Wednesday, April 30, 2008

At 12


Todd is puffing on a bent cigarette and going on about Nicole, the sweet Jewish girl who has captured both of our hearts; well, I don’t think Todd has a heart, but she’s certainly captured his penis. I want to hold her hand and give her soft, sweet kisses. Todd wants to "pound that snatch." Nicole is my age, twelve years old, both of us heading into the seventh grade in the fall. Todd is a year older, set to begin eight grade. I’ll be joining Todd at the junior high school, so we’ll finally be going to the same school. It’ll be nice to walk the halls and eat lunch with him.

He looks much older than he really is, and could easily pass for seventeen. "It’s because I drink a lot of milk," Todd has said, explaining abnormal his size. "And they put all those hormones and chemicals in dairy nowadays. Steroids and shit. I’m telling you, man, milk makes your dick huge. Wanna see?" It’s a never-ending battle to keep Todd from showing me his dick. One false move, one slip of the tongue, one too-long pause, and he’ll have his penis waving in front of my face like a hot dog with a smiley face drawn on the tip. Sometimes I feel like Lucille Ball in "I Love Lucy," battling that conveyer belt loaded with chocolate. Except in this case it’s not chocolate, it’s nasty, uncircumcised penis. "If you’re not circumcised and you don’t shower a lot, you get this weird cheesy-type buildup down there. Wanna see?" Todd recently said, adding to my nightmare. "It
is so fucking gross, and it stinks. Here, Erv, look. Look! Sniff my cock, dude."

I’m alone with Todd on a hot summer afternoon, in the woods behind our apartment building, resting comfortable on a stained tan couch that someone dumped here a few weeks ago. It’s not a bad couch, all things considered. No tears, burns, or loose springs. Just the faint the smell of cat piss, which weakens with every rainstorm. The mildew smell grows stronger after the rain, but any scent is preferable to cat piss.

"Hey fellas!"

The voice is loud and squeaky, a boy who hasn’t yet hit puberty.

We turn our heads quickly and see Franklin standing behind the couch. He’s eight years old and more than a little retarded. The dried green/yellow boogers below his nose appear to be permanent, as I’ve never seen him without that congealed nastiness on his lip. He’s always smiling, always laughing, always stinking up the immediate area, like Charlie Brown’s putrid pal Pig Pen. Franklin lives with his grandmother. No one is quite sure what happened to his parents. I’m guessing he just wasn’t wanted. Franklin is eight years old and friendless. Kids run from him. I try not to be mean to him, but it’s hard. Todd treats him like garbage. It doesn’t help that Franklin often runs around with his pants down. Penis bouncing. Like right now.

"Look at my peepee," Franklin says, jumping up and down. His pecker is shockingly large and I immediately look away. "Floppity flop flop flap flip! Whoop!"

"Go away, Franklin," I say. "Pull up your pants and go home."

"My pants fall down." he says. "Ha ha! Hoopa doop! So can I play with you guys and your peepees?" I don’t think he understands what he’s saying.

Todd picks up a large, jagged rock and squeezes it beneath his fingers. His lip begins to twitch. A vein in his neck throbs. His face is washed in pink.

I’ve never seen such rage in him. Never seen such rage in anyone other than my brother, Dave. I’ve seen him go from happy to raging in an instant. Seen him grab a baseball bat and swing it at Ron’s head, clearly intending to kill his older brother. My stomach flames on. I nearly fall over from the sudden fiery cramps. I think Bad, this is bad.

"Todd, don’t," I say. "He’s just a kid."

Franklin grabs hold of his penis and waves it in Todd’s direction. In an instant, Todd isn’t Todd anymore. He’s a beast. Twitchy and sweaty. Seething. He cocks his arm back, as if about to fire a fastball into the catcher’s mitt. The catcher who isn’t there. He’s throwing for the kill.

Franklin giggles. Uses his free hand to juggle his tiny, hairless balls. Sticks out his tongue. Hops. Says, "Grandma says I shouldn’t mess with bigger boys. Ha! I can make mine bigger." He closes his eyes and intently fondles himself. I’ve never seen the boy so focused. Eyes closed, tongue between his teeth, grunting. Franklin now has an erection. My blood runs cold, as if I’ve just been thawed out.

Todd chucks the rock, and I know if it hits Franklin in the head it’s likely to kill him. I want to close my eyes, but it happens before I get the chance. The rock hits Franklin on the left shoulder, and he falls over backwards, landing on his bare ass. He jumps up almost instantly, already crying, his cheeks pink, wailing like a kicked dog. "Ahhhhh! Ahhhh! Ahhhh! Gaahhhhh!" he’s screaming. He runs away. Fast as he can. Falls over. Pulls up his pants. Runs again. Until he’s gone. His weeping echoes from the trees. It’s about the worst sound I’ve ever heard, like chalk on a blackboard if the piece of chalk had a voice box.

"Holy shit, Todd, you could have killed him." I’m stunned. Nearly speechless.

"Motherfucker!" Todd says. He’s still not himself. He takes a few deep breaths, wipes the sweat from his brow. His face returns to its normal color. He looks at me with eyes that say I can’t believe I just did that.

