Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Briefly, Forever

It occurred to me in the summer of 1998 while working in Glover, Vermont for the Bread & Puppet Theater as an unpaid and mostly underfed performer that the people who I would find myself hanging out with for the rest of my life would be people who voted for the Democratic candidate because he was the lesser evil, if they weren’t writing in Angela Davis. Some of them would not vote at all. They would dress in unfashionable clothing, drink whisky from plastic cups in their living rooms and go contra-dancing. They would drink expensive coffee and drive cheap cars. It occured to me the way the cartoon coyote will keep paddling and flapping his charred paper wings until he looks down at the ground below, registers with wide eyes his eminent demise, and falls out of the sky, making a dusty white poof on the canyon floor.

What happened after all that, after giving in to it, was this:

He was one of about ten students who had come to Vermont from a theater school in Mexico City. They were dancers, singers, actors and sometime musicians who spoke varying degrees of English and who I met in a line, one after another, repeating my name then theirs back to them, not remembering a single one.

He was barely taller than me, with thinner build and eyes that said what he couldn’t in English; I spoke no Spanish. We carried a dictionary with us, and learned a truncated way of flipping through the pages to get the nouns and crudely miming the actions. My flashlight broke and we couldn’t fix it in the dark, on what they call the Circus Road, and we kissed for the first time. We got condoms and lube out of the “Safe Sex Basket” in the puppeteers house and had sex in his tent under blankets, army-issue and heavy and brown. We woke up, covered in wool fuzz, plastered to us where our bodies had been moist with water-based petroleum--hands, nipples, crotches.

The next evening, after the first full day of performances (from about ten in the morning to eight at night) we actually fell asleep during sex. We’d had little to eat all day, and had been carrying giant puppets across the fields all afternoon, and after rolling around in the tent for about fifteen minutes at nearly one in the morning, we paused to breathe (or paused to hear what your body is feeling, like you can do during sex) and fell right asleep. We couldn’t remember who did so first.

Some other puppeteers, a Parisian woman and her Canadian boyfriend, drove us to Boston, where my charming Mexican’s second cousin lived with his American wife, a nurse who cooked amazing dinners. He bought her a plant. We slept on the pull-out bed in the living room and he was afraid that she’d walk in on us sleeping, cuddling together on one side of the bed. We took a shower together in their bathroom and, though I’d seen him naked a dozen times, he asked me to look away when he undressed.

We cooked dinner with our puppeteer friends, with spicy corn salad, leeks in crème fraiche, glazed pork loin and French bread from the Jewish bakery. We came to my New York apartment and shared my twin-sized bed and that was when he prayed--on his knees, right there on the floor of my bedroom, both of us naked, my suddenly deflating erection--before giving me a blowjob.

He had to go back to Mexico on September 3rd. He would take a bus to the Newark Airport. I couldn’t write him; the Mexican postal service wasn’t reliable. I wouldn’t call him; we spoke hardly a word of each other’s language. It was simply going to be over. He left at nearly four o’clock in the morning. I was still asleep.

I won’t tell you his name, though I remember it completely and, basically, everything he ever told me. It’s like a secret that you keep to yourself, or a place you keep sentimental things hidden. But I remember: lying in the cold grass at midnight, pointing out constellations to a beautiful Mexican theater student with whom I briefly, and perhaps forever, fell in love.

No comments: