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"OH WATERS, TEEM WITH MEDICINE TO KEEP MY BODY SAFE FROM HARM, SO THAT I MAY LONG SEE THE SUN." - Rig Veda
"I'm not being right-wing," she says. "The people who believe themselves to be on the left, and who defend the agents of Islam in the name of tolerance and culture, are being right-wing. Not just right-wing. Extreme right-wing. I don't understand how you can be so upset about the Christian right and just ignore the Islamic right. I'm talking about equality."
"I'd have the charges billed to my telephone, while Margie dialled the same number, but never paid a fee. Much like at nightclubs and bars, it's a lot harder to get ladies into the room, so Margie, and the hundreds of women like her, would call the number and register, then punch through the recorded greetings from thousands of guys waiting to talk with them. One of those men was me.
"Each guy's greeting was his name and a little something about himself. Our messages were either lewd or pornographic, nothing else. Using euphemisms about your penis counted as a true gentleman's move. I was no better than the rest. Twenty-one, horny and incapable of getting a real-world date.
The women's greetings tended to differ from the men's; they spoke about amusement parks and dining out and walks on the beach. Ridiculous shit. We all knew why we were here and it wasn't to line up any dates. We were there to talk dirty into our telephones and masturbate in our separate darkened rooms. At least that was true for me and Margie.
Why was I doing this? At 21? I was in college and, in theory, surrounded by eligible women. I should have been besieged by more appropriate partners. My little crew of friends enjoyed no end of sex. Even the losers were doing all right. Not me, though.
I weighed 25 stone, and I didn't stand nine feet tall, so the weight didn't sit well on me. As big as a house? No. I was as big as an estate.
Sometimes we talked about visiting each other. But we never would. Both of us knew it. She was a 50-year-old woman with some undefined illness that had forced her to retire 15 years early. Maybe it took some toll on her physically. Maybe she was in a wheelchair, I don't know. But I sure as hell never would let her see me, either.
If she did, how could we ever fantasise about me crouching over her chest again? In real life, I'd suffocate the poor woman between my meaty thighs.
And yet, somehow, I convinced myself that Margie was helping to keep me tethered to the "normal" world of relationships. I knew what we had wasn't complete, but at least we were two human beings sharing some kind of real affection. I still felt this was infinitely better than the alternative: have you ever known men or women who don't get any kind of loving for years? They get weird. The women become either monstrously drab or they costume themselves in ways that make them seem unreal; they externalise their inner fantasies and come to believe that – on some level – they really are elves or princesses or, most disturbing of all, children again. And the men? They're even worse. Men who are denied affection for too long devolve into some kind of rage-filled hominoid. Their anger becomes palpable. You can almost feel the wrath emanating from their pores. Lonely women destroy themselves; lonely men threaten the world.