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--- S T A N D A R D   S C H A E F E R

Are you genuine? Or only an actor? A representative? Or that itself which is represented?
Finally you are no more than an imitation of an actor.
     -Pamela Anderson Lee-

I have recently re-learned how to use my blinkers when driving. Influence: the Girlfriend. She says that if I hope to be a Great Lover someday, I must aspire to absolute discipline and conformity to any and all forms of social contract, state or national, theoretical or being-in-the-world, since I am responsible for the well-being not only of my lover, but her potential progeny/prodigy should she choose to deliver one. One might logically conclude that she herself, like everyone else, would feel compelled to wear her seat belt. However, the post-feminist three and half years of college girlfriend has forgone any such inclination as the result of her recently becoming acquainted with the work of one Jean-Paul Sartre. It seems that her concern with my learning to drive more smoothly and cautiously masks a latent and more primal desire to be able to read Sartre comfortably while I whisk her about from errand to errand. Where I once had an engaging and quite winsome companion accompanying me on the road, now the smug and agitated head of Jean-Paul hovers, for what she is reading today is a biography with his portrait on the jacket.

It is only as I turn on to Sunset Boulevard and the supreme sixteen-foot wearing-nothing-but-innuendo forty-four caliber bite-your-lip Billboard babe of the millennium beams down at me, that my actual true and intended girlfriend deigns to peer out from her book whereupon I am revealed to her as a hedonist of the most misogynistic order, caught in the act of symbolic infidelity. But, that woman spilling from the Smash Clothing billboard is at that particular moment everything in the world; her pose is of languorous recline; even her eyes are reclined. Not even one neurological impulse to resist is triggered in me. No, every synapse in my mind has given consent. The Girlfriend fumes.

Why do you always look? says the Girlfriend, closing her book.

Disgust, I suggest, Pure repulsion.

The Girlfriend's eyes look pleadingly my way and then off again while the whites seem to transform into the tails of escaping deer:

You always look, she says, You never not look.

Really, I'm sorry. I had no choice.

No choice?

She is waving Sartre in my face now: You think you're so hip and liberal. You think you're so fucking progressive.

At this point, I am required to apologize and accept myself as unworthy and to the Girlfriend, I do so.

And yet to myself, I minister otherwise. It is the most humiliating, hypocritical moment of my life when I pass that billboard because I am so hip and liberal and progressive that I know there is no such thing as a five foot breast, and that if there were I should be compelled to share it with the starving children of the foreign nations, but that I would never be able to bear letting go of such a fine bosom. Furthermore, in many ways the very concept of a five foot breast should be not the least erotic and rather should be associated with fatness. However, it thrills me. Its sheer representation has caused me to intellectually betray my Intended in her very presence. Turning the corner at Sunset, we have plunged head long into no recognizable century. There is no Augustinian apology to be made here. No Hobbesian compromise av ailable, no Lutheran forgiveness. I am sinning, sinning. Even if I know it is only an illusion of seduction, there is no authority to which I may appeal. The rest of the day, the Girlfriend will leer at me from one corner of her eye and I will mope forever: my girlfriend's breasts seem small and droopy.

The result is a confirmation of my own deepest self-suspicion: I am disgusting. I am primitive man and she is wonderful bouncing woman. Who is? I ask myself. The answer arrives: that ubiquitous and imperial pronoun "Her."

Girlfriend demands to be dropped off at her place, her visage a vision of displeasure. To myself again, the question returns "which Her?" Both are three blocks away depending on the vector. One has been with three hundred and forty-five other men by now and yet I remain loyal, which is to betray the other in her very presence one more time. Ah, but my mother too has been with other men. Yes. But one believes one's mother had a choice. Still, post-feminist Girlfriend would debate that one herself even as she cradled Sartre's enormous head in her lap. That is, a woman understands intuitively that the notion of choice is a contingent notion.

The boyfriend's shrink. An effort to salvage oneself through confession. Much back and forth occurs here. I tell him that I have plotted several alternatives by which to kill him and yet remain above suspicion. He likes to ask me how that would make me feel and I assure him I feel nothing at all, not even the animosity which I have just expressed. In fact, I am merely repeating the desire expressed in a story I read in Playboy. A hit-man plagued with guilt hires a shrink, confesses to a series of assassinations, and then eighty-sixes the shrink after which the hit-man disappears into the maddening crowd, and feels no more instinct to destroy. I frequently deploy such tales in order to avoid the quotidian admission that I have never told her I love her. To the shrink, I explain that I always feel a bit as if I am quoting someone else when I say, "I love you." The shrink suggests that I am quoting my father, but I do not recall hearing my father say anything so whimsical and ridiculous. How dare he insult my father like that accusing him of sentiment. My father may have been a man of few words, mostly belonging to other people, but when he quoted people it was only the greatest. Nietzsche and Brando.

I leave the shrink vowing to practice saying "I love you" in hopes that this will quell furious sometimes-vixen, sometimes-wicked girlfriend. But as I vow, shrink says to me Who do you mean by "you" whereupon he raises his eyebrows menacingly. I am compelled at this juncture to tell him I once slept with his daughter many years ago while he was in his greenhouse and we were on the pool table. However, I sense such a revelation will keep me on the couch for many years to come. And so I spare him.

Later that evening, I tell Girlfriend I love you just the way you are.

I am fat now. You love someone fat.

No. I love you for who you are.

What movie is that from? She asks.

Listen to me. I'm telling you the whole and progressive truth. I am attempting to communicate. I am speaking directly into the camera. I love you.

How can you love someone so fat.

You're not fat, I tell her.

To myself, I say You can't be rightly considered fat. You have no tits.

At this point, I hear an orchestra starting to tune within me and a hoarse and windswept voice reverberates through time to reach me: Sigmund Freud, whose works I masturbated to as far back as grade school. Ah yes, he has come from one dimension to the next just to speak to me. He says: Love is only lust plus civility. But, Herr Doktor, is this a little joke?

Nietzsche responds: Stop talking with the dead. Overcome the nostalgia. Be your own man.

Freud concurs: You are bordering on necrophilia.

Pynchon: Paranoia.

That night, I heed their advice and decide to become a great lover. That night, the Great Lover goes to bed beside his woman, but she lies with her back to him, curled up like a little girl in her Wonder Woman pajamas and her xeroxed copy of "Existentialism is a Humanism" in one hand, her other hand dedicated to smoking ferociously and her head turning anon until at last the cigarettes choke off the remaining oxygen in her brain and she coughs twice before falling asleep. The Great Lover extends his hand and reaches for her mid-section at which point she whinnies and scratches her eyes. You are unclean, says she and drifts back off. Now, the Great Lover is alone with his immense anger, but he has enough wits to know that only a mediocre lover fails to respect the wishes of his beloved.

In the morning, she leaves for work. The Great Lover does not work. He is only a Great Lover. And so when she leaves, he turns on the exercise channel and jacks off to the image of an Amazonian who in fact is Polynesian and is currently bench-pressing more than the Great Lover even weighs. She is ambient. She is gleaming. She is tyrannical. Waving waving waving. An island where the water is more blue than any blue the Great Lover has ever actually seen is rippling behind her image, and the Great Lover recognizes that his hands are cold, but he manages to come despite all, for he is well-trained. Then he shivers with what he recognizes as a vestigial form of what was once known as loneliness. I remember loneliness. Jism dripping onto his designer couch, the Great Lover realizes that this sort of carelessness only incites the ire of his girlfriend. She has provided him periodically with silk handkerchiefs precisely for the wiping function should he be inclined to behave so on the designer couch and remembering this, the Great Lover cannot help but feel charmed. He has never needed her more. She has never existed less. Everyone is a whore.

At the behest of the Polynesian Amazon, the Great Lover decides the Girlfriend might be more interested in his overtures if he were buff like the man who is standing behind the Polynesian Amazon while she lifts huge iron axles of steel. The Great Lover dials and buys a membership to her gym with a credit card he received through an ad with a beautiful woman on the cover. He says to himself, I am a Great Lover. I have no reason to sulk on the couch. He goes to the gym where the woman who hands him his towel just barely grazes his hand with her own in the exchange, and for a moment the Great Lover forgets about everyone else and everything at hand. Years later, he suspects that he will remember that moment when their hands touched and she was cold as a Frigidaire, for indeed the exercise facility is over air conditioned and he will yearn to see her again, perhaps he will even watch her exercise show where he will learn she has moved to Polynesia and the end of his orgasms will be shivering affairs once more. But not now. Now he enters the room with the enormous windows and reads Foucault on the Life-Cycle, keeping his head down on the page, does not look up, does not look out, does not watch. He thinks all I need is a woman's face, is supervision, is a woman's face as she passes from man to man to machine.

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