by Jack Tinmouth
Boy notices how the other boys stare at girls as they blow kisses. How they grasp at the chances to take their lips and press them on the lips of the girls.
Boy wonders if any of the boys know how much he wants to press his lips against them, against the whole of them; a stamp of ownership. He says nothing instead and offers his well-practiced smile.
In changing rooms for gym. Boy makes notes in his mind. On every scar, mole, blemish – the marks on the maps of bodies.
He notices metamorphosis; the way contours form into V-shaped lines of hips. The other boys sit and make fun of Boy’s plainness, his stasis; the bud without blossom.
Boy tears apart the papers in his mind.
Boy meets a new boy – S. They become friends far too quickly. Boy pieces the confetti of the notebook mind back together to make notes on S:
“The caramel eyes, almost-mahogany. The size and shape of hands, calloused as a man’s are. Aged beyond his years already.”
S’ hands trace Boy’s inner thigh – the touch is warm; pleasant but dangerous. S smiles at Boy as though it’s a warning shot. Boy makes a note:
“That is how Brutus smiled with his blade in Caesar’s back.”
“Silver pieces for eyes. 30 for S himself.”
The notes follow each name spat out like a bullet – after each fist or foot paints a new shade of purple on Boy’s skin.
“Judas for Jesus.”
“Brutus for Caesar.”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
The ink bleeds onto the pages. Boy cannot remember who stuck the knife in first.
Boy is in his bed and crying himself awake. All his notes are shreds, whipping through his mind as hurricane would a coastline. The ghost of S’ smirk imprinted on his eyes.
“Learn to smile like that.” Boy writes, immediately striking it through.
“Learn to lie like that.” Another scribbled out phrase.
Boy is fifteen now but feels smaller than ever; an infant again. Boy sees insects among the flowers in the garden and cannot help feeling a kinship.
Spring is come but Boy is still stuck in winter – in the chill, frozen out. Boy makes no notes on this. He fills his mind with a thousand pages of silence.
School again. An older boy uses Boy to satisfy a craving – as though it were a pass-time. He took Boy beyond the old science block, into the dark dense of Poplars.
Boy was on his knees in the dirt – down with the mulch, the filth of it. His hands on the older boy, his mouth…
In his head, the pages start to fill with grime. A new word is slowly etched onto paper; “Slut.”
“Maybe I am” Boy writes – his first line in a month.
Boy sneaks out at night to find other boys – other men. He wears his tightest jeans to show off everything he does not yet have; as though his body is leased.
He finds himself on the edge of a park when a man with grey hair in a greyer car pulls up. He takes Boy for an hour before dropping him back to the same spot; £50 in his hands. A wrenching in his gut.
“The pain is guilt” goes line upon line in his head.
“The pain is guilt.”
Near sixteen now. Near final year. Boy gets called “fag” more often than by name. He earns at night by being this – being the queer boy. This time, he is careless. Boy is caught by a teacher in the locker room with the head boy.
Parents called. Blames applied. Names called. Asked why. Doctors called. Tears cried.
“You’re a monster now. You are Medusa” Boy writes in frantic slants.
“Snakes, snakes everywhere and you slither with them in the undergrowth.”
Boy writes lists:
Names that aren’t mine – fairy, fag, pansy, poof, fudge packer, cum guzzler, ass bandit, cock hound, boy whore.
Things I know – I am all these things. I am stone now. I have no skin left to bruise.
Things that hurt – No words. No sticks, no stones, no broken bones. Only their eyes; daggers in my spine.
Boy is learning how to dance for other boys. Learning how to tease, how to please for a living.
“Move like grass for him; dance to the whistle of wind.”
Boy makes notes of his steps; remove this first. Then this, and this before- and drop down. Run your hands down a man’s flanks.
“We are in limbo now” Boy writes.
The man pulls Boy onto his lap.
“We are in limbo now” he repeats as the man makes use of him. Boy focuses on the money on the table.
“We are in limbo now.”