Continued directly from Part 1/3
After his tour of Europe, Warren returned to the mansion for a couple
of weeks before leaving for New Haven, Connecticut. He was a college
boy now, and like every other male member of his family, destined for
Yale. But he wasn't sanguine about the future. If Worthington money
and telepathic intervention from the professor had quieted rumors,
gossip could always erupt again. I also knew he wasn't happy to be
leaving me, and not just because he (still) carried a torch. I'd
become his best friend, a point he'd stressed often enough that I
"You'll come visit, right?" he asked one afternoon as we were sorting
his laundry three days before he was to leave. He'd gotten quite
adept at using the washing machine, a small point of pride for him
that he wasn't helpless any longer when it came to household
"Who me?" I asked. "At Yale?" But it was only half serious. After
spending time at Columbia with Jean, I'd gotten over my fear of
college, even an Ivy League college. Nonetheless, Yale was Yale.
But Warren was Warren, and my friend. "I'll come if you want."
"Absolutely, I want," he replied, grabbing his pile of silk boxers
and shoving them into a drawer.
Later after supper, he went out with me onto the front porch while I
had a pipe. Here in mid-August, the sun set by eight-thirty and it
was right on the horizon now. I wasn't feeling well today --
nauseous. The drug cocktails that Hank gave me periodically to delay
the onset of AIDS were toxic, like chemo, with a cumulative effect,
and if I'd had jujube-citrus tea earlier, I still felt off.
Overhead, the first star was visible. *Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight . . .*
"Would you like to go flying?" he asked me abruptly.
I glanced over at him, thinking he meant in his plane. Warren had a
pilot's license, which I found amusing, given his mutation. He also
had his own private jet, and had recently gained enough hours to
qualify for night flying. I'd never been up with him. I tended to
avoid planes, at least in the air. On the ground, I found them
fascinating and had spent no little amount of time going over the one
in the lower levels. But more to the point -- "I thought you drove
"I did. And I didn't mean flying in the Jetstar." His wings
rippled, to underscore it.
For a moment, I simply stared. While it was true that I avoided
getting into planes that got off the ground, it was also true that I
rather envied Warren his mutation. To have one's *own* wings . . . .
I looked down at the pavement and turned the pipe in my fingers. "I
don't know," I confessed. I'd been flying once before with Warren,
of necessity, and had mostly kept my eyes closed.
"We could go up a little ways, and if you didn't like it, I'd put you
right back down."
I thought about it. He didn't rush me. It was a rare thing he was
offering. So far as I knew, he'd never offered it to anyone else at
the mansion, not even Jean. I wasn't entirely sure why he was
offering it to me. Friendship, certainly. Maybe just for an excuse
to get his arms around me, but I doubted it. "Why?" I asked him.
He didn't reply at first. When he did, it was one word. "Freedom."
The answer said more about Warren than it said about me. Flying was
the only time he was free of the strictures of being Warren
Worthington, III. But maybe it did also say a little about me.
Warren knew perfectly well that I hated flying.
Bending over a little, I tapped out the pipe ash against the concrete
of the porch, then pocketed the pipe and turned to him. "Okay.
Let's do it." He smiled a little and stood, offering me a hand up.
We walked out onto the lawn beyond the drive. Nighthawks flitted
between trees. "What do I need to do?" I asked him.
"Nothing. Just relax." And he moved up behind me, not too close,
setting hands lightly on my shoulders. "I'm going to pick you up
this way from behind, my arms over your chest, so you can see where
we're going. Is that all right?"
A deceptively casual question. I didn't like people getting very
close, not in front, and definitely not from behind. He'd have to
grip me pretty tightly, too, body to body. I wasn't worried about
his ability to hold on. Warren is strong -- a part of his mutation,
just as an improved sight is part of mine. Not only could Warren
pick me up with ease, he could pick up Hank with ease, and probably
the professor in his wheelchair.
So he wasn't likely to drop me, but it would be awkward, and
intimate, and maybe that's why he hadn't offered this to anyone else.
