Authors: Blair Mastbaum
“Thanks.” I take it from him and lean it against the coat closet door. The house is dim and cool and quiet and peaceful compared to the hot, sunny day.
He walks in and looks around. His presence, confidence, and rawness make the house seem petty, overly decorated,
“Changed shirts?” He takes his slippers off by the front door and flops down on the couch.
I’m stoked he noticed that--even though I feel stupid about it. My ears are ringing.
I pace back and forth in front of him, straightening up the house, trying to hold my chest out, and clenching up my stomach to make it look muscular. I’m making casual look painful. I don’t know how to seem normal. I need a prop. I should offer him some beer or get an ashtray, even though my parents would flip
if someone smoked in the house. It’s worth it. “You want some vodka or something?”
He looks at me like I just said something ridiculous. “That’s cool,
brah.” He sits way back on the couch with his legs spread far apart and his hands over his crotch. He breathes and sighs, like it feels good to sit in this peaceful room that no one in my family ever uses.
I get two cans of Coke from the kitchen and walk back in. “Here. They were out of liquor.” I
one to him, roughly, so he doesn’t think I’m willing to kiss his ass, and sit down next to him, barely on the edge of the couch. I stare at his neck, and the veins running through it down into the collar of his red T-shirt. I get a whiff of the laundry soap his mom uses. I can’t stop my legs from fidgeting on the floor. It’s making the whole house shake, and rattling a cabinet across the room.
“So, what do you
do?” I say, way too fast, so it sounds like some corporate slogan or something. I go to take a swig of my Coke, but I miss my mouth and it spills down my chin onto the front of my T-shirt. I want to take it off, and just be shirtless with him, but I’m too skinny and white.
We either have to fight or jerk off, because I can’t take this tension much longer.
“Let’s get that saw,
“OK.” He saved me.
Something to do. I let out the air I’ve been holding in my lungs this whole time and feel my chest deflate.
Clay stands up and looks around. He walks down the hall. “That your den?”
Fuck. He’s seen my freak cave—the place where I beat off, stare at myself in the mirror for hours, and examine every part of my body like I’m a monkey.
sense the weirdness and run out screaming.
I practically run after him down the hall. “Uh, yeah, I’m just getting around to throwing some old shit away.”
He hands me the joint and I re-light it and take a hit. “I’ll take your hit. Blow it in my face.”
I blow the smoke in his mouth. Our lips touch and surges of electricity bounce between us. It’s the closest we’ve ever been. I hand the joint to him. He takes a hit and blows his smoke down my throat. A bubble of heat surrounds us in the hallway. He looks back at me like we’re sneaking through somewhere we shouldn’t be. “
“Japanese, right? What’s that mean?”
“Let’s chop this shit off my arm.” He holds up his cast.
“OK,” I say. I guess he’s not going to tell me what he said. We walk past the never-used living room. The couch is messed up and wrinkled from where we were sitting. It looks like we had sex on it. “Come on.”
He follows me out the back door, toward the neighbor’s tool shed.
I leave a trail of pheromones behind me. I hope they’re influencing him, secretly influencing him to kiss me in the shed. I check the neighbor’s driveway
to see if they’re home.
One car with its trunk open. I can’t tell him we can’t go back there just because I’m afraid they’ll catch us. He’ll think I’m a wimp with no sense of adventure. He surfs 15-foot waves.
We sneak up to the door. The dog behind my house sees us and starts barking, shoving its nose under the fence. I open the plywood door and jump in.
Clay crouches down, sneaks in behind me, and closes the door.
The shed still feels like desperate sexuality. I move the tools around on the workbench to lighten the vibe a little. I hide a wrench that I came on the other day below some sandpaper.
He hands me a saw. “This is perfect,” he whispers. I think he’s impressed that I can get my hands on all these tools. It’s totally masculine.
Clay rests his arm on the wooden workbench. “OK, cut away, little
I grab his upper arm, over his tattoo, to steady it for cutting, and hold the blade over his cast. My boner pokes at the workbench. It’s beginning to hurt. If it touches him, even by accident, through two layers of fabric--my shorts and his--I think I’ll come. Sweat drips down my armpit and down the side of my torso. The blade looks dangerous against his cast.
He grasps the back of my neck with his free hand. His palm feels like it’s burning through my skin, revealing the innermost parts of me. “It’s OK, dude. You won’t hurt me. I’m invincible.” He winks and makes a sort of super-hero smile and cocks his head.
I saw back and forth, quickly. The blade gets close to his skin, where the plaster stops and cotton bandages start.
Stop!” He yanks his arm up and it breaks the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The shed goes dim and slivers of glass rain down on us. The vibe is romantic and moody, with just a little spurt of yellow filtering through the canvas covering the small window.
“Sorry. Did I cut you?” My words sound too intimate in the darkness, like couples in movies lying in bed together late at night after sex, next to a crackling fire in the fireplace, so I add, “dude.”
“No, but you looked insane, little man. I didn’t think you were
“I wouldn’t hurt you.”
Oh, God. That was so obvious.
I open the shed door and light pours in. Clay pulls and rips through the rest of the layers of his cast and throws it into the trashcan, which I have to remember to get out later. He rubs his white, newly exposed skin over his mouth and nose. “Fuck, it smells like a moldy dog.”
It smells strong and
rank, but kind of turns me on. It’s a strong variation of what he smells like, like what would happen if he didn’t take a bath for months. I inhale as much as I can. The molecules that carry the scent are part of him. I’ll never be the same. This base-level information will take my brain weeks to analyze. “Don’t you
I look down at the cast and examine the pen-and-ink drawings of sharks and Hawaiian
tikis. “Those drawings are cool.”
“My friend drew those. I’ve got lots of his work.”
I’m jealous. Who is this friend? Does he like him?
We walk out of the shed through my backyard.
I see a couple flakes of white frosted glass in his hair. “You’ve got some light bulb in your hair.” I reach up to his head.
He stops and leans over.
I brush it off, feeling electrical charges beam off of him.
He gets a chill and shakes. He feels it too. “Wanna
come to this party tonight? It should be pretty rad.”
Oh, my fucking God. I feel my mouth turn up and smile. I wish I had a mirror so I could adjust my expression to not look stupidly happy as I do now and come off like some sort of eager little boy who wants to be cool.
We walk into my kitchen and he hops up on the counter.
I can’t formulate a
without sounding like an over-eager idiot. I feel like I’m standing with a blank look on my face and my mouth dropped open like in cartoons.
Mom honks her horn outside.
“Oh, fuck.” Clay’s truck is in the driveway. I look down and realize I still have the saw in my hand. I shove it in the oven and grab the garage door opener from the stupid wicker basket on the table by the back door. I push the button and stick my head out the door leading from the kitchen to the garage to scream at my mom out front. “Hold on!” I slam the door behind me and run around the kitchen like a maniac making sure no evidence is lying around, checking every surface.
I tell Clay, “Go out the back door.”
“What’s up? Does she beat you?”
“Uh, no. She’s just weird. I don’t know.”
“Fuck that.” He walks out of the kitchen, then out the garage door toward her car.
I want to scream
and tackle him to the ground, but I can’t move or speak. Two completely different worlds are colliding and I feel helpless. A warm fuzziness makes my stomach feel weird. It’s like I’m being cared for. He’s forging my way for me.
He leans down into the Volvo’s driver’s side window. “Hey, I remember you. I sold you the skateboard. I’m Clay. Need
to move my ride?”
“Yes, Clay, that would be nice.” Mom sounds bitchy. She stares at his tattoos like they’re leprosy.
Clay struts over to his truck. “So, you
come or not,
Mom pulls the Volvo into the driveway and pops her trunk. Groceries fill it to the brim.
Don’t be a dork. Stay calm. Don’t act like it’s the best thing you’ve ever heard.
I take a deep breath.
“Yeah.” I wave him closer.
“On the corner, OK?” I point up the street.
He nods and winks at me, like it’s funny that I had to say that all secretly. “I’ll pick you up at 7. Cool,
say “I love you” and blow him a kiss. I want to make him sign a written agreement to confirm that he’ll show up.
He gets in his truck and revs the engine. He peels off, making a loud screech, a thin trail of smoke, and a black mark on the street.
I can’t take this. I want to run after the truck like a dog. I stare into the street, imagining what his truck looked like in our driveway with him sitting inside it, paying attention to me, talking to me. I think about his face and try to plant the image in my mind forever.
“Are you going to help me with these bags?”
“Why are you such a bitch?”
“Goddamn it. I had three open houses today and I’m tired. Don’t be a brat. Who was that boy?”
He’s my fuel for survival, the reason I’m alive. How can she not sense that? “He told you--Clay. You met him, remember? He’s my friend.”
“Well, you’re not getting in that truck with him, so don’t bother asking. He drives like a maniac.” She points down the street where Clay just drove off. “There’s no reason for that kind of showing off.”
A good sign, I think. Maybe she feels like he’ll take me away, steal away her baby, violate her sense of family,
me in ways that I never thought of.