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Guys I Wanted To Fuck In High School, Part 4. (Senior Year)

19 May

soccershirt

 

Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School is a series of short essays about growing up  frustrated in small-town Pennsylvania.  (This is the last entry in the series, and will be followed up later this year with a series of limited edition print chapbooks, each with a different cover by a different artist.)

Senior year is the year time gets all fucked up and also the year I fall in love and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

See because at the end of this year, summer won’t be summer anymore, it won’t be a break between school and school, like the place you go after you die but before you’re kicked back into life.  It won’t be a way station, it’ll just be hot and hotter and then collapse into red leaves and puffs of breath you can see and everyone will say, hey, it’s Autumn now.

And morning won’t be morning, no rushing to get ready, to hurry through the park, across the bridge, up the hill to the school, where the kids congregate and tease each other and tease me and hide their cigarettes till the doors open and swallow us all up.  I’ve known most of those kids since I was four or five, and they’ll all be gone and morning will just be the time when I wake up.

And I won’t be me, I’ll be this person with a mark, an empty little square of loss inside of me that never gets filled in.  That’s love.  Everything will change.

Which is how I know that almost everything I thought was real is arbitrary.  I figured out some of this early on – like why do we have to raise our hands to go to the bathroom?  What’s a “grade” and why should I care? Why do we have to raise our hand to ask a question?  Or sharpen our pencils?  When you see through all that haze and there’s nothing behind it, the teachers don’t like you much.  But now I’m starting to see that even more of it makes no sense, it’s all like a tight coil, unraveling.  You know, like how you twist up a straw wrapper and then let a drop of water fall onto it?  That’s what this year is like, what the right questions are like, what love is like.  A knot turning into a snake, slowly coming to life.

*

His name is Thom and he spells it it with the h and he’s new.  He has a vaguely Canadian accent, like he transferred here from a high school on a Nickelodeon show.

In the cafeteria, a few weeks into the year, he’s standing there lost and unfamiliar to everyone, with his pale blue lunch tray.  There’s an empty seat at out table, where I sit with Becky and Gwen and some boys, and I wave him over.

He’s taller than anyone else at the school, I swear – six two? six three? – so it seems like it takes longer for him to sit down, to bring his body into the seat.  When he gets there, I really see him.  He has brown hair and plain, unintentional clothes.  His face is sort of…sad?  Like he’s a little tired.  Sad and handsome.  And you know? I’m not excited about him right away.  I think he’s handsome, but it’s not love at first sight.  It takes a few minutes.

He looks at my lunch – I’m mostly vegetarian so I don’t eat much except the Tasty Klair pies, which are like eclairs but made out of pie crust.  I bite off the ends and shove Cheetos in the custard.  I drink ice tea from a carton.

We don’t eat anything that has a face, Gwen says to him.  Except chickens, because they’re ugly.

What year are you, I ask.

Senior, he says.

But you’re not in any of my classes.

That’s because I’m in with the dumb kids, he says.

You’re not dumb, I say.  Or at least, you’re different.  I can tell.

How? he asks.

There’s just something about you, I say.

Thanks, he says, and then touches my shoulder, just for a second.  His eyes are green or blue; lake-like.   He smiles, and he has a smile that makes me smile too.  And that’s when I fall in in love.  Not quite first sight, but only a little late.

*

I walk Gwen home that day – it’s out of the way, but I want to talk with her.  She’s been one of my best friends since this whole school business began twelve years ago.  If anyone knows I like guys for sure, it’s her, even though we haven’t talked about it.  You can’t just say it, because even if everyone already knows, once you say it, they’ll feel different.  No matter what you do, they’ll never forget that distance between you.

It’s just like how I know better than Gwen does that she’s a lesbian, but she’s never told me.  How did we find each other all those years ago and become friends before we knew?  See?  Time.  It’s bound up in ways we don’t understand, so we just make it all up.

Thing is, I think she’s started taking drugs or something. She’s out of it, she’s around less in our last year.  She’s skinnier.  I don’t maybe, maybe it’s just in my head.  Everyone suddenly starts taking drugs except me.  People do cocaine at parties I’m not invited to.  People shoot heroin.  This is still the suburbs, but something weird is going on.  We’re all growing up in wrong ways.

Do you know where Thom moved here from? I ask her.

No, she says.  She’s thinking about something else.

Why do you think he moved?  Does he seem sad to you?

I don’t know, she says.

Are you okay? I ask her, and she stops and jumps a little, like she’s been shaken awake.

On the sidewalk, right there at our feet, is a squirrel with broken bones, pulling itself across the cement.  There’s some blood and it’s straining with each inch.  I can see its teeth, how long its teeth are.

What should we do? I say.  We can’t just leave it.

I think, there must be people who take care of problems like this; they take animals in and usher them back to health.  I imagine a woman with a house full of little bottles to feed the animals by hand.  Cages that have hawks with broken wings, rabbits with smashed feet.

I’ll call the police and see if they know, Gwen says, and she runs to her house.

You’re going to be okay, I say to the squirrel.  It’s terrified and doing its best to move, flat on its belly.  You’re going to be okay.  I don’t like anything that comes next.

A boy, Jonathan, that I used to be friends with when we were boys – because we were all friends when we were children – walks by and sees me kneeling.

What are you doing, he says.  Praying on the sidewalk?

Then he sees the squirrel.

Jesus, he says.

I have to stay here with it, I say.

Jonathan laughs and walks away like nothing’s happening. But before that, he says, You know this isn’t the kind of thing you do if you want people to like you.

I don’t even know what that means, but I know it hurts when he says it.  Just like, when Gwen comes back, a cop shows up and says he’ll take care of it, go away now.  We linger for a minute until he tells us again to get out of here, and there’s no note of thanks or mercy.

Did he call a…I don’t know, a wildlife protector person or something? I ask.

Try not to think about it, Gwen says.

We wait for the time-stopping pop of a gunshot, but we don’t hear anything.

I really thought there was a person who took care of that sort of thing, I say to her.

Maybe there isn’t anyone though, maybe I just made that up.

*

I’m confused about what’s real and what isn’t.  All the real stuff, the stuff that’s not arbitrary, comes out of nowhere.  Like Thom, like falling in love with him.  Last year, I started automatic writing and it scared the shit out of me, but I couldn’t stop.  It’s this thing I do now, almost every day.  I have notebooks filled with phrases that don’t make much sense, phrases that sound like they’re channeled from somewhere else. I AM A PERFECT BLANK AND WILL FOLD UP TIME one says.  GIVE ME YOUR LEGS AND KNEEL IF YOU WANT MERCY says another one.  And there are stories too – one about a man who is crucified to to the ground, one about a woman who falls in love with a glass statue.  All of them have that frantic gesture.  I close my eyes and get this sort of overheated feeling and words come out in huge excessive loops across the page, the ink gathering into pools so heavy and the pen pressing down so hard that the paper tears.  I’m always in a sort of wavering trance when I write them, like I have to blot myself out so they can come through.  They all feel true, but writing them is scary.

Do you want to come over? Thom asks me.

School’s just let out and I’m talking to Becky near my locker.  Becky’s a year younger than us; she has blonde hair and wears vulgar plastic jewelry, and uncomfortably red lipstick, but somehow it looks good on her.

At first I think he’s talking to Becky, but she looks over at me like, well? Then Thom puts his hand on my back again.

When we we get to his house – an apartment in a huddled complex on the hill near the high school – his mom is smoking a cigarette.  She’s looking at her Dungeons and Dragons map, spread across the table.  She looks happy that Thom has made a friend.

Do you play? she asks, gesturing to the map and the little pewter figures.

When I was a kid, I say.  With my brother, I say.

You have a brother? Thom asks.

I do, but he’s my half brother and thirteen years older than me, and I don’t see him that much.

We just did it normal style, I say, no figures or anything, it was all just in our heads.

Well we’d do that too, Thom’s mom says, But Thom forgets everything.

Then she laughs and whips her hand out to smack his butt.  I realize she’s also chewing gum.  Chewing gum, smoking a cigarette, smacking Thom’s ass, this place feels weird.

This is it, he says, when we go into his bedroom.

There’s a mattress on the floor and a pile of clothes.  There’s one window with a white venetian blind.  We talk, and later, when his mom leaves, we watch TV.  But even though she leaves, the entire time it feels like his mom is in the room with us.  The whole apartment smells like smoke and it’s so small.  Only poor kids live in apartments in my town.  In my house, in my other friends’ houses, someone could call your name on the first floor and you’d never hear it up on the second.  In an apartment, you’re always close to someone else, but I bet you never feel like you can hear your own thoughts.

The kid who gave me a blowjob when I was thirteen lives in this complex.  We were best friends, but we’re not really friends at all anymore.  I still see him in homeroom and stuff but after the blowjob, I don’t know, I couldn’t talk to him anymore.  I think that officially makes me a terrible person.  I came in his mouth and it was like I wasn’t even there.  I didn’t feel it, I almost want to say it didn’t happen.  He’d already had sex with plenty of guys by then; he used to have a card that said “escort” on it, and the number on it was his home phone number!  Old men would call his house and his mom would answer and he’d say, “Mom, get off the phone, it’s work.”  They’d fuck him, I guess, which I’m sort of envious of.  Thirteen and getting fucked! You might see that kid now, and you might think, “just a kid.”  But he knows more than most of us about a lot of things.

If Thom gave me a blowjob, I know I’d feel it.  When we’re watching TV, I rub shoulders and I feel a flush, like I’m going to start writing something.

*

We start hanging out every day.  After school, two boys.

At lunch, I start putting my hand on his leg underneath the cafeteria table.  No one can see my hand on his leg, and if I’m afraid they will, I pull it away.  And he never pushes it off.  I always keep it just above his knee.

And I start imagining him when I jerk off.  Not just sucking his dick, but him holding my hand and putting his arm around me at night, him kissing me.  I start to imagine what it would be like living with him.  Waking up with him in the morning.

One day at lunch, he puts his hand on my head and messes up my hair, right in front of everyone at the table.  I smile and smile, right through the rest of the day.  If time stopped right there, I’d be okay.

*

The day Thom asks me if I want to sleepover, I have English class last period, and I’m staring at the clock, black lines in a circle.  I don’t usually stare at the clock during English class because it’s my favorite class.  Mr. Rothrock, my English teacher, is sort of crazy.  Not in necessarily a good way, not in the way caring English teachers are in movies.  Instead, he’s sort of unhinged.  He has a very, I don’t know…flowery? voice.  Some of what happens in his class is ordinary, some of it is bizarre, and you have no idea what you’re going to get.

Today, he’s telling us to make sure we keep an eye on our wallets in New York, because later in the year, he’ll take us to New York to see Showboat onclock Broadway, and all the jock kids will talk about how they loved it; they were so surprised they loved it, like their loving it is some grand stamp of approval.  Really, Showboat is just mediocre, but okay.

You don’t want anyone undesirable reaching into your back pocket, Mr. Rothrock says,  Someone desirable, well that’s a different story.

I stare at the clock.

