Epigraf, Uzak Ülke projesinin elemanıdır

Güzel bir kadını bütün sanatlara tercih ederim. | Guy de Maupassant

Wake Up, Sir! / Jonathan Ames




It was 2 A.M. when I got off my barstool, and all the alcohol I had been storing in my proverbial wooden leg shot to my head. It's always a revelation to sit and drink for hours and then stand up and find out that you're twice as intoxicated as you realized. That's why it's good to drink in bed, as I had done in Montclair. No sudden shocks.

I thanked the bartender for an excellent evening, then staggered out of the Hen's Roost. The other patrons got into their trucks and station wagons and disappeared into the darkness. I had arrived at twilight and now black ink was spilled across the sky.

I walked across the street to the gas station, which was still open. I thought I had better buy a bottle of water, hoping to fight off some­what the next day's inevitable hangover, and as I approached the entrance to the filling station's commissary, I spotted the telephone I had used earlier in the day. I suddenly wished I had somebody to call. You know how it is when you're drunk—you're vulnerable to sentimentality and want nothing more than to talk to somebody on the phone and say, "I love you."

Unfortunately, I had no such person to call, certainly not Aunt Florence under the circumstances, but then in a moment of alco­holic genius, I remembered the phone book with all its solicitations.

Next to where I had scribbled the Rose Colony's number—and I thought that I should probably cross it out before someone mis­takenly called the Colony looking for an illicit encounter—I saw the message that had appealed to me earlier, though I find this all very embarrassing. It was the one from Debbie, where she stated what she liked to have done, but it's silly of me to beat around the bush, to pussyfoot around, to stall any further, so in case you don't remem­ber, I'll reproduce the message: "I love to have my pussy kissed, call Debbie, 222-4480." Again, it was the use of the word kissed which I found so beguiling.



Removing my phone card, I gave her a ring, which was very selfish of me, considering the hour, but when one is drunk, one is notoriously prone to selfish behavior. But even drunk, what was I thinking? Well, I was terribly lonely, and, too, I had always wanted to try one of these numbers that people leave in toilets and in this case a phone book. But I needed my IQ to be reduced, to have the top of my brain sheared off by beer, before I was able to pursue this curiosity, which had been reinflamed by all the numbers I had seen scrawled in the restrooms between Montclair and Sharon Springs.

"Hello," answered a woman with a sleepy voice after about the sixth ring.

"Is this Debbie?" I asked, and I was aware that my speech was slurred.

"What?"

"I'm calling for Debbie," I said, trying to speak more coherently.

"Who is this?" Her voice now wasn't at all sleepy.

"I'm sorry to call so late ... I read your message here at the gas station ... My name is Alan. Would you like to come here? I'll buy you a wine cooler. Whatever you like. The bar is closed or I'd buy you a drink there. We can sit somewhere and talk. I'd love to talk to you ... ?"

I phrased it as a question to make myself less intrusive, if that was at all possible.

"You got my number from the gas station?" She sounded angry.

"No, the phone book," I said, and my intuition told me I should hang up right now, but some overriding drunk intuition told me not to. The overriding one said, "You're talking to a woman. Don't give up now. You never know what might happen."

"Where are you?" Debbie asked.

"I'm at the gas station."

"And you want to buy me a wine cooler?" Her voice seemed to soften.

"Anything you like. Or if you know of a bar that's open—the Hen's Roost just closed—I can get you a drink."

"All right. Stay there at the gas station. You're at the one across from the Hen's Roost?"

"Yes."

"Stand outside. I'll be right there." She hung up.

The overriding intuition, who may have been as drunk as me, said, "See. You're going to meet a woman!" The other intuition, who had somehow stayed sober, said, "Start running to the Adler now. This is too good to be true, so it can't be true. Get the hell out of here."

Naturally, I didn't listen to this sober, milquetoast voice of reason, and I went in the store to buy some chewing gum. I didn't want Debbie to be too put off by the alcohol on my breath. Remarkably, the same fellow who had been working there earlier was still hold­ing down the fort these many hours later. "You want another phone card?" he said.

"Oh no, I have many minutes left. Thank you for asking. Just want some chewing gum."

He was probably on his eighth pack of cigarettes, the smoke in. There was as thick as the bar's, which I hadn't minded while drink­ing. Under the influence, I don't notice cigarette smoke, except to be upset when I smell it on my sport coats the next day.

I was tempted to share with the cashier my good news, but I thought this could be indiscreet: he might know Debbie, it was a small town.

I went back outside to wait for her by the phone booth, and I tripped on some curbing and fell to the pavement. I righted myself and seemed to be in one piece, just my hands were a bit raw.

"Pull yourself together, you have a woman coming to see you," said the forceful intuitive voice, and to help pull myself together I chewed a piece of gum, and either from the taste of the gum or the booze or nerves or a combination of all three, I nearly vomited, but managed not to, though I spit out the gum. I was really falling apart moments before my date. My hands were scraped and my throat was scorched from the stomach bile which had risen like a flame and then sunk back down.

