three pairs of lovers with space

GAME-TEXTS: A GUATEMALAN JOURNAL BY ERSKINE LANE, 1973-78

 

Erskine Lane (born 5 August 1940) is an American writer and translator, who settled in Guatemala in 1973. His book Game-Texts: A Guatemalan Journal was published in San Francisco in 1978. Despite the title, it is not simply about his time in Guatemala, but includes personal meditations and memories of his childhood in Alabama. 

Presented here is everything in the book about his sexual encounters and thoughts. All of them were homosexual. Lane described almost all of his lovers as “boys” (though he used that term for one of twenty) and none as men. Their stated age range was fifteen to twenty-two, so if one were to stretch the meaning of the expression Greek love to include liaisons between those of the latter age and a man in his mid-thirties, then such they all were.

All of the sexual encounters described were in Guatemala. He was not usually more specific about places. Where he was, this is noted.  Otherwise, it would appear that the main setting was the capital, Guatemala City, the streets he named all being there.

There are no chapters.

 

Game-Texts: A Guatemalan Journal

César Ramirez. No relation to Fernando. He looked unusually good this afternoon, and after a few minutes of conversation he subtly injected the statement that he was unusually horny. Estranged from his girlfriend or something like that. He came home with me on some flimsy excuse that we both knew was an excuse. After a few moments of ritual game-playing, due, he said later, to nervousness, I gave him his first blow-job. With which he seemed abundantly pleased.

God, he said, that’s a hundred times better than in a woman’s vagina.

We ate supper and then he was ready to do it again. So we did it again. That time it began with him sitting in the butterfly chair, his legs spread out in front of him, open—

An hour ago he left. The whole little adventure was somehow extravagantly exciting. I don’t know exactly why. Tonight was the climax that should have gone with Saturday, or Saturday was the logical prelude to what happened tonight. Somewhere things got crossed.

[…]

***

On his stay in Livingston:

Watching him play at the end of the jetty, gulls flying against white clouds. His movements—To kiss his movements. The glide of his body fish-like through the limpid water at the spring, the blossoming of a smile on his face or its fading, the swing of his arm, the turn of his head, or the passage of his feet above white sands where thin waves slowly sprawl and withdraw. To kiss his movements, to hold them, to touch and caress him in the spaces he has just left behind.

José Manuel had a jovial personality, very pleasant, but his physical graces were few. I had a London fireman’s jacket, dark-blue heavy wool with shiny metal buttons. He wanted it. And so he introduced me to several of his friends. An exchange so written into the nature of things that there was no need to discuss it.

You're going to like Luis, he told me several times. You’re really going to like Luis. We looked for you the other day but couldn’t find you. Just wait till you see him.

One afternoon soon after they found me in the park. Luis, who had just turned sixteen, stood behind José Manuel, timidly smiling. The image is still clear in my mind. A black leather jacket over a light-blue teeshirt. Light-blue denim jeans, boots, a big metal belt-buckle with the English word LOVE. And the hair and face of a gypsy waif, dark and exquisitely beautiful. José Manuel left us and we strolled around the park. I loved his voice, quiet and soft, and the way his face mirrored his moods—at one moment gently brooding, the next moment all smiles. It was like watching the flow of sunlight and cloud-shadows across a mountainside. As we walked he told me about his father—how his parents had been divorced when he was too young to remember and only two years before, a boy of fourteen, he had met his father for the first time. In the last couple of years he had spent some time with him in a small town outside the city, he said, but they had never managed to get along well and now he had come back to the city to live with his mother. He emphasized his father’s coldness and indifference. The black leather jacket, he said, was the only gift the man had ever given him, and now he had promised it to a friend. He wanted to get rid of it, not to be reminded of where it came from.

If the physical image of our first meeting, almost five years ago now, is still clear in my mind, the memory of the following month is blurred and chaotic. His alternate approaches and withdrawals. The bids for affection followed so soon by emphatic rejections of it. His involvement with drugs, so common in those days when any kid could stagger into a pharmacy and openly buy stuff a hundred times more dangerous than marijuana, the use or possession of which, ironically, carried preposterously severe penalties. Chaos and so much agony as he somehow became a living embraceable symbol for me of life itself, and the struggle to save him from drugs and his own confusion was somehow a struggle to preserve myself, or to keep intact some vision of life’s worthiness.

An even month after I met him I had to leave. Back to the States for a few lonely suffocating months that left me convinced that I did not belong there. Late in the afternoon of the day before I left we drove to Amatitlán. And then, after dark, up to the wooded cliffsides above the lake. Made love to him there, wind in the tall grasses, while not far off in the distance the volcano every two or three minutes exploded in a fiery bouquet, bright red flowers falling through the darkness—

[…]

***

Three experiences from the last few weeks have kept for me a peculiarly sustaining quality about them. […]

Third, sex last Monday night with Marco. The casualness of it, unsullied by any desire on my part to know him or to love him, to hold onto him that time or to seek his company again. We simply helped each other there and then, in the same way that two people might cooperate in changing a flat tire or fixing a hole in the roof.

[…]

***

At an unspecified village on the coast of the department of Izabal:

Earlier today I saw an extraordinarily beautiful boy shovelling gravel on the main street of the village where ditches were being dug for telephone lines. Even in a country so bountifully endowed with beautiful boys, his beauty was such that I stopped short, as if paralyzed for a few seconds, and gazed. But he had his work to do, and I had to go fix lunch.

I walked on, carrying like a load on my back the thought that he would grow up in a world unknown to me, my world unknown to him, that his beauty was not meant for me and would never even for a moment be mine. That I would never even know his name. I didn’t look back though I knew I would probably never see him again. For a while I felt a gentle deep-buried ache inside me, but soon I came back to the realization that everything was happening just as it should, that nothing had really been missed or lost.

