due to an email snafu, troy had mislaid the directions from the airport to his apartment. also, i did not have his phone number. fifteen minutes to boarding. voice mail arrives: troy wants me to call him. i did not know the country code for italy. time to board.
the airplane phone didn't accept the myriad of digits i was typing into it. i began to panic, wonder if i had written it down incorrectly. then i stopped. this was my vacation. i would put myself into a gorgeous hotel, call friends to retrieve an email message, call friends to call troy, or perhaps spend the entire trip without seeing him, while being a few blocks away. this was my vacation i told myself, the interruption of routine. accept the difference and enjoy where you are. i had a couple of in-flight beers and passed out after watching a funny film.
troy was on his way to the airport when i called his mobile. i connected the first time i dialed. we decided on a mutually convenient meeting point in the city center. i met him on a train platform, an experience as romantic in europe as it is maddening in new york. i know why troy lives here. i know why we are friends. i know why i love him.
there was a quick trip to the duomo. i had mistakenly believed that an intense interruption in a carving, far above the altar, had been a divinely inspired placement of stained glass. now, nine years after i'd first seen the light, i was pointing it out to troy. but the light was at the same intensity as my memory, and the weather outside was cloudy and gray, unable to produce this kind of light. the light was electric, and once again my memory produced a living effect more fruitful than the accompanied reality. but i gave myself no more than a moment of disappointment. if anything, it was all that troy would allow: both of us have had so much disappointment the last two years that it was only fair that the two of us should remind each other which ones were worth considering as important.
later, we were at a lounge, with the same single-letter name as a lounge in chelsea that bears little resemblance to its new york counterpart. it reminded me of the classic bars of venice: glass inside and out, glass from the first industrial age, and ancient yellow electric light flooding the foggy street. but the physical being of the bar, as always, was only a tiny part of its charm. the crowd was people in fashion, or their associates in fabulousness, and they were dressed to be beautiful, with a slight edge of european outrageousness that only the well-to-do can fail to achieve. everyone was nice. everyone spoke english for me.
i was jet-lagged. troy was working the crowd. what can i say? it was one big business meeting, with good lounge music and recreational drug use. during its course, i met several folk. one was a guy troy had 'picked' for me. he did not need to tell me. the expectation on his friend's face when introduced was enough to tip me off. the lack of sleep and one jack'n'coke (whenever i say this italians laugh, cannot figure out why) had entirely wiped away the stressful work situation i'd left a day before, a reception attended by the lovely dan'l and steven and L, but a feeling that i was physically battling to take time off. now, i was meeting several very interesting people, who in turn took me around and introduced me to even more interesting people and one famous person, and i began to feel as if they all knew i was the friend from new york, the one they'd been expecting, the architect who had nothing to do with fashion but knew the right things to say. i began to let myself become comfortable at this lounge, with a profession whose members i have grown dissatisfied with, in a crowd where i did not speak the prevailing tongue, with faces only familiar for the last two hours, where i was the most underdressed, easily mistaken for someone who did not know better. but they knew i was american, new york, which carries a great deal of cachet here, and when i articulated the difference between fashionable, casual, and trashy, by giving each its due, and a few eyes widened the way they do when one is surprised to recognize himself in another, i could believe my life has always been like this, strangers in paradise breathing night air.
like the flight, or the duomo light, interruption of my routine, my memory, is simply the transition to uninterruptability.
milan malpensa, 7.55a.m.:
this is a people who know and love their brutalism.
ah yes, my young admirer.
i suppose this is the time to say that i secretly love having admirers, a pleasure equalled only by my stubbornness at not publicly admitting it.
but there we were. we had exchanged many emails, because we spent time calling each other out on our little public mis-steps. i'd interrupted a conversation he was having. a month later, he failed to say hello at a party, despite wanting nothing but to chat with me. it was all rather amusing: it was feeding our egos and vicariousness.
my old baby doll troy was in town from milan, and he desperately wanted to go to a party downtown, one that i'd already experienced for some time now. you know where i live: all interesting parties are 'downtown' from here. translation: in the east village. but to satisfy an old friend, i contacted my note-writer, who knows the person who works the door. however, we had to meet at his place and go in together, so that he could say that i was his boyfriend, and avoid the most heinous of all fees, COVER. the little ruse was to get me into his apartment, but i was safely accompanied by my friend troy. nothing would happen.
