“You want a cigarette?” he said.
“Yes,” Felix said.
They sat in his kitchen. For a long time they had been talking back and forth, but never until this night, was he in Felix’s house.
“I love Marlboros,” Felix said, looking on the cigarette, as he lit his and poured his guest a drink.
“This is good Scotch.”
“It’s decent Scotch,” Felix said.
“Damn I like your apartment.
Felix looked at him. Little red goatee. Feed cap, good manners, good teeth, marmalade hair.
“I just got back from
“That was my show! Well, up till the last season.”
“The last season was shit, the fourth season wasn’t much either.”
“No, no,” Felix differed, “it was alright. But, really, they could have just stopped with season three, after they killed Idris Elba. But… is
“Shit,” Felix’s friend pulled off his hat and exhaled a jet of smoke. “Ten times worse.”
They kept smoking and drinking, but not really needing to talk more, comfortable in the two in the morning space where everything was possible.
When the Scotch was done and they had both smoked, Felix said, “Well, what next?”
“I don’t know,” the guy from
Faint heart never won…. Well, never won anything. And he was here, after a year of talking and missed opportunity and there was no need for another missed opportunity, so Felix reached for the button of Baltimore’s slightly baggy jeans, and he unbuttoned them and unzipped them as Baltimore opened his legs. Felix got down on his knees and reaching under
Felix stopped. He turned his head to the darkness of the room in his studio he used as office, bedroom and den.
“The bed is ready,” he said. “Shall we?”
After a while you knew what worked, what did not, and how not to humiliate yourself or waste your time. You found someone like gold, someone like Baltimore who was never going to be a boyfriend, but never going to be an asshole either. Who brought the cigarettes and drank the Scotch before, and after the two of you lay naked, half asleep, covered in come, redressed, and had two more cigarettes saying:
“Goddamn, you got your life together. I need to get my shit together too.”
“It’s not even close to being together,” Felix said. “And who knows what it’ll be like tomorrow?”
In time Felix walked him out and they went down the seven floors in the jiggity elevator.
“Are you sure this goddamn thing won’t break?”
“Well, I’m never really sure of anything,” Felix said.
A few minutes later he was back in the four am blackness of his apartment, his body still humming with the memory of sex, and he was undressing and climbing into bed.
He had been an only child and fairly sheltered at that, largely friendless. Once, when he had been out with his father he declared, “I like that man.”
Sourly, his father had said, “You like everybody.”
Felix had been seventeen and not very sexual at all. When he was eighteen he had thrown himself into college life, into knowing as many people as possible, and being involved in as many things as he could. Late blooming, he had masturbated for the first time at eighteen. He didn’t know it was happening, his hand was down there and nothing had ever happened in his late blooming body, but that day something did. Wet dreams meant little, He wasn’t awake to feel what they did, just to see their results. This was his first orgasm, and he never tired of them.
The sexual encounter, in the night, past midnight, before the sun, was the most enchanted of times, the promise of meeting, of touch, and the possibility of orgasm. Better than his own coming, was Baltimore’s, when the guy in jeans in ball cap, nervous of being undressed, had been naked and lean and white in the moonlight, beautiful beside him, and leaning over him, hard arched, coming in long, wet jets of semen, sighing against him, leaving Felix’s stomach and chest hot and slick with his presence. There was no such thing as casual or empty sex. All sex was ceremony, Sex was always full and fully loaded.
ONE DAY, AFTER HE had been hired at the Marion Arms, he was laying out a white tarp and spray painting the walls of a corridor when Felix came walking down the hall and he apologized, “You can come around. Just let me move this right out your way.”
“It isn’t necessary,” Felix said, “I’ll just walk downstairs and come back the other way.”
“Are you sure?”
Felix had stopped, because he knew the boy. He had to think a while and get up close to him and then he realized he had seen him naked, on Adam4Adam with the screenname: Orange Hat and the tagline: When you see me, say you know what the Orange Hat is for.
“Absolutely,” Felix said, and when he came back around, Joey said, “I’m Joey,” and Felix said, “Felix. Pleased to meet you,” and doffed his fedora.
He wasn’t going to bring up orange hats today.
When Max was fixing the drain, Felix came into the kitchen with its black and white check pattern and saw Max’s legs hanging out of the sink.
