Gina, there was something I was going to tell you back there at the bar, but I never got the chance because, you know, your idiot waitress friend showed up and . . . anyway, I wanted to tell you . . . I wanted you to know that if you ever felt like having sex . . . and by that I mean uncomplicated, no-strings-attached sex . . . well then, I wanted you to know, I’m here for you.
My God, Gavin, I don’t know what to say.
Well before you say anything, please understand that this is not something I just came up with on the spur of the moment. I have been thinking about it for some time. What has held me back is the possibility that I would mess up things between us, that I would embarrass you — or worse — that I would damage our friendship. But now I’ve said it. Now you know. If you want it — if you feel the need — then here I am.
Gosh Gavin, I’m lost for words. Is this your own special way of saying you’re in love with me? After all these years?
No, I’m not . . . well I could have been. God knows you’re beautiful and smart as hell. But I just am not. And I know you are not in love with me. If I had the slightest doubt about either of those possibilities I would never, ever have brought this up in the way I did. We’re two of the best buddies on earth. Ever since elementary school. That’s the point. And that is what could make this work — if you wanted to, that is.
How sweet of you, Gavin. So now that my girls have finally fallen asleep, you want us to go in my bedroom and fuck. Only not because we are in love each other, but because we’re friends. There is a name for that, isn’t there? Fuck-buddies? That’s what they call it, don’t they?
Well, no, I mean . . . I wasn’t suggesting right now. I wasn’t thinking in terms of when, or even just what we would do, but rather . . . shit, I wanted to hear what you thought about it. I know you’re not dating anybody, so . . .
How do you know that?
Aren’t I, like, your main babysitter when you go out with someone? It has been quite a while, hasn’t it? Like, months?
What’s your theory, Gavin? How come I’m not dating, considering I’m as attractive as you say I am?
I don’t know. I guess it’s the . . . well, maybe it’s your kids, Gina. I guess you have to be careful with their feelings. I suppose you’re worried about letting guys into your life who the girls might get attached to and, well, then watch them get disappointed if that someone disappeared, like that — what’s his name?
— Walker. They got pretty attached to him. Right?
Maybe it’s not my decision, Gavin. Maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe guys don’t want to get involved with a divorced woman with three little kids.
If a guy really loved you that wouldn’t matter.
And it wouldn’t matter for you either?
What are you saying, Gina? Of course not. And anyway, I’ve known the girls since they were born. I love them. You know I love them.
You love them — but you don’t love me?
Come off it. You’re just messing with me. We both know that. Why don’t you instead ask yourself why you are messing with me?
Sorry, Gavin, but you really caught me off guard. Who knows what love is, anyway?
There are seven kinds of love, Gina — even if I don’t remember the names for them all. You know full well that I don’t love your children like I don’t love you . . . shit, that came out wrong, but you get what I mean.
You mean that some of the seven kinds of love are sexual, Gavin, and some are not.
No, though yes — that is obviously the case. But what I meant from the start is that people can have sex without love . . .
Yeah, OK, like animals if that is how you want to see it. And maybe animals are not so stupid as we make them out to be. A lot of mismatched idiots have sworn to-death-do-us-part and have had to suffer with each other until death, or more likely divorce, did do-them-part, when what they really needed was just some skin-to-skin time with another human. I’m saying friends could have sex without love and that could be a lot better than not having sex at all.
You want us to masturbate together?
Jesus Gina! I should have never . . . but you know what? We could do a lot more than that. We’re not school kids.
Do we kiss?
What are you getting at?
I just wondered. Because maybe kissing is an expression of love. Maybe loveless sex rules out kissing. Do prostitutes kiss their clients? Don’t prostitutes draw the line with kissing? ‘Anything you like mister, but no kissing’. Suck a guy’s dick for 50 bucks, but no kissing on the lips. Some sort of prostitute integrity thing. I think I’ve seen that in a film.
Fuck off, Gina. What is this prostitute bullshit? What did I say from the beginning? I said I wanted this only if you did. If you wanted sex. That was the important thing, goddammit.
Actually you didn’t say what you wanted at all, Gavin. You made it sound like you were willing to do me a favor because you figured I’m horny. Right? Because I’m 34 with a shitty day-waitress job and a crappy two-room apartment in a crappy part of town and three little girls without a father, and men can smell that sort of situation from a mile away — I stink with it — and your little pitch was that you felt sorry for me and you wanted to be noble. Wasn’t that it, Gavin? I don’t recall you saying anything at all about your own needs.
