My Heart Will Lead Me There

The seas are like four tightly wound lyre strings that stretch from one end of Greece to the other; over and under each of the islands. Anything that happens within it, resonates in the winds and reverberates in the waves, and becomes the domain of all its dwellers; divine or mortal. Things sometimes get misplaced in the sea, but they are never lost. Those things that are sought but not retrieved don’t want to be found.

Poseidon is a god of order and balance, one who enumerates the droplets of water that fall from the sky into the sea, and those that leave it when waves crash into the sand. Seemingly infinite, the sea has a beginning and an end, a length that only Poseidon knows. He loves the sea, including the time before he was its husband and master. It is this love that fueled his thirst to conquer it, and wield its power. It is his strength, and because he loves it so, his weakness. In his benevolence, Poseidon allows creatures known and unknown, seen and unseen, dreamed of and never imagined to dwell at all levels of his domain’s infinite depths. There are regions of the sea that Poseidon himself has seen but once. Even so, he feels its entirety as humans feel the entirety of their face. It pains him when foreign objects enter it, or when its natives are fished out. It smiles upon those who render sacrifice to its lord and master, and grows angry with those who reap, but do not sow respect within his blue heart.

All creatures that live in the sea or from it are seen by the Sea Father as sheep of his flock. Under his strict rule, every creature has a purpose, and a duty. For some it is to serve as food for his devout followers, and for others, like his beautiful siren daughters Evalotha and Goithea, it is to inspire love in the hearts of lovers from the island of Corfu, off the Ionian Sea.

Lord Poseidon took special interest in this island after he had taken one of his wives there, the beautiful Cercyra, daughter of the river-god Asopos and the river-nymph Metope. She begat Poseidon a son named Phaeax, the father of the Phoenicians, who were a seafaring people, skilled in ship-building.

Evalotha and Goithea were born from a battle between a hunter, descendant of Phaeax, and Poseidon in the shape of a ram, who was grazing in a field in Corfu, waiting to kidnap a maiden feeding her flock. Her husband spotted the strange ram, muscular and robust, its horns thick and calcified with sea shells. The maiden whom Poseidon was trying to seduce was deathly afraid of coming out of the house, and pleaded to her husband to put an end to it by placing an arrow in between the beast’s rib cage. He aimed the arrow a few inches before the anterior legs; straight for the rogue beast’s heart.

As Poseidon chewed the cud, he was surprised with a sharp pain in his side. Luckily, the arrow only struck the bone. He bucked and bleated, running around in circles, head-butting and goring all of the sheep in his wake. Poseidon broke for the bluffs overseeing the sea as the man ran out of his house, shooting arrows, barely missing the wounded deity. Right as the ram jumped into the clear, the man landed another arrow on it, this time directly in his heart. As soon as the ram’s body plunged itself into the sea— the two wounds effervesced dark green, with flecks of bright red— the blood rushing out of him foamed into the likeness of Evalotha from the heart wound, and Goithea from the rib wound.

As the man looked over the cliff to make sure that the beast was dead, a tidal wave shoved him back, nearly knocking him unconscious. A colossal Poseidon arose from the waves, trident in hand. A terrible storm had developed behind him. The skies grew grey, making it difficult for the man to keep his eyes open because of the harsh rainfall slapping his face. The king of Atlantis wanted to wreak his wrath on the man, but held back due to the man’s insistence and bravery to face the god, even as he presented himself in his divine self. The man grew mute and dumb in astonishment, but garnered the small amount of strength he had left in his body, and crawled to his knees, burying his face in his hands. Poseidon took mercy upon him, and blessed him for having fought with a god and not shuttered in fear. He made a pact with him that if the man gave him all of his children and his children’s children as a sacrifice of servitude, then he would not only let him live, but prosper the island of Corfu and all of its inhabitants with plentiful food, and fair seas to travel, so long as he was their lord and master. The man accepted, and Poseidon presented the island with the gifts of his beautiful daughters Evalotha, vulnerability, and Goithea, charm, because Lord Poseidon found charm in this man during his moment of vulnerability.

****

To human ears, the rhythmic strums and arpeggios of Evalotha’s lyre and serpentine melodies of Goithea’s double flute sounded as birdsong, wind rustling leaves, and sea foam fizzing and tickling their toes, burying slightly in the warm, wet sand. When lovers wanted to make love, Evalotha and her sister played louder yet to create a sea fog that afforded the lovers some privacy. The sirens always sung beautiful songs that were new, and never repeated themselves, creating new scales and chords as they played. Sounds that Zeus himself couldn’t produce let alone memorize. Evalotha was taught to play the lyre by her cousin Apollo, whose home she needed to visit, leaving the Atlantean splendor, and ascend to the heavens to receive her lessons. Her sister Goithea, on the other hand, received impromptu double flute lessons from Pan. She had grown so close to her master that she even aided the god of the wild in playing pranks on people and gods, and luring maidens, including his beloved Syrinx. She too had to venture deep into the woods, and find her teacher, which was nothing short of hunting wild game.

“It’s not as though we live in the Underworld,” Poseidon would say indignantly after both Apollo and Pan refused to visit his underwater kingdom to teach his daughters music. “Those Olympians and land-dwellers always want everyone to visit them.”