"All right," I said now, tensing a little as I felt him move closer,
slipping his arms around my chest and crossing them upwards so he
could grip my shoulders, holding me tight like a vise. I could feel
the warmth of his front all along my back, the contours of him, my
shoulder blades against his flat chest, my ass pressed to his groin,
the backs of my thighs to the front of his. Involuntarily, my breath
sped up and my eyes squeezed shut. I couldn't take such overwhelming
He must have sensed something because he let me go, stepping away.
"Sorry," he said, giving my back an awkward pat. "Sorry. Maybe it
was a bad idea."
That made all the difference, and brought me back to the now. "I
thought I could do it," I said, suddenly very angry at myself.
Why did this have to keep coming up? As I'd told Jean, I just wanted
to get over it. We stood without speaking for a few minutes, me
still facing away from him. Yet when he asked, "Do you want to try
again?" my reply was quick.
"No." Then more slowly: "Not right now. I'll take a rain check,
okay? But I do want to try again." I'd be damned if I'd let this
"Okay," he said, then walked away, towards the main mansion entrance.
He didn't look back at me and I didn't stop him. When I saw him at
breakfast the next morning, his face was a little sad, but he smiled
at me. We didn't discuss what had happened, and when he left two
days after that, I let him hug me goodbye, even hugged him back and
didn't flinch. I thought that a small victory.
If I'd come to think more about death of late, I'd been struggling
*not* to think about sex. That a sixteen-almost-seventeen-year-old
male could manage not to think about sex might seem improbable at
best, but I'd been managing quite well for almost a year. As I'd
told Xavier, I'd believed that part of me dead, yet my tearing
rebirth on the boathouse dock had resurrected even my sex drive. It
came slowly, and mostly when I wasn't looking. Sex for me had always
been about control. Even when I�d been kneeling on the floor of a
dirty john, the fact that I'd remained unmoved had given me control,
or at least the illusion of it. There were the ones desired, and the
ones who desired. Hadn't men paid for my mouth and hands? I was
reluctant to give up the power that perspective implied because
giving it up would mean I'd just been used.
Yet I noticed pretty girls now, and bared skin, and my libido played
peek-a-boo with the erotic. Subtlety turned me on. The more obvious
the gambit, the less it caught my eye. Anonymity mattered, too; I
only looked at nameless girls I passed on the street, saw in
magazines, or in television commercials. If the girl had a name, she
became real, and God forbid that I push my nasty little fantasies
onto another person. I never masturbated, and if wet dreams still
plagued me, I considered that a point of personal weakness. It was
all about control, you see.
The anniversary of my arrival at the mansion came in September,
passing with little fanfare beyond a special dinner with Xavier and
Hank. I think they were trying to mark it, but wanted to avoid
embarrassing me, or reminding me too much. After dinner, the three
of us sat up in the den, playing chess or reading, and I thought
about how I'd changed in only a year. I doubted that a cursory
glance at a picture of me then and a picture of me now would be
recognizably the same person, though a cynical voice whispered that I
hadn't changed in more than the superficial. I was and always would
be a two-bit whore.
The next day was a Saturday, and Jean showed up to lure me off to the
Westchester Mall, a suitably ritzy place with white walls, brass
fittings and brown marble floors accenting upscale shops that catered
to the lawyers and doctors and financiers who kept
multimillion-dollar homes in Westchester County. I was dragged
through three stories, clothes shopping. Clothes for her, that is.
I bought mine out of a catalogue -- subdued earth tones in
dull-preppy styling -- but as we passed Club Monaco, I spotted a
shirt hanging on a sale rack out in the walkway, dye-washed silk like
an aurora borealis, though I couldn't tell the shade. Pausing to run
my fingers over the cool fabric, I asked her, "What's the color?"
She smiled. "Blue. It'd match your eyes."
"Would have matched."
She ignored that to pluck the shirt off the rack and hold it up to
me. "I think it's a bit big." And it was, an extra-large when I
still wore mediums -- a thin, lanky teen. "But it'd look good on
I shrugged and put it back. I didn't want to look good. I didn't
want anyone to pay that much attention to me. She watched, a bit
sadly, but didn't say anything. We walked on. A few people glanced
at me twice. The glasses -- at least in Westchester -- drew notice.
