Matt finds himself after a loss.
There was nothing more I could do. He was gone and I knew there was no way I could bring him back. Perhaps that was a good thing. Perhaps it wasn't.
What I could do was take a shower, scrub myself down, shave, get dressed, go out and get a haircut, buy some new clothes, work out at the gym, go for a drink at Benny's, stop in at the new sushi place on Barrow Street, get home around midnight, get stoned, listen to Jauchtzet Gott in Allen Landen, the Schwarzkopf recording, jerk off, and get some sleep. Tomorrow morning I'd go into work.
It would keep me busy. It would keep me going. And that's really all that mattered after all.
Ellen was waiting for me on the doorstep when I got home.
You look better than I expected, she said.
What did you expect?
A wreck, she said.
Sorry to disappoint you, I said.
I'm not disappointed, she said. I'm glad. Anybody after almost ten years...
What are you doing? I said, quietly.
What do you mean?
You know perfectly well what I mean.
It never failed. She was getting me angry. The last thing I needed. It was a trick of hers. But I caught myself in time.
I don't want to do this, Ellen, I said with no affect.
You don't want to do what? she said.
She was baiting the hook. She'd use any response as a way into a fight. Fighting was foreplay for her. I wasn't having it, and I wasn't going to explain. Even that was a way of involving me. I wasn't even going to explain why I wasn't going to explain.
Good night, Ellen, I said unlocking the door to the building.
You don't know what's good for you, she said.
It wasn't going to work.
Perhaps, I said. But I'll deal with it. Good night. I let myself in and disappeared behind the door, closing it gently behind me, leaving her there.
Actually, I felt better than I thought I would.
Upstairs I lit a joint, turned on the cd player and the blatting baroque trumpets of 51 began shouting. I took the underwear I'd bought out of all the wasteful cardboard and plastic packaging. Three pair, all black: hip hugging, low rise boxer briefs, bikini briefs, and a thong. A cock ring, too. I stripped, snapped on the cock ring and put on the thong. The feel of the elastic string in the crack of my ass made me stand straight. I held my balls -- tight in the silky microfiber -- in the palm of my hand and let out a great sigh.
I looked in the mirror. Abs, glutes, pecs, eyes, hair, nipples, basket, thighs, everything. I would have gone home with me in a flat second if I'd passed me on the street.
I walked to the window. There was a curtain covering only the bottom half, so nobody across the street could see below my chest.
There was Tony standing by the window across the street. When he saw me he grinned and picked up his cell and mine rang.
Yeah, I said, come on over.
He didn't bat an eye, just took hold of my shoulders, drew me to him and kissed me gently on the lips.
I handed him the joint and he took a toke, deep in and let out a long stream of smoke.
Is it ok if I ask how you're doing?
I don't mind if you ask, I responded, but it drives me crazy from just about anybody else.
I snuggled my head in the hollow formed where his neck met his shoulder and he gently rocked me in his arms.
How are you doing? he whispered.
I'm ok, I said. There really isn't anything I want to talk about. What people can't seem to understand is that talking creates a kind of fiction. And you get attached to that. I'm quiet. Things move. So do I.
He held me at arms length and smiled.
You want to see the suit I got? I finally said, grinning.
It was a great suit and I knew I looked terrific in it, but the best was when Tony slowly undressed me afterwards, looking deep into my eyes, undoing my tie, a rich burgundy, unclasping the diamond collar pin, taking out the matching diamond cufflinks, unbuttoning the pale saffron shirt, slipping off the three button jacket, dark blue with a faint burgundy pinstripe, undoing the narrow belt, removing those ultra-supple black calf skin Perlini shoes that were lighter on my feet than gloves and my high black socks with the nearly invisible diamonds woven into them, then my trousers, until I was back to only a thong.
Then his tongue played over my nipples and my cock strained against the thong until he lowered it. His hand delicately closed around my scrotum, tight with the texture of a walnut shell. He kneeled in front of me and licked my balls and took them into his mouth and caressed them with circling tongue strokes.
As he sucked my cock he kneaded the muscles of my ass but kept me on the brink so that he could give himself to me on his back. I mounted him and slowly fucked him. We kissed slowly and interrupted our kisses to gaze at each other as I kept going into him and he kept receiving me until I became incandescent. Lashes of his semen whipped my chest and our breath was a storm which raged like a hurricane along the plains of our valleys and upon the ranges of our mountains. The thunder roared and darts of lighting tore through us. We had become nothing but sky.
The tempest was wild in our breaths as we kissed until the raging winds subsided.
Remember, Tony said, as we lay together calmly afterwards sharing a joint the way years before lovers used to share a cigarette; anything you need. I'll always be here for you, no matter what. Even if you just need the soles of your feet licked.
I know, I said, stubbing out the joint, and kissed him before we fell asleep.
What the hell am I supposed to do with this? Gunther moaned between clenched teeth.
You're supposed to print it in next week's issue, I said.
I can't do that, he said with an attempt at innocent exasperation.
Why not? I parried.
Because it's a blatant piece of government disinformation. I don't care how prestigious the byline.
O, Dexter, I said laughing, when will you get over being skittish?
