For awhile nothing happened. Fantastic excursions to amazing maize mazes with spiked cider and Dutch mansions with forty hand-carved pumpkins, upstate with couples Nick knew from academia; extended-hour museum galas with proven German DJs and home in time for sober fucks with familiar hands that had figured out just how to slap me; pasta a casa in front of the TV for marathons of “Locked Up Abroad” and gossip; weekend strolls through the barrio with endless drool dripping from the corner of my monkey boyfriend’s mouth as we passed every Dominicana ass, which I always balanced with something like, “I might not drop my pants for the entire Greater Antilles, mon amour, my tastes are a bit more selective, but I would and will do every last one of your friends and you’ll never know, so who’s up?” So perfect that when one of us failed to tease jabs about infidelity for a long enough gap, we assumed the other must be concealing something. This wasn’t an obsession of ours, more like an exercise in honesty, like c’mon, after a complete spliff and an hour in the frankincense-and-culo drenched Iglesia Dio Poderoso we’d hit up some Sundays, are you really gonna tell me I’m the crazy when I explode on Nick after all he had to offer was “Do you have to find Faith to be the drummer in a church band?”, that he must be hiding something because he hadn’t mentioned a single Dominicana ass all service? The drummer! Right, he was paying attention to the drummer when there was a swaying chain of three generations worth of Latinas who knew Dio loves the way they paint their threads on so tightly as to better facilitate His views of the fine work He’s crafted (at least that was Nick’s logic during what I perceived to be more honest times). I mean we were perfect. The cosmos had lost their frigidity, the homing pigeons homed, if the grippe grasped me I wouldn’t have flinched, and the confinement I once dreaded at first snowfall had given way to cozy with a capital Comfort, which is all to say we were veering perilously close to that nothing that consumed all our other “spoken-for” peers, those time-bomb relics of slavery. Nothing. Serendipity (when it came) came with a smiley face. Night had a destination. When New Yorkers walked fast, I really believed they had someplace to be. This was solid. There was nothing I couldn’t do with him, nothing I couldn’t bring to the table, no chamber he wouldn’t let me in, I need only ask. Thing is, I didn’t always ask, neither did he. Knowing we could was enough to make curiosity feel like one fluid breaststroke. Fluid, that was it. Even our fights were fluid. Slamming bedroom doors, storming out of bars with half-finished beers, and poverty even felt fluid. Rare bouts of paranoia even felt fluid. Everything was breaststrokes. When the apartment was silent, I no longer heard the Fear. Yes, of course, “thank god” you say. I’m with you, the Fear blows. But to not even hear it when you know it’s there? That’s some frightening shit. The Fear slices, hacks, pounds, haunts, and terrorizes—but at least it engages. This other thing, this residue, this seeming handle on things stares up at you expressionless from your empty brunch plate, deceives through keeping plans, patiently replaces your frayed ends one by one with fauxly synonymous fantastical encyclopedia entries. I unplugged the refrigerator because it hummed. I picked up my phone and frantically avoided all my impulses to call Nick (he’d become my go-to when I was scared), shaking the phone with nervous tears in my eyes, staring at the number that memories of phone calls past had morphed into another image of him. I kissed the “Nick,” turned the phone off, hid it in a nook in the couch, and left the apartment. To save this relationship, to highlight our chafes, to connect through tatters and pulsing vulnerabilities, to keep the breaststrokes blissed, I needed to conceal something. With a secret between us we’d be closer to the knowledge that the knowledge isn’t ours. I needed to conceal to remind us both that something is always concealed.