At first, their songs were so beautiful that they brought most to tears as they expressed the completeness and interminable pleasures of divine love. They arose in their listeners a sense of melancholy, and mourning lost love. Because Poseidon needed their music to inspire love rather than prevent or startle it away, he had the sisters learn how to sing about love, but not just any type of love, human love, with its rawness, and animalistic power. How human passion could drive humans to forgo the well-being of their bodies, impair sound decision-making, and even die for love. Evalotha and Goithea didn’t understand it because they had never and would never feel that way. They each craved the knowledge and secrets of human attraction to do their job to the best of their abilities, but it was Evalotha who truly wanted to feel that emotion similar to how humans craved to be gods. Although she was ancient, and had indulged in the pleasures of sexual love— mainly with other sirens, nymphs, and gods— she wanted to feel the full range of human emotion, as a human with a human body.

“By the gods, these humans have a smaller array of emotions than fish,” Goithea used to joke. “Love, hate, sex, jealousy, joy, blah, blah, blah, over and over.”

Evalotha agreed with her sister, but even so, she saw the amount of passion with which a human heart was able to love. A heart so intense that it was willing to hurt itself, mimicking disease, pestilence, and feelings that could keep them in bed for days, weeks, and months.

“I think it is very noble how these creatures seek one another, court, and more than anything, attempt to reach the divinity of Olympus through their withering organs,” Evalotha said. “I mean, every single thing that they do, whether it is work or leisure, is done with one thing in mind: sexual pleasure. It has to make you wonder what it would be like to feel what they feel.” Evalotha sighed.

“Nope. Never,” Goithea said. “Stop thinking about things that will never happen, pick up your lyre, and follow me to the shore. I think I see two flounders about to express that fish sex you claim to want to partake in so much.”

Evalotha picked up her lyre and followed her sister down shore, near the shallow part of the beach. Unlike Goithea, Evalotha was so talented that she didn’t need her sister to play the double flute with her, as the prior needed Evalotha to play the lyre. She was the only siren who could play the lyre while also the double flute and sing, harnessing the energy of the sea surrounding her and the energy within herself.

The island of Corfu was known for having the best sailors in all of Greece. Strong men who lived out at sea for most of the year, men who painted the hull of their ships in their own blood. But more importantly, honorable men who always rendered sacrifice to the god who gave them so much prosperity, Poseidon. This was why he gave his daughters Evalotha and Goithea the task of playing romance-inducing melodies to young lovers on that island. He wanted to make sure that these people kept their promise of procreating men and women who would do his bidding: on his island, the sea, and when the time came, on the battlefield. The twin sisters had been doing so for thousands of years, carefully watching the subtle signs of how two strangers first met: first struck with curiosity, followed by bearing of the soul through prolonged ocular flirtation, and finally allowing the charm effervescing within each of their beings to completely consume their inhibitions. Once this newly formed, yet delicate union took place, it was the twins’ duty to follow their every step any time they were alone, together. As part of their job, they played the lyre and the double flute, and sung melodies of erotic love. Songs whose melodies vibrated not in the sirens’ vocal cords, and out of their mouths, but rather, ones that reverberated out of their whole being, resonating in the man’s head, making his legs weak, and in the woman’s eyes and the pit of her stomach.

Evalotha’s voice was the most beautiful of any siren, and her sister’s was only good enough to sing harmony to hers. Though their melodies were beautiful, if sung to a lone lover, they could be catastrophic, as not having a lover with whom to express such heightened feelings of love and sensual desire could drive any human mad, and induce in them inexhaustible feelings of depression and suicide. In fact, this was one of the many rules their father Poseidon had given them upon first placing them in charge of this noble cause. Another was for them to never fall in love themselves; especially not with the men or women of Corfu. The dwellers of this island were the descendants of the man who withstood their father’s wrath; so strong-willed that if they came in contact with divine blood, they would surely become demi-gods, or maybe, something worse. They could potentially dethrone Poseidon as he had the gods Achelous and Oceanus, the former rulers of Atlantis.

And thus, the sisters would follow the sun to its watery grave every twilight, and rise reborn again with it every dawn, in order to be awake and ready for the formation of new love in the hearts of Corfu. Just as the twins emerged from the foamy waves onto the shallow waters of the pristine beach, Goithea spotted a couple in the midst of love-making. Evalotha took a deep breath and sighed as she plucked her lyre. Their playing calmed the morning waves crashing on and around the lovers, making their temperature more agreeable to human skin.

“What’s wrong?” Goithea asked as her aura continued to harmonize with her sister’s singing. “Are you alright?”

Evalotha continued to play contemplatively, singing a melody that was beautiful and romantic, but one that was beginning to make the man’s desires wane a bit. Evalotha shed a single tear. The man’s moaning turned from pleasurable to labored and uncomfortable.

“Don’t worry, sister,” Goithea swam closer. “It’s not your fault. I bet he had too much to drink before he brought her here. Poor woman.” The man dismounted the woman who then pulled her robe to cover nakedness, confused as to why the man had stopped. The woman was tugging furiously at the man, attempting to spring vitality back into him, but nothing came of it.

“No, it is my fault,” Evalotha finally said. “I just don’t see the point in continuing to partake in an act whose joys we will never fully understand. I mean, if it wasn’t for us, most of these people wouldn’t even be here starting new romances, and eventually new families and living short, but fulfilling lives.”

Goithea floated quietly, noticing that the two lovers had left the beach with their passion ruined, not by wine, but by the twins whose job it was to make it a reality.

“Well, at least you won’t have to worry about those two,” Goithea said, stroking Evalotha’s long, auburn curls. “They’re done. Did you see how hard she was trying? She nearly ripped his head off.” As Goithea swam on her back laughing under the spell of her own wit and charm, Evalotha slammed her lyre on the water.

“See, that’s what I mean,” Evalotha said. “Why should people that don’t even deserve one chance at love be given one over and over, and father doesn’t give us the option to even dream of what it would be like to love.” She picked up her instrument, and placed between her arm and breast. “I just think that beings that feel love in their hearts should be able to express it with whomever they want, in whatever form they want. Love is love whether you’re a god or human.”

“Ah, my god. Why?” a voice wailed in the distance.

The sisters’ conversation was interrupted by the most discordant, awful singing either of them had ever heard. As the sisters combed the seas, they heard the woeful sound coming from one of the ships docked by the shore. They checked each one of them but found nothing. They soon realized that the sound was emanating from a shelled out, shipwreck near an abandoned port. The wooden hull was splintered, buried deep in the sand, like a partially dipped clam shell poking out; a tombstone for the heartbroken and desolate. They had seen it before and had even been inside of it a few times because it was used by young lovers as a hiding place in which to express their carnal desires for one another. The sounds that usually came from it were those of anticipation, agitation, and premature ejaculation.

As the sisters approached the ship’s damaged hull, they gripped their instruments tight, which sometimes doubled as weapons whenever they found themselves in trouble. They knew that it was most likely a man or woman in pain, but at the same time, they knew that it could possibly be a cacodemon, or even a mischievous god waiting to strike. Before they rounded the ship to see who was really making that tormented sound, they looked at each other one last time, braced themselves, and submerged their whole bodies under water as to not make a sound.

From beneath, they could see very little in the cavernous darkness of the hollowed out hull, just two feet dipped in the water. Men’s feet. They were weathered, splintered and sunburned from having spent long days on a ship’s deck. They saw that the inconsolable cries were coming from a strong, burly man; one whom you would think would never cry. His face was buried in his hands, muffling his whimpers. His exposed back, tanned bronze by Helios’s glory, rippled as he struggled to breathe. The twins instantly knew that this man was a sailor, one of Poseidon’s men and, as such, needed to keep their distance from him. As Goithea swam away from the ship, she noticed her sister wasn’t following her.

“Evalotha, come on, let’s go,” Goithea whispered as to not startle the weeping man. To him, the sisters’ conversation sounded like sea bubbles gargling on the surface of the water. Nothing out of the ordinary. But given that he was so submerged in his sorrow, drowning in his own tears, Zeus himself could’ve appeared and he would have gone unperceived.

Evalotha continued to stare at the man, reaching her hand up toward the dividing crystalline wall that was the sea surface.

“Don’t you dare,” Goithea yelled. “He is alone. We are prohibited from playing music, let alone talk or touch lonely men. We are under strict orders only to play, and sing to lovers. Lovers who will consummate, and bring wealth to Poseidon’s army of men.”

“Quiet,” Evalotha finally broke her silenced reverie. “I just want to look at him.” She continued to swin ever so close to him; within arm’s reach of his thick, hairy toes. “I’ve seen many men before. Even caused a few of them to desire me more than any man should desire anyone, even a god. But this man. This man is different.”

Goithea swam agitatedly, back to her sister’s side, and pulled her arm away from the man; from making the biggest mistake of her immortal life. But the more she tugged, the less Evalotha budged.

“Evalotha, just come with me. I promise that if you do, we’ll return, and visit him tomorrow and the day after that, and as many days are necessary for this man to stop his infantile whimpers.”

Evalotha turned sternly at her sister, reprimanding her with her eyes. Her sister disengaged.

“Listen, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you and your new husband,” Goithea said. She swam back, giving her sister some room to follow. “Why are you so infatuated with him, anyway? You haven’t even seen his face. It’s buried in his big, hairy hands. He could be hideous. Uglier than a gorgon. And based on how much hair he’s got on his feet, he could very well be a satyr.”

Goithea’s laughter garnered no levity in her sister.

“I’m just kidding, sister,” Goithea said. “Come on, tell me what’s on your mind. I’ve been blathering all by myself. I feel like I’m beginning to sound like the weeper over he—”

“Silence,” Evalotha burst out. “Just keep your mouth shut for a moment.”

Both Goithea and the man stopped their cacophony of tears and jeers. There was a momentary silence that brought a soothing sense of relief to all. When the sailor finally took his face out of his hands, it carried the most painful expression of loss. Who was he mourning? A fellow sailor? A lover? His father, brother, son? Evalotha wondered. In spite of it, Evalotha and Goithea were struck not only by the pain in his eyes, but their beauty. They were the color of sand in shallow waters. His face was also the most beautiful they had ever seen, on a god or man.

“Oh Hades, why have you conspired with Cronus and have taken my beloved from me so young, and so new at her role as wife. Why did you take her from me?” the man yelled, his voice echoing in the night. Then, the man resumed his unending, head-splitting drone. Evalotha hated seeing the poor man rage crying as he was, so she started to play and sing a lullaby to ease his pain.

“We’re under strict orders to only play for people in love,” Goithea warned. “Don’t waste the gift father Poseidon has deigned us on some poor sap who will never love again.”

“Even if that were true,” Evalotha said. “This man is sad, and his pain comes from a place of love, a loss of love, and therefore should be consoled by our lovesong.” Goithea was looking at her sister playing with her eyes closed, playing as she had never seen her play before. “This man is in an incredible amount of pain. I’ve never seen this amount of pain before. In a god yes, but never in a human.”

“So what if the man is in pain?” Goithea said. “That’s not our responsibility. We only deal with lovers, remember? This man will never love again, and you know it. You’re wasting your time.” As Goithea stated these facts, she swam circles around her sister. Evalotha just floated there playing as if alone, not wanting her sister’s words to get through to her. “You know exactly what happens to men like him. Their pain becomes so intense the more they mourn, and the more they mourn the more they want to join their beloved in the Underworld. If you ask me, he doesn’t need to use that rope tied around his waist, he’s already swimming in the Styx.”

“You know, for someone named ‘charm’ the things that come out of your mouth sometimes aren’t very charming,” Evalotha said, wiping away tears.

“As true as that may be, you’re name fits you a little too perfectly,” Goithea replied.

It didn’t hurt Evalotha that she indeed was too vulnerable and sensitive as she had grown used to crying for days, weeks, even decades over a single thing. What truly hurt her was the fact that most gods and people cared so little about the pain of others. Unlike most, Evalotha could see beyond the pain. She could see where the pain was sourced and the potential of the heart that contained it. She could see how a heart like this sailor’s could love so fully and deeply, and this in turn made her not sad, but jealous. Jealous that she, in all of her prowess, immortality, and beauty would never experience in her own being.

She understood that in order to experience a love of that magnitude, a being had to have the ability to be vulnerable, and have an extinguishable life force. For only something with a definite end could be enjoyed to its fullest. This man had enjoyed such love, and was now suffering for it, which was part of love, the other side of the coin. Coins of which two he had laid on his lover’s dead, once glimmering eyes. Now all that awaited him was death, for Goithea was right. This hollowed out heart would never love as intensely again, so why love again? Nothing could ever fill that void. Or could it? Evalotha wondered.

As true as all of that was, something awoke in Evalotha, and as if reaching into the Underworld, she reached into the profundity of her soul, and began to play a song of love, one taught to her by Eros himself. A song that had the ability to enamor and mend even the most shattered and fragmented of hearts. Her interest in him was slowly morphing into infatuation. She wanted to know more about him. To just be there with him.

“What are you doing, Evalotha?” Goithea asked. “Whatever it is you’re trying to do, you better stop it right now.”

The melodies plucked from her lyre created a prism of light underneath the water, and soon morphed into warm flames dancing on the surface of the water; blue, green, and purple. The ripples in the water projected onto the rounded interior of the overturned ship. The man’s wet clothes and tears dried as his face finally emerged from his palms. He looked around the once dark surroundings, surprised that now it was filled with warmth and a rainbow of lights. His weeping turned into befuddlement.

“Stop it, you witch. Stop it,” Goithea yelled as she shook her sister’s arm away from the lyre, agitating the water around them.

“Stop, you fool,” Evalotha said, pulling her arm away. “He’s going to see us.”

Being the older of the two—having been born of the blood oozing from Poseidon’s heart itself— Evalotha was stronger, and easily shoved her sister against the hull, slightly rocking the interred ship. This ceased the man’s crying completely as he grew warier of his surroundings. He thought that he was in the midst of one of Hades’ minions. Realizing that she would never overpower her sister, Goithea grabbed her double flute and played the most jarring noise she could muster. She blew air into the mouthpiece lazily through the side of her mouth, manifesting itself as creaks in the ship’s interior, as wind rustling in and out of empty sacks. The otherworldly sound would have rendered Cerberus’s hellish howls more endearing than the gurgles of a newborn baby. Rats and snakes of all colors and sizes burst out of the rotting wood, crawling out of the boats rummages and all over the man, their tiny claws scurrying on his neck and down his back, snakes slithering up his legs and into his robes. As the man rolled in the water, batting and patting himself all over his body in a panic, Goithea was doing the same in laughter, creating geysers so big that they thrashed the poor rat-infested man against the ships interior. This made Goithea lose complete control of herself.

The man disrobed himself, shoving the sopping wet rags against the wall. Goithea’s mischievous mirth bothered Evalotha so much, that she stopped her playing and darted straight toward her sister pinning her against the seabed. They had fought plenty of times, they were sisters after all. But not once had she felt genuine feelings of hatred and rage toward Goithea. Her sister was a prankster, but she had crossed a line. She was picking on a man that deserved nothing but their most heartfelt sympathy.

“Sister, have you gone mad?” Goithea asked, struggling to break her wrists free from her sister’s tight grip. Evalotha snatched the flute from her and played it herself.

“We’re just having fun with him, Goithea,” Evalotha said. She wanted to entice her sister to stay, not to continue to tease the man, but so that she could continue to admire him. “Don’t you remember when we used to lure men like him with our naked bodies, lying on the flowerbeds, allowing our long tresses to cascade on the mossy rock?”

“That was different,” Goithea said. “Those were father’s enemies. Men who sailed, and pillaged his seas without rendering oblations. Not even a ‘Thank you, kind Poseidon.’ Nothing. Those dogs deserved to die in the worse possible way.”

“Well, this man is no different,”  Evalotha said. “All men are the same. Sooner or later they turn on the hand that feeds them.” The people of this island had passion in their veins that could set the sea aflame. They worshiped as they fought; with blood and honor. They had always been there to fight at Poseidon’s side whenever Aries or Zeus didn’t see eye to eye with him. They were dormant titans, waiting for a goddess’s fertile earth or a god’s seed to blossom into the most fearsome creatures Atlantis, Hades, and Olympus ever saw.

“You know that these men are different. They were wrought of father’s seed,” Goithea said. “Besides, you are disobeying father’s ultimate rule: No human semen shall be drawn and placed into our being. He will find out sooner or later. Well, sooner because that is where I’m going to now.”

“Go ahead and do it. Father won’t believe a word you say. He never does,” Evalotha said. “He’ll think you’re playing a practical joke and dismiss you at once.” Goithea knew that her sister was their father’s favorite as she was the closest to his heart. “Go ahead. What are you waiting for?”

Goithea floated toward the seabed, deflated and fuming. Just as she was about to reach the bottom, she scurried all the way up to where her sister continued to admire the sailor.

“Well, if you won’t leave with me to see father, and according to you, father won’t believe my word,” Goithea proposed. “Then I’ll have to summon father himself to appear before us and see how big of a fool his pride and joy is.”

As Goithea was preparing to storm out the hull to the open sea to call on their father, Evalotha struck her with the lyre, knocking her unconscious. Blood gushed dark green from her head, betrayal blood, as Goithea’s body sunk slowly as if frozen in time and water. Evalotha felt a deep pain in her own body, swimming back and forth in a panic. The whirlpool of water, garbage, and thoughts surrounded her. Memories of the duets they performed for Poseidon, and the times they fought Triton and his followers floated rapidly in her head. What will father think of me? He’ll think that I no longer love him, Evalotha thought. She regretted having done what she had done. She loved her sister more than anything in the world. They were partners in everything, including work and play. Evalotha wanted Goithea to share her curiosity for the man, and for the both of them to explore and enjoy the intensity of his human love. But as she swam toward her sister’s body, she realized that her sister’s absence was necessary if she was to truly explore that power and darkness the human heart was capable of. Only then could she truly immerse, and unleash herself in its pleasures and pangs.

All of a sudden, Goithea’s tail twitched and slowly reanimated its motion with the moonlit currents. Her sister knew that in order for Goithea not to say a thing to their father, she needed to somehow silence her. She couldn’t possibly kill her sister, or else her father would instantly know. Besides, she would never be able to forgive herself and would be wishing the most painful death upon herself until she found it. So she decided to scatter Goithea’s body all over Greece. Evalotha took her body and ripped her head off and handed it to Boreas the north wind, bringer of cold winter air to freeze her sister’s thoughts, not allowing them to escape to Poseidon. She gave her torso to Zephyrus the west wind, bringer of light spring and early summer breezes to preserve her youth even in temporary slumber. And lastly, she threw her tail to Notus the south wind, bringer of the storms of late summer and autumn, to impede her swiftness of swimming by aging her ever so slightly. The wind-gods carried with them the various parts of her sister, spreading her charm all over the Greek islands, and its people.

As she returned to the boat, the sailor continued to weep, as did the double flute left behind by Goithea, mourning the loss of its wielder. Evalotha resumed her romantic lyre music, but couldn’t concentrate because of the double flute’s sorrowful melodies. The mixture of romantic and melancholic music was causing the sailor to feel dizzy, and groggy. Even as she played happier music on it to drown out its tears, Goithea’s instrument continued to mourn. Over the centuries, Evalotha had also taken some flute lessons from Apollo. One of the lessons he had taught her was how to harness the pain encrusted in the instrument in order to make the music more emotional, using the powerful energy of sorrow to create alluring music. She conjured a warm sea breeze and commanded it to play a soft, melancholic tune on the double flute. She stroked the lyre strings as she wished she could the sailor’s dark locks of hair. If only men’s feelings were as easy to change as the melodies of an instrument, she thought.

If this man was going to have any chance of loving again, he needed to expunge himself of all residual heartache. She had chosen him as her lover, and was prepared to aid him in whatever way she could. But sometimes, not even god can help mend a broken heart, she thought. The siren sang to the sailor, a song of loss, a song for her sister, and his lost love.

Soon his tears dried up, and he fell asleep.

Flowers, bushes, small trees and…a woman (part 2)

***This story is a prequel to Mademoiselle Fantasy’s story Flowers, bushes, small trees and…a woman. Please head over to her site after reading this story.***

 

The flowers possess, typically, four stamens, and four free what?” Eduarda read out loud as Florencia lay on her stomach, enjoying the warmth of her eggshell comforter draped on her skin. She was curling her brown tresses of hair, looping them around her index finger. Hair as soft as a flower. “Are you even paying attention?”

“I’m listening, I’m listening,” Florencia replied, expelling a loud sigh, thrashing her milky-white hand, and untangling her finger from her hair violently. “I love flowers, I just hate reading about them.” She sat up on the bed, looking down at Eduarda. “I like getting into the earth, dip my hands in the mud, and release its bittersweetness into my nose.” Her lover put down the copy of “Water Plants: A Study of Aquatic Angiosperms” by Agnes Arber. It was required reading for one of her botany classes at the Universidad de Granada. “Who cares about potamogetonaceae or whether their spikes are stiff and erect, or thin and flexible.” Florencia kicked the book off the bed, and got up to a symphonic string section of bedspring shrieks cued in by a percussive thud on the floor.

The tremors crescendoing in Florencia’s natural fat deposits came as a result of solid bone making contact with solid wood. Her muscles rippled with grace as those of a prima ballerina; calves twitched up the hamstrings to the buttocks, danced for an instance in her back dimples, and slowly receded into her back. Eduarda’s obsession with the female form only intensified after she and her parents attended a performance of The Rite of Spring in London’s Royal Albert Hall a year prior. A performance attended by Stravinsky himself. Never in her wildest dreams did she think she’d see a body like those on stage, in the flesh, until she saw Florencia’s.

Florencia picked up a tall glass of warm water sitting on the table near the only window in the stuffy studio apartment her parents could barely afford. She took the glass and walked toward the column of light collapsing onto the dark oak floors. The light dressed her naked body ever so delicately as if made of butterflies and ladybugs, silhouetting every roundness, angle, and protrusion that decorated it.

She took a deep swig and exhaled through her nose as she continued to gulp. She looked over at Eduarda, and motioned her eyes toward the eighth of a cup of water left in the glass. Eduarda nodded side to side, and smirked. She found it endearing how Florencia could never finish a whole glass of water, regardless of the vessel’s capacity. Florencia could be drinking out of a shot glass, and still leave an eighth of liquid behind. I’m full, she’d say, making the face she made when she had a stomach ache, it won’t fit in my belly. One of the first quirks that Eduarda discovered of Florencia upon first visiting her tiny apartment on Avenida de Andalucía was the amount of nearly empty glasses placed on her nightstand, desk, small dinner table, and the kitchen sink like altar candles inside a church.

Florencia shrugged her shoulders, and poured just a few drops into each of the flower pots she was growing on the window sill; mostly bluebells that she transplanted from the garden outside her building. That was what attracted Eduarda about Florencia; the fact that she was so nurturing, and caring.

“You know,” Florencia said. “Most people don’t know that giving plants too much water is just as bad, if not worse, as not giving them enough.”

As Florencia stood there allowing the warm glow of the afterday to bathe her drawn eyelids, Eduarda reached over to her nightstand, and quietly lifted her sketchbook and pencil off of it as to not startle the moment unfolding before her; the delicateness glowing around Florencia was that of a small fawn sipping water from a pond’s brim.

“What are you drawing?” Florencia asked, laughing nervously. “It better not be of me again. You know how awkward it was explaining that nude you did to my mom after she saw it on my nightstand. She nearly killed me.”

Eduarda was silent. Her brow, in its furrowed state, didn’t allow Florencia to decipher what it really was that Eduarda was drawing. The subject could only see her lover’s eyes looking up at her and then down at her sketchbook, up and down, over and over, mimicking the metronomic gait of the clock that she had ignored all day; a day whose entirety she had spent in bed with Eduarda. In spite of Florencia’s befuddled look, she kept drawing.

After Eduarda’s eyes stop their back and forth dance between the whiteness of the paper and that of her skin, Florencia began to walk back toward the bed, flushed-pink glowing all over her naked body.

“Wait!” Eduarda yelped, not looking up. “Just stay there, mi amor. Don’t move.” Florencia stayed even though she had never felt this embarrassed in front of Eduarda. They had been together, in secret, for about four months, and they were the happiest she had experienced in her 18 years of being alive.

So, Florencia stood there a young, intelligent woman— some would say at a ripe age for marriage— feeling 8, biting the bottom-right corner of her lip— less out of nervousness, and more out of the fact that she liked the brusqueness with which Eduarda spoke to her. The empty glass of water weighed a ton; she dared not break the purity of the silence by setting it down. She thought about the day when she first saw Eduarda as she tangled her sweaty fingers into one another like the messy cable work behind her parents’ 21” RCA “Living Color” television, and a Philips Glidomatic radiogram that also played records. Both in matching fine wood veneers. How Eduarda kept looking at her in a way no other person had, not even a man. She felt something new blossoming within her, but she wasn’t quite sure where. Somewhere between my hair and my toes, she’d always tell Eduarda when the two reminisced.

Eduarda’s patient study of her creation made Florencia impatient, circling her eyes trying not to look at the artist hard at work as to not distract her. Even in her discomfort, Florencia was considerate; one of her greatest qualities and flaws.

“Okay, come over, mi amor,” Eduarda said, beckoning Florencia with a smile. Florencia poured a little bit more water into the glass, and walked toward the bed. As Florencia tiptoed in excitement, she expected to see another nude on the side of the sketchbook pressed against Eduarda’s breasts. She gently placed the rim of the glass between Eduarda’s lips, and tilted it holding her chin so that she could drink without spilling on her lover’s creation.

“You have to know how much water to give to what you love,” Florencia said with a smile.

“Okay. Ready?” Eduarda said, as Florencia sat on the bed. “Look!”

“Oh,” Florencia gasped. It was a drawing of a blooming dahlia.

****

The wounded look in Damian Rubio’s eyes felt as though he would never get over the disappointment he felt toward his daughter Florencia. The culprit of the crime was that of falling in love and writing about it in letters too honest and sincere for eyes other than those of Eduarda. Damian found them after looking in one of Florencia’s kitchen drawers of her small apartment. It was her 19th birthday and her parents had come down with a vanilla-sour-cherry cake to celebrate it with her.

The night before, Eduarda had treated Florencia to a nice home-cooked dinner, a bottle of young tempranillo wine she had been saving for by not buying art supplies for six months. She became so proficient in pencil drawings only because it was the only medium she could afford, earning her the nickname amongst her classmates as “the next Edgar Degas.” As she walked home from the market, she giggled just thinking about how Florencia’s nose would wrinkle, her eyelids shutter as butterfly wings, wincing at the taste of sour cherry, plum, spicy black pepper, and bay leaf playing with her cheeks and mandibles.

Eduarda and Florencia had decided to eat at home due to the reaction their public displays of affection had garnered from people and restaurant owners. Some went as far as labeling them “unservable.” After dinner, Eduarda gave her a short letter as hopeful about their love as it was fearful. It was as if she knew Florencia’s father would find it the very next day as he searched for matches to light the 19 candles; words chosen carefully as to create a wound in Florencia that would never heal, whether their love persevered or not.

“Florencia,” Damian said, waving the letter as a white flag, trying to find peace within himself through inquisition. “My daughter, my joy. You’re breaking my heart.” Damian began to hyperventilate, and Amanda, his wife, dragged a chair, its wooden legs screeching across the wood floors broke the foaming tension, and tapped his shoulder for him to sit down and relax.

“Calm down, dear,” Amanda whispered in his ear, looking at her daughter with a less severe stare than the one given by her husband, but still one that said, See what your sinful ways have done to your father, the saint?

“All we want…” Damian stopped himself to breathe. “All we want is for you to be a decent woman and a God-fearing wife.” That last statement hurt Florencia the most. The thought of being some man’s possession, and living under the stipulations prescribed by some god created in his image revolted her. She saw how her dad, Saint Damian, treated her mom, sometimes like a person and at worst like a good dog, but never as an intelligent, equal-minded adult. Even now she saw how her dad swatted away his wife’s hand as if her doting of love and concern were nothing but a nuisance. I’d rather die than be treated worse than a mere house plant, Florencia thought.

“Florencia,” Damian roared. “Who wrote this? Who’s Edi? Who is this hijo de puta?”

Florencia looked puzzled. Had he not read the whole letter? The part where Eduarda described without sparing a single detail how the taste of her honey lingered on her black lace panties, or how the way Florencia licked her body had made her feel more like a woman than her own Identification Card could ever prove. Does this idiot think Edi is a man? Florencia wondered.

“Florencia, tonta,” Amanda smacked her on the side of the head. “Your father asked you a question. Be a good girl, and pay attention when a man is talking to you.”

“Uh, what?” Florencia shook her head.

“I said, ‘Who for Christ’s sake is Edi?’”

“He’s a boy from one of my classes.” Lying never felt so good. An unbearable pressure in the hollows of her rib cage had been alleviated.

“Well, that’s it. You’re done with botany, and this whole den of whores.”

“No, papá. Please, no!” Florencia loved Eduarda, but more than anything, she loved flowers. Not just flowers, she loved plants of all types. Her dream was to learn more about them, and care for them as doctors and scientists did so for human bodies. She wanted to find their souls; their hearts. “I’ll stop seeing him, but please don’t take away my joy, my love.”

“Don’t argue with your father,” Amanda implored.

“But…”

“My decision is final,” Damian said standing up from the blue wooden chair, decorated in Hungarian-style Magyar flowering; lavender, burgundy, and golden-yellow, painted by Eduarda herself. The night she painted them was the first time she had seen Eduarda topless, and soon after made love on the canvas tarp they lay on the floor to protect the wood from the linseed oil-based paint. Florencia’s eyes, her father’s eyes, watered in wounded reverie. Damian got up, paced back and forth, panting agitatedly. He let out a loud yell—more feminine in pitch than either she or her mother would have expected to come out of him— and kicked the blue chair with all of the repressed anger building up in him. Its four stubby legs, like those of a cherub, glided as if on ice across the room and against the window sill. It shattered into its factory-lathed parts upon contact, knocking her bluebells off the ledge and onto the sidewalk. The rupture of pottery releasing dirt on cement mirrored the phenomenon unravelling in her heart. If her love for Eduarda had lifted the blindfold all daddies wore to see their daughters in eternal innocence, then his love for her was breaking the perfect world that her and Eduarda had built together in this tiny, and for the first time, sad apartment.

