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TERESA'S BILLBOARDS

Dreamed 1988/5/1 Chris Wayan

THAT DAY

I just saw "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." What a primal love triangle! Teresa the photographer, Sabina the painter.. and Tomas. Charming, dishonest, promiscuous Tomas. The man whose motto is:

"Take off your clothes. Trust me, I'm a doctor."

THAT NIGHT

In the back of the Stanford Cafe, in a dark wood booth, three women sit--a blackhaired artist, nervous as a trapped bird, and her two best friends, who are encouraging her to draw in a notebook. I sit down by her. Her name is Teresa. She's my wife. She does swift, exquisite line landscapes, people, animals, cars, flowers. They're gonna publish her art! One of her friends who knows printing will color the pictures later. Teresa trusts her to do this and negotiates the format and the money with admirable calm. Me, I'd be jello with anxiety.

It's not money issues that give her that nervous look--Teresa's a winner in all areas but one: she can't trust men. Suspicious, angry, hopeless--we're all monsters. Half the time, she still figures I tricked her into marriage and I want to own her. She looks up as I sit and says "Hi" and stops talking. No longer free and easy. Yet still the flowing lines pour out of her steady hands... a separate world.

Out the window, night falls and the Bay lights up. Floodlit billboards wake up and shine. They are chapter headings in Teresa's long saga of disasters with men--and with me, shadowed by her terrible pessimism about me(n). She's my wife, yet she confesses this stuff only to her girlfriends. I know only the headlines glaring across the city in fifty-foot letters--

TERESA
VICTIM OF
SLEAZY TRIANGLE
TERESA
DUMPED AGAIN AS
HE MAKES IT BIG
TERESA
BELIEVED
HIM!
BEHIND EVERY
GREAT MAN IS
TERESA!

I know less than the public knows, I never hear the details, because I'm a man, and you know men.

The billboards are so bitter I doubt my own honesty. A lot of them implied that ALL creative men leech off women for their energy or inspiration or just daily sustenance. I'm a good writer--do I leech off Teresa, not take her seriously as an artist? It's true I worry only about her relationship to me, and her unhappiness, as if that's all there is to her. Yet her talent is obvious, she's confident there, she has the support she needs... and she's in deep trouble on the personal side. Am I a self-deluded leech, or do the advertisers just give the public what they want to hear? Or... what Teresa wants to believe.

One billboard quotes a big New York writer: "Each step of my career, a woman's dedication made the difference." Like ladder-rungs, huh? Stepped on... As he floats up, in a parasitic dream... if I got pampered like that, it'd leave me deficient in self-care, and habitually underestimating the women I used, in order to justify using them... I've met men who do that. Bloodsuckers. They drained Teresa's trust quite dry. But I don't do that. Do I?

I grab a paper napkin and start sketching Teresa's reflection in the window, knowing if I look directly at her too long she'll get wary and close up. Slow painful work; I'm not fluent like her.

Her best friend Sabina, the mirror sculptor, looks out and our gazes meet, bounced by the window. She freezes a moment, turns her head back to Teresa, intent on her angst, "Uh huh... he did?" She fidgets distractingly as I try to concentrate on Teresa. Sabina squirms on the bench. Her knees creep out and her green skirt creeps up her thighs... Way up. What's with her? Ants up her ass? God her legs are long!

They end at last. The dress is up at her waist. Her cunt is naked. Sabina glances at me for an instant, looks back at Teresa. Rocking her hips slowly. Red lips glisten. I shiver. She's smolderingly sexy, but I'm repelled by her insensitivity--always felt it in her aura, but this is plain cruelty to Teresa.

Only as I write this do I see... she was also being cruel to me.

Dream: my wife's best friend flashes me, right in front of her! She sees and assumes we're cheating on her...
And Teresa turns and sees me staring. Sees the sketchpad. Follows my eyes--and sees her best friend's reflection, naked under the table. She snatches for my napkin and snarls to her other friend "He's drawing dirty pictures to commemorate his affair with my best friend!" I fight over the napkin a moment then tear it free and hold it up to the window so they all see it in reflection--Teresa's face, next to Teresa's real face staring at it... Nothing under the table!

