One Wheel
What I Could Hear
Winter Story
Sick with the Sun

What to Say
Hiking a Mountain...
North for Winter
When I love you...
Seven Hours
The Morning After
Learning to Drive
Place of White Plains
Green on Blue...
The First Time...
How I Am
For hours...
Enter June dusk...

Sick with the Sun

  We went to the house, Jason, Matt and I. John was still at home with Pete, because we couldn’t take Pete with us and John wouldn’t go without him. Pussy shit. I had my fifty bucks, that I lifted from the metal box my grandma kept under her chair. Ten of it was for something extra. I didn’t know what that would be, but it felt more important somehow than the forty dollars.
It was so hot that day, hot the way it never gets except once every couple years. I even took off my shirt, as we walked our bikes uphill. No one even cares if you go shirtless when it gets that hot. Fans don’t work—all you can do is go swimming. But not today, not after all the planning I did.
We’d heard of the woman the way we heard of everything—through Matt’s brother, Bill. Her house was in the middle of town; we’d walked by it a million times and never knew. Bill had mentioned her just shitting around, "the old whore up on Highland Ave.," but he gave us the lowdown after we bugged him long enough. Kids in school were already screwing around with each other, but sex would be easier like this. At least for the first time. What the hell, no girl would bother with us otherwise.
I realized I was expecting red feathers and low lights, makeup and the whole bit, like some prostitute in a Western. But she opened the door, wearing jean shorts and a tucked in shirt. As old as our mothers. Blonde, probably dyed. But we’d find out for sure.
"Yeah?" she said—nothing spectacular.
"We’re here for business," I said, trying to be smooth. Bill had told us the routine—helping out with his car, he told me prices: $20 a blow job, $40 sex. Then he asked for the wrench and that was it.
$40 sex. Forty dollars was nothing, it was too easy. In bed, thinking about it, $40 was below nothing. It didn’t matter what she looked like. When it came to sex, nothing really mattered. If she was old, ugly, fat—who cared?
She looked us over. "Business?" she said, fanning herself with her hand.
"We’ve got money," I said. Straight-faced and calm. Jason and Matt fidgeted behind me, ready to get the hell out of there at the first sign of refusal.
"You fucking kids. . .Come in, we’ll talk."
So we did. The room was ordinary—TV was on, shit on the table, a green vinyl couch dented in from the woman’s ass. I was sweating like a greased pig from the heat; my shirt was still off, but this was a chance I wasn’t letting go of. Nothing would slip, nothing would go wrong. I realized it didn’t matter about me!—It was all about the money.
The woman went in her kitchen and brought out three glasses of water. We all sat down, the TV still loud beside us. John started drinking his water right away with two hands around the cup. I left mine where she put it on the table, but I rested my hand near it. The table had a glass top, the kind that wouldn’t last a week in my house before getting smashed. The surface was cool, like some lame type of ice. We were all sweating, the woman included. A fan was on behind me. A few ribbons were tied to the bars of the guard, and they whipped around aimlessly.
"How old are you boys," she said, pushing her hair back.
"Seventeen," Matt said, choking on the lie.
She nodded, obviously impressed. "Your first time is it? Well, it’s too hot to fuck today." She lit up a cigarette and we watched her blow out long breaths of smoke.
Why couldn’t she have air conditioning? Maybe she had a car with A/C, some way—
"Come on then, you first," she said, pointing to Matt.
They both got up and Matt went into the woman’s bedroom, confused, and came out a couple minutes later. He grabbed his T-shirt and said he’d wait for us downstairs; a goofy smile but he was blushing hard behind it.
Then Jason went in, same shit, and he followed Matt outside.
"Come on," she said.
I walked in the room. White wallpaper with light yellow flowers covering it. She had another TV in the bedroom, this one was smaller and turned off. The woman drank from a glass of water next to her mattress and put it down after a long gulp.
"Pull down your shorts," she said.
"I want to fuck."
"Not today."
"It has to be today."
The sound of the fan, a room away. I thought of a lot of things; stuff people said; the face of a girl I knew; all the planning I did; the sound of the fan, cutting air; something that pulled at my face and I was crying, squeezing myself down the way animals do when they shit.
"What’s your name, kid?" She was a big sister now.
"Mark," I said, head down. It wasn’t any use lying anymore. Nothing could be easy for me, I guess.
"If you do something for me," she said, and I looked up, "I’ll do something for you."
"What’s that?"
"I want you to scratch my back."
"That’s it?"
She pulled open her shirt and took off her bra. All in one movement. She lay face down on her bed. "Scratch me," she said into the mattress.
I came up to the side of the bed, unsure how to approach her. Her back was laid out like a warped board of wood. I kneeled next to her on the small bed. It would have been better to sit on top of her, ass to ass, but I didn’t want to crush her with my weight. I put my hands on her wide shoulders. Something about the whole thing felt ordinary, or maybe familiar.
