Andrea Urlan and Leah Flores cuddled naked in bed after a furious round of love-making. Andreas Latin cutie would have appealed to Raymond, she thought, catching her breath and stroking one of the younger womans moist, heaving, incredibly large breasts. The law called them "grotesque." That was the laws opinion. In Andreas opinion, the law was a fool.
Leah wasnt as big all over as Judy, but her mummeries were bigger. She was almost the same age as Judy and just as pretty. Having told Leah about Raymond and Judy without disclosing their true identities, Andrea had given her grist for the wondrous mill of her naughty imagination. They had invented erotic stories about the pair as an appetizer to the main course of their love-play, sparing no lewd detail that came to mind. It was a fun game they often played featuring people of all sorts and, as usual, it took them all the way to an ecstatic, bone-rattling climax.
Andrea liked Raymond and Judy. One day she would tell them about herself and Leah. Better yet, they could share erotic T-window disks. They would all get a kick out of that.
"How did you manage to get them together?" asked Leah.
"It was easy," said Andrea, brushing away a stray wisp of raven-black hair and kissing her on her full, sweet lips. "Ive known the girl since she was 17. Her mother brought her to me to talk her into getting her boobs fixed."
Both women shuddered in their playful, ritualistic way at the terrible word, "fixed."
"Of course, she took her somewhere else when she found out I wasnt doing it, but it was too late. The girl was almost of age, so the mother couldnt get a court order to do it against her will. You know how long that takes."
"Five years ago it could have taken as long as six months. It only takes three days now."
"What a shame...Well, this was nearly ten years ago. She remembered me and came back to see me when she was on her own. I knew what kind of man would be perfect for her. When I read the court psychiatrists profile on the guy, I knew Id found him. Somebody in the Metro Psychiatric Care Network was going to get him when he finished his 90 days in jail. All I had to do was ask."
Leah giggled, pulling on one of Andreas nipples, "That sounds like one of those computer dating service things they had in the 1970s."
Andrea slapped her friends hand away and laughed, "Actually, it was more like the sex ads people used to run in the early 80s. They could say anything they wanted about themselves. They could show pictures, too. There hasnt been anything like that before or since. Hell, the computer dating things didnt even have categories for people like them."
"Like us, you mean."
"Yes, sweety-pie. Like us." Andrea kissed her again, a quick peck on the nose this time.
She flopped over on her back and bounced back up when she noticed the time in her ceiling clock. She reach for a light-pen on the bed stand.
"What is it?"
"A talk show I have to watch."
Leah frowned as her girlfriend sent a thin beam of amber light into the wall of their bedroom, which appeared to turn it into a picture window. Through it, they could see a rapid succession of three dimensional scenes.
"What the hell?" said Andrea.
"Its adding new stations. All the telewindows tied into the Condor network do that now when you openem, unless you program them not to."
"How do you...Ah! There we go," said Andrea as the program guide came up and stopped. One quick menu pick later, she and Leah were watching the show in progress.
In a semi-circle of leather chairs, a good-looking man and woman in their mid to late forties, wearing expensive Softglow suits and pleasant smiles, sat together. They were flanked by two attractive younger women in slacks and see-through blouses. One was holding up a hard cover book, entitled, Doing Without. The other held a doll; the all-American male companion to Barbie, the all-American girl doll, adored by Andrea and Leah, their mothers and their mothers mothers when they were children.
"Why do you want to watch that dumb show?" asked Leah, seeing all the signs of a formula talk-show and talking on top of whatever the young woman was saying about the doll.
"Because one of my patients watches it. I have a session with him first thing tomorrow. The woman in the suit is supposed to be a sex addiction expert. I tried to incorporate the theme of that book title in our group session this evening but the guy looked at me all the while as if I didnt know what I was talking about. I cant imagine what she would say that would be so different...Lets go back to the beginning. I dont want to miss anything."
Andrea brought up the menu bar on the side of the window with her light pen while Leah adjusted the bed to a comfortable sitting position and tried to work up an interest in the show. Andrea restarted the program.
The words, "Sharon and Louise," were now written in bold, green, translucent letters across the telewindows flat, non-reflective face. The studio lights were dimmed. The book lay face down on the lap of the blond-haired hostess on the older womans right. The doll lay on the floor between the man and the dimple-cheeked, curly-haired brunette hostess on his left.
