Imagine a world made of cornfields and unpaved side streets that lead to open fields hidden from view, themselves surrounded by forests you used to roam through with your supernatural childhood parents in search of mushrooms on early summer mornings. Imagine the fatigue of walking and not knowing. Imagine the paved roads beyond the forests, which in the meanwhile have gained so much presence on maps you did not know existed, those roads on which, now, an unfamiliar car is carrying you, and outside, as you turn your head from the man with the hairy knees who’s driving the car, you see weddings being carried out, men in white shirts, bellies, and trimmed beards, and women suffering on the high heels of the beauty that is as foreign to you as one of those languages you’ve never spoken or tried to learn. The car is unfamiliar to you because of the clutter that is surrounding your feet, the contrast it confers to your blue designer shoes. It’s unfamiliar because of the smell and because the man driving the car does not resemble so much the man in the pictures. When you first saw him, a dark shadow against the evening sun, you thought it can’t be him, the size of his head in unnatural, and when you actually get into the car, designer shoes and all, you can even see a protruding belly pushing against the seatbelt. That wasn’t there before. Yet, you go with the flow because there’s no turning back now, is there? And you put your seatbelt and listen to the man with the hairy knees and the unfamiliar car.
Imagine a world in which one look is everything and nothing: everything because it can make other men like you want you more than anything else in the whole world, because it can make other men who aren’t like you to turn violent and ruin if not your day, your month, your year, then at least your life, because that look can make other people believe you are sick; and nothing because that look is as transitory as the solitary trees you see in passing as you speed down the road. Imagine a world in which home doesn’t necessarily mean a house, an apartment, or a room that contains, among other things, the bed on which you spend most of your nights, but where home is the igloo-like inside of a car. This house is the perfect setting for men like us. It can move. It can hide. It’s this “double-hidedness” we seek when we wish to sharpen our tongues against the world through the practice of kissing.
You touch the man’s hairy knee to show you aren’t afraid of him though he’s speaking loudly over the sound of the wheels blaring through the open windows. Your touch is soft, non-threatening like a non-invasive procedure, like a caress on the head of a dying king. He’s driving the car, he’s got the power, you can only cajole him into treating you as softly as you wish to be handled. He’s talking about trips to the mountains, about secret trails he’s went down on, and you imagine the men he’s been with before you.
Those secret paths, they’re our kind of terrain, that is where we flourish, that is where we come of age surrounded by cousins willing to explore their sexuality along with ours. Our bildungsroman does not feature private tutors but the constant, nagging desire to know what we are below our waist. You tell him about your running and the way you secretly fear the dark green of the forests surrounding the road, and he tells you there’s nothing to fear, you might just encounter other men like you in those forests and practice escapism by breaking the rules of boyhood. You both make the joke with the peasant and the cornfield. What happens in the cornfield stays in the cornfield. You’ll be lucky enough, he says, if you stumble upon a peasant who takes frequent showers. You laugh your best laugh and with that laugh you begin to get used to the unfamiliar car, the smells, you begin to feel comfortable on the seat that at first felt so rigid against your buttocks.
You drive past the school where you first learned about the human reproductive system and about birth control and where you felt you were yet too young to know that stuff and yet thought such great knowledge had been bestowed upon you. You think of that time you mentioned to your mother about birth control and she suddenly snapped into attention and asked to have a look at the biology textbook. She lingered on one particular birth control technique and you thought that maybe that was the one she was using or considered using in the future. You jump back to those times you woke up during the night awakened by the bed making weird noises. Of course, you also remember the hat your mother wore the next day in the city while crossing that bridge close to the bazaar, and the way your parents smiled at each other. You return then to the man with the hairy knees thinking that he resembles the father that once, just once in your life, drove you to school.
Streets like small rivulets of shame, garnished with piercing eyes, overweight women, men with bellies pulling them down, unshaved faces, a group of men sitting on the porch of a shabby local place that is both a night bar and a supermarket. All of them are sweating including the beers standing stoically on the wooden table. You can’t really smell it because the car is fast enough but you imagine the rancid smell of sweat coming off their bodies, the smell mixing with the hint of alcohol on their breaths. You think of the women waiting for them at home and you wonder why they are drinking. The next day is a Monday. Are they drinking because of what’s ahead of them? You think of your dad, who must have done the same, and from there you jump deep into a past that is almost giddy with sensations, it tickles your entrails so much that you want to laugh a sick laugh, of shame and forgotten bitterness. You see your dad returning late at night with that hint of alcohol on his breath, you see your grandpa coming out and calling your dad a pig. You remember the sudden jolt of shock at hearing such words coming from the mouth of a man who had demonstrated such calmness on more than one occasion and who is now furious. And as much as you admire your supernatural father you know he did something wrong. You see it in the voice of your mother, in the way she moves around the house, furiously, as if she is running late with her chores.
The shame of my childhood.
The shame of not being like everyone else, of being excluded, of being bullied. The shame of having bent the golden rules of a desired innocence. This world of ours that looks at us with a carpenter’s eye, trained to smooth out the tumescent growths in the dry wood. Because if we can use our opposable thumbs to wield weapons and change our environment then why not mold our minds as well as the minds of others to fit sickly patterns? The football field where you had once been humiliated by the other kids because you were wearing a brown leather jacket in sports class. They laughed at the way you took it off to do those push ups. They’re no longer there, of course, but the grass where you once knelt to do your girly push ups, because you were unable to do the manly ones, still retains the shape of your knees and with them the weight of your shame. No wonder you desire to be humiliated by these men of yours, no wonder you wish to kneel again thinking that maybe this time you’re not kneeling out of humiliation but out of control, to wield at them a pleasure that only you could give them.
The paved road then curbs in the afternoon heat and before stopping and shoving his tongue into your mouth the man with the hairy knees checks the road in the rearview mirrors. There are no witnesses. Besides, the thought instantly crosses your mind, given the nature of your shared transience, somehow any public display of affection between two men in a speeding car will appear out of context like a meaningless phrase that can be gyrated so as to fit any context. Two men might be playing, fooling around, because that’s what we’re doing. His tongue is not a tongue but a playful serpent innocent as the fingers of savvy men checking a horse’s teeth. His hand, the one that curls around your neck and pulls you towards him, is not a hand of fire, but the hand of a fatherly pat on the back, the slap of playful adolescents, a physical comedy. You’re not kissing back but checking the taste of this man’s saliva. You wonder whether you’re doing it well. Then, when you finally get to that artificial lake with the fishermen and the ducks he’s been willing to show you, the way you hold your hand so as to touch him is simply an accident of closeness. Your hand could be there by mistake because it could be anywhere else but there, feeling the dark hairs on his arms. His hand uncovering your lower back is but a way for him to check whether you caught a tan while carrying firewood from the garden into the shed. The skin on your lower back doesn’t burn when he touches it, nobody else but you can see or feel the gravitational pull your pelvis falls into when he moves around your back. Relax, they can only see two men eating their ice creams by the lake. They might notice your designer shoes and your fancy pants because they’re so inappropriate for the setting. Other than that, it’s all natural, it’s all in the books.
Then there’s the ice cream, the one he bought from one of those bars slash supermarkets when you specifically told him you just wanted water. From his disappointed look you know he expected you to display the enthusiasm of the child you no longer are. You know you humiliated the man with the hairy knees with your dislike for ice cream. He throws both of them at you along with the bottle of still water (as requested), vanilla and pistachios and you choose vanilla. Yet when he looks at the other one he wrinkles his nose and to make it up to him you give him the one with the vanilla flavor. The taste of pistachios feels salty against your tongue and you ask him to have a taste of it, a request to which he complies dutifully, and you quickly bite off the part of ice cream where his lips and tongue had been. For a moment your throat closes as if somebody has shoved his finger just above your collarbone with the strength and savage determination of a boa constrictor.
Halfway through your ice cream you realize you need to change your mind about this man. His tongue might be intruding, his hands as well, especially when they went down your crotch accompanied by the question ‘what are you hiding there?’. He doesn’t talk about books but about other men, and you haven’t been touched like that for a while and there’s that gravitational pull again and you try to forget about the fact that, earlier during your ride, he told you he really wants to fuck you because he likes you very much and he likes the way his dick slides into someone else’s ass. He finds it ecstatic and tells you all men want to do that, distant cousins included. There was that cousin of his, the one who is now married with kids, the one whom he fucked on a drunken night, the one who squirmed at the pain of being brutally penetrated. There was that married policeman he fucked, and there’s such pride in his voice because most likely those men found him irresistible. And at one point, when the car suddenly stops again and backs into a side road that isn’t exactly paved and leads to a cornfield, you find him irresistible as well. He makes a joke about being the older one in the duo and the older guys usually have the upper hand, and with that upper hand he unbuttons his jeans to reveal his erection pulsing under his green boxer shorts. What do you think about that? You say you find it compelling and he laughs and pulls down his pants and boxers and his dick slaps against his belly.
There’s such instant familiarity in that scene, you realize, that it almost feels like coming home. You try not to think about the faces you might see or the people that might see the both of you, you, bending downwards like the twigs of weeping willows to take his pleasure in your mouth so as to make it salient, to bring it forth and out into the cornfields of your childhood shame. There’s the familiar deep grunt that comes out of his chest when you take him in your mouth, and the boa constrictor around your neck. You’re not playing any longer, child, because his body curves to meet your mouth and no innocent child’s play has ever involved this warm, burning touch of his pushing against your head. No child’s play ever involved such grunts and moans, as real as those you hear. Take it all in, he says, and pushes harder against the back of your neck, do those girly push ups. His hand goes down your back and pushes against your belt. He wants to feel your ass. He really wants to fuck you, he tells you that again and then again but you pretend you don’t hear him. When he says it again you say you are not ready. You don’t tell him about your fear of being humiliated. With his dick still out and lowered pants he gets out of the car and, my god, you’re flying, using your hands as wings, and you’re running like a beheaded chicken, what is he doing, what is he doing, what the fuck is he doing, a string of saliva is hanging on your chin and you must look ridiculous, but, good gracious, what the fuck is he doing? He goes on to your side of the car and pulls open the door and deep down, while still flying with your hands, you expect a blow of some sort, a hairy palm landing on your face. That same hairy palm that guides your head towards his crotch and an instant later he’s putting his feet on the threshold of the car so his dick is just about in your face. He complies when you tell him to get back in the car.
There are so many things he wants to tell you right then and there. He wants to tell you that he likes it, that you’re doing it well, and because his body moves in a certain way, curving, trembling, sobbing, muscles contracting all over, he finally tells you that he’s going to let go and he does, full of brotherly warmth, the bitter warmth you then spit out in the grass. You take a sip from the bottle of water you asked for and spit again while he cleans himself with the wet wipes he keeps tucked away in the door of the car. You get out of the car for a smoke with your now dusty designer shoes and you look at the cornfields and the trees beyond. He’s writing emails on his phone. I hope you enjoyed the meal, he says and you think of Happy Meals and the toys that came with them.
Weeks later he tells you, via a dating app, that he still gets a hard on when he thinks of that blow job in the cornfields. You’re a cool guy, he tells you.
And you agree. What else is there to do, right? You post a picture with clouds and birds at rest on Instagram to mark the moment.