Max rolled over and pressed the home button on his iPhone. The time flashed — 3:30. He rolled back in the other direction to check his companion’s face. Her eyes flickered behind the lids, clearly in some state of REM. He traced his finger gently along her left eyebrow. She smiled but didn’t wake. Lying on his back for a minute, Max tried to lull himself back into sleep by doing some breathing exercises he’d learned from his bullshit meditation app. But his brain felt like George Clinton backstage before a Pariament-Funkadelic show. The only option for calm was to engage in his old mainstay: do the accounts.
As he fired up a spreadsheet and carefully laid out copies of his latest bank statements, he grinned quietly to himself. Up until a few weeks ago, doing his finances had put him into such a state of panic that he had no option but to shut down in terror and go to sleep. The anxiety exhausted him. But these days, looking over what he’d built financially was a potent meditation in and of itself. Solace through solvency. He did a low prediction of what his checking account cushion would turn out to be — $80,000.
His fingers moved fast across the keyboard, inputting chunks of digits into row after row, column after column, filling out one page, then two, then eight. He finished up and was ecstatic to find that his calculations were way off. Max was $112,849.91 in the black. His breathing slowed. Running his hands through his hair, he closed his eyes and let out a huge sigh. As he reopened them, the numbers in the bottom right quadrant blurred. He saw a tit.
He squinted again. Yeah. It was definitely a tit. A tit with a really nice cluster of four zeroes to form a nipple. The front of his shorts grew. Suppressing a laugh, he shifted his girth to the side. He grew a little more from the touch.
Why are numbers turning me on? I mean, beyond the idea of: “holy matrimony to some motherfu*&ing money.” He paused. Oh. I know.
Max opened a browser window and typed in “ASCII porn.” An elaborate design of black text characters filled a white screen in the shape of a wild-haired woman with her lips parted slightly, looking at the viewer in an appealingly rudimentary way. The coup de grace, of course, was the fact that her t-shirt was pushed up, just over the tips of her nipples and pillowy areola, rendered impeccably in semi-colons, question marks, capital Ps and lowercase Cs.
He felt himself grow to capacity.
Max debated whether to lope back into the bedroom to tease his slumbering companion into awareness with his money-hardened prick. But he valued sleep too much — his and anyone else’s — so instead he loped uncomfortably into the bathroom to retrieve a bottle of lotion. As he reached for the Lubriderm, the newly purchased 60mL container of Crème de la Mer called to him. Did he dare? It had set him back $265. Was his erection worth it?
Back at his desk, as he prepared himself for a $55 wank, his lady friend wandered in, clearly on a mission for a glass of water. She stopped short when she saw Max’s setup.
“Want some company?” She laughed ironically, but not unkindly. Max flushed.
“This has nothing to do with the quality of what we… Uh… Did earlier.” He said.
“I know,” she said, “You can’t fake that kind of chemistry.”
Walking over, she bent down and studied the ASCII image that filled the screen.
“So that’s my competition? A girl with dollar signs instead of eyeballs?”
The heat continued to rise in Max’s face, as did his erection. He liked her even more now that she was berating him.
“It’s ASCII porn. Actually, it was the first Internet pornography.”
She pushed her top up like the girl in the picture. There was a rattle in the back of his throat. She looked like an indie Varga Girl.
“Oh yeah? Tell me more, professor. What is it about legacy porn that makes you so big?” She rasped, half-kidding.
His mouth was suddenly extremely dry. He swallowed.
“Um. Well. You know. It’s less about the image itself, and more about what a person can project onto the image. Like you know how a blueprint can sometimes be more exciting than the house itself?”
She nodded. “Sure. It allows you to exist in the multiverse. You don’t have to lock yourself into any one sexual commitment.” With this, she hooked her thumb through the waistband of her boycut shorts and showed almost — but not quite — the top of her pubic mound.
With this permission, Max rubbed himself through his shorts.
“Exactly. I had all my first sexual experiences with ASCII. I could scroll through specific moments that I found erotic…”
She finished for him: “Without having any particular erotic paradigm foisted on you though too much pornographic detail.”
He nodded. Was she the perfect woman?
She continued. “Tell me what you used to think about. At the beginning. Like, before you became a world class fuck.”
All at once, Max felt vulnerable. He’d never admitted this stuff to anyone. She picked up on his hesitation and pulled her shirt back over her world class breasts.
“Please don’t put them away.” He said, a little desperate.
“Just tell me one. Then you can have them back.” She was smiling again.
Max closed his eyes, traveling backwards through time. He felt himself throb.
“This is going to sound dumb. Sixth grade. I was 11. We took a field trip to the Museum of Natural History. I had a crush on this girl named Emma. For the entire afternoon, I walked next to her, hoping to brush my hand against hers, or sit with her for long enough during one of the short films about newts or whatever so that I could press my thigh into her. But it didn’t happen. And then, as we were all in the gift shop, I saw her at a bookshelf. She was on her tiptoes, reaching for one of those 3-D wooden dinosaur puzzles. She was wearing a skirt.”
“And you saw her ass?”
“No.” Max said. “I saw her calves. She was on the track team and had amazing calves. It was the first time I’d really noticed muscles on a woman.”
She walked over to the wall, turned around and got up on her toes. She flexed. Diamonds. Max’s hand went back to crotch.
“Like this?” She said.
More a groan than a reply, he said, “Yeah.”
She coaxed, “Say another one.”
Max slipped his hand beneath the waistband of his shorts.
“I was 14. Classic summer beach vacation. There was this girl doing caricatures on the boardwalk. She must have been a college freshman or sophomore. She wore cut off crops tops — but I don’t think it was to attract ‘the male gaze’ or whatever. It was just legitimately hot that summer, really muggy, and she was a riot grrrl type. She cut the shirts herself, you could tell. And she had the pointiest hip bones. They poked up out of her corduroy shorts. It was confusing, because they should have been holding up her shorts. Or so I thought. But they didn’t. It was like a trick of physics.”
She complied to this fantasy as well, tugging down both sides of her own shorts so that her hipbones were visible. Max stroked himself more firmly and eased his breathing. He wanted to be inside her but felt too shy to ask. These disclosures were making him lose his words, and a portion of his confidence. But not, somehow, his erection.
“Give me one more.” She said.
Max attempted to cut the tension. He laughed a bit.
“You obey the law of threes.” He joked.
She chuckled. “I obey all laws. Unless they are meant to be broken.”
He trusted her completely now.
“This one is on topic, then. Law-wise. I was 16. It was my driving instructor. She must have been twice my age. She was the advanced math teacher too. Ms. Crenshaw. I don’t remember her first name, or maybe I never learned it. Because I’m a stickler for the law, I braked too hard at a STOP sign one afternoon. That caused her to spill water all over her white shirt. That caused me to see all inside her white shirt, and her whole cleavage. Here’s the thing. It wasn’t the best cleavage. I’d seen better cleavage in both ASCII porn and also, at this point in my masturbation career, real porn. But Ms. Crenshaw’s cleavage… I don’t know how to say this in any other way. The space between her tits looked like it was, very literally, the perfect size to accommodate my dick.”
With this, Max’s date walked over to his desk and opened the jar of Crème de la Mer. In one move, she slipped out of her top, exposing everything, and dipped her fingers into the jar. She spread what he imagined was almost $100 of the designer cream all over her sternum and inside curves of her breasts while looking down and making sure she hadn’t missed any crucial spots. She motioned for him to get out of his chair, so that she could sit where he’d been sitting. Now he stood in front of her, half disbelieving, half filled with an aneurysm-inducing amount of appreciation. She continued to work the cream into her chest in long, meaningful strokes. She met his gaze.
“Something we learn as women from a very young age is to moisturize not only the face, but the entire neck and décolletage.”
Max surveyed the dispensation of the cream.
“You only covered your décolletage.”
“Wanna cover the rest?”
With that, he plunged himself between her breasts, which she held tight with her left hand. He closed his eyes. He felt her right hand working its way along everything south of his dick. Over and around, in and out. The feeling was everywhere. In his sex, in his head, in the present, in the past. It all became a blur for an amount of time that would, for the rest of his life, be impossible to guess or recall.
After minutes or hours or days, he arrived back in the present moment. He opened his eyes. She had a broad smile and was rubbing what he’d spilled all over the parts where the cream hadn’t touched — her chin, her lips, and her neck, up to the point where the lobe of her ear met the top of her jaw.
They both said “thank you” at the same time.
Hers was playful.
His was grateful.