Joyland

Montreal |

A Happy Place

by Arjun Basu

edited by David McGimpsey

The sun rises. As it must. And the sky is cloudless and the kind of blue you want to see in the eyes of a good-looking woman. From real close. Like close enough that you could blow into those blue eyes and she would slap you playfully and giggle and you’d once again be amazed that you were being so intimate and playful with such a gorgeous woman. That kind of blue. That’s how beautiful the sky is today. And the sun freaks me out. I’m not talking cancer either. I mean, the thing is a star and one day it’s going to die and cosmology or astrology – one of them’s about religion, I’m getting my ologies mixed up here – but the sun’s a big thing and it fills me with big ideas and dread and it makes me feel so small when I think about the reality of the thing. Because thinking likes this opens a hole inside me that lets bad things in, they stream in, and what am I going to do to close it? It freaks me out. When I think about it. So I try not to. I really try. But it’s May and the birds are chirping. I mean, it’s the kind of day when birdsong sounds happy not just like the audible expression of the natural world within an urban setting, but of actual happiness. Joy. Like in a cartoon. Remember the birds in Snow White? Before she eats the apple? Before she even meets the Dwarves? Those birds were only there to impart joy. And they did. And the birds here this morning are like that, they sound happy, as if the cloudless sky and the sun and the perfection of this morning have somehow affected them as well. You have to wonder what birds think about weather because they know it, somehow, instinctively, why else would they fly south if they weren’t attuned to their surroundings? They know this stuff. They have some kind of internal thermometer or something, to go with their internal compass that gets them thousands of miles away every fall and spring. Birdbrain just sounds ignorant when you think about it. Except when it comes to pigeons. I have to wonder this: are they dumb or lazy? Why won’t they fly south? And a pigeon’s cooing never sounds happy. You ask me, that sounds like desperation every time. Or loneliness. Or even pathetic. A pigeon’s cooing is pathetic and it’s done with this timbre that just goes through steel. Ever notice that? So it’s powerful. But not happy. Pigeons are negative birds. Not like the birds chirping right now. These things are giddy with possibility. Tell me, is it morning doves or mourning doves? Because I don’t know that either. And with this chirpy happiness outside, I want to dispute right now the whole dinosaurs becoming birds theory because that always makes me think about the sun being a star that will eventually blow up or shrink or expire, that’s what stars do, they expire, and I have no sense of time, I don’t know what a billion years feels like, how could I, it’s just the fact that it will expire, at some point in the future, that makes my knees wobbly and I lose focus. This is the real problem. I lose focus. I really do. My wife says, The girls need to get picked up at five you won’t forget that, right? And I turn around and she’s putting on her pearl earrings and that’s arousing, I don’t know about you, but when I see my wife sitting in front of her vanity in her bra putting on pearl earrings, I’m incredibly and amazingly aroused. It’s a scene that I can play in my head when I’m at my lowest, and my temperature goes up, I feel the heat that the image creates inside of me. Maybe it has something to do with my wife’s shoulders coupled with the luxury of the casual way she puts on her pearl earrings. Yes, the girls, ballet, I say and I step out of my underwear and head toward the shower and my wife says, Not ballet, dear, they’re at piano today and I play some air piano and get inside the bathroom and turn the taps and step into the steam. It’s steamy because I like my showers hot and I never close the door and depending on the season that makes more steam. Like now. May. A spring morning is good for generating the kind of steam I like. Piano. My girls take piano and ballet and play soccer and softball. They do something else too but I can’t remember right now what it is they do. I think they do too much but my wife didn’t do anything while growing up, this is what she says, I didn’t do anything, and she always emphasizes the do, like her parents forced her to sit in a chair throughout her childhood, and she wants her girls busy. And I’m thinking, but there you are, doing very well, putting on pearl earrings in your bra before this vanity that was passed down from your grandmother, and how did you turn out? But she talks about her self-esteem and confidence and I lose the thread of that argument every time because I’m usually thinking about my pathetic attempts at organized sports growing up. I could tell her what that did to my self-confidence and I would but she’s always onto the next topic, which I’ve usually missed so by this time I’m just concentrating on catching up. My wife hates it when I don’t appear to be listening to her. I grab the soap and I lather up and I play with my penis a little because, well, it’s there, and this is what men do, I’m assuming because it’s not something I’ve studied but why wouldn’t they, it’s there, you have to soap it up and so you soap it up a little more than necessary, you have to keep it clean, right? Because you never know. I might step out of the shower and my wife might be there on her knees and her pearl earrings just waiting to take me in her mouth. Which hasn’t happened in a long time, why I have no idea, I might be more assertive, but it’s almost like we had a second daughter and my wife felt it was no longer necessary to give blow jobs, this is a weird result of her maternity. Or of having daughters. I should ask her about it. She might roll her eyes upwards, but damn it, my penis is clean. It’s Zestfully clean. Piano. I’m thinking of my naked wife on the piano. I rinse off. I turn off the shower. I reach for the towel. I’m going to pick the girls up at piano. I’m leaving work early. I have two meetings, a conference call and I think my wife would look great naked on a piano, especially if she were wearing her pearl earrings. Did you do that thing? she asks from the bedroom. Were we talking about a thing? What thing? I ask. I’m toweling my balls now. They need toweling. There’s nothing worse than a damp crotch. I hate crotch sweat. It’s uncomfortable. And it means you’re not clean down there, or smelling right, and you need that, men always want to be clean, because you never know. A missed opportunity is a lost opportunity. You just never know. Unless you’re married to my wife. You