtub full of soapy water.  A man, fully dressed , sat on the edge of the tub, looking down at me.  In this fantasy, the man was always much older than me—old enough to be my father. 
            Sometimes he resembled actors or musicians or teachers I had some attraction to.  More often, he was a composite of my unrealized fantasy life—what I knew that I wanted, even though I didn’t yet completely understand what I was craving.  Acht, so difficult to explain…
            In my fantasy, the man would reach into the opaque soapy water and grasp my small ankle and raise my leg above the water up to my thigh.  In his other hand, he held a straight razor with an elegant pearl handle.  He used this razor to slowly, carefully shave my legs.  Once—early on—he deliberately cut me with it, though he did not admit that it was deliberate.  The point was to make me see my own blood, and to remind me of the cuts and pain and damage the razor could inflict. 
            I was frightened the entire time.  Worried that there would be another cut, a deeper cut, at any moment. My muscles were tense and the tendons on the insides of my thighs were taut as piano wire.  His hand went all the way around my ankle, holding me steady.  Keep still, he said.  Rinsing the razor in the bathwater.  The feel of the metal under the back of my knee.  Vulnerable. 

            I had almost no sexual experience at the time.  But I fantasized about this, yearning—that I would do anything to experience this, anything, anything at all.

Rooster’s Home

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   A few weeks ago, I wrote about the new Betta fish I bought at Petland Discounts.  I named him Rooster, by the way.  Cause he looks flashy, like a rooster!
 
    Well, I’ve furnished his little home with live plants, some rocks, and filtration and lighting systems.  I’m not quite done with the aquascaping yet, but this is how it looks right now: 

How I Almost Whacked a Woman with my Laptop

I almost got into a fight.
Not an argument.  A real fight, a fight with physical violence.  
Well, to be fair, perhaps fight isn’t the best word—I cannot be certain whether the woman would have fought back, her belligerent attitude notwithstanding.  Maybe I should say, I almost attacked someone.  

             I am astonished.  I never would have guessed that I had it in me (in ordinary life, I mean).  Oh, sure, the thought of assaulting someone has popped into my head from time to time—when UPS is torturing me over package delivery, perhaps, or the school administration has no record of paperwork I submitted both physically and electronically just the day before—but I have never, ever come close to acting on it.  I am a very restrained individual, I am never impulsive, and I do not display strong emotions in public. 

I was walking down Lexington Avenue around 3 PM.  I’d met with a student at Hunter College, so I was carrying a laptop case in my hand.  The street was only mildly congested—plenty of people on the sidewalk, as is always the case in this city, but there was plenty of room for people to walk around each other.  It was a clear sunny day.
So I’m walking along, not paying attention to anything in particular, and this woman comes out of nowhere and steps immediately in front of me, cutting me off and physically brushing against me in the process.  I had to stop short to avoid running into her.  She was wearing navy blue slacks with fashionable tapered legs and a pristine white blouse and her blonde hair looked blow-dried and very styled, like a lady news anchor.  She had heavy gold jewelry.
She had her cell phone to her ear and she looked over her shoulder at me, tossing her blonde hair back.  She said—sneered, actually—“Don’t you EVER step in front of me like that again!” 
            Then she turned her back to me and continued her telephone conversation. 
            My innocent confusion changed, as if by alchemy, into white-hot rage.  I realized that I was holding my laptop case in my hand, and I decided that I should swing it and bop her a good one right upside the head.  I pictured her cell phone flying out of her manicured hand and breaking on the pavement.  This image filled me with dark glee. 
            Because what set me off wasn’t the fact that she’d picked a fight with me for no reason that I was aware of (judging from her words, perhaps I’d cut in front of her a block or two back, though I had no recollection of doing this and if I did, it was completely accidental).  What infuriated me was that she picked a fight with me and couldn’t be bothered to get off her damn cell phone while she was doing it.  It wasn’t her aggression, or even the fact that she didn’t give me her undivided attention whilst antagonizing me (which is insulting in its own way).  What really got to me was her attitude that she could pick a fight and not worry about any repercussions.  No risk whatever!  
             I thought, as I hefted the laptop case to assess its potential use as a cudgel, that this would actually be for the woman’s own benefit. Therapeutic! A character-building experience.  Perhaps it would even facilitate a character arc, as we used to say in my English Lit seminars.  In the future, she would think twice about being nasty to random people.  Besides the fact that it’s just bad manners to be mean, you can never really know who you’re fucking with.  I, for instance, have a lot of experience with violence (albeit the consensual variety).  I study it and engage in it recreationally and professionally from time to time.  Garden-variety pain does not surprise or intimidate me, but I realize that I am an anomaly in this regard, and that the woman I was about to knock upside the head would likely have a very different perspective.   
            If you do this, you WILL be arrested, I thought.  Booked, bail, etc.  Fine.  Acceptable. Then another thought flashed through my head—her clothes looked expensive and the woman looked rich.  Rich people have lawyers.  What if she sues?  I asked myself. 
            So what if she does?  What does she think she’s going to get from me, a food stamp? 
            (I jest, I jest—I am not on food stamps, but I have no assets worth litigating for.) 
            The woman unwittingly saved herself from attack via laptop when she suddenly turned and entered a restaurant. 
            My rage passed in a flash, like water poured over an ember. Literally that fast.

