Home for him lay well south of Heaven — closer to the border with Hell — or somewhere round Central Texas, morally speaking, that is.
Quietly uncertain of everything apart from how uncertain everything disquietingly was (is how one could sum up his disposition). To him, no room proved comfortably warm or sufficiently cool, no wealth of material possessions came close to being suitable. Any woman at once kind and foolish enough to bestow him with her most intimate of gifts inevitably found herself subject to treatment qualifying at best as callous, and at worst as, well he’d rather not say.
Archetypal good looks didn’t much help the predicament, either. Tall, light and classically handsome, he’d been built like an Olympian — with an Athenian mind atop quarterback’s shoulders — and so never ran into any real trouble when it came to getting something(s) he wanted, much to his own chagrin. Time and again, he found himself slave to a profound, irretrievable ambivalence which seemed all too capable of permeating everything he held dear, and in fact, many things he didn’t.
Latent origins of this unfortunate condition presented themselves as seeming either too baffling to unravel or too obvious to lend credence. They say it all comes down to how you were raised and who did the raising, but this explanation proved entirely too facile for someone as invested in manifest destiny and selective self-awareness as he.
Naturally, one must consider past relationships of the unhealthy and carnal persuasion; ones even he will admit were less than commendable with regard to the very unselective brand of self-service he seemed unable to deviate from. Then, of course, there are external factors such as education, social development, job history (or lack thereof), history of mental health (far from lacking), travel habits, extracurriculars, arrest record, sexual proclivities, drug use (prescribed and recreational), etc.
The term “debauched moralist” had always intrigued him in a cursory sort of way; it gave him hope that perhaps there might be hidden some morality within his debauchery.
When all was said and nothing done, though, the only thing he found real, unassailable solace in was lying. Something about the way it enabled him to remake others’ perception of any-and-everything conceivable made him feel empowered, even divine. Life, in truth, came in at a very distant second to lying in the running for gifts which God-or-whatever had given him.
Say what you will, but the intent behind it was rarely malicious, despite often being duplicitous. It manifested more closely to how the chameleon’s natural ability to blend does. None of it was to do with the actual manipulating of others per se (that was just an unfortunate byproduct), but more with a weird, voyeuristic fetish that was stimulated by seeing how and why others would react to that manipulation. Think, again, of the chameleon. What has he to do once blended but observe?
Many attribute lying to another form of imprecise gambling; they are mistaken. Everything about real dishonesty is calculated, very much precise, even if it is subconscious. Those for whom deceit is pathological rather than pedagogical will know but never tell that a liar in true form is honest just often enough so that he will never get caught.
He seemed to know this, to simultaneously curse/question its secrecy; and further wondered — not even remotely in passing — how many people like himself he’d crossed paths with over the years? This prospect succeeded both in exciting and discouraging him. On the one hand, he coveted the challenge of meeting someone as clever in conniving as he. On the other, he despised the thought of being anything less than the cunningest linguist that ever was.
One can imagine, then, the sheer breadth of devastation incurred on his very reality when, as fate would have it, just such a linguist came along.
She just sort of happened to him. Y’now how some people can do that? They just walk right up and impose their fucking being on yours. Not necessarily in a love-at-first-sight kind of way, but more of a shit-now-I-have-to-know-that-you-exist [kind of way]. He saw it in her eyes — it’s always in the eyes — right from the start. She had that look of being totally riveted in what some sad fucker was saying which betrayed itself as too practiced and seamless to be genuine.
They’re an amber-brown, her eyes, and far too pretty not to be full of shit (more van Gogh than Van Morrison). The only thing she was more than gorgeous was smart, devastatingly so, but that didn’t stop everyone from writing her off as just another sweet Southern belle with a fancy Northern degree.
Tall enough to exude presence among men, but not so lofty as to threaten them, she’d rarely worn anything but heels since being of an age to walk in them. As a result, her feet were all sorts of fucked up, but the legs and ass adjacent were hailed by those who’d received access as being revelatory, a higher sexual truth divinely manifest in female form.
Her bust was ample without being garish, and she made sure always to exhibit an array of cleavage that succeeded in being tastefully frustrating. Nothing aggravated her more than being reminded of “how pretty she is”; it brought forth aspirations of murder-suicide which could only be assuaged by recollection of the fact that she’d only have dispatched one of these small-minded, middle-aged, and (statistically) impotent misogynists from this self-congratulatingly patriarchal world.
