...THIS IS HEAVEN available for pre-order on Amazon, here...

This Is Heaven


From the Lambda Literary Awards finalist:

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Michael Ampersant
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Praise for Michael Ampersant: 

"If you like Woody Allen, you will enjoy the book!" 
"I dreamt of the GREEN EYES and woke up happy." 
"Grab it and plan to read it from cover to cover immediately!" 
"A literate and wonderfully witty romp!" 
Wow! That was my first reaction to reading this book, my second reaction was plain and simple holy shit!"
"This is a perfect book for any adult reader!"
"It is erotic with a twist, it's chocked full of wonderful gay fantasies---well and uniquely written by a master story teller!" 


Here are a few sample chapters: 



PROLOGUE (INSTEAD OF CHAPTER 1)

Readers, the first chapter of this book describes a casual encounter of three men in the dunes behind the gay beach of my town. It does so in fairly graphic language-—language that could discomfort or even harm you. I have decided to relegate the chapter to an appendix and replace it by a flat summary of the events related there-—events triggered by the all-too-happy-ending of the first part of our story, Green Eyes.[1]

My name is John Lee. I live in Georgia Beach, GA, and teach French at Southern Georgia College. I met my destiny, Alex Iglesias, seven days ago under the same questionable circumstances that open this volume.

In a significant departure from gay cruising protocol, Alex and I then met again, and we fell in love, or at least I did. Boy meets girl, or boy meets boy, or whatever’s your shtick, that’s basically the story-—it’s the usual story, and ours ended half an hour ago here on the beach.

Why this sequel then? Because ours is also an erotic thriller, and there are loose ends left dangling. So I need to share my backstory while respecting your attention span. I keep it simple then with an annotated list of characters that made it into this, the second part:

(a) Alex Iglesias, the green-eyed lead character. He’s alpha dog, big brother (when he’s in a good mood), and much more. He’s also very smart. We’re together now for seven days (under a very generous interpretation of “being together”).
(b) John Lee (me). Lazy, bipolar, shy, self-centered, unable to finish my Ph.D., slow-witted under duress but given to fits of secondary cockiness. Occasionally I’m lucky. Alex calls it serendipity.
(c) Maurice Dymond, visiting Brit and the third party to our al-fresco last week. Maurice managed to get himself arrested afterwards-—and then assaulted-—by passing lecherous cops, and in particular by a certain Officer Richard Benson, a closet-psychopath whose later attempts to eliminate the witnesses of his crime drove the story so far;
(d) Dr. Alice Sandeman, head of the ER of the local hospital where Alex worked as a paramedic;
(e) Godehart Wagner, a recent addition to Georgia Beaches’ chattering classes, German by origin, somehow-descendent of Richard Wagner (the composer), and ex-in-law of Alice on account of her lesbian relationship with his now-deceased wife of convenience, Eleanor. He runs a Wagner-memorabilia company and owns a self-steering SUV, the first autonomous vehicle registered in the State of Georgia.
(f) John (“Ben”) Fletcher, a ravishing black guy who-—despite the fact that my relationship with Alex was already on-—ended up in my bed before I ended up in his bed, where we revisited a sexual technique invented by the historic Knights of Malta. Ben is the youngest son of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther Fletcher and his lovely wife Gracelyn. He studies engineering at Georgia Tech.
(g) Ray Mayang, a long-time darkroom acquaintance of Malay origin;
(h) Trevor Howard, assistant district attorney for vice.
(i) Neill Palmer, local real-estate magnate, pure rice queen, and AIDS patient;
(j) Jane Trumpleton, desperate housewife, whom I enjoyed in the company of her friend Muffy, al fresco as usual, on Muffy's afternoon porch. This event inspired the Georgia Beach A-level escort service, of which I’m the founder and CEO;
(k) Amy-Lou, deputy head nurse of the IC unit of the hospital, and occasionally in bed with Alex. More to the point, she stole Alex from me yesterday evening-—this is only 12 hours ago-—fucked him twice, and then returned him because she had some business with her girlfriend, Gretchen;
(l) Jack Horn, local homme à tout faire, photographer by training, whose claim to fame rests on his time spent as facilitator next to the pool of the Beverley Hills Hotel. He also invented a nuclear time machine;
(m) Nick, owner of Nick’s Restaurant, the largest restaurant of Georgia Beach, if not the world, and fuckbuddy once removed via Jane T;
(n) Luke, owner of a convenience store nearby;
(o) The Blue Moon, the town’s principal gay club;
(p) The washed-up scriptwriter, the resident deus ex machina.

Us being an erotic thriller, the lead character labors under a haunted past, which, in Alex’s case, entailed a clinical depression and a suicide attempt (last week). He was saved by yours truly, but when he had recovered from his overdose with serious amnesia, not only his depression but also his sexual preferences were somehow “forgotten.” His other cognitive skills appear untouched, however, and he feels entitled to believe-—or to pretend-—that he’s in heaven now.

How did we achieve a happy ending then, with his sexuality in jeopardy? Thanks to this heaven-thing, readers: I am the only angel who wants his love, and wishes are fulfilled in heaven, and so I get it, his love-—that’s how he put it half an hour ago. And then a certain Albert resurfaced (whom I owed), and accompanied us to the dunes, champagne flutes in hand, whence Albert’s wishes were fulfilled as well-—that’s how we got entangled in this threesome of which I’m withholding the details. Let it be said that I don’t owe Albert any longer.

We’re skating on thin ice here in heaven, you understand, thin enough to propel our heartbreaking, murderous, yet ultimately fortuitous story into unchartered territory-—especially in tropical southern Georgia during the third week of July 2014-—I mean the thinness of the ice-—this sentence will end in tears…

Hold on. Weren’t the Green Eyes set in July 2012? A gap in space-time must have occurred, but that’s just a minor twist to this saga.

Hold on. There are two versions of this book, one including the scandalous first chapter in an appendix. Should you hold that version in your hand, reader, I implore you, I beg you: leave the appendix alone, turn the page, and continue with Chapter II.




THE POWER OF SUBSUMPTION

Just to remind you, you haven’t read Chapter One, but Alex and I have just shared an unscheduled encounter with Albert, the ticklish beach bear. We are leaving the scene of the crime (all sex outside marriage is technically felonious in Georgia), cross the dunes and walk along the trail behind the gay section of the beach.

Albert stays behind elated. I am disoriented. Alex whistles “The Boys of Summer.” The idea has been to return home and begin the HEA (happy ever after).

Let me think. ‘The happy ending is over now,’ I think. I look askance at Alex’s rippled abs (he’s still holding the tank-shirt in his hand), let my eyes travel to his pelvis region, then back up along the sleekly muscled torso, the strong neck, the clear, boyish profile. He has grown an inch or two since he woke up. He feels my eyes on his Latino skin, I know.

“The happy ending is over now,” I say.
“Don’t say that,” he replies. “Happy endings can’t end.”
“I wish it were true.”
“It is true. It’s true for the best of reasons.”
“I’d settle for any reason.”
“The power of subsumption.”
“Huh?”
“Happy endings can’t end since endings ended already.”
“Sheer semantics,” I say.
“Exactly,” he says, “sheer semantics. Rooted in meaning of the word ‘end’.”
“Well, you know what I mean.”
“Okay,” he says and hugs my shoulder. He’s conceding the point, for once.
Well, no. “The power of subsumption,” he reiterates, and gives me this new look with his emerald eyes, the post-felo-de-se-look that signals the defeat of his depression.

We walk in lockstep. It’s getting busy on the path along the beach—this is Sunday, with all the weekend folks added to the holiday crowd. People look at us. He whistles again.
“Don Henley?” I ask.
“Never look back, you can never look back,” he hums.
“You brown skin is shining in the sun.” I say.
He laughs as if he’s been told an off-color joke. “This is heaven,” he says.
“You mean it.”
“Yes, I mean it.”
“There’s something in you that seems to remember your depression, something that feels relief.”
“That would be my brain, wouldn’t it, or what’s left thereof. The anoxia, tell me, I have been dead for how long?”
“Anoxia?”
“The lack of oxygen. How long?”
“Almost four minutes.”
“I’m lucky I can still think. You are lucky I can still think.” He double-checks with his grip on my shoulder. “Well, no, let’s retract.”
“Well, I am lucky,” I say.
“Let’s retract nonetheless.”
“Why?”
“Sounds arrogant. What I’m saying.”
“It’s true, though.”
“Okay, we don’t retract, but we apologize. Let me apologize.”

He slows his steps, hesitates on an introspective note like a TV-chef over an involved sauce. “There’s something in me that knows this won’t be my last apology today,” he says.
“This sounds even more arrogant.”
“See, I was right…so let me apologize again.”
He pulls me closer. He’s about to give me a kiss. He’s not serious. People take notice. A lonely lady eyes his crotch. We resume walking.
“Albert was his name, right?” he asks.

(I don’t know why I’m suddenly getting distracted by the beauty of the morning beach. It’s the finest sand on the East Coast, white and crystalline and almost virginal here in the buffer zone between the gay section and the rest of the world. Hundred yards up north the boardwalk begins, dunes give way to clapboard front stores, and boys are not supposed to kiss.
I look at the ocean, wondering for the first time in my life where “Atlantic” comes from. I’m also wondering what’s wrong with it. The water is supposed to sparkle under the Sunday sun, but today it looks dull and tired. I turn my head and peer back south where the Rainbow Flag hangs listlessly from its pole. We’re not only sweaty because of this totally unnecessary dune fuck with an opportunistic, middle-aged man-—the usual sea breeze is AWOL as well.)

“Did you listen?” Alex ask. I nod evasively. “You weren’t happy with Albert,” he says, “At one point you looked like you were being force-fed. Even though it was the other way round.”
“Stop it,” I say.
“Is this normal? Morning threesomes in the dunes? Is this the thing I do?”
I could tell him that our first encounter involved a morning threesome in the dunes. Well, I told him on Friday, but skipped Maurice’s part.
“You know we met first in the dunes, I told you, right?” I ask.
“So I do this all the time?”
“You do it sometimes, you told me.”
“Sometimes…” he muses.
“Did you like it?” I ask.
“It was a success, at least at the physiological level.”
“You mean we came?”
“We came, yes.” He wavers: “Perhaps I should apologize again, but, you know, life at the moment, with my amnesia, it’s like entering an alien restaurant. On Mars. Or in San Francisco. You read the menu, you don’t understand. You ask the waiter. ‘You’d love it,’ she says, so you order Shishito peppers, Macapuno, Ube, and Langka. Albert orders Shishito peppers. Sure, you think, let’s serve Shishito peppers.”
“Huh?”
“I got somehow mixed up here. You get the gist.”

My cell rings.
“Hi, Sunshine,” a male black voice says. I’d almost forgotten about Ben. Well, I didn’t forget, I've been too busy. ‘Sunshine?’ I think.
“This is me. Can you hear me?” Ben says. I can hear him loud and clear.
“Yes,” I answer, and move the phone to my left ear, the ear away from Alex.
“John?” Ben asks, or retreats.
I should say ‘Ben’ now, or ‘Hi Ben,’ or ‘Is that you, Ben’—-mention his name at least.
“Is that you,” I say.
“John,” Ben answers, the voice more relaxed.
“Yes,” I say.

