Alone, at home, I open a video labeled AMATEUR COUPLE because, in this context, the last thing I want to be subjected to is professionalism. It might set too high a standard for me to follow, even in a fantasy. Which is not to say that I feel inept in this area, or even unprofessional—adjective: below or contrary to the standards expected in a particular occupation—but rather that I have certainly not been professionalized—verb, past tense: given professional qualities, typically by increasing training or raising required qualifications. I haven’t, full disclosure, taken any advanced course work on this subject. Put another way, the first thing I will do if I ever get rich is go to a luxury hardware store and say: tell it to me straight, what are the obscenely wealthy doing differently in terms of showers? How many showerheads? What kinds of angles? Is there some new state of matter they’ve figured out for water? Do they even shower or have they moved on to something better: digital lather, et cetera? What we’re talking about here is unknown unknowns. Also, the idea of a NON-AMATEUR (read: PROFESSIONAL) COUPLE just sounds so corporate. As if it wasn’t enough that everything else has a sponsor these days, now we’ll have SEX: BROUGHT TO YOU BY EXXON, leading me to imagine an auction in which rival executives are bidding for the exclusive marketing rights to various sex acts,
actually is sort of a turn on—both because I’ve always had a thing for auctioneers (something about reckless breathing) but also because, to avoid infringement lawsuits, people would have to come up with new terminology and/or behavior (and who among us couldn’t use a little novelty?). I finally look at the video itself and—
—the woman looks a lot like you.
Now, admittedly I am prone to bouts of misperception, particularly where you are concerned—for example, there was that month where I swore you resembled the protagonist of every movie I watched, which was pleasing during romantic comedies (making me think that all we would need to properly reconnect would be a particularly fiendish personal assistant to mutually overcome) but harder to handle during action movies (not because I cannot fathom you destroying the Russian mob should they be so foolish as to attack your dog, but rather because of the sheer volume of collateral damage that you incurred in the process). Also, there was that one time I thought I sensed your presence in the park, only to find that it was actually a duck (albeit one who wore your trademark expression: the deconstruction of affection and contempt). So I am prepared to consider the possibility of misrecognition except—
That absolutely is you!
The hairstyle is a dead giveaway. Also, the tattoo (and I have always thought it was smart that you got one of your own name, the one thing you were never going to change, and a useful aid should you find yourself in a spot of bother without any ID). I suppose I should be alarmed to see you in such a film—but whatever, who doesn’t have a second job these days?—no, what is actually unnerving is:
The man with you in the video looks an awful lot like me.
I guess this makes some sense (no doubt you have a “type”, and I can claim no ownership over salubrious paunch as a category) but—
—I hate to assert authority on anything (especially myself, since often our sight is most unfocused at close range) but assert I shall: no one on the planet is as qualified as me to identify my own body (what a sad, wasteful superlative!) and, bringing to bear that expertise onto the proceedings (maybe if my parents had bequeathed me anything besides that birthmark I wouldn’t be so obsessed with its particulars), I can confidently state:
That 100% is me!
And I know I should be freaking out about having been covertly filmed (When was this? Who was filming? Are they still filming? I mean, you hear stories about the surveillance state, I guess I just thought they would have a little more respect for moments of quiet intimacy; surely, even NSA agents are looking for soft comforts when their shifts end) but I can’t help but focus on you and me on the screen in all of our rapt peculiarity. My word, neither of us have any idea where to put our feet! And it seems clear that the human shoulder blade spends its life trying with futile urgency to escape captivity. Summatively: it’s remarkable we were able to figure any of this out at all, lacking in proper orientation as we were. And there is a verve here typically reserved for community theater: AMATEUR COUPLE. We could be given no higher praise. Also you had such a wonderful duvet cover, which, it strikes me now, I never complimented you for. I mean, all of your bedding choices were inspired (I could opine about the pillow cases), but this duvet cover in particular (somehow both paisley and not paisley, which feels true to life.)
I remember this night.
You had suggested we film ourselves, either because we were drunk or because this way, in the event of the singularity, we could fuck for eternity (or maybe both were true, and you said that because we were drunk, time being a flat circle and all). Also, on closer inspection, this video is not actually on the internet; it’s just saved on my computer, which makes a ton of sense because I don’t even think I have internet at this apartment. Something about forgetting to order it, or ordering it and ignoring the doorbell for almost an hour the day it was supposed to be installed, worried it was a process server or just someone with bad news. I try to remember what it was like to be the-me-on-the-screen, but find I am least articulate when describing conversations with my body (recently, at the dentist, I was asked which tooth hurt, and was so startled by the question’s specificity—by the conceit of isolating one kind of pain from another—that I was forced to invoke the fifth amendment). I look to the film for clarification, but find that the camera is set up such that neither of our faces are visible. Having no idea what we were thinking and no facial expressions to mine for clues, I decide to mentally substitute in my memories of the faces from the last video I watched: an infomercial for a nasal irrigation device. The subjects using this product were so enraptured—and yes, they are paid actors, but no, no one is that good of an actor—in such a state of heightened bliss that the mere recollection of them is enough to make me close the video of us I’d been watching. Thinking, instead, of the infomercial, I am overcome with envy for those previously congested irrigatees; they have found such an elegant solution to their problems (as I fear I never will for mine).
Imagine: finding a new and pleasurable way to interface with an orifice that incurs no social stigma.
Imagine: living sensually and without baggage.
Under New Management
Walking in our old neighborhood, I discover our house has been replaced by a smoothie joint. I go in and ask the woman behind the register if she knows what happened. She is wearing a nametag that says SMOOTHIE ARTIST, and I am prepared to accept this at face value – who am I to place one form of art above another? – until I see that one of the O’s is adorned with an umlaut! (And I saw the best punctuation marks of my generation stripped of their grammatical function, forced under duress to endorse the authentic Europeanness of smoothie companies headquartered in Piscataway.) She seems to sense my discomfort, and asks if I have any questions about their new menu items (as if I could be bought off so easily!) so I say, yeah, I have a question: why do things have to keep changing? I already feel like I need to have children just so someone can show me how to work the remote, and though they are yet unborn, I can feel their seething resentment. They will send me to a nursing home (where I hope at least they will have Nintendo, which is to say that I hope the things I have devoted my life to will still matter to someone) then, on account of budget cuts, I will be forced to wander the streets, only to find my favorite pizza place has been replaced by a robo-brothel falsely promising passable bootleg copies of irretrievable past lovers. No, that isn’t nearly apocalyptic enough. The city streets will be flooded like they were in my childhood nightmares (and certain big budget disaster movies) though this will only have increased the rent values of high rises, and a boy will pass me in a canoe, having learned to paddle during that year the transit strike shut down the Staten Island ferry but he still had to get to school in Manhattan. His short-armed strokes will form urgent spirals in the murky water, and I will try (and fail) to mine them for prophecy. The Smöothie Artist apologizes for any inconvenience I have been caused (which, in its comprehensiveness, is heartbreakingly generous). I forgive her for the sins of her company and she offers (intimately, behind a cupped hand that could be a curtain she is pulling shut behind us) to make me a smoothie.
It is no longer on the menu but was at one time their most popular item.
It is as bright as I imagined. But also brutally fucking cold.