I rushed into the small cafe and at once spotted Lynn. She was sitting in our favorite corner, sprawled out in an oversized armchair, her hair pulled up loosely with an elastic, a book resting on her knees while she examined something she had just plucked from between her teeth. Stopping quickly to place my order, a double mocha latte with whipped cream and chocolate Jimmies. I threw myself into the chair across from her. Without wasting another moment, I reached for a chocolate chip, chocolate dipped pastry from the overfilled tray teetering on the edge of the low table between us. Hardly bothering to chew, and ignoring the crumbs that fell into my misbuttoned blouse, I savored the sweet tasting treat, letting it linger in my mouth before swallowing. Almost immediately, the headache that early that morning had settled just behind my eyes, began to retreat.
“God, I needed that!” I said, accepting a mug from a young waitress. “I guess so!” Lynn answered, dropping her book on top of the chaotic stack of Cosmopolitan magazines that lay at her feet. “Why do you let it go so long?” she asked. “I start with a chunk of walnut fudge first thing every day, works like a charm” She said, helping herself to a sprinkled donut. “I guess I’m still having a hard time believing that 1500 calories of chocolate a day is considered healthy here.” Chocolate was better than a shot of B12 or even an old fashioned prenatal vitamin on D4. Thank Christ for the reverse metabolism” I said with a chuckle. “That’s for sure” Lynn answered with a laugh of her own, ``yesterday I ate a whole birthday cake and a box of Whitman's samplers”.
The Dyna 4 Relocation Project, (or D4, as we participants call it) is located on a small planet, newly discovered, and only recently developed for human inhabitation. Because of the extremely high levels of estrogen in the atmosphere, men can not survive for more than 48 hours or so without suffering irreversible, adverse, and often embarrassing reactions. One guy had tried, but within a week, he left with a most bodacious set of double D’s and cheekbones Mia Farrow would kill for. One guy made it 8 days before his body, devoid of nutrients, failed and he died on the floor in one of the labs. He was then dissected by an all female team of pathologists.
The women who applied for the program had to meet strict criteria. No serious health issues, no small children, no history of criminal behavior, etc. The screening process was extreme, astronauts went through less trouble. Still the number of applications submitted was greatly underestimated and the founders of the project had to create a lottery to choose the first group. I was reluctant at first to even put my name on the list, but ultimately curiosity compelled me to apply. When my name was drawn, I almost backed out, wondering how I could leave my husband and family for two years. To my surprise, Jimmy gave me both his blessing and his encouragement. I happily packed my bags. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that jazz. I really believed in the vital importance of the experiment, and I was honored to be chosen. I was sure our marriage could survive two years. Jimmy and I were solid gold.
For the rest of the morning, Lynn and I sat, content, gorging on calories, listening to old Bette Midler songs, pumped softly from silk covered speakers mounted above us.
“So are you looking forward to seeing Brent?” I asked.
“Yep, two more days, I’ve been climbing the walls for a week, and every battery in the house is dead” She laughed through the humming sound she made through her pursed lips.
“You're such a whore!” I teased, although secretly, I too had been thinking an awful lot about Jimmy’s impending visit.
Once a month the Transporters showed up at various ports throughout D4 and shuttled in the husbands, boyfriends, and finance’s that the participants of the project had left behind. For two nights, our fella’s were allowed within the confines of D4, a radical and often criticized experiment conducted by women for women. Walking the streets of our pod, the atmosphere was carnival like, at least for that one weekend a month. Prior to these little reunions, the residents of D4 puttered around in comfy sweat pants and old Betty Boop T-shirts. We had bushy armpits and bad breath. And none of us gave a single shit.
For three weeks of every month, we had intelligent conversations and debates, we wrote songs and we painted in oil colors. Our minds and creativity were emphasised and valued above anything else on Dyna 4. It was a self sustained environment that allowed women real freedom to learn, to garnish knowledge, to excel, all without the restraints that the men we left behind, even inadvertently, imposed on our gender . We were doctors, and poets, we were athletes and politicians, we were empowered and unencumbered.
Alas, this all went out the metaphorical shitter when, (minus the woodland creatures and charming soundtrack) we very important test subjects regressed, and we would shamelessly transform ourselves, like a Disney princess before a ball. Every time Jimmy was due to visit, I would blow the dust off my Lady Bic, break out the tweezers, the curling iron, and my long ignored cosmetics bag.
Although I loved the freedom D4 allowed us, one of the most important things I logged into my journal was that all these “improvements”, the waxings, the perfume, the carefully chosen lingerie were all for the benefit of the men in our lives. My personal theory was, when society removed the Y chromosome from its equation, women focused on themselves and each other.
I was expected to log my experiences here as honestly as possible. At the end of my term, my time as a willing guinea pig, that journal would belong to the powers that be. It was all part of the agreement each of us had signed before blasting off.
I couldn’t wait to see Jimmy, our visits were almost always full of raw, frantic, business trip sex. I didn’t have to cook his dinners or remember to pick up his blood pressure meds, and I didn’t have to listen to him whine about Tom Brady leaving the Patriots. Sorry dude. I relished this newfound power. I basked in that shit.
