003: Corinne and the Cheese (Part 2)

This week we continue following the journey of a young woman in her quest to find herself and an unlikely partner in the bedroom.

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Listen to more from Heartache at soundcloud.com/heartache
Listen to more from Julian Gray at juliangraymusic.com

00:34 - Heartache - No More Control
04:16 - Hans Zimmer - Quantifiable Connection
09:40 - Mum - The Land Between Solar Systems
12:30 - Julian Gray - Breathe
13:25 - Hans Zimmer - Where We’re Going
19:41 - Phil Collins & Philip Bailey - Easy Lover
20:06 - Mum - K/Half Noise

Corinne and the Cheese (Part 2):

On Tuesday, July 7, 2015 my Honda Civic broke down on the side of El Camino Real in San Mateo. It would not be inaccurate to say that in many ways, I too broke down that night. I pressed my forehead down to the steering wheel, and closed my eyes.

 

I was 30 years old and living at home in the Bay Area. I was 30 years old and failing out of community college—which I didn’t even know you could do—and like many it wasn’t because of lack of capability, but lack of interest, which I suppose when you get down to it isn’t entirely different.

My mom and dad had never gone to college. They married young, and had me even younger. There were bumps in the road of course, but, they had survived.

My life was supposed to be better. They had worked so hard to make sure that my life would be better.

I worked at a frozen yogurt shop to make money. I was the sole person responsible for getting the Chocolate Cheesecake flavor on our menu.  I also seemed to be the only person who knew that even someone with a Harvard degree and a subscription to the New Yorker sounds like an idiot the moment the word “froyo” leaves their lips.

As time wore on, I tried to find purpose. I saw a psychiatrist, Dr. Kitzman, who would ask me how my week had been, then just stare at me for 48 minutes before asking for $90.

I tinkered with different prescriptions. But no matter the medication, everything was just… floating.

I  didn’t wonder where my life had gone wrong, but I definitely wondered why my life hadn’t yet gone right.

There was no direction to go, so picked one.

 

At 30 years old, with $819, a body pillow, and my Honda Civic to my name, I set out on the road, from San Mateo, California all the way to El Camino Real in San Mateo, California, a grand total of 3.7 miles before my carburetor or transmission or one of those words literally exploded. Bang. Smoke. The whole production. Even my car was climaxing. I sat there, crying for what felt like hours, or however long the song “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap is.

I didn’t said goodbye to my parents. I was afraid that if I did, I’d never end up leaving.

I opened my eyes and lifted my forehead from the steering wheel. It was 1:50 in the morning. It was raining. My cell phone was dead. Two blocks back had been a sign for Heidi’s Pies, a late-night diner. I breathed in. I breathed out. I turned off the engine, gathered my backpack, and headed towards the rotating neon sign.

I opened the door,  the bell hanging above it ringing out tinny. The lights were dim and the place was empty.

A man came back from the kitchen. He was greasy. His white apron was greasy, his thick hands, filled with tension as though his blood pressure was so high he’d burst with a pin - also greasy. His face looked stinky, and greasy. And his slicked back dark hair, balding, was greasy.

“Hey sorry, miss, power’s been out, we’re just running on a generator. We’re outta pretty much everything, I’m about to close up shop.”

“I was hoping to get something to eat.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m the only one here. No Heidi. No pies.”

The sky rocked with thunder. I looked back, the torrents of wet bouncing off the defective light poles.

“Boy it’s really coming down out there.”

“It really is,” I said. “Could I charge my phone for a few minutes?”

The man let out a sigh.

“Sure, hand it over here.”

I sat down at the bar and handed him my phone.

“Well. I guess as long as you’re waiting, I could probably offer you a couple’a  grilled cheese sandwiches.”

I bit my lip and looked through him in a way I could tell a woman hadn’t looked at him in at least 20 years.

“I’ll take it. I’ll take it all.”

 

I reached for my panties, paying no mind to the grease that was staining them. It would serve as a reminder of the night that forever changed the course of my erotic desires.

His name was Brian. As he penetrated me with fingers and member alike, the smells and oil of cheese penetrated me as well.

They say the largest sex organ in the human body is the brain. I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you that it must be true. Because something happened that night, in my brain and in my body, that opened me up in ways I never thought imaginable.

Brian handed me my phone. Full charge.

