an excerpt

One evening, after several early morning hours spent encoiled with a girl Greyson had picked up at a bar somewhere within the tacky college aura of the university that was gradually spreading like a squelching algal tide, an area he favored when he went out alone with the intention of removing someone’s’ clothing, the newly met fawning ivory babe lying on his bed had begun to bleed upon the sheets—a small deep amber disk that appeared on the faint yellow bedspread when she got up to go to the bathroom—and Greyson, who had stood up behind her, gazing at the flex and tremor of her cream legs, before glancing at the spot of menstrual blood there on the sheets, eyes slowly blinking, mind verily blank, thinking suddenly of his wants (a cigarette, the autumn air, to curl in the window frame…) before crawling to the head of his bed to the bay window, set himself in the frame and lit a smoke, cracked the window open and thought about how the “public” display there of the most private kind of blood would ease his obligations to call or not to call or to lead her to such conjectures one way or another and he fell, his cheek now pressed against the cold glass, into sinking ruminations around the idea that it was cowardice and not contempt that drove him to regale in such inevitabilities and these flagellations drove him, as they often had, to think, mournfully, just how much he loved his mother, the very thought of whom in such terms could afford a brief, if illusory, emancipation from the disdain he felt towards himself and the fuzzy set of His Kind—Ah, how ungainly he sometimes felt inside his own head!—and what he felt was the lightness of a body sinking in a slow, topsy-turvy descent in water down into the claustrophobic physics of the deep trenches where he preferred to close his eyes, to be warm, but where invariably he could only gasp in what amounted to the vain effort of climbing out of his own throat, so when he heard the sound of the bathroom door creak open and the uneasy silhouette of a sophomore in economics with hair struck yellow with the street light coming in through the trees outside, a nipple momentarily silver, whose hands came to her mouth when her eyes glanced at the darkening spot on the bed, Greyson had a look of incredible sadness on his face.

Greyson snubbed out his cigarette in a small convex bronze disk resting upon a heterogeneous collection of the Alexandria Quartet in the window well, flung his legs across the bed and, in a bound, neatly erected himself before her. He put his arm around her and, as though leading a child from the scene of a broken toy or a lost junior league game, walked her to the bed and sat the both of them down…such that the two and the darkening stain lay in a row. He gave her the courtesy of sitting in the middle. The filtered street light lay dappled across her body and Greyson looked down at their legs, his hands clasped over the black thicket of his own pubic hair, glanced right to gaze blankly and the grey-blond strip of her own, Look, it’s fine. It’s really not a big deal. And she looked up at him, eyes shining and pooling with tears, N, it’s not! Her voice, though tenuous was nearly indignant, it’s not okay…it’s not, it’s not, she repeated, falling in to a muttering. Listen, Greyson said, locking his knees together but, to his slight arousal, in an almost angry voice that rose and rose, It is disgusting, I’ve ruined your, your very nice sheets, and God knows what else.

Stop, Greyson said, beginning, just beginning, to lose interest. Right, so my sheets have seen better days or rather nights, but it’s not a big deal, I mean, I happen to know for a fact that in addition, and he stood up while talking and pulled his briefs on, to menstruating, you know, bleeding out these dissembled remains, and he glanced down at the bed, of what could easily have been a baby, and grabbed his pants up from the floor and paused, prevented by the virtues of a steady supply of manufactured hormones, that you’re also given to shitting on a regular basis and pissing at a steady rate throughout the day. Shit, everyone shits, pisses, bleeds, skin sheds in invisible clouds, the vomit flies, by now he’s dressed and the look of duress on her face was divorced from the shame of a moment before (a kind of tacit generosity it is only fair to acknowledge an intention towards, if only half-lucid, on his part), It is not a big deal, hell if we got along real swell like it’d all come out anyways, and you’re no less a, a, beautiful sweet girl and we both already knew that the human body is no esoteric machine silently excreting only steam or something, and he thought, though refrained from speaking, we are no industrial witch’s kitchen nor does the skin bag contain a philosopher’s stone. I am going to go to the gas station and buy you some tampons if that’s alright. And she nodded, one could say frightened though not for any threat, an inchoate, self-ambiguating uneasiness. He waited for just a moment; took her hand; it brushed his lips; he let it fall down and he turned and walked out, buttoning up a pressed blue shirt as he went.

The trees beyond the window creaking, the filtered light through the interarborations  moving like a mixed tide upon the bed, she looked about the room, took the blanket tangled at the corner of the bed around her shoulders and listened to Greyson’s footfall down the steps, quieter and quieter, whereafter the creak of the front door sounded his absence.

Out on the street, Greyson buttoned up his long coat, glanced at his building, saw Eva’s and Clay’s silhouettes illuminated in the soapy glass of their bathroom window. He headed towards the gas station and a yong boy’s voice sounded behind him, ‘Scuse me mister? A small paranoid warning ran through his nerves, he turned around and ten feet behind him were two young black kids, perhaps twelve or thirteen, Yea, he looked around to see if there wasn’t anyone else around, a block ahead of him he saw a trio of hipster girls stumbling across the street, what’s up? he said, putting a cigarette in his mouth, without necessarily wanting one. Two more boys seemed to have corporealized directly behind the first two and he noticed two more across the street, one of whom was clearly shaping up to grow into a massive porcine brute of a man, ‘Scuse me, sir, amid barely suppressed giggling, d’you know where Baltimore is? And Gresyon, who was perhaps fifty feet from the avenue began to walk faster and the kids were right behind him and he told them it was just ahead and he wasn’t sure how many there were and he left the sidewalk for the street and heard the young brute say, Fuck this, and the first young fists fell upon the back of his head and they swarmed him and he pushed the two who were suddenly in front of him forward and they’re just kids was supplanted by pain and animosity and his mind was unable to consider the option of responding in kind with Tooth & Nail and he broke into a sprint until he had thinned the ranks to two and was below a street light and stopped dead in his tracks and the boys stumbled to a halt in front of him and they, jokingly, in singsong where’s the money, bro, where’s the money bro and he lowered his shouldered and, shouted at them that he didn’t have any fucking money and to get the fuck out of here, and they scampered off into the night, late for bedtime as they surely were. He walked to Baltimore to the Triple A, seething and warmed a bit when he saw the beautiful ebony and ivory smile break across the face of the young Dinka man who worked throughout the nighs there and whom had once traded music via flashdrive with Greyson, who (perhaps hypocritically) blushed as he bought the tampons from Gerald, whose eye brows rose across his flawless skin whether at the quivering of the face or the tampons Gresyon didn’t trey to sort out, and they shook hands as always and bid one another goodnight.

Greyson walked swiftly in long lycanthropic steps back to his place, picking up his fallen cigarette halfway there, stopped at the front door, heaved a great sigh, texed Clay to see if he wanted to smoke a bowl on the roof, and, at length, opened the door and ascended the stairs. Greyson went strait to the roof, walked over to the edge to stare down at the empty street where he had just been assaulted. Opened the box of tampons, turned one over listlessly in his hands, opened the wrapper and began to pull at the cotton. By the time Clay came out in his pajamas a few minutes later, Greyson held but shreds of cotton in his hands and neither those twenty minutes together nor after did he mention the attack, and she was asleep when he returned to his bedroom and he moved nearly weightlessly to lie some inches beside her, where he watched forms coagulate upon the ceiling in the crepuscular hour before dawn and, awash in an undirected pity, he pulled her close, heard by her breath that she was awake, and swiftly fell asleep to dream of passing through frenetic crowds of aqueous, burningly cold bodies.

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