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The wall

Or a blank screen with storyboard and a soundtrack, even

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Grant's back is hurting, and I say no wonder. "Maybe it's all that standing up you do while ejaculating into the mouths of anonymous married men," I offered. "You should try that lying down next time."

He lunges at me and tries to get me into a headlock, but I'm quicker than he is these days seeing as how he's weakened from all that ejaculating. Plus, we were in his car, which is where I overheard him telling Lary about the anonymous sex. Those two have homo/hetero phone sex all the time now, ever since Lary decided it doesn't make him gay just because he enjoys hearing about the sexual exploits of his gay friends.

"Why the hell don't you ever tell me about this stuff?" I wailed.

"Because you'll write about it," Grant hollered back at me.

"I swear I won't."

"Like hell."

"I swear to goddam God I won't. Jesus God! I goddam promise I'll never write about it! What kind of whore do you take me for?"

OK, so here's what happened: Grant had a half-hour to kill one day, so he wandered into a porn shop and got The Look from some married dude over in the "Shaved Beaver" section (or whatever), and evidently there are special rooms in those places or something with holes in the walls, and guys go in them and stick their naughty bits through the holes and have major monkey sex with each other -- with a wall between them! -- then end up with their backs hurt.

"End of story," said Grant.

"What the hell do you mean 'end of story?'"

"That's it. That's all that happened."

That right there is what infuriates me. This is not the end, this is just the morsel leading up to the meal! I wanna know details: What did the guy look like? What was the guy wearing? How did Grant know the guy was married, and was the guy gay-married or wife/kids married? If he was wife/kids married, was he urban gay-man wife/kids married or was he suburban-father-in-Dockers married?

"He was some married guy, came here from the suburbs, probably had his kids waiting for him in the truck," Grant said, exasperated.

"Oh my God! You are shitting me!" I freaked. "I can't believe that!"

"See, this is why I don't tell you this stuff," he said.

Why ever in hell would he not want to tell me that stuff? Then I realized he tells Lary everything, and Lary sits there on the other end of the line and says, "Yeah, yeah, go on." He doesn't ask for details but he gets them anyway, and I guess the last thing Lary ever is is shocked. You could call Lary in the middle of the night to tell him you just awoke from a fugue and found the dismembered limbs of an entire orphanage in your underwear and he wouldn't blink, he'd just calmly ask where you were and show up 15 minutes later with a bag of lime in the back of his truck. He would never even care about the details, but he'd probably be willing to hear them later over the phone if you cared to recount them. "Yeah, yeah, go on," is all he'd say.

"Do I know the guy?" I asked Grant. "Have I dated the guy? Was I ever married to the guy?"

"Shut up!" Grant said, because he knows I'm starting to do what I do. I'm beginning to relate again; not to him or the anonymous guy, but to the anonymous guy's wife at home who has no idea her husband had his dick in some other man's mouth earlier that day. "Oh my God, he's gonna go home and kiss his wife with that mouth," I ruminated, "and then his kids."

"That's it," Grant hissed, because here I'd gone and sucked all the fun out of anonymous sex for him, probably not permanently but for a bit at least, and the last thing he needs is to have his brain dragged back into the bog of blame and shame it took him so long to crawl away from. And I support that. I do. But we are who we are. Neither of us knows that man or has any idea the circumstances surrounding his life that brought him to that place at that time, but the difference is that Grant wants to keep the wall in place and I want to use it as a blank screen upon which to project all my own shit -- with storyboards, even, and a soundtrack.

Because Grant knows good and well it's mentally impossible for me to have anonymous sex. Physically, yes. Mentally, no. I'll invent all kinds of crap to identify it. I'll invent a name for it, dress it in ruffles, sit across from it at a little table and pour it imaginary tea from a toy pot. I hate that about myself, but I'm cursed that way.

"I bet she made him lasagna for dinner that night," I continued to ponder, but Grant was back on the phone talking to Lary again, this time in a kind of code because I was still sitting there next to him, and that is how it was for the rest of the way home: Grant on one side, me on the other, the wall between us.

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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