These are excerpts from the fourth — and last — part of Lorenzo Milam’s autobiography, tracing the years after he was crippled by polio at the age of 18. (Previous excerpts have appeared in Issues 89, 91 and 92; the unpublished manuscript, turned down by 15 publishers, will be published by Lorenzo this year, and will be available from Mho & Mho Works, Box 33135, San Diego, California 92103.)
A warning: Don’t read this if you’re easily offended by sexually explicit writing. There are passages here that are breathtakingly erotic — and there’s some plain old heavy breathing. To some, that’s always a bad breath. Lorenzo’s teeth and fangs show. And his broken-toothed heart. The longing that wants to be love. Is it SUN material, I asked myself? You decide. If you’ve never raised a savage cry, licked blood and spit, made the world meat, skip this story and go straight to Heaven — and may your angel wings graze those too bent, too horny, too dirty to rise. Say a prayer for Lorenzo, Saint of Loneliness, “isolated queer cripple in some strange land, with nothing to hold onto, no one to care for me,” say a prayer for his passage toward us, across the oceans of his life, on this tiny boat of words that holds so much.
In Madrid, I stay in the Madrid Youth Hostel. It is out on the west end of the city. It is a fleabag. The mattresses are so dusty that it is hard to stay on them without coming down with catarrh. Everyone moves so slowly. The main office is also a bar. The Hostel receipts are kept in a defunct refrigerator with a chain about it. The major occupation seems to be sitting on the front steps, watching curs lick each other’s speckled nuts, listening to the Falange students next door practice their military songs. I want to visit the Prado. Someone tells me that if I walk behind the Hostel, for a few blocks, I will find a trolley line that will take me into the city.
I set off on a long journey. There is nothing behind the Hostel but a dusty field, extending as far as I can see. And there is nothing in the field: no benches, no place to sit, no place to drink, no place to rest. The sun is merciless.
I walk for an hour before I figure out that I am lost. I can’t believe it. I thought I was on the outskirts of a major city of Europe. But I am out lost in some terrible field. I have hiked more than a mile, and I seem no closer to the streetcar I am looking for.
Countless small bushes catch at my crutches. Some places the dirt is soft, so I have to go slowly, very slowly so I won’t fall over. There are endless small hills for me to go up and down. Each one slows me down.
My hands begin to hurt from the constant pressure of the crutches. Jaggers of pain run up my arm. It feels as if I have bared every nerve in my arms. I am sweating, and the sweat runs down my forehead, into my eyes. I have to stop each few steps to wipe the sweat from my eyes. Then I put sore hands on crutches again, and walk a few more steps, then I must stop to wipe my eyes again.
The brace begins to rub painfully against my knee. My one good foot begins to drag. I can feel my feet swelling. Where the fuck am I? I am alone on some huge abandoned field.
I am thirsty. Bugs fly in my ears, in my hair, occasionally in my eyes. My shoulders feel like I am lifting eight hundred pound weights. I know, at this juncture, that I cannot make it back to the Youth Hostel. It is too far behind me. I must have been walking over two hours. But how much further ahead is the street? I can see nothing but the field stretching on endlessly. I can hear nothing but the sawing of bugs. Suppose they were lying to me. Suppose they said the road was this way, but they really meant the other way?
I cannot sit down and rest. I can only stop and lean on my crutches, but the bugs become maddening. There is absolutely no way I can sit on the ground and ever get back up again. That is one of the conditions of my infirmity: once on my feet, I stay on my feet until a conveniently high bench, seat, chair or bed is available. There are none of those here. If I were to fall, I could never get back up: not in a thousand years. Then I should have to drag myself along on my ass, stopping to pull my crutches after me. It might take days.
Each step is torture. My shoulders are inflamed, my back is rubbed raw against the corset, my feet are swollen beyond belief, my hands feel gnarled and clenched. Sooner or later one of my arms will give out on me entirely, and I will slip and fall. And that will be that. I have seen no one on this wide expanse. I am not even on a trail. Why in the fuck did I come this far? Why didn’t I ask someone else? Why didn’t I turn back when I could?
No one knows. No one cares. I have no friends, no companions. I am totally alone in the world. I am some 6,000 miles from home, on some desolate field, with no help in sight. I will drop from exhaustion, die here of thirst. No one will miss me: they won’t know or care at the Hostel. I may be on this field for years before they find my corpse, ant-eaten. “Who does this strange body belong to?” they will ask. “What was he doing here, out on Desolation Field, so far from any help? What foolishness made him come out here?”
I feel so alone, so desperate. I want to weep at the sheer folly of it. How could I be so stupid! Just when I was about to get some place in my life where I would be happy. What’s wrong with me. What’s wrong with me?
For each excuse, there is a counter-excuse. For each moral precept, there is a contrary. At times I feel like a Catholic retreat with a massive Jesuit dialogue going on, on some obscure tenet of morality, the yesses and noes grinding on endlessly, wearing away the edge of my brain.
As I stumble along, I hear the voices, see the things that happened to me so long ago. One memory comes especially clear: it is one of me in a storm, when I was nine or ten years of age.
A hurricane has come up the coast of Florida, turning the whole waterfront area into a shrieking holocaust. The trees move and wave, tidal waves of wind in the branches. The river, normally so quiescent, turns angry. Waves flood the lawn.
My father stays home from work, bangs around the house, nailing doors and windows shut. He fires up the Sterno to make some coffee. “Jesus!” he says. “Jesus, what a storm!” He picks me up, carries me outside, down to the riverfront park. We can see the waves crashing in through the holes in the bulkhead, smashing brown foam over the seawall, into the park. The wind snatches at our hair, pulls at our clothes.
“Jesus!” he keeps saying, below me. I am riding on his shoulders, nine feet tall above the seastorm waves. I feel the warmth of him under me, his big red leathery neck between my boys’ thighs. I hold onto the crown of his head with my boys’ hands. “Jesus!” he says, wading the mountainous waves breaking ashore.
As I plunge through the sand waves of Desolation Field, he rides with me, up on my shoulders. I talk to him to keep his spirits up. “It’s terrible, isn’t it, dad?” I say to him. I never was able to call him “dad” while he was alive.
“This is an awful spot to be in, isn’t it?” I am worried that he will think we won’t make it. “Don’t worry, dad,” I tell him. “It’s rough, what with the storm and everything, but we’ll get to the other side soon enough. Please don’t worry.” I can feel him riding so lightly on my back, so confident in what I am doing.
“I am sorry I was such a sissy all while I was growing up,” I tell him. “I’m sure you wanted to have a man for a son, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I really wanted to be your little man, I did, dad. I wanted to do everything you told me, be someone you could be proud of, could tell your friends about when you were playing golf at the country club. I did my best. You may not have known that then, but I hope you understand it now. I couldn’t help being a sissy; it just seemed the easiest way to survive being a kid and all.”
He doesn’t say anything, him riding up there above me: but I know he is listening. I have to take care of him. I have to get him past this heat and sand and desert. I have to get him somewhere so he’ll be safe. I don’t want him to have to stay here. I have to show him how brave I can be, when the chips are down, when our lives are at stake. I want him to see that.
“Look,” I tell him, “it’ll be all right. Please don’t worry. It’s not to worry.” He always used to say that: “It’s not to worry.” He knows what is happening, and he knows I am doing everything to keep him from falling in this field.
“I don’t complain, now, do I dad?” I say. “Remember, when I was a kid, I used to cry all the time. When Radford Lovett and Jack Hines used to hit me, chase me, I would bust out crying, and run home. You were disgusted, I could see you thinking, ‘How did I raise such a panty-waist?’ You didn’t like that, did you?
