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I grab a beer from the fridge and sit down to watch the game. It’s been on for a little more than an hour, so I start at the beginning and watch it in high speed, fast forwarding through the commercials and only watching when the Cowboys are on offense. It would be nice if real life were like this, wouldn’t it? Skip through the boring parts? Only live the highlights? I wonder what would happen if I could fast forward to this evening or tomorrow or next month? What will Gloria and I be doing then? Are we going to make it? It’s Sunday and she’s in the study and I’m in the living room, and though I know all couples have their routines, we weren’t always like this.

I’m sure to you it seems like we’re the most obvious and boring couple in the world, two young kids from middle America who met in college and married too young. But it wasn’t really like that. After high school I had this idea I would move to the west coast and write screenplays and date actresses. I had no intention of getting married at all, or at least not for a very long time. But then I met Gloria and everything changed.

She’d been dating Jack for almost a year the night I first saw her. It was the fourth of July and most of the student body was home for the summer, yet there must have been three hundred people at this party. Some fraternity house, I can’t remember which one. There was booze everywhere. Cases and cases and cases of beer, kegs stacked like barrels of oil, rows of cheap vodka bottles (an occasional Smirnoff or Absolut hidden among them), and more whiskey than I’d ever seen in my life. Plenty of food, too. Acres of pizza, bags of corn chips and potato chips, cookies, several boxes of Twinkies. I was moderately buzzed and craving sugar for some reason, so I took two of the little yellow cakes and smashed them together to make one big one. If you’ve ever been drunk you understand the logic. And just as I was about to take a bite of my creation, someone cleared her throat behind me.

I turned and saw Gloria, blonde and tan and stunning, and felt my face flush red. She was one of those college girls so gorgeous that anything you did or said in front of them felt foolish. You never expected someone like her to approach a guy because she didn’t have to. The guys all came to her. They prepared witty things to say and made sure their hair was styled just so and walked with their shoulders thrown back. Yet here she was, looking right at me, having appeared from nowhere, while I was in the process of shoving a yellow rectangle of manufactured cake into my mouth. I couldn’t imagine what she might say.

What she said was, “That’s a big Twinkie.”

I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help myself. I was so embarrassed and waiting for her to cut me at the knees, and the last thing I expected her to do was quote Ghostbusters.

“It is,” I said with a smile. “You want some?”

“Absolutely. I love a man who knows how to cook.”

I broke the makeshift Twinkie in half and handed her one of the pieces. She shoved the entire thing in her mouth. It was basically a whole regular Twinkie and she really had to force it in there.

“Your turn,” she mumbled.

While I was chewing my Twinkie, the girl stuck out her hand and introduced herself. Her voice was barely intelligible. Mine, too.

“I’m Gloria.”


She smiled. I smiled back. There was no trace of the awkwardness that had overcome me just moments before, and I felt strangely like I already knew her. I don’t mean in the fleeting, déjà vu sense. It was like our easy laughter was the result of having known each other for years, for real…even though clearly I had just met her. And while I tried to reconcile this apparent paradox, chewing my Twinkie, Gloria smiled again and walked away, disappearing into a throng of partygoers in the adjacent room. It was too late to stop her. By the time I swallowed the Twinkie she was just a memory, and I was devastated. Here was a funny, gorgeous girl who was sharp enough to quote one of my favorite films, who apparently had found me funny as well, and I let her walk away without asking for her number.

After standing there like an idiot, waiting in vain for her to come back, I poured myself a Jack and Coke and wandered onto the back lawn of the fraternity house. I don’t know about you but I never pledged. Supposedly Greek students had a lot more sex than us civilians, but even so it wasn’t for me. Whenever I met someone from a fraternity—these dudes always had names like Scooter and Trey—they always seemed like they were barely literate, and their only point of going to college was to get pussy. Which, yes, that’s a big part of why you go to college, but there are enough single girls in school that any guy ought to be able to score without being part of a club.

I walked around the back lawn, pretending to mind my own business, but of course I was looking for Gloria. I couldn’t find her. There were too many people drinking and smoking and pretending they didn’t want to fuck each other. I myself had been drinking steadily all night, and I was ready to break the seal on my bladder, so I went back inside. By the time I found a bathroom I was desperate. The door was closed but mercifully there wasn’t a line. I could hear someone flushing and rinsing, so I waited for the door to open. But then I heard another flush, and another one, and in between there may have been some heaving. The door didn’t open.

My legs were doing an involuntary dance, you know the one, and just when I decided to look for another bathroom, someone approached. I turned around and it was Gloria. Believe it or not. She had a big grin on her face, and again there was no one else around. The moment called for me to say something epic.

