He’s still here. Not the fly that was buzzing about. Him. The one I picked up last night. Snoring. Woke me up. Guess I was too drunk to hear it during the night. Fun time. Won’t feel put out making this one breakfast. Bag of hammers, but knows how to fuck.
Stretched out from my fetal position I look over my shoulder. Damn, looks good even in the sunlight, guess I won’t have to chew my arm off and slink away. That’d be hard—it’s my place after all. Curl up again, close my eyes, and feel the warm breeze coming through the window. Nothing to do today. Well, I should write. Not now. Groggy, but not hung over with a slight growl in the stomach which comes with the morning after. Hunger. Why does drinking always make you hungry. A bit sore—he really went at it. Nice. Smiling to myself. Getting a bit hard at the thought. Wasn’t intending to do this, just a whim. Or was it? Wasn’t even feeling alone. Actually, it was getting better. Is this a sign it is getting better? Do I care?
I feel sunlight fall on the bed warm my face and bare chest. I put my hand out to catch it and squint at the translucent hairs decorating my forearm. Then draw it back and curl up tighter, almost in a ball to take in my own scent and heat. Sweat and dried semen—animal. Good. His smell on me too. A sudden jerk of the body opposite startles me. He sleeps deep. Do I want to look at him again in the light? I turn over quietly as a spy. I wonder who he is? Never saw him before at the local. Pretty young, but could be something more than a bar-back wanting to be an actor or a goddam writer. Masculine sort. He’s kicked off the sheets—has a hard on. Nice cock—actually quite pretty—sculptured, cut and jutting out of a nest of glistening red hair—good set of heavy balls too, sagging down to one side. Bet he does want to be a goddam writer. Why do freckles turn me on? Nice face too—even better when he was going down on me and looking up with those blue-green eyes—supplication—begging on his knees.
I gently roll away. I got rid of everything that was his. Everything he had not taken with him. I even got rid of all the old sheets and bought new ones. First time I’ve fucked in them—a baptism of sorts. Not angry—vindictive—sad really. Tried to wipe away the loss. Didn’t work, but the ritual felt good. I burned the sheets. And I will not write about it. Well, that’s a lie…I won’t right now. Not for long time, but…my trick farts. Why do they always do that, I laugh to myself. Strange way to say good morning, guy! He’s still snoring, out cold.
Confused dreams all night. Only remember fragments. One about a cat, a very black cat with yellow glowing eyes with jet black pupils. Thin, almost kittenish. I assume female. She attacks me, but then seems playful. She bites my right hand. I am wearing a glove made of a course type of mesh—leather? After she bites, I shake my hand. The cat lets go, drops to the floor. Looking bewildered, she sits down, lets out a couple of cries. She looks at me. I look at my hand. In the meshes of the glove I find a bloodied tooth. The cat is now bleeding from the mouth, a little puddle of blood forms before her on the floor. I don’t feel guilty about the animal’s hurt, yet I felt I had to tell someone about it. Whose was it? My brother’s? I looked back down at the cat and noticed its face was slowly becoming human. Before it became clear—the snoring woke me up. I shivered. Wonder what that’s all about.
I slide out from under the sheets and walk lightly to the kitchen. French roast is all that is on my mind. Soon the aroma and the quiet throb of the coffee machine are working their magic. I lean upon the counter waiting and looking out the window. I don’t know what I would do without this rickety summer house. Bought it years ago. The window opens upon the beach and the sea beyond. A clear day. Left it open all night. Salt spray scent and the fugitive cry of gulls wafts in. I think about that line and scribble a note. A complete stranger is in my house whose body I have become quite acquainted with. What little drunken conversation we had last night was half drowned out by the crowd and music of the drag show. The sea. It’s early. The water beyond the dunes and patches of grass is just now catching the sun. It glints off the rippling surface, waves alternating white and steel gray. Gray. Like the Grand Canal that evening. Leaving Piazza San Marco by vaporetto after a simple dinner: saltimbocca and white wine. Summer and a festival of some sort was on. Yes, I remember. Festa del Redentore—the end of plagues. The canal filled with boats of all kinds festooned with garlands and balloons bobbing on the water turned pink and gray by the setting sun, the sky same above above—as if cradled in mother of pearl. On either side ancient pastel palazzos, shutters wide opened, tall windows gapping, melt into the rippling canal. Later that night the thunder of fireworks and shards of colored light thrown back by the waters. Looking at the back of your head and broad shoulders illumined by the flashes, I thought I loved you more than I imagined I could. The coffee maker beeps. Ready.
