I'm taking a shot at writing a believable story for this archive. I'm not sure I can pull it off, memory being what it is (the original interior decorator), but I aim to be honest, and I hope not to distort. As a consequence, the porn quotient might be a little low (and the brow might be a little high) for readers looking for a quick fix, but I hope I can make it sexy enough in the end to reward the effort and patience of those who carry on.
If you find the ensuing account interesting in any way, please let me know. email@example.com
The Boy with the Sketchbook
Call me Javier because that's my name. I was born 46 years ago in Florida, the youngest child of ιmigrιs from Caracas. I speak Spanish almost as well as I speak English, and for this reason, several times a year my employers send me to Madrid, an assignment I've always enjoyed, not only because of the castles, the flamenco, and the paella, but because of the per diem, which lets me live like a sybarite for a couple of weeks at least when I'm not holding court at some meeting. Fortunately, most of the Spaniards I know hate work as much as they love pata negra, so I'm left with plenty of time on my hands. Sometimes I spend it wisely. Many times I don't. This story is about one of these times, though I won't argue if you come to understand it differently.
I'm bisexual, I suppose, at least if that means I've had uncomplicated sex with both women and men. A longitudinal study would reveal that I've been with 33 men and only six women in my life, so maybe I just ought to say that I'm gay and be done with it except that this label has always struck me as unnecessarily narrow given what, in a pinch, my imagination can come up with. Recently, however, I've hit a dry spell with anyone of any gender and not because I've gone blind or lost my teeth. My parts all work, I promise. The face I see in the mirror remains pleasant, unlined, dare I say handsome, and I still sport the same shock of sandy-colored hair (my mother is of German extraction) I had in high school. And while I hate ritual exercise and I've never joined a gym, I remain an ectomorph: 155 pounds soaking wet, but like an Altoid, curiously strong. I'm blessed with solid genes and an eye for beauty. I'm schooled in the social graces. No, the problem or whatever it is that's been holding me back of late, is inside my head.
I meet somebody at a bar or a party. We exchange quips, then come-ons. The night is full of promise, though I can't even recall his name, not that this matters in 2014. He looks great, and I can tell he thinks I look pretty good, too. The deal, as they say, should be sealed. But it isn't, at least not lately. These days, the prospect of sex overwhelms me, paralyzes me, has me in an instant inventing excuses and then fleeing. I don't know why exactly I'm suddenly so afraid of something I once enjoyed indiscriminately unless it's simply that I'm no longer willing or able to surrender.
As a consequence, my last few trips to Spain trust me when I tell you that the place is ripe with sex and anyone who goes looking can have his needs met have been celibate. I work, I eat, I read, I take long walks, and I go to bed alone. The thing between my legs still responds to my touch, but I'm not sure any more that it would to somebody else's. And this truly frightens me.
So one Saturday in June, a bright, clean, postcard afternoon, I decide to take my funk to the Prado Museum, conveniently located about six blocks from my hotel. I've been many times over the years, not quite a tourist, but hardly a maven. I avoid most of the galleries I'm not much for madonnas or kings, and these are legion and concentrate on a few rooms and a few works that galvanize me. This day I've got my eye on a small landscape by the Flemish painter, Patinir. Charon, the Ferryman of the underworld, is paddling across the Styx, no doubt on a mission to escort another sinner from the land of the living to Hades. He's alone in Patinir's vision, but I have to imagine he's been busy. What kills me about this painting is the water, a lapidary kind of blue I can't locate on the color wheel. I back away a few feet to see if this blue travels, then take a seat at one of the marble benches to catch my breath.
Then I see him, on the other bench in the room, his back to me, busy with a sketchbook. Every now and then, when the crowd parts, he looks up at the famous Hieronymous Bosch triptych, tilts his head, and returns to his work. Lots of people do this, of course, copy the masters, but they're ordinarily art students working with permission, perfecting their technique while the tourists mill about and gawk. Perhaps because he's so young, this kid seems out of place here, his rapt attention in sharp contrast to the boredom I sense in most adolescents visiting the Prado. I decide to see what he's doing.