“I am the Keymaster!” is what I said, which maybe was meaningful and maybe not, but for sure it was another famous line from Ghostbusters.

Gloria smiled even more broadly then, the kind of smile you see on a woman only when you’ve really pleased her.

“I am the Gatekeeper!” she replied.

And maybe it was just the alcohol, but it felt significant when she touched me on the forearm.

“I didn’t think you got the quote earlier.”

“Right,” I said. “You didn’t think I knew Ghostbusters?”

“Well, you’d be surprised.”

“It helps to know films when you want to be a screenwriter.”

“What do you mean you want to be a screenwriter?”

“I mean I hope to make a living writing films someday.”

“So you haven’t written anything yet?”

“Well, yeah. I finished one a couple of months ago. But—”

“I’d say if you’ve written a screenplay, that already makes you a screenwriter, doesn’t it?”

This made me smile. How could it not?

“And what do you want to be when you grow up, my dear?”

“I always wanted to be an eye doctor,” Gloria said. “That’s why I’m majoring in economics.”

“But all an eye doctor does is sit behind that big robot-looking machine going: One or two? One or two? Is this better? Or this?”

“I know, right? But I’m such a sucker for blue eyes. I’d love to get paid to look at them all day long.”

“Look at them? Or shoot air into them? That’s the part I hate the worst, the glaucoma test. ‘Ready? Don’t flinch!’”

“And then you sit there in a dead panic.”


“Like, ‘Hey. Stand real still while I swing this bat at your kneecaps.’”

“So what you’re saying is you’re a sadist.”

Gloria leaned close as she whispered into my ear. Her breath tickled the little hairs there.

“Shhh,” she said. “That’s a secret, dear.”

The thing is, when you’re busy falling in love, you don’t imagine what it will be like twelve years later, when you spend your Sunday afternoons in different rooms doing different things. There’s a reason love stories are written about the chase and not what comes after. Because what comes after is wordlessly gathering the trash while your wife unloads the dishwasher. It’s putting away laundry while she makes dinner. And anymore Gloria never prepares the simple and hearty meals of our twenties—like spaghetti and meatballs, or fried chicken and mashed potatoes. It’s always gourmet-style these days. Two nights ago we had braised lamb over a bed of rice and greens to garnish. Today it’s marinated tuna. Which is all great, but maybe tomorrow I’ll come home from work early and surprise her with something old school, like Hamburger Helper. I love Hamburger Helper.

I’m in the closet, hanging up clothes, when my phone vibrates in my back pocket. It’s a text message from my friend Sophia.

Call back on Friday not so good. Casting director was a bitch and I think she hated me. I fucked up the word “rear.” How’s your weekend?

I can’t remember if I’ve told you about Sophia yet. Lately I get confused about what has transpired and what is yet to happen, so skip the next paragraph if I already mentioned this.

Sophia is an aspiring actress who lives in Los Angeles. I actually met her on Facebook, and in fact she’s the very first online person I ever became friends with in the real world. By real world I mean we talk on the phone all the time. She’s one of the wittiest and most intelligent people I know, hilarious and in touch with pop culture the way few people are. Unfortunately, of all the things Sophia has going for her, the one thing she cannot claim is the prototypical Hollywood look, and despite everything else, lacking that one attribute has made it difficult for her to find steady work. She is somewhat overweight and a bit…well…homely. I feel terrible saying that, but it’s the truth.

I write back:

Bit of a weird weekend. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Sorry about the call back. I’m sure the casting director didn’t hate you. Drama queen. ;-)

Then I go back to folding clothes, and I don’t know how much time passes, but the monotony of doing this brainless work finally calms me down a bit. I feel a little less detached from everything. Eventually I look up and see Gloria standing in the doorway of the closet.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“Uh, putting away the laundry.”

“You were leaning against the wall, staring into space. Are you all right?”

This is the sort of nebulous question women ask from time to time. There is no right answer, not even on a day when everything is great.

“I’m fine. I guess I was daydreaming.”

“Baby, I called for you,” she says. “Four or five times.”

I lean forward and kiss her lightly. “I’m sorry. I zone out sometimes when I do these exciting chores. What’s up?”

“I was just curious if you wanted broccoli or field greens with the tuna.”

“Hmm,” I say. “That’s a tough one.”


“Yeah. They’re both so green and tasty. Why we have to choose? Let’s have both.”

Gloria smiles and kisses me lightly on the lips. “If you don’t watch it, you’ll be eating Hamburger Helper.”

