Home > Love May Fail(11)

Love May Fail(11)
Matthew Quick

“You’ll do it. Bring your wife to America yet.” I stick five hundred-dollar bills through the plastic hole, feeling a bit like Ken in that Cuban restaurant, back in Miami, except I’m a more altruistic feminine version of Ken. Maybe I’m the Gloria Steinem to Ken’s Hugh Hefner.

“This is too much,” the Nigerian taxi driver says. “Far too much.”

“Bring your wife to America. And don’t cheat on her in the interim. Be a good man.”

“I am a good man!”

I exit the taxi as Mr. Nigeria keeps saying, “Too much, please, take some back, please. Please!”

I don’t have the strength to confront my mother, so I walk around the block to the alley behind our row of homes.

I open the ripped screen door, which still creaks, step into the grave-size back porch, pull a few blankets from the old army chest, wrap myself up, and lie down on the shitty plastic-cushioned rusted-springs gliding couch, which is even older than me.

It’s musty and damp from the snowy weather, but I don’t really care.

Just like high school, I think. After a night of drinking in the woods. Running from the cops. Eating fried grease at the Crystal Lake Diner. And then sleeping off hangovers out here.

I lost my virginity on this couch.

Jason Malta.

He was terrified.

He was nice, though.

Really sweet.

It didn’t hurt because he was so timid and gentle—and a bit on the small side, which I didn’t mind one bit.

Despite what I have been saying about Ken’s tiny penis, it’s not the shape or size of a man’s dick that counts, it’s the character of the man himself, if you ask me. Most women over thirty-five would agree, I’m betting. Somehow I knew this when I was seventeen, and then I forgot.

When I took Jason Malta inside me, I kept thinking it was like I was sucking away the worst of his life, cleansing him, making him pure, which I realize is strange and unusual thinking for a seventeen-year-old virgin.

But I swear he knew what I was doing for him—he knew I was taking his pain away from him, or at least lessening it, and that it was more like a favor than true love.

We both knew.

And we were okay with it.

I didn’t come.

Not even close.

But I enjoyed it.

Giving him pleasure.

Relieving his anguish, if only for a few minutes.

Jason was a good person.

And he had been in so much pain.

After he ejaculated, he kept whispering “Thank you” over and over again, and then he started to cry and shake, but he couldn’t explain why when I asked him, or maybe he just couldn’t verbalize it, because we both just knew.

We knew that the moment we shared was about much more than getting off.

His mom had died the year before.

I don’t even remember what she had, but I remember he missed a lot of school, and then when he started attending every day again, everyone knew it was over, and he seemed like a ghost.

I just wanted to bring him back from the dead.

Resuscitate him.

I remember he used to be funny in junior high. We had been in a play together, a comedy that he had written called Charles Barkley Goes to the Dentist.

The funniest part was that Charles Barkley never even makes an appearance in the play, maybe because we had no black classmates to play the role. But I remember it was set in a dentist’s office. Jason played the dentist. I played the woman who worked the office, answering phones and greeting patients, and Jason had me wear these huge red Sally Jessy Raphael glasses. And a few other classmates played the people in the waiting room, reading magazines and newspapers, looking up curiously every time the phone rang. Reporters kept calling and asking when “The Round Mound of Rebound” was coming in to get his teeth cleaned—Jason had our science teacher, Mr. Roorbach, play the reporters, speaking into a microphone offstage, almost making the calls sound like the voice of some absurd Samuel Beckett version of God, even though none of us knew who the hell Samuel Beckett was back then. I had to keep saying I couldn’t “give out Mr. Barkley’s information,” and when the people in the waiting room overheard, they kept saying, “Charles Barkley? The Round Mound of Rebound is a patient here?” and, being a bad secret keeper or an unethical dental assistant, my character kept winking and whispering, “Well, everyone has to take care of their teeth—even professional athletes!”

It seemed funnier when we were in eighth grade, but our parents laughed—well, Jason’s and other people’s parents laughed. My mom didn’t attend the performance, of course.

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