The show title went away. The camera switched to the blond hostess, putting her whole body in a rectangular box of light which cropped out everyone and everything else. "Good evening," she said, with a friendly smile, "Im Sharon."
The box of light switched to the other smiling hostess, "Im Louise," then back to Sharon.
"I am so excited," said the blond, gesturing expressively with her hands as she spoke. "Today, we have a couple of guests I know youre going to like. First, let me tell you that Louise and I are no prudes."
"Not by a long shot!" chortled Louise off camera.
"If youve watched us before," continued Sharon, "you know that. In fact, One of the reasons we do the show is to explore issues of female sexuality and sensuality in a free and open way."
"Yes," said the dark-haired Louise, the light box switching back and forth now between the two womens faces as they spoke, enlarging them only enough to move them closer to the window. "Were not afraid to tackle any issue involving sex, but we do it from the womans perspective. Sex is what were interested in; not sleaze..."
"Variety; not perversion."
"Erotica; not pornography."
"If youve had it with smut," said Sharon, "and want to see sex in America returned to the context of a loving man and woman relationship where it belongs, stay tuned. Help may be on the way..."
Andrea and Leah looked at each other in speechless dread.
The commercial didnt help. Sharon and Louise were sponsored by a cosmetic surgery clinic in Laramie Wyoming where the show originated. Its services included everything from simple iris-dye prescriptions and breast reductions to complete race change operations, all under one roof. Professional-sounding spokesmen in white lab coats boasted of "miraculous transformations" from miserable social pariahs to beautiful, happy, popular and successful men and women.
The long advertisement concluded with a startling parade of before and after pictures, accompanied by enthusiastic testimonials from former Negroes and other aesthetically challenged individuals. Andrea was used to seeing similar ads in large market areas, like Detroit. A well-staffed, full-service, cosmetic clinic in a market as small as Laramie Wyoming struck an alarming note. If that much money was being generated by the cosmetic alteration industry, how much of the countrys perceptions of social acceptability based on physical appearance was being driven by the pursuit of money? It had to be more than a mentally healthy society could endure.
Andrea didnt fully understand the links between that driving economic force, the Sharon and Louise Show and the tortured soul of Arnold Travis, but there had to be one. Her worries about her most troubled patient increased two-fold.
The light box was back on Sharons full form, her hands folded on top of the book in her lap, her face grim. "Pornography is a plague. It feeds organized crime. It degrades, abuses and, yes even kills innocent women and children for the sexual gratification of men."
The light box switched to Louise, "But thats only half the story. What about the other victims; the men addicted to smut. Well, were here to tell you about the triumph of one man over his pornography addiction with the stalwart support of his remarkable bride of 23 years."
"Its a story of heartbreak and courage," said Sharon.
"Of love and devotion and hope," said Louise.
The light box, now on Sharon, widened to include the older woman, with her shapely legs crossed at the ankles and tucked neatly to one side. "This is Dr. Estelle Gidarb," said Sharon, with a studied toss of her hand. Shes a wife and mother, a grandmother, a medical doctor, a practicing psychiatrist and surgeon in residence at Philadelphias prestigious Franklin Hospital. Shes also a fabulous writer."
Dr. Estelle Gidarb smiled proudly as Sharon held up the book. She nodded her thin-lipped, high-cheeked, auburn-haired head in the formal manner of a college professor at a commencement ceremony.
"This," said Louise, with a studied toss of her hand, "Is Euel Gidarb, Dr. Gidarbs husband of 23 years."
Only now did the light-box framing Louise expand to include Euels easygoing face and form, as she finished her introduction of him.
"Mr. Gidarb is a highly successful financial planner whose struggle with pornography addiction and ultimate victory over it formed the basis of Dr. Gidarbs inspiring book, Doing Without... Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Gidarb."
"Its my pleasure, Louise," said the smiling, ruggedly handsome man, clearly at ease before the telewindow camera.
"Can you tell us how a handsome, successful man like yourself, married to a beautiful, successful woman like Estelle, got ensnared in the ugly self-destructive web of pornography?"
