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Dear Readers:

This is my final "Bad Sex" column. I was getting to the point where
I was going to have to start fabricating stories, and everyone knows there’s
no tolerance for truth-bending in the online media. In the past year and change,
you and I have shared so much. Or at least I have. I hope I gave some solace
and
laughter
to those of you who come too early, too often, or not enough. Our biological
imperative to reproduce forces us into some pretty absurd situations. The next
time you’re having bad sex, or are about to, I encourage you to remember this
column, and know that no matter how badly you’re fucking things up, at least
you’re playing it smoother than I did. It’s been a pleasure. And now, I die.

Neal


I came of romantic age to a soundtrack that was then familiar and natural but
now sounds as naïvely old-fashioned as "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" or "She’s
Only A Bird In A Gilded Cage." My sentimental love song became
popular in 1993. My modem played it every time I signed on. It went: "Wheee-whooo-wheee-whoo-whoo-whoo
whoo
whoo.
Pwang! Pwang! Pwang! Chhhhhhhhhhhh Pwang Pwang Chhhhhh!"

   That summer, everyone got it on at the keyboard.

   Within two years, people would be introducing themselves to
me online with charming come-ons like, "R U Femail?" But in those heady
days when non-techies were still discovering the mystical erotic qualities of
the Internet, it was still possible to conduct an old-fashioned seductive conversation.
You could sign on to AOL and expect to see the same basic groups of people in
the same basic places. Dozens, if not hundreds, of hours withered away as I stared
at the grayish-blue screen of my Mac Classic, bopping from chat room to chat
room, looking for an invitation to "go private" from a familiar name.

   Early one evening, I signed on and went to my usual spot, which was called something like "Book Chat" or "Smart People Seek Smart People." There, waiting, sat "Googol." Her profile mentioned that she was "infinitely wise."

   Hey! So was I!

   Googol and I got involved in the group chat. After about an hour, we’d determined that everyone else in the room was hopelessly stupid. After two hours, she sent me an Instant Message.

   "Wanna go back to my place?" she wrote.

   "Sure," I said.

   She set up a private chat room. The next three hours were a tease and a dodge, followed by a spectacular release that I found fulfilling and surprising. It was like I’d met my soul mate, and fucked her behind the cigarette machine at the bus station. I told her secrets I didn’t know I

We’d
hang up the phone, go online, and masturbate together.

had, and she poured open her soul to me. She was in her late forties and lived in a suburb of Boston. Her husband was a pharmacist who’d long ago given up on life. They had a teenage daughter who suffered from lupus.

   That fact alone should have stopped me. This was an adult woman with very adult problems. I, on the other hand, lived on the far North Side of Chicago, in a semi-communal apartment. My major worry was that the director of ImprovOlympic didn’t like me enough to assign me to the right "team." We made a bad match. But nothing can stop the roaring course of true love; once our affair started, I might as well have been trying to prevent a murder that I’d seen in my dreams.

   Eventually, we started talking on the phone, but we didn’t have phone sex, because her husband was always home.

   "He knows all about you," she said. "All about my friend Neal, who lives in Chicago. I didn’t tell him about the other stuff."

   That Boston pharmacist must have really been numb to the world,
because when your partner starts talking about a "special friend," it’s
a sure sign that infidelity has ascended. Googol and I would talk for an hour
or two. Then we’d hang up the phone, go online, and masturbate together. Sometimes,
when we were done, we’d talk again.

   The "run away now" tipoff should have been her story about the symphony violinist she’d met in the Boston subway who’d told her she was beautiful, and had subsequently pursued her until she’d succumbed to a night of passion. Then he’d written a concerto for her, and then he’d committed suicide. At the time, it all seemed perfectly plausible to me, but a decade’s perspective allows me to see that the story was a total lie, a kind of romance-novel fantasy for the Weekend Edition set. Also, she hadn’t gone far enough. Why hadn’t the guy been a violinist and a novelist, or, even better, a poet?

   "You’re incredible," I said. "I want to see what you look like."

   She sent me a photograph taken twenty years earlier. It might
as well have been Ali MacGraw from Love Story: the soulful brown eyes,
the lustrous black hair, the knee drawn up to the chin, the look that said, "I
did really well in my grad-school Byron seminar. Wanna smoke a joint and fuck?" It
really made me long for the ’70s.

   "I’ve never seen someone so beautiful," I said.

   "That woman is gone," she said. "But the eyes. I still have the eyes."


