two excerpts from RELIC’S REUNIONS
Now that I’m grounded I’m going to read Tropic of Cancer. I’ve had it on the shelf since the end of Junior year, waiting for this moment. Through all the public uproar about its dirty words and dirtier sex, I’ve kept my faith in the beautiful writing I saw when I browsed through it in bookstores—one of my four eyes turned, of course, toward whatever clerk might worry about my moral development. I’m worried about my moral development, myself. That’s why I promised myself I wouldn’t read it till I turned eighteen. But when you’ve had a traumatic life like I’ve had you grow up sooner. At seventeen, it’s time to ride the Whitmanesque rhapsodies of Henry Miller’s language.
The minute I open Tropic’s cobalt blue cover a cacophony of righteous murmurs whirls around me.
DiCristo: “...deleterious effects on the morals of our nation’s youth... “
Mom: “...just once to ruin a life...”
and all the other malarkey. Look, I answer, in a mindvoice that doesn’t stutter: John Thomas and Lady Jane didn’t turn me into a rapist last summer when I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I hardly think Miller’s anguished nights in the streets of Paris are going to corrupt me.
Page two: “a gob of spit...”
Good punctuation to end my argument. On to the lyricism of the Left Bank...
But not before Tania stirs a bone in my own prick, and makes me want to straighten out the wrinkles I’d find if I knew where to look (besides page 5). Not only do my loins swell, my whole body swells with the promise of what Henry will do to her. I’ve got to do something myself, but the front-door lock clicks. My mother’s home. It’s down to the cellar with pipe and book to sit and read and lay (so to speak) low, below the bitching that begins when the lock clicks and ends when she and Fat Boy go to their twin beds—broken by a half-hour phone call from Brod. With Tania’s wrinkles rubbing my face—not even Lady Chatterley’s Lover did this to me—I’m restless through each section, living till lights-out time.
10:30. I close my bedroom door: turn the knob gently, thumb on lock, push flush with the molding, make sure nothing clicks. Good. I spread facedown on my mattress. Bambi floats into my mind’s boudoir, her aqua eyes moist with mist, her creamy voice cooing as she lifts her white see-through negligee, slowly baring her full breasts, curved belly and shapely legs, then slides herself against me as she eases into bed. I rub against the soft roll of her belly, careful not to make the springs scrinch. Her phantom legs lock around my real loins and pull me deeper into her, deeper into the swell of moans and murmurs, deeper into the throb-throb-throb-throb-throb that rocks my back and pelvis, deeper into the creamy puddle turning cold against my crotch.
I’ve done it! My Tourette hack gives away my guilt, but I’ve done it. Like Mailer’s White Negro I’ve lifted myself up by my sexual bootstraps. Promiscuous in mind if not heart I abandon my private Venus the next night for Debbie Impala, Pete’s younger sister, whose buxom beauty rivals Bambi’s. My coming pumps a thumping jazz bassline with drums dropping syncopated bombs behind it. Then there’s the entire cheerleading squad and every girl other I’ve ever had a crush on, the ecstasy of each solitary conquest and the comfort of lying in my own little puddle, an imaginary body warming me while my conscience warns me that my mother or the kids in class will spot the pubes sprouting on the palms of my hands, the dementia, the twitches I have getting worse...
Whoring in Harlem
No work, not even with my cleancut trim. Every time I fill out a job application I feel sick. An hour in a roomful of dreary-looking people brings me to a crisp skirt or four-eyed suit. Grinning behind the Gardol Invisible Shield of self-assurance they pronounce me unfit for running errands selling shoes washing dishes when I know I can do the work they’re doing. I’ll need money for a new place next month. I spend less time looking and more time thinking how I had it all worked out and everything still turned to shit. The hundred and some pages of first draft that gushed out of me like the spring thaw over Ingrams Falls has trickled to a stop. I can barely pick up the pen, never mind push it forward. The nights are a drag. No money to go anywhere. No friends. I stare stuporously out my window at the couples crossing Clinton. All I’ve got are my records and Old Bohemian beer at eighty-nine cents a sixpack. Courses at NYU look good. Nine credits, a part-time job, full-time status in February.
What’s this? A letter from my father. The newspaper clipping inside says the University of Hartford is low on admissions for its freshman class. “Sounds like they’ll take anybody who applies,” my father writes.
The coup de grace! I’m too weary to stay down here. I could go back home for a semester, then transfer to NYU in February.
I write my mother a letter telling her I’ll come home but he has to stop screaming at me swearing at me all the things that she’s done since the divorce because I just can’t live like that I’m not stuttering because I don’t have that constant hatred hitting me in the face I can’t live being told I’m no good no matter how hard I try. A week later I call home. When I mention the letter she says coldly, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Those were terrible things to say.”
