:: Article

The Men Who Stare at Guitars

By Steve Finbow.

The smell remained. Antiseptic, flowery, invoking hospitals and hospices. He looked down. A sticky film enveloped the glans of his penis. Purple and mottled red, it winked back at him knowingly. Fail. He had failed. She was up for it – his girlfriend, that is. After months of pleading and wheedling, he’d managed to get her to agree to anal sex. He’d bought the lubricant – not KY, too expensive – but a Boots own-brand version. What could be so different about them? Earlier that day, he and his girlfriend had had ‘normal’ sex – he on top, she on top, at the side, from behind – he knew all the names – missionary, cowgirl, reverse cowgirl, doggy. Before he climaxed, he had pulled out, hopped across the room, taken the lube from his bag, opened it and applied a drop or two to the tip of his cock, the index and middle fingers of his right hand, and the starry entrance to the target orifice. His girlfriend – head on the duvet, arms outstretched as if skydiving, legs spread, arse in the air – gave a gulp and an intake of breath, but had then relaxed into it as he slid first his index and then both index and middle finger slowly into her. Her anus had seemed to pull him in, like a tractor beam, like Thunderbird 3 he remembered, and then shook his head and concentrated on the task. Distal, intermediate, and proximal phalanges Go! His girlfriend had cried out a little as the metacarpals pushed into her heat and clutch. His cock had lost something of its rigidity but that was probably a good thing. He had pulled out his fingers, sticky with lube and juices, taken his cock in his hand and aimed it towards the spot, now slightly dilated. He had pushed gently. It’d slid around and veered off to the side. He had pushed a little harder. It had dipped down and entered his girlfriend’s vagina as if seeking its natural home. He had pushed harder, slapping it on her perineum to stiffen it some more. His girlfriend had looked around, impatient maybe, annoyed somewhat. He had pushed even harder, the glans marbled mauve, angry, the foreskin rolling back to reveal swollen veins and arteries. He had stood on tiptoes and used his weight to push down and in, but the sticky stuff meant his cock slid all over her right buttock leaving slimy snail trails of lube and Cowper’s fluid – he’d looked it up the day before – pre-cum. ‘Fucksake,’ his girlfriend had said, looking up from the yeasty duvet. ‘It’s not like this in the movies,’ he had said. ‘What movies would that be?’ His girlfriend had replied, ‘Dumbo? Bambi?’ I was thinking more, ‘Anal Housewives 4,’ he had said, his cock now limp and embarrassed. ‘Maybe we should try a different position.’ ‘No,’ his girlfriend had said, ‘I’m not in the mood now,’ and had turned over, cocooned herself in the duvet and turned her back to him. 15 minutes later, she had pulled on a pair of clean knickers, wrapped a towel around her warm body, and humphed off to the toilet. While she was gone, he had looked at the anal category on goldporntube.com and tried to find out where he had gone wrong. It all looked so easy, so accessible, so… well, natural. And he had had to admit, the men had bigger cocks, thicker cocks, sleeker cocks, shinier cocks – maybe it was the pubic hair he had growing in abundance down there, unlike on the rest of his body, where you would want it to grow – the chest, the head – his pubic hair was like Kitchener’s moustache, like Sancho Panza’s, like Lemmy’s. He had heard the toilet door open and his girlfriend go into the kitchen and fill the kettle. He had gone into the toilet, locked the door, and breathed in deeply. He loved the ripeness of her stink, the heavy metal odour of her shit, the fecund gasses. He had lifted up the lid and seen two skid marks in the bowl, a confetti of unflushed matter. He had knelt and inhaled, his cock stiffening, his breath catching.

​Now he stood in the toilets of the 12 Bar Club café inhaling the smell of his failure. He put his penis back into his underpants, buttoned his black Levis jeans, wiped the piss-spattered toe of his Converse on the back of his leg, and stepped out into the café, nodded at the guy behind the counter, and walked out onto the litter-strewn pavement of Denmark Street. Tin-Pan Alley. As he turned right along the road towards Wunjo Guitars, he tripped over a sodden cardboard box, kicking it into the street. Underneath, he saw a half-eaten kebab and, feasting on it, one of those mythical London beasts a third rat, a third pigeon, and a third greased Teddy Boy duck’s arse. Shuddering involuntarily, he blanked his mind from the monstrous thing by closing his eyes and reciting his mantra, ‘Three-colour sunburst! Three-colour sunburst! Three-colour sunburst!’ Nearly colliding with a passing cycle messenger, he knew because the guy had shouted, ‘Watch where you’re going, you fucking hippy cunt!’ he reached the store and stood, mouth agape, staring into the window filled with guitars.

​He had his eye on a Fender American Vintage ’62 Jaguar with three sliding pickup selector switches, upper bout rotary volume wheels, chrome hardware, a tremolo lock, a removable string-damping device, rosewood fretboard and – the clincher – a three-colour-sunburst body. Perfect. An original as well, not one of those Kurt Cobain clones. He looked at the price tag as he had done every week for the past three months – £1599 – and it never changed. He had willed a decimal point between the five but it refused to appear. He thought about it. The infinite blackness of the dot, like the opening to the deepest tunnel, one connecting moments in time, a space portal, a back hole leading to nothing, to nowhere, to everything and everywhere. Like the pupil of an eye. Like the opening to his girlfriend’s anus. Like a full stop at the end of a sentence. He blinked. The tag read £1599. Fuck it, he thought.

​He looked along the street towards Charing Cross Road. There were others like him. Men staring through shop windows at their dreams, their memories, their passions. The sad and the lonely, the frustrated and the foolhardy, the wannabes and the wannabeagains. Fuck it, he thought. He walked to the cashpoint outside Foyles, read the warning message, punched in his PIN and checked his balance – £1595. Bollocks, he thought. Bollocks. He checked his pockets. £1.31. Fuck. He shouldn’t have bought that fucking Stella. But, he had a tenner earlier, he was sure. An Ayrton. A Hugh. Fucksake, he thought and checked his other pockets. What’s this? A piece of paper. A fiver. Please god. A lady. A deep-sea. A MacGyver. He closed his eyes, unravelled the scrunched up piece of paper. Please god, please. He imagined himself in his back room, the Jaguar slung low, the opening chords of ‘Jail Guitar Doors’ absorbed by the painted-grey egg boxes. He opened his eyes, a receipt for £4.99 – Boots’ own-brand lubricating jelly. And he remembered the warning on the back of the tube, below the instruction to squeeze a small pea-sized amount on to your finger – THIS IS NOT A CONTRACEPTIVE.


Steve Finbow‘s critical life of Allen Ginsberg will be published by Reaktion Books summer 2012, his crime novella/poem Nothing Matters likewise by Snubnose Press early 2012. He’s currently working on a play and wondering why he’s finding it difficult to settle back in London.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, December 6th, 2011.