All Men Wish to Win



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Audo

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another old story desperately in need of a rewrite, but i thought i'd share it anyway~

all men wish to win.
CONTENT WARNING: STRONG SEXUAL IMAGERY, SWEARING

We’re driving down Westside — bordered by one of the countless pine tree forests that infest the valley — when I realize that I’m getting f*cked whether I like it or not. I grind my teeth against the maroon nail polish set only on my right thumb. Flakes of red land on my lips, on my pants and I wonder why I thought nail polish was ever a good idea. His hands wring the steering wheel, a soft squeak of plastic and faux leather, and tells me that nail polish is an odd choice for such a strapping boy. The flare of my lighter is the only response I manage. Number 7 Red King Size. He rolls down my window, probably wondering how he’ll explain the smell to his wife when he gets back home. He made the mistake earlier of instructing me to open his wallet for him. Two kids and a wife. One expired condom.


Smoke drifts from my mouth and escapes through the window. I watch it leave in the rearview mirror, what little I can see. Fire bans are up, as they always are in Vesperia during the summertime. The cigarette pinched between my index and middle fingers, I scrutinize the damage it could cause. Some of the red flakes have found a new home around the filter. Squint your eyes and you could swear it was blood.


I don’t remember his name and I suppose it doesn’t matter. He likely offered up a fake anyway. On the rare occasion he breaks our implicit vow of silence, he always calls me by mine. Brennan, he says, is that bleached hair? Are you excited to graduate? Brennan, what universities are you thinking of? Breathe in false platitudes, breathe out mediocrity.


The glow of the dashboard lights cast his face in shadows. Red and green fill his features and from the right angle if you squint you could swear he looked beastly. Shadows hide the bags under his eyes. His uneven complexion is tempered with the red of the dash. Eyes are made sullen. Even the way the skin beneath his chin has begun to droop is masked and hidden away. I remember his profile pic on Grindr. False advertising.


The end of my cigarette glows orange in the rear view mirror and I don’t blame him. I know my profile will look the same in ten years as it does now. Fifteen. Twenty. It doesn’t matter. For a lot of people, it’s the only way to win. If these random hookups — this memorization of the weight of strangers’ bodies on top of us — could be considering winning. We were all given shit hands, so you better f*cking be bluffing.


Lying is about all I have left.


This isn’t exactly my first time, here, now. I’ve been with a lot of guys like him, like me. Apparently insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. My mother thinks I’m unnatural, a disgrace, so I guess insane isn’t that far off either.


I remember them though, the weight of them. I remember the ribbed feeling of Erik’s arms, scarred by self-harm. I remember the way Ben wouldn’t make out with me, only pressed his chapped lips against mine again and again, never letting himself fall into the kiss. I remember how Aaron kept calling me another name when he came. A friend of his, maybe.


Most of them have wives and families and those that don’t are more f*cked up than I am anyway. But we all still do it, for the compliments, the feeling of being wanted, or maybe just for the shared misfortune of being born this way. As he parks the car off to the side of the road, blanketed by trees, I wonder if this is every gay kid’s story. It feels like it.


He turns off the ignition and he doesn’t ask me how I’m feeling. I put out my cigarette on the window and wipe away the ashes with the heel of my wrist. The silence breaks when he shuts his car door behind him. I grip the handle of my door. My breath hitches in my throat and I cross the threshold. The door slams behind me.


It’s a nice night, he says.


The trees criss-cross over the sky, but through the gaps I see the stars. After Ben and I f*cked in his tent trailer once, he unzipped the windows and let the breeze through. He pointed out what constellations we could see and taught me the stories behind them. The stars in his eyes, he looked happier than he was in the lie we spun. Only in the faint afterglow do people reveal who they truly are. Looking up at them, I wonder if one day we will be the stories behind the stars. If I’ll look up and see within those constellations myself and these men, rejected from the world, seeking home within the skies. No.


It’s just another bullshit night, I say.


He doesn’t say anything but he leans against the trunk of the car. Arms crossed. I follow him to the back and catch his expression. He must be thinking hard about something because his features have hardened: eyebrows low, eyes focused, mouth closed tight. Almost angry. At himself, maybe. I won’t ever know and it isn’t like it matters in the long run. I’m getting hate-f*cked either way.