[…]

***

Saw a boy approaching along the path lined with hedges, shaded by tall luxuriant masses of cedars that swayed slowly in the warm wind. Behind him, at the end of the path, the lake shimmered with light, and the boy’s approach through the shaded corridor was silhouetted against the water’s silvery dancing.

I recognized the walk, his boyish amble. The slim body was his, his waist and hips, his legs. I knew him by the way he carried his shoulders, by the turn of his head. I got up to go out to meet him. Seconds later he turned off into another side-path, passing through a shaft of sunlight. I had been mistaken. I had never seen the boy before. There was not even a vague resemblance.

[…]

***

In the city streets at midnight I found a little innocent-looking boy. Denim jacket and a striped blue and white pullover shirt. He followed me home and stood on the street below until I went back down the stairs and let him in.

Erskine Lane in Guatemala, 1977

He was nervous, I noticed, when I slipped my hand under his striped shirt and began to fumble with his belt buckle and the zipper of his pants. So nervous that I almost felt guilty until he suggested that we take off all our clothes.

Naked in bed he rimmed me like no one else before or after—that seemed to be his special passion. Sucked me, fucked me, and then turned over to let himself be fucked. All with complete abandon. Then he asked me to put on my underwear and stand by the bed with my back to him while he masturbated. Ease it down slowly, he said, I’m almost coming. And he came.

During the heat of our entanglement he constantly murmured “Te quiero, mi amor, te quiero.” I love you. I love you. But most of all I remember his insistence that I believe him. “Créeme que sí te quiero. Dime que me crees. Dime.” Believe me, I love you. Tell me you believe me. Tell me.

Yes, I believe you, I told him, to put an end to his insistence. But then I had to reassure him. Again and again.

It was almost dawn by then and he said he had to leave. When will you come back? I asked him at the door.

I only like to do it once with each person, he said, as he shook my hand and kissed me goodbye.

That was more than three years ago. A few times since then I’ve seen him in the streets but he pretends not to recognize me. Or maybe he really doesn’t recognize me.

[…]

***

My grandfather was born on the last edge of the frontier, an Alabama woodsman. Did he ever feel a conscious attraction toward another male? Did he ever conceive of such a thing? Could he have understood my love for a boy half my own age?

Last night I felt especially close to this boy I love. We stayed in the little room off the terrace and talked about childhood. He how he used to be chubby and wore short pants with shoulder straps and sometimes a bib. How his first job was making doghouses for a quarter each.

[…]

***

It was probably in the month of March, one day around sundown, when I met Benjamin in the crowded streets. Small, cute and sexy, ebulliently smiling. Sixteen then. Dark wavy hair curling over his ears and forehead. We glanced at each other as we passed on the sidewalk. Then both of us turned to look back. A wave. And then we met halfway. The usual conversation, him leaning on a parking meter. Qué andas haciendo? Cómo te llamas? Dónde estudias o en qué trabajas? Bien aburrida la tarde, verdad ...

The apartment was nearby and I took him with me. But he could only stay a few minutes he said. Had to hurry home for dinner, his family expecting him. He would come back after dinner, he told me, around eight-thirty or so.

I didn’t expect him to come back, not in a country where people rarely keep appointments and have no sense whatever of time. But he did.

About a year ago now. Late one afternoon. The doorbell rang and when I looked off the terrace I was surprised to see him on the street below. The first time in a couple of months at least.

We lay on a mat on the terrace looking up at the passing clouds. For a while I lay on my back and he lay on top of me, all hugged together, and I watched the sky above and its passing birds. Time held still, it seemed. Completely still. Some large bird crossed the ceiling of the world high above us coasting on motionless wings, one or two quick flaps from time to time to hold its altitude. During the course of its passage the world was silent, timeless, perfect.

Soon we went inside and had sex. The best ever with him. Intensely aware of his dark slender body, his cock, thick and heavy. And the salt-sweet taste of his semen. Vigor and mystery gathered from the limbs. I wanted to tell him how good it was to be with him again but we had already begun to drift apart and some kind of pride or reserve would not let me.

He was more open and honest than I. No he gozado asi desde la última vez que estuve con vos, he told me as he left.

That, I think, was the last time. Now that I look back on it, my relationship with him was probably, in a certain sense, the most satisfactory sustained sexual relationship that I've ever had with anyone. He never wanted anything except bus fare back home. No commercial motives. He came because he loved sex as we did it—him lying on his back, pants pushed down and shirt pulled up, me sucking him. For more than a year he came. Regularly. Two or three or sometimes more times a week. No hugging, or almost never. No kissing. Just a blow-job. We perfected it to a routine which neither of us ever felt any need to vary. He came; we had sex; he soon left to go home. It was what both of us needed, just as we needed it. I was attached to him, genuinely fond of him, and I think he in his own non-verbal way was attached to me. But not to the extent that we could cause each other anxiety or pain. It was in that attachment-without attachment, so to speak, that the whole thing approached a certain ideal. If a week went by and he didn’t show up I would miss him, but my world was not torn into bits and pieces by his absence.

For indefinable reasons it worked for well over a year, and then, for equally indefinable reasons, it slowly ceased to work. Something came between us. Some vague loss of rapport. It suddenly was not as it had been before. I saw him a few times when 1 came back after the earthquake[1] but we didn’t have sex. And now it's been months since I’ve seen him at all, and we’ll probably never have sex—“esa onda,” he always called it—again. The final perfection of the relationship is that I don’t really miss him. I would welcome him back, back into the same kind of silent understanding we once had, but I don’t really miss him.

