Still Life with Three Boys
He’s on the news again, my first boyfriend, Aaron Abrams. Surrounded by well-wishers, a radiant wife, and three endomorphic tweens, the toast of Weston, recently re-elected for a third term from the Sixth District where we both grew up. True, Aaron is still soft and moon-faced at 43, but he’s acquired a bit of Chris Christie gravitas from all his time in front of the camera, and of course he’s always had a way with words, which is how he got me as a ten-year old to take off my clothes in the finished basement of his childhood home on Canterbury Court. I’m guessing he’ll omit this little chapter from his memoirs, which leaves me with the task. There’s no scandal here – little boys are never dirty in that way -- but even if there were, there’s no selfie to prove it, and besides, just because he played with my dick (and seemed to enjoy it) doesn’t mean he can’t legislate. In the end, though, this isn’t really about Aaron, though he had a hand – a chubby little hand with clumsy fingers – in my sexual archaeology. Think of this story, then, as an excavation. I look for the man I’ve become in the boy I used to be. Sometimes when I go digging I hit rock; this time I intend to hit bone.
August 1980: Aaron and I had been playing Star Fleet mercenaries under The Bridge. It was miserably hot and the older kids (who wanted nothing to do with Aaron or me) were at the pool. We had spent an hour tossing dirt-clod grenades at the aliens he convinced me lived in the culverts beneath the Carter-Allen Parkway, but when none of them fired back or came out to surrender, I got bored and told Aaron I was going home.
“Come to my house, Mig. My Dad got Intellivision. It’s so cool. I can show you how to play AstroSmash.”
“Okay.” I never took much convincing, and besides, at my house all we had were books.
The Abrams’ house smelled different from mine, which is to say light and antiseptic, an essence of sandalwood in the air-conditioning. Nobody was home, and Aaron guided me directly down carpeted stairs to the basement where the huge RCA hung out, the new game console attached, cartridges strewn about.
“Let’s play later,” Aaron said.
“Okay.” I said. In those days this was my response to any suggestion that didn’t include tunafish. Sweat was starting to dry on my forehead. “I’m sticky,” I added.
Then, as if he were telling me to turn on the TV, Aaron said suddenly. “So take off your shirt, Miggy. And your shorts. You’ll be cooler that way.” He looked serious, or at least he seemed to be working from a script I hadn’t seen yet.
The best thing to do would have been to laugh. To put it to rest with an indignant snort, to tell him to shut his piehole. Or simply to ignore what was clearly an unusual request given the less-than-intimate nature of our brief friendship. After all, I was a kid who kept his clothes on. But for the very first time in what had been up to then a buttoned-down life, I heard another purely irresistible voice chuckling within. “Do it!” the Voice exhorted. “Do it! Do it!” So I did, and I’ve sort of been doing it ever since.
I stood there in my off-brand tighty-whiteys thinking, what next? I didn’t feel relief, that’s for sure. If anything, I felt suddenly hotter, confused, even embarrassed by this turn of events, but more than that, I felt butterflies (God, how I’ve come to love these butterflies…), a tingle somewhere south of my tummy, a nice tingle, but a bad tingle, too, as if I were about to steal money from my mother’s purse.
I stood in place for an awkward minute. Aaron studied me like I was a museum artifact behind glass. I can’t imagine what he was thinking, because little boys never know what anyone is thinking, but it seems to me now in this moment of recollection that he was feeling desire, contemplating its bright contours like a toddler would a beach ball on the other side of the room.
“I can see your wiener,” Aaron said after a bit. I could see it, too, a visible lump in white cotton. “I never seen your wiener.” This was certainly true, because other than my mother and dad and the pediatrician, I don’t recall anyone seeing it or expressing any interest in seeing it. “Can I see your wiener, Miggy?”
At any time I could have said no, put my clothes back on, and deleted the previous three minutes. Game over until my balls dropped. I don’t think cherubic Aaron Abrams would have done anything at that point, no matter how disappointed he was. But there was the Voice again, commanding me: “Show him! Show him, Miguel!”
I pulled off my undies and in the first dramatic (or maybe erotic) gesture of my life, I twirled them on my index finger and threw them on the loveseat. I was butt naked in company for the first time ever. I didn’t dance or anything. I didn’t stick out my tongue at Aaron and say, “see, stupid!” But neither did I feign modesty. I put my hands on my bony hips and asked – I’m blushing as I type this because it sounds so lame – “do you like my wiener, Aaron?”
“Yes.” His eyes bugged. Then suddenly (in a day full of suddenlies), he reached out and touched it. He cupped it in his warm right hand. I felt those undescended testes withdraw even more deeply. And right then, at that instant, I got hard. In his hand. He wasn’t doing anything, really, but my penis certainly was. It stuck straight up, pretty much flush with my belly. Aaron shuddered. I shuddered. This was scary. This was crazy.
“Your penis looks different, Mig.”
“What?” Swooning, I just wanted him to hold it, maybe rub it a bit. The talking made it strange.
“Your penis. Where’s the cap?”
“What? What cap?” I didn’t know what he wanted.
“My wiener has a cap. Sam’s has a cap. Johnny’s has a cap. I know ‘cause I seen ‘em.” And then, as if to prove a point, he let go of my dick, and pulled off his own shorts and underpants.
Mine was different, I’ll give him that. Aaron’s penis didn’t look like mine at all: it was thicker, though not as long, and yes, Virginia, it had a cap on the end of it. I thought it looked great in any configuration, but with all the mysteries swirling around the room, I couldn’t muster the courage to touch it as Aaron had touched mine until my chubby little friend pulled me towards him and hugged me. His skin was burning. He was shaking all over. Instinctively – at least if you can accept that I knew what to do before I had any lessons – I stroked his sides and butt cheeks. I felt his little boner grinding into me. He shuddered, moaned audibly, and because I was shuddering, too, I intuited that this was a happy sound, not one of pain.
At this point I guess I was starting to know what I might have known all along, something primal – a memory of the future: I liked being naked with Aaron. I grabbed his penis and positioned it next to mine. I rubbed the two swollen shafts together. I rolled them in one palm, gently, hoping that he was feeling what I was feeling. Then he did the same, more fervently this time, fully focused on the two distended playthings, his a three-inch nubbin with a cap, mine a four-inch rocket without. He pulled away for a second and started pumping his own wiener for all it was worth. I mimicked him, and then, not without discomfort, I pulled down hard enough on the taut skin of my penis that most of a little red tip emerged. I guess I had a cap, after all, though it appeared that mine had been more or less sealed until further notice. For all I know, this may have been a first sighting. There would be many more.
Aaron noticed. “There it is, Mig. Your thing does have a cap. It’s got a peehole, too. And it’s red. Does it hurt?”
“Nah,” I said. “Well, sort of. But it feels really good, too.”
He took hold of it again, and to his credit, he seemed sensitive to my, uh, sensitivity. He squeezed the extra skin in a good place and the flaming little head reappeared, this time a little more willingly.