The first time these men do this they aren’t really f*cking me. They are f*cking themselves, the hate they feel inside, the ostracism society imposed on them. It’d be damn near poetic if it didn’t make us both feel like shit afterwards. Because that’s our curse — this is the dystopian future we’re trapped in. This is the oppressive state we’re stuck with, and there are no rebels to give a shit.


I undo my belt and take off my skinny jeans. I fold them and rest them on the far side of the trunk. My t-shirt and boxer-briefs follow. Goosbumps cover my skin raw. He devours me as I stand bare and suddenly I wish I remembered his name. Callouses cover his palms and I figure he must be blue-collar in his other life. My ribs seem to fit in his palm as his thumb rubs my nipple. Squint and you could swear this was a mistake.


He bends me over the trunk and I gasp at the temperature of the metal and the texture of the rust. After Aaron called me by the wrong name, he took me up onto his wooden shed’s roof. We were both still naked and the shingles grated against our skin. He asked me if I remembered the time we drew on the roof with sidewalk chalk, if I remembered the oranges and the reds, the cheesy quotes about love that we didn’t really understand. I knew he knew that I wasn’t his friend, but I played along. Yes, I said, I remember. Aaron, I remember how our hands were covered in chalk dust. I remember when you took my cheek in your red dusty hands and kissed me. Yes, Aaron, I remember how I didn’t run away, didn’t call you a freak, didn’t say you were going to hell. Of course, I remember.


I brace myself when I hear his zipper, even though I should relax. He doesn’t undress — they rarely do the first time — and I clench my teeth when his dick and the teeth of his zipper press into me. His middle-aged hands grab mine and he puts his weight on top of me. It hurts and I try to accommodate him but mostly I just try to breathe. As he shifts behind me, his wrists rub against the back of mine and I recognize the feeling of an improperly healed scar. The cut ran down his wrist lengthwise, almost fresh against aged-marked skin.


After, Erik would let me trace his many scars with my fingertips. His right forearm wore them like medals, each a slightly different texture. The roughness of the scar, he explained, was determined mostly by how deep the cut. He pointed to some lighter ones, called them his oldest children. Had them when he was eight. You have to cut vertically, he said, if you really wanted to kill yourself. Harder to stitch up at the hospital. I asked him why he did it and he said he was trying to figure himself out. Did he find his answer? He laughed and said, No.


Pushing all his weight against me, he whispers in my ear. You are so beautiful, he says. And for a moment, it all seems worth it. And then the moment’s gone. I once knew the names of all the evergreens that are playing witness to us, but I can’t remember them now. Douglas, maybe. I close my eyes as he picks up speed, as he becomes more and more forceful. Whatever delusion that compliment came out of has been squandered off because I know he’s f*cking himself now. F*cking the hate. He’s sweating and I am sweating underneath him and the rust of the car and the teeth of his zipper are rubbing my skin raw.


When he comes, it’s with a whimper. An animal like cry that he doesn’t try to hide, whispered in my ear as he collapses on top of me completely. It’s the most honest sound I’ve heard and it makes me feel like crying. So I do. We stay like that for a moment, two wounded animals in a forgotten forest. By the time he pulls out, his weight felt like a part of me. He mutters something about starting the car and all I want is for that pressure to return. To feel connected and wanted in the simplest terms. But it’s gone.


I sit on the trunk and look at the damage. Impressions are embedded into my skin from the metal and the rust. The skin is red red red but it doesn’t seem to be bleeding. Behind me, I hear the failed attempts to start the engine. He turns the key over and over without change. It takes a couple more tries before he comes out of the car to face me. I move over on the trunk and he sits down beside me, hands resting on his own knees.


The car won’t start, he says.


I figured as much, I say.


Did I hurt you?


What?


You’re crying.


He points at my cheek like he’s thinking about wiping the tear away but considering better. I wipe my cheek on the back of my hand and tell him I’m fine. I reach over him and grab my clothes and dig through the pockets. I light up and watch the smoke of the first exhale drift up to the constellations.


We’ll try again in a bit, he says.


And if it doesn’t work?


We call a tow-truck.


I realize what this means for him. My mother wouldn’t care if I showed up tonight or not, but how is he going to explain to his wife about the tow truck, about the car, about what he was doing in the middle of the night off Westside Road? Even if she believes whatever story he tells her, this is a small town. Word would spread, probably from the tow truck driver himself, that he was found in the woods with a teenager. Vesperia politics, really.


He motions to my cigarette. I pass it to him. He inhales too much and starts coughing and I can’t help but laugh. Laugh at this man and his life, waiting forty-some years to have his first smoke and his first real f*ck. He nudges me with his elbow, tells me to knock it off and I laugh harder. I only stop when I realize I’m really laughing at myself.


I pull my phone out of my jeans. It’s still open to Grindr and I consider calling the tow-truck right now, getting the hell out. But I let the phone go loose in my hands and, still naked, lay down next to him on the trunk.


Ahead of us, farther into the woods, a deer walks into view. Its antlers protrude from its skull confidently. The moonlight reflects lightly on its brownish-grey coat. My hook-up starts clicking his tongue and I find myself admiring the way his features soften in the presence of the deer.


He’s a beaut, he says and then clicks his tongue again.


That’s not really a deer call.


Yeah, he admits, I don’t really know any. It works on my cats though.


I smirk and take another drag from my cigarette. When I was little, I say to him, me and my brother used to drive around on these roads, and the ones up to Pano. We’d stop whenever we found roadkill and took photographs of them. I think what I liked most about it was just how different they all were, the way their flesh had been torn open, the difference between ribs peeking and poking out. I mean, they were mangled to all shit, but there was something beautiful about it.


That’s f*cked up, Brennan, he says.


Yeah. I pass him the cigarette. That’s why I went along with it, I say. It’s the f*cked up shit that makes us human.


You’re way too young to think like that, he says.


And you’re too old to not.


He grumbles and practically forms a fist around the cigarette as he inhales. This time is easier and he clears his throat instead of coughs. With the cig between his thumb and finger, he inspects it and I notice that the red flakes of my nail polish have moved from the filter to his lips. Before I can stop myself, I’m leaning over and wiping the flakes off his mouth with my thumb. It’s more tender than it has any right to be and for a moment he looks like he’s thinking about kissing me — what would be our first — but I retreat to my place on the trunk kiss-less.


I turn my attention back to our animal companion. I don’t know anything about deer except how they look when mangled by a truck. As I watch it eating some of the greenery, I think about how much I desire to have something I could teach him about them. Some lasting tidbit he could take away from this night but I keep coming up short. I don’t know shit about deer or types of trees or local hotspots. I’ve lived here my entire life and have nothing to show for it, no insider knowledge, no mark I’ve left on the community. One of the jeers in local paper might have been about me, but that’s it.


That, um, Deer Culling, I stumble, you care about that at all?


He passes me the cigarette. Only in so much that I can, he says.


Not a member of the Deer Protection Society then?


He laughs. No, are you?


Nah. I guess I can sympathize, but, community work isn’t really my thing.


Sympathize? With the deer?


I watch as the deer returns into the depths of the forest. Probably to its family. One last long drag on the cigarette and then I put it out against the trunk of the car, flick the butt onto the dirt road.


I guess I just mean that I can relate, I say, sort of.


He doesn’t say anything, but he leans back against the back of the car with me. His flannel shirt scratches my skin and I move over until our arms touch. There’s a weighted warmth to his presence that smooths over the goosebumps on my naked skin and I want the moment to last — need it to, even. It’s been a long time since I’ve been held, but I’ll take even this, this fleeting contact, since it makes me feel a little less alone.


They’re still fighting about the culling, I say. Both sides. There’s a lawsuit and everything.


He nods. All men wish to win, he says, but few seldom do.


I pull away from him, jump off of the trunk and onto my feet. Kicking off my sandals, I dig my toes into the cool earth. My eyes close and I try to hear all the sounds: the wind and the deer and the occasional car. Try to become a part of it but give up. Open my eyes and he’s been watching me, studying me.


