My Moral Corruption

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“How you said what you said was simply enchanting,” were the first words he ever said to me.

“I was awake, I was always awake,” were the last words.

And between these two bookends were almost thirty years of an on-again/off-again relationship which redefined the term love affair, and which did very little to boost my self-confidence.  Instead this. . .entanglement. . .often followed a beachpalsdreadfully antagonistic and well-rehearsed sequence of deplorable behavior: Vanish, spot, affirm, invite, tempt, yield, pity, agony, masquerade, endure, discredit, and pluck.   And each incarnation ripped yet another piece of moral character from me until sometime in the early nineties I concluded that we were no more to each other than a dealer and an addict, and he was always, always willing to deal, not out of compassion for me, but to satisfy some dark hunger, a craving, maybe a need.

Like anonymous chunks of an ice shelf, we broke apart and drifted away from each boy-in-bushother.  I finding love and partnership and success in Chicago.  He and his art landed in New York.  It wasn’t his drawings they placed atop acrylic pedestals.  For dollar bills he ignored their probing fingers; for five’s he forgot their foraging.  We never discussed the activities associated with higher denominations but he emphasized they were few and far between (“even for someone that looks like me!”), a thinly veiled plea for adoration of which I ignored and which subsequently produced a stifling silence as though the bridge between us had been washed away by indifference.

He enjoyed a modicum of success with a small band of go-go-boys that played the voyeuristic circuit of Greenwich bars, and infrequently out-of-town gigs took them to South Beach, Atlanta and, of course, Chicago.  But by that time his mother had passed, his baby brother didn’t want to farm, and his father sold all three hundred acres, outbuildings, and the triple-generation farmhouse and moved into town,  So when he was in Chicago it was all business; most of it public, but private parties were viceprisonerhands down the most lucrative (and dangerous).  His last trip to Chicago was a bona fide performance, secretly cast by the Chicago Vice Squad who raided the place and arrested the lot and charged them with indecency (the cheek dividing string of his g-string was 0.25″ too narrow to entirely cover his anus).  I was called and took clothes and cash and bailed him out of jail.  As the sun started to peek above Lake Michigan we were driving north on Lake Shore Drive when he said, “You know, I think it’s time to hang up the g-string.”

“Really?” I asked in disbelief, knowing (from years of personal experience) that posing whether still or sparkling was his only talent.

Staring out the window he replied, “Yup!  Problem is. . .”  Here it comes, I thought.  “Problem is, the cops kept it as evidence!”

The Crisp Season of Change

At last it’s arrived, like a visit from my favorite uncle who told tales of unimaginable childhood freedoms (having been raised on a fruit orchard farm).  At long last it’s arrived, the darkness of dawn mornings and the dimness of late afternoon twilights.  Finally, finally it’s arrived, the season of the apple and the pumpkin and hot cider.  And thank God they’re gone, days that grated like my cat’s yowling or, tortuous days akin to the incessant presence of my just-turned-teen sister and her coterie of screeching and cackling teensters (defined as a pimply, high-pitched, recently teened and obstinate-as-hell, alien transmutation); those chronically simmering days followed by feverous and languid nights, the forecasted but broken-promised breeze failed to arrive like those letters from your summer camp romance.  Relief has clocked-in, elbowing out a tireless summer which dropped anchor like a battleship of fervent seamen and remained well past dry-docking the sailboat.  The ease of fruit pie-like single-layered simplicity (shorts sandals shirt) has given way to the time-consuming layered bundling like wrapping grandmamma’s Chatsford teapot for shipping, encasing oneself with layer upon shedable layer.

I’ve recently concluded that I prefer seasons of change (Spring and Fall) over seasons of suffering (Summer and Winter).  I enjoy the initial imperceptible adaptations which occur in the early spring and early fall: Spring’s first cautious knock of Snow Drops; fall’s tentative nips of brusque breezes.  Of course these trepidations soon give way to Spring’s salvo of elevating stems topped with an eternity of color and Fall’s broad strokes of vividly colored canopies which subtly cautions us of life’s temporal cycle.  The seasons of change also highlight our world’s overwhelming beauty and diversity; it’s also a testament that every piece of (what we call) life patiently waits its turn to express its individual magnificence, it’s solo, when the world recognizes its achievement during the season’s glory!