"Don't blow this, Alan!" admonished the voice. The other voice, the sane one, was pouting, silent, beaten into submission.

I leaned against the building, closed my eyes, pulled myself together, and waited for Debbie. It was a long shot, but maybe she really would be nice to me. I couldn't be the only lonely person in the world.





CHAPTER 9

I meet Debbie * I search for the right words * I meet a Hill * I do things I didn't know I was capable of * An arduous journey





I may have blacked out for a few minutes, because it felt as if I had lost some time, like I was waking from a dream. Then a large, ele­vated pickup truck pulled in, its high beams trained on me. For a moment, because of the blackout, I didn't know where I was. But then I remembered: I was in Sharon Springs, at the gas station, wait­ing for Debbie.

The lights were blinding—they were at eye level because of the truck's unusual suspension and its impressive, swollen tires. Some­body came down from the passenger side of the truck; the figure seemed to be that of a woman. Then the figure, now clearly a woman, was in front of the lights, and she stopped there, didn't come closer. I took a step away from the wall, but maintained a respectful, wobbly distance. It had to be Debbie.

"Did you call me?" she asked, and I wouldn't characterize her tone as welcoming, but she had to be sure I wasn't just some idiot standing outside the market of the gas station. She had to be sure I was the idiot who had called her.

"Yes," I said. "I'm Alan."

She was a robust female specimen, not a classic beauty like the girl in my dream, but I was thrilled that she had come out in the middle of the night to meet me, to give me a chance. Her hair was dyed a limp blonde—the roots were dark. Her chest, in a halter top, was formidable and appealing, and her somewhat chubby face was extra-puffy, I could see, from being woken in the middle of the night. She looked to be in her late thirties. It would be nice to hold her. It had been a while since I'd held a woman, and so I was more than happy at the idea of snuggling up against this tough-looking gal.

"Where'd you get my number?"

"From the phone book . . . I've been drinking ... I know it's crazy, and I'm sorry it's so late, but—"

"You looked up my number in the book?"

"No, the note you left..."

What could I say? She was wary of me. I searched for the right romantic words, but before I could come up with something seduc­tive and charming about the unusual circumstances of our rendezvous, she tapped the hood of the truck and the driver's-side door swung open nastily.

It hadn't occurred to me when she came from the passenger side that she was perhaps not alone, that someone else had to be driving, but there's only so much one can consider in these highly charged situations which involve calling women who leave notes in phone books, especially when one's blood-alcohol content drops the old IQ to a figure lower than one's body temperature.

Hence, a large, mean ball of a man stepped out of the truck and gave me a rather nasty stare, which he seemed to have been rehears­ing for some time, perhaps the last forty years of his life. He could have matched iced-oyster glances with Uncle Irwin. He was in a blue T-shirt and jeans, his head was a large globe with bristles, and his belly was distended, which seemed to be the vogue in Sharon Springs. He was a few inches short of six feet, but he made up the difference in his width. He looked like a small hill.

This hill soaked in the Blair dimensions—I'm about six feet, 160 pounds, most of it in my leather wing tips, I'm afraid—and then he advanced toward me with a single, historically unfriendly salu­tation: "Motherfucker!"

Seeing a hill move stunned me. It was not unlike that time a rat crawled up my leg. I froze. Then this human landmass was right in front of me. He said, "Why'd you call her?"

"I'm sorry—" I began, but then he coldcocked me, which is to say he struck me without warning, though I think it would have been highly unusual for him to have verbally alerted me. The nature of his coldcock was that his fist, the size of a small toaster, smashed me right on the nose. There was a high-pitched crack—the sound of a pencil violently snapping comes to mind— and the pain was cruel, disgusting, like I had been hit with a hammer.

I didn't fall, but there was some kind of eclipse, even though it was already night, because all light in the world was extinguished. I saw only the blackest blackness, and in this sightless world I reached up to my nose, feeling for it like someone reading braille. My nose, I dis­covered, had moved over to the right side of my face, finding that it was no longer wanted in the middle. I heard someone scream, "Oh, God!"

That someone, I realized, was me. But that's all right. Agnostics are allowed to pray under these circumstances; it's one of the benefits of our position.

Then some of the lights came back on just in time for me to see the Hill's fist enter my blue linen sport coat in the area of my stom­ach. This brought the bile and puke, which I had swallowed earlier, back up to my mouth, and I fell to the ground, but heroically I didn't vomit.

I couldn't breathe very well, though, and I couldn't see much. It felt like I was looking through the tube of a drinking straw. I saw one of my hands on the sidewalk. That was all my field of vision could take in. My poor hand, I thought.

I was vaguely aware of being scared and sad that this was hap­pening to me. But there was a curious detachment. I could sense the Hill just standing there. He seemed to be resting. Perhaps I had been punished sufficiently. I deserved what was happening. I had made a terribly selfish mistake with that phone call, so my beating was jus­tified, but maybe enough was enough. Blood was now pouring out of my nose onto the ground as I knelt there, hunched over, trying to breathe.

