“Hey, David!” Marvin called out from the balcony across the street. “Can I come over?”
“Sure.” I guessed it wouldn’t hurt to have some company. He showed up fifteen minutes later with a fifth of Chivas Regal in his hand ─ the best.
“What is that awful smell?’ he asked.
“We’ve been redecorating, painting in the dining room.” I finished off my Black & White as Marvin went to look.
“Nice color,” he remarked when he came back, but I suspected he was unimpressed.
“Make yourself comfortable.” I went to get another glass, then sat down on the couch beside him as he opened up the Chivas. Marvin filled our glasses and set the bottle on the coffee table next to some of Dearie’s novels, and my sketchbook.
“Well, I’m guessing your vacation’s almost over, David. I so wish we’d had more time together. Here’s to you.” He took a sip. “Have you been reading these?” He nodded toward the books.
“The one by Burroughs—Naked Lunch. It’s mostly about drugs, narcotics, addicts . . . interesting. I would like to see Tangiers some day.”
“He’s very good, and like so many the great ones, artists, writers, actors – homosexual. They have a special gift. You have it too. You’re going to be a great success. Believe me.”
“Um . . .” I downed my Chivas, smooth as silk, no burn. Marvin refilled my glass and peered into my eyes like he could see behind them. “You’re unhappy, aren’t you David? It’s the girl,” he ventured.
“Yeah. Or maybe it’s just sex. I need a woman.”
“Sex is better with a man,” he said, “and it’s available, no obligations, anytime you want it. Do you know how many men I had that night you came to get me at Finella’s Baths?”
He waited for a guess I did not make.
“Finella’s is a way to cure romantic fever, and no hangover.” He winked.
“Yeah, maybe so, but not for me.”
“How do you know? You’re simply drowning in frustration, David. I can feel it. Aren’t you? Bad case of the blue balls. Masturbation doesn’t help. A man requires another human’s touch,” he said as refilled my glass. “Is that your sketch book on the table? Can I look?”
“Yeah, sure.” I passed it to him. “It’s not nothing much.” My words were getting tangled.
“Let me be the judge of that—a fellow artist. My artistic medium is hair.” Marv opened up the book. “Oh. This is me!” He beamed with pleasure at a sketch I’d done that first day on the rocks, dressed in a toga with a laurel wreath, and George behind him, pouring wine from an elaborate flagon.
“These are wonderful.” He turned more pages. There were drawings of the Hyde Park neighborhood, and a conductor on the Elevated I’d drawn on my way to work. He lingered over my attempts to capture Dearie.
“David! These are great. Poor Dearie. She’s been so unhappy, lonesome, since her husband left. You’ve been good for her. This summer she’s been happier than I have ever seen her. George and I have often wondered if the two of you–”
I waited for him to complete the question.
“Oh, you know. George thinks the two of you are lovers.”
“She’s my mother’s age. I’d feel like Oedipus, and have to tear my eyes out.” I gulped down my second Chivas. Marv refilled the empty glass again.
“The two of us were never anything like that. L’chayim.” I held my drink toward him in salute, and had begun to feel myself again . . . almost.
“Well, David, I think what you need is a good man.”
My nose was getting numb. “No, I don’t think so.” Marvin’s words made me uncomfortable. The booze was working, but I wasn’t drunk enough to filter thoughts of Linda from my mind.
“Why don’t you let me help you, David? I could give you the relief you need.”
“It wouldn’t work,” I told him. “I’m not like that.”
“How can you be sure? You need to find out . . . just one time to see. Most men have tried it, at least once, or twice. They just don’t talk about it.” Marvin sipped his Scotch. “There’s so much prejudice here in the States. We’re so provincial. Other countries—France and Denmark, Sweden, ancient Greece, and Rome. And sailors, oh my, I could tell you . . . sex between two men is natural. It’s nothing shameful, Dave. The Spartans were all queer.”His hand was on my knee. “Who were more masculine than they? Why don’t you let me please you, David. What’s to lose? If you don’t like it we can stop. I guarantee you’re going to love it.” Marv slid down off the couch and knelt between my legs . . . then he unzipped me.
Wow. I sat there, floating on a fog of whiskey and reluctant to hurt his feelings. I had never had a blow job, though I’d thought of getting one from Linda more than once. I closed my eyes, attempting to imagine it was her. It didn’t work. My penis shrank—reverse erection, like a turtle shrinking back into its shell. Eyes open, I looked down at Marvin’s bobbing head.
“Marv, I can’t do this.”
“Give me a just little time. I’ll get you up.”
“No. Stop.” I pushed him back, stood up and zipped my pants. I was repulsed, and getting nauseous . . . the smell of paint, too much to drink on top an empty stomach. I’d not eaten anything that day. “I’m sorry, Marv. It simply isn’t me.” God, I felt guilty, stupid. Drunk.
“Well then, perhaps some other time,” he got back on his feet. “Maybe you’ve had too much to drink.”
“Sometime when you are in a better mood,” he told me.
“I don’t think so.” I just wanted him to leave.
He got back on the couch and finished off his drink. Marv looked unhappy, disappointed. Join the crowd, I thought.
“I want to ask you something, David.”
“What?” I cringed, not knowing what was coming next. I thought he might ask me to promise I would not tell Dearie what we’d done. No problem there. She’d probably kill him if she knew, but I would never talk to anyone about what happened in this room.
“Could you please let me have that picture that you drew of George and me? I’d treasure it, I promise. I could pay you . . . anything you want.”
“No, you can have it.” Good. I felt relieved, got up and staggered to the bathroom for a razor blade. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and thought about how people slashed their wrists. I eyed the bathtub, where they usually did it, in a bathtub with hot water. I resisted the temptation, and went back to slice the page he wanted from the sketchbook’s binding.
“Will you sign it for me?” Marvin asked.
“Yes, of course.” I wrote my name and then, Chicago – 1959. I put the drawing in his outstretched hand, a little sorry to be giving it away. It was a nice reminder of a happy, sunlit day.
“This is so wonderful,” he said. “I’m going to have it framed.”
“It’s not that good.”
Oh, yes it is. I love it.” Marvin checked his watch. “I’ve got to run. I’ll leave the bottle.”
“Thanks.” I walked him to the door.
“When are you leaving, David?”
“Five more days,” I said.
“I wish you all the best.” He held the drawing carefully in his left hand. “Be sure to come and say good-by before you go.”
“I will,” I said, but knew I wouldn’t.
Marvin left. I heard the elevator door clunk closed. I was alone with a dull nausea and grief, completely miserable. The bottle was soon empty. It began to rain.