David or, more accurately, The Fool, crawled down an empty downtown street to somewhere even more downtown. He was a spy. His friends didn’t know this. Neither did his colleagues. Right under their noses he inhabited a double life. All these years he had waited at his desk for a signal. David waited for a signal and with that signal the name of a betrayer.
David rationalizes his persistent solitude.
David, usually with dick in hand (because it was a particularly enjoyable fantasy), had played it out: the moment when he would come face-to-face with his opponent, someone he knew and someone he didn’t like. The encounter would prove David’s exceptional martial arts training. The art of subduing with a mere pen. The women in his office would see this miraculous transformation and desire David. The men would envy him.
That night, David was heading not to a safe house, a dead drop, or a clandestine meeting under a bridge. David, spy or maybe not, was meeting his dinner club ladies, Gretchen and Cassie, at a restaurant for a meal. They wouldn’t talk about moles and kill squads, but instead trade battlefield stories of their search for everlasting love. But mostly they would talk about sex.
“I keep on having sex with 21-year-olds,” said Gretchen, thirty-six.
“I keep on having the same problem,” said David, forty-something and lying.
“People my age don’t seem to want me. I message them on the dating sites and no one writes back.”
“It’s like a job. It’s a slog.”
“Those 21-year olds — they don’t even know my age. They don’t care. They’re into it.”
“The younger ones are much nicer,” said David. “The ones my age — okay, near my age — they’re either angry I’m looking at them or stricken if I don’t.”
“Don’t you mean leering?” said Gretchen.
“That’s another story.”
“I’m getting married,” said Cassie.
“We know.” It doesn’t matter who said it.
“You’re not allowed to bring significant others to the wedding,” said Cassie, undaunted, “but since you’re both alone you can bring each other.”
“Ha.” It doesn’t matter who said it.
It had been months since the last dinner club. They were out of touch with the latest fiascoes. David told them about the passive aggressive psychologist he had briefly dated. They didn’t even know about the dark painter. Cassie was getting married, for God’s sake. How could David not seen this coming? And they didn’t know about the girl. They didn’t know that a friend of David’s, on seeing him with the girl at a holiday party, had said, “Take off the condom and make a family with this one, already.” His friend had just given birth to twins. “This one’s good. Clarissa was nice, but she was unformed.”
Gretchen, always coarse, asked, “What did the psychologist say when she saw your giant cock?”
“What did she say? She said, ‘Look at that.’ ”
This got a laugh. Funny goes a long way, a beautician once told David.
David quickly grew to hate the psychologist, who needed one herself. Quick to offense, sullen and angry, and a bit lost in New York. Textbook. Her face reflexively went tomato red if even a cat crossed her path.
“On what turned out to be our last night together, I didn’t even want to do it with her. We were doing it but I wanted to stop.”
“Wait,” said Gretchen, “Your penis was inside her vagina and you wanted to stop?”
“I was like, meh.”
“Meh? That’s crazy. So you stopped?” Gretchen took this in. “I don’t care how I feel about the guy, whether I hate him or think he’s hideous or anything. I don’t care. Once it’s in I don’t want it to go anywhere else.”
“Well, you’re a better man than me,” David said, feeling mean.
What did the ladies of the dinner club know about David? They didn’t know that it was impossible to maintain long-term relationships when you’re a spy. Spies shouldn’t get close to anyone and they can’t commit. Everything that comes out of a spy’s mouth is a lie. Spies need to leave wherever they are in only thirty seconds. You can’t have a relationship if you’re always leaving. You can’t even own a pet.
David couldn’t fall in love.