I wasn't really drunk anymore. I was something else. Not drunk. Not sober. Beaten. Noises were far away, muted. I made out the Hill saying, "Fucking call my girlfriend," and Debbie saying, "Fuck that Pervert up." And through the drinking straw that was my field of vision I saw a work boot speeding toward me, right for the eye that was looking through the straw, and I rolled and caught the boot on the shoulder. That hardly hurt at all compared with the crumpling of my nose and the devastation of my stomach, and I was so emboldened by this lesser pain and avoiding a kick to the eye that I tried to crawl away.

The blow to my shoulder woke me up a little and my vision was now functioning almost normally. As I crawled away, humiliated, I looked back and saw the bottom portion of the Hill advancing with menace. I observed what appeared to be a knee, and I don't know where I got such a smart idea, but just as the Hill was on top of me, I kicked out my leg with great force—months of yoga did have their benefit—such that the flat sole of my leather wing tip met the Hill's knee and it was a brief skirmish but my shoe won.

The knee went backward, which is not how knees are designed to operate, as I'm sure you know, and it was rather grotesque to see a knee buckle like that, even a malevolent knee connected to a dangerous human Hill. I couldn't believe it. I had directed my leg as if it were something I had practiced, like a serve in tennis, and the Hill shrieked and then all of him collapsed and he was on the asphalt with me, looking pained and vulnerable and human. Even cruel Hills have an attachment to the proper function of their knee joints, and I was horrified to have so injured someone and tried to convey with my eyes—I don't think I was capable of speech—my regret. But I did think that maybe it was a fair exchange, almost biblical—a knee for a nose.

I then rose up, thinking it was all over, but the Hill got to his good knee and went to punch me in the groin, but it glanced off my sturdy hip bone. I was stupidly shocked. Hadn't he seen my apologies in my eyes?

Then he quickly took another swing and punched my left knee, tried to do to me what I had done to him, but mine didn't buckle, thank God, he caught me on the side of the knee. And before I knew it, I intuitively sent my right foot, my thick leather shoe, back into action, into an opening, which happened to be his mouth. The Hill let out another cry and his lips were painted with blood. It's amazing how quickly the mouth produces blood, but I shouldn't have been surprised, since when I floss my teeth there's so much blood that I think of running to the Red Cross and making a donation.

When my shoe was out of his mouth, the Hill and I, in a moment of closeness—fighting is quite intimate, actually—locked eyes again. We were both in disbelief that I was getting the better of him, and our eyes communicated this. Then he spit out two crimson-colored teeth.

But it still wasn't over. The Hill was a worthy opponent. He tried to stand up, made it about halfway, and took a wild swing at me and missed. I then swung my right fist—the size of a good paperback dic­tionary, no toaster, but not insubstantial—into the side of his head, into an ear, which felt soft and fleshy, though the skull underneath was hard. A terrible pain went through my hand and wrist, and I think a terrible pain went through his ear and head, because he crum­pled to the sidewalk, holding his ear with one hand and covering his face with the other, like a child who doesn't want to be hit any more.

Then I was convulsed with incredible terror—the old, procrasti­nated reaction to something traumatic—and I started to shriek and run, I had to get out of there, but a fierce monster in a halter top— Debbie!—flashed claws at me, but I was able to brush her out of the way with a sweep of my arm, like a running back, and I saw her stumble but she wasn't injured—it's one thing to dismantle Hills, another to strike a woman—and then the cashier stepped out, hold­ing a baseball bat. "What the hell's going on?" he asked, but I ran by him, screaming like someone deranged, and fueled by adrenaline which hadn't been tapped in years, I was off on a crazed sprint for the Adler, with blood still coming out of the thing that had once been my nose.

Fearful that the Hill was going to pursue me as soon as he got up, I raced down the dark street, then jogged, and then with my adrenaline petering out, I hid, exhausted and frightened, under some bushes by a house, near where I had seen the Hasidic chil­dren riding bicycles. I lay on the ground, disbelieving of what had happened to me. I gingerly put dirt on my nose, thinking madly that the soil could heal me.

I lay there a few minutes, but scared to be discovered, I forced myself to get up, walked some more on the dark road, some stars and a wedge of moon lighting the way, and I made it to the ruined bath­house and hid in there. I thought of spending the night, maybe in one of the tubs; there was just enough moonlight to make out their shape, but being in there was too frightening. I couldn't take it.

So I got out of the bathhouse and started walking and jogging; it was endless, two miles seemed like a hundred, and I kept expecting the Hill to come after me, perhaps with a gang of friends to finish me off. Or maybe the Hill couldn't get up and Debbie had called the police and a cruiser was going to find me and arrest me for assault, not to mention battery, not to mention inappropriate phone calls.

But no police or vengeful gangs pursued me. I safely reached the Adler, and with my last bit of strength, I dashed up the concrete steps. The front door was open. Thank God, the old lady had left it open for me; how could I have rung the bell and let her see my face?

