lustrate – Bex Peyton
January 12, 2022
He says “yeah, take that dick” like it’s not attached to him, as if the deeper it goes into my body, the farther it gets away from his. This is how I know he doesn’t love himself: no connection. He sees himself separate from “that dick” which makes my hole open and close like a camera shutter, taking snapshots of his denial. He won’t acknowledge it’s him who hurts me.
Afterwards, I’m in the bathroom and my piss smells spicy, like lavender. The door is the only thing I can shove between us sometimes. Even then, he rattles the handle, knocks softly, says “Babe?”. Just once, he could let me shit out his cum in solitude. “Rocky,” I hear, definitively spoken. I assume he walks away when I don’t respond.
I flush the toilet and look in the mirror: a seventeen-year-old face like a sunken ship, lost, small treasures here and there, burnt out from nothing. He’s still out there, I can hear his dry feet shuffling, scraping on the carpet outside the door. I pull the bottom of my eye down with my finger, stick out my tongue at him, at myself. “Rocky please, I have to piss.” I count to ten and open the door.
“Jesus kid.” He pushes past me into the bathroom and I say nothing, a ritual.
“I have to go to work,” I say, eventually.
“Hold on,” he calls from behind the door, and I do, sweatshirt draped over my folded arms, phone clenched tightly in my hand.
He exits the bathroom in his underwear. I look away.
“You’re brooding more than usual.” He wraps his arms around me, links his hands under my ass. “But still cute.”
“It’s summer,” I say, which I don’t anticipate him interpreting correctly. Still, I rest my chin on his shoulder for a moment, cold from sweat, his gut pinning my arms between us. His dad-bod has become too literal.
The rain, coming down in perforated sheets, I had hoped, would drive the customers away for a while. Despite it being the most run-down, rotting movie theater in the state, people still came, for whatever reason. I can’t blame them for indulging in helplessness, picking at the hometown scabs, spending a couple hours in ruin, a place that has nothing to fall in on except you. I stand at the concession and assume that role for now, grabbing handfuls of popcorn, over-buttered like wet brain tissue under the counter.
At the front booth, I see Dejah selling someone a ticket. He’s tall and thin with shaggy hair, the type of guy you see and immediately think: horse cock. He’s alone at the movies on a Sunday afternoon and I’m wondering what’s even worth seeing. He heads straight to the concession and I’m unprepared for his face; flushed marble, my wrists fit into his cheekbones, palms cupping the temples—a temple of rugged, secular viciousness, my heart—
“How big is the small?” My eyes circle his mouth, past his nose up to his eyes. They stare at me.
“The popcorn,” he says. I don’t break the connection and reach under the counter for a small popcorn container, presenting it unceremoniously. He says “One second” or something and takes a step back to browse the menu behind my head. He lifts his hand to scratch the back of his head and reveals his armpit through the loose sleeve. I scan his stomach next where the thin wisps of a happy trail poke out above his jeans, then, as he twists in a stretch, the top of his back where the same wisps sprout from under his collar, mapping his body hair through the generous openings in his shirt. The outline of his pocket knife is clear through his shorts. I rub my crotch against the counter, heavy, restrained.
“Yeah, I’ll just take a small popcorn.” I’m suddenly aware of my face, my hair. I look down at the register.
“Six seventy-five, you can put your card in when you’re ready.” I watch him insert it and think: “Yeah, take that card”. My side of the machine shows the card’s information: twelve X’s, the last four digits, a name. COLIN B. CAMPO. I repeat it in my head like a mantra the rest of the day so I don’t forget.
“He looks like a fucking bum.” Dejah’s disgust is so enveloped in her natural tone her opinions always sound like facts. “He’s also clearly straight.” She hands me the cigarette and I take a puff, give it back to her. She tries to trade it for a handful of candy from the concession but I shake my head. “Aren’t you dating that fucking forty-year-old anyway?” I look down at my phone. Colin, unassuming, stares at me through his Facebook profile, a ghost from the past, present, future.
“Scott,” I say, my disgust enveloped in nothing but my mouth and stomach.
“Yeah, Scott. What happened to him?”
“Nothing,” I exhale. I flip a wet rock over with my shoe, something to take the edge off. I’m suddenly not in the mood to be interrogated.
“Well, you’ll probably never see this guy again anyways.” Dejah pats me on the shoulder and goes back inside, flicking the cigarette onto the damp pavement. I watch the cherry sizzle for a moment before squashing it with my shoe. I send Colin a friend request.
When Scott picks me up from work, he’s immediately on me. He grabs the inside of my thigh as he pulls out of the parking lot, swerving to avoid the deep potholes full of rainwater, then retracts his hand.
