Was it “Hallie?” or “Hollie?” That sounded about right. She was his second pick up on the previous evening, as he made his rounds to the clubs. Despite the lack of adequate sleep, Michael recalled that she had mentioned something to him about being an advertising major. The one before her that evening, a cute little oriental doll whom he nailed in the parking lot near another local bar, had also been a business major. These business majors sure know how to get down to business, Michael thought, looking down at his partner. Her mouth was opened into a perfectly shaped oval, her cheeks caved in from the sucking efforts which were beginning to arouse him. “Stop!” he said, motioning her to get on all fours. At the sight of her rounded, athletic posterior and the parenthesis of her slim legs revealing a set of pinkish-gray partially unfolded lips, Michael could hardly contain himself. He quickly placed on the condom he had left on the counter. After a few deep, violent thrusts that made her whole body plunge back and forth like a piston, he exploded inside her in a sequence of diminishing spasms, releasing a series of grunts that gradually dissipated into a complacent silence. Though Hollie might have been the business major, after he was done with her, Michael was the one who became all business. He sprung from bed and hit the shower.
“Mind if I join you?” she coyly peeked in through the plastic curtain.
“Actually, I’m in a big hurry,” he spoke louder over the running water. “I have to teach a class in a few minutes.”
As he lathered up, Michael considered how to get rid of Hollie and make sure she understood that she wouldn’t be visiting him again. Going over her assets, he thought that she was hot and a pretty good lay. But she was too ditzy to be girlfriend material. In fact, he couldn’t recall having had much of a conversation with her other than a volley of flirtatious comments culminating in the classic hook up line, “Do you want to go somewhere else?” that led them straight to his place. An easy score, Michael summed her up, drying himself with a large white towel he had taken as a memento from a hotel where he had once been with Ana, in the early days of their relationship, when Karen was still in town. A light current of nostalgia passed through him at this recollection. He still found his former girlfriend more interesting and sensual than the women he was currently hooking up with.
He catalogued each of them in turn. He was back together with Lisa, thanks to her horny disposition and big tits. Mireille also occasionally kept him busy at the office, though she was more moody and less reliable lately. In the evenings, he went out for an early tryst at the local bars. Then, between nine and ten, he had daily phone conversations with Karen, who was back in Phoenix, attending six different support groups plus a pole dancing class, trying to figure out how to boost her sex appeal and save their relationship. Afterwards, he made his rounds at the bars once or twice, depending on whether or not the first session had been a quickie. Michael was somewhat amused by the fact that Karen, so plain, wooden and solid, was trying to compete with the practically professional hoes—or “prohoes,” as he facetiously dubbed them—he was dating. Even the previous evening, during their conversation, Karen told him that she was reading erotica, to learn how to please him.
“Will you make love to me in the park?” Michael asked her, to test her new openness.
He could hear Karen hesitate in the awkward silence.
“Ana did,” he prompted her. He knew that button never failed to arouse his fiancée’s competitive instinct, if nothing else.
“What a slut!” she commented.
“That’s what a woman’s supposed to be with her man.”
“Yeah, well, some of us have self-respect.”
Michael had to bite his tongue. Given the way Karen was bending over backwards to please him, her self-respect wasn’t exactly in evidence. “I’d respect you even more if you become a little more flexible,” he tried to entice her.
“We’ll see,” she said reluctantly. “I have to learn to become more comfortable with my body first.”
“I can help!” he graciously offered.
“You’re being very helpful nowadays. A regular humanitarian!”
Rather than making Michael feel guilty, Karen’s wry comments only titillated him, reminding him of his recent victory. “What can I say? I’m selfless in that way.”
“I don’t care to discuss your whoring around, okay? It’s very difficult on me.”
“Hey, don’t blame me! You’re the one who came up with this stupid arrangement,” Michael shot back, putting the blame squarely on her shoulders. “Besides, it’s not like I’m taking advantage of it. I’m not even ‘whoring around,’ as you so eloquently put it.”
“Don’t add insult to injury by lying to me!” Karen exclaimed. “I’m sorry,” she added more quietly, struggling to control her temper. “But I’m really uncomfortable with this topic.”
“The pole dancing classes should help,” Michael suggested, returning to their earlier, more pleasant, discussion.
“Because once you become more comfortable with your own body, you’ll also be less inhibited with me. And that will make us both happy,” he pursued, still wishing to squeeze out, like from a nearly empty tube of toothpaste, the remaining sexual use-value of his fiancée.