[…]

***

Street scene in Guatemala City, 1970s

On Séptima Avenida last night I found a handsome kid named Jorge. He came up behind me and asked if I had the time. Said he had been supposed to meet his girlfriend somewhere earlier to go to a movie but she failed to show up and he was bored. Back here, with nothing said, he immediately pulled off all his clothes. Everything except two thin leather thongs—one around his neck and one around his left ankle. Two ritual adornments that doubled the psychological impact of his sudden nakedness. He would have seemed much less naked without them. Beautifully modeled body. Dick erect as soon as he pulled his clothes off. Strong hairy legs, but not too hairy. And fuzz reaching up to his navel, resurfacing again on his chest. But not too much. Just enough hair to accentuate the body, to define it rather than to obscure it.

[…]

***

Last night I felt like going out to look for a boy. But it was raining, and Monday nights are bad for cruising anyway, and so I soon decided to stay home. Mechanical reading made the hours pass swiftly, and soon it was time for bed.

But will reading suffice tonight? What are my legitimate hungers and which are shallow whims? Did I need—really need—a boy last night, or did boredom and a general feeling of isolation falsify the longing?

How am I to distinguish between distraction and satisfaction, between the palliative and the authentic relief?

[…]

***

He came by earlier tonight after his class but he couldn’t spend the night. Before he left, though, we made love.

Sex. Good sex. But not what I needed, or not the way I needed it. Because I knew all along that once we finished he would have to leave. How different when I know that all night he will be sleeping beside me, that I can wake up and find him there.

As it was, I hurried into the garden, ate the delicious fruit that grows shaded in its center, and then, too soon, I had to return to the everyday world.

Sex with kids I pick up on the street is like stopping at a motel or hotel on a long journey. The feeling of unfamiliarity. Finding that the towel is missing or there’s no hot water or something isn’t quite right about the bed. The pillow is hard and knotty. And the lightbulb is much too weak for reading. Unfamiliarity and vague discomfort in many cases. Though sometimes you’re luckier and get a really pleasant and comfortable room with a good view out the window, and instead of the angry snarl of traffic at six the next morning, you’re awakened by the slow tolling of bells from a seventeenth-century church and monastery a couple of blocks away. A really nice place. One to remember, to keep in mind if you happen to be passing through again. But the bus heading south leaves at eight the next day and you have to be on it.

A night with him, on the other hand, is like suddenly being home again. The journey over. Everything in place. Perfect order or familiar disorder. And all the special small pleasures, the things that had already been half forgotten.

Which is illusion?—the closeness I sometimes feel to him, or the occasional feeling of distance?

Or neither?

Or both?

[…]

***

Guatemalan boy

A conversation with Alvaro. Fifteen years old. From a small town north of the capital. Once a month or so he comes to the city, spends a couple of days here and then disappears again into the provinces.

—If by some strange circumstance you were forced either to suck another boy or to let him fuck you, which, I asked him, would you prefer?

—I’d probably suck him. . . . Yeah, I’m sure I’d suck him.

—Why?

—Because if I let him fuck me I’d probably like it and then I’d do it again. And then I’d be queer. . . . But if I sucked him I’d probably like that too and then I’d want to do that again too, and— Why do you ask me such crazy questions?

***

His name was Enrique.

We talked for some time, me sitting on the floor, him on the mat. Such a good feeling to look at him as we talked, trying to decide the shapes of his body beneath his clothes, knowing he would pull them off at any moment if I told him to.

Finally I did tell him to, and I watched as he undressed. He had pale purplish bikini underwear which he left on, wise enough to calculate its effect. It held his balls and cock beautifully in an intriguing bulge. He was proud of his body, its beauty and its mystery, and mysteries, he knew instinctively, should be unveiled only with a certain ceremonial slowness.

He lay down and slid off his little bikini. No hair anywhere except the pubic beard.

Around midnight he left on the excuse that he couldn’t very well stay all night because his parents would be worried and then tomorrow they’d be angry. Which was okay with me, since, by that time, I needed nothing more from him anyway.

[…]

***

Stopped at a service station in the mountains. Watched a boy there filling a can with gasoline. No shirt, tight faded blue jeans, scuffed boots. Taut slender torso. Firm nipples. A half inch of jockey shorts visible above his low-hanging jeans. A small band aid on his right shoulder.

Like the monk who watched his master carry a young woman across a stream, I carry him still in my mind. He stands there in the late yellowing soft light, beautiful beyond all measure or expression. He moves, waiting for the can to fill, and each simple movement rushes through my senses like wildfire across a parched field of grasses. Again and again I watch him lift the full can, place it in the back of a pickup truck and drive away.

Away. Except from my mind.

[…]

***

Lake Amatitlán

Amatitlán. Hot and hazy, breezeless, with sailboats far out on the lake, floating like mirages. I spotted a young lifeguard in an ultra-marine bikini, sixteen or seventeen at most. Exquisite body and face. with dark blemishless skin. He was sitting on the ground looking bored. I sat down near him but he was not in a mood to talk. Soon he left, relieved by another guard, and I got up and walked to the end of the beach. When I returned he had not come back. I looked at the spot where he had been sitting, the gravelly sand he had furrowed with his toes. That whole section of the shore was altered by his absence, its reality diluted, deadened. Another person could simply have got up and left, but he cast the whole scene aside by his going.

[…]

***

One day I was walking hurriedly down Cuarta Avenida when I suddenly glanced up and saw a boy beside a building where some construction work was going on. He and a very old man were loading sand into a wheelbarrow, and he had stopped and was leaning on his shovel, smiling at me. Extremely striking, with his shirt open, knotted over his navel. Earth-brown chest and face, and a red handkerchief tied like a headband around his shoulder-length hair, perfectly straight and as black as obsidian. His unflinching gaze startled me, but the old man was working close beside him and so I returned his smile and walked on. On the corner then I decided he was too beautiful to pass up, even at the risk of embarrassing him or myself in front of the man. So I wrote my name and address on a slip of paper and took it back to him. The old man’s wrinkled face broke into a broad grin, knowing and approving, as I handed the kid the paper and asked him when he could come to see me.