I sound monosyllabic because I am monosyllabic. Last time Ben and I talked I said things like ‘I thought I’d never see you again.’ I sounded very different then.
“You know what? Luke has hired me for the festival, for his market stand at the venue. Selling cookies and stuff.”
“Luke?” I ask disingenuously.
“I’m excited,” Ben has said. “Luke’s market stand is off the stage. We’ll be part of the festival. Sweet.”
“Sweet,” I say.
“You know about the festival, right? It’s a vampire contest this year. America’s Got Talent, or undead talent. Spiders eaten raw. Contestants eaten raw. The survivor gets an award. He’s crowned King Dracula. Or Queen. Right up Luke’s alley. Starts today.”
“Cool,” I say.
“I let you go,” he says. “You sound busy. See you tonight.” There’s a sound that could be anything. The line goes off.

“Luke?” Alex asks. “Do I know Luke?”
Do I feel Alex’s eyes on my skin? He knew about Ben, didn’t he? In the hospital last week, didn’t we talk about Ben? Or at least about the concept of Ben? Like Ben being subsumed by a larger concept, like a you’ve-been-all-over-the-place-haven’t-you concept? Yes, we did talk about Ben. But Alex asked about Luke.
“Luke,” I say, “runs a convenience store. Luke’s Convenience Store. Next to the Penny Lane Mall on Route one. And he runs a vampire agency, you can hire him for birthdays and funerals.” (This is not the moment to add that Luke’s store also has an undercover sex toy section with dildos in rainbow colors).
“Luke,” Alex says, “Sure. The sex shop next to the mall.”
“The first person you remember,” I say.
“Well, I remember the shop. There’s a Luke owning the shop possibly, whom I don’t remember because I know him.”
“Do you remember any living people?”
He stares at the foggy, yellowish horizon above the sea. “I remember Barack Obama.”
“Obama is easy.”
“I remember Michael Jordan.”
“You didn’t remember Alice,” I say.
“Only from the last few days, since I woke up.”
“You didn’t remember me.”
“No.”
“Lady Gaga?”
“Yes. I remember her.”
“So, if you remember a person as a person, you don’t know him.”
“Or her,” he answers.
“You know only people you don’t know.”
“Let me see,” he says, his green eyes moving from the horizon into mine. “You talked to a Ben, right? I don’t remember Ben. Do I know Ben?”
“Ben?” (I ask).
“Yes, I don’t remember Ben. Do I know him? What’s Ben’s last name?”
“Ben is his pet name,” I say.
“He has a real name?”
“John.”
“Ben is John. Could be confusing. Glad his real name isn’t Alex. You sure?”
“Yes.”
“And his last name?”
“Dunno,” I lie.
“John Dunno, funny.”
“It’s not Dunno. It’s I-don’t-know.”

Is he playing with me? Will he be always like this? It’s not too late to explain. I could have met Ben a few weeks ago, days, eons before I met Alex. Met him a few weeks ago, introduced him to Luke. Luke needs a hand for the festival, Ben has my number, of course he calls. Explain, John, explain.
“John Dunno. Strange name for a black guy,” Alex has said.
“How do you know he’s black?”
“His voice. He has a black voice. You sure I don’t know him?”
This is the moment to come clean. “Listen,” I say, voice strained, “Alex, listen…”
He cuts me off: “It’s okay, John. There are many people I don’t know personally. Like Peggy Noonan, for example.”
“Peggy Noonan?”
“Yes,” he says, raising his chin. “Look!”

Right. We’ve almost reached the head of Georgia Avenue, and something has happened to the statue of Peggy Noonan, the talking head of Wall Street Journal fame. Perhaps I should explain.
Years ago the Republican Club had donated this statue to its hometown. It was the only statue worldwide of a living talking head then, Georgia Beaches’ only world record, attracting a lot of traffic, of course
But the thing, a Disneyesque contraption in bright colors sixty feet tall with a built-in voice loop about George W. Bush, the thing had somehow fallen in disrepair in recent years, and other places had erected competing likenesses of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other talking heads, contraptions even brighter and larger than our Peggy. The world record had been lost and tourism had begun to suffer.
There had been talk of private sectors & initiative & fund raisers, and the statue had disappeared behind a construction scaffold wrapped in sponsor banners. And now what? The scaffold is gone, Peggy is back, perkier than ever, and something else has happened.
The Noonan is busy, somehow. Now she shows her left cheek, now she shows her right cheek, now she shows her face, now she doesn’t. She is turning, ever so gently. The first revolving statue of a living talking head. A new world record. The festival week has begun.

[1] Green Eyes---an erotic novel (sort of). LustSpiel Books, Paris and New York (2015).


THE CANDLE-LIT INTERIOR OF YOUR SOUL


(Ben, in the meantime, has been tricked by Alex into answering an outcall by two damsels in distress, namely Greta, the author of heat-level romance novels, and Jane, a desperate housewife we've already met in the Green Eyes. Greta relates the story of the outcall, and here's the first part:) 

“So, let me tell you the story,” she says when she’s back. “Yesterday evening, we return to the hotel, the Lupo di Mare, the auberge of Italianate style nestled squarely near the central traffic circle of this charming seaside town. My Wetten feels exhausted, the good man and husband, but he’s so kind to offer me a spousal refreshment at the bar. I know my Wetten and send him off to bed where sweet dreams will soon engulf him and/or usher him into Morpheus’s arms.”

She interrupts herself. “No, drop the ‘and/or,’ let’s say 'will soon engulf him and take him into Morpheus's arms.'

