A short story by Paul Da’Agostino
Mina’s fourth and final bout of existence-racking pre-febrile dry heaves terminated at 4:37 on Saturday morning amid the mildew stains, strewn magazines and pubic squalor that adorned Davis’s loathsomely uncivil shared bathroom in a three-bedroom flat. Her supposedly latent and as-yet-undefined illness blossomed into dreadful self-realization no more than a few minutes after she had reached yet another less-than-remarkable though nonetheless satisfactory post-coital orgasm employing, in alternating states of companionship and bifurcated collaboration, her right hand, her love juices, mental images of tantalizing men and women she had never met before, and her lively imagination. Although Davis was heroically handsome, athletically fit and structurally immaculate— his bulkily lean, chiseled musculature and generally intense, somewhat vein-ridden physical nature suggested, in Mina’s art-history-steeped mind, late Hellenic derivation—his haystack performance was characterized by an exiguous yet consistent sexual inadequacy, one that typically left a heaving Mina approximately five to seven minutes away from ‘ecstasy,’ as she liked to call it, and which she could attain on her own by passing mentally from anthropic imagery to semiotically erotic reveries of figs, floods, dragons, swords, conch shells, horses, and lavishly gilded baroque sculpture.
This had become routine with Davis. As he eventually and rather embarrassedly confessed, his sexual foibles pertained to a lifelong duel with mild asthma and slight fatigue; his limitations thus had nothing to do with a lack of attraction to or desire for Mina, for she too was a divinely rendered manifestation of human form, a deliciously slender, passively fit and diminutively voluptuous sexpot who never lacked her lioness’s share of courtiers. She found his explanation a bit too convenient to be true, and she subtly scoffed at him when he occasionally brought it up, but for the most part she simply disregarded it. Besides, it had always been clear that their physical attraction for one another was mutually extreme. They tore away at one another like rapacious birds.
It was with mixed chagrin, therefore, and most certainly out of character, that Mina had somehow acquiesced to such unsatisfactory coital procedures rather than coercing Davis to work harder on his end of the bargain. But things were progressing well enough for her to conclude that the situation was, at least for the time being, livable. So she would continue to deal with it. And hope for the best.
At 3:53, however, just before her nausea had become suddenly serious, Mina, as she always did upon self-completion—at that delicately electric moment when she would have actually preferred the mixed psychological caress and gently nurturing sensation of a tender back rub, and perhaps a circumstantially ‘meaningful’ conversation—took one look at her partner, who was by then sleeping face-down in his pillow, and half-frowningly whispered, “You motherfucker.”
Circa twelve weeks prior:
The day after her first date with Davis, Mina told her close friend and fellow art historian, Lana, that Davis was most likely the kind of guy who would disengage the moment he got himself off. She could surmise that with considerable certainty, she added, because every question he asked her was patently forced, likely inspired by one of the half-dozen or so articles recently printed in men’s magazines regarding effective dating tactics. She had read several of those articles so as to remain unforeseeably if not inordinately informed, as she and Lana had been doing for years, and her recollection of each of them was so lucid that, as Davis feigned heartfelt inquiries and she feigned sincerity of response, she was able to identify not only the list of questions he attempted to pass off as his, but also the publication from which those questions hailed, Thrust, a run-of-the-mill, dude-centric monthly that declared itself, in its mission statement, “dedicated to guys and what they like,” a bold claim of selective universality that manifested itself, expectably enough, in material pertaining to cars, video games, music, sports, tech, girls, scatological humor and, once a season, the regularly vapid vicissitudes of men’s fashion. Thrust’s regular column aimed at assisting men with their “girl troubles,” titled “Getting (Some) More” and attributed to a certain Luv Lee Laydee, offered a mixed bag of tips and advice that was rarely if ever beyond the realm of experiential deduction—which is to say it was most probably written by a guy—yet its readership was unwaveringly loyal, variably desperate, demographically arrayed and, according to subscription statistics, increasing in number.