Todd’s abuse of Franklin has been steadily increasing for weeks. I fear for poor, demented Franklin’s life. The boy brings out the darkness in Todd. The bitter hatred. Todd’s brown eyes go black when he sees Franklin. And I’m not sure why. But it scares me.

"You’ve got to watch yourself around that kid," I say.

"I don’t know what came over me. That faggot just infuriates me."

"I just don’t want to see you get into trouble."

He shrugs, then flashes a boyish grin and says, "Don’t worry about it. What’s the worst thing I could do?" He lights a cigarette, then drops the match onto the couch and it falls between the cushions. "Oops," he says, grinning.

We both hop off the couch and watch as the cushions catch on fire. Within seconds, the entire couch is engulfed in flames. Black smoke fills the air, shadowing the orange flame beneath it. I start to cough and Todd tells me to cover my mouth. We run as fast as we can. Out of the woods. Away from the blaze.

Outside the woods, we stop to catch our breath. Todd looks up at me and says, "Holy shit! I can’t believe I did that!"

"You’re crazy," I say.

"I thought the couch was still damp from last week’s rain. I didn’t think it would go up like that. Fuck me."

We step back and watch as the major fire Todd started rages. A crowd gathers. People from the apartment building stand on their balconies and watch the blaze. Look out their windows. A few watch from the roof. It’s an event. By the time the fire trucks arrive, Todd and I are among a crowd of sixty people watching the black smoke fill the early evening sky.

A sweaty firefighter asks, "Anybody know what happened here?"

Todd shakes his head and says, "No, I didn’t see anything."

"Me neither," I say.

We watch as the firefighters work to put out the fire. At first, it looks like the fire is too big, too unwieldy. A real monster. An untamable beast. But the firemen soon take control. They’re good at their job. They extinguish the blaze before it reaches the apartment building.

Todd grabs my shirt and says, "Come on, Ervin. This is boring."

The powerful odor of burnt wood can probably be noticed for miles. My eyes are watering and burning. My throat is dry and itchy. The taste of burning on my tongue. I walk away, but keep my head turned back to the woods, watching the hard-working firemen finish the job.

I can’t believe Todd burned down the woods.

"You tell anyone and I’ll kill you," he says. "Don’t be a pussy."

"I won’t tell," I say. "I won’t be a pussy. It’s our secret."

He puts his arm over my shoulder and says, "That’s good, because I need a friend who can keep secrets, and who’s not a faggoty pussy."

"That’s me," I say.

"Erv, you wanna put light bulbs down our pants and ride up and down the elevators so everyone thinks we’ve got, like, huge boners?"

"Sure," I say.

Todd might be a dangerous perverted pyromaniac who wants me to look at his penis, but he’s also my best friend. I need him to hang out with me. I need him to be my friend. Because he’s the only one I have. He's the only kid who ever feels compelled to talk to me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

At 16, Part 3


Mom is panicked. William sits at the kitchen table, smirking as he reads a carefully folded letter. I’m dressed in my Pizza Tent clothes: brown polyester pants, sauce-stained white sneakers, brown and white shirt, mesh hat. A cockroach stares down from the ceiling, listening to our conversation, maybe hoping to learn about humans, maybe wondering why we hate his kind, maybe trying to find a way not to end up on the bottom of my shoe. I’m sitting at the table, scarfing down a bowl of Fruit Loops. I need to eat. Need my energy. A long night ahead of me. A night of scrubbing and socializing. An all-night cleaning session. Pizza Tent is dirty and needs to be sanitized. In so many ways.

"I can’t take this anymore," Mom says, waving her hands in the air. "Ervin, talk some sense into your brother."

"What do you want me to do?" I ask, milk dripping from my chin.

"They’re going to arrest your little brother. I already have one son in jail, and now I’m gonna have two. Am I such a bad parent? I work hard. I work sixty hours a week. Isn’t that enough? What do I have to do?" She turns to my brother and says, "Is that what you want, William? To go to jail?"

"They can’t arrest me, Mom. I didn’t do anything wrong. All I did was write a letter to someone who’s in prison. People do it all the time." William is ten years old. My baby brother. Forever a child in my eyes. Since he’s been born, I’ve always felt like William was my responsibility. I’ve been his primary babysitter. The sibling always left in charge of his well-being. The one who looks out for him. William has one bad eye, because he refused to wear an eye-patch like he was supposed to, and serious anger issues. He’s a smart kid, though. Smarter than I’ll ever be. But not an ounce of common sense. Kid can tell you all you want to know about philosophy, but can’t make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He can quote Socrates, but can never seem to remember where he put his glasses.

Mom shouts, "You wrote a letter to Charles Manson! Charles Manson the killer! What, do you wanna join his satanic cult or something? What’s wrong with you? Are you sick, William?"

"Actually, Mom, I don’t think Manson killed anyone himself," I add. "He always had people do his dirty work for him, like, his disciples. Also, he co-wrote a Beach Boys song."

"Ervin, you’re not helping," Mom says.

William holds up his much-cherished letter and says, "I can’t believe he wrote me back. Isn’t that awesome?" William grins proudly. This is his greatest achievement: garnering a response from a famous boogeyman. William is a fan of serial killers. Mom, understandably, is not thrilled with William’s fascination.

