by Anel Viz
1. The Kiss
Incurious clouds cross the sky. They pay us no attention – they’ve seen men kiss before! Just recently in a secluded corner of the park, lips barely brushing; more often in ancient times, and more openly.
Millennia before then, just such a kiss as ours marked humankind’s first step from savagery.
2. Gray Spring Morning
No birds sing. Instead, the silent fall of rain on the lawn, its rapid high staccato on the flagstones and louder tenor on the woodpile. Again and again, a sudden crack like a low belch rising from the earth and the deafening drum roll of its receding echo.
Ahead of me, miles of slippery roads, peering through a sheeted windscreen at oncoming cars, their lights on in daytime, and hours that advance more slowly than my eager heartbeat.
At the end, my lover’s arms, a glass of wine, a hot shower, and standing naked with him in the shadow of his window to watch the storm, until it stops and the birds burst loudly into song for a brief evening.
Except in Reims or Épernay or the villages on the hills between them, where people often crack open a bottle as an apéritif to serve to an afternoon guest, champagne has two meanings.
The first is celebration. Champagne is the festive wine, the wine of large gatherings, of weddings and jubilees, of dancing in the streets on New Year’s Eve, at election victories, or the end of a war. Popping corks and party horns punctuate noisy conversation, singing and laughter.
The second is intimacy, the quiet closeness of a couple in love, two people in their own space shut off from the humdrum world. We think of whispers and calm smiles at a candlelight dinner, of the playful giggles of a champagne breakfast in bed, of flames licking in the fireplace, soft jazz, and the clink of crystal – a late night toast before the pleasures of surrender.
Two flutes on the coffee table beside the ice bucket. We pour, we drink, we kiss. Shirt buttons are undone, belts unclasped, undershirts pulled out. Hands slip beneath them and gently run over warm skin, the soft tangle of chest hair, a hardened nipple. More kisses. A lick on the neck just below the chin, a nip on an earlobe, another kiss, and we drain our glasses.
We refill them. I reach a hand into his open slacks, lift out his cock, dip it in my flute, and lick off the drops that cling to him. I slide his pants to his knees, push up his shirt, and lick and lick – his balls, the forking of his legs, his belly, inside his thighs. Then I take a swallow from the glass.
He does the same to me. We sink to the floor wrapped in an exchange of caresses, caresses that turn to clawing, grabbing, squeezing, and piece by piece, our clothing comes off.
We sit up and take another swallow. I dip a finger in my glass, place a drop on his nose, and lick it off. He puts a drop on my nipple and sucks on it. I dip again and draw a line across his lips, and again we kiss. Our blood bubbles like champagne, our excitement hard and tall as the stemware, our muscles as liquid as the wine it holds.
We empty our glasses. I look at the half-empty bottle. The wine will be flat in the morning. He sees the look in my eye and reads my mind. Whose reflexes will prove quicker? Who’ll be first to grab the bottle and empty it over the other, lick the trickles that cascade down his body till he goes limp with ecstasy, then lift him up and carry him to the bedroom?
How short-lived the molecules of our pleasure frolic in the electric energy fields of the brain! The sight of him, a smell, his touch, memory give birth to molecules of desire. Their numbers grow, and one by one they join the dance.
Round and round they leap across synapses. Sparks fly up where their darting feet land and ignite molecules of passion. Coupled with desire they break off in whirling clusters and rush outwards to return his kisses from behind the heightened awareness of my skin.
They ferret out the sleeping gold that nestles at the base of my spine and dance around it in a ring. It wakens, breathes deeply, expands, and presses into me. The partners mix, and in the heat of my seething blood recombine as molecules of ecstasy that lodge in a wide band that runs between my legs from back to front.
Whining between my buttocks and imperious below my scepter’s knob, the nerve ends make conflicting demands, the former to be pierced, the latter to thrust deep inside his warmth. We tangle, we sweat, we bite, we clutch, the roar when we erupt drowns out our beating hearts. Then for a moment nothingness, like the hush when a short circuit plunges a bustling city into darkness.
The detritus of disintegrated molecules washes out with the ebbing tide, leaving behind a memory from which they’ll be reborn.
5. Odd Hours
We make love at odd hours. Not hastily, a few minutes grabbed here and there alone amidst a busy schedule, but at unusual, unwonted times of day and night. We often spend the last hour before dawn in passionate coupling, and, on our days off, towards noon or later, when he wakes.
He gets home toward four in the morning, has a light meal, showers, and slips under the quilt next to my naked warmth, the faint blue incandescence of his cell phone held shoulder high so as not to trip on the dog. She went downstairs to greet him, then promptly returned to the bedroom. A couple of days may have passed since he last came to my bed, for he sometimes visits family.
If I stayed up late, I may be dead to the world, but more often my sleep is nearing an end, my member engorged by dreams or expectation. I roll onto my side behind him, drape my arm across his belly, and pull him to me. My arousal presses on his just washed buttocks. My face nuzzles his neck. He pushes up against me; I slide in. I hold his hip to steady my thrusts; the fingers of my other hand grasp his hair. The bed creaks beneath us.
“Yes,” he murmurs. “Yes… yes!”
6. A Moment Eternalized
He lies on gray sheets, a black pillow under his chest, his hair tousled. His eyes, staring at vacant space, are filled with the marvel of intense pleasure recently experienced and now slowly fading. His right leg lies extended to one side, knee bent. The crescent line between his buttocks curves down to his scrotum that, flattened on the mattress beneath him, outlines each tender oval encased within. His belly, tight and flat when he stands, protrudes as a gentle roundness, for his whole being is relaxed. Imagination supplies the rise and fall of his breath.
After making love in the morning light, I stayed inside him, tapering my kisses and caresses till the hardness filling him had withered to a floppy dangle. Then I withdrew, and he gasped when my now pliant knob passed through the ring that gripped it.
I went to rinse the lube from my genitals and empty a bursting bladder. When I returned, he lay in the same position as when I left him. He hadn’t moved, not so much as a toe. That’s when I snapped the picture.
If I had lain any longer on top of him, the sweat that welded our bodies together would have made us both uncomfortable, and surely he would have shifted position to free himself. But leaving when I did, I made it possible to see him as I see him now. So shall he stay forever, a captive, suspended in this photo.
7. Our Next Bathroom
I lower the lid on the toilet seat and sit down beside where my lover lies stretched out and soaking in the bath. Blushing coral pink in the hot water, his flaccid penis waves like an anemone peering out from its cluster of dark filament tentacles.
We don’t bathe together. Shower, yes, often. We soap each other intimately, then stand pressed body to body, lingering over our kiss till the warm downpour has washed us clean of suds. We’ve showered together in stalls as cramped as a phone booth.
But not bathe. We tried once in my tiny tub. Though we take up as little space when we sleep in a tangle of arms and legs, we couldn’t squeeze ourselves into the tight rectangle of its hard enamel sides. We had our only soak together in the jacuzzi suite of a motel where we’d gone to celebrate another milestone.
We speak of buying another house someday, with a bathroom less small to accommodate a tub large enough for two to lie together side by side or facing one another. Facing is better. I’d slide my foot up the inside of his leg, and it when came to rest on his anemone, he would harden like coral. When he reached for mine, I’d draw his foot up to my mouth and suck on his toes.
8. Journeys Not Taken
We’ve never gone on vacation together. A couple of weekend camping trips, yes, but never a trip to some distant destination. He’s never left the country, nor since I’ve known him has he traveled further than three hundred miles from where he lives.
I have, and often do, for months at a time. Someday he will come with me.
Whale watching… We’ve sailed through Hecate Strait, past the Alexander Archipelago, and are now rounding the Gulf of Alaska, staying close to the shoreline. You have to wear a heavy sweater and a parka on deck, and we spend more time in our cabin than we thought we would, reading, playing cards, making love. Squalling seagulls follow our wake. The black ocean around us is empty; the land, vast stretches of dark green forest and high, snow-capped mountains. We keep to ourselves mostly. When someone spots a whale, we rush with the others to that side of the ship and raise our binoculars to see… What? Much, if there’s a pod. If it’s a lone whale, we may glimpse the arch of a sleek back almost indistinguishable from the swells, a faint mist escaping from its blowhole, mighty flukes raised before they sink below the surface, or nothing if we come too late and it’s already sounded. If we’re lucky, it will breach and land with an enormous belly-flop, sending up a splash we cannot hear at this great distance.
A floating market on a muddy river… The activity around us, the vibrant colors of tropical fruits and vegetables excite and frustrate me. I have no kitchen here to take them to, cut them up, sauté or steam them, experiment with tastes and textures. Annoyed at being woken up so early, he is leery of the unfamiliar foods and ill at ease in the jostling crowd that chatters loudly in a language we cannot understand.
He regains his composure later, on the barge-like steamboat that carries us and other tourists upstream. We dock and pile into the rickety bus that bounces us over red dirt roads to the ruins of ancient wats overgrown by jungle. We spend the night in a guest house built like a communal dwelling in the local style, a rectangular structure set on a platform some eight feet above the ground with a wide veranda on every side and a steeply sloping roof covered with heavy leaves almost as large as a man, but the inside is modern, though not air-conditioned, and the plaster ceiling below the thatch is watertight.
After dark the jungle comes alive with sound like the morning’s floating market. The coils smoking by our feet do not deter the mosquitoes, and we retire early. Behind our mosquito net, sweating in the sultry air, our bodies twist together in imitation of the broken statues we visited that afternoon.
A desert caravan… Mounted on the same camel, uncomfortable and caked in grit, we giggle every time its rocking gait knocks us against each other. That, and sighting a desert antelope or a running pair of ostriches breaks the monotony of unrelenting sun and barren, rock-strewn terrain. The Berbers we travel with are glad to have us odd, ignorant strangers who need to be shown everything. The modest fee we paid supplements what they’ll earn in trade diminished by air travel and heavy-duty trucking, and we dole out cigarettes and share our canned goods and (for them) luxury foodstuffs around the cook fire at night. They’ve taught us to unstrap the tent they lent us from the baggage animals, raise it, and cover the floor with patterned rugs and throw cushions. The small kettle we use to make tea is our own.
We stop at a small oasis, its cool water, date palms and fine sand strikingly beautiful after a week of empty wasteland. Late at night, eager for a proper bath, we silently leave our tent and immerse ourselves naked in the shallow pond. Would it scandalize our hosts if they saw us at it?
The dunes gleam pale copper under a black sky flecked with a million tiny white stars.
A coral island in a dazzling blue sea… We lie for hours on the beach, sipping iced drinks from oversized glasses, concoctions of rum and the nectar of exotic fruits. We wade ankle-deep along the shore, picking up and examining seashells. When we snorkel, bright-colored fish peer curiously at us through our masks.
The people who live here, smooth-skinned, plump, always laughing, seem as idle as we. They must know we’re a couple, but with regard to sex their attitude is relaxed and uninhibited. How we spend our nights doesn’t concern them.
Evening at the gay baths in some European city… Here we can be ourselves, let our affection show, fondle one another openly, and no one will take offense at our arousal. Here we are among our own, with one important difference. We’ve come here as a couple, not on the prowl for anonymous sex, and we stay together.
Towels tied around our waists, we walk hand in hand down dimly-lit darkened corridors and overhear snatches of suggestive conversation whispered in many languages and muffled noises of pleasure from behind closed doors. We sit and chat with someone at the bar, spread our towels beneath us to sweat in the sauna, rinse off together in the open shower room. So many beautiful male bodies to admire!
Lounging in the whirlpool, we watch the silhouettes of naked bodies washing in a narrow shower stall enclosed in smoked glass before they enter the basin. We go there and soap each other thoroughly, petting, kissing. I press close behind him to simulate penetration.
When we leave in search of a cubicle, some men tag along, mistaking our display for an invitation to an orgy, but we close the door behind us.
Where shall we go today? Bowling? A movie? If it’s warm we’ll take the dog for a walk around the lake in the park.
Crossing Rocky Mountains via Wyoming, the most direct route to where I’m headed, but also the plainest road that traverses one of the most beautiful of the vertical bands that divide of our country. I-80 holds to the center of a wide plateau of tilting hills, where the lonely hours speed by, and with them the empty miles, empty despite the hundreds of semis we pass or get stuck behind where an empty lane closes off for repair, nothing but orange barrels on the construction crew’s day off. Highwaymen, my kids used to call them.
To the south you see the peaks of Colorado, forested when I traveled them last, gone now perhaps, consumed by the fires of three dry summers. I-70 winds somewhere among them, masked by the closest peaks, yet too distant to be seen even if the hand of God swept them away, as He did those that once stood here. What look most like mountains along this roadside did not push up from the earth when its bones ground together in agony; they are products of the millennial erosion that made it a plateau, overgrown with low grass. Above the scrub the exposed rock rises a dull, sickly green from the copper in the soil, not the green sickness of nausea, but the pale green painted on hospital walls because an unnamed psychologist with no eye for art declared it soothing. It is a boring, unobtrusive green, not the rich evergreen of Montana to the north nor the deep green of the deciduous oaks and maples in the narrow valleys of Colorado, much less the sandstones and ochres of the highways further south.
Most often I follow I-90. It too is a beautiful road, a different beauty from that of Colorado, like the Canadian Rockies, but of lesser grandeur. I think the range must have come by its name here, from the massive granite boulders rounded smooth by wind and rain and split by the roots of trees that sit safely in the soil that fills the little pockets they dug out of the rock. They grow sideways for a few feet before reaching up to the sky, which shows they got their start struggling to cling to the mountainside.
I-80 is uninteresting. In two weeks I’ll return by a more scenic route, unless I’m in too much of a hurry to get back to him.
10. Renaissance Man
The iconography of our male nudes comes from the Greeks – gods, warriors and athletes in identifying poses. Even in defeat they struggle, nor does death diminish their power. When realism returned, the themes and subjects inherited from the Middle Ages were made to conform to the tradition rediscovered. Our saints still carry the spiritual symbols of the age that invented them, but we give them the courage of the Ancients, and we paint their sinews on our victorious Saviors hanging from their crosses.
The Greeks sculpted their naked women, however, in submission or calm repose. They have assumed those positions once again, but breathe the air of a later age. We see them as virgins or seductresses.
I have taken countless photos of my naked lover. He has the penis and muscles of a Greek god, but lying or standing he looks at me like his Renaissance sisters.
11. Autumn Antiphon
The leaves – flame, rust and gold – filter a mottled light onto our window and turn the pane to stained glass. The patchwork quilt on which we sit silent as prayer repeats the sharp-angled pieces of the puzzle.
We are naked, face to face and close together, our silhouette a W, a pair of interlocking tripods formed by the V’s where we balance on our bottoms and two feet that point in front of us, soles flat enough to stand on. Our knees rise like inverted V’s between our nipples, and our legs enclose an empty space like the double walls of a fortress, palisades of safety. Nesting at their base, our mirrored sex gazes out languidly from the shadows as if studying its own reflection.
Or perhaps you’d see a chapel built on a vacant square, our heads the symmetrical towers that flank the portal. Hanging between them, a soundless responsoria like a shimmering mirage; speeding between them, the passage of an invisible image seeking focus.
Our eyes are lit with the embers which, over time, our slow breathing will fan to fiercer fire. Our hands rest on each other’s shoulders.
The sun has gone down. We kiss.
The earth trembles. Half the masonry lifts up and slides down onto the other. Again the veil of the temple is rent in twain, and from below echoing hymns roll along the walls of the crypt.
12. A Motel Near the Airport
My flight left early and the check-in lines would be endless, so we took a room in a motel close to the airport. We left the heavy bags in the trunk of his car, taking only my toilet kit and a change of clothes with us. A good thing we did. The room was tiny, only an armoire, no chest of drawers, but very clean, spotless, and the mattress firm.
It invited sex: a large mirror over the head of the bed and another on the facing wall, and sound proof – we couldn’t even hear the planes landing nearby.
We got there late, having lingered over our farewell dinner in an Italian restaurant. The exercise room and whirlpool were closed and wouldn’t open till late morning. We took a last shower together and went to sit naked in the nook-like window seat, invisible in our unlit room behind a grid of small square panes of glass.
We hadn’t much to look at except one another. Our fourth or fifth story room faced the parking lot of a large shopping mall across the street, where two police cars patrolled Wal-Mart’s closing hours, no doubt on the lookout for drug deals.
We fucked watching the cops, and for their sake we fucked rough. Feet firmly planted on the floor, legs spread, he leaned forward, his forearms braced on the cushions of the window seat. I stood behind him, my hands clenched below his hips, pulling him back against me as I slammed into him hard and deep. Again and again and again he gasped with every thrust. If I hadn’t held on to him, his knees would have buckled under him.
And he did collapse, his face against the cushions, when his seed spurted forth and stained them, seconds before my own emptied into his vitals.
13. The Narrow Bed
I cannot remember having ever having slept in a bed as narrow, narrower than a twin, like the metal shelf attached to the wall of a cell, a hospital gurney, a slab in the morgue. I’ve had massages on tables wider than this. I have at times slept on a sofa, but sofas have backs for support, and seats that slant toward them. This bed stands away from the wall; I could roll off on either side.
It has been my bed for over a week now, and will be for almost three more. I saw pictures of the timeshare, honest, accurate photos, but did not think to ask how wide the bed was. It has a firm mattress, and is not uncomfortable except for its width. Lying on my back, if I place a heel in each corner, my legs open in so slight an angle that my genitals lie on my thighs – and I am not a corpulent man. If I open them wider and bend my knees over the edge to touch my feet to the floor – I do this easily, though my joints are not as flexible as they used to be – then my penis and scrotum come to rest on the mattress.
I do this to stretch my muscles. Cramps in my legs wake me in the middle of the night. Rubbing them doesn’t help, only stretching. I thought at first they were sore from long walks on the beach, but I don’t feel them in the evening, only at night, no matter how much exercise I got that day. I conclude it is the narrowness of the bed that causes them. I have ample space surrounding me, but my naked body feels confined.
It is too narrow to realign my spine by placing one foot alongside the other knee and twisting my torso in the other direction, my arm clutching the side of the bed. The crossed foot would slip off. Instead, I lie on my stomach, hook both feet over the foot of the bed, and pull. Or I open my legs wide and hug the side of the bed with my knees, my pelvic girdle flattened below me. This is harder to do on my stomach than on my back. It stretches the tendons in my groin.
Lying thus, in this most vulnerable of positions, I think of how it would feel with a pillow under my hips and someone’s weight pressing down on me. Not someone’s – his. My sex hardens, and just behind it a familiar warmth stirs inside. Or I imagine coming into the room and seeing him here in my place, waiting for me.
Could we both fit in this bed and sleep together as a couple? We’ve shared a bed made for one many times, and slept comfortably in it. Lying pressed against each other might provide support, like the back of a sofa.
14. Morning Wood
For three months I’ve slept alone, three months of waking before dawn in the loneliness of my own warmth. A credible witness firmly testifies to dreams unremembered. No one cross-examines him; he volunteers no details.
No evidence corroborates his story. Perhaps nothing happened. Perhaps no sequence of events led inexorably from one to the other, only random, disconnected images, meaningless to the waking mind. He may be the creation of his own testimony.
The day I return no longer seems so far away. It skips across the boxes on the calendar, pulling me breathlessly behind. It stands beside me in the crowded aisle of the plane waiting for the doors to open. At any moment we’ll start moving forward. My lips part for the welcoming kiss when I throw myself around him in lobby. Let the world see!
I dream of him more often now and wake up hard and eager, my hand running gently down my chest and over my belly. Surely I, too, fill his nights like this and every new dawn brings a similar awakening.
I force my hands to the mattress beside me, not as a discipline, but to see what I saw in my sleep and to feel what I felt. Not my hands, but his touching me everywhere, and then his mouth – more kisses – and soon the glow of imagined pleasure stirs at the base of my being. I hold my legs open for the happy song of celebration that trills between them. My fingers clutch the sheets. That song is his as well as mine.
Just so I imagine him reliving his nighttime visions in the growing light as slumber slowly recedes, and see his lips part for another kiss, the kiss that heralds the act. My lips also part, and my longing reaches out between them.
I feel him lift my legs. Surely he does too.
He met my plane. After an eighteen-hour flight, one-third of them layovers in overcrowded airports, I dragged my feet through the long line of customs and immigration, and stumbled into his arms. People in a hurry to get home pushed past us with disapproving glances. Was it the spectacle of two men kissing or our roadblock that hindered their hasty getaway?
He drove me to his new apartment. I showered and slipped between clean sheets on a familiar bed in a bedroom half the size of the one we shared last. Hovering between much-needed sleep and waking desire, I felt his mouth travel over my body and sighed, “Go on. Don’t stop. Don’t be put off if I’m unresponsive or doze off. I’ll know you’re there from beyond the borders of consciousness.”
My eyes fluttered open in the dead of night, and, tasting his kiss, I knew that I’d come in his mouth.
17. After a Snowfall
He drove me home late the second morning. He had to work that night, and stayed only long enough for a lingering, gentle hug, cheek to cheek, our bodies as close together as if we were making love.
That night I slept fitfully. I woke at first light and went downstairs to peer out at the old neighborhood.
I had to lean on the door to open it against the drift. Oh, the waking whiteness of a delayed snowfall when early morning whitens the sky above it!
Already last night I heard the scrape of shovels. Silence now; a silence the snow blowers will later deafen. Yes, silence and sounds both, though not the screams of the children at play, and least of all the unearthly shrieks of the neighbors’ youngest son. His voice carries like a Valkyrie’s and sets the dogs barking. I suppose to his indulgent parents he sounds gleeful.
Am I then to be summoned to Valhalla this afternoon, shoveling snow? Dangerous exercise for a flabby gentleman my age. And will the battle-fallen heroes invite me to their revels, or will they snicker like the pretty boys they are?