Le corps du coureur
“It’s time for sex with strangers.”
– Marianne Faithfull, “Sex With Strangers”
Her name was Alice and she was absolutely everywhere when it came to our town’s queer population. She was, in fact, our self-proclaimed fag hag, something no group of gay men can (or is allowed to) exist without. I am your copy of Venus in Furs, and I read to you in your mother’s voice. She was our only omnipotent force, kept happy with burnt offerings spread spread-eagle for post-dinner conversation, and no one ever thought twice.
And she was sitting in the audience that night while I told everyone in The Common Spoon about my failed efforts at getting in the pants of the boyfriend of a mutual friend. And I was so into my performance…so thrilled with finally purging myself of this narrative…that I had completely forgotten she was there.
Earlier that day we had “gotten euphoric” at the lake. Here began the pattern of his asking “what’s on your mind?” in a disarming way that left me with no choice but to answer with complete sincerity. Well, except for the first time, when I hadn’t realized what was happening, and I turned the question back on him. He told me he was thinking about his future and joining the Air Force and retiring and adopting children from around the world and building an isolated paradise in the middle of a fortified lake which was nothing like the one we were currently staring into.
When he asked me again I said I was thinking what a pain it was that my dick had just flopped down the left side of my shorts.
I tried to lure him to a place I had fantasized about having sex by telling him the story of an infamous suicide that had taken place there.
“Some of the people around here, we call it the Deathzebo. See, the former president of the college had a long-term affair with his daughter-in-law. Anyway, I guess she couldn’t take it anymore and she climbed up to that gazebo and shot herself.”
There was a clear semantic flaw in my brief summary of this local true-life myth. “Couldn’t take what anymore?” he asked, impressing and terrifying me with his attentiveness.
“I don’t know, the guilt I guess.” Hell if I know, I thought. Do you want to go there or not?
“Well, which way is it?” he asked, handing a bottle to my screaming baby mind.
I gestured vaguely with my left hand and he led us on.
I couldn’t believe it. He was walking toward the Deathzebo. At my suggestion. I blurted out, “You know, I’ve always fantasized about having sex in the Deathzebo.”
When I think about my brain, I think about the steaming, hissing innards of a Metropolis-type universe. I think about gray, cranky industrial whatnot moving up and down all day. I think about jaw-dropping plot-steps and clumsy cinematography. I think about sinister men with sinister mustaches who do sinister things to the tune of sinister organ music.
He said, “Oh, I’m not that kinky.”
And in my head the whistle blew and the sinister men went home.
Filtered through the desires of revisionism (known also as the Muses of Forgetfulness), I can’t remember exactly what Alice said to me that made me realize that my world could now at any moment come to an Armageddon-like ending, also known as a confrontation with the boyfriend of the boy whom I had just publicly described trying to seduce.
But I grew up watching too many old movies to freak out in that sort of situation. Anticipation can’t scare me, even when it should. I just shrugged my shoulders through my leather jacket, lit another cigarette, and said: “Let it ride, baby, ride.”
And that’s all anyone can ask.
This is how invisible he makes me feel…
I tied my tie in front of him one night, so close to him as to be the only thing in his line of vision. He said to me: “You didn’t tie that, you walked into the room and it was already knotted.”
Another part of his lie was that I suggested that we pull over to the side of the road so that we could make out. Impossible, I remind you, since I was not driving the car.
And it was when Alice to me this that his intent became clear. And I outran guilt. And I realized it didn’t matter.
It was a slow night at The Common Spoon. I don’t know if I even read that night…I think I sang, actually…poorly, of course, and playing someone else’ guitar.
When things start winding down after open mic night, Alice always comes out from the storeroom with books and magazines she knows she’ll never sell and gives them away. That night she gave me a biography of Gertrude Stein, a biography of Alexander Liberman, and the Fall 1990 issue of Zyzzyva. We were sitting at a table near the stage, talking about the relationship I shouldn’t have had (separate plot line, do not keep this in mind), and then she asked me about the night in question in our present plot.
“I want to ask you a question, but I don’t want you to take it the wrong way or get mad.”
“Shoot, baby, have at it. I’m in a piss-poor mood, but I don’t know how it could get worse.”
“Did you put the moves on A.J. on the way back from that quiz show?”
“A.J. told Greg that you came onto him in your car on the way back from that competition.”
The free fall I’d been in since the moment I met A.J. ended with me landing hard on my back in the Arizona sun, the desert ground unforgiving, breaking my parachuter body into reject synthetic diamonds glinting at midday.