Goldfarb leafed through the Victoria’s Secret catalogue and debated, which of the models should he fantasize about while masturbating? First he went through the catalogue quickly, giving each model a brief but fair appraisal, and noting with a tick made with a red felt tip pen in the corner of each glossy page the ones he thought the most promising. Then he returned to the first page and went through the catalogue again slowly, looking at all the models but paying special attention to the ones he had marked. The next step was to do the same thing, but in reverse, because looking at them in a different order sometimes stimulating different feelings. Sometimes, Goldfarb thought, after looking at a number of blondes, he, upon seeing a brunette, thought that he found brunettes more attractive than blondes, but sometimes just the opposite was true. For the same reason his fourth pass through the catalogue was random, and he spent the next quarter of an hour opening to random pages and studying the models on those pages intently, and marking off the pages he had already looked at on a list of the page numbers on a separate sheet of blank paper so that he gave each model an equal chance and no model was viewed more than once. Next he wrote the page numbers and names—Goldfarb knew that the models’ names were likely merely the inventions of the catalogue copywriters, but he still liked to refer to them by their names, as he felt it humanized what he was well aware were photographs taken in some photography studio where women he would never meet had been photographed, and then assembled into the catalogue by catalogue-assembly professionals, and also he felt it lessened the possibly very icky and/or exploitative and/or retrogressive and/or chauvinistic character of his imaginings involving the models, which was without their consent even if it was, Goldfarb told himself, although even in the telling he was aware of the possibly ickily self-justifying rationalizations that line of reasoning involved, harmless, although he sometimes wondered how it affected him socially, to have imagined these women whom he would never meet in flagrante delicto with him, namely, Goldfarb, vis-à-vis the women he might very well meet and in fact did meet throughout the course of his quotidian life—of the models he thought were the best candidates on the separate sheet of blank paper, now of course no longer blank because it bore, in neat red all-caps in red felt tip pen in a long vertical column, all the page numbers in the catalogue, each with a short diagonal slash through it indicating he had looked at that page in accordance with his procedures. Having selected a shortlist of the best candidates he then repeated the above procedures for them, i.e., looking at each of them quickly, then slowly, then in reverse order both quickly and slowly—this last being an addition to this latter stage of the process, being a step not present in the beginning stages, which perhaps represented a kind of slackening, a kind of giving less than one’s best effects, a kind of surrender to the demands of a finite lifetime, which made him, should he have stopped to think about it, which he did not exactly do in an explicit sense but it did seem to perhaps affect him slightly unconsciously, depressed, if that was not too strong a word, and perhaps he would have said, had he stopped to think about it, which he did not exactly do in an explicit sense, that the sense the demands of a finite lifetime inspired in him more a kind of vague discontent or restlessness, rather than of depression, with his lot in life, which after all consisted largely of elaborate procedures designed to select the best model in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue about whom to fantasize when he masturbated—and, looking through these top candidates, in what was perhaps his favorite part of the procedure because by this stage all the models who had survived the process of elimination thus far were excellent candidates, unlike when he first started and there were many whom he would have liked to discard right away but to whom his sense of conscientiousness drove him to give them a fair consideration, he was able to narrow the list down by stages to a final candidate and, laying the catalogue across he countertop he was about to get to business, when he was interrupted by a knock on the door.
“What in God’s name is taking you so long?” his mother screeched. “Other people need to use the bathroom too, you know!”