            Now the only thing I feel when remembering the incident is honest surprise…at myself!  The incident itself was trivial, not even worth recounting.  The quickness and intensity of my anger is what has stayed with me.   
            I have extrapolated a small lesson from my own reaction:  it is naïve to assume that I know what I am capable of.  

          (post script: Honestly–to me, this is a real head-scratcher.  That happy rush towards violence, I mean.  Is that the way men feel, and why they get into fights with each other so much?   Are lots of people in jail who are usually rational and mellow, just like me, and who felt exactly what I felt in that moment and followed through on it?  I am confused.)  

Say Hello to My Little Friend….

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First and foremost, I would like to apologize to the mysterious individuals who cruise this blog on a regular basis, presumably to look for updates.  According to Ye Olde Blogspot, this blog has had dozens of readers (drive-bys?  Google hit-and-runs?  Who knows?  Surely not I!), and at least a few are repeat viewers (special acknowledgement to the visitors from Deutschland, Russia, and Iran…especially Iran!  Why you cruisin’ me, Iran? Are you looking for tips to enhance the corporal punishment in your jurisprudence system, or what? )!
In any event, thanks for visiting, and I am flattered that you are interested enough to return, good reader!
So…
On Independence Day the official fireworks extravaganza took place on the West Side this year, over the Hudson River.  (The ads called it the “Macy’s Fourth of July!” which I found very vulgar and crass…were I to donate big bucks to a Bengal Tiger habitat, I wouldn’t demand to name it the ‘Miss Margo Bengal Tiger Habitat.’ Corporations are so obnoxious.)
 Meanwhile, someone(s) launched fireworks from the East River Park, where the fireworks celebration was held in previous years.  I know because I could see them from my bedroom window.  People in my neighborhood crowded to their windows, ventured out upon their fire escapes.  The fireworks were beautiful, and they made spectacular noise.  I like the way some of them are like optical illusions, which seem to explode toward your line of vision (does anyone know what I mean…?  It’s hard to explain!  I should have taken photos). 
The kid I was keeping the turtles for dropped out of rehab within 48 hours and came to collect his pets a few days later (THAT was interesting, let me tell you).  They were put back in their tiny cage and sent packing. There was nothing I could do.  Sadly, I doubt very much if either one is still living. 
I enjoyed watching them so much, though, that I walked over to the nearest crummy Petland Discounts and bought myself a new little friend.  
Truly, he is a magnificent specimen!  Fish are really hard to photograph (or maybe I’m just a bad photographer), and these photos don’t do him justice.  He’s a brilliant cobalt blue color, with dark blue tips on his caudal fins and wine-red pelvic fins.  I set him up in a 2.5 gallon tank on top of my desk.  I’m going to trick it out with moss balls and java fern after payday. 
I enjoy the betta fish very much.  He seems quite fascinated by the things in his tank, such as the gravel and the thermometer and the big round piece of sparkly granite that I propped in front of the ugly box filter.  He examines each with careful concentration.  Amazingly, he never seems to get bored. 
Jeff, the Machinist, would observe him and say:  “Well yes, he has very limited programming.”
Or at least, Jeff would say that if he was here. Which he’s not. 
My expensive neo-Freudian psychologist told me that I end relationships with people who get too close to me out of homicidal impulse.  You want to murder them, she said. 
What?  I said, very skeptical.  That struck me as preposterous.  I don’t want to kill anyone.  I don’t understand. 
You kill them symbolically by killing the relationship. 
But I’m not hostile towards these people, not angry.  Why would I…?
You don’t want to kill them out of anger or hatred.  For you, it’s necessity.  It’s survival.  They are very threatening to you.  You kill them before they kill you. 

