Stories

Fine Figures – Jon Doughboy

Are there a buttload of Brazilians in Bend, Oregon? Not exactly. Which is probably why Flavia agreed to go to the movies with me. She’s an international student and she’s homesick and though I don’t speak Portuguese, I’m eager to please. Does she know our trips to see three classic films for Celebrating the American West Week are dates? I don’t think it matters. She wants to learn about America. I want to learn about her. Here we are.

My boy Antonio set us up. He’s half-Brazilian and speaks Portuguese and knows the difference between samba and salsa and all that but he’s married, happily somehow, so when his neighbors asked him to help Flavia settle in, he offered me up. Why not? I like Brazil, the idea of Brazil, this kindred behemoth in our southern hemisphere with its volatile and corrupt politics, favelas, Carnival, the rain forest down there like a sick and shrinking lung trying to inhale the world’s airborne waste. Maybe Flavia will inhale me and breathe out something fresh?

I agreed to give her a tour of Bend sight unseen but it turns out Flavia is gorgeous: straight, glossy hair whose blondeness might be thanks to a bottle but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Long, sporty legs. Thick in the right places. In short, out of my league. That is, if she were in her element. But she’s only been in the U.S. for six weeks and doesn’t know anyone outside her host family, two geriatric Oregonians looking for a little cross-cultural experience and to pad their social security checks with extra cash renting out their basement. I feel like one of those awkward, horny uggos from backwater America who tells his parents he’s moving to Japan to teach English and see the cherry blossoms bloom when really, he just wants to pop his cherry and his passport over there triples his chances. Konnichiwa, ladies.

Bend isn’t exactly Rio. It’s a quiet little town where if you don’t mountain bike or hike or ski or like triple IPAs, there isn’t all that much to do. No club scene to speak of. No glitzy shopping malls. No skyscrapers. No wonder Flavia seemed a little disappointed when she arrived expecting, I don’t know, some combination of Hollywood and Manhattan rising out of the high deserts of eastern Oregon.

The first flick we saw, the Gunfighter, is a Gregory Peck vehicle from 1950 where Peck plays an exhausted gunslinger who wants to see a son who doesn’t know he exists. Peck wants to right some wrongs and turn over a new leaf. That American compulsion to see what is underneath the leaf! An afternoon showing and when we left the bright summer sun and found a cozy, air-conditioned intimacy in the darkness of the theater—I know I did, anyway; since I can’t speak Portuguese, I’m not sure how Flavia felt. But when Peck, a weary but dapper young Peck, gets shot in the back by this little pissant wannabe gunslinger trying to make a name for himself, I swear I saw a tear forming in the corner of Flavia’s perfectly-drawn smoky eye. Afterwards, as we strolled the sleepy and still sunlit streets, me in my smelly Keen sandals, Flavia in white espadrilles, both of us breathing in the hot and dry Bend summer air, I tried to tell Flavia about America, about the Gunslinger and Bob Dylan, about mass shootings and Horatio Alger and my small but growing pool-cleaning business, the drowned mice floating in the pool filters, the wonder in the slow-dissolving puck of chlorine, this incredible west of ours that can still feel wild, the genocides committed and miracles performed by this mighty and murderous nation whose nucleus consists of movers and dreamers and seekers just like she and I. And though she may have not understood the words I used, their order or logic or grammar, I’m certain we were connecting on some deeper level above and beyond language. My dick jumped as we bathed together in the gray light, two pilgrims chanting the same prayer as our feet slid in due time not back but forward and on, ever forward, ever on, toward the Shining City on a Hill, somnambulist shuffling while having the shared fever dream of America. I’m certain.

God, what a film.

On the second outing we saw Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson—”saw” is perhaps too weak a verb given his performance; no, we basked in his glow, we feasted—playing the titular mountain man of the Rockies with a handsome and memeable red beard. He’s nursing the psychic wounds of war by losing himself in the grandeur of the West. But to his surprise and initial frustration, he ends up married to a Native American woman and as he’s teaching her the English word “yes” he prompts her, “Fine figure of a man, yes?” and “Great hunter, yes?” self-satisfied with his instruction and I looked at Flavia in the dark theater and saw her looking at me and I felt fine and great in her eyes too.

Once again, we walked the streets of Bend, not exactly holding hands but definitely closer. From the side of my eye, I observed Flavia, admired how made up she was, how put together, padding our unstylish streets in crisp white espadrilles. Walking semi-sideways in a half-assed attempt to hide my hard-on, I breathed her in. She smelled like juniper and sunbaked streets and chlorine and ponderosa needles and fireworks and cut grass and gasoline and hope and America. Her skin so smooth and perfect made me recall my ex, her mosquito-bitten skin that smelled always of DEET and the stale sweat-soaked synthetic shirts from REI’s garage sale that constituted her entire wardrobe. The anger she felt toward this country, the angry way she assaulted the trails we hiked and rode as if she could escape America somehow and emerge in the parking lot cleansed of all sin. The interminable self-flagellation in response to this country’s complicated history that she expected us both to perform though I didn’t have the time or patience for the cat o’ nine tails of her conscience because I was too busy working toward my American dream, sun-burned and stiff-backed from cleaning pools across Awbrey Butte, Century West, and Harmon Park.
        But here was Flavia, elegant and alive, present, excited to be in America, excited to be with me.
        I stopped to look at her and she stopped too, looking hard at me. Then with her hard fake shiny nail she flicked me in the forehead, right where my third eye should be. I blinked through a brief flash of white light then she showed me the black guts of something on her nail. “Mosquito,” she said.

