The Men Will Cry




This short story appears in the LARB Print Quarterly Journal: No. 15,  Revolution

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I WAS MEETING Chase at 5 so he could pop my cherry before Daphne’s party. But then he texted that his dipshit big brother was home and that was definitely not going to work — us doing it in C’s room while that creepy Aspergerish lardass sat gaming and watching porn next door, scratching his wooly butt and sniffing his fingers when he thought no one was looking, stroking his fat little horns. They live in a loft and the walls don’t even reach the ceiling. I pictured lying under Chase and opening my eyes to see that round moon face shining down at me. Pitted like the moon with the lumps and scars of acne, glowing like the moon with grease. So Chase found a hotel room online and put it on his Dad’s card. He said his Dad’s manager just paid the card without question. And since his Dad didn’t know Chase had the number, if anyone did notice, he’d just figure he got hacked again. Which he was actually, by Chase, who sold his whole family’s identities to this Albanian kid who worked at the shit dollar pizza place and now, every few months, someone tried to buy a phone in Chicago or open up a JCPenney account in Florida. That was the part that cracked Chase up: the look of horror on his stepmom’s face when the credit bureau people suggested she might shop at JCP. Not that I’ve ever seen one either.

We stole some weed from his Mom too. I’m not usually a huge partier but I definitely did not want to be sober for this, and we figured we could just drink for free from the overpriced mini-bar. And snack if we wanted. I had this idea that sex would make you hungry. Like the treadmill since it’s aerobic.

We walked across town to the hotel, nymph and faun holding hands. His young horns were still just nubs, soft skin over bone, they hid in his curls and he’d squeak if you squeezed them. I had never shaved. My Mom’s hair was fine and blonde, even down there, but my dad is dark. Already the other nymphs at school were either saying I was lucky or bragging about how they shaved and waxed — the waifish dryads, downtown hippy-chic chicks, the curvy, big-boobed naiads who hung by the river and frolicked in bikinis on Snapchat. I was still just a B minus like my Mom so I didn’t hold out much hope.

We trod a golden road. It was a winter sunset, swift and soft, like a velvet curtain dropping over the day. But in New York, winter skies can be bright and clear, and now, walking west, we trod a path of gold that spread itself like melting butter, a red carpet premiere unrolling between the hulking shoulders of the buildings that slid into shadow around us. As if, in the dusk, dimly, we saw the future, these clean new towers crumbling and ancient already, listing like broken ships, leaning together like drunken monoliths, head to head on barstools, or sinking into the rising seas that we know will take this island back soon, when the world of men finally subsides into darkness.

Except of course for the windows and storefronts and steel frames that faced west, where the labyrinth of all streets ended. They caught the dying sun and blazed, gleaming like sharpened knives, like shields dripping with the gore that leaked over the horizon, where the slain day was going down like a bull. The bull knelt slowly, it lay down to sleep in the center of the sky, red pooling on the far side of the river now, bleeding orange onto the current, painting the waves. The bull folded its slender, elegant legs, bowing its great horned head, while the blood flowed from the slashes across its belly and open throat.

They said blood, the girls I knew. They said pain. They said it would take forever. They said it would take five seconds because baby was so tight. They said you can’t get pregnant the first time. They said they knew a girl who did. You will feel like a real woman. You will lie down a child and get up one step closer to no longer being a girl, without innocence, that sealed flower. And even as a flower blooms it is already losing its freshness. They said you will not cum. They said you will cry.

But tonight, it is the men who will cry.

 

The hotel is a big glass box and we get a southwest room. Some airline had it booked and no one used it so they can resell it now to us cheap. Chase gets a beer from the fridge and goes into the bathroom. Wow look at this he says stepping into the glass shower fully dressed with his shoes on, just two walls and a door in the corner, abutting a half-frosted window from which the city lights can be seen blinking on, one by one. Then he shuts the door to pee, I guess, and I think, isn’t that odd how we will be like connecting our genitals any moment but we still don’t want anyone to see pee coming out of them? Well, some people do but you know what I mean. I hit the mini-bar, downing a little baby vodka bottle. Then I feel sort of ill and chase it with Diet Coke. But then I feel the buzz and I’m okay. I take off all my clothes and stand naked in the full-length mirror that covers one wall. (The other wall is glass and now it is nighttime. The sun is down and the river is black, pale glimmers floating where the light touches, like a hand stroking silver-black fur. No moon is visible from here.) I look okay, I guess. I am not thrilled with my thighs but whatever. I stand in different positions, one leg forward, then the other, hip rotated, weight on the back foot, trying to strike the best pose for when he comes out, but when I hear the toilet flush, I panic and hop under the covers. Nothing happens though, and I wait and wait, drinking another baby vodka, but this time in little nips along with the Diet Coke.
Chase comes out, still dressed.

