No man—and I use "man" in the broader sense of "human"—has had any pleasure from my body. I haven't had any from anyone else, either, for that matter. I don't know that I've made anyone happy, and I frankly doubt it: I am much too awkward and always have been, and awkwardness after the age of about twelve is read as coldness.
But I will tell you this—confess to this, my one liaison.
Once I dreamt—yes, I dreamt—I made an old man happy.
Here is how it happened: When I was young, I dreamt of an old man. I recognized him as an old man; he was a well-known character actor at the time. However, in my dream, he was working in a small grocery or convenience store in our town. Our town does not actually have such an establishment, but you know the type: Small, regularly held up. Therefore, the clerk sits in a glass case, usually with a shotgun and the cigarettes, the pornography, and what alcohol the place may sell.
I was there late at night, for some reason. I imagine I was running an errand for my father. At any rate, I went up to the counter, where the clerk sat behind the glass case. In the clerk's chair sat the old man.
He looked a lot worse than he ever had in movies, and this was a man who regularly played unsavory, Dickensian "river characters." His hair was long, gray and greasy, and his pale eyes looked unfocused. His mouth hung open, and his whole appearance was haggard and worn down. Still, I recognized him.
"You're M—," I said, saying his name.
"Yes, and what about it?" he asked, his voice bitter.
I explained how I came to recognize him and he scoffed.
"What does all that matter?" he said, rubbing a hand over his face. "It's all gone, and my eyesight's going with it." There was much sadness in his voice, much spite.
I felt sorry for him, but there wasn't much I could do. I paid for my things and left.
But he was there every time afterwards, and I continued talking to him. As the details of his life became clear to me, I began to feel a kind of pity, even an affection for him. He lived in a rotten little room, the top floor back of one of the few dedicated apartment buildings around our town. (Our town is very small, you see, with few apartments and even fewer apartment buildings.) He had no one in his life, not even a social worker, and with his eyesight failing, he spent most of his time listening to the television, or to audio books. I believe he also had an ill-tempered, long-haired cat, in my dream, but this cat and I never came into contact.
I did not question, in the dream, how a well-respected British character actor came to be living in such circumstances in a small, Midwestern town such as ours. It didn't occur to me at all.
At any rate, I believe I must have bought him a drink at some point, or perhaps I simply made him a charity case. The latter seems more likely; I am and always have been the type to volunteer, to offer my services, and this is the kind of thing one might do in a dream. I can imagine—dreams do move so strangely in time, and I don't remember this happening—bringing him some nicely-cooked meal, or perhaps offering to run some errands for him, or something like that.
And you know how this kind of story goes; you know how this kind of thing can happen. I was only seventeen, both in the dream and at the time I dreamt it, but I have long found men much older than myself very attractive. I don't know why; perhaps it's because my father was not a terribly young man himself, when I was growing up. But at any rate, I must tell this story.
So I fell in love with Mr. M—, and in the dream, I remember distinctly the pleasant feeling of laying with him, letting him caress my hair in the dim light from the lamp that I had asked be left on. I remember lying naked, draped gently over him in the grotty bed in his rotten little room, the shades drawn and the sparse lights of town glowing outside the window. I remember the texture of the hair on his chest, the dry feeling of the skin of his thighs and stomach. . .
I believe I must have moved in with M— not long after our relationship became more concrete (or at least, more carnal), because I recall spending all my time with him, or if not with him, then for him. I took a job in one of the local shops, or perhaps one of the restaurants in our town, so he wouldn't have to work so many late shifts at that dodgy little grocery store. I slept with him every night, curled in his aged arms. (I must confess, I have never felt more beautiful than I did, wrapped in the arms of an old man I only dreamt I knew.) The way he used to look at me, too—like he had never been happier. I don't know how well he could see me, but after the things we did, I don't know that he needed to. He knew me well enough by feel, if nothing else.
Here is where the dream grows confusing. We were driving somewhere, in the van I had in the dream. (It was an old minivan; nothing exciting.) We were talking, the radio crackling under the conversation. He was making some kind of confession, staring over at me with eyes that could scarcely see. His hand was clutching my knee, and we were driving out west, where the land is flat and high. The sky was very blue. . .
I don't remember what happened. Perhaps he had a heart attack; perhaps we had a car accident; probably some unlucky combination of the two. I only remember his eyes growing wide with horror, so I did what seemed sensible at the time: I leaned over, and I kissed him.
I felt his lips soften under mine, even as the car slid out of control, roaring off the side of the road and into a field. But I don't believe we ever hit the ground. . .
Edgar Mason lives and writes in France, where she lives in a moldering château with her family and 17 mounted deer heads.
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