Archive for November, 2010

Polly 5

29 Nov

Regardless of the widely perceived effeminacy of homosexual men, regardless of how sensitive their reputation makes them or how close their shave appears to be, when you are kissing one, it is impossible not to know that you are kissing a dude.

I hadn’t decided to go along with Polly’s suggestion through drunkenness, as I didn’t have the funds to make myself drunk. Although, given the average intoxication of the crowd, I could and did pass myself off as far drunker than I was. I rationalized to myself that straight sorority girls made out with each other all the time at parties with no other reason than to make boys horny, and that ritual fell broadly within the bounds of expected if not entirely accepted behavior. This wasn’t really different, and it could possibly help me get what I wanted. Abstractly, I thought about Newton’s third law of motion. I looked at Polly. I looked at Roger. I looked at Polly again. I thought about how badly I wanted to fuck her. Besides, I thought. Roger seemed to support the notion of Polly taking her pants off for me. I closed my eyes and thought of England. His lips abraded mine.

With the kiss and with a drink, Polly’s inhibitions disappeared. We said goodbye to Roger and danced again. She drew me around one of the pillars on the dance floor, pressed me into its shadow and kissed me passionately. We stepped out of its shade and into a loose clot of her husband’s friends, who were there with each other and emphatically not with us. She introduced me quickly, gigglingly, never removing her light and sweatless hand from my damp palm. They smiled stiff and insincere smiles and, as a collective unit, pulled away from us toward an invisible center, like an amoeba pulling back its arms upon discovering some caustic stimulus. No doubt they knew who I was, and no doubt they had definite opinions about it.

We let the flow of the crowd push us toward the exit, where we loitered for a moment the corner beneath glowing red letters. Again, she pulled the fabric of her shirt closely against her skin and asked me whether I could see anything.

“No,” I said.

She slipped the top two buttons, opened her shirt, and stood tiptoe against my chest. “How about now?”

I looked down to see red, star-shaped pasties covering each of her nipples. My head felt light. I leaned in to kiss her, moving my hand up her flank to trace the outlines of the fabric glued to her breasts. She kissed me quickly, flicking her tongue across my lips, and then pushed me away. “Someone might see us,” she said. Any number of someones had seen us, but I didn’t push the issue. She pushed open he exit. “Come on.”

The temperature had dropped enough to make me regret that I hadn’t brought a jacket. As we dashed to my car, I kept looking over at her, hoping to see her nipples, unencumbered by the bra I now knew was absent, poking stiffly against her shirt, but of course her pasties made that impossible. We reached the car and stood together, kissing again, running hungry hands over one another. She pulled back. “Let’s go somewhere and talk.”

In times past, “somewhere” had been a modestly priced motel room and talking was typically suspended until we resolved matters of physical urgency. That was out of the question: I didn’t have the money and Polly couldn’t have a charge from Super 8 showing up on her credit card statement. In this case, somewhere turned out to be an access road in a residential neighborhood somewhere between her house and the club, the sort of locale that looked like the neighbors wanted it to be patrolled more often and did not get what they wanted.

I pulled to a stop next to a disused two-car garage, left the car running for heat, and killed the lights. Polly turned to me. I touched her cheek. Our faces moved close.


Polly 4

22 Nov

Following the inexplicable mid-Ohio habit for appending to place names a superfluous possessive (Kroger’s, Barnes and Noble’s, etc.), the club had, for most of the late 1990s and early 2000s, been called 1470′s. Cleverly, its owner named it after the numbers on the mailbox. During that time, it had been a goth club, at least until the scene had died whimpering beneath an hysterical avalanche of moral panic in 1999. Seeking a more populous and resilient clientele, it reinvented itself as a gay club called Masque. After that, it had no trouble staying open.

Not wishing to fully abandon the newly orphaned goths—who, if we’re being honest, are mostly just nerds dressed in black and who, now that the one place in town where they could plausibly deny that particular wretched truth had closed, were reduced to lurking awkwardly in the soggy corners of cafes, record stores and bookshops—Masque threw out the occasional goth night. After all, the patronage of these establishments has some overlap, and it’s not out of place to see two boys making out on a couch in venues of either theme. On Halloween, the club returned fully to its roots.

We parked a couple of blocks away at an inactive meter, mostly because I preferred not to acknowledge, at least in front of Polly, that the luxury of a paid lot, along with the cover charge and the price of the single drink I’d be nursing all evening, was beyond my means. She didn’t seem to notice. She bumped the passenger door shut with her hip and walked in fluid, rolling steps toward the club, finely conscious of my repressed lust for her. Those feelings remained immobilized for the moment beneath a thick rubble of resignation, but I watched her, and she watched me watch.

