by Jean Roberta
This is embarrassing. The only publications I’ve read in the past month or so are periodicals I subscribe to: The New Yorker, The Times Literary Supplement, and BBC History.
I was immersed in student assignments until April 30, then I plunged into writing two very different historical stories after persuading the editors to give me deadline extensions. Story #1 is a short vignette of an imaginary secret tryst between Queen Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas Wyatt (a poet) in 1536 (the year of her execution), which I sent to The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty Thirty, Volume 3. (The emphasis in the “Sexy Librarian” series is on audio appeal: writing meant to be read aloud. I hope mine works in that sense.)
Story #2 was meant to be a much longer saga of an illicit gay-male romance in England, some time shortly after an immense statue of Pharaoh Ramses II was discovered and removed from Egypt in 1816. This story was sent to Steve Berman of Lethe Press for an anthology on “Decadence.” I’m not sure I nailed the necessary opium-laced flavour of the thing. If/when the story gets rejected, I’ll have more time to tweak it further.
In any case, all this rushed activity prevented me from reading any new books.
I’ll discuss Truth, the anthology of erotic fiction and non-fiction which was produced in connection with Eroticon in March 2018, edited by Zak Jane Keir, and published by Resonance Press of the UK. I have a story in the book, and normally, I feel squeamish about reviewing any collection that includes my own work. I have done this a few times when someone has asked for a review, and no other reviewer seems to be available.
As the title suggests, the theme of this collection is sexual truth vs. sexual deceit. The pieces are all short, on-theme, and diverse. Most of them are cheeky, some are slyly ironic, and all reveal some aspect of sexual attraction that isn’t glaringly obvious. Of course, some are about the “truth” of discovering one’s own and someone else’s true sexual orientation.
Pen names abound in this book. A writer called “The Other Livvy” wrote the opening story, “What Will Happen If I Tell You This Truth?” It is short enough to quote from beginning to end:
“Sorry, I’m too busy. My work is running late. I’ll have to bail. I’m having dinner with friends that evening. My phone battery died. When did you send that message? Oh, did you mean today? I thought you meant tomorrow! I need to feed my cats. I have to wash my hair?
No. No, that’s not the truth. That’s an excuse; a mistake.
I really want to see you, but my week is looking crazy and there’s no time. I’m free for lunch next Thursday, if that’s any good? Or Friday?
I think that restaurant is closed on Mondays, and I can’t on Tuesday.
No, I’m not avoiding you. I’m really not.
I want to see you again, but I don’t know if I have time.
Mmm, no. Not the truth either. Shit. . .
I want to see you again, but I don’t know if I can. I want to see you again but. . .
I want to see you again, but I’m scared.
I’m scared of what you make me feel; I’m scared of what you make me want.
You make me want to kiss you and hold you and bite you and hurt you. You make me want to grip your arms so tightly that my fingers leave bruises; you make me want to mark you, want to own you. You make me want to pour myself all over you, staining your skin as our sweat and bodies merge, and I don’t want to stop.
I can’t look at you without wanting to claw the clothes off your back, revealing more of the skin that teases me as you sit, so perfectly dressed, across from me. I can’t look at you without imagining your nipples beneath that shirt, and how they’ll harden under my gaze as I stare at your body, bared before me.
The way you looked at me over that bitter cocktail, with a sly, lazy smile pulling at your hot, flushed lips, made me want to slap that smile off your face. I wanted to slap you until you gasped and begged for more. The way your fingers played with your glass, sliding in the condensation and shining in the cold moisture, made me want to lick your fingertips and push them deeper into my mouth. I wanted to drag you to the floor and kneel over you and grip your hair in my fingers and force your face into my body, so you could feel and smell and taste how much I wanted you. In that dark bar, on that dark night, I wanted to dominate you.
I don’t know what made me want to hurt you, or what made me think you’d like it. Was it the exact way you deferred to me when choosing that bar? Or your defiant tone of voice? Was it the way you maintained eye contact, just too long, and the cocky* stare that went with it? Maybe it was all your bravado, your talk of danger and fear and adrenaline, although I wanted to fuck you long before you mentioned that.
