(A story of three ways I'm not)
“I’m locking the door now,” said Ron. “This is me locking the door.”
Mako sat on Ron's bed feeling far away, as though day dreaming, watching a fly buzzing against the window glass, bumping at it.
Then Mako was looking out the apartment window past the fly at a pigeon sitting on the red brick ledge looking back at him. The pigeon flapped its wings and bobbed its head, holding its wings out for some kind of emphasis. Or maybe disapproval. But it was watching him with that glassy blue doll’s eye.
“You okay?” said Ron. He came over to him and sat next to him on the bed. He put his hand on Mako’s knee and waited.
Mako turned away from the pigeon and seemed to notice him there. “Are we doing right?”
“What we do in here,” said Ron, “ain’t nobody’s business. You want to get under the covers?”
Mako looked at the covers.
“I’m not asking you to do anything you don’t want to do,” said Ron. “But this is what I want to do.” He moved close to Ron and touched his lips to his and held him tight for a moment.
Mako allowed himself to be held and felt a kind of peaceful terror, a willful stepping over the abyss of everything he had been taught was right and true into strangeness. But what was right and true seemed so far away. At this moment it had nothing to do with him. He had liked girls, had felt completely at ease around girls compared to the other boys. Almost like one of them. But it was the boy next to him that disturbed his peace. His strength. His physical compactness. His aggressive bravado. There was a sense of reinvention somehow – over there.
“Where you at?” said Ron, as though reading his mind. “You don't like it? Want me to stop now?”
Mako didn’t love him. It wasn’t that. It always seemed like the girls wanted to hear you say it. But this was something new and alien, and undiscovered within himself. The men wanted what was being offered right now, right next to him. The immedia cy of it was over powering as well as the knowledge that this door being opened had been there all along.
“I’m right here,” said Mako. He lifted off his shirt and threw it on the floor. His heart was pounding with a delirium of transgression and anticipation. A declaration to the God of all that was proper – this is who I am. I didn’t ask for this. It’s how it is, that’s all. He looked at the shirt on the floor and had the feeling a snake might have when shedding its old skin. He heard movement and Ron was quickly shedding his shirt. And then his jeans. And then his shorts. And then nothing left to shed, but that flat belly and black short hair spinning halfway up his belly and the thick swinging sex below, half risen now, revealing its shape and form but still hesitating as if waiting to be blessed. Mako was looking at Arthur’s shy phallus, half risen, as though asking a question. And the quickness of it all. The directness. Women were never so direct. He felt himself responding, rising to that masculine directness of desire. Not so much in attraction as the anticipation of desire, or transgression, of a new stage. A new snake skin. He stood up.
“Watch,” he said. Ron watched, and Mako could see his prick rising and stiffening the final inch. “Here.” He stood up suddenly by the bed and dropped his shorts and his cock was almost the same as Ron’s. He began to imagine things. Rubbing bodies. Rubbing cocks like boy scouts rubbing sticks to make a fire. What would come next? What did men do?
But before he could think, Ron was already leaving the bed, throwing a pillow on the floor at Mako’s feet and kneeling on the pillow as though in prayer. His hands reached behind and palmed Mako’s ass and pulled him forward. His lips were on Mako’s cock and Mako wanted to shout “Stop!” but already Ron’s warm tongue was moving, doing something no girl had done for him, stunning him not with pleasure, yes that too, but more truly a deep emotional undertow of fear and exhilaration.
He felt the tension rising in his prick and wondered if he would be able to ejaculate in Ron’s mouth, if he would be up to it when the moment came over him. He wanted so much for Ron to feel validated, praised by Mako’s physical response. He hated being naked in front of anyone in locker rooms, wondered if guys were looking at him and sensed his queerness, his otherness. If Ron needed him to, wanted him to, would he come good in Ron’s mouth? For Ron’s sake? That seemed a terrifying level of intimacy to have with any man, with any person. To come in their mouth. He looked down his belly and Ron was looking up. Ron wanted this so much. He needed to come for Ron’s sake. To please him.
He looked past Ron’s bobbing head and the pigeon at the window was bobbing its head as it paced on the ledge. Seeing Mako’s eyes on his, he raised his wings and dropped over into the abyss beyond and below.
She was playing in the garden in her Sunday dress when it happened. She didn’t think of it as playing, playing was what children did and she was all of twelve. She played formal games but not with dolls or toys. She played with boys, with her brother, but she sensed her budding womanhood through them and their change towards her.
There was a pigeon waddling on the pavement of the garden bobbing its head as it walked with its toes turned in. She threw popcorn to the bird and watched it dive its head, grab a corn and fly a few feet away. It was on a constant swivel, watching the bushes for cats, watching her, watching all around as though the world were filled with threats. She felt sorry for it. To be able to fly, like a fairy queen and yet this descendent of the Tyrannosaur was so fearful and clumsy on the ground. She could feel it every emotion so vividly it hurt. She wanted to hold it and pet it.
She took a step towards it and felt a wetness bloom at the top of her thighs. The wetness swelled and increased. She felt a sharp pain in her belly. A drop of blood fell on the pavement.