“That’s so cool, Mig. I like your wiener.”
“I like your wiener, too, Aaron.”
And that was that. Whatever virus had brought on this fever dissipated as arbitrarily as it had come on. The moment between Aaron and me had run its course – forever, I’m afraid, never to be revisited. Soon enough the two of us would have a language for what we had seen and done, and then even the memory would be off limits, held captive by conventions we didn’t make up.
We got dressed as quickly as we had undressed. I don’t recall feeling guilt, per se, or that I had lost something, as I’ve read so often happens when one world ends and another begins, but I do remember sadness, a sadness that has chased me around the globe for most of my 43 years.
Aaron was my friend for several years after that. He was smart and cheerful, and I enjoyed the time we spent together talking about books or playing old-school video games, even though I secretly longed to be doing something else, something in which we would both be naked and touching and feeling really good. After seventh grade my ambitious parents, sensing that I was bored at John F. Kennedy Middle School, sent me to Weston Prep, a private boys school with “an excellent academic reputation.” Though the Abrams had more money than we did and their son was an even better student than I was, Aaron stayed at Kennedy with most of the neighborhood kids.
Once, the summer after my second year at Prep, I ran into Aaron at the Mall with a couple of girls. We exchanged pleasantries. He introduced me. I smiled at the Stacy and the Jennifer, one fresh and really pretty, the other, draped all over my round-faced playmate of yesteryear, chewing gum and looking dyspeptic. (Did she see a threat?) Aaron said we should get together. I said sure, but I knew somehow we never would.
He went one way, I went another – without any special wonder. It’s how things work. Now he’s 43 and on TV, a Republican, a family man, a son of Weston made good. Me, I drift between hemispheres, still trying to figure out who I am.
There’s a coda here of sorts for those of you curious enough to read on. At some point a few weeks after our little fire dance, Aaron and I were playing Major League Baseball (the best of the Intellivision classics!) in the self-same basement, when out of the blue he explained why I didn’t have a cap on my penis: I hadn’t had a “circumstition” – or at least that was the word I heard. “I’m Jewish. I got one.” Now in those days I didn’t know Jewish from jelly beans – my Church-hating Dad had emigrated from Franco’s Spain and my Monterrey Pop Mom was in a Zen phase – but I knew my way around the Encyclopedia Britannica (there was no internet, of course). I found the word circumcision, learned that it was a surgical procedure performed for medical or religious reasons removing the prepuce from the glans of the penis. There was a line illustration of two penises – not enough to inspire any prurient interest – and with a bit of imagination I could see that mine was like the one labeled uncircumcised. Soon thereafter I began my research for real in the locker rooms of suburban America, and I quickly discerned that almost all of the boys I got naked with on a daily basis were circumcised, and I realized almost simultaneously that this extra flap of skin would bring me some not unpleasant attention: furtive glances from many of the boys and outright stares from others.
How odd then that the first boy I actually had sex with had a dick just like mine.
Even in the Dark Ages –and it was never darker than the mid-80’s for any boy with designs of a happy gay life (happy/gay – now there’s an easy oxymoron) – I flourished at Weston Prep. I was a brilliant student, a competent athlete, and as my Cantabrian grandmother was fond of saying, hijo de puro sol – a child of pure sunlight. I quickly discovered that I was funny, that I could make anybody – the older guys, the younger guys, the teachers, the coaches – laugh. I accrued capital this way, and most important, I made friends. Bottom line: I was popular, and as anybody reading this, as anybody who’s ever been a kid will surely attest, being liked softens any questions one asks himself before 3:00 AM. It sure beats the crap out of being shunned. So bountiful was my waking life that I almost believed the hype.
But I knew something was wrong all along. The smile I used like a church key to open everybody’s heart wasn’t quite authentic. A chameleon survives by changing colors, I guess, but what does he look like in his natural habitat, away from predators? This was my problem: I was so good at being what I wasn’t that I really missed being who I was, a boy who liked boys. And as good as my situation was at Prep and as often as I convinced myself that I could proceed just fine as a heterosexual, my heart – fuck it, my gonads – demanded something else. It’s easy in 2014, history having played out as it has, to ask why didn’t you just shut up and go for it, Miguel? I didn’t live in Utah or rural Georgia, after all, and while I might have lost cachet and comfort, I doubt I would have been beaten or kicked out of my house. And there’s the rub, as a certain Danish prince once concluded. I was – and there’s no other word for it, trust me – a coward.
I was also 15. So I danced with whom they expected me to dance – specifically the girls of my life. They seemed to like me, too, which made the charade even more perplexing: I could have had any one of them, Julie or Larissa or my buddy Alden Starr’s drop-dead sister, Beatrice (whose name, for all its literary and cinematic magnificence, was certainly ridiculous). But I didn’t, at least not in the purest sense of doing. I kissed each of them, apparently quite sufficiently, and I purred that they were beautiful, and I made them laugh until they hiccupped, but once things reached the critical stage and I sensed that I might be required to co-opt their virtue, I found a way out. These girls never had to worry about contraception because Miguel wasn’t planning to go there. Call it pre-coitus interruptus. I made brilliant excuses at just the right time, and as far as I know, none of the girls thought any less of me because I couldn’t – or wouldn’t perform.
And so it was one day in September of 1985, the first day of my sophomore year at Prep. I was still lethargic from a summer of idleness, but I was sincerely (nerd alert!) looking forward to Honors English and to the fullness of an academic day. There was lots of guy talk, of course, lots of high-fiving and shoulder punching and party-planning, when Mr. Montrose called us to order. He had passed out a little sheet with the beguiling title: The Exact Location of the Soul. He had a couple of boys read it aloud – it was only five or six paragraphs – and then he asked what we thought. As I recall, the author, an Emergency Room doctor with a poetic streak, had recently treated a patient returned from Africa who had been bitten by a botfly which had subsequently laid its eggs in the muscle tissue of his forearm. In the wound that remained after the larva was removed – a haunting hollowness, he wrote – he posited that he had discovered the resting place of the titular essence, the exact location of the soul.
Jimmy Thornton was fixated on just how disgusting the image was, worms burrowing through flesh.
Alex Carter wondered if botflies really did what the doctor said they did.
Penn Lattimore – my rival in all matters scholastic – reminded Jimmy and Alex that this was a metaphor.
I countered, “Metaphors don’t go to the Emergency Room.”
Then, a boy I hadn’t noticed before, a new boy (and these were few and far between at the sophomore level) raised his hand – rather than blurt like the rest of us – and waited for the teacher to call on him.
“I don’t believe in the soul,” he said. “The guy has a hole in his arm. That’s all.”
“And you are?” asked Mr. Montrose, looking down his first-day roster.
“Well, Jesse, so what do you make of the doctor’s diagnosis, then?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “People are always finding God and the Devil in stuff.” Then he looked down at his notebook, and I guessed that we had heard the last from him for the day.
