The Overpowering Dopamine of Ashby





Ashby leans back on the dark grey Ikea sofa that looks nice against the exposed brick wall. He’s snuggled in fashionable sweat pants and a beanie. He adjusts an open sleeping bag over his shoulders. “Sometimes I like to pretend I’m still camping.,” he says. His full lips and his thin eyebrows move gracefully as he speaks. My body is vibrating as it usually does after I sleep next to someone I don’t really know. An antique trunk acts as a coffee table separating us just far enough to see each other’s bodies fully.  I lounge in the chair with both my knees up, the coffee he made me from his ceramic pour-over is warming my hands and I feel my mind grappling to stay in control as biology takes over. Dopamine is coursing through me rapidly and each pump has my brain foggy with lust. We’ve been talking most of the morning and I feel comfortable, not nervous or insecure. My causal and candid speech is contagions but with this surge of chemicals my questions and answers are motivated to increase my appeal to him.
“I want a girl with substance. I can’t stand small talk. I hate pretending to be interested in people’s stupid stories of the mundane crap they do to fill awkward air space,” he says.
“I hate small talk too. I like talking on a deeper level.”
Ashby reclines on the small sofa and invites me to come closer with a beckoning of his hand. I move from the chair, fully aware of my body’s motions, and I sit on the floor. I lay my head on his chest and he begins to stroke my hair. His white cotton t-shirt smells like fresh laundry. He pets my neck and shoulder until the tension rises and he shifts to get up, otherwise we won’t get on with our day.
            We gather our clothes, our coats and scarves. I borrow a book from his shelf and place it in my bag. We walk like familiar beings side by side until we reach my street. He kisses me on the corner and continues to walk straight ahead to the train so he can go to his art studio.
            Once he is gone, the echo of his presence makes my mind toss. How long will it take him to call? Will he call? I have his book so he surely will call.  Does he like me? He seemed like he liked me. The whole evening plays over and over in my mind as I review the things I said and the way his faced changed, reading his reactions to my stories and biography. I mull on his comments that he is both a lone wolf, but is also happy in partnerships. I wonder which is more true.
            I enter my apartment, feeling eager to shower. I remove my clothes and examine my body in the mirror that hangs above the sink, looking at the hips Ashby complimented, trying to see what he saw, and then step into the warm water. Hot liquid hits my skin and the spray reflects in the florescent light like an amber glowing potion of rejuvenation, but the water, the white tile, the visual void of the bathroom sends me swirling, and my thoughts move as quickly as the water spinning down the drain.  I enter obsession, a state of mindless, consuming obsession. All I can think about is Ashby.
             I exit the shower and dry off. The critical thinking and decision making side of my brain is now completely shut off from the dopamine bursts caused by thinking, remembering. My serotonin is now at a very low level. I put on a soft sweater that is dirty and has been lying on the bed instead of scanning the clean stuff that hangs in the closet and I forget to put on my fleece-lined under-layer that go with my leggings to help cut the severity of the wind. I don't put on a coat. It is late February. I step outside and begin walking to the café where I like to write. I am freezing. My brain isn’t working like normal. I am dumbed down and I feel unmotivated. As much as I would like to work on my latest freelance piece that is reaching its deadline, I only want to write about Ashby.  I sit down at my usual table near the window, open the laptop and I stare at the blank page and blinking cursor. Ashby’s hair was so soft. I liked the way he looked in his beanie and the way his body moved when he got up from the bed to get me a glass of water. These thoughts cause more dopamine to course through me, completely inhibiting my other motivations. The chemical rewards are just too strong to compete with the intellectual side of my brain. The parts that would really like to create a sense of accomplishment are shutting down.
            I check my phone in between painful, forced progress that I am achieving through sips of latte and each time I look at the phone, each time there is no message, the reward center of my brain begins its shift backwards. Each glance is not producing a pleasant experience. He’s not writing.  I want him to. I want to know that he is as obsessed as I am, and I want to know this by the only form of attention I can get at this point, a text message. But I am being zapped like the rats in the maze designed to measure learning curves and eventually I decide to stop looking at my phone.
I put my head down and focus, but it’s a struggle. It takes a lot of fight and concentration and mental mantras, work work work, to get through the paragraphs of the article as the thoughts of Ashby fight to stay at the top of my mind. But being involved with a task, the longer I am in motion, the more head-space I gain. Plus the laws of diminishing returns associate with the silence of my phone have helped me to refocus my efforts.

A few hours go by, I only check my phone two more times. Still nothing. I finish the article, click save and close the laptop. I need to eat something even though I’m not hungry, another biological effect of Ashby, the dopamine triggered by him.  The drive to mate is now stronger than the need to feed myself. I send a message to my friend, she says they are having Indian food, I should join.
Without a task to occupy my concentration, Ashby thoughts flood me again. I want another fix. And by now he is no longer a person in my mind, he is a drug I wish to crush up and snort in long heavy lines that make me pull my head back in relief. Touching his soft chest, hearing him breath at night, smelling the mix of alcohol and cologne seep from his pores sound like a much more appealing way to spend my evening than Indian food with my girlfriends, even though I love my friends, trust them and always leave them feeling filled with peace and tranquility and as much as I would like to consider myself an intelligent gal, I am powerless to these brain systems that are doing everything they can to subdue my emotional independence, self-sufficient values and strength centered on a foundation of feminism.

While I walk to the Indian restaurant to meet my friends, aimlessly gazing over the cracks and segments of the pavement, the train of thoughts goes deeper into the little stories I am cultivating in my imaginary future conversations about feelings. The pull is strong. But there is no need to beat myself up about it. Forty thousand years of evolution are no match for modern ideals.  These chemical reactions are a function of evolution. I am an animal meant to reproduce. The norepinephrine my body makes fixate me on a single person.  This chemical is produced to ensure that I will mate again and again until I get pregnant. And if other things like food and creative ambition are too high up in my mental priorities, I won’t have the motivation to allow the time and energy devoted to courting and copulation. What I often used to think of as passion, love,  and sexual chemistry is really just a  process that we are all programed to experience.  I settle into a monotonous stride, steps and thoughts, focus and fantasy. My whole day has been spent preoccupied with the memory of Ashby’s hands on my thigh while we sat in the booth under the dim light of the bar sipping cocktails through straws, our tongues flirting with the plastic. Every spare moment my thoughts are being dragged through the ideas of what we will do next time we are together, how we will stand in his kitchen making-out in between anecdotes about things we’ve done recently that sound impressive.

All through dinner, I think about Ashby and science, and feel jolts of unrest hit me like waves. I struggle to listen to my girlfriends stories and try even harder not to let everything I have to say turn into Ashby, what he said, what we talked about or how I feel.  I eat even though I’m not hungry. I smile even though I am a hurricane inside. I laugh even though I didn’t hear the joke.

The whole walk home and until it’s time to go to bed I let every mental image of him shoot me up, but it’s less intense now that the day has worn off and my body is exhausted. Knowing this is just biology and not really connection based on fate or the wonders of the universe, I use the little bit of left brain that is activated to consider my options. I could date him for such a long period of time that next phase of chemicals that function to form attachment will kick in, which would mean suffering the next two months, completely distracted, disoriented and mentally retarded, until we’ve had enough orgasms together to heighten oxytocin and serotonin, which cultivate peace, bonding and innate trust. Or I can I cut it off now and let my serotonin return to normal levels.  I fall asleep hoping that by tomorrow Ashby’s hold will have dwindled enough that I can use my brain again.

The Tale of the Lusty Lady

 


Once upon a time in a land called San Francisco a young fresh couple found themselves in search of some kicks. They wondered the glistening streets and alleyways, still slick with the inconsistent and incessant rainfall of the Northwest coast, looking for the famous employee-owned porn shop/peep show known to the locals as The Lusty Lady Peep Show. There were many cheesy strip clubs in the area of North Beach which lies uncomfortably close to China Town, but they wouldn't do. It was the Lusty Lady or nothing at all.

Just as they were about to give up their search through a snaking alley, a drop of water fell on the eyelash of the female half of the couple. She looked up to examine the origin of this invasive water drop which caused irritation to her pupil. As she wiped the doo-dew from her eye her vision cleared enough to read the neon sigh above, "The Lusty Lady".
"Hey! We're here!" said Mary (We shall call her Mary due to her holiness and divine sense of direction).
"Well would you look at that. We found it!" said (we'll just call him Steve) Steve.