A shift, and... now our booth is on the roof of one of the towers. A chill wind up here. The only real light is a billboard looming over us, with another chapter of Teresa's shame: a hundred-foot blush. The lurid halfdusk slows my eyes, but I at last I see there's only a foot-high concrete edge, not a proper rail. Teresa... Teresa's chair is leaning on the edge.

I grab her shoulder, scared she'll fall--or jump. I'm that worried now. She tenses as I touch her.

Now I'm hurt and a little angry too. I protest the flinch.

"I love you!"

This means nothing.

Man dialect. Just mannish for nothing.

I struggle for a way to reach her.. and refuse to let go.

This seems to the right thing, she doesn't try to break free--WANTS care, strength... yet dreads CONTROL. Aha! "Teresa--for you, touch means control--someone trying to control you. For me, touch doesn't mean that--it's a FEELING relation, not a... POWER relation." I don't fully grasp what I'm saying, though it feels true. Teresa language.

She relaxes a bit--she HEARD that! Her suspicion changes visibly--doesn't leave, just becomes misery and suspicion about her own attitude--and continued doubt of course.

Her friends make a nest of coats and scarves and go down to the far corner of the roof. I lead Teresa away from the edge, into the nest. "I'm not an Old World husband who doesn't want you to have your own life!" She relaxes more at that. She really feared I would? I stroke her a while. "I want YOU, not Sabina! And it's safe for you to let go, make noises, come. I am NOT BLIND to your feelings, you know." This gentle scolding is the first time I've even let her see my hurt that she fears me--doesn't see me.

As I say "NOT BLIND," I feel a sexy quiver in Teresa--a quiver of hope. Weak but there. I bend over from cradling her and slip my hands up her thigh and tickle her near her crotch--feeling what I feel and what she feels, both, without effort. The effort came from her disbelief and having to fight to keep her doubt from becoming mine. I've always felt what others feel, inside my body as if it were all me, and at last I'm starting to accept that this means I can't be around miserable people. I have to change Teresa, or leave her.

I intend to change her.

I touch her cunt lips gently and she's wet. Hope excites her that much. I slide my sticky fingers up to her clit... Lie down on my side in our coat nest and touch her clit with the tip of my tongue. I'm very turned on! She's still hesitant, am I the bad promiscuous male who wants her friends and laughs about her with locker room males, or am I who I seem to be, is her conditioning really that wrong, was the sketch of her the key piece of evidence that her assumptions about who to trust are all backwards?... then I feel her breath on me, on the tender part of my cock, warm and cool silk slide of Teresa's breath. And I know that after a lifetime of being used and now being nursed, Teresa is finally--slowly--getting ready to reciprocate.

Ready to trust.

Dream: I try to comfort my wife by the light of giant billboards announcing her failures.

This is me awake now editorializing. I bet you're just delighted at my timing. But I don't remember any more. And that interests me! I tend to remember what matters to me. So, learning that I'm finally ready to trust, means more to me than an intense emotional love scene, is sweeter than orgasms.

Teresa? Teresa is me. I was battered in my last longterm relationship, and I don't trust anyone much--myself included. Teresa inside me--the shy artist who falls in love with dangerous speed and depth--Teresa has always feared that she's unreal, that I MUST be sexually selfish and shallow. I'm male and all males are Tomas--that is, swine. Celebrated swine. On TV, in movie, I see endless billboards extolling the selfish Tomas types who lie to and use Teresas.

But I LIKE loving. Listening. Telling the truth.

And all it takes, to bridge the gender gap, in either direction, is painfully huge doses of truth at uncomfortable moments.

The end. Right? I mean, it's all neatly resolved now, we all know what to do, right?

You first.



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