If only we, as part of nature, would patiently wait for our turn to shine with respect for each other (and our colorful diversity).  And that we, as a Snow Drop or a stitch in Autumn’s auroral quilt, are an irreplaceable verse in life’s grand narrative.  

The American Lexicon Is Fundamentally Evolutionary

We make all kinds of decisions every day.  I’d assert that a tenet of life is decision.

Decisions are based on a fundamental understanding of options.  These options are often presented through language.  Our language has mirrored our intellectual expansion during the past twenty years (since the commercialization of the internet), but it’s also exponentially increased the likelihood of poor decisions versus good decisions.  And not for the reason you’re probably thinking about right now.

It’s not that our decision-making ability has declined, it’s that our American English lexicon has been stripped of standards and replaced by Idiolects which are varieties of a specific language unique to an individual. In other words, how an individual (all individuals) use parts of speech specific to the language they’re speaking.  Huh?  Are you suggesting that we’re using vocabulary generally accepted but individually defined?

Yes, for example: I’ve had a great evening; would you like to come up for a night cap?  Twenty years ago you had a pretty good idea that the night cap meant some form of refreshment and m-a-y-b-e. . .But today a night cap most likely is prone to interpretation, and depending on the interpreter, the night cap might be the evening’s last tango which spins and dips and clutches its way to dawn, or the night cap might be the gut-wrenching sound of starboard iron scraping along larboard iron in a dense fog on a moonless night in the frigid north sea.  Both invitations were accepted but only one, the former, seemed to coalesce.  The latter was respectfully disharmonious and most likely eliminated any tandem future.  Okay, so what?  What’s this got to do with me?

We’re all assuming that what we say and what they hear are synonymous.  But in this day and age of individuality, identity, and me-me-meism which is reinforced constantly through internet-based social networks and the hardboiled, pragmatic, and mundane personal updates which someone somewhere will proclaim as unique (dismissing our language’s standard usages) and applaud their meism misuse (interpretation) of vocabulary, and whammo!  A word or phrase which held a generalized meaning now has a bastard son.  This phenomenon is known as Language Evolution Based on the Idiolectic Intersection of Individual Adoption.

So what’ve you been blathering on about?

Simply put: What you know you’re saying (standardized use) is being heard as something different (Idiolectic use).  Perhaps if communication was bipartisan (the talkers and listeners understand that their communication is reshaping the English lexicon) then we might lessen misunderstandings and agree to use a mutually standardized language in order to foster a sense of unity.

Do I Look Like A Pigeon?

There’s a basic tenet of parental behavior to which many ascribe:  Whatever you don’t like, don’t understand, or frightens you about your child, you’ll try to ignore it, or threaten it, or eliminate it under the guise of childhood protection.

If you had known me as a child you would never describe me as: bashful, shy, inhibited, reserved, demure, or innocent.  Especially innocent!  I blame my lack of innocence on a creative incarceration complete with shackles, pillory, and thumbscrews (metaphorically speaking) as the adult-authority’s recommended protocol for youngsters that emigrate to the shores of their imaginations.  My crime?  Being entertained by my imagination’s liberty to dream of things or experiences which landed far beyond the limits of our lower-middle-class capabilities, and of which I insisted were possible despite our depressed economic status.  Not that I asked for things that we couldn’t afford.  I asked for things which required creativity or compromise or cunning.  I only asked for things which were possible but perplexing; things which, if I were taller or older or motorized I could procure.  But I was a short, plump, uncoordinated child that wrestled with an unbridled imagination and raw creativity which everyone described as teetering between adaptation (the positive, yet painful struggle of change: unyielding animosity between divorced parents, recent move to the south side) and abdication (an attempt to cope by disengaging himself from his misery by displacing reality with imagination).  I had just begun implementing a plan which might conquer both my hells (before/after move).  Using creativity and imagination I might be able to map my way free of their self-centered, ego-inflamed romantic ideals and out from under the shitty and selfish mess the adults-in-charge created, then forced down my gullet like corn down the throat of the holiday goose.

So authority figures convened to develop a strategy designed to lower the volume of my imagination and increase interest in my new-world order.  By discouraging escape and encouraging capitulation they hypothesized that I would slowly build a positive (and comfortable) reality without careening into fantasy, imagination, or creativity.  In other words, we’ve tested him and he ain’t no Einstein, scored dead-center 50th percentile, and, thank God, kind, dull, unambitious, and docile: he’s simply avoiding change by daydreaming.  So the adults broke their huddle and walked to the line of scrimmage; a defense full of adulthood, authority, corporal punishment, and varying degrees of coercion designed to obliterate the supply bridge between me and my creativity and imagination.  But I was on the offensive and understood that in a matter of seconds my pulverization would commence; I mustered some resistance, usually a subtle mockery of mumbled affirmations.

