Or there was something wrong with the way he kept talking about that sky.
“That orange sky.
It made me sick to my stomach.
He loved the blowjob: each one and not any particular one, but all of them. He could imagine getting, at once, every blowjob in the universe. Or getting them one-by-one in a balls-chattering chain extending into his next lives, the cycle of which he would never escape, he knew: birth, life, death and rebirth. Not with all of my shenanigans, he thought. He laughed. Karma really is a bitch, on her knees lap-lap-lapping up the bad behavior. Seems she’s hungry for it—hehe. He thought.
Plus the substantial Platonic form: Blowjob. Perfect.
In his fog of misremembering and mourning, he knew it was impossible. But “Oh!” how he craved to know It.
He said, “There. There. Right there,” and, “Everywhere.
And, “I remember.
And, “The tongue.
It made me gag.
It blew his mind.
Afterwards my husband of twenty years said to me—as though he felt bad that things weren’t fair—“You were so generous, and I…”
Yes you, I thought. Where are you, I thought. But I answered coyly, “You’re assuming I get nothing out of it,” as though I got something out of it, which I didn’t.
I got something out of it. I got a story out of it.
While I sucked my husband’s penis he gaped at the sky, to which he exclaimed, “That’s the most orange orange I have ever seen!”
Because he was alone. Because it was as though I was not there. Not even my mouth was there. Not even the rooftop was there where we were because he wanted to do something adventurous. After-hours.
The hotel doesn’t have a rooftop. It has a 284-foot steel spire.
Anyway, finally, he had an orgasm, a dry one, to which he said, “Weird,” proudly, which is what a fifty-year-old man who has nothing left to ejaculate but who has been in the mouth of every twenty-year-old greeter-gal at Universal Studios says. Good for me, he thought. “Nothing came out!” I’ve surprised myself again. “Myself, myself, myself.”
The orange. The sunset. The LA skyline from the seventy-third-floor open-air cocktail lounge of the brand new Wilshire Grand Center. Just opened. I relaxed my throat so he could pump with ease. The tallest building west of the Mississippi River with 360-degree views. Maybe he was right. Maybe I wasn’t there. Only this story was there.
We shopped on Rodeo Drive; Hollywood-walked “of Fame;” observed the southeast, southwest and south from the Griffith.
He especially enjoyed the Petersen Automotive Museum, after which in the hotel lobby he exalted at length the tanned gamine pixie-like porter who had brought up our bags and recommended the Petersen when we checked in.
“You were right, Ronnie! Those hotrods are hot! You should’ve come along—maybe tomorrow I’ll go back, and you’ll come with me—hehe. Glad I saw them. The performance on those shafts must be…well, it’s like you said, Ronnie: ‘The cam’s the nasty!’”
Then later that evening, when the hospitality service manageress brought him his California “Kumies,” he darted about the hotel room looking for something, or something clever to say, while silent-petite Sara-Leah stood waiting with pen for my husband, Bill, to sign.
But Bill driveled dreamily on about the velvety texture, the auriferous flavor, and the satisfaction of extracting an oyster from its microclimate during its spawning season and eating it in the aftermath of its “making love.”
Bill swallowed a dozen oysters while Sarah-Leah stood and watched because Bill liked an audience and Sarah-Leah was patient and duty-bound. When he was full he still wouldn’t let her go. He rubbed his belly fondly, impregnated with lust and regret.
“Don’t even bother with the under twenty-dollar dreck, Sara-Leah! It’s Sara-Leah, right? Nice name. I go thirty and above, just to make sure. I want the best wine to pair with the best oysters. I want to enjoy myself now. Too much time. Not enough time. East coast. West coast. You understand me, right, Sara-Leah?”
Bill signed. His hand shook. His signature looked forged. It wasn’t. Poor Bill, I hoped. I hoped it wasn’t Bill signing with that dubious hand.
Sarah-Leah tiptoed out of the room. I took a shower. I climbed into bed. I fell asleep watching my husband downing two mini-bottles of champagne from the minibar and CNN reporting the attack on Guam by North Korean nuclear missiles. How does a person fall asleep to something like that?
It isn’t as though he didn’t invite me to drink with him. In fact he suggested getting Sara-Leah back up to the room with more bottles of the same, or different—whatever I wanted. He said, “Whatever I wanted.”
There is something wrong when a person can fall asleep to something like that.
I wanted him to come to bed. I was wearing something sexy and new. Most importantly it was new, which is, I knew, what he wanted.
He called room service but got a busy signal and slammed the phone down in rage. At the time I thought it was rage.
He picked his jacket off the bed, mumbled something about getting a nightcap downstairs; bringing something upstairs; something down the hall; ten minutes; not long; will text; sorry, and just sorry.
