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THE COST

 

For me, even a casual consideration produces the impression that all things (attitude, events and acquisitions) have a cost.  Every corner cut, every ethical mores contravened is productive of ill-consequence.  This was my conviction and, in conversation, assertion.

 

At intervals one’s views are subject to challenge and it is not always the bare logic inherent in the opposition that gives it enough push to overcome impugnatious inertia.  More frequently (for me) that shove against my entrenched opinions is accomplished via the emotional, rather than the intellectual contribution of the contestant.  None of us have the answers to all things.  Where there appears to be a pattern with occasional blanks, I am inclined to assume the continuation of that pattern within those spaces.  It usually proves safe to do so.  It would seem ironic if each such ‘blind spot’ were to hide a feature or consequence wildly at variance with the intimations on either side.

 

When Willy Oldes argued the social contribution of prostitution it was the current of emotion that bore his frail craft of reason into the shallow waters surrounding my personal archipelago of independent ideas.

 

If all us men were completely honest about the sea of fears, fixations and fantasies that immerse us maybe the admission of ownership of most would prove easier!  I struggle, now, to write the words that I know others will read.  If this exploration is genuinely an act towards maturity I should gain courage from that belief and see this literary effort as a gift being shared.

 

I could narrate the verbal content of that boat of Willy’s, whose keel eventually disturbed the rising sea floor, but that would be a mere diversion.  It was, rather, the disturbance of the medium that surrounded and carried Willy’s ‘wanton - words’ that disturbed, eroded and redistributed the sediment along my coastline.

 

In the seclusion that followed our discussion, I found my gaze held by that sediment still in suspension.  Some of it was stuff I thought I had buried years ago.  Some of it was more obviously the gunge I associate with others.  Not me!

 

How can women sell access to the privacy of their special regions?  “Money can’t buy me love”.  But it can buy access to regions normally the exclusive preserve of love!

 

There was not only a certain bewilderment, but also a bizaare and perverse fascination to the subject, and of course with the associated actions involved.

 

The one person liable to read this, the one whose reaction I most dread, is my wife and if I was in her position, if the roles were reversed, I know I would be perfectly justified in that response.

 

Things go wrong within relationships.  It is a prime realm within which to witness the impotence of reason.  How often have you discerned the victory of logic in this arena?  For me (the “strong silent type”) the breaking of that silence often comes too late to facilitate a logically-induced change in circumstance or events.  A specific situation redevelops within our marriage.  This may be a situation to which I have previously responded with rationality and spoken of the impact of that situation upon me.  But it is more frequently the abandonment of reason and the welling of emotion that accomplished the remedy!

 

Friction results because individuals have different personal and gender requirements, aspirations and illusions.  As an idealistic young person in love these potential problems are properties of other’s worlds, not one’s own; “I will avoid the dilemmas and failures of my parents marriage.”  Even those who decided upon the rejection of actual marriage have discovered their relationships possess similar topography.

 

There are definitely times when the vitality, the sense of newness that adds an edge of excitement to the partnership, is absent.

 

It was during one such particularly protracted period, and my sexual hunger very pronounced, that I sought a chance to visit a neighbouring city, alone and having consulted their local yellow pages chose an establishment where the staff might hopefully meet my needs.  I was fully aware that I was succumbing to both the emotion and the logic of Willy Oldes!

 

Least the ‘massage’ parlour I’d selected be not a mere facade for  sexual adventure, I resorted  to the telephone for confirmation.

 

“Cindies Massage Parlour,” came the woman’s voice from the other end.  (I tried to visualise the environment in which her responding phone was stationed).  “How can we help you?”

 

“Ah.... G’day.... I found you in the yellow pages and I was wondering whether you provide more than massages.... ?”

 

“For the purposes of compliance with the law I can only confirm that, we provide intimate massage for our clients,”

 

“This is not just...,” I was getting embarrassed, “masturbation?”

 

“No sir, although of course the fee varies accordingly.  I can assure you you will not be disappointed by our services...  This is your first time seeking professional pleasure is it, sir?”

 

“Ah, yes.  Fairly obvious is it?.... “How much.....?”

 

“The full services cost $100 and you can pay by any bankcard, though cash may be more discrete if you’re a married man!”

 

“Thank you.”  I was now both embarrassed and horny.  “Do I need to make an appointment?”