Their boundless resources, their freshly recruited therapists (secretly screened in the convent) hammered my resistance and during a nighttime raid caused a debilitating breach, a nightmare, which cast doubt on imaginations allegiance.  Creativity wasn’t strong enough to deflect their incessant whittling away at my corners, sanding down my resolve in order to spit me out at eighth grade graduation: a shining example of what to do with a square peg when the world offers only round holes.  The nuns, lay-people, and counselors believed that by distracting my distractions, by motivating and redirecting and sympathetic yet tyrannical concern and instruction, they could successfully extinguish what, at the time, was thought to be simple imagination.  And I would take my place among my fellow eighth grade graduates poised for the adventure of public middle-school, then high school, and finally be added to the third-shift at some manufacturing or assembly plant as one more blue-collar-assembly-line-lifer with low expectations and very little hope.  

Tragically, these nuns and educators were in pursuit of an example, a trophy, proof that plucking me from a sea of personal trauma and forcing me to face the reality to which I was born.

How nearsighted they were to think they eliminated my problem.  It was much worse than that.  They confirmed, even back then, that it was real and I wasn’t just imagining things.

Is My Left Index Finger A Carrot?

Prior to all this mental illness mumbo-jumbo, my hands Left and Right, fraternal twins with Right seconds older (Left, it is said, grabbed anything within reach to avoid birth).  They’ve developed a symbiotic relationship on the one hand, while on the other they’ve taken completely diverging paths and developed distinctly disparate identities.  As Left was once quoted as saying, “we’re not two of one thing; we’re one of two things.”  Which is an important distinction in their world, a world where two things are commonly referred to as “one thing:”  The oft pedestrian reference: A Pair.

The human body is classical in terms of design styles.  It is proportional, balanced, and harmonious.  Its design style highlights the importance of parity, especially object parts divisible by 2.  Parity is reduced in importance only by singularity.  However, singularity is an expression of a Prime Object.  Unlike Parity Objects which if divided by two would result in one (not one-half), Prime Objects cannot be divided which results in an increased degree of importance.  Further, for many Prime Objects, the statistical probability of locating a perfect replacement is less than one percent.  A few Prime Objects are impossible to replace thereby aggrandizing their importance and diminishing the importance of two Parity Objects.  It’s because of the human body’s classical design style and a common belief that a human body can exist with one-half of a pair of Parity Objects that Parity Objects often develop the kind of relationship that honors longevity, but also promotes independence.

Left and Right have been inseparable for as long as I can remember.  Left is the quiet, ostentatious one when it comes to pretentious accessories (watches, bracelets); but Left is also the bearer of an object of significant proportion: the wedding ring.  Meanwhile Right is clearly the winner when it comes to handedness and the Brain’s division of labor.  Right was the first to learn that 90% of humans prefer to use his side as the “heavy lifter.”  As such, it’s Right who reaches out for a handshake, gives a panhandler a quarter, hails a taxi, scolds a child, dials a phone number, beckons a suitor to approach.  Unless the activity requires both the left and right hands, for instance playing the piano, forming a snowball, applause, typing this post, Left will wander off by himself, and routinely ends up in a jacket or trouser pocket catching a cat nap.  Right couldn’t care less.  He sees himself as invaluable, impossible to live without, the go-to-guy; deputized to effectuate distinguished gestures including devotional, patriotic, insulting, and vulgar (the latter is used so often it hardly qualifies as “distinguished”).  As a matter of fact, Right’s not entirely sure if Left has the ability to execute the oft practiced and drilled Ambidextrous Transmutation which Right first discussed with Left the night immediately after first grade when Right snatched the yellow stick from Left and began to trace the alphabet.  Right said, “Now Left, you should pay attention too; I know your holding the paper, but you’ve got to practice in case. . .”  Left reached across to Right, alarmed, “In case of what?  What?”  Right patted the top of Left, “In case I get hurt, wrapped like a mummy; you need to be ready to jump in!” And Right made it his duty to train Left in skills like handwriting, key-turning, locker-combinations, can openers, hairbrush, toothbrush, razor, utensils, and the secret one, the never-discussed-one, the door-locked-under-cover-personal-exhaustive-and-bemoaning-ritual.  Almost every night for fifteen years; sometimes more than once; then later in life strangers appeared and Right simply followed orders.  Left has seen action in 3rd grade (broken wrist), 6th grade (broken arm), and 11th grade (dislocated elbow).  Right beamed with pride when Left took ahold of the reins. 

As of late however, Left has really taken a beating.  My new found interest in cooking and woodworking has led to a number of instances in which digits on my left hand can’t retreat fast enough and feel the razor-sharp edge of a chef’s knife (or bread knife, or lock-back knife, or 3/8″ wood chisel) slicing, stabbing or chopping.  And Right just keeps slicing in total abandon utterly unconscious of Brain’s danger alerts.  So Left wanted to try an experiment to gauge Right’s ability to distinguish Left’s forefinger from a carrot.  The picture above was taken a few moments ago.  We’ll keep you apprised of the outcome.

Back Then, Ignorance Was De Rigueur

At the end of the 60’s and carrying into the 70’s there still seemed a deep-rooted sentiment: if it’s none of your business, then keep your nose out of it.  Which seemed to work fine for most people.  Of course every neighborhood had its busybody, just as it had its grouchy-keep-off-my-grass-senior-citizen, and bubble-gum-snapping-younger-than-her-bosom-suggests-daughter-of-a-longshoreman.  But by-and-large, if it didn’t directly involve you then you were commanded to stay-out-of-it.  And woe be the kids with clumsy feet: too inattentive or naive to jump when they spot trouble; or those nearest the melee when it explodes, or the small-fry-wanna-be whose taunts often ignite newly produced testosterone because they all will be hauled to the principal’s office for punishment followed by the famous litany of idiotic parental rhetoric: “. . .well, if he jumped off. . .;” “If I’ve told you once. . .;” and the classic “I  could see those <insert surname  here> boys were trouble. . .”   But the message was always the same: mind your own business.

Now, that’s not to say there was a lack of dinner-table rumor-mongering, my mother usually updating us on the goings-on of the neighborhood.  But, if the rumor was rated PG-13 and above, we were given the briefest synopsis, censored beyond recognition, devoid of any example of debauchery, infidelity, or any despicable acts whether or not the “I’m-not-naming-names-neighbor-three-doors-down” was perpetrator or victim.  My mother’s talent for omission was legendary, but her dinner-table-abridging offered very little by way of a storyline, but witnessing her agility at avoiding incriminating details while maintaining a conversational tone was so entertaining that my older brother wanted to call the Watergate crew and offer them her secret of how-to skirt the truth and avoid prison for perjury.  He said he tried but was told they don’t take messages for inmates.

But even spreading gossip was considered a breach of social convention and was practiced with the highest degree of discretion.  I overheard my mother talking on the phone about Mrs. Bowers and her recent loose-lipped huddle at Kroger’s with Mrs. Hanson about boys, booze, broads and a bathtub: to Mrs. Bowers chagrin the broad and bathtub belonged to Mrs. Hanson.  Right there in aisle 5-A Mrs. Hanson’s strong upper lip began to quiver and like a mudslide, her conviction simply gave-way taking her sand-bagged courage with it and Mrs. Hanson dropped to the floor as if someone had cut her marionette strings.

Back then the message was loud and clear: keep your mouth shut! 

And I suppose it was that exact 1960’s deflection of responsibility, respect for authority, and absolute ignorance of any activity which happened outside the euphemistic “four walls” of our family (and home) that created a vacuum of moral accountability.  This social ignorance was the fertile ground from which victims sprouted already marinated in the tenets of civic propriety: keep your mouth shut and mind your own business.  Now add a new genus of Catholic leadership: an indubitable, irrefutable and influential priest whose intentions, if questioned, are defended rigorously by the diocesan hierarchy.  These two social renunciations: bewilderment on the part of the parents and blindness on the part of the Catholic Church created the perfect playground for sexual predators that mocked piety and disgraced through indignity and malice, the Christian image of the protector of children.

We had a predatory priest back in Catholic grade school.  As a pedophile he’d developed quite a reputation and a skillful set of traps which left little, if any scars, except those which appeared years later.  He developed a certain degree of notoriety: A staggering example of the decades-long failure of the Church’s treatment (reflection and counseling) resulting in reassignment or perhaps the estimated number of casualties he produced (across generations in one family).  His ecclesiastic devotion was a stark contrast to his budding reputation as “overly affectionate” or “physical with boys beyond acceptable behavior” so the Arch Diocese of Milwaukee continued to pry his paws away from parishioners at one church (akin to “running him out of town”).

He was hurried over to a safe house for an overhaul: counseling, hand-slapping, celibate reminders, penitence, forgiveness, and then off to some R & R (restoration & repair), placed back into the deck, reshuffled, and dealt to an ignorant congregation of affable and duteous parents who’d bred reverent and obedient children.  Some devote parishioners believed that the affection of a doting priest was reserved for the innocent of the innocents, were venerated by God and anointed (via the local messenger, i.e. priest) with an extra helping of divinity.  I remember hearing that some devoted parents would volunteer their children’s time to vocational pursuits i.e. ironing vestments, vacuuming sacristies, opening the weekly offering envelopes, in order to maintain proximity to the priest should a divine message be received.  But back then, back in 1969, that’s how Catholics behaved because they were taught that a priest was called by God to act as emissary here on earth; and the most important (mysterious, and grossly misunderstood) tenet of a priest’s appointment was his unconditional vow of celibacy (the state of being unmarried and, therefore, sexually abstinent).

And that presumption, that priest’s were not sexual, was the perfect degree of insulation these priest’s and their superiors needed to stave off accusations of impropriety brought to the diocese.  And here’s the revelation:  No matter how impassioned, no matter how unthinkable the alleged violations seemed, no matter that these abominations were reruns from previous parishes, the victim, a child, with nothing to gain (and so much to lose) were often suspect!  First by the parents, then the parish leaders, then when facing the priest in his rectory, and then, if pursued, again face-off with highly respected and very suspicious diocesan officials and the priest (whose interest and adorations became manipulative, threatening, painful episodes and were so outrageous and impossible to prove, that the only logical and least damaging conclusion anyone with any sense could draw:  the child is  exaggerating, misconstruing, or unintentionally and without malice positioned themselves near the priest and misunderstood their physical contact as egregious.

And frankly I don’t know which buckled first: The highly improbable assertion that a child repeatedly seduced a religious official vowed to celibacy or the unquestionable devotion of generations to the Catholic Church (the age-old collapse of a faith in God and a faith in the Godliness of men ordained by Him).  But what it took to shift the burden of proof from the victim (child) to the perpetrator (priest) was a departure from isolation and silence to community and conversation.  When adults decided that blind allegiance to any organization purely based on what that organization tells you to believe is, in and of itself, questionable, was when the fortified walls of some of the world’s oldest and most revered organizations began to weaken.

It’s not what we’re told by leaders (whether religious, political, corporate) that has the capacity to tear this world apart.  It’s what we believe that we’re told.  It’s not the children’s fault that the Catholic Church protected and permitted decades of sexual abuse.  It’s the adult’s fault (whether or not your the priest or the parent or the pope).  It’s an adult’s responsibility to question authority each and every time it violates freedom!

There isn’t one person on this planet that stands above repute.  Except, that is, perhaps the children.

Blame Edna St. Vincent Millay

We’ve all had one.  Just one.  The One.  Not the one that got away.  And not the one that married your best friend.  And please. . .certainly not your first one.  This One is The One.  

You know which one is The One.  The One’s the one that heard your protestations yet felt your searing stare, your eyes glued to the sight, intent as though you were watching the final inning of a no-hitter, your mind recording in high-definition inch by baring inch of torso; the molting of cotton and denim; your appetite overflows the banks of friendship as The One, the object and the consort silently affirms your theft of privacy.  That’s The One:  A compatriot in what would become your benchmark of shame and crowning expression of tortuous affection.  The One was the only one to encourage betrayal of character as bond to be free of moral constraints and fuel your burgeoning obsession. 

The One for me was Steve.

We opened  the door  to the room in  the Super 8 Motel in  Davenport,  Iowa where tomorrow Steve and I would compete for first place in the National Forensic’s Tournament.   Both of us were nervous of course, but unlike Steve who was nervous about the tournament  I was as nervous as a newlywed when I spotted the king size bed hovering in the middle of the room like the Hindenburg.

“Well, here we are,” Steve said as he put his duffel bag on the floor and flopped on the bed.  I stood there aghast and slowly placed my coveted Tod’s Weekender on the stainless steel motel valet and stiffly sat on the edge of the bed.

” … at last …” I added, slowly turning to see him stretched out like a newly caught salmon, his bright colored belly slightly exposed under his polo.

“At last?”, he asked.

Realizing my blunder I quickly stood up and attempted to turn the conversation.  “You nervous?”

“Nervous?    What’s  there  to  be  nervous  about?    We’re  the  best  in  the  state  and tomorrow we’re going to be best in the nation.”

“You’re right,” I added weakly, fighting my desire to look at him on the bed.

“Are you?” he asked.

“Am I what?” I asked retreating into the small, secure confines of the bathroom.

“Nervous,” he called from the bed.

“Why would I be nervous when I’ve got a partner like you?”  I asked.

Steve appeared in the doorway looking at me in the mirror,  “Because you’re acting nervous,” he said walking up behind me, looking at me in the mirror, both my hands white knuckled on the faux marble vanity, the inches of warm air between us igniting and scalding my flanks. He looked directly into my eyes and I prayed that he couldn’t  see either my knees that had begun to buckle or the erection that had risen in my jeans.

“So I’m a little nervous,” I snapped “and you standing this close to me doesn’t  help.” I wanted to be able to easily assault his closeness as some latent homosexual thing, some calling his hand when it came to his masculinity, some assertion that he was coming on to me.  But I had already played that trump card on some ranger look-out station on a wooded rise called Belmont Mound.  I blubbered my homosexuality between shared swallows of apple schnapps, my conviction growing with the depletin liqueur.    He too, was drinking,  but  he kept his composure, acknowledging my confessions with tart, little babbles; all the while I wished he too, would expose his wrist and in some tribal custom, bind our lives. But instead I slept in the cool comfort of the toilet.

Then I made the mistake of looking back at the bed.  “The bed bothers you, doesn’t it?” he asked, almost sounding interested.

“No, you idiot, it isn’t the bed that bothers me” I said moving quickly away from him back into the room, “It’s not the bed …” I paused, wondering if I should be the bleeding heart (and what good would it do me) again, would he tire of the whining, “but it’s me,” not that it really was me. It was more him.  I had no trouble with me. It was him.  Him and his damned morals, not even morals but tastes, not even tastes but attractions,  not even attractions but fickleness! “It’s me, Steve. Me! Me and you. Here. Tonight. The bed … the tub.”

“The tub?” he asked.

“I’ll sleep in the tub.”

“You’re fucking crazy! What do you think you’ll do?  Rape me in my sleep?  Christ, you’re a guy that’s  able to control himself, aren’t  you?   If you think you’ll have a problem, take care of it before you get into bed!”

Was I an idiot or what?   What did he know?  What did he care?  Christ, it wasn’t my lust that I was worried about.  It was my heart! What did he think?  It was then, at that moment when a little divine intervention would’ve helped; an angel to come down and tell me that my reality was not reality. That what I really thought was going on wasn’t really going on, except as a private screening for my own enjoyment.  That what WAS true was that there were two best friends vying for national recognition that needed to share a bed in a motel room. So what was the big deal?

 

After dinner we wandered through  the halls of the motel to our room.  Upon opening the door  Steve threw  his jacket on the bed and  went into the  bathroom.    I walked to my bag, opened it and pulled out my sweatshirt and gym shorts.  As I was beginning to undress I heard the toilet flush, the faucet run and finally the door open.   Steve stood in the doorway, backlit by the ceiling light, his silver buckle dangling  like a fishing lure, his shirt open, untucked, hanging off his shoulders like draperies.  I of course, should’ve already been in bed, chiffon negligee spread  out before me like a tablecloth, a dozen  pillows plumped  and puffed surrounding me in satined down.  But instead I stood before him in my white Hanes underwear and Dago T.

“Going to bed so soon?”, he asked.

“I like to read a little before I fall asleep,” I replied, as I pulled off the Dago T and pulled on my sweatshirt.

“You go there?” he asked. “Go where?”

“To Colorado,” he finished, standing across from me, tugging his heavy socked feet out of his still tied, dirty Nike sneakers.   He stood there, determined to shed his sneakers, tongue sticking out of the comer  of his mouth, body slightly contorted, peeling the tightened shoe off his foot.

“It might help if you untied them,” I said as I folded my clothes and placed them on the valet next to my Weekender.

“I’m too lazy,” he shot back over his now naked shoulder.