“You smell like smoke,” he says. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to answer him so I don’t. His truck hums like a cicada. As he drives off, I stare at the theater shrinking in the window, pretending it’s the last time I’ll ever see it. I write “HELP” backwards in the condensation just to see what it would look like.
“I love you,” I just say. Scott perks up and puts his hand behind my neck, slows the car a little to look at me.
“I love you too, but please don’t smoke.”
Back at Scott’s apartment, I burrow into a corner of the couch and scroll through Grindr while he watches some reality competition show. Everyone on screen is clapping. The odor from my socked feet wafts in and out of my nose so I bury them between the cushions, click in and out of messages I’ll never respond to. I close the app and open Facebook where Colin has accepted my request. I can’t smile to myself without Scott noticing.
“What are you looking at?” he asks, heaving himself up. I press the side button and my phone goes black. On my hands and knees, I crawl to the other side of the couch and lay on top of him. He starts to say something but lets me push up his shirt, run my hand over the hair on his chest. I untangle two pieces meticulously with my fingers then pull one out, quickly, methodically. Scott winces but lets me perform. I pull the chest hairs out at random and offer each one to the couch’s dark chasms.
Dejah covers the sun with her hand even though her eyes are closed. I turn on my side, unpeeling my legs from the pool chair to face her.
“I’m worried about you,” she says with no affection, a statement if anything, like she’s talking to herself, “but it’s not like you listen to me.”
“Oh my god.” Dejah puts her hand down and sits up, squinting past me at the pool’s entrance. “Is that that guy?” I turn to look.
“I told him to meet me here,” I say, raising the phone in my hand. Dejah shudders and I don’t know how to take it. “Could you um, go somewhere else?” I start to wave Colin over and don’t wait to see Dejah’s reaction. When I turn around, she’ll be gone.
Colin catches sight of me, floats over expressionless. If I’m smiling it’s because I want to. He sits down in Dejah’s empty pool chair and sucks in air through his teeth.
“Hot today, right?”
“Hot.” I give the word back to him, pull my arms across my bare torso.
“I didn’t know this pool was here,” he says looking around before landing his eyes back on me. A child runs past us and almost trips over a stray beach towel, catching himself but not avoiding the screech of the lifeguard’s whistle. Colin offers him a “woah buddy” and my cock starts to firm.
His apartment is littered with toys which he acknowledges as soon as I walk in. “My son’s shit” he calls it, relics of a split custody. I count the robots and dinosaurs in my head before he can close the door. He says to make myself comfortable so I leave my shoes on. I spread out into the apartment, not really, just thinking. The bathroom: possible piss still left on the toilet seat, armpit hairs abandoned on his deodorant and ripe for stealing, holding in my pocket or mouth. His bedroom: face plunged into the sheets, pillows, maybe he sweats in his sleep. The laundry room: dirty clothes, underwear, pheromones, limitless interest.
“You don’t open your mouth a lot, huh?” I blink at him. “Well, you like movies, right? I mean, you work at a movie theater.” He slides past me and over to a small entertainment center housing a TV and small DVD collection. I don’t recognize anything.
“Can I use the bathroom?” I ask. A shock twists his face for a moment but he hides it well. Well, well enough.
“End of the hall on the right,” he answers, his back turned to me as he continues rifling through the movies. My heart pounds. I’m ok.
I turn on the water and open the medicine cabinet first. The walls are white, more than four of them I think, or a shower curtain probably counts as one and the mirror reflects everything, so that’s nine, just white. Yes, the water runs white too. And the medicine cabinet is another wall, or a door, and inside, I don’t know. Candy-shaped pills, not white but red and pink and blue. A toothbrush, the same colors, or something. I can’t focus.
The deodorant is next to the toothbrush. I grab it and pull the lid off, dropping it, letting it slide around the hair-sprinkled sink. I push the stick up to my nose and take a big whiff, holding it so close I’m coating my septum. I shove my hand down my pants, inevitable. My legs feel weak so I hunch over the countertop, spread my legs to make room in my jeans for the insatiable fingers. I’m there in his armpit. He’s holding the back of my head so there’s no distance between my face and the artificial Irish spring, the wiry bush of hairs, the sweat seeping through it all and onto my tongue. I cum in my underwear then ask him to drive me home.
My mom wakes up on the couch when I come inside, smiles through the drowsiness. I flick on the light to make her flinch.
“Rocky, please,” she whines. I wait for her to shake off the sleep and sit up, trying not to focus on the cum cementing my dick to the fabric of my boxers. Still, I try to adjust it through my pocket, assessing the damage in secret. “How was the pool, hun?” I shrug, tug at my underwear. She doesn’t care how the pool was, she’s just watched a lot of movies. My dad died in an accident a week before I was born; my mother told me having a newborn alone was hard, that she couldn’t enjoy her cake when no one showed up to the party. I never forgot that. I move past her and enter my room, lock the door behind me as always, just in case she ever gets bored of the party.
