On the Pleasure of the Text
Once I said “Yes” for an entire year.
And I kept walking toward him.
Crossing bright pavement waving in the heat, across the dark bar’s floors studded with the crunch of peanut shells, into the café where he waited over coffee, I kept walking toward him.
“Yes,” I said and made myself meet his stare.
“You’re blushing,” he said, blushing.
And it was like writing a sentence for the pleasure of handling grammar, parsing it into clause and phrase, paying attention first to participles, how present, how active they make us—flirting, touching—before prepositions lead us down, on, into, after….
I said “Yes” into his ear’s parenthetical, put my tongue into it
And I kept walking toward him, thinking this one in jeans, this one in a shirt that snaps, this one in fatigues, this one in nothing, this one in chaps, this one holding a pillow over his crotch.
Thinking to myself in the simplest terms: dark bar, small bed, fast taxi, rough blanket, parked car, wet grass.
“Yes,” I said, and—his lips against my cheek, his breath in my hair, his hand on the back of my skull.
What I meant: I would love each detail as it was—lips, cheek, breath, hair, hand, back, skull.
I meant I would love a list: against, in, on, of.
And it was like writing a sentence in order to undress grammar unsnapping the commas so language will show more flesh and I can put my lips there and run my hand down the buckling quick breath of its stomach each button on its fly a missing period that means the sentence has nothing left except pleasure rising to the mouth that will say and unsay it—
The breathlessness of the dash, how he always enters my grammar—
And I kept walking toward him.
This was in the city of dualist weather, of streets half sun half shadow, of days caught between the only seasons: fog and light.
On Stanyan, at the edge of Golden Gate Park, I watched his profile flicker, as in: passing clouds.
I watched his features change as if charged by a series of emotions too ephemeral to isolate and name, not knowing that was how it would be in his room or my room, as if the sky always had something to do with what passed as feeling between us.
“Yes,” I said to the rogue beauty of his face, to his square-tipped fingers, to the hair curling from his shirt, the curve and plane where his ass met thigh, the tuck of his cock to the left, how he was not once clean-shaven.
Thinking to myself in the simplest terms: cheek, tooth, hair, beard, lips, ass, dick, thighs.
Once I thought: opulent nipples.
I thought: round eyes of the ingénue.
Later his stubble still burned on my cheeks and thighs and ass.
And after we’d unbuttoned each others’ shirts, the moment his nipples touched my skin an endless sentence arose rose, phrase upon phrase pressing a deeper pink against his skin, sub-dermal color quick as breath and as rooted in a deep unreeling, the spectrum between incarnadine and saffron shifting under pressure, red to red-pink to pink-gold.
Intimate hush, the way thick cloth absorbs sound, so the room went quiet as his cock entered my mouth.
His breath’s quickening pianissimo and the graphic slap and suck of wet flesh against wet flesh, and beneath that, a truck trembling cargo, men and women laughing as they passed, a bicycle thrilling its bell, the crossing signal’s shrill lilted cuck-oo/cuck-oo, dog and dog and dog, then a child asking Doggy?
And I kept walking toward him.
City of dualist weather, parked car and lips, hair and hand, city of into, against and of, city of rough blanket and this one holding a pillow over his crotch, rogue beauty, fog and light, red to red-pink to pink-gold.
And I was thinking copula, that which can “fasten or fit together” both grammar and men.
And I was thinking he preferred that which could be quickly fastened and unfastened—he wasn’t wearing pants and then he was, buttoning up his face in time to his fly—that he would like a sentence within whose grammar ultimate meaning couldn’t be wholly caught.
I went down on him, “Nice” he sighed, the smell of pennies and chlorine, his small moan and a tsuk at the back of my throat, one sound nested in the other—engorged gore or—slant rhyme—awkward and cock—his like a horn, the word recurved.
From the beach below we watched the cliffs from which hang-gliders leapt into air perilous enough to unsteady the gulls.
Holding his shoes while he hosed his feet, I was thinking I never knew what he was thinking, that it was a cliché to think so and beside the point, but the thought was as solid as the copy of The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara that one night sat on his nightstand.
“Do you like Frank O’Hara?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “He’s my favorite poet.”
And then, as I lay face-down and spread-eagled, he secured first my wrists and then my ankles in the leather straps.
And then—well, and then the then, the inevitable, ineluctable then.
As in how lubricious and lubricant share the same root, and how he kept the lube on his nightstand also.
Was he thinking
Twin spheres full of fur and noise
rolling softly up my belly beddening on my chest
No, that was what I was thinking.
After the then, as he straddled my chest and fucked my face.
And yet I was also thinking he was always trying not to betray personal feeling—either like or dislike—and so his thoughts played out their drama behind the screen his face became in its studied dispassion.
He’d said he wanted to see his cum in my beard, and he’d said this the way some people say they’d like someday to see the Eiffel Tower or Mt. Everest—as if it’d be an accomplishment of a significant goal—and so I was flattered.
And I was thinking I could see the shadows of thought flicker and drum against the underside of his face.
And it was like writing a sentence that has no modesty, how with his cock inside my ass, a kind of vaulted space opened up in my pelvis—what it feels like to look up into the high ceiling of a cathedral—and that it was a form of relief from the pressure of my body constantly touching itself at all points, of the interior that is always full of its own interiority, and that that is how being an I feels, which is why his cock was such a relief and a pleasure: I was literally full of someone else.
Copula: cock, condom.
“Yes,” I said and kept walking toward him.
Despite the similar trajectories of our rendezvous—the repetitions of introductions, banter, rising attractions, segues into bedrooms and undress, the fucking itself—there was always at least one detail, a variation in the sequence that marked him, set him apart from himself.
He, for instance, who repeatedly wet his lips like one who longs for something and anticipates the possibility of receiving it, but is uncertain when it will arrive, just the briefest pink of his tongue sliding across his lips as though his mouth were an envelope whose emptiness he could seal.
I was thinking in the simplest terms: birthmark, gap-tooth, accent, vernacular, décor, bed-sheets, body odor, timbre of voice, how his shoulders filled the cloth of his shirt.
And if I never knew what he was thinking, I always knew where he lived, his phone number, his email address, his roommates’ names, what kind of underwear he preferred, what size condoms to buy, his favorite lube, if he was a good kisser, cut or uncut, how much and what kind of foreplay, if he wanted to talk afterward, whether he liked to shower together or alone, if he wanted an overnight, and, if yes, whether he’d wanted to sleep touching, whether he’d tossed and thrown off the sheets, whether he’d wanted to fuck again before leaving the house, what his mouth had tasted like in the morning, how he’d liked his eggs and coffee.
In the city of waiting for the bus and tourists carrying travel mugs; of windows displaying platinum wigs and dildos; of 24-hour gyms and restaurants serving crepes; of bargain plastic flowers, mops and buckets; of impossible rents and summer construction; of impasse, detour and road rage; of wireless technology and curbside recycling; of couture and tie-dye and studied indifference to fashion; I knew, without fail, that he’d want the lights on.
And I was wondering if he felt desire between us as I did a loosing of images and phrases whose relationship was that they issued forth from a core that both structured and was structured by affiliation with, attraction and proximity to, and (eventually) memory—
as, forth, from, by, with, to—
of him: how grammar drew and draws us closer.
How desire’s logic is profligate, all copula—this and then this and then that and then—accretive, acquisitive, attentive, adding up to its own sum and nothing ever less than whole.
And there was he who, after we’d walked in the park where he’d asked, “Why do you think all these single men are in the arboretum at 3:30 on a Thursday?” untied and removed my shoes as I sat on the edge of his bed.
The way he knelt not out of desire for pleasure, but out of a desire to be kind.
And I was thinking it was very beautiful in October in the arboretum where more trees kept their leaves than lost them; I was thinking if you didn’t have to work, you’d want to be outside because it’d been cool but not cold during the days; it was a good place to hear your own thinking, quiet and without much movement; you could read on the warm thick sunny grass of the meadows without the threat and stench of dog shit.
And as he knelt, I could see that, beneath a sweet spare patch of thinning hair, his scalp was turning pink from his having walked in the sun.
Him for whom I suddenly experienced longing of an unusual complexity and depth.
“Yes,” I said, and meant : he was writing; he doesn’t end; he occurs; he sustains; he derives; he is adding up; he is was; he was made.
And I kept walking toward him—
And I was thinking that having said “Yes” had left me so much to remember that it was like writing a sentence with perfect recall for taste, smell and texture, and that even should I forget his name, there would be trace elements—tobacco and iron, coffee, salt; patchouli, lavender, wisteria and leather; rough rope, muscled skin, lube and sweat-slick cotton, soft beard and wet nipples’ stiffening—sensory details lingering always in the wake of grammar hinging shut, the sentence a door that clicks upon its lock.