Kyle from Korea wanted to order a Long Island Iced Tea. He wears braces, little bolts between his tiny top teeth, and he works in New Jersey, but lives in Queens. His face, that night, was like a small moon with shiny black hair around it. His smile, pink, and his English moved around his need to make others touch, lifting a stranger’s hand onto the arm of another, wanting to force together those he’d never have. “People only hate or like” him, and he thinks all Americans are friendly, “They’re always smiling.”
Virgil soon realized that Kyle sees “American” as “White,” but Kyle understood this fact to be complicated by knowing he would have to walk toward the train into the dark morning, alone, out of the bar, with his big grey backpack over his shoulder. Kyle’s hand? Did it slip, along the outside of Virgil’s ass, lightly, and how could Virgil recall this as he worried about what was caught in Butch’s eye, an irritant Butch would wash out with Artificial Tears. But as Virgil worried, he knew that Kris was being clocked by Scales-for-Flesh.
His skin, Kris pointed out, was the “only thing,” as in, it was the only thing that separated him from the rest of the men Kris slept with, those defining scales he imagined scalloped down his back, and like an asshole, Virgil sung into Kris’s description, “Psoriasis.” It’s why Scales-for-Flesh wears so many layers of clothing, a full on suit in the humid city, and even in the bar, buttressed up to his thick neck. It was as if his whole head was wrapped in a cocoon. Virgil feels Scales-for-Flesh’s black Banana button down stomach, fat and stretched, and not because Kyle pulls his arm into it, but to cock-block Scales-for-Flesh’s attempt to get again with Kris, who wears a beard, white and round, yellowing at the base of his stash, stained with smoke, above the rim of his mouth.
When Virgil first tongues Kris, he tastes blood, and thinks it came from somewhere behind his lips, maybe it was his gums. Just inside Virgil’s mouth, he wants to forget the taste of blood with his own tongue, but Kris’s is short and flat, the surface, raised bumps. However, Virgil is less interested in the feel of the tongue, than he is taken by the beard, a cloud hanging from a sky, or cut, almost rounded like a Hampton’s hedge, out of which breath and spit drips into Virgil’s mouth. Virgil loves to be kissed like this, and to be wholly stuck underneath Kris’s body, or a body like his, to be slowly filled.
Under Clean, it feels like Virgil’s entirely lost beneath his body, which is smooth and unmarked. With Clean, Virgil’s back straightens along the sheets, flat is the spine from the coccyx to the base of his neck, from which his head leans back, his bald spot digging into the sheet. Virgil takes in all of Clean. The sensation is close to an inversion of being poured into by Kris, as in moving under the wide rails of the bridge on a three-person jet ski, as he looks up holding Avon close in to his body, or his hands gripping the small strap on the seat behind her, as he looks up at the wires beneath the bridge, the houseboats, his foot dragging into the brown river, cutting as would a rudder, resisting, guiding, just below the surface.
Kris fucks up the shoulder of the brown, raised fabric couch in the Junior Suite of the Park Lane Hotel, because his open ass smells faintly of shit. Or maybe Virgil and Kris fuck up the couch because Virgil blew Kris on it, though Virgil did try to ease Kris down from the couches’ shoulder, so that his crack was not open, ruining the fabric. “Gamey,” is how he describes Kris’s smell to Malcolm, over the rice-flour fried Calamari they share at lunch, or maybe it is the smell of not shit, but Kris’s ass pores releasing the rest of the American Spirit resin into the sofa, a smell that Virgil will later try to scrub clean with the hotel’s wash cloth.
This is the same scrubbing that he practices in Butch’s truck in the basement of the garage, where the seat has been leaked on with salsa from Table & Vine. This is the same scrubbing that he will do in the bed of the Sheraton, the morning he leaves, while Clean gets ready to go into the office. Virgil’s own soap soaked puddle, like a soft, horizon, spot edged with red, a warm stain from his stomach that promises some animal was once there, ambling into the forest, vanished.
Virgil carries a small ice bag from the Sheraton, filled with hot water and honey colored shampoo to draw the acidic-red from the seat. The hot bag looks like it should hold a gold fish. It looks like the bellies on the beach above the black sand, and above this air that stunk of beer and weed. The dumb look on the retarded face of the father that lets his little boy jump on the jet-ski with a total stranger, who when not holding the child, rides up and down the river, clearly visible from the shore, speeding while sitting backwards, and, once, even balancing atop the handle bars.
The morning is pouring into his suite. And in the night, Virgil looks up and recalls the events that might be painted up on the rust color walls of the sugar factory he visited with Butch just three days before. How might this be caught in a language other than scrubbing, standing on couch seat cushions, hoping to draw out the stain, now only once there?
Virgil is hopeful that he will not be charged for Kris’s stink, that it will dissipate enough for it to go un-smelled. But all morning, the suite still wreaks of Kris’s ass, something that Virgil has smelled only once, and will probably only smell once. Out of this reality, he eats Clean’s pristine ass, and this is exactly why Kris eats Virgil’s: “What’s wrong with him?” is what he asks, when Virgil tells Kris that Butch never eats him out. Maybe this is what helps Virgil decide to kill that black, thick headed figure in the dream that represents, according to Sshape, Virgil’s most damaged self.
Clean is clean. Clean slides into Virgil, thick and slow, and it hurts, and he is tight for Clean, and he will taste his own ass on Clean’s uncut dick. Virgil is shocked to taste his own light blood. Clean is above him like a soft plank, his armpit just above Virgil’s face, their skin surfacing into one another, like a yacht resting into the water, the bowed hull of a white steamer, and he thinks of the Love Boat cutting across the T.V. screen, or the shot above the island that contains the land and the boat.
Clean’s skin is soft and old, and his hair is a golden retriever’s but black-grey, loose curls soft in Virgil’s hands. He can feel the space at the base of the back of his head, where there was a hole, and beneath, a tumor plucked out. The skin dimples, but is taut over where the skull was drilled, and below this is a metal plate that can’t be felt by hand. Virgil feels that he can take all of Clean in, but wonders if he has lost the ability to cum, then, or gives up this ability to become taken, to give his walls up, to be filled up, to catch everything Clean has.
Virgil came three times, not then, of course, because he had six Blue Point Oysters to attend to before he was straddled and face-fed by Clean, and before he submitted, and before he thought of something to be said about the morning overlooking the city, as daylight came in the form of the burnt, orange sun. The streak of it lit the steel looking glass along the building, and it radiated across one side of Central Park to the other: “There’s nothing like having your ass eaten while looking at this,” is what Kris tells Virgil, and Virgil realizes this is something that he will have to remember, because the view will not be captured by camera, even though he could have taken the shot with his iPhone.
Virgil orders Kyle an Old-Fashioned, not the Long Island Iced Tea that Kyle said he wanted, and it is strong, and Kyle’s hands are long and thick like a woman’s would be thick if that woman were a man, and Virgil and Kris agree that Kyle is lovely, and Virgil points out that Kyle understands nuance, and is skilled in his English because he not only understands who will end up leaving with whom, but that he seems content to leave alone, and this is what he communicates in his loose light plaid cargo shorts, bulky unmemorable tee, and shoes that will forever go unremarked.
Before the After Party, Buzz thinks, at first, that Virgil is an accountant, and he thinks this because of the white, striped grey linen shirt that says, “Made in New England,” on the inside collar’s tag. Virgil paired this shirt with crisp Diesel Jeans, and almost new caramel wing-tips, topped off with a John Varvatos navy blue, two button, barely striped blazer. Buzz wants to open Virgil’s shirt, even more than it is already forced open by his thickening chest. Of course, Virgil is the most beautiful of them all, and he has barely eaten, so he feels skinny, as if a line, and he understands this at the time he is gathering in the attention he wants.
Virgil is why they were flanked together in that bar cul-de-sac of sofas and mirrors, but could have been a bay window. To the left, Kyle smiles, and breaks into what Buzz and Virgil say to one another in the adjacent couch. What does Kyle hear? Does what he hears matter as much as how Buzz and Virgil connect? Buzz’s short white fingers unbuttoning the classic pull of the buttons in the linen, Buzz’s smooth head prone on Virgil’s chest, the quick kisses between them. Buzz turns up his head and looks into Virgil’s eyes: “You’re someone I’d Marry.” “When I listen to your words…” In the exchange, for Virgil, there is nothing said that’s truly urgent. Buzz is a prop. Buzz is a source. Buzz is an anchor.
Virgil as spectacle. Virgil as gift. Virgil as Catalyst and exploit, as corner man for no-one but himself. Virgil is alone, detaching from Buzz. Buzz snaps at Kyle who looks into the fish bowl, staring at the darting inside, whatever, floating to the bottom. Buzz says “Thank you,” or “Have a good night,” which means get lost, and Kyle understands this, exactly, but continues to press in. Because Kyle is magnetic, his lips around a stirring straw, his backpack wedged into the corner between sofas, his cell phone plugged into the nearby outlet, Kyle remains, no matter what, too close.
But Kris is fine. His body is hard. Virgil’s relieved at the slightly pushed out gut, strong, and the jeans are soft, and the belly is soft enough, and the beard is like a teeny mountain, his washed linen shirt, cornflower blue. Virgil knows that what he and Buzz share is a bubble that Kris will penetrate. Virgil helps. He looks directly at Kris, his eyes, then his chest, between his legs spread open to wide on the barstool.
So when Kris hears Virgil suggest how Buzz should actually attend to his students around questions of finance and ethics, or maybe when Kris hears Virgil’s interpretation of Buzz’s own understanding of finance and ethics, this may have been what prompted Kris to finally speak: “I’m just sitting here.”
As the sun came up from below the city, emerging to illuminate it, on the other side of the window, Kris was eating Virgil out. His beard pushed into the tongue of Virgil’s little asshole in which is tucked away what the general doctor could not feel, even though he had his index, “pretty deep up in there,” even turning it inside, as if on a clock’s face, “from six to three.” The park featured a brown lake close to the bottom of what Virgil could make out from the thirty-sixth floor, and in him, he attempted to fashion a moat around everything in his sight.
In the bar lounge, three thin white boys piled around one another, ricochet dancing, their bodies in white denim, and in this denim, they feel invincible. No-one can stop them in what will they do through the night. The waitress in the bar is black, and she wears braids like a little girls plaits woven into a ponytail, and baby girl beads at her tips. She hunches down, skirting along the floor with a steak knife jutting out of her hands, holding it sideways, moving like a crab along the floor, near the table’s legs. She latches onto someone’s thigh, and as she’s moving, she tells us she, herself, has been stabbed. And she is not trying to stab anyone back.
Virgil’s dream is a nightmare. It also features another black figure, a shadow, an un-human that writhes half alive on the floor. It can’t be placed, but still, it’s there. Does it have a head? It does, because Virgil is the one who will aim for it. What does this say about Virgil? What does it say that he finds a white granite rock, lifts it up and smashes the head of this black creature that, he thinks, has stabbed the black waitress? Black on Black crime? Killing, Virgil realizes, is criminal. He tries to even burn what, or who has been smashed, this, perhaps out of a feeling he can’t identify.
Scales-for-Flesh spits out “Excuse me,” fast and rude to Virgil, as he hugs Kris goodbye, and says into Kris’s eyes: “Je Adore you.” “I Love You.” “I Love You.” He does not know Virgil has the dream of a black figure that can’t be killed, fully, and certainly nor be erased with a single white, rock, but the boys dance in their whiteness, and the waitress, too, though black, too, wants it killed. Or is it Virgil’s want? So continuous, Virgil who cannot sleep through any single night without such a battle?
Clean says he does not want to see Virgil screwed over by anyone; or to clarify, that Clean should be the only one who should screw him, and this screwing makes Virgil feel secure, locked in, like the hum of the fan that fills the morning, sure in the ways his body gives over to where the Discovery River meets the Sacramento, the zone where the their currents mix, the push of the warming water around his leg dragging in the river.
Virgil and Avon jet upstream, one holds the other, and they cruise on the surface of the chopping, leaping up the wakes, almost flying, moving as if in going home to a sky, and there are hawks that position above them, still in the sky, ready to pounce on the white, small birds that shake the hawks off, drifting away from the threat of their murder.
Virgil wants to paint this scene as large as his mind might encompass, on a bigger wall than he can’t yet imagine, but when he does, “The Tribes Of Morocco,” spoken in his ear is not the “secret” that he thought Rahan was passing on, but rather a small, crowded import store downtown that Virgil will never visit. This place is far from Butch’s body, that is shaped like a Hershey’s kiss in the early evening before they’ll both drift into T.V., Butch, a stretch of muscle attached by long, thinning limbs, and his shoulders cut, now, dropped above the L shaped sofas in the sunroom.
Just outside of the sunroom is a full bag of leaves in an ACE bag that will end up on the curb, and the image of the bag set out there is doubled with the sound that it made as Butch filled it. From inside, Virgil saw Butch multiply reflected in the open window through the bushes in front of the house. He can’t tell, however, where Butch was in relation to the plants, nor could he make out the sound, whether it was him walking away and talking at the same time, or whether Butch was still and pushing leaves into the bag.
But in the morning, the fabric of Butch’s shirt looks almost tweed, the infused pattern embedded lightly into the weave. Virgil calls this shirt “old,” and Butch wonders why. It was because it of its camel khaki tint, its boxy cut, from circa sometime in the 90’s, maybe Tony Lambert, its two darts opening up in the back, the shadows gathering in the dart’s creases as he turned to leave for work.
And Virgil, later that day, will walk around the park, drafting on the asphalt paths, or running up the grassy hills, Virgil cutting into what he remembers, Virgil, jogging, bitten by a summer horsefly. The wound will mound, only to later sink back into his neck. Virgil watches the rock on their desk. The rock is the color of Butch’s shirt, heavy, a dull axe, grooved, “a Native American tool,” Butch calls it. Lying on its shadow, it is sloped to reveal its pocked surface on one edge, before the sun totally erases this, two white shiny marks, caught like a drawn eye.