A day of porn
It was Lakuch's stated opinion that his lover Hayal wasn't in tune enough with his body or the lovely things he could do with it. It was Hayal's opinion that Lakuch didn't apparently have enough things to think about. Hayal further thought he was really quite sufficiently aware of his own body, and Lakuch's, and the capabilities of both, separately and together. As proof he would offer, if he deigned to engage with Lakuch in the subject, the events of the last evening they had spent together: four days ago.
Well, that wasn't Hayal's fault. He wasn't the one with the ridiculous schedule. He only worked six days a week, with plenty of time around the edges to explore the physical side of things. It was Lakuch who was gone nineteen days out of twenty-one, who worked twelve hours at a stretch, and who didn't have to, either for the money, or for job retention, or for the successful execution of his job, or for vocational satisfaction. Or even for escapades with his colleagues, which Hayal could have easily forgiven, being only loosely committed to the general strategy of monogamy himself anyway. No. More often than not, Lakuch ran into work an extra time or two, or stayed there when he could have left, because he didn't want to face Hayal, and Hayal knew it, and so did Lakuch. And Lakuch knew that Hayal knew it, too.
But it was easier to say that Hayal wasn't sexy enough than it was to say what really bothered Lakuch about spending time with Hayal. Because it was tantamount to racism, and what can you do with that? Hayal was pretty sure he knew what he could do with it. But Lakuch would have to stop accusing him of excessive cerebration and stop avoiding him in the flesh and just face up to Hayal's body and get over himself, and at this point Hayal was not sure that Lakuch would ever do it.
Hayal wasn't about to confront him any more directly than to say, "Well, come on over then, and show me how it's done," or the like. It wasn't a successful strategy, so far. Because after having told Hayal off for a few minutes about his lacking of physical awareness, he'd retreat into the position that he couldn't do it today, or tonight, or tomorrow, because Work.
Hayal was on the point of giving it over. If Lakuch didn't like him well enough to spend real time with him, maybe he didn't like him well enough, and maybe it was time to let Lakuch find someone he liked better. And for Hayal to find someone who liked him better, because he sure wouldn't find someone he liked better than Lakuch, even with his squeamishness about Hayal's physicality and his tendency to blame Hayal for everything. But maybe there would be somebody out there who could like Hayal, and that Hayal could like almost as much as he liked Lakuch. That would be enough to build a life with, wouldn't it?
There was surely someone out there in the city where he lived. Or if not in Boem, somewhere in the Consortium, or in the world out there. He'd met Lakuch, hadn't he? And that had been pretty unlikely. They'd "met cute," literally bumping into each other while crossing the Steinbrenner bridge from opposite directions. Not that either of them had spent much time on that bridge before that day: it was just a tourist trap with its appalling medieval statues and armies of caricature artists. But Hayal had been lumbering through the touristy part of town in order to scout out places to take his visiting cousins from out of town, and Lakuch had been returning from a visit to a bar where he had been scheming on the guy who played guitar there some nights, and where he had been disappointed to learn that the guy had a girlfriend. After bumping into each other, they talked, and somehow that had lead to a beer on the Summer Island, and then a pile of sausages and cabbage at the Hurrier Bank, and then, one of those incidents that Hayal would like to bring up as evidence that he was not, in fact, divorced from his body. A year later and they were not bumping into each other so much anymore.
But if he had bumped into one, he could bump into another, right? So he shouldn't feel so reluctant to face the music. The problem was that he liked Lakuch a lot, even while he was being so bitchy lately.
And how do you even go about breaking up with someone you don't want to break up with except in the most abstract way? He was mulling this over, trudging home from his little job in the strand folding factory, when a shop window sign caught his eye. The shop appeared to be an ancient and musty bookstore of the very best kind, but he was sure that there had been no bookstore there the day before, or any of the other days he had trudged his way home on this particular cobblestoned street. The sign was quite primitive. "Sexybeast Morning" was written in pseudo-traditional black letter, not too adeptly, with a streaky blue-black marker on whitewashed torn cardboard, with a smiley face hastily added in red. Beneath all that, almost illegible in yellow marker, was added, helpfully, "Books, Videos, and other Media."
This was odd. He was quite close to home, and he thought he knew his neighborhood well, and a bookstore with a suggestive name did not look familiar. Though on the other hand it looked as if it had been there for at least a generation. Who would hand-letter a sign on cardboard anymore, when you could print one out on your computer and it would be much nicer?