He was Eduardo. Seventeen. A peculiarly sweet but almost mindless boy. Nearly total unawareness of the world around him. In bed the only thing he really liked to do was get fucked. The one act in this part of the world unequivocally tagged as queer. The macho can do almost anything else except be pasivo and his manhood is still intact, unblemished. I often wondered about Eduardo’s inner life, since he never verbally acknowledged his sexuality in any way. You felt that something was frozen inside him, paralyzed. He was gay, by his own society’s definition, which had been impressed upon him in a thousand different insidious ways since early childhood. He was gay, but only in bed. His in-bed self was somehow completely sealed off from the rest of his life. On the street he constantly did double or triple takes at passing girls, whistling at them or shouting piropos, telling me how he’d love to crawl into bed with this one or that one, how his only interest was in women. One day, bored by hearing the same thing over and over, I asked him what a woman would use to fuck him with. My question, a bit unkind maybe, failed completely to reach him and I was glad it did. After all, he was probably handling the matter in the only way he was intellectually equipped to deal with it.

And Roberto. Twenty-two or so. An ex-soldier, with a swaggering sort of joviality. His real name was Méndez but we rechristened him Roberto Botrán. The name of a local brand of rum. Because it always took a whole bottle for him to come to terms with his desire to be fucked. He drank, knowing exactly why he was drinking, but still he had to drink. And, as with Eduardo, there was no recognition of it afterwards. Until the bottle was nearly empty his desire simply didn’t exist. And the next morning he simply didn’t remember.

[…]

***

Alvaro came back after dark last night, slightly tipsy. The city had already grown quiet, so quiet that we could have been alone in a hut far back in the mountains.

His weight on me, all the formidable length of his cock pushed inside. And the sudden sound of a heavy shower pattering on the terrace, against the windows, on the big leaves. One or two livid flashes of lightning. Some far-off thunder.

After he came we lay together for a long time, still joined, his face nestled against the back of my neck and shoulder. The involuntary post-ejaculatory flexing of his cock, like a movement deep inside me, a reaction of my’ own body. We waited as the pulses grew further and further apart, weaker and weaker. At the same time, with the same pace, the rain died away.

[…]

***

Late yesterday I saw a boy sitting on a boat landing at the end of the beach. Not more than sixteen or seventeen. With a yellow shirt and bell-bottom jeans, barefoot, he sat gazing across the silvery surface of the lake, hardly speaking to the friend beside him. His beauty-matched the beauty of his surroundings—the lake, the sky, the mountains. I wanted to stop and stare at him, to go touch him, or at least to hear his voice. It was not a question of sex, because I felt no particular need or desire. Just something much more directionless and diffused. A loveliness that needed to be acknowledged, and, in me, a gratitude that needed to be expressed.

Boy in San Martín Sacatepéquez, Guatemala

In a sane society I would have felt free to walk over to him and tell him he was beautiful, but we have no sane societies yet and so I did nothing.

After a while he put on his shoes and walked with his friend to a spot on the flat rocky plain that borders the little river. By then the light was thick, dense. I watched them lie down there, placing their knapsacks on the ground beside them as if they were going to spend the night. The beautiful one lay with his legs in my direction, his knees pointing up at the sky. Before dark came I looked for them again and they were gone.

Sometimes there is a particular pleasure in seeing them and freely letting them go. Seeing them as I see birds or sunsets or whatever. Letting opportunities slip by because I am under no obligation to take advantage of them. No obligation and no compulsion. Nothing to prove.

Not long ago in the city I exchanged glances with a beautiful kid on the street. Then a wave. He stopped and waited but I kept going as if I had somewhere special to go.

The night last night. An unearthly slowness and tranquillity. In the last light a young kid came to swim, alone, after everybody else had gone. Long hair and slim compact body. He swam far out into the lake in a straight line, hardly disturbing the mirror-like surface of the water, returned the same way and then sat down by the water’s edge and did a few asanas facing west. All slowly and smoothly, effortless and self-absorbed. It was as if the spirit of the sunset and darkening, all its timelessness and serenity, were focused in him, given through him a tangible form.

Far into the darkness I kept watch, long after he had left. Saw Jupiter set behind the volcanos, and the moon, and Grus. Watched Orion rise high above the eastern mountains, until almost straight overhead. But best of all was the setting of the moon. A silver trail of light stretching across the lake like so many luminous butterflies, gently flickering, flittering.

[…]

***

My gaze fell into his lap like a strange fruit, startling him. He wasn’t sure if he should keep it, eat it, or throw it away.

***

He came up from the waves, naked, tanned deep-bronze by the sun, smiling.

Alfonso, a child of the sea. We talked for a couple of minutes and then, unexpectedly, he told me, “We’re going to be good friends, or lovers if you want.”

I was aware of his presence all day, always conscious of his movements about the house, on the beach.

The long dusk, sunlight slanting across the breakers. The slow ebb of light. And then the night with a dim half moon out over the sea. Well after midnight we all gathered on the beach where a giant turtle with a carapace at least a yard across had crawled far up on the sand to lay its eggs. Humping motions as it labored over a hole dug with stunted flippers and legs, life compelled by blind instinct, while we huddled around in a circle with the egg hunters—an old man and a boy —who had found it by the track it left in the sand. Of the ninety-seven eggs it laid, they left five. As the poor beast dragged itself back into the waves, we left. Back to the house and my first night with him.

[…]

***

In the little room on the terrace. Soft red light. So pale my skin against the darkness of his. All the lines of his body seem to flow toward his sex, converging there in an accumulation of darkness. Moist flower. Stiff stamen twice spitting its white seed at the world.