The boy didn’t quite fit the Prep profile. He looked uncomfortable in his blue Oxford shirt and school tie. His dark hair, though cut to conform to the dress code, was spiky and decidedly asymmetrical. He was quite thin, but there was something tough about him, something bruised and wary, as if he had fought against forces that had never visited any of the rest of us in the room.
When he looked up again I saw that he was also – how do I put this – impossibly beautiful, prettier by far than any of the tucked and tony girls of the neighborhood, and certainly prettier than even the most chiseled fellow I had met in this school for chiseled fellows. His eyes – and I feel myself drifting towards gay-porn clichés in spite of myself – were almond shaped and of a blue so dark that it might have been ultramarine. They were indoor eyes set into an indoor face, pale as December, a face that simultaneously transfixed me and begged me to look away so that I didn’t turn to stone or melt in a puddle.
Let’s just say that I was smitten, bursting with feelings I never could summon with any of the girls of summer. I was suddenly a mess, completely distracted from the task at hand. The words of the good doctor swam on the page and the clever remarks of my classmates bounced like overheated molecules in my head. I was sweating and – this has been my tell since I was a wee lad – I was full-on blushing.
In the remaining half hour, Jesse never once looked my way. The rapture, apparently, wasn’t mutual. Jesse scrawled in his notebook, unconsciously twisting what had recently been long hair, and, without saying another word, made it clear that he didn’t really care to be there. My classmates took heed and left him alone.
There was buzz about the new kid in the hallways, nothing mean really, just chatter about his diffidence and strangeness. Ordinarily, I would have been on point, ready to mimic or caricature, the surest path to a laugh, but I just couldn’t bring it. I kept looking for Jesse – it wasn’t a big school, just 700 boys – but he wasn’t to be found. That night I masturbated violently to his image, repeating his name like a mantra, whispering to God what was surely the most blasphemous novena ever uttered. In my fantasy, I didn’t even bother to undress him, so mighty was my passion.
Of course he reappeared the next day in English. And every day in the weeks thereafter, always in the same desk, always a study in contrariness. He obviously did his homework and (to my way of thinking, anyway) said something startling in every class, after which he had the habit of checking out to another ostensibly more interesting planet. To my knowledge, he never chatted with any of the other boys, and, as I quickly discovered, he preferred to eat lunch alone. Soon enough I started to function again. The fever subsided. I got my chi back, or at least when I spoke I once again made sense to myself. And even though Jesse was never too far from my field of vision, especially after midnight, I believe that if he hadn’t sought me out himself one early October afternoon, I might have learned how to forget him.
I was sitting in the library, polishing off some Geometry in a back-room carrel. A finger tapped me on the shoulder. I flinched. “Sorry, uh, Miguel. What are you doing after school today, uh, tonight?” It was Friday and I figured I was going to hang with friends and talk football, but he knew my name. He knew my name.
“Nothing really. What’s up?” I hope he didn’t hear the quaver in my husky tenor, because his eyes were doing a pretty good job of deconstructing me.
“Listen, I’ve got an extra ticket to Jesus and Mary Chain at the Zoo. You interested?”
He might have been asking me to Bingo Night at the Rotary. I didn’t care. I was interested. “Sure, Jesse. I’ll clear it with my parents, okay?”
“Great. So where do you live, anyway? My sister’s driving. She’s taking a semester off college. She’s staying with me this weekend while the folks are out of town. Hey, if it’s too late, you can stay over. We’ve got a ton of bedrooms.”
I stayed over. It was a long night, certainly the strangest and probably the greatest of my life. The music was somehow loud and cold at the same time, but Jesse seemed to like it, singing along and air-drumming from time to time. The crowd was older, pretty sketchy, lots of smoke and piercings, but again, Jesse seemed happier with them than he’d ever seemed at school. After the show we went with Janelle, his sister, to a Denny’s in a part of Weston I’d never been to before. I ate breakfast at 1:00 AM, another in a series of firsts. I was 15, but with Jesse and Janelle I felt a lot less like a kid than I’d ever felt before.
As promised, the McKay’s had lots of bedrooms – they lived in a sprawling ranch house in Windhaven Estates near the TPC Course – but I stayed with Jesse in his bedroom, surrounded by guitars and gadgets whose name I still wouldn’t know. He asked me if he should fire up the jumbo bong, but I told him – too quickly, I’m sure – that I didn’t smoke pot.
“That’s fine,” he said. “It wasn’t a test. I just like to take the edge off.”
“I don’t have any edges,” I said.
“I’ve noticed. At school. You’re, uh, at ease, you know. Always laughing. At ease, man.” He added, “Me, I’m all edges.”
Exhaustion lessens inhibition, and it was almost three in the morning. Desire does the same. I chose this moment to say the most important thing I’d ever uttered in my perfectly deferential life: “You know, Jesse. I think I need to get some edges.”
Suddenly, he pulled back and embraced himself, rocking back and forth like a kid with a tummy ache.
“I thought so. I thought so. Nobody could be as happy as you are and …still be happy.”
This shut me up for a while. Jesse popped in a cassette mix – I recognized the Smiths, but not much else – leaned back on his bed and closed his eyes. I think he wanted me to take the lead, to push a little harder against the silence that wraps itself around a confession. Everything that came to mind seemed inadequate for the occasion. I wanted to sound cool, or at least enlightened, to say something meaningful to follow up something meaningful, but what I said instead was simply stupid.
“I’m a virgin.”
Jesse laughed, and I realized that I had never heard him laugh before, at least not without an overriding sense of irony. His smile was absolutely like a rainbow in the western sky. “No shit. Well, that’s makes two of us in the room. So what do you plan to do about it?”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know why I said that. Sometimes my mouth is way ahead of my brain.”
“Look, it’s okay, man. I think you’re funny. It’s why I asked you over, if you want to know. See how you pull it off and all. Oh, and just in case you’re serious about rectifying your little, uh, situation, I’m gonna tell you something else: you’ve got it going on, boy. They’ll show up. Trust me.”
I’ve got it going on. Right. I’ve got nothing, I said to myself, nothing but a heart full of longing, a boner, and a mild case of paralysis. I wanted to tell him that “they” had already shown up, and that “they” were willing, only I was still a virgin because, well, because “they” weren’t boys.
And that’s when I flashed back five years to Aaron Abrams in the basement by the RCA. To that sultry August afternoon and the intense memory of holding two little boy-dicks in my hand. To the crushing recognition that no matter how much I wanted to do it again and again and again, this was not what boys were supposed to feel. And then to the Voice, reawakened in big way, screaming in my ear, urging me forward. Tell him, it commanded. Tell him!
“Jesse? I want to have sex with a boy. Not a girl.”
“A boy. I see. You’re gay.”
All in on the flop. “And the boy I want to have sex with is you, Jesse. I think you’re the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen. I mean it. I can’t even do my homework.”
“You really can’t do your homework? That’s heartbreaking.”
“Don’t do this, Jesse. This is killing me. If you want, I’ll leave. You can forget I said it. Oh God, I fucked this one up big time.”
“Shut up for a second, will you. Relax.”