“But see how much braver I am now. I don’t complain. I’m a good cripple. I never ask people to help me; I never ever cry, no matter what I am feeling inside. I’m so tough. I’m so brave. I’m a good cripple. I may be angry at it, and pissed off that I can’t run back to the Youth Hostel, but most of all I am brave. Most people would say, ‘What have I done to deserve all this?’ Not me. I don’t lie down and whine. I am a man now, aren’t I dad? You know I am a man now, don’t you dad? You do admire me, don’t you dad?”
The field washes out from my vision. It is like I have been lifted above this plain of white sand. I don’t even feel myself moving any more: it is like I am flying. “He is pulling me up,” I think. My dad is lifting me up like an angel. He is riding lightly on my shoulders, indeed, so lightly that he is pulling me up off the rough and coarse ground, as if he were some helium balloon, painted with great swatches of red and gold and silver. He is carrying me from this desert.
He is quiet, so quiet that I scarcely know he is there. But I know he is listening. I know he is going to hear every word I say. “I’m sorry I didn’t cry the day you died,” I tell him. “Truly, I’m sorry. You know why I didn’t cry then, or anytime after? It was because I wanted them to see how strong you had made me, how I wasn’t affected by anything, how I was a true man. I was. I didn’t know then, but I know now, that you were just a little boy, like me. I didn’t know it at the time, but now I do. That’s why I just held my head in my hands and pretended to be grieved, but didn’t cry. I didn’t know that you were a boy, dad. My poor boy. They came in the school and told me that you had drowned, in your own blood, the split aorta had drowned you — and I didn’t show any feelings whatsoever because I had come to be such a man. You understand now, don’t you?”
He doesn’t say anything, my dad doesn’t. But he hears. I know that. He rides up there, his eyes squinting in the brilliant sunlight. His face is motionless. He understands what I am trying to tell him. I think he is proud of me for the journey I am making, such a long and painful journey. I don’t weaken. I do it on my own, and I don’t cry. I am a brave cripple, carrying on, against all odds, carrying on the war against despair and lying down and dying. Me: no longer a sissy! He understands.
I talk to him so loudly that I almost don’t hear it. I swear, it’s right there at the edge of my consciousness, but I don’t hear it — not at first anyway. It’s a trolley bell, off in the distance, ahead of me. A trolley bell! My pains vanish. I begin to move more quickly. I hear the sound of metal wheels on metal tracks. I climb painfully up a hill. And there it is. So homely, so beautiful. A wooden, slab-sided, double-ended Toonerville trolley, with the single carriage drawing power from the wire that yokes overhead. What a homey, lovely sight! The tracks all askew with each other — looking more like zig-zags than the straight arrow. Jesus God, I am saved! I have been taken through the trail of trials, the trial of fire: my muscles turned fire within me, my head split with the agony of the sun and fever.
I made it, by Jesus. I made it over dirt, through brush, across hills, and ants, and bugs and thirst and pain and anguish. The Passion of Madrid’s Desolation Field. I know what it is like, to be lost, to be climbing some mountain.
When I read about the mountain climbers, making it up some impossible height, over impossible gorges, with their arms torn by the weight of their own bodies, their eyes glazed with the blast of the sun, their fingers ripped and bleeding: I know! I was there.
When I read of their endurance, and courage, and persistence, I know! I have been there. When they show me movies, when I read of some major climb to 17,000 feet, with the rocks all about, giving no succor, with each step possibly the last, when one misstep may mean that they come crashing down to their doom, and yet, with bravery of the highest order, they continue, continue to the heights: I know what they are talking about. Dear God! We have been there together. Together, we, the mountain climbers, the brave, tanned, hardened, hardy, courageous mountain climbers and I have scaled great heights, unbelievable heights, taking us to the very edge of death: we have gone there together, them on their delicate spider-web ropes, me on my delicate spider-web crutches and brace.
Together we have pushed our bodies beyond endurance to the veriest heights, gotten there despite all odds. And, once there, we find what we are looking for: the great wide-open eye of god. The pupil as clear as any white hole of space, the iris made of the same stuff as the heart of glaciers, the whole unblinking, never-changing, never-moving, all-seeing: neither unfriendly nor friendly, neither loving nor hating. Contemplative. Aloof. Wise. Cutting through all the foolishness and pride and fanaticism and occlusion — all those dark clouds with which we surround the innermost isle of our beings.
It is there waiting for us, god’s clear eye. We find it, at the end of the journey across deserts, up the highest peaks. There, alone, always awaiting us there, once we have been dogged enough (and foolish enough) to scale the last of the great heights. The Sweet God’s Eye of Chance!
Salvadore Estaban Jesus Rodriguez. Where the hell are you now, you delicious frog you? My first true honey-pie. What a bod! Do you think of me, Salvadore? I’ll bet you do!
I take the train to Malaga to place a want ad in the local rag, El Sol. “Invalido,” says the copy, “Necesito chico para trabajar, y dar ayuda.” I need a kid to work, and give assistance. “Llama Vd. a Sr. Lorenzo, Calle Misericordia 33, Rincon de la Victoria.” I don’t like the word “invalido” too much. Sounds like “invalid,” as in not valid. But that’s the word given in my Caesar’s Spanish-English dictionary as the word for “cripple.”
Salvadore! What are you doing now? You and your twenty-eight inch waist. And those sad eyes. You come to see me in too many present-day fantasies, Salvadore. And you don’t even exist anymore. At least, not as I remember you.
I am nervous as I take the ad to the Sol. There are too many stairs. All are highly polished. The journey to heaven is very slippery. And it’s a typical Spanish industrial hallway. Lots of fanfare and garishness when you come in the door, then, when you get upstairs, to the heart, it is small, grubby, overcrowded. Great bales of newsprint everywhere. The newspaper itself looks to be printed on rub-don’t-blot paper. Typical Spanish daily.
My hands shake. I give over my ad to the clerk. He puzzles over it. Looks at it, rereads it, takes it over to someone else, a fat guy, to look at. Goddamn! Do they know I am a fruit already? Trying to lure some young sweetie into my love nest. Do they know that I am trying to get someone into my paradise house by the sea so that I can play with his peter? Are they going to call the police? Maybe I should get out of here.
A small change. The world “invalido” is invalid. The preferred word is “mutilado.” As in mutilated. That is the currency. I stop by the drug store, buy some nerve pills, hurry home.
I am sitting in front of my portable typewriter, pretending to work, when the deluge begins. A deluge. Of bright-eyed and dusty young men. Also some of them not so dusty. All of them poor, and ragged, needing love, I mean, work. I examine them carefully as I am interviewing them. I look at their shanks, I mean their eyes, and faces. Are they hard workers? Are they to be trusted? Who comes with them? Will they rat on me? Are they the type to tell the police that I am running shaking hands up dusky, thin, beautiful limbs? Who can I trust? Anyone?
Forty young men. Straining, eager for work. Most of them desperately poor. There are four billion people on the earth, I think, give or take a hundred million (a hundred million!). Five hundred million, let us say, are at that attractive post-pubescent age. Now, half of these are young men (the rest women, we can discard them immediately); only a fourth of those (I am guessing now) are beautiful, lovable, not fat, or flatulent, or flabby. Of those, perhaps only half would be generous enough to enjoy my joy, or at least, would be ready to share the greatest glory of humanity with me, with frustrated, lovable old me. That’s (let’s see: divide 250,000,000 by two, then divide that by four, or is it eight, carry the five, drop three naughts), that brings it to sixty-two million, five hundred thousand young men on earth who are or could be someone that I am capable (or willing!) to love.
What possible harm, I think, can come to the world (this is my World View now) if I dip into the maelstrom of humanity and pick out one, only one, one very sweet young man (with nice eyes) and give him a taste of love, and money, and Saturday nights before the fire, sipping brandy and discussing the nature of man and the universe (and, perhaps, the latest soccer scores)? Just one of 62,500,000, to love, and to talk to; to love as gently as I can. Is it, can it be, wrong?
