Conversation with Scotty

There is a difference, somewhere in the chemistry of the brain, between an onanistic ejaculation and one with a partner. It may be the chemical play between the two post-coital bodies, or the mammalian relaxation provided by touch and warmth and snuggling two bodies together. Gary has experienced the broken version innumerable times — an orchestrated ejaculation, followed by a deep enervation and then the sudden illumination of a trivial or panicked thought, and finally a fog that brings on either sleep or a listless interest in television. Even with a prostitute it has been different. You hear the woman pant, see her smile knowingly, look sympathetically at your hungry expression; you watch her imitate excitement, ape satisfaction — and despite the dissimulation, it burns at your senses until you explode in a union of reality and play. Sometimes she will let you hold on to her for a few minutes while your nerves return. Then you pay, and she goes about her business as routinely as a doctor after a prostate exam. Sometimes she’ll take a hygienic shower, and sometimes she just heads back out to the streets. If it’s hot outside, you picture that she will let her own sweat to soak off your scent and touch; if it’s cold, you can imagine the cold on her lips, her limbs and crotch, turning your warmth to just another layer of dirt on cold, dead skin. But he would savor the time it would take for the remains of such moments to evaporate.

Something had gotten into Gary’s brain, and he recognized it and savored it, and longed for it. Alice’s image was in front of his mind, even as he stared at Scotty’s rough-hewn images, the glittering ray that powered him, and the wormhole that held open space-time for a foreign intelligence. In his mind, he could almost see a union with her at the other end of that tunnel.

A half mile from Alice’s condo Scotty waited. He did as asked: he stayed away from Alice and Andrew, and avoided any attention-gathering activity on the Internet. In exchange, he and Gary were in near constant contact: chat, email, instant message, voice over IP, just about every communication tool available. It did not take long before Scotty had the Gary and Alice story out, and was digging into its implications. Black and white? Single mother? Bachelor? Prostitutes? Church? God? Fiance? Love? Longing? Regret? Anger? Rejection? Hope? Irrationality? Sublimation? Self-betterment? Desperation? Help? It was therapeutic for Gary, in a self-indulgent way, since Scotty never contradicted; but still, the probing questions often led Gary into a self-reflective noodle from which he would shake himself, swear off contact, and wander away. Never long.

One evening, Gary came by — he often did come by because he enjoyed talking out loud and in person to Scotty — and said, “Can’t stay long. Can you believe it, I’ve got a dinner with a headhunter.”

What is a headhunter?

“A headhunter is someone who gets paid for finding someone to fill a job, or for finding you a job. This guy called up out of the blue today, and prattled on about how the economy was changing, and opportunity, and God knows what else. I told him to shove it, but then he popped out this dinner invitation, and he asked about a good place for martinis — well, what the hey, it’s on his company’s dime.”

Have you gotten calls from headhunters before?

“I used to, on occasion, back in the dot com heyday. But nobody’s been getting them lately.”

Is the economy improving? Have you gotten calls from other headhunters?

“What? I don’t know. Look, it’s just a dinner with some traveling stiff who’d rather eat with someone than alone. What the hell are you thinking?”

Take care.

“Suddenly you’re the one to be careful?”

An odd twist then: This is not chance.