Now, what's that supposed to mean? he shot back momentarily forgetting the matter at hand.
You've got to remember, I said, ignoring the tangent we had bumped into and plowing ahead, that the magazine has been bought. You don't publish it anymore. You have no say about its content. Think of yourself as more or less an administrative editor. Absorb yourself in problems of grammar and punctuation, sentence structure and syntax.
And since when have you become so cynical, Matt?
I'm not cynical. I'm just aware of what the world actually is like.
That's what I mean. That's cynical. You know that better than anyone. The world isn't like anything. The world is what we make it or what we let it become when we give in and give up.
What do you want me to do?
How about we both walk out on this job?
You mean quit the magazine?
Not if we don't have to, but, yes, if it comes to that. Give them a fight first.
So there we were in the oak paneled board room.
Both Henry Pinchons were present, Senior and Junior. Senior was a blustering bully who demanded absolute obedience. Corpulent and bilious, he was a grand sensualist with a voracious appetite for power and a lust which sated itself on commanding and dominating. He owned a movie studio, a radio network, sixteen newspapers, a dozen television outlets, an internet content provider, and fourteen magazines. It was rumored he was in negotiations to buy one of the baby Bells, and he was building cell phone towers in Iraq.
Junior was his lieutenant, the moon to his sun, his youthful mirror and a reminder that Senior, as repulsive physically as he had become by the way his monstrous appetite had deformed him, that Senior had once been an eyeful. Junior's good looks and gym-built body were undercut by the want of an independent spirit. You could see in Junior, nevertheless, where the self-assurance, which Old Pinchon had drained from his son, had come from in the old man when it had been amplified by the strength of his will rather than undermined by it, as Junior's was.
Myra Daley was present, too, very elegant in a cobalt blue Armani skirt suit with a double breasted jacket over a bare bodice, set off by a string of pearls. She looked at everything; she looked through and beyond everything with steel gray eyes. She had tight, thin lips, red hair, and she never spoke.She just watched and made notes.She had long fingers adorned with several gold rings and a brilliant ruby, and she had almond shaped nails which were painted a bright Chinese red. She was Pinchon's lawyer, and most people thought she was his mistress, too, but I guessed she played a shrewder game than that.
Two guys in dark mustard green suits, real bruisers, whom I'd never met before were also present. They were introduced by name. One was from the State Department; the other, from the Attorney General's office. Their handshakes hurt.
I realized -- metaphorically speaking -- that they had drawn their guns, and I was curious to see in which direction they were aiming to shoot. My guess was ours.
The author of the piece was not present.
As a publisher, Pinchon said, looking at Dexter with affable contempt, I'm not in the habit of insulting my writers. He drew slowly on his Garcia-Vega and then added, certainly not one of the stature of Brian Arthur.
And as a writer, Gunther shot back, I learned long before I became an editor that I could not take a challenge to my writing as an insult to my person. I thought that the foundation of democracy was argument whether it's with the guy next door or the president's chief of staff.
But you want to prevent that argument from taking place in the pages of my magazine, Pinchon said with triumphal composure.
No, sir, Gunther rejoined. There is no argument when the possibility of rebuttal is denied, as it is in the pages of -- your magazine.
We are the rebuttal, Junior piped in with a line of right wing agit-prop he had picked up.
His father scowled at him.
But I winked at him. He was cute, and I thought he'd be a much better bedmate than a political philosopher. He blushed as if he knew what I was thinking. Perhaps he did. There might, in that case, still be hope. I don't mean only for getting into his pants. I mean for social change. Maybe. But, then again, maybe not. Not while his father was still alive. And then, too, you could never know how deep the old man was embedded in him. Probably he wasn't just closeted; more likely he was coffined.
We didn't budge and they didn't budge. So we fired each other. Except they got to keep the magazine and all its assets. We got to keep the sort of integrity you get by giving up high paying corporate jobs, which in the eyes of most people makes you seem like an ass.
Dexter Gunther was manic again, as that last utterance, which he unloaded around a table of our friends at Crazy Benny's late Friday night while Nick the pianist segued from "Love for Sale" to "It had to Be You" demonstrated.
Then Tony came by and asked me to dance when Nick started to play "Easy to Remember." The giant mirrored ball turning on the ceiling made glints of silver shimmer in circles around the room. He held me close and, I know it's corny, but we got lost inside each other. Then Nick went into "Every Time We Say Good-bye." We kissed as we danced. It was that kind of night. We got quite tipsy on cognac at the bar, and Tony met a leather guy who couldn't keep his eyes off him and went home with him.
Dexter was still manic, but that was habitual with him. This time he was incubating a new magazine. I could tell something was up even before he told me. His brain never slept and he always came out on top. He left with a green-eyed, brown-haired skinny kid who was all muscles and bones and had the sweetest smile you'd ever see, and skin finer than silk.
I walked around for a while afterwards and drifted down to the Morton Street pier at the edge of the Hudson. It was deserted. I smoked a joint and watched the crescent moon shine high in the sky above the river. I felt an all-encompassing sense of emptiness, of nothing, of sheer vacancy embrace me.