Told Between Puffs, December 2014

In which our hero explores

V.V. has never been one for close comradeship. From the days when he nursed Mother’s withered breast, he’s always taken to relationships of the stern, fumbling, Platonic variety. His years at Columbia, though softened by a succession of male acolytes–Geoffrey, Bastian, Dimitriev–have passed in near isolation, with only his valet Serj to soothe his doubts and nurture his delicate imagination. V’s analyst suggests this “pattern of attachment” has to do with the way the boy’s father regularly measured his member and forced him to wear colorful, anachronistic codpieces at the dinner table.

Some new feeling must have burst forth in him the day he first sat next to Henry Fredrico in German Romanic poetry, drawn weightlessly through the seminar room, as if by a thread of gossamer, to Henry’s crooked nose. After 10 weeks of glances and eventually chatting and snickering, they became real classroom chums and V.V. began to crave the aggressive, almost disgusting way Henry closed in on him whenever he spoke, his grey eyes no more than two inches away. They would exchange poems and discuss them after class as Henry smoked a cigarette out the window.

One Sunday, Henry finally invited V over for a visit at his flat in Schapiro, but only two minutes after his arrival, our hero decided the whole thing–the notes, the games, the wiry hair of Henry’s arm–all been for naught, as Henry’s only gesture of welcome was to produce four tabs of LSD from the fridge.

After V declined, Henry popped two, offered our hero a chair, which he declined in turn, and began to pronounce on certain unexplored features of his own psyche while V scanned the room for signs of civilized life. “I’m embarking on something special, man,” Henry kept repeating. Verily reached for the bookshelf, hoping for some reassurance, only to have his disgust overwhelm him: Salinger, Kerouac, Kesey, Gaddis.

Americans!

“And last night,” Henry continued, “I took some mind blowing ketamine with my brother who lives out West now.”

“‘Ugh,” our hero exclaimed, unable to control the parade of insults and curses that followed, the ultimatums, and long, enraptured descriptions of Henry’s physique. “I’m sorry I ever took up with you.”

“Sorry! Man do you remember the junk you used to write before I baptized you in my wake? All the ‘fluttering dew drops.’”

“Stop it.”

“The ‘winsome willowy women.’”

“Damnation!” V spat, “Of course my Dorchester Odes sounds puerile recited out of context, Henry. I challenge you, you rat, to a poetry duel.”

“You’re on. Bougie old fascist. If we wait two hours this acid will really be taking off.”

Damn him! V thought, Damn his playfully crooked nose!

“No it must be now, and let’s let our pens do the talking, shall we? Make no mistake: your sallow eyes and melted gold curling hair will not beguile me. Nor the proud rump of your calf, nor the sweat besparkled stretch of exposed neck. I shall not shake upon the sight of your ripped up abs–”

“Man,” Henry sneered, “do you want to write these poems? Or do you really want to fuck me?”

Shocked, sputtering, our hero saw himself clearly for the first time.

“I think I want you to… How is it called? When the submissive figure lies fetally and the dominant creeps up behind and fits himself curve on curve against–”

“Spooning, man.”

“That’s it, Henry. I want to go spooning.”

So the two lay in Henry’s bed, watching as the red sun dipped beyond the Hudson.

“I suppose I’m gay,” Verily mused.

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