— Vladimir Nabokov (via paris)
— Rick Moody, Demonology (via meelijane)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - In Bed, The Kiss, 1892
Murder or foreplay?
“My weekend was filled with crying, singing, and wrestling, as 30 men struggled to overcome their attraction to other men. It was also the first time I felt another man’s erection.”
AFTER ROBERT STOPPED CALLING, I figured it was my fault. I felt like I was just along for a short ride. We met at a party where I watched him from across the room, thinking he looked like a long, sharp needle.
Later, at the buffet, he turned to me and asked if I liked computers. I was plopping a spoonful of dip on my plate.
“They’re okay,” I said. “I have a brand new one.”
My computer was the newest kind, still in its box—with a DVD burner, flat-screen monitor, and quadraphonic speakers. I felt like I was rambling, telling him about it, sounding like a blurb from a Dell catalogue, but he seemed interested, and, after the party, we ended up back at my apartment because he said he could help me set it up.
It was two in the morning and this somehow agreed with him. He clicked around for a while, helped me install a few things. He did a kind of shuffle dance when it connected to the internet for the first time. I imagined the neighbors below, hearing the ceiling creak and thinking, “I didn’t know anyone lived up there.” My cat sniffed at his shoes and turned her head to me, anxious about all the excitement.
Robert and I ended up fooling around. I was quiet about it, steady, but Robert kept moving around, switching positions, getting into it. He kept surprising me.
Four days later he called and asked if I wanted to go to an antique show with him. I thought it sounded great and said I’d go and thanks for asking.
“I collect antique pocket watches,” he said when he picked me up. He showed me a watch he had—it was tarnished silver with an elaborate M on the cover. On the back was an inscription in tiny, spidery script that read, Presented to Mayor Francis McDougal at the banquet given in his honour at the Russell House by his Ottawa friends and admirers, Wednesday evening January 30th, 1901.
Robert told me he’d researched the mayor and found out he was notoriously corrupt.
“Wow,” I said, and probably sounded dumb.
When we got to the antique show, Robert picked up watch after watch, staring at some of them for more than fifteen minutes, talking about the quality of the gears inside, the different manufacturers, the countries where they originated. He talked fast and was friendly with all the vendors. Some of them knew his name.
I didn’t say much, just nodded my head and wished I could seem enthusiastic. After we left, we got milkshakes at Baskin Robbins and I invited him back to my apartment. We walked in, and I flipped on the lights, and he said, “It’s very clean in here. I noticed it the first time–your carpet looks like it just got put in. My place is a cluttered mess with all the stuff I collect.”
“The carpet’s old,” I said. “It’s been here since I moved in three years ago. I just vacuum a lot because I like the way the marks look on the carpet.”
Robert and I fooled around again, and it seemed messy but good, arms and legs and lips everywhere. After he left, I noticed how bare my apartment was. I didn’t have any posters or art on the walls, no bookcases full of books or coffee tables with stacks of magazines. Just a boom box in the corner, a brass lamp on the side table, a small couch against the wall.
Robert called me a couple of days later.
“The Braves are in town for spring training,” he said. “Want to go? I love baseball.” I’d never been to a game so I went and had a pretty good time and wondered why I’d never gone before.
We ended up dating for about two months, and in that time we went on a five mile bike ride, ate at a fondue restaurant, watched a figure-skating competition, and drove a half hour away to Cape Canaveral to watch the space shuttle launch. I’d never done any of it before. Robert had a guitar in the bedroom and once I asked him if he would play it for me. He sat up all that night, playing the guitar and singing Pete Townshend songs with his soft voice. Everything felt new. And good. After he stopped calling, I wasn’t angry and I thought a lot about him. About once or twice a day, in fact, something would come to my mind that reminded me of him, which was more than I thought about a lot of people in my life—even people I’d known since childhood.
I sat on the loveseat in my apartment, late at night under the dim lamp, looking at the smooth carpet, and wanted to telephone Robert, ask him to fill his drawers with me, to play me like his guitar, to look and look and look at me, the way he did with his pocket watches, and—just sometimes—to think of me.