But what will happen if I tell you this truth?
If you don’t want what I want, I’m not the one for you. If you’re hoping for everyday sex or an everyday life, I can’t pretend; I won’t hide. But what if you do? What if you’ll trust me and kneel before me and take whatever blows I throw at you? Am I ready for that responsibility? Can I maintain control, when just the sight of you makes me feel stronger and more powerful? Can I maintain control, when I see and feel your willing submission?
What will happen if I tell you this truth?”
Being stood up for a date of any kind (even if it’s with an assumed friend) is one of my pet peeves because it’s been done to me too often, IMO. I have to admit, though, that this story would serve as a hell of an excuse. It seems likely to surprise the person who feels brushed off.
Other pieces in the collection have more conventional plots. A story by Molly Moore, one of the organizers of Eroticon, is about a fairy named Verity who “delivers” various truths to people who need them. In this way, she serves as a supernatural matchmaker.
This book lends itself to being read in installments, but it’s not safe for work.
Jean, you read so much most of the time, you really do not need to feel embarrassed!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this brief, intense story. It hit me right in the gut.
Ah yes, the added complication of wondering if the object of your lust likes the same kinks that you do. It makes seeking dates even more agonizing than it needs to be.ReplyDelete
Years ago, I worked with a young man who used to confide in me like I was his mom, since his own mother was MIA. He told me that he'd been ejected from the local junior college because he'd started a fight with another student. I asked him why he hit the guy. He said in an aggrieved tone, "He tried to hit on me! Like I was 'that kind' of man! So I had to hit him to prove that I'm not."
Hmmm...I asked him why he didn't just view it as a compliment, and he was stunned. I explained that as hard as it is for him to ask women out on dates, it must be even more agonizing for gay men, since they never know if the guy they are interested is indeed gay, or if they will get beat up just for expressing interest. "What do you think I should have done?" he demanded.
"How about thanking him for the compliment, but explaining that you're not interested. Thanks, but no thanks." He just stared agape at me. I smiled and told him that he needed to learn to put himself in other people's places before over-reacting. I asked him, "You're not really gay are you?" He was angry when he yelled, "NO!" at me. "Then since you know you're not, what does it matter if some other person is hoping you are? You're not, so end of question. Go and beat up gay guys no more."
I worked with his dad also, and his dad, alas, was a cretin who obviously had taught him that masculinity depended on being ready to fight at the drop of a hat. And to mistreat women. Sigh...way too many of them around.
Your two historical stories sound fantastic, especially the Wyatt/Anne Boleyn one. His poetry about her sticks in my mind:ReplyDelete
"Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame."
Thank you for commenting, Lisabet, Fiona, and Sacchi. Fiona, you did a good thing, but you can't reach everyone. I remember how freaked out I was at age 19 when a sketchy guy I knew introduced me to his convict friend (who was let out on day parole) who had killed a man. He explained that it was because the guy was a "fag" who had approached him -- not aggressively. The convict seemed to expect my sympathy. I tried cautiously telling him the same thing you told the young man you worked with, and he asked me how I would feel if some "dyke" hit on me. (I wasn't "out" yet, but clearly, he had no clue.)ReplyDelete
The historical connection between Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas Wyatt is almost too good to be true. There were several famous sonnet cycles written later in the 1500s (by Edmund Spencer, Philip Sidney and Shakespeare), but according to some literary historians, Wyatt was the first one to try this form in English. (Italian & French poets had been writing them for centuries.)He was also briefly imprisoned when Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery, but he was released for lack of evidence. (I doubt if there was evidence against the 5 other men who were accused, including Anne's own brother George, but they were all executed with her.)There is no evidence that Anne and Thomas ever spent a night together, but apparently he was separated from his wife during Anne's brief time as Queen consort (one movie about her is named "Anne of the Thousand Days"). I think my story is plausible. :)