“Mosquito,” I said, savoring the intimate sting of her strike.

“Mosquito,” we said together, enjoying this word our languages shared, enjoying our shared disdain for the insect which bore this name.

She blew that little bloodsucker’s remains off her nail then licked her thumb and rubbed off whatever insect guts had clung to my forehead. Her smearing her spit into my skin thrilled me. I felt like she was marking me as hers and marking us both for greatness.

God, what a woman.

It’s Friday afternoon. The third and final showing. We’re seeing Stagecoach because what’s more American than John Ford, John Wayne, than drunken and disgraced doctors bringing babies into a world at war, than lawmen turning to criminals for help, than shootouts in empty streets, than guzzling rye out of suitcase, than the bugle of the calvary blowing, than death roaring across the desert?

Today, I’m going to make my move. My old man always claimed it worked for him though I think he got the idea of cutting a hole in the bottom of the popcorn bag and sliding his cock into it from Mickey Rourke’s character in Diner. It worked for Rourke, with a few hassles, and my dad swore by it and come on, John fucking Ford, what could go wrong?

Flavia and I sit toward the back, me and meu Pão de Queijo, the pet name I’ve taken to calling her in my mind: my Brazilian cheese puff. We’re three-quarters of the way through the film, engrossed by the performances, the fast-churning story, the multiple levels of suspense: Geronimo’s doomed and righteous rampage in the background, threatening smoke signals in the distance, the pregnancy, the banker’s satchel full of stolen money, the question of whether Wayne’s Ringo Kid will have the chance to exact revenge on those shitheel Plummers who murdered his father and brother.

I excuse myself and buy the popcorn and make my dad’s signature recipe, mixing in crumbled Famous Amos cookies, Sno-Caps, and Sour Patch Kids so it’s a Carnival of flavors, a bag of sweet and dry and salty and sour all about to meld together around my half-hard and fully nervous cock.
        I return to my seat just as the Apache attack the stagecoach. Donald Meek’s character takes an arrow to the chest and we’re off. Arrows are flying. Gunshots ring across Monument Valley. I punch a hole in the bag and I’m watching Flavia watch Ford’s masterpiece and I’m getting hard, hard for Flavia, for the American West, for the American Dream, spacious skies, mountain majesties, for the drone pilots in bunkers in Arizona surveilling the world as America the cop walks its global beat. My destiny is manifesting here in this bag of popcorn and beside me in this Brazilian woman I barely know. Now Flavia is inhaling the stuff, licking the salt and Sour Patch dust off her fingers and long nails, licking the melted chocolate off her full lips. Horses are flipping over. The stagecoach is hurling across the landscape like a comet trailing a tail of magic Hollywood dust still capable of casting a spell over this audience eighty some odd years later.

Flavia is getting close now. The cold air-conditioned air is just tickling the tip of my dick. Wayne is leaping onto the horses. The passengers are out of bullets. Flavia’s fake nails, gleaming in Ford’s grainy cinematic light, touch the tip of my dick then her fingers slide down the shaft, pushing aside popcorn and cookie crumbs to confirm she’s found what she thinks or fears or, God-willing, hopes she’s found. Flavia releases my dick and withdraws her hand but slowly so I can’t tell if she’s disgusted or angry or curious or aroused. I may have overplayed my hand, dad. Who am I kidding? I’m no Mickey Rourke, no John Wayne. I’m all virgin and no dynamo and the gambler is about to use his final bullet to kill the lady beside him to spare her from the wrath of the Apache. Do it, Hatfield. Fold her cards before the Apache call. But wait, do you hear it? A bugle blowing the charge. Flavia’s hand returns. She takes another handful of popcorn, fingers circling my shrinking dick like a wagon train, this is love, meu Pão de Queijo! And then, with her sharp fake nails she pinches my ball sack and twists it and it’s like my guts are being twisted too, pain spiraling upwards, then, for the coup de grâce, she flicks the tip of my dick with the long nail of her middle finger which detonates a charge of pain and pleasure and excitement and shame that explodes from the tip of my dick and up and down through all my seven chakras in an inner fireworks display worthy of the Fourth of July.

“Americans,” she says, standing and shaking her head. She starts to leave, stepping over me with those incredible legs and walking up the aisle, out of the theater and out of my life.

My dick is throbbing. My future uncertain. But this is America and I am American, the city still shines, the dream still beckons, remember the Alamo, from sea to shining sea. I stand. My ball sack may be bruised but my hopes, and spirit, are unbroken. I enter the aisle, doubled over in pain. I cast one last look at the big film flickering in this small theater in the northwest corner of the world’s hegemon as the calvary comes, sabers drawn, guns blazing, horse hooves thundering up a tornado of dust. What do you do when your orgastic future twists your nut sack and takes off? You go after it. You hobble after her. What else can you do?

God, what a country.