Sunday, 8 April 2012

Fiction Installment #15. Chapter 6, pt. 1: Jake

   Jake deemed his driving to be suitably aggressive, bounding miles above average. Harshly judging drivers with an incessant need to yammer while ignoring basic rules of road conduct—“They’re called signal lights, you fucking moron”—he kept calls to a minimum. Restless and pent up today, he tapped the phone’s glass surface at red lights and traffic snarls.
   The plan was to stop for fifteen minutes in a suburban park after shutting up shop for the day; and he’d already posted “Quick Service?,” an online ad that listed relevant statistics and a time guestimate. If the ad produced negligible results—and Jake could predict from past experiences that zilch was almost a given—he would search pay sites to better the chances for success. The number of active online profiles fluctuated, sitting at an economical mid-range at the moment. Periods of duress or boredom rocketed the number from zero to four, though never—almost never, in truth—higher.
   Flux was a constant, and Jake took for granted that the course of his hankerings would normally run into peaks and valleys. As he charted the situation, he was human, humans were part of nature, and winter/spring, ebb/flow and wax/wane were cosmic principles, as fundamental as life and death. Simple. It all added up, most times at least.
   In those rare episodes of self-doubt when comparing himself unfavorably to colleagues—content with a home-cooked pot roast dinner and several hours of prime time television that might include a celebrity news show with a 30-second clip about a hurrying figure in black sunglasses checking into a clinic for sex addiction treatment—Jake’s normal-because-natural theory seemed filled with Swiss cheese holes. He faltered, seeing a too intimate relationship with back-in-rehab Americans, literally scabby off-Main prostitutes bartering orifices for tiny rocks of crack, and park denizens he’d catch sight of during a late night’s ramble. The guilt by association was discomforting.
   The doubts were infrequent but ultimately therapeutic. During them, Jake thought over his would-be degeneration logically, backing steadily away from the cliff’s edge. Perspective was key. Side by side, he judged, there wasn’t an epic divide between 24/7 nights of TV with Honey Bear, the cubs, and a bowl or two of microwave popcorn and the codger at a department store toilet playing with a limp tool and waiting hours on end for action. They were the same species of pleasure-seeking, give or take, and each capable of sinking into dull and imprisoning habit of going through the motions: the tubby, sedated, and glazed-eyed couch potato family laughing in perfect time to laugh-track cues and the inflamed, bat-eared satyr were the flip side of the same coin.
   The main difference? One had lower pariah standing than the other.
   Anybody ever alive was born with the same potential, Jake believed. Appetite for pleasure was genetics, a truth of existence, who could argue with that? The billions—trillions, maybe, if you threw in porn—shelled out by generations of moviegoers was evidence enough.
   At a handful of off-the-wagon scenarios Jake had concluded that management was the only true challenge. He possessed a ferocious sweet tooth that he kept in check because of its looming potential to become an insatiable urge. The fix had been a trial and error discovery. Allowing an overload holiday now and then throughout the year—a feeding frenzy of pastries or sex, and, years ago, the typical range of nightclub intoxicants—was surefire, he’d learned, a gratifying hedonistic release that while meeting the needs of brain chemistry didn’t totally cave into its every demand. For the rest of the time, Jake found a routine walking of the proverbial dog kept systems in shape but well rested and less prone to ripping up the furniture.
   He was secure in the belief that self-denial actually served as a salve for the fears of others—uptight puritans!—and based on mirror time on visceral mornings-after would testify that frequent indulgence came at too steep a price. The body had real limits. And he wanted no part in the ballooning beer-batter midriff and drooping man-breast phenomenon of peers. Or worse. As for waking with a pounding headache next to a stranger in a messy unfamiliar room: the bloom was long off that rose. One remedy of pungent medicinal shampoo and hurriedly buzz-cut pubes had led to a nervous dread of bed bugs and other skin crawlers. Better to skip the nosebleed or headache or artless exit-eyeing conversation and sleep in the laundered oasis of the bedroom for which he made monthly mortgage payments. Balance, everything in moderation, know your limits, those tried and true maxims floated up whenever Jake found himself up late at night—groin humming the urgent tune of its constant fervour—and prepared to drive somewhere for unknown exploits and, with luck, eventual gratifying spurts. Pace yourself. Avoid remorse.
   As Jake slowed at the Pet Superstore and Big Box Factory Outlet intersection he saw the flow of traffic streams merging. No surprise there, the story was nearly identical Monday through Friday. He checked the phone. The first response to “Quick Service?” contained no photo and two words: “Ur stats?” Jake deleted it. He’d like to smack any guy who asked dumb-ass questions, especially when the answer was already posted clear as day. The second and third were no better. Waiting for the green light, he irritably powered-down the screen. The pursuit was exasperating some days, he’d readily admit.
   Approaching the studio grounds Jake began to prioritize the day’s meetings.
   He expected a few department heads to report in; otherwise he’d be closely tethered to office phone lines. There would be plenty of time to check back online. Ads had a pastry’s shelf life and responses would dry up shortly in any case. After that, producing results meant posting another ad—different words, same idea—or covert perusal of a site where his profile was active. True, he could always drive to the park on the way home and throw the dice. All of it was work, though in separate guises.
   Getting laid without effort did happen, though rarely, and men were considerably easier to locate than women for obvious reasons. Women never parked their cars near highway rest stops and waited, pants unzipped, in search of lusting monosyllabic strangers in ball caps; nor did they wander in solitude within the shade of forests and loiter near public toilets.
   The persistent idea that they might was only fantasy fodder that men whispered to themselves and, in his Dad’s time anyway, printed in magazines. In the actual world scenes like that wouldn’t be realized unless a hefty financial transaction was involved, or else extensive pleading—“Please, honey, just this one time, please. You’re a hitchhiker and I pick you up and rape you at the side of the road, c’mon it’ll be fun.” Jake felt that even though female reluctance was understandable it was regrettable—he’d like porn fantasies to come to life, at least some of them. C’est la vie, he thought.
   When the wisdom of being fearful did cross his mind he was relieved to be a guy. He’d never expected violence despite hundreds of sexual contacts and shivered with nervous excitement in places his assistant or sister wouldn’t dare visit after sunset. The bungee jump thrill of danger was related to engaging in forbidden activity, not bodily harm.
   The adventuring rush was particularly acute to him when no names were involved—the drunken woman he chatted up at a lounge and eventually led to the toilet stall for a quick exchange—in order of frequency: tongue-deep kissing, handjob, blowjob, fuck, muff dive—or the wordless figure in the murky woods who’d drop to his knees or yank down grey sweats in proud exhibition of hard prick and ass. Striding full of secret knowledge, the return to the car or crowded room following the frantic rushed tussle—face flushed, greasy mouth wiped, hastily tucked clothing emanating faint earthy scents—was a singular pleasure. Jake never tired of it.
   The quest for high-rev experience was nothing new to Jake, its germ as old as memory. Childhood forecasts for distant adulthood included digging up the bones of dinosaurs, becoming an Egyptologist, a cat burglar, an assassin, and a spy. Those goals took him through elementary school. He considered the practical high school years when publicizing dental school plans as an aberration resulting from daily pressures to “think in the long term, Jakey” (Dad) and “try to be realistic, Jakob” (Mom). As for the vision of residing in Paris while slaving to make his name as a fashion designer? The briefest of phases.

[Parts 2 and 3 of this chapter will appear shortly. I'm editing and revising currently.]

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