 

“Not usually sir.  Although our establishment is very popular, our staff are seldom fully engaged.”

 

I remember standing on the footpath an hour later and it was then that the real war between, what others might label my lust, and my conscience began.  I walked past the gaudy doorway twice before finally stomping down the steep narrow staircase.  When I reached the bottom I had another door to open and I again waged a minor war before swinging it open.

 

Within was something like a wide corridor and in an easy chair next to a small closed circuit T.V. monitor sat an attentive burly man who surveyed me dispassionately.  Recovering the magazine that had fallen from his knee he rediscovered the page he had been reading and cradling his bearded chin in the cup of his hand, gave the text his all.

 

I looked back at the door I’d just entered and realised the camera coupled to the monitor must have been scrutinising the top of the stairs.

 

What was to happen next?

 

I looked about.  The “heavy” was engrossed in his book.  No doubt his presence played some role in the running of this establishment.  Eight other doors led from the corridor, each featured a photo of an alluring female, scantly clad and in provocative poses.  A small sign indicated the temptress behind the door way engaged or available.  I moved along the length of the corridor and back along the other side taking in the details of each picture.  Only three of the massage rooms had clients.  Knowing this was like shopping I studied each photo, each book sold by its cover!  I ‘bought’ the girl least like my wife.  I tried the door, it yielded easily, much, I mused, like the woman beyond.

 

“Hello, my name is Wanda.”  That’s how she responded as my eyes fell upon the girl rising from the bed and stepping towards me.  A rush of emotions clattered through my head, like cans tumbling down stairs.  Conscience rolled off the bottom step and disappeared.  Within moments this stranger was coaxing me towards the bed facing me with a hand on each shoulder.  I was oblivious to the questions that had puzzled me and which would return with even greater bewilderment after the act.  I had to remind myself (though I was eager to be fooled and only remembered later) that this was indeed an ACT.  Like the superior clothes-drier this was the product of customer research and attention to the details that culminate in customer satisfaction!  It was sex that had the colour and contours of the imaginings tailored by the world’s pleasure industries and here was someone who had trained herself to both mimic and initiate the responses and movements of someone to whom I was the successful ‘lover’.

 

In the sudden void that followed ejaculation the erotic facade was like a thin plastic bag exposed to twenty years ultra violet, a thousand crumbling fragments scattering on the breeze, her body suddenly just something I had rubbed parts of my own against!  We would not now cuddle close and fall asleep together or lie talking, waiting for the sun to extend above the eastern hills!

 

I probably envisaged it being imbued with qualities of this nature, but this made all anticipation redundant.  I didn’t look to see whether the strong-man even raised his eyes from the page at my departure, the transfer of cash from my hand to hers a clotted image on my inner eye.

 

Of course it was ‘good’ sex!  Most aspects of her body language were in accord and convincing, but “you know you just can’t hide those lying eyes!”

 

And now I was striding down the shady side of Talon Street and a million miles from love.  The undulating reflection, accompanying me in the adjacent shop windows bore now, to my eyes, too close a resemblance to the cynical visiage of Willy Oldes.  It was a scary indication of where I might be heading, as  a person.

The liaison I had just procured was far from satisfying primarily because of its context, the sea of dissociation surrounding this sexual atoll robbed passion of pertinence.  I felt I was cheating life of its potential for content (substance and pleasure)!  What I had just experienced provided the most transitory satisfaction and was equally deficient in answering the questions permeating my earlier fantasies.  In this act, as in all others, I fell short of my own aspirations and expectations.  How could love be sold?  At what cost to the retailer was this intimate contact acquired?

With a spike of resolution I recrossed the street and determinedly retraced my steps to that blue, pink and turquoise door, down the stairs and into the surprised glance of the resident ‘magazine-reader’.

The girl, Wanda, too, betrayed surprise at my return as I re-entered her vacant cubicle and closed the door behind me.

“You want that again?”  She gestured, displaying a degree of incredulity.  I lowered her to the bed.

I really just want to talk.”  I ventured and slowly begin to verbalise the jigsaw of events, emotions and argument that had nudged me down those stairs for the first time.  Did she look upon me as some sort of nut?  I wondered how many men exposed more than their body to her.  Was it this rarity that directed her to the defensive?  She was unresponsive to my touch, so that in this intimacy she was reluctant to engage.

“Look, I’m not a counsellor, for all I know half the men who come in here might have similar problems.  Everyone’s got problems of some sort!”