After deciding to meet at the sector theater later, for the Pretty Woman - Steel Magnolias double header, we parted ways. Lynn was late for her yoga class, and I wanted to get some beach time, hoping at least one of the suns were out. The idea of lying in the sand with no one for company but Danielle Steel was pretty alluring.
That night, after watching Richard Gere rescue Julia Roberts from her life of prostitution, I slept soundly, dreaming of Jimmy. I was not at all prepared for the kick in the ass I would get Friday morning.
Jimmy’s shuttle was fifteen minutes late and when he finally deboarded, (and was given his injection of a highly concentrated testosterone serum), I was so anxious, I had already chewed off three of my acrylic nails. Finally I spotted him, he looked tired as I threw my arms around him.
“Jimmy!” I yelped, “I missed you so much.” He returned my embrace, but only briefly, and responded in clipped tones, “Lets go, I feel like shit” The injections always made Jimmy nauseous, most of the other men had built up a tolerance, but not Jim. He still heaved his guts every time, and arriving home, he made a beeline for the bathroom as usual. I walked around nervously, pouring us each a glass of wine, and turning the stereo on softly, hoping to jar him out of the funk he was obviously in. When he lit from the bathroom, his shirt untucked, tie hanging loosely around his neck, and his hair mussed, I thought, “God, he’s never looked sexier” I felt a little guilty for also thinking that maybe that was just because I hadn’t seen a man in close to a month. Smiling my best come hither smile, I handed him a glass.
“Ellen, I want you to come home”
“WHAT?!” I thought. Where was this coming from? I still had almost a year left of my term and was finally hitting my stride. I’d written two novels and invented a substitute for the glue they use in Post Its. He couldn’t mean it. For Christ sakes, he was the one that encouraged me to come here! When I sized him up, I saw real determination in his posture. I scrambled for a way to handle this new development.
“Jimmy...” I stammered. (It was all I could come up with, pretty clever huh?)
“I mean it El, this is crazy, it’s been forever, I don’t think I can make it another year”
“But Jimmy,” I swallowed the remainder of my wine and quickly poured another, “We agreed, two years, we talked about this...You thought it would be good for our marriage!”
“Well I changed my mind Ellen, this is not good for our marriage, this is bullshit, I’m sick of coming home to an empty house, I’m sick of eating alone, sleeping alone, all of it. And with unleashed anger he added “ And I’m sick to death of coming to this fucked up place!”
He sounded as if he had put a bit of thought into this, and I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I loved it here, that much I was sure of. It was a huge privilege to be part of the first group chosen for the experiment, and I was accomplishing great things.
“Jim, it’s only another year, I’ve come this far, don’t ask me to quit, it’s selfish”
He looked up, and I knew from the heat in his eyes, that I crossed a line. (Oops) So much for my weekend of primal, beast like sex. I sighed heavily, looks like we would be opting for the ‘lets argue all weekend’ package instead.The best defense was an offense. I steadied myself, dug in my heels and prepared for his best retort.
“Selfish? Me? You’ve got that ass backwards dontcha think?” He bellowed.
I flinched, Jimmy never yells, (it was kinda sexy though) but I approached him nonetheless. I placed my hands on his shoulders.
“Jimmy, don’t get so mad, let’s just talk about this...”
He cut me off there, before I could deliver my ‘we can get through this speech’.
“Oh you mean, you talk, I listen, and then we do it your way?!” He spit the words at me like venom.
‘Who was this guy?’ I thought, and then, did this mean I wasn’t going to get laid?
“Well that’s not happening this time” he growled. “This time we’re doing it MY way!”
Ok, clearly he wasn’t talking about the kama sutra here. I mentally regrouped, pushing aside the ill timed idea of just jumping his bones right then.
“Jimmy! Calm Down! You’re acting like an ass,” I shouted, wondering if there was any wine left.
Without warning he hurled his drink against the wall, spraying crimson liquid and tiny shards of glass everywhere. I began to cry. Jimmy wanted me to give up the only important thing I had ever done, there was a fairly expensive merlot dripping off my fairly expensive sofa, and getting laid was rapidly becoming a dim possibility. Wiping my nose on my sleeve, not caring that my mascara was probably running, I dropped onto the couch next to him.
For a long time neither of us spoke. Then I felt his hand on the back of my neck, impulsively I shivered as he lifted my hair, leaned in, and brushed his lips against my skin. “Please come home Ellen” he whispered. Alarm bells rang and I knew exactly what he was up to, using sex as leverage! I thought about how ironic it was, that back home I used this very tactic myself more than a few times! I was about to point this out, determined to steel myself against his advances, but then he pulled out the big guns. With one hand on my thigh, his breath hot on my moistened skin, my resolve weakened when I felt his mouth on my earlobe. That son of a bitch! He knew the earlobe thing would chink my armor and he played it beautifully. “Must be strong, must resist,” I told myself while his hand traveled further into the darkness of my skirt...
While my body betrayed me, I had one last rational thought. “Tampa Bay sure hit the jackpot when they signed the goat”.