It Takes A Thief

Infantile whimpers had always unnerved him, even now that he had two boys of his own. Carlos never made a conscious choice to be a father, or a husband, or the kind of man he said he was or acted impeccably as.

“Hi, daddy,” Dominico said as he swung the rear door open flooding the car with a cacophony of youth, drowning out the drowsy, vocal fry of early afternoon NPR news.

“Sup, dad,” Carlitos said, heaving breath back into his sweaty body, having sprinted to the car from God-knows-where. He was the oldest, named after Carlos himself just like he was after his father.

“How was school?” Carlos asked, not because he really wanted to know— he could care less about the inane goings-on in the life of two prepubescent grade-schoolers; elementary and middle school—but given that he was playing the role of father as he was the role of husband to his wife Maria Fernanda, he needed to ask.

“We got a lot of homework today,” said Dom.

“That’s ni—”

“Suck my dick, bitch,” Carlitos yelled out the window at a group of boys walking away from the school’s front gate. He burst into laughter as he settled back in the passenger side seat. The group of boys exploded into a laugh track of hoots and gibbers.

Once his son’s hysterical laugh dwindled to a satisfying, prolonged sigh, Carlos felt that nagging inner voice that cried at him whenever filial care and responsibility was required. It told him to reprimand his son, but, What the fuck do I know about sucking dick? he thought.

Aside from the “rights-and-wrongs” that every father needed to impart on his children, being Mexican, he also needed to pass on to his sons the rules and stipulations on how to be a man. What the fuck do I know about being a man? Carlos asked himself.

Carlos was reluctant to teach his sons anything— regarding life or manhood— because of the repercussions these “lessons” would ultimately have on their lives. Looking over at the seat Carlitos was sitting on, his wife’s seat, Carlos remembered the last time he had gotten his dick sucked on that very seat, but not by its owner. Back when his email used to be spiritualjourney76@live.com and prepared meals primarily with ghee and coconut milk. How his dad’s ultra-macho, Übermensch speeches and close-fisted beatings did nothing to dull the raw desire he felt for his older cousin Heriberto after the night they slept together in a car. What the fuck did that cheating bastard know? Carlos thought, wiping away a tear.

“Are you okay, daddy?” his younger son Dom, sometimes going by Dommie, asked. He was always looking at Carlos; mimicking even the way he laughed. He was his favorite person. It annoyed the living fuck out of Carlos. Who the fuck am I to have anyone want to be like me? was what he really wanted to tell his son.

“No,” Carlos replied, looking at his son’s concerned eyes— his eyes— in the rearview mirror. “I’m just wiping some dust from my eye, buddy. Don’t worry.”

####

Carlos had his mother Concha’s eyes and her taste in men; guys who didn’t love you because they didn’t even love themselves. They loved no one and hated the world. Brash, passionate men that didn’t give a damn about you, but that knew how to love with their soul. That’s why you can’t stop loving them, even after they leave, Concha used to complain; your bed or this godforsaken earth. Carlos also inherited from his mother the ability to lie to himself and hold true to the deception no matter how miserable the outcome made him. He lied to everyone; about wanting a big family, and falling in love with the woman who he would eventually marry, Maria Fernanda. But mostly, he lied to himself about how much he loved Heriberto, his second cousin. His affection for Heriberto grew commensurate to their maturing bodies. They would go years without seeing each other, and when they finally did, it was as if they had never lost communication.

“Look at those two,” Papa Carlos would tell his cousin Lencho. “Those two love each other like brothers.” Butt-brothers.

Carlos was driving his family to meet Heriberto. They had lost touch with one another for over 14 years. The last time he saw Heriberto, they were both thirty, single, and writhing in forbidden urges.

####

The car ride was silent at first. Carlos used this time to analyze every single detail in Heribertos’s car that was within his field of vision. The first thought that came to mind was that the car was spotless. The smoky scent of leather made it feel as if he had just rolled it out of the dealership. The rug under his feet was slick, absent of any grit to cut the friction of his leather-soled boots. The inner-door didn’t contain wayward pennies or dimes rattling around. There weren’t any crushed, half-drunk plastic bottles rolling around underneath his seats. The interior smelled of Heriberto; not quite cologne or car-freshener, but also of his sweat and minty breath. It was a quality that Carlos had noticed of Heriberto upon first meeting him since he had become an adult. His presence simply took ownership of whatever place he inhabited. His locker at the gym smelled that way as well. While other lockers smelled of old ass boiled in armpit sweat, served with a side of farts and smegma, Heriberto’s smelled of freshly-bathed skin; that smell soap releases when it’s first wet by hot, slightly scalding water, how it fizzes and bubbles, and melts into a white, smooth lather. Carlos could still see this lather reservoir in Heriberto’s belly button— and innie that he wanted to dip the tip of his longest finger into— and trapped in his nicely trimmed and landscaped pubic hair. It continued to waterfall down his pubic bone, framed beautifully by his protruding hip bones and perfectly-defined obliques. The rush of water pushed the foam past his pubic bone, on and around his flaccid, yet large penis, slowly dripping off his smoothly-shaved, puckered testicles.

It was at that moment that Carlos knew that he really liked Heriberto. Mainly because he had never thought of someone’s body as much and because it felt wrong. While watching porn, the male performers were as attractive to him as the female. He often imagined the man’s chiseled body slamming hard against the woman’s round and fleshy bubble butt doing the same to him. Carlos wanted to search man-on-man porn, but he was too afraid of liking it more than straight porn. The same went for tasting his own semen. What if I like it so much that I become addicted to it? he wondered. The problem wasn’t that he had sexual feelings for another man, or that the man was his cousin. The main issue was that Carlos felt that he couldn’t feel good about enjoying anything that felt good in life. According to his parents, everything in life was either vanity or a sin. That’s why most of the things Carlos did were done so behind everyone’s back, and if he could do them behind his own— as a safeguard to not feel guilt or remorse— then he would.

Carlos could hear his dad’s voice saying, Carlos, cabron. You better not be thinking of what you’re thinking. Remember that time I ripped off a branch from out pomegranate tree and beat the shit out of you and made you sleep outside naked? That time I found you and Heriberto acting like fags. Being gay is a sin. It’s being less of a man. Everyone you know will stop loving you for thinking and feeling this way. So, just stop.

“How long have you had this car for?” Carlos asked.

“This old rust bucket?” Heriberto replied. “Uh, I don’t know. For about two years.”

“Really? I’m impressed.” Heriberto had a lust for fast cars, and his 2004 Mustang GT, in lipstick red, was beginning to close off the world it was speeding on. The faster Heriberto drove, the more distant Carlos felt from the world within his own head tying him down, making his own body and soul accessible to him once more.

“Really? Why’s that?”

“I don’t know.” The more comfortable that Carlos got, the wider the spread of his legs became. The closer his left knee got to the center console, the more separated Heriberto’s vision became, as if each of his eyeballs operated independently of the other, playing tug of war with his eye sockets; splitting their focus between the harsh, bumpy road and Carlos’s tanned, hairy legs. “Most people would’ve trashed their cars by now, I guess.” Carlos let out a nervous laugh.

“Well, you know me. I like everything to be in order. I hate messes.” The truth was that Carlos didn’t really know him. The reason he had decided to accompany his cousin to the gym was to prove, once and for all, whether either of them felt anything for one another. Whether pursuing this crazy feeling he felt deep in his guts was worth ruining his whole life for. “Speaking of which, would you mind handing me something from the glove compartment?”

“Sure. What is it?”

“Oh, it’s just my cologne.” Carlos leaned forward and pushed the button on the center of the compartment and it popped the lid open. He couldn’t help but take a quick look around at its contents. The giant box of Magnum condoms sparked his interest immediately. A pack of 36. Why would he need so many? Carlos wondered. How much tail is this guy getting?

“Here you go,” Carlos said as he closed the compartment and handed the half-empty cologne bottle to Heriberto.

“Thanks, man.” Heriberto spritzed a pump on each side of his neck, one on his chest, reaching under his shirt, and the last in his pubic area, lifting the elastic band of his track pants. “You never know when someone might pay a visit downstairs, am I right?”

Heriberto noticed that Carlos was looking into the tent pitched as if looking for boy scouts.

“I go commando after I shower,” Heriberto said, smacking the waistband against his abs.

“Oh, that’s cool,” Carlos said, fumbling his gym bag over his lap, trying to conceal from Heriberto that he too was pitching a tent.

####

On the ride home, Dom asked if Heriberto was gay. Maria Fernanda chuckled uncontrollably. The car suddenly broke. So hard that both of the brothers’ heads slammed against their parents’ headrests.

“What did you say?” Carlos asked lasering his dark-brown, almost black, eyes into his son’s; their intensity only augmented by the rearview mirror delivering them. Carlos’s wife stopped laughing. “Dominico. I asked you a question.” Carlos turned his head 180 degrees and around the driver’s side headrest as if it were slithering off his shoulders. Dom froze, tranquilized by the venom injected in him by his dad’s stare.

“Carlos, just stop it already,” Maria Fernanda said. “It’s okay, mijo. Just answer your daddy’s question.” She said so with the intension to fuel her husband’s rage rather than defuse it.

Dom felt like he had lost his ability to speak. He wanted to apologize, which is what he thought his dad wanted. Carlos always wanted to be right; to be the strongest, the smartest, and the kindest, even if it meant being the biggest asshole and ruining everybody else’s time, including those he wanted to please.

“I…I…” Dom mumbled, wanting to choose his words so wisely that he didn’t know which to choose, like rattling Scrabble tiles around on the wooden stand. “I just wanted to know if Heriberto wanted to get married again.” Carlos took a deep breath and Maria Fernanda a sigh of relief.

“Listen, Dommie,” Carlos finally said after exhaling, “Your grampa once killed a man for calling him gay. Do you know what gay means?” His wife winced, rolling her eyes and huffing air through her nose.