When the elderly woman next to him gets up, I plunk myself down in her spot, not close enough to be obnoxious, but close enough, I hope, to catch a glimpse of his work. Even so, he eases away, if only a few inches, understandably sensitive to the etiquette of space. I'm guessing he wants me to leave him alone, but still I don't move away. Perhaps feeling a territorial imperative, the boy chooses not to exercise the option to leave the bench, but he's closed the sketchbook from my prying eyes. The tourists swirl around us for a minute and I figure it's time to disappear into them and give the boy his bench back. Instead, I ask a question in Spanish, fully understanding that this might drive him away once and for all:
"Quι dibujas, Picasso?"
For all I know, the boy could be Lithuanian or from Indiana, this being a mecca for foreigners, but I speak to him in Spanish because something in his posture tells me he's been here before. Then he turns to me, smiles, and says in perfect Castilian, "Hell. There's a bird eating a man. I'm blowing it up a bit." He adds, "By the way, Picasso's at the Reina Sofia." At this point, he slides a little closer, opens his sketchbook, places it on my lap, and points at the Bosch in front of us: "See the bird? Next to the ears with the knife sticking out of them? That's what I'm drawing."
The kid is good. The bird seems less primitive than the original, and he's given the poor man an identifiable face, full of horror and despair. It's ink, not paint, and somehow the image is even more awful as lines and shadow.
"Thank you," I say. You're really good. Sorry to be so nosy."
"No problem. People are curious. I'm not really that good at faces yet. Mostly I do cartoons, but my dad thinks I ought to try something more realistic."
"So you chose El Bosco? It's a cartoon, too, in my opinion."
"I guess so. But there's weird stuff going on, and I kind of like that."
I ask him if I can see some of his other stuff, and he shrugs, telling me, with pride I suspect, "whatever." I find pages full of elaborate monsters, heavy metal creatures drawn with a fine hand. A couple of Emo-looking girls in profile, smoking cigarettes. A caricature of Cristiano Ronaldo. Disembodied muscles, forearms and calves, medical drawings in the manner of Leonardo. Malevolent eyes staring up at me. An eclectic mix. As I continue my review, the boy remains calm. His drawings most certainly are not.
"So what do you think? Really?" he asks his first question.
For the first time, I actually look at him, and it occurs to me in an instant that I might be talking to myself, that he's an apparition, that I've imagined everything I'm telling you about and it's time to seek help. I blink, and when he doesn't disappear, I take him all in, get his measure, careful not to stare too hard: I see a prominent nose and huge, wounded eyes behind Euro-chic glasses, dirty-blond hair cut badly, freckles that seem to clash with his general aura of sadness, and spectacular hands with long spidery fingers an artist's fingers, whatever that means. He's had a growth spurt recently he hunches to hide it but his actual age is unclear to me. He could be 16; he could be a couple of years younger or older.
"Well. You're actually quite good. Really. But then I already told you that."
"And I like your stuff. But it's not exactly cheerful."
"Funny. That's what my Art teacher says. I think she wants me to see the counselor." When he smiles, a little sunshine filters out into the room.
"Ignore her," I insist. It's what you see that matters, not what she thinks."
Now it's his turn. He checks me out, as I did him. I wonder if he's thinking, "who the fuck is this dude?" If he's anything like I was at his age, I'm guessing I'm the oldest guy he's ever talked to for more than a minute. Something stirs in me, absurd as it sounds, a need for him to find me attractive, to like me. Death in Madrid, I think, which is both ironic and pathetic, so I decide to block whatever it is before it crystallizes.
"You're not from here," he finally says. There are lots of silent spaces in our conversation. "Spain, I mean."
"I'm American. I thought the Dockers would be a dead give-away."
"You speak Spanish really well."
"I always have. My parents are from South America. We spoke Spanish at home."
"Joder. My English is terrible. My mother says I have no aptitude for language."
"English is overrated, anyway."
"What does that mean?"
"It means, if you can sing, you don't need English. If you can draw, you don't need English. To me, it means having a million words at your disposal and nothing to say."
"That's Spanish, too. Nobody ever says anything important."
"Yes. And on that note, I should probably let you get back to work. You've been really cool about all of this."
"Okay," he says, but I hear disappointment, not relief. And the fact is: I don't want to go anywhere. I suspect, though I must be projecting, that he'd be happy to talk until the museum closes.
"My name is Javier, by the way." I extend my hand, and in that instant, as he offers his for me to clasp, I understand what's going on with me, the goddamned ulterior motive or whatever they call it, the reason I'm acting so strangely. Call me stupid for not recognizing the obvious, but I want him. It's that simple. I don't want Carlos, the camarero at The Villa Magna who licks his pouty lips when he pours me a Rioja. I don't want Isabel, who looks like the new queen of Spain. I don't want anybody who might actually want me. I want the boy with the sketchbook.
"I'm Borja." He speaks like this, elliptically. "Where are you going? I mean, in the museum and all." For the first time since I was myself a kid, I want the power to read his mind, to hear what follows this awkward question, even if he's thinking, get the fuck out of here. I'd like to know.
"Well, to the bathroom, first. Then, I don't know. Goya maybe. Your drawings have me thinking about Goya. Saturn Devouring His Son." I chuckle, I hope not too menacingly. "Or back to the hotel." Nobody ever says anything important, the boy just told me.
"See you, Javier."
"Hasta luego, majo."
By all rights, the story should end here, but then it sure wouldn't be much of a story. But as I don't think what happened next has any meaning without what happened first, without the fakes and dodges, without the fear and loathing, without the inarticulate silences, I'm trying to record the episode as it unfolded, in real time. Real time always seems to move slowly, at least when my hyper-analytical consciousness has it in its clutches.
******* ******* *******
I'm shaking when I head off to pee. I feel a little sick, unaccountably anxious given that I've just managed to walk away from the world's clumsiest seduction. Luckily, I'm the only one at the row of urinals. I do my business, take a dramatic breath, zip up, and gather myself. It's the 21st century, after all, I tell myself. There's always a Starbuck's around the corner.
Suddenly, the door swings open. It's Borja. I offer a fraudulent smile, and say, "I guess great minds think alike." Just as suddenly, he backs out into the hallway. Maybe he can read minds. Maybe he's just as nervous as I am. I've never cruised a kid before, and I'm certain he's never cruised anybody, ever.
I count to twelve and exit the servicios. I sense that if I just look down and keep moving, this crazy shadow dance can come to a merciful end. No way. Like a cut-rate Orpheus, I'll always turn back. I see Borja leaning on a counter in the Gift Shop, pretending to look at postcards. He doesn't seem to know what to do. His eyes plead with me to say something, so I make up my mind to set the record straight, once and for all.
"I'm at the Villa Magna on the Castellana. Room 346. I'll be in Madrid until the end of next week. I'd like to see more of your work." I smile again, knowing there can be no mistaking my intentions. He is free to go if he chooses. He can laugh with his friends about the creepy dude who hit on him at the Prado. Or he is free to follow, at any distance he likes. It seems a reasonable solution.
I leave the museum through the back entrance, and this time I don't look behind me. I don't know what troubles me more, that I'll never see the boy again, or that I might see him soon. I walk briskly around the fountain of Neptuno, past the Thyssen, towards my hotel. It's not hot at all, but I'm sweating and I can actually see my heart thumping against the walls of my chest. I find a bench in the shade before I come completely undone.
Just five minutes later, Borja sits down beside me. The simple brush of his shorts against my Dockers is enough to make me tremble. He's trembling, too, I think, though it could be the echo of my heart.
"I've got more drawings in my bag," he says. "Personal stuff. I've never shown them to anybody. If, you know, you really want to see them."
"I'd love to," I say. "But it's time to come clean here, chico. I'm gay. You're a boy. If I invite you up to my room which I really, really would like I need to know that you're okay being with me."
"You're not going to hurt me. Look, I'm not stupid, Javier. I live in Madrid. It's a big, big city. My family has cable, 215 channels. Half the priests in my parish are maricones. If it matters, I knew you were gay right away. Before I knew you were American. I didn't bolt then, so I'm not going to bolt now. I stayed there with you and El Bosco, showed you my stuff. Remember?" He doesn't mean to, but he's making me feel even more foolish than I already feel. "I'm sure about one thing," he adds. "You're not a paedo" here he uses the local slang, a term I've never heard, but the context is clear enough "you're not even as strange as I am."
"I've never done this before," I whisper, which must be the stupidest thing I've ever said.
"I've never done anything before, but here I am. So there," he says. "I want to show you something I did last month. It's, well, it's different."
So it's come to this, I think. I reach into my back pocket, and hand the boy with the sketchbook my second key card.
"You know the Villa Magna?"