I step over crushed soda cans, books with covers folded by awkward positions, an empty pizza box. Clothes too: on the floor, spilling out of my dresser, hung on chairs and closet doors like stationary ghosts. If my room smells bad, I can’t tell, it just smells like me. I sit on the edge of the bed and check my phone, removing my shoes by stepping on the heels. A text from Dejah reads: “So did you die?” Nope. I don’t respond.
I toss my phone onto the other side of the bed—the side I don’t sleep on that accumulates my daily junk—and stand, waiting for something. I don’t know. A ripping sound snaps me out of whatever. Still, I turn slowly towards the window and watch as a pocket knife cuts through the screen in a thin, horizontal line. Long, bony fingers push through the opening, cling to the half-open window, thrust it open in one loud effort. His leg comes in first, followed by his shoulder and head, rigid tentacles too large for the porthole. I don’t move.
Colin says nothing as he straightens, his tall figure shrinking the room. He stares at me, my clothes piled around his feet like sacrificial virgins, and my eyes water trying to keep him in focus. His mouth holds back a grin.
“Down,” he says. I swallow, keep my eyes on his obelisk form and reach for the floor. On my knees, I pray he knows what he’s doing. He steps out of his shoes, leaves them among the bedroom rubble and stands in front of me. I close my eyes for a moment but he strikes me. “Keep them open.”
My mom jiggles the handle to my room, says “Rocky?”, but goes unnoticed by him. He presses his socked foot into my face, tells me to sniff. It smells like a reality competition show. From the couch, I’ve familiarized myself with these candy-colored sets, their proportions relative to the contestants, the way the lights burn off their corners, but now I’m here, seeing the reality part, and I feel like I’m on TV. I just won, oh my god, I won the whole show and everyone’s clapping. When he removes his foot from my face, he snickers, misinterprets my tears.
“Isn’t this what you wanted, fag?”
Two weeks later, Colin has become insatiable. Colin, who looks nothing like my father, who has his own kid, who’s straight and chose me to worship him, says he wants more—wants to hurt me more. I appreciate his honesty. He says he won’t be satisfied until I’m broken on the inside. I tell him I love him, because I mean it. Because he hurts me the right way.
“I know you have a boyfriend,” he says.
“Scott.” Scott, who holds his breath when he hears the Grindr notification sound from my phone, who tells me not to smoke, who wants to worship me, is not here. I rub the cigarette burns on the back of my arm.
“Tomorrow, invite him over.”
He says “yeah, that’s my good boy” like he doesn’t know how evil I am, how this is his last time fucking me. This is how I know he doesn’t love me: no clue. If he knew me, he’d know how much trouble he was in. But he doesn’t know—me or his danger—so I let him stretch my hole, pet my head and say “good boy”. He hasn’t asked about the burns or the welts because he’s afraid of the answer, just places his hands carefully on my body to avoid them.
“I want you to meet my friend,” I call from the bathroom. He shuffles in front of the door, takes a second to respond.
I flush the toilet and don’t bother with the mirror; I know I have bruises on my neck. Scott scoops me up the second I leave the bathroom and holds me against his fat stomach. I look down at him and smile. He cautiously smiles back from a hundred miles down on Earth or Hell or wherever.
“What friend, Rock?”
“Just a friend.”
I keep forgetting to tell Scott where to turn until he nearly passes it, cursing under his breath as the truck screeches around curbs. I have a lot on my mind. It’s raining again and the trail of oil from my finger has left a backwards “HELP” on the window, made visible again by the new condensation. I erase it with my sleeve and settle into the seat.
“It’s this one on the left,” I say and he parks on the street.
When Colin answers the door, I feel Scott staring at me. Still, they exchange “Hey”s, names, quick glances at me. I feel like laughing but I can’t yet so my stomach churns instead. Colin notes that it’s still kind of early and offers Scott some coffee. Scott accepts and I blow a puff of air out of my nose, hopefully unnoticed. When Colin heads to the kitchen for the coffee, Scott leans into my ear.
“He’s your friend?”
Scott sips his coffee at the small table between the kitchen and the living room while Colin and I sit on the couch. I listen for the rain but figure it’s stopped. Colin asks where Scott and I met and I quickly stand, say that I need to piss. As I round the corner into the hallway, I notice that Scott looks attractive to me for the first time in a while.
