nice stomach.” Palm slapping thick flesh. “Leave it alone, I’m working
on it.” Petulant man absent sound effects. “No, really, I mean it. The
little pooch is nice.” Softer pats. I can hear all the conversations in
all the rooms around us. Some come through the open window, some from
the walls, others mix in the vents. I don’t know why he wanted to stay
in this hotel. He said that he’d always wanted to, when he lived here
he’d always pass the place and it just looked so cool. I’m not so sure.
The fat screaming lady in the small elevator, the homeless crew on the
sidewalk by the door. Sure, it’s only 30 bucks a night, but… he’s leaning
out the window, I’m pushing next to him, I need some air, this place smells
strange. Kind of like an old folks’ home, but more death, less medicine.
No, not death, but impending death. People can’t afford to die here; they
do it for free outside, cross the park and stop below the hospital, lie
down in the bushes. They come and pick you up.
“They want me to pay in advance,” a kind
of half-masculine European voice from the window to our right, “I been
here three weeks already and paid all of it, why can’t they wait just
two more days till after the show?”
“Cause they know you’re not getting paid
like I know I’m not getting paid.” This voice American, female, but a
little fuzzy. I think it’s probably a prostitute. There’s lots of them
in this place.
He’s moving a little to let me share the
sill. My breast brushes his arm, and despite my uneasiness and despite
the smell, it responds, both nipples presenting and I move it slowly against
him, wondering why we didn’t just stay at my place? Does he notice? Yes,
his shoulders are rolling just a little, he’s holding his breath. I move,
my hip presses his, letting the questions place themselves wherever we
Pounding on the door, but not ours, it’s
next door. From the hall we hear something about Gotta-get-out-it’s-past-two
and from the window the guy says “Fuck,” but quietly and the girl laughs.
The guy says something in the middle of the room that we can’t hear from
the window and then the pounding stops. I feel fingers on my arm, he’s
distractedly tracing my bones, looking up at the billboard across the
street. Last time I saw that, he says, it was advertising Gump. “I didn’t
know what Gump was and then I left town and never found out. I saw the
movie years later but didn’t associate it with the sign until just now.
I used to sit at Lulu on the patio and just stare at the sign remembering
some Doris Day movie where they had this product name and they were advertising
it but they didn’t know what it was. I wanted it to be like that. I wanted
it to be ephemeral and never settle.”
Great, he’s thinking of Doris Day. I’m
wondering if I should buy a strap-on. If it’s got to be old movies, why
not Bettie Page or Rita Hayworth? You never see Doris Day bent backward
over the piano, she never once twisted her man. Always the homemaker,
always baking fucking pies and chasing kids. I shift and straddle his
leg, giving up on subtlety. He turns, “You been to the museum yet?”
Sure, we’ll get dildos on the way, one
for each of us. “What?”
“There’s this Liechtenstein there, I get
all confused when I look at it.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
He shrugs, walks away from the window.
“Let’s go see it.”
And then he remembers I’m there, right
as I’m crossing to get the keys, his fingernails dig into my hip and I’m
bent. He buckles my knees and folds me, two quick moves, all Hong Kong
action, his hand against my neck, my chin on my chest and Thump! on the
floor. It’s hard to breathe, but I don’t struggle. I’m crumpled with his
legs bent under mine, suddenly wondering what Doris Day would do now.
I’m thinking she’d take it. I think she’d like it. Working with all those
fags all those years, kissing lips that wanted hers to be a man’s. I’m
starting to get a little dizzy and he traces my ribs with two fingers—I
feel them all sharp and distinct, small burn on each rib where he’s touching.
It’s the lack of oxygen—does he know he’s doing this? And then nails dragging
up my side and I feel it anterior and in my nose; I want to twist out
of this, I want to lock up inside him, get my hands deep inside him and
pull—but he’s just holding me, his hands on my breast… no. Near it; I
can’t tell where he’s touching—but those are lips, and those are teeth
on my ear. My knees crack when he pulls me up; everything suddenly bright,
those little star-fly-spark things on the periphery, cold-red sting all
up my side and the air in my lungs thin and brittle. I spin, reaching,
but he’s already moving and stops me, kissing the corner of my mouth.
I wish I wore skirts.