The period is about to end and Scott Franklin says he has an announcement.  He just got a new car. Why is he announcing this?  Like who cares if Scott got a new car.

But Mr. Rothrock asks him if it has leather seats and when Scott says yes, Mr. Rothrock says, So you like to get naked and rub around on them?

Outside, Thom is waiting; he’s talking to Becky and Gwen and Becky’s laughing too hard at something he’s said.  People file past us, and then Gwen and Becky leave and the school looks exhausted and empty.

Do you want to hold my hand? I say.  And then, quickly, Like just friends, I mean girls hold hands and they’re just friends, right?

If anyone saw us holding hands, they’d tease us.  If Thom weren’t so tall, they’d probably beat the shit out of us.  But no one sees us.  We walk all the way back to his apartment that way, holding hands.  I’ve never done this before, and he’s so tall that I have to lift my arm up a little to meet him, but it feels perfect.

At his place, his mom isn’t home, and he reaches under the kitchen counter and comes back up with something clear, which he drinks a lot of and I drink a little of until we’re equally drunk.  I’ve had almost no alcohol in my life.

Where’s your mom? I ask.

Dunno, he says.

Then he takes off his pants.  He’s wearing white boxer shorts with thin blue vertical stripes.

I was going to ask her to get movies, he says, but whatever, let’s just watch TV.

For hours, I don’t know what we’re watching.  I don’t know what we say when we talk to each other.  Thom’s mom doesn’t come home, and we sit on the couch, close.  I mess up his hair and he leans his head back onto my chest.

Kiss me on the cheek, I say.

What?

Kiss me on the cheek.

And he does.  I expect to be totally immersed when he kisses me.  But instead, I think a lot of things.  I think about how I was too scared to try to kiss him on the mouth.  I think about how he’s taking a risk, kissing me on the cheek, how it’s brave.  Mostly, though, I think, did he only do that because I told him to?  Or did he really want to?

What do you know about Becky? Thom asks.

Nothing, but she’s one of those girls, I say defensively.

What do you mean?

Nothing, I say.  Can we go to bed?  Can we lie down in your bed?

We’re both dizzy.  We’re both drinking.  We’re both in his room, on the bed.  His shirt is off, and mine is off too and I put my arm around him and feel his back against me, his chest, his belly, the soft hair beneath his belly button.  My dick is so hard up against him, and everything else is soft.  I want to say, I love you.

You’re not going to move again, are you? I ask.  You’re going to stay here.

I’m going to stay here, he says.

I have no idea why he moved.  All that time we spend together and he remains totally mysterious, like he came out of nowhere.  I don’t know what happened to his dad, or where his mom goes, or where he lived before he lived here.  I’ve convinced myself that people at his old school found out he was gay, and harassed him, so he had to move.  Every time I tried to ask, he changed the subject.  Like that weird movie my punk rock friends showed me about the rich people who are stuck in a house.  It was black and white and strangely boring and terrifying at once.  All these people get stuck in one room of a house and can’t leave; every time they try to, the find out they just don’t have the will to do it.

You never told me where you came from, I say.

What about college? he says.

Fuck that, fuck thirteenth grade, I say.  I’m not going to college.

I listen to him breathing and wonder if he’s asleep.

What about your dad? I ask.  Does he live around here?

Thom rolls over and looks into my eyes.  I can feel his breath on my lips.

Are you hard? he says.  He grabs his dick through his boxer shorts and shakes it at me.  It’s huge, even though it’s still flaccid.

I think I drank too much he says.  Can you roll over?

I roll onto my side, facing away from him, and he puts his arm around me.  I think I might start crying but I don’t.  Instead, I kiss his arm as his breaths get longer and longer and he’s asleep.

I can’t sleep.  I can’t jerk off.  I don’t want to wake him up.  I lie there for hours, with his long, heavy arm draped over me.  I love you, I think again and again, but never say it.

In the middle of the night he mumbles something into my ear, but I can’t make it out.

What? I say.

But he doesn’t repeat it.  Whatever he said in his sleep, with his eyes closed, I’ll treat it as if it were totally clear, as if I know what he meant and it was his most alert, awake moment.  I tell myself that we only say what we mean when we’re not trying to say anything at all.  The light starts to open up through the venetian blind and I can hear the birds.

*

Thom, I write on a page in my notebook, and I underline the h.  It’s cute, that h.  Also in my notebook, is a photo of him I took from his house.  I took that and his white-with-blue-lines boxer shorts.  I know it’s stealing, but I’ll tell him about it.  And anyway, he could have anything of mine that he wants.

The photo was in a jumbled pile of photos in his bathroom.  Most of the photos were of his mom and people I didn’t know.  Maybe one of the guys was his dad, but none of them looked like him.  There were a few pictures with him in them, but in all the other ones he’s got one of those weird half-developed dirty mustaches.  They look silly.  In the one I have, the one I keep in the back of my notebook, he’s caught in mid-laugh, his eyes partially closed.  There’s a blank wall behind him.  It’s not a great picture, and I want it with me all the time.

In the school stairwell where there’s a giant Jesus painting, I drop my books and my photo falls out and all my papers are all over the place.  It’s between classes, so everyone is trampling down the stairs, and I’m holding everything up, clogging the hallway.

One kid stops and takes his gum out and jumps up to stick it on one of the crucifying nails.

Oh shit, someone else says, laughing.

We go to a public school, so that painting shouldn’t be here, but it was done by a student forever ago, so it’s not “religious,” it’s “student art.”  On the floor, in front of the painting, I’m on my hands and knees, looking for Thom’s photo. The gum unsticks and falls off the nail onto the floor.  I feel weird about the temporary vandalism and I don’t know if Jesus is made up or real; if he’s arbitrary or something else.  Maybe there’s a third thing, something that’s not real or fake; something beyond all of that.  When I find the photo, I hide it again in the back of my notebook.

*

Then the night comes when we’re supposed to go to Gwen’s house; me and Thom and Becky, and I have to tell you something, a confession.

You know how else I know time is all fucked up?  That time is arbitrary?  Because this isn’t me writing this.  I mean, it’s me, but it’s weird; I’m not myself. There’s this voice coming through from nowhere, through a black cloud when my eyes are closed.  There’s this Future Version of Me that’s messing with my voice, making me tell you this.

Maybe it’s because summer isn’t going to be summer anymore and the morning is over and there’s this moment coming.  If nothing matters the way it used to, there’s an absence where all the stuff I used to think was, and now it’s filled up by this Future Me, who just slipped through.

And because it’s from the future?  All these words pouring out of me?  Well from the beginning I knew everything that would happen before it happens.  So when it happens, it’s like I’m not there.  Like I’m in the sway of things instead of directing them.  Like someone being shown their life, touring around it with a ghost.

Me and Thom and Becky will go to Gwen’s house.  Thom and Becky will sit on the couch, and I’ll go upstairs.

Gwen will be in her room, she has to tell me something.

In the room, where she still has stuffed animals, and a book of her drawings on the floor, she’ll be crying, I can see it.  She’ll tell me about some girl she likes.  I’ll tell her I love Thom, but I won’t cry.  We’ll reveal ourselves to each other, even though we already know it all.  Even though we could see it coming.

She’ll be the first person I just come out to and tell about any of this stuff to.  It should be a big moment, it should be the thing that marks this night.  But it won’t be, because then we’ll go down the stairs.

Please Future Me, I don’t want to see it.  Please don’t make me watch my life.

On the couch will be Thom.  On the couch will be Thom and Becky.

I can see them holding each other, and their faces will be touching and their eyes will be closed and I’ll close my eyes too and that will be the truth of it all.  No one’s looking at anything.

You are a fucking whore, I’ll say to Becky.  You are fucking bitch and a whore.

The words just show up; even though I don’t like them.

The two of them will pull apart and she’ll have this look on her face.  It’s the look of someone who does not deserve to be hurt, who’s done nothing wrong.  I know how it feels to have that look on your face.

I won’t look at Thom’s face at all.  I’ll run out of the house.

That night, no one will see me for hours.  I’ll walk around our little town, in the dark, by myself.  It will be cold, and my jacket will be on the floor of Gwen’s room where I left it.

There’s the little bridge in the park that I cross when I walk to school, and I’ll walk down the hill to the creek and I’ll sit under that bridge, right by the water I’m used to crossing over.  In the dark, I’ll hear the frosted up edges of the water crack under my feet, but the rest of the creek isn’t frozen yet, the water’s still rushing by.  I don’t know how long I’ll sit there, but that’s where I’ll stay and cry.  I’ll forget everything except what it felt like to see him kissing her.

When I get back to Gwen’s house, Thom will be  gone.  I’ll have no idea what time it is.  Becky will still be there.  She’ll be smoking a cigarette outside in the cold, and I can see the makeup messed up all across her eyes.

I’m not a whore, she’ll say,

I know, I’ll say, although I don’t really know much about her.

Do you love me? she’ll ask.

And I’ll be struck at how ridiculous and unknowing the whole world can pretend to be, even when everything is laid out in front of us.

No, I’ll say.  Not you.

Oh my God, she’ll say, figuring it out.

*

A few days later, on the little bridge, in the morning before school, I tell Thom I love him.  I haven’t seen him since that night that still feels like it couldn’t have happened.  He doesn’t sit next to me at lunch anymore, he’s moved to a different table with Becky.

I’m too late.  I should have told him before.  Like we were too late for the squirrel, like I was too late coming down the stairs.  Nothing catches up to where it’s supposed to be.

I’m not gay, he says.

But you care about me, right?

Becky’s my girlfriend and you have to accept that, he says.

Where is this coming from? I ask.   I turn my head away so he can’t see my eyes tearing up.

Nowhere, he says.

I reach for his hand and he pushes me away.

Do you want to be friends? he asks, and I run away from him, up the hill back to my house.

My mom and stepdad aren’t home.  I stay inside the whole day doing nothing, being no one.  It’s the day of yearbook photos, and I miss it, so at the end of the year, I’m missing from the yearbook.  Or not even “missing,” because there’s no mention that I’m not pictured.  All those years in this place, and at the end, there’s no trace of me.

*

The next day, I go back to school in a dull haze.  Thom passes by me in the hall, but doesn’t say hi.  I know right then that he’ll never talk to me again.  The day unknots and uncoils, and I’m in and out of feeling it.

At the end of it, Mr. Rothrock’s stands in front of all of us and breaks down, crying.

I have Lyme’s disease, he tells us.  It’s interfering with my speech.  There was a tick lodged in my back, can you imagine?

I feel a hundred miles away from him.  Everyone is uncomfortable.  We’ve been making lists of all his verbal fuck ups for a couple months now, thinking about how funny it is that he uses one word when he means another.

Did everyone read the boom? he’d say, when he meant book.  And when we read Lord of the Flies, which is great, he said Lord of the Lies.  And instead of the Mayor of Casterbridge, which is boring, it’s the Sailor of Casterbridge.

I understand there’s a list, he says to us.  Is there a list?  I need to see that list.  It will help me figure out what I’ve been doing wrong, so I can improve my speech.