I vowed, I said, that when I left the United States, I would cater only to the demands of Hermann Lust. To hell with all my liberal teachings. After all, I think, you don’t know how I have suffered for the past eight years. Being a cripple: that’s the best excuse of all, right? After all, if they can come and snitch my body out of the bed so quickly (and so shamelessly), they might well do it again, even worse this time. I have to love myself, don’t I?
Well, you know that these are the thoughts that flap heavily through my mind. But you know and I know that it is far more complicated than that. For each excuse, there is a counter-excuse. For each moral precept, there is a contrary. At times I feel like a Catholic retreat with a massive Jesuit dialogue going on, on some obscure tenet of morality, the yesses and the noes grinding on endlessly, wearing away the edge of my brain.
I am torn, and guilty, and anxious. But I am also in heaven. I am deluged with the young and the hopeful and the needy. There are acres of flesh around me. 1 talk to every one of my forty applicants. I take names, ages, previous job experiences, parents’ jobs, live with parents? The work? O, I say, it will mean cutting some firewood. Taking care of the house. At night. Staying here in the house, beside the sea, for the night. Staying here in this house. With me. I have these nightmares (“pesadillas”). I just have to have someone here at night. With me. In the same room. Close at hand. In case of nightmare.
Forty pairs of eager eyes. Ranging in age from twelve to twenty. ’Twixt twelve and twenty. I eliminate the very young, and the ones that come with their mothers, sisters, fathers. Bad news. We cannot have the protected child. He might tell. Grey uniforms in the night. “Lo siento, senor. Hay que venir con nosotros. A la carcel.” No parents, even the boorish old man who sits in my living room for an hour extolling the virtues of his gentle sloe-eyed sweetie of seventeen years and the torn pants. No parents at all.
I am still looking. Winnowing through the deluge. Everyone gets talked to. I am embarking on slavery, but I am fair. I need someone who is independent. Needy, but independent. And the body: it has to be perfect, now. We cripples don’t like imperfection. We queers loathe imperfection. I am looking for the perfect poverty case.
Salvadore. Where the fuck are you? O, here you are. Standing at my door. You, one of the last to apply. Husky voice. Nice brown eyes. Pleasant face, although the nose is a little flat. Black hair. I know. At once. That you are the one. Salvadore. I know. At once. You don’t. Not for a while. There are some preliminaries first.
We talk for a while. The usual questions. Seventeen years old. Good. Lives with grandmother. Father away, mother dead. Good. I mean, I’m sorry. But good, nonetheless.
I happen to mention to Salvadore that I have only been here a week, and I surely would like to try to swim in the Mediterranean. And Salvadore says at once that he loves swimming in the ocean. And I say why don’t we try it. I need someone to help me out to the water, I tell Salvadore. He thinks that won’t be too much of a problem.
We are in the bedroom. I am taking off my clothes. Salvadore is taking off his clothes. In front of me. He is to change into a swim suit I have found for him. Shirt off. Nice nice shoulders. Nice. Trousers off. Tight white jockey shorts, slipped off, just like that. I am blind.
Salvadore! I wish I could be with you just for a little bit, right now. Just to talk with you. You would be thirty-five now, thirty-six. Body starting to go. But we could chit-chat, about this and that. We did have some good times. And some bad.
You were Mr. Right. At the right time. I had been looking for Mr. Right for all these years. Me, stuck with Five-Finger Freddy, really wanting Salvadore. And here you are. In front of me. With all your clothes off. Trying to figure out which way is front, which way is back on the huge black swim suit I have found for you.
Salvadore stands five-foot eight in the altogether. His shoulders are built by rigorous weight lifting (he is to tell me later). The complexion: olive, natural olive. The torso angles down to those impossibly small hips. Then, below the crotch (Jesus! Mary! and Joseph!) massive pillar legs. Fine black hair running down the legs to the feet, the flat feet. Salvadore: I kiss your flat feet. Stop wincing.
Do bolts jag out of heaven? When kind olive-skinned Salvadore takes off his white shorts, and puzzles with the bathing suit, do earths tremble and oceans rise up in black storms?
As Salvadore, blushing a little, a little shy, leans over to step into the too-large wet bathing suit, and his tiny ass appears full scale in my vision, and my glasses steam up: do the heavens rage? Does night eclipse day, do meteors swarm down to the beach at Rincon de la Victoria?
When, to get into the cold wet suit, he moves his hips a little and I can see his balls tighten, pull up with the cold of the suit: do earths well, do storms plow through the abyss, leaking blue and gold tangles of lightning into the smoking sky?
At the least, at the very least, when Salvadore stands triumphant with the comically large bathing suit pleated around his size 28 waist, do I pitch myself from the bed of pain and kiss this child god from head to toe for the singular fact that, at last, he is here, where he belongs?
Do the gods billow their cheeks, do angels clap their wings, and cry out in heavenly unison: at last, Lorenzo, at goddamn last?
No. For one thing, I am hardly looking out the barred window to see what the fucking angels are doing: I have to take care of myself. And anyway: do you think I am going to blow it at this stage, after all this work? “Que esta mojada,” I tell him, because the bathing suit is slightly damp, and cold. “Quieres partir ya?” I ask, shall we go to the beach?
He nods his head. His eyes are smelting liquid brown. His hair, above and below, is as black as night, as black as my soul: which has, by now, turned to smoking lava. We go to the beach.
I think we perform badly that day, in November 1960, at the edge of the Mediterranean, on the beach at Rincon de la Victoria. First of all, as I have told you, it is impossible for me to walk on the sand, my crutches get buried in the sand, up to the hilt. I keep spinning my wheels.
Although I have strengthened my legs enough that I can walk for short distances without my braces and shoes, on the white sands it is like going through molasses. And it is a long way from the cottage down to the water’s edge. Then the water, O Christ. If nothing else puts a hiatus on my roiling passion, it is that 58 degree water. The nectarine waters of the Mediterranean are secretly shipped in from the waves of the Polar Ice Cap.
Which give me problems. I am easily subjected to leg cramps in cold water. So half the time I am with Salvadore, I am trying to swim; the other half of the time, I am pulling on legs and feet to untangle the tangled cramps in what remains of the muscles down there. It is a damn good thing I didn’t drown my fool head in that ice bucket, although it would have given a certain elan to my life, to have drowned cold dead at the time when I was about to unlimber the old straight shooter and get it on for two years of passion.
If I were into corporate takeover strategy, with lawyers, stock options, proxies, legal battles, and if I put into them the same attention to detail I put into the seduction of Salvadore, I would probably be running ITT by now.
When I finally get out, I am so weakened by the cold that it takes a major act of strength for Salvadore and his weight-lift muscles to get me standing. He, a full seven inches shorter than me, trying to get me into the standing position, he pushing, I pulling, trying to get the crutches underarm so that we can make it back to the house. Our first embrace!
I don’t give much of a damn. I could be treading on turds all the way back, and would think of them as golden posies: Salvadore has agreed to work three nights a week, for 500 pesetas a week. He will start the following night, so he can go back to the city and get his clothes. He will come and tend the fire of the house (not my soul). He will help me take my nightly bath (water has to be heated on the stove). He is to help me in the dark when I have nightmares.
Nightmares. Salvadore, I have been having these nightmares. For years and years and years. I think that there is no one in the world can love me. For years, I have been waking up screaming to that.
The Approach. There are speeches to prepare, words to look up in the dictionary (“I have no control over my hand.” “Don’t be afraid.” “Why did you hit me?’’).
And, because I am me, and I am so complicated, and my world is so complicated, and everything I do that is meaningful to me is so complicated: there are contingencies, plans, counterplans, countercontingencies, counterunderplans. It is a mess. No, it is a siege of war. It is to be a real battle. The first that I have chance of winning, the one I don’t want to lose.
