I am in love with Neil Strauss for some reason
from the Autumn 2008 issue

I. Thursday, some cruddy pub in Petuluma. I don’t notice Neil Strauss at first.

Hey, he says. Down here.

He’s wearing a mesh tanktop with a pink feather boa and a necklace with a giant LCD display. Ask me what’s in my amulet, he says.

I stare into the mirrored lenses of his sunglasses and see a woman who has nearly surrendered the hope of ever finding love.

Seriously, he says, balancing the amulet on his knuckles. Don’t you want to know?

There’s something in his tone that makes me think of orphans.

What? I say tiredly.

My jizz, he says.

II. He’s so gentle entering me that, for a moment, I fear he’s fallen asleep. Then he negs me about my wine breath and I climax like a supernova.

III. By Tuesday, I’ve read all his books, even the one about Jenna Jameson. I fly to Miami Beach and sit on the deck of the Clevelander Hotel and watch Neil Strauss work his way around the glowing pool.

IV. His hands are small but tantalizing. He smells of a pungent musk. The strobe light over his bed makes me dizzy. He plays Pat Metheny at high volume and sings the notes. It’s impossible to explain to my family what’s happening to me. (Such ruin of fine prospects.) “He does what?” my mother asks.

V. It happens: Neil Strauss condiment-anchors me. I’ve been begging him to for weeks. We’re sitting in a diner on Sunset and he starts by moving the blood around my body by waving his pinkie. It feels like a small stroke. What about if we put all those wonderful feelings in this, he says, grabbing a packet of relish. He shakes the relish between his thumb and forefinger and my heart bangs against my ribs.

Does God’s thunder feel like this inside the believer?

VI. I’m surprised to find that I’m not jealous of the other women. Odd. What I desire is a fivesome, with four Neil Strausses.

VII. Neil Strauss is in Dubai, teaching wealthy sheiks how to find love. For the rest of us, it snows and snows. The days roar and blizzard. At the center of the white, I see his camelish gaze, as through an oculus.

VIII. I know I must quit Neil Strauss. I don’t sleep. Daylight burns my eyes. My love has become indecipherable.

IX. I see my future: I’m in Toronto with my fiance Tomas, strolling along one of the main boulevards. I’m engaged to be married to a wonderful man, a surgeon who repairs the faces of the wrongly disfigured. I love this man. I want to spend my life with him. But every time I think about Neil Strauss, I have a wrenching orgasm. I’ve fallen twice, right on the sidewalk. Tomas is getting suspicious.

X. Does the absence of Neil Strauss imply his absolute presence? And why do I still smell his cologne?

XI. Oh amorous lads of New Haven, do you imagine my naked feet? Have you any use for me that doesn’t feel indelicate? I’ve taken off my shirt and unpeeled my stockings. I’ve danced for you in shivering bedrooms. Leave me be in the morning, so that I might stare through your windows at the birds who fill the cold fountains at dawn, knowing that Neil Strauss is the one who guides them there.

XII. The best thing is when he pushes his entire head inside me. Dear Lord!

XIII. I am of three minds, and in each is Neil Strauss.

He is small enough to dance upon a tree branch.

My body heaves under him, like a revolt.

Still there is a tender hook inside me.

There is no proper course of action.

Neil Strauss makes a noise in his sleep like a cur whimpering. His nose is tipped in blue light. Has he brought me to this nest of helplessness, or have I been here all along?

Steve Almond is the author, most recently, of (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits and Obsessions.

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