“Be this as it may, I am content to spend a few minutes alone with the drink and my poetic musings, yet find myself soon distracted by a cloud of lush air wafting into the room. The patio door is flung open and there comes a woman, the hair flame red, the curls wind-tossed, the striding apparition of a true equestrian gliding on eloquent thighs through the late-night crowd. She alights on the bar stool next to yours truly. Her voice is lazy with provocation as she speaks more to me than to the tender of the bar when she says, ‘I fancy something stiff and strong tonight’.

‘Amaretto,’ I reply instinctively, feeling a sudden craving for the sweet-night liqueur of carnal reputation. She giggles knowingly.

‘Not exactly a drink one would think of as stiff, but the best aphrodisiac known to sisters,’ she answers. She orders two potions of the amber-colored stimulant. It transpires presently that her name is Jane.”

“Jane,” I say (me, John speaking and now thinking: ‘that could be the Jane of Muffy & Jane, the desperate housewives with their gleaming Audi A8 on the driveway and a double dildo on the coffee table and my head locked between their pussies in an afternoon Kama Sutra. That happened on Thursday last week, the Kama Sutra, and it was the final straw on the back of a…I mean to say it triggered the A-level escort site that put poor Ben out on the market last night’). “I know a Jane like her, but her hair is dark, not red,” I add.

“Flame-red and wind-tossed is always the preferred color, trust Greta on that one,” she replies.
“Aphrodisiacs don’t exist, it’s a myth,” Alex says.

“A myth that dared to speak its name last night,” she replies. “Let me continue my story: Introductions are stridently made, intimacy swiftly develops, and girlie confessions lubricate another liquorish beverage. Jane’s husband is traveling the far-flung shores on urgent business, and she is given to libertinage while he is away.

‘Let’s see,’ Jane says while casting an expectant gaze upon the male throng around us. Some specimen are singled out for closer scrutiny, but all found wanting (women, you know, start with the buttocks, then focus on the face, then on the crotch).

‘You know,’ Jane confides, ‘I met this guy last week, John, he’s hot as pineapples, and he has started an A-level service for damsels in distress. I had a chance to taste him already’.”

(Alex gives me a lateral look.)

“Jane giggles, fingers for her handy iPhone and finds herself connected to said service. Arrangements are quickly agreed upon.”

(Greta interrupts herself:)

“John, that was supposedly you?” she says.

“How do you know,” I say.

“Jane painted a lively picture of you while we were waiting, the elongated torso, toned and speaking of gymnastic pursuits, strong legs thrown into relief by untidy shorts, a stubbornly pensive expression on his handsome face, eyes of light gray and amber, lips full of promise and melancholy, his hand in his face as if he’s trying to hide, a perfect hairline under a careless, or shall we say carefree coiffure.”

(Now you know, folks, finally. It took us 67 chapters to get there. She’s exaggerating, of course. I lower my hand.)

“But John doesn’t show,” Alex says.
“How do you know?” Greta asks.
Alex shows subtle signs of embarrassment, but Greta doesn’t take the matter any further.

“A John does show up, you see. But it’s Ben, the Ben who worked for Luke yesterday. Ben is his pet name. His Christian name is John.” She points at Luke’s stand.

“You boys batting for the other team will have noticed how handsome he is, our John of convenience, and to two tipsy damsels in late-night distress he is the answer to many moonlit prayers. His jungle-cat body, his skin black as sin, his magnolia smile, his beguiling manhood so expectantly packaged in the bulge of his jeans, everything speaks to us of many candlelit answers.

‘What is your girlie stance on the ebony race?’ Jane confides.

‘A promising challenge of rampant confessions,’ I answer a bit mysteriously because I couldn’t think of anything else. In the meantime, our stud has let his spadiceous eyes wander over the animated crowd and recognized my face. His shee…his timorous smile segues into a lingering question mark. I lift a hand to hold his attention. Jane, in sympathy, signals the Esperanto of an emptying tumbler with her elegant digits.

‘I know him, I know him,’ I say.
‘Already?’ Jane mockingly asks.
‘It’s not what you think,’ I say.
‘It soon will be,’ Jane giggles, ‘I feel it in my loins.’

“In the meantime, our ebony boy has made his way to the bar. ‘Excuse me,’ he says to us, I’m a bit lost.’
‘And found,’ Jane replies.
‘I’m John,’ he says.
‘We have been expecting a John,’ Jane says as if she were a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of the Night.

‘I don’t quite know what is expected of me.’ John-Ben says.
‘No need to worry,’ Jane says, ‘we do.’
‘It’s an outcall,’ he says.
‘An outcall,’ Jane echoes, her soprano the gurgle of a turtle dove. ‘Your first time?’
‘Yeah,’ he says, ‘I guess.’

Jane bursts into an aria of laughter one might not dare call hysterical in polite society. Enfin, she says it a bit louder so that people can hear us, ‘The boy is a virgin, Tamina’.”
“Tamina?” Alex asks.
“Tamina, yes, but that’s not important, she was just confusing names, perhaps I didn’t introduce myself properly. What is important, as Ben will enlighten us later when our flushed bodies are reclining on Jane’s tiger rug in the afterglow of a yet another orgasmic event, what is important is that she called him boy, and you are not supposed to apply the word to an Afro-American male older than nine years. Ben, at any rate, arrests his smile, his expression overcome by minority sorrow, his brow furrowed into an angry question mark. He points his saddened eyes at Jane. He lets his gaze swivel between the sorriest sisters of the evening.

‘Ladies,’ he says, ‘this is an unfortunate mix up.’ He prepares to bid his farewell.