They were direct products of the oil boom, these two, both born to blue-collar fathers who’d fallen in love with white-collar mothers (which mothers had long since given up on pretending to feel the same). Each grew up in homes with more money than love, and no pretense of appreciating either.
Raised by Mexican nannies (who were actually Honduran or Ecuadorian, but that eluded the consciousness/concern of their employers), the two of them held little concept of family save for one of totally unrestrained financial backing and barely restrained personal loathing. Such as it was, neither could claim partiality to the thought of settling down, a notion which — for them — really only amounted to settling.
She couldn’t tell if he was checking her out or sizing her up — neither would’ve displeased her — and what’s the difference, anyway?
When these debauched moralists found themselves face-to-face in an intentionally ill lit bar, a number of things transpired. The first and most important of those was a mutual assessment in dishonesty. Both were of the ego and mindset that they are the absolute, undisputed best at what they do, and neither could ever be convinced of anything to the contrary.
So before the flirting begins, each is subject to an infinitesimal but all-inclusive evaluation. It started with physical characteristics (clothing, hairstyle, jewelry, fragrance, measurements), followed by body language (posture, placement, hand gestures, facial mannerisms), succeeded by the simple act of listening — which please rest assured, while simple, is by no means easy.
Then comes the smile; it’s not coquettish or overdone on either end, totally genius in its disingenuousness. Again, the eyes are crucial here, or a proper liar will spot you. The initial exchange is warm, amiable, so natural you’d think they were meant for each other…only by those standards, they’d be meant for every poor soul who falls victim to their charms.
First impressions are a lot like first attempts at intercourse (usually brief, rarely flattering, and always impossible to take back), so you can bet they were both trying their damnedest to emerge victorious from this one. Turns out they were so engrossed in fooling one another it never occurred to either that they might be fooling themselves.
Of course, there were the pleasantries that prove inescapable with any social setting present in modern society. Etiquette necessitates an introduction, statement of titles, and appreciably feigned interest in one anothers’ not insignificant accomplishments. One had made a killing in oil, the other in tech. He had a bachelor’s in this; she had a master’s in that. Both had an interest in the other.
They get along like a house on fire, as the saying rather perilously goes.
Among their shared affinities was: whiskey (bourbon, to be precise), football (college, get it right), muscle cars (all-American, of course), dress shoes (French or Italian), boar hunting (the real kind, none of that deer trapping shit), fine wine (French or Italian), postmodernism (literary and visual), Johnny Cash (no explanation needed), the taste of tobacco (preferably Virginia), the smell of gasoline (any kind will do) and, well they’d just have the rest to find out the old fashioned way, wouldn’t they?
So they did, several times, in more than several places; but who’s counting? Both of them, actually. The act of having sex alone isn’t satisfactory for pariahs such as these unless they know for a fact that the other person’s getting off, and how many times. Competition turned to premonition, and the two found there was much to be enjoyed in the way of one anothers’ eroticisms, bodily fluids to be exchanged, spiritual holes to be filled.
By the time they were through with each other and lighting preferred cigarettes (Turkish Gold for her, good ol’ Reds for him), the final condom count was: six (come on, they’re not stupid), bottles of wine: one (Bordeaux, only the best), glasses of bourbon: two (not Jack Daniels, that’s a common misconception), wounds inflicted/sustained: three (bruising of the neck, scraping of the knees, and classic scratching of the back), orgasms given/received: ten (these aren’t amateurs), and hearts broken: none?
Huh, that’s strange….not at all the standard protocol. Someone always gets hurt, abandoned or manipulated, right? But what if it’s mutual? Not the bullshit, euphemistic, “our breakup was mutual” kind, but the actual, definitive “knowingly engaged in by two consenting parties” kind. Because if you think about it (and sure-as-shit that is exactly what consumed them both, naked and smoking as they came) their dishonest, conniving, debauched moral framework comes utterly undone when introduced with some basic reciprocity.
Their mutually reprehensible behavior, though still bordering on sociopathic, lost all semblance of parasitism the moment they fell with tragic perfection into each others’ nethermost of forbidden regions. Where once there was only duplicity, now they found total complicity. In some warped, fucked up and utterly perverse way, a strange brand of altruism had been borne unto both on wings of a lustful angel, fallen from grace.
And so they lay there — not unlike one would imagine Adam and Eve once did — wearing nothing but puzzled looks and freshly earned battle scars, settling into their newly communal home still well south of Heaven…somewhere round Central Texas, that is.