[…]

***

Tito is from a small town near San Salvador. By his own standards, which are those of the society he lives in, he is straight. Like most kids his age—seventeen—he has had sexual experiences with both sexes.

—Which do you really prefer? I asked him. If you had a choice, a male and a female ready and waiting for you, which would you prefer?

—It really wouldn't matter to me, he said after thinking a few moments. I guess I really have no preference, but sometimes I think it feels better with a man.

***

By a careful consideration of resources and priorities, by the conscious elimination of artificial needs, I have been able to choose a way of life that closely approximates play. Or, to be more exact, made up largely of play. It was the same with the aristocrats of the past. Free from the demands of work, they were able to give way to their fancy in pursuit of an ideal life. They were free to play. We are all headed in that direction. A few more decades or a few more centuries and anyone who chooses can be free.[2]

[…]

***

Youth in Guatemala City, 1976

Armando. Eighteen. From Coatepeque, the Hill of the Serpent, where even the nights can be sweltering and late in the afternoon buzzards gather in the heads of the palms. With his jet-black hair, skin the color of dark earth, and his slow sluggish nonchalance, shirt-tail always out, Armando is unmistakably coastal, tropical.

I have gazed at a thousand different Armandos, standing in doorways, sitting on town squares, walking by roadsides or waiting with shirts unbuttoned or shirtless on bridges over rivers sometimes dry and sometimes swollen with rain. At least a thousand distributed through a decade of intermittent wandering from Mexico to Panama. A thousand instances of wanting, longing. All summed up, condensed, essentialized in him. Having him is like having them all.

Curious, how certain people seem to be summations of types. Just as Armando is coastal, Ramón is unmistakably “eastern.” From the eastern borderlands. People of largely Spanish descent with little Indian admixture. Legendary homeland of the megaphallic macho. Heavy drinkers, tough fighters, indiscriminate fuckers. Carne al gancho, one of them once told me. His motto. Meat on the hook. Meaning, I think, that meat on the hook is meat on the hook, no reason to be choosy. That no opportunity should be allowed to slip by and that it doesn’t matter who or what you fuck as long as you fuck.

Ramón grew up in a place called El Rancho. Black hair and black mustache. Dark flashing eyes. Smooth olive skin. Nineteen. Not slender but not heavy either, a little heavier though than the slim angels I am most attracted to. I imagine him as a peasant back in the eastern wilds, riding on horseback along some dry mountain trail, driving a scraggly herd of cows ahead of him, shouting at them in his hoarse mannish voice—

Armando repeats but Ramón was a one-shot affair. He happened to be around a few months ago for a weekend trip to Panajachel. We got there late in the afternoon and found a room in an hospedaje on the western edge of the village, fifty yards or so from the shore of the lake. About eight that night, after a long time of walking, he got a joint from a kid on the beach at the other end of the village and we smoked it there in the shadows. A long stoned walk back through the town then. Endless, it seemed. Got back to the hospedaje just as a heavy rain set in. I shut the door and lit a candle on the little table between the beds.

As he undressed I noticed that his cock was hard already, the head of it jutting out through the leg opening of his tight brown under-wear. I sat down on the bed and he stood in front of me. You’re getting what lots of people—guys and girls—have wanted, he told me, and then he thrust his hips gently toward me and asked in almost a whisper if I liked it. Yes, I said, amused and strangely turned on by his attitude of superiority, that masculine arrogance which at other times I might have found annoying. Education, accomplishments, a broad experience of the world—such things count for nothing against the time-honored formula which says that the fucker or suckee is automatically superior to the sucker or fuckee. But sometimes there seems to be no particular advantage in compulsively chipping away at the world’s brick wall of myths and misconceptions. Any struggle, beyond a certain point, becomes academic and defeats its own purpose of clearing the way for life. Better, maybe, to slip through the interstices, to tunnel under, or to learn to leap freely back and forth, leaving the wall to its own inevitable collapse. In other words, it was time for sex, not for theories and dialectics.

I slid his underwear down his strong thighs, letting it fall to the floor, and he lay down beside me. I’ll bet you can’t put it all in your mouth, he said. Give me a little time, I told him to protect his macho pride; it'll take a little practice and adjustment.

Afterwards he dressed and went out. Didn't return until after midnight. I thought he would go to sleep on the other bed but as he turned out the light he crawled into bed with me and asked if I liked to get fucked, putting his arms around me. Es que tengo muchas ganas, he muttered in his hoarse sexy voice, muchas ganas.

[…]

***

When I met him the only body hair he had was around his cock. Now his legs below the knee have a fine black covering, and a thin line of fuzz reaches up to his navel.

Often when I grab him and embrace him, my arms around his upper torso, his chest pulled against mine, he locks his arms tight around my neck and lifts his legs off the floor, wrapping them around my hips, his feet crossed behind me.

There is something so cute and spontaneously affectionate about this that I sometimes suggest it by lifting him slightly so that his toes can’t touch the floor. But any further suggestion, especially a verbal one, would spoil forever this simple little gesture that brings me such a special joy.

[…]

***

Guatemalan boy

Art is a surrogate. A phallic substitute. If I had a harem of a hundred beautiful boys, ranging roughly from fifteen to twenty-five, then all the configurations of lines or shapes, sounds or words, that we call art would be irrelevant, near-nothings . . .

But, on second thought, maybe it's more complicated than that. No harem could ever fulfill the heart’s desire. Because our deepest need is simply to need, to long for, and is therefore not subject to fulfillment. Desire always exceeds reality, always oversteps our capacity for consummation, and from this interstice, this gap, this irrevocable disparity, art emerges—as a consolation, a celebration, a witness, whatever.

***

His voice, regardless of what he says, has a tender warmth which always seduces me into forgetting any accumulated resentment, into loving him again without caution or restraint.

