Sunday, May 15, 2011

THREE: Night Maneuvers

        Temple Lubiak searched among the rhododendron bushes growing against the house. He was angry, confused, shamed. What would happen if people found out that he had had sex with Moira O'Hare Saturday night? Had Moira left a note? Oh God, did she keep a diary? He pulled under the leaves, pushed aside the stalks and pink blossoms fell into the shadows. He wouldn't be safe until he had Moira's gold chain in his hands.
        He froze. Had he said that aloud? Or had he just been thinking it? He looked up at the windows to see if anyone was watching him. Mrs. Fordyce, the widow who rented her three upstairs bedrooms to students, had gone to her sister's for the long weekend. And his two housemates had also left. He was alone. Still, he couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. He looked around the yard. It was just before noon. All was warm, quiet, even the insects were still.
        Temple was six feet tall but he was small-boned. His hands and feet were small. And his nose was small and perfect. Once when he was fifteen, he had played an entire evening of bruising football with older neighborhood boys in hopes that someone would break his nose and smash its tiny, upturned symmetry. But while they all called him hurtful names and a couple of them had pounded on him at every opportunity, he had emerged from the game still as delicately handsome as a porcelain prince.
        The winter of his freshman year at Falkes Hollow he had discovered weight training. He worked quietly and he worked alone. He stayed at school over the following summer and by the time fall arrived, he had gained fourteen pounds. He had always carried himself as if he were massive, had swung his hands at his sides as if they were big. And now, when he looked in the mirror, he saw that mass. He was manly.
        He was gauging the arc Moira's chain might have made as it sailed out the window Saturday night. And he was thinking. After helping to strike the show, he had stood in the hallway as people called to one another, moved past him, made arrangements to go to the cast party. Ugly little Alexia Farrell from the costume crew had appeared from somewhere, had looked up at him with her little gnome face, and had said, "So, do you want a ride to the party?"
        At the same moment Caleb came from behind them, slapped Temple on the shoulder and said, "Let's walk. I need the air and you promised to keep me company." On their way out the door they had met Moira who stepped between them and said quietly, "Off to see the wizard?" She looked at them with big green eyes. Her straight hair, hennaed for the play, hung short and shiny like a Victorian schoolboy's. And with Moira between them, they had walked to Temple's house to get a bottle of Bush Mills and his tobacco pouch.
        "He's so pine needles and wood chips," Moira had said when on the walk to the party he lit one of his self-rolled cigarettes.
        At the party, Temple found a dark room at the back of the house where a few people had gone to smoke dope. Moira didn't go in with him. Douglas Wrythe was there, but Temple said nothing about the break-up with Moira. He didn't know how long he stayed in the room but when he came out almost everyone was gone. Candles were burning low; the stereo was still playing--good lord--Roxanne. Caleb had left. For a moment Temple thought that Moira, too, had gone--perhaps with Caleb--and then he saw her sitting alone on the sun porch, hidden by plants, mottled by moonlight and shadow.
        "Let me walk you home," he said.
        She looked at him for a moment--her eyes were wet--then said, "Yes." A few blocks from the party he asked her to come with him to his house and again she said simply, "Yes."
        He tried to say something beautiful about the night. She asked if he was disappointed that Les had not come to the party and before he could answer she tossed her hair and said, "Oh, let's not mention any of those people." Then she reached her hands up to the vast darkness. "Those people! Oh God, those people!" She wailed in mock agony and simultaneously stamped each foot in a labored walk up the street. He couldn't find the right way to ask her which of those people she meant.
        When they reached his house, they went upstairs without turning on lights. His room was small. There was a rag rug on the floor, a single bed against a wall, a dresser, a desk, an easy chair with a reading lamp, and a window with a window seat. Moira went to the window seat. Temple lit an oil lamp, which he told her he liked better than candles. From the top of his dresser he took a bottle of Bush Mills that still had several swallows left in it and he took a long drink.
        "You look like ten dreams in the moonlight," he said. He lost his footing and sat down with a bump too close to her. She didn't respond and he put his hand against her cheek. "You are beautiful."
        "You are drunk," she said with a smile and a tone that confused him. 
        "Indeed I am drunk," he said. "And a little stoned." And then, "I envy you."
        "You can come up to Caleb and me and ask to walk with us. And we love it. You can go up to Caleb and say, 'Let's rent skates' and he'll do it."
        She laughed. "Did he tell you about that?"
        "I would never be able to get him to skate," Temple said.
        "Oh, I think you could."
        He gave a little snort and looked out the window.
        "Especially now with your play," she said. "He loves it, he put his heart and soul into this production."
        Temple touched his lips to her ear. "And you?" he whispered. "Did you put body and soul into my play?" He leaned against her until her back pushed against the window. The gold chain around her neck twinkled and some night thing moved in the tree outside the window. "Well?" he said.
        "It's a wonderful role and I like your play very much."
        "As much as Caleb does?" He was still very close to her and she seemed unmoved by his presence. She pulled her head back to look at him and she shared something unspoken with him as she said, "I'm not sure that's possible."
        "I love you," he said. "I worship you as I worship the goddess moon."
        "Temple, you're a better poet when you're sober." She touched the sunned strand of hair arching over his forehead. "And it's better on the stage than in your bedroom."
        "You're right. I'm not a poet and I'm not a playwright." He went to the dresser for the last swallow of whisky. "I'm nothing."
        "Don't drink any more. Your play is good. You're young. How old are you? Nineteen?"
        "How old was Mozart? How old was Michelangelo when he wrested David from the marble?"
        She came toward him and he grabbed her hand. "Love me," he said. "Make love with me."
        He waited for her to do something. She stood looking at him, letting him hold her desperately at her wrist. Finally, he kissed her and she let him. He couldn't tell what she was thinking.
        He let go of her, turned to the oil lamp and lifted the chimney. "Put out the light," he said and he blew the flame out. Then, holding her hand, he went to the bed and lay back on it. "And then put out the light."
        In the moonlight she stood over him.
        He let a moment go by. Then, "I have loved you for so long."
        "We don't even know each other." She stood directly over him like a grey and blue and silver statue in the moonlight. Her smile was indulgent.
        "Perdition take my soul but I do love thee," he said.
        She leaned over him and her hair fell in layers along the sides of her face. The gold chain moved in the moonlight like a thin, indifferent serpent.
        He grabbed her quickly. She shrieked and fell to the mattress. The chain broke in his hands. They laughed and he rolled on top of her. "And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again." She made a sound but he kissed her before she could turn it into words. They held the kiss and he rubbed himself against her, pulled her tighter. She opened her mouth, nipped at his tongue. He made a pattern of quick kisses along her cheeks. "I took you for that cunning whore of Venice that married with Othello."
        Her hands went to his hair, pulled at it. They didn't speak for some minutes. She unbuttoned his shirt and he let her take off the rest of his clothes. She was comfortable, practiced, aggressive. He lifted off her sweater. She had small taut breasts with little nipples. She got up, removed her panties, stepped out of her skirt and turned to face him. He didn't breathe.
        She touched his hard penis, squeezed it. "It's as beautiful as the rest of you." Was she mocking? Panicked, he pulled her to him and rolled on top of her. She put her hands on either side of his face and lifted her knees. Then, as his panic threatened to become terror, with a hand she guided him in. She made a low, deep sound, hesitated. He froze. Was he doing it wrong? He pushed and she grunted. Her fingers kneaded his biceps. He gripped the chain in his fist and kissed her quickly and looked at her for a sign. Some little light danced in her eyes, but she didn't share it with him. He lowered his head beside hers on the pillow. "It's good, it's good," he said. He eased out a little, held a moment, and then pushed in again. Shouldn't she push back? He pressed his chest against her. Why wasn't she squeezing and pushing back? "Desdemona," he said, then slower, a growl. "Des-de-mo-na." He thought he heard a slight, even impatient, sigh.
        "Temple," she said and her voice was liquid, gentle, pleasant. "Go easy, go slow?"
        He blushed. "Easy," he said, "Slow." He lifted his chest a little and worked his pelvis up and down. "Slow, easy," in, out. Again he lowered his head beside hers and he felt her hands gripping his back. "Slow," he said, "Slow, easy." Again she made that sound. Was it pleasure? "It is the cause." He grunted. "It is the cause my soul." Louder. "Let me not name it to you...."
        Beneath him, she moved to adjust her legs and he lifted up, held, pushed back. "It is the cause." She held on. "It is the cause," they were moving together, "It is the cause, it is the cause."
        "Oh Lord," she said.

