The class was a riot of boys' and girls' cheers and catcalls, laughter and gasps, all at once and surrounding the two boys. “That was a lucky sucker punch” said Eric's buddy Bruce McAllister, as Mr. Burnett walked over, glaring at Cole, then at Eric who remained planted on the floor, gazing up with shock in his face. Burnett barked an order for quiet, and silence fell like a shroud. Cole's startled classmates backed off.
“Tilt your head back.” Mr. Burnett commanded, and as Eric did so, the teacher knelt down and produced a handkerchief for the boy, and told him to pinch his nose closed. The bleeding stopped quickly, and Mr. Burnett ordered the rest of the class to return to their work. “You boys come with me now. I'll be back in a minute.” Cole found himself pushed out of the doorway and down the tiled corridor by the force of Burnett's fury and his own growing shame. Eric followed close behind, hiccupping it seemed, with the teacher behind. They all knew the way to Mr. Booth's office. Cole couldn't feel anything but a heavy dread settle on his stomach. The corridor's institutional green concrete walls seemed to take on the aspect of a sickly swirling dream, in which Cole imagined that he'd find he his feet rooted to the floor, fixed by a slimy green suction. Except he was walking in his normal sneakers, and this was real. He'd never been to the principal's office in his life. When they got there, Burnett told Mr. Booth that the boys had gotten into a fight, and both needed to be properly disciplined. When he left, Booth questioned them separately, beginning with Eric. Cole waited outside for his turn, and eventually heard the brittle slap of Mr. Booth's paddle. Just one loud crack, and then a moment's silence. The door to the principal's office opened, and Eric appeared and walked out of the waiting room. As he passed he set his cold ice blue eyes on Cole, a look of total scorn, and silently he mouthed the word again, “faggot”. Cole's thoughts had already advanced to far into his upcoming punishment to react at all. He felt numb. He went in and closed the door.
“Sit down” he said, indicating a metal chair with a cracked vinyl cushion. Cole looked at the floor and waited. Cracked tile, parts of it missing, gray plastic molding where the floor met the wall. A metal filing cabinet with numbers hand written on tape labeled each drawer. There was a radiator with a cactus houseplant on it, the radiator cold now; it was a sunny September afternoon. He thought, “This place is a dump.”
“Now Cole, I know this is your first year here, and I know how hard it is to fit in among so many kids that are just waiting for a new boy to show a weakness. This is a only your third week here, and it sometimes difficult at your age making friends.”
“Quiet, boy. You're in my office and you'll be silent until I tell you to speak.” With the “I”, Mr Booth leaned across his desk towards Cole and scowled, his eyebrows knitted together like a mask. “I'll be watching you from now on, and if you behave yourself here at Pinehurst Elementary, you'll have no reason to see me here again.” Mr. Booth drew himself up into his best threatening grown-up pose. “However…” And at this the man rose up from his desk chair and looked down at the boy over his reading glasses. In that moment Cole noticed a cheap gold chain attached to his eyeglasses at the temple, something he'd only seen once before, worn by the nice librarian who let him eat his lunch in the audio/video room, at the back of the library at his old school. It was a woman's chain. Mrs. Pick came flooding back at that moment, droopy flesh on her arms, dresses that were to small for her plump body, and always talkative and cheerful, the very opposite of what librarians were supposed to look and act like. She was always wearing her glasses like a necklace with that chain. Cole had forgotten her entirely until then, but loved her all over again. “…if I find you back in my office ever again, I'll make mincemeat out of you.” Cole opened his mouth to speak, and promptly closed it; Mr. Booth was not in a mood for an explanation, didn't care that the incident was brought on by Eric, even if Cole could manage to find the words. Neither of them realized the potential of their situation, another juncture, a fork in the road. Humiliated, Cole simply stood before the principal's desk, his gaze on the man's desk, and waited. “I want you to bend over that chair, now.” Cole assumed the position, but not before catching a glimpse of the principal's paddle, surprisingly new looking, a single piece of solid wood, varnished dark and shiny, with a leather cord looped through the handle at one end and finger sized holes drilled across the surface for maximum impact. Mr. Booth gave him a single sharp smack with the instrument; Cole yelped despite himself, and he felt the blood in his ears for a second time that day. Mr. Booth felt his dick stiffening. He cleared his throat and swallowed. “That's all. Go to your next class.”
Cole walked listlessly to his 5th period gym class, his legs wooden, eyes seeing nothing, his thoughts on Mr. Burnet, Mr. Booth, and Eric. Eric wouldn't be in his next class but by now the whole school would know about his fight, and nobody was going to back a mousy new boy that clubbed people with sticks. Besides, Eric was a jock, with jock friends, Cole knew that some of them would be waiting for him after school, waiting to even the score. He crossed the blacktop playground and started down a sidewalk leading to the locker rooms. He could see cars passing by behind the cyclone fence on the far end of the field track at the back of the school. He listened as an engine's whine called out to him in the afternoon air and as he listened the sound faded until the car was out of sight. Other cars came and went. He heard gravel under his shoes as he walked, and to his surprise found that his course had strayed to the left, off the sidewalk, and he realized that he was headed past the locker rooms, past the showers, past the jogging track and playing field. He approached an open gate in the fence. He wanted the kind of freedom belonging to the people in those cars. He wanted a car, he wanted a new life, and he needed it all more than any 5th period P.E. continued…
I met a man on First today
My power learning
SpiderOnce while sleeping I spied a place
where mystical voices called out of darkness
they travelled through beauty through space to where
in clusters of pods and flowers, appeared
a white spider within one thumb sized blossom:
"Who goes there?", she asked in a cracking proud voice
to the warm breath passing my amaze-parted lips.
"'Tis I!", said my voice (apart from my head),
"Please forgive my intrusion, but you must understand,
that I've come from afar, across water and land--
"to borrow a strand of your pearly white thread
that I may tie some magic on my lover's hand, a spell
to bind him both foot and hand."
"Child...", the grandmother spider replied to me softly
(for she was indeed a frail, noble, old creature.)
"My web was made neither for hands, fingers, nor souls,
--but for hunting and shelter and riding the air.
Before you find yourself inside this man's lifetime,
consider an alternate plan if you care."
"What I have in mind" she said gesturing pink talons,
"Is making the time that you have with him fair,
to let him each season outside your familiar
and both of you change as each other would dare."
"Allow him his ample permission beguile him
With living and laughter and trust taught together,
In tribes here exceeding my own brood would muster
In webs woven strong for love comfort not snare."
With that I could only amazed and dumbfounded,
Utter pale thanks and depart from her lair.
Left to redemption I blessed her while dreaming
And sought ever after for lovers to share.
My dick certainly wanted to forgive him at the time; I’d already decided I wanted to go home with him again, for more than old time’s sake, mainly because I was so overwhelmingly lonely. It was the night before the night before Christmas, and the next morning I’d be picked up in front of my house by my brother for the long uncertain journey to eastern Washington for an equally uncertain family get-together. Alton’s family ties meanwhile were stronger than cotton it seemed; he’d spent the first hour of our evening together picking through the complex web of relationships that made up his family, his brother’s failed marriage, the sister he’d only recently seen after a painful 3 years apart; his surrogate counselor at school. To me it was just the usual coagulated mass of misshapen love that made up the lives of most of my bemused friends, the only difference was that Alton was able to talk about these people's lives as if it was his own experience he was having, not someone else’s. He cared about them, even if only as a surrogate drama to displace his own. I wanted to forgive him because I knew that this wasn’t a ploy to keep me away, or at least it wasn’t a conscious one; maybe he did use his love for the other people in his life to keep me at a certain distance, but if so then he always did, for that’s how I remember him, always telling me about the personal lives of those around him. Never about what he was actually going through, except in the barest essentials. I thought that I could accept his apology as an admission of fault, and move on. But the odd thing about moving on is that sometimes your past is moving on right there with you racing nose to nose, and no finish line in sight. I wanted to put this lost love into some sort of order, I had in fact put him and our time together out of my mind completely, because of the way I had let him use me. His dick had given me more pain and less pleasure than any other before or since. I had forgiven him, I thought.
We talked for hours over more cigarettes and our mutually favorite cocktails, just like the ‘olden days’, argued with a handsome Latino acquaintance of his from the bar, Raul I think, and after he left, Alton and I wound up flirting even more and then exchanging more signals than ships at sea--he all the time telling me what a sight I am for sore eyes. I responded to his confessions with more smiles, all agreement. I told him how good his dick had felt in my ass during a particularly pleasant and sweaty weekend in a beach cabin last March. Pleasure and pain and my ass: its all about timing.
We left together of course, headed for his apartment about 5 blocks away.
“I just want some poppers”, he said, and I asked to go with him on this
unexpected but interesting diversion. He’d intended at first to fetch
them and return to the bar, saying he’d only be a few minutes, but I was
up for the walk and happily asked to go along. My three cocktails had gone
to my feet I guess. Out of the bar, a couple traffic lights, up a flight
of stairs to a dirty man in a dirtier (hetero) bookstore, and then out
again into the urban night, but now we were headed in a direction away
from his home. I hesitated, a little mystified, maybe he’s uncomfortable
walking down First Avenue this time of night, I thought. Then he’s
suddenly feeling chatty with everybody else on the sidewalk, no small
crowd for 1 AM. With a few more curious glances from me, and after
asking if me, a white guy, wouldn’t be better off wandering on ahead
while he conducted whatever he was conducting—he confessed that what
he was really after was a little powder, and a seemingly idle question
drifted back into my memory from the conversation in the bar, “Do you
party?” he’d asked. It seemed innocuous enough then, considering
the range of our conversation, and near as I can figure it was pertinent
to our chat about what all drugs we’d experimented with ‘in high school’.
Now I realized one more thing I really didn’t want to know about this
former boyfriend. Soon he was talking to another black man, who
eyed me briefly as I nonchalantly walked by, as nonchalantly as a
paranoid white boy who doesn’t get out much can at 1 AM downtown. I panicked,
or I came to my senses; you choose. I went around the corner, walked down the
hill the First, doubled back around the block and headed for the artcar,
back at the bar. I found the onramp onto South 99, and headed back
on the highway to the West End, to join all the other lonely smucks who
didn't get laid that night.
He was a vision, this man. I’d glanced at him appreciatively in the video room, he'd looked back, followed me into the corridor, smiled and leaned into me and much to my gratitude reached under my towel and gently fondled my balls and stiffening dick with a warm hand and asked if I had a room. (I thought, who needs a room?) I said yes. He wouldn’t hold my gaze; after a split second his eyes were anywhere but looking back at mine. But after all this was a bathhouse; the rules are different in here, I guess. Inside the room we wasted no time. He was straddling me with his dick rubbing across my pubes, all the while me giggling and grinning like an idiot, until he paused and asked, "Are you stoned?" Of course I was. We rubbed and bumped a little longer and all at once he cried out that he was going to cum, and then there it was, three heavy splurts dumped across my chest, white and warm and way the hell to soon. I was out of my mind, disappointed, and angry, but I started jerking off anyway.
Then he sort of coughed and announced, bored, "Look I’m headed for the shower. I’ll see yeah", and then he started to leave. As he walked out, in case I had any remaining pride to soil, I asked him if I’d see him downstairs and got no answer. I was glazed. I continued my wank for a full minute, my mind leaking out, empty. My dick gave way and I was in a waking dream; a jet flew over, or maybe the music changed. Trance.