Jesse commanded me to sit next to him. I was shaking uncontrollably, but I did as I was told. I felt the room spin and I thought I might throw up.
“You think I’m beautiful, Miggy? Really? Beautiful?”
“I do. You’re, like, perfect.”
He suddenly rolled up his right sleeve. He laid his forearm, palm up, on my lap. “Look,” he said. The hairless skin was crosshatched with a hundred slashes. “Still think I’m beautiful, Miguel? I don’t think perfect’s quite the word for it. I’m a cutter, man.”
Then he stood up, unbuttoned and removed his shirt. The white skin of his abdomen was similarly marked, as if he had started twenty games of tic-tac-toe with an X-Acto knife. “It gets worse.” He slipped off his khakis, then, without warning, pulled down his boxers.
Jesse stood naked before me. He had cut his name in half-inch high block letters on the left side of his groin. There was an ugly keloided cross carved into his thigh about an inch to the right of his flaccid penis. “How’s that for vain, Miguel? I autographed myself. Had enough yet, lover?”
I could feel the tears coming, but even many years later I can’t say for sure whether they were for Jesse, or for me, or for every child who’s ever decided to hurt himself. Clearly Jesse wanted to give me an out, a chance to retract my confession and rewind my life, to nip this overture to gay love in the bud. He backed away from me. I heard the unspoken challenge.
But this was also about me, and I knew what I wanted. “No,” I finally whispered. “I want you even more now than I wanted you before.” Suddenly large in my own eyes, I grabbed Jesse by the shoulders and tugged him toward the bed. He didn’t resist. I laid him down as gently as I could on his back and told him to put his hands behind his head and close his eyes, wet with misery and love, and bluer than the night sky in heaven. He exhaled, then drew a long breath, as if he were about to go under water. I went straight to his scarified tummy and ran my index finger over the ridges of his wounds. He trembled, but he didn’t say anything. Then I touched his name, spoke it as I traced it. I blessed and consecrated it with my lips. With this, his penis came suddenly to life, lengthening along his inner thigh. I picked it up in my hand and thought to myself, this is what I’ve been waiting for.
I kissed Jesse’s dick, now fully erect, the knob unsheathed. I took as much of it as I could – it wasn’t especially big (as I would later come to know), but I had absolutely no experience in the art of fellatio. I bobbed up and down and up and down, and when I heard Jesse groan, I knew I was doing okay. I swirled my tautened tongue around the frenulum, taking care not to catch it with my teeth. I cupped his balls and jacked his slickened shaft, so absorbed in what I was doing that I forgot where I was in space – and time. I muttered, “I like your wiener, Jesse.” Then I went back to work. In a minute or so, I tasted a pearl of pre-cum, so I knew we were getting somewhere. Soon thereafter Jesse sat bolt upright and said, “You gotta stop! Miguel. Stop!” No way, I thought, taking all of his dick at once, heedless of my gag reflex, then ever-so-slowly releasing it until I reached the crown, which I grabbed with my lips and sucked and squeezed for all I was worth. That did it, I guess. He fired rope after rope of semen into my mouth, and, I, confirmed as a cocksucker, swallowed without remorse.
After he caught his breath and I took off my clothes, he did pretty much the same with me. I came too quickly, of course, but I was filled with wonder as the prettiest boy in the universe took the measure of my dick. I could tell that, like me, he was a quick study, whatever doubts he had before going down on me defused by the primal rhythms we had discovered together. I think it probably helped that he was also uncircumcised, or at least he seemed to understand that in my case at least, gentle works better than rough.
Afterwards (after words?), we kissed, another in a series of revelations for me. With girls, kissing had been paint-by-numbers, instructions provided by Hollywood. With Jesse it was a kind of communion, a mystical dialogue – a literal speaking in tongues. My dick was hard the whole time, still ready to play, but I sensed that Jesse needed extra time to decompress, so I didn’t pursue the matter. There would be time, I thought.
Jesse dozed off. I looked at the digital alarm clock next to the bed: 4:15 AM. When I shifted, he rolled over and whispered something to me, something I was too ecstatic to process and something I tried desperately to ignore: One time I actually thought about cutting my dick off, you know that Miguel?
I couldn’t sleep much after that. I turned on the little reading lamp, propped my head up, and gazed at my beauty sleeping. I studied again the road map of scars on his abdomen, then the deep one, the cross on his upper thigh. I thought back to the day I first saw Jesse in English class, and I remembered what he had said about the man with the hole in his arm. I don’t believe in the soul, Jesse had said. Had he gone looking for it and never found it? Had he tried to cut it out? I turned off the lamp and before I fell asleep I remember placing my right hand on my heart to reassure myself that it was still pounding away.
I fell in love with Jesse that night, and at moments I suspected he might even have been in love with me. By tacit agreement, we kept a cool distance at school (this wasn’t hard for Jesse, as this was his preferred M.O.). He got his license in December – he was a year older to the day than I was – and dutifully tooled me around Weston. I introduced him to my family, and my mother, who has a soft spot for broken things and a great instinct for healing, probably sensed that he was not like any of my other friends. She gave us whatever she was touting then as “healthy snacks,” green things with sesame seeds usually (these were the days before kale chips), and Jesse always complimented her good intentions. They talked music and politics – my mom was always hipper than I was – and somehow she managed never to intrude. She didn’t ask where we were going or what we were doing, and she never, when it was just the two of us, mother and son, tried to figure out why her little boy for the first time in his transparent life was keeping secrets.
I spent a lot of weekend nights at the McKay’s. His parents were polished, solicitous, attractive in the most obvious ways, but more than anything, they were absent. Many weekends they left Jesse alone with food, some cash, and a list of phone numbers. Janelle was back at school, and on Friday and Saturday night, we had nearly 7000 square feet to ourselves. We watched videocassettes of foreign movies and listened to Jesse’s strange mixes. He taught me how to play the guitar – well, he taught me six or seven chords – and I tried my hand at writing lyrics for his dark, angular melodies. Occasionally we seized control of his mom’s designer kitchen and cooked elaborate, if not always tasty meals. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that we spent so much time naked in bed, we could be described as archetypal American pals – Tom and Huck in a New Age.
I wanted Jesse’s wounded body every waking minute. It was a craving, an addiction. I think I had an aptitude for sex, or at least I was willing to try absolutely anything. Certainly whatever timidity had characterized my personal relationships before did not exist when Jesse was in my sights. There were issues all the while – Jesse liked me to fuck him and I wanted him to fuck me, a plan he actively rejected – but at some level I didn’t care how it happened as along as it was with him. Sometimes while I was maneuvering my longish, well-lubricated dick up Jesse’s equally well-lubricated ass, I would fantasize instead that it was Jesse inside of me. I probably should have sensed something wasn’t quite right early on: Jesse took great care of me, always, but he was deliberately passive. I always seemed to be in charge of what we did. I didn’t know the word, of course, not being then (or even now) a connoisseur of the gay subculture, but Jesse was the classic bottom. The problem was, I wasn’t the classic top. Of course these were just preferences, mustard or mayo, paper or plastic, or at least this was what I was convincing myself they were until everything sort of came unraveled.