My attention waxed a little. Some important things came up offline, like actual women. I knew my relationship with Googol was in trouble

I wanted to say, Hey,
old man,
I
loosened her up for you.

the night she IM’ed me with the following phrase: "Have you heard of the book called English
Patient
?" This was before it became a movie that didn’t deserve its Oscar. I tried to head off pretension at the pass.

   "It’s not supposed to be very good," I wrote.

   "Steve told me I had to read it," she said.

   "Steve" had started to come up a lot. He was online
all the time and paid a lot of attention to Googol. She told me he worked as
an executive at Quaker Oats, was divorced, and wrote the most beautiful
poetry. He also lived in Chicago. Wasn’t that something?

   This need not be dragged out. Googol left me for Steve. She also told me that she was leaving her husband for Steve. This would all happen at the end of the summer, after she’d gathered the courage to tell her husband that she was leaving him for Steve.

   "But you know I’ll always have a special place in my heart for you, Neal," she said.

   By that point, I was pretty sick of her. But all that fancy sex talk had left a sympathetic rubbing on my heart.

   "And I you," I said to Mrs. Robinson.

   "I’ve told Steve all about us," she said. "He really wants to buy you lunch."

   For some reason, I agreed. So on a lovely late-summer afternoon, I met Steve at a bad outdoor restaurant on the north bank of the Chicago River. He had graying curly hair and a soft, somewhat defeated face.

   "She speaks very highly of you," he said.

   "Thanks," I said. "I saw a picture of her. She used to be really hot."

   He looked at me like I was vermin. This was the woman that he probably was going to marry.

   "She still is," he said.

   I wanted to say, Hey, old man, fuck your mid-life crisis. I
loosened her up for you.
But instead we talked for a while about how I wanted
to write a novel. He paid the bill, and then my Googol was no more.


At some point three years later, corporeal sex dried up for me again. I returned to the chat-rooms. By then, AOL had become a circus of quotidian perversity. My old haunts were crowded with dudes trolling for babes who were actually dudes. The intelligence filter had disappeared.

   Somehow, though, I found “Jluvz”, who, like my previous amour virtual, also lived in Boston. She was a language therapist who worked

We were having explosive multi-orgasmic masturbation
sessions.

with troubled children, a dedicated environmentalist
and a total succubus. Also, she just wasn’t getting what she wanted from
her husband. Naturally, we had chat-room sex on the night we met.

   Within a week, we were on the phone every night, because her
husband worked nights. When he was home at night, Jluvz called me during
the day while he took a nap. She concocted errands so she could leave the house
and call me on her cellphone. We were having explosive multi-orgasmic masturbation
sessions.

   "No one makes me come like you do!" she said.

   "I love you!" I said.

   "I love you, too!"

   "I love, love, love, love love you! Oh God! Now! Now! Now!"

   Things proceeded subtly along this path for a month or so.
One night, Jluvz was driving home from a dinner party. She and her husband had
taken
separate
cars. I got a phone call. Within seconds, she was masturbating furiously with
one hand, while driving with another.

   "Oh, Neal!" she said. "You’re mine! You’re mine forever!"

   "Yes, Jluvz, yes!" I said.

   "I’m leaving him," she said.

   "Good call!" I said.

   Two weeks went by with no contact. I went out on a couple of dates, one of them with my future wife. When Jluvz next checked in with me, she had news. First, her husband had moved out. Second, she’d moved out herself and had found her own apartment. Third, she’d met a nurse at a party. Fourth, the nurse moved in with her. Fifth, they’d purchased a puppy. Sixth, they’d gone on vacation to the Cape. Seventh, she was now a lesbian.

   "Those are some pretty big changes," I said.

   "Thanks for helping me realize my true self," she said.

   She kept me on her email list for a couple of years, mostly sending updates about redecorating the apartment or forwarding pleas for money from the Sierra Club. At some point, my now-fiancé and I visited Boston. I planned to see Jluvz, who was laid up with a broken leg, but Regina wasn’t so into that idea. Like Googol, Jluvz was gone forever.

   Soon after, I released myself from the self-imposed prison
of banal chat-room love and got a real email address. I’d contributed to the
demise of two marriages without ever meeting any of the parties involved, except
for
that guy Steve. Yet I didn’t feel sadness, or satisfaction. I didn’t feel anything,
really, not even guilt. As with everything else that went sour for me in the
1990s,
I blamed all my love problems on AOL.
 


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©2005 Neal Pollack and Nerve.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Neal Pollack is the author of The Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature, Beneath The Axis Of Evil, and Never Mind the Pollacks: A Rock and Roll Novel. For a daily dose of his satirical brilliance, visit his website, www.nealpollack.com. He lives in Austin, Texas.