The Littlest One

The Littlest OneValentine 1

This thing between them: someone has got to kill it dead. Sure, it was great in the beginning, but what isn't? Look at them now. Just end it.

This is what Lara is thinking as she looks at the penises.

Two rows of clean, fresh, and brightly optimistic pink penises: plastic, rubber and vinyl. Standing ready for inspection like fresh-faced young soldiers massed for a rescue mission. Like springtime crocuses bursting out of the ground, though it's mid-February and far too early for spring. In fact outside it looks as if there's a Valentine's Day blizzard going down.

Lara picks one of them up, turning it around, curious to see the price tag. Phillip goes mental. 

"Well don't touch it!"

"Fine," she says, puts it back in the inspection line with the others. This thing between them. Yep, someone has got to kill it dead.

The pink colour on the dicks is actually a bit unsettling, Lara decides, probably because it looks like the same pink plastic used for the faces of toys. Baby dolls she remembers unwrapping when she was a kid, on so many birthdays, so many Christmases. Lara notices that they are all pointing in the same direction, wonders if this was done by the salesgirl. Wonders if someone told her to line them up that way. ('Don't just stand there, you lazy girl! Go and make the pricks look nice!')

So this is Séduction. Big deal. The big brand-name sex store with the monster outlet on the highway and the ads on CBC every few minutes (after midnight, of course). The place that was going to take the shame and sleaze out of sex shops.

Lara's never been here before. She just marched in off the street with Phillip, saying "I'm going to see this place, finally." She remembers when it opened, right here on Montréal's main shopping street, between Dunn's Deli and the cut price movie house.

What was all the fuss about? It doesn't look like anything special. Clean, well lit, sure, with large windows frosted over into giant keyhole shapes. Overstaffed today, of course. There's a girl at the cash in the store's blue T-shirt, chewing her gum in slow motion, like she's trying to make one piece last the afternoon.  Four guys in similar blue T-shirts are lurking here and there, staring out the windows at the snow pelting down, shifting their weight from one leg to the other, faces carefully neutral, as the store's soundtrack informs us all that love is in the air, everywhere we look around.

They were probably expecting a Valentine's Day rush which never arrived, thanks to this nasty weather. Outside the wind slams into you, leaving your face red and numb, and you practically crawl along, one painful step at a time, as your nostrils freeze and the snow collects in your hair. February in Québéc. Bienvenue.

Phillip seems to have given up on her for now, pacing up the aisles past the bondage gear with his head down, murderously embarrassed.  He's already told her three times in a hissed undertone to stop looking at the goddamn dildos and get out of there.  And so they've made it to another Valentine's Day. Last year ended in a screaming match outside a Chinese restaurant with the icy wind shooting up Lara's nice red dress. This year, it seems, is going to be a show down here, in this Wal-Mart of sex shops.

red-cupidWell, why not here? Look at this place. The mannequins and blow up dolls in scratchy red lingerie, all these costumes and straps and appliances. The wall of DVDs at the back, endless combinations of flesh tones and cartoon lettering. A jigsaw of unconnected body parts: swelling, squirting, squeezing, splayed. Like the poor souls of the dead turning on each other in one of Dante's more inventive circles of hell. Women with their mouths full, their eyes wide and cast upward like old pictures of saints. Or with their eyes squeezed shut and their empty mouths open, as if they were either in advanced stages of pain or caught in the middle of a yawn.

"What is wrong with you?" says Phillip in a low growl, his face suddenly inches from hers.

"Not in front of the children, dear," she answers through clenched teeth, looking down at the row of pink plastic heads peering up at them with their fleshy one-eyed faces.

Shouldn't she find the schlongs more threatening? After all, they are monstrous, with twisty veins like tropical vines curling round the sides and fleshy heads pointed like cold war missiles. How could a union with one of these be anything other than really, really uncomfortable? Cocks you'd find on mythic figures or demigods, Lara supposes. Imagine that the doors swing open and someone, Thor perhaps, comes in shouting and pointing at her, "At last! The dread castle wherein my member lies imprisoned! Only my true bride can remove it from the throng, and set it back in its rightful place. But choose wisely!" And then if she chose the wrong one, they'd all be incinerated in an apocalyptic ball of flame.  (Might not be too bad, considering how cold it is outside.) And if she chose the right one she'd go live with Thor in Valhalla or Asgard or wherever. Would he be any better or worse than Phillip? Does it matter, at this point?

So why are they still together? Maybe because it's going to take something extreme to end it. Day-to-day bickering and misery sure isn't going to do it. Violence or infidelity might, or somebody moving out, but neither or them is willing to go that far. Or it could be that they just don't have the time. And then the weeks go by, and the months.

And today Phillip is full of his usual Valentine's rage, seething because some corporate advertising conspiracy has decided that on this day he is obligated to Act Romantic. He hates it. Hates being told to feel a certain way, hates being the bad guy because he can't. Hates it when she cries. ("Over nothing!" as he often says, almost triumphantly.)  Well, she's got to admit he's got a point there. Lara's not above turning on the tears to win an argument, or shut one down before it gets interesting.  It's a reflex that seems to come a lot more easily these days.