"It happened long before I met Estelle. I was nine or ten." The light box expanded all the way to the boundaries of the telewindow, to show Sharon touching her hand to her chest in shock as Euel spoke without interruption. "There was a porno shop on the corner of our street. You couldnt see inside but it had "Adult" written on the side and above the door. We kids knew what that was. That is, we knew it involved sex. Wed see all these men going in and coming out with plain paper bags."
He hunched his shoulders, put quotation marks with his fingers around the words "plain paper bags," and lifted his eyebrows. The gesture cleverly brought to mind a hunch-back degenerate in a raincoat, which, in turn, brought smiles to everyones lips.
Euel Gidarb had a smooth delivery which was far enough from being slick to carry him across to his audience as self-assured and self-effacing at the same time. The more he talked the more his winning personality showed through. He was a spellbinder, whose tale of a curious boys seduction into voyeurism began on a light tone and grew darker in the telling, as its grip on him as an impressionable youngster tightened. One could almost see the happy-go-lucky kid being twisted and transformed by that grip, into the degenerate with the plain paper bag.
"Jesus," said Leah , "That guy could sell a sauna to a snowman!"
Andrea had to agree. The images and emotions evoked by his story-telling were utterly compelling. His only mistake was in getting specific about what had excited him so much in his youtha carelessly discarded magazine. It just happened to feature a woman whose description matched one of Philadelphia's own, a comedic porn star, named, "Charm."
Among other things, Charm had breasts the size of basketballs and her name brought to mind forbidden sex acts. She was the reason women like Leah and Judy could not go out in public dressed the way normal, working class, women their age were expected to in the spring and summer. Now, almost a generation after she was imprisoned, never to be seen or heard from again, the power of her name in current American Party politics, was gradually doing the same thing with her favorite shade of lipstick. In a few years, Andrea expected to see an automatic association in the collective mind of the voting public, between Charm and the women who wore Charm's Bawdy Red lipstick. From there, it would be a short step to making it illegal. The polls would tell the future.
Euel Gidarb was a persuasive man who would have been called "charming" in another era. But, with that one conspicuous reference to the American Partys first political prisoner, Andrea knew that he wasnt what he appeared to be.
Sharon was looking at Euel with her hand to her chest and slowly shaking her head in sympathy with the twisted mess of his life caused by dirty pictures. When he wrapped up the sordid scene he was tastefully describing, of compulsion, deception and crushing humiliation, she lowered her hand to the book. "That was some experience," she breathed, as though shed just gone bungee jumping off the London Bridge. Facing the camera, she said, "Well return in a moment. When we do, youll hear how love and a courageous decision brought Euel back from the brink."
"You wont want to miss it," said Louise.
During the commercial break, Andrea turned to Leah and asked, "What do you think?"
"Scary," said Leah . "Did you get that business about Charm?"
"Sure did. A Party bell-ringer if I've ever heard one."
"Now when you hear Euel Gidarb you're gonna think Euelalia CharmainCharm. You can't get any more blatant than that.You say you have a patient whos watching this shit?"
Andrea hadnt given much notice to cosmetic alteration ads before. Nor had she thought more about politics than necessary to vote "No" on whatever the Democrats or the Americans proposed, and to put her usual X in the box for whatever Republican candidate was running. Not that any of that mattered, since the Americans almost always got what they wanted.
Suddenly, all of those things mattered to her very much.
Looking into the "Baby-Blue" eyes of a red-skinned, native American, baby girl and listening to a voice-over about the process that changed them from dark brown, she felt sick to her stomach. When was the last time she saw anyone outside of a court referral, like Raymond, with eyes as dark as a native Americans? She couldnt recall. Even the natural color of Leahs had been lightened at birth to a more socially acceptable hazel, a practice as commonplace at the time as the circumcision of little boys....
"Well," said someone in the T-window.
Andrea was too lost in her thoughts to put the face with the voice right away, with all four of them sitting in front of her. Then, she saw it was the dark-haired, dimple-cheek Louise. She was holding up the doll.
"I bet youve been wondering what this is about. Prepare yourself for a shock."
Seeing the way Sharon was holding the book and Louise was holding the doll, Leah remarked, "This is where we came in."