To hell with it! I’ll go back. If she starts in I’ll move in with my old man. The Seers will be there, Wick’s going back to Trinity, the Subterranean Coffeehouse still has jazz...I’ll make it till I can get back to the City.
When Garrett comes home from work I tell him, “I’ll pay you till the end of August, if you want. I’m really sorry things worked out this way.”
“Don’t sweat it,” he says. He’s got other things on his mind. His chick just dumped him. “She wants a life in Africa, not here,” he says.
With a little bread left and a week before my mother comes to pick me up I might as well have some fun. I call Jackson.
—Are you going to tell me what you did? —As much as I’ve told anyone.
Jackson shakes his head with disbelief. “Man, you mean to tell me you never got laid?”
“I’m a little nervous.” Actually, my nerves have stretched tight on top of my skin. They throb unprotected in the Harlem night.
“Don’t worry ‘bout nothin’, man.” His deep voice resonates with mas-culinity. “Just relax.”
Easier said than done when you’re about to jump the Great Divide from Sexual Expectation to Sexual Reality.
Expectation: a seedy hotel room, yellow glare of bare bulb hanging from a frayed cord, or a dim red light for whorehouse ambience. Reality: a bedroom just off a diningroom in a tidy six-room flat. Jackson introduces me to his wife, his sister-in-law and her husband, and two fat chicks, all chatting at the table.
Expectation: a bleach blonde, fortyish, peels off her fishnet stockings, spreads her varicose-veined legs on the bed and leers through too-thick lipstick, “Come and get it, Big Boy.” Or: a lithe blackchick peels out of skin-tight jeans. Our Hero grows hard at the sight of her firm breasts, trim thighs and high ass. From her sultry pose on the bed: “Put in de bacon, whiteboy.”
Reality: I stand near the table, trembling through the introductions.
“It’s alright,” his wife Dolores assures me with a sugary tone. “Our friends from the Village, they come up here all the time.”
One of the fat chicks rises. “Won’t you come with me?” she says, softly.
She leads me into the bedroom just off the diningroom. My God, I’m gonna do it with all these people in the next room!
(From this point on, as in most male tales of sexual encounters, the line between Fantasy and Reality becomes indelibly blurred, the line between Truth and Fiction moves till Truth nearly falls over the right margin.)
Fantasy: The old blonde/young blackchick grabs our Robust Male’s massive cock, traces its throbbing veins with knowing touches that tug gently toward its huge purple head, sending shudders the length of his body. “I’m gonna give you the best you ever had, Big Boy.”
Reality: “You wanna go ‘round de worl’?” the fat girl asks, almost shyly.
“Eventually,” I say. “I’d like to take a tramp steamer to Tangier. Then, I’d like to live in Paris for awhile, on the Left Bank.”
“No. Tell me what you want to do.”
“I want to write novels, I want to travel, I want to live life to the fullest.”
“No. Tell me what you want.”
“I want to change the world through my work. The power of my novels will—”
“take all night. Just stick it in.”
Fantasy: She writhes around his rocklike rod, her hips buck against his rollicking pelvis, her legs wrap tight around his back. She moans with pleasure, thrashes her head against the pillow. “Ohhhh, baby! You’re the best!”
Reality: I feel the blush rushing through my body, fight my urge to flee.
“Doesn’t anything make you hard?”
Fantasy: The sheer decadence stirs his long-denied urges. His member throbs a syncopated orgasm. Waves of ecstasy ripple through him. He rides the current to relaxation.
Reality: She guides my barely-hard cock inside her, then starts humping. Each heave of her hips nearly tosses me off the bed. I’m struggling to stay on her, struggling to stay inside her. There is something happening down there. When I’m not gripping desperately just to stay on top of her I can feel myself sliding in and out of something damp—a steamy, encompassing sensation that would be fun with Bambi Belair or Elaine...somebody I cared about. But this...this is like buying screws at a hardware store, only the screw just turned to rubber.
Fantasy: “I like you, Big Boy. This one’s on the house.”
Reality: She rings the register at the foot of the bed. “That will be fifteen dollars, please.”
I give her the money. The register clanks open, the sale rings up, the register clanks shut.
She goes to the diningroom. Laughter. Did they know what was going on? I’m supposed to be Norman Mailer’s White Negro, lifting myself by my sexual bootstraps to the existential edge of experience. God, how embarrassing!
Then Jackson comes in. “Here, man. Have a beer.”
I tell him what happened.
“You got to relax, that’s all.”
All the way to Brooklyn, I wonder what’s wrong with me.