THIS BOY I ONCE KNEW
Contractions and pulsations loosely define the form of the jellyfish. Although it has some ability to guide itself through its undulations, currents and tides dictate its movements. The whole entity is translucent in artificial illumination. It draws nutrients into to its gastrovascular cavity and releases waste from the same orifice. The hole it uses to eat is the hole it uses to barf-shit. Warming caused by our excess waste provides it the perfect environment to reproduce. The mechanics of our vague memories anticipate the ways these invertebrates bloom and disrupt our waterways.
As I wait in line for lunch in a canary yellow restaurant, the restraints needed to make society work constrict my thoughts. Yet my eyes betray these restraints and study a teenager’s pert ass. His indigo blue jeans are neither too loose nor too tight, so they conform to each welled-teardrop cheek without being too obscuring or too obscene. The tightness of the ass gives the impression of intelligence in the same way a Jack Russell terrier’s tight musculature does. His orange T-shirt grips his bird chest, revealing the subtle contour of each of his ribs. His pensive brown eyes tense, suggesting that he wants to flee from his similarly attired friends.
Seeing this boy turns my guts into quivering, searing jelly. But the curves of his ass, his slenderness, his shoulder length dirty blonde hair are familiar. He resembles a boy with honey sweet cum, the boy I loved when I was a boy.
When I was younger, the boy I remember would take me to the air-conditioned basement of his father’s house. He would let my lay on top of him and jack him off. This clumsy manifestation of love didn’t satisfy me. I would run my fingers through the pools of semen on his soft stomach and lick my fingertips. To me this meant, there is more to us than random impulses and a hand job. To him this meant, I was a fag eager to serve the urges of his eight-inch cock.
The boy I once knew and the boy waiting for his wad of Grade-D-But-Edible meat in a soggy bun are networked through my chance motions and gaze. The randomness of life is its tenacity. Jellyfish are lumps of bio-matter with limited control over their trajectories—we err when assuming we are more than meat driven by chemicals. The cashier hands one of the boy’s friends a couple of white paper bags with their order. They walk past me. I tilt my head to smell the trail of sweat and body spray the boy leaves behind him. The tilt is an empty and emptying gesture.
If I accept the premise that speech is potential action and text is potential speech, then text acts like the mirror neurons of life. Yet text is innately empty. It exists only in relation to the reader. Even the writer only reads. The process of creation is the reading of the suture between the mind and the page. He may reflect or not, but he is, in all things, a reader.
The ur-reader gazed upon the naked rock, the barren page, before a thousand thousand gazes ossified the meaning of the text. The boy who now holds the glass door so his friends can now exit is not the boy I once loved—but to me at this moment, their impact feels the same.
Writing does not create a new world. The rock I gaze upon contains the fossilized bodies of other writers and invertebrates. I can perhaps not forget the boy’s predecessor. I glance back. There is no strength in forgetting. The boy wryly smiles as I accidentally catch his eyes.
I jerk my head. This gesture is only for survival. This survival is not enduring since I will inevitably look back (if not at this boy, then at another.) Retreat is always a possibility but eventually a strong writer must confront the object of the text and be destroyed. Destruction is inevitable. All will be lost and lost and lost again.
I stay in line to order. But it is not an insignificant game that drives these words and thoughts. In my mind, the boy who is neither the boy I have just watched nor the boy I once knew walks across the hard wood floor of my apartment. This boy is the ethereal creature of text and mind and soul who loves me for the me I have not yet been. This boy will sway his impossibly narrow hips to unheard music as he sips a Hendrick’s martini.
This third boy has no substance or duration except for what matter is required to move impulses between neurons and my typing fingers or what time exists between the page and your eyes. He is not fifteen; he is not thirty. He exists only in concentration on want.
A quarter sized splotch of pre-cum soaks through my jeans. My body demands release, but I will be patient. I will be mature. But his ass is virgin and prime. I press my tongue to the smooth roof of my mouth as he turns. I see the tight pink asshole between his pert cheeks. He sits down next to me. His foot brushes mine as he masturbates. He places his tumbler between his thighs. Liquor splashes onto his thighs as his hand races. He shoots into his cup. A single albino glob of semen lands in the gin and vermouth. His body shakes with his racing heart. The bio-matter in the cup undulates. Or the bio-matter in the cup would undulate if this text were meat and impulse and not a set of dumb signs.
I untuck my shirt to hide the stain on my crotch and wait for my chance to order greasy, processed meat.
Nicholas Hayes is the author of Metastaesthetics (Atropos Press, 2012) and NIV: 39 & 27 (BlazeVox Books, 2009). His writings have appeared in 5_trope, Word Riot, and Madder Love: Queer Men and the Precincts of Surrealism. He received his MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.