"Good thing we went back to the beginning," said Andrea.
"I dont know. These people give me the willies."
Andrea didnt share her hunch that people like Sharon, Louise and the Gidarbs had much to do with running the whole country. No. It wasnt a hunch. It was a fact. Like gravity was a fact. You couldnt change it but if you knew what it was and how it worked, you could adjust your plans and aspirations accordingly.
What a depressing thought.
Andrea snapped her attention back to the telewindow where Dr. Estelle Gidarb had already begun her spiel. She was every bit as charming as her husband with her melodic voice, sparkling green eyes and words that came as easily to her lovely lips as her lovely smile.
"We were married in our freshman year of college. We finished college and post-graduate school on scholarships, self-discipline and hard work. Our parents were also very supportive of us. It was difficult to believe that Euel was secretly doing what he was. I didnt find out about it until fourteen years into our marriage."
"Fourteen years?" queried Louise. "How could he have hidden something like that from you for that long?"
"We were on different schedules most of the time. This was before T-windows and the radio-telephones everybody wears on their earsor in their ears. They had cable and satellite television back then, with explicit sexual material people could get with a phone call. They also had phone sex. It was a world I knew practically nothing about."
"I handled all of the finances," said Euel. "Estelle had no idea how much money I was spending on smut. I paid cash when I could and subscribed to services with discrete billing practices, so even if she saw the bill she wouldnt know what it was."
"I discuss that in the book," said Estelle. "You women out there, who feel that your mates may be cheating on you, should read the chapter I call, "The Other Woman." Thats where I tell about my discovery of Euels addiction after he began to show signs ofextra curricular activityshall we say? As a psychiatrist, I should have seen the truth long before. But as a woman very much in love, I was as blind as any woman in love to the shortcomings of her man. Not only that, he was a perfect specimen of a man; smart, handsome, attentive, industrious; and I knew he loved me. I was his Barbie, he was my Ken. We had everything a man and woman could want together.
"Can you tell us about your sex life," prodded Sharon, "before Euels habit caught up with him."
"Oh, it was wonderful, Sharon. It was fun and exciting. Euel was always so gentle; so considerate. He never hopped on and banged away until he satisfied himself. He made love to me. He understood the importance of foreplay. He knew what I wanted without being told. He respected the fact that "no" meant "no," and never forced himself on me when I wasnt in the mood. In short, he was every womans ideal."
Andrea and Leah laughed hysterically as Estelle and Euel peered deeply into one anothers deep blue eyes and joined hands. Neither Andrea nor Leah had ever heard anything so funny. They shrieked and kicked and batted the mattress with their fists, laughing so hard they cried. Estelle Gidarb had just described what, to them, would be absolute hell, even if Euel had been a woman. The funniest thing about Estelle and Euel, was the fact that his sexuality made absolutely no difference in Estelles assessment of a perfect lover. The man was a walking dildo. And he was taking it as a compliment.
The couple in bed laughed so loud and long they missed most of what was being said. From a fragment here and there, they were vaguely informed of a blunt confrontation, a tearful confession and a tortuous journey of discovery that his addiction had passed the point of cure by traditional means.
"It was," said Euel, "a cancer that was devouring, not only me but my family. Estelle and I are practicing Christiansthough I dont want to give the impression that religion was responsible for our decision."
"Heavens no," said Estelle. "We prayed together. But we also worked hard. I knew Euel was trying, but the addiction was too strong. As a psychiatrist, I understood the psychology and the physiology of his condition. I go into considerable detail about that in the book. What it boiled down to, in laymans terms, was abnormally high levels of testosterone and an unhealthy preoccupation with sex in general and with his own genitalia. The only possible solution was radical surgery."
When Euel took the doll from Louise and handed it to his wife, all laugher on the bed stopped.
Leahs head turned slowly toward Andrea, whose mouth hung open like a shell-shocked doughboy. "I dont believe this," she said, anticipating what was coming and thinking of her father and the other men in her life she cared about.
Andrea didnt respond. She was thinking of Arnold Travis and the two women in his life; his wife and daughtertwo shrill, unattractive, inarticulate versions of Estelle Gidarb.
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper Garrison
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison