The Kiss of Dopamine
There's something about not being picked. It triggers something, messing with the dopamine receptors.
"Well, what'll we have, Antoinette? " he said, tilting his head in a critical lean to the left.
I'd done a good job. Better than in the picture on the App profile. He was pleased. Some people just don't photograph as nice as they look in real life. And contra wise, some are romanced by the viewfinder of the camera, but lose their luster when seen actually moving in space, the third- or fourth- dimension revealing asymmetry that is otherwise quite natural, though sometimes unbecoming.
And others endure the knife. Or botox a certain look. Art for art sake, I've always felt was justified. I brushed a strand of cinnamon auburn from my cheek with chic red acrylic French tipped finger.
"Please order whatever you like..." I said, "On me."
A little grin pulled at his cheek, revealing a dimple in the center, like a child's, and I could see he thought the evening was going favorably well, for himself. If he thought anything wasn't quite right, he'd swept it like lint from the Five Star table napkin. Nonexistent.
We chatted pleasantly about nothing.
A convo chameleon, I'd read the transcripts enough times to have the wording verbatim on immediate rolodex. He'd talked about swimming, fishing, sailing, and his latest yacht. Yada, yada, yada, and oh yes the kind of girl he'd love to have on it...
"Your eyes are grey," he interjected over the aperitif in lead crystal. Ching ching.
"Colour changers," I said lowering and raising my false lashes for full effect.
By the sixth course, we were touching toes beneath the tablecloth. We split a sorbet, raspberry-lemon.
I had a very vivid recollection of her apartment. For fun I described it to him. All the odds and ends, those I was convinced he'd like best... "and just outside the bedroom double glass sliding doors there's a balcony, iron rails, overlooking San Franscisco Bay, and a palm screened hot tub in Turquoise tile."
"Wow. Sounds amazing. You've got a great place," he beamed love rays from his chest, an eleven-course meal in itself.
"Would you care for a dance?" I betted on an immediate yes. It was that kind of venue. I knew he'd trained, Latin and Classical.
Soon enough he had me in his arms, and I assessed our fittings. Her dress, impeccable. I didn't have to tuck or hem, though I did select my fullest undergarments and we both appreciated the lift and curvature. His hand lighting on my hip, breast to breast, our breaths just a little bit compressed, capturing the mood of the music.
I let him lead us wherever he liked. Three songs, four... till the band rested.
Back at the table, digging into the savory finger bites, Spring rolls and Lobster Rangoon's, I thought about her leftovers in the ice chest. Saved, to be dealt with later. Together.
"Let's skip the nuts, and head out?" I suggested, pulling out my keys and stroking just the hairs over his hand, stoking what I already knew was electrifying beneath the surface.
"Your place?" he said, surprised and delight, and I gave a little churlish giggle, behind a flirtatious hand with platinum bangles. He was charmed, and gallantly took me under the arm once I'd retrieved her credit card into my sequin clutch.
It was a quick ride, tipsy from the warmth of the revelry and intoxicating novelty, and anticipation of the stretch of evening still before us. I suggested a dip in the swell of the hot tub, and he was entirely game. Even when he saw as I undressed, that I wasn't exactly what he had pictured. Nevertheless, I fit within the breadth of his profile range of preference, as "open to persuasion," and so he reshuffled mentally, roused all the same.
We slipped into the bubbles of the jets. He closed his eyes and I leaned against his thigh. Now seemed like optimal timing:
"What shall we do with her?" I whispered softly.
"With...?" he murmured lazily, confused but not yet disturbed.
"With her. The woman. You know... the One you picked. From the App."
You & i
But the Ii remains the same. Oh yeah, lowercase or uppercase, as if it matters— like it's the difference in standing between freshmen or seniors, or something evolutionary. I don't see it anymore as different, really, the chip. In freshman year (should that be capitalized?) I toyed with an idea for a philosophical blab book that contemplated differences between the (little) i and the I.
Of course it was brilliant shit. That's the way it is with things in the mind's eye. We see a thing as already polished. That diamond in the rough never got hewn, though. It was about the disconnect, or it was to be about the disconnect. I held possessively to the title, because a good title makes or breaks a work, right?
