I wrote this story after one of my daughters visited a local sex shop, as part of an assignment for her journalism class. She was supposed to interview people there, but no one would talk to her! The story's ending is a smile to my Internet writing pal, John Hamler, who was one of my first, and one of my staunchest, supporters.
I’m always the one who changes the toilet paper. Cuz two or three little sheets are stuck to the cardboard on, like, every roll, after my boyfriend’s done. I mean, seriously, I need more than that to get clean, you know? Yeh yeh, and he screws bottle caps on so tight, I need a pair of pliers to open them. Peanut butter doesn’t evaporate.
Bitchin' again, sorry. I think the only reason we’re still dating after a whole year is, well, you know. Some things make us more tolerant.
I have to admit, I’ve been feeling a little guilty about something I did to him. Not like he didn’t deserve it, of course. He’d dropped his clean laundry basket on the floor, right near the bed, a week earlier. Then, instead of putting his things away, he used the basket like a dresser. Because his actual dresser is a disaster. More typical guy behavior, right? But an entire week? Really?
So I got mad and dumped the cat box in the remaining pile of underwear and socks in the basket. I told him, “Slob doesn’t work for me, dude. Next time, put your laundry away like the rest of the world.” The thing is, the rest of the world was hanging out in our apartment at that moment, watching the Superbowl. Awkward. Not for me, but definitely for him. I suspect his friends were embarrassed, too, even though they know what I’m like. Hell, I've dated half of them, which is how I met him in the first place. All the tech guys at Slate.com get take-out from the deli where I work.
Like I said, slob doesn’t work for me, but full-out psychobitch isn't gonna work for my boyfriend once he stops thinking with his dick. Cuz, to be honest, I’d crawl into a hole and never come out if he dumped me. He might be The One, as dumb as that sounds.
With Valentine’s Day looming, I decide it’s time for me to turn over a new leaf before it’s too late. I don’t want to hear that's it’s a Hallmark holiday. For me, Valentine’s Day is gonna be Terminator Salvation Day. The big question is, exactly what do I do? A sudden burst of supercali sweetness would make my boyfriend suspicious, like I’m insincere or up to no good. Plus I don’t know if I could live with myself if I OD on sugar. On the other hand, gradual reform would test my resolve to the breaking point, and he might be long gone by the time my transformation from the Dark Side is complete.
No, I need to do something übercool, and make it count. How ‘bout Yankees tickets on Opening Day? Nah, his boss would never let him take time off work. Besides, that’s over two months away. Suppose I cook him an amazing meal? Uh-uh. I do that already. Umm, take him to the zoo, cuz he loves animals? It’s February in New York. Fuggedaboudit.
I have a brain flash, unoriginal but totally appealing: buy a great sex toy online to make Valentine’s Day something special. Then, after an incredible night, I’ll stay motivated to behave myself, and he’ll be so blown away by our tremendous feats of magic that he’ll never realize I've been kinda over the top. To keep it a surprise, I’ll do my sex toy research when he’s working late or asleep.
Life between the Superbowl kitty poo event and Valentine’s Day goes on as usual. Work, dinner, tv, sex, sleep, rinse, repeat. I yell at him to hand over the remote to me, cuz I know how to be decisive. I leave pliers on the kitchen counter, hint hint. Hey look, there's one last piece of toilet paper glued to the roll, and I'm not replacing it, how ya like me now?
But then omigod, February 14 rolls around a week earlier than I’d expected. Don’t ask me why I thought I had more time. It must be from slicing all that meat and cheese. One too many ham-and-swiss-on-rye, hold-the-mustard, sandwiches. Here it is, Valentine’s Day, and, except for a bunch of e-cards, I’m empty-handed after I finish work. I’m actually terrified my boyfriend will come home with flowers when I have nothing for him.
Talk about feeling like a total loser. It’s too late to order something on the Internet. Unless it’s an instant download, like a video stream, or movie tickets, or an e-book, none of which is exactly übercool. I want to give him something amazing that he can hold in his hands. Besides me, of course.
There’s only one thing I can do now: Go to an actual sex store -- for the first time since I turned 18 and thought I was so badass -- and buy something for tonight. As per my original plan. So I Google ‘sex shops New York’ and add my county. In an Adobe flash, three stores pop up. One is only eight miles away. I vaguely remember commercials for the place on a local cable station.
Even with my navi on, I have to do two u-turns to find True Blue Rendezvous. So how weird is it that a shop could be right on an entrance ramp to the highway? There it is, along a little squiggly bypass road. Easy off, easy on, for the horny people who go to these stores. Buy a dildo, throw it in the car, head to the Super 8 motel at the next exit. Damn. I can’t believe I’m pulling into the parking lot to join the Super 8 crowd.