I tiptoed through the dark lobby and then went quickly up the staircase to my room, through the door, past the mezuzah.

"Jeeves! Jeeves!" I cried.







CHAPTER 10

Jeeves to the rescue * Things look bad for my jacket and worse for me * A few hours' sleep, some would call it passing out * A dis­cussion of my flaws * A last look and then a departure







"Yes, sir?"

"Jeeves! I've been mortally wounded!"

"It appears, sir, that you've had some type of accident."

"Accident? A piece of bone from my nose may have entered my brain! I was in a fight to the death with a member of the Hells Angels and I'm wanted by the police. Oh, Jeeves, what are we going to do? I really screwed up this time."

"May I suggest, sir, that you lie down and I will take care of your injuries."

"Am I disfigured, Jeeves?"

But before he could answer, I went to the bathroom to look in the mirror. With a washcloth, I carefully dabbed off some of the dirt I had smeared my face with.

Well, I'd always had a bony nose, with a prominent bump at the top, very similar to George Washington's nose, should you happen to have a quarter in your pocket and want to take a look, and now that bump, as I had determined earlier, was way over on the right.

This made sense since the fellow I'd tangled with had struck me with his right-hand toaster, which had sent my nose, like an English sentence, from the left to the right. The nostrils, stubbornly, were still in the middle. The skin over the bump was cut open. The blood had dried, but the wound was lumpy with granules of earth. The whole nose was frightfully and eerily swollen, and the nostrils were filled with thick, stopped blood, and there was dried blood all over my chin.

"I've wrecked myself, Jeeves ... I'm mutilated." I tried to touch my nose, but the feel of it repelled me.

I held back tears.

"Please lie down, sir."

Jeeves was showing a great deal of sangfroid at the sight of my dried sang, and his calmness had a hypnotic effect on me. Like a tiny boy, I held out my arms to him and he began to remove my clothes—the lapels of my favorite blue linen sport coat were bloody, but maybe the jacket wasn't ruined. One always hears that blood can't be washed out, but it often is. This business then about permanent bloodstains on clothing must be a rumor to keep people from attacking one another, though it's not a very effective rumor since a good deal of attacking still goes on.

Anyway, I lay on the bed and Jeeves gently bathed my face. Then he applied a damp washcloth to my nose, in lieu of ice.

Undone by it all, I passed out.



Around six-thirty in the morning there was a harsh banging on the door. I was shot into consciousness. But not just consciousness. Full coherent panic. My God, it's the police, I thought.

Jeeves was by my side, holding a wet compress. "Jeeves, it must be the sheriff," I whispered. "Should we climb out the window?"

"There's no fire escape, sir."

The banging continued, then speech. "In there—you want shvitz bath?" It was the old lady.

"Yes ... of course ... very good ... thank you.... I'll come down in twenty minutes. That all right?"

"We heat the water. Come in thirty minutes," said the old lady through the door.

"All right," I said. There was silence. She had left.

"I'm only stalling her, Jeeves. We have to flee at once. I'm sure to be traced here to the Adler. I told everyone at the bar I was staying here and the cashier at the gas station knows—I asked him for directions."

I went to the bathroom to start getting ready and regarded myself in the mirror. I looked worse than I had a few hours before. The swelling had really set in. I looked like I was wearing the mask of a boxer. A boxer who wasn't very good. The space between my eyes, at the top of my nose, which was normally an indentation—in fact, most people have an indentation there unless you are a horse or a member of the horse family, like a zebra or a burro—was puffy, bloated.

I've overheard discussion of a certain arrangement of features known as a unibrow; well, I had a uniface. I was all snout, and to the left and right of this grotesque snout were already two black eyes. And beneath the snout was my Fairbanks Jr. mustache. But no pimples! The blows I received had done something to my pimples. Knocked them into submission! How innocent—how vain! how foolish!—I had been just one day before when my greatest concern was two spots on my upper lip.

Seeing my face took something out of me and I wasn't quite ready to flee. Fleeing, most will agree, requires a good deal of energy. So instead, I sat on the edge of the bed to inspect the rest of my person. There was a black mark on my stomach—some kind of horrible blood bruise—and two blue-red bruises on my hip and shoulder respectively. Also, my right wrist and hand were tender from the punch I had thrown, and both palms were scraped from when I had fought the curbing before fighting the Hill. I experienced pity for my body, like it was something separate from me, something that should be valued, but had instead been vandalized.

I was about to cry and leaned forward to hold my face in my hands, but blood rushed into my nose, such that I thought my head might explode. I lay back, to drain the blood elsewhere. I was also hungover. Hungover and bludgeoned! I couldn't cry, after all. It hurt too much.

Jeeves cleared his throat.

"What is it, Jeeves?" I whimpered.

"If I may inquire, sir, you were hysterical last night and I didn't want to further upset you with an interrogation, but I am curious to know how you came to blows with a Hells Angel and why you are wanted by the police."

"There's no point in explaining things, Jeeves. I should just be shot."

