Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Fool and His Pleasure

Jake left the poker table of the Big Star Tavern, sat himself at the bar, and unsnapped his black leather motorcycle vest, revealing his muscular sweat drenched chest. Jake fancied himself as a tough guy and everyone was going to know it, so he kept himself clad in leather regalia whenever he left the house. Nobody in town could recall ever seeing him without his dark glasses, black vest, black chaps over tapered blue jeans, boots, and leather tourniquet-like arm bands above his biceps.

Jim, the bartender, set a glass of beer in front of him. “Fierce competition tonight,” he said.

Jake nodded and sipped his beer.

“Having fun?” Jim asked, attempting to make conversation until the next libation was ordered.

Jake stared inquisitively at the barkeep, as if he’d just asked how the weather was on Mars. “I don’t get what you’re asking,” Jake finally said.

“It’s a fairly straight forward question. Are you having fun tonight?”

Jake shook his head, mimicking the clearing of cobwebs, and shot Jim an even more perplexed glare. “Of course I’m not having fun, I’m still here.”

“I don’t follow,” Jim said. “Playing cards and drinking isn’t fun for you?”

“Only one thing’s fun for me,” Jake said, gleefully bobbing his eyebrows up and down.

“Really? Only one thing? What’s that?”

“You know.”

“No, I’m fairly certain I have no idea,” Jim said.

Jake gave a frustrated sigh, stood, and pantomimed pulling something toward his groin several times while repeatedly thrusting his hips. Then, he sat back down and took another pull of his beer.

“You mean sex?”

“Orgasm,” Jake said with a look of immense pride, “and boy have I had a lot of fun over the years, I tell you what.”

“That’s the only thing that’s fun for you?”

“Yup,” Jake confirmed with a satisfied nod.

Jim scratched his bald head, which was cocked in confusion. “If sex, or orgasm, is your only source of fun, why play poker? Why sit at the bar and drink, for that matter?”

Jake shrugged. “They’re ways to meet people,” he said. “Social interaction increases my chances of landing a gal to screw.”

“And, you have no other goal in mind beyond finding a partner for sex. Is that right?”

“Poker has the potential to make me money, which in turn increases my desirability to a perspective companion, but yeah, sex is always the goal.

Jim rested his hand compassionately on Jake’s. “I’m sorry,” he said.

Jake pulled his hand away briskly and released a vulgar sexual suggestion. “What do you mean you’re sorry?” he said.

“It sounds like you live only for your next orgasm. That’s sad.”

“Sad!? Don’t talk to me about sad. You had to go without it for six years, while you were in prison. Now that’s sad.”

“That WAS sad,” Jim agreed. “I mean, I was strong enough that I could’ve had it if I’d chosen to.”

“A cell bitch, you mean.”

“Sure, but I looked at my fellow inmates, who chose to go that route, and it never seemed to give them any pleasure.”

“Because it was with a guy you mean?”

Jim shook his head. “Because, there was nothing behind it. It was a superbly executed act, followed by a moment of physical rapture, but there was nothing behind the act. It wasn’t conveying tenderness, love, or even compassion. It was a base animal-like activity void of joy, or, in your words, fun.”

“OK,” Jake said. “You refrained in prison, so I bet you missed it.”

“Sure,” Jim said with a shrug. “To tell you the truth though, there were things I missed far more.”

“More than sex?” Jake said wide-eyed. “What could you have missed more than sex?”

“Lots of things,” Jim said. “I missed eating what I wanted, when I wanted, and cooking it exactly the way I wanted. I missed seasoning a steak on the grill as it sears until it’s just pink in the middle. I missed washing the first bite down with a nice glass of wine.

I missed watching an old movie late at night, with a bowl of popcorn in my lap. Hell, I missed deciding what to watch. The basic pleasure of controlling the remote was a fond and distant memory.

I missed Christmas shopping. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to stroll through crowded shops looking for just the right book for Sal, or cologne for Steve, while kids told Santa what they wanted for Christmas. I missed drinking a steaming hot mug of spiced cider while I wrapped my purchases that night.

Even the ability to walk to the lake, and take in the scenery, on a summer afternoon was a luxury I’d have given anything to enjoy one more time. I missed spending the day fishing off the banks with a thermos of coffee and a couple of salami sandwiches beside my hip.

I missed sitting in my window and watching the rain pour from the sky with the power of God’s fury. I missed watching snow blanket the town.

I missed gorging myself of sweet corn at the harvest festival, then cutting a mean rug that night to work off the calories as the sounds of Merle Haggard blared from the juke box.

Sex is good, great with the right person, but little things like that, moments of fun and joy, are what I missed. They’re what makes life worth living.”

An order for whiskey, from the far end of the bar, abruptly interrupted Jim’s train of thought. He sighed, picked up the bottle of J&B, and proceeded to fill the order; leaving Jake to drink his beer, with only himself for company.

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