“Joey not here?”
“Joey’s downstairs,” Max said, his voice echoing from under the sink.
It had been a month since Felix met Joey, and he had hoped to see him again.
“Um,” Felix said. “Well, that’s too bad. Tell him I saw him the other night.”
“Just tell him, Felix said, “I know what Orange Hat means.”
By the end of the day there was a knock at the door and Felix wasn’t surprised when Joey was standing there looking jumpy and amazingly hot.
“Whaddid you mean by…. Orange Hat.”
“I mean I saw you on the net. I saw your—”
Joey put a finger to his lips and pressed inside the apartment, closing the door behind him.
“You can’t say shit like that?”
Felix raised his eyebrow.
“Were you trying to make me feel weird. Or embarrassed?”
“No,” Felix said. “I was trying to tell you I want you.”
The first time Felix and Joey had sex, they were sitting on the couch and Joey said, “So whaddo you wanna do?” and Felix put his hand on Joey’s thigh, and then Joey put his hand on Felix’s and Felix moved closer. He began to massage Joey’s thigh, and then he opened up the boy’s shorts, and started to stroke his dick through his underwear. Joey made a moan like a cat purr and leaned his beautiful head against Felix’s shoulder, opening his mouth a little, his green eyes closing into slits. His mouth reached up for Felix’s the same time Felix squeezed his dick, and when Joey turned and thrust his tongue in Felix’s mouth, the flat of Felix’s hand held Joey’s balls, hot and hanging.
Felix went to his knees because he knew Joey couldn’t ask, ahd he pulled down his shorts and his briefs, and pulled Joey into his mouth. He was firm and heavy, large and growing larger.
“Felix,” he moaned, stroking Felix’s hair. “Felix.”
But Felix couldn’t get enough of it. A girlfriend of his said that the day a bride went down the aisle the man smiled because he was coming toward her, but she smiled because she never had to give another blowjob. But every since his first man, ever since Ezequiel Gonzalez Ocantos, he’d loved a cock, large, fat, throbbing with life in his mouth, loved the way that working his tongue around could elicit the deepest pleasure, loved how Joey, feeling the pleasure, was eager to return it, was on his knees now.
They were both naked and pulling out the bed, then on the bed, twisting together. Joey pulled Felix’s face up. It wasn’t just head he wanted. He wanted eyes and arms and lips and tongues and kindness. He wanted to look up at Felix in love and pull his face down and kiss him, press his body up into a man who wasn’t Thomas Frushour, and wasn’t the others, quickly forgotten, who slaked the need.
In the end he asked Felix to fuck him, but this was easier said than done. They’d never done it before and so it was just fumbling around, but happy fumbling. Joey was so hard and Felix had already come all over his stomach. They had stopped to relax and hold each other after this. Now Felix, in a pinch, took Vaseline and oil and rubbed it over Joey’s swollen cock. Joey knew just what to do, He fitted himself tightly between Felix’s thighs and they glided together, each time Joey moaning in the shock of his pleasure.
“Caress my ass?” Joey begged.
He didn’t have to beg. Thin as Joey looked, he was well built with healthy thighs and buttocks that longed to be stroked, caressed massaged. Felix had already eaten him out. He thrust his finger in the boy’s ass and massaged his asshole.
“Ohhh, fuck!” Joey cried, his dick jumping when Felix did that.
So Felix kept doing it, rubbing his hands up and down Joey’s back, caressing his shoulders, running his hands through his hair, pulling his face down to kiss him, running his hands back down.
“I’m about to…” he began, his voice shallow.
“It’s okay,” Felix said, putting his hand on Joey’s cheek.
“But I’m about to…”
With a relieved groan, Joey came, and Felix felt the load, hot and thick between his thighs. He kept pressing his dick between Felix’s thighs until everything was spilled out, and Joey came out, the length of his cock red and wet.
They lay side by side, chests heaving, bodies slick, and Joey grinned and looked up at Felix in friendship. The two of them laughed, and suddenly Joey lay on his side and pressed his mouth to Felix’s.
“Do you think we can do this again?” he asked.
“We can do this whenever you want,” Felix told him.
“Smoking is hazardous to your health,” Joey pointed out.
