Focus, Focus, Focus
"All the people I've known who have been successful, have been able to really focus on what needs to get done. They haven't been that smart, well some of them, or even educated or known people, but just totally fanatical to one point." Eugene works in stocks. He is originally from Russia, but one of the few Russians who has been able to shed his accent almost completely. Occassionally I hear the ghost of an accent, but rarely. He is balding, he lives in New Jersey, he is divorced, he never ever wants to remarry, and he can not explains what he does really with anything vaguely approaching coherency. I accept that he "just works with stocks."

What am I supposed to be focusing on? I am supposed to be focusing on grading papers for monday. I am supposed to be focusing on getting into a different job. I am supposed to be focusing on cleaning my apartment so that I can invite people over. I am supposed to be focusing on getting into grad school. I am supposed to be focusing on getting published.

But instead I am keeping Eugene company while he waits to meet his mother.

Monday, having failed to correct all my papers, clean my apartment, find a different job, get published, or be accepted into grad school, I am fighting my way up the subway stairs. People are swarming on the sidewalks clipping by in high heels and polished shoes to get home and order take out. At the top of the stairs is a six year old girl, hair in french braids, head thrown back, eyes closed. She holds in her arms a large bundle of pussywillows, larger than her by a foot, and she is running her fingers up and down the bouquet, stroking it as if it were a cat. A few tunnel visioned people almost step on her, swerving at the last moment, but she remains completely undisturbed.

I forget about the papers and the apartment, grad school and the job, and focus on what is left of the sunset and the cool breeze nosing its way under my jacket to cool me as I walk home.

Russian Infusions:
Part One of the Sexual Triathelon for the Big O Show

"Kissing," I'm telling him over a cup of tea at a diner.

He is in the outfit I will come to think of as his "starving artist" uniform. I have not yet realized all of his clothes qualify-old faded t-shirts, cut off cargo pants, sweaters with large holes or sections unraveling-all in grey or brown-except for his one "Russian peasant shirt" a blouse-y affair that reminds me of something Errol Flynn might wear.


He is rolling his rrrs partially for dramatic effect and partially because, as he has learned, any language with rolling rrrrrs turns me on. As a result, he has decided to add his hard russian rrrs to as many english words as he can.

"You know you can teach kissing? All you need is some slices of canned peach and..."

"Because I have that kind of time. Listen, if you can't kiss, you can't do anything else. Kissing is the wellspring, baby. If you're slobbering or biting my lips, imagine what the rest of my anatomy has to look forward to. And beyond that I teach all day, you think I want to come home and do it all night in bed. No way, sure a few pointers, a little technique refinement, we can all use that, but with kissing you gotta be pret a porter baby-ready to wear. And if not, well, you're fired, clean out your locker and security will escort you to the door."

"You're a woman of high expectations."

"No, those are standards. Standards. Kissing is not a little extra, you know like breakfast in bed or a rose on the pillow, it's absolutely integral to the whole freakin' process. When it's something as essential as kissing, it's a standard."

He makes no comment about his prowess, no comment about his ability-good or bad-or the assessment of his ability by others. He has full lips, but I have learned from experience not to judge from externals. A drag queen once tried to teach me how to judge the size of a man's cock from his pants-but I have had fabulous sex with poorly endowed men and awful sex with men endowed like a budweiser clydesdales. Still, he licks them, a quick flick of the tongue, because he knows I am watching.

"The truth is kissing really doesn't matter overall. For a man the most important thing is to be all about her pleasure. If it's kissing you give her that, if it's spanking or dressing up, you do it, and you have to be so into her pleasure, that she doesn't have to ask, that you know, from how she rotates her hips and closes her eyes, from how she arches her eyebrows and bites her lip what she wants. You have to know her body better than she does. She thinks she wants to have her nipples kissed, but then you kiss the backs of her knees, the inside of her elbow, and on top of the pleasure you get surprise at that pleasure, the appreciation of finding a new way, a new place to find pleasure, and you have to do that until she is beyond her ability to control herself-until the pleasure overpowers her-and for me that is absolutely necessary-I've met women who could not give themselves to pleasure completely-who were always worried and concerned or trying too hard-and if you can not give yourself over to just allowing me to please you well then, there isn't much point is therrrrrre?"

I stir my tea thankful that if I hunch my shoulders the table hides the tips of my breasts, by now protruding through my sweater.

We go out into the winter, his long scarf luffing in the wind. He is singing Italian opera. Over the wind, I hear "RRRRRRrrrrrrrrrecondita." He is walking in front of me, not even looking over his shoulder as I struggle up the hill behind him. At my door, he will bow and lean to press my cheek against his, "I will not kiss you tonight. Too much pressure, I can not take the judgement." I can smell his skin, even in the dead of winter he smells like sun and ocean, the beach he loves so much, his hand around my waist. I close my eyes and as slowly presses his lips to my skin. "By the way," he breathes, "I have velvety skin. Really, like a bunny. You will find out." He walks into the snow and the wind and the cold and I stand on my warm doorstep as if I am the one who is frozen.

The Forgotten
Clear blue eyes. Blonde. Chewing on a stir stick to help quit smoking...even though he still smokes. He's been to Tin Lizzy's before he came here. I know without asking because "It's his Saturday night thing."

"What's his name?" The Amazon whispers.

Linus. That's what I call him in my mind. Because he looks like Linus Roache.<br>

"I don't fucking know."

The Amazon calls him Simon. I'm not sure why, but he looks like he could be a Simon, even though I know he isn't.

"I have very good ears you know" his way of telling me he heard without telling me he heard me. "Guess what it is."




He smiles. "I bet you would have remembered if we had sex." Strange comment from a man who has barely shaken my hand, a man I've only talked to twice, and both times late at night in a bar.

I want to tell him he's in good company. I've come a long way from the girl in college who flipped out when she realized she couldn't remember the name of every man she had ever kissed. So many things forgotten over the years. the names of all the state capitals. The Robert Frost poem, title included, I memorized in 8th grade. The face of my pediatric orthopedist. The plot lines to the Way of All Flesh and Vanity Fair. Most of the phone numbers in my cell. The date of my father's birthday. The name of the surgery I had when I was twelve. That Dorothy Parker poem which ends "and if it makes you happy kid, you'll be the first it ever did." The different Treaties of Paris. The famous solilioques from Hamlet and the Merchant of Venice. Calculus, all of it, in gratuity. Most of my Latin. My favorite poem from Petrarch. To put my latest Netflix returns in the mail. My mother's exact age. What I did last tuesday, wednesday, thursday night. And of course these are only the things I know I've forgotten, there are so many more things that I've forgotten that I've forgotten.

Cleaning under my bed on friday morning, I find a storage bin and open it. It contains one of Eric's old notebooks. I leaf through it. The poems he wrote to me, about how wonderful I was, his musings about college students, and of course drawings. Near the end, I came to several pages of cramped writing. He had written about never feeling at home in NYC. How he tried, but he couldn't think of it as home. And then on the second page, "I'm in love with a girl. She's a New Englander. I wonder if we will ever find a place both of us call home. She's far too urbane to live in Vegas." I remembered when he showed it to me, being hurt somehow, and of course looking at it now I'm hurt in another way.

Before I was hurt by the sense of doubt, now I was hurt by the reality of it. All my friends hounding on me these years "He was young. He didn't know what he wanted. Why did you think etc etc" And then you see it in writing. He thought about us living together. We talked about it. More than once. We talked about how we would raise our children. We talked about where we would have our wedding. Hell, I even talked about it with his mother. We talked about whether he should be a house husband. We talked about moving back to CT. Over time, the voices of your friends become the truth. This didn't happen. It's some fantasy, some construct you've invented after the fact, the belief that you were going to be married, buy a house, and have a family all some hallucination.

But it did happen. It was not my imagination. My delusion. My wishful thinking. It happened.

But I forgot.

Which has brought me to this bar yet again. Not just to forget. But to forget that I have forgotten. I take a last pull on my Corona.

"Honey," I say to Brett as I slip off the barstool," You got me all wrong. If I had slept with you, I would have forgotten your name even sooner."

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