"Perhaps, sir, if you tell me what happened, I can provide some counsel."

"I'm too wiped out."

"I only require the headlines, sir. A brief summary."

"All right," I said.

It wasn't fair to keep the fellow in the dark, so I related the tragedy to Jeeves, confessing all. He absorbed my tale like some kind of magus and then he spoke with great sobriety and sanity. First of all, the message in the phone book, Jeeves hypothesized, was some kind of prank perpetrated on the femme fatale in question, not authored by Debbie herself, and so I was in the wrong for having made the phone call. But it was his feeling that we weren't in great danger of the law, that such a fellow as I had fought with was unlikely to seek out the police, and if he did, there was the old fall-back of self-defense. The woman, though, might have cause for action, but the whole thing was so absurd that the local constabulary would probably be baffled as to what to do.

He did think we should leave for Saratoga Springs this morning, since as a keen observer of my psyche, he knew that I would feel too anxious to remain in town. We could get a hotel room in Saratoga and then report to the Rose Colony the next day, as expected. I could explain my injuries by telling them that I had been in a minor car accident.

Time would take care of the body was his overall opinion, and I was not to touch any more alcohol. Jeeves was rather stern on this point—"I really do think, sir, that you show every sign of being alco­holic, floridly evident in last night's episode, and so the only recourse, I can see, is abstention"—whereas in the past he had sim­ply looked the other way while the young master gargled the crushed grape.

I humbly accepted his prescription of temperance, but wondered if there wasn't more I could do. "Do you think I should write a let­ter of apology to the woman and to the man?" I asked Jeeves. "Per­haps from her phone number there's a way to get her address."

"Your intention is good, sir, but I think a letter would not have the desired effect. Anything having to do with you would most likely cause more pain, and a letter, I'm afraid, would be misunderstood by the parties in question. I do understand your willingness to make amends, but it's probably best to see your injuries as your form of apology. Your burden, as it were."

"Yes, Jeeves," I said. What a mess I had made, but I had to pull myself together.

We gathered our few things and slipped out of the Adler. The old lady must have been in the basement tending to my bath. I felt bad leaving her without explanation, but I had paid for two nights and so my conscience was more or less clear.

We got into the Caprice and I started the engine. Through black­ened eyes, I took a last look at the tall, leaning Adler. Mist was coming off the morning grass and so the foundation of the hotel was lost in a cloud hovering close to earth, and it was all rather lovely and eerie, but this wasn't the time to meditate on beauty, and so I put the car in reverse and then aimed it for Saratoga Springs and the Rose Colony.









CHAPTER 19

Drinking and smoking with Tinkle * I provide counsel, playing the role of Ernest Hemingway * Tinkle tries to kill me







I was in Tinkle's room on the third floor of the Mansion, smoking one of his cigars and drinking his whiskey. After we left Beaubien, I had casually mentioned the need for more alcohol, so we had come up to his room to smoke instead of going for a walk, since it was in his room that he could properly introduce me to his bottle of Wild Turkey, which is not the most expensive whiskey, but in the right light it can look very attractive, and Tinkle's room had the right light.

At first I had refused the cigar, but then after a sip of Tinkle's Wild Turkey, I had put one in my mouth and was reminded of Hans Castorp's affection for cigars in The Magic Mountain, which, as I may have mentioned, is one of my favorite books of all time. When Hans finally kissed Claudia Chauchat around page 600, the book literally flew from my hands in ejaculatory pleasure. For six hundred pages Mann had teased us with an attraction between those two! He had been sadistically patient. Well, it was worth it. Only one other time has a book flown from my hands, and that was when Sancho Panza vomited in Don Quixote's mouth after Don Quixote had vomited in Sancho's mouth. I highly recommend reading Don Quixote just for that passage.

Anyway, Tinkle's lead-paned windows were open and we had a fan blowing our cigar exhaust out into the night, since smoking wasn't allowed in the Mansion, due to the fire hazard it posed to such an old building. The dark summer sky was visible to me. I felt rather at peace. I was holding my liquor, and guilty thoughts about falling off the wagon had been banished. The cigar was making me feel good, not nauseous. All was well.

Like my own accommodations, Tinkle's chamber was some­what monastic: a bed, a desk with a typewriter (Tinkle, I surmised, was an old-fashioned writer), and an easy chair, which I was at the moment inhabiting. It had a stick shift on the side for a footstool. I popped the stool, extended my legs, and admired my wing tips. I put my hat on the floor. Tinkle sat at his desk.

"Thank you for saving me from Beaubien," I said.

"Why saving? You looked to be in a good position. I feel bad for interrupting. I'd go for her in a heartbeat."

I had misspoken—had nearly besmirched Beaubien's character. To rally out of that, I compensated with an admission. "Well, you see, I have my eye on Ava. Her nose is extraordinary."

"You have a thing for her nose?"

"I think I do."

"I also have sexual problems," said Tinkle.

