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  • The Cure for What Ails You
  • Carol Ghiglieri (bio)

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Photo by Elias Gayles

[End Page 32]

The sex with Rob was candlelit and amiable, but for Yvette, the coupling fell flat. She did not blame Rob. He perused her body earnestly, made love to her earlobes and elbows. He was not one of those guys who rushed through the proceedings. She recalled less nuanced encounters—the maulings she’d endured in her quest to get over Dixon—and she appreciated Rob’s genuine ardor. But she could muster little of it herself and at the first opportunity drifted off to sleep.

It had been 347 days since Dixon had packed up and left. Over the past year, Yvette had gone out with a whole slew of guys, but with each one the sparks always fizzled because something invisible got in the way. Dixon. Yvette was hung up on a ghost. [End Page 33]

But earlier that day, after a phone call with her sister in Milwaukee threatening some sort of radical intervention if Yvette didn’t pull herself together, she’d vowed to try again. Dutifully she’d gone to Craigslist and scrolled through the M4W listings. The posts were endless, each one composed of equal parts bitterness and yearning, like brief love letters threaded with barbed wire. By the time she clicked on Rob’s post, she no longer had much hope of finding anyone datable. But he struck her as less angry than the others, his grinning photo exuding a wide-open, defenseless charm. He was, he wrote, “in search of a good old-fashioned friends-with-benefits-type situation.”

The low stakes of this gambit appealed to her, and she’d mentally flipped a coin. Heads she would write to him; tails she’d forget the whole thing. When the coin in her head came up tails, she flipped again. She wrote him, they met for a beer and then she brought him home.

When she awoke the next morning and found him gazing at her with longing, she knew the benefits package he was extending was one she would thenceforth have to decline.

“How come?” Rob asked. “I thought we had potential.”

Yvette searched for an explanation. He had no obvious flaws. He was friendly and bright. He’d laughed when she recounted her story of being attacked by a water bug in the shower. He was certainly cute enough, a member of that hybrid tribe the hipster-geek, so plentiful in the East Village neighborhood they both called home. She had nothing against the type; she was more or less a specimen herself.

“Look, you were fine. It wasn’t about your performance, or whatever you want to call it.”

They were lying naked in her bed, ablaze with eastern exposure, the sun bursting through the window with such intensity it was almost audible. He was trying with some persistence to wedge his hand between her thighs, but she batted it away.

“It’s sex. I think I may be finished with it. I haven’t liked it for some time now, ever since my boyfriend, Dixon, broke up with me.”

“Dixon? What kind of name is that? Southern?”

“It’s his last name, but that’s what everybody calls him. He’s one of those people. You know, larger than life? Every time I’ve had sex since he moved out, it’s the same thing. Every time, I just can’t like it.”

“So you’re still thinking about this dude? About Dixon?”

In truth, she almost never thought about him. It was as if she’d built a high brick wall and Dixon was contained safely behind it. She couldn’t [End Page 34] see his face or hear his voice, and this, she believed, had kept her from falling apart. And so she’d remained in one piece these many months, intact but zestless. Day after day she temped in one monochrome office after another, then returned to her apartment, where she surfed the Web or watched reality shows on TV, which confirmed her suspicion that reality was best avoided.

“It sounds...


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pp. 32-46
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