But now which avenue to choose? Since I was bubbling with Bawls, I thought about sneaking off and scaling Mt. Shasta alone to bring back some light through the lie (’cause there’s that other conduit to the Fear through light, remember? The kind that reveals via the limitless vastness of the first summer days when too many options flatten into one grand inconsequentiality, where any path taken leads to a marvelous story, so what’s so marvelous about that?); but no, no Shasta for me. Passing the couples along that trail searching for the Fear in tandem with matching t’s and posturepedic rucksacks would divert my attention to a bitter and very nontranscendent impotence, or whatever the girl version of impotence is—implodence? I could leave him a note saying “Babe, I’m off, I’m out. Try to not overunderstand my need for freedom, try to sweat some, try to let it bite a bit please, Yours” and hole myself up in a hotel room until I’d estimated he’d found the Fear again, and not knowing which road he went down (be it jealousy, suicide, moving on, worrying, muting, rationalizing), I’d thereby work myself into my own palpitating horror wherein paranoia would bring me close to that fabric I sought. Can’t though, can’t impose the pain; that assumes some safety-netted, interconnected “we’re-in-this-together” support, which is exactly what I’m trying to extract myself from. I could get a nose job or ass implants and return perfect, so perfect I’d conceal through the flaw which is lost for good and more impossible to recreate than a perfection. That would fix him fucked! But then the Fear would be ever present and overt, and let’s not forget I only seek this slit so I can return back to a more well-rounded breaststroking. This is the same reason why I can’t just run down to the candy store to drain my retinas pale with complacency. Regardless of what they tell you, no one’s ever gone down that route and returned home; they remain elsewhere, even (especially) in sobriety. However, they do sell things there that make you hyperaware; I could conceal through accuracy and come back with my eyes bulging bright hanging on his every word! Still, could I really take credit when a guide led me there? No, I had to re-find the Fear myself without any vice as advocate. I could become an expert on something on the sly, maybe entomology so he’d have no idea I knew all there was to know about all those little creatures feasting off his filthy flesh, flittering about him; my refocusing on the little guys would make him seem huge, and who doesn’t want that in a lover? Think about how lonely he’d feel if ever I was to bust out that I knew everything about katydids. That would bring the Fear on a’ight, but it seems like a trick, and tricks wear off. I needed something with a constant, subtle sustain that I could never risk leaking. I thought about immersing myself in the icy, healing waters of the River Béarn with no illness to heal only to therefore emerge hypothermic where others find Creed and wither in some Pyrenees bath retreat for months, backwards backwards backwards into history—when you wander through those ancient villages don’t you feel eyes following from their shaded windows? That could be me! And what a pure way to conceal, simply by sticking a twig in the spokes. But nope, know why I’ll never do it that way?‘Cause that way sucks, and I’m psyched on things. When I get back to that fissure, I wanna greet it with a cackle not a cough. I’m finding this Fear again, I’m bringing it back home, and I’m getting off in the process—not just for me, as an ode to us as well: Nick wants me happy, not miserable. Oooh, the Fear already tickled a trickle in me ,once I’d made up my mind I was seeing this thing through. For a heartbeat I even thought that was enough, I proved my point, done. But no, no way, the only way to secure it was to live it. Up until this point my head had done all the walking, now it was time to lay her aside. Well, one more job for her before we parted ways; I stopped by the pharmacy on my way there to buy the same bar of soap Nick and I share at home so I could lose the trail in lather later.
Part II (I Mean, Really)
So now which avenue to choose? I thought about how often I regretted snapping at Nick that he only thinks about one thing. “One thing!?” he’d flip back, “One thing?” And his eagerly inflating eyes would elate with the rare opportunity I’d just opened up for him to expound upon the fantasies he’d been harboring on this One Thing: “I think about little ones that get me pitched like a quarterback ready to receive the hike, and formidable mounds that position me as a lumberjack at one end of a heave-hoing saw prying open the sequoia’s base, and quick ones in public bathrooms so I can continue conversation at the bar with you, and lengthy ones that give me something to talk about at the bar with them, and white ones that spent as many centuries, as I have under clouds creating diversions to kill the time that inevitably led them off course to twisted obliquities, and brown ones . . . and the brown ones!” etc. etc. until he’d hammered it in stiff for me to never ask that question again. And then the aftershocks he’d hit me with blocks down our jaunt, “ . . . and the brown ones that though sapped of pigment by the Februaries in New York we’ve all shared together are still not what you’d call white, and the short ones . . . ” Fair enough, so which “non-one-thing” would it be then for me? A Nick clone so I could examine nuance through similarity? A beast so I could limit my confusions that it might be about anything else (I’ve always envied hideous gay men for this reason, pure hole with friction)? Or do I take it when I’m least needing it to approximate that same purity? Or take it when I absolutely need it to approximate that same purity? Or one of his best friends I could walk arm and arm with at a later date with Nick present and Nick think nothing of it? Maybe even call our potential into question via a sexual joke to ensure he’d think nothing of it and conceal through transparency? With a close friend all things are possible; I could have close friend text Nick that he’s boning a skinny bitch like his chick and ask for pointers and see what Nick comes through with and see how close friend then acts them out. I could extract a small fee from close friend, something nominal like forty bucks, just so we can notch that one off as well (and how much you wanna bet I could up it ten bucks every time thereafter once I got that ball rolling?). Or what if I went with a man with a face of no coast? Could I implant a sea about such a face or would I be the one who walks plasticed with prairie? Foraging the fridge of a man with the face of no coast in a banana strap and no panties! Or along those lines, what about a man who looks like he knows no one? I could just grab a guy like that off the street. To smear across my belly the seed that spewed from a spring with no outlet for story could be one precious story indeed to keep, one that would bleed into fiction before I even started to sweat about keeping it a secret, and thereby one I’d need to do again—remember, I need that secret. Or should I orchestrate a “swap” that isn’t a swap at all? That would be some multipronged assault with concealment: find my meat, tell him he needs to find a complimentary chick for Nick that he’ll pretend is his girlfriend, and call it a swap and see if Nick ever catches on that in fact it isn’t—just four people fucking. Or is it not the who but the how? Do I in fact want to leave tracks that he can find and then chew him a new ass when he suggests I might be up to something? Men are such steadfast retards with their reasoning that without substantive facts he’d eventually sellout his proper intuition, laying it aside (as much as he could) for the “facts.” I could freak out on him about it! Blame him for paranoia about ever, ever insinuating such a thing, knowing the whole time he’s right! All I need to do is build a solid case in my defense and he’ll sell his own gut right out for reason. Or I could do something purely for me, something that wouldn’t torture Nick at all but that he thinks would; I could grab an ex, someone who knows my body but whom I also detest (as is the case with exes), do it strictly for the bone and the breach. Aye, this is far too much jurisdiction to allow my head free reign in, she being the fabricator of those calcifying nonsecrets, when it’s her grand collection of things that’s threatening to appear like some discernable picture that got us into this precarious state. No, I just need to leap. ’K, just one more job for her before we part ways though; I stopped by the pharmacy on my way there to buy the same bar of soap Nick and I share at home so I could lose the trail in lather later.