They'd been walking down St Catherine Street looking for somewhere to eat. (Phillip had decided to go downtown for lunch because he said with the storm and all he'd be sure to get a good parking space.) And he'd gone off on his usual Valentine's tirade, then he'd started in on Lara. Her boots especially seemed to offend him today.  Nobody else, he explained, wildly gesturing along the sidewalk, wore boots like these anymore. His point was somewhat weakened by the fact that the street was deserted. Except for an elderly couple in black, inching along against the storm, spikes on the ends of their canes for leverage against the snow and ice, leading each other 1920x1200 89887

If they were at home she would have locked herself in the bathroom, turned the taps on full blast and listened to that for a while. But they weren't at home, so she'd turned away from him suddenly and burst through the doors of Séduction instead, thinking, 'Well, at least he won't follow me in here.'

Phillip has had enough, and now he's standing by the door, mouthing 'I'm leaving!' Then he's outside, with his back to the keyhole window, stamping up and down and huddling into himself to show just how cold it is, how much he's suffering waiting for her.

Does this place have a back exit? Imagine if she just left, out the back and down the street and away, never see Phillip again. Would that be enough to end it?

This thing between them, it's surprisingly tough to kill. Because it's true, it had been great in the beginning. Not just because everything's great in the beginning either. This was the big one, the real thing, love itself, Love Almighty. Yes indeed, Love Almighty, and all this circus roly-poly of cut up body parts and cheap lingerie is nothing but a bizarre insult, an insult to its memory.

Walking up the steps of Metro Peel in August, from darkness into white light and shimmering heat. There he is, in front of the cut-price movie house. Crowds of people going past and around him in their summer clothes, but he's standing still, waiting for her. Then he sees her, the look on his face, pure unguarded joy. And she's walking towards him, then starts to run without knowing it, like every dopey movie cliché she's ever seen. And he's saying "I feel so dumb, I can't stop smiling," and, "I got you a flower." Wilting rose in a plastic holder. Were you ever happier in your life, Lara?

Now it seems like it happened to two different people, but then it was real, and our man Thor, looking down from Asgard or Valhalla or wherever, would have wept to see it. Big tears running down his jagged cheekbones, tears of purest envy. Love Almighty.

It can't last. If you're a mature person, you know that. Love Almighty goes away, it always does. But it's okay, really, because The Kindness is there to take its place. Waiting for the bus to take you to work in the cold you drape the thought of him around your shoulders, like a well worn blanket. You go about your day saving up things to tell him later, falling asleep in front of the TV, warm and loved.

But then The Kindness goes too, shambling off into the blizzard shrugging its big fuzzy shoulders. And you've hardly got time to wave it goodbye when Courtesy storms out the front door after it, snapping its black handbag shut as it marches away, never to return.  It's too much trouble to be nice suddenly, now that you're both so familiar with each other. As familiar as the stuck doorknob you swear at every morning, or your own bleary eyed reflection in the bathroom mirror.

Yep, it all goes, until finally you're together because it would be too much trouble to go. You know it's got to end, but you keep putting it off, like a dentist appointment you need to make, like doing your taxes, like fixing that fucking door knob. Until it's Valentine's Day again.

Lara realizes she's close to tears, again, snivelling and clutching a two-headed pink dildo. Sets the ding-dong back in place with her chewed-up fingers that are suddenly so clumsy, sorry for herself, sorry for everybody.

valentine-s-daySorry for the sales staff, stuck here all day watching the pervs come and go, the giggling teenagers, the high-strung couples. Sorry for Phillip, hunched against the snow. Shamed and pressured by this global flower-selling gimmick holiday to act romantic, go out to dinner, have sex with a woman he might not even like so much anymore.

Sorry for the poor dildos, orphaned from bodies, separated and estranged from their live-dick brothers. She remembers stories from her childhood about teddy bears on Christmas Eve in shop windows, realizing that no one would buy them. Did plastic dicks have the same kinds of conversations on Valentine's Day?

Should she buy one? Was that all it would take to kill this thing between them? Would it be enough for one of them to come out of the store with a fake wiener in a bag, and present it to the other one, saying "Meet my new boyfriend. He's twice as smart as you are and he's got ten times your personality!" Or perhaps more simply: "Here, Phillip, I got you this. Now you can go fuck yourself." And walk away.

Lara wipes her eyes quick with the back of her hand and goes to the cash with the littlest one. She still has no idea what she'll end up doing with it. Start a collection, maybe, like her grandmother's endless shelves of porcelain tea cups. Or bundle it up in white linen and wheel it around the neighbourhood in a baby carriage.

Phillip is still waiting for her in the cold, which is something. And he's saying, "I hope you're happy now," and, "If you buy new boots I'll pay for a third."

Lara is suddenly very tired. "Let's not come here next year". She takes Phillip's gloved hand and they move forward, leaning against each other for leverage against the snow and ice, into the storm and away.

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