[…]

***

Began to feel vaguely depressed around noon, when, here alone with him, I suddenly felt distant from him and could not reach out to him as I usually do. I wanted to make love to him, though I didn't tell him so, and he was not in the mood, though he didn’t tell me so either. I simply sensed it.

But how can I not feel distant from him at times, since what I want is total knowledge of his life, past and present, and that is a hopeless hunger after something I can never have. I want to know exactly how he looked on his tenth birthday, how he was dressed, what he said and what he felt. To know what convoluted dusks and noon clouds look like through his brown eyes, how his clothing feels against his skin. I want to feel the brush of cool wind against his face, to experience energy and tiredness in his limbs. To know what it is like to be Luis, going to bed at night, waking up in the morning.

To cultivate a sort of love that does not insist upon continuity and sustained fulfillment . . .

This applies especially to my love for him. In time it may die away or, more probably, will change forms completely, but for now it seems as enduring as the cordillera and just as indifferent to the fluctuating seasons. At times—many times—he has been mine, as deeply and completely open to me as he will ever be to anyone, male or female, and such moments of openness and closeness will come again.

So, is it really important that for the moment I feel distant from him?

The whole question of love and sex, it occurs to me, is probably the test, the means whereby I'll work out or fail to work out the crucial problem of accepting What Is with no interference from any fixed idea of What Should Be. Everything works for our good; reality contrives to teach us and free us. It is in the realm of human relations that we insist most stubbornly on having our way. If we can learn to let people come and go, not holding onto them after they’ve gone, then all the lesser demands of the ego should pose no problem at all.

The ideal: to be in the mood for sex and closeness when they are available and to have no particular desire for them when there is none around.

[…]

Guatemala City, mid-1970s

***

A few nights ago I slept with Jorge the Salvadorean, back in town with his friend David. Before going to sleep we made love, or, if that is too extravagant a phrase, we performed one of the various sexual rites that are sometimes taken or mistaken for love. Warm then under the covers, close together, while chilly night winds flowed like swollen rivers over the city. During the night, unlike many others, he did not turn away and pretend I was not there. Always against me, head nestled on the pillow' by mine, hands joined, an arm or leg thrown across me.

Once in particular I awoke, and feeling him so close to me, his warmth, pulse, heartbeat, breathing, the weight of his leg across my lower stomach—feeling him so close to me, a sudden fullness of love came over me. A love that, unlike many, brought with it a deep sense of contentment and peace. Because it was not love for a boy named Jorge Alberto Velasquez, who, like a number of others lately, has passed suddenly into my life and will just as suddenly go away. It was love for life, Life, as felt in the rise and fall of a particular boy’s breath, in the warmth of his body and the throbbing of his heart. And so it was love without attachment, certain of itself, at peace with itself because its object could not possibly turn hostile or go away.

[…]

***

Went to the coast Saturday. To Sipacate. Spent the night there and came back yesterday. Stopped for a coke at a poolside restaurant in Escuintla. Many boys swimming there in the rain. One in particular, who was absolute perfection. Slender and unusually dark and unusually beautiful. My awareness of him as he played around the pool was troubling, too painful to be pleasant, but still I could not turn my eyes away.

Back in the city later in the afternoon I decided I had to find someone. Picked up a Costa Rican kid in the park, or rather we picked up each other. Rodolfo, gay, twenty. Handsome and intelligent, here visiting friends of his family. Light skin and brown hair of the type that here is called canche, blond, though by Anglo-Saxon standards he was not blond at all. […]

Anyway, back to sex. In bed later that night I soon realized that he could not satisfy the hunger that the boy at the pool had left me saddled with and that I would really much rather be alone. But he spent the night and I got very little sleep. So much mad pelvic thrashing and grinding of genitals against genitals. Endless kissing. Abrasive rubbing of thighs, and knees accidentally jammed painfully against balls. On and on. Each time there was a lapse and I thought he was about to go to sleep he would begin again. Not at all what I needed. I would much rather have spent the night alone.

[…]

***

During the first years of puberty I fell in love with Robin in the Batman comic books. Book after book, bought at the newsstand in Gadsden or traded from friends. Page after page feeding my amorphous passion for his sketchy form. Black tights, and, as far as I could tell, bare legs, and shoes with winged heels. Secretly even then I knew that Batman sucked him night after night back in the batcave, his juicy little cock all sweaty and musty after a hard day’s work in the struggle against the forces of evil.

But my passion was not monolithic. Even then I was unfaithful. For at the same time I had a crush on the sons of old Laocoön. Beauteous adolescent forms straining to break the sea serpent’s choking hold. Especially the one on the right. I found—and still find—some extravagantly sensuous shapeliness in the raised left leg, serpent coils clasping the ankle, and in the form of the foot. Time after time I jacked off thinking about the left leg of the marble son of old Laocoön, wishing I were the sea serpent clutching his ankle.

[…]

***

Twelve years in a southern white rural Christian heterosexual school system.

They showed me the Mona Lisa, Dürer’s praying hands, and somebody’s painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware, but they never mentioned the bronzes of Benin or the carvings of the Dogon and Yoruba. Nothing about the tall proud Masai. Lots of puny pious drivel about loving thy neighbor as thyself but not one good word for those older, broader, and vastly more penetrating visions that could say love thy neighbor because he is thyself. I heard a lot about Rome but nothing about how Hadrian loved Antinoüs. Alexander too but no mention of his boy. It took me a long time to discover that some of the greatest love-sonnets in the English language were written by a man in love with a man.[3]

Obviously there was some kind of conspiracy going on. A conspiracy of silence. A withholding of evidence. An obstruction of justice. A willful and malicious distortion of the facts.

[…]

But in mid-century rural Alabama it was different. Erotic awakenings—awakenings of any sort, for that matter—were slow and belated then.