I wonder aloud, "What did he write?"

William scans the letter. "He pretty much just told me to keep my head up and not let anyone ever get me down. Charles says I can do anything I put my mind to. He says to block out all the negativity. Charles is really big on positivity. Charles Manson believes in the power of positive thinking."

"That’s sort of lame," I say. "I thought he might ask you to sacrifice a virgin for him. Or kill all the members of The Beach Boys. Or, I don’t know, poison New Jersey’s water supply."

My mother sighs loudly. "You can’t just write letters to people that without someone noticing," she says. "They’re going to put you on some kind of list, a watch list. Now the government knows who you are. That’s just great. They probably already have the house bugged. I wouldn’t be surprised if the police were listening right now."

"Ahh, shut up, Mom." William folds the letter neatly and places it back into his pocket, then storms off.

I finish my cereal and toss the bowl into the sink. The cockroach on the ceiling darts away, disappearing into a crack in the wall. Mom wipes away tears.

"Why do you have to work this time of night?"

I kiss her cheek and say, "The district manager is coming for an inspection on Monday, so Ben decided to get everyone together for an overnight cleaning session. It’s overtime pay. Time and a half. That means I’ll make, like, five dollars an hour. I can’t turn down that kind of money."

"Are you saving for college?" Mom asks.

"I’m not going to college." The words come out without any thought. I hadn’t even considered going to college. My grades are mediocre at best. I have no money to pay for college. All I really want to do is keep working at Pizza Tent while I try to get laid. I like to keep my goals reasonable.

"I don’t like you working all these weird hours. You’re still in high school. Don’t they have child labor laws anymore, or did they get rid of those?"

"Yes, Mother, I believe that laws exist to protect children in the workplace. You’re right about that. But you wrote that note saying I can work late, that I have your permission, remember? You gave my boss the authority to use and abuse me. Anyway, what else am I gonna do until school starts? Sit around here and kill cockroaches? It’s good for me. I like the people. They’re nice to me. They’re the only people in the world who think I’m awesome besides you."

She sighs and halfheartedly says, "Well, I still think they’re taking advantage of you. When I signed that letter, I didn’t think you’d be working all the time."

"Those people make me feel good about myself. They make me feel important. When school starts, I’ll cut back my hours. Promise."

Mom gives me a hug and says, "It’s good to know that you’re a hard worker. Your father couldn’t hold a job to save his life." It’s not easy for my mother to show affection, so I appreciate the gesture. Mom is pleased to know that I am not my father’s son. I am nothing like that person. He who often took cars apart and then forgot how to reassemble them. My father, as far as a I can tell, was one shiftless son of a bitch. No, I’m not that man’s son at all. I don’t even know that man. I am my mother’s son.

Mom has struggled all her life. She grew up feeling unwanted by her mother. After my grandmother remarried (a man she met at a bar, while always dragging my mother along when Mom was surely too young to be at such a place) and started a new family, Mom became an outsider. My Grandma Shirley had five boys with her new husband. As the only reminder of a bad first marriage, Mom didn’t stand a chance. So she found a man to marry and moved out at fifteen. She felt like she had no choice. I suspect that my mother was abused, but if she was, she’ll never admit it. The only beatings she’ll acknowledge ever took place were the ones given by the nuns at her Catholic School. A ruler across the knuckles. A smiling nun. Bloody hands. No wonder my mother quit school and ran off with Big Ron. What went on at home, before she moved out at fifteen, Mom will never speak of. I do know that Mom was not the recipient of even a hint of affection as a child. Beatings at school. Ignored (or maybe abused) at home. Mom had to grow up fast. She wanted out, and she got out. Pregnant and married by the age of sixteen.

One of my mother’s better qualities is her general agreeableness. Ask her to sign something, and she almost always complies. Mom is not a stern taskmaster. Mom is a pushover. She’s only punished me once in my life—when the police brought me home late one weekend night, after I’d snuck out with my best friend Todd to play video games at the local convenience store. I try not to think about Todd, my former best friend and perverted creep. What he did still makes me shudder.

Soon after saying goodbye to Mom, I’m on my knees in the back of Pizza Tent, scraping the floor with a large metal spatula. Must clean out the cracks. The bits of meat and cheese stuck between the maroon tiles. Left by some pimply-faced member of the previous era. The 70's version of me. This place may have never had a thorough cleaning. Until tonight. And I’m just the man for the job. Cleaning clears my head. Relaxes me. The repetition of movement. Jerk of the arm. Twist of the wrist. The mind on automatic pilot.

I look up and see Manny flirting with Kiley. Sexy Kiley with her Pat Benatar haircut and her tight red assistant manager sweater that wraps around her large chest. Manny is my age. Sixteen. Soon to be seventeen. Kiley graduated high school back when it was still cool to wear a KISS T-shirt to school. She has at least fifteen years on Manny. I know they’ve been messing around. Kiley has left a few nasty hickeys on Manny’s neck. Not sure if they’ve slept together yet. Probably. He just smiles when I ask for confirmation. Pizza Tent certainly has its share of women in their thirties looking to initiate high school boys into the wonderful world of sex.

Cliff is behind me, Walkman on full blast, singing along with Stevie Wonder. He’s cleaning the oven. Parts of the oven. Belts and grates and wall panels and oddly shaped pieces of steel. All three compartments of the sink are filled with sections of the oven, which must be scrubbed cleaned and then reassembled. It’s a puzzle I could never solve. But Cliff’s got the mind for it. He’s a sharp kid. A drug dealer and amateur stand-up comedian. Tonight, he brought an eightball of coke into the building. He showed it to me when he arrived. Sold it to Ben. Cliff is the only black person in the building tonight. Manny is El Salvadorian, although he and Cliff share the same light shade of brown skin. The rest of us are Caucasian. Various shades of white. From paste to pink. Cliff will probably be the only person who stays completely sober tonight. Regarding cocaine, he once said to me: "I don’t mess with that shit. I just sling it. But I ain’t no corner boy. I don’t stand around Camden waiting for the clients to come to me. I make connections. Deliver in person. I don’t need no corner when I got a whole building full of pizza-sellin’ motherfuckers buying the product. But I never sample the goods. I leave it to you crazy white folks to do the do. I’m just a businessman. Most I do is blow a joint here and there. Get my smoke on. Hard stuff ain’t for this nigga. My mom didn’t raise no fool. But, please, feel free to do all the drugs you want. I need some new sneakers and a fat gold rope. Snort your fucking asses off. Make daddy rich."

I’m about to get back to scrubbing when Diana suddenly appears in front of me. I’m on all-fours, filthy spatula in hand. She’s staring down, hands on hips, smirking. Her scent like onions dipped in lemonade. Diana is Ben’s age, late-twenties, I’d guess. I think they were high school sweethearts. She’s strikingly thin. Dark hair. Loud and rude. Pretty in a hardened sort of way. She can either be sweet or vindictive, depending on how recently she’s gotten high. She’s the type most people would call a bitch, but I kind of like her. Diana makes me laugh, and I like the way her long nails feel on my skin when she scratches my back.

"Well, since you’re down there, Erv," she says, grinning and posing above me, arms at her side. I look down at her feet. She’s wearing little white sneakers with fluffy pink laces.

"What? I don’t..." I then notice that my face is extremely close to her special lady place. Or "cunt," as Diana likes to call it. My position is quite compromising. If Diana had a whip in her hand, I’d look like her slave, her Boy Toy.

"Come on, gimme a couple of quick licks. I won’t tell Ben. Heh."

"Give what a few...oh, right." My face burns with embarrassment. I’m sure my skin is beyond pink. Probably purple. Like a drunk-on-blood tick. She loves to make me uncomfortable. Loves to make everyone uncomfortable.

"Drop the spatula and come with me, kid," Diana commands. "Me and Ben have a special treat for you. A little bit of motivation. Something to keep you going through the night and make you feel like a stud. Some fuel."

"What is it?" I ask, at my naive best.

She takes my hand and pulls me up. "You’ll see. Don’t be so impatient. Well, it is a bit of motivation, but nothing we learn in the Pizza Tent Manager Training Program. Sometimes Ben and me like to come up with our ways of getting our employees to work hard."

Diana leads me by hand to the front of the store. I allow her to do as she pleases with me. I make no objections. We pass by Tricia, who’s in the dining room with a few other waitresses, refilling the salt and pepper shakers which have just been thoroughly cleaned. Tricia stares at me with her large brown eyes and silently mouths Don’t do it, but I’m not sure what she means. Diana glances at Tricia and mutters "Stupid cow" just loud enough for me to hear. "You know that Tricia wants to fuck Ben, right?" she says, not really asking a questing. Just putting it out there. Saying her peace. "She wants to fuck and Ben is just stupid enough to do it if he’s drunk enough. Well, if I ever find out he put his dick in that, I’ll chop it off. You didn’t fuck her that night at the party, did you?"

"No way," I say. Not for a lack of trying.

"Good. She’s nasty. I know she’s your friend and all, but come on. Look at her, then look at me. I’m way hotter. Don’t you think?"

All I manage to say is, "Umm."

"I’ll bet her cunt smells like Thursday’s leftovers."

Actually, I think, more like a sweet combination of perspiration and citrus. Not at all unpleasant.

Diana pulls me into the men’s room and the first thing I see is Ben, grinning stupidly my way. He puts his arm over my shoulder and says, "Welcome, Erv. Tonight is your lucky night." Diana locks the bathroom door. The three of us cram into the small stall. Not easy considering that Ben is a giant. Six-five, almost three hundred pounds. A mostly-hairless bigfoot. And there, on the toilet seat , are three thick, glistening lines of cocaine. Cut neatly and ready to be snorted. Diana’s eyes widen. She licks her lips. Ben smacks my back. Hurts me just a little. Ben bends down, sticks one end of a rolled dollar bill in his nose, and snorts, inhaling quickly, as if it were a competition. While Ben’s nose is over the toilet, Diana leans in and whispers in my ear: "I love coke. It makes me so horny. Makes me wanna fuck. You’ll see. After you snort, you’re gonna be hard as a rock." As soon as Ben comes up for air, Diana is down, finger pressing one nostril closed, inhaling. The sound like paper tearing. She gets it all. Every last minuscule bit. Licks the toilet seat. Wipes her nose. Smiles. I’m next and I do not hesitate. I do not resist. I do not tell them that I can’t. I make no mention of my drug-addled, jailbird older brother. I fail to cite even one of the million reasons why I should not be snorting this line of cocaine. It seems like too much effort. Just easier to snort. To make the boss happy. Inhale. Do it. Be a man. Just do it. And I do. Diana rubs my back as I take the rolled dollar bill between my fingers. As I insert one end into my right nostril. As I breathe in. As the white line disappears. As the thousands of tiny granules disburse. Make their way up through the tightly-rolled dollar and into my system. The drug trickles down the back of my throat. The line is gone. It’s in me. It’s too late. There’s no going back. I’ve done the deed. It tastes like powered metal. I shudder.

Diana running her long fingernails down my back, whispering words of encouragement. Ben saying, "Why don’t you just fuck him already?" Diana jokingly squeezing my ass. Ben laughing. Ben saying, "How about it, Erv? Wanna make a nice sandwich out of my wife?" Ben losing his smile. Saying, "That’s my wife you’re talking about, asshole. I’ll kick your faggot face in!" Ben and Diana laughing. Ben adding, "Okay, fine, I forgive you. But I get to fuck her in the ass. It’s tighter there. You get the front, Erv. She’s so stretched out she probably won’t even feel your little pecker." Diana smacking Ben upside the head. Saying, "Why do you always have to be such an asshole? He’s just a kid, and I’m not a fucking whore." Ben shrugging. Adding, "Fine, Erv can have the asshole. My mistake." Diana trying not to smile. Diana smiling.

I can’t laugh. I’m too overwhelmed. The euphoria hits me immediately. The buzz. The high. Skin burning. Brain buzzing. Heart pounding. I think Oh yeah, this is nice. My heart has never pounded this hard before. It’s like a motor. A buzz saw. Ben and Diana are so proud. Like doting parents. I’ve done them proud. The only sound I’m aware of is the beating of my heart. The thump thump thump. I feel strange. Out of body. Distanced from myself. Like I’m on the other side of the room looking at myself and not recognizing who I see.

"All right," Ben says, pushing me out of the stall, "now get back to work. I expect you to work your ass off tonight. Don’t let me down, kid."

"I won’t."

Diana winks, "Bye, Erv. See ya soon. I need to be alone for a minute with my husband."

"Oh, yeah," he says with glee, like the Prom King about to get lucky with his Prom Queen. "You know what that means."

Ben opens the bathroom door. Throws me out. I smack hard into the wall as the bathroom door closes and locks.

I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t feel quite so fabulous. The high of cocaine is like hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth, but without actually having to hit a home run. Like saving a baby from a burning a building without having to get burned. I’m calm yet panicked. I’m happy yet disgusted with myself. Heart pounding faster. Mild chest pains. Never do this again. Need more. Dear God please don’t let me have a heart attack. I’ll never do it again if I live. I won’t do it hardly ever. Maybe just once in awhile. I untuck my shirt to cover my erection. My brain is producing images and sounds and thoughts at such a rapid pace that none of it is making sense. It’s all blurring together.

Tricia won’t even look at me as I pass her by. She knows. Tricia used to respect me. Cliff comes up behind me and lays an arm over my shoulders. He says, "Wow, I’m surprised you did it, Erv. I thought you were different. I really thought you was gonna turn ‘em down. Aw, well. If you ever need some coke, let your good buddy Cliff know and I’ll hook you up good." I nod and keep walking. I sidle up next to Manny. He looks at me and laughs. "You got some white stuff under your nose." I frantically wipe my face and then say, "Is it gone?" He replies, "It wasn’t there in the first place, fool. I was just seeing if you’d done it. You’re a bad boy, Erv. Congratulations. You’re one of us now."

I clean everything. The floor, the walls, the windows, the shelves, the ceiling. The only time I’m not cleaning is during my ten-minute break, which I spend in the men’s room. So I can masturbate. The erection keeps getting in the way, so I have to take care of it. I masturbate on my knees, over the toilet. My fantasy is this: I’m on my back. Tricia sits on my face. Diana sits on my cock. They hate each other but are united in their love of me. They take turns fucking me. Switch places. It’s nice that they can put their differences aside long enough to give me their sweet, sweet love. Then they team-up on a blow job. The best imaginary threesome I’ve ever had. Better than my legendary Molly Ringwald/Pam Grier wet dream team-up from 1986. I shoot directly into the toilet, flush, clean myself up, then return to work. Still feeling good. Still electric. But now talking to myself. Talking to anyone. Nonstop talking. I talk until I come down. Talk until the drugs wear off. We finish cleaning when the sun comes up. My heart has finally stopped racing. I come down hard. Go from frantic to comatose. Struggling to keep my eyes open.

I’m soon in Tricia’s car, parked in front of my house. She was kind of enough to give me a ride. I know I look and smell awful. All I can think about is that next line. When and where I’m going to get it.

She runs her fingers lightly over my face. "Erv, don’t lose yourself in the drugs. I’ve done my share. I’m no angel. But I know when enough’s enough. If it’s just a casual kind of weekend thing, that’s fine, but you’ve got be very careful. These things can get out of control fast."

I smile. "I’ll be fine. I just wanted to try it one time. I’m not the kind of person who gets addicted to drugs. I’m smarter than that. I’m not like my brother."

"I hope so."

So do I.

Monday, April 7, 2008

At 16, Part 2


I’m so drunk that I’ll probably wet my bed (small price to pay for all the fun I’m having). So drunk I know I’m going to vomit at least once tonight. Never been this drunk. Drunk enough to be holding Tricia’s hand and not be the least bit nervous. She’s been all over me since I arrived at the party a few hours ago. Hugging me, kissing me, squeezing my ass. Flirting. Touching. Rubbing. Tricia is thirty-five years old. I’m sixteen. Ten minutes ago, she nibbled on my ear and whispered, "Tonight might be your lucky night." I have a feeling that this woman wants to deflower me. She asked me if I was a virgin because I was saving myself for someone special. I said, "Yeah, that special woman who’ll actually let me put my penis in her vagina." Tricia found my words hysterical, laughing as she kissed my cheek and told me I was adorable. If not for the booze and pot, I wouldn’t be half as hysterical as I apparently am. Turns out, the combination of three wine coolers, four Coronas, two rum and cokes, and a few hits off a big fat spliff turn a regular guy like myself into the next Lenny Bruce. I’m making everyone laugh. Maybe it’s because I keep falling over. Nah. I’m sure it’s because I’m just really, really funny. It’s my quick wit I think, as I stumble forward. Tricia, holding me tight, keeps me from landing face-first on the carpet. Then I think No, it’s definitely my lack of balance.

It’s my first Pizza Tent party. Not sponsored by Pizza Tent, of course. They didn’t sponsor my loss of innocence. Didn’t condone my drinking. The corruption of my soul and my eventual de-virginization was not brought up in any official capacity at our most recent employee meeting. It just so happens that almost everyone at the party works for Pizza Tent. Vito’s here, and he doesn’t work for Pizza Tent, and a few girls are scattered about that I don’t recognize, but mostly it’s just us pizza slingers. Just a friendly gathering of Pizza Tent workers at Ben’s apartment. Ben is my boss, but he has a surprising lack of maturity. His small apartment is packed with a nice mix of underage high school students (the part-timers) and older Pizza Tent lifers (the full-timers). None of the adults seem overly concerned about the large quantity of alcohol I’ve consumed. Or that plump, aromatic joint I puffed. No one seems to care that a woman twice my age wants to fuck me silly. Ben seems to think it’s about time that someone made a man out of me. I know this because he just whispered in my ear: "Erv, it’s about time you got that little willy of yours wet. Try not to blow your load before you get it all the way in." I tell him that I’ll do my best.

Vito is playing quarters with a balding forty-five-year-old assistant manager named Eric, a Spanish-speaking, always-smiling dishwasher named Juan, a part-time cook and full-time drug dealer named Cliff, and a pretty fifteen-year-old black girl from Camden named Sharla. Ben and his wife, Diana, stand together by the front door, screaming and poking a finger in each other’s face. I hear Diana say, "Then why don’t you just fuck her already?" Ben, exasperated, throws his hands in the air and says, "Because Erv’s going to fuck her." N.W.A’s "Straight Outta Compton" blasts from the stereo. Pretty girls dance and sweat. Drooling boys watch. Vito sings along to N.W.A, shouting, "Crazy mutha fucka named Ice Cube, from a band called Niggas Wit’ Attitude!" He looks at me and winks. Not knowing the proper response, I smile at my best friend and give the thumbs up. He’s the only person here who knows the real me. The rest of these people are, for the most part, strangers. They don’t know me as that shy kid walking the halls in high school. They don’t see me as Vito’s sidekick. I’m new to them. With these people, in this environment, I am suddenly, shockingly cool. I’m one of them. I’m accepted. I’m a drunk kid at a party having a good time. Getting a back rub from a sexy older woman who might take my virginity tonight.

"You know I’m engaged, right?" Tricia says, as her fingers squeeze my shoulders. "You know I have a fiancĂ©, right?"

"No. Didn’t know that," I say.

"We’ve been engaged so long it’s kind of a joke at this point."

"Ha," I say. I was about to laugh, but then I forgot how. Because I’m drunk and my brain is hiding things from me.

Tricia’s revelation causes me to lose half of my erection, the other, more optimistic half of my boner sticks around to see where all of this is going. I’m sitting between her legs on the small, stained couch. The party rages around us. Ben walks by and winks at me. Why are all the men at this party winking at me? Diana follows closely behind Ben and smacks the back of his head whenever he stares too long at one of the many young, half-naked girls roaming merrily about his apartment. It’s hot inside the apartment, and the girls are losing their clothes as the night rolls on; at least one girl has lost her shirt entirely and is proudly showing off her pink bra.

Tricia gently kisses the back of my neck and says, "Well, we’re engaged but it’s a very tumultuous relationship. We’re on and off. Right now, we’re off, but we’ll make up eventually. I wanna have fun before the wedding, though. It’s his own fault. If he would just marry me already, I would stop having sex with other men. You know what I mean? Am I wrong?" She bites my ear and giggles. "Why am I asking you? You’ll say anything to get in my pants."

