LOVE AND/OR FRIENDSHIP

Excerpt from Divine Play, pp. 354-58

 Mikki had a piece of Venusian salt, called glyfl.. She and Vic slipped away from the AVIes [mobile cameras] and commotion and slipped slivers of the warted white rock under their tongues, and soon after felt buoyancy and well-being invade as they watched the black rubber sky and the viscous smoke, simulating clouds, and the flashlight lens of moon….

[T]hey had wandered into Mikki’s cabin, and Vic slammed the sliding door on the AVIes swiftly (and futilely, considering that there were monitors in the room). She sat on the edge of the oval cyan-blue-covered bed. Clownishly, Vic swerved from the door, evaded the impinging vanity, knelt, and embraced her legs in a mechanistic but fluid movement, and though she burst out laughing, as he’d intended, she clung to him fiercely from above. “You’re a wild man!” she growled in a tight-jawed manner, in equal parts exuberance and candor. “I just love you.”

He responded with a tonal sigh that could have been “Aww!” or any monosyllabic placeholder, while anxiety, heightened by the glyfl, overcame him. He released her legs and hugged her, as she gently but inexorably toppled them sidelong onto the bed. Her body was aligned with his; her chin rested on his left shoulder. “Whoops,” she murmured in his ear. She was all softness and strength, warmth and will, a fragrance of flowers and incense.

Vic laughed. They leaned askance, appraising each another, though joined at the hips. She retreated by millimeters, lay on her back, studying the ceiling. Her green eyes had crystal pupils, or so they seemed at that moment. Vic eased himself supinely beside her…

“What? What? What?” he demanded of her creased brow and downturned mouth. A demand for elucidation of her expression, their relationship, the cosmos—to which she replied with universal ignorance, shaking her head.

“It’s—” She brushed dark strands of hair from her face, a jutting oval, inexplicable as the faces of those colossal Olmec heads in Mexico that gazed unremittingly two thousand years thence, to the totalitarian Age of the White Man.

“I’m sorry I said that I love—” she began.

“No.”

“But I really feel—”

“Never be ashamed of—”

“I don’t want you to be—”

“What you feel is what you—”

“Oh, God,” she sighed. She pressed her right hand against her right cheek, over her lips, covering her eyes. Mortified—or impassioned—into action, he slid closer and rested his left arm across her middle, grasping lightly the flesh of her right side. This is still friendship. I’m sheltering a baby bird.

But an instant after, they were embracing. His hands, slowly grazing her narrow back, discovering the bra strap—he’d forgotten that women wore them. Even amid the interactions of tongues and lips and arms, as he conformed to the sightless reflexes of lovemaking, he submitted to obdurate onlookers:

So much for discretion.

Huh-huh! It’s a little secret between them and thirty billion best friends.”

Gay men and straight women, you know, can have great friendships that aren’t weighed down with sexual roles.”

But what if you’re only gay part-time?”

I’m sure he’ll still be her protector, confidant, soul-sister . . .”

Then why is blood flowing to his groin?”

Oh, my Lord! . . . We’ll arrange a press conference. The candidate has disclosed that he is an unidentified, sexually ambiguous, heterogeneous, homo sui generis.”

The lean young host with short brown hair, flared nostrils, and blue eye shadow had intercepted him at the Please Wait to Be Seated sign. “How many?” the host inquired. He replied, smiling. “Just one?” the host repeated, glancing at him for a moment, instinctively surveying the room, then back to him, the professionally pouted lips smiling, the smile widening. Eyes may be windows to souls, but they could be draped. Recognition and allure could be manifest in infinitesimal placement of lips, chin, hips, posture, in recondite phrases and pauses and tones.

Later they convened in a back room on an air mattress, fervently removing pants and shoes. Vic looked at her groin and gasped, “You’re not—

Her urgency abated only to smile.

“But I’m gay,” he protested murmurously.