Because he had no lighter, and Joey certainly didn’t, Felix climbed out of the bed naked and brown, and went into the kitchen where he lit his cigarette off the stove. Puppylike Joey followed him in, and Felix said, “You had to shave your facial hair.”
“I didn’t have to.” He shrugged.
“Now you really do look illegal,” Felix said moving past him while he heard Joey open the refrigerator door, and the boy came back in with a juice container that had been emptied a week earlier and filled with chilled water.
“You want some?” Joey said, chugging the water.
Felix reached for it and after taking a puff from his cigarette, exhaled and took a long swig of the water.
Felix watched the naked white boy squat on his hams and examine the windows. That was the best part of what came after sex, the Adam and Eve-ness of it, the lack of self consciousness or shame. He wasn’t hot and young and naked. Well, he was all of those things, but right now he was looking at the air conditioners in the windows and saying, “I could put those in so much better for you.”
“Well you are the maintenance man,” Felix said. “And technically that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”
With what he hoped was a sly grin, Joey said, “I thought I was doing the maintenance. Laying the pipe.”
At the look on Felix’s face he instantly colored and said, “I was just playing. I mean…”
Felix shook his head and said, “You are the very opposite of a player.”
He sank into bed while the young man looked over him.
“I like looking at you,” Joey said, earnestly.
“I like looking at you too.”
“I liked it when I met you. You’re the first Black guy I’ve ever been with.”
“I’m one of the only guys you’ve ever been with.”
Felix rolled over and reached for an ashtray.
“Well, now that’s true,” Joey said earnestly.
“You are NOT the first white guy I’ve ever been with,” Felix told him. “If that’s what you wanted to know.”
“I didn’t,” Joey brushed that aside. “You’ve probably been with lots and lots of guys.”
“Well wait a minute, goddamnit, not lots and lots.”
“I just meant you have experience.”
“I was with girls for the most part before you,” Joey continued. Then he said, “Can I have a puff of that?”
“I wanna try it.”
Felix held the cigarette away from him. “You just said you don’t like them.”
“I said they’re bad for your health.”
“Well, if they’re bad for my health, they’re certainly bad for yours.”
While Felix passed Joey the cigarette, the dark haired, deeply tanned boy smiled triumphantly, and then he retched on the smoke and doubled over.
“That’s—” but he was coughing on his words, “awful!”
“That’s why they say smoking kills.”
Joey turned to him with wide eyes and Felix said, “You know it won’t really kill you.”
“No, that’s not it,” Joey said. “I gotta pick up my brother at the airport.”
“You mean the Fisher Price.”
Felix brushed it aside. “Never mind. What time you gotta be there?”
“Four o’ clock.”
“Well,” Felix looked at his clock, “you better get a move on cause it’s three thirty.”
Felix was folding the bed back into a futon when there was a rap at the door and he shouted, “Hold on!”
“Don’t make me hold on too long. It’s hot as fuck out here.”
Felix grunted and pushed the mattress over the laid out futon until it laid flat agains the wall, the Tapesty half draped over it, he pulled down and then he shut up the futon and came to the door.
“If you didn’t open that door in about five seconds,” Rule said, walking in, “I was about to shout out that I had that good weed you liked so much.”
Felix closed the door behind him and said, “Then we’d both be evicted.”
“You’d be embarrassed,” Rule said, “but no one would be evicted. Shit I got high with the building manager’s son.”
“Not the new one.”
“No that old crazy bitch who stole money from the landlord and then disappeared.”
“You know,” Felix said, tossing sofa cushions onto the futon, “they’re going to find her at the bottom of a river one day.”
“Not anytime soon,” Rule took out a cigarette from his pocket. “By the time they get to her all that’ll be left is two feet in cement blocks. Really, it’ll just be two cement blocks. It’ll take a while for people to know they’re looking at footbones. Feetbones? Footbones.”
Crashing onto the sofa, Felix ignored Rule’s search for the right word and put his hands on his knees, looking at his neighbor.
“Didn’t they arrest the manager’s son?”
“They arrest every manager’s son. Right after they fire the manager. You’d think he’d get it together and learn a thing or two. This one went to jail for robbing a Fazoli’s with a spork.”
Felix mouthed: “With a spork.”
