[Note: This is a novel being presented in installments, one chapter per week, every Friday, from May 4 to August 24, 2012. The full novel will be published in its entirety in September 2012.]
-Hi, Jonathan? It’s Eliza.
-Hey Eliza, how are you?
-I’m good. How are you?
-You didn’t get back to me about coffee.
-Oh, sorry, yeah, I totally forgot.
-You do that a lot.
-Yeah, I know.
-How is your writing coming along?
-It’s coming along.
-I think I told you already, but I liked your book.
-Yeah, thanks. I appreciate that.
-You are a really good writer. You should keep up with it.
-Haha, thanks Eliza, I’m trying.
The email notification about his royalty payment kept running through Jonathan’s head. $11.32 was what being a really good writer was worth these days.
-How’s work going?
-It’s the same as always, you?
-I’m really enjoying it.
-So, did you want to do coffee?
-Oh, yeah, sorry I forgot again.
-What night are you free?
Jonathan looked at his calendar and only saw targeted word counts.
-Any night. What works for you?
-Let’s meet Wednesday.
-Okay, Wednesday it’s.
-Our favourite place?
-Yeah, for sure.
-See you then, Jonathan.
-See you Wednesday, Eliza. Bye.
Jonathan hated the ritual. Every time he wanted to meet with Eliza he would inevitably end up in a conversation about her and her boyfriend. He had nothing against the guy. He was by all accounts a great guy. He was a great boyfriend. Eliza was happy. It all made sense for her and him. It didn’t help Jonathan out at all, though. He didn’t want to be selfish, but he wanted things to be better for him. For once he wanted to go out for coffee with a friend and go on and on about how he’s found the perfect person, that they had bought a dog, and a house, and were talking about marriage. He wanted those things. And he wanted that friend that he was having coffee with to be secretly lusting about him. Jonathan wanted things to be the opposite from what they were. This ritual was due for an end. Jonathan was not a jerk, though. He had no intention of ever trying to break up other people. That’s their own life and he has no right to interfere, whether they are happy or not. Even if it would help break his own loneliness, Jonathan couldn’t bring himself to make a grand declaration of love, for fear that in the end he might be worse for her than who she has. All he could do was continue to perform the ritual.
“So, the pope is dead.”
The class looked up as the absurd professor entered the room. John Paul II had reportedly passed away the day before and it was consuming the airwaves. Jon had watched the procession of mourners pay their respects outside St. Peter’s but felt unmoved. He was not Catholic. Neither, it seems, was his philosophy professor.
“Good morning, class, I see you are all alive, that’s more than can be said for John Paul.”
Jon was unmoved by the death, but he had not lost a certain amount of reverence and decorum that certain figures and institutions demanded. Not yet, anyways.
“I was flipping through the channels last night and it was everywhere, John Paul is dead. It’s a shame, but there were programs I wanted to watch. They were all pre empted. It will be a week before things get back to usual.”
This class was easily one of Jon’s favourites, if not entirely for the irreverent professor. He was a man who was unafraid to say what he thought. Tenure was a beautiful thing.
“I finally ended up watching pornography. It was the only thing not kowtowing to popery.”
With that, the discussion turned to the mechanisms of sexual intercourse, whether it has any meaning in modern or post-modern life.
“It’s like going to a vending machine, sex, and punching in E5 to get your cheesy crisps. That’s what sex is. It has no more meaning than that. It’s just a function of what we do. I sleep. I eat. I fart. I poop. I have sex. None of these are profound acts.”
Jon looked around at the sheepish looks on the faces of his classmates. Three days earlier, on Saturday night he had seen most of them at the bar. They were all looking to score. They, and he, and everyone else were always looking to score. Sex apparently had lost any sort of higher meaning, if it ever had one, but it still remained their primary concern.
“Say a man, and a woman, or two men, or two women, or a man and a horse, I don’t know, whichever way you want to imagine it. Say the man and his partner, who could be a woman, or a man, or a horse, say they want to have sex. They do. That’s it. There is no special ceremony, they don’t need to lay out beautiful rose petals down the hallway to get the man erect, he just needs to know he is having sex and he is good to go. It’s no different than eating. If I want to eat, I just eat. It does not have to be a Thanksgiving dinner, with special meanings, and we gather around all our friends and family, who we don’t like, and say a special prayer and all the nice things that have happened before we eat the turkey. If we want turkey we just eat turkey.”
As usual the students had little clue what the professor was rambling on about. His words were enjoyable to listen to, they all agreed, even if they didn’t sink in.
“Sex is like that. I watched a porno film last night and I tell you it was refreshing. They don’t try to dance around the main interest of the characters. Even when the woman has a broken sink or toilet, and the plumber man comes to fix it, she does not tell him to go fix the sink or toilet. She wants sex! And, not surprisingly, the plumber man, even though he probably has lots of other house calls to make to other housewives with broken sinks and toilets, he wants sex, too. They have sex, the housewife and the plumber man. That’s it.”
It was all so straightforward. Jon wanted sex too. Within the room there were eight girls and he could admit that he wanted to have sex with each of them. He looked at the old professor and believed the same thoughts were in his mind too. Next to Jon was his friend Jerry and he knew, as he had heard it many times, that Jerry also wanted to have sex with each of those eight girls. No special ceremony was needed.
For all the talk about not needing any special ceremony, it still seemed that culturally there were rituals that did need to be observed to have sex. Men couldn’t be complete brutes and just walk up and ask if a girl wanted to fuck. They had to say hello, and ask her name first, maybe even take her out for a coffee.
Jonathan felt sick writing the words. He was not getting any pleasure out of it anymore. It was not about Eliza, specifically. It was every girl that got away. The chase had always been so easy before. He could win them over with his charm and capture them for what seemed like a fading moment, a shooting star. Jonathan could catch and romance any girl at the start. It was always the follow through that sucked. That night Jonathan was haunted in his dreams by what seemed like every girl he had ever known. The scenes where they met would run through his mind. Those were always something special. That first spark was always felt. They were followed in his mind by the happy middle part, the part where, for however brief, Jonathan was with them. Scenes of domestic bliss made up the majority of those moments. Sitting on a couch, curled up, watching a movie or a hockey game, eating buttery popcorn. Jonathan tried as much as he could in his dreams to slow those parts down, but his mind wouldn’t let him. There was a destination these dreams all had to get to and they had a pace set to reach it on time. Sure enough, the ends of every relationship Jonathan Jones had ever been in cascaded through his head. He woke in a cold sweat. It was two in the morning and Jonathan’s heart was pumping irregularly. He could barely breathe.
-I told you I’m asthmatic.
Sorry, I know, I just wanted to detail the extent of how much that dream had affected you.
-Real kind of you.
Jonathan sat up on the side of his bed and brought his breathing to a more controlled tempo. He stood up and walked in to his kitchen and steadily drank a glass of water. There was no way he could get back to sleep now. Jonathan sat down at his desk and turns on his laptop. While waiting for the computer to turn on, Jonathan jots a few notes down on his pad of paper. With his word processor open, the middle of the night typing commences.
“What are you drinking?”
“I think it’s merlot.”
“Oh, any good?”
“I don’t really know any different, to be honest. I’m new to wine.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“I think I have only really drank it at these wine and cheeses.”
“Hah, me too. It’s funny, because I don’t think any one else knows any more about wine than us, either.”
“No, probably not.”
“The professors could probably save some of their money by buying the cheap bottles at the SAQ.”
“I can’t tell the difference.”
“Me neither. Seven or twenty dollars is just a gap of thirteen dollars. They could buy more cheese with that.”
“Or crackers that don’t fall apart.”
“I know! I have had like six crumble in my hand while I try to spread on some of this gourmet cheese. I think it’s Norwegian or something.”
“Oh, the blue cheese?”
“I think that’s Norwegian. I don’t really like blue cheese.”
“Isn’t it rotten on purpose?”
“I don’t think rotten is the right word for it. It’s delicious though.”
“I have never tried it.”
“I thought you said you don’t really like blue cheese.”
“Well, I’m guessing I wouldn’t really like it.”
“Do you do that often, guess about things without giving them a chance?”
“I’m trying to be very open minded these days.”
“If a friendly guy started talking to you at a wine and cheese would you give him a chance?”
“I might. Depends on whether or not he has blue cheese on his breath.”
“Which you’ve never tasted.”
“True, and I don’t think it’s going to be today that I do.”
Jon was smitten. This girl was witty and very attractive.
“What’s your name?”
“Like in the comics?”
“Yes, and you must be Archie.”
“Haha, I hope so. I’m Jonathan.”
“Very nice to meet you, Jonathan.”
She drank the wine that they believed to be merlot and talked to him for almost an hour. It was one of those uninterrupted conversations that just seemed to flow from one subject to another. Jon discovered all sorts of things about her, but still wanted to know more. That’s the powerful thing about attraction; it has no limit to its strength. Even when you think there is no possible way to feel the pull of the magnet any further, you get knocked off your feet. Veronica had a way of doing that without saying a word. There was something about her and the way she stood that made Jon infatuated instantly. How could he possibly resist? It was a silly thought for him to even think that he could. No man could. It’s not in their constitution to fight the pull of attraction.