‘Wait,’ Jane says, ‘not so fast.’ She clutches his jungle triceps, but wild-cat Ben shakes himself loose and hits a lady behind him with his elbow. He hits the wrong woman in the wrong place, if I may say so. Her hair dark as agony, her features grotesque, her unbespoke flapper skirt a shush of glitter and tassels, she is now solidly soiled by spilled red wine. The lady of the night has come from the wrong side of the tracks to spend an evening in the wrong company—her male companions slick-haired and pencil-moustached-—and she is presently covering poor Ben with the most racist of epitaphs-—the n-word among them-—uttered in the drawling vowels of Southern white trash. If this woman would have been capable of scandal, we would have had one.”

“Wow,” we (Alex, John) say while trying to maintain straight faces. It’s a good thing that Alex has lost his inner compass; I’m certain he’d never got anybody into this sort of trouble before. He could blame me for this, or worse.

“Let me tell,” Greta continues. “Jane, in the middle of all this, wily Jane, shows her flame-red, wind-tossed mettle. She feels in her alligator purse and produces a banker’s little helper. She motions the bar-back for a pen, signs a check, and hands it to the scandalous woman. The woman casts a furtive, then not-so furtive glance at the check and falls silent. She folds it, tugs it away in her cleavage, and withdraws. ‘Ay’ll cleeun up in the powder room,’ she drawls to her companions in departure.

“Poor Ben finds himself in a bind. A chain of events led to nightly éclat, wily Jane has saved his…behind, he is well brought-up, so much is clear already, he understands he has to control his anger and show signs of gratitude. Drinks are promptly offered to, and gracefully accepted by the remorseful jungle-cat; a few minutes are spent sipping and reconciling. Forthwith Jane takes Ben’s arm and says, ‘Let’s visit the candlelit interior of your soul’.”



“I STRIKE A DEAL WITH MEPHISTOPHELES, I WIN”


(Alex wants to break up:)


Alex will take me to the debate in his car, and I shouldn’t worry, he’ll give me a ride back, if necessary. We didn’t have much time to talk, and he’s sorry and apologizes as usual. Perhaps we could converse in the car; he had some time to think. He needs to share a thought, just a thought.

Ambulance paramedic that he is, or was, he knows the shortcuts of Georgia Beach, and in particular the spruced-up bike path that shares the bridge with the Davis Canal and leads from the parking lot through the ghetto up to Georgia Avenue. So, we are supposed to talk, but he’s sitting behind the wheel, not saying a word. People sometimes do this, especially in movies when they want the audience to focus on their effortless silhouette; the low bridge of his nose mildly turned up (not enough for a snub-nose but sufficient for the boy-component in a big brother); the eyelashes which are a bit too long for big brothers; the brows, wide and elongated (each and every single brow-hair perfectly aligned (like he employs an invisible, yet acrobatic cat that licks them twice per hour)); the jaw, which isn’t macho but large enough to support the seamless definition of his chin lines; the lips, closed at the moment but wide and misleadingly sensual; his smooth Latino skin; the fitting ears that seem to know everything; the black hair cut short on the side according to the latest fashion (a strange feature in an α-personality usually dismissive of trendiness). Then there’s the prominent back of the head segueing into a muscular neck; the shoulders of course that do the big-brother thing all on their own, the biceps (ditto), triceps (ditto), all of this very much in evidence with him in a green tank top that would match the color of his eyes if anything on the planet could match the color of his eyes. We arrive at the precipitous drop of his torso along the pecs and abs and down into the groin where the perfect bulge in his shorts is always in evidence due to his-—what he calls his anatomy. And we wrap up with his hirsute thighs and his dirty, sexy sneakers in the pedal space underneath. And don’t forget the big hands on the steering wheel.

“You’re beautiful,” I say.
“Why did you break my A/C?” he replies.
“Your A/C?”
“Air conditioning.”
“A/C? What are you talking about, Alex?”
“So, you did break it.”
“What?”
“It’s one thing I like about you, John. You’re not a good liar. And you are lazy. So, you shirk it, lying. Had you left my A/C alone, you’d have said, ‘I didn’t break your A/C’.”

“Why should I shirk it, lying?”
“Because it’s more complicated. One creates an alternative universe one has to remember.”
“I didn’t break your A/C,” I say.
“Too late, Dr. Watson, the deed is done.” He nods sideways. “Why did you break it?”
“Because I figured you wouldn’t be able to stand the heat in your attic and come back.”
“Why would you want me to come back?”
“Because you’re beautiful.”

We’re crossing the ghetto and he has his eyes on a bunch of black kids playing soccer-—all of them little Bens and Romeos. “Ben is beautiful,” he says. “And Maurice. And you, you’re handsome too. Ask Greta. Your pad, the only thing not missing there is male beauty.”

“You fit right in, Alex.”

We’ve entered the downtown rotary and have to turn onto Columbia Avenue, but he continues on Georgia Avenue. He slows down, searching for parking space. Nearer to the beach would be hopeless, he says and steers us onto the traffic island opposite the Lupo di Mare. We disembark. “The festival,” I say, “how about the festival?”

“They don’t need you,” he replies. “Today is by acclamation. You’ve forgotten?” (Yes, I’ve forgotten) “Let’s go for a walk on the beach. We need to talk.”

We’re trudging through the evening crowd along Georgia Avenue. He grabs my arm, then lets go. “Okay, John, for the sake of argument…my physical appearance, or my perceived physical appearance—that’s the reason you want me back?”
“Of course not.”
“What is it then?”
“You soul, Alex, I love your soul.”
“Ha!” he snorts. “You nailed it.”

We’ve arrived at the Dream Creamery on the corner of Georgia Avenue and the boardwalk—the ruling ice cream parlor, as noted, very popular with the confessive rainbow crowd. “Let me buy you an ice cream,” he says. He fumbles in his pockets and issues various pieces of paper, including some greenbacks. The paperwork is resorted and repacked, a medication bottle appears in cameo, a twenty-dollar bill is found.