"Posh, Mr. Pijo, Posh." he answers, all smiles. "I know it. But I've never been inside."
I go ahead. There's no sense looking back now. After all, the Underworld isn't behind me, it's two blocks up the boulevard.
******** ******* *******
Everything is where I left it. My laptop. El Pais. The Jo Nesbo paperback. All the documents of my other life. I take a couple of bottles of water from the mini-fridge, sit on the couch in the living room area, and wait for the door to open.
Borja walks in two minutes later like he owns the place. How can he be so calm, I ask myself?
"Like I said, posh."
"It is. I'm almost embarrassed by this place. But my company pays for it."
"My dad owns a bar in Chamartνn. When we go to Benidorm for vacations, we eat at the buffet with the Germans and I share a bed with my little brother. It's not like this, that's for sure."
He sits next to me on the couch. From where we sit, the bed looks like an ocean. I put my arm around his shoulder, and to my surprise, he relaxes. "What did you want to show me, Borja?"
He takes another sketchbook from the mochila by his feet. "Have a look," he commands.
Nudes. Some women, some men. Again, I'm struck by the precision of his work, by the anatomical accuracy. Almost all of them, I see, lack faces.
"I told you, I'm not so great at faces."
"Models? Did you have models?"
"No way. The internet. I'm just copying. Besides, I can't really show these to anybody yet. I don't know, my Art teacher would, like, have a nervous breakdown. Anyway, I thought you might like them."
"But they're legitimate, Borja. The Prado is full of nudes. So's the Reina Sofia. Seems to me, art is all about naked people. Why not you, too?"
"Here, look at this one." He pulls a folded sheet from the pages of this second sketchbook.
It's another nude, of course, but this time there's nothing remotely anonymous about it. Borja has drawn himself. The honesty of his self-portrait nearly suffocates me. He may have trouble with faces, but he knows this one, knows its special lines and hollows, knows the odd smile that is almost, but not quite a smirk. Tracing down the page, I see the outline of ribs in his unmuscled chest. I see the little boy tummy he hasn't quite outgrown, even his odd belly-button, a singular protuberance. I see the small thatch of dark pubic hair and the long, thin penis that hangs from it. I see his coltish legs, and then those big feet that are presently nudging into mine. He may not be pretty in a fanzine sense, but, God in heaven, the boy with the sketchbook is the most beautiful creature I've ever laid eyes on.
"I don't know what to say, Borja. I mean, I love it. How...?"
"Selfie. It felt weird posing for it, but not so weird drawing it once I had the shot. You know? I suppose I hesitated when I had to draw my dick and all, but hey, it's my dick. It's another part of me. The rest was pretty easy even the face this time. So what do you think?" I wonder if he's winking, but this has never been part of the script.
"I'm not sure I've ever seen a nude self-portrait before. It really is you." My mouth is dry and my voice cracks. I go for the water. "Borja, you're amazing. Better than the drawing." I lean over to kiss him, and in this instant I learn that he's never kissed a man before. "Sorry. I got carried away."
"Fuck, I'm afraid, too. It's all too weird. I wasn't before I showed you my portrait. I thought I knew what I was doing. But right now I feel, I don't know, more naked with you looking at me." He cups his hands and blows into them, though it's not even remotely cold. "Do you, you know, like my body in that way? I'm so fucking skinny, Javier." He may not know what he's feeling, but I certainly do. It's been a long time since I've been at the intersection of desire and guilt.
"Take off your shirt. Please. I'll show you how much I like it."
He pulls the ratty Manu Chao t-shirt over his head and drops it next to his backpack on the ground. I don't think I've ever sensed anything quite as intimate in my 46 years of longing as this simple gesture. In front of me like that, a living sculpture, arms hanging limp at his sides awaiting my ministrations, whatever form they take, I understand that he will surrender, and I know immediately that I can, too. I stand up, and hold the self-portrait against my chest so that he can see exactly what I'm seeing.
Borja understands. He shakes off his Van's. He unfastens his belt, and pulls down his shorts. He shimmies out of his plaid boxers, and then he is there for me in his fragile glory, completely naked, filling out this funhouse mirror.
I pull off his glasses and press my index finger to his fluted lips, willing the moment to silence. Then I place both hands on his chest, tweak his distended little nipples, let my fingers graze his belly, smooth as alabaster, then for a second trace a ring around his navel.
His penis is impressive, not in that airbrushed gay-porn way that I've come to detest, but as yet another part of him that doesn't quite correspond to the fine-boned adolescent he is. It's definitely erect, swaying in front of him like a gatling mounted on a swivel. I take it in my right hand, and for the first time in what seems like an eternity, we both actually breathe. I retract the long, tight foreskin as gently as I can, and when I breathe on his exposed glans, he twitches a bit with surprise. I put his dickhead into my mouth, bathe it, push into the pee-hole with my tautened tongue, then suck up, gathering the foreskin back into place. There's a bubble of pre-cum lodged in the pucker, and I lick it away. Borja steadies himself on my shoulders, and I know that he's with me now. I proceed as slowly as I can, taking the full length of his shaft, then pulling up to apply a vice clamp on the tip a masterful blow-job by a man not known for his skill in such things. I feel the boy's butt cheeks tense, and I sense that he may be about to unload, so I let go.
"No," he says. "Not yet"
"Wait, chavalito. I want this to last. Wait." He knows only what he's feeling. He can't possibly know what I'm feeling.
I take off my clothes. Borja, student of anatomy, measures me with a discerning eye. He gathers quickly that I have the same equipment he does that, in fact, we're like intergenerational twins. I'm stronger, of course, and I have a little triangle of brown hair between my pectorals, but otherwise, it's like he's seeing himself in 30 years. I look at him looking at me, and I can sense that he recognizes that from the beginning, this has been a lesson in symbiosis.
"Well," I say, sheepishly it's so hard for me to stay serious in the most intimate moments "could you draw me?"
"I already have, I think. Your dick looks like my dick, Javi. Fatter, I guess."
"Got fat with old age, probably. But I'm pretty sure yours is longer and much younger, too. Come here, Borja." I throw my arms around him and try another kiss. This time he figures out what to do with his tongue, and in a matter of seconds, he's a pro, and pretty soon after that, I know that if he isn't himself gay, he's already a lover, and whoever he's with will be happy. When we separate, he looks straight at me and smiles. This is starting to be fun for him, I think. Narcissus was pretty, sure, but he couldn't see anybody but himself in that sylvan pool.
Then it's to bed. I pull back the covers and lay the boy on the crisp white cotton sheets. I prop myself up on an elbow and resume my exploration, touching, stroking, licking, cooing, worshipping. I pay special attention to his dick, careful to avoid explosions and spills. I think to myself as I caress it, astonished again by its length and heft and lubricity, that I have never in my erotic travels landed in such a marvelous spot.
Borja pushes me away and for a moment I think that maybe he's tired of my slow design. Then he does with me what I'd been doing with him, the sincerest form of flattery and all that. It's lovely, the brush of his inexperienced hand and the sandpaper of his tongue. When he gets to my dick it hasn't been this hard in months he's overly cautious, jacking it too literally, as a boy might, but soon he's all in, and proceeds to deliver his first official blowjob. That it's rough and clumsy only adds to my pleasure. I could cum in a heartbeat, I think, but heartbeats are too precious for that.
"I think I like this."
"Sex. I'm a virgin, you know."
"I know, Borja. We're all virgins at some point. Then we're not." He grins at my absolute lack of profundity. "So what do you want to do about it?"
"Lose it." And he adds, "With you, of course."
"Do you know what that might mean? What we're doing now, this is all just, all just...preliminaries, you know."
"I guessed. I know gay guys fuck. `Buttfuck,' the guys say. Quι mariconazo!" I remember that I once said the same kind of thing to my friends in high school, the homophobic epithets rattling off my tongue like gunfire, even long after I knew that I would someday myself get fucked in the butt.
"Gay guys fuck. This is true, boy. But not always. It's not quite that easy. It's easier with a girl, if you want to know the truth."
"Sure, I get it," he says, but he doesn't know, couldn't possibly know. "Javier? Do you want to fuck?" All the while, he's got my aching dick in his left hand, unsheathing then recovering it, watching with delight how the swollen red glans appears, then disappears again.
"Yes, Borja. I'd like you to fuck me. That would be, well, just about perfect."
"Okay. Will you fuck me, too? Isn't that part of the deal?" I'm shocked by his transparency.
"It hurts." I watch his reaction. He might not fully grasp this reality temporary as it can be.
"That's all right. Sometimes, you know, it feels good to hurt."
When I hear this, I understand for the millionth time that whatever happens when two people make love, happens.
He hurts me, of course. He's big and inexperienced enough that when he pushes into me, I'm not quite ready. I've lubricated him, whispered tender instructions, encouraged him to go slow. I've relaxed myself, then when this fails, I've gritted my teeth, but still, it hurts. I'll never let him know, of course, and in fact, I urge him on.
"Yes, yes" I moan, just like the video twink being impaled by the construction worker. He ratchets things up a notch, discovering that fascinating rhythm. He's breathing hard and I'm breathing even harder, pulling when he pushes, and pushing when he pulls. When I know he's going to cum, I think to push him off me, but this boy has an instinct for decency, and he quickly withdraws, pulls himself over my chest, squirts jet after jet of semen, then collapses in the puddle and on top of me.
"Great," is all I can't think to say, because there are no words in either of my languages to express what I'm feeling. He catches his breath, swallows vigorously, appears to choke back a sob another sensation I well remember. I get up to grab a towel from the bathroom.
When I return, he's lying on his back, his hands clasped behind his head, the classic post-coital pose. I see, too, that his penis, still wet with cum, hasn't subsided an inch. He lets me clean him up a bit, and I'm sort of hoping that he'll forget about the second part of the contract. I lean over to kiss him, and his hand goes right to my dick, diminished a bit at the moment because I'm thinking about other things.
"Javier, I do want it. I'm not scared." He looks committed and somewhat grave, as if this is an examination he needs to pass.
So I prepare him as well as I know how. I massage his sphincter, gently stretching things with first one, then two and three fingers. I tell him to slide to the edge of the big bed, and I slip a big pillow under his butt. I straddle him, and when he squeezes his eyes closed like a little kid at the dentist's, I ask him again if he's really ready. He nods and smiles.
"I know, I'm acting stupid."
"No, you're not. You're acting exactly like you should be acting. It would kill me to hurt you. I'm not about that. Not about that, at all."
"It's okay, Javier. This is the best day of my life."
This moves me, and above all relieves me. And when I go to fuck him, I summon every ounce of tenderness stored in my strange, misguided heart. He's anxious, and expels me before I've actually penetrated him. I don't deter, just look down at him and smile. Eventually, nature surmounts whatever physical obstacles present themselves, and we are at last together in the act. He's figured it out and his eyes remain wide open. Soon enough, I cum. And collapse. I want to cry, I need to cry, but I don't want him to think that sex is an exorcism. So I gather my wits, bite his ear, pull him close again, and do what I do best: talk.
We lie together for an hour, chatting, about Art and futbol and vacations at the beach. He interjects from time to time with some half-formed philosophical meditation I guess he knows that sex almost always delivers thought but I try to keep it light, to let him know that what he's just done is the beginning of something, not the end. Then I give him a bath, wash all the evidence away in the great marble tub. He never quite loses his boner, and I think to myself how wrong it is that I'll never have this gift again. I dry him off and we go back to bed, talk some more, and then, exhausted, I fall asleep.
When I wake up, the sun has set and Borja is gone. This is inevitable, of course, the way it should be, the way it has to be. He has a home and a family and school, and if he's as lucky as I hope he'll be, he has a wonderful future as an artist and a lover. I consider that with the information he's given me I could probably track him down (he knows where I'll be, too), but I know I wouldn't ever do that. Borja needs to figure things out for himself, and I need to return to the land of the living. Orpheus played sad songs even before he decided to look back. So it's straight ahead, back to work, then back to Miami and the Brit who owns the coffee shop on Mary Street. He gave me his number and said I might find him some night at El Bohemio.
When I go to pick up my trash from the living room table, I see it, the nude self-portrait of Borja, carefully folded. I think for a second that he must have forgotten it in his rush to get out, but then I find the little note he's scribbled on a piece of hotel stationery. I chuckle at his penmanship there's no art there. He writes:
THIS IS FOR YOU. THINK OF ME ALWAYS.
Then I see that he's autographed the drawing in the bottom right corner. BORJA SAENZ IRIGOYEN.
I'll keep a look out in the catalogues.
I would love to hear what readers think. firstname.lastname@example.org