She stood still looking at the blood. The pigeon seemed to see it too and dropped it’s popcorn and stood still watching her.
She understood vaguely about the blood, was pretty sure she knew what it meant. Had seen her mother’s tampons. Had seen her mother’s blood. Was it supposed to hurt? And still this single drop of blood had hit the ground like a bomb. She stood with the wetness between her legs and suddenly it seemed like a sewer down there, where everything gross and nasty happened, where she peed, where she bled, where somewhere babies would burst out covered in her blood. She had never given a thought to it. It seemed like her body was falling to pieces under her.
She offered popcorn to the bird, but her belly spasmed again and she leaned over in pain. The pigeon spread its wings at her sudden move and flew over her head high into the wide, safe and unchanging blue sky.
In the Korean grocery on 34th Ave and E Street she walked down the aisle hoping to find her favorite soda, Manhattan Espresso Coffee soda. Years before Starbucks or any of them this had been her favorite summer drink. On muggy urban evenings when the city sank into sullen torpor, sitting on the steps with a Manhattan Soda was a kind of Brooklyn ritual, like soda fountains and Egg Creams. She found the last bottle in the beer cooler and picked up some plantain chips in a green bag with palm trees on the cover. She cruised the produce aisle and thought about tommorrow’s dinner for her husband Joe and herself, but tomorrow would be movie night and they would eat out.
At the register she picked up a pack of gum and added it to the little pile.
“Four thirty five.” said the Korean grocery, an old man with a heavy accent. She gave him her credit card, but he rasied his hand. “No, sorry, no. Credee. Must have five dollar for credee. Credee cost me charge too.”
She checked around and picked up a bag of Mallomar cookies which were in season in the late summer and added it to the pile.
“Nine dollar, fifty seven, thank you.” He smiled now and cheerfully stuffed it all in a plastic bag and rang it up.
She had been away from the house for about an hour. She had promised Joe she would stay away for two. She wouldn’t come home for two hours. That was the deal.
“Thanks,” she said. “Take care, Mr. Kim.”
She went outside and the steam hit her like a wall. With the steam the smells of the city, the bus exhaust, cigarette smoke, and the dumpster smells from the ally. She checked her watch. Fifty minutes to go. The soda would be warm when she got home and it tasted better outside. She wrapped her blouse hem around the cap and twisted it off and drank from the bottle. It was already turning warm but the sweet thick bitterness was better than beer, better than coffee, burning as it went down. She walked down the sidewalk drinking the coffee soda and listening to the traffic on the next street. E street was dark and quiet this time of night.
As she went she thought of the Mallomars, ripping the bag open while the chocolate marshmallow cookies were still cold and washing down one or two with the soda, but if she opened the bag the chocolate would melt.
As she crossed the street, she heard footsteps pacing behind. She wanted to look over her shoulder, but wouldn’t that be inviting danger? Attention?
As she passed the iron piked fence of an old church a pigeon on the steps in front of the great oak double doors was watching her. As she walked past the gate the pigeon kept its eyes on her. There had been this TV show that had scared her when she was a little kid. Some old show, and there were these pigeons outside a haunted house very much like this church who were supposed to imprison the souls of the evil dead. Pigeons from hell somehow. But Whip Poor Wills, in South Carolina, when she was that little kid, the old folks said it was Whip Poor Wills that housed the dead.
The steps were closer.
She stopped at the corner and turned facing the street the street that crossed here. It was a ruse, to cross over, to test the owner of the foot steps and see if they were meant for her. The street was empty so she crossed against the light, trying extra hard to move slowly and steadily, not taking notice as the steps seemed louder. She crossed the street and the red and green neon lights of the pool hall and grill reflected off the filthy water gathered in the cobblestones and asphalt. She stepped up on the curb and glanced sideways across the street. There was a young man walking slowly, staying on his side. She would keep an eye on him, like the pigeon.
As she reached her street she heard the steps again. He had crossed the street. But her brownstone was in sight. She glanced at her watch. She was forty minutes early. But she had promised.
She turned at the top of the steps and looked down with her hand on the knob wondering what to do as the man passed.
It was a young man in a T shirt and jeans. There were white wires dangling from his ears and he was nodding his head, not looking at her, not interested, away in his own world.
A pigeon fluttered and landed on the pavement in front of the brownstone. It paced up and down, bobbing its head as if accusing her. “I’m not breaking any promise”, she whispered. “I only promised I’d stay away for two hours. I’m not going in, not yet. What is there to see that I don’t have a right to see?”
She tiptoed down the stairs and went along the side of the house. The window blinds were all down. But the window blinds for the parlor had the blades open enough to see through. She put down the bag and looked in the window.
A woman was sitting on the sofa, she was watching the TV. She was wearing black stilettos and dark nylons, under a familiar red pleated satin tube dress. The choice of dark velvet lipstick linked the dress and shoes perfectly, tastefully. Even in the low light of the television she recognized the profile. The nose and chin were unmistakable. A wave of jealousy passed through her like sickness. She tore the Mallomar bag with her teeth and crammed one roughly into her mouth smearing wet chocolate on her fingers.
“He looks more beautiful than me,” she thought.