One Friday evening in late March over Spring Break, Jesse called me after dinner to tell me he couldn’t pick me up, but that he would definitely be home, so maybe I could get my mom or dad to drop me off. He said he had something to show me and that it was pretty cool. He sounded happy, giddy even.
A half hour later, I waved my dad away (he is a good man and deserves a starring role in another, less problematic recollection), slung my Adidas flight bag over my shoulder, and whistling with the prospect of Jesse, I walked up the long walk to the front door of the McKay’s house.
When I rang, Jesse spoke to me through the intercom – odd, but not unprecedented. He told me the door was open, that he was in his room, and, that I needed to knock before I entered. I imagined a prank, but then he wasn’t much for practical jokes that I could see.
I knocked. Nothing, though I heard the Smiths (I am human and I need to be loved/Just like everybody else does), and, smiling, I smelled something sweet and vaguely spicy. I knocked again.
Entrez, s’il vous plait, the voice said. It was muffled, a bit falsetto, and only marginally Jesse’s. I opened the door, and there he was, lounging on the bed, in the same position I often found him waiting for me, only it wasn’t quite Jesse that I was looking at. I hope I can find the words to describe what I saw and felt at that moment.
“Do you like?” he said, affecting the languid tone and accent of a French courtesan. “Jessica is dressing for you, mon cher.
It isn’t right to say that Jesse was in drag. Even as a sophomore in high school, I knew what drag was – men pretending to be women and not pulling it off, fright wigs, face paint, Adam’s apples and man hands. No, Jesse was transformed, softened by the lighting in the room and by the sheer powder blue dressing gown he was wearing. His lips, bee-stung by nature, were lightly glossed; those midnight eyes practically shimmered in their delicate eyeliner frame; and his cheeks, always white and unblemished, looked for all the world like alabaster. He was like a breathing Donatello, like one of those porcelain maidens in a Madrid storefront. Jesse, in the moment, was certainly not a boy. Neither was he a woman, really. He was – and I think this was his intent all along – a work of Art.
“Say something, Miguel. Tell me what you think.” Jesse was back for a moment.
“You look good, Jesse. Beautiful, you know.” But this simple statement probably couldn’t conceal my shock.
“Thank you. I mean it. This took me forever. I didn’t want look gross.”
“You could never look gross. It’s just not in your genes.” Again, I had no clue what he wanted me to say. Part of me wanted to embrace the novelty. Part of me wanted to run away.
“I’ve been planning this for a while, you know, my grand entrance. I wanted you to see me first.”
“Well, you know, I’m different with you. I trust you. You make me proud of my edges.”
“Do you like, uh, you know, dressing up? Like a girl.”
“I am a girl, Miguel. In my heart I’ve always been a girl. It’s just not something I figured I could get away with in Weston. But here I am at last.”
“Are you going to stay dressed like this? I mean, you sound like you really mean it. That you’re a girl and all. You sure it’s not, like, a fantasy? You know, a metaphor?”
“No.” I heard his voice drop, as if he suddenly realized that he couldn’t possibly stay like this beyond tonight. “It’s not.” The joy I beheld when I first saw him in this new face momentarily vanished.
“How long have you felt like this, Jesse?”
“Always. I’ve been pretty good about keeping it to myself, I guess. And it’s not like I hate that I was born a boy, it’s just that when I’m a girl I get more powerful signals. You know, I feel like I’m really me.”
“Now, this is where you gotta help me, Miguel. I need you now more than I’ve ever needed anyone. This is big for me.”
“What do you mean? What do you want me to do?” I was trembling and close to tears I didn’t want to cry.
“Listen to me. I’m going to change myself. It’s going to be very hard. I need you to accept that and be there for me.”
“Accept what? That you think you’re a girl? That my boyfriend is a girl? That the boy I love doesn’t want to be the boy I love?” The dam burst. I was crying, sobbing with a frustration so intense that for the first time in memory I wanted to scream. I wanted to hurt somebody.
“Miguel.” He shook me. “Look at me, please. I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you right now. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. But you’ve got to listen to me.”
“Friend, Miguel. Sometimes it’s the best thing in the world. To be a friend.”
And then it dawned on me: I wasn’t in Jesse’s plans. He couldn’t be who he needed to be with me being who I wanted to be. He had never been dishonest about this. I just hadn’t bothered to ask. As has often been the case in my life, I did things for no other reason than that I wanted to do them. This wasn’t about me and it probably never had been. I was just a witness. And with this realization I sat down next to him on our bed, pulled him close to me, inhaled the familiar scent of boy, now mixed with the perfumes of woman, and kissed him one last time. On the cheek. As a friend. Then listened to his story, a story I’m telling you now:
He would finish the year at Prep. He had to tell his parents and Janelle soon enough, but he thought he could make them come around – after all, they’d known about his cutting and signed him up with a psychiatrist. That summer, he would go away – to a retreat in Minnesota where he would be counseled, where he would spend long days looking into mirrors and studying who looked back. He would talk to knowledgeable people about the process, about therapy options, about hormones. He would practice – when he told me this he smiled broadly – and damn it, he’d get it right. He’d enroll next year in a special school, a place he’d read about where he could make a name for himself – Jessica – and be supported. He’d go into the city as a girl, but if he ever felt bad about it, he knew enough about being a boy to resurrect Jesse in the moment.
Then, and only then, would he know if he was ready for surgery. I winced noticeably, and he laughed again.
“You know, I told you the first time we hooked up that I’d thought about cutting my dick off. I know you heard me, but you didn’t say anything, so I let it pass. It wasn’t just a figure of speech, you know. It’s complicated, but as much as you love your dick – and it’s a great dick, it really is – I don’t love mine.”
I stayed the night in Jesse’s bed. We talked for hours. When I left in the morning, I gave him a big boy hug and said, “I’m going to miss you, Jesse. But I guess I’ll always have Jessica.”
She writes to me pretty regularly, sometimes letters on old-fashioned stationery, sometimes e-mails. She asks about my work – I’m a teacher, for Christ’s sake – and she keeps me apprised of her own career as a graphic designer. You’ve seen her work everywhere, but more significantly, you’ve seen her: on billboards, on TV ads, in fashion reviews. The face that launched a thousand ad campaigns. I never let her forget that I was the first to tell her that she’s beautiful, and for good measure I remind her that, at long last, she’s pretty close to perfect in God’s eyes.
It hurt for a while, losing Jesse, but they don’t call me Mr. Sunshine for nothing. My mom asked after him, but when I didn’t offer her much in the way of a storyline (“I think he went to Europe this summer and I hear he’s going to boarding school in the fall”), she quickly recognized that whatever we had had together was no longer, and bless her heart every day, she didn’t bug me, even for a minute.