“What do you want?”

A sheep led to the slaughterhouse, a squirrel in love with a cobra, John Lee ditched by Alexander Iglesias, what do they want?

“Banana, stracciatella, and lemon,” I say.
“Good,” he says, exhaling.
“Good, why?”
“I can’t read thoughts.”
“You were trying?”
“Yes, I was. You were telling me I could read thoughts, remember? Glad it isn’t true.”
“Well,” I say. “Actually, I don’t want ice cream.”
“Oh, shit.”

He proceeds to order anyhow-—he always gets served first, he only has to show up with his cat-licked eyebrows and is served banana, stracciatella and lemon.

“You don’t want to live with a person that can read thoughts, especially you…don’t,” he says and hands me an already dripping ice cream cone. Anthropology books come to mind where you read about overextended natives that want to get rid of you and serve you too much food-—and if they don’t have it they order it at the Dream Creamery out of line.
“Did you realize you were served out of line?” I say.
“No.”
“It’s your beauty.”
“We’re moving in circles, John.”
“If you want to ditch me, Alex, just say so. Don’t prolong the agony.”
“I don’t want to ditch you, John. I want you to ditch me.”

(There we have it. Das hohe Wort ist heraus (Richard Wagner). Tears now, mixing with ice-milk.)

He puts his arm on my shoulder. Passerby are ogling us-—doesn’t happen all the time that a gay couple breaks up in mid-crowd on a touristy summer evening.
Like overextended natives he didn’t order ice cream for himself. I hand him the soaky cone.
“Why?” he asks.
“I don’t want your ice cream,” I say.
“Man up,” he replies, “you need to ditch me.” He pads my shoulder and slobbers on the banana flavor. We’re all set.

“Alex,” I sob. “Yesterday, only yesterday you were saying guilty sex is good sex. You were happy about Taylor, you were saying.”
“I was loaded.”
“We had a great time, you said.”
“It’s not about sex.”
“We’re in heaven, you were saying.”
“It’s not about metaphysics.”
“You loved me, you said.”
“It’s not about emotions.”
“What is it then?” I ask.
“You’re done?”
“Yes. What is it then?”
“It’s about my soul.”
“Alex, I love your soul, even more than…”
“…my dick.”
“Yes,” (sniff).
“You can’t love my soul,” he says. “There is none. I lost it.”

He may have lost his soul, but he has sticky fingers now. He stares at the ruin of an ice-cream cone in his hand as if it were a love-sick squirrel, then tosses it into the garbage bin. (During all of this, we’ve moved just a few yards, past the Noonan Statue.) And there’s the thing about the yard sign, the statue goes. In Florida, a few weeks ago I saw Romney signs, not Obama ones…

“BOO,” somebody shouts. Normally I would have paid attention, since this is also the corner of Nick’s Restaurant-—where you might expect the owner outside at this busy hour, surveying the crowd, casting appreciative regards at the fine ladies, and even saying a word to me, his blogging friend and fuckbuddy-once-removed Jane-wise. Yes, it is Nick. Well, it’s not the first time Nick sees me in a state of Alex-distress (think of Saturday), plus, he’s distressed himself, the way he gestures at the Noonan statue. “There’s a mole down there at the Republican Club who’s in charge of the voice loop,” he says. “Listen to this.” We listen: From Ohio, I hear the same. From tony Northwest Washington, D.C., I hear the same. And there’s this thing about yard signs...
“Well, she is supposed to quote her most famous quotes.” I say.
“But not this one,” Nick replies. “My patrons hate this. And they are all like this, the quotes. She still blabbers about George Double-Ya Bush. This is not good for business. People have a right to forget. He puts his hands to his ears and affects a monkey-no-hear. “How you boys doing?” he finally adds.

“Great,” we lie. There’s a crack in Alex’s armor; last time, when we arrived at Nick’s restaurant on Saturday, Alex had been in full attack mode, questioning me about any (“John, please, any”), manifest traces of a relationship between him and yours truly—of which there were none, admittedly—-and then he ran off with Amy-Lou. Today is different.

Nick’s hands have moved to our shoulders. “People have a right to forget,” he says. “Think of slavery. That wasn’t ‘slavery’ at all—-that was ‘our peculiar institution.’ ‘Suffragette’—-that was our term of derision for a bunch of uppity bitches. ‘Miscegenation’—-that was miss, you understand, and illegal to boot. ‘Separate but equal’—-my God, we swore by it until fucking Truman put them all in the same bunkbeds. And Brown versus Schoolboard—-have you seen the clips, Brown emanating from a court hearing, and the entire American press stalking him with sneers and laughter ‘cuz he’s black and wannabe white? And now you guys, with your rainbow marriage. There’s only one solution for real Americans, who have never, ever, been racist, or misogynists, or segregationist, or anti-Semitic, or homophobic, or whatever was wrong with us in the past—-or will be wrong with us in the future—-and that’s forgetfulness.”
“Or suicide,” Alex replies.
“Or suicide,” Nick echoes reflexively meekly.
“Well, Nick, I can tell you, it works.”
“Talk to you later,” Nick replies, and waves us off.

(Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man, the Noonan statue cat-calls.)

We’ve traversed the beach and are walking southbound along the waterline. Alex’s arm is still on my shoulder. The fat clouds of the last few days are billowing in the rays of a tired sun; an idea of dusk gathers over the sea. Says he, “My soul, John. I’d strike a deal with Mephistopheles, I win. You love my soul, you lost it. Ditch me, John. Set me free.”

His rhetoric is impressive, but the Nick intermezzo has raised my spirits. If the owner of the largest eatery on the planet can be wrong, the owner of Georgia Beach’s largest dick can be wrong as well. Says I: “You’ve seen the movie where Glenn Close speaks French with a Chicago accent, ancient régime, Louis of Versailles, she’s the evil schemer and in bed with John Malkovich…”
“Dangerous Liaisons?” he asks.
“…and so she schemes that Malkovich needs to destroy Michelle Pfeiffer, her rival, by first seducing and then ditching Pfeiffer, and when he ditches her, he shows up at tea time and says to her, the only words he says, and repeats, ‘ce n’est pas ma faute,’ ‘ce n’est pas ma faute,’—-‘it’s not my fault,’—-over and over again. Until Michelle is destroyed.”

“Yes,” he says, “but no. It is my fault. My fault. Apologies.” He stares at the horizon.
“That’s what you are doing to me, isn’t?”
“No, not at all.”
“You are not doing a Malkovich on me?”

No—-he’s not. His green eyes are done with the horizon, turn to me, and sink into my unassuming, grey-amber peepers. It’s abysmal. He’s stalling.

“Your soul,”—-I manage to break the spell—-“you mean it?”
Yes. It’s not a rhetoric trick. Soul is a heavy word, but he means it-—at least in a technical sense he means it. “Let me show you.”

He gathers some pebbles from the beach. “Here, watch.” With a flip of his hand he sends a pebble off across the water.

From previous experience, we know that the little stone is supposed to travel to the horizon, glancing off the seas forever, but no, it’s caught by the second wavelet in its path. “Let’s try again,” he says. More flips, more fails. “The target here, that’s the horizon, right?”
“Yes."
“Since I woke up it’s like this, John. Normal humans are capable of, how do you say, introspection—-right? Whether you—-really—-want ice cream, or stay in a relationship with this handsome, oversexed, serendipitous fool who saved your life—you don’t know, you ask yourself, and then you do know. You make up your mind. There’s an oracle inside you willing to answer your questions-—that’s what I mean with ‘soul.’ You, John Lee Three, you are able to make up your mind. You say you love me, and I believe you…if only because you’re such an impossible character. Whereas I, Alexander Iglesias, I aim a pebble at the horizon, and there’s no answer. I’m out-plussed.”

He gathers more pebbles and flips them off; all drown. “It’s part of my amnesia, John. To use a trite expression: I can’t commit. And somehow—-as a consequence I believe—-I can’t say no. Albert, Godehart, etcetera. Sorry.”

“Okay, Alex,” I say, “you ditch me, that’s fine. But don’t do a Malkovich on me. I’m sorry about Taylor. I’m prone to gay heat attacks.”
“Taylor’s more like a heat wave. Like the one we’re having now.” (He points at the sky.) “Three times, wasn’t it?”
“So, it is about Taylor?”
“Gay heat attacks, you say…You mean attacks of gay heat.”
“Yes, I mean ‘attacks of gay heat.’ Don’t change the subject. I’m not willing to ditch you.”
“Sunday morning, remember, after Albert, we talked about this. Like entering a restaurant in San Francisco, unable to understand the menu. Shishito peppers, or what. I didn’t realize how serious it was, then, my condition.”
“You’re still able to make decisions,” I say. “Albert—that was your decision. Godehart, same.”
“Decision, decision. Albert, I thought, it’s only fair, he went through all this trouble with your beach towel.”
“Sex in exchange for a beach towel, I’m impressed,” I say.
“So am I, but then, I lost my inner compass.”
“And Bienpensant.”

He snorts. “You don’t want to know, John, you don’t want to know. Although, in the heat of the moment…nymphomaniacs have a bad press, but it’s unfair. You should give her a try. Or Ben should.”

He fumbles in his pockets and out comes a check-sized piece of paper. “Here, made out to the A-level service. She paid for it. One hour. Two hundred fifty bucks.”

“I don’t want your money,” I say and step away from his reach.
“You don’t want my ice cream, you don’t want my money, but you want my soul.” He re-pockets the check.
“You’re not serious,” I say.
“I am, John. More serious than you are.”
“More serious…your spiel about heaven…your fable about the raptor-chick in Jurassic Park.”

“There’s nothing left there”—-he points at his temple—-“to anchor my preferences. In a very basic sense I don’t know who I am. I could be a roadside bomb, waiting to explode. I could wake up as a redneck, or as a serial killer of Wall Street talking heads. You thought I was joking this afternoon, talking about the raptor chick. You don’t want to take that risk. Waking up with a baby raptor in your bed.”

(I laugh desperately.)

“You are such a pretty boy, you don’t seem to understand. It’s not too late to find a decent partner. And you have other stuff going for you. You are lucky, and you speak French. Maurice will die for you, if he doesn’t die for Ben first.”
“You said you loved me,” I say.
“We’re running in circles, John. There are more important things than love.”
“WHAT?”
“Like eternity, say. Or God, if she exists. Ice cream.”
“You play with me, Alex. You know you’re x times smarter, and you play with me.”
“We’re having an argument, ain’t we? An instance of rational discourse. Let the better man win.”

“Okay,” I say, “Let’s cut this short. You won.”
“So, you will ditch me?”
“NO-NO.”

I manage to hold his gaze. He blinks. “You will buy me a drink?” (he asks).
“You’re terrible.” I say.
“Wedded to this fool for the rest of my life…You will buy me a drink?”
“I didn’t bring any money. My credit cards have died.”
“So, Taylor paid for the room?”
“Taylor, Taylor,” I say.

More pocket-fumbling Alex-wise. A fifty-dollar bill puts in an appearance and is slipped down the collar of my T-shirt. “That was Bienpensant’s tip,” he says. “Buy me a drink.”

