It’s been some years since I’ve seen Professor Thanerthope. So I didn’t recognize her at first. Maybe it was the new body, maybe it was the stylish clothes, or maybe my own failing neural nets, but I didn’t know it was her right away.
“Tracy,” she said with a kind of slink in her voice, albeit one tinged by shyness. “You look great.”
I stopped and looked at her, recognized her then. “Doctor Thanerthope! Wow, girl, you do, too.”
She blushed a bit and went demure. Couldn’t tell if she’s faking or not, but also didn’t care. I’m at a party, right, so the fancy eyes are off.
“Please,” she said. “Call me Dona.” Which sounds like Donna, so don’t become one of those fans with their own pronunciations for shit, please.
I smile. “Okay, Dona. Howya been?”
“Fabulous,” she said. “Life has a whole new glow.”
And that’s the beginning of how I ended up fucking her, but let’s back up.
Snake people. Wait, we have to go further back than that even.
I’m a kid. Let’s say four. That’s probably not right, and I couldn’t even evaluate in which direction, meaning, maybe I was three, maybe eight. But four feels true, if you know what I mean.
So I’m four and Mom and Angie and I are walking back from the pool.
We come upon a snake in the path. It’s green—in my memory, almost glowing green—and looks very pretty. But I’m scared. Like terrified.
Mom says, “Don’t worry about it, Tracy. It’s a garden snake.” She said ‘garter’ but as you might imagine, I heard ‘garden.’
“What does that mean?”
Keep in mind that Nina is terrified of snakes, like way more than I am. So when she says, “They’re docile. They won’t hurt you,” I say …
Part of me doesn’t want to look at it. But another part of me—the one that was in charge in that moment—could not look away.
So that’s one story to keep in mind for this one.
Another is that Mom used to complain all the time about how Dad loved snakes. And he did. There’s a story about him scaring me with a picture of a snake and thinking it was hilarious, but that’s a tangent and not related, so don’t worry your pretty little head about it. But Mom complaining about Dad liking snakes; that’s relevant. He used to keep them as pets, but she forced him to give them away when they got together. So remember that part, please.
One more. Another Dad story. I think I’ve told it before, so I’ll abbreviate it here. I was playing next door to our house. Maybe I’m twelve. Let’s go with that. I see a snake coming out of its hole; I run and get Dad. He comes back with a garden hoe and hoists it, ready to kill the snake; but, I have a sudden flash of empathy with both him and the snake, and I tell him to wait. It’s obvious he’s relieved he didn’t have to kill it, and the snake went back in the ground. That one is a subtler one, but hold it gently, maybe on periphery, as you read this, m’kay?
So, back to snake people, then to the party. We’re almost there, babe. Promise.
I’ve known an innumerable number of dog people. Lotsa cat people. A few horse people. Even some bird and fish people. But I’ve not known many snake people. My dad was a snake person, but my mom made him stop being one. So aside from my dad, who didn’t really get to live that by the time I knew him, it was really just Professor Borgogni.
I know, I know. You’re prolly goin’ like, Jeezuz, T. How many fucking professors do you want me to keep up with? First, like, chill, babe. Second, you probably kept up with plenty if you went to college, so try to, I dunno, like, channel that, or something. And third, it’s just two, babe: Doctor Borgogni (who was acting department chair for the college of secrets at the time of this story and who I’m about to tell you more about; and Doctor Thanerthope, who I’m about to fuck. So relax.
So Doctor Borgogni—Tracy Borgogni, so that shouldn’t be too hard to remember, no?—was like me in a lot of ways. Strong interest in philosophy with a bend toward epistemological nihilism. Loved film. Had a healthy resentment of social norms, but was a really nice person. But there was a big schism. Not only was Doctor Borgogni not a cat person, they were a snake person. In fact, they enjoyed making jokes about snakes eating cats and shit like that, which I found very unsettling and distasteful. That was the point, right? Shock value.
Now, my relationship with Dr. Borgogni is its own whole other thing, and we’ll talk about that some other time. After you’ve read that—assuming you’re still speaking to me by then—you can come back and read this chapter again and maybe have a deeper experience with it? I hope? Or maybe, I dunno … it doesn’t matter. Whatever.
But we’re at Borgogni’s house, right? And so there are snakes there. Literal snakes. And these are not garter snakes. These are big fucking snakes. And they are free, roaming around the party. The other guests must either be snake people; or, at the very least, aren’t hinked out by snakes. To be fair to myself, I’m not nearly so much as I used to be. But T don’t dig on snakes just slithering around all languid and sneaky like. It’s a massively uncomfortable feeling.
I’m on the couch with Dona—who is Doctor Thanerthope, right?—and, you know, she’s a secretist, too. She’s perceptive. And she can tell I’m not comfortable.
“Wanna go outside?” she asks.
“I’d love that,” I say.
Once we’re outside, I can feel myself relax. The fresh air feels good on my skin. Smells good too.
“There,” she says. “You seem much freer now.”
“I feel free,” I say. “It was a good suggestion.”
I reflexively reach for my smokes, but pause and look at her.
“Please,” she says. “Go right ahead.”
“Thanks,” I say, then pull a smoke, light up.
“I’d really like to kiss you,” she says. “Would that be okay?”
[Ed. You can imagine the rest, or go beyond the paywall.]
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