Glory was a bit of an urban legend by the time Mo met her and she didn't disappoint. Standing in the doorway in red cowboy boots, she towered over Mo, which made it hard for him not to stare directly into her chest which rose triumphantly from her Choco Cat baby-tee. As he forced his eyes up, he paused on the royal blue boa she had wrapped around her neck. There was a joke in there somewhere, but Mo couldn't think of it when he finally scanned up to her bright blue eyes and glistening, pornographic lips, framed by hair as blonde as straw. Her stunning Aryan good looks brought to mind old German nationalist songs that his father used to mockingly sing (perhaps to keep alive the joke that a Jew from Queens had helped kick their asses in WWII).
He decided not to bring that up. It was too soon in their relationship for jolly comparisons to discredited super-races. Glory was too important to risk offending.
“Mo-Mo, I presume?” Glory asked winking over-cutely.
“I'd call you ‘Glory-Glory', but it sounds too Al Jolson-y.”
Mo was proud of that one, but Glory only laughed obligedly for half a second.
“Min's told me a lot about you,” she said, leading him into her apartment. It was a huge artist space she shared with three roommates. The walls were painted an intense red; all their kitschy lamps had colored bulbs illuminating the paintings on the walls in strange tones. The apartment smelled like sage incense mixed with cigarette smoke, pot and a hint of stale beer. Most of the paintings were crap, a few weren't. The ceiling was painted like a blue cloud-dappled sky with giant pills tumbling down as if they had been dropped from an unseen airplane.
Min and Alex were already sitting in the dining room. “Mo!” they called out in unison when they saw him. He would have killed for friends to happily call his name just two months ago, but seeing him with her again awakened in him something primal, possessive and so woefully, predictably stupid.
Min looked like a dulcet pond of sumptuous Min-ness. Alex was wearing a new almost hip shirt and was perfectly imperfectly groomed, with just the right amount of stubble; he was learning to look the part for Min's world. They already looked right together—the typical Homo Sapien pairing—the smaller female fitting so perfectly into her larger male partner that his chest would naturally serve as her pillow on cold cave-dwelling nights. Mo felt the urge to leap across the table, sink his teeth into Alex's neck to claim the alpha female for his own. He hated himself for thinking this.
“What did you bring?” Alex asked.
“A whole chicken, split and smothered in Jamaican jerk sauce,” he said proudly.
Alex winced. Min touched Mo's forearm and whispered into his ear.
“Glory's gone a bit nuts about the vegan thing this month. I left a message on your cell.” Mo loved how her whispering in his ear felt. “Don't worry. You and me will have a chicken skeletonizing party, later.”
Alex, having gotten Min's message, brought a chick pea dish. It was terrible, but Min and Glory raved about it. Sitting there, feeling like the control in a physical beauty experiment, Mo grumbled in his head as topics shifted from food, to local theater, to more personal inquires.
Alex asked what Glory did for a living. Min explained Glory's improbable vocations: massage, Pilates and nude modeling at $30 a pop. When she talked about modeling she exuded this sort of ultra-seriousness that Mo had noticed overtakes some women when they talk about something they know is a turn-on. He disliked the thought of her nude, in that he found it demoralizing how badly he wanted to see her naked nudity.
“I am also learning how to do Reiki,” she said.
“I've always wanted to know what Reiki is,” Alex asked in full “active listening” position, while Min nodded with what she herself had mocked as the “women's studies nod.”
“Well, I channel energy through myself and try to help remove energy blockages and other distortions from people's energy fields,” Glory explained.
“I can channel energy through my eyes, like Superman,” Mo said. Min and Alex laughed slightly nervously. Glory ignored him and kept explaining.
Oh my god, she's serious.
Mo listened in horror and the two others nodded supportively as Glory forthrightly explained how everyone has an aura that can be sullied but then, with help, healed. Mo had been worried about this for years. The rise of the fundamentalist Christians was scary enough, but hip educated young people increasingly sounded like fucking mystics.
What was that Scientific American study? How many Americans believe angels intervene in our daily lives? Catholicism doesn't even teach that. That's not religion, that's superstition.
If left, right and middle are giving up on rationality how is society going to keep from slipping back into the dark ages! Isn't a world where we are made up of mostly empty space and magnetic fields and that time and space warps around us magical enough? Isn't it amazing enough that we are made up of crap that came out of super novas? For fuck's sake…Alex? Min? You don't believe this!?
But both Alex and Min were uncommitted skeptics. Alex had even spent one late night years ago in LA arguing that Mo should not be so dismissive of the existence of a god, but offered no more proof for its existence than so many people for all of history believed in one. Min, despite her mathematical brain, seemed to vacillate wildly between nihilism and almost animistic beliefs.
There is or is not a god. Why would a god give us senses that reveal a decreasing need for his existence? Why should we believe that nature loves us when it is trying to grind us down and kills us all the freaking time? And why would an omnipotent being who has been around for fourteen billion years without humanity give a shit if beings on an unimaginably small part of creation eat pork, wear burkas, touch their eat holes to other's fuck holes, or covet their neighbors' ass?
Mo's head hurt again, as if a high pitched signal was being beamed through his temple. He suddenly needed to poop. Pot would help—it always helped with this—but he ran out four days ago. Desperate pages to his dealer, Chunky, had gone unanswered. He knew one of Glory's roommates was a dealer, but he couldn't ask now, not the way things were going, and he couldn't run to the bathroom just when she was trying to evaluate his aura.
He looked at Alex and Min for help, but if they had an inkling of doubt in them about Glory's shamanic power they were determined to hide it.
Glory sensed cynicism in him, she said.
“Wow, it's like magic!” he exclaimed in faked amazement.
He couldn't help it.
Three hours later Mo was at a party thrown by some of Min's theater friends near the Italian Market. Indicating how well things were going, Glory peeled off shortly after dinner. When he thought about his failure with Glory he felt the need to poop gurgle up—so he tried not to think about that. He wasn't going to crap in a stranger's house.
Instead, he was thinking about Punnett squares: those graphs they studied in high school that Gregor Mendel used to analyze the genetics of pea plants. Some British scientist had “invented” the Punnett Square, but Mo knew he was only putting down on paper an inborn sense that had been used against him his whole life—the human power to evaluate the worthiness of a potential mate. It was a cold calculation hiding beneath courtship and flirtation; a ferocious rationality underneath the shared sodas, love letters, and cooing.
At dinner Mo found it stunning how oblivious to the brutality of mating Min, Glory and Alex seemed. They talked about ex-loves with an air of helpless tragedy. Alex pondered about Zoë—why did he stay with such an unstable girl for so long? Why didn't he see her betrayal coming?
I don't know, maybe because she had perfect bones and skin, with bright green eyes and a swimmer's body featuring tiny toned muscles in heartbreaking symmetry along her shoulders and back!? Or that she had the most absurd, thick and luxurious red hair or because when she ate too much the weight went straight to her tits!?
Mo wondered what Min calculated his Punnett Square to be when she met him six weeks ago. It didn't matter now, anyway. His score no longer existed in a vacuum.
Mo was sipping a gin and tonic out of a red Solo cup on a blue Ikea couch, while sitting next to a young actor and actress who had just kissed for the first time. He had heard every word of the pre-kiss negotiations and confessions. They both had significant others, apparently. It was very dramatic.
Mo's real focus was elsewhere. From his seat he could see Min and Alex talking and laughing in the smoky, sea-green kitchen. He was standing his straightest, she was standing on one leg, and resting her other knee on a wooden chair. She leaned into him at convulsive, amused moments. Mo cringed the first time she tossed her hair while they were talking. He didn't know Min was a hairtosser.
Min's bi-weekly installments were still the highlight of the Sci Fi class. After the spectacular opening with the rhino—mounted Bantu shock troops, Professor Locksley (the noble but misguided professor who stole the time traveling super ship, screwed up human history and then traveled to the Roman era to join the Bannite Empire as an advisor assumed to have magical powers) ambushed Commander Juarez and his team who were sent to the past to set time right. Dr. Jessica Troy was captured, but Juarez, Bromley and Professor Piedmont escaped. But without their high tech weapons, they ended up in the hands of the Roman army and were transported to the Coliseum to fight for their lives. Piedmont realizes he can use Juarez's 21st century fighting prowess to get them in front of the Emperor and, if they plan things just right, to convince him to help them stop Professor Locksley from obliterating all of history.
Mo could still hardly believe it wasn't written by a guy who grew up watching Star Trek and pro-wrestling.
Mo was in the office at noon on a Sunday. He was supposed to be working, but he had gotten distracted by the new office CD burner he had them order. He had borrowed Alex's folder of CDs and was copying the good ones but was amazed at how many crappy albums Alex had. Live!? Faith No More!? Freaking Mike and the Mechanics!? Mo picked up the phone to call Alex and harangue him. Surely some of this was some Columbia Music Club accident?
But before he could dial he hung up. His tummy quivered. Alex was one of his best friends of all time, but when Alex popped back up in Mo's life he ignored him for weeks. And why?
