when he calls
he is laughing. and i miss seeing his face in these moments. jules has an extraordinary way of laughing with his eyes. in rare moments that i can only find in scant cherished memories. i admit that i’m feeling mildly obsessed with him, and he enjoys my infrequent honesty of emotion.
he says he is in the mood for change. has broken things off with the latest girl. quit his job. it’s the same story, again. he’s having fears that these people and these things are trying to change him. that he felt his identity floating away. i understand what he means, but argue anyway. i encourage him to consider the choices he makes in partners and relationships, and he challenges me to outline what could be so bad about the women he usually dates. i tell him that these women are like mouthwash. when they first hit the mouth they sting and awaken every nerve ending imaginable. they are supposed to be good for you. but when held for too long – they begin to burn and are unbearable to contain. he doesn’t like my example, but agrees he does often feel like these women have at times been spat out when he’s grown tired of them. i encourage him to tell me what was wrong with this one. he reveals that after only a day or so, he realized that she was completely daft. I remind him that this is almost always the case. he abruptly changes the subject.
he’s been writing again and working on a collaborative project with paul. we talk about writing and he encourages me to share something with him. i do. a short piece i wrote many months ago and had gotten some good feedback on – about loss and denial that isn’t very good and tries to resemble a poem. he’s gracious in his accolades and gives me some suggestions. i want his approval. we agree, always, that i am the lesser writer in the pair.
we don’t often share our writing, and tonight doing so feels awkward and strange. as if i’m standing naked in front of someone i desire for the very first time. the words he chooses to let loose are lovely. preternatural. and i love to hear the way the tones of his voice change in the performative mode. all elements of the west coast snowboarding skateboarding punk fall away to reveal something like the boy i often found next to me under flannel sheets in the dark. at once wispy and confident
later we discuss the concept of humiliation. he wants me to name my most humiliating moment, and i decline. for many reasons this is a question that is almost impossible for me to answer. and the fact that i believe he knows that, makes it even more unbearable to discuss. he’s trying persistently to get at something that i don’t want to discuss. we turn to more broad issues. he claims that humiliation is only something brought on by the self – that it is a choice. i argue that it is consequential. i believe that it isn’t possible for him to understand, i don’t think that he’s ever felt humiliation.
weary of the directions this might go, i change the subject. i always think that bringing up sex will remove me from the equitation with jules. this often backfires. and it does, now. he wants me to tell my most embarrassing sexual encounter story. and like the other, broader category, i don’t even know where to begin. when i say there are too many, he chides and says he doesn’t believe me. i regrettably tell him, one, but not the most humiliating experience. it’s something i’ve never talked about out loud, and certainly have never said to anyone face to face.
i often don’t understand why people like to play games of these sorts. perhaps it’s because their humiliations turn out to be somewhat less horrific than my own. i try to pull out of the tenseness i feel by telling an anecdote about the time that Mister X asked me, very seriously, if i had ever been with an uncircumcised man. i use my best bits of comedy. but aside from slight bits of laughter. he still presses for more. here is what i said:
once, pete made me have sex with him while he held a loaded gun in my mouth.
he’s not expected me to say this. all other mention of my sexual experiences with p have been favorable. of the best kind of chemistry one could hope for in that unintentional intense way. he stammers. says he didn’t know. tries to get me to talk about it, but i deny him the right to prolong that humiliation any further. he says I’m sorry
which only serves to make me feel more culpable and tries to tell his humiliation. something about not being able to get it up while trying to f- his boss in the store room – and then getting fired a few days later. i laugh without reason. he hasn’t told the story with any bit of humor. but I can tell it hasn’t hurt him to reveal it. and i feel foolish for having said what i have.
i say i have to go. and he says understands. and we talk for a much longer. of love and desire and things we’ve done to hurt other people. and we aren’t sad when we hang up the lines and i’m no longer thinking about guns or humiliation.