I explained my plight to Brian, leaving out a few choice details like the proximity of where I had called home just an hour ago.

He offered for me to stay the night, but I told him I was going to wait for a tow.

He told me he’d give me $300 as a gift, I thanked him, and I told him I’d see him again, but I knew I wouldn’t.

I walked to my car, got inside, and had the best night of sleep I’ve ever had.

 

The next morning I called AAA. The driver said I’d thrown a rod—if he only knew—and my engine was ruined. It was a ’93 Civic, meaning replacing the engine was probably more expensive than the car itself.

I told him my parents would be picking me up to take me to the mechanic, and he towed the car off.

Then I flagged another man down, and hitchhiked my way to the Greyhound station. New York City was my destination. Because if I was going to be stagnant, at the very least I was going to do it in a new surrounding.

And thanks to Brian, I knew one way I could find a hot meal and a little cash along the way.

I wasn’t completely confident that I’d solved the mystery. And why would I be? You don’t exactly grow up looking at diagrams in health class and learn “this is where the cheese goes.”

A new world had opened up. One full of possibility, but with no roadmap.

I found myself in Asheville and decided to take the plunge as it were, for science.

I walked into the Whole Foods, typically too rich for my blood, but if I was going to skimp on quality, now was not the time.

I stopped in front of the cheese section. And breathed in. Then out. That was something I was learning to do. Breathing. But this time the air around me was tantalizing.

I drifted along the barrier, running my fingers along my options. I suddenly understood what it must be like for most women who walk into a bar with lust, picking anything they want.

My fingers slowed and settled on a very comfortable choice that had never let me down so far: brie, triple creme.

Back at my motel, I lay in bed, the wedge on the pillow next to me. I shifted my eyes towards it, and back at the ceiling. Ceilings were familiar. Comfortable. I felt virginal in some way, as though the brie and I both knew we wanted to be there, but were making small talk until one of us made the first move.

I reached over, my finger picking at the plastic wrapping. Eventually I gripped the wedge, and pulled back its plastic wrap, exposing the tip. I slowly brought it down between my hips, then lower. I began rubbing.  I’m sure now seems like an odd time for modesty, but the rest continued mostly as you’d imagine. And my working hypothesis, indeed appeared to be working out even better than I had  hope for.

And from that moment forward, there was to be no intimacy without cheese.

 

By September I found myself in Bushwick, New York. I had met a musician, a pianist in D.C. named Jeff, who was also looking to manifest his dreams, or at least catch a glimpse of them, in a city that seemed to be teeming with them

We were crashing with a friend of one of Jeff’s old college roommates Stacy—as these things go—Stacy had been on an email list for the Rainbow Brigade, a self-described intentional community, a collective of artists and alternatively minded individuals who lived and worked and partied together in an undisclosed warehouse in the neighborhood. They were having a party that weekend called Taste, and who could turn that down?

 

I learned you always have your ride drop you off a couple blocks away, that way the cops don’t get suspicious. But given the sound system these guys were working with, I don’t know if ten blocks would’ve made a difference.

We entered the party through a cellar door on the side of the building. The basement level was lit only by flashing strobes and the glow of cigarettes watching like eyes in the night. Sweat, molly, and the thumpity-bumpity beats of dangerously well-intended gum-chewing youth filled the room. I lost Jeff in the crowd and made my way through the sea of humid bodies and smoke until I found a staircase and began to ascend.

Upstairs I was confronted by a world no less alternative, but stylized as if to say that it was a privilege to be there. Velvet curtains draped from the 15-foot ceiling to the floor, candelabras adorning wooden tables surrounded by couches. A woman walked by and exchanged glances with me, wearing nothing but silver-plated pasties in the shape of a flaming sun, and a long sheer skirt in moonbeam blue, the same color as the glowing makeup beneath her eyes. She held a plate of baklava, honey and almonds.

I followed her into the next room. There, an even larger room, more couches, and now mattresses, occupied by men and women tangled with one another, some in similar degrees of elegant yet earthy garb, but most in nothing at all. Platters of various foods and hukah’s surrounded the mattresses. It felt like I was somewhere between Eyes Wide Shut and Burning Man.

“Care for a bite?” A man put his his hand on the small of my back and approached me from behind. He was 6 feet and entirely naked. His hair was thin but his beard thick, and the room’s flames reflected in his eyes which pierced through me. He breathed out as if with intention to intoxicate me, and the effort was not in vein.

