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Chapter 28
My mind had gone blank. That is a standard phrase, and anexaggeration of the situation. My brain stem continued tofunction, my heart still beat, I did not forget to breathe. I wasable to pack my bag, consume breakfast in my room, navigateto JFK, negotiate check-in and board the plane to Los Angeles.
I managed to communicate with Rosie to the extent that it wasnecessary to coordinate these activities.
But reflective functioning was suspended. The reason wasobvious –emotional overload! My normally well-managed emotions hadbeen allowed out in New York – on the advice of Claudia, aqualified clinical psychologist – and had been dangerouslyoverstimulated. Now they were running amok in my brain,crippling my ability to think. And I needed all my thinkingability to analyse the problem.
Rosie had the window seat and I was by the aisle. I followedthe pre-take-off safety procedures, for once not dwelling ontheir unjustified assumptions and irrational priorities. In theevent of impending disaster, we would all have something todo. I was in the opposite position. Incapacitated.
223/290Rosie put her hand on my arm. ‘How are you feeling, Don?’
I tried to focus on analysing one aspect of the experience andthe corresponding emotional reaction. I knew where to start.
Logically, I did not need to go back to my room to get Gene’sbook. Showing a book to Rosie was not part of the originalscenario I had planned back in Melbourne when I prepared fora sexual encounter. I may be socially inept, but with the kissunderway, and Rosie wearing only a towel, there should havebeen no difficulties in proceeding. My knowledge of positionswas a bonus, but probably irrelevant the first time.
So why did my instincts drive me to a course of action thatultimately sabotaged the opportunity? The first-level answer wasobvious.
They were telling me not to proceed. But why? I identifiedthree possibilities.
1. I was afraid that I would fail to perform sexually.
It did not take long to dismiss this possibility. I might well havebeen less competent than a more experienced person andcould even have been rendered impotent by fear, though Iconsidered this unlikely. But I was accustomed to beingembarrassed, even in front of Rosie. The sexual drive wasmuch stronger than any requirement to protect my image.
2. No condom.
I realised, on reflection, that Rosie had probably assumed that Ihad left her room to collect or purchase a condom. Obviously Ishould have obtained one, in line with all recommendations onsafe sex, and presumably the concierge would have some foremergencies, along with spare toothbrushes and razors. The factthat I did not do so was further evidence that subconsciously Idid not expect to proceed. Gene224/290had once told me a story about racing around Cairo in a taxitrying to find a condom vendor. My motivation had clearly notbeen as strong.
3. I could not deal with the emotional consequences.
The third possibility only entered my mind after I eliminatedthe first and second. I immediately knew – instinctively! – thatit was the correct one. My brain was already emotionallyoverloaded. It was not the death-defying climb from thesurgeon’s window or the memory of being interrogated in adark cellar by a bearded psychiatrist who would stop atnothing to protect his secret. It was not even the experience ofholding Rosie’s hand from the museum to the subway,although that was a contributor. It was the total experience ofhanging out with Rosie in New York.
My instincts were telling me that if I added any more to thisexperience – if I added the literally mind-blowing experience ofhaving sex with her – my emotions would take over my brain.
And they would drive me towards a relationship with Rosie.
That would be a disaster for two reasons. The first was thatshe was totally unsuitable in the longer term. The second wasthat she had made it clear that such a relationship would notextend beyond our time in New York. These reasons werecompletely contradictory, mutually exclusive and based onentirely different premises. I had no idea which one wascorrect.
We were in the final stages of our descent into LAX. I turnedto Rosie. It had been several hours since she asked herquestion, and I had now given it considerable thought. Howwas I feeling?
‘Confused,’ I said to her.
I expected her to have forgotten the question, but perhaps theanswer made sense in any case.
‘Welcome to the real world.’
225/290I managed to stay awake for the first six hours of thefifteen-hour flight home from LA in order to reset my internalclock, but it was difficult.
Rosie had slept for a few hours then watched a movie. Ilooked over, and saw that she was crying. She removed herheadphones and wiped her eyes.
‘You’re crying,’ I said. ‘Is there a problem?’
‘Sprung,’ said Rosie. ‘It’s just a sad story. ............
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