“Mmhhmm,” Dom shook his head.

“Well, son, being gay is bad. It goes against what we believe.” Dom continued to nod, tears rolling down his sunburnt cheeks. “And if you ever mention what you did or if I ever find out that either of you are gay— I’m talking to you too, Carlitos— I’m going to be so fucking angry that I won’t wait for someone else to kill you.” Carlos turned the key in the ignition. “I’ll kill you myself.” He wiped the tears his wife interpreted as rage-incarnate, gnashing his teeth together, trying not to yell at her, Stop looking at me! Can’t you see I’m tired of playing this fucking game?

####

Carlos Echeverría Senior, or Papa Carlos as his son would refer to him, was a migrant worker who would leave his wife and their son Carlos alone in their small home in Guadalajara, Mexico for months at a time. He was a seasonal fruit picker for the big growers in Central and Northern California.

By word of the town’s people, a young Carlos found out that his father engaged in extramarital acts and heavy alcohol and drug consumption. Not only did he have another wife, he also had another son that was also named Carlos and was older than him by a year. When Carlos confronted his mom regarding the town’s allegations against his dad, she slapped him across the face. Her blow carried the weight of repressed anger and the sting of conjugal subjugation; an impotence to speak her truth.

“Just shut up about it,” his mother Concha roared. “These neighbors just love to gossip, and the things your father does are his to know about and his alone.”

Carlos didn’t understand his mom or why at that moment he felt so much hatred toward her— even more than toward his dad.

“I only believe what he tells me. If he wants to lie and thrash around like a dog with all the town’s whores, he’s the one that’ll have to answer to his Creator.” The town whores were comprised of widows, abandoned women, and spinsters; those that didn’t have a husband to look after, therefore they tried to take them from those that did. “These dirty bitches bewitch married men with their big asses and sex-magic.”

####

Carlos looked over and noticed a headless Heriberto peeling his tight, moist white t-shirt around his ears and over his head. After he wedged his head out of the shirt, Heriberto’s unkempt hair and disoriented look brought a smirk to Carlos’s face. Heriberto smiled and threw the balled up cotton top over the steering wheel.

Heriberto’s chest rippled red; either from blushing or blooming with lactic acid. It may have been the massive amount of blood flooding the individual chambers in Carlos’s penis that was making him light-headed, but everything that Heriberto did began to play in slow-motion in his head. Heriberto placed the tip of his tongue on the tip of his right thumb and licked the distance between it and his index finger. The same distance popular science had deemed to be the measure of a man’s dick. In order for that to be true in Carlos’s case, he would need hands twice their original size. Clown’s hands. Heriberto began to lick the palm of his hand; purring and moaning in anticipation. The bright red head atop Carlos’s cock was shiny, glistening with pre-come.

Heriberto gripped Carlos’s penis tightly with his right hand while massaging a doughy bulge in his sweat pants. His penis was heavy with blood, stiff like never before. It felt to Carlos as though it was the first time he ever had an erection. An erection that had never been touched by anyone other than he. Heriberto’s veiny and sinewy hand looked stringy, and long but around his penis, it felt full, almost pillowy. The strangeness of his fingertips pressuring the thick dorsal vein running up and down his shaft— molding to the precise amount of pressure Heriberto was applying to it— felt as though his fingers would go right through it like a stick of butter.

The grip began to churn slowly, up and down loosening the skin on the shaft; which was practically shrink-wrapped, ready to rupture had his penis grown even a centimeter in girth. Heriberto’s strong, warm hands— the ones he used to beat all of the town’s kids, and some adults, with at arm-wrestling— could’ve melted wet a pillar of solid ice, as they were moistening the tip of Carlos’s cock. They could’ve turned his stone-hard erection into enough bread to feed an entire family. They felt miraculous.

####

It bothered Carlos that his wife looked so pleased; the fact that she was more concerned with his own soul-crushing performance than with the tears perspiring down her little boy’s eyes. The look she gave their son seemed to communicate, That’s what you get for being a little fag.

“I’m sorry,” Maria Fernanda whispered to Dom.

Being gay in Mexico meant going against God’s will: against the holy sacrament of marriage between a man and a woman; and the bearing and raising of catholic children. The shame that the town would subject those who didn’t comply was worse than the punishment their sin would be awaiting them in hell. The act of sodomy— technically a sin— was only looked down upon, but it wasn’t unheard of amongst straight men. Calling yourself gay was wrong, but fucking other men wasn’t. It was a prima-nocta-like ritual that straight men bestowed upon themselves; to bestow into a newly-declared gay man’s body their God-endorsed penis. The pecking order for staying a true man was to fuck and never to be fucked.

Carlos’s speech made his heart race faster than after being chased by rabid dogs when he was a child in Mexico. He actually didn’t care whether his son thought Heriberto was gay or whether he liked Heriberto or not; which he still did. He knew that his son wasn’t gay. There was something about Heriberto’s eyes and smile that made Carlos feel good, a goodness that he felt he couldn’t share with anybody; not even his son. A goodness that felt wrong to feel, but at the same time, felt so right.

####

Carlitos’s phone began to ring. The ringtone— Drake’s “Started From The Bottom”— was one that he and his mother had fought over as being too inappropriate for school.

“The school’s going to think we’re heathens,” Maria Fernanda argued.

Carlos saw it as a healthy form of self-expression, but he hated the creepy, looped toy-box music, Drake’s lazy way of rapping, and his gratuitously awkward interjections of the N-word.

“Pick up already,” Carlos snapped.

“What’s up, bitch?” Carlitos answered. “You like dick, don’t you?”

“I’m telling mom you said that,” Dom hollered from the backseat, taking on the parenting role that Carlos had no interest in relinquishing. The white noise of kid chatter, radio blasting rap, and a brass band of car horns placed Carlos in a daze.

For his sake, Carlos hoped that Carlitos did end up being openly gay, instead of living the repressed life he himself did. Carlos would have to reject his son, torture him with convenient-theology just to keep up appearances, mainly with his wife. But deep down, he’d be proud of his son for doing something he still wasn’t strong enough to do, even now as a full-grown, fully-formed fragmented man. Withholding the fact that he was and had always been gay. My sons will have to base their reality on what I tell them, he thought. Carlos somehow wanted to tell his kids that he loved them no matter what; that he didn’t hate them. He only hated himself for hating them; for being so much like the father he grew up hating. As his father did when his spousal fidelity came into question, Carlos would always deny being gay even if someone caught him with a cock in his mouth.

In Carlos’s mind, Carlitos was fated to become a fuck-up just by looking at the way he dangled his leg out of the car. It took a fuck-up to understand another. Papa Carlos thought too highly of himself. Nothing ever affected him; physically or emotionally. He never cried, or expressed any delight, at least not outwardly. Fuck, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him bleed, the thought once crossed Carlos’s mind.

“There are three ways of doing things: the right way, the wrong way, and my way,” Papa Carlos used to say. “My way supersedes the right way.”

 

Artwork

Relief showing procession of offering bearers[Photograph]. Dynasty 12. ca. 1961–1917 B.C. Rogers Fund, 1909. Accessed on January 12, 2017. (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544193).

Dream So Like A Waking

Watching porn started off as a fun game of hide-and-seek to Omid; hiding from his parents, and seeking their stash of magazines and videotapes. These articles of filth belonged mostly to his dad, and the excitement Omid felt thinking about it was matched only by the first time he saw a pair of silicone-enhanced breasts in some of the porno magazines. His dad used to fall asleep with the lewd publications draped on his bare chest: one hand on the page and the other holding his flaccid penis. Omid used to remove his father’s tranquilized hand out of the way and flip through the pages. Images of hair-covered vaginas spread open by lace-gloved fingers made him wonder if his father’s taste coincided with his mom’s naked body. Or if somewhere deep in her drawer, balled-up like a pair of socks— his mother had the same outfit. Both the models and his mother had the same brunette hair and olive complexion. In spite of the moistened pink labia gleaming back at him like freshly polished chrome, Omid’s flaccidity echoed the wan penis staring back at him from the bed.

Porn’s crinkled, musty-smelling prohibitiveness often made Omid fake an illness because he was old enough to be left home alone to recover. It felt dangerous looking at something his parents had caught him and told him not to look at. Although he could look at it all day, and sometimes he would, at the age of 8, he still didn’t get what the big deal was. Why do all my cousins and friends want to look at this stuff? he wondered. He coveted the naked female body because he felt that that was what every male he knew wanted. He simply wanted to fit in.

****

Once puberty began to make his testicles itchy with hair growth and the pit of his stomach tingly with semen production, porn took on a different tinge. Masturbation turned the game into an occupation, as when children who play backyard basketball go professional. Porn became a necessity, a release, and a prison. He needed to ejaculate at least 4 times, sometimes 5, before he felt satisfied. Otherwise, if he didn’t, he felt shaky and nervous, like walking around in sopping wet clothes that you also urinated in. It was a gateway to sex, if only by proxy, to something he knew and felt that he couldn’t get at 15 years: An adult woman.

****

He didn’t watch porn as much as he used to, but not as infrequently as he should.

Nowadays, he preferred other types of porn. He could only manage to get off while watching girls that seemed like ones he would personally like to meet, ones with whom he wouldn’t feel shame after coming. He needed to imagine them with clothes on in order to find them attractive naked; in tight washed out jeans that rode up, displaying the lower quadrant curvature of their ass. The same ass that was bouncing up and down on the computer screen. He could imagine himself holding one of these girls’ hands while walking their dog Max, or maybe Winston, around the lake in LA’s Echo Park, or sitting next to her on their big comfy couch binging on Netflix.

