Maricón (Part 1)
“If you bring forth that which is within you, that which is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth that which is within you, that which is within you will destroy you.”— The Gospel of Thomas
As I walked on the dirty, hard pavement of 42nd street, surrounded by walls of graffiti, my hand in my pocket clutched my last twenty-six bucks, and the sun was going down. I watched the loud arguments of the whores and the pimps. The alien streets in the sweltering heat, after the long, air-conditioned bus ride from Texas, were moving too fast. When I noticed bums looking in garbage cans for food, I feared that I would soon be one them, feared that I might end up on the streets and become a hustler, having to sell myself, the way I had read about in behind-the-counter, paperback porn. I glanced up and down the street, not knowing where to go. I had just turned eighteen.
A thin, hard-looking girl, wearing heavy mascara, in tight, pink, hot pants, declared to a man in a parked car, “This is the best Italian pussy in town!”
I heard harsh laughter, as I watched the door of the limo open, with a shadowy man inside, and she slid into the back of the dark limo. As the song says, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere, and it was up to me, but where I wondered were all the beautiful people?
A flop house right off of Times Square, for eight bucks a night, without air conditioning, became my safe haven. The walls were so thin I could hear the guy in the next room strike a match. I worried all night, as the sweat dripped down my torso, and I watched the moon, framed by the window, with the ugly curtains. The air stood still, stagnant, with faint faraway screams and the sounds of traffic like ocean surf. I needed to get a job fast.
The next day, I got a job, and the following day, after my first lunch shift at the Broadway Coffee Shop, with a few more bucks in my pocket that I earned from tips, I wandered over to Central Park to see a free concert version of La Boheme.
On the great lawn, gathered before the stage, was a vast herd of New Yorkers, mostly couples; nearby a couple on their first date, who fed each other grapes, and next to them, a chubby couple who couldn’t control their screaming kids. But all of these plain and even homely folk seemed to belong to someone, everyone seemed to belong to someone, except for me.
Sitting on their blankets, chattering to one another as the sky darkened, with open bottles of wine and beer flowing, the contented crowd waited eagerly for the show to begin. On the outskirts of the big crowd, on the grass, swatting at mosquitoes, I waited, too, but for something that was not the music, something that I didn’t understand. I had come all this way, from Texas to New York, for that something really big to happen, something that I had seen in the movies but had no words for.
Musicians in white tuxedos were assembled on the stage tuning up. Cheers and whistles erupted from the rowdy crowd, as the stage lights brightened and the silver-haired conductor walked on stage, followed by a line up of obese opera singers. The conductor bowed, turned to the orchestra, raised his baton, and a great hush descended on humanity, as the sun set behind the tall buildings that ringed around Central Park. Waves of sparkling fireflies began to arise out of the shrubs. The music began.
The fat opera singer stood up. She rolled her massive tongue across her thick red lips before she opened her mouth wide and let out a big, bright voice. I wanted something sublime but my overly earnest expectation that I could get instantly cultured ruined any simple pleasure in the music. All of these families and lovers made me feel left out. I looked around and planned my exit, but then, to my surprise, a man a dozen yards away caught my eye.
“Over here,” he waved at me, over the heads of the crowd. Gratefully, I joined him on his blanket. As I got close to him I was a little embarrassed by his tight jeans and tight t-shirt, the crucifix around his neck, the smell of patchouli oil. I felt that he was an alien, too. He looked like one of those hustlers from the street. Unshaven, his dark eyes glowed, reminding me of Rita Moreno’s tough boyfriend in West Side Story. After handing me a plastic cup full of red wine, he said, “Listen to this big duet, it’s gorgeous.” He touched my hand, in this public place, which gave me a thrill, but I quickly pulled my hand away.
This man’s concentration helped me hear the music in a different way. Suddenly, as he held my hand, again, and I relaxed my resistance to his open sign of attraction, the music made sense. I settled down into my body, relaxed even more, felt my fluttering heart, the earth-smell of summer and the taste of red wine, and let the live music flood my senses. Meaningless sounds turned into rich melody, as the singers took turns hitting the high notes. The long phrases, with delicious open vowels, produced wonderful melting sensations in my body. When they sang in unison, their voices produced a wave of warm satisfaction in the audience, which you could feel instinctively getting closer together; children cuddled their parents and grandparents, lovers curved, softly into each other, and I and this stranger, were one of the couples, too, as if we had all merged, hovering in ecstasy in the humid air. It was then that I remembered something that I feared I had lost.
My reason for leaving Texas and coming to this shithole, was becoming clearer. I felt that I belonged to this stranger, this music, this night, this City. Finally, at last, I was with a man, on the isle of Manhattan, the moon was full. I wanted to howl, like a wild animal, for there was some power in my body that wanted to break out and be released into the night sky.
The audience leaned forward as the absurdly fat soprano and short tenor embraced each other, their glorious full voices tangled up in the higher register. We were moving towards the music’s climax. The singers’ voices became a blended voice, rising upwards on a fragile, high note that disappeared quietly somewhere above our heads, still rising upwards and like a gigantic beast that has been awakened from a deep sleep. The audience broke into a roar, Bravo! Bravo! And the children got up and started to spin like little dervishes, drunk on the beauty of an invisible God.
As the man teased my left nipple, I shivered. His name was Pedro. That night, after we finished the bottle of wine and smoked a joint, I went home with Pedro. He lived in a cramped, walkup apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, filled with Catholic kitsch. Statues of the Madonna, candles, and pictures of the saints were scattered around the tight apartment. I found out that Pedro had once studied for the priesthood, but, troubled by his sexuality, he had abandoned that idea. He was an earnest Catholic. “Everyone in the seminary was gay,” he told me, “It was like a whore house.” I was raised a Southern Baptist and felt out of touch with that religious world, which Pedro loved but also hated. He seemed to be split down the middle. He talked to me like I was an insider and knew about such things, but it was a foreign language he was speaking.
A beaded curtain, instead of a door, was across the bedroom, which reminded me of some exotic movie with harems and gypsies and men in turbans smoking hashish. He kissed me on the lips that first night, my first real kiss. Feeling his rough stubble against my cheek, I was stirred by memories of my father when I was a boy. Then he began to undress.
Pedro, naked, was magnificent as a matador. He turned on the water in the shower, so it produced the sound of a waterfall. He sat on the edge of the tub and brought me closer to him, wrapped his arms around my waist, buried his face in my crotch, then started to unzip me.
Pedro wasn’t handsome by Hollywood standards but I was overwhelmed by his presence, by the touch of him, by his hardness, by his softness. He had a strong athletic body, with hair on his chest, but his beauty was marred by the crooked Roman nose, which gave him a slightly pugnacious look, like a lightweight boxer. He slipped off my shirt, licked my nipples, pulled off my shorts. I stood naked before him, not knowing exactly what to do. He started to suck my dick, and as my hands pressed his broad shoulders, I took a quick inhale.
I yearned to suck his dick, too, for I had read about the joy of fellatio in those forbidden porn paperbacks, but felt I should be polite and wait my turn. The paint, I noticed, on the ceiling, had begun to crack and peel. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine that we were somewhere else, back there in the park, flowing in the ecstasy of the music. I wanted to be a character in the opera and sing those high notes.
“I want to bring you off,” he gasped, as he stroked my erection. When I tried to kiss him, he turned away from me, bit my neck, growled, acted like a wild cat. I wanted to kiss again and feel some tenderness, but he wanted to put on a good show. “Kink and raunch,” he said, as he took a large round mirror off the wall and put it on the floor, “I learned this in the seminary.” He got on all fours with the mirror beneath him, so he could watch it. “Fuck me from behind,” he demanded. I got ready to enter into the love that dared not speak its name, descending into the lower depths of the sodomy circle.
I fucked him from behind while we watched ourselves in the mirror on the floor. I had never seen myself from that angle and it made me feel as if I were disembodied, as if I was someone else, a little elf, hiding underneath us. The marijuana we had smoked and the red wine I had drunk too much of made me bolder. Pedro liked sex with his eyes wide open, all the lights up bright. I wanted the lights down low and to be in a bed between satin sheets. He liked having sex in the bathroom, while perched on the edge of the tub. This struck me as the least romantic place.
I stuck it in him, carefully, surprised by his skillful manipulations, unsure if I was doing it right, feeling as if I was screwing in a light bulb. He acted as if he was conducting a scientific experiment rather than making love for the first time with me. He watched our copulating image in the mirror below us, on the floor, as if he were peering through a camera, trying to get it all in one frame. He watched, mesmerized, by our reflection in the mirror on the floor, inviting me to fuck him faster, fuck him deeper. I was going as fast as I could, as deep as I could, until he told me to slow down. With eyes closed, however, hearing the sound of the shower he had turned on, I began to imagine we were making love in some tropical rainforest, near a waterfall, where cruel exotic animals stopped preying on each other to watch us. It began to feel good.
“Oh gringo,” he whispered, as he shot his wad on the mirror on the floor. His sphincter muscle squeezed, which caused me to respond. I exploded inside him, then withdrew slowly, feeling awkward. Then he kissed me, we kissed for a long time, and I felt like I was dissolving all boundaries. We finished with a cold shower. He let out a yelp and then dried me off with a coarse towel.
“You’re quite a stud,“ he whispered, gently, in my ear. “Tomorrow, I will fuck you. You ever been fucked before?” I told him I wanted to try it. “We will take turns, but tonight we will rest; we will get a good night’s sleep. We both have to work tomorrow.” He gently wrapped his arms around me and I began to feel proud of myself.
I guess I was good at it after all. He called me a stud. I had been called a sissy many times, but never a stud. I felt that a new world was beginning to open up, the world that I had come to New York to make happen. He got quiet and began to snore slightly. I was stirred up and couldn’t relax right away, kept awake by a medley of street cats making mischief in the dark alley beyond the open window. A faint breeze lifted the delicate dingy curtains and I thought about me and mama watching movies together, way back in Texas. We had watched West Side Story and I remembered those pretty Puerto Rican girls belting out, I like to be in America, alright by me in America, everything free in America.
The next morning, Pedro told me to move in with him, which was easy for all I had was a backpack, my work uniform, a driver’s license, and a photo of my mother. The next night was my turn, as he had promised, and after several awkward attempts to find the right rhythm, I was able to relax my great expectations for instant gratification. Making love, I realized, whether you were top or bottom, was a skill you had to practice, and it didn’t come instinctively. It was like learning how to swim. You could read a manual about it, but to learn how to do it you had to actually get into the water and splash around. I was lucky to have a gentle teacher. “That’s it, baby, I got you, baby, you are so beautiful. Give it up for daddy,” he whispered, biting my ear lobe. “Tell me that you love me.”
“I love you,” I replied, as I crossed over the boundary of that ancient taboo, and we sought to ground each other in this whirl of what I felt was like an infinite, electrical current. We were fried on the barbed wire along with lots of other men I sensed all around me. We were somewhere in France in the trenches, surrounded by rapid artillery fire, we were in Ancient Rome, pierced by arrows, being chased by the invading Barbarians, we were boy actors dressed up like women in the court of Queen Elizabeth the First.
I felt that many kinds of patterns, of ancient origins, had been stamped onto our writhing, wrestling, male flesh, and that we had entered this forbidden zone many times before. But we were without a matrix for this pattern of ancient origin and we needed to find a place. And after the explosion, he and I separate again, we floated in a view from nowhere, and a vast loneliness returned.
He asked me if it hurt. I told him I was okay. He then recited a Shakespeare sonnet gently in my ear.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
I was enchanted by the ebb and flow of that great love poem and felt oh so proud to get to the meaning finally of all great love poems. This is what it was all about.
“Shakespeare was gay, you know.”
I was surprised by Pedro’s statement, as if he was an authority from an occult world, that I knew little about. He pointed to the print of the famous Last Supper on the wall, illuminated by the candle flame, and made another fantastic claim.
“Jesus was gay, too.”
“He was not,” I protested, “That’s blasphemy—“
“Look closely at the picture,” Pedro replied, with a trance-like voice. “See the cute guy with long hair, leaning against Jesus. That is his boyfriend, his beloved disciple.”
I noticed the young man, in this sacred picture, as he leaned his head, into the radiant Jesus figure. This famous painting, suddenly, as I relaxed into Pedro’s arms, made sense, an erotic sense, a very different kind of sense than I had learned in Sunday school.
After we took turns for a week, I began to really like the penetration, the moment of entering, finding the rhythm, finding the unity, then the release, and mourned during the inevitable separation that followed. Then would come the long dreams about us, on battlefields, in art studios, in historical costumes. I began to believe we had shared past lives, but I was afraid to talk to Pedro about this, for he was a Catholic, not a Buddhist.
I would think of him when I was at work, busing tables, dealing with the rude cook, the loud customers, and my future seemed to settle down, as our lives got entangled in a groove of small habits and shared routines.
A hairdresser by day and a poet by night, Pedro typed out his poems at the kitchen table on an old portable typewriter. He would sometimes continue to type after I went to bed. When he was inspired he’d stay up all night, drinking rum and coke, and type away.
Pedro, at the age of thirty, was the older man. I was, he insisted, the beautiful boy. I felt miscast in that role, having never felt beautiful but rather clumsy and out of place, and he, I discovered, felt the same way about himself. “We don’t really belong here,” he would say, after a few glasses of rum, “we belong beyond the horizon, beyond the stars.”
Continue to Part 2…