Here's a rough, uninhibited draft part of a story I'm working on: a false memoir story: just part of the first two are covered, and not the third one which comes later.
Three Things To Forget
I was never taught to kiss or shave or tie my shoes.
I find it funny that when I first did them it was at the same time.
Was it really? No, not quite. But almost. I knew how to tie my shoes, but it was the easy way, the way a paid nanny taught me and it was not the proper way. Kissing I thought was violence. Until I did it wrong. And it was. Shaving, I assumed, was just what the muscular Apollos in the commercials did before they are whisked away on a sexual spaceship.
Now I can say I have a fairly hefty past. Because of just three things which are the beginning of many more.
It was when kids who were almost not kids played cruel games to pass the time.
Like Truth Or Dare. Or Thirty Seconds In The Gazebo or Doing Time or Smother The Lover. Doing Time, as you might have guessed, was an incarceration game. Smother The Lover riffed on the notion of the dog-pile which was an experiment in endurance, sort of like being tickled when you’re bound to a chair with garden hose. The word "lover" was our first dirty word and it incited the players to pile upon each other like rabid dogs. Often the pea at the bottom of that writhing pod would be four breaths close to passing out. But it was exciting being that pea.
The kissing was at a party full of ten and eleven year olds. It was a pool party where some brave boys had snuck in beer but the parents were nesting within the bowels of the house, playing a card game or watching detective shows, leaving us kids to the darkly-lit residential fringes where water splashed and girls laughed and the sound was the same but different.
Cold feet on rough concrete, easily scraped. We're always running. The slimy rim of the pool that made me shiver. The taste of pie you buy from the vending machines, the stale, frosted shell and the slaughterhouse innards.
Was it a birthday party or some other festivity? Birthdays were the only reason why anyone did anything. You always wanted to get old. Made a big display of it when you did. The houses had scraping edges and basin-shaped backyards that typically had pools gouged into them. The landscape was artificial like candy and thus purely enticing. You don’t stop liking candy even so close to your teens. Candy is a prop and a delight. It is not an acquired taste.
A bamboo grove, falsified or real, whispered on the edge of the pool. Some bogus oriental gazebo where people played their cruel games in. Things like Velcro wallets and limited edition tennis balls got lost in the ornamental foliage and people used that as an excuse to hide there. The unmistakable sound of Velcro opening, even on those sneakers where you could stow secret nickels. But the Velcro sound was never naughty, for it never protected such things.
I admit, now that I remember, it wasn’t a kiss at all that first time.
It was a glorious fuck-up.
Instead of kissing, I sucked and then finally bit this poor girl’s cheek. Her skin was tasteless but flushed. I heard her take in a sharp breath. A shard of air. Every particle was distinct and important. My tongue met her skin, as light and dry as an eyelash. My lips followed, my two front teeth with their rabbit’s gap sank into the occasion.
She took in another gasp. The sound of her breathing was shocking. Maybe she had sipped a half a beer and been splashed by cold, chlorinated water in the side of the pool as of yet unwarmed by the jostling of smooth bodies. I never thought about breathing until I sucked that poor girl’s cheek in the poolside twilight.
I wonder why it wasn’t her lips I kissed. They were, after all, presented to me. But I turned her cheek. What was it about those lips? They were chapped like motel wallpaper and there was candy, perhaps meat stuck in her braces, dissolute traits which made her seem dangerous and I remember it wasn’t her but her sister Corey, who chased me and pinned me against a grounded canoe in a game the camp counselor called Predator Prey.
Corey’s braces had made her gums bleed which invested her with a menacing, predatory face. That was a game that made me nervous. I took those things seriously. It was an unspoken way to gain status: being good at unimportant games.
Cruel games and cruel experiments: later we sit in offices and crack jokes about dying young.
The night of the pool party we had been experimenting with beer foam and lollypops like kids will do, and sometimes with more outright cruelty, knowing that something will always get hurt and will forever cry out to make it stop. Make it stop something will demand. Or not.
I don’t know why it wasn’t her lips. The peeling skin and the flotsam rotting under her metal-gated teeth was less nightmare and more ambiguous invitation. But her cheek was like the skin of a fruit. I’m talking about someone else now, I think. Pale like marble on the outside, sticky, fuchsia meat within, as distant and astronomical as a neighboring galaxy.
She told me it was funny what I did.
Everything was either funny or nice. Agony we kept quiet about. Ecstasy we saved for our dreams. I played it off like a joke. This was a first survival mechanism. I learned early to play things off as jokes, until people got wise that that was what I was doing which made things worse.
You set the fire in the bathroom? Yeah, all in good fun though. You scored a point for the other team? It was a joke, man! When you read aloud your voice cracks and you sound like a girl? I’m mocking my fat friend but I love him. You throw bottles at passing traffic? That was not me, that was him, his father abused him, his sister tried to sleep with him and soon, but you don’t know this now, he’ll become a white supremacist who’s doing time. And not the game Doing Time which was always interesting when the girls got to be the guards. There was visible unease in the boy's faces, as if a lesson was not only being taught but forcibly digested.
. . .HERE AN INTERMEZZO...an awkward encounter with a friend in a park. . .
I wouldn’t have kissed him were it not for the cheap wine and the lovely, riparian verse and the harvest moon with the frilly edges, almost cigarette-burned. B
But the girl I kissed was at a pool party where people were shooting billiards under a plantain tree. The submerged lighting gave everything a blue Hollywood glow. The boys had hairless, bright chests like billiard balls.
I was less self-conscious about taking my shirt off but I remember that even the slightest gust from the valley below could harden my nipples. My friend’s chests felt good to my open palm, like matter at its most permeable. I was palming them because of some game, twister meets hot potato and the smiles in everyone’s eyes were as hard as candy.
We had other games too. Hide N’ Seek crossed with Doing Time (a jail game).
We were ten or eleven and not afraid of life, only each other and what we might become. The girls had fierce hips. Less jutting than stabbing, like they were sidewinders and could injure you in your blind spots if you weren’t paying attention. Walking was as risky as driving when you’re night-blind. You had to pay attention. It was all quite nerve-wracking.
I remember she had a Polish last name and hair so blond it was almost white. I don’t remember being driven home later than night or feeling the anticipation of being in my room, stranded with myself and my eager hands. I don’t know how vivid my conjuring might have been, or if my imagination has gone stale in the intervening years that have done much to sully the soft, impressionable matter I was then. Life’s work, at least in these dirty metropoli is to mangle the softness, a task both necessary and traumatic.
I don’t remember what I might have done by candlelight with my headphones on. Today I attribute minor hearing loss to having expensive headphones. I attribute my immunity to hot coffee cups to my child’s love of candles. But what I would give to remember those first raptures, like a cow remembering dry lightning
But that night I also shaved because I thought I had whiskers. It was just prickly fuzz and I bled a lot, shiny pinkish blood that I smeared in my journal like some occult oath. The oath of the abyss I called it. I would cross the abyss of my own male fears. I’m an only child. I used to love Christ. But now I mistake him for matter. I’m a junkie for matter but I don’t have a lot of things.
I just praise the stones I pull from the creek. . .
TO BE CONTINUED