Surgical Obliteration

          The Surgeon is angry because I insisted that he apologize for insulting me over the telephone last week.
He’d been entertaining negative fantasies about what I might have done when he wasn’t around.  I had no idea that he’d been brewing till he unloaded on me halfway through the conversation, inhibitions stifled by booze.  The exchange was bizarre to me, because I literally had no idea what he was talking about.  He was accusing me of preposterous things.  At first I actually thought that he was pulling my leg. 
Well, I got off the phone.  After thinking about it, I decided that I couldn’t let it slide—inebriation was no excuse for that level of paranoia and hostility.  My dignity and self-esteem required an apology before I could let him be close to me again.  So, I texted him and he called me in between cases.
“Hi!  What’s going on?” he asked.
“Hi!  Are you still at work?  Do you have a little time to talk?”
“Well, I’m in between cases, so I have a few minutes!  Let’s talk!  What did you want to talk about?” 
“Um, I’m not sure if we should discuss this right now, because you don’t have much time,” I said.
He insisted, so I cautiously elaborated. 
Flash forward to today—
He is laying above me, on top of me, the buttons of his shirt pressing into my chest.  He smells good.  It is difficult for me not to be overwhelmed by his touch and all this physical contact.  I am seldom touched in my day-to-day life.  When I am, there are barriers—gloves, implements by proxy.  I am not at all sentimental, but I cannot deny the primordial longing his presence evokes within me.  It makes me feel drugged. 
He grinds his thumbs into the flesh on my inner arm, just below the armpit.  It hurts.  I make a high-pitched moan, but don’t resist much.  I suddenly remember Heinrich shaking me by the hair on my head and telling me that it was adorable when I made a sound like a doggie squeak toy. 
He quickly sheds his shirt and undershirt and flips me over.  Covers my mouth with his palm.  He penetrates me, lays his weight on me, doesn’t let up.  His body is hot like an engine. 
He says he knows what happened to me in May.
I gasp through his hand, “What you mean?  What happened in May?”
He says he had me followed. 
I am frightened and confused. I have no idea what he’s talking about.  But I also feel very cared about. 
He pinches my nostrils closed with his fingers, muffling my air intake.  After a moment’s deliberation, I move with him instead of resisting.  He lets my nose go and I inhale sweet sweet oxygen.  I feel overwhelmed.  I feel obliterated.  The rawness, the intensity.  I am out of my head.  I am literally out of my head.  It is better than all the alcohol and drugs in the world (at least that I’ve ever tried).  I shake like a leaf and click my jaws together. 
He rides me like a horse; breaks me like a horse, wears me out.  My mind is blank for now. 

Meeting No. 29

      “Hello, David!”  I welcomed him inside with a big smile.  “How nice to finally meet you!”
           
       He thanked me for inviting him and held out his hand.  We shook.  I saw him looking at my brown leather gloves, but he didn’t comment on them.  His eyes went from my hand to my waist to my face and back again.  “Woah, firm handshake!” 
             
     “Yes,” I acknowledged.  Men always say that to meWhy do men always say that? Is my grip really that unusual? Women never mention it.  
          
      I noticed that he wouldn’t look me in the eye for more than a moment or two.  His kept looking around, at my clothes, my boots, the room.  I myself seldom avoid eye contact.  I have a tendency to stare at people I am talking to, unless I am delivering bad news or confessing something shameful or difficult.  I look them right in the eye. I like to see their facial mannerisms, the texture and color of their skin. Dates and students have told me that it makes them feel uncomfortable, which bothers me because I don’t like to be rude.  Most of the time I’m not even aware that I’m staring. 
           
       I asked if he would like a drink of water, and when he said yes I gestured to a water cooler on the other side of the room.  I said, please help yourself, it’s nice and cold.  I watched him as he went, assessing his figure and the way that he moved.  I saw one thing that I like right away: for an athletic, medium sized guy, his tread was very light.  He didn’t thud and make the floor vibrate when he walked, and when he took a paper cup out of the dispenser, he only grabbed one instead or four or five.
       