As his body temperature rose— heart palpitations as well as his manic jerking— he could picture the emaciated, Russian girl of 25, pretending to be just barely 20, smiling and winking at him across the dinner table at his parents’ house during Thanksgiving. How his mom would babble on and on about how Jesus died for her sins and how he would be thinking about all the dirty sex that they would have on his kid-sized bed, surrounded by a shrine of his life up to high school his mother had kept intact. The thought of having a naked girl in his room, biting her bottom lip, holding back pleasure-pain because of his penis being tightly-deep inside of her excited him so that he needed to rewind the video player a few minutes to the part where Agness had first slid off her black lace thong. What a name. He had a great aunt named Agnes and according to his mother, she was a little cunt.

****

Omid enjoyed reading comments left by other users on the various porn sites saved in his “Favorites” bookmarks. He got hard with those that were constructive, such as: “She has nice round titties;” or “I love the cute little face she makes when she eats his ass.”

He hated those that dehumanized women: “That’s right. They’re just fucking machines. Made for taking cock;” “Don’t pity them, it’s their purpose. Their holes are for filling. It’s not abuse if you treat them rough;” or “These girls have nothing human anymore…They’re just dolls…fuckmeat!”

In the tight grip of pleasure, he felt conflicted. The roughness with which the guy was feeding his impossibly large, erect penis to the girl turned him on, but in his heart of hearts he would think, I would fuck her like that, but I’d be a lot nicer to her. In fact, Omid hated any video that depicted rape or orgies of any kind, Two penises were one too many, was only one of his many viewing policies. Any scene that imposed sexual acts on women, or ones where they were duped into a sexual situation were out of the question for him.

Porn, even as an adult— older now than his dad was when he first exposed him to porn as a child— had always been about feeling good; about enjoyment. He never wanted to hurt anyone, not even the girls getting paid shit wages to take it in every hole. Omid preferred scenes that took place in clean, Mid-century modern homes with nice lighting and flowers in glass vases, on beds or couches upholstered in white, velvet fabric— 85% Cotton, 15% Polyester. He wanted each video to have nice trip-hop or piano music, and proper titles, like “Take It Slow,” or “Slow and Sensual.” But most of all, he liked it when the action transitioned organically into sex, as he imagined it did in real life.

****

The video was only 5 minutes long, more than enough time to come. He was a 3-minute-man, 4 on days when he had ejaculated more than once. He liked seeing a connection between the girl and the camera. Point-of-view porn was his favorite. Looking at the male performer’s anus opening and closing as he thrusted his hips back and forth made Omid’s penis soft. He wasn’t thrilled about the penis either, but in his mind, it was a necessary evil. Girl-on-girl was hot, but it just didn’t do it for him. He needed to see some pounding. If there happened to be a porn girl that he liked, but she was fucking someone visibly on camera, he prefer that it be someone who wasn’t more attractive than he. Someone fat, or chubby. Someone that he could identify with. Seeing these young women who wouldn’t be caught dead talking to the type of men they were fucking on camera on the street gave him hope that maybe there was a petite, bosomy, bubble-butted, chestnut-haired, Eastern-European 20-year-old out there looking for a guy just like him. That upon seeing this unicorn of a woman, they would both instantly know that they had finally found each other.

****

Her name was Agness Agnelli and Omid fell in love with her upon first seeing her brown eyes look fiercely at the camera. He found her lack of mastery of the English language endearing— something he would help her work on once they started dating. She was skinny, but with a little bit of a tummy, just like a real girl. He could see them walking out of a movie and feel people’s judgmental looks, as if saying, what does a girl like her see in a guy like him? He would see other men more attractive than him— like the ones Agness performed lurid acts of sex on camera with, the ones he hated clicking on— and he would feel jealous, but in his jealousy, he would feel reassured because he knew that she was his. She was with him. He had something that they didn’t. At first, her decision to further develop her career in porn would make him uncomfortable, but after a while he would grow to accept that it was part of her job. Some people just have to deal with assholes and dicks at work, he thought. The only difference is that she dealt hers and took strangers’ in it.

****

Holding down the “Command” key on his Macbook and clicking on her name, he saw under Agness’s personal page that she was from Russia, a place he never thought of or wished to visit, but given that they were dating, he would have to travel there to meet her parents, brothers— of which she would have two; big and strong, Boris and Yevgeny— and one younger sister. As her moaning got heavier and louder on the other tab, he kept looking at her “About Me” page, imagining them in LAX going through TSA, snickering and smiling at each other in a language only they understood as they each got legally molested. Once in their seats, Agness would ask him to accompany her to the bathroom. Omid clicked on the tab that contained the action and imagined that he and her were doing it doggy-style in the plane’s bathroom. After having proudly joined the mile-high club, they would go back to their seats and she would fall asleep on his shoulder.

He paused the video for a moment, clicking on the “expand window” button to cover the video’s distracting tags: teen, facial, hardcore, pornstar, blowjob, amateur, POV, cumshots, big-dick, facial-cumshot. He wanted to enjoy this most private of moments in complete silence.

****

He felt a tug on his balls and a twinge on the back of his neck. His penis twitched as his jerking slowed from psychotic to soothing. Even though he lived alone, he released a suppressed exhale and cupped his free hand, forming a reservoir to catch his incoming semen. It was all part of his system. After the spurt of warm come dwindle to non-ejaculatory palpitations, he turned his palm down on his boxers and wiped his hand clean. Tomorrow was laundry day anyway.

Even after he came, he always needed to see the money shot. It soothed him, like hearing a dissonant chord resolve itself at the end of a song, or like seeing “The End” at the conclusion of old films; not really necessary, but it gave people a pleasant sense of closure.

“Oh fuck, I’m gonna come,” the muscular guy banging his hips against the girl of his dreams yelled out.

Omid was currently single, and had never dated a girl in person. He really wanted a girlfriend, but had little to no clue on how to get one. The expression on Agness’s face was of relief. Omid felt happy for her, for going through all that and still having the courage to smile.

****

Omid began the next morning’s session as he always did; searching for videos to get his blood going and get ready for work. He searched for Agness videos and clicked on her profile page to see if any new videos had been uploaded. To his surprise, Agness’s “Career Status” had changed from “Active” to “Retired”. How could this happen? When did this happen? Just the night before Omid had feasted his eyes and body to Agness, her Muscovite beauty and controlled, premeditated acts of sodomy and debauchery.

He scoured pornhub.com, freeones.com, and every other porn site he could think of. To his dismay, they all repeated the sad truth: Retired.

In the comments’ section, various users posed their hypothesis for Agness’s sudden apotheosis.

JArhturRank posted on December 9 at 10:35 a.m., “Don’t hold your breath for more stuff from this babe, she’s a case of ‘Gone in 60 seconds’. Too bad really.”

scotty whores rock!!! posted on the same day a few hours before, “Bummer she retired agness was a super skilled whore and a super sweet lady.” That was it. Nobody else was reacting to Agness’s retirement. It was as if Agness had died and nobody really cared that she was gone forever. The very next comment, posted over three months before by civilianX read:

“Damn this girl is cute. I would like to tongue punch her fart box.”

Omid got sucked into a vortex of comments, and kept reading and reading. A few hours went by and he called in sick to work. He searched every free porn database, and even paid $39.99 a month to have full access to the site russianhoneys.net, featuring unreleased videos of Agness. After he entered his credit card information and agreed to the cryptic endless-scrolling contract, he clicked on her videos. There were only two; one he had already seen, and the other was barely over a minute long and mostly dialogue.

He searched and searched, clicking page after page of animated video thumbnails, displaying miniature previews of the scenes. But nothing caught Omid’s eye.

He was looking for something, someone he didn’t know of yet. He knew not what he wanted. It was a gut feeling. He would know when he saw her.

He wasn’t looking just for porn anymore.

Omid was looking to fall in love again.

Artwork

Albert Dyer during trial [graphic]. Herald-Examiner Collection. http://jpg1.lapl.org/00105/00105985.jpg. 1937.

The flicker of her eyes

 

The flicker of her eyes will be featured in

Sky Island Journal’s Issue #3,

their Winter 2018 release.

Read Sky Island Journal

Artwork

Campbell, Judith. Skeleton angel [Image]. Los Angeles, 27 Dec. 2017.

Through His Bars Of Rage

I am the hunter.

He is the hunted.

He runs away from me with all his might. I chase after him with all of mine, but it’s never quite enough to reach his speed. My short, stubby legs are no match for his long, veiny ones.

He distracts me with false promises and steals the prey we agreed to share. He does so with a spirit of play, not malice. His essence is pungent and alluring to me as blood is to a predator. The scent trickles away from his face as the wind that crashes against his body disperses around him. His sweat drizzles on my nose, the sound of his laughter chatters in my ears. The faster I run behind him, the farther away he seems.

The adrenaline coursing through my drained child-body is the only energy source keeping my feet moving. I’m tired of chasing him, of feeling that he doesn’t want anything to do with me. I’m tired of knowing that this is what fuels his unapproachable speed.

Is he getting faster, or is it a combination of my reluctance to pursue him and his objection to being pursued? He runs away laughing.

And that’s how the dream ends.

*          *          *          *

I dug my face out of the pillow, and gave the nightstand a half-open, one-eyed look. My phone buzzed violently, nagging me to get up, so I tapped the “snooze” button and relieved it of the futile endeavor. I looked around the gray-lit bedroom. The fan I should’ve replaced years ago was still circulating tepid, dusty air into my wife’s asthmatic lungs, heaving gently under the covers. My one-year-old son was cooing a gurgled song in his crib. My dog Nala was deeply focused on giving herself a full-body tongue bath in the sun’s warmth slivering through the blinds.

It was 7:05 a.m. on a Saturday, and the sun itself had barely awoken. Getting dressed in my yellow Club America jersey— a team from Mexico’s capital— was a big step for me toward playing a sport that I’ve loved since infancy, but one that conjured the worst bouts of anxiety. The angst I felt was due to the mix of two bloods coursing through me—Izaguirre from my dad and Marion from my mom—and the bad blood between them. In this malpracticed alchemy, born of the love once felt by a teenage boy and girl, each side seemed to be trying to eliminate the other as if it were a bloodborne virus. It would have taken the synchronous work of a hematologist and psychiatrist to accurately diagnose the damage wrought inside of me.

I closed my eyes, and took a deep, slow, calming breath.

*          *          *          *

When my dad first landed in prison, my mom used to take us to visit him. It was her way of rescuing a shred of normalcy from the wretched situation she found herself at 22-years-old. She called it normalcy, I called it love. Hate. Acceptance, and revulsion.

My mom woke us up at 4 a.m., showered each one of us, dolled herself up, and took a Mexican bus from La Sánchez Taboada— a borough of Tijuana— to the Mexico-U.S. Border. After dealing with Customs, we then took the San Diego Trolley from Chula Vista, to Downtown and then walked three city blocks. My mom wouldn’t allow us to break the illusion of a cohesive family by talking or complaining.

“You’re not hungry,” my mom would say, licking her thumb and brashly gouging out an eye booger lodged in the inner corner of my eye. My siblings and I weren’t even allowed to rest our eyes, because we weren’t tired either.

At the prison, the surly, underpaid guards patted us down. We weren’t allowed to breathe audibly in there, let alone talk. Waiting on a long name list to finally dwindle down to our proud Izaguirre name, tribes of people stalled in a packed waiting room filled with horny women and insufferable children. Once in, my dad was ecstatic, he was the only one, hugging and kissing us all.

At the age of 8, I found it puzzling as to why my mom was always so pissed off at my dad. No hug. No kiss. When they did hug, it looked as though my dad was hugging a complete stranger, a broom, and not a woman he had been inside of, one who had carried his children on three separate occasions. She would give him a look of writhing disgust, of How could you have done this to us? This was her way of finding a catharsis from the misery, the curse of the Izaguirre men. Fighting with her husband was her way of finding normalcy. To us, she only wanted to see him to show him her anger and to let him feel her grief. That’s why she went through all that trouble. And he was perfectly fine with it. She did it out of spite, and he took it in spite of it.

“Don’t believe his bullshit,” she would pre-screen us. If she was really peeved, she wouldn’t even let us get close to him.

“How are you, mijo?” my dad would ask. He was surprised that I didn’t want to be near him. As I approached him, my mom would step in.

“Leave him alone,” she’d say, placing her arm across my chest, pulling me aside. “He doesn’t want to be with you. He’s embarrassed of having to come here, and being seen with you.”

This was the only normal thing about this minimum security display of visiting hours affection. Everything else was premeditated and staged. It didn’t feel real. It felt like going to church. We went because my mom threatened us, not because we loved Our Father.

That never felt normal. It would’ve been normal for my mom to divorce my dad and remarry. It would’ve been normal for her to stay single and live the asexual life of a brooding, abandoned wife. But she wasn’t seeking normal. She was seeking love. A love driven by hatred. She wanted to show my dad that we were still his. She wanted to provide normalcy for only one person, Him, only to shatter it right before his eyes as she used to break the porcelain china whenever they fought. Izaguirre men knew how to seduce a woman, how to get her in bed and how to please her once in it. They also knew how to place a baby deep in their wombs and a deep sense of comfort in their hearts. More than anything, they were experts at letting women down. Any woman. Girlfriends, wives, lovers and mistresses. All women, except their mothers.

*          *          *          *

Growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles simply known as “the Valley,” my dad often expressed that he felt like a stressed out teenager, not wanting to find employment or being capable of holding down a job, and leaving my mom alone to fend for herself and tend to their kids. These feelings facilitated his drug usage not only to escape this undesirable reality, but to spite my mom for trying to change him into a man he didn’t want to be. This led to the erratic and violent behavior that eventually landed him in prison.

In Uncle Ramiro’s eyes, mom’s older brother, not only did I bear my dad’s first and last name, I also bore the gene, the cancerous putrefaction, that made Izaguirre men so loathsome. So unmanly. I bore the mark of the beast. A bullseye of derision. He figured that a fatherless boy could use disciplinary guidance, but his ulterior plan was to ridicule the Izaguirre out of me, one flagellating insult at a time.

Soccer was a sport that required a high level of skill, one that required the support of your family. My mom was always busy working 18-hour shifts due to my dad’s absence. Uncle Ramiro was the only person who cared enough to take me to play. Through his rants, I learned that soccer was a man’s game and that you had to be a real man to truly excel as a player. Under that simple yet discriminating rule, I would never be good at it. I wasn’t a man because my dad wasn’t one either. My dad’s early filial departure technically made me the man of the house, but at that time I was only 9, with not enough hair on my balls, according to Uncle Ramiro, to make even the finest of paint brushes.

His cruelty wasn’t his fault. He was merely attempting to reverse the psychological damage my dad had inflicted upon my chances of becoming a real man. Based on Uncle Ramiro’s upbringing, it was customary to knock people’s confidence when they thought that they were better than what they should be, when they demonstrated any sign of promise. Any conversation between us consisted of him telling me what to do and how to do it. But as are all the people who give some of the best advice, my uncle never gave me the best examples to follow.

“It’s your damn job to put it all together,” Uncle Ramiro said. “Figure it out, cabrón.”

*          *          *          *

The conflicting messages from either side of my family always discouraged me from playing soccer. Even as an adult, I refused to play it, making up excuses such as I really don’t like soccer or it’s an okay sport, I prefer baseball. But I didn’t prefer baseball. I simply didn’t feel man enough to play the sport. A desire to u-turn away from the park, and a hyperventilating impulse overtook my hands and lungs the closer I drove to the field. It was a childhood reaction I adopted as a defense mechanism against Uncle Ramiro. Every time I set foot on a field, I could hear his name-calling, and immediately feel the air punched out of my gut. When he was watching me play years before, but especially now that he wasn’t.

*          *          *          *

“Run, you bow-legged cabrón,” Uncle Ramiro roared any time I touched the ball. He was hard on all of his nephews, but especially on me. It was as though he was holding a grudge against me for my dad’s treason— his breach of the friend’s code, particularly the clause prohibiting one from dating the other’s sister— and for my mom’s perjury— her running away from home and telling my dad that she would be sent back to Mexico if they didn’t get married within a week. I suppose he felt guilty for having inadvertently introduced them to one another in the first place. He was applying Deuteronomic law on me, Old Testament stuff, in which the kids paid for their parents’ sins, and bore those wounds for the rest of their lives. Even after my mom, dad, and Uncle Ramiro himself stopped speaking and caring about one another, when all of it became a distant memory to them, it remained a constant reality to me. “Run right, cabrón.”

In his severity, I knew that he did it out of responsibility and filial care, but it didn’t feel like love. He came from a culture where toughness bred toughness. One where you beat your kids so that they wouldn’t end up dead in the streets or rotting away in a prison.

*          *          *          *

Even as I bolted down the field, inebriated by a toxic cocktail of adrenaline, endorphins, testosterone, and lactic acids; feeling bulletproof, intimidating my opponent to a scowling cower, I still thought about my dad and Uncle Ramiro. How one didn’t want to play soccer with me and how the other did, but only under his stringent rules. When he was still around, my dad encouraged me, calling me his number 9— the team’s star-player— his Center-forward— the top-scoring player. However, he was never there to protect me or his claims. On the other hand, my uncle did nothing but talk down to me, never once giving me a compliment; however, he was there for every one of my graduations, elementary through college. I constantly heard their feuding voices rattling in my head, and in those of my teammates. In their Aw, come on, Jules or That’s it, that was a good play. During my brief stint in high school athletics, my coach angrily reminded me that I was a great athlete, but a bad player.

“Son, you’re too much in your head,” Coach Bonilla said. “What in God’s name are you thinking about so much?”

I thought about a lot of things. About how my mom lied to cover for my dad’s absence from family gatherings. How she used to send us to Tijuana to stay with my grandma for months at a time during vacations. Not to give us a taste of where she grew up, but because her low, single-earner salary wasn’t enough to afford a babysitter or a fancy sleepaway camp. But mainly, I thought about how I used to play soccer as a kid in the streets of barrio La Sánchez. Playing on those dirt-paved streets, we never cared about the rules of the game because we played for fun. All the kids emerged from their dilapidated, lopsided houses, sandwiching the people between the problems that came as a result of living in squalor. No score was ever kept. The ultimate goal was to shed who you were and be who you were meant to be. That version of yourself that you dreamt of being as you watched your heroes on TV battle each other every weekend to defend their team’s colors, and attain the glory of victory.

Sure, I wasn’t really a street kid. I had a mom who made enough to clothe and feed me, and I was a U.S. citizen with access to Medicaid and Welfare. But one thing I did share with those boys— who were constantly trying to sucker me out of money, not because they were bad kids, but because they were poor— was that most of them were fatherless like me. Bastards of fathers who never loved them. Children of men who were never taught the roles and duties of a man. Boys raised to be men by women overwhelmed with too much responsibility.

But all of that didn’t matter when we played fútbol. United as part of a big family, we felt unstoppable and became immortal as the ball rolled between our feet. Individually, we were defenseless, runty kids, but together, we had no need for fathers. We were a giant. We accepted nothing and rebelled against it all. All we needed was a ball that rolled, like a tennis ball or even a golf ball. Hell, those kids would’ve played soccer with a ping pong ball. These games were played endlessly, chasing the sun into the night, when the bright sphericality of a full moon would’ve given us enough light to play until our limbs gave out. We ran as if chased by a nightmare, or a pack of ravenous, rabic stray dogs. Faster than our lungs could oxygenate our depleted bodies, relying not on book-smarts, but animal wit and instinct.

These games blurred the lines: between play and ridicule, becoming astute to render your opponent asinine; and violence and aggression, getting our fill of fighting, and making up over chilled bottles of cane-sugared Coca-Cola. We went to bed tired, but unable to sleep. Our feet wiggly under the warm, knitted blankets, tossing and turning. On those long nights, my heart pumped like a drummer pounding a mallet against my ribcage ready for morning to rise again, so that we could start a new game.

My Tijuana friends were poor, but they were free to run and laugh until their ribs hurt so much that they didn’t feel hunger for the food that they couldn’t afford. And because they were free, so was I.

That was how we played the game.

That was who we were.

*          *          *          *

As a gangly 34-year-old playing at Clover Park in Santa Monica, I used the skills I learned in La Sánchez to coyly seduce my opponents, and lured them to lunge forward toward the ball. I shook my hips, crossed my feet over the ball, teased and entranced the opposing players, just as I did when I was a kid. During games, these solitary spurts of fun were the only times when I could despoil myself of my posttraumatic stress and feel good about being in my own skin. It was a dance meant to lull my opponent into believing that they could outstretch their foot and take the ball from me, but also one that helped me relax. This feeling was the reason I went through it all in my head. Vivid now as it was when Uncle Ramiro’s voice was exploding my eardrums. To feel fun doing something that I couldn’t stop loving, regardless of how he and my dad tried. The unbearable chemical burn consuming every muscle fiber in my legs— pain bathing my thighs, buckling my knees, splinting my shins—allowed my mind to cease its meandering, and tranquilize it numb.

As we chased the fleeting ghosts of youth, one of my friends yelled out Last goal as we all ran like a drove of wild horses after the spherical prey. Tiredness, a temporary itch as a child, was a chronic ailment on my grown-up joints. Love the game, and love the pain, I thought to myself as the game slowly ended. It was a loving that couldn’t be tamed.

We all began to walk off the field, leaving strewn on it our full strength and vigor. Everything that could be shed by the body and reaped of the soul. Nothing that the mind could comprehend or that could be taught. Not even by my dad or Uncle Ramiro. Something born within ourselves. A higher power.

*          *          *          *

Sunday was the Lord’s Day. Well, at least from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Not a minute over. After they came home from church, my family’s true religion commenced. They gathered around the cubical god whose warm, bulbous light and thundering voice filled the room and rocked the souls of the faithful. My uncles yelled angry mantras at the antenated oracle, hoping for a better outcome this week. The glow of the television broadcasted into our hearts the heroes we immortalized. Those that made us dream in our sleep and waking hours alike.

“Why do they spell it F-U-T-B-O-L, tío Ramiro?” I once asked while watching El Clásico, the biggest game of the Mexican League between Las Chivas del Guadalajara and their mortal enemies, Las Águilas del América from Mexico City. “Shouldn’t it be spelled: F-O-O-T-B-A-L-L?” I knew the spelling was wrong because it wasn’t spelled that way under the National Football League’s logo.

“It’s because we’re Mexican,” Uncle Ramiro replied. “It may be spelled that way in English, but in Spanish, it’s called ‘fútbol’, mijo.” He patted me gently on the head, never detaching his eyeballs from the screen. “Now shut up and watch what real fútbol looks like.” He took his hand off my head. “If your sorry-ass ever becomes a pro player, you’ll fit right in with the other sorry-asses that make up the U.S. men’s team.”

*          *          *          *

I walked to my car and waved at a few of my friends before getting in. The sour smell of my soiled jersey, soaked in pride and perspiration, filled my rejuvenated lungs. I reached across the passenger seat and pulled my phone out of the glove compartment. An impatient push alert from Facebook buzzed notifying me that my cousin had died. The banner appeared as casual as when someone posted a picture of what they had for dinner last night or a passive-aggressive comment meant to be helpful. Thumbing it led me to a GoFundMe page that was raising money for his funeral costs.

The dirt-laced sweat rolled down my forehead, past my brow, and burned salty in my tear-duct before it dripped of the tip of my nose and trickled into a small ripple on my screen. It wasn’t a tear. The pain felt distant. I pitied the fact that this young man’s life was trivialized, and the manner by which he was being disposed of. Not just by the State, but by the Izaguirres. How can I mourn someone I never knew? I thought. What was this feeling spasmodically beating in my neck? Was it the engrained reaction to feel pain for the misfortunes that befell family?

The picture’s graininess, and the boy’s careless and youthful way of holding and kissing the baby in his arms told me that neither the boy nor his family were prepared for his death. He was my Uncle Carlos’s son, my dad’s older brother, the segment of my DNA that carried the criminal Y chromosome, one that had more imprisonments than my mother’s X.

As I burrowed my bearer of bad news in my bosom pocket, I felt its sharp, intermittent vibrations stab at my chest’s nerve endings. It wasn’t a text or email. It was a call. An unknown number. Could it be a creditor, or a dialing machine? I answered. It was my dad.

“This is a collect call from Kern County Correctional Facility,” a robotic voice said, calibrated to sound like a woman because studies have shown that most people are less likely to hang up on a woman. “Do you accept a call from…” the voice paused, leaving an awkward gap for a poor wretch to speak his name.

“…Julian Izaguirre, hm,” my father’s defeated voice said. It was the voice of one tired of showering, shitting, and shaving in front of others.

“…an inmate at the Kern Valley State Prison?” the effeminate cyborg’s voice continued.
“Yes,” I replied, wiping the perspiration beading anew on my forehead. It was no longer sweat from all the fútbol, but rather a cold one. I was losing my high and slowly sinking into my abyssal headspace.

*          *          *          *

On one occasion, Uncle Carlos asked me to drive him to visit my dad at the Kern Valley State Prison. We were accompanied by my grandma, two aunts, and a cousin. Each person, including me, had a person to go visit at the prison. Uncle Carlos wanted to visit his brother, my grandma her son and son-in-law who was married to one of my aunts. My other aunt was visiting a prisoner she had taken as a lover, and my cousin was there simply to watch how the older women in her family visited their men. Something she herself would probably have to do in the future.

As we exchanged pleasantries, my dad told me that he was happy that the family was back together. The Izaguirres saw prison as unjust and as a temporary holding place for good people gone slightly astray. It was also a good way to reconnect with family.

“Come here, mijo,” my dad said. “This is my cousin Pancho.” It was a cousin who was also incarcerated. They would’ve never known that they were related had they not landed in the same prison. “He’s fast. Faster than you even.” I faked my laughter because Cousin Pancho kept staring at me. I found it funnier that when he was living at home, he never wanted to run with me, and now he was bonding with people whose existence he was unaware of. “Izaguirres are fast runners, huh, mijo?” Yes they are, I thought. They were great at running, especially away from responsibility, from blame. That’s why Izaguirre women liked prison, because it kept their rambling, wayward men in one place.

As beautiful as that family prison portrait was, this symptom masked the real problem, the root of the cancer befalling every Izaguirre man, the fact that Izaguirre men didn’t know or cared about raising good, responsible men. Izaguirre men were selfish, they thought only of themselves, of feeding their pleasure and stoking the fire by allowing their pleasures to feed on them, and their family’s hopes and dreams. They made the choice of allowing their vices to take precedence over the livelihood of their own blood. If they didn’t acknowledge the problems, they didn’t exist, and eventually they didn’t matter, and everyone forgot about them. However, they never disappeared. The people that caused these problems were imprisoned, but the problems never went away.

It was at that moment that my mother’s Don’t believe his bullshit started to make sense. The pressure to choose weighed heavy on me once again. I began to cry, tears that my dad confused with nostalgia.

“It’s okay, mijo,” my dad said, hugging me as if he had learned to do so from the security staff. “Daddy’s here. You’re here with you dad who loves you.” The truth was that he wasn’t really there; not when I was a kid, not at that very instant in the strange warmth of his emaciated arms, or ever. He had vested interest in me, I was his son after all, but it wasn’t love.

For the first time, I realized that he had never grown to love me, and that I’d grown up never loving him.

*          *          *          *

“Hola, mijo,” my dad said. “What are you up to? Is this a good time to talk?” His questions made me uncomfortable due to their obliviousness. Had he forgotten that we hadn’t spoken in over four years? He sounded like someone who wasn’t in prison, but merely calling me to chat.

“No, it’s okay. I just finished playing soccer with some of my friends.”

“Really? I play a lot of soccer over here where I’m at. I’m really good at keeping the ball close to me, but the rival away.” The way he was describing the process of ball possession, resembled the type of relationship we had. The love I had for soccer had always been linked to the love my dad never had for me. The memories of me spending time with my father were very few, but the ones spent playing, watching or talking about soccer were as sparse as the stars in the light-polluted L.A. night sky. “Do you play in a team?”

“No. I just joined a Meetup group with my friends.”

“Oh, that’s good. Do you guys wear uniforms?”

“Not really, just my fluorescent-yellow Adidas cleats and my yellow Club América jersey.” My dad scoffed at my reply.

“I hate that fucking team,” he said, followed by a moment of realization. “I didn’t mean to offend you, mijo. It’s just that I like Las Chivas.” Kids are normally supposed to root for whatever team their fathers root for, however terrible the team may be. This was news to me. I realized that I never had gotten to know my own father. “Didn’t Ramiro tell you that I liked them?” According to his question, it was everybody’s responsibility, but his, to tell me about my own father.

Uncle Ramiro did like that team, but like me, he knew neither the fact nor the man to whom the fact belonged. My dad and Uncle Ramiro were once very close friends, but the former was never around. He never allowed anyone to get close to him or get to know him. As far as my family was concerned, my dad was invisible. Solitary confinement and being forgotten began way before my dad landed in prison. Incarceration was merely the manifestation of the disease. Like a cancer, it consumed every aspect of the person and destroyed every aspect of who they were.

“No,” I replied. “He never talks about you.”

“Ha! That rat bastard has always been jealous of me.” My dad huffed and sighed, sucking air through his teeth. “He owes me big. I got him his first job in LA back in the ‘80s.” My dad’s voice carried the drama of one who had been betrayed, like Caesar prior to his stabbing or Jesus before the kiss. He expected his old buddy Ramiro to not only look after his family but to also put in a good word for him to keep his memory alive. Mexicans never allowed you to forget a favor that they did for you, no matter how minute the gesture or how remote the time it had been since it happened. “He’s stupid. Whatever. Anyway, I’m calling you because I just wanted to tell you that they killed your cousin.”

“They killed him?” I asked myself out loud. Who was this faceless they? It was the pronoun that allowed the Izaguirres to point the finger at a higher evil, one that took the burden of responsibility out of their hands, and handed it over to something they could lay the blame on and divert it from themselves. “Who killed him?”

“I don’t know. They’re still investigating.” They versus they. They investigating they. Nobody wanted to confess to the role they played in his death, not even his family. The shortcomings they had played in his poor upbringing were genetic and they spread onto the next generation. The boy was in prison as his dad had been before him, as well as his grandfather had in his youth. “He was murdered.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said after I ran out of things to say. “What was he in prison for?”

“I don’t know,” my dad replied. It struck me as strange that my dad had no idea why his family members were in prison.

“What was his name? I couldn’t find it on the site where I donated some money for his funeral. Which one of tío Carlos’s sons was he?” I had a faint memory of us playing soccer as kids, perhaps a fake one. Something created by my mind in order to focus all of the raw grief I felt knotting midway between my throat and lungs. I felt embarrassed that I knew more about the guy who collected cans at Clover Park than someone in my family.

“You did that?” my dad asked surprised. “That’s good, mijo. That’s really good. I’m not sure what his name was. I’m going to ask Carlos’s ex-wife.”

“Why don’t you ask tío Carlos himself?” Were they not on speaking terms?

“I can’t because they put him in solitary confinement after the murder. They were in the same prison block when it happened.” Most of my dad’s brother’s had landed in prison at least once, and a majority of them were in prison still. The family had accepted it as another one of life’s intricacies. “How did you find out?” My dad knew the gossip, but not the news.

“Facebook,” I replied. Family was thicker than blood, but Facebook gossip was stickier than blood.

*          *          *          *

After I hung up the phone, I made my way home. It was 10:23 a.m., so I was certain that all of my roommates would be awake on the other side of my apartment door. My wife, my son, and my 5-year-old golden retriever Nala would be expecting me to walk in through the door. My blondes, as I liked to refer to them.

“Oh! Daddy’s home,” my wife’s muffled voice yelped as the keys jingled into the keyhole. “Here comes daddy!”

Opening the door, I was greeted by a furry rush of panting and tail-wagging. Nala was so excited that I nearly tripped over her.

“Look who’s been waiting for you all morning,” my wife Marie said pointing her eyes at the playpen in the living room. I walked over, and knelt down. Luca was outstretching his little hands through the nursery-white bars.

“Come here, mijo,” I said, taking him into my arms. As I looked deep into his innocent eyes, he took a deep breath and sneezed on my nose, giggling a toothless smile. The way that he was looking at me told me that someday I would have to explain to him why his eyes were blue and mine brown; his hair light, mine dark. Why the U.S. had one of the worst soccer teams in the world despite being the best at literally every other sport, and why his penis was circumcised and mine wasn’t.

However, the hardest conversation of all the ones we would have— including the one about sex— would be the one where I explained why there were so few Izaguirre men and why the rest of them would never be part of his life. Not only because they were bad men, but because I chose not to be like them.

This beautiful baby boy would carry the last name, but no longer the stigma that accompanied it for generations. I wanted him to be different, to be loved. I was here to put an end to the criminality created by paternal absence.

Luca wrapped his tiny hand around my gritty, dirt-spangled thumb, and tried to put it in his mouth. As I pulled it away, I thought about the game that allowed me to express emotions forbidden anywhere outside of the field. Emotions of appreciation, admiration, and love. A love for the game, love for myself, love for the feelings it made me feel, the longing it filled, and the sense of belonging that only its mechanics allowed me to witness. A game that I would pass on to my son, and encourage him to play. Always for fun.

With him in my arms, nothing would hurt him.

With him in my love, nothing could stop him.

Marie came over and kissed our son on the cheek. I looked at her and she smiled.

Then, I kissed her lips.

 

Artwork

Oseguera, Jose L. (2017). El Clásico [Painting]. Acrylic on colored pencil, Los Angeles, CA.

The Depths Of You

The Depths of You will be published in the upcoming issue of:

Jelly Bucket Number 8

It is an annual graduate-student-produced literary journal from Eastern Kentucky University’s  Bluegrass Writers Studio.

As always, thank so very much for your continual readership and support.

Love you all.

If I Swallow Anything Evil

     Julian knew Ai Liu very well, in fact, he had been friends with her and her younger sister Suyin for a couple of semesters, and if there was one thing he learned from interacting with them, it was that Ai hated Suyin. She hated being compared to her or when people found out that they were related. Ai despised standing next to her or even being in the same room as her. She was anything but her sister’s keeper. Having the reputation of loving life and men, Ai disagreed with Suyin’s celibate sweetness and doe-eyed naïveté. Ironically, these were the qualities that Julian found endearing in her. He had been flirtatious with Suyin since they first met, so it came as no surprise to Julian when Ai invited him and his friend Tito out to drinks at the end of their theater class. She even offered to pay. She probably wants to know the dirty details between me and her sister, Julian thought.

“Come on guys,” Ai implored. “You have no other choice than to come along.” She licked the elongated grin on her lips as if licking off something delicious. Both Julian and Tito were well aware, through word of mouth, that Ai was great at delivering toe-curling fellatio. While Julian and Tito wanted to drink with her, she wanted to drink them. “I’ll drive us there,” she said pointing to her car in the lot. As they approached her car, Tito yelled shotgun before Julian could even think of saying the word. Fuck, Julian thought.

When they arrived at the bar, Julian ordered a pint of Oktoberfest, Tito did the same. Julian and Tito were unofficially in constant competition. Anything that one did, the other tried to match or outdo. Especially when it came to anything that could be measured or quantified in terms of size or length: Who could write the longest term paper; who could get the highest grade; who had the longest penis (Julian, by a mere quarter of an inch); and who could drink the other under the table. Ai ordered a lemon Margarita in a tall, blue, salt-rimmed cocktail glass, accompanied by a half-filled cocktail shaker containing the remainder of the Margarita mix.

While the boys were busy taking precipitated gulps of their amber-colored märzen, Ai sat crossed-legged on her high chair, sipping her Margarita, dipping her tongue into it, biting the long, black cocktail straw halfway down its length, leaving behind teeth marks that curled it. The black candy cane floating in her glass was a preview of her oral skills. Foreplay. Tito kicked Julian’s shin under the table, and nodded over to Ai as he took another deep gulp. When Julian turned to look at her, the straw was dancing on the rim of her lips on the tampered end and on the rim of the glass on the straight end. Her lips were fleshy, as if in a perpetual state of puckering in anticipation of a kiss. They were framed by a heart-shaped face, small brown eyes— her dad’s eyes— and perfectly trimmed, plucked, and penciled eyebrows. As their eyes locked, Ai kept running her hands through her hair, grouping the long, straight black strands into two thick, silky tresses. She pulled each one around her neck, resting them on her large, round breasts. They’re big for an Asian girl, he remembered her saying. Julian was entranced by Ai’s love-dance, so much so that his friend Tito could have been dying of alcohol poisoning or spontaneously combusting, and it would have been all the same to him. One thing was clear, Ai wanted Julian, and Julian wanted to know where this flirtation was coming from.

From time to time, thoughts of Suyin kept popping into Julian’s head, like a tug of war between the sisters, one yanking on his brainstem while the other the bulb of his brain. Suyin was tall, thin, and had a full mane of beautifully straight, black hair that bounced gracefully as she strutted up and down the hallways. She had rich honey-chestnut eyes that were shy, yet bright, shaped by feathery lashes and nicely trimmed, thick eyebrows. The combination of her high cheekbones, pouty lips, and slightly crooked teeth gave her an angelically contagious smile. The same one she probably had since she was 8.

While Ai’s small fingers stroked Julian’s hand, he felt nothing. No sudden rush of blood to his face or penis. All Julian could think about now was Suyin and the night they spent together a few weeks ago. How they walked side by side, without losing a step as if dancing, almost flying off the paved, cigarette-lined sidewalks. How she laughed at everything he said, and how he found every point she made to be the most brilliant ever spoken. As the night progressed, how he had wondered whether or not Suyin wanted to be kissed at the end of their date. They had been playing games the whole night, playing the license plate game while driving to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown LA, jinx buy me a Coke while they ate a light dinner. Kissing was just another one of these games. He smiled and laughed, and acted like a love lunatic trying to figure out ways of making that night with Suyin last forever. That intravenous feeling of fluttering, raising goosebumps up and down the arm attached to the hand she was holding. The image of her adorably scrunched up face as he blew an eyelash off her nose, wishing that her wincing smile would never escape his memory. Finally, Julian thought about how all of that may have been lost as Suyin was rumored dating another guy.

“Are you thinking of Suyin?” Ai asked. “What do you even see in her? What does anyone?” Ai hated the attention that her sister received, especially when it came from men she herself liked. The feeling of being looked over in favor of Suyin drove Ai crazy. It happened with strange men, and it happened at home. “She’s my dad’s favorite, and now she seems to be yours.”

Julian and Tito bulged their eyes at each other in mild disgust, getting the feeling that Ai was angry at something that preceded this particular instance. Something deep, something dark.

“Yeah, you know I like Suyin,” Julian said. “But what does that have to do anything with your dad?”

“Well, when I was a teenager, my dad caught me giving head to one of my boyfriends on our front porch,” Ai said, mixing the watery ice into the Margarita with her straw. She expected her dad to blow up, yell at her, tell her mom, and ground her for the rest of her life. She also wanted him to just beat the hell out of the guy with the hard-on in his daughter’s virginal mouth. “But he didn’t. He just turned around and closed the door on me.” At first, Ai thought her dad hadn’t seen a thing. That she had gotten away with it. She felt good as when you get an A on a test you didn’t crack a single book open for. But after she shooed away her secret boyfriend, she snuck into the house, went upstairs, and approached her parents’ room, whose door was left slightly ajar. “I saw my dad on his hands and knees, sobbing inconsolably, asking God, Why, oh why, my God, my Father, is my beautiful daughter this way? What did I do to deserve this?’ Can you believe him? That stupid fuck.” She resented him for not caring. She hated him for not acknowledging her.

Confounded, Mr. Liu asked God the question on most devotees minds, one whose answer is never enough, regardless of how biblical or beautifully philosophical it may be. One that seems unfair and out of place in His divine plans: Why do bad things happen to good people? Rather than asking God for strength to help alleviate his daughter’s suffering, Mr. Liu was seeking help to cope with his own heartbreak and humiliation.

“What’s so wrong with being like Suyin?” Tito asked, drinking beer that was doing very little to heighten his fully drunken state.

“Fuck you, asshole,” Ai snarled.

“Alright, you two,” Julian said. “Take it easy. Finish your drink, you asshole.” They all started to laugh.

“He just kept sniffling in his room until Suyin and my mom got home,” Ai added. Mr. Liu lit a couple of incense sticks and placed them next to portraits of his deceased parents. Looking upon these washed out pictures that looked hundreds of years old, his mourning resumed. Ai was dead to him and she knew it. She began to feel more and more like a ghost in her own home.

With the first round of beers beginning to course through Julian and Tito’s systems, and as Ai crunched on the tequila-laced ice from her Margarita, she waved over the server and took the liberty of ordering two more pints of Oktoberfest for her male companions, a lemon Margarita for herself, and a round of tequila shots for the group.

“Are you trying to get me drunk?” Julian asked, slurring his words.

“Isn’t it obvious,” Ai answered with a grin and her leg sliding on Julian’s shin, raising his pant leg to his calf and lowering his sock to his ankle.

“Well, I have class in an hour.”

“Just skip it, and have another beer,” Tito said, nudging Julian’s full pint glass with his, spilling foam on the table. Tito knew that if Julian went to class he would have no reason to hang out with Ai, whom he barely knew.

“Yeah, don’t go,” Ai said, rubbing Julian’s bicep. “We’re going to hang out afterward.” Julian began to realize Ai’s true reason for wanting to hang out with him. I know why she wants to get me drunk, Julian thought, but why does she want to have sex with me? Julian was intrigued by Ai’s flirtatious behavior, by her wielding of sex magic. He remembered that Ai had a jealous boyfriend, one who followed her to class. One whose jealousy became unfettered when he caught her having anal sex in the backseat of her car. A car that he performed regular maintenance on. He’d check the car’s engine oil, and others would use their dipstick to check his girlfriend’s. Ai’s boyfriend was violent, had a short temper and stature, and a receding hairline.

“Bald guys have the biggest dicks,” Ai used to say. In spite of his size, he was abusive to her. On multiple occasions, Suyin implored her to leave him, but Ai would refuse saying, He’s less crazy than my ex. Compared to him, this bald loser is so vanilla. A pussy. Her father could care less, so long as Suyin, in his mind his only daughter, was dating a decent man. That reaction, in particular, made Ai crave the attention and restrictions of an authoritative male figure. Suyin, in Ai’s mind, was a little girl who only wanted to date clean-cut guys with side parts and straight A’s. In other words, guys like her dad or like Julian. “At least my guy is a man. A loser and a moron, but a real man.”

But as they worked on their second round of drinks, all of that didn’t seem to matter. Ai looked ready for love, and Julian’s fears of getting caught had been swallowed along with his first pint. He thought of Suyin and what she would think of him if she found out that he was having sex with her sister. Ai’s love was a guarantee, Suyin’s was unrequited.

“Okay, I’ll have another beer, and one shot, but that’s it,” Julian said, not wanting Tito to beat him at a drinking game he felt he himself was inevitably going to lose.

“So, I’ve heard that you blew Jelani,” Tito asked with a smirk. Jelani Emeka was a 6’7”, foreign exchange student from Burkina Faso. His famed “fucklist” was said to be longer than his list of transferable credits.

“Yeah,” Ai replied proudly. “I do it all the time. Well, any time my stupid boyfriend isn’t around.” Ai’s boyfriend worked nights, so he had plenty of time during the day to pay her random visits to campus. He would first check her car, and then go into the classroom and sit next her, as if she were a problem child.

“Is Jelani really 9 inches long. Is that true?” Julian asked.

“Actually, he’s bigger,” Ai said. “And thick. I can barely fit him in my mouth.” Ai started to giggle. Julian and Tito gulped whatever liquid was in their mouths, beer or saliva, not wanting to imagine what that would be like. “I sucked his big, black dick yesterday.” Ai spoke freely, not slurring a single word. A great feat after having put away four Margaritas. “Jelani warned me that he was going to make it last a long time, but he always comes for me like in 4 minutes. I really hope you guys can make it last longer than that.” Julian and Tito looked at one another, partially offended and partially nervous that they would even be able to last a minute. Could she really be that good? their eyes seemed to communicate to one another. “At least 8 minutes between the two of you.”

Holding the chilled shot glasses filled with cold, clear tequila, Julian and Tito locked eyes again, clinking their glasses along with Ai, accepting her challenge of outlasting Jelani’s mythicized virility and each other’s. The sharp scent of tequila blanco tickled Julian’s nose, and in taking the single gulp of fire water, every passage in his nasal cavity bloomed wide open, allowing air to be absorbed in, and his last breath of sobriety to be expelled out.

After the three drank their shots, they left the bar and headed to Ai’s car. Julian called out shotgun, beating Tito at his own game.

“Fuck you, bitch,” Tito said, as he crashed his body’s full weight onto Julian.

“Aw, don’t worry about riding in the back, Tito,” Ai said. “That’s actually where I blew Jelani.” Both Julian and Tito looked at each other in shock. Their eyes seemed to telepathically communicate, Woaw, is this it? Are we really going through with this?

Ai’s driving was erratic, even for a drunk, swerving in and out of lanes, and almost running over a pedestrian and rear-ending several cars.

“My dad’s a fucking pussy,” Ai said. “I tell him about how I fuck Suyin’s boyfriends whenever we’re alone.” Ai disengaged the wheel to wipe the tears off her eyes. Julian and Tito dug their fingernails into any surface they could get their flailing hands on. “He just sits there looking. Saying nothing.” Driving straight through a stop sign, she told her inebriated hostages that she had been purposefully doing things that garnered a reaction out of her father. Partially to hurt him by hurting his beloved, younger daughter, his pride and joy. But mostly, to get him to care about her again. To recover at least an ounce of her daddy’s love.

“Hey, watch it,” Julian yelled, bracing himself for impact with another car.

“There was nobody there.”

“Just because there’s nobody on the other three sides of the road, doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop.” Ai let out a slow, agitated sigh.

“Fuck,” Ai said. “You sound just like him.” Julian noticed a clear discharge rolling down one of Ai’s round cheeks. “He doesn’t say a fucking thing. I know that what I do hurts him. I just wish he would tell me. But no! He just cries like a little bitch.”

For the first time since they left the bar, the car had been swallowed by an empty silence. Nobody spoke. Nobody breathed. The air conditioning’s damaged airways whistled a pitch that carried the awkward tone that preludes any sexual act. Ai parked her car in the campus parking lot and looked straight ahead. The squeaks of her tired brakes were violins in the overture of her sensual performance, Ai’s concerto for two horns.

“So, tell me about the opera you and Suyin went to a while back.” Ai said, wiping off the last of her tears, smearing her thick eyeliner and mascara.

“It was good,” Julian answered, not wanting to give away his true feelings or the full details of what had transpired on that magical night. He had feelings for Suyin, feelings of love, feelings of wanting to wait for her, and playing the thrilling game of seduction. The sweet limbo, the wondrous pain of not knowing for sure what the other person thought or felt for you, but you desperately hoped that they felt the same way you did. Even if she was currently dating someone else, Julian could envision himself dating Suyin someday. However, he couldn’t fantasize what it would be like making love to her, he wouldn’t allow himself to, which usually meant that he really wanted to. Seeing Ai’s eyes, beckoning him like two glistening candied apples, on the other hand, he could picture her lips around his penis almost without trying. This thought didn’t just arouse him, but also made him a little sad.

“She told me about how much fun she had with you,” Ai said, doing so in a mocking, almost accusatory fashion. This elicited schoolyard jeers and eked gibbers from Tito, who was caged behind the two front seats, followed by laughter coming from Ai.

“Yeah, we had a great time,” Julian replied, raising the volume of his voice to drown out their derision. I actually wanted to kiss her goodnight, he thought, but I wasn’t sure if she wanted it.

“She mentioned that you guys almost kissed,” Ai added, tapering her laughter. “She told me that she wished you had.” Her laughter returned, louder than before. To Ai, sex was just a game, and crashing the party on the guys her sister was crushing on was just girl’s play. Julian felt a sense of dread for Suyin and the horrendous game she was unwittingly playing with her sister. But Ai did deserve some sympathy. Even as she was deliberately sabotaging her sister’s relationships. She was a wounded animal hurting itself in an effort to find healing. It was her way of trying to take back from Suyin that which she felt belonged to her. That which she felt she had lost. Ai was enamoring her sister’s men, but only because she wanted to enamor one man. Her father.

“I’ve fucked every guy she’s ever dated,” Ai said.

“What about the one she just started dating a few days ago?” Julian asked, dreading the reply, hoping that she would say, Oh yeah, that won’t last.

“Yep,” Ai said with unflinching confidence. “I fucked him years ago, back when she only had a crush on him and he was with someone else.”

“So, you fucked him just because you knew she liked him?” Tito asked.

“Yep.” Ai let out an elven laugh associated with demon-possessed dolls that came to life at the foot of the bed, in the middle of the night.

