Tuesday, August 02, 2005

How Can He Be Dead?

Christopher Reeves And Dogger Gatsby

[From typewriter pages inserted in one of Dogger Gatsby’s Notebooks, written before Reeves’ death.]

Dear Sallye:

When the now-defunct Superman — I mean the paralyzed actor Christopher Reeves — was interviewed on TV, Larry King asked him about his sex life and his desire to have another child. Frankly, I was horrified that one of these phonies (the Entertainment Journalists) had asked, but since Reeves seemed eager to answer it, I listened with interest. He said that, though he lacked movement, his “autonomic” responses were intact and that there would be no problem. This was taken by the interviewer as great news, although I found that I only partially understood the explanation. It sounded to me like he was saying, not that he had good sensation there, but that, if stimulated, his penis was capable of performing the ejaculatory act without him. That is excellent news for a man who wants to father a baby, but I caught a hint that it may be a rather dispassionate kind of good news. Only another distant echo of sensation, like a back or leg massage, to the paralyzed man—it isn't fully dead, but it isn't sensitive to life, either. What kind of life was that?

I empathized with Reeves, not on specific grounds, but on the general principle that there’s a paralysis of another sort that besets men, and I thought the description given of his genital dysfunction echoed that of others, even though his is worse. One hears many older men echo it. The sensation is distant, the performance poor, the results minimal. Yet even with the rewards reduced, most men are bound to keep proving it's still there. The forward drive of the sexual engine in them is as rampant, if not as efficacious, as that of a nineteen-year-old, I guess (and despite the dilapidated condition of the transmission)! It may take more time, more effort, more fantasy, more twisting nerve-endings of reality, to achieve increasingly less, but the interest seldom lessens.

And anything will do, for life always yearns to go on and almost always attempts it. Some men have dulled sensation because of prostate trouble or other physical conditions, some may simply have had no one to share any sensation with. Older men may proliferate, but they do not necessarily prosper. As women know, men are often stubborn about going to doctors. And medicines administered to help one thing can sometimes fuck you up for another, so it's an endless battle getting squelched by a world that you would rather kiss, embrace, or fuck. Having no one to share it with, having nothing but distress to share, may be involved only as some sort of rationalization against bothering to seek help. How can the old Dogger know all this? Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it? It is hardly the only form of malfunction that I or my friends suffer from.

Maybe I've said something to you along these lines before. I always walk around the edges of all true confessions, even when I only think them. And why do I say it to you? You are the most sympathetic person I know, but you have also always seemed to me to be one of the least erotically based people I know, too. Now that I've read that last sentence a couple of times, I realize that I've answered my own question. Both of those qualities make you the safest person to tell, don't they? I am sorry if my comments seem intrusive or my confidences extreme or vulgar. I might as well say that I'm sorry to be so cold, hadn't I? Yet in my silent trepidation, I am far from cold. I give people the wrong things to respond to most of the time, and don't know why. As I age I find it harder and harder to cry out, perhaps because I’ve done it before and to no avail. I hardly remember the last time I was very confiding. I’ve come to see that one should not do it, no matter than my helpless nature may still wish to. And the others? I understand; sometimes it’s just as embarrassing to be around a weak person when they cry for help as just to be that person. I am dizzy and can sometimes hardly walk straight, much less rut. I don’t think this can go on long, old friend. I know that you will weep for me, if so.

Dogger G.

[When I sent the original of these notes to their intended recipient, she wrote back and said, "I did weep, and I weep even now, seeing his terrrible words. But what can one do when one has already missed the chance. What can one do when it didn't make sense then and still doesn't? I can’t pull him back, nor can you! Things happen. Oh God damn it, how can we be alive and he be dead?"

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