Mira would say that Chloe came back into her life the week she got her ass slapped raw in a porn viewing booth in downtown Toronto, but that’s not true. It is true that the third chapter of the story of Chloe and Mira, as scripted by Mira, started then. What this narrative neglects are all the times that Chloe tried to reinitiate their relationship since Mira concluded (without telling Chloe, or herself, really) the second installment of their affair – all those times she ignored Chloe’s Gchats and emails, though never going so far as to block her former lover, perhaps because she knew their story wasn’t through, their arc not filmic enough. Yet.
Mira is good at seeing only what she thinks she wants. Her memory is more selective still. It tends to fixate on extreme scenes, replaying the ecstatic and shameful most vividly, unconsciously archiving the rest. What counts for Mira are climaxes. How many, where, with whom. In this, as in her un-noticing of Chloe’s ongoing interest, she has much capacity to deceive herself. Did Mira cum in the porno booth? She’ll say yes, though she can’t recall the curve, color, or pitch of her orgasm, and couldn’t even moments after. (When she cums in love, she remembers all.)
Boredom can be ecstatic. Chronic nothing – screams to be stuffed! Sex, shopping, and self-pity are ready-made fillers. American Spirits, recreational pharmaceuticals, chocolate, tequila, and social media are reliable, too. To fill time. As a child, Mira had a hard time sitting still, or so she’s been told. At 28.5 years old, that is now, Mira remembers little of her childhood. She remembers being bored – this one moment in a schoolyard, a feeling of not enough-ness, of excruciating blankness, violating all her senses. She remembers screaming and beating her wrists against a slide to break the totalizing boredom. A memory so vivid, Mira’s full body aches at its recall, as if she’s ever there, now.
Generally, though, when Mira tries to picture her childhood, she pictures pictures, the few framed around her family home, or those aroused by stories told to her about her. Like the one about her as a toddler falling asleep “face first!” in her peanut butter sandwich. “You’ve always had this on/off switch.” Mira’s mom and dad love to tell that one. Mira loves the tale told, too, for it seems true – she still crashes just like that – and so she feels, for the moment of its telling, factual and held, like she’s less than her average, this swirling, nauseous, sometimes wondrous chaos of light, color, texture, word fragments, and what are called feelings.
The sandwich story, Mira sees, like most “memories”, from without. Her tiny body crumbles, face planting into whole wheat. She watches herself as if on film, same medium shot as she’s got on the porno booth, and for the scene of first meeting Chloe.
Mira met Chloe technologically. Three years ago, on Tinder. They matched within one mile of the Sunshine Theatre. Mira was waiting for a midnight screening of Jackie Brown to start. Picture: Mira, mid-summer freckled, three empty seats on either side, popping peanut butter M&M’s, and smiling into her phone.
With Oscar, her first great lover, Mira came in black or white, and once – orange. With Chloe, it was always blue. Blue for the screen before her. She made videos of herself getting off. Close-ups: Chloe wanted to see Mira’s “pussy shake.” Mira wanted to meet Chloe face-to-face. She was always suggesting they “hook up” “for real”. In three years, they never did. Maybe because Chloe isn’t real.
Mira suspected Chloe wasn’t from the start. If something is too good to be true, it probably is. Chloe was. She was beautiful. Thick lips, curlicue lashes, hard core posture. She grew up in Jersey, raised a little brother, believed in Jesus, and was –when they first met – pursuing a PhD in psychology. Her perversity! Chloe was the first girl Mira had encountered who was, like her, an insatiable pervert. Pansexual. Piscean. Into anal. Femdom. Squirter. Chloe said she liked to pick men up on the street, fuck in public. She said she wanted to fuck Mira with all her toys. She sent pictures of her toys. She sent pictures of herself too, early in their affair. She sent them from Chloe J <[email protected]>. Mira never learned her last name.
Chapter One began in the Sunshine Theatre and ended when Mira met Ambrose. When Ambrose and Mira broke up, Chapter Two began. Chapter Two ended when Mira met Lee. And when Lee screamed, “BECAUSE IT CHANGES THE STRUCTURE OF YOUR DNA,” Mira started scripting again. She let Chloe back in.
She was always there. It’s archived. Google saves all. She never stopped. “Done anything dirty?” she’d write. Or: “You won’t believe what I got up to.” Mostly, she wrote “hello.” Once a week, at least, for three years: “hello”, “hello”, “hello”, “hello.”
Does Mira know this? If she were pressed, yes, she could plumb her inbox or subconscious, exhume Chloe’s ever-ness, but there’s a level of knowing that many of us operate on, one that keeps us going, day in, day out. Success or failure, single or coupled, real or fake, self or other. What fits what we know. The storied plane. Chronological. Survival.