"Scratch me," she said again.
I began slowly, lightly. Her back was heavy with sweat. "Harder," she said.
I scratched my fingernails over her shoulders, scratching the skin around her neck and backbone.
"Come on Mark, harder," she said.
My name was like a thorn when she said it. I pulled my nails down her back in full, long lines, starting at her neck all the way to the small of her back. I let my elbow rub over her ass on each long scratch. Her back began to redden. I was sweating horribly, my shirt was still off and it felt to me like my white stomach was glowing in the room.
"God damn it, get on top of me," she said, "And scratch harder."
I put my knee on the bed, and felt it dip down with my weight. I lifted a leg over both of hers and then I was kneeling on top of her, sitting on her ass. I scratched her harder now, as hard as I dared, digging her flesh in long currents. A low sound came from her mouth, somewhere between a scream and a moan. I stopped.
"Is this—"
"Like that, keep going," she said in a heavy breath.
I put part of my weight on my knees, so I wouldn’t crush her so much. I dug into her back again, working the sides of her body and her upper arms with my nails. Harder, harder until her back was a bright, angry color and sweat was dripping off my nose onto her back. She moaned but stayed motionless, her face in the pillow. My penis was a fist being pulled down from my lower body into hers. I moved my ass around to get a more comfortable position on top but I didn’t stop scratching for a second.
"It’s like that," she said, "keep going."
I felt I was breaking up in the heat; tiring after just a few minutes like this. Her moans were muffled by the pillow and I tried to keep going as long as I could. I didn’t get what was going on—it was like her back was somehow apart from the woman I met at the door. I was fighting against the urge to scratch her even harder. I looked away from the back and stared at the wallpaper with its yellow pattern.
Then I just stopped. My fingers were red at the tips; the woman’s back was a mess. I got off her, my dick aching. She rolled over, slowly, onto her back.
"In the drawer."
I opened the drawer: a box of condoms. It would be real, finally—in this box of a room, the air more sweat than oxygen. I pulled down my shorts and it was easy—as if here there wasn’t anything left of me to reveal, nothing for her to discover. The woman pulled down her jean shorts without leaving the bed. I wanted to see her back, to see how it was, but she stayed face up. I rolled the condom on and came toward the bed.
She didn’t say anything. I brought my body against hers, began having sex; began having sex and she didn’t say anything. As if I was alone in the room.
I put my hands on her red chest—red from heat and exertion. I felt her shoulders and hair, all the time driving ahead with my lower body. My stomach rested on hers, covering her with myself. I placed my hands on her neck, feeling the tightness of her tendons and throat, the veins, bones and muscles linking her body to her head.
I was already close to coming. I pushed in even strokes, riding the platform, the silence of the space between us. My hands tightened—a spasm hit my body with a center so large it grew to envelop me and tear the division of our skin.
The weight of me, not my body, but the weight of me, relaxed, muscle by muscle, until I was fully at ease resting inside the woman. I looked at her face, filled with color and life—my fingers were tight around her neck. I was squeezing her neck, with what muscles I didn’t know; I felt detached from myself. From shoulders down I was calm, only my arms rebelled against me. I could feel her hands pull on mine but they did nothing to loosen my grip.
She made a small sound, a gurgling, and I let go of her throat instantly. I pulled myself out of her and jumped off the bed. She made no move, just lay on the bed, breathing. What could I say? Her back was hidden from me. I didn’t know how much I had hurt her, if at all. She turned her head to watch me as I pulled on my shorts and covered my stomach with my shirt. The room grew calmer.
"Forty dollars," she said, finally.
I put forty dollars on the table by her bed and took a sip of her water. The heat in the room was unbearable now. I opened the bedroom door and walked out. In her living room, the TV and fan went on as if nothing was new. I went out the front door and got off the woman’s porch.
Mark and Jason were gone, but the sun was still full in the sky. I was sick with the sun, sick with everything in the town, with myself and the weight around my waist. But there was nowhere to go, no one to talk to. I pushed my bike to a quiet place in town, a spot overlooking the only stoplight around on the only major road, which ran down one mountain and left going up another.
I pulled off my shirt there, lay down on the grass and imagined the sun burning and tightening my white stomach. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a tan stomach, or if I’d ever had one at all. My fingers ached—I lifted my hands above me and looked at the blood jammed under my nails. What type of person was I, anyway? I had ten dollars in my pocket and I was hungry for something to eat.

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