Putting such awarenesses aside, however, and trying to prevent herself from over-intellectualizing the situation—which could even lead her to discredit her new, essentially gentlemanly suitor because of his supposedly sub-intellectual profession as a personal trainer—Mina decided to take Lana’s advice, which was to attempt to see Davis’s apparent simplicity in a more positive light. After all, Lana assured her, cerebral guys weren’t necessarily gladiatorial in bed, and they were almost never as lusciously put-together as Davis. Moreover, Lana went on, Mina’s long-held theory about guys who get dating advice from dude-specific periodicals giving primacy to their own satisfaction and never their partners’, despite its significant degree of empirical backing, could turn out to be wrong this time. So Mina revised her disposition by looking at the situation through an aperture at once wider and more sympathetic. As such, she conjectured that Davis was only one of many guys who had internalized the Thrust questionnaire prior to going out on a date that week; that she was therefore only one of many girls who had replied to its queries; that it was possible that there were many other couples on dates that evening, all having very similar conversations at the very same time; and that, despite the situation’s inherent lack of uniqueness, it was almost sweet that Davis had gone to such quasi-mnemonic lengths of half-witted research so as to impress, ensure, satisfy, intrigue. And anyway, although that particular evening did not culminate, to Davis’s probable displeasure, in sexual intercourse—not seeming easy was, for Mina, an immutably golden rule—it did conclude with promisingly passionate car-kissing involving tongues, saliva, curious hands, the rejection of increased manual curiosity directed at Mina’s nether regions, and smeared lipstick. Hearing this, Lana somewhat jealously assured her horny colleague that, as proverb would dictate, it was “all good.”
As proverb would also dictate, the third time was the charm. One week after her first date with Davis, six days after her conversation with Lana, three days after her second date with Davis, and eleven hours after making up her pre-date mind, Mina accepted Davis’s tertiary offer to go back to his place to “have another drink or something,” which meant that Mina would nurse a fourth vodka tonic while Davis gulped down his sixth and seventh. It meant that they would cross over his threshold, one after the other, and that Davis would flip on a light and say something along the lines of ‘well, this is it,’ which, as it turned out, was exactly what he said. It meant that they would have the proper time and environs to converse a bit more intimately, and that Mina would have to continue to stifle her rich intellectual vocabulary and liquid metaphorical locution so as to be understood. It meant a significant spatial shift, which Mina’s theory-informed mind interpreted as ‘strong masculine/weak feminine space,’ and which Davis—given his generally Thrust-ed way of looking at things—viewed as ‘home field advantage.’ And of course, as they both basically assumed, Mina’s acceptance to have another drink at Davis’s place also meant that they would make out a bit harder; that progressively curious hands would finally turn up some penetrating answers; that undergarments would be revealed and probably shed; that lights would be dimmed and music turned on as manual and oral titillation ensued; and that, in all likelihood, Davis would pass his contraceptive-enshrouded penile member through Mina’s somewhat nervously quivering, yet warmly welcoming, labial folds.
This is essentially what happened and, as Mina had correctly foreseen, Davis’s shot on goal came up disappointingly short. He had hustled through a variably humdrum litany of intercourse-preceding activities, then played a hurriedly physical as opposed to sensually amorous match, as if his passion for the game included no notion of team-related harmony and tactics. And yet, since Davis hadn’t inquired as to whether or not she had finished, Mina permitted herself a glimmer of possibly midcoital hope by considering that he was taking a breather, perhaps, so as to recharge, reload, reassess, redirect. He seemed to be making an attempt, after all, by stroking her figure slowly with his right forefinger and pressing his now-condomless, sticky and diminishingly throbbing unit against the middle interior region of her perfect right thigh. What’s more, he was making a concerted effort at conversation by disclosing that he had “never dated a girl named Mina before,” to which Mina replied, dryly, that “people who have surnames for first names are full of shit.” With that, they shared a sensual chuckle and a warm embrace. Then Davis passed out.