it took forever to get downtown, because the train came so late. troy and i were forced to spend a great deal of semi-comfortable conversation on the platform with our new acquaintance. the train was crowded at midnight, and filled with very angry folk. i began to feel my throat tighten, and a panic attack develop. we went to the next car: a little better.
he put his head on my shoulder for the person collecting the cover. i kind of grabbed his arm and wee-wahed an expression of cuteness, which was completely pathetic. she's seen me a hundred times, and know i'm not boyfriending anyone there. we got in. he had things to do. troy and i did too. troy, in his best peter-pan costume of satin green short-shorts and green athletic jacket, had to dance on the bar while i drank a little. me, in a very scandalous shirt troy had made for me, wanted to groove. several other things happened, most involving kissing strange and not-so-strange lips. the music was off the hook, yo, and troy and i danced like we were crazy, or on drugs, even though we'd only had a little liquor.
this place does this to me. my mind spins, and does not think about anything. there is a hole in this entry filled with non-descriptive fullness. i am instantly catapulted into billions of bright dreams, envisioning things no one will ever have the guts to say to me, and the touches of the gorgeous, grooving, crowd.
i mean we danced for hours.
later, my new friend appeared again. he was coming for me. he took his place in line, and at some point, was at the front of the line. we pressed our crotches together, both semi-hard, and danced together. we were in time. i had no shirt on.
this is what it is always like in places like this. you already know that i frequently succumb to the habit of removing my shirt. but you don't know that some few of my closest friends know that i can dance man to man with them and still love them as the best friends they are. sometimes our lips touch, or they bite my nipple, or i bite their neck from behind. it's a special relationship i reserve for friends like troy, and several others i can but will not name. but this one, i knew he wanted more. he would only touch my lower back, not my chest, which he was so intently gazing at like cake under glass. he wanted to touch it, but was afraid of going too far, or mussing the frosting. sweet.
and i, dear reader, was looking at his eyes as i'd thought of them weeks ago, as attractive, and full of boundless affection. his gaze wasn't mere lust: it was the desire to give, and the trepidation at doing so. i asked myself, in a second, minx, why have you let him think he is not welcome? are you going to let yourself be pulled away from warmth again, simply because it's not from a source you anticipated? aside from dancing, will you ever let yourself go?
he leaned back, my hand on his back. i pulled him back up quickly by flexing my arm, and while his eyes were still pointed at my torso, i parted his lips with my tongue, and let my desire into his. little minx, good boy.
i was at the gym.
"hey, what's up" he grinned, his wide face pulling up to show his large teeth, the gray in his beard concentrating in his dimples with clownlike spots.
this, for reference, is the fake grin. it is detected through duration, and is not distinguished by any physical characteristics. it is the little grin that is a grimace by being held too long, or too short, which makes it obvious to the person it is given to that the person grinning is not inhabiting the expression: they are calculating how long to hold it so it appears real.
but i didn't need to time it, and yes, as i had glanced his way, in the locker area, as i briefly turned my head while going from shower to steam room, dripping in coldish drops, i had let myself be lazy and didn't have expectations for his reply to my little glance. in fact, i merely smiled and kept padding to the steam door, content that he'd bothered.
my laziness was excusable, because i'd seen him emerge from the shower a few minutes before, when i was in the steam room. or, i should say i saw his feet emerge, while my body was enveloped by the vapor, minutes before. he'd seen it was me, and didn't enter the steam room, instead making a hard turn for the lockers. he was trying to avoid me but felt guilty about it.
you might say that what i am calling laziness is really nothing more than my ongoing fascination with how people communicate with each other, that i adore the structure of our messages as much as what we say. some would say this is my ultimate perversion, because to some it is nihilistic to not value what is being said, and to some, i am nothing more than a formalist. i am far from denying this because i am an architect first and foremost, and therefore have no choice but to be a consummate formalist in order to get anything good done. enjoying the pleasures of the world, i look at how beautiful things of this world can be made so i can make more. i feel like this all the time, whether i'm reading a book, necking with a friend onstage, having my face checked in the subway, designing a chair, or looking at the city of the future. i know that beauty is never singular or true and that nature has many historical meanings, and don't really let that knowledge interfere with my need for beauty or inner nature.
by being lazy, i'd given this guy's autonomic deception a partial, sticky, momentary hold over me, like liquid soap, and i felt his gorgeous face and brutus body surround me like the white clouds in that hot little glassed room. and then i could sigh, slouch, let my abdomen go to its naturally relaxed position, and not worry about looking good. i felt strong. i felt like a guy, because a guy was excited to see me.
but at the same time i was aware of the whole thing, and before the hissing from the steampipe stopped, i'd gone back to the shower to wash up and get home.
it's been quite a while since i saw aaron, and until a couple of months ago, i'd only seen him once, years ago, in crowbar.
truth be told, when i saw him again at starlight, i didn't recognize him. that is to say i did not recognize him as aaron. he seemed familiar, in the way that attractive men in bars are familiar. i have been with their kind before, and seen them naked before i can see what they are wearing; after a half-hour of spirited chit-chat, i can approximate how well they can kiss, or top.
he made my heart race, and all i had to go on was his brow. in candlelight, he seemed to be scowling, the dark lines of his eyebrows shadowed up to his shaved head. crowded by friends at a table deep in the bar, i could not see anything except his face.
he had a clear, intense gaze, with eyebrows and eyes that focused on anything being said by focusing on a part of someone's body, eyes, chest, hand, forearm, behind. he was going through his catalog of facial expressions quickly, and each one seemed full, coded, precise, while at the same time they conveyed that he wasn't thinking about them, but actually feeling many, intense, direct things at once. the energy of it made him seem ready to pounce on anyone. he was very clear about what he wanted: cigarette, drink, kiss, room to wiggle his back and cop a feel.
his face, lit like a billboard on the new jersey turnpike, advertised to everyone that he was not afraid of a fight or mischief.
i was here at the behest of a friend, mike. i dreaded entering this bar and running the gauntlet to find my friend, buried inside. it is always too narrow and crowded, and always filled with shrill folk that match volume with lack of humor or interesting topic. it is much too loud to have a conversation because of the droning and shapeless loungy-techno-gay-whatever music that coats the air like lead, toxic and heavy. there is no place to stand without being struck from behind every other second. the lounge furniture is not comfortable. i took a deep breath, made mental note of intense-face-guy's location, and shuffled into the crowd.
my first step blocked, i dodged right, and got close to a table, suddenly in the middle of a party that was as large as half of the population of lower manhattan, who obviously believed crowding around this single table was the most appropriate venue for their get-together. they were having a fascinating debate about exactly what generic black t-shirt they'd bought at barneys, which, because of their great number, could only be heard by shouting their points.
scintillated, i dodged left, and appeared to be trying to cut in front of three queens waiting for a drink. they drunkenly yelled in a whiny this-is-my-one-moment-of-truth-all-month tone that they were next for a drink and i rolled my eyes and pushed around them.
right, left, right, left. like dodging space invaders in an old video game, this was less about navigating an extraordinary spacecraft than avoiding explosive misery. but at each crash, i was instantly presented with another life, a chance to dodge again, with no other reward in sight. i began to grimace at the irony: i live in new york city: i love crowded bars, given a crowd of people who are attractive to the touch: i feel my weekend is a dismal failure if i have not been to a smoky, loud bar at least once. but this was hell, in its simplest form: the symmetrical opposite of what you desire dressed in all the forms of what you adore. i told myself i was dragging my friend out of here for dragging me into here, if i first did not run out of lives.
someone tugged at my arm. it was the hand of my friend. he was seated on the long banquette behind a little table, and had poked his arm through the group of people mr. easy intensity was with. they all turned and took me in, head to toe, as if i was a runway model (i hate it when people do this). except aaron. he looked at my eyes, surprise mixed with need, his chin cocked up a little, a little wry expression in how it framed his head. he slowly smirked, his mouth open with expectancy. i tried to conceal the urge to go limp, the power his gaze had, and dragged my own eyes from his to my friend.
"mike, i thought i'd never find you. i'm so glad you're here!"
concrete arches rattle
and steel columns shake
in your tired eyes
and tiling grinds
at your edges and feet
when you walk down the platform
as the train comes into the station
it's a singular sound
emanating from your inside
as concentric rings of force
force of nature
claiming this spatial tube
becoming loud, wind, and time
because you are it already.
they are so completely inert, like mountains around the delaware river, glowing with orange leaves and millions of trees. after a hundred years of mining they are barely affected by your puny existence and your stupid rental car. they will never write you as much as you like.
they are so maddeningly distant. really, when am i ever going to a place as remote as, say, des moines, or cody, or portland, or san francisco, especially as a sexual tourist? what agony it is to have constructed between that distance a sexual tension that becomes monumental, accreted over the course of several years, as great as the miles between you. and yet it all would disperse itself in a half-hour of necking on an east village dance floor, were they in town.
i know what they look like, what they feel like, and after reading about them for a couple of years or days, i can gauge the sound of their voice. in fact, i can construct our entire first conversation. when i say "know" i mean that it's a certainty in my mind, even though there are a thousand little surprises mixed in there, like the endless deliciousness of finding the change for coffee in their jeans, the color of their eyes, the indescribable mass of upper arm that never seems to accurately telegraph in photos. their height and shoe size.
it's a form of love, pure and simple, one kind that i would never miss, no matter how many times i've been disappointed by it, and one that i never seem to tire of, even though the urge to explore it strikes me when i feel i'm most resistant to it. i see them with my eyes, and let that glance open my heart, unable to stop myself from putting lips to the monitor. but glass is resistant most chemical reactions, and tastes like nothing.
my heart encased again, inside this little room, soft and separated by glass, the way our high school lockers separated our bright blue and red wool coats, the way our second-hand cars with rusting paint and chipped windshields separated our glances, the way the musty school air separated us in the hall. you were on the football team, i was in the band, and of all my talents and in all my grade points i could not figure out how to even say an appropriate 'hello' to you, one that would be answered in a friendly way, my ignorance matched only by my uneven courage, and sometimes my outright fear of making any contact at all, even though i had plenty of friends and no pressure to be more popular. the glass and locker and air made me invisible to certain people, the people who could learn more about me than anyone else, and i'd be eternally lying to you if i hadn't been comfortable with the inertia behind our separation, and that i sometimes still feel that comfort, and let it slide around my little moisturized wrists.
internet crushes are the worst.
(a guy i dated put a malicious dig about me into his current personal ad. beyond his inability to appear gracious as a first impression, the situation illustrates how this tendency works for online maliciousness too: he can't really hurt me all that much, although if i let it, i can make the unpleasantness come alive, as if it were delivered to my door.)
a stranger made contact over a year ago. but in fact, several strangers wrote me last year.
his email gushed, and was indistinguishable from others i have received. this one had wanted to write for some time, and his mash note was effusive in such a way that it evaporated like spritz in august. the pictures sent left me with the certainty that he looked nothing like his pictures. i gave him a polite, but for me cursory, reply. thank you for your interest in littleminx.com. in order to maintain this level of quality, please take a moment to answer the following questions. how did you find my site (press 1 for jonno. press 2 for jocko)? how long have you been reading? what is your age and bicep size? do you have a site? (you may omit the last one if you sent your link in your message). thanks! minx.
my reply was brief. and to my relief, the little spotlight he shone on me was equally brief. events happened. but in fact, several things happened over the last year. i cannot list them by numbers, and nor would i dare rank anything, but i can delineate at least one tendency.
it is the refinement of a latent tendency in me. it was covered in the first thing i published on the internet about myself, in 1995. but i regressed from that recently, and indulged myself in other pleasures. and after several recent years of discovering these new pleasures, i can say that it is no longer solely isolated in body type, age, or education level.
it's the attraction of a man who wants to be your lover who buys you your favorite cocktail or beer all night long, because for you the second most precious little gift is to be purchased a drink in a crowded New York City bar, because doing this all night long means he is trying to get you pleasantly drunk, and he knows if you were hassled with buying drinks you might be irritated-and-drunk (even though he would be surprised to discover that you are much better at getting a bartender's attention than he is), and your easy acceptance of the inebriation, not to mention your open encouragement of it, demonstrates your innate trust of this man, and your willingness to let him caress your lower back, under the shirt, while talking to much dearer friends, in the bar where you are least likely to remove your shirt, the one your other much dearer friends go regularly to see you.
it's being trashy with an old friend you trust even more, the one who attends the bar you are most likely to remove your shirt in, the one who absolutely will not fuck you again, but who insists on getting blasted, and introducing you to guys he does not want to sleep with as your boyfriend, and asking to be punched repeatedly throughout the night, and dripping cold beer from his lips onto your naked chest because you both know you like all of these things.
it's sharing a bottle of foreign tequila with another friend, until you both hallucinate, fall in love for a little night, and get sick the next morning.
it's the inside-smile, and the little shoulder move, and the hands that do little touches, the little butches that they are.
it's yet another, always getting the ladder out and retrieving the slightest office supply from a hard-to-reach storage area when he overhears you are looking for something, even though he's exceptionally busy himself, and insists on maintaining a maddening ambiguity about his preferences, but also knows it would be much too shallow to steal the easy pleasure of simply watching your arms flex while lifting the twelve-foot ladder into position, and seeing your cute ass in dickies travel up the aluminum rungs.
it's listening in naked surprise as your lips whisper into the ear of yet another friend your deepest come-home-from-work fantasy that involves being tied, because you innately know that he will never repeat it.
in short, i began in earnest an ongoing expansion of my sexual appetites.
a little later, i had occasion to meet this note writer. it was very accidental. much to my surprise, but perhaps not yours, i found him rather charming.
later, when i thought about it, about his beautiful eyes, i found him rather attractive, too.
i'm certain that this has happened to you.
everybody was in white t-shirts and jeans, dancing.
then suddenly, all the white t-shirts were off.
and i could see that he, of all the men there, had the most perfect chest, and chest hair. we are the same height, but very different bodies. his has hair. mine has few hairs. his head hair is buzzed, and balding, and a little gray. i have thick, unmanaged brown hair that always grows back too fast.
if there is anything i learned by reading all about deconstruction, it's that the maximum pleasure equals the maximum difference. i think.
i scratched the valley between his ridges with both hands, for a long time. it drives him crazy when i do this in public. but as you know, this isn't really in-public: this is in-the-east-village.
every time i would rub my palms and fingers up and down, while shaking my behind, he would throw his head back and shake his. the scratching was putting him where we wanted to go, along with the music, grace and her car, and i barely glimped the back of his hairy hands and forearms as he quickly reached around, lifting me up by my behind, bringing me close so i could wrap my legs around him, his new, sweaty, belt. i squeezed the behind a little, in time.
i bent neck and necked. the water in our mouths was testimony: men can be different sizes and shapes, kissing is how they connect, and that love can exist.
next, i was in his bed.
he was in the shower. i was very tired. my body was on its back, and unable to focus on the ceiling for too long, my head flopped to the side. my eyes could see the open closet next to the mattress. at the same level as my accidental gaze was the tawny brown of old leather, leather you use to wrap a tool in, laced with straps. it was dusty, and under piles of books and paper. his apartment exactly like mine except for this ballglove. it was dark around the edges, as if it had at one time been oiled regularly. yet there were light colored scratches that gave it an aged, discarded look.
i shifted to my stomach, and turned so that i was looking straight up to see the glove.
it was stretched to fit a large and strong hand, one that would wrap itself around a speeding baseball. the lacing was stretched, wrinkled, hairy, and still strong, like the back of his hand. that hand. i wanted to put myself on the field, as him, as someone who had those hands, as the man who was in the shower, taking his wet place on a field that i had rarely been hairy or sweaty on. the shower echoed in my head, and i felt my throat tighten.
i stood up. i was naked. i reached forward for the glove, slipped it from the closet shelf. as i held his glove, the shower sprinkled from the hall like rain on my parents' musty garage, the dust being cobwebs of hidden spiders. i became convinced that i could do this, borrow a few moments from his past, a gift like so many he'd given me in the last couple of hours, ones involving hair and sweat and strong skin and places to go, hand in glove.
i put my hand in the dusty glove and something inside squirmed around it. i yelped as i dropped the glove and a dozen black crickets dripped from my fingers to my toes.
and then i woke up in sweat. it's been quite a while since i saw aaron.
ps all work in this domain is copyright chad the minx.