Later, I'd come to realize that most people took me for blind, or a
celebrity sneaking out incognito, but at the time, I just knew that
they were looking.
Jean finally left me sitting on a bench while she went to run 'quick
errands,' which I translated as 'I want to dither over earrings at a
jewelry kiosk without Mr. Morose looking at his watch every few
minutes.' I'm not sure how long I sat. My brain had switched into
idle in that way I'd learned on the street -- not pondering much,
just staring until my eyes went a little out of focus and my thoughts
slipped into a fogged blend of real and imagined.
Gradually, I became aware of what I was staring at.
Sitting across from a Gap store, my attention had been caught by the
larger-than-life window ads of exotically pretty people dressed in
expensive grunge, and I'd been staring at one in particular -- a girl
in a tight tank under a loose shirt, and hip-hugger khakis. The
photo had cut off her head above the chin, and her legs below the
thighs. Her arms were thrown wide, the shirt blown open. The tank
ended just above a pierced navel, showing lots of tanned skin made
shiny for the camera by oil. She had a slender throat above a sharp
jut of clavicles like the wings of a bird, shapely shallow breasts
hinting at nipples beneath pale fabric, and a sweeping curve from
ribs down to hips, accentuated by the twist of her long torso.
I was mesmerized, all the more so with no face, no identity to get in
the way of my visceral, below-the-belt response. Pure body. It
jerked me back to reality even as I heard Jean's voice say, "Hey!
I turned; she had a new package to add to the pile I'd been
babysitting, but that wasn't what riveted my attention.
Her body did.
She had the same body type as the girl in the window. The cut of her
tank was different, with a scarf instead of a shirt, but suddenly --
and shockingly -- I understood why I'd been so held. This was the
form that had entranced me. The small breasts and swan neck, the
long abdomen and slender arms -- they were the same. If the skin
glowed paler, that didn't matter. I became choked by new awareness,
a terrible humiliation, and painful arousal.
She frowned and asked, "You okay?"
"No, I --" I jerked to my feet and hurried off. "I need to go to
the bathroom." Twenty feet away, I turned to call, "I'll meet you by
the main entrance outside Nordstrom's in forty-five minutes." I
didn't give her a chance to respond before jogging away down the
walk. She remained stock still with bags all around her ankles.
I wound up in the food court on level four, and being a Saturday, it
was packed with families, flocks of teens, and young singles. I fit
right in, and sat down at a two-person table near a wall. On an
overcast fall day, the skylight above glowed dim, like my thoughts.
I didn't want to think about what had just occurred. I couldn't be
interested in Jean, not sexually. She was only a friend. That she
was also a pretty woman had been abstract for me until now. I was in
control, wasn't I? I wasn't like other men, led around by my dick.
I didn't want to be like that, yet I feared being weak, effeminate --
just as Jean had accused me. I *did* need to prove I was a guy . . .
even as I didn't want to be one.
That recognition took me by surprise, yet I had to admit the truth of
it. I hated my own gender. Men made victims of others --
physically, sexually, financially. To be male rendered me a pariah
in my own eyes. Yet to be like a woman implied weakness,
victimization, and I didn't want to be a victim, even as I didn't
want to be the victimizer. Ironically, a snippet of Scripture
circled through my head, a legacy of forced Sunday chapel at Boy's
Town: "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there
are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs
who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of
heaven. Let anyone accept this who can."
Not that I had plans either to castrate myself or go into a
monastery, but I didn't want to be a man like other men.
While I'd been pondering, I'd slouched back in my chair, sprawled
casually, knees spread, staring out at the people passing. I was
dressed less preppy than usual, just khaki slacks and a dark, tight
turtleneck. It had never occurred to me that a mall like Westchester
might be a point of bathroom trade, and maybe it wasn't normally, but
even rich guys picked up hustlers, and perhaps bored little rich boys
made extra cash in the fancy stalls of the food-court john. All I
knew was that a stranger had suddenly seated himself at my table with
a tray of congealed Mall Chinese Surprise. He'd probably been
watching me a while. "Hi," he said. I didn't even start, just eyed
him from behind my glasses, only then realizing the small signals I'd
adopted without thinking. He was nicely, if casually dressed in
expensive duds with neatly graying hair -- old enough to be my
father, and passers-by would probably make that assumption. He acted
nervous, but not as if he didn't know the routine. More as if he
feared being caught. I wondered if he'd come to the mall looking for
a pickup or had spotted me and acted impulsively?
