I was sitting at the counter at Des Moines Cafe reading, as I always do, the sports section of the New York Post. I was then joined by my new lovely friend, B, who is an accomplished and highly successful movie director?she has a Hollywood hit under her belt. But despite her success, she's not at all pretentious in a Tinseltown way. She still dresses like a real East Village girl, albeit an East Village girl of the 80s. This particular morning, she was in overalls and a v-neck t-shirt and I could see a good deal of her generous, dark and intoxicating cleavage. I stared into that shadowy place and I wanted to put my nose down it and inhale. B ignored my intrusive and infantile stare, ordered a coffee and then grabbed my Post and began reading the gossip pages. She saw something about Kevin Spacey and said, "I just saw Kevin Spacey on Charlie Rose. He said he wants children."
"He's very faggy, isn't he?" I said.
"Did you say faggy?"
B then began to shout, "Homophobe! Homophobe! Everybody come stone him! There's a homophobe in the cafe!"
We were sitting just down from the cash register where several people were congregated, and sure enough there were two lesbians there ordering muffins and hearing this war cry; they came toward me and made motions as if they were throwing rocks at me. The lesbians were smiling as they performed this pantomime, so they weren't deeply offended, but I felt like I was in some kind of Sapphic Shirley Jackson story. And B kept saying, "Homophobe! Homophobe!" I hung my head, falsely accused, and muttered, "Stop saying that!" Then, on the other side of the counter, the patron of Des Moines, whom I suspect is homosexual because of his sweet demeanor, approached and said good-naturedly, "What's going on here?" B declared, "He said that Kevin Spacey is faggy. Faggy!" And then she pointed an accusing finger at me and said, "He's obviously a homophobe."
"I am not a homophobe!" I protested.
The patron laughed, didn't say anything and went to the gleaming new ovens to remove some pastries, and the lesbians, becoming bored, got their muffins and went to a table in the front of the cafe.
"You shouldn't call me a homophobe," I said. "You'll get me in trouble. Also, I'm not a homophobe. If anything, I'm homo-neurotic. In fact, just last night I dreamed that I purchased an organic banana in a health food store, brought it home, put a condom on it and violated myself. I then thought, in my dream, that it was safe sex because it was an organic banana."
"But the banana had a condom on it. So you didn't need an organic one."
"I know. Dreams never make sense... I also think in the dream I was concerned that the banana might squish and the condom would protect me against this, because otherwise I'd have to go to a hospital and explain to the emergency room doctor the presence of a squished, yet undigested, banana in my colon... So all this to say that if I can have dreams like that, then obviously I'm not a homophobe. I may not approve of lesbians, but that's a whole separate issue."
"What!" said B, who I hadn't realized was such a holdover from the days of political correctness. She glanced to the front of the cafe, wondering if she should resummon the lesbians to really stone me this time.
"I can't help it," I said, before she could bring in the troops. "Lesbians upset me. They intimidate me. And this is because of a severe weakness in my character."
"You're such a typical man," said B with noticeable condescension. "Just because you and your cock are left out you don't like lesbians."
"It's not so much that," I said. "I feel stupid compared to them. They really know how to eat pussy, whereas I after nearly 20 years of making love to women have still not located a single clitoris."
"How can you not find the clit?" asked B with annoyance, and my spirits sank. Any chance I ever had of putting my face in her cleavage and then nursing at her full and gorgeous breasts was now lost.
"I don't know why I can't find the clit. Everyone says it's at the top. And I sometimes see a little bump, like a pink pimple, but it seems to be under the skin and everyone tells me that it's under a little red riding hood?by the way, I bet that's where that famous story got its title, because it's a story filled with sexual innuendo?anyway, the clit's supposed to come out from under the hood and be eaten by the big bad wolf, but I never even find the hood. Plus it's usually very dark when I'm down there. And if I'm looking for it with my finger, I think I find it, but then it's always sliding away, and I'm never sure if I'm actually on it."
I then took a big gulp of coffee and the caffeine hit me, the way it does sometimes, and I couldn't shut up, and B just stared at me like I was a subnormal, but I couldn't stop blabbering.
"So I'm too old now to ask women if I'm actually touching the clit. I can't reveal my utter sexual stupidity. And so the whole time, I keep worrying that I'm playing with the urethra, which is perhaps uncomfortable for my lady friends, but they're too discreet to say anything. But to my credit, I have given women orgasms with my hand, just so you know. A friend in college once told me about the G spot, which I think I may have found. I tap from the inside a sort of unintelligible Morse code message and many women have come from that. So I think I might be tapping the G spot. And even though I can't really find the clit, women also do come when I lick them, because I do it with a lot of enthusiasm, which I think they appreciate. And I lick what I think is the clitoris, but I also just blanket a wide area, just in case, and it seems to work. But if I was a lesbian I would know for sure if I was licking the clitoris. That's why they upset me. I'm jealous of their knowledge."
B pointed at a picture of Rosie O'Donnell in the gossip pages and said, "So you don't like her, because she better than you at oral sex?"
"Actually, Rosie O'Donnell doesn't upset me because I don't find her attractive."
"So it is all about you and your cock being left out. I'm not talking to you anymore!"
"I can't help it. I'm flawed when it comes to lesbians. I'm weak! Weak! But maybe I'm full of shit. I don't really mind lesbians. When I see them kissing I might have a quick flash in my mind of prejudice and bigotry and fear and feelings of intimidation and castration, but then I dismiss these thoughts and accept lesbians as I accept everyone, except for myself, against whom I'm prejudiced all the time as an idiot who's losing his hair. I'm feeling very bald these days. I'm looking more and more like a blond Jeff Van Gundy."