OK, Gina. That’s it. Stop. It was a mistake — one big shit hole mistake. I’m sorry. I should have known. Can we forget this? Can we pretend it never happened?
Having reached an impasse, the two old friends sit stiffly on the couch staring at silent rock videos on Gina’s television, their beers going warm and flat in their hands — silent, so as not to wake the girls who are cuddled up together in a covey of quilts on the floor. In the apartment above somebody is shouting at somebody else and a dog is barking at whoever is shouting or whoever is being shouted at. The phone rings. Gina makes no effort to answer. Gavin and Gina listen as her message kicks in: “Hi! You have reached the home of Elly, Vella, Coral and Gina. At the moment we are indisposed. Please leave a message and we will get back to you.” The caller is her Mom. “Gina, just wanted to let you know that a checks in the mail. Really sorry about the delay, but things aren’t all that easy here either. Give the girls a hug for me.” Gina rolls her eyes. Gavin gives her a pat on the shoulder.
I’m sorry Gina. I really am. I had this wild idea that you would see this in another way.
Seven kinds of love, Gavin?
I don’t know. I read a book about it, well actually I skimmed through it in a bookstore. Basically, love is just a chemical reaction in our bodies and there are only so many chemicals. The guy who wrote it is a pretty famous psychologist.
Are they numbered? Do they come in some sort of order? Love number One, Love number Two . . . What is Love number One, I wonder? What about my love for Percy? Where does a woman’s love for her cat come in?
I don’t know. I didn’t read the whole book.
Seven kinds of love? Isn’t life a lot more complicated than that? What sort of love is it that a man feels for a whore, for example?
Oh no. Are we back to that? I think it is time for me to get home. Men don’t love whores, Gina. And you damn well know it?
Well I am curious whether. . .
No you’re not. You just want to argue. Prostitution isn’t about love — it’s about sex. That’s why there are prostitutes in the first place: so that men — and women, by the way — can have sex without the hassle of love.
Why would you want that? Isn’t sex with love a lot better than sex without love. Isn’t it better to love than not to love, Gavin?
Sex can screw up love just as love can screw up sex. Prostitutes get paid for their services. It’s a business deal. If you pay a whore you don’t owe her anything — and then she does you and then she don’t owe you anything. It’s all fair and square.
How sad. How sad that men can’t love prostitutes. I suppose that whores don’t love their clients, either.
I think it would make the whole experience more enjoyable for both parties.
If you say so, Gina. But would you please knock off the talk about prostitutes. You make it sound like I had been propositioning you and that is so fucking distorted — so far away from where I was coming from.
But we could both be whores for each other, Gavin. Isn’t that really what you are suggesting? Two whores on equal footing exchanging services, with no need to pay each other, since our debts cancel each other’s out . I can see the advantages in that.
If we were on equal footing — if we both wanted to do it, then neither of us would be whores. Stop talking about prostitution. Stop talking altogether. I gotta go, Gina.
Yeah and I’ve got to get up at six. Thanks for taking me out Gavin. Thanks for paying for Consuelo. And thanks for the offer. I know you meant well.
They lift the girls one by one onto the couch and clear the beer cans and chip and dip bowls from the TV table. Percy the cat, sensing his chance to escape for a night on the town, follows them to the front door and looks up pleadingly at their incommensurate faces. Gavin, with his hand on the doorknob says ‘sorry’ one last time. Gina gives him a hug and a little peck on his cheek.
I know Gavin. It’s OK.
Yeah, we’ll get past it. I’ll see you tomorrow I guess. I’ll stop by at the restaurant.
“Love is, above all, the gift of oneself”
What’s that, Gina? What are you talking about?
I saw it when we picked up the kids at Consuelo’s. She had a refrigerator magnet with that phrase, only it was in Spanish: el amor es, sobre todo, el obsequio de sí mismo. You didn’t notice it? The text was engraved on a bed of hearts and roses.
Yeah. Latinos go for that sentimental shit. She had a really kitsch plastic Jesus lava lamp as well.
Good for her. You’re my friend Gavin. You’ve helped me through so much. But I got to tell you — you’re a coward; you’re scared of life, and you’re scared of me. Fear’s not something one wants to get into bed with. For me, anyway, the words love and fear — they’re opposites.
Antonyms, Gina. You mean antonyms.
Either way. And you know what? Seven kinds of love is a complete crock of shit. Whoever wrote that book is an idiot. There are a thousand kinds of love if there is one — but what they all have in common is triumph over fear. You are afraid of love, Gavin, but what you don’t get is that even if it’s only for a day, only for an hour, only for just one frigging solitary moment — you got to love. You’ve just got to love.