Loving Men-Attention

You never know how much you miss something until it’s returned.

My day with Pup was brief. Eight hours at best. But in those 640 minutes, my attention was drawn across a table, to the driver’s seat, towards a melting gelato. Everywhere but on myself.

When we left the museum, Pup put his hand on my thigh and I picked it up and studied holdinghandshis naked arm, the long shimmering hair that flowed like a river in one direction, and when combed opposite, like the hair on his head, sprung stubbornly back like a rip current.

After dinner, the server gave me a box for my leftovers. Pup watched as I slowly shoveled my pulled pork into the container. All at once Pup said, “Here, give me that for God’s sake,” and expeditiously scooped my cooled meal into the styrofoam.

“When I was a kid we had a lot of leftovers,” he said, “but you didn’t know what was in the containers, so I used my fingernail, like this, to write what’s inside,” as he inscribed the styrofoam cover.

As we sat in the parking lot of my hotel, Pup and I were both turned and leaning against our seats, heads tilted against the headrests, easily looking at the other. “What?” Pup asked.

“Nothing,” I replied quietly.

“Why are you staring?” he pointed.

“Because you’re staring,” I said and turned away.

Aware of my correction, Pup put his hand on my thigh and caressed it.

“I was embarrassed that I got caught,” he said.

“It’s called affection, Pup,” I said.

“It’s called attention, Harlan. People don’t give it away as generously as you do,” Pup replied.

 

Loving Men-Ghosts

In my sleep, I’m haunted by ghosts.

Sometimes it’s Luciano; he’s come home late after an evening with friends. I hear the IMG_0358door close and I can hear the clang of his belt as the weight of his pockets draws his jeans to the floor; I can feel his shirt being stripped from his torso like cellophane; then our bed tilts like a little rowboat as he lifts the comforter and slides in behind me. “Hijo,” I whisper, “did you have fun with your friends?”

“Si,” Luciano whispers between light kisses on my throat and shoulder, “Si, Papi, but I missed you,” he continues, his kissing becoming more determined.

“I’m asleep,” I whisper while rolling onto my back, feeling his weight rise, then fall atop me. In the darkness, I can feel his humidity, I can feel his breathy stare. “I’m not IMG_0345handsome now,” I whisper. “Jajaja, Papi,” he whispers into my ear, softly purring, “You’re always handsome.”

My hands drift to his strong flanks which remain bathed in cotton, my fingers delve into the fabric, beneath it, finding his strong buttocks. I pull him closer, wanting IMG_0367his entire weight atop me, pushing my breath from my lungs. He lifts himself up from me, then lowers himself into a comfortable position, moving his hips delicately.

We’ve ridden on this train before. It always takes us to some far-flung destination; across valleys and up across mountains; through treacherous, snow drifted passes; then down deep into pastoral valleys.

But this night, this ghostly night, no trip will be taken.

This night, like so many aching nights, my Luciano is only a mirage.

The Artist and The Academic (novel excerpt)

alistairdoorAlistair opened the vestibule door with great purpose. He glanced at Mrs. Carmichael who rose quickly from her desk and dogged him as he stormed into his office where he spotted Qiana Reece, Curator of the R.J. Cooper Collection rising from one of the handsome yet hard winged-back chairs. He turned quickly to glare at Mrs. Carmichael.

“God-damnit, Mrs. Carmichael!” he said loudly.

Mrs. Carmichael stopped, “She insisted, Dr. Deveraux.”

“Everyone insists, Mrs. Carmichael! That’s why you sit out there! To stop them, insistent or not!”

“It’s not in my character to be rude,” she said while turning, “Even if I do work for a boor,” she said while closing the door.

Alistair was careful to never receive personal correspondence at his office because Mrs. Carmichael, the entrenched secretary that came with his office and which was well-known to use information addressed to him to finagle her self-selected title:

Senior Executive Administration Administrator &
Secretary to Dr. Alistair Devereaux, Vice Chancellor and R.J. Cooper Chair

and who must never tear open any letter from R.J. Cooper. The information contained therein was of such a private nature that he didn’t even allow its delivery to his home because he knew Elloise much too well. He’d already rehearsed her behavior thousands of times in his mind: She, being the wife of an academic, and as nervous as a Jack Russell terrier would serendipitously greet the postman, who would hand her a single envelope that was hand-addressed on a buttery, engraved linen paper whose return address was the signature of the sender and beneath, in great simplicity, Coopertown, NY, NY 10001. Her interest piqued, she’d open the door, step out onto the Braen Stone driveway, shield her eyes, and confirm that Alistair’s figure couldn’t be seen through gaps in the thickets lining the private roadway. She’d hastily close the door and with an almost giddy demeanor, open the small drawer of the eighteenth century hall table, retrieve a letter-opener and deftly slice the top edge withdrawing a scrawled note of which she’d immediately read hastily, then begin to slow until she dropped both the envelope and letter-opener and collapsed, aware that the information would granulate everything.

As soon as Mrs. Carmichael left his office, Allistair walked to the door, closed it with a bang, then turned to Qiana.

“So, what is it, Qiana?” he asked.

Handing him the already opened envelope she said, “I think you’ll want to see this.”

Taking the envelope from her, he sat down on the hard mid-century modern sofa and felt the creamy, butter-like envelope. “Another painting,” he asked.

“Uh, no. Worse. Much, much worse.”

He studied the creamy cotton envelope, stamped, and postmarked New York, NY. On the back flap engraved meticulously read L.O. 18 Blount Street, Cooperstown, Hastings, New York 10165. Hastings, Hastings Alistair repeated quietly to himself, why does that town sound so familiar to him, as if he’d opened a dusty trunk in the attic, only to discover remnants of his long-forgotten past.

Alistair reached inside for the crisp paper, folded in thirds with a heavy crease. Upon unfolding the letter a piece of paper fluttered onto the Persian carpet Elloise insisted should be laid beneath the sofa. He bent down to pick up the paper and set it on the table, much more interested in the hand-written letter. The cotton paper was embossed at the top: Lila O’Riley, Assistant Curator, Cooperstown Gallery of Illustrative Arts, Cooperstown College of Liberal Arts, Cooperstown, Hastings, New York 10165. Lila O’Reilly, he kept repeating as though her name was a piece of hard candy.

“Jesus Christ!” Allistair said emphatically. “What the fuck!”

“I know, Dr. Deveraux. That’s why I thought you should see it right away. That’s why I insisted that Mrs. Carmichael. . .”

“Do you know what this means, Qiana?”

“I suspect,” she added quietly.

“Suspect? You suspect? You better damned well know. This means we’re all fucked! All of us! You, me, this fucking lousy college! All of us are fucked!” he says as he stands from the sofa and walks to the window over-looking the college’s common area.

Qiana walks to the table, picks up the loose piece of paper, and walks next to him.

“You didn’t see this,” she says.

Allistair looks down at her hand and sees a boarding pass for a first class seat on the 7:05 pm flight to New York.

“What’s that supposed to be?” he asks, “A god-damned ticket to his funeral?”

“Might be,” Qiana adds. “But I have a hunch it’s more than that.”

“Like what?” Allistair asks, devoid of concern.

“RJ never liked loose ends. You said that yourself. He was tidy. Complete. I think there’s something else waiting for you at the other end of that flight,” she says cooly.

 

This Is What I’m Thinking When I’m Thinking About What I’m Thinking, I Think

Those that teach in hypothetical disciplines like modern physics for instance, take refuge in the oddly and lonely corridor of many colleges and universities. Our offices are rarely visited by students seeking help in areas like Electricity and Magnetism, Relativity, or Statistical Physics. No, they stay away like uncertain two years old, leaving the handful of tenured professors plenty of time to stroll the corridor, looking for an open office door which they enter and begin or continue abstract conversations.

I am Dr. Mass-tely Jeenis, the endmost tenured professor in the department of Modern Physics. My areas of concentration are Special Relativity and The Physics of Energy. The highest point in my short career as an academic was being assigned an office across the Tenure Corridor and two doors down from the seldom seen, rarely revealed, and perfunctory campus mail drop of one, Albert Einstein, PhD.

His notoriety brought Quantum Physics out of the closet and into the corridor, where the curious walked past like Hollywood’s “Parade of Homes.” However, they always departed the same way they arrived, lacking a peak at genuine genius. I however was saddened, even angry, that his perpetual disappearance caused my colleagues’s conversation to descend as swiftly as Satan with arms chock-full of caterwauling souls, into unimpeded, green-eyed-jealous rumor mongering and unabridged innuendo as to the whereabouts of our celebrated celebrity wunderkind; our own ambassador of absurdity; that carny side show oddball.

Late last Tuesday and well into the night I myself sat chained to my chair, pouring over consciously boring drafts of fourth year thesis’s. It started distantly, quietly with determination and purpose, sounds which leapt from books by Shelly; the out-of-step limping, the shuffling of heavy limbs. The conventional gait of a clandestine and disfigured horror! I slowly pushed my squeaky-wheeled desk chair away from my desk, stood quickly, and tip-toed to the threshold of my office and waited. The sounds abruptly stopped across the hall and two doors down. Standing there, it continued to struggle with a thirty-nine cent cellophane tape dispenser. Finally it managed to hang a public decree on the frosted glass.

“Good evening, Dr. Jeenis. I hope your hyperventilation hasn’t caused you any harm,” Einstein said genuinely and continued “Come here Dr. Jeenis, will you? I would like you to read my notice.”

I literally floated and stood next to him. Surprisingly, he seemed no different than any other person. He was simply dressed, his hair was gray, long, and definitely an after-thought. He was, in a word, normal.

I began to read, “To All of you. Do not knock on this door. It disturbs the other offices. Which they then use as reasons to initiate chit-chats. I agreed to accept this position and honorarium on one condition. To Think. Alone. By myself. In silence. Absent of knock-knocks and chit-chats. You Are Welcome(d),” where he crossed out the last letter “D” in an almost childish hand.

“Well?” he asked.

I replied, “It’s certainly to the point.”

And then, from a faraway place he began to speak, “I’m so tired, Jeenis; I’m so tired of lying awake in my pajamas, listening to that incessant crackling of an ill-tuned table-top radio. It’s turned on for hours and hours and as I’m just begin to trail off my anger rises to the surface. Then I’m thinking Again; again I’m thinking no one listens to the ill-tuned table-top radio like this; for hours and then days. Who’d do a thing like that with no regard for his neighbors, windows open and curtains rolling. And so I get up, heavier with each surrender, angrier that I don”t go out and find the bastard! When dressed I find my bicycle leaning against a railing and start pedaling east, leaving that god-damn ill-tuned table-top radio behind me, back west, its volume disappearing with each passing street lamp catching my attention when suddenly I’m aware of silence.”

He then stepped forward, searched his pockets for a key, put it in the lock of his office and turned the deadbolt. With a push of his hand the door swung open. Inside were hundreds and hundreds of paper taped from floor to ceiling, on all the walls, even covering the one window. All the papers had some kind of annotation.

While walking into his office he turned to me and said, “This is what I’m thinking when I’m thinking about what I’m thinking, I think.”

 

I Reckon, It Was My Reckoning

PLEASE NOTE: BnB has 190 posts. I doubt you’re going to rummage around in the basement of my blog, so I’ve decided to bring a handful of posts forward and mention why these are some of my favorites. Like: My Penned Invention of the Pen Invention (because I had fun writing it); or, The Start starring Wile E. Coyote (because this was my first post and of which has received 138 comments); or this one I Reckon, It Was My Reckoning (an early attempt to illustrate a dire consequence when you barter your character for wealth, fame, power and career). I hope you enjoy it and, as always, I invite you to leave comments.

 

It was now, right now, right now as you read this, exactly four years ago, that I stood in front of an old, caged teller’s window and watched The Principle Clerk place the Scales of Character atop an antiquated green-marbled counter.  His craggy index finger moved slowly down a ledger, then stopped; picking up the ledger he walked to the back where small drawers were stacked thirty feet high. Looking near the bottom he opened a drawer, plucked out a box, then returned it, plucked another, returned it, and after five attempts in four different drawers he removed a box, closed the drawer, snapped shut the ledger and returned to the front.  

“That drawer was really packed,” I said to relieve my tension.  

“That drawer is all you,” he said, “You in different lives; there’s quite a bit of you; more is better than less; you didn’t squander character; admirable.”  From the

From the box, he lifted a small parcel and placed it on the counter beneath his barred window. Looking at me above his spectacles he said, “You’ve got to open it and verify that everything’s there; that there’s nothing missing, and that it meets with your satisfaction; once you’re finished, close it, tie the string, and then pass it back to me under the barred window.” Then leaning in, within whispering distance, he looked left and then right to check if anyone was within earshot and whispered, “Almost everyone expects more; don’t be surprised; a bit is withdrawn each time you barter truth to self,” then he turned and went about his busy work.

Hands shaking, I untied the bow, peeled back the paper and gazed upon five brilliant, transparent, and twinkling jewels.  Immediately I felt absorbed or better, renewed; I felt capricious and peculiar; I looked eagerly for paper and pencil so I could describe it; I felt shy and naked; every ploy and deceit and means were displayed. I folded the paper atop the jewels, tied a knot in the string and called for the clerk.  “Everything in order, sir?” he asked.  

“I assume so,” I replied absolutely uncertain as to the truth of my answer.

“Excellent,” he said, “Now, let’s take a look at where you stand,” as he carried my box back to the Scales of Character.

“On the left,” he started to explain, “we place your parcel, that is, what remains of your character,” he says as he delicately places my parcel on the brass tray.  “On the right,” he continued, “we place the whole of your Lifetimes represented by these incremental weights.  The target for which we aim is that the left side, You, outweighs the right side, Lifetime. The objective is that one’s Character can outlast one’s Existence.” 

“And what does it mean if the right outweighs the left?” I asked hesitantly.

“Many things,” he said after taking a deep breath, “and one which you must choose. But before we talk about that, let’s see where you stand,” has said quietly, turning back to the scale. I tried to peer through the closeness of the bars of his window and watched as he carefully selected the right-side weights and placed them delicately in the elevated tray.  With each weights placement, he paused momentarily, allowing the scale to stop moving before he proceeded.  When he placed the second to last weight on the tray the right side sunk significantly but remained higher than the left.  “Not too bad, not too bad at all,” he said over his shoulder, “that weight is what does so many, so so many people in.”

“One weight left. . .” my comment exposing my nervousness.

“Yes,” the Clerk said, “but it represents the last decade,” he said as he placed it on the scale causing the left side to rise above the lowered right side.  

“Out of balance,” I mumbled, defeated.

Turning, he walked to the counter and studied me before speaking.  In a voice resembling that of my conscience, he began to explain, “There are people that stand where you’re standing and their left side hit bottom long before I stacked the weight. They knew what it meant before I started my explanation.  And for those people, there are no options: There’s just one thing to do. But it’s not the thing that’s hard to believe, it’s knowing that they won’t know when. That by overdrawing their Character account they lost the privilege of forethought.  Now they spend their time oblivious to all the choices of life, they’re left behind; indecisiveness caused missed chances, lost opportunities, and the upstarts, the less deserving were handed promotions. And they continued to fall further and further down their chosen ladder. And on his way down all of the trappings associated with bartered success fell too like leaves or thin branches: their wives and children and grandchildren. Here we call that damnation.”  He checked his watch and placed a sign directing people to other windows, walked back to a coat tree, grabbed his hat and coat and stood next to me.

“You stopped by at a good time.  You didn’t wait thinking the ship would right itself. You abandoned the inclination to compromise.  Compromise depletes Character quicker than any other life choice; compromise also happens to be the easiest and most benign.  And yet Character is the most coveted virtue by people besieged by empty character overdrafts and find themselves pleading for, but being denied protection. This persona non grata will happily promise anyone anything to convince the unwitting to give it up; let it go; who cares; nobody will see and who cares if they do; everyone else does it; it’s just for a while; come on we’re friends. And before the new initiates know it, their high-rolling days are over; they’re marginalized; they’re alone at any bar on any street and in that part of town; no wingmen; no gaggles and gaggles of girls gathering and giggling; no brunette with Azurite eyes. Those seeking devotees have already begun to feel that Life is no longer a Miracle but a rubric to be endured for all time. Not celebrated or explored or shared or even predicted.  The damned chides those with Character but those with Character cannot hear their heckles. You see, it’s not that those with Character won’t listen. They have listened. It’s the damned that didn’t listen and sadly they’ll be the only ones that will listen.

“But here’s what’s going to happen to you:  You saw that you’re a wee bit short on Character to last your Lifetime. Maybe you traded it, sold it, or gave it away. So you’re going off-line for a few years; to recharge; to reenergize; to rediscover curiosity and creativity; to stop, take root, sprout and expand; to see not simply look; to listen and understand not just hear and obey; to get back to the business of your life; to be you to the end.  Expect people to identify you as crazy, loony, out-of-your-head and off your noggin, a victim of mental illness; they may even identify you as a kind of nut case; a specific type of lunatic; because, they’ll say, if Crayola can have five different reds and blues and greens, then why can’t the mentally ill be as colorful! Let it be, let it wash ashore like the tide; you’ll survive. That pinch of Character you might need to navigate life will be available and parsed out.  Now, once that door opens and you cross that threshold your entire life will fall apart.  You won’t know why you won’t remember here or me. That is until one day some years from now when it’s time for your turn at the window you’ll recall a sort of Déjà vu clerking behind the window.  And being one of Generous Character you may even tell this story using your own voice which mysteriously fell silent twenty years ago just like mine did twenty years ago. And maybe the middle-aged man standing in front of your window will have more Character than Life remaining. And then both of you can walk out that door over there.” 

“What’s it say?” I asked, careening my neck in order to see. 

“There’s no need knowing now,” he said as one strong hand went to my back and the other hand to the lock. “Besides,” he said turning the knob, “Time just eats you up,” as he nudged me, waited, then with considerably more strength he nudged me again with more purpose, and then he barked loudly and snarled like a teased-to-mean junkyard dog waving that craggy finger at me, “Now, get out!” he snarled, “Twenty more years until I can go through that door marked “To Trains.” Then with great conviction, he pushed me into the street followed by doors slamming and deadbolts being thrown. When I turned back I saw an empty, fenced-in lot among pitiless faces deep within a strange city when my eyes shot open early this morning.

My Penned Invention of the Pen Invention (repost)

 

It would prove to be one of the most remarkable events to fall into the lap of England in   the 1930’s. Even Sir Thomas Cartridge, the infamous historian, essayist, and reputed hawker of odious innuendo was aghast when he said, “Everyone familiar with this tragic and despicable crime certainly expected him to be found guilty. But even judicial scholars were non plus: no one had an inkling that an incidental consequence caused by an accidentally stowed and unfortunately uncapped fountain pen which predictably bleeds if it touches any absorbent material, would influence the most harrowing murder trial in fifty years.   The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian immediately blamed the pen makers asserting through editorials that the fountain pen design had remained literally unchanged since Nicolas Bion first described them in 1807.  The pen makers quickly accused ink firms of altering their inks’ characteristic by employing diluted formulas that produced inks lacking gelatinous properties.  If needed, pen makers would blame their customers, insisting that a consistent discharge of ink by a nib pushed absent-mindedly into textile is an accepted (if destructive) characteristic which sensible owners attempt to avoid.  Therefore, it is my opinion that the barrister’s distraction caused by the importance of his closing argument overshadowed his gentleman’s grooming, without malevolence pocketed the fountain pen which immediately enjoyed a degree of notoriety (and sales) normally bestowed upon articles belonging to aristocracy.  It’s as if he’d dropped a jet plane into his pocket!”
To what was Sir Cartridge referring?  An extravagant and utterly preposterous event of the 1930’s: The common ink pen was borne on the heels of a legal decree: The Royal Courts of Justice abolished the use of fountain pens in every courtroom in Great Britain.  Parliament added that the newly invented practical and leak-proof pen would be the only writing instrument sanctioned for official use in every governmental building of Great Britain.

 

The calamity started just after the lunch recess of an infamous murder trial and the sudden appearance of an embarrassing stain which continued its growth like an algae bloom beneath the front pocket of an expensively tailored white cotton shirt belonging to and draped upon a notorious barrister from London. The barrister who, it is told (in hushed tones lest you be accused of slander), that the verdict of guilt had nothing to do with his impressive (and lengthy) closing argument which meticulously and repeatedly outlined the precise order of events.  The barrister’s timeline was so thorough that whatever doubt lingered in the far corners of the courtroom had been swept away like cobwebs.

 

The shameful guilt could almost be seen atop the plump, rounded shoulders of the torturous, adulterous, and maniacal MP who, it was alleged, kidnapped a prominent debutante from a society ball, trussed her up like a common farm animal ready for slaughter, bludgeoned her to unconsciousness, then drove her to a vermin-infested garret atop a saloon on the East End.  She remained imprisoned for a fortnight and each afternoon the MP would appear in the pub and with gluttonous abandon, he ate and drank himself into a repulsive and monstrous stupor, and dragged himself up the back alley stairs, unlocked the bolt, and repeatedly forced the delicate young woman to participate with or perform for him heinous, bestial, and inhumane acts which included demonic rituals, chanting, and minutes before he strangled her with the sash from his MP gown, he branded the young woman’s breast with a mark which closely, was almost identical to the stain on the barrister’s front pocket.

 

Jury members were quoted after the trials conclusion that the increasing stain resembled an apparition of the brand suffered by the victim, and that it was impossible to ignore, for even a brief time, or explain its appearance as a leaky fountain pen, when the leak didn’t appear until the very moment the barrister mentioned the brutality, causing the MP to leap from his chair.  As police subdued and removed the wailing MP, the barrister turned back to the jury who, at the same time, uttered an audible gasp, followed by a scream, then a shout as a dozen arms flew into the air and pointed at the haunting image displayed upon the barrister’s shirt.  The courtroom quickly dissolved into utter chaos as jurors ran from the courtroom and some incredulous men leapt over the railing and attempted to strip the barrister of his shirt, optimistic that it would fetch a tidy sum from someone indulgent in such macabre items.

 

From that day fountain pens were banned from courtrooms across England and the first stationer able to manufacture a pen whose ink was safely sealed in a chamber and distributed in incremental volume only when in use, was sure to win the patent and the incredible wealth which would quickly follow.

 

As the anniversary of the fountain pen’s exodus approached, rumors began to circulate that the Judiciary acted beyond its dominion when it issued the restriction, and continues to defend its authority successfully whenever a challenge is brought before the High Court.  England’s De La Rue and Conway-Stewart pen companies, as well as France’s Cartier and ST Du Pont, Germany’s Pelikan and Montblanc, and Italy’s Omas and Visconti all concluded that the solution required a combination of distinct and precise components: a cartridge, ink, and a system by which the ink could be laid upon the writing surface at the exact volume to ensure a consistent line.  These accomplished, fastidious and resplendent pen manufacturers were perplexed: never before in the history of handwriting were the makers of pens required to reconsider the importance of ink and its transference to the paper as their conundrum.  Ink had always been considered declasse, pedestrian and hackneyed.  Suddenly they’ve acquired relevance and attention and thusly required the world’s greatest maker’s of pens to invite them to participate in this befuddled exercise.

 

The common and convenient ballpoint pen emerged from an unlikely location, a small town on Cornwall’s North Coast that hugged the jagged cliffs carved by the Celtic Sea.  Citizens of Bawhl Point (between Boscastle and St. Gennys) were stout, good-humored, and straightforward Englishmen.  Hardened by their generational resolve to survive the harrowing conditions of England’s southern tip, an isolated peninsula which stretches three hundred kilometers out to sea, and constantly exposed to the full force of the Atlantic’s prevailing winds.

 

John Gahter IV, the eldest of five brothers and sisters, and assumed heir to the Gahter and Sons Ball, Valve and Pipe Manufacturing Company had recently been contacted by a local chemist, F.H. Inkes.  While conducting his business, Dr. Inkes used a technology which required small, spherical particles to be integrated into an easily replaceable plastic ball-check valve which, while under incredible pressure, would release a steady and predictable volume of fluid onto a row of glass slides placed on a rotating table which turned clockwise every six seconds.  Dr. Inkes wanted to know if Mr. Gahter and his manufacturing company could develop such a valve, and if so, could they manufacture a consistent quantity per month?  Mr. Gahter was intrigued and would discuss its possibility with his engineers and plant manager.  He promised to contact Dr. Inkes within a few days to inform him of his company’s decision. If Mr. Gahter and his employees were absolutely sure they could manufacture the valve then he and Dr. Inkes could further discuss all the business particulars.

 

Dr. Inkes was an analytical chemist whose expertise was well-known throughout England’s small number of chemists who utilized an uncommon technology, High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to separate and identify compounds suspended in common liquids.  The information discovered during these tests were extremely useful to chemists, especially those conducting research involving complex and indistinguishable compounds.  Until recently when high-ranking officials at Scotland Yard and a few football executives learned that urine samples subjected to HPLC would separate and identify individual elements (of which may or may not interest them).

It took Mr. Gahter and his company two months to perfect the valve which Dr. Inkes requested.  But in the process, the two men made a startling discovery: fluid can be distributed at a consistent rate when pressure is applied, and the margin between the sphere and outlet must be perfectly calibrated to the viscosity of the ink.  Mr. Gahter and Dr. Inkes were awarded the patent for the steel ink pen and, of course, shocked most of Europe, and as Parliament promised, their ink pen was quickly distributed to all  governmental buildings throughout the Empire.

A reporter from The Guardian reputedly asked Mr. Gahter and Dr. Inkes what name was given to their invention?  Mr. Gahter replied, “It’s called the Bahwl Point Pen,” and Dr. Inkes quickly added, “And the first model is named after my good friend, John Gahter; “the Gahter” pronounced J-A-H-T-E-R.”

 

 

 

. . . later that night . . . (excerpt from “The Other: A Collection of Doubt”)

“So, what did you want to know?” Scott asks placing the bottle of wine on a coaster.

Tom stands, adjusts the flame and walks to the sofa where he sits.  Scott sits cross-legged at the corner.  “Well, how you came to be here.  Not here, in my house per ce, but, I guess, how you came to be period.  I mean, I know about your mom and your dad and how they came from China and about your sister, but I don’t really know anything about you besides you’re an excellent kisser and I love the softness of your skin and blackness of your hair and your smell.  I want to know about you.”

Tom reaches for the bottle and pours himself more wine and refills Scott’s glass all the while struggling with the desire to simply strip him naked and bring them both to a mind-blowing orgasm.  Scott remains steadfastly silent.  “You don’t have to tell me, if you prefer,” Tom adds finally.

“I don’t know how to answer.  I mean, no one has ever asked me that question before.  Has anyone ever asked you to tell them about yourself?  How do you answer that question?  I feel like anything I say will sound grossly trite and insignificant.”

“But those are the things I want to hear.  And I’d rather than hear them now. . .than after.  Maybe I’m afraid that. . .after. . .you won’t feel so compelled to share them with me,” Tom says feeling suddenly embarrassed and insecure.  “I’ve never had anyone over to my house like this,” he admits.

“Like this, like what?” Scott asks.

“Like you,” Tom continues.  “And it’s not like I’m trying to protect the house or even myself for that matter.  It’s just that this is all so unusual.  This morning, this day, tonight, even you.  It’s all very unusual.   I don’t normally behave this way, not that the way I’m behaving is bad, it’s just different.  Different is all.  And I guess I want to understand you.  In a way that’s bigger or deeper or larger than kisses and erections and orgasms,” Tom says sheepishly.

Tom feels that slight sickening feeling of overexposure, that sorrow you feel when you realize you’ve stayed out in the sun too long and you’ve got a fitful night of prickly sunburn ahead of you.  Perhaps he should’ve kept his mouth shut and quickly stripped Scott in the kitchen and wasted no more than ten minutes including the awkward “so long.”  Perhaps by now he’d be in his shower washing away the remnants of weakness.  Simple.  Easy.  Clean.

Tom takes a long swallow of wine and looks at Scott, at the front of Scott’s jeans which no longer suggest his passion, but which now sit folded politely much like his own.  All that remains of their bodies collision against the countertop is an unforgiving stickiness.

“I never knew what I wanted.  Growing up, I never knew what I wanted.  What I wanted to do, wanted to be, or who I wanted to be with.  I knew almost immediately what I didn’t want.  What I didn’t want to do or who I didn’t want to be or who I didn’t want to be with.  And it seemed easier, I guess, to eliminate things than to chase things.  So I’ve spent the better part of my life in a state of subtraction.

“I never gave it much actual thought, you know, the reason for the activity of eliminating things from my life.  I guess I just found it to be an easier way to get by. And somewhere, some time I thought that I’d eventually find something that I’d be interested in enough to actually add to my life.  Something that I’d be willing to pursue.”

Scott takes a long drink and studies the wine as though he were reading tea leaves.  Tom watches Scott’s intense stare into the wine glass.  Leave him alone, Tom thinks.  Maybe all Scott wants is a quickie and you’re trying to make it into something more.  Maybe all this talk will lead to nothing.  Maybe Scott will find you too needy.  Maybe you should simply lean over and kiss him so you can get this over with; but Tom feels that their attraction has waned.

“I can give you a ride home if you’d like,” Tom says quietly, uncertain of Scott’s desire to stay.

“Why?  Did I say something wrong?”

“No, no you didn’t say anything wrong.  I just thought that. . .” Tom adds quickly, trying to allay Scott’s uncomfortableness.

“See?  This is exactly the reason why I never tell people what I’m thinking!  It’s like they think they want to hear it, and then when I’m straight with them they realize that they’re not really interested.  It happens all the time.  So I think it’s just easier to do what we both want and get it over with.  Simple.  Clean.  Easy,” Scott says defensively.

Tom stands up and walks to the fireplace for no reason than to move away from Scott.  He studies the fire and wonders how this day could end this way.  “Well, what is it that you think is so simple, clean and easy?” he says without looking at Scott.

“The same thing you do,” Scott says still studying his wine.

Tom watches the fire immediately realizing that they have reached the fork in the road.  The same divergence he has reached scores of times before: the familiar scenarios play out in his head like a montage: Scott stands and lets himself out; Scott stands up and walks to him, kisses him lightly and leaves; Tom walks to Scott, kisses him and they do indeed play out the inevitable, in exchange for the fifteen awkward minutes when scraps of paper with false phone numbers are exchanged and Tom locks the door securely behind Scott.  They all seem obvious.  They do seem simple and clean and easy.

Tom rubs his face with his hand, “I don’t think so, Scott.  I don’t think I want simple, clean and easy.  Not this time,” he admits finally looking at Scott.  “I think this time I want it difficult, dirty and hard,” he says walking to the sofa.  “And I think it all has to do with you, with you Scott” sitting next to him, “and I think it’s all about me letting someone in and all about you knocking on a door you want to open.  I think it’s all about you and me, here and now.  I think both of us are done, at least right now anyway, with simple, clean and easy.”

Tom reaches a hand to Scott’s face which he tilts upward.  Scott’s eyes meet his.  They both sit in silence for a few moments.  Tom’s thumb gently caresses Scott’s cheek and chin feeling the soft stubble of his beard.  Scott smiles slightly at his tenderness and reaches a hand to Tom’s face which he touches softly.  Tom thinks that this is the tenderness discovered between friends, friends willing to be naked and exposed, friends that share intimacies deeper and darker than just sex.  These are the moments which relationships are built on he thinks as their tender caresses continue.

Scott leans forward and kisses Tom’s cheek, then pulls away slightly, “no one’s ever taken the time to articulate it like that,” he says, “usually they simply dismiss me.  Usually by this time I find myself on the stoop of their house wondering how in the hell I’m going to get home.”

Tom takes Scott’s hand off his cheek and kisses his exposed palm, “but are you up to it, Scott?  Up to the difficult, dirty and hard?  Because I am, I mean, at least I think I am, right now anyways.  If you’re not then I’m not sure I want to complicate this any more,” he admits, again kissing the hand, “and I think that that would be a shame because it seems that we’ve already achieved a certain distance.  Given all the opportunities we’ve had today to simply sprint to an orgasm it would seem odd that you’re not up to the long distance run,” he adds.

Scott lifts himself out of the corner of the sofa and kneels at Tom’s side.  He leans in close and turns Tom’s face to his and kisses him devotedly, closed mouth, without passion but with longing.  “I’ve trained for a run like this all my life,” he says quietly while kissing Tom’s cheek.

Tom stands and places his wine glass on the coffee table.  He moves in front of the fireplace and slowly begins to undress starting with his shirt and opening one button at a time.  His fingers move slowly over the fabric feeling its softness, the stitching of the buttonholes; as he pulls the tails out of his trousers Scott takes a drink from his glass, places it on the coffee table next to Tom’s and walks in front of him.  Scott reaches for the hem of his fleece and in one smooth motion pulls it over his head and drops it on the carpet at his feet.  Tom peels the shirt off his shoulders, pulls his arms out of the sleeves and allows the shirt to slip out of his hand and fall to the floor gathering in a cotton heap.

Scott reaches slowly for the buckle of his belt, pulls on the length of leather which winds its way through loops, tugs at it, and unbuckles the latch.  At the same time Tom undoes his own belt.  They are now in-sync with each other as they both reach for the closures on their pants: Tom’s clasp and Scott’s button.  Both pop open as they grab the metal tab at the top of the zipper and slowly pull down, the metal teeth sliding into a wide-mouthed grin showing the soft fabric of their underwear to each other; Scott’s being steel-gray with Tommy Hilfiger emblazoned in purple on the waistband and Tom’s being simple, white Nautica boxers.  They stand motionless for a moment studying each other.  Tom grabs the edges of his wool trousers and lifting one knee withdraws one leg and then the other from his trousers; Scott simply allows the added weight of keys, cell phone and change to draw his jeans off his hips and down his legs like an anchor being dropped into the ocean and settle at his feet.  He stands watching Tom fold his trousers neatly laying them on top of his shirt.  Scott pulls one foot free from his jeans and then slowly, the other.  He kicks the denim to the side.  They stand three feet apart in only their underwear looking at each other.  Scott moves first, slowly hooking his fingers in the waistband of his shorts and drawing them down his hips, past the curve of his buttocks, out and over his erection and past his thighs releasing his hold on the cotton which folds like meringue at his feet: now naked in front of him.  Tom hooks his own fingers into the waistband of his boxers and pulls them in one swift motion off one leg, then the other finally naked to Scott.

Tom feels the heat of the fire brushing his back as he studies Scotts body: his long, lithe neck meeting the angle of his clavicle dissected by its horizontal bones; shoulders which spread out and bend with muscular caps bow slightly at the junction of his biceps and triceps; the mounds of his chest crest with lean muscles and are topped with two, quarter-sized auburn nipples which are separated by small, sparse hairs; the chest falls onto the ribs which look like pale piano keys and descend into the diamond form of his abdominals which drain into the slightly indented bellybutton centering his core; muscles like hands forming a “V” fan out on either side of his groin, a furrow of muscle rising from his crotch up to his hips and disappearing into the flesh of his buttocks; his hairless thighs give way to bony knees and lithe, muscular calves which have a splattering of stray, black hairs.

Scott studies Tom’s form: the wide chest painted by brown hair which continues down his stomach and empties into the hair surrounding his erection; muscular thighs support the heavy foundation; the most obvious characteristic is the abundance of body hair which Scott finds very sexy; Scott yearns to bury himself in Tom’s masculinity.

“You’re absolutely beautiful,” Tom hears himself whisper, afraid he’s sounding trite and wishing he could summon up words he thinks would be worthy of the apparition.  He wishes he could utter the oohs and aahs reserved for firework displays he enjoys.

“You’re better than I had imagined,” Scott admits while feeling himself pulled by an invisible string into Tom’s embrace.  Better than I imagined, Tom thinks to himself, better than he imagined.  No one has ever said that to him before, and, he wondered, if anyone had ever even thought it.

At the same moment they both take steps towards the other and meet in the middle of the carpet, Tom feeling a cooling of his backside and Scott feeling the warmth of the fire wash over his body.  They stand less than a foot apart, their hands at the same time begin to touch areas of acute attraction; Scott to Tom’s formidable chest hair, Tom to Scott’s slender hips.  At first their touch is tentative, as though they can’t quite believe they have acquired permission, but quickly their caresses gain momentum and purpose.  As they move closer together their hips, pressed tightly together as hands continue to roam, to explore, to touch and discover.  Tom’s hand leaves Scott’s hips and move hastily around to his back then hungrily to his bottom, groping, kneading the soft flesh which tightens as Scott pushes himself against Tom, feeling himself being blanketed by Tom’s abundance of soft yet protective hair, recalling a similar feeling when his mother would pull the blanket to his chin and tuck in the sides; bliss he thought, blissful then and simply bliss tonight.