Jeff Bridges Knocking on the Door of my Caravan: An Interview with Meg Pokrass
Thanks for sharing “Cured,” “Optional Scenes,” and “My Lover’s Wife” with our readers this month, Meg! Let’s get straight to it: Jeff Bridges is one hunk of melancholic sexiness, and you wouldn’t really say no if he was knocking on your door, right?
Melancholic indeed, you said it! I fall for sad, funny, melancholic men!
Speaking of melancholic sexiness, your pieces this month are pure funny erotica!
There are so many great lines that dive into the absurdity and pleasure of sex and attraction, but this one’s one of my favorites: “ When they kissed, she felt well-preserved and lovely. Maybe this was the cured meat talking. Salted, which meant it would never expire. She thought about asking if he'd let her pour salad dressing on his tongue, but she’d never really ask him this, he was dealing with enough” (from “Cured”).
I would just like to compare and contrast it with an excerpt from James Fey’s Katerina, which recently won the Literary Review’s infamous Bad Sex Award: “Blinding breathless shaking overwhelming exploding white God I cum inside her my cock throbbing we’re both moaning eyes hearts souls bodies one.”
Phew! How does one go about writing about sex without sounding like an idiot (asking for a friend)
It’s far more stimulating to write about a character’s relationship with sex, and with each other, than to write about the sex itself.
And, to me, it’s ‘coming,’ ‘come,’ or ‘came’. I find the shorthand to be one of the worst slang terms available in the English language.
You’ve figured out that I’m old now, right?
Any favorite erotic pieces or writers that write sex well?
Sex and/or death are always present in stories, whether we write about it or not. If we don’t take them into consideration, we’re probably not writing deeply. Nuala O’Connor, in some of her wonderful flash fictions stories, writes about real people and their relationship to sex. Another writer I adore who writes about sex in a very special way is Aimee Bender. Her stories are weirdly sexy, magical, funny and sad. What a magician she is.
You have published and edited flash fiction collections, you run a literary magazine and competition (New Flash Fiction Review), you are involved in the Flash Fiction Festival UK, and you lead regular writing workshops and events. For readers new to your work, please share with us something exciting you are currently working on. Also, if you could take only one of your stories with you on Judgment Day, which one would it be, and what would you have St. Peter write down about it in his ledger at the Pearly Gates? (Feel free to provide any links)
I was overwhelmingly excited to have a story, “The Big Sleep”, published in Electric Literature recently. That was a dream publication for me! That one is a story I wouldn't mind taking to the pearly gates. There’s my new collection “Alligators At Night” (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2018) and I have a new collection of microfiction coming out in the Fall of 2019. My other very exciting news is that I’m founding and co-editing Best Microfiction, a new yearly anthology series, with the wonderful Gary Fincke. Dan Chaon is our first judge/guest editor.
For those of us following you on social media, you have documented your move from California to the North of England in very interesting detail. So back to the sex topic: Are Americans more prudish than Brits in talking about sex, or vice-versa? What other cultural contrasts have you found along the way?
I wrote a postcard for Wigleaf recently, addressing this very issue! Here it is:
I felt British and wanted to smoke. I wanted him too, but there were various problems.
I'd eaten too many chips again. I wanted to be skinny, American, and rude.
"We're having an um, well... I guess you would call this a rainy patch," he said. What he really should have said is that it rains here every day. The egg in my throat felt broken.
He offered me a light. Asked me if there was anything else I needed. Was I happy with him? He seemed smitten with my hedgehog nightie.
"Too polite for me," I said.
"Uhm, well, hm," he said.
Still, this was early days. I was fascinated by the way he hemmed and hawed. My uncle Sydney had done so, but he'd been dead for a long time. This was probably his ghost .
As we’ve mentioned, you regularly run writing workshops and provide prompts for your followers online. Let’s help get the juices flowing for our readers and give them some writing prompts for erotica:
Write a scene in which a couple engages in coitus while listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Call the story: “Oh No, Not Again.”
Write a story in the form of a letter to an Agony Aunt. The reply from the Agony Aunt is actually a reply from your Real Aunt because you got the email addressee all wrong. (that’s really funny, I love that)
Write a scene in which both lovers resemble each other’s childhood dogs or cats. Write a sex scene in which the power shifts in a way that surprises both characters.
Thanks so much, Meg, for your wonderful fiction!
Thank you for publishing my stories, Jonathan!
My Lover’s Wife
My lover tells me about his wife’s new outfit, her artful friends, her zippy vocabulary.
“Her word this week is ‘Hiraeth'”, he says.
"She is," he says. "God love her, but she's wonderful."
He sits there beaming about it while I unbutton his shirt and pull him out of his jeans. I ask him to describe her nightwear.
“Two piece, or the nightshirts?”
“Tell me about the past,” I say. I ask him for more vital information each time. I treat him well because I value his visits.
“Well, he says, “when we were first married, oddly, there were the button-up flannel nightgown numbers. I called them passion-killers,” he giggles.
“Yes, of course!”
I’m on the rug now, doing my naked stretches, stretching out my toes like worms, moving into the Downward Dog pose.
“But really, they’re lovely memories, those early days,” he says. “She was already like an old, familiar song.”
“Lovely,” I say, feeling the air on my ass.
“What is her favorite color?”
“I should know this,” he says. “I’d say, aquamarine.”
This makes me unaccountably happy. “Hey, that was my mother’s favorite color too!”