I didn’t get right back on the horse, if you know what I mean, and I certainly didn’t come out, but neither did I sulk or martyr myself. Resilient, I think I’ve always been. Brave I’ll never be. Like most forlorn lovers, I simply couldn’t see past the one who had left me – even if he had left me for the Truth. Nobody could compare. Nobody came even close. Like most guys of any persuasion, I had to get off from time to time, but it was always with my trusty right hand and those indelible memories from my time with Jesse when he was simply the boy I loved.
My junior year was a blur. I turned my life over to my studies, and in the absence of a boy to have and to hold, I read books. They were a suitable substitute – because of books I can actually write the story I’m telling you now – but as much as I could lose myself in them, I never seemed to find myself. A year and a half after Jesse I hadn’t been with anybody, and after a while I started to believe that I might be getting my innocence back, if not my virginity. My Dad would have shot me if I’d told him I wanted to become a priest, but there were days – months really – when I thought I ought to sign up with a monastery, plant fruit trees, tend to bees, give my life to God, and be done with the travails of this weary world. But life, as usual, intervened. I dedicate this last panel of my bittersweet triptych to the memory of the boy who saved me from myself, to Tommy..
October 1987. I was a senior at last, about to apply to college. I had compiled a terrific record at Prep, and I was going to have options, at least that’s what the counselor told me. Besides, she said, I was demographically interesting. Unless she was reading my mind and enjoying the scenery, I think she meant that because my name was Miguel Angel Torres, I might move closer to the front of the line. That I looked more like McCauley Culkin than Erik Estrada didn’t seem to matter. But I hadn’t done much in the way of community service, she said, and I ought to look into it, beef up my resume, give back a bit to those who didn’t have everything I did.
It made sense on many levels, not the least of which is that short of sucking cock, I have always been happiest when I’m working with people. I thought I’d try the soup kitchen, but that meant missing lunch and AP Economics; some of my friends made evening calls for Amnesty International, but that seemed vaguely self-serving and unnecessarily political. So Ms. Layman ended up calling Great Strides and hooked me up with their Saturday morning tutorial program. Done deal. I figured by now if I didn’t know more than every little kid in town, I wasn’t as smart as everybody said I was.
Turns out the “little kid” was 17, only two months younger than I was, and he looked two years older. When we were introduced to each other by the liaison at Barclay Polytechnic, we both did a double take: he was obviously expecting a frat boy on steroids; I was definitely expecting a pubescent urchin from the barrio.
Thomas Wayne Cutler was my first student. He would soon become my greatest teacher. And, as this is ultimately a story about sex, he became, for me at least, Eros in the flesh, the first boy to successfully persuade me that there can be pleasure without imminent trauma.
If you’re still reading, then you know what’s coming, but I promise you we didn’t do anything nasty that first day. That kind of thing only happens in stories with a word count, and this is clearly not one of those. Nor on the second or the third, for that matter. I had a job to do and I wasn’t looking to push any limits. If I had been, I would have noticed right away that the scruffy fellow across the table from me was more man than boy, or at least more man than I was. Tommy was lean and a bit jug-eared. He wore one of those soul patches that had come in to style the year before (I, on the other hand, had nothing to shave off.). His forearms were thick and veiny. When he smiled – it was more of a grin, actually – one might easily have surmised that he was Big Trouble, but his eyes always gave him away: huge, the color of chocolate, soft and kind like the eyes of Jesus.
Tommy couldn’t put a sentence together, so I showed him a bit about subordination. He read slowly, his index finger tracing the lines on the page, so I would read to him instead, The Pearl, I think it was. What struck me before it all got so gloriously out of control was that he was singularly unafraid: unafraid to make mistakes; unafraid of his obvious academic limitations; unafraid to say exactly what he thought without road-testing it. By all rights, Tommy should have despised me – child of privilege doing his best noblesse oblige thing. Instead, he sensed very quickly that I wasn’t as happy as I pretended to be, and he set about making things better.
After our fourth Saturday together – I had taught him a few mnemonic devices which he thought were pretty cool – I offered him a ride home (as it turned out, he lived about 200 yards from Barclay, but he took me up on the offer anyhow). We stopped at Mickey D’s for a Coke, and there in the long shadow of the Golden Arches, he asked me the most natural question a guy can ask another guy:
“You got a girl, Miguel?”
“Injured Reserve, you know, like in football.”
“Not really. Everything’s working, if that’s what you mean.”
“Dude, it’s not workin’ if you’re not workin’ it.” He chuckled at his poetry. “So how come a great looking dude like you don’t have a girl?”
I don’t like to be pressed, but Tommy didn’t seem to be pressing. But he did seem to know that I was hiding something and might feel better if I talked about it. (Writing about the Voice, I hear Tommy…). Déjà vu all over again.
“I had a girl. Her name was Jesse.”
“Gee, I’m sorry man. Didn’t wanna go there necessarily. “
“I had a girl, I said. But she used to be a boy. Which means I had a boy, Tommy. I’m gay, all right – so that’s why I don’t have a girl.” I paused, waiting for a reaction, but for the second time in my life there wasn’t one, just a look of concern in his Jesus eyes. “I loved him. Then he had to go, get his life together. He wants to be a girl, Tommy. It killed me, but I’m okay with it, I guess.”
“Wow.” He stroked his little soul patch like a $150/hour shrink. “That really sucks. He must have been hurting bad to leave you, Miguel.”
“He knew what he wanted. It took him a while to figure it out, and then I was in the way.”
“So do you know what you want? Now?”
“Not really. I’ve sort of quit thinking about that kind of stuff. Look, Tommy, if this is too weird, I’ll take you on home. You don’t need to hear all this.”
“But I do. I’m not much for the books, you know, but I been around. You’re not the only guy on the planet who hasn’t figured things out.”
“You got a girl, Tommy, better hope she doesn’t want to be a boy!”
“If I had a girl, she’d be a girl – I know that much. Me, I’m happy being a boy. You know it. I can’t show you much, tutor, but I know how to be happy. Hey, this is gonna sound pretty fucked up and all you bein’ my teacher, but I think I know what you need to cure the blues. You need to have some fun, man.”
In many ways, I’ve always been mildly retarded, or at least prone to miss the trees, I’m so busy worrying about the forest. Tommy was hitting on me, plain and simple. He wanted to be with me in that way. And I don’t believe he was being guided by a missionary spirit.
“You gay, too? Is everybody gay and just not telling me?”
“Sure. I mean, I like sex – a lot. And I think you’re, pardon the expression, pretty smokin’. I was just thinkin’, you know, you and me might have fun. I mean, like I said, if you like boys, you might like me. It’s Saturday, I’m not working, my mom’s in Texas with her sister, it’s all good. If you want to, I mean.”
“Okay,” I said. “Okay.”
“Great! This’ll be great.”
It was a warm day, one of those blue late-October masterpieces. For the first time since Jesse I felt the butterflies. The sweet terror of something new fluttering in my belly.