The question felt like an index finger pushing into the middle of his forehead. He hated that some stupid part of him harbored some romantic fantasy—a madly optimistic narrative—in which Min defies every cruel unsaid rule of human attraction and declares someone like Mo her mate (and is happy with that decision for more than a week).
He knew that if he had ever stood the slightest chance with her it would end the minute she met Alex. It happened with Rebecca on Block Island, Jen Riordan and Steph Lewis in L.A., and so on and so on until he was downright frightened to introduce Joy to Alex.
And wasn't it going exactly as he had foreseen? The answer was obvious since that night Alex hunted them down at Oscar's. Min gave all the signals of the animal kingdom; she straightened up in her seat, thereby thrusting her chest up and her faultless buttocks out. She even performed the classic “promenade” on the way to the bathroom, allowing her potential mate to fully take in her plumage. They were calculating each others' Punnett Squares, and they liked what they saw.
His stomach burned; he wished he had some pot, but Chunky was still nowhere to be found. He headed towards the office kitchen to take a few gulps out of temp girl number four's bottle of Mylanta. There was one person he could ask to help him out of his sober hell.
“Nice place,” Glory said in a way that emphasized her astonishment. It was, at least in part, to stress his comparative wealth to a performer like Glory, which thereby made him, somehow, morally inferior. It only annoyed Mo slightly because Min had let it slip Glory was a trust fund darling.
Min, who had been at Mo's place for an hour, handed Glory a mug of ginger tea. Min had made large pot of it in Glory's honor.
“Mo made you some ginger tea,” Min said.
Mo mouthed “thank you” to Min.
“So, y'all want to smoke up?” Glory said anticipating and nullifying the awkward period in which Mo would try to calculate how to ask his uncertain new friend if she had brought that bag of illegal drugs he needed to purchase.
They sank down into the couch to watch the six o'clock Simpsons two-fer. The smoke effervesced like champagne bubbles through Mo. Min was clutching her sleeves and trying to facilitate conversation. She explained what Mo did (“he disproves free will”), but Glory hardly reacted. Then she caught a glimpse of the photo of him and Joy at the ruins of Tenochtitlan in Mexico a few years back. Mo was tan with his “Welcome Back Kotter” fro in all its glory and his girl by his side, the excellence of her soccer player legs and butt undeniable beneath her bicycle pants.
“Is that your sister?” Glory asked. It was an honest mistake; an honest mistake that filled Mo with hate. How many times had he introduced his hot girlfriend, his first and only love, to be deflated by a protracted discussion of how they could be siblings?
And even worse, seeing Min and Glory next to that photo made Joy look downright plain.
“That's Mo's Big College Love,” Min said in a way that implied we all get to have one.
Mo finally felt the disappointment in Min he had been waiting for. Seeing the two of them together, he thought of the popular girls in high school or the Barbie-bots at UCLA. Pretty girls hang out with pretty girls and thereby create a self-contained aesthetic utopia. Girls like that would simply assume that everyone is simply kinder, more generous and attentive than they actually are, that police officers are nice and fair about speeding tickets, that bigots and bullies are mostly mythology, and that the major question of dating is “which one” as opposed to “if.”
A four-footed thump on the throw rug brought Mo back to his living room. Pavlov strutted straight past them towards his dish of milk and Meow Mix.
“Hello, kitty.” Glory reached out her hand to pet him, but Min yelled “No!”
Pavlov's eyes darted at her, and he crouched into a defensive position showing the lean muscles of his mouser shoulders.
“Don't pet him! It's a social experiment,” Min explained.
“A what?” Glory asked.
“Well…Pavlov's an alley cat,” Min said, while Pavlov, recognizing there was no danger, was already lapping up milk from his dish. “Mo feeds him and made a little cat door in the window so he can come and go as he pleases, but Mo wants to see if he can keep him independent.” Mo thought Min had explained it well, but…
“So no one is allowed to pet the poor thing?” Glory asked. She did not approve.
Glory left after a few hours, but Min and Mo stayed up late, getting stoned, staring up at the ceiling in his living room, lit only by an outside street lamp. The previous resident had dotted the ceiling with glow-in-the-dark star stickers. They liked to mock them and how juvenile they were, but Mo knew Min loved them as much as he did.
“Mo'Momo…Have you considered yoga for your aches and pains?” Min asked picking back up on a thread about Mo's back from when Glory was still there.
“Oh Jesus. You are a yoga girl, I presume?” Mo growled.
“What's your beef with the gentle arts of India?” Min said.