There was a knock on the door and Rule tittered, “Good thing I didn’t take out the weed.”
Felix pushed himself off of the couch, touching the glass coffee table they’d gotten from someone’s front yard last year, and crossed the room to open the door.
“You don’t have a car,” Joey said. “But do you know someone who does?”
Joey stopped, looking at Rule who was grinning at him.
“I actually don’t,” Felix said.
“I do,” Rule said.
They looked at him.
“I mean,” Rule continued, “I have a car. Until eight o’clock.”
“Do I want to know how you got a car that’s yours until eight?” Felix said.
“No,” Rule shook his head, crushing out his cigarette. “You don’t.”
Felix and Rule sang:
“One day you'll look to see I've gone
For tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun
Some day you'll know I was the one
But tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun!”
As the red convertible veered from one side of the road to the other.
From the backseat Joey leaned forward and said, “I… I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do that.”
Rule reached under his seat and pulled out a beer, taking a sip.
“Or that,” Joey continued.
And now the time has come
And so my love I must go
And though I lose a friend
In the end you will know, oooh
One day you'll find that I have gone
Felix turned around and said of Rule, “The trick is to pay it no attention. If it gets caught it gets arrested and this man’s car gets impounded and for us… Well, it’s just an adventure.”
“But my brother—”
“We know!” Rule sang back, suddenly jerking the Thunderbird so Joey fell on his side, “We can’t be late for your brother!”
After a little longer on the country road, they saw a modern and unappealing looking hotel, and made a right turn before entering. The road curved in and out and on itself and they passed metal sculptures that were the city’s attempt at modern art. At last arriving at:
“Why the hell do you call it that?” Rule demanded it.
“Oh!” Joey grinned and clapped his hands together. “I get it. Like the toy airport.”
“Exactly,” Felix said, pointing to the small terminal where not only plains came, but the train to
As they came into the crowded parking lot with its cracked and ashen asphalt, Felix declared, “I could swear I just saw a giant six year old taxi that plane onto the tarmac. If you see the pilot get out and he doesn’t have legs, don’t be surprised.
“Where are we supposed to meet him?”
“At the first bus stop near the terminal entrance.”
Felix nodded and unnecessarily signaled for Rule where to go.
“Is that him?” Rule said.
“Sorry Scott!” Joey shouted as they swerved in to park in the bus stop.
“He is fine as hell,” Rule noted.
But then he looked at Felix.
“What?” he murmured. “I know he’s hot, but—”
There was a young man who looked like he worked in an insurance office and was proud of it, and he was coming forward with two suitcases when he blinked, looked back at his brother and then up at Felix.”
“You know each other?” Joey looked from his brother to his…. Felix.
Scott gave a manly smile and nod, then said, “Indeed we do. It’s been a long time, Felix.”
“This is my friend Rule, who offered Joey a ride after his car broke down.”
Rule had been waiting patiently to be acknowledged and when Scott said, “Sorry about that man,” Rule nodded and said, It’s all good, in a tone that meant he’d already dismissed Scott. But he had manners so he got out and opened the trunk.
“Just put em in there, and we’re off.”
“SO YOU ALL WENT to school together,” Joey said, looking from Scott to Felix.
“Yeah,” Scott said. “Felix was the coolest.”
“That has been said before,” Rule drawled while Felix stabbed him with a sharp finger.
“He used to make the whole class laugh. Remember Doctor Isabel’s? That was like a year before I graduated. What were you studying?”
“I was a graduate student, and I wanted to take a history class,” Felix said. “It was the shittiest English program in the world and I wanted to know if I might want to study history.”
“And did you?”
“I did,” Felix said.
“How’s that going for you?”
“It isn’t. But that’s the thing. History doesn’t go. It’s already gone.”
Scott thought about this for a moment, and then burst out laughing, and looking from Joey to Scott, Rule murmured, “Damn, they really are related.”
“So how do you all know each other?” Scott, in the backseat with his brother moved his hand in a circle.
While Joey pondered an appropriate answer, Felix said, “Joey is our junior maintenance man. Rule lives on the other bend of the U of our building.”
“How’d you guys meet?” Scott asked.
“Fucking,” Rule said, while Felix gagged on his cigarette and threw it out the window.
Rule blasted up the radio, and bamming on the red wheel of the Thunderbird he shouted along:
Do you wake up on your own
And wonder where you are?
You live with all your faults
I wanna wake up where you are
I won't say anything at all
So why don't you slide!
Then, laughing he said, “I’m just fucking around. I never fucked this guy,” he gripped Felix’s shoulder and shook it.
“Well you’re cute, Rule,” Felix admitted, “but you’re crazy.”
Rule burst out laughing while Scott, in his linen pants and blue shirt leaned forward and said, earnestly, “So it’s correct to assume you are in a homosexual lifestyle?”
At this Felix and Rule looked at each other, and then burst into more laughter.
“Sucking cock and taking names!” Rule shouted. “Now where do you all want to go?”
“I am in no hurry,” Scott said, hitting his knee with each word and announcing each word with absolute clarity. “I’m with my brother, and an old friend. And a new friend!”
“And you don’t want to see Mom and Dad either,” Joey added.
“I’ll see them enough,” Scott brushed it aside, for the first time sounding less that chipper.
“Oh, shit, ‘
“Please don’t,” Felix begged.
Ignoring his friend, Rule swung into the roade, took out his beer, swigged and then shouted:
When you're on a holiday
You can't find the words to say
All the things that come to you
And I wanna feel it too!
He turned around and announced, “We’re getting tacos at that ghetto place where all the Mexican bitches get shot, and then we’re bringing them back to Felix’s apartment—”
“And getting crunk!”
“Getting crunk on tacos?” Felix raised an eyebrow.
“No, bitch, getting crunk on skunk.”
“WE’RE GETTING A DIVORCE,” Scott said, his voice muffled as the pot smoke leaked out of his nostrils and he took a swig of the beer. His tie was loosened and his legs were out like a Raggedy Andy doll. “I mean, I made a fucking effort,” he passed the joint to Rule. “I really did.
“I might as well tell you, Joe, I didn’t take the plane here just to see you, Mom and Dad. I’m staying here. I’m not going back up to
As Rule took a long hit, Scott looked at the beef taco in his hand with wonderment and then said, “This is the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth.”
He took a huge bite of the taco and, mouth full, he said, “I just want my babies. I just want my kids.”
Joey, his knees hanging out of his shorts, looked at Felix whose fedora was far back on his head. He said, politically, “Kids… I believe they are our future.”
Rule held the joint to him, and Felix shook his head while Joey’s eye bugged out when he was, presented with it.
“You are always so fucking cool!” Scott said to Felix. “And I was so fucking dumb.”
Felix looked from Joey to Scott, and Scott said, “I was so dumb. I just ought to have been myself. And I’m learning that now. I was trying so hard…”
Felix wished that Scott would shut the fuck up and, suddenly, to his relief and surprise, going unconscious on the floor, before the futon, that’s exactly what Scott did.
“I’m so sorry for this,” Joey said.
“Don’t be,” Rule laughed, covering his mouth, “this is the most fun I’ve had in weeks.” He thought about that then said, “Well, days, really. But still.”
“He was talking to me, Idiot,” Felix said. “And don’t you have a car to give back?”
“Fuck!” Rule jumped up. He looked around the little studio apartment that littered with liquor and tacos and taco papers and rolling papers. “Can you take care of this for me?”
“Just go,” Felix said.
Rule stumbled out the room, and Joey opened his mouth, but Felix held up a hand and said, “Just wait for—”
The door opened and Rule said, “I forgot my—”
Felix held out his cigarettes.
“Thanks, you’re a real pal.”
Rule headed out of the door and Joey opened his mouth again, but again Felix held up his hand, and just then the door opened and Rule said, “The—”
And Felix held out the keys.
“Now is that it?” Felix said.
Rule patted himself down, his eyes hollow.
“That’s it,” he said.
“Then get out.”
Rule grinned stupidly and left.
“Now?” Felix turned to Joey.
“What are we gonna do with him?”
“The first thing,” Felix decided, standing up and moving to one end of the taco paper strewn coffee table, “we’re going to do is move this thing before he wakes up and kicks out the glass panes.”
They did so, and then Joey said, “And what’s the next thing?”
“Shit, I don’t know. I guess I’ll sit on the sofa, watch him sleep, and read a book.”
Merci pour la lecture!