“If you look out the window,” he’s talking
so soft still pressed to my lips, the words sliding on my cheek, some
in my mouth; I’m tasting them, feeling the consonants on my tongue and
forcing them deeper, wrapping myself in each vowel, ribbing myself with
Os and hollow As for her pleasure. “That building, the tall one
right there. Last time I saw that building I wasn’t even looking at it,
I needed to be there, I was drunk but not drunk enough and the bar was
too full of Marines and they were all so literary and it made no sense
to me that they were discussing literature and the mechanics and physics
of each shot on the pool table. The bartender, she was so pretty and she
kept giving me drinks and the Marines kept buying me drinks…” His hand
finds the dent just below my pelvis and works the line, following the
curve of my underwear, staying just to the outside. I’m wearing jeans
and I’m mad that I hadn’t thought of it. I wish I wore dresses. Something
thin, something I could feel him through. “Jerry, one of the Marines,
had just finished a discourse on Cèline—and I knew Cèline,
I knew all the books and authors, I was right there with them—and the
bartender said I should wait just a little while, she’d be off soon enough,
but I said I had to go. I saw the building and knew I had to be there.
The first time I saw it I wanted to throw myself from it. Not to die,
you understand, though that would most likely be the result. I understood
in the lines, understood that I could never have a true and complete comprehension
of that building—or of anything really—if I kept staring dumbly at it
as architecture, as the sum of its parts. I’d tried to see it in its constituents,
tried to see it broken but everything was too solid and slow. The first
time I was there, before I saw the building, I crashed my car down the
street, head-on, not my fault. And I understood in that moment everything
there was to know about that car, the metaphor of the thing colliding
with the augmented and exponential reality of the other; for those few
seconds stretching in a single frozen moment, I knew myself and I knew
the car, the man on the corner watching, I knew he’d lost his job three
days before and he was sad but excited because when the light changed
he was going to cross the street to the interview in the building on the
other side. I wasn’t prescient or anything, I just had that much time
to take it all in and sort it out. The problem there was my car. Ford
Bronco, late 80s. Nothing interesting. My understanding wasted and my
comprehension of the interrelation of myself and the thing producing an
embarrassment I could not abide. I let it go, let the moment end and I
walked away with a couple of bruises.” He’s pulling at the tab on my zipper.
The teeth let go, their noise too loud, drowning out the traffic three
floors down. His lips still on me and I’m memorizing everything and maybe
not everything but I’m tagging the big words, wrapping them in the surrounding
sentences and locking them inside, pushing them past my cervix where they’ll
be safe. “Sure, we exchanged information, but I didn’t care, it was gone
and I didn’t want to be caught like that again—what did it matter what
kind of car it was next time? I did not want an assimilated concretion
involving any machinery… I walked down the street and stopped when I heard
the echo. Two bricks laid opposite the surrounding pattern, and there
all sound in the entryway to the building reverberated back, right there
resonating and amplifying the softest whisper. I sang with myself there,
harmonizing with the echo. I didn’t even notice the building right away,
staring at the ground for however long before a passing leg drew my attention
up her calf to her thigh to hip to… and the building got in the way, I
missed her face, saw only the bricks and steel. And I didn’t understand.
I knew if I threw myself from the top I would. They wouldn’t let me in
the lobby, they thought I was suspicious or something. So this night,
this night I was drunk on literature and physics and pool and the pretty
bartender, I wanted to know myself, to know myself in the context of the
building and the comprehension of interrelation, what I would mean then.”
I tilt my hips to let the jeans slide down—it’s so difficult when you’re
not using your hands, and it’s not like I can’t but I feel like maybe
I shouldn’t be moving at all, but I want them off, want them out of the
way. I’m wishing my underwear wasn’t cotton. I wish I wore something thinner,
less of a barrier between his fingers and my skin. And my jeans finally
crest my hip, my ass; I twist my leg and they fall. His fingertips on
the slim elastic band, his thumb in my navel. I’m wet and having trouble
standing still. Doris Day would have fucked him twice by now. She would
have smashed him to the ground and crushed his hips with hers, fracturing
him to teach him a lesson. She would have bitten off his nose, ripped
him stem to stern and strung him like a big sloppy bead on his own large
intestine. Doris Day’s a mean bitch, you make her wait too long. My mouth’s
opening, I can’t help it. I’m tasting his lips, my tongue chasing them
while he keeps fucking talking. “I walked to the bus stop and waited.
I was almost sober by the time one came along, but they wouldn’t let me
ride. I was broke, I left all my money at the bar, tipping the pretty
bartender every time she or anyone gave me a drink. I’d probably tipped
more than the drinks would’ve cost if I’d bought them myself. I tried
to explain that I needed to be there, but he told me I needed to walk
it off. He drove away and I wandered down to the beach. I masturbated
into the ocean, wondering if maybe the act was significant, but I decided
it probably wasn’t, my contemplation negating the possibility of significance
and turning it into show. But no one saw me. I walked home, went to sleep.
The building never called again.” Is the story over? I don’t know, I’ve
got his hand, I’m pulling it, separating his fingers and checking his
nails—unconscious habit, but he’s manicured enough—and then fingers inside
me, mine and his, and then I’m leaving a mark on his shirt, trying to
get to his belt but he pulls away. I didn’t even know my eyes were closed
until just now. I open them, I feel them so wide and the room’s so bright
for just a second and I want to tell him I don’t know what the hell he’s
And I don’t know what the hell he’s doing.
He’s pulling my jeans up, and he’s all business about it, he’s just pulling
them up. He lets me do the zipper, refasten them. “Liechtenstein,” he
says, “we’ll just up the 163, it’ll only take a few minutes.” My jaw’s
twitching, head moving slowly not back and forth, but an elliptical semblance.
So one two and down the hall, elevator
and stairs, a rapid swish through the doors and my car’s still there.
He’s already across the seats when I get in and this time there’s no story,
I’m crushed against the door, reaching for the handle while my other hand
pulls him and we’re slipping. Gravel crunching beneath tires just inches
from my head and now closer and we’re arched, my hair on the asphalt,
the door swung wide. Someone’s honking, someone else laughing, so happy
to see it, and they’re saying It’s not safe you know, and I know, but
where is it ever safe in a car? I guess if the car’s in the pool, like
Doris Day’s, but that’s not here. Slinking slide I’ve got snakes
in my eyes, I’m staring from a distance, wondering if this is how he wants
to understand, what he wants to know, absolutely. Knowing me, him, and
my car, completely when the truck coming too quickly finds us and gives
us contextual interrelations to lock into his infinite contemplative loop.
My shoulder blades cross the threshold and we spill out into traffic,
his teeth on my jaw not letting go even when the truck blares its horn
full and I’m staring up at the drive train. The noise is tremendous. I
understand exhaust. I’m glad I’m wearing jeans.
The Liechtenstein isn’t at the museum anymore.
He says he wants to understand this building too, but it doesn’t offer
any help, won’t let him know anything. He’d be lucky to break an arm or
leg, one level is all it goes, he thinks he’d most likely just scratch
and sprain and not know anything. I’m digging my nails into his waist,
shooting for clues, momentary hints and I’ve got him pressed against this
expanse of latex, all black, a silhouette of a duck, little card says:
Duck. And I’m not letting him talk, biting his lips when he tries, pulling
flesh and I know there will be bruises, I know this will show. “Find the
form of every object in its natural functions and presuppositions by systematically
experimenting in theory and practice—in forms, in the technical and economic
spheres… a subject is defined according to its being.” I know what he
likes. His foot twisting and I feel his knees come together against me:
he’s hard. I can see it. Doris would be so proud. See her there, gone
all Ayn Rand but pretty with an apron, the thick-handled ladle held coy
between pressed hands, bowl up. It draws the eyes, swinging rigid at her
hip; though her eyes sparkle as she talks buildings and color, they sparkle
because what she’ll do with that handle, she talks and everything’s so
light but the fabric clings to her thighs and describes her not so secret
secrets, the handle pressing lightly to her. I think maybe I should buy
those dildos after all. Back to wishing for skirts. I say I’m hungry.
I’m not so this is sort of nolo entendre, I’m making pretty conversation,
directing the flow since the docents are winding this way.
He says I’m distracted. “You’re distracted,”
he says. He smiles, he walks ahead. I feel the shift of words inside me,
kicking then subsiding. I’ve got one hand down the front of my pants,
trying to still them, trying to pinpoint an exact location—I realize what
this looks like, so I make it conform to appearances, leaning against
one sculpture, eyes fixed on another. But no one’s watching and here I
am alone pretending to masturbate in the museum. I think maybe I am hungry
after all. I run to catch him, I tell him we’re eating out tonight, he
says he’s eating American tonight, and then we both stop. Ashamed. We
are not playing with these words, we don’t mean anything but what we said;
his eyes down and I know he’s tripped in unintentional doubletalk; thumbs
hooked in my pockets, my fingers frame me, drawing his attention to me
in constituent elements, litanizing for him the stops on the map I’m drawing
across myself, giving the call: breast, lips, cunt. But no response, and
no matter how I repeat them, without walls I cannot echo, cannot be sure
I’ve said anything at all. I open my hands, pulling them back, trying
to bring my entire body into his focus. Do you understand? Can you see
this all at once? We’re having an awkward moment.
“Maybe,” he’s saying, his eyebrows coming
together in this cute way that makes me goofy, “we should have Chinese.
“It’s the kind of thing that makes you
want to get on all fours and scream, ‘Nuts and bolts, zippy-zip zow!’”
The guy’s voice throaty, but faked. There’s a sense of sweaters there.
“Don’t I know it, but the last time I did
that I spent a whole month in a Mexican jail.” New voice, same sweater.