“So am I,” she answered. “But I just wanted to eat you up.” His tumescence renewed by her lascivious whispers, they continued the ritual vis-à-vis. The foundering two-backed beast usurped the space sanctified for the two-piece unidirectional bête.

Vic was kissing Mikki’s neck when he felt the moisture on his cheek.  He lifted his head to look at her. “What’s wrong?”

Not only tears, but the convulsive, straining lamentations of shame and sorrow. “I was bad! I’ve been so bad!” She arched her neck, pressed her head into the pillow, trembling intensely, as if she wanted to sink into the earth forever. “And I can never make it better! I can’t make it better!”

He wondered if this reaction wasn’t partly due to the glyfl, magnifying her emotions. “What did you do? There is nothing—”

“How could they do those things? How could they do—they were babies! But I didn’t protect them! I didn’t—”

“Do you mean the hostess clubs?”

“Poor little babies! Poor little children!”

“What could you have done? What?”

“I could have called the police! I could have—”

“Listen!” He encircled her face with his hands, constraining her.  “Listen. The kumi-chos controlled the cops. You know what the cops would’ve done? They’d have searched for the one that squealed. They’d have found you and killed you. The customers would have never noticed.”

She tried to turn her face away, and he resisted. “Nothing would have changed. Nothing.”

She sighed deeply, relenting her strength, closing her eyes. “I wish they had killed me. I would rather be dead than have these memories.”

“Memories are hard to bear sometimes, most times,” he agreed. “But who knows if death makes you forget? We could go on remembering in the afterlife, maybe everything at once.”

“Yes,” she said, “it’s true. I used to repeat a maxim I heard—somewhere:  “‘Thus shall all our sins be remanded to us after death.’”

“But there is also forgiveness. God will forgive the most contemptible of sins.”

“When I was turning tricks,” she said, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand, “a medium-priced call girl, I was always wasted. I had to be wasted, or I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t tolerate another session of a customer, usually a man, grunting and rooting toward his foregone climax, or another group sex extravaganza, girls-on-girls and girls-on-boys and boys-on-boys-on girls, all interlocked like rows of plastic chairs. The ones that yearned to be punished, the ones that needed to be mothered or adored or listened to, the ones that wanted to scream at you or rape you or piss on you or force you to be the proxy for their ungrateful girlfriends or unfaithful wives.”

“It all succeeded in keeping them from themselves for a while,” Vic reflected. Yes, for a while, the sex and the mohair carpets and baroque furnishings and garish artwork and piped-in pheromones and music would hide the achromatic bathos of flabby middle-aged men, white as lab mice, gracelessly thrashing in gaudy rooms, until the allotted moments of pleasure occurred, after which the entire overpriced performance would smartly shut down.

Her palms shielded her face, smoothed it to the perimeters like parting curtains. “How I got through it—how I always got through it, was by imagining that someone—someone I loved—was holding me.”

He slid his right arm around her back and with his left brushed the hair from her face. “I’ll hold you.”

“It’s pitiable. The little girl that just wants to be loved.”

“All of us are like that.”

“You’re a little girl that just wants to be loved?”

“Every day of the week.”

She giggled at that. She held him tightly, her shallow breathing amplified in their confined duality. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

She seemed sunken into the pillow and undulant mattress. When she closed her eyes, her face became round and small and downy—a child’s face. “I’m so tired.”

“I should go.”

“No. Please. Just stay?”

“Of course.”

Just when he was certain she was asleep, she crept over and kissed him with soft, somnolent urgency, but the lower half of her body was askew from his. This was passion for itself, not as preliminary nor as ritual. Soon she receded to her sleeping space. “I’m so lucky to have met you,” she said. A few moments later, already slipping into sleep, she added, “Finally.”

He searched for a response that was humble and sincere. But she was most definitely asleep.

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About Tom Ukinski

Tom Ukinski is an attorney in state government in the Midwest. He's been writing plays, novels, short stories, comedy sketches and screenplays for many years.
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2 Responses to LOVE AND/OR FRIENDSHIP

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