Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FICTION: Dionysus by Jake Sweet

This is where I meet them. In between aisles 12 and 13 at Wal-Mart, the hair product and skin care section. Lodged behind them is a small shelf of various household products and discreetly in the bottom row is a mass of sex commodities including condoms, genital lubricant, cheap personal massagers and sexual performance stimulants. I pace 12 and 13 and pretend to scan the products lined there while making careful cautious glances at this seedy area. Sometimes I briefly lose track of my goal, dazzled by the soaps, washes, cleansers, moisturizing lotions, exfoliants, toners, acne pads, self-tanners, hair shampoos, hair conditioners, hair dyes, hair gels, hair sprays, hair waxes, hair pomades, eyeliners, foundations, powders, eye shadows, and their accompanying advertisements featuring models who sport the digitally-enhanced attributes of the type of “ideal beauty” broadcasted by the very corporate media conglomerated with the companies selling the products. The women stalking these aisles and grabbing by the bounty from this mess of pastes are indoctrinated from the time they are born to strive for the specific definition of beauty personified by the cardboard displays bearing these models and their unblemished skin and tousled hair, just so they might addictively buy these products. Predatory capitalism: The cost of glamour.

I’m alarmed by a blonde woman with no cart and a small zebra print purse wearing form-fitting jeans and a self-torn t-shirt accentuating her bust. She scopes through the blush and bronzers for colors that will compliment her peach skin tone and wild frazzled short hair. She has perfect symmetry and walks with arrogance. She meets the standards of ideal beauty. She steps to the sex products and I watch her sift through the condoms and she chooses the classic Trojan Lubricated, unflavored and no sensation enhancements. She then removes her Samsung Sidekick 4G mobile phone from her back pocket and types an SMS message, to her partner I presume. As I watch her stick her chewed wet piece of gum beneath the shelf, I am drawn to the sleek black rotating security camera fixed to the beam directly above her. This camera was installed one month ago, and has been a source of constant frustration for me as its whirring and moving about instills me with a palpable existential unease. For what purpose has this camera been put here in this place at this time? Thefts of sex products are common but not until four weeks ago was the camera mounted here in spite of the store’s age of six and one half years. Were they on to me?

The woman slips the condoms into her little purse as she walks back through 13. I stand in the middle of the aisle pretending to read the ingredients of a bottle of generic Extra Strength, Extra Hold Hair Gel when I notice that she’s glancing at me and smiling. I flash my gaze at her and she speaks.

“Careful now, use too much of that stuff and you’ll go bald early.”

I force an endearing laugh. “Ah, do I go with baldness later or cowlicks today? Choices choices.”

She smiles again and pulls from her purse a thin strip of lined standard notebook paper with her phone number scrawled across it in pink gel pen. I take it from her dangling seductive purple finger polished hand and read it, pretending to be surprised by what it is. I wink.

“I’ll give you a call.”

She says nothing and starts walking again. I know that through her peripheral vision she is watching the mirrors lined at the top of the shelves above the cardboard models to see how I am reacting to her gift and so I pretend to stare at her ass. Once she turns the corner I tear the paper up and toss the pieces to the ground. Now the buzzing of the camera arrests me and I turn around to see its optical peering at the pieces of paper on the floor. Big Brother has arrived to America. Aghast, I pick up the pieces and deposit them in the trash bin by the soda and juice aisle before quietly returning to 12 and 13. The security camera spinning about and zooming as I set up brigade at the lotions and soaps.

Some hours later and a woman with brown hair and wearing an orange skirt comes walking down 12. She wears her hair long and plain, has freckles and unevenly tanned skin, and her left arm does not sway in sync with her short legs as she walks. I hold a bar of Dove soap while she cleverly pretends to look at eyeliner products though she wears none. I predict that in minutes she will attempt to scurry over to the sex products and choose a personal massager. Experience begets predictability. It is at this time that I will introduce myself to her in spite of the incessant grinding apocalypse noise of the security camera, The Eye of Providence, whose unnerving stare so far as I can tell has been fixed on me for the entirety of this venture.

When she begins to walk toward the sex area I follow her and bump into her shoulder, causing her to drop the lime-green silicone packet of Maybelline eyeliner she will not purchase. I drop the bottle of Dove facial cleanser in my hand for theatrical purposes. She nervously picks up the eyeliner and stares up at me as if she isn’t sure if she should say anything. I offer my hand and a smile.

“Oh god, I’m so sorry about that. I’m afraid I wasn’t watching what I was doing.”

“Oh, that’s fine. That’s fine, really.”

“No that was stupid of me, I apologize. I suppose when I’m making my way to the more seedy parts of stores I pay too much attention to who could be watching me and not enough attention to who’s right in front of me.”

She smiles at this and laughs, and I laugh along with her.

“I know what you mean, yes.”

“You don’t suppose they could help but installing that security camera right in front of your face as you’re picking out your Viagra alternative of choice?”

She laughs again. These calculated pleasantries I have learned over time through the course of my conquests. It was more ugly at first. In those times I was sorely fortunate to get even a first name because I spoke in a genuine and direct timbre and flow. I find flattery uncompelling and boring. But the women weren’t impressed with my raw rapid-fire complex mode of communication. So I adapted their social methods. The charmingly awkward glances, the self-mockeries, the chit-chatting about topics of objective unimportance. These women are unaware that the brave knowing half-smirk cracking from the right corner of my lips in response to their sentences is merely an impulsive reaction to my arousal from the thought of how stupid they would look with my ball sack draped across their face while I choke them.

“That’s true. It’s a little bit unnerving.”

“Yeah, you’re not kidding. Christ. We feel guilty enough, we don’t need some security guard staring at us.”

“Right, right.”

I am struck by the fullness of her lips and I imagine them dripping with my semen while they barely muster the courage to whisper how sweet it tastes. She pretends to be preoccupied by the products, picking up various lubricants and pretending to read the plastic bottles. But I know in actuality she is only nervous about this turn of events. Unbeknownst to her, I too am nervous as the security camera pans back and forth between her and myself. I wonder what in god’s name whoever could be looking at. But I am an expert in boldness and not easily defused, so I hack my way through the circular weeds of quaintness in American conversation and inch closer to my daring heroic intentions with her.

“So what are you purchasing?”

She laughs. “I can’t say.”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

She laughs again, the anxiety audibly clogging her vocal chords. “I’m looking for a lube for my husband and I.”

Here appears another obstacle to overcome. My computer-like mind typically would calculate the most appropriate response in record speed but in this instance I’m having troubles because of the incessant focusing and swiveling of the security camera and its bright red LED blipping unceasingly to the rhythm of our conversation.

“Oh. Married?”

Asking an obvious question. A method of last resort. As she answers in an unseemly long monologue I notice that a person standing behind me, a middle-aged balding overweight male, is pretending to look at self-tanner while he actually watches me. I know the look he is making. Target acquired. I recall an article about store security that I read on the Internet at www.nwosurvive.org that documented cases of shopping centers employing guards who would at times dress as consumers to run covert observations around the store. Between this development and the thrashing maniacal clanging of the camera, utterly depraved these people, I begin to feel the horrible sink of dread. I have to get out of this store. But not before I get this. I never surrender.

“Well, I best be leaving,” I interrupt. “Could I have your phone number?”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t care which phone. Home phone, cellular phone, it makes no difference.”

“I meant excuse me as in, I’m a married woman.”

“I know that. I know that.”

The man begins to walk my way. He drops the self-tanner, a sunburst orange bottle of Neutrogena, on to the ground. Its shimmering golden vomit goop spills on to the tiled floor. The woman is blathering. The camera is gnawing at my ear drums.

“Give me your fucking phone number!”

Suddenly a hand grips around my left arm.

“Hey, guy. Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

I shudder at his question. I vaguely realize I have finally been accosted while the lady walks away with a face full of contempt. I have no time to process the magnitude of the damage I have caused in my future exploits, for I have been caught, and that is the immediate danger.

“Sure. I won’t resist,” I tell the man.

He leads me to a dirty white door hidden neatly between the bland white speckled tiles of the cold and deadly quiet butcher section, near the pharmacy. I am amazed that I have never noticed this door before. I am impressed by the level of thought that goes in to their covert spy program.

“I am impressed by the level of thought that goes in to your covert spy program,” I tell the man.

“What? Sir, I’m not looking for any nonsense. We just want to ask a few questions of you, sir.”

“Sir? Don’t give me your fucking half-hearted pleasantries and false sympathy.”

The man says nothing. He leads me into the narrow room and sits me in a foldable beach chair next to the desk, where there sits just one computer monitor, an outdated yellowing Acer box of primitive. I giggle at this as I have my seat. I realize that I overestimated their resources. Detecting that an interrogation is imminent, I hasten to ask the first question, for I am the dealer here.

“Do I get an attorney for this? This is an outrage.”

“When the policeman gets here to file a report, you can ask him about that.”

“And what are you, exactly? CIA? FBI? A secret agent investigating me for a government task force on the serially sexually active?”

The man condescendingly laughs as he types in to a report form on his ancient computer. “Name? Address? Social security?”

“I’m not answering any of those.”

“Fine. So you’ve been spending quite a bit of time in aisles 12 and 13 over the past few months.”

“I have. Say, what’s the crime? This store so far as I know has no policy against browsing a specific couple of aisles frequently.”

“You seem like a talkative guy from the recordings we have of you.” They are on to me.

“Talking to people isn’t a crime.”

“Sure isn’t. But we’ve noticed an interesting pattern over the last few months since you’ve been hiding out amongst all those hair shampoos and lotions.”

“What kind of a pattern is that?” I ask derisively. I will strictly deny the charges. It was friendly conversation. The women would offer the phone numbers on their own. I have absolute impunity. I have no experience in mind control or hypnosis.

“What do you think it might be?”

“I spend time in aisles 12 and 13 because I am in the midst of researching the negative effects of the so-called beauty industry on young women’s body image. I feel that it is a travesty. Cosmetics are being marketed at the price of female self-esteem. You have no audio feed from your security cameras, correct? If you did, you would know that I interview these women as a part of my research.”

The man stares blankly at me. “Research? I don’t know anything about that. I’m asking you about the fact that we’ve had an increase in products missing ever since you decided to start spending all your time in the aisles around the adult products. Care to talk about that?”

“You mean, theft?” I am flabbergasted by the tackiness of such an accusation.

“What else would I care about?”

“Judging by the scale and magnitude of this flagrant violation of my privacy, including building a security camera not coincidentally near my area of activity, it seems clear to me that this was a rather high-profile and rigorous operation. I refuse to believe that you have spent this much time, money and resources on investigating whether or not I am guilty of some petty theft.”

“That would depend on your definition of petty, because we’ve counted hundreds of dollars worth of products missing in the last few months. And you’re our suspect.”

I, a glorious master of lustful conquest, sit on a beach chair in a closet accused of stealing cheap sex enhancement items and contraceptives.

“This is insanity. I have done nothing wrong. I have not been stalking female targets to sexually conquer, and I certainly haven’t stolen any condoms or lubes,” I ingeniously taunt.

“You’re not accused of doing the former, only the latter. Plus soaps and lotions.”

A police officer opens the door and acknowledges me with the type of solid nod of the head the ilk of his kind are known for. The man at the computer greets him as he shuts the door. I consider making the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress as an appeal to the officer to rescue me but my upstanding morals preclude me from committing such deceit.

“Sir, I’m going to need your name, address, social security.”

“Not until I get a decent number of straight answers about what the charges against me are and an idea of what kind of evidence the State will submit against me. I have an idea of what this is really about and I think my detainment here in this room of rust and gluttony involves more than stealing some condoms and soap.”

“Fair enough. Firstly, the charge against you is theft.”

They’re still lying to me. Their mockery is carefully contrived. This blatant attempt at minimizing the impact of my sexual dominance is specifically crafted to make me talk. It’s an interrogation technique. The laughter and insults swirling within the claustrophobic confines of the room contort my thoughts. I become nauseous. Their transparent manipulations do fester at some uncontrollable primal part of me. I want to break that camera.

“Now let’s start off with the first thing,” the officer continues. “Why have you spent the last four months loitering around aisles 12 and 13?”

“He’s doing a women’s research project,” ignorantly scoffs the man at the computer.

“A women’s research project? Well I’ll be damned. I guess we had the wrong idea about what you were doing back there, talking to every lady that walks by while you quietly carry around soap washes.”

“That would be because there was no research project,” says the man at the computer.

“You don’t think so?” asks the officer, bellowing with laughter. “Then how about you just come clean already, sir, tell us why you stood around back there every day for months on end?”



No comments: