Gender Noncompunction


Preston struggles, almost alone. He longs for love and compassion. But he knows better than to ask for them. In an atmosphere of crushing loneliness, an admission of vulnerability could destroy him. His fragile bones might shatter into fine sand. Gossip about his weakness could disperse what’s left of him, spreading his remains with every defamatory breath and coating the cosmos with ashen dust.

Some men feed on loneliness. Some men need it as much as they need food or water.  That odd craving for isolation, coupled with a crippling thirst for affection, sets them apart. In this stark, dark, brittle world, they thrive on loneliness. Loneliness provides the pain they needs to fuel the sense of loss and abandonment that arise from that godforsaken loveless world. Loneliness is a partner whose solace is real, who understands the wretched intricacies of hopelessness. Loneliness is like oxygen or blood. Without it, the life would drain from their bodies like water from a sponge hung from a tree in the high desert.

In a sea of self-doubt, he hides his emptiness behind masks of his own making. To the world beyond the secret prison of his mind, he seems strong and self-assured…almost buoyant. But he is the consummate actor, a talented imposter whose fear reveals itself only through self-loathing disguised as fits of anger.


There’s nothing there. He’s an illusion, that’s what he is. Run your hand through his image and you’ll find that he is just a hologram.  They say he’s a  photograph of an interference pattern which, when properly illuminated, produces a three-dimensional image, as if he were real. He’s a couple of steps beyond that cheap magic, but he’s still just an ignis fatuus. Yet he’s impressive in the sense that he seems real. It’s not just his image, either. It’s his voice, his throaty laughter, even his body odor after a few hours working in the yard. His imperfections will take you in, too. They’re almost too real to be fake. But, trust me, he is no more a man than I am a kitten.


“Heather Hockley’s husband died a couple or three years ago. I think it was cancer of some kind. She never told him about her affair. I mean, what good would it have done? And the affair was over and done years before.”

Danna Smithers never opened her mouth without spewing  story no one wanted to hear. She was incapable of “yes” or “no” answers. She insisted on explaining the differences between positive and negative before getting to her point. But her explanations often were her points. Monica Lear said Danna suffered from diarrhea of the mouth.  Danna called Monica a “hard-hearted bitch.” They were friends, though they would never admit it. Both of them considered Preston Bright a loser. That was the one thing upon which they agreed. And Danna was right about Monica, by the way. And Monica was right about Danna.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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