I turn and face her, ask, "If your fiancé walked in right now and saw your hands all over me, would he kick my ass?"

"Oh, yes, totally." She laughs. "But he’s out of town. Actually, he’d probably just be glad I’m not trying to jump Ben’s bones. I’ve been after Ben for years. That’s why Diana hates me so much. Too bad I’m twice her size. She should stop doing all that coke and gain some weight. I’d break her like a twig."

Tricia is a large girl, but she has a lovely face. A simple, pretty smile. And my fucking God does she smell nice. Not a perfume-soaked kind of nice. A natural kind of nice. The kind of pure freshness that makes a guy want to tear off a girl’s panties and bury his face between her legs because he knows only flowery sweetness exists down there. Vito told me that a girl who wears copious amounts of perfume is usually hiding something funky. In her underpants. She’s covering up a deep, dark stink. That’s what Vito says, anyway. Not that I would know. I can only guess. And fantasize. Imagine the many wonders that await beneath Tricia’s big pink panties. I know that they’re pink because she’s already shown them to me twice, once in a hall closet and once on the couch. ("Wanna see my panties, Erv? Here, I’ll give you a glimpse. Another glimpse. Heh.") Tricia smells like peaches and flowers on the outside. I want to know if she smells the same on the inside.

I excuse myself and walk to the bathroom. Stumble to the bathroom. I’m starting to feel bad. The things I’m doing. The substances. The beverages. I’ve always been the Good Son. The Innocent One. But here I am, drunk and stoned. Just like I remember Dave always being. In this state. Not himself. I do not want to become my brother. I do not want to be a junkie. An alcoholic. A stoner. An asshole. But I won’t. It’s just one party. One night of debauchery. Tomorrow, I will be good again. Tomorrow.

Vito joins me in the bathroom. I pee first because I always pee first. My bladder must be the size of an actual pea. I can’t go half an hour without taking a piss. I zip up and sit on the side of the bathtub as Vito relieves himself.

"I don’t want to become my brother," I say. "I want to be good."

"Dude, you’re one of the best people I know." His stream weakens, ceases. He shakes, zips. Turns to me. "It’s not the booze and the drugs that made Dave bad. It’s who he is on the inside. The drugs just brought out the nastiness in him. You’re drunk, right? Stoned? But look at you. You’re just happy-go-lucky. That’s you. There’s not enough alcohol in the world to make you a bad person. Maybe you’re not perfect, but compared to most people, you’re doing okay, dude. You’re a fucking saint compared to me. Just fucking relax and have fun, Erv. You’re a good dude. You’re my best friend. And if you ever start acting like your brother, I’ll set you straight real quick."

"Thanks," I say. It’s the nicest thing he’s ever said to me. But I know it’s not true. I’m just as capable of being awful as anyone. I’m not nearly as nice a person as everyone thinks I am. I strive to be the person my mother, my family, and my friends think I am. But there are urges. I sometimes am called to the Dark Side by soft-spoken voices in my head. I’ve been able to resist. Tonight, I’ve let myself go. I’m drunk and high. Fucking wasted. Doesn’t make me bad. No, not yet. But there’s potential. I’ve always prided myself in being different from the rest of my family. From defying history, heredity. No one in my family has ever achieved greatness. Almost every marriage has failed. More members of my family than I can count have been to prison. Wife-beating. Stealing. Drugs. Incest. Rape. Breaking and Entering. Car-jacking. We’re not exactly a family of Harvard graduates. Hell, we’re not even a family of high school graduates. I’ve always told myself that I will rise above the sordid white trash history of my clan. I’m beginning to doubt myself. It feels good to drink. To smoke pot. The body likes it. Euphoria. I drunk and high and I can’t wipe this smile off my face. I’m drunk and high, and I’ve never had as much fun as this. Coincidence?

Vito affectionately punches my shoulder and flashes a smile as he exits the bathroom. He’s a good friend. I close my eyes and bury my head in my hands as I hear the door click shut. I sigh. Someone else sighs. I hear heavy breathing. I’m almost afraid to open my eyes and see who’s sharing the bathroom with me.

"Are you okay, honey?" Tricia asks.

I look up and smile, say, "I’m good."

She pounces. She climbs atop me and jams her tongue deep down into my throat. Just as I’m about to pull away and gasp for air, she pulls away and licks her lips. Tricia stares into my eyes as she grinds on me. Feels my erection quickly take solid shape.

"Are you really a virgin?"

"Swear to God," I say.

"I wanna fuck you so badly right now. Would you wanna fuck me, Ervin? Do you like me? I know I’m not the prettiest girl here. I’m not young and thin and beautiful. I just want you to like me."

"I do like you."

"Enough to wanna be with me that way?"

"More than enough."

"And you don’t care that I’m so old?" she asks, her face nervously scrunched.

"Not if you don’t care than I’m so young."

"Care? Are you kidding? You being sixteen is a huge turn on. I guess that makes me a dirty old woman. I don’t care. It’s hot."

