I can recall every moment that my skin has been stroked, every time another human being has spent their energy pleasing me, no matter what their real intentions might have been.
The night after I won the lottery I made a list of all the men I’d ever slept with. I’m not one of those girls who pretends she can’t remember. There’s only been a couple dozen, and I can recall every moment that my skin has been stroked, every time another human being has spent their energy pleasing me, no matter what their real intentions might have been. This is something basic that men would be wise to tattoo on their hearts—women remember. We believe that it all matters, even when we’re drinking and dancing at the clubs and acting like post-second-wave-feminist-entrepreneurial-sex-goddesses with tattoos on our breasts and condoms tucked inside our stockings. We remember. Girls want dreams to come true.
Money’s never been much in my dreams, though, so it’s ironic I would win so much. Pay off my bills, buy a new car, share with friends—then what? I have what I need, don’t have kids, my family is long gone, I live my days peering at the world through the vision of things sexual, hiding in my imagination more often than not, consumed by music and art and passion and ideas. I think of the French film Amelie and it comes to me, the need for whimsy and kindness and appreciation of some of the great lovers I’ve known.
I count them. I rate them. I am surprised to find that for every two bad lovers there is at least one great one to offset them. There are men whose passion still leaves imprints on my skin, there are men whose every word of affection was like diamonds and rubies and pearls falling from their tongues, enriching my soul with the bright colors of the morning sun. I check off the bad lovers, laughing, hoping for them that somewhere along the line they’ve learned to pay attention, learned that they need to do something in this world beside just take up space and waste the time of girls who matter.
Michael J., New York City—he’s first on the list that remains. I want to share my lotto winnings with him, and the others on the list, and I want them to know it’s because they were great lovers, but I never want them to know it’s from Emily, this girl who now lives in London and who will never forget. I ask my lawyer, Jackson—who happens to also be the man I’m currently sleeping with—how to do this, and we begin.
It’s a simple letter. We copy the MacArthur Genius Grant idea, the people who call up scientists and artists and philosophers out of the blue—surprise!—and tell them they’ve won a fortune for their good work. Only mine’s a bit more personal. We start calling it The Lucky Dick Club privately, but give it a more formal name for legal purposes.
To: Michael J.
From: THE LDC FOUNDATION
You have been selected by our committee to receive an LDC Powerballs Grant. Our selection is done in secret, and there are no strings attached to this award. The first of four checks for $25,000 is enclosed; additional checks will be issued on the first of September in the next three years, for a total of $100,000.
You are considered a pioneer in touch, a kind and passionate man in a world of sloppiness and unreturned calls. You have demonstrated particular strength and insights with women. LDC grant recipients are singled out annually by the foundation for extraordinary creativity in their desires. You have been rated as a bold, experimental lover, whose social and philosophical themes speak to the heart of modern society. You have shown a marked capacity for self-direction, and a respect and passion for the female gender that should be emulated by all mankind.
We share with you one of our committee member’s recommendations:
I remember Michael J . . . he was tall and kind and had eyes a girl could get lost in. He took the trouble to be romantic—there were strawberries and peonies and cream for tea—and he took the time to worship my body from head to toe with his kisses and his compliments. I am sure he knew prettier women; I am sure he had way more experience than me; but when I was with him I knew that I was the most sensual woman in all of New York City. He had hands that could make love to me all by themselves, hands almost like a masseuse, knowing, caressing, finding the spots that mattered, carrying me up beyond my physical sensations onto a higher plane of loving. When he would finally enter me I knew that there was only one reason that we had such beautiful bodies that fit together like two pieces of a puzzle, and it was so that he could drive me hard and long into the night until I had not a single ion of negative energy left in my soul, left only with light and enthusiasm and gratitude for existing in such a beautiful fucking world.
The LDC Foundation is proud of your performance. Do carry on.
Michael J. is in his forties now, he’s a man in New York City, he’s not likely to ever remember who it was, since I didn’t give any identifying details. We send the letter off. I’m going crazy waiting. Jackson loves me passionately to help ease my anxiety, and I swear he seems to be working on becoming a better lover every single day . . . but I don’t even know Michael or any of his friends well enough to check up on what’s happening. Finally, three weeks later the check is cashed, and the “foundation” never even receives a call in question. But I’m betting he thinks about it every single time he looks at a woman, and maybe even every time his lucky dick gets hard.
The second grant goes to a lover from almost fifteen years ago. I remember Allen McD, now in Toronto . . . he is the hottest man I’ve ever known, hot in that way that you can’t even describe to friends until they’ve experienced something like it. He’d back me into a corner in a club or the subway or just a doorway on the street and begin to make love to me. He made me feel like I was born to fuck. It wasn’t really a sensual thing, more like two animals in the night in heat and in need. It wasn’t a grab and grope thing like guys do, the way women hate, this was in the words and the look and the need to be inside of me, the need expressed as though I was a drug that he would die if he didn’t get another hit of immediately. I began to walk differently during and after Allen McD., a little more swing to my hips, a lot more confidence, an unwritten sign across my chest that said “I am hotter than thou.” Allen McD. wrote those words across me, and I know he wrote them on other women, and whether it was all because we had raging hormones or were nymphos for a while or because he was a troubled soul in so many other ways, it doesn’t matter, because it stays with me today and I still can exude the same air to any man I want every single time I walk down the street.
The check is cashed, again a month later. Do they sit and ponder, do they hide it, do they think it’s a joke, or finally deposit the check just to see? This time I still have a former business acquaintance in common who works with Allen McD. I wait another month and call her up on some business pretense and chat about things, and then casually ask what good old Allen’s up to these days. “He seems really happy,” she says. “He got engaged last month...and he’s taking her on a long honeymoon to the Grand Caymans . . . you know, he laughs a lot, more than he used to. He ought to bottle it and sell it, whatever it is he’s got going on these days.”
I’ve finally worked my way up to the man who broke my heart, the lover I had to debate about when making the list. He gave me everything, but then he took it away. Still, time alters perception, and what I remember most about him today is the loving. I remember Nick B., Boston . . . he came to me one day like a bolt of lightning. He tied me up—it’s what I do with all the girls, he told me, it’s what turns me on—he taught me to love the feel of hemp rope against my bare skin, he showed me a different kind of dance, he could control my every move, and he could change the way I breathe. The fact that he did this with way more than one woman at a time more often than not was disappointing, but doesn’t change those midnight hours when I was wrapped up by him and permanently marked with his brand of love.
I still know Nick B., in that awful ex-lover/friend/ acquaintance way, when you don’t really know a damned thing about each other anymore but pretend that it still matters that you chat occasionally when you’re in town. So I wait, and I call him three months after the check is cashed. He’s doing great, he tells me, he’s finally finished his novel, he has a new inspired state. I ask him if he’s in love, after telling him about my new love, Jackson. “No,” he says, “I decided about four months ago to become celibate for a year and to really think about my history, and what it is that I need to be doing . . . why are you calling me, by the way, what’s up?” I tell him I do volunteer work for a non-profit business now, and just need a stateside referral in Boston from him.
He laughs. “You were always a do-gooder, Emily.”
And then it occurs to me, he has no idea how much good I can do. There is more to this story. I am thinking too small, too personally, focused only on my own memories. There are a million lovers out there and more than half of them are bad. I’m watching Jackson sneak in books like From Porn to Poetry, Herotica, 1000 Ways to Tongue Your Lover, and God knows he gets sexier all the time even when I think he can’t get any better, but those books aren’t being read by lousy lovers. This will never do. Jackson often says in his lawyerly way that “money changes everything,” and maybe he’s right.
I can change the world. Fuck locally, award globally. Life is short. Towers fall down, young people die, still, rudeness is everywhere and lovers continue to thoughtlessly cause pain.
I can change this.
This is my calling in life, to rid the world of bad lovers. There are so many women I know, and they’ll share. They remember. We can expand; we can raise funds; we can sneak it to the press; we can inspire lovers everywhere, and the question on everyone’s mind will be—what would someone remember about me? If I work at this long and hard and cleverly enough, by the time we get to post-third-or-fourth-wave-feminist- entrepreneurial-sex-goddess girls who will still probably have tattoos on their breasts and condoms tucked inside their stockings, they will remember differently, and perhaps all of their dreams will come true.