By Ked Kirkham
The beat of his pulse; the throbbing, choking, coughing, pounding in his chest and head from the emission went on for several minutes. Knowing but fearing, as well that the act had thrown open the doors to that shame, Simm could only clutch himself inside the wadded towel and wait for it to subside. Could dead people see through the dark? Could they see through the ceiling or the walls? Could grandmother see him? If he used another blanket would he be hidden? Even if it worked he would feel the shame. How did he learn that this was bad? He couldn’t remember. All he knew now was the shame, like a stain on a cloth.
Could a cloth ever be clean if it was stained?
When Simm had wet himself at school last year, he had purposely gotten into the canal in his clothes to disguise the accident. His clothes were dry by the time he got home. He wished for something that would have the same effect now. Instead, using the still viscous fluid, he began again, pushing and tugging roughly to make an erection. He hoped to get the blood to pound his thoughts into oblivion.
It did not.
Afterward, Simm could hear his uncle stir. For Simm to disturb the sleeping room would end in no good. In his knowledge, Simm was the only one who did this. Uncle caught him once and said guys in the army did it when they thought about their best girl, and he had tried to get Simm to tell who his best girl was. Later his uncle had given Simm a towel to keep by his bed, only nodding toward his privates when Simm asked what for. He told Simm he’d be responsible to do his own washing from then on. No one wanted to be touching sheets that were all gummed up.
Simm slept; his underwear hung up on one foot, the pajama pants pushed into the space between bed and wall and the shirt held with a single button in a mismatched hole. When he woke, Simm was alone. He wondered if others could tell that he’d done it again. Not saying so would be worse he thought because he would never know. He forswore touching himself that way.
It would be to no avail.
In the toilet, he tried to wash himself with tissue. While dressing on his bed, he wondered about stain on cloth. Could he ever be clean?
A cold breakfast was on the table for him. He was the only one in the house and he realized anew that he was orphaned and had been carted off to his uncle. Only then did Simm think of his parents.
It was his grandmother he worried could see him at night. Secretly, keeping it nearly from himself, Simm feared her love would be lost. Simm doubted he could find love anywhere else.
Who would love a stained cloth?
Darkness of the type that winter tule fogs create — dense, visible, undulating — was all Val could see out his bedroom window. Diffused yellow lit the wall opposite him, leaving his sleeping wife in shadow but allowing movement from his side of the bed to the bathroom, where he closed the door before turning on the light.
Blinded for a moment, Val leaned on the door until he could look at himself in the mirror. It would not have surprised him to see a strip of numbers telling his height next to the door; that was his appearance at four this morning, guilty if not criminal.
Even the pajama pants looked like prison garb he thought as he reached into the fly to clutch and squeeze the cotton-clothed crotch. How he wanted someone else to do that. He looked again at the man in the mirror, watching him as his hand slipped between his legs.
Val’s bladder made a claim on the schedule. Enough of this, he thought, go to work.
While the amber liquid swirled and disappeared through the bottom of the commode, Val slid the shower door closed behind himself and dialed the knob to hot as he pulled. In seconds, the water was hot enough to adjust down.
Val let water spray against him; he let it run over him and down and finally away in the drain. It was clean water, really, he had showered not even twenty-four hours earlier.
Turning his back to the warm water, he braced his hands on the shower stall, watching it flow down his legs and splash around his feet. Straightening, he found the soap-on-a-rope his kids had given him, and cupping the soap, drew it over his body until the aroma permeated the steam around him. He recalled the man who had introduced him to this fragrance, and others that had used it just this way.
Facing the water again, he lowered the soap until the bar bounced against his thighs and he wrapped the cord around the base of his genitals, becoming aroused.
His powerlessness was overwhelming. Compromises and promises ran out with suds and water at his feet and disappeared into the drain. He pressed the soap between his thighs, tightening the cord, and leaned into the water, closing his eyes tightly against the stream and the images in his mind.
The walls of the shower insert buckled and flexed as Val slid to the floor. Water flooded the space in his hand where the erection, now spent, was receding and so doing separated the jism, washing away the thinner fluids to leave the sticky sperm. Val tried to gauge the time he had been there, how long the shower had taken. After another minute, he stood and soaped himself again, thoroughly.
There could be no tale-tell odors, no bits of residue, no proof that this weakness rode him. He could not have her know he wanted anything other than what they had made vows for.
Val turned the knob to full, scalding hot.
Dropping the tee that had served as a nightshirt, Kort observed himself in the mirror. He looked for several minutes longer than he had the time for. What, he wondered, had happened?
“Used to be tightie-whities, now it’s baggy beiges.”
A snort of appreciation escaped. There was no need; his words would only cling a moment to the bare walls of the outmoded bathroom in this nondescript apartment.
Kort stepped out of the underpants, which had dropped to his feet. He turned his back on the mirror without another glance and slipped behind the curtain into a shower that already was running too hot. Soon, his lathered hands explored and examined the parts that drew such attention in the cotton briefs years ago.
Kort pulled and probed, and ran his hands over and back and around, up and down: the love handles, the spongy back fat, the soft belly and thighs, the nipples flat now on pecs that could use a little support. The butt.
Kort was an older lover; familiar with special places, accepting of changes.
“My significant same,” he smiled.
Squatting down in the tub between the pole of the shower caddy and the soap dish he rinsed himself. Kort splashed and flicked water as it ran down his back, through the cleavage of his ass; feeling what was left of the lubricant disappear in the water and soap.
Kort lingered there. He thought again of the other, still on the bed in the other room. And of the times it had been men there.
He wanted more; perhaps he’d find something later at the store.
Kort stood and turned all the way around one last time before shutting off the water.
Gay Writes is a DiverseCity Series writing group, a program of SLCC’s Community Writing Center. The group meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month, 6:30-8 pm, 210 E. 400 South, Ste. 8, Salt Lake.