“Believe it or not I've got nothing against it, per se, just the people who teach it,” Mo responded
“The gorgeously toned, rich kids who can do Iyengar all day? How could you?” Min said.
“It's not that,” Mo added “just” before the “that” in his head. “It's that these people are supposed to be so tolerant and like, hippie… you know, and then they get all, ‘you totally did that pose wrong and that is why you have sadness in your life' or ‘or your elbow is broken because you don't eat organic wheat'…” Mo said, knowing that Min realized they were in part talking about Glory.
“Oh, I get that. Judgmental little hippies…sometimes when I go to the healthy food store or talk to anyone who is really into it, it feels like the central idea of ‘holistic' stuff is ‘you got cancer because you're an asshole,'” Min finished.
Mo laughed in the middle of taking a drag and blew the embers out of the bowl into a tiny mushroom cloud above his head, which sent Min off laughing, which set him off all the more. It was exactly what he was getting at; just she said it quicker and better.
He looked at her and the illusion was broken. She was smiling back at him with her perfect white teeth, one hand absent-mindedly on her stomach revealing a few inches of fair skin.
If he closed his eyes, he could imagine that she was just a special, asexual addition to his life, one of those rare friends whose nervous system seemed entangled with his own, like Alex or Ben. But looking at her it seemed so wrong. What the fuck was this gorgeous girl doing lying on an ottoman in his living room?
“I'm not stuck with Mo'Momo as my new nickname am I?' Mo asked.
“I am sad to say it, but yes. And the stress is on the ‘Mo,'” she answered.
They were sitting at a table in a restaurant with white tablecloths and marble walls, and a fresco of William of Orange ascending to heaven looking down on them. Min was ordering dinner in what sounded like French from a waiter who looked like Jean Luc Picard. Mo couldn't understand the words, but Min's lips wrapped and pouted around them in a way that made him worried his napkin might be rising. Picard nodded deeply, admiring her excellent choices and hurried back towards the kitchen.
Min and Mo were then alone. Min stood up in her little black dress, her lips blood red from the burgundy. She shrugged one perfectly round deltoid out from under the strap. She shrugged the other and the dress fell to the floor. The naked body beneath the dress was carved in pure white marble, but when she finally touched him her hands felt like warm silk.
Somehow his pants were off now and she was positioned above his stiffy.
“But the waiter's coming back,” Mo yelped, but Min shook her head. And as she descended, he felt his penis sinking into the home it had always searched for.
“He'll understand,” she whispered, starting to ride.
Mo shut his eyes. He wasn't going to last thirty seconds without exploding.
Oh thank god, thank god…
But the waiter?
Oh god, Min, I can't believe it…
But the waiter, oh my god, the waiter?
Mo jolted from his bed. It wasn't just a dream, it was a trite, neurotic little dream—his deluded feelings were turning him into some other, stupider person. Mo wondered if he had shot his wad, but there his little soldier was, militantly erect but woefully dry. He was going to have to remedy that.
He took his chubby at the base and throttled away, all the while thinking of Venus-Min. But then he thought of the girl smiling at him and saying, “You got cancer because you're an asshole” and it felt as if he was doing something immoral.
His mind then turned to the thought of Glory happily naked in a crowd of young artists…but that felt even worse.
So he thought of the woman he always thought about for autoerotic inspiration: Jet Girl from the movie Tank Girl. Jet Girl was this gorgeous Aussie actress who, for this particular movie, the director had tried to dress up like a plain nerd. Hollywood's inability to stomach the unattractive enough to even let them play the roles of regular people was just astonishing.
But then, as his flesh started to grow a bit raw he realized she looked too much like Min. He couldn't finish.
Soon he was sipping decaf tea and staring out his window. It was 4:30 in the morning. Memories of rejection stabbed upwards through him like wooden stakes. It scared him when he felt himself sinking like this. It reminded him that it was not some other person who ended up in an L.A. county psych clinic just one dark winter ago.
Mo felt his throat start to burn and he turned his head around and found himself looking up and back at his bookshelf. Glory had craned her neck into that very position earlier today. Her head had been at the level Mo kept his software texts. Oh how dull he must have seemed. He wished she had looked higher to find his Lenny Bruce, Joseph Heller, David Sedaris, or his Beck, Rentals, Soul Coughing, or Zappa CDs—things with more life in them than Adventures in Cobol.
But there was something was odd about the way Glory had been acting. She really was scrutinizing that shelf. Hell, she was scrutinizing everything, his fridge, his cabinets, his video collection. She even started asking him more personal questions as they got more and more stoned. She even kidded, “what are your intentions towards my Min?”
