Kinsey Road (excerpt)
A sleepy-eyed man can be my death.
I don’t mean heavy-lidded, a don’t-care gangster. There’s a look, and it’s helped by youth, of one so beautiful that it’s the smile of first awaking, a ridge of sleep still blemishing the cheek.
The sleepy eyes smile, they don’t know how beautiful. Or pretend not to.
They are so young. Younger than their physical years!
To know one’s own beauty -- we always assume they know it themselves, but how could they? To be confident alone is not to know the ache of the other side, an ache becoming more prominent with age. And that’s assuming confidence, not subject to clandestine suggestion and designs.
No, beauty does not know itself -- that is to say, its effects.
The sleepy-eyed smile goes to the heart, is so innocent. It can be broad day and still the effect is of the blanket pulled to the chin and the eyes blinking sweetly in the light.
And so you can be lulled to sleep. Sleeping, asleep, you are vulnerable. You can catch your death and never even feel it.
Does a bullet hurt?
No. What you feel is your heart exploding. Not literally, but what does it matter as the frame begins to crumble? You feel its impact, one hard on the next, but they are just raindrops on the roof of a building on fire.
How do I know?
I was shot once. That is, on one occasion. I was shot at four times. Two missed me.
One grazed my shoulder.
The last -- the second in order fired -- was nearly lethal. It missed my actual heart, but took the top half of my right lung by the time it had been removed by surgeons.
So now I am often liable to be caught short of breath.
You’d think that I wouldn’t act so breathlessly, take such chances.
You’d think so.
For the record, Doc, the name’s Post. Dick Post. Christened Richard Adams Post, IV.
I couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate name for myself. I was never called Richard, except by my father in anger. I’ve always been Dick. That is the public form of my desire, the meaning of a name made secret by means of its public nature. The expression of a man’s desire and fulfillment -- its swollen intrusiveness, its spitting -- is so offensive that therein lies its eroticism. It is nearly always hidden. Even for me, a man who takes chances in order to be fully the man I am that gives me pleasure, there is an overwhelming degree of hiddenness. In fact, the more overt I am, the more hidden. Even when I show myself to strangers, even when I sneak behind someone on a bus and leave evidence of my presence that they will later find on the back of a pantsleg, I am for that the more secret, the more anonymous, for no one has seen me. It is in that instance as I’ve chosen it. And when I do reveal myself, it is when I can be assured of anonymity, with those who have no recourse to the authorities, or in places where I can slip quickly into a crowd and be gone.
My boner is my rigid self and calling card, but I will not be found by those who want to find me. I know all they want is to exterminate me.
It was time to get out of New York. I had made myself seen once too often.
I knew the police were after me, and that they had a good description. I had been much too indiscreet. Right in the center of Washington Square, for Chrissakes, for a gaggle of witnesses, and then swift pursuit by a nearby flatfoot. Not swift enough, not this time, but I was slipping, like I wanted to be caught.
I did not. I knew if they got me I’d be a tar baby for anything they wanted to throw. They would call me before the law and whip me with years, years among real criminals, companies of hoodlums, and laugh if it meant my death. No, laying low on my own or hiding out at my sister’s place in the Bronx would not be enough this time -- I needed to get out of town, at least for a while.
At the drugstore on 14th and Lex, I knew, was a ride-board. I would go wherever it pointed.
How could I know that it would point me toward my destiny? How could I know that to go away would be to bring me back to myself, and comfort?
How could I know that, of all places, Bloomington, Indiana, would prove my secret home, the home of my secrets?
How could I know that the emissary of my savior would go by the unlikely name of Wardell Pomeroy?
There was a college kid staring at the corkboard, probably about fifteen years my junior, pulling cards down one at a time and holding them to his nose.
I tipped my hat to him. “Anything smell good?”
“That’s what I’m checking for -- the rose of my future.”
He was tan, with muscles like a young colt and short, dark hair combed to a crest atop his head.
“Looks pretty bleak,” he said, now flipping through a small stack culled from the twenty or so on the board. Most were offering little more than pay for transporting furniture to Jersey or Westchester. “Pretty bleak, I say,” he crooned. “I want to go West, and I want to go today, right now. This is the best they got.”
With one of his powerful forearms, he extended me the card. “Cornfields,” he said.
“You look like a ballplayer.”
“Was a halfback at Columbia.”
He put a solemn hand to his chest. “I’m opting instead for life education.”
The card indicated we’d be transporting a piece of equipment to a University in Indiana in a Willy’s Overland, a kind of Army-style, general purpose vehicle.
“I suppose those are crossroads,” he said, emphasizing half-rhymes as I examined the card. “Destiny’s lode at the crossroads.”
“Heartland. A man can go East or West, North to Canada, South to Mexico, diagonally to aching desert or cool, verdant forest. Not much there, but a lot of where you might be going.”