        He must have fallen asleep. Grey light was barely filtering into the room and he heard the rustlings and chirrupings of tiny animals in the garden. In his tight fist the little gold links of Moira's chain cut into his fingers still. He felt blurred and dull, surrounded by a vague pain. He looked across the room.
        Moira was sitting in the window seat. When he moved to lift himself on his elbow, she looked at him. She said nothing. She was naked.
        He blushed. Her sweater was lying on the floor where he had dropped it--how long ago? Suddenly he leapt out of bed, snatched up the sweater and tossed it at her.
        "Put this on. You look ridiculous. You look like a dirty little boy."
        She looked at him a long time. He was naked and for an instant he almost reached for something to cover himself, but in a defiant flash he realized that he must stand in this room naked and unashamed. Without a word, she put the sweater on and went to the foot of the bed for her skirt. If he was to survive these minutes, he must stand immobile as she dressed. She dressed unhurriedly. He waited. Finally she slipped into her shoes, found her bag and went to the door. She turned to him and smiled.
        "Thou has not half that pow'r to do me harm," she said, "As I have to be hurt." And then she was gone.
        He wasn't sure how long he stood staring at the door, even after he heard the front door close. But finally he was aware of pricks of pain in his left hand where he was gripping the chain in a fist. He lifted the window and flung the chain out into the cool grey light and the chirping birds and the scrambling mammalian things in the garden below.

        Standing now in the rhododendron bushes he felt his heart pounding. He was sweating, breathing heavily. He looked up to the house and at his window. The sunlit air was heavy. He heard nothing, yet he sensed movement behind him or just out of sight and earshot. And then suddenly he caught a glint of sunlight pricking out from the top of one of the pale green, barely blossoming hydrangea clusters.
        He raced to the bushes and there, caught among the blossoms, was the chain. He grabbed it, squeezed it in his fist and looked around, the blood pounding in his head. Not until he had run into the house, up the stairs and down the hall, not until he had locked the door behind him and kicked off his shoes, stepped out of his shorts and pulled off his shirt, did he feel safe. He stood naked, took a deep breath and then another.
        He ground the chain into his chest, then turned to the mirror on the closet door and looked at his body, heaving still for breath, glistening with sweat, dirt smeared on his face and hands. There was barely a dusting of hair on his arms and legs and he hated it, no chest hair at all, little on his jaw and upper lip. He wanted body hair. He lifted his left arm slowly above his head, then rested the forearm on the top of his head, his fingers holding the chain loosely. He licked at the fine hairs curling in his armpit. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other and back. The chain fell along his right cheek. He lowered it and carefully, delicately, threaded it through his pubic hair, wrapped it around his testicles--"Balls," he said. "My balls"--and around his penis--"My cock," gripping it tightly--and it swelled against the pinching gold links.
        "Blow me about in winds. Roast me in sulphur. Wash me in deep-down gulfs of liquid fire."    
        The chain twisted his pubic hair, dug into the shaft of his penis. He winced, smiled, half closed his eyes. "Desdemona! Des-de-mo-na!" and he let his body move in waves with the rhythm of his fist.
        "I am a man!"

No comments:

Post a Comment