"I'm still not talking to you," said B. "Even if you're prejudiced against lesbians for only a minute you're not worthy of my conversation."
"Well, give me back my paper," I said, trying to assert myself. So she thrust the Post at me, and then she went to the front window where discarded newspapers are left on the ledge and came back with a New York Times.
We read our papers in silence and drank our coffees. I finished the sports and then went to the gossip pages myself. I read something about Cindy Crawford and her husband Rande Gerber, which sounded to me like a Jewish name.
"I always like it when unknown Jewish men get famous, beautiful gentile women," I said to B, sensing that she wasn't mad at me anymore, that the silent treatment had run its course. "There's a mention here of Cindy Crawford and her Jewish husband, which is like Sharon Stone and her husband, whose name is something like Bronstein."
"Why do you like Jewish men getting famous women?" asked B no longer mad at me, as I had correctly presumed.
"I don't know," I said. "it gives me hope that Jewish men can do anything. These fellows are role models. You've got to have a lot of courage to be the man who gets Sharon Stone... Let's think of other powerful and beautiful gentile women who are with non-famous or lesser-known Jewish men."
B liked the idea of this game?she's half-Jewish and so has some interest in things Semitic?and I took out my little pad that I always carry and wrote down, "(1) Sharon Stone, (2) Cindy Crawford." But then we couldn't think of any other examples.
"What about Julia Roberts?" I asked. "Do you think Benjamin Bratt is Jewish? Maybe Bratt is short for Brattberg or something." But because we weren't sure, I couldn't add Julia to the list. "I wish Ethan Hawke was Jewish," I said. "Then I could feel good about him getting to be with Uma Thurman."
"What about Elizabeth Taylor?" said B.
"What do you mean? Elizabeth Taylor herself is Jewish!"
"I can't believe you don't know that. That's worse than my problem with lesbians. You're in the movie business. How can you not know that Elizabeth Taylor is one of the biggest Jews of all time? Where do you think she got those eyes? And she does the opposite?she marries gentiles. She made that Fortensky guy step on a beer bottle in front of a rabbi."
We put our mighty intellects on this problem for several more minutes, but we couldn't come up with any more Jewish heroes for me. "Maybe Madonna will marry a Jew," I said. "I wish I could marry Madonna. With her money, I could really see the world."
Then B said, tangentially, "Paul Newman, you know, is half-Jewish."
"Really?" I said. "That's wonderful. See, when someone like Paul Newman is Jewish, or half-Jewish, it's much harder for there to be another Holocaust... Well, I think we've covered the major issues of the day. So I'm going to go home and think about paying bills, become exhausted about the prospect and then take a nap."
I stood up to leave. B remained on her stool and kissed me goodbye on the cheek and I squeezed her knee.
"Stop that," she said.
"Can't I grope you a little?" I asked.
"No," she said.
"All right," I said, scolded. I left the cafe and walked home and took to my bed until lunchtime. Then I got up, ate something, felt the need for another nap to aid my digestion, and woke up in the late afternoon, feeling a profound despair. I shook that off and went and played basketball in Tompkins Square Park, and was castigated severely by a vocal teammate for missing an easy layup.
So after basketball, I came home and took a long bath and then another nap. I'm doing a lot of napping these days. I seem to be avoiding something. Then I got dressed and went to a dinner party in Soho, at this very attractive couple's loft. They've invited me to several dinner parties lately, which allows me to take taxis, since I feel like I'm compensating with the free meals.
At the dinner party this night, there were about a dozen people, including the very famous British journalist, T, who was a major player in the whole Clinton-Lewinsky impeachment drama. And there was another Brit there as well, L, who is one of the Queen's leading poets and thinkers. In the company of these two intellectual giants, I kept my mouth shut during dinner, like a college freshman, especially since all I ever seem capable of discussing is the Mangina or toilet humor.
After several bottles of wine were consumed?though personally I stuck to temperance beverages?we were on to dessert and the two mildly intoxicated Brits held sway over the large table and launched into a cerebral and fascinating discussion about the origins of gay studies. The whole discussion, from what I could follow, seemed to center around the martyrish World War I death of the young gay poet, Wilfred Owen, and how his death influenced all the major gay English poets, which is to say, all of the major English poets. And then, after the issue of Owen was exhausted, a more general but odd and amusing discussion about homosexuality and poetry ensued.
"Auden said that Dwight Eisenhower was homosexual because he had no face. This to him was a sure sign of homosexuality," remarked L.
"Ginsberg mastered the sphincter orgasm," laughed T at another point.
It was soon after this sphincter remark that dinner wound down, and as I walked home from Soho, I felt my post-nap despair from the afternoon return. Why were even the great minds of this world obsessed with buggery and sex? And why was I constantly involved in such inane discussions? Isn't there something more to life? Why must sex rule everything? Why is everyone obsessed with their genitals and their neighbors' genitals? Why do we stagger around for 70 or more years not knowing what we're doing, all the while physically disintegrating?
Pondering such important questions, I went into a Korean market to get something to eat. Amongst the plentiful display of many fruits were dozens of bananas. I hadn't seen a banana since my dream the night before, and as I looked at it I felt an odd tingling in my groin?a sort of perverted deja vu. They weren't organic bananas, but I picked up several. I then felt embarrassed and guilty making my purchase?the way I do when I buy pornography?as if the Korean woman at the cash register had any idea what I was up to. But soon enough, she rang me up and I happily rushed out of there with my illicit purchase, forgetting entirely my existential despair. I thought about the condoms I had back at my place, and as I raced home I knew that I could rationalize my mad deed, if I should go through with it, by simply pretending that it was all a dream.