It’s incredible how little time it all takes! From buzz of the doorbell, to the stairs up to his flat (Jesus, another flight up? How am I supposed to fake any semblance of cadence?), to his opening of the door, to full-on, through cigarette breather, to return to full-on, through cuddling like we knew each other, through showering and the lingering molassesed infinity from the turning off of the faucet to having to peel my mind away from that image of the bar of soap I was leaving there, and then the drink together at the bar next to the bar that Nick sometimes goes to—what was it even three hours? Best yet, our return to civility at that bar revved me up all ready to go again—which of course is when I re-invited my head back into the hang to ensure the go-again would be with Nick when I got home. To return to that persistent statistic with a million epithets, scarlet letters, and inferred approvals within the respective sexes, that old fail-safe paradox that still bears such dripping fruit after all we’ve dredged her through that never ever ever dries up, to be just another faltered number while at the same time feeling like a vital viral piece working towards a more sinister unraveling gets your incisors bleeding ecstatic venom through the panthered panting. Venom? Venom, from the love-potion-pricking goddess of beauty and love herself, Venus! And from where else could such a name come other than the Latin venire for “coming?” I’d succeeded at putting all the pieces back together again, all these words that once danced together around the bonfire in more closer-to-the-ground-living times: amare is to “to love” in Latin, but a couple letters away from amarus for “bitter,” and hence always tinkering with/teetering on the “amoral”—and “amorire” was “to kill”, baby. Really, have you ever savored placing your house key inside the lock and turning it? How about even noticed it? How about fidgeting in your bag for eternities, looking for those keys amidst the tampons, wallets, makeup, pens, gum wrappers, business cards, and assorted black matter? On this day it was religious, all of it: the two-block walk from the subway home even had weight, felt like it meant something, the creaking open of the door to the hallway light that’s always on that no one needs, the quotidian menus from Great Wall slipped under the door that daily find their way directly to the garbage, the pallid glow from the TV that somehow blankets its dampened hues into the most light-deprived cavities, the perfume of whatever sauce Nick was up to over the stove—all of it. My “Hey Cad” welcoming home together slap on his ass and subsequent big smooch had it all too, the complete pie, everything, which is to say that finally the all-out terror I’d lost now made up a gigantic piece of this puzzle again and his attack of my lips for a more curious second slip-in meant the fibers of secrecy do ruminate! He tasted it, he liked it, he needed it, he didn’t ask about it, he didn’t want to, he needed it. I know, I know, in time the Fear will (better) find its sweet spot on the bell curve, sleeping snuggly in the convertible’s backseat while we cruise up front with a wall of breeze between us (I’m no fool, I know the sensation of its presence will also dissolve in time like it had before and we’ll be back where we started; kinda can’t wait), but for this moment at least I was trembling only slightly above hysterics with the idea of Nick at that same amazing maize maze that so bored me last fall, disappearing around that same bend of corn stalks as something now no longer corny but frightening, freezing, my god petrifying because now I could touch it again, that one day he will in fact disappear behind those stalks. This horror was birthing some potent breaststroke desire, and quickly. Maybe go to the movies together mañana? And his stale colleagues from academia who’d never connected with a single thing their entire lives unless there was a published reference point functioning as mediator? Well their glacial separation from the rips, the cuts, the tears I was suckling like a fiend exposed their lack of abandoned joy as in fact the most brutal articulation of the Fear I’d witnessed yet and I could not wait for another excursion together. Call ’em up Nick! And when we breaststroked that night, I felt a slight resistance in my wide brushes, little shocks as reminders to hold on tight, tiny snaking sizzles cautioning that none of this is mine, and again I found myself back with a man that I did not know, will never know, and yet whom I love and know unlike any other nonetheless. Fluid, that’s it. Fluid like the fluid that’s not only moving toward something, but also running the hell away from something else.