“I’m not merely trying to increase my sex-life, we’re more than just animals, there’s an emotional hunger too.  I’ve long been puzzled as to how the money you earn from this profession could ever be compensation enough for the costs that such an involvement must carry!”

“What costs are you talking about?.  I wouldn’t be here, opening my legs for every creep in town, if the job wasn’t lucrative.”

“But is money enough?  After selling yourself the way you obviously do how could you ever sustain a truly meaningful sexual and emotional relationship with a boyfriend or husband?”

“Who says I want to?”  She retorted.

“You’re human,” I countered, “and most people try to enter some sort of exclusive relationship at some point in their life!”

“Well I’m not there, yet.  I’ve got a lifetime ahead of me.  Beside I enjoy sex and with the money I’m earning I can set myself up for the future....  Maybe I will want a family one day, who knows.  If so I should be in a good financial situation to help support them!”

“But will you have the other more important assets; integrity and emotional responsiveness to make it a success?  They’re qualities that must be getting further eroded by every day you indulge your patrons.”

Wanda stared at me with what I assumed to be defiance and a recognition of my untenable and hypocritical situation.

“What robbed your marriage of its necessary ingredients?  You wouldn’t be thrusting me if you were true to your own argument!  Which one of you two lost your highly esteemed ‘emotional responsiveness and integrity’?  Is your wife a whore?!”  Her voice rising with indignation.

The sharp-crested waves of invective battered my shoreline, the accompanying storm coursing up the valleys into my heartland.  Tall trees had their limbs torn from them.  An aging woman cast aside by a faithless husband cowered in the shelter of the towering trunks.  I was like the occupant of a small boat half turning from some now abandoned exploit (half turned by the storm) flung back upon my homeland.  Somewhere, somehow, like some movie cliche these two beings, each in their own way injured, stumbled into each other recognising, through a mist of tears, their former partner.

Part of me perceived it as assistance, if, after all, Wanda had been capable of responding with more than reproach and had cradled me soothingly, that reunion would never have been completed and my preconceptions brought further into doubt.  As it was Wanda did have problems of her own, though she had made only the merest allusion to them.  Her response to my tears was cool, perhaps distain.  She prodded me from the bed and straightened the sheet, indicating the door in a gesture that said ‘you’re wasting my time’.

I’ve mentioned nothing of this, till now, to anyone.  I think that Willy Oldes and I now experience a rapport that was formerly absent, though I am thankful for the divergent nature of this later segment of our individual journeys.  His experience in the realm of promiscuity are definitely more entrenched than my own.

I don’t know how much Denise suspects.  Hopefully she too can put what must have been an unsatisfying chapter behind her.  At first I feared that the recognition of our responses to each other would remain fuelled only by my sense of guilt.  I can discern more than that now, though, and so the cathartic commitment of this to paper and Denise’s probable exposure to it is less daunting than it might have been.

It may be purely by chance, though it’s hard to accept it as such, that a magazine we don’t subscribe to found its way into our letterbox.

When I came home from work one day, I found it open on the coffee table, an empty coffee mug left absently pinning its pages wide.

It was a Friday.  A note from Denise (on the bench) reminded me that she had just popped out for quarter of an hour to transport our two children to friends’ places for the weekend.  I made myself a coffee and pushed Denise’s mug aside to better view the photo on the open page of “Specific Voice” (the mouthpiece, I knew, of an amalgamation of charismatic Christian denominations).

I slopped my hot coffee in surprise at the face revealed.  I knew that was Wanda even though the article named her as Diane North.

I double-read the feature, attempting to renounce my disbelief.  Every detail that I could verify was correct.  Without naming the establishment she cited her previous profession, her former views and attitude and the circumstances precipituous of her revelation and conversion.  She had managed to ignore or resist suggestions from both her conscience and ‘straight’ society and acquaintances, but one day six weeks ago one of her clients (a married man) had broken down, attempting to convey aspects of his own turmoil.  She had striven to dismiss both him and his struggle from her mind but collapsed at a bar that night.  Doctors could find no cause, she was neither observably ill nor inebriated, but that night Jesus had appeared as a wavering image on the curtains of her apartment and a smell of roses had permeated the room.  A peace ‘beyond all understanding’ had washed over something she never accepted herself as possessing (her soul) and she was now seeking wholesome employment!

 

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