A little while later we’re watching television and having red wine with dinner. The wine was Gloria’s idea, which is a little unusual since tomorrow is a workday. Dateline NBC is on, and the story is about a supermax prison in Colorado, where our country’s most dangerous federal criminals are incarcerated. One of the most well-known prisoners is Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park Bomber. Eric is a Catholic whose bombings, he claims, were part of a campaign against “the homosexual agenda.”

What differentiates a supermax prison from a typical federal prison, the reporter informs us, is how the inmates remain in solitary confinement between twenty-two and twenty-three hours a day. The cells and most everything in them are made of poured concrete. And as I’m watching this, I get to thinking how this prison and its cells are sort of like the grid of cubicles where I work. I’ve always been phobic about the idea of going to prison, and anal rape is only part of the reason. The real problem is the loss of freedom, being stuck in a rectangular room all day long. Seven feet wide and twelve feet long. I can hardly imagine a fate worse than spending the rest of my life locked up in such a tiny space—even death would be better, I think—and yet Eric Rudolph’s supermax cell is bigger than my cubicle at work.

Dateline winds down, and I can tell Gloria has a little buzz going, because her feet keep touching mine, curling around my toes. She moves upwards, gradually, until she is stroking my lower leg with her foot. I lean in to kiss her, and she slides her hands under my shirt, against my chest, her delicate fingers roving over my skin. Her touch feels wonderful, as it should, but still I can’t help but notice there is something different about it. Like a subtle but unmistakable lack of intensity.

There was a time when just the smoldering look in Gloria’s eyes was enough to electrify me. The smell of her perfume was dazzling. The velvety texture of her skin drove me crazy. In college I would lie next to her in bed, amazed, as I watched her chest rise and fall while she slept. I couldn’t believe I had finally won her heart, not after all the drama with Jack.

After we found each other at the bathroom door, Gloria and I spent the rest of the fraternity party chatting. Again I had the odd and real feeling that I’d known her for years. I know it sounds ridiculous, this soul mate shit, but maybe there really is something in us that instinctively knows when we meet someone so perfectly fit to us. Maybe it’s something in the way that person moves, in their language, the look in their eyes that we’re programmed to recognize. Maybe it’s an evolutionary thing. I don’t know. What I do know is there is a difference between a person like that and most of the people you fall in love with. If you haven’t met one, you may not believe such a connection honestly exists. But I promise you it does.

We sat in the living room, away from most of the partygoers, and talked about everything. She’d seen every film I thought was important. There was no quote she didn’t recognize. She used the word “film” instead of “movie.” Her grandmother and my grandfather were both raised in the same tiny dairy farming town. I could go on and on with the coincidences, but all you really need to know is I would have eaten anything, nothing, gone hungry for days for the privilege to sit there and talk to her. And yes, her beauty was bright enough to blind me, but it didn’t. I was too enamored with our mental connection to think about sex. And this was college, remember.

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that we would be together. Why on earth would anyone turn down the chance to share their time with someone so clearly like themselves? So, five hours later, after more drinks and Twinkies and a two-mile walk to her apartment, I asked for her phone number. This was before cell phones were common, so I waited for her to pull a scrap of paper from her purse and write it down. I never imagined for a moment anything else would happen.

But it didn’t happen.

“I can’t, Thomas,” she said. “I have a boyfriend.”

Again, this was college, a time when relationships are often fleeting, so I didn’t quite comprehend. I know it sounds arrogant now, but at the time I honestly couldn’t imagine why she wouldn’t at least want to talk to me more, not after the conversation we’d just had.

So I asked again, and again she turned me down.

“Don’t you want to talk to me again?”

“I do,” she answered. “Very much so.”

“Then let me call you.”

“Thomas, I can’t. If we talked on the phone I would want to see you again, and if I did that I would be violating Jack’s trust. I can’t do that.”

“Well, didn’t you just do it for the past five hours?”

“We were drunk.”

“Gloria, please.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, and put her arms around mine, hugging me desperately. When the day began I hadn’t even known her, and now it felt like we were breaking up.

“You know what they say,” she said. “If it’s meant to happen, it will.”

Then she let go of me. We stood there looking at each other for a minute, and I wanted to take her back into my arms. It seemed for all the world like she wanted the same thing. Her body language said one thing and her words said another and there was nothing I could do about it. Finally she turned and unlocked the door of her apartment. She went inside. She turned and looked at me as the door closed. Her face was a rectangle that narrowed by degrees, and then she was gone.

Back in the present, on the couch, Gloria pulls me on top of her and wraps her flannel legs around me. She kisses me hard, mouth open wide, she reaches for the buttons of my jeans. And—

And what the hell is she going to say when she touches me down there? The size difference is so obvious that she’s clearly going to freak out. I wouldn’t be surprised if she screamed.

