At one point in my college career my then girlfriend and I decided to rent a place a little off the beaten path, where she might indulge her fondness for pot and nude sunbathing, and I could avoid some of my old bandmates for awhile and maybe paint some pictures or read some books or something. We scanned the papers for a few days and looked at four or five places that were remarkably similar to the place we were living already. It seemed like every other house in that town was a duplex featuring an overweight bearded poet living upstairs with his own long-suffering girlfriend and three or four dogs of a hundred pounds or more bred for hunting waterfowl. We already knew that situation by heart.
Late at night you’d hear something being excruciatingly typed out, each letter separated by a significant number of beats, then a cluster of letters, then a fight breaking out among the dogs, then what sounded like a chest of drawers falling down the stairs as the Newfoundlands or Weimaraners were let out to add to the stunning fecal topography of the enclosed yard, a sort of monument valley heaped up from 8 lb. turds. Then you heard the chest being laboriously rolled back up the stairs while the poet and his girlfriend carped at each other, had loud make-up sex, followed by more slow typing, or a slurping, snoring noise.
Ultimately we found a place we were certain would be quiet. It was a small house on a forestry reservation in what had been a cypress swamp outside of Grimesland, NC., within half an hour’s walk to the Voice of America transmitter towers. Drainage canals sluiced though the area in a huge grid, and the driveway crossed several giant culvert pipes, far, far back in the woods. The owner said the only thing we’d see back there was an occasional black bear, maybe. And that his nephew had seen an alligator swimming in one of the canals leading to the Black River, but that was more likely delirium tremens. We were sold.
I’d met my girlfriend at a party during a discussion about pants. I had been dogging a strange young woman who preferred her men big and stupid, and read more Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton than was healthy. She could read, anyway, and write a little. She’d send me long, rambling letters over summer break, psychoanalyzing me while she was taking the rest cure in one of the neo-neurasthenia clinics in Massachusetts.
I had just stumbled across the the term “plus-fours” in a sentence that offered no contextual clues and wondered a.) what they were and b.) how to pronounce them. I assumed it was pronounced “pluss-4’s”, but Sylvia threw back her head with a suburban DC patrician laugh. “It’s Ploo-fore!”
My soon to be girlfriend, a small British woman smoking a spliff like a cigarette, said
“Fuck it is. It’s plus-fours. Heavy knickers. Trousers for golf. Or cunts who like to dress like they’re at a fucking country day school.”
My interest in Sylvia diminished sharply from that instant.
She had wild thick hair that she sometimes twisted into rats, and she listened almost exclusively to Dub, or Dub versions of Eek-a-Mouse. Because of her apparently unkempt hair (which I later discovered took hours to do) everybody thought she looked like Cyndi Lauper, who was at the height of her popularity at the time. I thought she looked more like a young Prunella Scales in an alternative theater production of Borstal Boy.
Her twin interests in photography and nudity had, she led me to believe, enabled her to foot her own bill for her visit to the states. She also had a small scholarship to study immunology.
I had always dreamed of living under the same roof with a true sexual athlete, and I was fortunate to have it happen when I was not of a sufficiently advanced age (24 or older) where it would have certainly proven fatal. This is probably the biggest reason we had to move to the swamp. It was here where I’d undertake the necessary training to get up to speed. I’d learn to survive anaerobic conditions in the manner of a Sherpa, and unhinge my jaw as well as any constrictor. My initial cries of agony would be lost in the vacuum of the dense woods, and we’d have no observers. Not here; a mile and a half off the road in a slightly upgraded hermit’s shack.
We felt safe positioning the bed in front of a large window that opened on a clearing that gave way to a deep ha-ha like moat, eight or nine feet deep. We’d get up with the sun. We’d burn countless thousands of calories. I would be brought to the brink of exhaustion, and somehow keep going until I sensed I was being drawn to a great white light, and there it was. The sun. Again.
I was beginning to shed lean body mass at an alarming rate, despite a diet of Entenmann’s cakes, carbonated beverages, pasta and fries. By the time my girlfriend had to return to Britain to resume her university term, I was fixed in the meditative state reserved for exceptionally austere religious orders.
I hated to see her go. I grieved.
You don’t meet someone you get along with like that virtually every waking hour.
But I knew in my heart that I had to get somewhere to have my jaw worked on so I could chew food properly again.
Shortly after she left, my grandmother died, and my father came looking for me to take me to the funeral. He was always horrible at getting directions, and I was equally bad at giving them.
He found me, though.
He got as far as Grimesland itself, and one of those isolated gas station/community centers where deviants and racists used to meet to hash out the synthesis of Southern public opinion. He asked if anyone knew where I lived.
A guy at the back of the store, probably swathed in cigarette smoke or half choked on a gob full of Red-Man asked one of his fellows “I wonder if he’s that skinny kid fucks the German girl all night in the picture window? Follow me in the car. I got to drive out that way to see about some ‘coon dogs.”

After that, I realized I’d have to relocate closer to school. I vaguely remember hearing muffled applause and catcalls, but I thought it was just a solitary bear crushing through the undergrowth of the wood near the house, or pileated woodpeckers and barn owls howling into the wastes.
To this day, I wonder if the locals didn’t drag some sort of makeshift concession stand with them to the live sex show. Was there a popcorn machine on the back of someone’s truck?
I know for a fact there were Goobers. The question remains: Were there Raisinets?