"We all feel bad about Arnold," said Bud, to the remaining circle of his therapy group, "but I still think it would have been a good idea to have this session in a Virtual Reality Setting."
Gena, sitting to his left in a plain black dress, shook her lovely head adamantly. "It isnt appropriate," she said.
Raymond, on the other side of Bud, with Judy, in a white, see-through blouse on his right, said. "Why the fuck are we listening to this stiff twat?"
Judy, looked at him in dismay, "Ray! You never use that kind of profanity at home. Why are you talking that way here?"
He nodded toward Gena who said, "Because it pisses me off."
He winked at her. She sighed in exasperation. Bud frowned. Judy rolled her eyes.
Andrea, sitting between Judy and Gena, had programmed a playground VRS, with a sandbox, a slide, a teeter-totter, two swings and monkey bars. Everyone, except Gena, had been eager to take part. Putting it together had taken a lot of time and effort. Therefore, Andrea had to be on guard not to let that influence her rationale for arguing in its favor. She had put so much into it for a reason and that is what she had to argue.
"When was the last time any of us did the things that gave us so much pleasure when we were little kids?"
"When we were little kids," said Bud.
Gena folded her arms, "Thats the way its supposed to be. You play like that when youre a child. Then you grow up and do grown-up things."
"Like what?" said Andrea. "What grown-up things have we done lately to replace the fun we had on the playground as children?"
"I can think of a few things," said Raymond, leering at Judy, who playfully slapped away his hand reaching in an exaggerated arc to grasp one of her out-sized breasts.
It was an amusing gesture to Bud and Andrea, but not to Gena.
"See," said Andrea to the pouting Gena, "Look at yourself. Look at the grown-up judgments youre making on adult play."
"You call that adult?" said Gena, pointing an accusing finger a the space between Raymond and Judy where the offending gesture had been made. "That is totally juvenile. If those two Love Birds want to strip naked and demonstrate the 72 positions of the Kama Sutra for everybody to enjoy, I say, go ahead, have a ballor two. But this public display of private passion is an insult to the rest of us."
Raymond understood completely, though he didnt dare say why. Until Judy came into his life, there had been no one with whom he could feel completely fee. His love and his passion for her were as boundless as her love and passion for him. He was showing off, like a rich kid with an ice cream cone to a bunch of poor kids without. He was thoroughly ashamed of himself and would never do it again. He couldnt make himself admit that to Gena. He hoped that she would see it in his face and forgive him.
"We were just goofin around," said Judy, oblivious to the sleepy-eyed beautys pain.
Gena shot back, "But you would never have done that if Arnold were here."
"The man is dead and buried," said Bud. Hes been dead for two weeks. I dont remember you being that fond ofem."
Gena turned on him, her eyes blazing in anger, "Its easy for you to talk like that. You dont have to do anything special to make people like you. They just do. Youre smart and successful. You own your own thoughts. When you speak, people listen. And when you die, people will care. You have no right to run down a man who killed himself because he had none of that going for him. You have no fucking right!"
Everyone sat in stunned silence at the beautiful womans unintentional revelation about herself. Bud was especially disoriented by her unimaginably high opinion of him expressed in such honestly hostile terms. He would have felt complemented had it not been clear to everyone that her words of praise were, in fact, a hidden measure of her low regard for herself.
It had been easy for Bud to see that she was jealous of Raymond and Judy when they became an item, and even of their lesbian doctor once her relationship to the lawyer down the hall was revealed to the world. But how could he have guessed that she was envious of him, a man who had no one and no prospects of ever having anyone care about him in the way those happy couples cared about each other? How could anyone have guessed that she saw so much of herself in Arnold Travis after the tongue-lashing she gave him the last time they saw him alive?
Somewhere in the silent wake of her outburst, came the self-realization of what shed done. Her eyes darted from face to face, seeing the same revelation in their faces and sinking lower in the crossed spotlights of pity shining out of their eyes. There were lower levels to fall to than this, and in her lonely solitude, she had fallen there and barely been able to get up. She didnt mind their pity. She welcomed it. It meant they cared. And it meant that she could stop pretending to be something she wasnt.
Bud, Judy and Andrea all thought that they should say something but they didnt know what, or how.
Raymond knew what and how.
"Im sorry," he said as gently and as sincerely as he could.
"Me, too," said Judy.
"I am, too," said Bud. Then he jerked his body upright like a military cadet sitting at attention. "Wait a minute. I take that back. I havent done anything to you to be sorry for. As near as I could tell, you were only coming to these group therapy sessions to avoid what happened to Ray."
"Thats true," said Gena. "I watch the news. I listen to National Public Radio. I know whats going on. If the government is watching what I watch to make sure it isnt too offensive to Jack Fleetwood and Estelle Gidarb, I have no choice. The only way I can be sure to stay out of jail is to change my viewing habits to suit their tastes or to look like Im trying. That doesnt rule out the possibility that I might have feelings beyond my interests in sex or the States public interest in my private sexual interests."
Bud didnt let up. "If any of us misjudged how you really felt about us and yourself, its because you were damn good at making us believe it. At that last meeting with Arnold where you spouted off about guys like him making things bad for women like you, I got the impression you were pretty damn sure of yourself. Ray called you an arrogant bitch. I think he was right."