“What the fuck?” I tell him. “Get naked. Let’s get this over with.”

He nods and strips. His young skin is nearly as hairless as mine. Except for the thatch of black in his crotch, as if a bird had built a nest in the crook between his legs. The head of his penis bobs like a bald hatchling, working its tiny mouth, crying for mush.

“What are you smiling at?” he asks.

“Nothing. Come on.” I peel the blanket back and he slides under. We start making out which is nice and with the booze in me I am getting kind of turned on. But then I reach down and he is still totally soft, like an unblown balloon.

“Why aren’t you hard?”

He shrugs. “Give it a second. It’s not like an automatic machine.”

“I thought it was.” I put his hand between my thighs. “Come on,” I say while I tug him. “You have to get me wet first too.”

“It gets wet?!” Chase looks amazed. “Why?”

“It just does. I guess so that you like slide in easier?”

“Wow. That’s cool I guess.”

“You didn’t know that? Don’t you watch porn?” (Spoiler alert: This should have been a clue but whatever.) I ask him, “How do you think Ione and Clio and Asia all sell their panties? Think about it. Would those old dudes pay 50 bucks a pop for dry panties?” The Nerieds got this business started when Clio posted an ad for Moist & Fragrant Schoolgirl Nymph Panties. I never got involved because, one, you had to meet the guy and turn them over — not literally in them, though with pervy Asia I wonder — just like meet at Starbucks with them in a bag. But still. Creepy. And two, how would I explain the constant missing underwear to my Mom?

“Duh,” Chase says. “They just buy really cheap new ones, wear them and sell them, like a separate special batch. Dumbass.”

“Fine,” I say. “But at least I know moist panties are wet.”

We fool around some more, but nothing doing, so I go down on him and that, I must say, is pretty weird. I’ve gone down on guys a few times before but I’ve never held like a soft head in my mouth. I feel like a fish nibbling a worm on a hook.

“What’s going on?” I ask him. He doesn’t move at all. He lies perfectly still. Now I am feeling kind of weirded out and lie flat on my back, eyes shut. He rolls over, back to me. I am completely embarrassed, I can feel my face burning, so I ask, “I mean, am I totally gross to you or what?”

“No. You’re hot I swear,” he says. He mumbles it though, curled up in a ball, and I can hear the catch in his throat.

“Holy shit. Are you crying?”

“No,” he says but I can tell that he definitely is. I am relieved. Now I know, this is not going to happen and it is not my fault. I rub his back.

“Hey don’t worry. I’ve heard about this happening. You probably drank too much. Or it’s the weed.”

“It’s not that,” he says, clearing his throat. It is dark in the room. Day is long gone and we have not turned on the lights.

“Then what?”

“I don’t think I like girls after all,” he says, with a nervous chuckle. “Sorry. My bad.”

“What?” Now I am annoyed. “I thought you were bi-curious?”

“I am. I mean I was, but now my curiosity about girls is satisfied.”

“Thanks.”

“That’s not what I mean.” He turns over to face me, and I turn on my side to face him in the gloom. “You know I think you’re beautiful. Your new haircut is so amazing. And you have the best butt of any white girl in our grade. How did I know I only like men? I’m a virgin. I mean, maybe I won’t like guys either.”

“So you’re changing your status to gay?”

“Yeah I guess. Sorry.”

“Great. Just my luck. I fucking cured you of being straight.”

We go online. Chase dares me to post V-card for sale and I get like 1,000 answers in 30 seconds. The knobbly dicks and leering old faces pile up so fast — offers into the low four figures — that I’m afraid of crashing the internet and I shut it down. He goes on Grindr and finds a guy in the bar downstairs. The dude, I admit, is fucking hot, like underwear-model level, a true demigod. Chase invites him up. But he is still nervous and I am kind of drunk with no place to go so I take some pillows and hide in the closet with my phone and my earbuds and listen to a rap mix and peek.

It happens fast. The guy comes in and they talk a while, though I can’t hear what they’re saying. They make out and feel each other’s arms, chests, bulges. Then the demigod stands up and strips, he is like mega-buff with rippling abs and thighs like greyhounds, sleek and twitching to run. His cock is fat and hairless, but uncut, so it looks like a blind headless larva or something to me, but Chase is into it I guess, because right away he is on it, sucking like a thirsty bum on a 40. Bi my ass. Chase gets naked too and the guy goes down on him, and I admit his head game is much tighter than mine. Then demi goes to his jacket and gets out lube and a condom. He fingers Chase awhile and then it’s on. I turn down my volume. I am surprised to see he takes him from the front. (Didn’t know that was an option for anal!) I can’t see much. I can hear Chase howl and I gasp, but luckily the dude can’t hear. He says to Chase that it will feel better soon, and I guess it does because Chase stops groaning and starts moaning. Then his head turns on the mattress and I see he’s crying. Again! Tears run sideways over his face. Now what? Is it for like joy this time or because his ass is killing him? I mean, girls talk about how losing it will hurt but I have never truly gone there mentally with the butt. The guy doesn’t notice because his eyes are shut tight and he is I guess in the zone, with a terrible look on his face, and then he groans super hard and I realize this is first time IRL that I have seen a full-grown man nut. His face is both tragic and comic. Like a mask of agony and rage, straining over my splayed friend like Achilles kneeling over the corpse of his beloved friend, Patroclus, howling, ecstatic in grief, or driving his chariot, crying out in horror and triumph, dragging the body of Hector around the walls of Troy. They say even the river god Scamander tried to drown Achilles because he choked the waters with all the men he slayed.

Then I realize my legs are asleep. I try to gently unfold them, but I spaz out and my foot jerks forward, kicking the closet door open and I am face to face with demi, the grossly loaded condom dangling from his deflating horn. The look on his face is pure terror. “What the hell is this?!?! Who are you?!?!” His yell is a lot higher and no offense gayer then I thought when I saw his superhard bod and manly scruff. He covers himself, cowering. Chase looks up, sees me, and shouts, “Ollie what the fuck!!!” The guy is like stumbling to put his clothes on, yanking up his boxer-briefs with the rubber still drooping off his thing like a fake nose at Halloween. I want to tell him but now I am laughing uncontrollably and just point. He takes it the wrong way and thinks I am mocking him. “Is this a prank? Are you taping this?!?!” He is seriously freaking. Now Chase is laughing too, having morphed from crying. Anyway, the guy gets aggro for a minute, worried I was like filming him, (as if I want to see that again!) and then runs off, all worried about what if his husband found out. So I don’t mention the rubber. Fuck him. Cheater.

Chase takes a shower and comes out in a fluffy white robe. I ask him if his butt is sore and he says yes so I give him the lip balm from my bag and while he like applies it discreetly I ask him, so was that fun because it looked painful?

“It was more than fun Olivia,” he says in a mature tone, like he is an adult now. “It was transformative.” I want to ask why he cried then but he changes the subject, all worked up about it being my turn, and even though I’m starting to feel sort of over the whole thing, he is insistent, and I figure a deal’s a deal. So we speedswipe and there’s this dude, like twentysomething, sort of cute. I write back demanding a nude, or Chase does, typing for me. We are in our undies side by side on the bed and I realize how chill that feels now that we have admitted there is absolutely no sexual chemistry between us at all. Like I finally feel relaxed around a guy only if I know he doesn’t want me when every day I wonder if they do. I want to know I can make their dicks rise up, like a snake charmer, or psychic powers bending a spoon. But maybe that is all I want for now.

The dude sends the pic back and he is kind of hot. Chase says his dick is a good shape and nicely sized but not too big. It looks big enough to me considering where it’s going, but I say okay and he tells the guy to come over. Now Chase will hide in the closet, for safety reasons, though if the guy does turn out to be psycho, I’m not sure what he can do. Call 911 from the closet? It would be faster to just call room service, order a steak dinner for the knife.

When the dude arrives he looks younger than I had imagined, or perhaps simply more nervous and less confident and so, more childlike. His nose for example is tiny, an open plug, twin holes above the round mouth. His lips are moist and red. And I am not eager to kiss them. I see this is going to be rough so I get out two more little bottles, the vodka’s gone so rum for me and whiskey for him, and we toast and down them. Then I start taking off my clothes and he does too. Then he tries to kiss me and I let him though my lips are cold and his are, as I feared, warm and wet, his tongue like a fish lashing in my mouth. But at least he is hard. I lie down and he is so fixated on the space between my legs that I am embarrassed, for him not myself, and look away at our doubles in the mirror. I ask if he has a condom and he nods. Gets it out with feverish shaking hands. Rips the foil and rolls it on and I suddenly think: like a surgeon getting ready to operate on a prone body. He climbs aboard. Again he tries to kiss me and I turn my head back to the mirror. This is where it all goes wrong. I should have been watching, I guess. Or lent a hand. Instead, he is already on me, and starting to hump away, when I realize, I don’t think he is actually inside. But his weight is pressing on me and he is bouncing up and down too hard to notice when I tap him on the shoulder. The whole bed shakes. He is sweating now and rocking up and down and his wet red fishy mouth is breathing and spraying into my ear, and then I hear him moaning, I love you, I love you. Get off me, I say but he can’t hear me because he is crushing my lungs and I can barely breathe, much less make sounds. I am basically coughing out the words, exhaling them: Cough me, cough me. Then he sort of collapses on top of me, like a log, and I realize he is weeping because there are tears running down into the pink shell of my ear now, filling it like a little bone teacup, and leaking maybe into the maze of my brain where they will stain my dreams for years. I slap his back, trying to wriggle free as he hugs me tighter, maybe thinking I am trying to cuddle, and kisses my neck with those wet lips. Help, I cough at the mirrored closet door. Help, I gasp at my own face. Finally the dude turns his head and sees Chase standing over us.

“Hey! Hey!” He jerks back terrified. “Who are you?”

Chase brandishes a shoe-tree he apparently found in the closet. “I’m her fucking boyfriend! Who are you?”

The dude gets his clothes on and is out of there quick. “How was it?” Chase asks me after. “Okay,” I say and shrug. “Cool,” he says. Technically I realize I am probably still a virgin, maybe, but I don’t want to get into it, so I leave that out. “Should we go to the party?” he asks. “Okay,” I say. “Cool. Let me just rinse off and we’ll go.”

Thing is I am pretty drunk by now, so we uber to the party, and it is loud and everybody is yelling at each other over the music and a small knot of kids are dancing in silence, not touching, each one staring off into her own head, and Chase announces that we both are de-virginized, kind of letting them all still think it was with each other, and he high-fives and I don’t disabuse anyone, about either my cherryness or his gayness, and right away Daph smokes us up in her room as a token of her esteem and next thing I know I am out flat on her pillows and in my dream I ride a white horse through a magic wood where the soul of each tree, each rock, each spring is reaching out to me as I rush by, and I do not know if my horse and I slip through because their hands are the hands of ghosts and cannot touch, or because we are a dream, my horse and I, and cannot be touched, my hair blowing like the white mane streaming ghost-white through the forest, like gray blunt smoke through my fingers, long blond hair weaving and unweaving itself in the teeth of time’s comb.

The trees turned slowly, to and fro, as if they had lost their way in the mist and were reaching out as far as they could, but unable to touch each other, too afraid to move. They raise their limbs in silent pleading as we pass. The silvered moonlight lying on their bark shines like glitter makeup running with tears.

I head home later, alone and on foot, but then realize I still have the key card to the room and it is booked till 11 a.m. It is one. I am sober now and except for a slight ache my mind is clear. I’m hungry and room service on Chase’s Dad sounds good. So I go back to the hotel and am walking through the lobby when I see a handsome satyr with a wedding ring and black hair on the backs of his hands. His long handsome face is rough with gray and black stubble and there are iron gray veins running through the curly black hair between his horns. He smiles at me with crooked teeth and on impulse I smile back and head into the bar. He follows, as I know he will, and buys me a drink. He is talking, laughing, calm and low, but his hand is on my elbow, just naturally, then on my knee and I let it be there. He asks if I’m staying at the hotel and I hand him my keycard just like that.

We go upstairs. We get undressed and at least he is a better kisser, nipping my lips softer and then harder, like bites with your fangs retracted, and my fingers feel good moving through the tangle of hair on his chest. I ask him to turn off the light and when he does, night appears in the window and I realize it is snowing outside, tiny points of white static, like white moths swarming and swimming behind the glass. Like an aquarium, but I am the one underwater. Or in outer space, I think, lying there on my side and staring out at the black river, toward the invisible shore, while countless stars travel for lightyears just to die against our glass, like bugs against a windshield, headlight-haloed, when we’re driving, fast, at night. It is as if we were the last of our kind, I think, nymph and satyr on a starship with the power gone, drifting through the Leonids shower, as he puts his hand on my hip, and I cannot see if he is crying or not as I turn to face him in the dark.

 

David Gordon is the author of the novels, The Serialist (2010), and Mystery Girl (2013) and the short story collection, White Tiger on Snow Mountain (2014). His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Paris ReviewPurple, and Fence, among other publications.

 

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