“I hope so,” Karen replied, her tone not quite matching his in optimism. When they hung up the phone that previous evening, he really needed a pick-me-up. Or rather, a pick-her-up, he thought, easily amused, as usual, by his own puerile play on words.
Later, as he looked into the mirror and combed his dark, shinny hair away from his forehead, Michael felt satisfied with himself. The reigns of power are back in my hands, he observed, feeling like he had handled the breakup with Ana pretty well. No depression, no mourning period, no nothing. He had jumped right back into the saddle. This thought reminded him of Hallie, or Hollie, or whatever her name was, who was probably still waiting for him in the bedroom.
Michael stepped out of the bathroom still in his boxer briefs and noticed that the young woman was already dressed. If you could call the halter-top that emphasized her most impressive assets and the jean micromini that had initially attracted his attention to her long, lean legs being dressed, he observed with a smile. He was almost tempted to give her his number for a future rematch. But as soon as she opened her mouth to say, “I really had a great time last night. Wanna go out to dinner?” with a slight drawl and a needy edge in her voice, Michael recalled why he had ruled her out. “Why don’t you give me your number?” he proposed. She hastily opened her silver sequin purse and took out a dingy piece of paper on which she scribbled her name and number.
“Hallyie. That’s an original spelling,” he observed.
“My mom chose it,” she said almost apologetically.
“Thanks,” he said, putting the note on top of the dresser, fully intending to toss it away later. “Do you need a ride back to campus?”
“Sure. I left my car at Zephyr’s,” she named the bar where they had hooked up.
“See you around sometime,” he said noncommittally once they pulled into the parking lot of the bar where he had been so eager to lure her the night before. By the absent look in his eyes and the flatness of his tone, Hallyie could tell that nothing else would follow. A look of disappointment clouded her pale features as she said goodbye to him. Her sadness led Michael to experience a fleeting sense of triumph. That’s what you get bitch for fucking around with me! he said to himself, feeling like each woman he used and discarded was in some indirect way payback for Ana leaving him.
Generally speaking, however, Michael focused on the positive. After all, his girlfriend had done him the favor of expanding his taste palate. Before dating Ana he used to go only for the tall athletic blondes like Amy, but now he also enjoyed a taste of shrimp cocktail. Petite brunettes had become his newest fetish. Plus, he was glad to get back into the swing of things, after a hiatus of near-monogamy. Seducing a woman to the point where she was itching to sleep with him. Man, what a rush! Then, the sex itself, since nothing compares to a good lay, with no strings attached.
Now that Karen wasn’t around to cramp his style, he could afford to be pickier. He stuck around longer at the clubs and chose only the hotter chicks. Dumping them once he was through didn’t feel too shabby either. He had become such a pro at the letdown phase that he didn’t even need to be explicit anymore. All he had to do is say in a neutral tone “See you around sometime” and even airheads like Hallyie usually got the picture.
His schedule now overflowing once again with women, Michael felt in control of his life, like an orchestra conductor directing an orgasmic symphony. Schedule this woman here, that one there. Squeeze the third one between the date with Mireille and the phone call to Karen. Make some women feel used while giving others false hope. Michael always remained the one in charge.
The only thing that was missing from this picture was ending it with Ana the right way, on his terms. But, he consoled himself, at least she hadn’t even made a dent in my good disposition. He recalled the visceral pang of pain he felt one afternoon, very early into their relationship, when he and Ana had shared a chair at the library while looking up art galleries on the computer, since no other seats were available. When someone left the adjacent cubicle, she moved to it to have her own chair. He felt as if a piece of his flesh, the part of his thigh that had touched her leg, was torn away from him. He wanted her so badly on that day, more than he’d ever wanted anyone before.
But by the time Ana left him, Michael was no longer infatuated with her. Their breakup didn’t hurt him one tenth as much as on the day when she moved only a few feet away. The thin layer of passion having been scraped off by exposure to reality, all that was left of Michael’s emotions for his girlfriend was what he felt for everybody else: layers upon layers of contempt that went to the very core of his being, the hole around which revolved in a dizzying vortex all of his insatiable hunger for pleasure and control. Sometimes he surprised his own self with his immunity to loss, nostalgia and pain. Whatever material other human beings were made of, Michael knew one thing for sure: he was much stronger than them.
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