Mira schedules tightly. She fitted Chloe in between amorous relationships, after she became bored with (Ambrose), or felt let down by (Oscar, Lee), the men. This is something Mira and Chloe would talk about – how developmentally delayed most straight white men are. Chloe mocked Mira’s taste for them. She said she should break her pattern. Mira thought she was – with Chloe. That’s what Chapter One was supposed to be about. It was about time Mira fucked beyond young boys. Apps make it easy to become bisexual.
She’s real: Chloe had many photos to share. And could, if asked, deliver what Mira wanted, like a pic of your tits, of you fondling your tits. Or not: She could never meet up. Though they both lived between New York and LA, Mira and Chloe never seemed to be in the same place at the same time. Mira traveled for work, and Chloe for what she called play. She had play partners in Vegas, New Orleans, London, Berlin. Often, when Mira asked to meet, Chloe would be off with one of them. “You should join us,” she’d type, well knowing Mira couldn’t afford to cross the Atlantic at a moment’s notice.
The second August of their affair, Chloe claimed to be in LA finishing her thesis. Mira came unannounced. As she was landing, she chatted her digital lover, I’m here; let’s meet up. To which Chloe replied, You won’t believe this but… I’m in Toronto! That is, the familial city Mira had just left. Real: Chloe’s personality was well developed. She told Mira about her studies, on consumer psychology and scarcity; about her little brother, his difficulties in school; about this steamy adolescent affair with a girl cousin once removed and the details… Not: Chloe kept bringing up this guy. This guy, this man, a real man, who Mira should meet. This guy, this friend, this lover
half black/half Irish
so smart and sexy and
he has a really nice cock.
a really nice cock
you know how I hate pretty boys
like you like. this is a real man, Mira.
he’ll treat you right. dominate you like
you need. I bet you’ll cum like never before
you should meet up
let me set you up.
Chapter Three. Lee. Lee. Once Mira and Lee were doing it and she was on top and she leaned back, like girls in porno do, making for a better view, she bounced performatively, and he gently guided her back to him, seated, heart to heart, she came through hers. Like a Care Bear’s stare, Pure Love, this bliss, emanating from her core. Like never, ever, ever before.
If Chloe were real, it would be rude of Mira to doubt her. If she weren’t, then she was an elaborate con. A fantastic creation. Custom-made for Mira, maybe. If that were true, that merited Mira’s engagement. Chloe’s maker was a pro. Mira had to respect him, or her, as they were like her, wanting this fantasy. Chloe was fantastic. She should be real. Mira wanted a woman like her to be. A wild, willful, intelligent woman. She willed it to the front of her mind: Chloe is real. (Or not, chimed a voice in the back.)
Real and/or not, Chloe made for a good story. She story told. She told Mira what to do, serving, Mira believed, her wellbeing. Like when Mira was hesitating, midway through Chapter Two, to leave her bedroom, which she hadn’t left, at night, in weeks – it was a bitter New York winter – and Chloe told her to go to a bar, pick up the hottest guy there, film yourself sucking him off, and send it to me. And Mira did. Once Mira let Chloe in, she complied with all of her demands. Because after she did, she felt better, more like Chloe.
Chloe was more interesting than Mira, Mira thought. Chloe was brave. Chloe was confident. Chloe knew how to get what she wanted. She knew what she wanted. Ass. Real men. Thick dicks. Chloe could list on and on. Once, Chloe asked Mira to share some of her fantasies, and Mira blanked. She’d never thought to ask herself. What did she want? After a long pause (Chloe J: “Hello?” “Still there?”), Mira replied with this one – a threesome between Chloe, herself, and a hot dad they’d pick up at a playground. Of course, Chloe had already shared that vision. Months ago. She had Mira masturbate to it and send her the video.
When Mira pictures her affair with Chloe, she pictures pictures – the many selfies made at Chloe’s request, the few Chloe shared of herself, the mind’s-eye images aroused by tales Chloe told, and then a flash of that guy, the real man. Mira really met him. One of Chloe’s demands. Near the end of Chapter One, a few weeks before Ambrose, she met this guy. He shook her bare ass on a terrace, overalls round her ankles. She saw it from his p.o.v. It didn’t look good. Numb. Nothing. Nothing really happened. Mira swiftly exited the scene, and filed the experience away. Deep deep. So there’s little of that to tell.
