Passion, By Men
It seems almost detrimental to his health that after twelve years of switching from regular to decaf coffee, he would decide to smoke instead. This new epiphany came to him during one of his usual drinking-at-home binges. Weaving and swaying, he felt the worlds modify and the caffeine obsession left him for a sacrilegious pardon unto the nicotine. To drink at home meant to live. To find that one second of him was not accompanied by profanity and monsters that obliterated his sex life, or, rather, his unattainable sex life. They beleaguered his writing, his twilights, his relationships with anything on two legs. “What if she knew that I was so crude?” Would her betrayal merely dismiss his homage to the dark-basement instability?
He drank long from his cup, his back knowing in the chair sat legs, arms, a tongue asking for breakfast. In hesitance, he created. Potatoes, chopped, diminishing them into the onions. Eggs, scrambled to dryness. Toast, slightly burnt and buttered to cover over. During which, the food sat.
“Bless us oh Lord for these our gifts,” he inhaled, “for which we are about to receive from Thy bounty…” he exhaled over the plate, napkin in hand. Across from him, she brought the tip of her forefinger to her brow, to her breasts and began to eat. Her body sat, almost imperceivable over her legs. Her mouth chewed in small ovals, her hands playing in the crusts of her toast. She peeled them from the edges and discarded them into a pile on a napkin.
Over the rim of his cup, he realized that she lingered on him. Her eyes constant. He looked down. He mesmerized his cup. He rose quickly and walked out onto the balcony.
He could baptize himself and breathe in a single washing amongst the Prell and the Dove body bar. As a child, he had been brought up to see himself as David. David with nothing but a slingshot. For some of his youth, more fittingly, he was Jonah, squatting for awhile in whale bile and rotten fish as punishment for not bending, not releasing into the overpowering God. Now, though, at 26, he more resembled Job, a man given by God over to the devil in a gambling wager.
“Do with him what you will…but I swear he will not turn from me.”
His small body standing in front of the pew as the preacher called to him to read from the book of Solomon. “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.” The preacher clothed in white pauses with a morsel of Wonder bread and a Dixie cup of Welch’s grape juice to question him in testimony of the audience. “Do you understand the word of God and humbly admit your body and life to him in view of the members of this church?”
A woman’s voice rises from the pews. “He does.”
The preacher places the bread on his tongue. He swallows. The preacher pours the juice down his throat. Turning from the boy to the pe
ws, the preacher announces, “He is a child of God. Praise be to our Lord, A-men.” His hand shifts the boy, “Sit down son.”
“Yesterday as I was planting in the little garden beside my house, the good Lord spoke unto me revealing a picture of common sense.” The step forward brought the preacher’s hand into the boy’s hair. “I am a kite…This boy is a kite…And we are held by the hand of our God. If we understand this truth, surrender our mind, body, and soul, then our flight will be smooth, guided, and painless. If we are, as so many are in these days, rebellious, defying the will, w
e will be unpure unto Him and when we come to be before Him in judgement, we will be chastised by others and His eyes shall turn from ours’. There will be no time for pleading for He will not listen. He will not hear our voices crying out in sorrow, in sufferance. We will all perish by our defiance. Only when we surrender, su
rrender I tell you, will He raise his arms in welcome, in embrace, and we shall then surely live… So, boy,” he lifts the boy by the armpits, “Will you let yourself be guided? Will you abide by the rules of the pious, like listening and respecting the words of Mother and Father as if they were spoken by God himself? Will you remain pure, unblemished for the name of your Savior?”
The boy assented.
Now he found himself, his body, to be so utterly det
estable, so thoroughly loathsome. He knew the code of offering. He knew the taste of the bread, of the juice. He knew of the baptismal forcing of the head underneath water with fingers pinching the nose.
The woman across the alleyway screamed out her husband’s name. He began to avert his eyes. He never pleasured in watching. He would never stalk her and then steal her passion. He only watched so the co
nception of the ideal could consume his vein and he could get some work done. He had deadlines-expired deadlines, agents calling for “more work…must have more work.”