The young fresh couple entered through the propped open double doors. A goth girl behind the counter looked up from her magazine. All too cheerful, clearly not realizing she worked in a porn shop, she asked, "Can I help you?"

Steve was staring at the towering racks of porn DVD's behind the goth girl as Mary sized up the middle aged men passing her by as the left the back room.
"Eh-hem, yes, uh. We're here for the Peep Show?" Said Steve with modesty in his voice.
"Sure thing! I would suggest booths three or eight. They're a little bigger and better for couples!" the goth girl behind the counter said all too cheerfully.

Mary grabbed Steve's hand as they slinked past a wall of DVD's to a portion of the store lined with numbered black doors. Mary turned the knob on door number three but it was locked indicating its occupancy. Mary looked to Steve and shrugged. "Let's try number eight?" Steve suggested. "But, I kind of have to pee."
"Let's get a booth first," Mary said. She was starting to get freaked out by the old dirty men entering and exiting the booths around them. The last thing she wanted to do was wait in the hallway for Steve. Alone. Exposed. Well not exposed, exposed. Like naked, exposed. More exposed, like a shepardless lamb in a field of wolves, that sort of exposed.
Mary turned the handled to door number eight. It was not occupied and she quickly went inside. She held the door open for Steve, who did not enter.

"I have to pee. You wait here. I'll be right back." He said to Mary.
"Wait! don't leave me--" the door shut, "...alone" Mary sat in the oddly warm, dark booth. A black little ATM looking cash box was next to the plexy glass window. Little green arrows blinked hungrily for 1's, 5's,10's and 20's. The wooden bench Mary sat on was uncomfortable and she had visions of thousands of weirdo's that had sat that before here. She began to feel a little nauseous, but that also could have been from the smell of damp doggie, cardboard and a hint of B.O. that filled the booth as well.

Mary thought she could hear a woman's voice. She sounded like she was talking to somebody. The woman's voice was slightly drowned out by the faint music coming from behind the darkened plexy glass. Mary thought she heard the woman say, Oh yeah, you big boy, huh?, in a slightly asian accent.
The door to the booth swung open. It wasn't Steve.
"Hey! Occupied!"
The door slammed shut
"Sorry," the dirty old man said.
A little shaken, Mary tried to focus on the woman's voice again. "Let me see!", she thought the woman said, still unsure of where the voice was coming from.
the door swung open. Not Steve.
"Seat's taken creep!" Mary shouted.
"Whoops. Sorry Lady." The door shut.
Mary was beginning to feel like the creep. All alone in a peep show booth. She was wondering what the hell was taking Steve so Goddamn long in the fucking bathroom. And if one more person opened the booth door she was going to have a heart attack.

She stood up to lock the door when she heard a soft knock.
"Who is it?"
"It's me. Steve. Who else would it be?"
Mary opened the door, "You'd be surprised! Oh thank Jesus you're back."

Steve joined Mary in the booth and sat next to her on the bench. He had a giddiness to him and Mary started to not feel so nervous with Steve now by her side.

"I think you put the money in there," Mary pointed to the cash machine.
"Ok. Here we go." Steve fed a five to the machine.

A few seconds went by and then the black screen behind the window lifted to reveal a Thai lady on her side. Her pastel pink and purple bikini top was pulled to the side to expose her little monkey bites one might call boobies. One of her legs was stretched out to her side and the other she held up in the air to more effectively present her panty-less pussy. She looked about thirty-two and had clearly had one or more children deduced from the stretch marks are her midsection, which was dissected by a pink lace guarder-belt. The room that held the Thai Lady was a semi-circle with red carpet, one gold stripper-pole, a mirrored wall and two other Asian girls, who by the looks of it were extremely bored. One girl had a bowl haircut and could have easily passed for a teenaged boy and the other looked like she'd eaten one too many Peking Ducks.

"Hei, ooh a couple!" The Thai Lady said in a slightly Asian accent. Mary recognized her voice as the woman she heard while waiting for Steve. Mary was also taken back by the fact that this amount of communication was taking place between her and the Lady in the peep show Box. Mary was hoping that this whole thing might be a little more, well, anonymous? More of a one-way kind of street. Not this eight-lane highway of lust complete with conversation with the Peep Show people in the box.