There’s a kiosk at the southern end of the boardwalk, the first point of call for folks from the gay beach running out of booze or New Year resolutions. The place sells cocktails even, but the emphasis is on instant liquor. Alex has a double whiskey. I have a beer. Somebody—-a gym rat type—-is trying to make a pass at him, but Alex ignores the guy and contemplates the sky.

“You follow the weather?” he asks.
I shake my head.
“We talked about the weather, Barbette and I. Weather’s getting unsettled through Thursday. Something to do with her doomsday prediction.” He orders a second double shot. “We have things in common, she and I. I told her about my condition. She asked questions. Funny, you read these deep-content novels—-the hooker getting into a serious conversation with her john—-and before you know it the shit hits the fan. Barbette has her moments.”
“She’s still upset about her sister?”
“She feigned to be. She’s not a good actor.”
“I hate her,” I say.
“Everybody hates her. All her feelings are feigned. She’s a closet psychopath, that’s what she is; that’s why everybody hates her. It’s unfair though. At the end of the day people hate her because she can’t act. My case is not so different. I have feelings, I still have feelings, but I am missing something else.”
“People don’t hate you. On the contrary.” I point at the gym rat next to us.
“I’m a better actor, possibly.”
“You know what you wrote in your note, Alex? Your suicide note?”
“No.”
“You quoted Albert Camus. Some people expend enormous energy merely to be normal. You were talking about yourself.”
“Ha. That’s acting, see. All the time. The practice.”

He puts his arm on my shoulder again, and pulls me closer. “John, John, John. I don’t know who I am.”

His eyes travel to the whiskey bottle on the kiosk rack. “One more,” he says.




The gym rat seizes his chance: “A double whiskey for this gentleman,” he says, pointing his chin at Alex. “And one for this gentleman, too,” Alex says, pointing his chin at me.

“No-no,” I say, “Thank you.”

It doesn’t matter, the drinks arrive and are downed. “All this booze,” I say.

“Does it matter?” Alex replies. “You’ll ditch me; I’ll end in the gutter anyhow.”
“Stop it, Alex. You had three double shorts already, and you know you can’t handle drink. I won’t ditch you.”

Alex turns to the barman and orders a reciprocal round.

“If I promise never to fuck you again, will you ditch me?” he asks.
“Are you crazy?”
“If I fuck you to death, will you ditch me?”

We stare at each other.

“Yes,” he says, “you will, you have no choice.”

I somehow know what’s going to happen next. He’ll down his last shot and fasten his grip on my shoulder and lead me away from the kiosk (the gym rat in tow). We’ll step off the boardwalk and walk along the southbound trail where traces in the accumbent ivy show the wear and tear of horny men making for the dunes.

Alex wasn’t particularly low-voiced amidst the kiosk crowd, and more people will finish their drink and follow us. We turn right, scale a ridge of sand and end up in a narrow vale where the first pine trees grow. Alex will strip me and arrange my body on the ground.

He’ll then strip as well despite—-or because of—-the horny men nearby. His cock will be throbbing, his cockhead gleaming in the rays of two or three horny torch lights—-dusk advancing—-and now he’ll lower his physique into position. He won’t be into kissing or anything foreplay, no saliva or lube, he’ll put pressure on his crown and more pressure until my sphincter goes bump and he’s killing me, killing me, my hands on his shoulder blades, my fingernails carving his skin and me yelling, screaming, pleading, legs flailing.

I’ll be feeling his hands on my neck and his fingers on my throat. You like gasper sex, don’t you? he’ll ask. There’ll be a last, dying yell from yours truly and Alex’s thumbs will have squeezed my wind pipe. I’ll kill you, he’ll say, his mouth next to my ear, and the men around us are enjoying this thoroughly with their torchlights on my face and their free hands masturbating. At first it’s just a choke, but with his whole hunk weighing down on my pecs, his hands tight on my throttle and his cock ravaging my innards—-searing pain jerking across my gut with each of his thrusts and total panic clinching my breast, and he—-who’s usually fairly quiet during sex—-ejaculating heavy grunts with each lunge of his hips, pumping his hot breath into my face—-my lung imploding, exploding-—a spasm bopping up and down until it reaches my abs where it goes quiet and segues into the cadence of an impending ejaculation; the pain gone, the groin voltage surging, his dick off the charts, the loins contracting, time vanishing, space vanishing, his erection filling the void-—and I’m gone.

He’s squatting next to me. The horny men have finished their business and left me under buckets of goo that Alex is slathering across my pecs and tummy-—stuff that tastes like fresh oysters, old pennies, salty mushrooms, and bad sour cream. I rub my eyes. It’s gotten into my nostrils, I sneeze, there’s slime in my ears.

“I do funny things, you see,” he says, or contemplates. He peers at a glob of jizz on a large leaf of the ivy-—the leaf hanging its head as if pondering gravity or the joys of fauna sex. Whose jizz is it, I wonder-—the stuff seeps off the foliage, drip by drip, the leaf dipping with each drip, then raising its head again. “Ce n’est pas ma faute,” Alex says with the horrible accent of an American hunk.


*°*

We are walking back to the Tee eventually, headed for the debate on the Field. “Why didn’t you say?” Alex asks. “Why didn’t you say, ‘I didn’t lie, because I didn’t break it—-I only disabled it?’”
“Huh?”
“My air conditioning. Four lonesome nuts lying idly on the floor, the case loosely refit, slits showing, a ballpoint stuck between the fan blades. You’re lazy, John.”
“Disabled, broken. What’s the difference?”
“You weren’t lying, technically. You didn’t break it.”
“To break, that was your term.”
“Apart from the nuts, I’d never have known. I would have switched it on, overheating it, and killed the motor for good. But with the nuts in evidence? I repaired it in the meantime.”


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