"I'm not sure my thing for Ava's nose qualifies as a sexual prob­lem. It's a very beautiful nose."

"I'm sorry," said Tinkle.

"That's all right," I said.

"But I really do have sexual problems," said Tinkle.

"I understand," I said.

"Can I talk to you about something personal?"

I was enjoying the man's tobacco and whiskey, the least I could do was to provide some counsel, though I wondered if everyone at the Rose was so forthcoming. First Beaubien and now Tinkle. But it made sense: I was new on campus and they were probably desper­ate for a friend. I popped the footstool down, to show that I was seri­ous and sympathetic. "Tell all," I said to Tinkle.

He leaned forward. His posture was confessional. "I'm like a broken water pistol," he said. "I fire sideways."

"Have you seen a urologist?" I asked, and I didn't say it, but I won­dered if Tinkle's name had subconsciously caused him to suffer in this area. Growing up, I knew a girl with the surname Hiney, and this probably shaped her destiny. She was relatively normal-looking but she was reviled. I remember her singing a solo in the fourth-grade choir and someone screamed out derisively, "Hiney!" Everyone in the auditorium laughed and the poor girl's will was broken. Up until that point she had been singing beautifully. I had even thought for a moment, with some kind of nine-year-old's intuition, that her lovely singing voice might erase the years of ridicule. But some bully must have sensed the same thing—Hiney!—and robbed her of her triumph. I wonder what's become of her. Her family moved after the fifth grade. Maybe they went to a foreign country where the name Hiney wasn't a detriment. That's the best one can hope. A name can determine a great deal. Look at Jeeves, poor fellow. Very hard for peo­ple to take him seriously.

"My problem isn't physical," said Tinkle. "It's not something a urologist could help me with."

"Well, if you're shooting sideways, that sounds physical to me. ... I'll have some more whiskey."

In my mind, this was like when Fitzgerald had consulted Hem­ingway on the size of his—Fitzgerald's—genitals, at least that's what Hemingway reported in A Moveable Feast. So I played Papa to Tinkle's Scott. He poured me some more whiskey.

"Now explain to me how shooting sideways is not a urological, physical issue?" I asked, and I wondered if I should bring up, after all, the Hiney story, point him in the direction of uncovering the possi­ble name-related psychosomatic root to his problem, but it also occurred to me that perhaps his organ had somehow become bent. Maybe a bicycle accident? Or perhaps a rapidly descending toilet seat had gotten the best of him. I had heard of such things happening and had narrowly avoided that guillotinish fate myself a few times. Every now and then people idiotically put rugs or some kind of quilt-work on the back of toilet seats, and such coverings cause the lids to be unpredictable and spastic. Only lightning-quick reflexes have saved me during these crises. Perhaps Tinkle didn't have such good reflexes.

"I guess it's more that I misfire without provocation," said Tinkle. "Things set me off. I have orgasms when I don't want to."

"So you're not shooting sideways?"

"No."

"Why did you say sideways, then?"

"Maybe because it happens in my pants and I'm constrained."

"So sideways does come into it, but not because of structural damage. . . .What sets you off, then? A woman's perfume? That often arouses me. Or a hint of a woman's body odor?"

"No. Body odor could do it, but I usually don't get that close to a woman."

"You don't always have to be so close. I once went into a sta­tionery store and the girl behind the cash register had exposed armpits and was fumigating the place. But I loved the smell. Responded priapically. I nearly misfired, myself. I lingered in there for a long time, pretending to be interested in a fountain pen that was also a cigarette lighter. She was ordinary-looking but her smell was incredible. She may have known this and didn't bathe to com­pensate for her plain features. I did return there at least twice, want­ing to just breathe in her fragrance, arouse myself, and rush home. Except she was never there again. Frustrating when things like that happen. Very difficult sometimes to figure out a stranger's schedule."

"Like I said, a smell can trigger me. But it doesn't have to be as obvious as that. See that thermos lid?" asked Tinkle. There was indeed the lid of a thermos on the floor. It was upside down and could be used as a drinking cup.

"That sets you off?"

"It could."

"What about it? The shape? That fact that it's a receptacle?"

"No. The shape doesn't matter. I sexualize everything. A shoelace. A lamp."

I eyed the thermos lid, submitting it to a test of attractiveness, to see if I had the same condition as Tinkle, but I found it simply to be a lid, though I was intrigued by this notion of finding all things erotic. I don't know if it was the booze, but I sort of wished that I could find thermos lids sexy. I looked at it again. The oval nature was appealing, but that's as far as it went. I looked at his desk lamp. Noth­ing. I resumed my counseling session with Tinkle.

"You're not having an orgasm right now, are you?" I asked with­out judgment, like a scientist.

"No, whiskey dulls it. That's why I drink a lot."

"How many orgasms a day do you manufacture?"

"Along with heavy drinking, I do preventive masturbation four or five times a day so that I can go out in public."

This all sounded oddly familiar. Then I reassured myself: I might have shared some of his symptoms, but that can be said for most psychiatric illnesses.

"Why do you think this has happened to you?" I asked. "Maybe you should see Oliver Sacks. It could be neurological. Like the man who thought his wife was a cocktail waitress."

"I don't get any sex. That's my problem. I'm thirty-one; I haven't had sex in nine years."

What could I say to comfort him? Nine years was a terribly long time. One hardly goes nine years without doing most things, except maybe trips to the Far East. So nine years without something as meaningful to a person's sense of well-being as sex was a dire stretch. Poor Tinkle! I had recently gone about seven months—the duration of my posting in New Jersey—but that was nothing compared with what Tinkle had endured.

"What about going to a prostitute?" I asked.

"No. I'd fall in love."

"You're a romantic. That's admirable. But you had better give it up. Going to a prostitute is better than walking around having orgasms because of thermos lids and lamps and shoelaces."

"It would be too depressing that the only way I can have sex is to pay for it."

"Listen, if everyone thought that way, a whole industry would collapse. It's not depressing! Well, maybe for a few minutes after­ward, but it's worth it. Especially in your situation."

"I can't. I'd feel bad for the woman."

Tinkle was stubborn on this issue. What the hell could I do for him? I wished I could get Jeeves to help me figure this one out, though I didn't think the pulley system would work on such a severe case.

"Do you go on dates?" I asked.

"Sometimes, but I never get a second date, or if they go out with me at all, it's only out of pity. And now I'm liable to come if they even stand next to me or if I see them handling a fork. So I haven't gone on a date in a year. I'm dangerous."

"You're a good-looking guy," I said. "I don't understand."

Tinkle just stared at me, imploring me with his eyes not to force him to bring up the issue of his height. He was fairly attractive—he had nice curly hair, the jaw of a longshoreman, and the stocky body of a wrestler. But, like Murrin, he was terribly short, though it hadn't made him homosexual, as far as I could tell; everything he said pointed to a desire for intercourse with females. Nevertheless, I did think of suggesting homosexuality to Tinkle, as a sort of temporary solution, but this struck me as an injurious proposal. Also, just because he was short didn't mean he couldn't get a woman, though it no doubt made things more difficult. After all, it's nearly impossible for a person of normal height to get a woman. But something had to be done for Tinkle. I decided to hammer away at him on the prosti­tute angle. He needed to know that he could function like a man and not a leaky water pistol. This would be the first step of his recovery.

"I really think going to a brothel would be the best thing for you," I said. "Would demystify the whole act and recalibrate you so that you only find women appealing and not objects. And it will give you some confidence. If money is an issue, I'll happily advance you five hundred dollars. I received a settlement a few months ago and my wallet is bursting at the seams. Let's get a good one. This is a horse town. The racing season has started. There's bound to be beautiful women who will take care of you, get you working properly again. I stayed in a shabby place last night, but I saw some fancy hotels on the main drag. We'll go to one of those places, sit at the bar, drink, and discreetly ask the bartender how to proceed."

I saw myself and Tinkle, my little companion, at an elegant bar, two beautiful women approaching. Perhaps I, too, would indulge. In the past, when I'd first moved to New York, I'd had a few experiences in that realm, mostly disastrous, but initially it's always pleasant, a sort of a revelation to cut right to the chase with a woman. Still, Tinkle was right: you felt bad for the prostitute, no matter how jaded she might be, and afterward you were terribly depressed. But maybe this time in Saratoga it would be better. That's always the lure, though, this time it will be better, different, which seems to be the hook with most vices. Gambling, sex, alcohol, drugs, Chinese food—you always give these things a second chance or a hundredth chance, but something healthy, like kayaking, if you don't go for it the first time, you never try again.

"I can't go to a prostitute," said Tinkle. "I know I'll fall in love. I'm pathetic. Also, I have another problem which I should tell you about.... But the coming is getting worse. I have wet dreams every night, no matter how much I drink or masturbate. Last night I dreamt that I saw two dogs humping and that made me come. I'm afraid to go to sleep tonight. What if I dream of lobster claws?"

"More whiskey," I said. My ability to empathize was getting the best of me; I couldn't take much more of Tinkle's misery. I felt a black depression inching around the edges of what had previously been a good mood. Lobster claws! The man's psyche was booby-trapped. He poured me two more inches of Wild Turkey. "Were you one of the dogs, or just watching?" I asked.

"Just watching. And when the dog finished, I finished."

"What's your other problem?" I whispered. I inwardly shielded myself for another blow; I don't know how Freud and Jung did this for a living.

"I have hyperhidrosis," Tinkle said.

"What's hyperhidrosis?" I asked.

"I sweat too much."

"Were you actually diagnosed by a doctor?"

"Yes."

"How do you get hyperhidrosis?"

"Genetics. And stress. Stress sets up the genetics."

"All right, you sweat a lot. Extra showering and deodorant, that's all. Maybe a pill. They give incontinent people pills to dry them up. Maybe you could take one of those."

"Nothing works. But it's just not sweating from the armpits. My hands are incredibly moist. It's disgusting. If I touch a woman, she'll think I'm a sponge."

"What about nine years ago? Who did you sleep with then?"

"An older woman. A lesbian."

"If she was with you, then she was bisexual, not a lesbian."

"She was more lesbian than bisexual. She had never been with a man. I was a six-month experiment. Now she's back to being a lesbian."

"Well, she reverted to form after a pleasant six months with you. More important, what did she think of your hands?" "She didn't mind."

Tinkle looked completely defeated as he recalled his love affair. I wondered if it had been the extent of his sexual experience. "Is she the only woman you've ever been with?"

"Yes. The only woman I've been with was a lesbian." "Listen, there are a lot of fellows who would die to be able to say that. . . . You have to focus on the positive: she didn't mind your hands. This hyperhidrosis can't be that bad. Let me shake your hand."

He shook his head no.

"Come on. Please. I have to see if you're exaggerating."

He went to wipe his hand on his pants. "No," I said, stopping him. "I want the full effect."

We shook hands. His hand was very slick and chilled. It did feel like a sponge. I said nothing. I didn't know how the guy could take it. I couldn't take it. I felt myself mentally crumbling. I finished my whiskey. Tinkle poured me some more.

"I have to use pens that aren't water-soluble," he said. "I try to avoid shaking hands or at least give my pants a quick wipe.... One time I was on a date, it was winter, and I was in this woman's car. She kept asking me why my side of the windshield was fogging up. I said the defrost must be broken. This is what I live with."

"The hyperhidrosis fogged up a window?"

"Yes."

"You're like a superhero," I said, trying to summon a smidgeon of enthusiasm for his affliction. "You cause windows to fog, ink to run. You're a force of nature. That's a positive way to look at it."

"I do think positively about it. It's a curse and a gift.... God knew I would always be alone so he made me self-lubricating."

Tinkle gave a maudlin smile, then said, "There's one more thing." I slumped deep into the chair. I nodded my assent, like a slave stoically taking another lash from his Roman master.

"I saw a spot the other day on the head," said Tinkle, laying into me, not holding back. Cruel Tinkle! I wasn't cut out for this kind of treatment. "I think I have penile cancer. When something gets overused, the cells begin to fragment. That might be what's happening."

"You need to see a doctor," I lisped. My voice was barely audible. Tinkle had defeated me. I was psychically destroyed. I was no Hem­ingway. This latest announcement pushed me over the edge.

"They'll probably have to cut off my penis," Tinkle said, reveling in his martyrdom and further destroying me mentally. "My life will be over before I've even had a life."

"Don't speak this way; it's not healthy," I croaked.

"Don't worry, I have a plan," said Tinkle. "I'm going to turn into a bat. I'm going to burn a cork and put blackface on, like Al Jolson. I'm going to sneak into women's rooms here in the Mansion and they'll never see me."

"Please tell me you're joking," I pleaded. Tinkle was either insane or madly drunk or both.

"No, I'm going to become a bat. It will be a performance piece. Everyone is scared of the bats here."

"You're not going to molest anyone, are you?"

"No, I'll just stand in the shadows unseen. They don't see me now. It'll be the same thing."

"Listen, this is crazy. Forget this bat business and penile cancer business. I'm sure you're fine. I'm always seeing things on my penis that aren't there. Everyone does. It comes with having a penis… Please ... you don't have cancer and you don't have to impersonate a bat. You have to think about your work, your writing." I waved my hand in the direction of his typewriter. "Live for that. I've had a number of setbacks myself lately—look at my face—but as long as I keep working on my novel, everything will be all right. So forget about sex and crazy performance pieces. What is it you're working on?"

"It's like Mangrove's book, but a little different."

"What is it? Tell me," I begged. The fellow's life had to have some purpose.

"A novel in the form of a suicide note."

The pain came to an end right about then.

I blacked out.









[Bir şeye kızıp, kızgınlığını Jeeves’ten çıkardıktan sonra]



Before Jeeves could answer, I slammed the door.

I was aware that I was acting atrociously but I couldn’t stop myself. Rarely had I behaved in such a manner. But I guess when we’re feeling lonely in life, we attack those who actually do love us. It’s one of the things that characterizes human nature and can be summed up in one word: FLAWED.









I went in. Slow. Cautious. Being in her was a revelation. I had nearly forgotten what it felt like to be in a woman. When it comes to sex, I think we all suffer from a kind of amnesia. We can never fully recollect what it’s like. Our memory doesn’t allow it. So we’re compelled to do it over and over, again and again. I think this memory loss must be a function of the brain. Good old Darwin! He knew what he was up to.









Jonathan Ames, “Wake Up, Sir!”

Scribner, NY 2005

Jonathan Ames
Wake Up, Sir!, Scribner, NY 2005


Jonathan Ames'in 'Wake Up, Sir!' romanından bölümler
http://epigraf.fisek.com.tr/index.php?num=1323
Emre Sururi tarafından, 04/07/2006 tarihinde gönderildi.
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