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I have been courted by strange men.

The man from the bus stood at the front near the driver and called out all the stops. Each time I got on he would look over my head and say, "You have very glamorous hair," which was exactly what I wanted to hear from a man. Then he'd go back to calling out streets. I was the only one he ever included in his chant. Then I moved and had to take a different bus to work.

Ethan from my building passed notes under my door. When the first few went unanswered, he drew me an axe and wrote: "Let's bury the hatchet. Why don't you come upstairs for origami ice cream? We can watch the tassels hang down from my floor lamp and drink frozen Pepsi." Ethan was cute and bred bull terriers but he couldn't stop scratching behind his ears; eventually he had to be hospitalized.

John from the bookstore was schizophrenic and because of the medication he moved like a wind-up man, jittery and too fast, or too slow. Sometimes he stood perfectly still in front of my cash register, staring inward, his mouth parted. He gave me a gift of an open bottle of Snapple and a broken umbrella. He said he'd been working for three years on a story to tell me, even though I'd only known him a few weeks.

We are all missing something. I am missing John's story. It is almost finished, and when he tells it to me, it will be short and hushed, and it will close out everything perfectly, like the dusk.


the meaning of clothes

Today near the corner of North Avenue and Damen I saw a dog wearing a cowboy hat. It was a dog-customized cowboy hat, small, red and attached to his head by a tight elastic band. I thought he looked cute. This dog was going along with it. This dog held up his end of the leash.

The dog walked past and I thought about me and I thought about sex.


the meaning of clothes, part ii

My boyfriend David had a dream about my friend Vanessa. In the dream she wore a pink sweater. I know this means he wants to make love to her.

I understand why she appeals to him. Vanessa is unusually pretty. She has long dark hair that is naturally wavy, like the calm ocean at night. Her smooth skin is deep brown though her mother is as white as a marshmallow. Vanessa doesn't know who her father is, she has never even asked about him. Which to me is strange but I know David thinks her not knowing where she comes from makes her all the more mysterious and sexy. Which is why he dreamt of her wearing something soft and pink.

Vanessa and her girlfriend have a dinner party, six lesbian couples and me and David, and after a few glasses of wine I ask the table if they don't think it's funny, that David had a dream about Vanessa and a pink sweater. The table looks up. Vanessa is solemn and keeps her head down as if saying grace. David chews slowly the food already in his mouth. The table is not amused. Before I can say anything further about the meaning of clothes our relationships have ended.



The Lustron company manufactured in the 1940s prefabricated houses made entirely of porcelain-enameled steel. Steel houses had first appeared at Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition in 1933, capitalizing on the factory-made streamlined appearance so popular at the time in cars and cooking pots. Fewer than three thousand of their houses were bought and constructed before the Lustron company went out of business, in 1950. Everything inside and outside a Lustron house was made of enameled steel, including the roof, floors, master bedroom vanity, bookcases and kitchen cupboards, which made the home rust-proof, dust-proof, moth-proof, termite-proof and fire-proof. In the correct environment a Lustron home could be erected in five days. Today, around three hundred of these homes remain standing.

My mother grew up in maize yellow Lustron home number 00428 in Des Moines, Iowa. Her mother hung pictures with magnets. Once a year the children had to haul all the furniture out to the yard so their father could hose down the walls. They waited at a friend's house for their house to dry, or in the tire swings at the park, and then moved everything back inside where it belonged.

During the day the house was loud, the walls reverberated the sound of talking, the radio. At night my mother listened to her mother's dog, a miniature white poodle, scratch at the walls of the house searching for a weakness, until her father finally got up and let the dog out to sit in a cool patch of dirt next to the front door where the grass wouldn't grow.

Only then was the house like the night outside, silent, dark with possibility.



The foreskin performs several functions: protection; lubrication; increased sensitivity. It is not attached to the man as most skin is, but rather is loose and free to slide up and down the shaft of the penis. This long and delicate tube of skin is firmly attached only at the base. An uncircumcised penis has two to three times as much skin as a circumcised one. The foreskin is extremely sensitive and filled with nerve endings termed "stretch receptors" that fire when stretched, rolled, or massaged. The circumcision rate in the United States was once as high as 95% but has now dropped to 60%. In most other western countries the circumcision rate is significantly lower.

Paul grew up in London but was fond of telling people he was an Irish citizen and often pulled a worn maroon passport out of his back pocket to prove it. With him I learned to roll the foreskin back and forth with my mouth, the same way I've heard prostitutes apply condoms to unsuspecting customers. Paul liked to be touched lightly. I never allowed my body to weigh against his own. Unlike many men, he wanted everything slow. During fellatio he was still, quiet; afterwards, very appreciative. Paul was hard work and time-consuming but he taught me how to make men like him feel good.

While it is true that no amount of pleasure can guarantee he won't leave you for the tall Asian woman in the bookstore who found for him a copy of that out-of-print book by an author you've never heard of, it also seems true that more pleasure can be given to men like Paul than is possible to give a man without the extra skin.