Gwen, who sits in front of me turns red.  She’s helped make the list.  Now all these marks against him, these terrible things – he needs to see them.

Do you know what it’s like for a man of words such as myself to be deprived the ability to speak? he says.

Then he starts crying again.  Really weeping.

Is there a list, he says again.

But no one gives him the list.

Why would he cry in front of us?  He has other classes.  Did he cry in front of all of them?  Maybe he feels close to us, but no one will ever stop seeing how different he is.

Everyone is still for a second; we have no idea how to react, time stops.  Then the bell rings and we know what to do and we’re off.  Time’s up.

He’s crazy, one boy says in the hall.

You can’t cry in front of everyone and expect them to like you, says a girl.

Yeah, someone else says, what a faggot.

Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School, Part 3. (Neighbor Boy)

26 Aug

Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School is a series of short essays about growing up  frustrated in small-town Pennsylvania.

The only thing the boy thinks about as much as sex is escape.

The boy is me and is fifteen, sixteen, seventeen and he feels consumed by a sort of cloud.   Whenever something is not about sex or escape, it evades his thinking. Often, at school, his teachers will give him assignments and he won’t hear it.  He’ll show up clueless the next day and the teachers will disapprove – Why didn’t you do the work?  Now you have a zero for the day.

The boy is on this threshold of becoming something other than a boy, but he advances at a confused pace.

His room has bunk beds in it, and should have a regular bed.  There’s a stuffed animal on the top bunk, an artifact from a different life.  He sleeps on the bottom because he feels encased and sheltered there, as if in the bottom of a boat.  It’s dark and shielding and he starts to sleep naked.

The door is always closed, sometimes because he’s masturbating, but often only because he’s forgotten and he’s lying on his stomach on the floor, drawing pictures of comic book characters.

He stares out the window of his bedroom and masturbates, thinking of an older boy, Lee, down the street, who should show up and rub his dick all over the boy’s face – If the boy just concentrates hard enough, Lee will show up.  He believes this with all his might: Just concentrate and things will happen.

This isn’t just about desire.  At the end of every day of school – after the bullies, the boring classes, the terrible food, the dull conversations, the racists, the dead florescent lights, the cruel teachers – the boy has to concentrate on sex and on escape; they’re the only things that save him.

Life is made up of sheer will.  If he wavers from this way of living he will tip off the edge and die.

When the boy thinks about escape, it’s not escape from his little town. He’s too tired to dream of anything that real.  All he can do is think of something bigger. He concentrates on being out of his body, on being someone else who has never lived in his town or even in Pennsylvania.  Like most people in the world, he will be someone for whom Pennsylvania barely exists.  He stands in front of the mirror and turns the music up and sings.  He’s not just watching himself sing, he’s pretending he’s in the mirror, facing himself.  His room is the audience and the boy he’s staring out at – him – is someone alien.  A spectator looking on.  He asks his mom to buy him a microphone and an amplifier.  Instead of starting a band, which he tries once and fails, he uses the microphone as a prop to complete being someone else.

Like a magical tool, that microphone.  A wand.  Hold it, stare into the mirror, and concentrate.

It’s true, this trick about concentrating, though not as he imagined.  Instead of one neighbor, the boy begins to have sex with another.

*

Next door there’s a duplex that looks run-down compared to the boy’s house.  The neighbors aren’t poor, but they don’t take care of their lawn.  Their porch is drab and the colors are depressed.  The boy’s mom has remarried and though he himself once used to live in a tiny duplex, now he has a backyard with flowers and a little pond and a green stretch of grass big enough for a badminton net in the summer.  The neighbors have half a yard, separated from the boy’s by a forbidding hedge.

At night, the sounds of the neighbors fighting and yelling ricochet in the small strip of space between the houses.  The father is a drunk, the mother is mild, and the two sons are effeminate.  The younger son, Jeffrey, is the same age as the boy.  Jeffrey is overweight and has a funny walk. He spends most of his time playing RPG-style Nintendo and reading comic books.  In school, he’s made fun of or ignored.  At home, he’s trapped.  Every day, Jeffrey and the boy have sex.

*

It starts with them daring each other to take their clothes off, just for a second.  Jeffrey’s dick is fat and short and the boy feels overwhelmed just looking at it.

They try everything.

Almost everything: They never, ever kiss, but each day there is a knock on the boy’s door and each day they get closer until they’re inside each other.

The boy’s sister has left for college, and his parents don’t get home until an hour after he does.  There is a knock at the door, a secret which no one else hears, and the boy goes to it reluctantly.  He knows what will happen and he can’t stop it and doesn’t understand why.

*

The first time Jeffrey touches the boy, reaching down to his testicles, it’s so intense that the boy jumps.  Are you all right Jeffrey asks.

The first time Jeffrey fucks the boy, he eases in slowly.  It’s painful, but they’ve worked their way up to it, little by little, pushing fingers into each other.  The boy has fucked Jeffrey many times by now, sliding into his large round ass and pulling out only to cum or when he discovers his penis smeared in shit because they haven’t learned to clean out.  They don’t know anything except what they’re feeling.  There’s no example to guide them, and no one to tell them how this is done.

Yet somehow they still unveil everything.

I think it’s all the way in, Jeffrey says to the boy.  When Jeffrey is still, the boy feels okay.  But when Jeffrey starts to move, to thrust in and out of the boy eagerly, to pound his thick body up against the boy’s ass, it is so painful that the boy has to keep telling Jeffrey to stop.  Stop.  Slower.  Stop.  Jeffrey is pushing the boy open, and it hurts.  So why does he tell him to keep going?

*

At every threshold, there are mysteries, and this one is no different.

Along with being a time of will, it is a time of secrets – ones that the boy who is no longer a boy tries to keep from everyone as well as secrets that the world tries to keep from him.

The boy’s mother, for example, is always confiscating things and watching him for signs of too much sex or too much violence.  His mother has a study where the boy spends hours every day, writing novels.  One day he shows a chapter to his mother – the story is about a girl who is saved from being raped.  The boy’s mother tears the black disk out of the computer in anger.  Similarly, she takes his books away – Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, and others. Once, the boy draws a superhero with fire coming from his head. Too violent, too much.

Why is it all so dark? How do you know about all of this? his mother demands.

She rips up a comic book and listens when he’s watching TV.  If there are screams or gunshots, she comes in and turns it off.

One day he’s reading a Stephen King novel in their sun porch.  The light comes through and it’s hot and sticky.  There is a hornet touching one of the windows, and though the boy is used to saving them – catching them in a glass and then releasing them into the yard – he ignores it because he’s absorbed in the book.  There is a short passage about a gay bar in the book, and it’s a world he doesn’t understand but wants to.  He’s afraid of it.  He is so enthralled that he doesn’t think to hide the book when his mother enters.  Stephen King is an author she knows.  She barely has to look through the pages, she simply picks it up and takes it away.  Not in my house, she says.

Not that it matters.  He goes to his father’s house and watches all the violence and sex he wants.  His father doesn’t care.  His father is from a little Syrian village where all that mattered was reputation and respect, and from where – his father reports fondly – if you were a criminal, they would cut your hand off or hang you in the village’s center.  It doesn’t matter if his son watches sex and violence, so long as the boy is polite, so long as he shows that he adores his father.

*

The boy closes the door to his room and masturbates.  He wonders if people can hear him masturbating through the walls, or if, when he cums, people can hear the semen hit the blanket or the paper or the tissue he cums on.  He masturbates in school in the bathroom and into his notebooks under the desk.  He makes a list of everyone he has ever thought about masturbating, and there are hundreds of names on it.  Each time he pictures someone new, he adds a name.  His stepbrothers, their friends, his sister’s boyfriends, his teachers.  Sometimes he doesn’t know the names – someone he sees at the mall, or the construction workers that work for his father who all take turns fucking him.  He is obsessed with this list.  He does not write anything on it but the names, so that even if it’s found, its meaning will remain a secret.

*

He doesn’t include Jeffrey on this list, because he never thinks of him when he masturbates.  He tries not to think of Jeffrey at all, because every time they have sex, the boy hates himself.

Jeffrey has a certain smell.  It’s not unpleasant, it’s just a trace of him, an echo, and he leaves it on all the boy’s sheets and the boy’s hands and on the boy’s face.  So the boy washes his sheets and changes his clothes.  He takes showers.  But still, the smell will creep up.  How did it get into everything?  He’ll open a book and a brief flash, a ghost of the smell, will brush his face.  When they’re not having sex, this smell nauseates him.

He tries to locate where it’s coming from – in the space between Jeffrey’s balls and his leg?  In Jeffrey’s hair?  In his armpits?  But it’s not coming from anywhere.  It’s like an aura, an outline, and a repeating loop of history.

The boy doesn’t say goodbye to Jeffrey when they finish.  He doesn’t say I’ll see you tomorrow.  He knows they’ll see each other tomorrow.  He knows that he’ll ignore Jeffrey in school and then see him the next day and suck his dick and rub Jeffrey’s cum into his chest and the new trail of soft hair that has grown on his belly.

When Jeffrey leaves, when the boy hears the sound of the front door closing, he walks into the bathroom and looks in the mirror.  This mirror isn’t like the one in his bedroom.  He looks into his own brown eyes and slaps himself in the face, hard.  Never again, he says to the mirror.  He slaps himself over and over until his cheeks are red and he fears a bruise may develop and then he stops.  More than wanting to punish himself, he does not want to get caught.  People will ask where the bruise came from and the boy cannot allow that to happen.

There is never a question of why he should hate Jeffrey, nor why he should hate himself or what they do together.  And there is no name for it yet.  The boy isn’t gay or queer.  He just feels some deep wrongness in his guts.  It’s a despair, because the boy has not yet learned to connect his feelings with his thinking, his thinking with his will.  Everything is separate, like planets circling each other unseen.

*

He decides to be obsessed with a girl – Nicki.  He talks and talks about her as if he’s in love.  He tells his friends that she’s the best looking girl in school.  She has blonde hair and is pretty, but average.  She’s not a girl that other boys would have chosen except as an afterthought.  He never talks to Nicki except once, to tell her he loves her.  The boy doesn’t even pay attention to her response, because what he’s said is a lie.  Who cares.

There are other girls.  Lots of them.  Most he doesn’t do anything with.  He spends time with them, but never touches them.  They’re perplexed – or in some cases, his aloofness, his way of not caring, makes them like him more.  There is a girl he dates for months, never once kissing her.  She corners him in a dark bedroom and he shrugs her off.  She asks him to kiss her and the boy laughs and hugs her.  What is he up to?  When she calls him to tell him she’s dating someone else, he yells at her.  He isn’t angry, it’s just that he’s learned that this is what you’re supposed to do.  When your girlfriend leaves you for another man, you show anger.  The girl cries.  She sends him a letter full of apologies and regret.  At the end, she says she loves him and wants him back.