There’s a great old Roxy Music song – Jesse played it for me first – called “Love is the Drug.” It’s amped and jagged and the singer is practically choking with anticipation. He reaches a crescendo and, beyond coyly, announces that “love is the drug – and you can guess the rest!” It would be easy to close the book with me anticipating and you guessing, but I’m not going to do that to you, loyal reader. Besides, though it wasn’t ever love, it was always magnificent.
I’d only done this twice before in my life, this getting-to-know-you thing, and the first time, you’ll recall, I was ten. Tommy seemed to understand my nervousness. He led me into – I kid you not – his mother’s bedroom with its big white bed. When I started to take off my shirt, he put his finger to his lip as if to silence me, and finished the job for me. Then he unbuckled my belt, unbuttoned – slowly, deliberately – my 501’s, and slid them over the bulge of my erection. I kicked the Levi’s aside and stood before him, my boxers tenting ridiculously. Tommy took a few seconds to check me out, flashed his trademark grin, and then, almost theatrically, yanked them down.
When Aaron examined me so many years before, I was just a curiosity, a flirtation with the unknown. Now the boy who was studying me had a plan. Tommy approached me, still fully clothed. He pulled me close, kissed me harder than I’d ever been kissed before. He ran his tongue down the length of my chest toward my tummy, paused to tickle my navel, then took hold of my dick, weighing it, shaking it, easing my foreskin over the swollen tip, then pinching it up again – even when I’m hard I have a lot of excess skin. Only then did he speak:
“Beautiful, man. You’re uncut. That’s so wild!” Then he really went to work, teasing my dick in shamefully creative ways. I thought I might already be getting close – there was a five day backup in my seminal vesicles – so I whispered with some urgency:
“Tommy, man, I don’t want to cum yet.”
He gave my dick a last nip, and I winced. Then he pulled away from the bed, walked over towards the closet, and with what I imagined a sudden fit of modesty, turned around as he took off his clothes. Framed by the weak light pressing through the shades, I could make out that his deltoids were as ripped as his Popeye forearms, and his butt was hard and sinewy. Tommy didn’t go to the gym. He worked.
Then he turned around to greet me, smiling like he’d just negotiated peace in the Middle East.
“Well, Miguel,” he cackled, “here’s Johnny!”
First, I took in the little triangle of dark hair between his pectorals – again I was reminded that I still had a lot of growing up to do. Next, I marveled at the treasure trail snaking down from his belly button to his groin. And then, because once I saw it I couldn’t see anything else in the room, I took in the spectacle of his penis (when I later dubbed it the eighth wonder of the world, Tommy asked me if there were really seven that were bigger).
It was half-hard, I suppose, but it still arced downwards towards his knees, gravity being stronger than blood flow in his case. Given its stupendulous length, it wasn’t all that thick, but it was crowned by a big pink plum that announced itself like a hood ornament. At this time in my life, I didn’t have much grounds for comparison, really, but I knew I hadn’t seen anything like it in the locker room at Prep, and even later, after Al Gore invented the internet and released a parade of anonymous exhibitionists for my inspection, I couldn’t find too many rivals.
“Big, no?” Tommy beamed. “But hey, it won’t bite if you touch it.”
He embraced me – this boy had an instinct for tenderness, an intuition of my essential shyness. We stood there for a while, pressed up against each other. Then we kissed some more, this time more symmetrically, lips conforming, tongues dancing, releasing a strange little concerto of suction and squeaks. I felt his bullet train of a dick trying to rise up against my thigh, and I knew I’d better see what I could with it.
We lay down, side by side. Tommy started after me again, blowing in my ear, twisting my nipples to the point of pain, undressing my knob, by now a pulsating maraschino cherry, then licking clean the leak. I pushed him aside, and said in Spanish (slips out at the oddest times): “me toca a mi.”
“It’s my turn,” I clarified.
Giving Tommy a blow job was always a strenuous activity, a workout for the ages. But I was ready from the beginning, and I came to love the way my mouth was filled and my cheeks were stretched, the way my breathing was compromised, the way I trained myself to go hard and back off, a complex rhythmic ploy not unlike a paradiddle.
“I like,” he told me. “You’re good at this, Miguel.”
“Thank you, Tommy. You bring out the best in me,” I said with utter sincerity.
“It’s fun, ain’t it?”
“It’s just great.”
Both of us were ready to explode, but somehow we decided that it was better to make the moment last. I needed to talk, needed to hear myself think out loud.
“When did you know?” I asked him, caressing his dick, which lay over his thigh like a nightstick.
“That I was big? Well, this neighbor kid, Anthony Spencer, he told everybody to check out Cutler’s wang, and I guess I got confirmation. It’s kind of hard to hide, you know,” squeezing it with two hands like a bat handle.
“No, stupid. I mean that you liked being with boys.”
“I don’t know. I guess I never thought about it that much. I like girls, too. Fuck, I like messing around, period. You can tell that. But, you know, with guys, it’s more like you know what’s going on, because, like, you’re one of them. Girls don’t suck it like you do, anyhow.” He grinned.
“Do your friends know?”
“Shit. What good would that do? It’s none of their business, anyway. Besides, I’m pretty sure the Navy don’t plan to take no faggots any time soon.” I thought to myself: I’ve never actually used the word faggot to describe myself, but Tommy seemed good with it.
“Yup. I’m goin’ in once I get my GED – which you are so kindly helping me get.”
I felt a little hole in my chest. Nothing gold can stay, the poet wrote.
“Tommy, I think too much. It’s always been a problem. It’s like I have this pause button, and I ask myself, “how’s this all going to work out?” and then I hit play instead of rewind, and then the movie’s completely different.”
“I hear you, brother. Ain’t easy to be in the wrong movie, but what can you do about it?”
“You’re cool, Tommy.”
“You’re cool, too. Too fucking smart by a longshot, but man, you are stone cold beautiful.”
I had said it to Jesse a hundred times, thinking beauty was something transcendent, something just out of reach, the way he was. I had never, ever – even when I heard my mother say it, even when I looked in the mirror and saw evidence to support the contention – believed that I was beautiful.
“I guess so,” I whispered to the ceiling. “But don’t let that get in the way.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, Tommy, with Jesse being a girl and all – I mean he was a boy and he had a dick – I always was the one who, uh, fucked him. He wouldn’t do it to me, you know? Would you, you know, want to do it that way with me?”
He smiled and shook his head. “Sure I would, but I don’t think that’s gonna be possible.”
“Oh. Too big?”
“Too big. I tried it once with this Cherokee boy at work. Couldn’t get it in.”
“We can try. If it hurts too much, well, at least I’ll know.”
“I don’t want to be hurting anybody, Miguel. Wreck the party, you know?”
He was talking me out of it, but I noticed that his dick had swollen to its apex and was twitching without any tactile encouragement. I took it in my hand, pulling it close to my own dick, which had been hard for almost an hour now.
“I’m almost seven inches, Tommy. That’s pretty good, I think.”
“It’s fine, dude. Righteous.”
“So yours” – and at this point I held it up against mine and eyeballed a measurement – “must be ten.”
“And three quarters. Check.”