I raise the cup to my lips. There’s a bit of rustling from the bedroom. He emerges naked and so am I.
He blushes. Red heads are so pretty when they blush.
I don’t…ah…know your name.
Todd, as I took another sip…and who do I have the honor to have as my guest?
Well, sounds like a real name I say to myself.
I wince a bit at that as I turn to pour.
You have a really nice butt!
You should know. You spent a lot of time with it last night.
He giggles at that.
I turn and hand him a mug. He’s sitting at the table and, looking up at me, smiles. A bright white smile—with one upper tooth missing. A canine. Hadn’t noticed it. Too drunk and concerned with other things, I guess. Doesn’t take away from him a bit though. He looks over into the breakfast room and sees my typewriter and papers strewn all over the desk and floor. I love the typewriter. Laptop only for final draft.
Are you a writer? I want to dance, but I want to write too, screenplays, maybe short stories.
Shit. I think as I take another sip.
He looks up from his coffee, which he is fairly sucking down—well, he does have at least one known talent.
Stay for breakfast?
Sure, that’s great! Most folks just kick me out in the morning.
We do have some manners in this house.
I’ve noticed! He smiles wide.
Oh, I lost that in high school football. Should get an implant.
Sometimes a small flaw is charming—I must have stared at the gap.
You’re great, you know that?
Do you have anything to do today?
No. Out of the City for sun and fun!
I see, well you’re welcome here for the day if you like…
Great, I’d like to. Maybe we can talk about writing…
Shit. I think again, but on the other hand, looking at his crotch…
And there are fireworks tonight.
It comes as a blow, so startled I almost drop my coffee. I steadied myself, thankful he was so involved with his coffee he didn’t see me stagger.
I’ll be right back.
Sure, take your time.
I hurry to the back bathroom, lock the door and sob.
I’m better now. Back in the kitchen. He’s idly swinging his lower leg back and forth staring out the window to the sea. Finished the coffee. Seems lost in thought—or more like a cat? Blank?
He awakes and looks at me with a smile.
Don’t have much in the fridge. How about an omelet and bacon?
Sounds good to me!
I refill the mug. The coffee smells good on the warm morning breeze. The light lace curtains flare. Again the cry of gulls.
So, You’ll stick around…
Yeah. Tell the truth, I’m tired of the watering holes—for now.
He takes a long sip of his coffee. Again stares out to sea.
Still naked, I tie on an apron. He almost spits his coffee out with a laugh.
Bacon spatters, you know.
And from the back it frames that cute ass yours.
This boy is full of complements. I should use his name. Rodger. Makes sense.
I look down at the strips of bacon and pour eggs for the omelets. What will we do all day—besides the obvious. The camera. Yes. Getting a bit stale with the seascapes, birds and dunes. Shooting at the tea dances is really lame—cliché. He might be a good subject. I’ll ease him into it. Relax him. He’ll be more natural. He eats quickly—must be hungry.
So where are you staying?
On the beach or in somebody’s bed for a night.
You’re a hustler?
Not really, I do it for fun. Just broke and wanted to get away for a while. The Island’s really expensive, but I love the beach and the sex.
And when you go back?
Got a couch in a friend’s studio.
Doesn’t look like a drifter. Healthy. Probably not much in the way of drugs. Beautiful skin, fit body.
I really appreciate the food. I was starving!
