l

Suicide

by 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 him down.

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.

The 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 sadness.

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 the trigger.

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 anywhere.

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.

BACK