You’ve done the same things yourself, maybe with different goals, maybe with the same. If I were into corporate takeover strategy, with lawyers, stock options, proxies, legal battles, and if I put into them the same attention to detail I put into the seduction of Salvadore, I would probably be running ITT right now. Which would mean, if you know the corporate world, I wouldn’t have to go out looking for Salvadores: they would be right there on my doorstep.
But I don’t run ITT; all I run is me, and the machinery of my life. Be assured that I have every second of the siege planned. For the next night (no move) and the night after that (no move) and the night after that (no move) and the night after that (move!). I have to let Salvadore get a taste of his first 500 peseta bills before I spring it on him. I have to let him savor the feeling, for the first time in his life, of having money in his pocket. So he can buy those Fabian records that he likes so much. So he can be a rock and roll (he calls it “wreck-n-rohl”) singer, which he wants so much.
Battle plans. Contingencies. Timing: delicate timing. The right approach. Don’t be rash. If we blow this one. If we blow this one, Lorenzo. . . .
One of my friends has said that the long-planned strategy seductions are the most beguiling. And, after all, I had studied Pamela, by Samuel Richardson (1689-1781), which is really a 2,400 page exposition on how to approach the maidenhead. I am a good student, I have learned my lessons well. Salvadore has come for a week, faithfully at nine (he takes the last train from Malaga). He comes in, locks the doors and shutters, builds and lights the fire. We talk. I drink Anis del Mono, and he tells me about his life. With his grandmother. A few friends. A lonely person, who wants to be a singer.
At eleven or so, we repair to the bedroom. It goes without saying that I have trouble sleeping that week. I might make some groaning noises, so he will get used to the sound of me in nightmare.
X-night. I can hardly do anything all day, I am so jumpy. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. What a cad I am: taking advantage of his poverty. Maybe he will call the police. Maybe he will leap out of bed, run out the door. Maybe he will tell me to get my fucking hands off of him. What’s “fucking” in Spanish? I am so nervous.
Early evening. He will be here in half an hour. Maybe I should call this whole thing off. Maybe next week, or the week after. There’s plenty of time. Maybe we should forget this whole piddling thing. What am I doing?
A familiar feeling. When I get close to some resolution, some favorable situation: I have this desire to kiss it off. A dozen times at the Can-Can Bar I am on the verge of asking someone to come home with me. Then I make up a hundred excuses not to do it. He’s got funny eyes. Maybe he’s a murderer, likes stabbing queers. I really don’t feel like it tonight. I have a slight headache. I’m too drunk. He’s too drunk. We won’t be able to bring it off. He’ll turn me down and I’ll feel shitty for a week. All the familiar excuses I have been making for years to keep myself frustrated, and lonely, and horny.
Salvadore comes in the door on schedule. He locks it, bangs all the shutters closed, locks them, builds the fire. We talk. He hasn’t told his grandmother he has a job yet. He tells her he is going to a “fiesta.” A party. Three times a week. All night. Some party.
I yawn (patently faked) say it is time to go to bed. I take off my clothes, get into bed. Are you going to go through with this, Lorenzo? He takes off his clothes, except for his jockey shorts. Yes, I am going through with this. I turn out the light. I am shaking. I wait and wait. I wait forever. Jesus, is it two, or three a.m.? I start moaning. I am having a terrible nightmare. Salvadore, I am having a nightmare. Please come.
He is standing beside my bed. Outside the window, fishermen on the ocean, with their bright white gas lights. Light coming in through the windows, in through the bars. I can see his body, the glint of his eyes, his underpants, his underpants. Get in bed. I am shaking violently. My chin against his shoulder. My left arm flung carelessly across his stomach. I am on fire.
I don’t have any control of what happens next. I swear to you judge, there is no way on god’s green earth I can control the motion of my left hand. It comes, I swear to you, it comes to be invested with a life of its own. I have nothing at all to do with it, I am too distracted by other things. I do not move my hand, it moves for me. There is no way in heaven or in hell that I can stop the slow move of that creature, first coming down the external oblique then the abdominis and finally the transversus abdominis, down to the area across the umbilicus and the start of the few wild black hairs there, down from there to where the elastic of the underpants crosses from bone-hip to bone-hip. The bridge over the isthmus. The channel of Scylla.
A pause. There is a brief pause as the hand reaches the shorts. But just for a second: soon enough the bugger is on its way again. Slowly, but firmly. Making the next short jump. The inches, the few inches of infinity. The hand moving inches through the gap of eternity. The space between the stars. The edge of the cosmos. The site of the gods.
I am listening. My eyes are wide open. My head is now on Salvadore’s chest. I am listening, watching: every pore has eyes and ears, for any sign of a change in breathing. Or the fist, it would have to be the right fist, coming up from his side. I have to be prepared for that. I have to be prepared to fail.
I don’t fail. Salvadore is ready for me. He has this humongous boner.
My hand has life of its own. I no longer control it. My hand is my cock, and it is moving for me. First, through the frail white soft cotton of those Fruit-of-the-Loom underpants, my hand flat-open, wide, pulling back and forth, up and down, sometimes down to the balls, and I can feel the curl of the stiff pubic hair underneath the soft white worn cotton of the underpants; then, so quickly that he and I have no knowledge of how it came to be so fast: my hand is inside the underpants.
The elastic rubber of the waist restricts the motion of my arm, of my hand — but I am so unwilling to stop for a minute, so afraid that Salvadore would be out of the bed, dressed, and out the door if I were to let up for a minute. After all my calculation, all my planning and plotting, I must move with the tide, I must go quickly to conclusion.
For I have this idea that the first orgasm will be the seal on this relationship: the first flowing of the fruity sweetness out of him will be the religious seal on our relationship, the red wax molded at the bottom of the letter, the document-of-state with the ribbons plastered to the huge, just unrolled treaty.
My mind is working frantically. So far I am getting no response from Salvadore. Nothing but this uncontrolled cock of his.
And while this master seduction scene is going on, I have this attack of philosophy. About cocks, and things.
What I am thinking about is Salvadore’s cock, and my cock, and everyone’s cock. How our cocks really fuck things up.
I mean here I am so far away from everything that I grew up with and know, so far away from my own country, so far from my friends and family and roots and history and heritage. And how did I get there: my cock led me. It’s as if we went to all that trouble to get me a brain, and fill it with all this education — and then this cock takes over, and runs the whole show, and I might as well be a big dick. They might as well show a picture of me as this huge peter: my head all red and shiny, that little collar of circumcised skin around my neck, and this smooth trunk for a body, with the big channel sticking out for a stomach, the vas deferens, and for feet, these two massive bally-looking things, with the loose skin and the veins. I mean, why not?
Because we don’t control our destiny. It is all run for us by that arrogant dick down there, that half-foot homely little snot-nose calling the whole frigging show, and Bob’s your uncle.
We cannot control it. We build all these elaborate structures: thoughts, prejudices, countries, governments, buildings, philosophies, religions, morality, prisons. And then this pecker comes along, and boogers up the whole show. That pecker! Its own master. Its own boss. Think of me, for all these years, trying to keep Joe Dick where he belongs — either in my fist, or in some nice warm proper vagina. But the little bugger keeps insisting, simply insisting that he prefers to be somewhere else. Like next to Salvadore.
And Salvadore’s cock: another show-off master. Salvadore will pretend until he is blue that he isn’t interested in being played around with by men. He may be 100% convinced that he is a lady’s man, that he will spend his happiest days fucking Conchita of the big tits, his bride who, most certainly, he will meet in the next five years. Salvadore is absolutely convinced he is the straightest of straight.
So he ends up, against his will, in this bed, next to this crippled American, with thin shanks and blue-green eyes and curly hair and all that hogwash about nightmares — and there is his cock ruining his whole show. How can you be 100% heterosexual when you get so big and brazen under the warm soft touch of some man’s hand?