She bites her lip. Grabs my hand forces it between her legs. Even through the thick material of her jeans I feel the heat. The wetness. I squeeze. She moans. My other hand travels underneath her T-shirt and up her stomach. I feel breasts. Over the bra. Tricia pulls away and stands up. Looks down at my crotch. Sees the outline of my erection through my jeans. She drops to her knees in front of me. Runs her fingers lightly over my jeans. Over my erection. Over my eager cock. It’s begging to be released from its prison. Tricia lowers her head and places her lips atop my jeans. Her saliva slowly seeps through. I think This is it...she’s going to put it in her mouth.

She doesn’t. Tricia smiles and rises. A large lip-shaped circle of wetness spots my jeans. She winks and says, "Let’s get out of here. Let’s just drive somewhere. We need some privacy. We can’t do it here. Too many people."

We end up in front of my house, making out in Tricia’s tiny car. We’re messy and aggressive. My hands are all over her large tits, her pillowy ass. She sucks hard on my neck and I’m almost certain that this girl is a vampire; I know she’s leaving marks. Tricia’s car leaves us little room to maneuver (but since my car is not a car at all but a bicycle, her car is the only option we have). Still, I’m not deterred. I unbutton her tight jeans. They’re so tight I’m not sure how she got into them in the first place. I slide them down to her ankles. Her panties fall next. All her defenses gone. My right hand goes in for the kill. Two fingers ease inside. She’s dripping wet and my hand almost feels like it’s being sucked inside her. The inner Tricia is warm, hot, sticky. I’ve never done this before. Never had my fingers inside a girl’s sex. I’m too eager, too rough, too inexperienced. Tricia tells me to slow down. Take it easy. Work those fingers with precision not violence. My fingernails are jagged because I bite them, and I’m sure I’m making her bleed a little. I’m busy fingering her and hardly notice that she has unbuttoned my jeans and slid them down. She lowers my underwear. Finally, my erection has room to breathe. Not for long. Soon, it’s smothered by her hot mouth. Enveloped.

I look down and watch her head bob up and down. I think A girl is blowing me at this very minute. I’m getting blown. Hmm. Nice.

"Let’s go inside," she says, panting, finally coming up for air. Her forehead is beaded with sweat. "Let’s go to your room. Let’s do it on your bed." Saliva drips off of her chin. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand.

"Oh, we can’t," I say. "My mom’s home and my little brother shares a bed with me and he’s home right now too, so that’s not really an option. Can’t we stay in the car and do it? Or go back to your place?"

"I’m so stupid," she says, pulling a pubic hair from her teeth. "This is wrong." She sighs loudly, pulls up her pants.

"Wait, no!" I say, watching as my lonely penis shrinks. "Please!"

"We can’t do this for, like, so many reasons. We work together, for one. You’re a minor, for another. And what if Ben finds out?"

"What would Ben care?" I shout. My shiny penis is now hopelessly limp.

"Look, I can’t explain it, but Ben and me have a...thing. I don’t want him to think I don’t like him anymore."

"Fuck Ben," I say. "He’s fucking married!"

She shakes her head. "I have a complicated relationship with Ben. I love him."

"You can still love him while we’re having sex. I don’t mind."

She smiles. Kisses my mouth softly. "You’re cute, Erv. You really are. Maybe some other time. When you mentioned that your mom was home, it just reminded me how young you really are. I started to think, ‘Tricia, what the hell are you doing?’ I’m more than twice your age. You’re sixteen. I would be corrupting a minor."

I release a frustrated grunt. Pull my messy hair with both hands until the pain distracts me from my sexual frustration. My shell-shocked libido. My near-sex. "I’ll be seventeen soon. Come on, just let me put it inside you for a minute. I just want to know what sex feels like. We don’t have to finish. I’ll put it in and take it right out, I swear."

Tricia shakes her head. Smiles. Says, "Sorry. Can’t do it. You’re drunk. I’m a little tipsy, too. If we ever have sex, I want us to both be sober and somewhat conscious of what we’re doing. No sex for you tonight."

"How many chances are you going to get to have sex with a virgin? I’m pure and untainted. Disease free. I need to be tainted! Give me some taint!" I realize even as I’m speaking the words just how utterly pathetic I truly am. Still, Vito says that begging works at least one out of every five times.

"Goodbye, Ervin."

"You’ve already had it in your mouth. Can’t you just put it back in and finish the job. A blow job isn’t real sex."

"Look, I would have sex with you if I felt it was right. I just don’t feel like it’s right tonight. Please, just go home."

I pull myself together, give Tricia a hug and a kiss goodbye, climb out of the car, and walk slowly up the gravel path to my front door. She honks, then drives away. I sit on my front step and stare up at the full moon. I know I’ll have the chance to be with her again. I can taste the bitterness of missed opportunity on my lips. Smell the sweetness of sex on two of my fingers. I smile. I know it’s coming. Someday, somehow, somewhere. Not with Tricia, more than likely. But there’s a girl out there who is going to let me in, and soon. I know this. It’s coming. I’m nearly a man. So close. It’s frustrating to go home smelling like sex without actually having had sex. Wet and sticky. Going home. A woman’s scent on my fingers. No sex. Damn.