“You don’t sound like you’re headed anyplace particular.”
“Just the places I haven’t seen, Mr. Bean.”
“Sounds like a plan. Mind if I tag along?”
“I insist on it.” He thrust out his hand. “Jack.”
“Jack and Dick for trek or trick,” he sing-songed again. I wasn’t sure if he was drunk or just goofy. He stuck out his thumb and gestured back over his shoulder: “I got a buddy who is the craziest, high-lifeingest, most happening dude on the planet, who’ll be going with us. He’s parking cars downtown right now, but free to go as soon as the man gives him his pay this afternoon.”
“And this fellow . . . ” -- I looked at the card -- “Pomeroy, makes four. Looks to be some sort of scientist.”
And I swallowed hard. The equipment was to be picked up from a building at NYU, no more than a hundred yards from my follies with the law the day before.
“Hey, do you mind meeting me uptown after you pick up the goods? I’ve got to clear out some junk from my sister’s house. She’s moving out to the country before I’ll be getting back, and . . . .”
I didn’t finish the sentence, because I knew this was a hopeless suggestion. This card was my best ride out of town, but he’d gotten to it before I had and was likely to simply abscond the moment it was possible, with or without me.
I waved my words aside before he could say a word in reply. “The hell with it,” I said. “Let’s just get out of here.”
Just act natural, I thought. Be cool. After all, who’s gonna expect to see me back so soon? Who would expect to find me in the company of clean-cut collegians?
Billy Backus had been a ballplayer. I was assisting in the training room at Weston Prep that Spring, and I’d rub him down after games. Nothing speeds seduction along like mineral oil. Soon I was taking him in my mouth. He was worried. “You don’t understand. If Coach or anyone else finds out, I’m finished. No Harvard, no scholarship, everything I’ve worked for, gone.”
“They wouldn’t do anything to you. You’re the star. They’d blame it all on me. And I’d take the blame. Don’t worry,” I said, “I’ll protect you.”
He had a pushy, bastard father who’d made him instinctively distrustful of anyone who offered him help. He suspected a con game wherever he looked. I think even as he had his fingers in my hair, even as his legs trembled and buckled, he was thinking I was somehow his enemy.
He couldn’t have been more wrong. I loved Billy Backus.
At the end of the term was the Chancellor’s Darby. I got on his back in the piggy-back race, riding him, bouncing in time with the rhythm of my mount like a jockey. I still had a boy’s body then, slimmer in the arms and legs. I weighed one hundred and twenty-five pounds carrying most of my textbooks. My crotch was tight against his back, my erection nestled in the crevice his big shoulders made of his spine.
We won the first heat, lined up to await the second. He looked at me and laughed. As non-suggestively as I could, I kept my hands over my groin.
He had beautiful white teeth and a sleek, hard throat, and his eyes, lovely, were half-closed in pleasure.
That snapshot will remain mine through the fires of any hell I end up burning in.
We began the second heat. I felt a droplet of come at the end of my cock, and I untucked my t-shirt from out of my shorts before jumping up on his back. We took off, and I felt him establish his rhythm and matched it, my hands cupping the top halves of his chest. My cock felt like I was inside him.
I came as we reached the finish line, and the whole world of bright colors
-- green grass, baby-blue sky, white cottoned boys and our headmasters’ ceremonial gold blazers -- burst and flared like a camera flash.
We finished second by a nose. We crossed the limed stripe at the end of the field and Billy collapsed in joyous fatigue. I panicked as soon as we were uncoupled. I bounced to my feet and, doubled over, sprinted for the locker room.
I reached it, an empty tiled room, everyone outside at the festivities. I was covered with my own warm spunk, which had soaked through underwear, shorts and t-shirt to ooze slimily across my belly. I had to bury these in my locker, fast, and hope to find clothes that matched them to put on. I rubbed myself off with the sweaty back of my race shirt, buried it quickly away and had new underwear and shorts back on when Billy charged into the room.
“What are you doing?” he shouted. He wasn’t angry. But neither was he acknowledging what had just happened. He just looked at me, blankly. “Come on,” he said, “Hurry up. We’re in the run-off for third-place.”
I was confused. Hadn’t he felt what I had? And then it hit me. He didn’t know. I had fucked him and he didn’t know. We had never done that. Billy didn’t think of himself as a queer, and thought about what we did as boys having fun, like splashing at each other in the trout stream. He knew it was wrong, but somehow since he was doing it, believed it had to be innocent. I had never suggested his bumhole, or mine.
But I knew something now. It was true! You could have sex with someone without them knowing!
Of all the discoveries in my life, this was one I made entirely on my own, one I’ve never told anyone, Doctor, until now. It changed me more than anything I might have learned at school or from anyone else.
I put on a new shirt and went out to race again on top of Billy. Again he ran hard and I matched his tempo.
We did take third.
The position they call Show.