I looked down at his platter. Strawberries and apricots, table crackers and cottage cheese.

“Yes, please.”

He took my hand and guided me across the room, navigating between contortions of bodies. We landed on a couch in the far corner.

He shared his name and asked for mine.

“Is this your first time here?”

“Yes,” I said.

“This is a place where a lot of things happen for the first time.”

“That’s why I’m here,” I said

He leaned over and began kissing my neck, undoing my bra through my dress in the process.

Soon I was propped up on the couch, my new friend on his knees on the floor before me. As he ate me out, one hand propped back my leg while the other grazed a strawberry over my nipples, eventually gliding down towards my belly button.

He brought the strawberry closer to my opening, and then looked up at me.

“The cottage cheese,” I said.

He looked surprised, and in that moment I could see a speck of self-consciousness.

He dipped the strawberry int the cottage cheese.

“No.” I said.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Just the cottage cheese.”

“I’m sorry,”

“You heard what I said,”

I had all the power now.

He took his two fingers and submerged them into the compartment of small curds, and looked back at me, now a boy.

My eyes told him to bring his fingers closer, and he did. He turned them upward, and then pushed forward, into me.

“Oh God,” I let out in exultation, my body enraptured as wires of lightning flared through it, anchored to his fingers.

He began to move his fingers in and out at this, and I gently but firmly slapped him in the face and then grabbed him by the hair at the back of his head, bringing his face up to mine, where I kissed him.

“Use the spoon.”

“What?”

“Use the spoon.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Oh poor thing, of course you’re dumb. USE-THE-SPOON.”

He reached towards the side table where silverware had been neatly rolled, presumably for an impending meal, but dinner was going to be served early.

He took the large table spoon and immersed it into the cottage cheese.

He brought it towards me, now loaded with years of shame, and curiosity and wonder, and when he saw the conviction in my eyes, I saw a new spark in his, this wasn’t something to be done reluctantly or with shame, but with abandon for I wanted something no one had given, and he was here in brave service.

His left hand pried my wet slit apart, his right, readying at the entry. He moved the heaping spoon into me.

“YES!” I said. “M, uhh.”

He began moving the spoon in and out without instruction, and I began rubbing my clit.

As my body was overtaken by the intensity, I began to spasm, and I soon felt like I had to pee.

“Keep going!”

I shook and I thundered, and a surge flowed through me and out of me.

Just then Phil Collins came on.

My boy was covered, both of us painted in smiles. All the mouths of the room were agape. Alive.

 

I stayed at the Rainbow Brigade that night, and for several years thereafter.

But people change. Neighborhoods change. The warehouse was sold. I now live with four roommates and the daily fear that one day they’ll eat from the wrong drawer in the refrigerator.

I got a job at a cheese shop. Which I guess in retrospect, seems kind of obvious. But I promise, I am nothing but professional at work.

Still, I’m scared. Somehow, as a collective, we’ve decided it’s okay to give up privacy in the name of righteous indignation. I can’t help but think of jilted lovers. A picture or a text I shared. One I fear they might share as well.

I don’t worry what people will say. People are reasonable. I can talk to people. It’s what the internet will say that scares me.

It wasn’t that long ago that people were touting the internet as this bastion of authenticity—a place where those who offered up their privacy would be rewarded for bearing their authentic selves. For showing their humanity, warts and all. But they weren’t rewarded. For that kind of radical transparency to work, it needed everyone. Every questionable photo. Every breakup email. Every unpopular opinion. Instead, those bearing their cracked souls, had those cracks torn apart, dug into by others, who reveled in their dragging, because it meant that they could be rewarded, in essence, for deciding not to show their version of whatever their warts were.

I worry about my job. My housing. I wonder what joy there is in robbing someone of their personhood and offering them up to the mob.

The reality is, if you want to survive on the internet, you have to be the least authentic version of yourself possible.

You spend your whole life looking for something. What do you do when you find it, only to have to hide it from the rest of the world?

They say the brain is the biggest sex organ.

The truth is, I don’t know why I’m the way I am. I’m certainly not here to say that my orgasm or any woman’s is the end all be all.

But I do know this: I have a very tolerant and stable internal pH. And my name is Corinne. And I don’t want to hide anymore.

Eric Barry