The boy is somehow touched by the letter and the betrayal, so he calls the girl.  But instead of taking her back, instead of explaining himself, he cruelly reads the letter aloud to her and laughs.  The girl, understandably, never speaks to him again.  He is always being hurt, somewhere inside of himself, but doesn’t understand how.

And he doesn’t yet understand that others could be hurt.  Everything seems like a great show to him.  The world is dismembered; what you show is never how you feel.  What you see in others in never what is true.

For the boy, crying, laughing, affection are all just behaviors separated from the heart by the thick, impenetrable line of his body.

*

It doesn’t occur to him, but the rest of the world is feeling its feelings and showing them.

He dates another girl that he does kiss.  This girl wears black and listens to industrial music.  They have some things in common.  The girl also seems to be walking through life in haze, and they prick each other’s fingers with a needle and drink each other’s blood.  Even this rouses nothing in the boy.

One of the girls he dates has a jealous ex-boyfriend.  He gets a knock on the door and it’s her.  A surprise visit.  Come outside, she says.  I want to show you something.  He follows her down the street to the park, and there is Joel, the ex-boyfriend.  He wants to fight you, she says.  Come on bitch, Joel says to the boy.  The boy doesn’t say anything.  He looks at Joel and feels some sort of stirring – of what?  He looks at the girl and feels nothing.  Joel has blonde hair and blue eyes.  The girl seems ugly to the boy now.

He turns around in silence and walks away.  Come back the girl shouts.  Where are you going, you pussy, Joel shouts.  The boy walks back to his house and goes up to his room and shuts the door.

He carries out all these motions as if he is someone else.  There are people that do this their entire lives.

*

At his school, there are rumors about the boy and about Jeffrey, but these rumors haven’t found their way to each other yet.

No one talks about Jeffrey, except to spread this rumor.  And Jeffrey doesn’t seem to have any friends to defend him.  The rumor is that Jeffrey masturbates by sticking a carrot up his ass.  How do things like this get started, and how do people intuit the truth?

No one says this directly to Jeffrey, because talking to Jeffrey doesn’t occur to anyone.  Everyone’s got lives to live and tests to take and games to compete in – Jeffrey is outside of all that, and beneath it, the other students think.  The thing with the carrot is just known.  It’s something people say to each other.

There are rumors about the boy, too.  That he’s queer, though this rumor comes and goes in the spaces between his girlfriends.  In these lapses he suffers taunting and bullying, and then it dries up for awhile.

There are rumors, also, that the boy still plays with toys.  No secret how this was started: a girl came overto his house and saw the stuffed animal on the boy’s top bunk.  It’s not true, though in a way the boy wishes it were.  He’s tried to play with his action figures but they no longer hold his interest.  Once he could activate them with life and meaning, but they don’t do anything anymore.  They’re in boxes in the basement.  There’s no going back to them ever; their lives are done and now they’re just things.

*

The year goes on, and every day, the boy and Jeffrey fuck.

They’re in the same biology class, and the boy is waiting for a moment.  He hopes that it will be a moment that severs him from Jeffrey and their intimacy and the punishment afterward.

He buys a pen, rubber and orange and shaped like a carrot, and carries it with him.

Each day, he hopes that Jeffrey will announce that he’s forgotten to bring a pen to class.

The boy wills it; concentrates.  Ask, he thinks.  Ask.

*

The biology classroom feels like someone stunted its growth, too dark and claustrophobic, like everything at the school.  The thirty students sit at large black tables, three students to a table, in two rows, and Jeffrey sits behind the boy in the aisle over.

The teacher is unthinking and strange, and many of the students claim he used to be a cocaine addict.  He flirts with the female students and makes them all dissect things.

The boy, who is a vegetarian, resists at first but then experiences a sort of resignation to what is real.  These animals were raised to be dissected, he reasons.  They were always dead.  All that’s left is to look inside them and hope we learn something.

*

In the pan is a crayfish, and next to the pan is a worksheet with a drawing of the crayfish splayed open.  Cut the crayfish open with the scalpel and as you pull it apart, write down what you see.

Sternal Artery.  Pyloric Stomach.  Dorsal Abdominal Artery.

On the sheet these organs are different colors, but when the boy cuts open the crayfish, he sees it’s all the same shade, a sickly dull gray-green.

From behind him, a voice.

A pen, Jeffrey asks.  Does anyone have a pen?

The boy’s heart jumps.  His hands smell like formaldehyde and are covered in a film of dead animal, but he reaches for his backpack.  Where is the carrot-shaped pen?

A girls turns to Jeffrey and gives him a regular blue pen.  The boy has taken too long, the moment has passed.  But here, in the front pouch of his backpack on the floor of the dead biology room, the boy’s fingers touch the rubbery surface of the carrot pen.  He pulls it out and cannot stop or slow down.  He announces it.

“Here’s a pen Jeffrey,” he says and stretches his arm out, far out into the empty aisle, so that everyone can see.

And they all see, and the class erupts in laughter.  One girl cries out, shocked by this joke, and then laughs.  The boys laugh.  Some of these students are enemies of the boy who is no longer a boy.  But there is this moment.  If he is cruel enough, he can weld himself to them.  They may pick on the boy and bully him, but here is a defining line – he is above Jeffrey, he is above being ignored.

The teacher cluelessly tells them all Settle down.  He doesn’t know what has just happened.  He doesn’t care.  Just no laughing.

Innocently or knowingly, Jeffrey says: I already have a pen.

And there is a knot in the boy’s stomach and everyone starts to laugh again.

*

That day, after school, the boy is sure he’s done it.  He’s ended their get-togethers.  He goes up to his room and throws his backpack on the top bunk.  But strangely, he doesn’t feel victorious.  He feels like he’s lost something and made a mistake.  He goes into his backpack and finds the carrot-shaped pen and throws it in his wastebasket and turns his music on.

Through the noise, there is a knock at the door.  Leave me alone, he thinks.  He turns the music up and then goes to the wastebasket and pulls the pen out and hides it under the bottom bunk.  A secret.

And the knock goes on, and then the doorbell.

He tries to ignore it.  Please, please leave me alone.

He starts to sing into the mirror, but the mirror has changed.  He’s not anyone else now, he sees.

He can’t stop thinking: I am just myself.

So the boy turns his music off.  Then he goes downstairs to answer the door.

Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School, Part 2. (Hall Pass)

12 May

 

Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School is a series of short essays about growing up  frustrated in small-town Pennsylvania.

 

Everyone loves Mr. Haines because he’s awesome.
That’s their way of saying it – but it’s so generic.  He’s awesome, all right, but what does that tell you?  Nothing.  Here’s what I’d say about him: he’s built and funny and young and his hair is blonde. His face gets red when he’s angry or embarrassed and he lets us get away with a lot more than other teachers.  He’s smart and really interested in us, and can you tell I’m kind of obsessed with him?

His last name is the name of an underwear brand, so it’s not weird that I’m constantly thinking of him in plain white briefs, or today when he tells me to stay after class.

He’s saying stuff, but I have no idea what he’s saying, because I’ve made this deal with myself that I’m going to stare at his dick the whole time.

I’m sixteen and I’ve really just started to read and love books that aren’t sci-fi or fantasy or horror and there’s this book by Herman Hesse called Demian and it’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it has this part about staring into someone’s eyes that I’ll remember for the rest of my life:

If you stare into someone’s eyes and they look away, then you know you have power over them.
So when someone’s looking at you, don’t ever, ever look away.
I’ve got this down.

In the halls, when the guys that pick on me walk by, I don’t look away.  Maybe they pick on me more because of this, but they don’t win.  And I don’t look away from my parents or the guidance counselor or teachers.  They’ve all taken a sudden interest in my “behavior.”

I’m not dumb: all “behavior” means is that I don’t act like they want me to act.  It’s only “behavior” because they notice it.  They notice my punk rock t-shirts and the stories I’m writing and my foul fucking mouth.  They only notice it because it isn’t nothing, and that’s what they want from me, a pleasant, unnoticeable nothing.

It bothers them that I don’t look away when they talk to me, so they look at each other and lose their power.

Not looking away gives another power, too: When you’re looking around, you see all the people that are looking down or have their eyes open but might as well be sleepwalking.  Or like the handful of black kids in my school, what are they looking at?  They look at each other and they look around nervously, but that’s it.  Everyone who’s not black – which is almost everyone – is looking at them and the Puerto Rican kids, and it’s a sort of scared look, or sometimes a “poor thing” look.  Or sometimes an I-fucking-hate-you look.

I know what it’s like, I guess, because for awhile, everyone was calling me “camel jockey” or “dot.”  They were so stupid, they didn’t know the difference between an Indian and an Arab.  Arabs don’t wear dots, stupid.  They’d said when you suck your dad’s dick, does the dickhead have a towel on it?  Mrs. Rothrock, my eighth grade cultures teacher, got mad at me for talking in class and told me that if I didn’t shutup, she’s send me back to Syria on a camel.  I thought, “I grew up in Pennsylvania, you dumb bitch,” but I didn’t say anything. I just listened to everyone laughing and I shut up.  I looked down then, because I didn’t know any better, because I didn’t even know who Herman Hesse was.  I was too busy reading Piers Anthony and comic books.

So anyway, if I can look in someone’s eyes, then I figure no problem, I can stare at someone’s dick.  Mr. Haines is sitting loosely in his chair, leaning back, his legs spread open.  Why do guys always sit like this – like they’re just waiting for someone to come up and suck their dicks?  Relaxed, leaned back, legs sprawled out.  He’s talking to me, but all I’m paying attention to is his crotch, which is all stuffed and full of his dick and his balls, a big bulge in his kakhi pants.

I catch a few words – it’s about my report I just turned in.  I guess he liked it, because it had “well-done” written on it in red ink.  It was a report about skinheads because it had to be about “culture” and in my town there are neo-Nazi skinheads and KKK members, so I just wrote about my own town.

I wrote it in a night, and yeah, I made up some fake sources and fake quotes – but that was only because my real sources were kids from my school.  Skinheads.

I’m still figuring out what “irony” is, I mean, I’ve pretty much figured it out, it’s just I’m not sure about this: Is the fact that the skinheads in my school hang out with me – even though I’m half Syrian, and even though the jocks are calling me a faggot – ironic?
Either way, it’s a good thing, because if they weren’t my friends, they’d scare the shit out of me.
Actually, I take that back, they still kind of scare the shit out of me.
They’re outsiders, too.  I mean, you’d never see a skinhead on the football team.  So maybe me being a sort of outcast is more important to them than my race.
Maybe being lonely is bigger than being angry.

I asked Jay and Chris for information so I could write the report.  Jay sits at lunch with me and we talk about punk rock.  He catches the yellowjackets that tap against the cafeteria window and will eat one if you pay him fifty cents.  He brings a fake gun to school and people think that’s perfectly hilarious. He gives me a tape of music by a Nazi band called Skrewdriver, and I include the lyrics in my report.
N****r, n****r,
Get on your boat.
N****r, n****r,
Get out of here
.
It’s a dumb song, but would be sort of catchy I guess if it didn’t have the n word part in it.  There’s another song about the IRA, which at first I confuse for the IRS until I find out what it really is.  And there’s this song about violent uprising and the chorus goes,  “You can shove your fucking dove/up your ass!”

Chris gives me a newspaper made by skinheads called American Skinhead.  Well, he calls it a newspaper, but actually, it’s more like a zine.  Chris is into tattoos.  All the skinheads are.  Jay has a tattoo of the word “hatred” on the inside of his lower lip.  There’s a skinhead I’ve met once that’s supposed to have a tattoo of Hitler right on his groin, and Hitler’s arm is tattooed on his dick, so that whenever he gets a hard on, the arm rises up in a sieg heil.  I know I should be repulsed, but thinking about his tattooed hard on makes me horny. Of course asking him to see it would make me dead.  So I don’t.

The stuff from the CD and the zine go into my report, and Mr. Haines is impressed, but he’s not getting hard.  If I can just stand here, looking, maybe he’ll pull his dick out of his pants and his dickhead will be flushed red like his face gets and I’ll get on my knees and suck it.  It’s like when me and my friend Courtney found out that if you stare at a candle flame long enough, it’ll move when you will it to.  At least that’s what it seems like.  Get hard, Mr. Haines, I’m thinking.  Get hard and pull your dick out.  Now.  Now.

Courtney’s half black and we talk about occult stuff and music and monster movies, and Jay hangs out with her too, which is confusing because he’s always talking about a race war.  When the race war comes, will he save her or just stomp on her head with his Doc Martens?  If we have to pick sides, I’m not sure what I’d do because there’s no side for someone like me or Courtney.  Anyway, what is a race war?  Will there be people in the streets with guns and helicopters flying above us and fires in windows?

People have been talking about race war since Rodney King got beat up a few years ago.  Whoever was holding that camera definitely didn’t look away as all those police officers just brought their clubs up and down and up and down.  Skinheads like Jay say that Rodney King deserved it and that he probably had a weapon and that if he were innocent, he would have just stayed down.  I’m not convinced, but I tread carefully, because I’ve heard the skinheads call people “n****r-lovers” when they stand up for Rodney King.

One of the popular girls, Jess, called one of the other girls a n****r-lover in the bathroom once.  At least that’s what I heard.  Maybe there really is a race war coming, because I also heard that it got back to a Puerto Rican girl (so maybe Puerto Ricans and blacks side with each other, I’m not sure) and that this girl ran right up to Jess after school.  And Jess jumped into her expensive yellow car and started to roll the window up, but the other girl thrust her hand in at the last minute.  Then she grabbed Jess by the hair and slammed her against the dashboard again and again until her face was bleeding.  When she was done, she made Jess give her the expensive watch she wears to school.  I don’t know if this is all true, but I know I like the story.
Maybe that tells me what side I’d be on.

Is it racist against white people to pick the other side?  I know what Jay and Chris would say, but I don’t think I’d agree.  The white people always seem like the bullies.  Even when they’re my friends, I’m afraid of them.  I’m not afraid of the black kids, but maybe that’s just because there’s only a few of them.

Then again, I know when I jerk off thinking about Grady, one of the black kids, I think about him standing next to me at the urinal and saying, “See, I knew black guys had bigger dicks than Arabs,” and then I’d have to suck his dick.  I know this is somehow racist.  It’s like I can’t just think of sucking his dick, I always have to frame it somehow.  I always have to think of it happening because he’s black, because he talks about being black.

Not like Mr. Haines.  It doesn’t matter that he’s older, or that he’s a teacher.  It doesn’t matter that he’d get in trouble.  In my mind, standing here after class, getting hard in my pants and wishing he’d get hard in his, I think of him as an equal.  I think he could maybe fall in love with me if he’d just get hard.
But he’s saying my name now, and fuck, I’ll have to look at him instead of his crotch.  I don’t want to look him in the eyes, I want to stay right here staring at his dick until this works out for us.
He says my name again and I look up at him, right into his blue eyes.  They’re so intense.  His brow knots up a bit, and I say, “yes,” and nod like I’ve been listening the whole time.  And then there’s this pause.  I don’t move, I don’t breathe.

Who will protect us in this town, I think.  There are skinheads and KKK people and bullies.  There are dogs that run snarling to the edge of their yards when you walk home and stare too long at them.  There are jocks and racists and homophobes and Christian crazies and angry teachers and this school, this whole school is crazy and I’m burning like a bright moving speck of fire every single day.

I look back down at Mr. Haines’s crotch and try to stay there, but it doesn’t work, everything is dispelled. I look into his eyes and can see he knows what I’ve been doing.  He sits up straight and stops relaxing, and his face turns red.  He says, “All right, you better get going,” and writes me a permission slip for being late to my next class.  I take it and turn back, but he’s already in his own world of numbers and letters, writing in his gradebook.

And I walk out into the hall and everyone else is already in class.  The halls are empty, which feels calm.  I like times like this, when there’s no one to look at, just the lines of lockers and the sun coming through the windows and people in their classes, teachers saying things I can’t hear through the closed classroom doors.

I tuck my hard on up under the waist of my pants, but I’m never sure if people can see this or not, so I walk slowly so that it’ll calm down.  I get to English class and walk in, and the same thing happens every time a kid walks into class late.  The teacher keeps looking ahead at the class and talking, but he sort of reaches his arm out for your slip.  So I walk to the front of the room and hand it to him, and all the other kids, the skinheads and the jocks and the popular girls all look at me, because they think I’m late because I’ve gotten in trouble, right?  They think I had to be in the office because of my “behavior,” but I know them.  I know how they talk about each other and hate each other.  And how they pretend to be good kids but say racist shit in the bathrooms or pretend to be racist but hang out with me and Courtney.  So I look at all of them and keep my eyes on them the whole way back to my seat and one by one they turn their eyes back to the teacher but I never, ever look away.

Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School, Part 1. (Gym Class.)

3 May

Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School is a series of short essays about growing up  frustrated in small-town Pennsylvania.  


#1 – Gym Class

I don’t know if this is normal, but in the early mornings before I left for school, I would actually get down on my knees and pray to God for the whole gym class to fuck me. Even the teacher. Especially the teacher.

There were two gym teachers at my high school – one was kindhearted and gullible and taught sex ed. The other – Mr. Wolfe, my gym teacher – was masculine and always angry. He was perfectly built and yelled at us like we were his soldiers. He would do walking handstands in front of us, and his arms tensed to show off the thick cords of tendon; his shirt would drift toward his head and I could see his belly, flat, punctuated with muscle, hairy. He had a beat-up face. When we played dodgeball, the losing team had to rush to the locker room door one by one, a door that was lined on either side by the winners, who pelted you with the mottled pink balls. He made us run til we puked. He called us “pussies” and told us no girls would want to smell our stinking bodies after class, so we’d better take showers.

No one took showers. The big open shower room, dry, unused, didn’t even show up in my fantasies. Instead my thoughts would all center around the locker room itself.

I could see their balls in the spaces between their underwear and their thighs. Their dickheads would push aside the front opening of their boxers. They’d daringly moon each other. One of them, Brian, pulled his waistband below his ass and strutted around. He was making a joke, but I missed it. It couldn’t have been more serious to me. Every week, twice a week, I was surrounded by half naked boys. Dave, Sean, Jamie, Brian, Marco, Ethan, Brad. Their dicks would sway in their underwear as they undressed. Our skin was smooth, although most of us had armpit hair and leg hair, and some with hair just below our belly buttons.

Amazingly, I never got hard. It wasn’t that I could control it: I’d get hard in the halls, on field trips, in classes; I was constantly getting erections. There was no control, just mysterious mercy that kept me from getting caught.

Not that it mattered. Eventually, I was being called “faggot” anyway.

A high school gym isn’t like a gym you work out in as an adult. It’s only a big open space with a wooden shine where everyone can see you. We’d bring out nets and play volleyball, bring out mats and wrestle, follow Mr. Wolfe with equipment to the baseball field. Or we’d run to the big hill next to the track and play flag football. No one had ever taught me how to play football – my Syrian father didn’t know anything about American sports except boxing – and so my teacher and teammates were invariably disappointed in me. I couldn’t catch footballs or hit baseballs. Being picked last became a badge of honor. We’d bring out the horse and bars do gymnastics, and I was better at that than most kids. I have strong legs. They didn’t save me.

Until I was a senior, I was taunted and teased. Sometimes I was pushed into lockers. Once I was punched in the stomach.

I wore shirts with the names of bands – The Jesus Lizard, The Cows, Seaweed – that no one had ever heard of. I was constantly questioning the teachers, showing off some sort of angry iconoclasm. None of these things fit, so I was “gay” to them. The other kids knew I was off before I did. I knew I was attracted to men, but I wouldn’t have ever identified as gay, and was especially reluctant to when I found out that identity was nothing but an insult.

Dave kicked the bottom of my shoes as I walked, making me trip forward. Ethan pushed me as I ascended the stairs. Jamie grabbed me by the neck. Sean called me a faggot. It felt like everyone was calling me a faggot, even the girls.

When I became 17 it suddenly stopped. Maybe that was because I became friends with some of the more popular kids, or because the main instigators – one class above me – had graduated.

I thought (like most kids?) about blowing up the school. I thought about picking up my fork and going absolutely apeshit and stabbing the eyes out of my persecutors at lunch. I thought of ways to ruin their lives and cripple them. I didn’t create that violence, it was brought to me, pushed and shouted and taunted into me each day.

I hated going to school, except for gym days. And I hated gym class, but I wanted it anyway. My feelings were competing in me, and I wanted to stop competing. What were we always competing for, anyway?

Instead of killing them, I’d take my lunch and sneak upstairs everyday to the empty media lab, full of TVs and cameras. I jerked off in there and ate my lunch alone. As long as I had that time to myself, as long as I could think about them fucking me, I could keep all of us safe.

On the wooden benches, by the lockers, I’d imagine them taking turns, sliding their underwear down to their ankles, their asses were all smooth, their bodies were all young, and they were fucking my mouth and my ass. I’d think of them talking to each other over me, while they were inside me, almost as if I weren’t there. I wanted to be what made them feel good, I wanted them to meet in me. And I’d be invisible. If they were in me together, maybe I could experience their comradery. At the end, I’d see myself appear again and they’d pat me on the back and tell me I did well. I’d imagine one or more of them putting their arms around me in school the next day. I’d jerk off to them being my friends.

Dave, a year ahead of me, the most relentless of the bullies, once said to me during gym class, “You sexy bitch.” No one else was around, and to this day, I don’t understand why he said it. I wrote in my confused and urgent journal that night that he must have secretly loved me. We were reading A Separate Peace in English class, and I was consumed with thoughts of loving and hating someone at the same time. But he didn’t love me or hate me; I bumped into him at a Borders a few years after my graduation and he didn’t even recognize me. All that meaning, all those times I hated him or jerked off to him, all the times I thought about stabbing him in the throat with a fork, and I was nobody. He walked by with his pregnant wife and looked at me the way you’d look past someone you’ve never met and aren’t interested in. He had long hair but was still handsome.