Was she—could she have been kind of serious?
They were running as fast as they could. Min was in the lead. The freezing winter drizzle that had irritated them just moments before had turned into a freezing downpour. Mo was water blind as they sprinted down Min's street, trying to catch up. Min struggled with the key and they stumbled, dripping, into Min's apartment.
“That's what I get for laughing at people who carry their umbrellas everywhere,” Min said, her hair in slick stringlets, a touch of mascara dripping from her right eye.
Min went into the bathroom, came out and handed him a fluffy, newly washed towel, shook her head at the sight of the two of them and headed back to the bathroom.
Mo took off his saturated polyester jacket and scoured his head with the towel. Looking down he noticed the little photos Min kept on her desk. One was of a couple, looking cold and uncomfortable at a ski slope. They both had glasses, bad posture and some acne; the girl looked too skinny and was smiling dumbly with her eyes closed. The boy was a bit chubby and smiled an insecure grin. He didn't like being photographed.
He heard the bathroom door open. “Is that your sister?”
“A theme seems to be emerging…there is something wrong with me for putting those things out,” Min said.
Mo turned around. She was wearing an oversized Columbia sweatshirt, sweatpants and her glasses. Without her boots she was not so tall.
“You know that's me right?” she said.
“Yeah, I was kidding. And that's…,” Mo asked.
“Brian,” Min finished.
That was Brian? Mo had pictured someone who looked more like Dennis Quaid.
“How long ago?”
“Umm, fuck, like, two years? First and only time skiing. Hunter Mountain. I actually got a ticket for going too fast on the slopes. A ticket.”
She pointed to a picture of a brown-skinned girl in a red prom dress that showed off her womanly curves so that any responsible male viewer would immediately feel guilty. The Latina sexpot was hugging her pale, skinny older sister. “That's my sister…no quips okay, she's my baby sister.”
“I didn't even notice her sexy, sexy dress,” Mo joked and Min scowled, but he felt very different.
Min had mentioned that she was much more of a nerd in college. But he had always thought she was kind of pretending, like the opposite of those kids from the suburbs who acted like they were gang bangers from Compton.
Min put on the kettle, and Mo took over the bathroom. He looked at himself shirtless in the mirror. Could he compete with Brian?
In the dark little bathroom with shelves filled with items only a mortal would need (hydrocortisone, Correctol, Benadryl, Gas-X) courses of thought that once ran parallel began to intersect. The first night they met, the way she was acting when they were watching that documentary about ants, Glory's investigation of him…was it possible at all that he had been in the running? Was it too late?
He needed to poop. He needed a plan.
Mo had heard about it in college. It was some new sex drug that frat boys used to allow them to live out their homoerotic fantasies or to get laid by attention-starved sorority girls. Mo preferred the more intellectual drugs: mushrooms, acid, etc. But within the joking slights of his hipster friends when they dismissed the ecstasy crowd, there were some tantalizing images. Young flesh unleashed and writhing together like one voracious, glistening multi-headed creature.
Mo observed carefully any time Min mentioned it. She would never bother to give specifics; her eyes would just get all big and wild as if she was gazing at something breathtaking, humbling and deeply personal. The image of her in a lustful, drug-induced trance was too much, the idea of being anywhere near it seemed like calamitous masochism, since, of course, he never imagined he could be the focus of her lust. But yesterday and the rain changed that.
The perfect opportunity to suggest they dose together came at an imperfect time. Min, Alex and Mo were catching a Sunday brunch at Morning Glory, and Orbital started playing in the background. Orbital were techno DJs from England popular at raves (Mo hated that crap), and Min explained that when she heard them play her jaw still started to grind like she was rolling her head off.
Should he just blurt out “please let us take it together”? But Alex was sitting right there, listening attentively. Surely if he asked right now she would suggest Alex try it, too.
But wait, maybe this was the perfect moment? Alex's attitude about drugs was a known quantity. Mo could suggest they all try it, but straight-edged Alex would never, ever touch the stuff. It wouldn't look like a plot to get Min alone on the wonder drug, but it would work out that way.
“We really all need to get some of that crap and try it, sometime,” Mo said, butting catsup onto his home fries—ignoring a pang in his brain that screamed the drug would kill him dead the first time he tried it.
Min looked torn for a moment. “You sure?” she asked, clearly stifling the urge to coax.
“You betcha,” Mo said, and turned to Alex. “Do you want to join us?” Mo asked, certain he knew what Alex's answer would be.
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We return to Mo's jaded & overly intellectual perspective & get to see how he is suffering over Min (quietly to himself).
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