I wait in my car for a few minutes to check out the customers. The other cars could’ve been parked at Dunkin' Donuts. Nothing skanky. A Camry, a Civic, a Wrangler. One beaten-up Econoline with an NRA sticker -- well, there’s always somebody like that around. Although, in all fairness, if I were in Tennessee with my New York plates and my ‘First Amendment First’ decal, the locals would think I was a flaming crazy. But this is New York: Who says I gotta be fair?
An average-looking blonde in average-looking clothes wanders out of the store. She disappears into the Civic, and drives off. Hopefully I won't be the only woman in the store now. I’m in the middle of zipping up my jacket when a black car pulls into the lot. Two swarthy guys, probably in their late 20’s, like me, pop out. They laugh as they go into the store, Clickkk, off goes the engine. I grab my handbag and slam the door behind me.
There’s a bzzzz when I climb the stoop, push open the door and step inside the store. Behind the front counter is an array of bongs and pipes. A surly-looking Indian guy slouches by the cash register.
“Excuse me,” I say. My voice sounds squeaky. “Can I ask you a few questions?”
The Indian guy points at the door. “No questions, no answers. Get this clam, then maybe. You leave now.”
“This clam?” I ask.
“Dis clam-UH. No liability that way.” For a guy who’s English-challenged, he sure knows how to turn a legal phrase or two.
“Disclaimer? I’m not suing anyone.”
He shrugs and turns his back to me.
“Lookit,” I say. “I want to buy something for my boyfriend, that’s all.”
He busies himself with the bong display. Hell with him. I march toward the center of the store where I spot the two guys from the black car.
“Nothin’ good left,” says the taller one. He points to an empty metal rack. “Fatty Patty’s gone.”
There’s a blow up display doll above the rack. She’s stained, obese and red-cheeked, say, two feet tall and just as wide. Taped to her belly, a torn strip of paper proclaims, 'Love my fat.' Right next to her dangles a single pair of plus-sized crotchless fishnets.
The tall dude pulls the fishnets off the rack and frowns. “Wrong color.”
The shorter dude hands him a package. “Think she’ll like this?” he asks.
"Absolutely." Mr. Tall grins, and tucks a plus-sized schoolgirl costume under his arm. “See anything else?”
I edge past the big girl teddy rack -- also empty, I’m afraid. I want to tell Mr. Tall there are plenty of Judy inflatables, but Judy is an average-proportioned white girl, probably unappealing to him. Maybe he’d like a blow-up Guidette, The Whore From The Jersey Shore. There are two packaged Guidettes left on the rack, with a logo that says: ‘I want your friggin’ sausage.’
Wait a sec, who am I shopping for?
I pass the video department. Why would anyone buy videos in this day and age, with free porn all over the Internet? An old guy, that’s who. A grey-haired guy in a suit looks frazzled in front of the ‘Big Tits’ section. He flags down a girl with a nametag on her sweatshirt. “Miss? Do you have a searchable database?”
I don't hang around for the answer.
In the near-empty BDSM section, a lonely pair of panties with an attached leash lies in a heap on the floor. I hurry past the handcuff shelf. There's a rhinestone-studded pair that catches my eye. Nah, I'm not into that stuff anymore. In the back of the store, the dildo aisle beckons. I‘m hoping to find something there, even if it’s just for laughs. Labels for ‘Antonio,’ ‘Juan’ and ‘Leroy’ are taped above empty shelves. Sold out. I glance at the photos: Seven, eight and nine-inch Hispanic and Af-Ams. But lots of six-inch white guy ‘American Topper’ dildos stand nice and perky, all in a row. Plain vanilla is definitely lameass at True Blue Rendezvous.
The girl with the nametag dashes over to me. “We had a run on these for Valentine’s Day, sorry. I just found one Suavé at the register, if he'll do.” She pronounces it ‘Swah-vay’ with an authoritative accent, and hands me a twelve-inch Hispanic model.
“Not quite what I was looking for.” I head toward what I think is a locked jewelry case with a side-mounted spotlight. ‘Vibrators, $199.99 And Up.’
“I know, they're expensive, right?” I jump, because I didn’t see the girl following me. “How 'bout these? They start at $99.99, made in the USA and guaranteed safe.” She tugs a sealed plastic box from a metal rod across the aisle. It looks like it contains purple jumper cables. ‘Vibrating Nipple Clamps.’ The purple control box has a red, heart-shaped button.
The plastic casing looks strong enough to house a rocket-launcher. I mean, it would take so long to break open the package, my nipples would fall off. I guess that's where peanut butter jar pliers, aka the bottle-opener, would come in handy.
“Um, thanks. I think I’ll need to come back here with my boyfriend.”
This isn’t working out like I planned. I’m not buying anything, just wasting time. When I don't have time to waste. I hear the same bzzzz as I push through the front door.
What the hell am I gonna do? The double beep that unlocks my car sounds as clueless as me.
On the way back to my apartment complex, I pass a Barnes & Noble. I make a U and head in. Even though the store is deserted, I hope I’ll find a cute card or something. Most of the Valentine’s Day cards at B&N are gone, so it won’t take me long to scour the leftovers.
A cue-ball dude with a soul patch appears by my side. The green apron he’s wearing looks pretty silly, but I know it’s not his choice. I mean, my yellow-and-white uniform is totally idiotic, but that’s what all the deli clerks wear. So who am I to judge, right?
“Can I help you, miss?”
“Just browsing,” I answer. “Looks like you’re cleaned out.”
“Who are you shopping for?” he asks. “Boyfriend, husband?”
“Boyfriend.” Lucky for him I’m not a lesbian. I can't stand it when people assume stuff.
“Follow me.” He crosses the store and stops in front of a table stacked with glossy, all-black books. No writing on the black covers, just thin blue lines along the inside edge. He hands me one of the books, and when I flip it over, I see the back is solid black, too. As well as the spine. There’s nothing on the book flaps, either. No title, no author, no description. “We just got these in,” he says. “They’ll be sold out by tomorrow night. Can’t keep ‘em in stock.”
“What is it?” I ask. I flip the pages, expecting it to be a sex manual, but all I see are words. I peer at one of the pages. The first sentence has big words I don’t understand. Except for the word ‘cock,’ which shows up like twenty times. Mmm hmm, must be a sex book.
“Bestseller," he says, "There are seven books in the set. One blue line is Book One, two blue lines are Book Two, and so on. You can read them separately, or pick one or two. It all works, no matter how many you have. You can read them whatever way you want, in whatever order you want.” He opens one of the books to the title page. ‘Book One. Military Confusion.’
“What’s the book about?”
“Nothing, really. Absurdist flash fiction is the best way to describe it. It tends to appeal to men more than women, so your boyfriend might like it." He hands Book One to me.
I rummage through the stack of black covers in search of more blue lines, for each of the next few books. I tug out one with three lines. ‘Book Three. Family Inclusion.’ I flip to a random page toward the middle of the book. Besides having a penis obsession, whoever wrote this has a sick vocabulary. Sick as in unbelievable. Like “lissotrichous,” I mean, is that even a word? And what the hell is this: “A quasi-compendium of flaggelating paramecium illuminated by phosphorescent lampyridae…” Cripes. This stuff’s way over my head.
Ah ha, I spot two blue lines on a cover. ‘Book Two. Criminal Delusion.’ On page 3, I read, “Busted piston and all, the cannibal rattled south on his 1979 Honda CBX six-cylinder superbike, with a large order of McDonald’s fries wedged in his pocket.” Kinda cool, I could understand this one, I think. I find ‘Book Six. Literary Seclusion.’ Another stack teeters on the edge of the table: ‘Book Five. Cerebral Occlusion.’ The hell? What’s with all the ‘shuns?’
There are only three books left in this pile: ‘Book Four. Sexual Intrusion.’ Ah, finally, there’s a sentence I can figure out, even if I don’t understand every word: “Entry from behind increased my erection to quadrinomial proportions, but the sound of ‘Macarena’ blasting from the kitchen perniciously pounded ten minutes of pump and hump into a Sisyphean waste of energy.”
I can’t find Book Seven.
“Here you go, miss.” The clerk hands me a black book with seven thin lines along the side. The title
is ‘Book Seven. Attribution.’
“I don’t get it,” I say. But my boyfriend, who’s a whole lot smarter than me, might. At least I’m coming home with something. I buy the lot and have them gift-wrapped.
The apartment is a ten-minute drive away. When I pull up to our building and pop the keys in the front door, my boyfriend is already home.
“Got out of work early, baby,” he says, and gives me a hungry kiss. “Happy Valentine’s Day.” He presents a dozen long-stemmed roses to me with a flourish. Old school but totally sweet, huh?
I pass him my Barnes & Noble bag. “I hope you like it. I didn’t know what to get you,” I say. As I put my roses in a vase, I hear him tearing off the giftwrap.
My heart sinks. I should’ve gotten the electric nipple clamps. Or twelve-inch-long Suavé.
“Baby, you outdid yourself this time, you know that?” He runs over to hug me, and relief washes over me.
“I did good?” I ask, smiling.
He gives me a kiss so deep I can hardly breathe. When he releases me, he says, “The author’s a fucking rock star. We’re trying to land an interview with him, but he’s booked solid for the next month.”
“I didn’t think people read books anymore.” Oops.
He raises his eyebrows at me. “People read this. When they can get their hands on it.” Then he points to charcoal gray letters on the back cover. So dark I never noticed them: Caliban.
I still don’t get it. “Wasn’t that the name of some metal song?”
“Metalcore, lust, and Shakespeare.” He leads me into the bedroom. “Power of words, baby. It means there’s hope for the world.”
We peel off each other’s clothes. Even without vibrating nipples and Suavé, I guess there's hope for me, too. Although those rhinestone handcuffs did look pretty nice.
Copyright Terri L. Weiss. All rights reserved.