But there’s no stopping her now. She unfastens my jeans and pushes her hand into my open fly, but the denim won’t stretch enough for her to make any real progress. For this situation, however, I have a standard move—a pushup, basically—which allows Gloria to wrestle my jeans down to my ankles. The friction of the denim will usually pull down my boxers as well, tonight being no exception, and she reaches for me as I push the jeans past my ankles.

Now that I’m erect, the size difference is unreasonable, and I’m waiting for her to figure out something is wrong. She grabs me, stroking me…I’m suddenly hung like a horse and Gloria doesn’t say anything.


If my wife doesn’t notice any size difference, it must not be there.

The music in my head is a dark melody. Bass heavy. Loud, driving percussion. I want to pull away from her. I want to get off this couch and walk away, get out of here. If I’m going to lose my mind, I want to do it alone.

But I promised myself I would trust my senses, which means I must accept my genitalia really is this size, regardless of what I previously believed, and now, on the couch, we—

You know, this is supposed to be the most fun thing you can do in the world, but right now I’m so nervous and paranoid I can hardly feel anything down there. So I do what any guy would do in this situation—I call up sexy images. Other images. Maybe it’s wrong to do that, to think of someone else, but it’s a lot better than physically cheating on my wife.


So I start thinking about this girl. She sent me a friend request on Facebook a week or two ago. She’s Swedish, twenty-one, a platinum blonde with enormous breasts. Her name is Veronika. I don’t know how she found me, but for several days now she’s been writing me emails asking about the screenwriting process. She’s funny and hot and if you were ever going to have a sexual fantasy about someone, she would be it.

I imagine running into her somewhere. Maybe I’m on a business trip in Santa Monica, where she attends college. We meet for drinks at a Hollywood bar. Spot a couple of famous actors, grab some dinner, she wonders if I might have a look at a script she’s working on. Do you have it on you? I ask. No, she says. It’s back at my apartment. Would you mind stopping by for a few minutes? Her apartment is small. Starving artist chic. First kiss even before the door closes. Her hands in my hair, my hands on her waist, sliding downwards as we stumble toward the couch. I push her down. Hike up her skirt. She’s not wearing underwear. Her hands on my belt, unfastening, and then I’m on top of her, skin like velvet, tanned legs wrapped around me, I push into her—

A few minutes later Gloria and I are in each other’s arms, bodies damp, cooling quickly. She tells me she loves me. We lie there a little longer, and it seems like she’s going to say something else. I wait for it, actually hoping she might ask about my newfound size. But the moment passes. Gloria doesn’t say anything. She gently pushes against my chest, which means she wants to get up, and then pads off to the bathroom.

A little while later we climb into bed, where Gloria pops her nightly Ambien and kisses me on the cheek.

“I love you, Thomas,” she says.

I smile at her, trying not to scream.

“I love you, too, Junior.”

Gloria turns on the television. I grab my notepad and try to write a few lines on my new screenplay. It’s about a guy running from the FBI. These two federal agents are convinced he is the mastermind behind a plot to dismantle the country’s electronic infrastructure, and they chase him across the country in an effort to stop it from happening. But the plot isn’t moving as fast as I thought it might, and tonight I can hardly bring myself to look at it. Fifteen minutes later Gloria turns out her lamp, and shortly afterwards I do the same.

You ever notice how problems become clearer in the dark? How the surreal becomes real?



“Are you okay?”

Questions, too, carry more weight in the dark.

“Yeah,” I say. “I’m fine.”

“It was kind of a weird weekend, wasn’t it?”

She means the Halloween party and our arguments about Jack, but of course there is so much more than that. So much I haven’t told her. I know you probably think I’m an ass for keeping all this to myself. I mean Gloria is my wife. But I’m so worried that if I tell her, I’ll have to face the truth, the real truth, and who in this world wants to admit they are going crazy?

“Yeah, it was an odd weekend.”

“You know you can tell me anything, right? If something’s on your mind, you can tell me.”

“I know, Junior.”

“You keep things bottled up sometimes. Always mister funny guy, but you don’t really talk about the things that bug you the most.”

I reach over and take her hand in mine.

“I’m fine. Really.”

“Okay,” she says. “Good night.”

Five minutes later her breathing slows and deepens. Her body jerks once, twice, and she’s out. Before the Ambien she tossed and turned all night. Now she sleeps like the dead.

And me—the guy who can fall asleep anywhere in two minutes—I’m lying here like an insomniac.

I wish today had just been a dream. A Halloween party hangover.

Because even dreams seem more real than this.

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