Schrödinger's cat is a theoretical principle two of Mira’s exes, a bro roommate, and her brother have all tried to explain to her. It has to do with a cat in a box and quantum mechanics. Gravity, Mira always got. She feels it upon her, especially when she’s menstruating. But the rest of physics – like chess, no matter how many times a man sits her down to explain, she just can’t grasp it. The cat is in a box with poison and a radioactive source. The cat is dead or alive. The cat is simultaneously dead and alive. It is both and/or one or the other until an observer opens the box. Opening the box, the observer becomes entangled with the cat. He splits reality. Both then exist: a dead and a live kitty. Reality splits. Many worlds exist. But the human observer can only experience one. Dead or alive. Once the box is opened.
Mira doesn’t get the physical principles supposedly evidenced therein, but she gets that cat. She feels like she is that cat. Pussy in a box. Dead and alive, neither dead nor alive, until someone is looking. She is what she is to others. She exists in being seen. Mira didn’t start masturbating until she’d slept with a man. Until she could envision them. She masturbates, almost exclusively, on all fours, either to remembrances of fucks past, her mirror image, and/or an image onscreen. Narcissism is splitting vision. Seeking proof. I exist.
But what is the poison, and who put pussy in a box?
“Why did you do it, Mira?” Lee asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“How can you not know?”
“I don’t know! How could I, until I…”
“DO YOU HAVE TO CRASH THE CAR TO KNOW THAT YOU’RE IN IT?”
Lee wanted Mira to commit. And she said she did, too. And then she did John in the porno viewing booth. Then Dylan, in the bathroom stall. She made dates with couples she met online; she hadn’t had a threesome yet. She made videos for Chloe, who had, like Mira, recently gone blonde. In this one picture she sent, Chloe’s clothes were updated, current; she looked more mature. These changes, so natural, convinced Mira that Chloe was real, maybe, after all. She felt shame for ever doubting her.
“I want to remember this forever,” Lee said, the first time they made love. Saying that, he made it so for them both. On his knees, little supplicant. She stood above his blond crown. They’re forever there, entangled on the kitchen floor and in the canopied bed. Kissing, supple lips, locked and opening. She knew. She knows. You just know. She never knew how you could just know. Yellow dotted sheets. Not her bed. Him below. Above. As below, so. Love. She thought it, and he heard. “Did you just say?” he asked. They laughed. Yes, yes, yes. She thought I love you and it was true, undeniably in the moment. “Be with me.” Yes. But then, they were apart. She’d go to work, or he would. And as soon as he wasn’t in direct view, Mira started disbelieving.
If you don’t feel yourself to be real, how can you feel others to be? How can you be with him? Violence in splitting.
If something is too good to be true, it probably is.
Chloe called love boring. Never coupled. Always there. “Hello,” she wrote, and Mira replied, for the first time in over a year, the week she got her ass slapped raw in a viewing booth. Mira meant it when she said she wanted to commit to Lee. Lips locked, she knew. But then when Lee wasn’t in the frame… And Chloe’s hair was blonde. So, maybe.
“I can’t be with you, Mira,” Lee said. BECAUSE IT CHANGES THE STRUCTURE OF YOUR DNA. Entanglement. Fucking atoms rub. She couldn’t explain why.
Why did she crash?
It will hit her. In a car, in San Francisco. At 28.5 years old, that is now, Mira is in the front seat of an UberPool, thumbing through Tinder profiles. Mira can’t drive herself. She never learned. Because she’s scared. Or, because she loves being driven by any other. In the backseat, a twenty-something couple discuss the charcuterie selection at a party they’ve just left. Mira is on her way back to her hotel. Here on business. Bored. She thumbs through. All the men smile the same. She changes her preference to “women only.” A few slides in, the collision. There she is, smiling back at herself. Mira, here named “Jane.” It’s unmistakably her, three years younger; brunette, mid-summer freckled. Mira, now, taps to see more. There are four pictures to this profile, all her.
Smiling, pouting, tongue out, kiss face – her face. She recognizes herself, and not. She can’t remember where or when the pictures were taken, what she was feeling or thinking. She tries to remember, but what’s summoned is what always is, these days. These days, her mind is forever replaying them in that yellow dotted bed. Late- afternoon Los Angeles sunshine. She straddles him, fully dressed. They kiss, first kisses, and she cums, full body, all dressed. In the Uber, she’s there. Getting off in love. “Jesus, you’re regal,” he says. And she’s in the schoolyard. Five and fearful. And she’s here, now. “More, More, More” on the radio. Mira laughs. The three experiences stream simultaneously, multi-sensorially. Time folds, and it’s not an illusion.
Or maybe it’s all an illusion, but the thing she must do, the ethical action, what she wants, she knows now, is to assume that what’s within is real. It’s time to lift the lid. Because if she doesn’t, the poor thing might suffocate.
Photograph by Steph Wilson