  (aside: Good God, it aggravates the hell out of me when men thud and thump and bring their hands down hard on tabletops, rattling the cutlery.  It drives me nuts.  In my heart I’ve murdered a hundred men I’ve seen sprawling out in the subway, taking up two seats for themselves.) 
           
       David was wearing khaki trousers and a striped button-down shirt.  The khakis had no cargo pockets, patches, or pleats.  The shirt was neatly ironed but untucked.  His hair was short and bleached and gelled into some spiky figuration.  Freshly shaven face.  No jewelry that I could see.  He was wearing thin-soled brown leather loafers and patterned socks that were not white or athletic.  The outfit screamed “22-year-old boy going to Church,” and I realized, approvingly, that he had tried to dress up for me. 
           
        As he drank his water, I gestured around at the place, giving him a tour.  The studio was pretty self-explanatory.  One rectangular room, wood floors, exposed brick on one wall, large windows on the other.  The windows had both closed blinds and drapes.  There was a mini fridge stocked with refreshments and a trash basket beside the water cooler.  A small sink.          
      
        I asked him if he’d had any trouble finding the place.  We chatted about subway delays due to construction.  He was starting to get a little more relaxed.  Starting to openly look at my face.  Lord, he looked young.  Not movie-star beautiful, but quite pleasing.  There was something unusual, almost exotic–but very subtly so–about the cast of his face.  In time, I would learn that he had an Asian grandparent.  
             
     “I like the way you look, by the way,” I told him.  “You are a fine-looking boy.  Very attractive.”
           
      He smiled, both pleased self conscious, and I noticed his chest swelling up.  I knew that he thought that he was handsome.  He was counting on it when we started corresponding, hence the Spring Break photo of him in swim trunks. I understood this preconceived notion, his vanity, very well.
           
       Before he could respond, I said, deliberately (but in a casual tone of voice): “ I expect you’ll fix your hair color before you go to work in Washington.  You’ll want your new colleagues to take you seriously, after all.” 
          
      He froze instantaneously and completely, like a kid playing statues.  A taste of his discomfort for me, like a sip of fine wine.  Delicious. 
          
      Before the implications of my remark could really sink in, I said:  “I bleached my hair once as an undergrad.  Turned my hair bright canary yellow!  You did a more thorough job on yours. I see how light it is. My brother has the same kind of hair as you.”
          
       Relief and faint confusion on his face.  I turned away and motioned for him to follow me.  I said, “I’d like to review a few things with you, David, if you please.”  I took a seat behind the gray metal desk.   David stood in the middle of the room.  I liked that.  Is there another position of power dichotomy more universally recognizable than that?  
 I remember all this, and what I was thinking at the time, but the full flavor of it—the compulsion—is out of reach, until I’m in that state again.  It is very hard to explain to others. 
            
       It is more than aggression or competitiveness.  It is the will to control (and I realized that David was special because he evoked—strongly evoked—that impulse in me).  I am wide awake and focused, thrumming with kinetic energy.  ‘Control,’ to be honest, is an inadequate description of the desire I experience in these rare, precious episodes.  The truth is deeper and more unlovely.  Control is the euphemism my ego uses.  In therapy, when we took a spade to the hard, rocky soil of my subconscious, I faced the unpleasant truth of the basis of my urges in dynamics like this one, with David:  I want to oppress him.  I want to oppress and control everything about him.  I want to control and have access to his privacy, his dignity, his boundaries.  Mine mine mine.  My desire for him—to do this to him— is relentless and destructive.  Pitiless.

         In its most extreme form, in the rarest circumstances–perhaps half a dozen in my life–I go into a queer and alien state of mind: I have acute empathy for the subject of my attention (which thrills me–I won’t deny it)–but I have no sympathy.  Not an ounce, not a grain of compassion.  (This part of me frightens me somewhat, because it is so completely at odds with the rest of my personality and my understanding of myself…and in the world, I find oppression and exploitation to be unspeakably ugly.  I hate it; I find it intolerable.) 

     
       They can sense it in me, you know.  That capacity I have, the potential for crushing.  It is irresistible to them.  I know, because I can relate to their perspective, as well. 
       
        But here—now—in this space, this vacuum , David and I are able to safely express ourselves a little.  To move these aspects of identities closer to the front of our faces, closer to the skin, instead of keeping them far in the back.