His mind, moving to the pulse of the neighbors, saw the wife and husband eating at some private coffee house, some café, sipping espresso with a shot of Bailey’s, talking, spouting about the latest film, play, or the such. The woman, holding a glass that would always require her pinky extended, waving about leaving letters, flaunting her philosophy. The flowery-smelling toilet paper, the caviar, the portable radio. The car with the new seat cushions. He left the balcony.
There was coffee to be made. There was no brilliance without sustenance. Only the plaguing of his mother as Dorothy from the “Wizard of Oz.” Pigtails flying, freckles flashing, a glare of nothing in her eye, and her lips sucking down another cigarette. His mother: a woman so full of insects and malnutrition that he imagined her sitting, blood pouring from her lips as she reminded him at the door that she had given up her life for him, for the penetration of his little hand at birth. Her ovaries shriveling up and falling out on the escape of his placenta. From then on, he had cried. I want food. I want Mommy. I want warmth. I want to be played with as you strap me to your other breast.
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither, he would recite, dutifully.
How to capture the puckered incisions where the blood had consummated with his hair? He had tried writing about her but his words failed. She had embraced him, her hands around his shoulders as blood swept from her wrists down his shirt. Then as she gripped his hair, she had mixed the concoction, spewing forth blood. “Anointing his head in oil…her cup runneth over…surely goodness and mercy shall follow all the days of his life…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever…in the name of the Father, the Son, and her Holy Spirit…”
And again, he reminded himself, there was coffee to be made. He could feel that it was going to be another un-positive day.
“I ruin everything. I ruin everything.” He checked the boiling water fussing on top of the hot plate. He washed plates, cups, spoons, anything just to stand there washing, washing and waiting for no reply. What could he say? Was there an elaborate answer that would soothe both the shatteredness of him and the desperate need for normality in her? He had seemed almost perfect that she had wanted to feel his hands, his teeth, but he was dead inside, he had mumbled to her.
He turned to ask if she wanted coffee and if so, how much sugar. No one replied. She had already left singing. It seemed almost detrimental to his sanity that she would take the blueness of his bed, his male sex, and his nightshirt. He lay there after she had closed the door. She probably already enjoyed another man, already become like a cat in heat, pounced on. He lay there with his eyes pressed to the wall, back to the door and tried to smell anything but the encased smell of the plaster.
He had a dream that night, a dream that left him sitting up in bed watching for that hand, that gun, the brain that had spilled out when the bullet had entered his skull. His forehead vomiting up his intelligence. His hands coming up to wipe it away like bangs. His body stirring from the adrenaline, forcing through an erection. His eyes turning to her, to where she used to lay alongside him in a spoon-shaped form. He did not need her, but his eyes strayed to her indent in the sheet. He realized something had mutated from the emptiness now there. It was the knowledge of a next morning of stretching, of touching, of opening, and closing, of seeing and cutting her short bangs, of pretending. In his mind, he had tried to envision her sitting next to his mother, next to the old woman, bleeding. Instead, he saw her fidgeting with her belt, the barrettes in her bangs, her apron around her waist as she tried to fit into her little body. Her breasts, her tomboyish figure moving as she waitressed her tables inside the building. She smelled of powder, of man’s deodorant, of ribs.
Somewhere in his stomach he willed her to turn to that deep hunger, but the window mirroring his own image separated them. He spoke to the window’s glass, “If there is enough passion, then a partnership can work.” She, the woman of no other, spoke to the window, “Passion, by men, is too engulfing, too precipitous, but a slow steady embrace into the olden years is my emptiness and is known by women and unforeseen by men,” then continued to pour her vodka martinis. She spilled a drop on her palm and raised it up to him. “See what I have done?”
He felt old and full of days. He lay back into the bed, his throat smoldering. He suffered a bitter immersement, staring at the overlapping cracks in the plaster as his mind wandered to thinking of his coffee, waiting to be made.