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Chapter 7

I am on the mat, and I am not very comfortable. Physically, I mean. I have had an operation not long ago and probably the stitches arent yet absorbed.

Sigfrid says, We were talking about your job, Rob.

Thats dull enough. But safe enough. I say, I hated my job. Who wouldnt hate the food mines?

But you kept it, Rob. You never even tried to get on anywhere else. You could have switched to sea-farming, maybe. And you dropped out of school.

Youre saying I stuck myself in a rut?

Im not saying anything, Rob. Im asking you what you feel.

Well. I guess in a sense I did do that. I thought about making some kind of a change. I thought about it a lot, I say, remembering how it was in those bright early days with Sylvia. I remember sitting with her in the cockpit of a parked sailplane on a January night we had no other place to go and talking about the future. What we would do. How we would beat the odds. Theres nothing there for Sigfrid, as far as I can see. Ive told Sigfrid all about Sylvia, who married a stockholder in the long run. But wed broken up long before that. I suppose, I say, pulling myself up short and trying to get my moneys worth out of this session, that I had a kind of death wish.

I prefer that you dont use psychiatric terms, Rob.

Well, you understand what I mean. I knew time was going by. The longer I stayed in the mines the harder it would be to get out. But nothing else looked any better. And there were compensations. My girlfriend, Sylvia. My mother, while she was alive. Friends. Even some fun things. Sailplaning. It is great over the hills, and when youre up high enough Wyoming doesnt look so bad and you can hardly smell the oil.

You mentioned your girlfriend, Sylvia. Did you get along with her?

I hesitated, rubbing at my belly. I have almost half a meter of new intestine in there now. They cost fearfully, those things, and sometimes you get the feeling the previous owner wants them back. You wonder who he was. Or she. How he died. Or did he die? Could he still be alive, so poor that he sells off parts of himself, the way Ive heard of pretty girls doing with a well-shaped breast or ear?

Did you make friends with girls easily, Rob?

I do now, all right.

Not now, Rob. I think you said you didnt make friends easily as a child.

Does anyone?

If I understand that question, Robbie, you are asking if anyone remembers childhood as a perfectly happy and easy experience, and of course the answer is no. But some people seem to carry the effects of it over into their lives more than others.

Yeah. I guess, thinking back, that I was a little afraid of my peer group sorry about that, Sigfrid! I mean the other kids. They all seemed to know each other. They had things to say to each other all the time. Secrets. Shared experiences. Interests. I was a loner.

You were an only child, Robbie?

You know I was. Yeah. Maybe that was it. Both my parents worked. And they didnt like me playing near the mines. Dangerous. Well, it really was dangerous for kids. You can get hurt around those machines, or even if theres a slide in the tailings or an outgassing. I stayed at home a lot, watching shows, playing cassettes. Eating. I was a fat kid, Sigfrid. I loved all the starchy, sugary stuff with all the calories. They spoiled me, buying me more food than I needed.



Gateway

I still like to be spoiled. Now I get a higher class of diet, not as fattening, about a thousand times as expensive. Ive had real caviar. Often. It gets flown in from the aquarium at Galveston. I have real champagne, and butter I remember lying in bed, I say, I guess I was very small, maybe about three. I had a teddytalker. I took it to bed with me, and it told me little stories, and I stuck pencils into it and tried to pull its ears off. I loved that thing, Sigfrid.

I stop, and Sigfrid picks up immediately. Why are you crying, Robbie?

I dont know! I bawl, tears running down my face, and I look at my watch, the skipping green numerals rippling through the tears. Oh, I say, very conversationally, and sit up, the tears still rolling down my face but the fountain turned off, Ive really got to go now, Sigfrid. Ive got a date. Her names Tania. Beautiful girl. The Houston Symphony. She loves Mendelssohn and roses, and I want to see if I can pick up some of those dark-blue hybrids that will go with her eyes.

Rob, weve got nearly ten minutes left.

Ill make it up another time. I know he cant do that, so I add quickly, May I use your bathroom? I need to.

Are you going to excrete your feelings, Rob?

Oh, dont be smart. I know what youre saying. I know this looks like a typical displacement mechanism

Rob.

-all right, I mean, it looks like Im copping out. But I honestly do have to go. To the bathroom, I mean. And to the florists, too. Tani is pretty special. Shes a fine person. Im not talking about sex, but thats great, too. She can g- She can

Rob? What are you trying to say?

I take a breath and manage to say: Shes great at oral sex, Sigfrid.

Rob?

I recognize that tone. Sigfrids repertory of vocal modes is quite large, but parts of it I have learned to identify. He thinks he is on the track of something.

What?

Rob, what do you call it when a woman gives you oral sex?

Oh, Christ, Sigfrid, what kind of dumb game is this one?

What do you call it, Rob?

Ah! You know as well as I do.

Please tell me what you call it, Rob.

They say, like, She eats me.

What other expression, Rob?

Lots of them! Giving head, thats one. I guess Ive heard a thousand terms for it.

What other, Rob?

I have been building up to rage and pain and it suddenly boils over. Dont play these fucking games with me, Sigfrid! My gut aches, and I am afraid I am going to mess my pants; it is lIke being a baby again. Jesus, Sigfrid! When I was a little kid I used to talk to my teddy. Now Im forty-five and Im still talking to a stupid machine as if it was alive!

But there is another term, isnt there, Rob?

There are thousands of them! Which one do you want?

I want the expression you were going to use and didnt, Rob. Please try to say it. That term means something special to you, so that you cant say the words without trouble.

I crumple over onto the mat, and now Im really crying.

Please say it, Rob. Whats the term?

Damn you, Sigfrid! Going down! Thats it. Going down, going down, going down!


FATHER OF GATEWAY | Gateway | Chapter 8



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