The dot on The i
—that was the title. The idea never graduated, and, and, the story morphed, or maybe it was i.
"Mr. Caufield? hi," I said. I couldn't get through the gate and up the stairs fast enough. It's hot as hell and anyway I hate when people watch me like I'm on parade. He's ok, though, I guess, so no sweat.
"Jenny, nice to see you, come on in. Come in," he said. He's wrinkled, worn, but just the same old Holden, with ideals. Weird, I know, he got married and has a girl now.
Turns out, we all recover from given Life blows and momentary infamy. Somehow, as long as we get up. He's living a quiet life, even with the book publishing, and multiple editions, and all. Now, you mention "Catcher" down the block, and almost nobody knows what the jackass you're talking about. Caufield says nobody reads anymore. That's not true, obviously, because I do. I even know the good ole Robert Burns poem.
I've read enough yarns to blanket the family my mom says, "...maybe, but just what did you understand, honey, I'll never be quite sure..."
I chose Jenny. I even looked it up. It means white wave. I don't know why but it reminds me more of extinction, than starting again. Something like a verb, rather than a noun, to jenny— it reminds me of the way an ordinary undyed waxed candle is snuffed half-way. It's like the variations on a theme of white, that never really is, white, I mean. It leaves that lingering trace, of the archaic poetry, in the un-scent-ed, and old smoke's tale. I feel those shades of gray, seriously, like a population of ghost sensations.
It's a shrinking population. White folk, I mean, are dying out. I feel kinda responsible.
"They're here!" Mr. Caulfield said, calling up the stairs. He was sort of an idol for us growing up. I'm not here to see him though. He's ok, cause he's not gonna say dumb things like "don't do what I wouldn't do." Life is not a game. He knows that. It's confirmation.
There was quite a fussing and shuffling as they tumbled down. They chose Seamour.
"You didn't look it up?" I said in disbelief.
"Nope, it just fucking fits. I mean c'mon, my parent's picked Tabitha, for chrissakes," you said clenching your lips together like its fact if you say so.
I've been whooped a few times with the Bible so I know that Tabitha is the one St. Peter raised from the dead. I guess it's trivia in the end. It's a cool name, though. I almost took it, but I didn't want them to feel all weird about it, like we were becoming mirror twins or something black lodge Lynchian.
I still feel odd about the clothes you gave me. It's not because these are thrift store. I'm glad to see them, though.
"Do I look ok" I said, tugging at the lilac floral hem a little. I ask this so often I've started leaving out the question mark. It's a hallmark of my insecurity--my social statement. I know they're going to say yes. I mean, it's Seamour, right?
"Did you put your soul strap on today?" they joke, and I have to smile, crookedly. My wisdom teeth have wreaked havoc on my moneymakers. Seriously, poor people used to sell their teeth so rich people could implant them. I'm not even sure there was good anesthesia back then. It's vile. Modern folks sell plasma. I knew a poor unemployed blind guy who sold his plasma so he could Uber his three-year-old to free preschool. It's called Head Start. There were too many on the bus for that one to be picked up.
"Yeah," I said. They've got work brand clothes on, with the goddam label on the outside. I hate that. I'm not even going to give that brand "name". Why, man? Why, I just don't get it would a company do that. Companies are run by people, though sometimes I wonder. Maybe it's like in that movie where you have to put special sunglasses on to see the Aliens. I suppose I shouldn't pay so much attention to labels, and names.
I know, I know, sticks and stones and all, but words and names matter. A kick in the crotch hurts even if it's tangential. I like Seamour, even if the name doesn't 100% fit.
"Are you sure you still wanna to go out?" Seamour said.
Maybe that was the beginning, though it obviously started way before that. That's what they said, later, in the hospital.
"Yeah." I said. "Let's go."
[Chapter 1, in Sequel to The Catcher in the Rye.]
*Themes: being human; race, gender, age, self-identification, social anxiety
**Plot line: Two teens who question their gender identity unexpectedly find themselves expecting a child, and reconsider what it means to be human.