Assuming there would be no erectile rekindling thereafter, at least not soon enough to make it worth her wait, Mina went about consummating things for herself. She did so slowly and assertively, and with increasingly aggressive, aspirated vocals, then sped up heartily as she reached the jerky, stopmotion-photography-like moment of full orgasm. Exhilarated and spent, Mina wiped her hands on Davis’s sheets and pillowcase, then reclined in scintillating satisfaction while tracing her breasts, hips and pubeless vaginal contours with her own forefingers. She closed her eyes and pictured herself as she did this, finding the image very hot indeed.
A few minutes later, having regained her calm, Mina glanced over at the slumbering lump Davis had become and, establishing a pattern, half-frowningly whispered, “You motherfucker.”
The next afternoon, over shared entrees of spinach quiche and grilled vegetable au-gratin, Mina told Lana that her theory had proven itself correct once again. More precisely, she said that Davis had “thrown the match by throwing in the towel,” and that she wound up finishing herself off in the absence of lubricants and vibrating paraphernalia.
“That motherfucker,” Lana said. “I know,” replied Mina before regrouping and going on to say that this time, for some reason, “despite the outcome, so to speak,” she saw no need to regard her new partner’s sexual deficiencies as reason to terminate their nascent rapport.
Surprised, Lana asked if the foreplay was good.
“Overall pretty average,” Mina replied, “but his cunnilinguistics were like pink liquid prose.”
They laughed and picked away at their entrees, then shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio and laughed a whole lot more. It was a fine Sunday afternoon, after all, and Mina had perhaps found a viable beau.
Circa eleven weeks later:
By 5:13, Mina was finally able to get herself off the disgusting floor in Davis’s bathroom. A fever had begun to set in, but the four rounds of vomiting had at least quelled the post-coital nausea that commenced only moments after ‘ecstasy.’ She stood up, looked at herself in the mirror, thought, ‘that motherfucker,’ and began to wash up a bit.
She then realized that, in the eleven weeks during which she had been coming to Davis’s place, she had never looked in his medicine cabinet. She found this very weird, because it was something she even did at strangers’ homes. Then she realized that she had probably never done so because she hated being in that foul, sordid cubicle for more than the few moments it took to urinate and wash her hands, for although the rest of the apartment, including the kitchen, was relatively tidy, Davis and his flatmates paid no attention to cleanliness or hygiene when it came to their bathroom. Even the revered stack of guy magazines—featuring several issues of Thrust, naturally—was so close to the toilet bowl that they had all been thoroughly spattered upon. And of course, given the apartment’s three male inhabitants, the pubic diaspora asserted with broad diffusion its curly omnipresence.
Nonetheless, right now that vile room troubled Mina less than usual. That is, now that she already felt like hell and had spent well over an hour on its revolting floor, and now that she had piqued her own curiosity about the medicine cabinet and might need something she’d find in there anyway, she slid open its mirrored door and peered inside.
What she found there left her aghast.
The contents of the top two shelves.
Enough inhalers to inflate a fleet of blimps.
And a dozen different prescription bottles.
All of these items were labeled with Davis’s name. And each prescription bottle featured a red tag stating: “For heart condition.”
The list of side effects was long and grave.
“Motherfucker,” Mina said to herself. “Motherfucker,” and stood there.
Feeling somewhat humbled and a bit less sick, Mina finished washing up, gulped down a few ibuprofen, shrugged her lovely shoulders at herself in the mirror, brushed off a pube that was stuck to her elbow, and went back to bed. Despite the increasing burn of her fever, she fell asleep quickly and peacefully, entirely unaware that Davis had been dead for a full half hour, and that she had been pregnant for three and a half weeks.
About the author: Paul D’Agostino is an artist, writer, translator, curator and professor living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where he has been producing and hosting art exhibitions and critical discussions at Centotto Gallery, situated in the living room of his shared loft, since 2008. He has work on view in “Foofaraw & Spleen,” a two-person show at Lodge Gallery on the Lower East Side, through June 11, 2017.