:: Article

Lesson for My Son III : An excerpt from badbadbad, a multimedia novel

By Jesús Ángel García.

We planned to meet at her place, a squat rancher among the crabgrass not far from Bliss U. She said to come over anytime after dusk. Her kids would be asleep and her mean old man out of town until tomorrow evening. I was to let myself in the basement around back.

I turned the doorknob without a sound and peeked inside. Dull lights, quiet music, the whirr of a fan. I whispered her name. No response. I stepped across the threshold and peeped the layout. The room was small. It smelled of must and apple-cinnamon. The carpet was plush, the walls alternately wood-paneled or papered with a paisley pattern that must have come from the seventies. A pair of loveseats, upholstered in corduroy, a floor lamp between them, made a vee around a coffee table in front of a TV, muted on the Cartoon Network.

To the left near the staircase, a Holy Bible beamed from the top shelf of a cabinet, below which were video games, DVDs or CDs, too many magazines. There was a half-full tumbler on a wet bar across from where I stood. Finger smudges on the glass, ice nearly melted. “Philomela?” I said again.

Footsteps overhead made their way to an upstairs door. As it cracked open, I thought of Cyrus’s warnings: D-R-A-M-A . . . trouble. For a beat, I considered bailing. But I held my ground. This was a test I wouldn’t allow myself to fail. I needed to see if I could be the healer Shannon said I was.

I watched the slow descent of a fallenangel down the stairs. She came into view as such: foot in a flipflop, calf that resembled a piano leg, chafed bent knee, shadow of a strong line to mid-thigh, dark athletic shorts, corporate logo up the side, round ass, long nails, short fingers, small hand and forearm, frilly sleeve to the elbow, sheer blouse, full black bra, bare shoulder, bra strap, choker, shy smile, wide raccoon eyes, tired and wary, hopeful, thick makeup, hair piled high on top of her head, eighties-style, the Bangles. She even walked like an Egyptian. Her nervousness gave me confidence.

“Too cute,” I said, extending my hand. She patted my shoulder, averting her eyes, motioned toward the bar.

We sat across from each other on the loveseats as she repeated to me what she’d previously conveyed in her online profile and our chats, about how she felt trapped and needed release, if only for a few hours. I suggested yoga or Pilates. This made her laugh. Mostly I listened. I couldn’t tell her anything she didn’t know.

There were long pauses in our conversation as we sipped our drinks and stared at the silent cartoons. The music in the background mixed pop and classical standards – the Beatles, Brahms, Irving Berlin – but the kicker was the instrument: solo mandolin. While I can’t recall the name of the artist, I remember how on the CD front he wore a black tux, with a baby-blue bow-tie and cummerbund, and a gray cowboy hat. With a heavy sigh she said the songs made her feel light and airy like fairy dust. “If I could disappear into the stars . . .” She closed her eyes and leaned her head back.

I could see how she longed for flight, weighed down with guilt and remorse, blaming herself for the suffering she felt she had to endure. I was drawn to her sorrow. As she lay there with her little fingers around the tumbler on her lap, I noticed that the rust color on her eyelids was a precise passing tone between the rouge on her cheeks and the shade of her hair. I pictured her carefully selecting this cosmetic among the infinite choices at the mall’s boutiques and chain department stores, escaping in the enchantment of acquisition from the moment she decided on the purchase until reaching the head of the line. Once the register spit out her receipt, the feeling slipped away. Yet whenever she made up this face, reserved for special occasions, she would flash on the joy of the original purchase and pray that it might last, knowing every time it never would.

Philomela wasn’t skinny but she was by no means a fat hoe, as her children’s father put it, or so she said in her profile. While she may have been a few pounds above fighting weight, she wasn’t obese or, from what I could tell, in any way grotesque or at risk for diabetes or heart disease. At first glance, by conventional measures, she wasn’t pretty. But that’s what made her beautiful.

Gazing at her on the loveseat, I thought about how easy it is to pick apart the imperfections in everyone. But who am I to judge? What gives me the right to assess the aesthetic value of another human being? Yet this is what seems to pass for shits and giggles in our One Nation Under God. And while I don’t identify as Christian, it occurred to me, looking at Philomela’s outsized breasts, undersized hands, overdone face paint, roadworn eyes, uneven eyebrows . . . such judgment contradicts the predominant belief that we’re all created in the image of the Creator.

Explain to me the hierarchy of fat to skinny, short to tall, hairy to hairless, large to small, dark, light, weak, strong, rich to poor to old to young to greater than, less than, straight to not so, just so, perhaps, maybe? and if so, or if not, is that in whole or in part? and if either or, then which parts? and so on. Who’s to say who’s extraordinary, average or subpar? The overlords on American Dream Gods? Who’s to say you’re right or wrong for being who you are? Who’s really large, medium or small? Are we no more, no less than our car, house or shoe size?

Granted, these thoughts came to me under the influence of two full glasses of bathtub gin. But as I try to reconstruct the path to where I now find myself, and from which there’s no retreat, I realize embracing imperfection as perfection brings us closer to God, and to each other. Which of course scares the hell out of most everyone.

After a third drink I crept up behind Philomela. She had just described happier days when she’d first moved in with her man. Journey was on the stereo. I asked if there was anything I could do for her, anything at all she needed. She said letting her talk without telling her what to do was more than she could have hoped for. “I’m a listener,” I said, caressing her bare shoulders. “Upshot of being a music junkie.”

She arched her back to look up at me. Upside-down, her face was animated, cat-like, feral. Through parted lips I could see her tongue, pink and inviting. As I pressed my mouth to hers, she pulled me down on top of her. At once she pushed me off, then she grabbed me again with both hands. Philomela didn’t kiss to give herself over, but to retreat and return, to withdraw and advance on her own terms, of her own free will. There was desperation in how she sought to control her body’s response to mine. She seemed to want to be consumed but was unwilling to lose herself. “It’s dangerous,” I said, “to let someone in your house you barely know.”

She opened like a desert flower.

Now, I realize you may be calling me a hypocrite, little brother, for going with this girl who’s got a guy after my lecture to Good Charlotte on respecting marital commitments. But there’s a distinction between the two: no ring on Philomela’s finger. So please don’t judge me falsely. My conscience is clear.

I’d like to think I treated her right just like she asked. But it’s hard to know for sure. As I reflect on our time together, what stands out most for me are her breasts. I couldn’t get both of my hands around one of them. They were massive, stretch-marked, pendulous. Contrary to expectations, I didn’t know what to do with them. My touch was clumsy. I couldn’t penetrate to a feeling place beyond the hulk of her flesh. No matter how I fondled or squeezed, her nipples remained flat. So I buried my face and sloshed around, not sure she derived any pleasure from this, despite what she said at the time and my selfless aim to please.

I also very much remember her twat. Which, by the way, did not stink like dead cat, as her man allegedly said. Her pussy was fragrant, frothy, strawberry milkshake. But there was a problem. Her bush had been trimmed into a landing strip design, a cute thin line that led directly to the hangar. But the hair had grown out since her last wax. So kissing her there, and dipping inside, was like sucking on a cactus, fucking a briar patch. Afterwards, there were sores all around my mouth, upper thighs and abs. Love bumps, she called them.

There’s no such thing as giving without getting something back. Remember that, brother. Don’t forget to tell my son.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesús Ángel García is the author of badbadbad, a multimedia novel about sex, God, rock ‘n’ roll and the social web. A one-sentence version of this 280-page narrative appeared last month in Monkeybicycle. His work as a music-and-arts critic has been published widely under another name. He posts badbadbad updates and curious literary-audio-visual finds on Twitter.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, January 13th, 2010.