Is this why so many men identify with and long for the men who dominate us? Sex was reaching its unbearable teenage fever in me at the same time that I was being pushed into walls, torn away from my backpack, berated.

In his office connected to the locker room, Mr. Wolfe had a separate shower. I imagined that little shower was for him and for his special students. I didn’t know what that meant, “special students,” I just thought the most athletic kids got to shower in there for some reason.

And when I wasn’t imagining getting gangbanged by my classmates, I’d be in Mr. Wolfe’s shower with him. He’d turn on the water and fuck me. I’d always envision him holding onto me, so that we were both standing, bent over, and his hard, hairy chest was on my smooth back, and his legs were touching my legs. His dick was huge and painful and all the way in me. My head was in the crook of his neck. His arms were wrapped around me.

I imagined all this and I prayed for it. But they never fucked me. I was never a good athlete or called into Mr. Wolfe’s office. They never put their arms around me. And we never became friends.

Podcastmania!

10 Jun

If you want to hang out with me inside your ears (just let that be weird, it’s okay), you’re in luck!

I’ve been on a bunch of podcasts in the past few months and they are some of the best podcasts I’ve ever done. I’m not just saying that. People seem to be excited to talk with me about a variety of issues now, instead of just asking the basic porn questions, which at this point have become boring to me (and probably you, if you’ve been following along for awhile). So please listen and feel free to comment, and tell your fav podcast host to have me on. I love conversation.

Here’s a quick rundown:

First up, Rune Soup with the mighty Gordon White! I met Gordon through a series of synchronicities (that’s what people who aren’t crazy call “coincidences”) and suddenly, there we were, talking about fantasy novels (On A Pale Horse, for example), the problems of materialism in the occult, punk rock, and more.

You can click here to download, or just listen below.

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Sex

 

On futurist podcast The Singularity Bros, I got to talk stuff few people give me a chance to talk about, but that I love considering. Particularly: the end of work and why we don’t need jobs anymore. I also talked about the future of sex, dissed virtual reality and the occulus rift, and said Buddhist monks could probably fly. It’s good stuff.

Click here to download/listen!

 

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WTMatt Baume is the funny, thoughtful, and warm-hearted host of The Sewers of Paris podcast. I had no idea what to expect, and the episode wanders from topic to topic in a great, organic way. He’s an amazing interviewer. We start with The Superfriends and it all unravels from there. The book of spell I stole from my middle school library, the guys I wanted to fuck in high school. And at some point, I say I have superpowers. Click here to listen.

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MiriamFinally, I got on Miriam Seddiq‘s podcast, Not Guilty No Way. Miriam is a criminal defense attorney and force to be reckoned with. We met via a scuffle on twitter. There were insults and jabs, and then we were both like, “But, um, why are we doing this, you seem awesome?” Not atypical for Arabs, by the way. There’s the fast and furious expression of anger followed by embrace and trust. We know how to do peace pretty well. Miriam is one of the only podcasters that said she researched me by watching my porn. Bravo to her. She’s brilliant, and I had a great time. It’s very, very conversational. Without the back story, you’d think we’d been friends for a long time.

You can click here to download or listen below.

2013/2014

7 Jan

NSV019_TheMix_ConnerHabib_affilVert_5Happy to be on this side of a new year in a new city with a life that also feels totally new.  Below is my review of 2013: things I did, things that happened, things I read/saw/listened to, people I fucked and more.   But before going back, go forward –  Here’s a little update on what’s coming this year:

My book, now (and I think permanently) titled How To Learn about Freedom by Having Sex will be out in Fall this year!  It’s due at the publisher (countercultural mavericks, Disinformation)  at the end of this month.  So I’m on it every day.  I’ll be publishing excerpts here throughout the year.

My first movie of 2014, The Mix is out from NakedSword this January.  You can click here, sign up and get the scene (NSFW!).  If you click through to NakedSword via my site, I get a little kickback money, always helpful.  Anyway, I got to play a snotty writer (jeez, thanks, guys) and then get fucked by Conner Maguire (pictured below right – THANKS GUYS) while I’m hanging upside-down from a tree branch.  It was a lot of fun.  It’s the only scene I have coming out for awhile as I finish up my book.  Then I’ll NSV019_TheMix_ConnorMaguire_affilVert_3be shooting again in March.  I’ll also be making my own porn this year, with help from a few of my friends.

The Conner Loves Everyone Podcast is coming – I’m hashing out the details.  Basically it’s me, a co-host (TBA), and conversations with guests from the margins of culture.  If you have any suggestions, now’s a good time to let me know; I’m in the formative stages.  It’ll be up and running mid-2014.

I’m giving lectures around the country and will list the dates here as they come.  If you’d like me to speak at your school or organization, reach out via the info here and we’ll discuss the details.  You can also always hire me as a writing coach to help with projects.  I promise it’ll be more exciting, less expensive, and ultimately less soul-destroying than getting an MFA.

My new web series is also in the works – if it’s not distributed via Logo/NewNowNext like my last one, it’ll be up one way or another in the next few months.

I’m also dedicating more time to the blog, so you can expect at least two entries a month.  Thanks for sitting with me.

2013 Year in Review

 This post is intended to give people who are new to me a way to get acquainted, and for those who’ve been hanging with me for awhile to go deeper or check out some of the stuff that was on my mind last year.  Feel free to tell me about your year in the comments: your favorites and what you loved (and who), what you’re looking forward to, what you checked out from my lists/what you think I should check out.

LIFE

2013 was the year that marked a slow fade from being a porn star/writer to being a public intellectual.  I know that all might sound pretentious, but I’m not sure what else to call it.  I made less movies, I wrote more, I had more published, I did more media and lecture appearances. That old model of someone in the public eye who does real scholarly and thoughtful work and interacts with cultural currents is coming back (largely because of social media) and I’m happy to be a part of it, and so thankful that you’re reading this/interacting with me on twitter, listening and getting into it with me when needed.

mejustinLast year, I broke up with a boyfriend (we’re still friends, he’s awesome), I taught online courses on Sexual Revolution and Anthroposophy, I gave lectures at a bunch of schools and organizations (the Museum of Modern Art in New York – at their PS1 Dome, at Amherst College, and at the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia among many others). My talk at Corning Community College in New York was canceled because of sex- and porn-negativity, and it ended up being a national news story (I gave the talk anyway, and I’ll revisit the whole thing and discuss the aftermath in a one-year-later entry this March).  My NewNowNext show went on hiatus, so I left you to sexually fend for yourselves (I’m sure you’re all doing fine).  It’s archived though, including my episodes on how to top and how to kiss, in which me and my buddy Justin go at it.  Also on hiatus is my NSFW website, ConnerHabib.com – I’m reworking it to better suit everything I’m up to; so it won’t exclusively be a porn site anymore and will largely be safe for work (with links to NSFW stuff).  Or at least as safe for work as someone like me can ever manage to be.  Right now, there’s a picture of me in my undies and a redirect to here.

I moved to a new city, just as San Francisco slipped into a trend of tech-hipster-ornamentalist-conservatism (I can explain what that JDmeans someday, just let it slide).  One of the signals that it was time to leave SF was the nudity ban imposed by gay District 8 supervisor Scott Wiener.  So ofcourse, to express my irritation, I conceived of and wrote a porn series with my friends at NakedSword (NSFW) called The Cover Up about a self-loathing San Francisco supervisor named Scott Cox who hypocritically has sex with nude protestors.  It was publicized all over the country (here’s an article in the Huffington Post about it), even though the porn itself ended up being a bit clumsy and silly.  Still, the sex is, well, sexy, and I had a lot of fun with it.  Now I’m in LA.  You can’t be naked here, either, but you can certainly wear less clothing year round.  My friends have been calling me from the East Coast, telling me they’re in something called Snowpacalypse or Snowmageddon or Snownarok or Snow, uh, whatever.  Anyway, usually when they call I’m sitting under a fig tree or watching hummingbirds or something.

WORDS

I published a lot of work in 2013, so I can’t list everything here (although I’ll be creating a bibliography/CV page with everything I’ve published for this site soon).  Here are some of the highlights:

wilfredMy most read essay of the year appeared on this blog.  I wrote  “Why Do Gay Porn Stars Kill Themselves?”  shortly after Arpad Miklos and porn director John Bruno committed suicide.  Then, just after I finished writing it, another porn star, Wilfred Knight (pictured left), took his own life.  It was a rough time for everyone in gay porn, and the questions that were aimed at us didn’t make it any easier.  Often they were callous or based on a sort of urgent ignorance.  So the essay was a rebuke to anyone who would even ask the question posed by the title.  The essay also serves as a quick primer on how to make our experience creating, starring in, and watching porn healthier.

Also appearing on my blog in 2013: the final installment in my “Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School” series – about the boy I fell in love with my senior year.

I wrote a few pieces for Buzzfeed’s LGBT section, including one about my porn name vs my birth name (Andre Khalil), and the difficulty in maintining a balance between the two.  I also wrote about the meeting point of fantasy and reality in porn, and how the distinctions between the two may be to simplistic.   I started an online column – Profanity! – at Vice, and wrote about how masturbation and internet freedom are intertwined, and about a forgotten occult science, among other things.  I also wrote critical essays  to respond to the film Lovelace, in praise of the novel Me and Mr. Booker by Cory Taylor, to facilitate examination of gay hookup apps, and to condemn writer Alain de Botton’s terrible book on sex.

My essay on my mentor, Lynn Margulis – “As Above, So Below” – was reprinted in the excellent collection, Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel.  The book is edited by her son from her marriage to Carl Sagan, Dorion.  Dorion’s a thoughtful editor, and most of the other contributors are big time scientists.  It was a huge honor to be a part of this act of love, reverence, and grieving for Lynn.  My other anthologized essay last year was “Rest Area Confidential” – my thoughts on sex at rest stops, which originally appeared on Salon.com and was featured in Best Sex Writing 2013.

SEX

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2013 began slowly as far as my movie releases, but ended with a flurry of them.  My favorites were directed by porn maverick Joe Gage.  If you don’t know much about Joe, here’s an interview with him in BUTT Magazine.  His movies are all about the set-up and the tension, two aspects of pornography undervalued by many other directors.  That focus always makes for a fun shoot: lots of dialogue, lots of eye contact.  Joe directed me in scenes with Adam Russo and Colby White for Titan Men (NSFW).  In the scene with Adam,  we’re dressed in tuxedos, talking about sex with each other’s siblings (who are celebrating their wedding to each other in the next room).  It’s typically fucked up, but in a gratifyingly sexual and well-paced way.

AFP3

My favorite movie to be in was Joe’s Armed Forces Physical.  I have two scenes in the movie, both threesome, both sort of ridiculous, both with men I was really attracted to.  One of the scenes is with performer Andrew Justice (pic of me star-struckedly fixing his collar on the right). I’ve had a huge crush on Andrew from afar for years.  Joe overheard me pining for him one day and so surprised me by putting us in a scene together.  The scene itself isn’t all kisses and hugs, but hanging out with Andrew over the weekend in the woods where we shot was.  A highlight of my career.  You can access Armed Forces Physical by signing up on the NakedSword supersite.

BOOKS

I never like “best of” lists for books, because every book is new every year.  If you’ve never heard of it, and you read and love it, it will have the immediacy of its release date.  So, many of the books here aren’t new.  But they’re new to me and I loved them.  Because I was researching for my own book, I read more on sex in 2013 than I had all together up until then.  Some of the books I really loved included: Roger Lancaster’s biting and engaging Sex Panic and the Punitive State, which explores when, where, and why panics about sex kick up in Western culture.  Relatedly, Judith Levine’s Harmful to Minors and Sinikka Elliot’s Not My Child both detail the general sex panic surrounding adolescent sexuality; Susan Clancy shows how moral furor can damage the lives of children who have been sexually abused in The Trauma Mythand Lawrence Wright focuses in on problems with memory retrieval in his  gripping narrative of a Satanic ritual abuse panic in Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory.  I reread Adam Phillips’s masterpiece, Monogamy, a series of vignettes on the problem and solution of monogamy in our culture.; every sentence is loaded with radical and profound though.

GUTGGiving up the Ghost: A Story of Friendship, 80s Rock, A Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means To Be Haunted by Eric Nuzum was deeply moving to me.  Nuzman, who grew up in Ohio, seemed to be describing my own struggle through teenagedom, with all its tragic missteps and supernatural pulses.  Really beautiful.  Also entertaining and paranormal was Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation by Mitch Horowitz.  The book is a catalog of the religious movements that shaped our nation.  Some have obvious occult dimensions, others are more subtle; for many readers, the movements detailed will be new (some were for me, even though I’m well-versed in all that esoteric stuff).  I also absolutely loved The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorainne Warren by Gerald Brittle.  I listened to it as an audiobook after my interest in the Warrens was rekindled by the movie The Conjuring.  It’s terrifying and fascinating, wherever you stand on occult matters. It was my favorite book this year, and I plan to read it again.

I read lots of fiction last year, but was curiously unmoved by much of it.  That said, there were a some stunning exceptions.  Along with, like, everyone else in the fiction-reading world, I was blown away by many of the stories in Karen Russell’s new collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove.  “Proving Up” and “Reeling for the Empire” were both terrifying and sat nestled amongst lighter, friendlier stories in this bizarre collection.  Buy it at least to read those two superb stories, which will stay with you for a long, long time.  I also really enjoyed a lot of Joyce Carol Oates stories, if not an entire collection.  My favorite was “Strip Poker,” which is about as sinister and tense as it gets.  Finally, my friend Jake Shears got me to buy one of the bleakest, most brutal books I’ve ever read, Donald Ray Pollack’s The Devil All the Time.  Serial killers, spiders, dead animals, murderous cops, darkened landscapes.  I still feel as if I owe Jake a thank you and that he owes me an apology.  Read it and laugh and then get a sick feeling in your gut and tremble.

SOUNDS

I didn’t make any of my own music outside of the shower last year, but I listened to so much.  Most of the highpoints were the discoveries of new artists or particular songs rather than albums.  That’s how things are going, I suppose; an album takes up too much mental space – we’re focusing, singing along, and thrilling to a new song and a new feeling.  An album is a landscape, a song is an evening.

Some new bands I fell in love with in the past year:  Gang of Youths from Australia – particularly their Walkmen-esque “Sudden Light”.  X Ambassadors, with their weird combination of crooning and clattering drums – here’s their single, “Unconsolable.”  Sures, also from Australia, and their echoing, progressively loud single, “Waste.”  Mariam the Believer from the band Wildbirds & Peacedrums went solo; her voice is haunting and combines strangely timed beats with a new age sensibility.  Bizarre witch music.  Here’s her video for “Invisible Giving.”

JebBands that have been around for a bit but made me happy, sad, tap my foot, close my eyes and wish I had a different life as a musician:  My friends the Dismemberment Plan reunited to release Uncanny Valley, a surprisingly warm album with music that’s not afraid to be happy and loving.  The opener, “No One’s Saying Nothing” is a favorite.  The Plan was also my favorite live show of the year.  They’ve lost none of their frenetic, crazy energy on the stage.  Natalia Kills’s album Trouble is witty, sad, catchy.  Her song “Saturday Night” was a favorite of mine last year.  My favorite electronic-meets-analog artist, Tim Fitz, released a new EP called UnsceneYou can download most of his music for free on band camp.  Panic! At the Disco continued to evolve, get better, catchier, more fun, more sing-along-able.  They incorporated some Cut Copy feel into their work and released Too Young To Live, Too Rare To Dieone of my very favorite songs “Girls/Girls/Boys” is here.  My best friend, Jeb Havens (picture right) released a whole bunch of covers last year – recording mostly in his closet while he slowly became one of the best-regarded and most-listened to signer songwriters in San Francisco.  Here’s his cover of Lady Gaga’s “I Wanna Be with You” (which eventually became “Dope”)

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I feel my teenage punk rock self cringe a little when I admit that the music event of the year for me was not remotely underground or unknown.  Instead, it was the release of ArtPop by Lady Gaga. I don’t need to write much about it.  You’ve probably already drawn your lines and picked your sides with her (Though how anyone could fail to love an album with the lyrics “Aphrodite lady/sea shell bikini” in one of the singles is beyond me.)  I’ll just say, to explain this polarization, that ArtPop reveals Gaga’s biggest moment in the public eye was the only moment out of sync with the rest of her career.  The straight-ahead pop of Born This Way (and to a much lesser extent, Fame Monster) never gave people an idea of just how completely bizarre she was – meat dresses notwithstanding.  It’s not a farce.  I saw Lady Gaga play many times before “Just Dance” came out; at drag shows, in hotel lobbies, and more.  It was her, two wiry back up dancer girls, some duct tape, and a mask.  It was strange and out of place.  When she was working her way up to being famous, it was completely new and exciting.  Then she got famous, and people lumped her in with other pop divas like Katy Perry or whatever.  It’s a misunderstanding that ArtPop displaces.  Many people aren’t ready for it; the whole album is like a signal sent backward through time.  A crazy blend of Sun Ra, Arabic music, industrial, hip hop, Dub, 1970s pop, and top 40, ArtPop is amazing if you let it in.  Here’s the mindbending iTunes concert that puts many of the songs on display.

FILM

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Movies, movies, movies.  I saw over a hundred movies last year.  I have no idea where I got all that time.  As per custom, I’ll list my favorite that were released in 2013.  Spring Breakers and The Great Beauty seem like unlikely bedfellows.  The former is the melodramatic, loud, absurd depiction of a pretty girls wallowing in sex, drugs, guns, and freedom (plus, a corn-rowed James Franco).  The latter is a breathtaking and heartfelt look at how to live and love; often compared (too easily, I believe) to Fellini.  But both movies are movies made by editing – a trend not started by, but given permission to flourish by, Terrence Mallick’s Tree of Life in 2012.  Both Spring Breakers and The Great Beauty work to engage through a collection of images, sounds, bursts of feeling.  They’re the sorts of movie that would have been almost incomprehensible to TGBviewers before the age of the internet.  The world had to be made ready for both films.  They’re both excellent and both depend on, for some of the grandeur, being seen on a big screen.  If there’s no possibility of that, just download/stream them.  But if they show up in a theater near you, go, go, go.

I also loved Jagten (The Hunt)  which is all about the sort of sex panics described in some of the books I mentioned above.  A small town school teacher is accused of abusing one of the kids at his school, the town goes apeshit, the movie gets under your skin.  Passion by Brian De Palma wasn’t the greatest movie, but it was a whole lot of fun.  It’s a late 1980s-style film about women grasping for power in the workplace.  Watch it and let me know if you start pressing your finger to your friends’ foreheads when you insult them.  You’ll see what I mean after you watch it.  Last but not least was the Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Hope.  The movie is one of three in Seidl’s series; which can be watched out of order, thankfully, because it was the only one playing near me.  It’s about girls at fat camp, and it’s an oddly flat movie.  There’s nothing dizzyingly high or low about the film.  It takes its time, and evokes life perfectly.

All right that’s it for now.  Stop.  Forward again. See you soon.  Love.

Gay for Pay, Part 2

22 Jan

This is the second part of an essay on working with gay for pay performers. The first half appeared in Headmaster Magazine and is excerpted in the previous blog entry. In the second half, I’ve changed a few names to protect a few people. The rest is all true. Thanks to Berke Banks and Girth Brooks (and Ashley Edmonds) for cooperating for both pieces and for being amazing guys.

Girth Brooks and Berke Banks’s apartment keeps its furnishings from Girth’s relative, who owns it. It’s a Florida nightmare of a place; everything in the common areas is pastel and frilled. There are prints on the walls of roses and the frames are brass.

“Ever since we put the stripper pole in, Berke has been wanting to have people over late at night. We’ve been getting complaints.”

The stripper pole stands shining and smooth, floor to ceiling in the living room. I can’t describe how perfectly it fits here. You wouldn’t notice it unless you walked into it or someone told you. It’s by sliding glass doors that lead to a balcony overlooking a rolling green hill.

Berke is in the bathroom, and the door is partially ajar. A sliver of him; a side of his body completely bare from head to toe. The side of his ass cheek, one of his cold blue eyes and perfect eyebrows, a long leg, his black hair on his head and on his arm.
“Hey,” he says.

I notice myself lowering my voice when I say hello. I can’t help it. Everywhere I go to meet something new, my voice drops a few octaves. I’ve tried to change this in two ways, by always staying in the loose, natural higher voice and by pushing my nerves down into the deeper manlier one. Neither stays. It’s up and down up and down, whichever man fits the situation. Which one is true?

It occurs to me – if you ever want to learn a real lesson about sexuality, listen to any gay man’s voicemail greeting.

Berke leaves for a few hours before I get a good look at him. He needs to buy Valentine’s Day gifts for his girlfriend. His friend, Ashley Edmonds, a fetish porn star and dominatrix, picks him up. She’s blonde, friendly, and has an intense but still pretty face. She laughs a lot and tells me within a few minutes how much she loves gay porn. “It’s my thing,” she says.
She’ll be the one filming my scene with Berke later and I get nervous because I’ve never had sex anywhere near a woman before.
Girth passes out on the couch with the low, frustrating hum of ESPN coming out of the TV. I look through Berke’s room. It’s straight: A pile of dirty laundry on the floor. A lit-up display case with watches inside and ballcaps on top. A DVD rack. Somehow this is erotic, like nothing has changed in here since the 1990s. I consider for a moment looking through the pile of laundry on the floor for a loose pair of underwear to smell, but I leave it.
I am charged with sex in this room. It smells lightly of sweat. It is still and sleeping and I don’t want to disturb anything except to live here in all of it.