There is one moment of maybe-we-will-lose-all-we-have-gained. Salvadore’s underpants are limiting my range of motion. So, despite the possibility that if I stop rubbing his cock the old back-and-forth for even a second that I will lose my dear love, I halt and yank, first left side then right side, yank the underpants half way down his thighs, his beautiful crispy olive-thighs, with that delicious Sartorious riding so hard and high on them like some wonderful cloud on his very youth.
It must be the old Catholic/Spanish resignation: Salvadore doesn’t move a hair. In the dim light coming in off the ocean, from the sea, I can see this cock of his, grown to prodigious size, a touch, just a touch of dew (O Jesus the nectar) near the fissure at the head of it, and the elegant black bush that swirls around the base of it, and the two friendly old nuts, Mr. Nuts, the whole wonderful picture set and posed so perfectly in this man’s body, some picture of stunning beauty out of some magazine of The Body Perfect, The Cock Perfect, My Desire Perfectly Mad.
I come down on my Salvadore, take this giant monster wonder hunk into my mouth, without thought, and he shudders, I can feel his body tense, as he finds himself moving, involuntary motion, the grinding of the hips, and I find me too, my own groin turned hard against the tender muscle and wire hairs of his soleus, and he is turning, turning, his pelvis moving, and me, my whole cripple’s body come up with muscles I never knew existed, as I twist and turn against those firm strong massive-pillar legs, the legs of a man, I am grinding my life out against those perfect man’s legs, that contain the perfect muscles, built to such hardness by such elaborate, exquisite training, and he, my Salvadore, my love, my god is turning and twisting under the soft-bite tearing of me come sucking at this monster lollypop. I am filled with the wonder of it growing harder, I can feel the once-flaccid muscle turning harder and bigger, I can feel it pushing fire inside my head, ramming itself against the head, the skull of me, the skull of me plowed, swived to its depths, bone against bone, by this grand hard on, God Salvadore, where did you come up with this delicious cock, and I find myself not thinking, no longer thinking, but melded together with this monster muscle that threatens to tear the back off my head, beating my brains out, this powerful muscled gun striving against the back of my mouth, forcing itself down my tender throat, and my hands run claws up and down the inside of these straining legs of his, as they push and bury themselves in the coverlets, and twist and pull at the jockey shorts that are half ground down against the straining muscles of these legs, these pillars of wisdom, these pillars of life indestructible, and my hand claws the inside of his legs, up and down, then back up, to where the ridge of proud flesh has grown so huge, so stunningly huge where the two giant pillar legs meet standing so tall over the very earth, this ridge grown so tall with its sprinkling of rough hair, and there it joins with that easy riding flesh over the balls, those huge balls, which at this time are coming to ride so tight against the whole base of him, Salvadore’s whole body is rising, rising, I can feel it swelling, and the thickness of me that is jammed against the hot flesh of his lower leg, I can feel it swirling as the juices begin to flow, and where the wire-hairs were almost cutting into the head of my puffed cock, now I feel an engorging as the whole gets so tough and taut and tight, and the sliding as these incredible juices come to work themselves against the taut flesh, both of us rising on some peak, coming to some peak where we ride ourselves up some razor sharp ridge above ecstasy, where, now, that the whole comes together, melding balls and cock and hair and hard meatus of globular delight, as the fire-hot lava comes to be its own essence, meet us, o meet us, as the essence of me and him comes blended together in whole continents, as the continents ride together to the point where the neck of the volcano comes slowly at first, with a few sputterings and rollings, then comes hot now, the volcano puffing its red hot crown above the steaming workings of the sea, rising from out of the cold into the tepid waters, and then into the hot steam of the air, and finally whole continents collide, and the volcano juts its neck and head as far into the steamy sky as humanly possible, and the lava bubbling red-white-hot-enormously-boiling blacks, the rocks red-white stoning comes pouring, a brief pause, and then throwing world-sized boulders hurling popping and crashing, grinding and cracking, these boulders come screaming out of the infuriated sea, these boulders shoot jagged bolts of themselves high into the sky, past the sky, into the black fury of the heavens that ride above, the fire bolts come jaggering out and eviscerate the whole inner earth straining, coming raging out in one high keening whistling cry of despair and love, a crying love wail comes shrieking out soundlessly, the cry comes crying out, o the last sweet crying out of desperate shaking, as the earthquakes of the land of love come shivering and crawling out, o the shaking of whole continents, the two continents of two men, who have, for this brief and hurtling joy, have come together, two men come together for a crying together, the coming together of the two of them, now so eternally and famously bound together in the molten lava bond-seal of flame that is two men who have come together, on this dark shore, at the edge of this dark sea.
Salvadore Esteban Jesus Rodriguez is raised Catholic, Spanish Catholic. The good fathers have always warned him about dark sin. They pull themselves from each other’s arms at La Iglesia de la Virgen Sagrada, and rail at him, from age five onwards: rail about the bad things that men shouldn’t do with, to, or by each other. They chant about the men who, in that fine and unsubtle language, have committed “acto impuro” and the special baking, frying, salting, basting, roasting and broiling they can expect shortly after their descent into the darkest reaches of hell.
So there, after the storm, in the moments of rest after the volcano and earthquakes, the residents of the island, the two residents who survive the storm, find themselves in each other’s arms again, in tears. Salvadore shakes and sobs. This man, this glorious man, is so sad. He shakes and sobs. We shake and sob. Guilt wrenches and tears at our bodies. Our bodies shake in unison. I make a speech.
It is one of those speeches which comes out of the same substrata as that nonsense about the nightmares. But it has to be done; it is the key to our survival together as lovers. It goes something like this: that neither of us have women. And we are both lonely. And we have these needs, these strong terremoto needs. These needs that cannot be explained.
And we are doing wrong, of course we are doing wrong, but in his church, and in my church (whatever that is) there are rules against these sorts of things, of course, but there is also forgiveness, absolution. And although we are doing wrong, it is not eternal wrong, because there must be a compassionate god somewhere, who, after all, gave us these rock-hard needs, and when we give in to them every now and again, we are only doing it because we are not lucky enough to have some woman around, whom we can love, and so what we are doing can easily be forgiven, if it couldn’t be forgiven half the world’s population would be salted away in inferno.
I studied Spanish in school for five years. I have spent another few weeks in Spain trying to make myself cognizant of the language. I am not truly bilingual, but I have a feeling that on that particular night, I am supremely fluent. I have a dozen years of ice-hard frustration to lay to rest. And I have to be sure, damn sure, that Salvadore comes back.
I get to experience, at those times, the Love Waits, which are akin to the monsters of Golgotha, or the head-eating foul beasts of Dante’s Inferno. My jealousy is huge, as huge as the room, and with its maddened eyes and fire-breath mouth, I could consume whole continents.
Because when he leaves the next morning (getting up at six to catch the earliest train, tearing at my heart as he pulls on those worn blue jeans, pulls on that garish fake-silk pink shirt) I have no real idea if he will come back. I know that for Salvadore, the next two days — while he is decided whether or not to come back to work — the next two days will be pure shit. He will be torn by the angels and devils inside of him. Just like me. The two of us will have two ghastly days. While he decides whether to return to the only job he has been able to get, one that pays, and pays well. And costs a great deal.
Salvadore comes back. He has no choice. The money snake has him. He doesn’t like it. When he returns, his jaw is tighter, his eyes are a little narrowed, his shoulder a little slumped. He doesn’t like it at all, at all, but he comes back.
O he resists. Sometimes passively, sometimes actively, sometimes with a touch of Andalusian Mau-Mau at eleven or eleven-thirty on a moon-lit night, in the bedroom, with the pumping of the sea, the sound coming in through the bars on the windows, giving counterpoint to our conversation:
|Ahora mismo.||Right now.|
|Si, si.||Yes, yes.|
|(Suspira con pesa y viene.)||(He sighs heavily and comes over to my bed.)|
There will be other times when Salvadore disappears for days. I get to experience, at those times, The Love Waits, which are akin to the monsters of Golgotha, or the head-eating foul beasts or Dante’s Inferno. My jealousy is huge, as huge as the room, and with its maddened eyes and fire-breath mouth, I could consume whole continents.
The train will go by. I am sitting before the fireplace, notebook in hand, trying to write. I know that Salvadore always takes the nine o’clock train. I know that it takes him exactly four and three-quarters minutes to walk through the back alleys from the train station to my cottage.
I do not write in that four and three-quarters minutes. Nor do I really think, except to say to myself, “Now? Is that him?” Every scratch, rattling tree, bush, footstep is heard and analyzed. I barely breathe. I am suspended in the ammoniac solution of where-is-my-love. The wait of all ages. The black wait of eternity.
If he doesn’t come in five minutes, I find myself talking to myself. “He must have stopped off for some coffee,” I say, knowing that Salvadore never stops off anywhere for anything in Rincon de la Victoria. “Maybe he’s just stopped to admire the moon and the sea,” I say, knowing he has no interest in the moon, nor the sea.
“Ah,” I say, “his grandmother’s sick tonight. Or maybe he’s sick. I remember he had a slight cough last time. That’s it: he’s sick. Or: he missed the train, he’ll walk here. Let’s see, he should be here at eleven-thirty or so,” I say, knowing that Salvadore would never walk twenty-five miles at night for any reason whatsoever.
Then I get mad. “That son-of-a-bitch. After all I’ve done for him. That greasy little shit. I have given him all that money, where does he get his clothes (from me), where does he get his food (from me), where does he get his miserable rock and roll records (from me)? He is so unappreciative. He’s ungrateful,” I say. “And he smells bad, too. Pomade and garlic. Good riddance,” I say.
There is the snap of a branch outside. I am tingling. At last! Delight runs through my veins. I think of his thighs. I think of lying next to his thighs tonight, how I am going to love his thighs tonight.
It is only Maria, the maid. She forgot her shawl. “Toda esta bien?” she asks, is everything all right? “Usted esta solo,” you are alone, she says. O no no, I say, I’m reading and writing. I have my books.
“I don’t need Salvadore,” I say, after she has gone. “I really don’t. There are hundreds, thousands like him. All I have to do is put another ad in the paper. They are all over, just waiting for me to ask them for the night. With my money, I can get a Salvadore anywhere. I think we are better off this way, anyway. I was getting tired of him. Is that the train I hear? Maybe that wasn’t the last one.” The train goes by, the other way. It is going from Velez back to Malaga. “Maybe Salvadore forgot to get off. He is getting off at the station right now, and he’ll come running down here, come in the door here, breathless, blushing, ashamed that he dozed off, that he had to go all the way to the end of the line.”
I wait five minutes, keep checking my watch to be sure it doesn’t need winding. “It’s just as well,” I say. “That poor bastard. He didn’t really like it here anyway. I forced this on him. It really is cruel, when you think about it. It’s going to be better this way. I want him to be happy. Maybe I will run into him in Malaga, on the street someday, and I can say to him ‘It was just as well that you didn’t come back that time. I really was the wrong person for you. You were right not to come.’ ”
Each rustle or footstep or whistle outside gets transformed into the sound of Salvadore’s pants, the sound of his whistle (he never whistles). Every sigh — from the wind or no — is his sigh. Every voice is his voice. Every step his step. My ears develop the super ability to hear Salvadore in every possible sound.
After another ten minutes, a black numbing depression sweeps in over me, an avalanche of tar roaring down from the mountains, covering me in darkness. “O shit,” I say. “O shit, o shit, o shit! There’s no one, no one in the whole world for me. Not a single person, anywhere. I am all alone, alone. O shit!” I feel the bitterness of my isolation. I am the loneliness of stars, riding at the furthest reaches of the universe, surrounded by dark and bitter, bitter cold. There is no other light within a million light-years. I am shrunk down by the appalling separation from other human beings.
I am shaken by the poignancy of me alone in this cottage, this cold cottage by the sea, so far from home. I drink anis, and every glass makes me drunker, sadder. I brood on the complete desolation of it all. I am the face of the moon. Nothing stirs out of the cold and dusty dead of it. I am separated from all that is warm and comforting in the world. I am an isolated queer cripple in some strange land, with nothing to hold onto, no one to care for me.
“I’ll forgive him,” I think. “If he comes back next time, I’ll forgive him, I swear I will.” How could I have thought about those things about him? “If he’ll just come back, I’ll get him a nice present. I’ll get him a wool jacket, say; or some nice Fabian records. Maybe I’ll give him a salary increase. Five hundred pesetas, that’s eight dollars a week.” I think: “Why don’t I give him seven-hundred fifty. That would make him happy. His eyes would shine. He might even smile. Poor Salvadore, I really am not very good to him. And he is very good to me. The poor kid. What a shit I am!”
Two nights later the train screeches by the house, and 4¾ minutes later, Salvadore bangs in, closes the door, locks it behind him. I pretend to be reading my book (I haven’t looked at it for the last half-hour). I casually smile up at him and nod. I watch him take off his ragged and torn jacket. I want to crush him.
“Buenas,” I say. “Donde estuves el miercoles pasado?” Where were you last Wednesday. Casual. Not accusatory. Smiling. I can’t be angry. I was going to tell him off, tell him if he ever did that to me again, he would be fired. But Jesus, I am so happy to see him. I look at the way his jeans squeeze and mold the upper parts of his thighs, and when he leans over to fold his jacket onto the chair, I see dark, wiry leg hairs exposed by a half-inch triangular rip in his pants. I can feel the flush rising in my cheeks. My heart is thumping.
“No queria venir aqui otra vez,” he says. I really didn’t want to come back. “Este no me gusta.” I don’t like doing this. He looks at me, and his eyes are brown, immobile, emotionless. He doesn’t smile. “Sino, es imposible hallar otro trabajo.” It’s impossible to find any other kind of work. “Necesito el dinero mucho, muchissimo, para me y mi abuela.” I need the money for me and my grandmother. Very much. Very very much.
He runs out of words. He says nothing more. He stands motionless. I watch the way he stands, the way his legs rise to the perfect apex.
“Ay, que lastima,” I say. What a pity. “Verdad,” I say. It’s true. It is a pity. We are both quite pitiable, Salvadore and I, him with his dragon money need, me with my dragon nut lust. “Que lastima,” I say, because it is a pity. We are both saddened by what is happening to us.
“Queres hacer el fuego ya?” I say, because it is so damnably cold, even though my body is burning. I can feel the blood lust guttering my veins. “Si,” I say, “haces un fuega ya, OK? Y quizas debo de pargarte un poquito mas.” Perhaps I should be paying a bit more money. “Quizas otra viente duro cada semana,” I tell him: another dollar and a half a week. Can that warm you at all, my sweet Salvadore?
You see, he doesn’t have a chance. I need him. Like sun moon stars I need him. And in the two years we are together, I get to know Salvadore like a bride. I get to know all parts of him. I know his habits, his moods, his interests, his needs, his desires, his musical tastes, his ambitions. I know how he looks dressed, half-undressed, and completely undressed. I know (O I know) that his left nut is about twice as big as his right one (you really should get that looked at, Salvadore). I know how he is going to lie in bed, with his arms crossed over his big brown chest, the hairs just starting on his chest, his eyes open and dead, looking slightly martyred, making damn sure I know that he doesn’t like any part of this hanging out with this damn American cripple fruit-cake when he would rather be out on a man’s job, making some man’s money.
But I also know after we have been in bed together for awhile how the fire of it moves him and shakes him; how there is no way he can hide the way the passion takes up his front side and down his back, takes him like a kitten takes a mouse and shakes it and shakes it so that the stuffing all comes out. There is no way you can hide that, Salvadore, even though you never stop trying. Thank the Lord for it. I think you may have saved my life Salvadore.
He smells of garlic sometimes. His brows come down at acute angles so that he looks sad, like he is in permanent mourning. He’s a sad-sack, my Salvadore is. Shit, he’s condemned to hell and fire damnation forever and ever by this maricon, and there is not a damn thing he can do about it.
Sweet Salvadore! Torn and uneasy and pissed off at this sorrowful fate. Lying there like he is dead, until the Americano gets it so that he can’t really stop moving, making all those crying noises. There seems to be no way in the world we can stop crying out, like babies, no matter how hard we try. No matter how much we wish we could control ourselves, you with all that Spanish passion, me with this North American glacier puritanism.
No way to stop it all, no matter how hard we try. Salvadore, you sweet nut! You and your twenty-eight inch waist. You might well have saved my life, you know that? Que dulce, mi Salvadore. Que lastima. Ay, que lastima! Que dulce!
In fall, I am to return to the United States. I take the bus down from Malaga to the border town of La Linea de La Concepcion. From there, I will cross over to Gibraltar, catch the airplane to England, and thence on to New York.
My last night in La Linea, I go to a tiny restaurant. I eat a meal of pulpos by myself, drink a bottle of red wine. I am feeling terrible to be away from my friends in Rincon de la Victoria. I am worried about returning to the country I have vowed to disown.
I am drunk and muttering to myself, miserable after leaving the restaurant. Outside, on the street there is a trolley car. “I should get on board,” I think. I figure that it will be the last trolley ride I will take for some time. And it is such a grand machine: with a giant U-bar that reaches up to the heavens, leaking power, sparkling and crackling, blue shots to illuminate the cobblestone shadows.
I pull myself up the trolley stairs one at a time. I am the only passenger. The driver is thin, his face is bony, his eyes penetrating. “Ah, my Charon,” I think. We go across the city, then down to the beach, down to the water. The trolley stops at the beach. I can hear the surf muttering to itself.
I get off. It is late at night. The trolley groans, sparks a few shadows of the beach, and disappears. I am alone. I go down to the edge.
I brook on the desolation of it all. I am the face of the moon. Nothing stirs out of the cold and dusty dead of it. I am separated from all that is warm and comforting in the world. I am an isolated queer cripple on some strange land, with nothing to hold onto, no one to care for me.
Across from me, beyond the dim white lips of the surf, lies a cold sea, and Africa. The Atlas Mountains shadow the sky, blotting out the stars that lean so close to the horizon. The cold wind needles through my jacket, and I shiver. I wait for the next trolley car to take me back to my warm hotel. I wait and wait. I wait some more. I make my way to the schedule sea-blurred on the pole. I light a match, and discover that I was on the last car of the night. It is a dark and lonely place. There are no houses.
I walk about, as best I am able, across the rock and stone-strewed beach. Because of my full bottle of tinto, I am slightly drunk. I am thinking about last Christmas, back in Rincon de la Victoria. It was late at night, like this. It was cold outside. Salvadore was to come, my Christmas present, wrapped up in his delicate white fruit-of-the-loom shorts, the gift I prefer above all others.
I waited and waited for the train. It was late. Finally at 9:33, I could hear it puffing and fussing past the house. I waited for my Salvadore,, and finally I heard him outside, in the bushes, talking to someone, two men from the Guardia Civil; above the sound of the sea, Salvadore talking with, perhaps arguing with, two of the state policemen in their tricorn hats. I waited and waited, unable to catch the gist of their argument, the sea being louder than the words. I think that perhaps they are going to arrest Salvadore. Perhaps they had found out about our liaison. Perhaps they would make him reveal everything about our relationship. Perhaps they would torture him.
Fully alarmed, I peg to the door that leads full to the beach, yank it open, and see there before me no one: no one to the right nor the left nor up on the roof nor below the porch nor behind the trees. There is no one but the beach and sea and thick yellow moon.
I think about that subbasement, under my love and my lust, where I have spooks with which I can people the bushes and shadows, vapor policemen with which I fill the world, arbitrary guards for my arbitrary passion. The underpinnings of my lust are so dangerous, and all is supported by the muck and ooze from which I came.
“What a nightmare,” I think. Here I am at the end of the line, and what do I have to show for it. No hope, no ideals, no faith. I walk down to the surf, turn to go back, slip on a stone, and topple to the ground. “Just like a big fat dead bird,” I think, as I roll on the pebbles and sand. “I should be in atoms,” I think: “Atoms.” I feel alone and desperate. “At least there wasn’t anyone around to see me fall,” I think. I am sick of people watching me topple over to the ground, like some big tree after it’s been sawed in half. I think of their frozen-fear faces, the surprise-horror in their eyes.
I lie there on the pebbles and think about Salvadore some more. Last week I told him I was going to be gone for a while. I told him I had to travel back to the United States to take care of business. He sat before me, his face yellow and stony. The fire makes it look like wax.
“Tuve mas legre (I was much happier),” he told me “ante de todo este dinero (before you came along and gave me all this money.)
“Era muy diferente antes (It was so much different before you came on the scene.)
“Fuimos al campo, todas las semanas, con las ninas (We used to go each week, all of us, out to the fields, out with the girls.) Bailemos y cantemos toda la noche (We would dance and we would sing all night.) Que alegria! (We had so much fun!)
“Ya, no tengo ni un amigo, o amiga (Now I don’t have friends — man or woman.) Si no estuviera aqui, estuvi en casa, solo (If I am not here, working for you, I’m at home alone.)
“Era mucho mejor antes (It was so much better before.) Mucho mas de alegria (There was so much more happiness then.) Ahora, tengo ningun amigo (Now, I don’t have any friends at all.) Ni un amigo. (Not even one.) Soy muy triste (I am very sad.)”
As he is telling me this, I watch, and see the tears leak down his face, his face so impassive. His shoulders don’t shake. He sits there, shoulders slightly drooping, face very doleful, and almost as if it weren’t his tears, as if they belonged to someone else. The tears come out of his eyes, run down his cheeks, run down past the corners of his mouth, down to his chin, where they pause for a moment, then drop off into his lap. “Poor Salvadore,” I think.
That memory makes me sad. Sad for Salvadore who now has money, and who is now so sad. I, on that stone beach, mourn for him and what has happened to his life. Poor Salvadore, and poor me. We had to come to such a desolate state in order to love. “Passion,” I think. “What a bludgeon it is.”
I have to weep a bit for me, and for Salvadore. While I am about it, I weep for me being a cripple. I haven’t wept on that one for a long time. And while I am about that, I weep for me being a cripple who has fallen down. I weep for me being on the ground weeping, and for all the other cripples in the whole who, tonight, perhaps, have fallen in some drunken puddle of humanity. Jesus.
And the children of Spain. I have to weep for them — not only for Marcellina and Jose and Enrique, but for all the others, who, perhaps, I will never meet. I weep for them and for their fathers and mothers, and grandfathers and grandmothers. All those people in Spain, and so many of them with such disfigurements: faces twisted by the blight; humped backs; dragging legs; bent bones; missing fingers; holes-for-noses; empty eye-sockets. All these cripples, collected together on the Iberian Peninsula. And what do they do? They sing! Good Christ! With all this poverty and disease, and total lack of hope for the future, and they get together in some crappy old cantina and start singing. The most desolating poverty in Europe, and they stand around in a half-deserted hole-in-the-wall, with one single miserable dim fluorescent tube for light, and they sing these songs about love and bullfights and old heroes who are dead and in the grave. So pitiable and so right: these nuts singing out their sadness and their joy.
There is no sound except for the sound of the surf. There is no light except for the ghostlight of a moon gone gibbous sinking through the horizon. I can see above me the blue-black of space, spun on, infinitely, beyond earth and solar system, beyond galaxy, beyond reason.
Sharp stones stick in my back. The few stars that brave the ashen flow of moon pierce the soul of me. I am alone. We are alone. We are alone, all alone in the universe, all of us alone.
The white edge of surf approaches the beach, rises up, and explodes to death on the sands. “What I will do,” I think, “is lie here. All night. I will lie here all night in my shirt, with my thin summer coat, and my thin summer pants, and I will let myself be exposed to the merciless night and cold.”
When they come tomorrow, they will find my cold and lifeless body here. They will wonder who I am, how I got here, why I didn’t seek help. I will scrawl a note to them, tell them that I am a man without country and without hope. I will tell them that I died by my own choice and free will, because I was alone, without the heart to survive, because no one cared for me. I will die a martyr to all the lonely people of all the lonely earth.
They will recognize me as the Saint of Loneliness. At first, little known: the anonymous cripple of the cold beach just outside La Linea de la Concepcion. Then, over time, over the years, more and more people will come to hear of me. “He died because he was alone. He thought no one loved him.”
They will go to prove I am wrong. Each year, thousands, then hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will make the trek to this isolated spot, at the end of the line. There will be a statue of me, standing thirty feet tall, me, my small frame glasses, my thin frayed jacket and trousers, my two majestic stone crutches. I shall stand there forever, on a great bronze base weathered and whipped by wind and sea and sand. “Here lies the real martyr to the loneliness of humanity” will be in inscription at the bottom of that huge shrine. And all over the world there will be people who will carry a small statuette of me in their pockets, on their key chains, a small luminous statue that glows in the dark — a momento to the fact that all over the world, in every city, town, village and hamlet, there are people who are desperately lonely, who are convinced that no one in the world loves them.
Three sailors come by me. Out of the dark they come, walking past me, on the beach. They are talking, laughing, telling stories. One may be speaking of some imagined love in Cordoba. Another is telling of the flight of his “pajarito” into the nest of some lady of Granada. They are tipsy on jerez. They stop, next to me: they in their sea-green uniforms, turned black with the sea and the night. This is their one night out on the town — and they have stumbled across me. They have come to lift me out of my submarine sorrow: they are to raise me from the depths, save me.
The one closest to me is a seaman with skin burnished as dark as almonds, his feet turned slightly inwards (I always favored the pigeon-toed of the earth; by stumbling over their own toes, they seem so innocent of stepping on others). His face is so mordantly serious. His eyes, with their under-iris whiteness, burn so green/blue out of the night. He knows the oceans of my soul.
“Ayudete?” he says, his shadow fallen across my chest. And his brother seamen chocolate echoes from across the night: “Ayudete?” Low, throaty, tender voices. “Where do they get them?” I wonder. The deep accents of Andalucia. So young, and yet they speak with all the timbre and passion of the warm dark seas. The murmurings of a thousand thousand years at the edge of the ocean. My dark saving seamen, come out of the spout of time, endlessly rocking. Sinous caves and the birth of all of us: gypsies turning musically in the shadows.
Ay! The boy-of-my-eyes hunkers down beside me, his knees crackling, putting an innocent hand on my leg. “Ayudete,” he says. “May I help you?” Perhaps this innocent god can make me whole again: he will touch me, and I will be cured. Boy’s spark energy seeps from his hand, into my leg, up to my soul: I am whole again, enflamed by the godhead from below.
I think about him, and his words, and his touch. He has chosen to speak to me with the “te” of intimacy and love, rather than the distant “se” of formality. He knows me, has known me centuries in the past, will know me centuries in the future. I am the old man spilt upon the beach; and they are the gods of The Nautilus who move across the shores to save me and the countless others who have fallen in despair. We have met before; we will meet again and they will save me, countless times, from my self-inflicted, self-imposed grief.
After they have gone, I think of how fortunate we are — we cripples. We are so lucky to have the young laughing gods about us to save us when we most need them. We fall, and think we have come to the ultimate degrading tragedy; but our falls are no more than another in the continuous fall of mankind. We are not alone in these failures; we only think we are. And the seamen will always be about to rouse us again (should we wish) after the fall.
I am right, aren’t I? To love these sailors out of the sea? Randall and Marine Spicer? Salvadore of the sad eyes, Tom of the riotuous skin? Even my robbing black of Dakar? I am right to love them, in my own way. I know, I know: I do it all ragged and wrong — but there will come a day, I think (I’m right!) when I will find love without the chains of money, malice, martyrdom.
Lorenzo in the pursuit of his Sinbads. Lorenzo, the brain-heavy, horny fruitcake gimp of the desert island. My only escape from this wet isle of the body is the necessary adoration of the voyagers of all continents, the young mariners. It is only they who will deliver me from the perverts. The perverts: we know who they are! Stalin and Nixon and DeGaulle and Heath and Dulles. These perverts that take our young gods, strip them to their cream-soft skin, and stuff them in dun-colored uniforms, stick rifles in their hands, grenades in their belts — and send them out to destroy their own. Perverts! Dulles and Eisenhower and Molotov and Tito: so full of hate for the boy-within that they send the gods out to die in the mud of Ypres, Inchon, Iwo, Irun. The old geezers with their withered shanks, envious of the young and the brave, forcing them to tear each other up under a frazzled banner marked “Glory!” These perverts of power with their empty loins, turning the love of children into something called The Unknown Soldier, dead under marble!
The ultimate perversion is not that I have loved (or wanted to love) Jose and Salvadore and Spider and Randall. No, the ultimate sin is that I should feel guilty, dirty, wrong for so doing. All this guilt crashing in at the very moment that Mao and Berio and J. Edgar Hoover are conspiring to destroy the gods by the brigade, by the army, by the nation. Strip them bare, and instead of flowering their tender bodies with kisses, forcing them with guns and bayonets to slash and brutalize each other. Ay, those malrincones!
“What they should do,” I think, “is let us real perverts run the world for a while.” That would put an end to all this perverted killing. Do they think we fruitballs would send the gods of clear eyes and downy cheeks into some mass murder scheme in Korea, Stalingrad, Vietnam, Pakistan? Fat chance! The only soldiers we would permit into the army would be presidents, senators, representatives; let them and the prime ministers and party secretaries take out their rapine on each other for a while. Leave us boys alone, in each other’s golden shadow. “That would put an end to all this nonsense,” I think.
I start to shake, to shake with the cold that has penetrated so deep into the core of my bones. I shake with the cold, and the wonder of what those politicians think they are doing to us. I shake with their hate and their foolishness, and what I have to do to change all that.
I pull my bones over to the end-of-the-trolley-line bench, pull myself up onto it, and rest for a moment. “Jesus Christ!” I think. I have so much to do. I yank my crutches up from the ground, my old go-with-you-anywhere-anytime-pal crutches, my eternal silver wings of locomotion (me a bird of silver wings). “Jesus Christ,” I say, “I’m fucked if I am going to freeze to death in this hole!” I have six thousand miles to travel tomorrow. I have people to visit, people to reason with, to change. “I’m getting out of here,” I think. I have to do something, anything about those fools who want to kill my boys. “We have to love them and care of them, not kill them,” I think. “Jesus Christ,” I’ll say, “What’s wrong with you! You don’t really want them to die, do you?”
I get up from my cement stool, and start walking down the tracks, getting my poor old cold-bleached bones to moving again. I follow the tracks to a path, which turns into a street. I peg down the street for a while, and it turns into an intersection. Soon enough, a taxi comes along, and I stop it, and get in, and go back to my hotel, to the world again.
And no one knows, to this day, how close we came, all of us; how close we came to having a martyr, a universally beloved martyr, there on that beach. A figure of pathos and tragedy, on the sand. The Dead Saint of all the Isolates and Perverts and Cripples of the world, set in cold stone, frozen forever on that sacred and wind-swept beach.