We followed the swelling mass of costumes upstairs. Much of the crowd went with off-the-shelf sexy, polyester pirates and witches with the occasional cat ears and leotard. Rarer souls had made their own costumes. A cardboard box robot shoved his way down the stairs, banging helplessly against the wall and leaving long gouges in his tinfoil. I knew it’d be better if no one recognized us, but I relied on the masks in the crowd to share with us their anonymity. The narrow hallway opened up into a larger room with tables on either end of it, a large open space that reminded me of a repurposed roller rink. From some corner, a fog machine blew a thick cloud over the dance floor.

Polly asked me to dance, and we danced. She moved herself close to me, pulling away and turning her head and pretending to cough from the fake mist whenever I leaned desperately in to kiss her. Her steps brought her again close against my body once I’d pulled back in defeat. She disappeared to the ladies room, looking down, intent on a text message. I waited out her absence on one of the long benches by the wall. A few feet away, two of the club’s regulars, middle-aged men in flannel and paint-stained jeans, kissed passionately. I looked at them and tried not to think about Polly’s lips. She reappeared, grinning widely and walking with uneven steps. She threw her arms around my neck, kissing my cheek. I smelled whiskey and cigarettes.

“Hi,” she said.

I smiled as genuinely as I could. “Hi. Where’ve you been?”

She gestured behind her. “I ran into my friend Roger. You should meet him.”

It turned out I’d already met him some months earlier, sometime while she’d been presenting me to her circle as a “best friend” trophy. He was part of a couple, a fashionably suburban gay union who lived across the street from Polly. She discussed her marital woes by way of analogy with his. It seems his partner also failed to put out sufficiently, and so, to preserve the relationship, once a month he was granted a weekend of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Polly spoke of this arrangement in terms of deep envy. Tonight was his weekend off.

She leaned into me, supporting the pliant weight of her body with mine. “He’s having a hard time,” she said softly, more or less into my ear. “You should kiss him.”

“It’ll be hot.”


Polly 3

15 Nov

So, I’m told that the earlier story happened first, temporally as well as narratively. Also I’m told that during the hours Rachel mentioned earlier, sometime between the ending of Harry Potter and the emphatically chaste and robotic hug we shared when she left, I tried and failed to persuade her into conjunctive nude aerobics with me. She refused, giving me a medium-length, gently-broken speech that amounted to “I know better than that.” That sounds about right.

Summer passed. It was hot. My room had the sort of insulation that intensifies heat, creating the sort of oppressive humidity you find in the attics of old houses. Along with her candle, Polly had given me a tall stalk of bamboo set in a small, blue ceramic pot filled with rocks. All I had to do to take care of it was keep the pot mostly full of water (the water turned out to be fortunate, as probably lapping at it kept Blackula alive during the weekend I went away, accidentally leaving her closed in her my room with nothing to do but think long and carefully about which of my clothes she’d target with deliberate and resentful hate-shits. Still, those are world famous for being less trouble to deal with than a dead cat), and to this day it remains the only plant I’ve cared for not to suffer negligent herbicide.

Once, I killed a roommate’s marigolds.

My bamboo, however, stayed alive. With water and with the heat, it grew. The heat also kept the wax of Polly’s candle soft, its scent fluid and easily discernible even while I kept it covered. When she’d made it, she’d poured the candle into a sort of copper dish with a stone or ceramic design on top, and she’d set the wick in the center. I rarely burned it because when I did, I’d think about Polly, which made me enormously horny and very, very sad.

She hadn’t visited much over the summer. For my birthday, she’d come to visit and spent a long evening, but she rebuffed my other attempts to see her. She selectively ignored me with such effectiveness that, not for the first or last time, I became convinced she no longer wanted me. Even so, I craved her attention in the same way a dialytic ex-lush wants a vodka tonic.

One day, a few weeks in to October, we were chatting online while her husband sat next to her, playing something explosiony on their Xbox. We rarely spoke in the vocal sense of the word. It remains true that, while it’s bad form to ignore, for hours on end, your romantic partner and anyone else who happens to be in the room in order to spend phone time with your presumable ex, this same behavior gains superficial acceptability if only you have the good taste to use a laptop as the medium of neglect. The latter holds especially true if your partner likewise distracts himself with gadgets. She asked me in passing what I planned to be for Halloween. I hadn’t thought about it.

“Me, five years ago,” I said. It’s a convenient costume, although it does have a drawback in that no one can tell I’m dressed up when I’m wearing it. I don’t often let go of things, and most of my clothes are ten years old anyway. “What are you going as?”

“Little Red Riding Hood. You should come out with me,” she typed. “I have a school thing that I have to go to earlier in the evening, but we could go out later.” The words “school thing” could mean almost anything. She taught at a variety of institutions, her daughter was enrolled at the local elementary, and her husband worked at a nearby university. None of it mattered to me. It had been months since she last suggested we see each other.

Of course I said yes.

We talked. The air felt thick and stagnant for October. I owned a fan. It pushed around the humidity and indoor smells while failing to cool anything. My mouth went dry. I sucked on an ice cube, and briefly I lit her candle. Almost immediately I lidded it and opened my window, aiming the fan toward the screen. The white noise made it harder to hear the neighbors on our right fling vile and lazy curses at each other from porch to porch.

On Halloween, Polly came out her front door to meet me, as she usually did when her husband was home. Her short hair had been dyed red, and she wore small star stickers at the corner of one eye. She’d traded the Riding Hood costume for dark, tight jeans and a thin, glam polyester shirt, the type that’s mostly green but shifts colors like an oil slick when it moves. She pulled it tight over her torso, hugging it to her slim body and the slight curve of her breasts. “Hi.” She smiled. “Can you see through this?”

I looked and then looked away. Daily during the previous week, she’d made it explicitly and implicitly clear she wouldn’t touch me anywhere I wanted to be touched, and I didn’t at that specific moment feel like tormenting myself. “No,” I said.

She looked confused, pouted, and pulled the shirt tighter. “Really?”

I looked again, irritated and hiding it badly. “Really, no.”

Later that evening, I’d learn what I was supposed to notice. She’d worn pasties.



09 Nov

Are here. My update will come in two or three days.


Polly 2

02 Nov

Rachel and I talked earlier tonight for the first time in a few weeks. She criticized me for not having consulted her about chronology. Her mind, as she loves reminding me, remembers things much, much better than mine does. With mine, the gaps only get bigger. I try to fill them in. It is like a kid with crayons, except the kid is typically better at staying within the lines.

The drive from Columbus to Dayton felt different depending on my reason for going. Long, flat miles of truck stops and billboards lay between them. I set the cruise control for 65 inconspicuous miles per hour (a ticket could bankrupt me) and drew my left foot up into the driver’s seat. Balancing my elbow on my knee, I reached my hand forward to press my index finger on the steering wheel, keeping it steady. My other hand fidgeted with the pewter pendant around my neck. Unmoving from this position, I sat and thought through the slow minutes of I-70.

A detail: From the late 90s until the time of my narrative, I’d constantly worn a round Celtic knot on a cord around my neck. Pretentious douchebaggery aside, this is both more and less significant than it seems. The knot represented Brigid, the patron goddess of poetry, along with a variety of other, more traditionally feminine vocations. Originally I’d chosen it not out of any sense of faith, but because I thought that I liked writing poetry (I was incorrect) and because, if it ever came up in conversation, its other significance would be useful to impress girls (I have insufficient data to make a conclusion). Mostly, I didn’t think about it. I wore the necklace every day because the knot on the cord was too tiny to undo with my fingers and because the loop of the cord was too small to fit over my skull.

I have a giant, psoriatic melon of a head. Sometimes a mesh-backed baseball cap will claim to be one size fits all. It lies.

The necklace had, through long association, come metonymically to signify me, and all the identity that implied, among the people I knew. Polly had expressed her desire to possess it. I remained incapable of refusing her. In return, she promised me an heirloom ring. She’d worn it as a child. So had her daughter. It was small and silver, reinforced with greened copper. It was also something we both knew she’d someday want returned. As with everything else, I pretended that the truth was something different.

We met at a park. The park was the sort with approximately genuine wildlife, the suburbs’ idea of nature. Probably we spoke. Probably we kissed. The details are indistinct, calloused over with a sore and deliberate forgetfulness. She led me down a paved, sanctioned path through fields and stands of trees until we couldn’t see any other visitors, and then we stepped over the undergrowth lining the path and past the tree line.

Beyond existed that parallel existence peculiar to suburban woods. The trees became less dense, and we were able to see easily out to the path, but none of the patrons walking it could see in without deliberate effort. Fallen leaves, mostly brown but some green, carpeted the floor. We walked to a fallen log and sat. Her hand felt soft and warm in mine. Two deer stepped into view, looking curiously at us and calling to each other with a noise that reminded me of sneezing. We laughed. We kissed. We formally lied to one another, promising undying love, friendship, and respect, and placed our tokens around each other’s necks.

In four or five months, she’d lose the necklace I gave her. In six or seven months, she’d get around to admitting to me that she’d lost it. Soon after that, just before we stopped speaking to one another, she’d ask me to return her ring.

We kissed again. She presented me with programs she’d made specifically for the occasion, one for each of us. However, she informed me, I needed to keep both of them, because her husband would be displeased to know about them. Sure, I thought. That’s reasonable. She gave me a candle made from paraffin infused with her perfume, something floral. She included a CD with songs chosen, she’d told me, especially for me.

I felt happy.

As we drove to her house, she told me that the ceremony felt like something after which people made love. In her basement, we repeated a truncated version of our fumbling and unconsummated sex. Later, in the privacy of her scented and antiseptic bathroom, I’d notice a CD she’d made for her husband. The track list seemed familiar. I took mine out from my bag and compared them. A creeping nausea slipped under my thick layer of denial. My eyes felt itchy, and I rubbed them.

The sick feeling stayed with me throughout the drive home. Every so often, I’d reach for the candle. It smelled nice.