Danny Phelps was a very handsome kid and one of my better buddies. One day that same year [of eighth grade] we heard some older guys kidding each other about being queer. I was puzzled and asked Danny what the word meant.

“A queer,” he told me, “is somebody who sucks somebody else’s dick. You know,” he said, grimacing, faking a gag, “until they come in his mouth.”

Why, he asked me, would anybody want to do a thing like that? I didn’t have the vaguest idea why anybody would want to do that but I had already day-dreamed about doing it to him. Society had not put the idea into my head because never before in my life had I heard another human being mention the possibility of sucking dicks. Neither directly, indirectly, or by means of the most subtle innuendos. My desire had evolved from within me, sui generis, so to speak, while most of my classmates, with massive doses of societal prompting, were beginning to dream about pussies.

[…]

***

Borges and his tigers. I and my boys. In fiction after fiction I dream the boy that in a million forms stirs now beneath the warm night’s thin sheets, his flesh hot and firm, sleeping. I dream the intricacy of his hair, the throbbing veins of his neck, the forms of his wrists and ankles, the secret scents and shifting volumes of his sex. But, by the act of dreaming him and naming him here, I make him merely another in a sequence of fictions, a creation of my mind, wholly apart from the sacred presence slumbering somewhere nearby in the very real night.

[…]

***

Monday night he came here with me and very naturally we soon ended up in the little room on the terrace making love.

Afterwards he put on his jeans, socks, and a little faded purple terrycloth tee-shirt and we went back into the living room. In the soft lamplight he looked as beautiful as I have ever seen him. The most beautiful, to me, of all the beautiful boys. Seeing him then was the most exquisite pleasure of all, looking at the curves and volumes— half-hidden, half-revealed by clothes—of the little body that only a few minutes before had been all mine, naked to all my senses.

Sometimes I go to pick him up after his English class. The pleasure I feel then when I see him coming down the stairs, chatting with the friends he has made there. I watch from a distance. My vision roams about his body, all the lines, shapes, volumes, and from memory I fill in the most intimate details that remain hidden from the world by his clothes. Beneath his shirt, the navel with its thin growth of hairs, the curve of his shoulders, his dark nipples against the lesser darkness of his chest. Loins, cock, and thighs hidden by his pants. Toes and ankles inside his shoes, and, hidden by his cuffs, the black hairs that have emerged since I first met him.

I watch, and the feeling of distance and closeness combined is something exquisite, pleasurable beyond words, and, at the same time, vaguely painful too.

In the center of the mind they all come together—the special beauty in a line of music, the sculpted rhythm of words in a poem, the lay of valley and hills, the entasis in the line of his forearms and thighs.

I understand more and more—or feel, rather, since this is not within the realm of understanding—that all beauty is somehow one, the same, whether I see it in landscapes, flowers, art, or boys, and that I could not conceivably love one without loving all the others.

The moon rising over a mountain ridge or setting over the sea. A boy’s stomach and thighs, the modeling of wrists, calves, back, ass, shoulders. The dangle of cock and balls. The shape and color of a flower, or the form of a seashell, or the melody of a birdsong or a symphony. All the same.

[…]

***

About the middle of the afternoon Ricardo came by. He announced that he was horny, ten days or so without sex, and that there was a really good kung-fu film at the Cine Capitol but he had no money. All of which meant that he wanted a blow-job and a dollar for the movies. At first I was not particularly eager, but a couple of drags from a joint he brought with him aroused my enthusiasm and soon we were under way. First he removed his shirt—two buttons on each cuff, six in the front. Ten in all—I counted them. I enjoyed watching him unfasten his belt, open his zipper, and drop his pants. Then the underwear. There was something equally pleasurable about watching him put on his clothes again. The exact reverse process. A kind of symmetrically bipartite ritual slowly and nonchalantly enacted. A digital choreography of opening and closing, unbuttoning and buttoning, pushing and tugging, taking off and putting on . . .

[…]

***

Early that same morning we had left two Mexican kids by a junction outside Villahermosa after a night with them in a hotel there. They were hitching north, back home to Veracruz, and we were headed south into the mountains. […]

It must have been around noon when we stopped by the ruins of Kabah, headed back south. Waited for the sun to fall across the west façade of a palace fantastically decorated with hundreds of Chac masks carved in stone, each with a stone nose curling outward and upward like an elephant trunk. I stayed by the car while Tonio walked off in search of an arch bridging what used to be the sac-be, the “white road” or causeway running to another site further north. It was then that a kid who had been waiting in the shade across the highway came and asked me if he and his friend could have a ride. He looked vaguely like an Apache. White pants with red bell-bottom insets below the knees. Boots. White shirt with cloth belts dangling at his waist. And a knit-wool skullcap restraining his thick mane of curly jet-black hair. He was Juanito. Ignacio, his friend, was less exotically attired. Just white pants and boots and a military shirt that he himself had demilitarized with whimsical embroideries.

Mexican youths

Hours after dark. Into Villahermosa looking for a place to stay. Soon got a room at a hotel called Tabscoob. The head and face of the desk clerk were straight from the frescoes at Bonampak, a living replica of the famous stucco heads found at Palenque. Pure Maya. With an air of immemorial boredom he showed us to a room on the second floor. But the air conditioner there was out of order and we were led down the hall to another room with a big ceiling fan. But that room had only one large bed, and so one of the beds from the first room had to be laboriously transferred to the second. Then the original bed broke when Juanito and I sat down on the foot of it. Our classical Maya desk clerk went off to look for something to prop it up while we waited. After a long while he returned with the news that there was nothing he could do about it and so goodnight. Rather than try to sleep at such a sloping angle, on such a precarious frame, we moved the mattress to the floor.

