Five Rules for Living

  1. Rule Number One: Don’t die.

    According to Sumerian legend, it is bad luck to have sex with children awake in the house, but it’s also bad luck to have sex with children asleep in the house, and this I know from personal experience rather than ancient gossip and rumor.

    My least convenient orgasm of all time occurred at my grandmother’s house, at the dining room table, during Thanksgiving dinner. I was seeing a guy who lived halfway across the country, and we’d spent the better part of three days naked on mattresses in a friend’s attic, just touching each other in as many ways as we could think of. We called it our arms race. When we got to Grandma’s house, I was seated next to my three-year-old sister, who reached up to touch the pendant on a necklace I was wearing — a bronze African fertility goddess, as it happens (I was on the pill) — and my sister accidentally grazed my very tender left breast with her tiny little hands. As she played with the doll hanging around my neck, I had to stifle not only a moan, but dueling expressions of surprise, ecstasy, fear, and guilt.

    I had to stifle not only a moan, but dueling expressions of surprise, ecstasy, fear, and guilt.
  2. Rule Number Two: Don’t kill anyone else.

    Sometimes I just want to walk up to the ugliest guy on the street and whisper in his ear. I see countless teenagers in the afternoon whom I’d like to kidnap and corrupt. I want to take them home and bathe them and set them free.

    I once wrote this really fucked-up porn story, more neurotica than porn, about this middle-aged librarian who gets solicited by a boy hustler on Polk Street. She takes him home, back to her middle-class Nob Hill apartment, and pays him to play Scrabble and drink tea with her, just sit there, and this drives the kid nuts. He can’t deal. He picked her up wearing one of those Chinese straw hats, a coolie hat. She’s not sure if he’s Chinese, but he sure is pretty, and meanwhile, he’d rather just seduce her, pocket the money and just skedaddle back to the streets he’d crawled out from under, and the thing that made it sick is, I kept coming up against murder. One of them would have to kill the other for the story to make any sense to me, and that wasn’t the story I wanted to write. I’d actually seen this boy, he said Hi to me outside my apartment on Valencia Street one night, lingered as I opened the door. He really was pretty, he really was wearing a coolie hat, and I was nowhere near middle-aged then, but I’m getting close now, and I don’t want either of us to die. That would violate Rules Number One and Two.

    But I stalled, and then I lost the one copy I had of the story, and I guess I could rewrite it, I probably should, but I think I should probably wait until I actually want to kill someone, and then write the Scrabble murder story. It’ll be killer.

  3. Rule Number Three: Don’t start any fist fights you can’t back up yourself.

    Corollaries: Don’t pack luggage you can’t carry; Don’t say you didn’t get any help if you didn’t ask for any OUT LOUD; don’t offer backup you don’t want to provide.

    For months now, I’ve been fucking instead of working or writing, I’ve been fucking like I invented it, I’ve been fucking like it’s banned, I’ve been I’ve been fucking my way through the alphabet, on to other planets, I’ve qualified for the Olympic Fucking Team, I’ve been coaching the Fucking Team, and here I am sitting at this café table, writing so I won’t go fuck anything, and I’m hoping the back of my dress isn’t wet, just soaked all the way through, because everything leading up to it sure is.

    Why are those megaphone-shaped speakers on top of the bank building? What does the bank have to shout about? They’re too busy counting their money to have sex in their vaults on top of big piles of it, which is what I would do if I ran the bank. If I won the lottery, I’d wash all the money and make a big bed out of it, fill a waterbed frame with big, loose money petals, fuck runaways, old men, cops, kindergarten teachers, fuck the bankers on top of all that cash, because there is nothing kinkier than acknowledging the money part of free sex, of reminding your boyfriend in a very specific way that if he wears nice pants and sits through the modern dance performance, especially if he goes online and buys the tickets himself, he’ll get the best blowjob of his adult life.

  4. Rule Number Four: Don’t break up the band.

    Corollaries: Don’t sleep with your girlfriend’s roommate, or your roommate’s girlfriend, or your best friend’s ex-boyfriend, or your ex-boyfriend’s best friend, and so on.

    Shauna is the prettiest girl in San Francisco, and I fucked her boyfriend; then I fucked the other girl he was cheating on her with; and then, of course, I fucked Shauna.

    Oh, but you know all about Shauna. You were there to see it. I mean, you thought you were picking her up, but she was picking me up, and of course I had to pick you up to make it okay that I was picking her up, and of course for two years now we’ve been making these jokes to our friends about inappropriate touching and chaperones and all, and showing off the new muscles we’d earned burning off the desire we had to pound each other into the ground via the bed — Look, I’ve been working out! — but then, once we got all onto my couch and into my bed, you were more concerned with fucking things up accidentally than with fucking on purpose. God, You’re My Friend, you said, but we kept asking her to come with us, we kept asking you to come with us — finally we had to tie you to the bed with one of my thigh-highs and make you watch but I guess we didn’t have to make you watch, I mean we didn’t have to make you watch, but you might say, we didn’t have to twist your — but then we fucked anyway. I guess I hadn’t passed out but passed over, violating really all the rules.

    You told me about it in this dream I had the same time it was happening, where Shauna held my face and stroked my hair while you fucked me, whispering in my ear how beautiful I was, how perfect the breasts, how white the skin, and when she told me to come I nearly lost my mind, nearly lost my body again right there at my own party — did I happen to mention this was my birthday? — and she asked you, Don’t You Think She’s Ready to Come Now? before she said anything to me about it, and I felt like I was chained to the inside of a windmill or a big wooden ship.

    Pussy tastes a lot like all the things they say it tastes like. Like licking a pearl out of a fresh-shucked oyster. Like drinking a lily stem as if it’s a straw. But it also depends on the girl. Some girls taste like Chinese food, like the peanut dishes called kung pao. Some girls taste like butter, or like garlic butter, or like plain horse gelatin or miso soup, or raw salmon, or marsh water, or like the inside of an old well. Shauna tasted like lawn clippings smell, like fresh-mown grass or green onions, and now I want to get up and run to the park and roll around in it like a dog, making that smell rise up from the ground so I can taste her insides all over again.

    Sometimes when you’re touching me, I have no idea what’s going on down there, and I wish I had a black-box recorder, so my instruments could tell me how to reproduce the crash.
  5. Rule Number Five: Always wear your seat belt.

    Corollaries: Carry condoms; own a toilet plunger; know where your towel is.

    I like this café, because when you sit here on the porch, and a truck or a large van drives by, the porch rumbles, and my chair vibrates.

    Instead of taking a cold shower or just going home and fucking myself, I am sitting outside in January reading William Safire and I still can’t stop thinking about you, about the way last night you started fucking me when I reached for an ashtray, I’d just lit a cigarette, I thought we were taking a break, and suddenly your fingers were telling my story, me laying across your lap like a naughty child, smoking furtively like a naughty child, fucking you like a naughty child.

    Sometimes when you’re touching me, I have no idea what’s going on down there, and I wish I had a black- box recorder, so my instruments could tell me how to reproduce the crash.

    It might be the case that I can only retrieve the black box after I am dead, but sometimes the temptation to break myself open, in order to witness once again what you’ve done, is forceful enough that I just need to lie down.

    I would decorate my whole house with you if I could figure out how to do it without violating any rules.

J. Tarin Towers is a figment of your imagination. When her time comes, she wants to die a virgin. Oops.

Adam Kidder is a visual artist living in New York City. When his time comes, he wants to die knowing he’s used what he had to do what he could, so nobody says, “That boy was no good!”