Berke is the sort of guy that literary types and intellectuals and spiritual people think they have figured out instantly and entirely: He’s a businessman, maybe too crass, loves the gym and grooming, has drive and gets drunk a lot. These things are all true, but so what?
His website features him having sex with men in many improbable/too-good-to-be-true situations.
Berke Visits Ashley Lawrence While She’s Filming and Her Scene Partner Recognizes Berke and Berke Fucks Him. Berke Meets A Kid at the Mall Who Asks Him for Directions and He Ends up Fucking the Kid Later
Mine was:
Berke Picks Up Conner Habib after His Scene with Girth Brooks and Gets So Excited Hearing about the Scene That He Has to Get A Piece of the Action
Which is flattering. Mine isn’t one that’s just coincidental fucking – Berke asks me for it.
We’re in Ashley’s car and I suck Berke’s dick in the back seat while we’re driven around. While his dick is in my mouth, Berke talks to Girth in the front seat. This, for me, is the most erotic part.

When I was an undergrad, I swapped head with a guy in a bathroom stall at a bar. He was there with his girlfriend and his buddies and while we were in the stall, his friends walked into the bathroom and started talking to him. “Justin, what’s going on? We want to go.” I jumped up onto the toilet so that my feet wouldn’t show. Through the wall they talked about his girlfriend, who was waiting for him. He was one of the handsomest guys I’d ever had sex with, but the most erotic part was that brief conversation he had with his friends, while I kneeled with a hardon on top of the toilet. I can’t remember the words, but it was like living inside their bodies. This was their world, their life together.
I was invisibly one of them.

The walls at Ashely’s apartment, which is a stand-in for Berke’s apartment, are turquoise. She films live shows here for her fans. People might believe Berke is straight, but will they still believe it if they see that he has a turquoise room with a turquoise couch? Then again, his real apartment has beige couches with floral prints on them.
He unwraps Magnum condoms and puts them aside. His girlfriend shows up. A dog and a cat bound around the room. I ask before we start, shouldn’t we lock them up in a bedroom?
“Oh don’t worry,” Ashley says, “they won’t interrupt. They get the picture.”
Berke is taking a fat burner because he’s supposed to be on the cover of a magazine soon. He says it’s fucking with the Viagra, and we all take Viagra in case you were wondering. Or if not, the guys will inject their dicks with Caberjack or Trimex, which I can’t even think of without feeling a bit queasy, though I’m told it doesn’t hurt. It’s not that we’re unable to get hard, it’s just that we usually have to go for so long.
Instead of the of Viagra, since it’s not working so well, Berke’s girlfriend gives him a blowjob. He’s hard instantly and he jumps up and fucks me; my pants down around my ankles, my head against the bright soft turquoise. And my mind going in a lot of directions – how do I look? Is he enjoying this? I hope I won’t forget to keep my abs flexed, this feels amazing – but mostly, he’s so handsome. God, he’s so handsome.
“The diamonds are coming off my nails,” Ashely tells me, and looks at her diamondless pink fingernails with a frown. She puts the camera near my face, “I like to get right up in there!”
Ashley talks a lot during the filming. “I can’t help it, I’m like the peanut gallery,” she says.
“Does this turn you on?” I ask Berke’s girlfriend.
“I just love watching him,” she says, and I know exactly what she means.
I watch Berke as he drinks his orange juice between different positions.

He holds my legs and my ass up against his chest for my cumshot, so that I’ll hit my own face. He thrusts and moans and I listen and gaze into his face. I feel his thick and solid thigh with my left hand, and it pushes me over the edge.
The girls rewind it on the camera and laugh and say, “he is so cute,” about me while I lie there, drying.
I have dinner with Berke and his girlfriend afterward. They’re friendly and I need them to be because I’m so tired after yachts and fucking.

I may sound like I’m over-idealizing gay for pay guys. It’s just that I haven’t had any trouble with straight guys in movies. I’ve had enough trouble with them elsewhere; getting called “faggot” during some of my high school years, not because I was out but because I had long hair and wore punk rock t-shirts and didn’t play sports. Those words lasted forever until going to my ten-year reunion somehow alleviated all of it. Seeing everyone there with fatter or thinner faces than I remembered, with smiles and happiness – well there were no more nightmares about high school after that. I knew where they all were. We were all doing okay.
But I never stopped pursuing straight men, and from college onward, the straight guys were always offering it up. Kissing during spin-the-bottle games; drunken blowjobs at and after parties; making out on my bed in front of girls who thought it was hot; in locked bathrooms at parties.
Was anyone straight?
I used to tell myself that everyone was gay, though I don’t believe that anymore, mostly because there have been men comfortable enough to try it out and then stop, deciding quite casually that it wasn’t for them.
My college friend Jeff; tall, handsome, Jewish, and straight: We sat on my bed after going to a bar (the same bar I had sex in) and bared our souls to each other and he leaned forward suddenly and started kissing me. Never another gay peep out of him. When I asked him about it, he said he just wanted to try it with me if he were ever going to try it. It made sense.
Sometimes it pissed them off a little. I used to receive intense pleasure from going up to the cutest, jockiest guys at the straightest bars and kissing them on the mouth and then running away. I idolized Bugs Bunny for this, so why not me? Like Bugs Bunny, I figured that I could always talk my way out of it if I needed to. I’m not exactly proud of this guerrilla gayness, but I don’t feel all that terrible about it, either. I was in college, I was drunk, and my head was filled with jingoism about power and revolution. The white straight rich guys could stand to be unsettled from time-to-time, I reasoned. And surprise: None of them punched me, none of them flipped out. The worst that happened was a bit of fury. Once a guy stormed out of the bar past my friends shouting, “Why do guys always kiss me?

But what about the straight guys that are offering it up for pay in the movies, the ones that aren’t even as kind as the drunken frat boys I got to?
A friend and scene partner of mine told me about the favored golden status of the straight guys he worked with. On the set of one of his shoots, a huge TV screen played straight porn for his straight scene partner. To my friend, they gave a portable DVD player.
“I’m not kissing you,” the straight guy said. They were expected to get erections in separate rooms.
“He had a wife,” my friend told me. “and he had a girlfriend. Neither of them knew he was doing gay porn. And he was kind of a douchebag besides that. Having someone tell you that he doesn’t want to kiss you right before you’re supposed to have sex doesn’t make things easy. Also? The porn that was on the TV was really violent. The men were screaming at the women.”

Usually we all at least get along. I imagine my poor mild-mannered friend, bewildered by the forcefulness of the shoot. “It felt like I was sacrificing myself to a monster,” he said.

And then there’s Toby, who did a threesome with two straight guys, Chris and Jack. He told me that he later found out directors shy away from putting more than one straight man in a gay scene. Something weird happens when they’re together. A bad reaction.
Both Chris and Jack had perfect bodies. They stood on one side of the room, Jack constantly talking about the girls he’d had sex with. “I was in my own universe,” Toby said.
They rarely engaged with Toby at all, and then there came a further twisting in them as they competed to enjoy the scene less. Toby stood on the bed and Chris and Jack were asked to suck his dick. But they were making disgusted faces at each other, Jack barely letting Toby’s dick in.
When the oral sex was over, Toby was angry. “You guys give horrible blowjobs,” he told them. They looked at him with hurt and innocent expressions. How could they be bad at anything?

I’m not sure why guys do this if they can’t handle it. There must be all sorts of interpretations open to us. For example, we can see the scene I did with Berke as a whole. For us to have sex, we needed a camera, two girls, and camaraderie. All the elements were essential. Taken as a whole, that’s a very complex sex act.
Or maybe it’s just acting – but when someone cries in a movie, is he just acting or is he inside that part of him that cries?
Or perhaps, as Gore Vidal has suggested, sex is just about money now. The money is so eroticized that it carries the straight men through the act.

Berke tries to confirm as much at dinner. “I was called in for a jerk-off scene and then they called me back for an oral scene with a guy a few days later. I said no, but then they doubled the amount they offered me.” So he did it and did it and eventually he was fucking and even (once) getting fucked.
But again, this is more complex than it seems, for how long until it all becomes Pavlovian?
The money and the sex and the men become so intertwined at some point; they must. The thought of having money is a tiny bell inside the gay-for-pay performer’s head. And anyway, is it hetero- or homosexual to fantasize about money? Isn’t it just monetary-sexual?
Maybe we don’t even have sexualities anymore.
Our sexual energy is dispersed amongst our things. It could be a dollar bill or a whip or a locker room or a conversation between two straight men. Where is our arousal coming from? We fool ourselves if we think it’s merely a response to bodies. We fool ourselves even more if we think it’s the drive to reproduce, as evolutionary psychologists are fond of pointing out.
I’d like them to explain the evolutionary advantage and history of Berke Banks fucking me in a turquoise room with girls and cameras present. They’d try with their withered speculations and they’d lose the nuance and excitement of it. Indeed with such flat, boring answers, they lose the entire picture.
There’s no clean answer. If you think there is, you’re missing everything.

“I lost some friends over this,” Berke says. “I didn’t realize everyone would find out. And it’s so fucked up because I thought, what if I were gay? They would have hated me for that too. But you just get on with your life.” The restaurant is loud and bawdy. There are men everywhere and a few women hanging on their words.
“I got a DUI and had to go to jail for three months, I can deal with stuff. I just waited it out. You wait your whole week for one video monitor call and that call, that face in the little box, is your whole world. If it doesn’t come, you’re crushed. But I dealt with it.”
We ordered food awhile ago and I’m getting anxious for it to arrive, I’m so hungry. When it comes, it’s mediocre, but Berke loves it.
He seems to love everything.

We go back to the apartment and Berke shows me how to use the stripper pole. He spins upside-down on it. It’s not that hard, he shows me. It’s more about momentum than muscles. Just swing yourself around enough and anyone can do it at least a little. I spend my last evening there at a dive bar in a strip mall with Girth, Berke, and Berke’s girlfriend. A girl hits on me and then realizes I’m gay. “Of course,” she says. There’s a bad cover band with six members playing. People are dancing to alternative songs from the 1990s.
“Do you want to get laid tonight?” Girth asks me. I’m exhausted, and tell him no. He shows me a picture of a friend of his from his bartending job. “I’m so fucking horny,” he tells me. And then, “I can call my friend here for you.”
His friend shows up a little while later, with another man who is even cuter. I want to pay attention to the friend, but the other man, Jason, gets all my attention.
Berke tells me how to pop my abs and pecs for an upcoming event. I wander down a long hallway to the men’s bathroom and don’t lock the door. I don’t understand how I could have another second of sex, but this is Florida, I remember. This is Florida.
Two days ago, I stood in front of a shut-down store in South Beach and stared at the three mannequins, all facing away from me in the window. This is where the homeless are so wrinkled from the sun that they’re not recognizable; more like bunched up blankets than people. Somewhere close to this bar, there’s an alligator pushing itself into muddy water, and a panther stooped in grass.
When we leave, I ask Girth about Jason. “He’s definitely straight though,” Girth says.
“Are you sure?” I ask. “He was massaging your gay friend’s shoulders.”
“Actually you might be right. I have this girl I work with and she’s good at spotting that stuff – she called him out the other day because he does this gesture. He does this, like, gay gesture.”
So you never know.