ey, 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 touch.
      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 doing.
      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. No. Thai.”
      “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 at me.
      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.