After we’re through, let’s hit the beach.
Rinsing the dishes. He goes into the bedroom. Comes out in his clothes. Filthy. Another thing I didn’t notice last night.
Why don’t you throw those in the washer? I think some of my clothes will be a near fit.
My white cut-offs just about fit. No shirt.
The beach is simple. A slash of sea below blue sky. The dune’s yellow-white, the grass brown-green. I love his back, his freckled shoulder blades. Deliberate walk. Holds himself so straight, his ass cheeks pumping up and down to the rhythm of his gait. The sand is warm between my toes. My legs have a nice tan now, but those veins are more obvious. My body hair hasn’t turned white yet. Thank God! My white-cut-offs are a bit large for him. Had to pull the belt tight. I’ve grown a bit thick in the waist. Do I dare eat a peach? I smile.
Deadline looms. Alan will not be pleased. Fuck him! He’ll delay it even more with his edits—most of them bullshit. Why do editors and agents think they can write? Really should focus on his back. That’s why I have him here. Distraction. It’s in my viewer now—that’s good. The camera whirs. His head is down. Thinking again. Never anyone on this strip of beach. Wonder why.
Catching up with him, I take up the camera and begin to shoot in earnest. I want to catch his motion his gait. He smiles to himself—but not self-consciously. He turns and winks at the camera. Great. Stops before the sea and slightly puffs out bare muscled chest. Knows how to make love to the camera too. I stop shooting and, with a slow pace, we cover about a half mile of beach in silence before we plop down and lie upon our back, each looking his own patch of cloudless sky. The heat is rising.
I find I can’t resist. Without looking over at him I ask:
So, Rodger, what’s your story. Why are you really out here.
Well I am a dancer…well, maybe I should say was. Ever since I was a kid it’s been all I’ve wanted to do. My mother loved the movies and she rented tons of them. Even when I was four or five I couldn’t get enough of watching Fred Astaire and Ginger—and Shirley Temple and Bojangels Robinson—I wanted to be Shirley Temple. Later it was the Nicholas Brothers—I couldn’t believe those splits. But then I saw film of Nureyev—him and his dancing became an obsession. So I went the usual route, my mother was thrilled—really! I ended up in a major troupe in the City. Then it happened.
His face darkens not just in sadness, also in anger.
Dancer’s Break. They said it wasn’t the worst case—you couldn’t convince me, though. You half starve yourself—you do starve yourself. Work and sweat your ass off. Every day. Part of the problem—weakens the bones. When it happened, I could almost hear it snap. Can’t begin to tell you what that pain is like. Passed out. Vomited when I came to. Not a complete break though. No surgery, but a long recovery—6-12 weeks. An eternity for a dancer. I hated my body—it was broken. It wouldn’t do what I wanted. I was falling behind. Sitting in the class in my boot with crutches, imagining my moves. As they danced, in my mind I could see myself dancing. I could even feel it! I thought I wouldn’t be able to dance again or if I did I would be so far behind…I was a failure. I panicked. Disappeared from the troupe—just left class one day and didn’t go back. That was months ago.
He sits up, pulls in his legs, embraces his knees, turns his head, looks at me.
That was a dumb thing to do. I am healed now…but…could I face them? Could I go back? I’m ashamed and afraid, but I have to dance. Even if they won’t have me back—I really can’t do anything else. Just lost now. Trying to get back my courage. What a great day it is out here—a real beauty.
The breeze tousles his hair. Falls silent, closes his eyes. I pick up the camera and shoot.
You have to send me some of these, you know. Lets out a laugh, eyes still closed. But I don’t have a phone now.
In for cocktails. A bit early, but the heat makes the g&t’s necessary and delicious on the deck. We’ve been pretty quiet all afternoon, lying about. Dozing and getting a bit burnt—especially Rodger the redhead that he is. From his beach chair I hear:
Fair is fair, Todd, so what’s your story.
Oh, not a very exciting one—you pegged me this morning. A writer.
