Fiction: Bold, Bashful, and Isolated

I tell you, Bobby could be so bashful he’d stick his foot in the can and piss down his leg to keep anyone from hearing. At least that’s how he was sometimes. He seemed to have moods or something. It probably just depended on who was around or what the situation was, but sometimes it was like he just couldn’t bear to be in the vicinity of other human beings unless he knew and trusted them, and he didn’t know and trust very many people, I can tell you that. He mostly liked his own company. He was quite content to be on his own. The only problem, as far as he could tell, was the crushing loneliness.

So he sort of always liked to have at least one companion. Now most people like you and me seek out a sort of constant companion who keeps us company, gives us emotional support, and provides a sexual release. I don’t know about you, but sexual release was usually the first thing on my mind when I was Bobby’s age. I figured the emotional support and all that would come eventually, but getting my baser needs met was pretty much my first priority.

But Bobby wasn’t like you and me. He just wanted someone to talk to. He was quiet most of the time, but once he got on a roll, he would just ramble on for days. And I don’t mean he would always hog the conversation, either. He could listen. A lot of women said he was a good listener, you know, when he wasn’t spewing out his stream of consciousness out loud to some vessel or other.

Some women liked how respectful he was on account of how he could listen and talk without immediately putting the moves on them. They thought he was “quite the gentleman” because he seemed to suppress his need to get in their pants for some time after meeting them, and they found that kind of refreshing.

Others weren’t so complimentary. After getting no response from what they considered quite obvious flirting, they would tell Bobby in no uncertain terms that he was a “God damned faggot.” Those were the words they used, because women can be homophobic, too. Women can be homophobic and mean and abusive, and Bobby had some stories to tell, but he never really told them.

So that’s how Bobby was. He tended to be oblivious to flirting, and he never really thought of sex at all until he got to know someone. If he felt someone really cared for him and really cared for them, his feelings were intense. He wanted touch, and he wanted as much of it as he could get. You can see how someone might feel flattered by that. On the other hand, some people might think it is a bit clingy. And, hey, maybe it’s a little of both, right? You can be all those things, can’t you? Characters aren’t always one-dimensional.

But then there’s the dissociation. And the depression. And the distance. So it’s all complicated, really. Someone who listens and talks and craves physical touch can sort of disappear somewhere for a time. So many times Bobby suddenly became aware of a woman touching him and asking, “Where were you just now?” He wanted to just say, “I was right here,” but he knew what they meant. He would just say, “I don’t know.”

And he probably didn’t know, or at least he couldn’t explain it. He couldn’t just say, “Oh, I was just thinking about my dog that died,” or anything like that. His thoughts didn’t always have words associated with them. It was like he was just kind of separate from everything. Some people described meditation that way—like they were just being with empty thoughts and all that. Well, Bobby didn’t think that was any great thing to achieve. He often felt about as aware as a stone, but he couldn’t see any great advantage to it. He had a feeling there was something wrong about what meditation was trying to achieve.

On the other hand, he often got lost in his own thoughts, which tortured him to no end. Well, sometimes they tortured him. Other times they were just thoughts, if you can get your head around that. They might be thoughts about infinity, cars, the sound of running water, God, or the durability of denim. Bobby wasn’t really focused. If you asked him what he was thinking, he’d just say it was nothing and try to move on. He was often embarrassed by the banality of his thoughts, the obsessiveness of his thoughts, or the emptiness of his mind.

And all this is to sort of explain his complicated relationship to sex, because sometimes someone would do something that would trigger something in Bobby that just made him shut down. Really, like someone flipped a switch or something. Like he’d go away. Sort of like having a flashback to something he couldn’t remember. You might see how that could be inconvenient for a lover. Inconvenient, I guess, or even alarming. Some people couldn’t really deal with that shit, or even want to. So, it wasn’t easy, see?

Photo by Katie Salerno on Pexels.com

Poem: Treks and Trysts

He couldn’t hear the word “hitchhiker”
Without also hearing John Fogerty
And the guilty sounds of the seventies.
And all that made him think of a tall
Girl with gray eyes who terrified him with
Her treks and trysts across the Rockies
And beyond on her own except
For her verve and bravado.

She wasn’t afraid of anything.
She took chances from Sherman to Denver
With no money and just one change of clothes.
Risky for a girl of 18, of course, but
God only knows what trouble she
Left in her wake, and he was
Enthralled, envious, and horrified,
But he listened to every word
She said on her return and became
Worldly through her words alone.

She told him the ways of the world,
And showed him the ways of a woman
With a condescending but caring grace
With only the slightest hint of cruelty.
She laughed at his naïveté, at first,
But gently removed it and did her best to leave
A campsite free from smoldering embers.

white long coat dog lying on highway
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Poem: In Unironic Praise of Older Women

I was lucky, he said.
A sexy baby sitter took
My virginity off me before
It became a burden.
I became a man before
I finished being a child.
I knew my way around,
Worldly in the ways of women,
But lost in the wild abandon of boys.

The others were filled with envy.
If only they had had a nanny
With a name like big, fat Fanny!
They could have walked the world
With pride, chest out and shoulders high.
They would have been the rivals of the others,
And the heartbreak of daughters and mothers.
They would have lived on the loose,
The Lucky Ones.

And our brown-eyed boy
Was proud of his conquests.
He was the real wild one—
Drunk and disordered—
The loner untethered to anyone.
Promiscuity is praised in a boy,
And a sad loner has a certain mystique.

He was lucky no one could ever
Tie him down, and he
Tied the knot in the noose himself.

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fiction: Sex as Nuclear Option

“I’ve had plenty of anonymous sex before,” she said, “and I still know how to find it.” Jan intended this as a threat or warning, obviously, but she also knew it stung in its own right. She first learned to weaponise her own sexuality when she saw the crestfallen look on her father’s face when she knew he knew what she’d gotten up to with John one night. Since that day, she had learned a number of ways to use her own numbness to sex to devastate men. Not that it made her feel that much better, but it was something.

Maybe it was revenge. Maybe it was something else, but it gave her a feeling of power, and who doesn’t want to feel that sometimes? Everyone wants to feel a little control over things. The way she told it, she had always controlled her own sexuality. She was 12 the first time, she said, and she knew exactly what she was doing. Her parents were gone for the day and she called her school band director on the phone and asked him over. It was her idea. That’s what she said.

She said it hurt, but he was very nice. He took care of her. When he lost his job at the school, she and some other girls formed a group to get signatures on a petition to get him his job back. They really liked him. When she graduated high school, she wrote to him to let him know she was doing all right, and he wrote back and said he was glad to hear it.

Bobby couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He told her she was only 12, for God’s sake, and definitely no child could be responsible for what she described. She had obviously been groomed and manipulated, and so had all the other girls. She was raped, he said, but she averred. “But I knew what I was doing was wrong,” she said, “That’s why I never told anyone before now.” Bobby told her it wasn’t her fault, but he wasn’t prepared for this conversation.

Somehow, he made her feel more judged than supported, not that he was trying to, but he really wasn’t equipped to respond to this information, and he felt a little sick. But Jan didn’t notice that. She was just trying to make a point about her prissy classmates who acted so shocked to find that a professor was having an affair with a student. She was just wanting to say, “Hello! I was having sex with a teacher when I was 12! Grow up.”

man performing on stage
Photo by Gabriel Santos Fotografia on Pexels.com

Found Poetry: Being is Not Nothing (words of Martin Heidegger)

Anxiety robs us of speech.

Beings as a whole slip away.

Anxiety reveals the nothing.

How is it with the nothing?

Being held out into the nothing.

They are beings—and not nothing.

Being held out into the nothing is

Transcendence. Pure being and

Pure nothing are the same.

Nothing is the lighting-concealing

Advent of being itself.

Language is the house of being.

Homelessness is coming to be

The destiny of the world.

Thinking thinks the nothing.

Healing Being first grants

Ascent into space.

Language is language of beings

As clouds are clouds of the sky.

nature sky clouds blue
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Poem: To All The Young Queers

When the police made a routine visit
Next door, they arrived in full-body
Hazmat suits, as unneeded as they
Were insulting. It wasn’t AIDS then;
It was GRID (Gay-Related Immune
Deficiency). Well-educated people
Actually believed just being gay
Would kill you, and the police seemed
To have a database of everyone with
The Gay Plague. Actually, they just had a
Database of their own prejudice and
Paranoia. And we watched in horror
As they spread indignity like butter on
Toast, fear and hatred choking their arteries.

Of my neighbors, Roger went first.
He was already sick when I met him,
And I never had the opportunity to know
Him. Mark was still working, though he had
Some early signs of sarcoma, so his future
Was already written. His partner, Don, appeared
Healthy. He was a landscape designer, responsible
For the most striking gardens of Houston’s
Most prominent residents, a celebrity gardener,
Treated like sewage by Houston’s finest.

When Mark died, his family showed up at Don’s
House to clear out their son’s belongings. They
Gave nothing to their son in life, but took
Everything in his death. Don had a right to nothing
But loss, shame, and seemingly infinite grief.
And Mark’s memorial service was just another
That week. Another loss and another step to an
Inevitable conclusion for the survivors.

That’s how it was, see? Calendars were not
Marked with birthdays, parties, and holiday
Trips. They were filled with funerals, memorials
Medical screenings, blood tests, hospital visits,
Learning the vernacular of T-Cells and viral loads,
And no fucking time left to just sit down and cry.
Grief was a luxury no one could afford, and
Activism was a necessity no one could ignore.

They say the community came together, but it
Was forced together by hatred, fear, and indifference.
When you hear public officials say the solution to AIDS
Is to “shoot the queers,” you bury your friends and lovers,
Cry and scream, and come together to Act Up. We went from
Being gay, lesbian, bi, and trans to being a Queer Nation.
We argued about what words, what language, would work
Best, but we never forgot our common cause: Survival.

adult aged care caucasian
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Poem: Being and Ridiculousness

In that book, Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre’s
Antoine Roquentin gets kind of freaked
Out just looking at the root of a chestnut tree.
I thought it was pretty weird at first,
Because how can you get through life
If you freak out every time you see a
Tree root or some fool thing like a tree root?

You couldn’t go on, could you? It’d just be
One crisis after another until you went
Insane and did yourself in, but then
I kind of get it. I mean, if you look at
Anything for awhile, it can get you thinking,
And thinking is always the risky part.

Once you start thinking, everything comes
Into question, and you might not even
Be able to tell if a root is real, or you
Might start to think the root is conscious
And is staring at you, or you might start
To wonder if you are real. I mean, you
Could be part of the consciousness of
The root, but it wouldn’t have to be a root,
Either, would it? Any damn thing can send
Your thoughts careering out of control,
And you might just start feeling a little
Overwhelmed. You might feel like you can’t really
Talk to anyone, because you’re not sure whether
They are like you. Maybe they don’t see the same
Colors. Maybe they don’t feel the same feelings.
Maybe you are the only one who knows what
Pain is. Or maybe you’re just a character in their story.

But Sartre said he never felt that kind
Of nausea, and now you think maybe he was
Just an asshole. Maybe he just thought up a
Lot of stupid shit just to make money off
People who were socially anxious like
Roquentin or just anxious generally.
It was all just a joke to Sartre and his
Mescaline addled buddies, but you are
Starting to see things more clearly now.
You’re starting to want to punch that jackass
In the face, and you finally realize
Albert Camus was right about everything.

creepy dark fear grave
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Poem: Why You Can’t Find a Master Class on Death

You can find volumes of information
On how to die, but the materials are
All prepared by interns and trainees.
The true masters on the art of dying
Have all lost interest in our struggles
With mortality and how to be shed of it.

Still, we want as much information as
Possible, so we can be prepared when
The time comes. We hang eagerly on
The words of those who nearly died,
Just so maybe we can have a glimpse
Of what it might be like to cross over.

All this anxiety and all this preparation
Despite the fact that no one has ever
Failed on this particular mission.
Sure, some begin the process with
Different levels of equanimity, but
They all seem restful enough in the end.

beautiful black and white close up death
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Poem: Very Reasonable People Write The Apocalypse

Very Reasonable People scolded us
For our childish outbursts,
Our irrational fear of the dark.

We could rest in the knowledge
That the adults would see to our
Affairs and avert any apocalypse.

They chuckled at our concern
And assured us they had balanced
Checks in place for stability.

The Very Bad Things we’d heard
Of before didn’t happen in places
Like this to people like us.

People who know better than us
Had built robust systems to ensure
Both our safety and security.

I guess the people in the kitchen
Are the first to smell smoke, first to
Panic, and the first to escape.

The adults were gathered in the den,
Discussing strengths, weaknesses,
Opportunities and threats, even

As the smoke seeped under doors,
And through ventilation systems,
Before seizing their lungs.

Those who remain will mourn The Others,
Of course, and lie about how they
Always served the interests of their neighbors.

fire warm radio flame
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Poem: How Marriages Become Sexless

She exaggerated to her friends that he
Wanted sex
Four or five times a week.

He snuggled her in bed, and
She complained
That he pressured her for sex.

He reminded her he had not
Initiated sex
For several months.

Then why are you
Touching me?
She asked.

Shortly thereafter, she complained to her friends that
He deprived her
Of even the basic comfort of human touch.

woman and man sitting on brown wooden bench
Photo by Vera Arsic on Pexels.com