He wanted to go so I let him go because that’s what people do for the people they love—right?
I didn’t have a choice, so he went.
My head hit the pillow when the door met the frame and the lock turned automatically with a conclusive percussive beep, and the President said he wasn’t going to take the destruction of Guam lying down but the President instantly lay down and began to snore.
Hours later I woke up, lying in bed in my sexy-and-new, feeling my ugly-and-old, rubbing it hard to soothe it until I ejaculated a twenty-foot tsunami and said, “Weird."
I didn’t know I had it in me to be so sad.
The TV was still on and reporting that Guam was fine. But Japan was in trouble—and California.
I was born in 1964. Coincidentally that same year a tsunami killed people in Crescent City, California. I don’t know which people. I was an infant, so I was just getting to know about all the people I wouldn’t know.
Also I don’t know how many people. How many does it take to twist the fate of a year, align it with my own fate plus stroke the ego of a tsunami?
In 2017 another one hit, this time Los Angeles. The Coast Guard reported that a tourist taking pictures of the Ferris wheel was swept off Santa Monica’s pier. “A search has begun,” said the Coast Guard but he warned, “Don’t be fooled. Tsunami waves can seem to stop for periods, but then they start right up again.”
I met Bill in 1997. We married. Then nothing happened until I caught him on our tenth anniversary masturbating to online porn that featured vintage, A-bomb-tested, charred mannequins in contorted come-hither poses.
Then, “Sorry.” Somebody said sorry to somebody. Then nothing some more.
Which was an indulgence. Which went on for another decade. A tits-numbing timespan.
I may not always love you.
But long as there are stars above you,
You never need to doubt it.
I’ll make you so sure about it.*
At three a.m. I woke up feeling something; tears; I mean something; pain; alone; wondering what. The-hell is-happening.
I climbed out of bed, washed in the glass vessel-sink. I deposited oil and dead skin on to that siliceous shore.
The elevator went straight up to floor 73: the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown Open-Air Blah-Blah-Blah. Bar. Where Bill had splurged on pricy Japanese whisky, his legs buckling when he had something-like swooned about reddish-yellow and cried, “Oh,” and, “Ah,” ecstatically.
The sky was out—and the ocean too, probably. But they were both missing: one starless, atramentous; the other, set off by shocks and slumps, a rapidly-moving turbid current.
I took the emergency stairs to floor 71: InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown Restaurant. And Bar. Where Bill had sniffed, swirled, approved and polished off two bottles from the Grand’s private nectary.
In a previous life Bill was an arenicolous creature. Taxonomically and metaphorically mundane. A worm. I wish I could have done better for him.
But in this life he is a hawk moth, or a hawk. Bird.
Or a Greek god who drinks to sustain his beauty and immortality. In his current incarnation Bill eats and drinks barside-only, even in restaurants, refuses to subsist in sand or chairs. Bill has to have barstools, or rooftops—ideally barstools on rooftops. Not any particular barstool on a particular rooftop—all barstools on all rooftops. He surveys from the highest point. He is hard to pin down, he thinks—hehe. He is always and essentially high.
I remember the old vermicular Bill. He was beautiful. Fellating him was workable, and delicious.
Floor 70: InterContinental Downtown LA-LA-LA. Lobby. And Sky Bar. Where Sarah-Leah was playing piano on the Grand’s grand. She had placed rough-sharp oyster shells on the piano strings and in this manner was altering the original tone colors of the strings. She was playing furiously, winging it with only the shells as preparations. And she was, or the shells were, bringing out new overtones, and the shells were breaking from the hammers and vibrations and the shards were slipping between the strings, which was bringing to the foreground other newer overtones.
I don’t know if Sarah-Leah was off-duty or if this was one of her duties but I watched her, seeing what would happen, while sitting on a stool at the bar, as I was in the habit of trying to please Bill. Why did I never insist on a chair?
“My intention [was] to let things be themselves.”**
Floor 69: InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown restaurants Sora & Dekkadance.
Floors 31 to 68: InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel rooms. I didn’t knock on all of them. Imagine how many there are in a Center so Grand. And so Wilshire.
I knocked on all of them, or none of them. I knocked on too many of them. Enough of them. Not enough of them. Nobody answered my knocks, which is impossible. They yelled, “Who is it?” or “Go away!” or opened the door a crack, peeked, stared at me wildly, intrigued, disturbed. “Dear,” they said, “What’s wrong with you?”
I was wearing a hotel bathrobe and some movement I made parted it. But nobody looked, which I was used to. Because I was missing in my life. Which is where I was starting. In my search for Bill.
How missing I was! Such missing!
I was not able to access floors 11 to 29 because they were offices so the doors from the stairwell were locked and the elevator bypassed.
Floors basement to 7 are the podium building with retail and the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown meeting rooms. And the pool, which was still open for a private corporate party. Blond-wigged and silver-sequined novelty-models were floating in see-through spheres. Blah-blah-blah. Balls. Perspiring men in suits-and-ties paced the perimeter of the pool. Afraid to jump in. But pump-capacity on high. Gallons and gallons of potential per minute. They were hypertensive, drumming to an imagined siren song. Waiting for their default lives. It was 4 a.m.
I called for a Yellow Cab. I was dressed in something pretty.
Miklos came. When Miklos was a young man, he moved from Budapest to New York City to be an actor, until he moved to Los Angeles to be a movie star.
“Oh, no. You can’t see me in anything,” said Miklos.
“Why not, Miklos?”
“I like that you ask questions,” said Miklos.
“I like that you answer them, Miklos.”
“Haha,” said Miklos, but I recognized that laugh.
Miklos stretched his arm along the back of the length of the front bench seat. Miklos winked into the mirror and wiggled his fingers under my nose. It was early, still dark, but traffic is a part of life here. I sniffed Miklos’s chubby fingers because he was wiggling them under my nose for a reason, I assumed.
“I was too lazy. I married the first good-looking California girl that spread her legs for me.”
Miklos gave me a second to absorb what he had just said: the prelude to his full answer, which was to come.
And to accompany my no doubt rapt mental processing, and as a salute to his near brush with Broadway, Miklos splayed and shook a chubby jazz hand. The other hand was tracing, nudging the steering wheel. The cab swerved into another lane, then corrected.
“She turned into a money-loving leech. You know a leech?”
“I know a leech, Miklos.”
“Heard of hirudotherapy?”
“It’s a fad. Sooner or later everything is a fad. Comes in-and-out. You know what’s never out? Money—ha-ha! You’re a woman. You know. My ex-wife always likes my money.”
Miklos drives this cab during the day and runs a side-gig at night. I don’t know what Miklos means by a side-gig because everybody shouldn’t know everything Miklos does, Miklos says. Miklos drives eighteen hours to make as much as he used to make in eight hours. Whenever Miklos says, Fuck Uber, the cab swerves.
“My wife wouldn’t get pregnant. I asked myself, Why? I was very suspicious. Then I fucked her sister. I kept fucking and fucking her sister, and nothing came out of it. I think the whole family is barren. Is that the right word—barren? Then I started seeing whores because they’re nice to talk to. They listen, like you! I like that you listen. What? Did you say something?
“We’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Where was I? Oh, yes! I got bored of whores too. They’re quiet, but stupid. I gave up on having a kid. She complained about me coming home late. It was the wrong thing to complain about. We were always fighting. We saw the counselor. Is that the right word—counselor? Shrink.”
Miklos likes to have dinner at the bar before he goes home. He wants to think. Relax. Have a drink. Talk to somebody. It doesn’t matter who, or how late. He never asks anybody to wait up for him so if they do, that is on them.
“I was at the bar and she was yelling in my ear on the phone. I made a decision, right then-and-there! Or maybe I didn’t make any decision. A decision was made for me—you know? I went home that night and fucked her. I fucked my wife really good—you know? I concentrated. Top-to-bottom. She was surprised. I hadn’t touched her in years. She was happy. Wet like a teenager. I fucked her as many times as she wanted. Five times. I remember because I didn’t know I had it in me to go that many times. She fell asleep with her head on my chest. Slept like a baby. She snored but I let her. She listened to my heart all night. She was so happy. She didn’t move all night so I didn’t too. She woke up smiling. Big smile. She looked up at me. Big brown eyes. Chin like a cow. She didn’t look like that when I married her.”
The pier is twenty-four hours a day but the sun was just coming up on tourists lining up for tickets, rollerblades and cotton candy. They were snapping pictures of the solar-powered Ferris wheel or its yellow and blue reflection in the still water. Although we had arrived, I stayed sitting in the cab because Miklos was not done answering my question and, I guess, I was not done olfactorily-investigating Miklos’s fingers.
“She was going to say something. Good morning probably. But I didn’t give her the chance. ‘Consider this a divorce!’ I shouted. Ha! From Total Recall—remember? ‘BOOM’—haha.”
Miklos pointed his chubby finger-gun at me and pulled the trigger.
“I watched that cow-smile drop from her face. She got old in front of my eyes. It was like slow motion. I didn’t wait. I pushed her off me. I jumped out of bed, put on my pants. Shirt. Shoes. I had them ready on the floor beside the bed. I didn’t look back. I didn’t need to see it.
“I have an okay girlfriend now. I’m too lazy to look for anybody better.”
*God Only Knows, song by The Beach Boys
**Composer John Cage, Intentionality and Nonintentionality in the Performance of Music