Damian placed his grey bowler hat on his primly-combed side-part, draped his trench coat on his forearm, and dumped in the garbage bin the vanilla-frosted cake he had so enthusiastically woken up at 6:00 a.m. to special order for the daughter he was so proud of.

“Come on, Amanda,” Damian commanded. Amanda looked down the whole time, not wanting to make eye-contact with her daughter. She draggled after her husband.

Florencia wiped her tears, and ran toward the bin, rummaging past the cake for the crumpled letter. She straightened it on her chest, and folded it back into its natural creases. It was moist from the vanilla frosting, milky sponge, dark cherry blood, and her still trickling tears.

She knew that she would never set foot in the apartment again, and that her father would hire men to come in and purge the place of anything that pointed toward her shame. His shame, not mine, Florencia thought. She rose up from kneeling, and grabbed a flat tin-box where she kept important documents and knick-knacks. In it she found a picture of her and Eduarda in the Television and Media lab during the first class they took together. They were the only women in the class, and naturally, were forced to work together because none of the male students wanted to be paired with either of them. Because they were women, they weren’t allowed to be on camera; Florencia for being too pretty, and Eduarda for being too offputting. Besides, Florencia really wanted to get to know the mystery girl whose eyes made her feel like a flickering candle on a lily pad of wax, drowning, but never extinguishing.

When it happened, she didn’t even know that the picture was being taken; more as a joke than to document anything in particular.

“Here,” Florencia remembered her professor saying as he handed her the picture. “You two made a great team, as much as I hate to admit it.”

If he only knew how great of a team we really were, Florencia thought.

The best.

****

The warmth of Florencia’s breasts melting into Eduarda’s, ribcage to ribcage, felt as though gravity was finally forming them into the single being their love had already allowed them to be. Florencia loved the scent of French vanilla dousing her nose as she and Eduarda swanned their necks into one another. A hocket of heartbeats intensified with every inhale and exhale until it melded into a soothing oscillation, vibrating in their blood, echoing in their bones.

The two of them used to sneak out of their Television and Media class and run off to the greenhouse, located in the northernmost part of campus, which was usually deserted. The professor and male classmates wouldn’t even notice their absence, given that in 1964 Franco propaganda was still teaching young people how to be good citizens, and women were lucky if they were used as moving props to indoctrinate hundreds of women on how to be the perfect, domestic wife.

“What are you thinking about?” Eduarda asked. Florencia could hear the question from within herself, not through her ears. At first, she thought Florencia had dozed off, as she usually did after making love. But as she sunk her chin into her neck to confirm her suspicion, Florencia began to draw shapeless geometry on the ravines of her ribs.

“I don’t want this to ever end,” Florencia said.

“Don’t worry, muñeca. We’ll be back tomorrow.”

“No. I’m talking about us. This. What we have. I don’t want it to end.” Eduarda felt tears stalactite from Florencia onto her sternum, and stream down the valley between her breasts, reservoiring in her bellybutton. Eduarda kissed Florencia’s messy flipped bob, inhaling deeply as if she were diving into the depths of something she might not return from. She always smelled of flowers.

“My parents want me to marry my third cousin,” Eduarda said. The sound of the wind breaking on the loose glass panes was the only sound that clothed their cold silence. “He’s proposing next ye…”

“Shhh…” Florencia whispered, massaging her nose into Eduarda’s firm belly. The entirety of her spine shivered like a thick, vibrating guitar string. Florencia kissed her puckered flesh, and used her tongue to play with her belly dimple. She continued kissing her ribcage, her sternum, her breasts trying to ravage every bit of her. When she arrived at her clavicle, Eduarda ran her fingers on Florencia’s back, all the way down to her round buttocks, caressing her all the way up to her shoulders. They slid their hands into one another’s, fingers intertwined, and Florencia forced them over her head. She sucked on Eduarda’s chin, outlining her jaw with the tip of her tongue all the way to her tender earlobe’s peach fuzz. She was taking her body to a place Eduarda had never been to. Florencia moved slowly toward the center of Eduarda’s face, quieting her quavering lips with a kiss. “Let’s just enjoy this moment. I want my mind to drink up as much of you as it can. I’m your Florencia, and always will be.” Eduarda wove her bony fingers into Florencia’s dark curls, pushing her lips hard against hers. Florencia reciprocated.

Their troubled heartbeats slowly calmed into a lullaby, gently rocking them to sleep.

And then, as if they each meant to, for a slight second, their hearts beat as one.

 

Artwork by Cory Bilicko

2016. Hydrangea [Painting]. Watercolor, Long Beach, CA.

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.

Through His Bars Of Rage

Through His Bars Of Rage has been accepted for publication

in April’s edition of

LEVITATE Literary Magazine

Please stay tuned for purchasing details.

 

Anima

 

Anima has been accepted for printed publication in OTHER. Magazine. Please stay tuned for more details.

Artwork

1939 Tournament of Roses queen [Graphic]. Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection. Accessed on 11/30/2017.

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