"I didnt mean that," said Raymond. "Honest Gena. I didnt. I was mad at the world and youre like this picture of the perfect woman the media is always trying to shove down everybodys throat. I have a problem with that. Its my problem. Not yours. Its all in my fucked-up head."
"No," said Gena, ignoring Raymond and turning her full attention to Bud. "Im not an arrogant bitch. But I am a bitch and a phony like Ray said. Im no good with people, especially men. I never have been. I want to be liked, and respected and loved like everybody else, but I was always afraid of sex. I guess I still am. For a long time I thought I hated it. I even joined STOPIT because sex was a threat to me, and anything that promoted it was a threat, and everywhere you looked it was being forced on you. I wanted to make my own sexual choices. I wanted a love-relationship without the sexual responsibility. I found out later how much I craved the sex without the relationshipwithout any human contact."
"So," said Andrea, "In the course of fighting pornography, you were seduced by it."
"Yeah." She gave a bitter laugh. "You know, I used to believe that self-stimulation was as perverted as they say it is, because it didnt come naturally to me. I was 27-years-old before I gave myself my first orgasm. I thought I needed a man for that until I saw a woman on a porno disk do it for herself at a STOPIT meeting. They warned us ahead of time that it was going to be nauseating, but they were only going to show it for a second, so wed know exactly what we were up against. I cant tell you want an eye-opener that was. It turned me completely around in an instant. I dont like being the way I am now. But I dont want to be like everybody else. And I cant go back to the way I was. I dont want to live an empty life; to have no lasting impact on anyone; to go through the rest of my days unloved and to die unmourned, like Arnold Travis."
After giving her words time to sink in, Bud said, coldly. "Id like to feel sorry for you, and for a minute, I did. But look at it from my point of view. Guys like me would swan-dive off a high cliff into a barrel of water for a dinner date with a woman like you. But if I was dumb enough to ask you out, youd laugh in my face."
Gena lowered her eyes and said nothing. It was a difficult moment for everyone.
Then Raymond surprised everyone when he said, "Get off it Bud. How many women have you turned your nose up at? Have you ever considered a black one, our a yellow one? Would you talk to one who didnt have your level of education? Would you even look at one who weighed as much as you do? You cant blame Gena cause you aint got lucky yet."
Raymond looked lovingly at Judy, who, at that moment looked positively radiant. "I think Judy is the most beautiful woman in the whole fucking universe, no matter what anybody else in the universe thinks or what law anybody passes to say I shouldnt. I love the way she looks and she thinks Im okay, even though I know Im a dickhead most of the time. She understands that about me and she wouldnt think of trying to change it. Its damn lucky we met...I was like you are until a couplea months ago. Only I wasnt looking at women like Gena the way normal people like you are supposed to. And what about blonds? They dont do a fucking thing for me. How about you, Bud?"
"What is it with you?" said Bud, "Do you have some kind of metabolic need to attack different people at random every five or six minutes, or what?"
Raymond smiled. "No, man," he continued in a softer tone, "thats just the way I talk. Listen to what Im saying...Have you ever taken a really good look at Genas face?"
Genas cheeks reddened. She guessed what Raymond was going to say next. Bud thought it was a stupid question and showed it in his refusal to reply.
"Ah," said Raymond, "I can see you havent. You think shes a good-looking woman. You think her make-up is to make her look even better. If you look real close, you can see how much work she puts into looking less attractive than she is. Its a thing she does with the lipstick and the eye shadow. Shes got a Psyche Complex."
"A what?" asked Judy.
"Psyche," said Raymond, "was a woman in Roman mythology who was so beautiful she sacred men away. The god of love was the only one who dared to talk to her. Gena isnt arrogant about her looks, shes handicapped by her looks. She cant even tell people what the handicap is."
"Please dont," said Gena, blushing furiously in genuine distress.
Andrea smiled proudly at Raymonds insightfulness and his willingness to share it, with the hope that her professional influence had something to do with it. "When did you make that astute observation, Raymond?"
"That last time we were all here with Arnold. When she started in on him about the roles of men and women in most of the available porn.
Bud looked puzzled.
"You got love goddesses everywhere you look," continued Raymond, "cause you got so many guys like Bud drooling overem. You got guys doing everything you ever thought of and a lotta shit you havent just to be seen withem. Then you got your beautiful women in bondage. A guy can imagine doing anything he wants cause she has no choice and a woman can imagine anything she wants being done to her cause she has no choice. But you hardly ever see a beautiful woman do anything out of the ordinary by her own choice. Thats gotta be a double whammy for a Psyche pervert who has a hard time getting guys to talk to her like a regular person in the first place. Thats why she tries so hard to impress everybody with her education and sophistication.
"Am I that transparent?" said Gena, more as a plea to be told she wasnt than as a question to be answered truthfully.
Raymond answered her plea. "No," he said. "Im just good at shit like that. I shoulda been a psychologist."
"Never," said Bud.
Bud smiled, "Because youre a dickhead."
Raymond smiled back.
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper Garrison
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison