Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Transition

He walks like a man in a gallery should walk, as if art has to be stalked down carefully, with respect and stealth. He approaches a painting slowly, careful not to block anyone’s sightlines, first the long shot, then the medium, then, and this time a check for security devices, as close as he can get, his nose to the brushstrokes. His feet, even in rubber soled shoes, crash into the oak floors, finding the squeaks where they lie and deftly stepping off of them. I am, of course, looking for clues, a certain grace in him, where he holds his hands, or maybe it’s somewhere in his clothes, the answer. This is just subconscious preliminary. That I’m attracted to him has been established. This is the hard part, the art in the gallery, dissecting the man, looking at where his eyes go when he turns around. That’s where the truth lies. You can’t find that in a man’s clothes. I manage, in front of another orange haystack, to make eye contact with him at just the right quantity, just enough to leave a clue if one is looking for it, and enough to be explained away if one is not.

We’re on the same route, possibly with the same purpose. Mine is to evade my apartment for a while longer, the wide swing of the door, the lights off, no one home. The museum is brightly lit, clean, populated. Quiet enough to rock me to sleep, to put me in the mood for the silence of home. The slow ticking away of my hours. Sometimes I go an entire weekend without talking to anyone. On the first of the week I find words awkward, mealy, conversation troublesome. I go clumsy, start speaking like a child, but without enthusiasm. I come here after a day of talking, conscious talking, and lull myself into my head, where I must be to survive the alone.

He’s my type, a little nerdy, a little floppy in the hair, a little broad in the shoulder. Slightly shorter than me, which is fine. I’m a little tall. He’s got the look of wonder that I look for. He’s never been here before and I envy him for it. To be able to cross the lathe and plaster corner to another room and not know precisely what will meet you there, whether it will be a bent-necked eastern European worshipper from the thirteenth century or a table top flattened and presented in two dimensions, Le Monde announcing the latest ladies’ fashions of 1913. He turns around and looks me dead in the pants before looking over my shoulder. And there it is. I’ve had my fill for the week. And it’s time to sit down before making the rest of the way home.

The seats are simple carpeted arcs in a dark room. Adults, unused to sitting without leaning, hunch exaggeratedly forward, their shadows folded and cowardly. I find an empty spot near the end but inside a bit, so that the person behind me (man or woman, who knows?) can see without having to sit up straight.

The scene on the screen above, but mostly in front of, us is one of a double hook of sand, a manmade sandbar at the edge of the water, its spine pocked by dark circles. The narrator is a kindly but educated man’s voice. I imagine it coming from the man in the gallery, the man who gave me my week. He says, reading with warm eagerness, that temporary art has now come into the mainstream.

“It is a practical solution as well as an exciting one. Temporary art (here a picture of heated styrofoam cups, glued together to create a fish, hold the sun in a curve) is a movement that has found innovation at its very heart. Public spaces have never allowed so much experimentation (a picture of the Gates project in New York), so much humor (a picture of dogs playing cards intricately carved out of the dust on the side of a van), so much industry (a picture of a working water fountain made of ice) or taken so many risks (a picture of several large white balloons in a net above a Los Angeles median strip). Never are things so important as when they cannot be maintained (a video of those same card-playing dogs washing away in the rain).”

A man enters the auditorium just as a few people leave, the audio portion of the video apparently abandoned in favor of a few more Ken Burns effected pictures. He sits next to me, his knee touching mine and a part of me awakens there, one that’s been a hazy memory for months, the feel of a body against my own. It’s so simple and so easy to forget. There are a few other seats available, but just a few, so it probably means nothing that he’s here. I enjoy it all the more, sucking the heat of him into me, my heart quickening.

“For this reason, temporary art is become an event, and engages the viewer more strongly, positively or negatively. It forces the observer to participate, to be pulled into a different definition of life and his or her surroundings.”

To my fatalistic disappointment, the temperature to which my body has adjusted itself, the film has faded off into its credits and with a sharp movement, the man from the gallery, the one sitting next to me, the one narrating the film, has gotten up.

I smile. More than enough for this week.

On the steps of the museum, a wide avenue and dirty snow in front of me, I pull on my gloves, a flashing red image of a man walking haloing in melting snowflakes around my eyes.

“Excuse me,” says a male voice with a gentle touch on the back of my arm. “Do you know where the Suvero Hotel is?”

“Yeah, it’s….” It’s two or three blocks down that way and one in that way. Then you just look for that sign. It’s a beige one with green letters. “It’s….”

It’s the man from the gallery. He stands, smiling, but honestly waiting for my answer. It’s not that I don’t know where that hotel is, I just don’t know what street it’s on.

“Look, I’ll just take you,” I say, because really I might as well. I’m tired of giving bad directions.

“No, that’s fine, I’ll just ask someone else.”

“Honestly, I was going to go out for a walk anyway. I was going to take a walk through the park and your hotel’s on the other side of it. It’s nice in the snow.”

“Yes it is,” he says, trailing.

“Come on.”

I’m relieved he’s not putting up an argument. I’m relieved he’s not trying to make small talk with me. I’m relieved I can just stand next to some man for a while quietly, like I would if I were his boyfriend, just walking quietly with him in the snow. We enter the park, down a few paths that were cleared by Bobcats, statues taken down for the winter, the larger ones allowed to remain. Denuded trees shiver with ice blankets and deep quiet, our crunches in the ice the only substantial sound. He follows me easily, senses my movements before I make them, like two distant fish in a school, or like birds that all seem to change direction at once. He comes closer to me too, as if he were cold, or as if I were talking very softly. I wasn’t talking at all. I was listening for his footsteps, real proof of companionship, and waiting, thinking, selfishly, that there may be a time when his sleeve will touch my own.

A wind picks up, blowing a few sprites of snow here and there and settles again. A patch of ice is skirted. A cloudy exhale dissipates on my face. My sleeve is clipped by his. I’m sure I’m imagining it, but there it is again, slip-slap, slip-slap. A terrible hope builds in me, a yellow in the blue-grey. It concentrates at my shoulder, a tiny gasp with each contact. This hope is false, but so sweet and new that I can’t move away from it.

Then, somewhere in my imagination, or possibly reality, there are his knuckles against mine. This is dismissed as impossible, a pathetic glitch in my reality, a wormhole between what is concretely happening and the glassy patch of my thoughts. My hands are warm—the snow always warms things—and I take my gloves off, stuffing them in the pocket of my overcoat. When my hand returns, the test, his knuckles are there again. The hope, its abstract foolishness spread by a housepainter’s brush, gets unruly, blocks out reason and experience, covering my mind’s eye in yellow, yellow, yellow!

His hand comes around mine and grasps it. I bite my lip and squeeze it gently, our feet still moving, still in synch, following some enormous evolutionary clock. My thumb rubs the bones of his hand, life streaming up from the snow, suddenly downright hot here, the veins on the back of his hand warm and real.

We exit the park, negotiate a traffic light. Somehow, even here, he follows me seamlessly. And his hand, here, available for the public to observe, stays firmly in mine, neither grabbing for statement nor loosening for fear. It’s just affection, something so exotic to me recently that I was sure it was urban myth.

I could walk miles with this, circling him through intersection after intersection, a weave of the downtown area, each corner crossed twice, intersecting like the veins on his hand and spreading out. Unfortunately, the Suvero is just one more block or so over that way, and I don’t have the brass balls of the cab driver taking advantage of the greenhorn. I take him to the hotel, my face falling with the beige and green of the sign, the glass doors etched, permanent art, and loosen my fingers in his.

They will not leave, however. Instead, in front of two doormen, a podium, a heat lamp and etched doors, he turns me, and evolution gives me the instinct to touch my lips to his, as strange and unlikely as two fish stopping in a school to pick each other’s scales, his lips are on mine, and the hope, joined by blood, turns orange and massive. He stops for a moment and looks at me, blue eyes under fatally brunette eyelashes, and I follow him inside the lobby. A shaken doorman joins the courtship dance to let us through. He, hand in mine, this magnificent stranger, leads me to his room and drops me, bewildered and drunk with surprise, on his bed.

He falls in next to me, turning my shoulder into him, kisses me, still full of wondrous dreams of calling into work, takes my face to him by the neck, gently sweeping it with his knuckles, his pinkie in my hairline. He turns my head and licks for my earlobe. His tongue makes a hook and pulls it between his teeth. My head fills with joy-soaked cotton, where there were walls, now are wooly pink puffs and ecstasy.

I feel like I should ask his name, tell him mine, something, but I can’t. My mouth is only good for his skin anymore, my neck, vocal chords dormant, only good for his teeth. Goosebumps rise all over me, each breath a little hit of pheromone lust, too woozy to decide whether we can pause long enough to take our clothes off. I raise his shirt to his chest and he raises mine. The feel of his skin on mine is almost toxic. Familiar and subsumed emotions, the ones I’ve trampled with such efficient gusto, sneak out in my head. I have a hardon like organic steel fresh from the foundry, and it has the nerve to beg for touch.

He’s breathing fast, his mouth all over me, steaming heat in my neck, on my shoulders, on my cheek. It leaves miniature orgasms all over my skin. My pants, put on this morning without thought or hope—I can’t even remember getting dressed this morning—are undone by a man, his hand in my underwear, my mouth open in disbelief as he touches me. His tongue is on my lips, little flits and down, down my front, my head into the pillow, his mouth, his lips catching, drags down to my cock, engulfing it.

I’m squirming, so he presses my chest down. I’m panting, so he reaches up and puts his thumb in my mouth. I’m thrusting, so he opens wide and takes me in, a wet hot velvet mouth, tongue like its own being, stroking me. I open my eyes and see him kneel up, his hair still flopping in thrusts over me, his knees wide, he unhooks his belt, a massive bulge there, I reach for it. He jolts at my touch and freezes, then lets my cock slide from his mouth, straightens up and quickly pulls and pushes the rest of his clothes off. I remove mine too, the soft feather comforter against my back now, my body and his exposed, heat draining into the air. He kicks his legs out in my direction, lifts one of my knees and rolls me to him.

He smells like salt and lemon, tastes like salt and lemon, adrenaline in my nose creating depth of taste. I’m concentrating on the twist, the rhythm on his cock, the skin on our chests and stomachs met and released, his own mouth a vague, sugary dream on my cock. All of life has risen in me. All of life is dangerously awakened by my senses and I don’t want to put it away anymore. Not right now, not in the dulcet skin of a stranger. When I come, hugging his torso to me, his cock so deep in my throat I can barely breathe, my soul exposes itself, makes a new home nearer the surface. When he comes, I pull it out of him with loving gratitude, his shaking body under my own. He falls back against the sheets and I take the pillows, my eyes red and lost, and bring them down to his head at the foot of the bed. He takes it happily, still jolting, and puts his arm around my chest.

I sleep for a while, then get up, looking around the room. A salt shaker is left on a room service tray. I open it, clear the tray and begin to work. Two hours later, I return, dressed, and kiss him on the cheek before leaving. He’ll wake up to a portrait of him in salt on a tray, and I hope that’s better than my name, better than telling him what he’s done for me.

I come home just as the sun enters my living room, a stream of yellow light in front of my feet on the floor. I drop my gloves on the couch and call in sick to work.

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