Julian sat back on his seat and felt a wave of regret wash over him. Maybe he missed his chance of being with Suyin by being a little too coy with his intentions. Julian took the game too far. Maybe Suyin wanted someone a little more mature. I should’ve fucking manned-up, and kissed her, he cursed himself. That could’ve been me dating her.

“Don’t feel bad,” Ai said, reading the emotion on Julian’s face. “Suyin’s stupid. She always picks the wrong guys. Well, at least ones that are willing to cheat on her, which ends up being good for me.” She giggled and placed her left hand on his left knee, twisting her torso, squeezing her large, retrained breasts into a glossy cleavage. Ai began to move her hand. Julian was afraid that the more Ai traversed up his thigh in a trajectory toward his genitals, the harder he’d be and the more difficult it would be for him to speak, hence allowing her to have her way with him.

“Wait. Stop,” Julian said, squeezing Ai’s hand on its tracks. She moaned in surprise.

His concentration was broken by a pair of hands creeping slowly from the backseat toward the driver’s side. They belonged to Tito, the creep sitting behind Ai.

“Tito, I never pictured you as being so rough,” Ai yelled as Tito fondled her brazier-hindered breasts. “Wait.” Ai unhooked her bra, burdening her back with the full weight of her large bosoms, knowing that Tito would aid in carrying the load.

Julian just sat there, immovably, watching as Tito squeezed and shook her breasts like the bartender had her lemon Margarita, which was currently helping to loosen her body and inhibitions.

“You’re fucking gay, Julian,” Tito said, working up a sweat as he had one of Ai’s breasts in a chokehold, flicking and pinching her nipple, making her squeal with excitement. “If I were you, I would’ve made Suyin deep throat my tongue.” Ai laughed as she moaned. “I bet you 50 bucks that I can kiss her before you can.” Part of Julian wanted to beat Tito, but another, a larger side of him didn’t want to wager with his feelings for Suyin. To Julian, Suyin was a potential long-term relationship, wife material, but to Tito, she was another game waiting to be played.

Still pondering Tito’s proposition, Ai grabbed Julian’s hand and placed it on her other breast. As soon as his hand made contact with the thin cotton blouse separating her round, plump breast from his sweaty, shaky grip, Julian’s pants began to shrink and Ai’s moans became louder, and her movements more agitated.

“You two are getting me so wet,” Ai said. Julian looked to the backseat, toward Tito’s crotch to verify whether his pants too were experiencing the same phenomenon his were. To his surprise, Tito’s pants had beaten his in the form of a round, nickel-sized wet spot on the fabric shrink-wrapping his bulge. Between Ai’s heaving and Tito’s pulling at his crotch’s fabric, Julian lost track of time. He had to be in class in 10 minutes, but he didn’t want to lose out on getting a little something.

“Alright, girlfriend,” Tito said, breaking up her moaning. “Let’s do this.” Ai pulled her bra completely off through one of her sleeves. She gave Julian a look that communicated, Check this out, and exited through the driver’s side door.

By the time she arrived at the other side of the car and entered through the passenger side rear door, Tito had already pulled down his precome stained jeans and pulled his semi-erect penis through his boxer fly.

As soon as Ai entered the rear of the car, Tito’s penis entered the rear of her mouth. Based on the ability she had to deep-throat more than Tito’s 6 and a half inches, Ai made his penis disappear.

“I’m no Jelani, but at least I can last longer than he can,” Tito said confidently. His cockiness became bigger and more boastful as his cock got harder. “In fact, I don’t think you can make me come at all.”

“Alright,” Ai said, accepting Tito’s challenge, never allowing a penis to go wanting. “Move your seat forward.” Julian felt a nudge on his lower back, punctuating Ai’s request. He followed orders, not because it was her car, or the fact that she had spent over $70 on drinks, but simply because he wanted to see whether or not she could indeed use her big mouth to shut Tito’s. “I need to get comfortable,” she added. Ai burrowed herself in the tight nook between the edge of the backseat bench and the back of the passenger seat. Julian’s knees were practically by his ears. He turned his neck— the only limb he could move in his squished state— to see the oral brawl between Ai and Tito. He continued to mock and laugh at Ai.

Her lips were quicksand, her tongue a whirlpool, and her teeth smoothened stones on a creek bed. The moist skin lining her inner-cheeks were warm cascades, gently parting with the mere touch of a fingertip. The enthusiasm with which she suckled on Tito’s throbbing penis carried the determination of riptide. Her desire to please a man’s body carried the explosiveness of an ancient geyser that had been dormant. Tito’s penis was foaming up with saliva and precome. Ai’s eyes were burning with ferocity, looking up to Julian, asking him, Don’t you wish it was your dick I was sucking on? The vein underneath Tito’s engorged penis looked like a cucumber growing out of another.

All the windows were fogged up, the smell of lemon Margarita and old cigarettes wafted the entirety of the car, as she exhaled hard on Tito’s slobbered, sloppy penis. Julian had always felt sorry for people who manifested pain out in the open, for those who cried. He had been taught by his parents to feel pity for people like Suyin and her father, but not for ones who hid their pain. Those who suffered in silence. Seeing the exhausting manner by which Ai gagged on the penis of a man she felt nothing for, showed Julian just how much pain she was truly in.

“You wouldn’t be able to make me come even if you sucked all night,” Tito said, as if his penis were a three-card game in which Ai had to guess the right card, the right way to suck. “Only one girl has been able to make me come from blowing me, and you ain’t her, girlfriend.” This spurted Ai to bob her head more enthusiastically as if bobbing for apples. She needed to please every man because she would never please her dad. “Keep trying, you won’t be abl—”

Tito released a long, high-pitched moan before he even knew what was going on inside of him, let alone finish the last word of his disapproving statement. At first listen, Julian thought that the effeminate sound had emanated from Ai’s penis-filled mouth. However, he had been looking at Tito’s face at the exact moment that it winced in pleasure, baring his teeth, and clutching his eyes closed. The sound lasted for a few seconds, and it was a combination of a cow’s mooing, a wolf’s howling, and a bird’s cooing.

“That’s better,” Ai said, as she came up for a second, out of breath, pleased in the way she was finally pleasuring an indomitable Tito.

“I have to go,” Julian said as he looked at the clock. “I’m already late.” Ai pulled Tito’s penis out of her mouth and Tito opened his eyes, ceasing his moaning.

“Wait, but you’re next,” Ai said, almost offended, as if saying, I didn’t fill your guts with liquor so that you could just run out on me. “Here.” Ai sat up next to Tito— never once releasing her death grip on his penis— palming the empty seat to her right. “I’ll suck you both off at the same time. I haven’t done that in a while.”

As much as he found the idea intriguing, it came as a relief for Julian to exit Ai’s car with the intention of not entering the backseat. Besides, Ai only wanted Julian because Suyin had a crush on him, and she was using Tito to make him jealous. Tito also wanted Suyin only because Julian had shown interest in her. In Ai’s opinion, nobody wanted her, not even her sister, and that was what really drove Ai to do what she did that night.

Julian walked to class looking back to Ai’s car from time to time, seeing or imagining it rocking from side to side. As he sat in his class, Julian’s phone kept buzzing with texts from both Ai and Tito. They’re together, why can’t they just send one text? Julian thought.

“I went home 20 minutes after you left,” Tito texted.

“Why?” Julian replied.

“She couldn’t make me come.” Tito followed his statement with a sad face emoji.

“LOL, I knew it.” A speech bubble with a grayed out ellipsis popped up for about five minutes.

“Well… she actually stopped trying after you left. She really wanted to suck you off.”

“Was she pissed?” Julian asked.

“Yeah.”

“Fuck—”

A text buzzed in just as Julian was about to finish thumbing his reply. Julian tapped on the banner floating at the top of the screen.

“You fucking nerd. Why did you leave me with Tito?” Ai texted, in two swift texts.

“Because I told you I had class.”

“Bullshit. You’re just a pussy. You don’t have the balls to take me on.”

That’s bullshit.”

“You’re choosing Suyin over me. Didn’t I tell you that I hate it when people do that to me? WTF???”

Ai was right, Julian didn’t have the balls to play her game or the one he had started with her sister Suyin.

“I’m still in the parking lot if you change your mind,” Ai added. Julian didn’t reply. He even turned off his phone just so that no part of him could get turned on.

Although Ai Liu was hypersexual, a nymphomaniac in most of her classmates’ opinions— one in which she had sucked twice the amount of penises that she actually had— she knew very little about sex, or what made it great. Of course, she was capable of making love— vaginal, anal, oral, and sometimes all three at once— however, she didn’t seem capable of making a sexual relationship into a loving, meaningful one. Ai used sex as a drug, mainly to numb the feelings of rejection, the lack of love emanating from her father’s heart. She’d rather eat someone out than have those feelings eat at her. She used it as a weapon to hurt her father, herself, her boyfriends, and especially her younger sister Suyin. She wanted to hurt her dad for not loving her, for being ashamed of her. By repressing his dissent and hiding his emotions, and not seeking to repair the damage that had already been done, he piled on the shame, which in turn, piled on the pain for Ai.

A few months later, Julian saw Ai being escorted by her boyfriend from one class to the next. She waved at him and as soon as Julian waved back, her boyfriend pulled her aside, demanding to know who he was and the type of relationship she had with him. Well, at least that bald, moron prefers her over Suyin, Julian thought. As Julian walked away from the theater building into the parking lot, he wondered how long he would have lasted in a relationship with Suyin, had they kept playing their game. It would have definitely been longer than what I would’ve lasted in Ai’s mouth, he thought.

Julian wondered whether Ai was preying on her sister’s newest boyfriend— one who Suyin started dating after she found about her old boyfriend’s infidelity with Ai— and whether her father was finally praying to God for Ai rather than about her. Julian looked back one last time before Ai and her boyfriend were completely out of sight. They were kissing and laughing.

They seemed happy.

 

Photo Credit: Allan G. Smorra © 2017