“I don’t know, I don’t really want to know,” he says.
I straddle him facing away. We do the reverse cowgirl thing. He’s John Wayne on a horse while I’m facing my mint-green wall.
"Yee haw!” I shout, to add to the fun. But he’s quiet, in the saddle. Pushing, but quiet.
I think about horses, about cowboys and cowgirls, and about the long career of John Wayne. How the new True Grit movie just couldn’t live up to the old. The originals were so much better than remakes, is what I'm thinking when he finishes.
“Love ya, Duke,” I say.
My lover has a shopping list, and he pulls it out of his brief case. He looks it over. Tells me he has to stop at the store before heading home. He shows it to me, it's her handwriting. Neat looking print, letters made with green ink.
“I’m jealous”! I say. “Looks like she's cooking up some black bean chili."
"I’m seriously lucky," he says, brushing some of my hair from his jeans. I walk him to the door for a goodbye hug.
"I do sometimes wish you could stay," I say, thinking of the quiet moments to come.
He smiles, and nods. "Me too, little Honey".
I’m remembering my father right before he left us to live with his mistress. After each visit, I go over the reasons my father might have loved my mother.
He tasted like a bologna sandwich. And it was not his breath. It felt like a taste that lived deep inside his body. She imagined he was still grieving. His young wife had died. This kind of sadness could turn a man's mouth into some kind of pickled meat.
They were meeting again, for the fourth time, at the coffee place. She with velvet socks, which made her feel lovable. This was something he couldn't know, wouldn't care to. How she wore velvet foot coverings. Little things like this. His brain couldn't yet digest much of her wonderfulness.
The cured meat flavor theory made sense in the natural world. Tears were made of water and salt. Grief was not angular, it was soft, droopy, wet. One could soak in a pond full of it.
Humans, like amphibious animals developed ugly traits to protect themselves. Some freaky African toad squirted blood from its eyes to offer, like a food sample, to predatory birds. This toad's blood tasted so bad, the birds flew the fuck home.
He was a Harlequin Toad to her, that kind of rare, beautiful creature, highly endangered. As time crept by, she wanted to marry him to her, take care of him, and hold him in the crook of her arm (where her cat slept, now) after diving in and out of the deep swamp of sex.
When they kissed, she felt swell-preserved and lovely. Maybe this was the cured meat talking. Salted, which meant it would never expire. She thought about asking if he'd let her pour salad dressing on his tongue, but she’d never really ask him this, he was dealing with enough.
She had always taken pride in being a messy lover, uninhibited. But here she was in love with a man who could not laugh, and she was going out of her mind. She felt like a spider, or a monkey, or a toad. She just so wanted to soap him up, get down to things.
Tired and hungry, she pulled on a mask of gentility and moderation. For the first time, after the first few martinis, she made an aggressive suggestion. "Hey, I'd like to head over to the Blue Towel. Wanna come?"
“Blue Towel, you say?”
“Yep, that’s the place.”
He followed her with no resistance. Seemed ready for something.
They staggered to her car. She took a group of dogs to the beach every day, so she had a blue dog towel in the back seat. It was an embarrassing towel. She washed it but not often.
“It smells like dogs in here," she said.
"Yes, it does."
He sneezed and sneezed. She pulled off one of her velvet socks and handed it to him, asked him to pet it, to feel it, smell it. He didn't register surprise. His face looked stretchy and sad. He had been sterilized by grief, and this needed to be undone.
It happens a lot these days, Jeff Bridges knocking on the door of my caravan. “Hiya Toots, ready to visit?” I have to admit, I am (always, again) flattered. “Hiya back, Cute One, I say, “So, listen, I’m curled into a good novel right now, just a bit tired, could you come back on Friday?” I hear Jeff's sadness, his retreating footsteps. And like a mermaid of love, I try to sleep, for him (if not for myself).
This time I conk out. Minnie the cat on top of me like a gargoyle. I dream that I'm a star, inch-worm waist, blond hair long as a bell-rope. The adorable Jeff, even his belly. Him again. Wanting to re-rehearse those optional scenes.
“You swallow my light,” he says. “Your cheekbones honk at me, like geese.”
I wake to the sound of my musically impaired neighbour, Sam, singing in the outside shower, and to the profile of Minnie at the sink unit, licking the faucet. Minnie, with hyperthyroidism. Sam has lived here in this caravan park longer than the rest of us. Sam actually knew the founder of this place, David Davila, who Sam says, when young, resembled a short Jeff Goldblum. “You should have seen his Goldblum impression” Sam likes to say.
So, it is Thursday. Again. Jeff Bridges rapping on the door. This time, he tries to find out if I'm okay in the head. “You are on the go all the time, Darlin’? You overcommit yourself, you’ll never be rested enough for the sauce,” he says. “Look what happened to Marilyn, Hon."
I know what he means. Marilyn seemed so unable to rest, so always alone. “I’ll work on the sleep,” I yell. “Thinking about it only makes it worse,” I say to Minnie, setting the drip just how she likes it. This is one relationship I can do, can handle loving a sick cat on no hours sleep.
Today, Jeff Bridges sounds a lot like my mother, a woman who created anxiety just by breathing. “Sweetie, this is the last wake up call,” he booms. “I’ve missed you long enough now.” I can picture the damaged look on his face, and remember the last time we made love— how it felt like the end of an era.