“Now, I’m very vulnerable to female beauty, as you know. Everybody’s defenseless against something, and that’s it for me. I see it and it blinds me to everything else.”
-Philip Roth from “The Dying Animal”
Last night I crossed the border. For weeks I have been living in a kind of small town celibacy. Since I moved here a month ago my normal sexual practices have been interrupted. Not that my sexual practices are anything unusual, but placed besides that of any ordinary man I would say that they may be surprising at best. You see, most men’s sexuality is a carnivorous kingdom of repressed fantasies and perversions. My sexuality is no different than any male friend I may have- the difference between me and other men is that I no longer harbor shame about my sexual indulgences. They are with me for life so I have learned to embrace them. To my surprise, since I moved out into the country my “normal” sexuality has become tempered by heat, marital difficulties, bugs in the bed, unemployment and boredom. Sex has not been much on my mind but it has been lurking slightly below the surface like a cold that is manifesting as a small scratch between my legs.
Because I live in a college town I cannot help but notice the scantily dressed young women everywhere. Even though I try not to stare at the abundance of legs (which have become a recent pre-occupation of mine), breasts and butts- these appendages of female anatomy are like a sweet potion that offers me the possibility of banishing everything that is plaguing me. What were a few weeks of abstinence from sexual feeling has slowly evolved into a slight sexual itch. I have caught myself staring at the behinds of women, searching for their underwear underneath. I have even found that I spend more time focusing on the breast flesh born from a tight tank top than maybe I should. All this hide and seek that I seem to be playing with my eyes has inflamed in me what can only be described as a lustful desire for female flesh. Even though I try to keep this repressed, to keep my attention focused on the books that I read, or the more important responsibilities in my life- it seems as if the female figure is stronger than my urge to resist.
I live not far from Nevada. One hundred and sixty miles at most. For the past week I have been visualizing the legalized sexual carnivals that are housed on the other side of the border. Last night I had a few drinks and a fury filled fight with my wife, so I decided to go. I had to drive my car through the mountainous regions of the Sierra Nevada’s and weather the torrential winds that threatened to tilt my car. A man who is consumed with sexual desire can make it across the most tempestuous of seas and skies and I was not about to let any heavy winds ruin my flight. I knew the promise that Nevada was filled with and I would not stop until I made it to the front door of my sexual fantasies. I was determined to see and touch a stranger’s naked flesh and the moment I crossed the Nevada border- I felt goose bumps colonizing my arms and neck.
I have been to brothels many times in the past (many years ago I was commissioned to write an essay on the brothels of Nevada for The New Yorker Magazine). I knew exactly where I was headed, Fantasies Door in Carson City, and along the way I decided to stop off and play the slot machine. It was early yet, and I still needed more to drink. I stopped at the Coral Casino and found myself a comfortable corner to play in. I sat at a particular slot machine that I felt looked lucky and might be willing to pay me a moderate amount of change. I took advantage of the free drinks that were being offered me and began what would become an expensive rendezvous with a single slot machine.
Even though men are dominated by their sexual desires, they are even more dominated by money. I do not know what is more powerful- a naked woman or the opportunity to make a lot of cash. Some how a long my way I got lost. What was initially an impulsive journey into the arms of a naked whore had become an obsessive and inseparable night spent with a slot machine. In a heated frenzy stirred up by the desire to get back the money I had lost I had completely forgotten about my lustful desire for female flesh. I was drinking too much and I was overly committed to not leaving the casino with less money than I had come in with. Life has been difficult since I have been unemployed and the idea of earning a little extra cash made me naive enough to think that the more I put into the machine the better chances I had of getting money back. Cocktail waitresses kept me entertained (one even allowed me to rub my hand up and down her nylon covered leg) as I managed to loose all the cash that I had come in there with. Fortunately I was wise enough to leave my ATM in the car- but giving the slot machine $500 of my hard earned cash was not easy to walk away from.
It was after midnight when I decided to leave. The feeling of deep regret and indignation had wiped away my buzz and all I could feel was the acrimonious distillation of vodka and beer in my gut. For a moment I considered continuing on to Fantasies Door– but the idea of spending more money made me sick. I vomited a few times and wanted to hang myself on the closest telephone line but my desire to live and flourish was stronger than my compulsion to throw my life away. I got back in my car and decided to make the long journey back across the border to a home that was filled with troubles and disdain. My wife and I have a difficult time getting a long and when I go out and play and come home broke and in a depressive funk it only spreads our troubles out into another day.
Today, I cannot help but think that my actions last night were a mistake. I acted on a whim and threw myself into the winds of chance. I went where my desires lead me and ended up on the wrong side of chance. It was as if my penis was tied in a rope that was pulling me towards Nevada. Not only did I loose a few weeks worth of food, book and beer money but I also lost my feeling of integrity (what is a man without his integrity?). I was feeling good the past month keeping my sexual impulses under control. I felt more in charge of my will power and not as subjected to the fantasies fueled by females that have had so much power over me for so much of my life. I was slowly entering into a small town lifestyle of calm resignation that was beginning to signal for me the possibilities of suburban bliss. Girls could no longer nag at me, or so I liked to think, despite my wondering eye (and passion for bare legs). But my fight last night blew the roof off my self-control and left me spiraling out of control towards the object of my lust. Today I have spent a lot of time sitting in my hammock and staring at the sky. Even though I know that what is done is done and lamenting over the past will not undue what went wrong, I still can not help but think about what could of happened if I only made it to Fantasies Door.