I looked up from my bag and saw him standing across the blue polyester comforter,  his  tanned  back  separated  by  a  deep  crevice  which opened  like  a  well-read hardcover, rising to parallel muscles which flowed into his ribs; his shoulders ascended by cords of muscle to his throat; his upper arms taut like a bow; and rising from the waistband of his jeans was a banded collar of cream followed by a blood red cotton stripe.  I stood transfixed.

“Mind if I watch a little TV?” he asked over his shoulder. “Not at all, as long as you keep the volume low,” I answered quietly.

I turned my back on him and with one swift, practiced motion pulled my Hanes off and sat down on the bed, pinning  my erection firmly between my thighs.   I reached for my gym shorts and in a moment threw my legs in the air, levitated myself, pulled the gym shorts on, yanked back the covers, thrust my legs in, and pulled the crisp cotton sheets to my waist.  After arranging myself, the pillows, and the book I was reading I heard the television snap on.

What I noticed first were his feet pointed towards my head.   They were solid, heavy feet; thick, cracked, blemished soles; wide, weathered toes.  These feet obviously walked many miles free. They were clearly the feet of the naturalist, someone that enjoyed the pain I often associated with running around barefoot. These were the feet which may have traversed hot coals. These feet had taken him somewhere.

 

The television rumbled in the background like some kind of geographical  expose as I continued the panorama of his lower body. Just above his feet were ankles which supported dense calves. If his feet were tundra when it came to hair, his calves and thighs were tropical rain forests.   Calves, now in repose, lay like sandbags.   The backs of his knees, the spring­ loaded cantilevers, the source of his power sit quietly.  His hamstring, a long, drawn, weighty mound of muscle sleeps like an eel amidst the concave back of the quadriceps.  I turned my attention to the television.

“Anything on?” I asked. “Nothing. How’s the book?”

“Can’t seem to keep my mind on it.”

“Well, I think I’m going to turn in.  It’s going to be a long day tomorrow.  Better get as much sleep as I can,” he said as he swung himself around on the bed and I stole a lingering look at him.

“Mind if I yank the blankets out from the end of the bed?  I can’t  sleep when there’s something holding my feet down.”  He tore the sheets from the end of the bed.  “Oh yeah,” he said struggling, “I toss and turn a lot.  If I end up on you, just push me back to my side.”

“Won’t you wake up,” I asked.

“Naw, nothing wakes me up.  Once I’m out, I’m out.  Once when I was a kid and one of the old silos blew up right outside my window.  Woke up the whole town.  Mom had to come in and get me when the fire department got there.  I can sleep through anything!”

When he was finished he sank back into his pillows. I attempted to concentrate on my  Anne Sexton anthology.  I was about to dive headfirst into the story when I quickly turned my head to see him laying on his side looking at me. “May I help you?” I asked.

“Nothing. Just watching you,” he quietly replied.

“Is there something wrong?”

“No,” he said defensively, “can’t someone just watch you?” he finished as he turned his back to me.

I attempted to read, then closed the book and placed it on my lap. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m a little tense, that’s all.  Don’t pay any attention to me.”  I put the book on the nightstand, reached over and turned out the light casting the room in complete darkness and sank back into the bed.  As slowly as dawn, slivers of light grew in the room where we couldn’t shut out the world.

Nothing happened  that night of any monumental  occasion.   All the ingredients were present; one bed, a hotel room, he and I, his body, my body, his sexuality, my sexuality but something was missing. I don’t know now if it was his lack of participation, or if I was waiting for him to make the first move, or if I was so certain that my attraction for him was wrong and his  distraction  of  me  was  correct.   But something,  some  idea,  some  moral  uprightness prohibited me from breaching the boundaries of our relationship.

Steve certainly gave me all the clues and  hints  that  he wanted something  to happen,  that  he wanted  me to press him farther,  beyond his words of denial, pushing  him to make a decision when  his body was screaming  for attention.  Had it been any different, had my subconscious been alerted to the remote possibility that he encouraged my affections, it would have triggered an internal alarm clock and roused me from my sleep at a most opportune  moment when  Steve was between hither and nigh; when he wasn’t certain what, if any of the stimulus and response was dream or reality, that in that deep and calm pool of slumber, his body could react one way while his mind  kept itself tucked  warmly away.   l guess all this conversation  occurred  in  my sleep between my desire and my morality, and on this particular occasion, morality (ahem) rose victorious.