Woke up at dawn. Watched Juanito as he slept beside me, naked except for a sheet pulled up to his thighs. The loose anarchy of his hair spilling over the pillow.

Ignacio lay beside Tonio on the other bed, on his back, on top of the sheets. The length of his body. Tousled black curls on his forehead. Bronze-black skin. The sinewy sensuality of his limbs, his taut stomach and chest rising and falling with breath while the fan hummed overhead and soft daylight began to gather against the crinkled translucent glass of the windows.

After breakfast we said goodbye and regretfully left them at the edge of the town on the road toward Veracruz.

[…]

***

Sixty-nine. The circular flow of one sensation. Or, if I simply suck him, his pleasure is my pleasure. All the same. Or, if he fucks me I know what he feels, and if I fuck him I know' what he feels. No activity or passivity. No clear distinction between pleasure given and pleasure received. Each body, somehow, like an extension of the other.

[…]

***

So many boys I’ve gazed at today. Jeans tight over deliciously lickable asses. And, in front, cocks nestled inside pants. Sometimes bulky. Sometimes barely detectable. Sometimes well-defined, or, at times, just an amorphous bulge.

Their clothing could not conceal the curious wonder of limbs and joints, hips and waists, or the marvelous flexings of their walk. Their strong sweet quality came through. So many times I paused to see them pass, gazing at them with an immense pleasure free of any special desire, looking without needing, admiring with no hunger to possess—

[…]

***

I was out in the shallows of the lake when I noticed the appearance of a boy on the shore. Cute, dressed in brown pants with a brown and white striped pullover sweater. I liked his slenderness and the fresh clear-cut precision of his movements, but I had gone to swim and he was on the shore and so I paid little attention to him.

Until he called to me by name.

Sergio. The first time I had seen him in a couple of months at least.

He got a girl pregnant, he told me, with a faintly apologetic tone in his voice, and had been forced to marry her. The wedding had been Saturday and now they were on their honeymoon. He asked where I was staying but then told me, again apologetically, that he probably would not be able to get away from his wife.

Since then I have thought of him many times. Pity for him, not yet twenty but trapped already in a life he didn’t ask for. Pity for him and disgust with the mindless society that so insistently urges its children to prove their manhood—whatever that hideous word means—and then punishes them for complying.

Guatemalan boy

[…]

***

Boy alone on a park bench, beside a bed of flowering white ginger. Thirteen maybe. Certainly not more than fourteen. Beautiful boyish face, pretty black hair, large hands and feet like early adolescents have, no hair yet on his legs—I know because one leg crossing the other shows two inches or so of bare skin between cuff and socks.

No pubic hair either. This I don’t know empirically but rather conclude by logical supposition based upon the other data observed.

Another safe supposition. That his penis, like his hands and feet, is now pubertying out of proportion to the rest of his body, that it stays hard half the time and half-hard the rest of the time, as if inhabited by some implacable hot spirit otherwise foreign to him, something that distracts him during the day and haunts his dreams at night. Vague troubled dreams. Until he wakes up suddenly in a pool of his warm white liquid, sticky between himself and the sheets.

[…]

***

After supper one night last week I went out feeling suddenly lonely and thinking that surely Providence would provide me with someone. And it did.

He was eating a hot dog at one of the mobile carts on the corner of 12th Street and the Avenue. We exchanged glances, and then, as I passed, the tilted umbrella over the cart hid his face from view. We both stooped down at the same time to exchange another glance. A few steps more and then I looked back and we waved. I waited by a store window a few yards down the street for him to finish his hot dog.

His name was Michael. Not Miguel. Mulatto. Seventeen. Mad about béisbol. Guatemalan father and black English-speaking mother from Bluefields, Nicaragua. He had African skin and largely Caucasian features. Handsome face, lean athletic body, and a nice black meaty cock. At least an hour, with many pauses at propitious moments, because as he said, “it feel so good, man, and we have no hurry. . .”

Earlier tonight. Another sensual session with Michael. Me sometimes lying on my back with him crouched on his hands and knees above me. Romulus or Remus and the wolf. And then, by a slight shift of position, fellatio becomes irrumatio, or irrumatio turns back into fellatio—

[…]

***

He came as he had promised. By bus from the city. Shortly past noon I saw him coming up the trail through the orange groves. All night beside me. In the almost eerie silence and the total blackness of the night. At times I awoke and lay awake listening to his breathing, soft like a slight breeze moving through pines.

[…]

***

Spent last night just west of Mazatenango in a little hotel beside the road. Clean and pleasant, simple and unassuming. Shaded by thick tropical growth with a little stream running by a few yards from the open window of our room.

Since both of us were tired from the drive and the beds were very narrow, we slept separately. But this morning, while the birds outside were clamoring in the first light, he came to my bed. His dark-brown skin was at once warm and cool beneath my touch, so smooth and delicious. Naked, he stood up in bed astride me, playful, mimicking muscle-boy poses while I lay on my back looking up. I sat up to kiss his thighs, to bury my face between his legs, as astonished by his beauty as if I had never seen it or touched it before. And then I pulled him down beside me and for a long while held him quietly in my arms, both of us slipping in and out of sleep.

 

[1] This must refer to the earthquake of 4 February 1976, the most disastrous in modern Guatemalan history and the only one of the slightest significance in or near the 1970s.

[2] This paragraph should not have been included on this webpage were the grounds of relevance to Greek love being very strictly observed.  It is included for the rich and brutal irony of the expression of the typically 1970s belief that an age of unprecedented freedom was on the horizon, the subsequent abandonment of this ages-old ideal having of course had the direst imaginable consequences for Greek love in particular.

[3] The sonnets in question of William Shakespeare’s were addressed to a “fair youth” as distinct from a man, and are thought to have been composed between 1597 and 1603, when he himself was in his thirties.