“Well, that explains everything.” Shuffle-tap-tap.
Pause, then stomp.
We’re coming slowly back into focus, there’s
a sun on the water, the same one as always I guess, but we’re here this
time. I can tell I’m silhouetted and he’s seeing me solid without specifics,
while I see him washed out and hacked away by the light, smaller than
he usually is. I avert my eyes and lock him like that. I’m taking him
smaller with me.
Tap-tap. Click, scrape-tap, shuffle-tap.
They’re dancing. Doris stays behind, stays with what she knows; she’s
up in their arms, she’s singing innocuous, a little song, while the boys
brush her lips with theirs, then their own with their own. She’s grinding
on one, pulling her skirt up, no underwear, but no response; caught in
the dance, she enacts smooth choreography while rebelling at every turn
to grab at their crotches, to pull their faces to her breasts. Rapture
and disgust mingling and illuminating her features variously with joy
or rage, oscillating wildly in this final frenzy she’s too horrible to
watch. She lays into them as I turn away, I can hear the thick green snap
as the first one goes down. Then a gurgle, then what I think must be a
heel popping an eye socket. He’s holding his hand out, I take it, this
orange light pushing everything down. I look at the sidewalk to see our
shadows forced deeper into the cracks, feel our shadows dragging us down
with them. We walk slowly, we turn into a small restaurant.
We’re sad and we’re eating dinner. Displacing
words with sashimi, I wait for the night to return to us our shadows,
disgorging them from the grip of too-heavy evening deep in the cement;
I’ve got my feet crossed between his thighs, I’m making him twitch. He
reaches and drags a fingernail across my cheek, my neck, a nipple, bringing
it to present again, the other following unbidden and I’m feeling a replay
coming on. It’s ok now, everything’s ok. I’m sneering and there’s soy
dripping from my tongue, I’m taking his between my teeth and he shoots
forward, I think I hear something crack and I think: good. He’s throwing
money with one hand and dragging me with the other. We’re already outside.
We fall immediately, we’re on the pavement,
scraping our shadows into our pockets and I feel a word slip down my thigh.
I can feel them moving, I’m afraid I’m going to lose them; I hold out
my hand, palm out, and he smiles and stands and backs away and then a
taxi hits him and he’s back on the sidewalk with me. The driver screams
at us, the driver’s gone. We’re stumbling in the taxi’s wake, he’s laughing
and limping but every step his smile broadens and he can’t stop looking
We can’t wait for the elevator, we run
up the stairs then the stairs, then the stairs, both of us slamming into
the door, thinking it would just open, and now I wish I wore nothing,
wish I had a hand for the key, but he manages it somehow and he’s already
got my shirt open; his shoes stay in the hall and I don’t think we’ve
even closed the door. He pushes me back against the resistance of my jeans
and I don’t know how but they’re sliding and I’m falling backward, now
a heap on the floor, too many strange angles and I force myself on all
fours and then forward, pulling him down with me, kick a leg around and
my foot hooked in the crotch of his pants, forcing them over his knees
and then off. I’m scaling him and he’s rising, standing, no longer sun-sheared
and small; he hooks and throws me and I want to be the one, I want to
break him, I want him twisted beneath me. But then knees on my arms and
I’m pinned, he’s leaning so far back, all acute angles with me an obtuse
splay. I see the billboard. It’s Doris on the billboard. Her hands out
to me, a pile of bloody sweaters surrounding her feet, she’s exhorting,
she’s telling me No Pies and it’s all so ridiculous; his mouth on me,
I feel something give way.
My hands have nothing to hold, I find the
edge of the bed. His tongue now inside me, the bones of his face pressing
me and I arch, I try to push; he pauses and I see words on his lips, his
cheeks. I’m losing them. I try to stop, his knees release my arms but
he’s not letting go, pulling me forward, his hands holding me in fifty
places and I’m on him now. He touches deep and I feel them, the words
spilling onto his thighs, the bed, running across the floor. I remember
Klimt; I watch them fly out the window, enveloping Doris and she dances
with sweater skulls around her neck, smearing the disconnected letters
across her breasts. No, I say, don’t give them to her. He’s talking, but
I can’t hear him, I don’t know what he’s saying. The floor is soaked with
words, they spill down the stairs in the hall. He’s talking and I can’t
hear him. I feel him deeper inside me and I remember suddenly where I
am. My teeth now on his jaw, my hips crushing him and I’ve locked him
with my legs. Don’t let them go, don’t let them go, just keep them inside
me. He’s talking and I can’t hear him, my fingers seeking to separate
his ribs, I’m going to get it all back. Now his spine, his lips again.
He’s not letting go.