Hayal was attracted to the place not least because he actually kind of dreading going home. Lakuch wasn't going to be there. If he was lucky, Lakuch would call him during the evening and either apologize for being busy or whine about Hayal being busy. Hayal briefly wondered if Lakuch wasn't sometimes busy with something other than work. . . anyway, a couple hours in a bookstore he'd never visited before would do him some good. He'd get home hungry and he'd eat a late dinner and go to sleep. He wouldn't even notice whether the phone rang or not.
The bookstore was stacked with crates with cryptic labels. Some of the labels were apparently people's names: Willis or Frankenheimer or Chung. Others were apparently the names of objects, unless they were also unlikely human names: "Rolling Pin," "Bicycle Chain," "Treadle." The crates were made of various materials, but mostly openwork plastic or wire, so that the contents were at least partly visible. And they were an eclectic mix of DVDs, vinyl records, videotapes, videodiscs, magazines, books both trade and mass market and also cheaply produced and almost underground: and for that matter, there were some mimeographed and stapled texts and a few art books.
Hayal approached the nearest stack of crates, which was labeled "topiary." It appeared to be full of homosexual pornography in all those varied media, and also contained a few tiny bronzes of the size of tabletop game figures. They were busy little bronzes. It was actually a fascinating collection: he decided after a comfortable fifteen minutes of browsing that he would just buy the whole crate. He had never been much of a consumer of pornography, preferring the narrative in his own head and the sensations in his own body to facilitate arousal. But since Lakuch seemed to be building a case to dump him, and was definitely neglecting him in the meantime, maybe a bit of pornography might ease the coming loneliness.
He hadn't noticed any proprietors until now, but when he looked up from the crate and scanned the crowded little store, he saw a little person of indeterminate age and gender, standing tiptoe on an upended crate while they moved objects from a crate labeled "Frogs" to another labeled "Hansel."
"Excuse me," Hayal said. "How much for the whole crate?"
"Sixty-three C-dollars and fifty-six pence, tax inclusive," the person said in an indeterminate tenor voice without shifting their gaze from the little package they were holding.
"What a coincidence," Hayal said. "That's exactly what I have in my pocket."
"Is it? Just lay it on the counter," the little person said, somehow pointing with his left ear at an overburdened table with a rather primitive-looking cash box sitting on top of a couple of intriguing-looking coffee table books.
Hayal did so, and thanked the little person, who didn't say "You're welcome:" instead they said, "You'd best be getting on. We're closing in a moment."
The crate grew uncomfortably heavy as Hayal trudged homewards, but he was really looking forward to going through the box. It was such a change from having nothing much to do with his time off (he tended to kind of hang around in case Lakuch found some time off). At length he got to his apartment block and into the passageway and up the stairs to his flat. He set the crate on the coffee table and set about making some food that he would eat while perusing the stash. Maybe he would get off, too, which would certainly help his sleeping. Then, setting a plate of bread and cheese and pickles, and a glass of beer, next to the box, he pulled out the first thing from the top of the crate. The thing that had caught his eye in the first place.
It was a glossy magazine with somewhat faded colors, probably expensive when it was first printed maybe thirty years before. There was a man on the cover who reminded Hayal of himself, though a bit younger and a lot more in shape. But his features were enough like Hayal's that he would not be surprised to learn the man was some kind of cousin, maybe even the father of the ones that had come to visit him last year. Stranger things have happened. He had Hayal's big brown eyes, and his burly shoulders, and his delicate green markings on his shoulders and torso.
The green. The reason, Hayal thought, for Lakuch's growing disaffection. It wasn't the done thing to say, "Oh, you're a Zelnik, I can't be with you," but Hayal knew that some people, even some Zelniks, found the green markings and their behavior disturbing. Hayal thought they were his only mark of beauty, himself. The man on the cover of the magazine had unremarkable green - just some vining lines tendriling around, and a few blotches that kind of looked like they might be flowers or really indistinct birds. But Hayal had really clear pictures, as if they had been put there by the finest tattoo artist, lushly depicting wistaria branches and flying beetles. Better than a tattoo: he hadn't had to suffer under the needle to get them, and the pictures were quite sharp, and beautiful varying shades of green, not the blurry and often grungy blue-black of tattoos. It had grown and grown throughout his life, from a few leaves and a single beetle in early childhood, to the almost narrative look it had now.
But Lakuch always seemed reluctant to look at it. He rarely touched Hayal anywhere near the areas where the green was growing, which was frustrating because even if the green itself was not so deliciously sensitive to the touch, the branches swayed right around his nipples and the beetles flew up from his pubic hairs and past his belly button, so Lakuch's reluctance to touch the green left out some of Hayal's favorite places to be touched.
But he liked sex with Lakuch anyway. That which Lakuch was willing to touch, he touched deftly and pleasantly and thoroughly. And Lakuch had no doubts about letting Hayal touch any parts of him.
Meanwhile, the magazine . . . Hayal opened it. The man on the cover apparently had a lover who was not a Zelnik. Instead, he was a dark and well-muscled man who did not seem to have any squeamishness about fondling and licking the green markings all over his partner's body. On a subsequent page the darker man was straddling the Zelnik and leaning over his torso. On the next page after that, there was a close up showing his tongue right on the nipple, which was green as grass ("that has to be enhanced," Hayal thought. "Nobody's that green") and, now that Hayal could see it up close, surrounded by the green form of a camellia in outline. And so on. Hayal was pretty sure he was going to be using this magazine in the way it was intended to be used, later.
He didn't have a videodisc player, or a Betamax player, or even a VCR anymore, but that only eliminated three of the many items in the crate. An hour later he was certain that the crate's label -"Topiary" - derived from the fact that every item in the crate featured at least one Zelnik. Also, he was so aroused he couldn't stay in his clothes anymore. He liked the ones best that had a Zelnik and a ne-Zelnik, like him and Lakuch, especially the ones where the ne-Zelnik couldn't keep his hands or tongue off the Zelnik's body.
He was settled in with a lushly produced all-color graphic novel with fantasy elements (mainly wings and a few tails and horns), lounging comfortably naked on the couch as he munched on pumpkin seeds and sipped at his beer, when a key scraped in the lock. He jumped a bit, but only because he was startled, not because he was afraid or ashamed. Only Lakuch had a key besides Hayal, and Hayal was not in the least embarrassed about not-quite beating off to a glorified comic book.
Especially not since this was maybe his fourth glass of beer.
Lakuch loomed over the couch. "What the hell, Hayal? Comic book porn?"
"Graphic novel erotica," Hayal said. "It's elegant."
:Is that what they're calling it these days? What are you doing?"
"Do you mean am I beating off? I wasn't, yet, but I thought I probably would be before long. This is pretty good stuff. Look at that, for example. No, over there, in the background of the big panel on the left side page. See that? He can't get enough of it."
"No, why are you doing this? You never do anything like this."
"I might talk about this if got naked and joined me," Hayal said. "But if you're just going to harangue me again, you can go home. And if you came to finally break up with me like you've been preparing to for the last three months, don't bother. I got the message And I got this box of porn to tide me over, so don't worry about me, okay?."
"What? Are you high?"Lakuch grabbed Hayal's chin, which Hayal did not find in the least sexy, and stared at him. He really did seem to be checking Hayal's pupils, rather than giving the old bedroom glare, which was disappointing.
"I might be a little drunk," Hayal said. "But I think I know what I'm saying."
"What makes you think I've been preparing to dump you for three months?"
"You almost never come over even when I invite you multiple times, you hardly ever call or return my calls, and when you do call me all you do is tell me how unsexy I am, and you never touch me anyplace interesting. Seems pretty obvious. But it's okay. I'll miss you but I won't make any scenes. If you don't like me anymore, you can't help it. For the record, I like you as much as I ever did, but that's just how it goes sometimes."
"I like you! I don't touch you because you don't want me to! I never talk about how unsexy you are, it's the opposite - I've been trying to tell you you're really sexy and you should let me in so I can touch you all over. And I've been avoiding you because I can't figure out how to get through to you about how you should stop being ashamed of being a Zelnik because its' the most beautiful thing and I wish I had anything half as interesting as your green junk and those beetles, goddamn I want to suck them right off your skin."
"Well, that's interesting," Hayal said. "I wonder how you ever got the idea I didn't want that? You can suck my beetles off any time."
"You know what, why don't we discuss this later," Lakuch said, stripping off his shirt.
"Okay," Hayal said.