“Fine. Ten and three quarters. That’s epic, but we’re not talking that much more than me, are we? I did it to Jesse and he was cool with it, never said anything.”
“I don’t think it works that way. But man, you’re drivin’ me crazy, all this talk.”
“You got lube, Tommy, you know, slick stuff.”
“Course. I jack off with it sometimes.”
“Perfect. Go get it.” I could tell he wanted to say no, but I wasn’t about to give him the option. He stood up, took a deep breath, looked at me quizzically, and walked down the hall to his bedroom. He returned a minute later, Gatling gun swaying ahead of him.
I squirted a glob and gently massaged the length of his dick. He winced audibly, as if I’d hit a nerve. Then I asked for his right hand. I poured a cap full of clear lube onto my palm, then dipped three of his fingers into the pool, jacking them like miniature penises until they were soaked. There was no stopping me.
I knew what we needed to do and I think Tommy knew what I knew. I scooched myself to the end of the bed, put a couple of pillows under me, pulled my legs up over my shoulders, flashed my white hairless butt to the sky, and then, quite unnecessarily, pulled my cheeks apart, opening the little aperture of my desire. “One finger, Tommy,” I said. Slowly, deliberately, as if he were evading a tripwire, he pushed through the O-ring into my rectum. It felt strange, but not at all unpleasant. Then two. Then three. He massaged what I would later know was my prostate, gently probing the smooth walls and pushing deeper, and just as one might discover in a textbook, I involuntarily squirted a bit of semen, the white blob catching under my foreskin.
“Wow,” Tommy said for the 50th time.
“It’s great, man. Feels cool. Trust me. I think I’m ready, you know.”
He loomed over me. His dick was pointing right at the target, a mess of lube and pre-cum, menacing, if only because, like its owner, I had imagined it that way. He pushed a bit at the door. Nothing. He pushed again, and I felt my rectum constrict.
“That’s what happened with the other kid,” Tommy said, panting.
“It’s okay. Try again.” This time when he got about half his dickhead in, I pushed out, applying a contrarian logic that came not so much from intelligence as from pure, unmitigated lust. With an audible pop – don’t squirm, dear reader, nothing was injured – the whole head went through. I saw stars. Felt God’s flail punishing me for every sin I’d ever committed and half the ones I had yet to commit.
“You okay, man?”
“Great. Really.” And the truth was that even though I knew I was being impaled by a cyclonic force, I also knew that it was starting to feel better. “You’re in, Tommy. At least I think so.”
He thrust a bit more. He grabbed my butt cheeks for all they were worth and drove relentlessly on. I relaxed. That was the solution. Relax. I took a deep breath, and pushed towards him. I told him with my eyes that for now we were joined in a way that nothing could put asunder.
And then, quite easily, he started moving his dick up and down the channel. It felt amazing, the intense pain giving away ever so slowly to delight. Tommy sensed this and went at it a little faster, driving his dick, if not to the hilt, past half-way. We were breathing in counterpoint, my groans and his moans a kind of monkey dialogue.in which nothing was actually said, but everything was understood.
About a minute later (and minutes, you should understand, are not really minutes when you’re being fucked), he pulled out, grabbed his dick, shot at least seven globs of thick semen onto my white chest, then collapsed at my side, unable to talk.
So I talked instead. “There now, Tommy-Boy, that wasn’t so bad, was it.” My asshole was burning, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, but I decided at that moment that whatever it was I had just done I had chosen to do.
I had come twice without even knowing it, and my dick had retracted. It lay like a drowned worm in a pool of semen, dead to the world at last. Tommy fetched a towel, wiped us both clean, and then left the room again. I heard water running in the bathroom down the hall. I guessed it was for me.
I sat in the warm bath for twenty minutes, soothing the burn. There wasn’t any blood, which I guess was a good thing. Tommy sat in a chair he pulled up next to the tub, still naked, his dick even in repose a startling sight. I babbled. He listened. I didn’t talk about what we had just done, but it provided a little context. When I stood up and stepped out of the tub, a little wrinkled but still certifiably human and very much alive, Tommy wrapped us both in a beach towel, and we stayed that way for two minutes, two very different bodies, two very different minds, but for now, one heart.
I kept tutoring Tommy. Every Saturday morning for the next three months, we sat across from one another in the cafeteria at Barclay Polytechnic and went over the lesson. He paid attention. I gave him every trick I could concoct to help him pass the GED. He had shaved the soul patch and cut his hair, I suppose getting used to the look he would bring when he enlisted. When we worked together, it was as teacher and student, and bless him, he was comfortable in that role.
Whenever the spirit moved us (or whenever we had some place safe to go), we got after it. We tried just about everything our combined imaginations could come up with. Once, I drew a doll face on his dickhead with one of his mom’s eyebrow pencils. Another time, he stuffed six jellybeans inside my foreskin, then slowly ate every one of them. I fucked him a few times – he was a versatile dude, that’s for sure – but as a B.I.T. (bottom-in-training), I knew that my pleasure was to service him. We didn’t do it a lot, really, but when we did, it was always with ineffable tenderness. It always hurt a bit, but then again, so does life.
Tommy didn’t love me. I didn’t love Tommy – at least in the sense that we were destined to spend our lives together or that we would be miserable without each other. I was going to college and in a few months, when he turned 18, Tommy was enlisting. Inevitably, it seems, people go their separate ways. Bodies in motion tend to drift apart.
There wasn’t a ceremony or anything when Tommy got his GED, but he called and let me know. “Flying colors, dude!” Later that day I bought and giftwrapped a copy of The Joy of Gay Sex, and left it with a note in his mailbox. And he surprised me in a big way when I saw him in June at my graduation, sitting by himself in an ugly powder-blue leisure suit. As was the custom, friends and underclassmen in the receiving line shook my hand and wished me well. When I extended my hand to Tommy, who stood awkwardly among the privileged sons of Weston, he pushed it aside, said “what the fuck?”, and pulled me close, kissing me vigorously on the cheek – as I had once kissed another beautiful boy who was leaving me.
Thomas Wayne Cutler died on May 7, 1994 of a ruptured aneurysm. We hadn’t been in touch, which is probably best, because he was a man of action, and me, well I’m a man of too many words. His mother must have found some earlier correspondence in his effects, because she wrote to me to say that I was “the best teacher Tommy ever had.” I wanted to tell her that he taught me more than I could ever teach him, but then she might have known who I was in Tommy’s life, and what we had done – and that might have been awkward. I didn’t make it to the memorial – he was buried in Norfolk, Virginia, in a graveyard with Spanish moss near the naval base. Instead, I sent flowers, but I know that was nothing.
This story is a real valediction, then, as John Donne famously pronounced: forbidding mourning.
So it’s too late for Tommy, but I’m convinced that if he read this, he’d like what I had to say about him – even with all the graphic sex and fancy language.
As for Aaron and Jessica, well, you won’t be reading this, of course, but whoever out there does will know that how grateful I am to have known you and how happy I am to be me. Godspeed and good luck.
This is a happy ending, I hope.