WHERE’S MY WILD HORSE, COME TO RESCUE ME?
originally published in FLAUNT Magazine, Issue 125
At home, I torched the kid’s stories.
The barwoman pours heavy. One, two, three drinks, gone. I knew her once, more than a decade ago, before either of us was old enough to legally enter the bar, but she’s not doing me any favors. I’m drowning.
The miraculous thing involves a horse, a herd of wild horses. The river in springtime, unlocks itself. A gush, a swell, the damming debris gives way as the wild horses attempt to cross. One tiny mare is swept from the harem. Her stallion somehow manages to pull her out with his teeth.
“His teeth on her mane. It’s a thing. A park ranger caught it on video. Somewhere deserted, New Mexico. The stallion chases after, though she’s under, and surely she’s dead, all that water, logs and shit rushing by, it’s impossible, but he swims and grabs and guides her ashore.”
The miraculous thing involves sex and death. Sex in the face of death, sex as last defense against mortality. But the opposite can, does, happen. Death in the face of sex, death as last defense against lust.
I burned the boy’s stories on the balcony, in a tin trashcan. Melodramatic, but also contained, cautious, like the stories themselves, I wanted a sensation, but didn’t want to burn. I don’t even know how he died, I couldn’t ask. Probably I should have kept them, honored the words, but the stories haunted me. On each, his name, and my own underneath, Professor, he called me, and the date, and a torrid little title. All the students attached the same heading, where had they learned to do this? I’d never asked for more than their name. I’d never called myself Professor.
“Gay Shame,” the barwoman says. “I’ve got it now.” We’ve known that we’ve known one another, but not how. “You used to come to the meetings. We did an action together.”
Young and radical, we wanted to disrupt the assimilationist agenda of the gay rights movement. Fuck marriage and the military, and pride, those men in Speedos and feathers, on a float, with Absolut written down their flanks.
“Queers take a stand. Fuck the corporate brand.”
The miraculous thing is wild, untamed, magnificent, and young.
The kid, he’d chosen me. Opened up to me. Each story like a challenge. The kid wasn’t gay, but his desires worried him. An implied deviant history. He told me he felt dead inside, but I don’t know how he died, the first time or the last; I didn’t ask. He came to me after class. Ask about the waters, ask about the scars. Each story a challenge and his earnest, pleading face. I was tired, selfish. Twenty kids in the class, my harem. Go deep, I told them, and they dove into the swollen river. I was tired. My teeth hurt. The kid, I shut him down.
“Why don’t you tell me how I can help you?”
Ask about the first time, save me from the last.
“Help me.” I hold up my empty glass and the barwoman laughs, the stuff pours, heavy.
Not even twenty when they met, injured and sneeringly righteous and debauched at once. This is a small city, and she serves these half-grown hipsters all the time. They come back from New York or Berlin or grad school, or their parents’ basements, or rehab, they come back from her past, and mostly she pretends not to recognize them, and they return the favor, but now the barwoman looks inside this particular drunk. He’s done well for himself, though he is, undoubtedly, a drunk. The way he drinks, talks, horses. She looks and tries to find that flaming kid, contained within the professor.
“Thing is, the rest of the harem reverses and makes it back to shore safely, but now the stallion and the rescued mare have crossed to the other side of the river, and the video ends with the water rushing between and the horses neighing, or whinnying, or whatever horses do when they’re distraught, and then the video ends. Just ends.”
“That doesn’t sound like a miracle.”
The kid was my brightest, a cliché, but honest to God, a real thinker. Help, he asked, and I asked, How? The meanness of this trick was not lost on him, but he was generous. He laughed softly and I toothly smiled.
“I hope we can keep having these kinds of talks.”
More soft, generous laughter. More smiles, but closed, all lips, no teeth, and him dead within a week.
The horses are distraught, longing to reach our wild savior on the distant shore.