I lock the door to the bathroom instinctively, turn on the water, and can’t help myself from laughing. It’s so fucking funny I’m practically dying. The floor is the new wall, that’s ten white walls. Well, there’s a red rug, which I’m lying on now, or standing next to I guess, and it’s fuzzy with little anemone tentacles that brush against my face as I sort of flail. The floor crackles like a wrapper. Oh my god, it occurs to me that, if there are ten walls then my voice is probably echoing all over the place. But I don’t care, I’m–
The door handle jiggles violently. I flip myself over and onto my knees, unlock the door, and twist the handle. Colin kicks the door in with his foot, says “Jesus”. Scott is unconscious in his arms. I’ve just noticed there is clear plastic covering the floor. Colin heaves Scott’s heavy body past me and unloads him into the corner. He doesn’t turn around to look at me, only points to a spot on the plastic in front of the tub and says “there”. I crawl to the spot and begin taking off my clothes. He doesn’t tell me to, but that’s how he usually wants me.
Colin moves the shower curtain to the side with one sharp push, the metal hooks clanging against each other. The bathtub is already filled with water, reflecting four nylon straps hanging in loops, drilled into the ceiling. I’m naked now, on my knees facing the tub. I can’t move my eyes from the water but see Colin taking off Scott’s shirt in my peripheral. I close my eyes, pretend I’m not here for a moment, pretend I’m at work, at school, at home, at best.
Colin has shoved Scott’s arms through the nylon loops and he now hangs from them, suspended over the bathtub, his toes lifelessly skimming the water’s surface. I stare up at him, cringe knowing he’d think himself a martyr. He only loves me because he hates himself. Colin grabs the back of my neck and flips me over, hangs my head over the edge of the tub, submerging the back of my hair in the water. He says “stay” and I think, if he never said anything else, I’d stay here for the rest of my life.
Colin looks down at me for a moment then starts taking big, fat slashes at Scott’s chest and stomach with his pocket knife. The candy red blood splashes into the water, splatters on my face. My eyes sting but I don’t move. I think Colin is laughing, or maybe I’m laughing, or Scott’s laughing, I can’t tell. No, Scott’s not laughing, Scott’s screaming. I wipe the blood from my eyes and see Colin step back. Above me, Scott is flailing in his restraints, frantically looking around and screaming “What the fuck are you doing?!” “Help!” “Rocky!”. Colin drops the knife and picks up the metal toilet paper stand from the corner of the bathroom. With one strike, Scott is unconscious again and Colin drops the stand, his breathing heavy. I roll my eyes.
Before I can sit up, Colin grabs under my arms and lifts me into the bathtub. The water sloshes onto the plastic cover and Colin struggles not to slip as he holds me close to his face, his shoulder pinning Scott’s legs back against the wall.
“You stupid faggot! I thought he knew what was gonna happen!” He slaps my face into the wall and steps away from the tub, releasing Scott’s legs and causing him to swing slightly. Colin circles back around and grabs the edge of the tub. “What the fuck am I going to do now?!” For the first time, I’m scared. I don’t say anything, just look at Colin: a thirty-two-year-old face like a tortured saint, beautiful, splattered with blood, furious. My dick is incredibly hard. He wraps his hands around my throat and thrusts me under.
The bloody water stings in my sinus, sweet and metallic in the back of my throat, forcing fat bubbles to the surface that obscure my vision, but for a moment, through the red, I see Scott hanging, floating above me like an angel, like Jesus, like a manta ray, like I wanted. In the water, I am washed of it. I think: “Yeah, take my life.”
Still, the blackness clears from my eyes and I reach for light, surface. The screws, loosened by Scott’s flailing, have come loose and unleashed Scott on top of us, pinning Colin’s arms under the water. Released from his grasp, I choke the air into my lungs and scramble to get out of the bathtub. Colin has slipped on the wet plastic and now struggles to stand. He’s screaming something but I can’t understand it, I just pull my legs from underneath Scott’s limp, heavy body, and slide onto the floor.
After I’m on my feet, I take my clothes and run from the apartment. As I walk down the street, my clothes sticking to my wet skin, I don’t think about it. It was stupid anyways, I didn’t even get to see Colin’s dick. I consider going home, locking myself in my room, ignoring my mom when she twists the handle, says “Rocky”. After a few more blocks, I take a turn towards the theater.
At the concession Dejah looks up from her phone alarmed, relaxing once she sees it’s me.
“God, I thought you were a customer, dumbass,” she snorts. “Aren’t you working today?”
“I quit yesterday.”
“Oh.” Dejah stays quiet for a moment, takes in my red face, my shaking hands. I can see her abandoning a snarky comment in her head. “Are you okay? Your hair’s wet.”
“It was raining.”
“Yeah, rainy summer.”
“Yeah,” I say, “I think I’m gonna watch a movie.” I start off towards the closest theater but Dejah calls to me.
“You want anything?” I turn back and glance over the concession’s offerings. Dejah adds: “Hey, did something happen Rock?” It doesn’t matter. I can’t remember if something happened. I can’t remember why my hair is wet. I can’t remember what’s playing. I can’t remember the last time I had candy.