I thought of a dozen things to say, but said none of them, just
waited to see what he'd do next. He glanced up at me, smiled
faintly, anxiously, then pretended to eat but mostly pushed around
the unidentifiable fried meat in neon orange sauce. I didn't move a
muscle. After a decent time when anyone who might have noticed him
sit down had quit watching, he pulled out his wallet and flipped it
open, extracting bills and slipping them under the edge of the white
Styrofoam plate. Twenties. Five of them. He didn't move them
towards me but glanced up, as if asking if that were enough, and
tapped his lips.
Long practice alone kept me from reacting. The jackass had just laid
out my former grocery bill for two weeks, all for a five-minute blow
job. It was twice the going rate for tearoom trade, but this was
*Westchester*. The kid I'd been was tempted. It would be my cash,
not charity from Xavier, and no pimp to cut eighty percent off the
But the man I was becoming recoiled at the thought of doing it again,
dropping my jaw for some stranger's cock. Now that I'd walked away,
I wondered if any amount of money would ever be enough to lure me
back to that place.
I took a deep breath, then leaned over the table to spit in his
dinner. "I'm not for sale, motherfucker." Getting up, I walked
away. Strolled, really. A free man ran from no one.
The paranoid part of me screamed that he might follow, try to avenge
the insult, but the shrewder part said he wouldn't. He'd been too
nervous, and the more I thought about it, the more I figured he
hadn't intended to pick up trade at all, just reacted to what he
thought was an opportunity.
Stopping before a decorative brass plaque outside a random shop, I
stared at the distorted reflection. You can take the boy out of
Alphabet City, but not Alphabet City out of the boy. So what if I'd
walked away? He'd seen what I'd been, and I loathed myself for it.
Any victory seemed hollow.
To make all of it worse, there was still Jean to face. I arrived
early at our rendezvous point, but she was already there, waiting,
hands clasped between her knees, bags beside her. Seeing her, my
stride slowed, and she must have sensed me because she turned to look
right at me, but didn't stand or attempt to approach. I might have
bolted, and I think she knew it. She waited for me as if I were a
wild animal. I paused, but then came forward and sat down beside her
on the lip of a fountain with bronze horses, a good foot between us.
"You're early," I said.
"So are you." A pause. "You want to talk about it?"
"No." Lying to Jean was pointless. If I'd said there was nothing to
talk about, she'd have scoffed and pushed. Telling her the truth
worked much better. Usually.
"You looked pretty upset earlier, Scott. You still do, in fact."
"I got spooked," I admitted. And I had. "But I don't want to talk
about it." My eyes were roaming the crowd of shoppers, half-afraid
that I'd spot the man who'd propositioned me upstairs, but he must
have been long gone.
"What if you wrote me about it instead?"
"Huh?" Taken by surprise, I turned to stare at her. She wasn't
looking my way.
"Scott, your face upstairs . . . You were looking at me like you
hated my guts. I don't know what I did, but if you could tell me,
maybe I could avoid doing it again."
And I was as amused as I was unnerved. I wanted to say, 'Can you
stop being a woman?' but didn't. She couldn't stop being a woman any
more than I could stop being a man . . . and that was the fundamental
problem, wasn't it? I *wasn't* a eunuch, and I was sitting beside a
beautiful woman who I'd just realized -- at a gut level -- was
beautiful. But I didn't want that realization. She was Aphrodite to
my Hephaestus, and like the forge god, I was ugly and maimed --
crippled in my soul. She'd never love me, and I didn't even want her
to. I might get soot on her. My past wasn't going to go away.
"You didn't do anything," I said now. She hadn't, either, unless one
counted just being.
"And you're not going to tell me about the rest?"
"I don't know how to, Jean."
We didn't say anything after that, both prisoners of our
Continued direction in part 3/3....
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