"Verwy nice couple! You two arae cute couple! So Big Boy, how 'bout you take off her shirt?" The Thai Lady's voice was so conversational she could have been telling them to make Pad Thai. Mary and Steve started to giggle out of both nervousness and the fact that the naked lady was speaking directly to them. Mary looked at Steve and gave him a nod as to say "OK".

Steve took off Mary's shirt revealing her purple bra. Clapping in approval, the woman gave another command, "Ok. Ok. Now, you grab his cock!" Mary's eyes went wide. "So? Is shis yor girfriend? Cause you lucky man! Yeah yeah you lucky man!" Taken by the compliment, Mary grabbed Steve's cock."Now rub it!" Mary's eyes went wide again and she shot a look of terror at Steve."What? I want show too you know!" The Thai Lady said sensing Mary's discomfort. Steve shrugged in a just go with it kind of way. So Mary, ever the good sport, began to rub Steve's cock.

"Harder." Mary did as she was told. "Oh yeah, see I told you, you lucky man!" And yes Steve was a lucky man, a very very lucky man. He reveled in the fact that he was getting a hand-job while a decent looking Thai Lady was watching and commanding his girl-friend for five bucks.

Just as Steve, Mary and Thai Lady began to relax and get into it, the black screen started to close and Thai Lady yelled and knocked on the window, "Hey. Hey! Put more money in!" Her face following the bottom of the screen," In the slot! Put More..." as it shut.

"What the hell was that?" Mary said to Steve.
"I don't know but let's do it again!" Steve put five singles in the machine and the screen went back up.
"OK! Where were we?" The Thai Lady shouted cheerfully. "Oh yeah! Grab his cock!"
Mary Grabbed his cock.
"Now. Take it out. I wanna see it."
Steve looked at Mary, his eyes wide. Mary smirked and shrugged her shoulders in a just go with it sort of way. Steve whipped it out for the Thai Lady to see.
"Nice we got a big boy over hera!" The other girls in the box snapped out of their boredom and looked towards booth number 8.
"Ok. Now lets try some ting else. How bout? You stick your fingers in her pussy!" Mary and Steve both shrugged at each other. Mary Stood up and pulled down her jeans. The only reasonable way for them to accomplish this in the ever shrinking booth was if Mary stood up and Steve stood behind her. This smushed Mary's face up against the window.

From this position Mary noticed that not only could she see the other girls in the box better but with the mirror wall in the back she could see all the other people in the booths. Every single one of them standing with their faces smushed up against the window just like hers. While her experience seemed a bit more giddy and mostly uncomfortable in the booth, the men seemed to be transfixed in some erotic ejaculatory bliss. No wonder these girls looked so bored. All the guys in the booths just stood there jacking off. Mary figured the girls' time in the box must be one endless stream of men looking stoic and spooging. The Poor girls.

This thought motivated Mary to get a little more into it and really give these ladies something to look at, when the screen closed again. Mary jumped on top of Steve, kissing him and rubbing his cock.
"Put more money in," Mary said.
"But all I have left is a twenty?" Steve said.
"So?" Mary said kissing his neck.
Steve was starting to get a little skeeved out as he was sitting on the bench with his bare ass and was also thinking of the thousands of creepy spooge-a-rillas that had been there before him.
"I can't put a twenty in there."
"Why not?"
"That's a lot of money to put in there"
"Well then go get change!" Mary commanded.
"I'm not going out there with this stiffy."
"Ugh!" Mary dug in her purse for some money. "Here I have two singles" and she put the money in the machine. When the screen lifted their Thai Lady had moved to another window.
"Oh well, we'll come back" Mary said to Steve.

They zipped back up and buttoned back down their attire. "So that was interesting" Steve said to Mary.
"Fuck yeah it was! That was not what I though it was going to be," Mary said putting on her shirt.
"It sure was fun though," said Steve.
Mary could hear the Thai Lady talking to new guy. "Oh What do we have here? Big Boy! Grab your cock baby! Yeah!"
"Yeah it was." said Mary
And with that they slinked out of the Lusty Lady Peep Show, knowing full and well that all the men skulking out with them had just spooged themselves silly.