from 77 Irish Love Stories
The little sum of life forbids the raveling of lengthy
But though I know beauty, I can’t express it until I’ve undressed.
Have so much undressing to do.
-- Joe Brainard, aged 19
I can not love him all day, it’s no problem. I have my own schedule, his messages are mostly please could you do. When he comes home I can not love him some more. It’s easy. Complaints about work, complaints about supper. He cheers up, smokes up, talks spritely nonsense, and still I can easily not love him, we’re buddies, we’re pals, we’ve been so forever. When he takes me to bed, we are fuckbuddies, just that. He’s a pretty boy, a sex genius, and I am his long-term remedial student. It’s easy not to love him, he’s just the hot meat I’m sprawled against when I am spent, exhausted. In the morning I wake feeling, first, the pressure in my jaw, my crooking teeth, and, second, his furry ass pressed against mine. Half-awake, without defense, that’s when it gets me. I have only a few minutes before he wakes and so I get up, piss, wash, confident he suspects nothing. By the time coffee is ready I can fake it again. I can not love him. It’s easy to not love him. The hard thing is to keep at it all the time.
We are good people, mostly. We are a nice couple. It’s just that we enjoy torturing the man who lives downstairs. The man downstairs who looked at us, right from the beginning, like a cockroach he’d caught in a napkin. The man downstairs is closeted. Not so closeted. He’s on gaydar, grindr and scruff. He is discreet, that venomous word. He is the right kind of gay, the tasteful version now lauded all over the world, the good gays, who hate themselves and love to shop. That’s the real meaning of the word discreet. He will have nothing to do with us, the queers upstairs. And his bedroom is right, directly, below ours. Don’t you, too, feel that sex is much more fun if you are making noise? Sometimes we can’t help ourselves. And, considering that men have been taught they shouldn’t really like to take it up the ass, there’s something really liberating about growling fuck me, which, if we’re getting going, if poppers are involved, may easily become fuckmefuckmefuckme. No doubt this is irritating to the man attempting to sleep, discreetly, downstairs. This is impolite, it’s rude, I agree, but the thing that is really unkind is our tendency, while chipperly thumping away, to call out his name. That’s not right. We are clearly the wrong kind of homosexuals. Queers. The nasty horny disruptive variety, which were supposedly being phased out. It must surely be difficult to relax, discreetly, when two guys are fucking upstairs and even more difficult when they are calling out your name. Come on. Come out, Brendan. At least come upstairs.
Jonathan Mack was raised on a family farm in New Hampshire, but has spent most of his adult life in India and Japan. Stories and essays have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Quarter After Eight, Eleven Eleven, Green Mountains Review, Zymbol, Jonathan, Gargoyle, Mary, Japanzine and elsewhere. His story “The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked” is the title story of an anthology of fiction about disability forthcoming from Cinco Punto Press. He was a 2016 Lambda Literary fellow in Fiction.