Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton
He would leave the bar in Yonkers and walk the
streets until daylight. Somehow, in the way known only to prostitutes,
he would know how to look like he was for sale and he would know who to
look for and he would know exactly where to walk to make all this
possible, this selling of his flesh-in particular, the penis bent to
the left or right when hard. The men would be pathetic he said, small
and bald or full of pimples or very pudgy or they had a lisp or they had
lots of money and nothing to do with it. He was always the one on top.
He promised me this even before we'd heard of AIDS, he promised it with
an air of superiority, as if taking in a penis is so much weaker than
forcing it in. The men paid him and needed him and he was drunk and they
were usually drunk and it was years ago although not that many years ago
really because he was only two years sober when we met. He scared me
with his stories although he never went into detail. He wasn't proud or
not proud but still the stories existed and there were more to come that
were scarier, like the times he'd be sober and pick up a gay guy in the
village and just tease him. Through the break-up years, he liked to tell
me these stories and why I listened I'll never know. It was a kind of
exquisite torture he put me through, I think, to repay me for letting
Two penises battle each other like soft swords,
brush against each other at night-the bumping heads of two roughhousing
children. The penises spiral like the pharmacist's Rexall sign, like
DNA, like mattress coils. They seem redunsant at first until there are
willing hands and mouths and darker holes.
When Jim was in sixth grade he had a crush on Mr.
Dupont who stood in front of the board, all moustache and beard. The
equations faded behind him as Jim wondered how many wonderful hairs he
had on that face. What it would feel like to pet him, tenderly, like he
petted his cats. Mr. Dupont wore plaid pants and big heavy shoes. Jim
was too ashamed to stay after school, his grades worse and worse as the
year went on, numbers strangling themselves in his head.
I think about him thinking about Steven as I danced
in his mother's antique slip, trying to seduce him after our fight.
Another time he refused to leave my bed. When I tried to kick him out he
held onto the mattress crying. When I came back from my walk he was
still there in the same position. Not that this proves love. Not that
this proves anything. He took a picture of me once, just my legs. He
brushed my hair and held my hand.
My friend Winnie was too fat to have sex or even a
boyfriend. She lived with Jim on Broadway in Yonkers. They fixed up the
apartment like husband and wife. They cooked expensive dinners and ate
together, though he was often late as husbands are. He complimented her
clothes and hair, the way she arranged fresh flowers. Then on her
birthday he hired a male prostitute so she could lose her virginity. She
was thirty. She'd never taken off her clothes in front of anyone. Her
thighs as wide as the pillows on the couch. She cried and the prostitute
wound up stripping for her instead and saying goodnight. He later snuck
into Jim's bedroom where the two of them had sex. They opened like fault
lines. They shook the bed. Winnie didn't even have a vibrator, her
mysterious clitoris hidden somewhere in the folds of all that flesh. She
went to gay bars and when she was drunk tried to kiss the men. One
poured beer over her head. Buster was into bondage and drugs. His roommate
often came home to find him naked, tied to a chair. He was shot
at when he owed money. He had a beard like a TV cop. Winnie loved him.
He said he'd done women, but only doggie style.
woman was in the right-hand corner of my dream and the child (a girl,
about 8) was in the left-hand corner. The woman flew to the ceiling, her
legs kind of crooked behind her and shrunken, actually. She kind of
became a huge bird and flew over to her daughter who was miraculously
hidden from my sight by something resembling a church pew. Miraculously
because the woman was holding a giant block of cement, and as she landed
beside the girl began beating her with the strange weapon. The child's
battered face became visible. Now she was sitting in a pew with other
children, and the audience in my dream said "Oh" in shock and
This is what I imagine for him: Always wrestling
with his chubbiness. Fussing over his hair. He didn't mind being used,
in fact, welcomed it. It frightened me, the way people could use him up,
and I wonder how I used him, if I did, and if I held the gun and pulled
When I was sleeping with Jim he told me that he'd
been with a man who lived in New York City. We met at the gallery. I
knew it was him, as Jim touched his arm the same way he touched mine.
The man was shorter than I was, Japanese, with delicate features. I felt
jealous, as though he were prettier, as though he might have more
interesting things to say than I would, standing there with a diet coke
in his hand, the yellow and green painting behind his head. Jim wanted
everyone: the waitress with forty earrings up her lobe, the man who sold
him liquor at the corner store. What would it be like if they were in
bed with us now? Where would you touch them? I played along because I
didn't know what else to do. He was wearing my fish net tights. Regular
sex wasn't enough. What did you do with the man? I wanted to know. I
fucked him. He said it was like having capers on the side, something he
only had a taste for once in a while.
Winnie and Jim would walk from the cowboy bar to
the Korean grocers, drunk and pointing at dusty blue cans of shredded
coconut. No one in the East Village had made Pina Colodas in such a long
time. It was funny-that palm tree on the can, that sugar in the mixture
that made Winnie want to buy it and eat it by the spoonfuls like ice
cream. She was there because she'd waited all those years for a
boyfriend. You couldn't bring Jim home to your mom, but at least he
never made fun of the fat. He played with the flab under her arm while
he was talking about stars colliding, strange science. He had a computer
with a black screen and white letters. Winnie watched him work, before
him a small window on the night sky.
Winnie was scared when they rented the car and
drove to Canada. Jim drank beer and mooed out the window at the cows. He
took Winnie on a hike through the woods, making her walk ahead at the
beginning so he could watch her ass move. He quickly passed her up the
hill. She was out of breath and broke out in a sweat. She wasn't sure
which way was the way back to the car, Jim zigzagging through the
evergreens and pines, ignoring the trails which were clearly marked. By
now she wasn't even on a trail. Her feet slipped on wet rocks, her
thighs rubbed against each other, the hem of her shorts inching towards
her crotch. She hated Jim, she told the sky, each crunchy acorn. She
wanted to lie down and die, imagined a rescue team finding her blue and
bloated. A police officer would call her parents, who would say,
"Where was Mary?" (She told them she was going away with her
girlfriend.) When Winnie finally found Jim he was lounging naked on a
huge rock, his clothes littered around the pine needles. Her face was
scratched and sore, she'd walked into so many branches. She threw a
handful of pebbles at him but missed.
Jim told me about his mother: When he was little
she held him down on the floor with her knee and punched him in the ear.
Punctured his eardrum. When I first met her she looked at me with
sadness as if to say: I didn't mean to but I fucked this one up.
Some days he imagined himself as lady-killer James
Dean, other days he was Kerouac searching for his Cassady. He drove his
truck out into the middle of a golf course and ran a hose from the tail
pipe into the cab. He made sure no one would find him-no ritual garage,
no note-but the grounds keeper came along and saved his life. Every June
he'd threaten suicide. He said he couldn't bear the thought of another
summer. His eyes were the goddamnest blue I'd ever seen and when I would
look into them it was as if they were the top of a well deeper than
Winnie and I were like ex-wives of the same dead
man. Winnie smoked slowly and talked slowly, sometimes for hours without
interruption. She loved thin seaweed crackers, and small delicate
knickknacks. Another friend had recently died and her address book was
full of magic marker blotches. No one loved her, she was sure of that.
Her parents wanted her home for Christmas as if there could ever be a
Christmas without Jim.
The first time we made love he chewed his lip as if the act required tremendous concentration. If the horses went wild after that, it was Jim who rode across the finish line. When my mind was white light and my body acoustic, I'd feel afraid and not know why. He said: Let's imagine your friend Winnie in bed with us. Or John and Sheila. One by one he fantasy-fucked my friends until I disappeared up my own vagina and then I left him. He waited until June to die. He was 37 years old. I never made it to the funeral.