I knew it—what have you written?
That book on the table next to you is my latest.
Picks it up with interest. Reads the cover.
I’ve read a review of this—you’re Harold T. Chase. You told me your name was Todd.
Oh, Todd is my middle name—my friends call me that.
A half lie. It is my middle name. My friends call me Hal. I use Todd for my tricks. I blush a little.
Why don’t you keep that. I’ll sign it after awhile.
He opens the book at random and begins to read. I sip on my drink. Why has this day so filled with nothing been such a comfort? He’s still reading—that’s a good sign. After about ten minutes he leaves off.
Thanks. It seems like it will be a great read. I’m caught already! But…
He jerks his head toward inside, toward the bedroom. I finish my drink and nod. We get up, I put my arm around his shoulder, feel the heat of his sunburn, and go into the house.
Sunset. We stir from our sleep. I leave him sleeping and decide on pasta. Frozen marinara sauce in the fridge. Rodger smells the sauce simmering in the pan and comes to the door of the kitchen dressed in his now clean clothes, rubs his eyes with the back of his hand.
Hope this will suit for dinner.
You almost read my mind. You know you’re a lot of fun, but serious.
You bet! He laughed.
It doesn’t take long for us to finish up our bowls. Rodger looks into the breakfast room which I have made into my study.
You can go in if you want—no secrets here or there!
One could only wish that were true. He gets up and walks into the little room.
So this is where it happens. Feels cozy!
He looks at the mass of paper strewn about, at the typewriter.
You still use that thing?
It’s the only way I can get a first draft—except pencil and a yellow legal pad.
The note I tacked up over my desk catches his eye. “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” He looks puzzled. His eyes widen, a grin appears.
I get it…or I think I do!
He says nothing more, neither do I.
A loud bang shakes the room. At the window, a red flash fades to a yellow-white glow.
The fireworks! Rodger says with the delight of a child.
He runs out to the deck and sits down at the edge, eyes fixed upon the sky.
Sitting next to him I catch both his smell and that of his freshly laundered clothes. The bursts come on strong now. Glowing green spiders and red busts of dying roses. The Grand Canal. Then it died.
We broke when I was nominated for the National Book Award. It began with a trivial thing, so trivial I can’t remember what it was. Soon he erupted. His face contorted in anger.
I’m always in your shadow. Who the fuck am I? Arm candy. Might as well be some house boy.
You’re not that young anymore.
So does that disappoint you! So that’s gone and what’s left? Not a whole hell of a lot it seems!
Look, I’m sorry…
You just tolerate me now, your friends tolerate—they patronize me! I’m not talented. I’m just a cliché—I arrange furniture for a living.
You make money…
You don’t get it! Shit! I’ve always wanted some of your glory—some of your talent! But I don’t and now you always remind me of that…
I have never…
Just who you are rubs it in my face—you don’t have to say anything—it’s who you are!
He wheeled around and punched the mirror. It shattered, he bled.
I grabbed him and pulled him to myself. He went limp, crying and shaking.
I have to go. He said softly. The more I love you the more I hate myself.
He looked up tear-stained, red-eyed and kissed me on the lips. He was gone a few days later.
Rodger is transfixed by the display. When the finale comes the sky is streaked with fiery streamers, spiders, roses and more. The thuds near deafening. Then silence and the dark. We go into the house and have a round of cognac. Somehow, no need for conversation. Both exhausted, we go to bed in each other’s arms.
He’s gone. I start up in the warm morning light. His side of the bed empty. Confused, I go out into the kitchen. There’s a sheet of paper on the table.
The day was so wonderful, I couldn’t bring myself to say good-bye. But I can write to say thank you. I need to go back. Here is my friend’s cell and the Brooklyn address where I am staying. Now you do owe me some of those pictures. But if I don’t see you again that’s fine—just thanks so much.
I sit here with the note in my hand, thinking. We’ll see.
~ M. T. Davis 4/4/2018