One of the times I was out with my brother, I say, we were taking pictures of these two male deer that got hit. They had been pulled to the side of the road and laid side by side. It kind of looked like they were spooning. And this is stupid, but, at the time I didn’t really understand that someone had cleaned them up, moved them. I was just an eight year old with a Pikachu camera. I thought they had died like that. When I looked at them, side by side, the bigger one almost holding the other one, I thought… this is me. That’s me. That’s my heart behind those exposed ribs. Those flies are hovering around me, living in my stomach. It’s stupid, but that’s when I knew. That I wasn’t like my dad or my brother. I was like those deer.


I grabbed my boxers off of the trunk and slipped them on. Then my pants. Then my shirt.


Anyway, the people who had moved them came up to us after we had started taking pictures. They laughed and asked if we were hungry, if that’s why we were hanging around the roadkill. My brother got embarrassed, said we were doing it for an art project. He hurriedly pushed me away from the deer, and back to the car. And that was the last time we hung out like that.


I run a hand through my bleached hair and avoid his gaze. He had been looking at me like he understood me or some shit. I didn’t come here to be understood. I came here to win. To try and be held and loved and failing to do all of that. I had exposed my ribs and for what? Some stranger who after the night was over, would go back to his wife and his children and his lie. And I still couldn’t blame him. At least he still had someone who would hold him.


Brennan—


I toss him my phone.


Just take me home, I say.




We’re sitting in the back of the tow-truck, side by side, fabric against fabric, and I wish I could go back. Back to before this night, before Ben and Erik and Aaron, before the fights with my mother and before my dad split. Before all the roadkill. The driver turns into Vesperia and I know I can’t. I can’t because I need all of this — the compliments, the f*cking, the weighted warmth. I need need need to feel wanted and no one else wants me.


Through the rearview mirror, the driver shoots us judging looks, my partner more so than me. A forest fire of gossip and slander begins with that fatass spark sitting in the front seat. I turn to the window and watch the perfectly lovely lawns and houses pass. All the lights are off on my street, including my own. There’ll be no one wondering where I am. No worried parents clutching for a sign as the green-lit clock on the stove counts another hour.


I tell him to stop in front of the house with the Aboriginal art in the front yawn. The truck whimpers to a stop and I waste no time in leaving. I’m halfway across my lawn when another door opens and slams behind me. Sandals kicked off again, I try once more to root myself into the earth. His thick calloused hand grabs my wrist and uproots me, yanks me toward him and smothers me in his chest and arms. The buttons of his shirt push into my cheek and I mumble how I don’t remember his name. I grab fists of his tacky flannel shirt and shut my eyes tight.


Desmond, he says.


It’s nice to meet you, he says.


I’m Brennan, I say, and it’s nice to meet you, too.


He trades off his hug and places my cold iPhone in my hand. The truck door slams again and they pull onto the street. My feet planted among the grass, I wait for Desmond to leave my sight. Shortly after, my phone goes off. The house is as good as dead when I look back to my phone. A notification from Grindr — a request for a new hook up, just six kilometres away. My thumb hovers over the button to reply.


And I hesitate.
 

KingdomKey

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I'm curious why Desmond made an impact on Brennan so much. Especially towards the end. Maybe they connected in that conversation they had or something changed in the moment they shared. This was certainly good and deep. I wouldn't say sad or depressing either. I never would've imagined somebody taking pictures of road kill either. You know, I can't remember if I said this already, but you'd make a great author. I feel like you'd make it big and have a similar outlet to a few other authors that come to mind for me. :3
 

Annoyance

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This one was interesting. I'm one who's fond of exposed ribs myself so I really liked that description. The characters weren't as strong here for me as I know you're capable of, though. Something about them just felt flat to me? Something's missing here, it needs more power... or something I can't pinpoint.

There were some times that your wording felt wonky, no obvious typos that I can remember, but sometimes I felt kind of confused by your descriptions in parts, like when they were sitting on the trunk.

Again, I ain't complaining about your sad melancholy stuff because to be honest I eat that shit up. I can do a play by play for this or anything you'd like when you're good and ready with whatever. :v I still have to do the typos for the other one you wanted. I just need a day off @___@
 
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