said you were going to call Larry, she tells me. I step into the bedroom. Larry? I ask. He’s our neighbor. He has the biggest feet I’ve ever seen on a man who doesn’t play basketball. And I think of my wife and Larry’s big feet and I really wonder if the correlation is based on fact or something made up by some club of guys with big feet. It makes sense. You have big appendages and what is a cock but an appendage? The sun is streaming into our bedroom. Man, it’s bright today. I can see dust in the sunbeams and it’s oddly pretty. Larry has our barbecue, she says. And we’re having people over tomorrow and she’s going to take steaks out of the freezer in the basement. Right. I remember this. We discussed it last night. Right before she buried herself in her book and I thought about getting a blow job. How many times have I thought this? It’s really an amazing number. I’ve thought about my wife giving me a blow job more often than she’s given me one, I’m sure of it. At least since we’ve had the second girl. I’ll call Larry after breakfast, I say. Even though Larry will be out of the house by then. I know that. He rises early. He jogs. He’s off to work before I’ve had a coherent thought. He’s out of town half the time. His business survived the Recession and actually grew, his business grew while people were losing jobs, while the economy was imploding, this weird digital courier business, that’s what he calls it, and I just find calling someone to return something kind of confrontational so leaving a message is easier in the end. And he’ll return it, he’ll be apologetic even, because he’s a nice guy. I like Larry. Larry and his big feet. His big unmarried feet. The girls are making noises. I can hear them in their bathroom yelling about who gets to brush their teeth first and, really, why the competition, it’s just teeth, but what do I know, I’m an only child. My wife is presenting a case today and that’s why she’s wearing the pearl earrings. She’s put her sturdy blue business suit on and I would not want to be across the aisle from her. She’s dressed like a winner. My wife is like a TV lawyer that doesn’t give blow jobs. District Attorney Not-In-My-Mouth. If Larry had a wife, I imagine a mousy kind of woman who hunches over, probably because of her giant misshapen breasts. Larry may have big feet but my wife wins. Though his big feet get him blow jobs, I’m sure. I step into some fresh underwear, tighty whiteys, and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t branch out and get new underwear at some point, maybe those mid thighs, they look snug, I like that look. They almost seem slimming. Macho even. I’m not very macho, it’s never been my thing, and I don’t deny or even care. OK, I care a little, but look at my wife! The closest I came to being a real guy was maybe in high school; I wore a gold necklace with a big bull’s horn pendant but that was high school, when I thought I’d live my life driving a Camaro. And being happy about it. I’m a good man. I just need to branch out in the underwear department. And then the suit. I don’t even think about the suit, I just put it on I don’t even think about the color but then I have to when I reach for the tie and here’s another thing that makes me think about dying, I really should make a list, but the tie is just a stupid thing and I can’t wait for the paradigm shift in men’s fashion that will end the tyranny of the tie once and for all. Tomorrow isn’t soon enough. We hang ourselves everyday by wearing this thing, this tie. And we don’t really question the tie, there’s so much to question about it, why do we put up with this thing? We’re conditioned to wear a jacket and a tie and we parade around the town just variations on a similar theme, it’s a uniform and nothing more, but it’s what we wear when we go to work. White shirt, navy blue suit, I’ll put on a red tie. Fine. Black socks. Black shoes. The wife is dealing with the girls. My shoes are so square. I notice it but I don’t care. I just can’t care enough about my shoes and I don’t know if this makes me more or less of a man. Where is the fashion on shoes now? I know women notice men’s shoes, but do guys? I mean, really? Is my not caring about shoes equal to my wife not caring about giving me blow jobs? The girls are squealing about something and my wife says, I gave both of you the same granola bar, and she’s really the most sensible person I know. I love her and her pearl earrings and how she looks just wearing a bra sitting at her grandmother’s vanity and the girls look like their mother and I am thankful for that everyday. She’s a good mother. Don’t forget, sweetie! she calls out and then there is silence and they are gone, all of them, my family is gone, the house is empty, that’s how it feels when they’re gone, like why do I live here if not for them, I’ll never need this kind of space, my wife picked out all the furniture anyway, I just don’t care about them, she gave me that room in the basement and I got to paint it and the guys come over and we play poker down there, Larry came over once even, with his big feet, and then I’m thinking about sausages, I could really use a biscuit thing with sausage and I rub my belly and Larry jogs by, I see him jog by the house and up his walkway and I quickly rush to the phone and dial his number and Larry’s fiddling with his keys and his voice mail picks up, I couldn’t be more relieved. Larry? I need the barbecue, I say. We’re having people over tomorrow, some colleagues of the wife, you know how it is, some dudes from the office, anyway, the barbecue. Anytime before tomorrow’s fine, thanks. And Larry enters his house and I’m home free. He’s running late today. It’s so unlike him to be late. I hope this has nothing to do with my bbq. Because then I’m screwed, I’m going to have to head out to the store and buy a bbq last minute and there’s probably going to be “some assembly required” because there always is and we can’t change tack now, the steaks are thawing. You don’t waste meat. The thing is I pleasure my wife, I go down on her, and it’s not like she doesn’t enjoy it, she does. She enjoys it as much as she ever did, everything, well, almost everything, except she moans less now, with her own pleasure, but again, that’s a motherhood thing with her, she’s always afraid the girls will hear us, but to me it’s as delicious as licking ice cream, there should be moaning, and I keep myself clean, I can not emphasize this enough. It’s a hopeful, respectful kind of clean. I grab my keys and my wallet and my briefcase and I’m out the door and the sun is just an amazing thing today. And the birds. What are they so happy about? Don’t they know what the sun’s going to do eventually? To all of us?