didnât make love to me that night, and he was kind, as a friend. Later I lay in my bed and thought how lucky we are to look above and see the night. Richard said that animals donât do this. There is a loftiness in the human aptitude. I fell asleep wondering how I might rise right into the sky, and beyond.
I saw Richard almost every Thursday night. He had a regular girlfriend whom he thought he would marry some time soon, and that other girl took up his weekends. Once, though, she went to Disneyland with her parents, and Richard took me away for the weekend, to Carlsbad Caverns. On the night we arrived, we watched innumerable bats pour out of the mouth of the cave like a long stormy cloud. An owl in a tree caught one of the bats while I was watching; I turned my face into Richardâs shoulder. In a motel we drank watered whiskey and talked about our childhoods. Richardâs life hadnât been so very different from mine. His mother was a hairdresser. I felt good, hearing that. It wasnât until days later that I realized that it meant that I couldnât blame my status with him on the difference in our lives. It was something in me that made him see me the way he did, something less worthy than his ârealâ girlfriend.
In the cavern rooms I had put my feet down carefully; one slip, I thought, and I would plunge into the belly of the cave. That, and the damp chill, made me shiver. On the way home I told Richard I was happy for the trip. He pulled onto a side road and taught me, forty miles from nowhere, how my mouth could give everything. I closed my eyes and saw again the deep black pools in the caves. There was no bottom to their depth.
There were others besides Richard. An almost-engaged man has only so much time. The others were, like him, no longer boys. I never understood how they knew to call me, where they came from. Who had spread the word? I knew I had a reputation, that I was getting in deeper and deeper, but it was like good money after bad. I kept thinking my value would rise for one of them. And I didnât know how to refuse. What grounds did I have? These young men had lost the raw freshness of boyhood. They had more to say, though mostly about themselves, and they had learned a few things. They all sold things during the day, or wrote things down at desks, and they werenât tired in the evenings. They swelled willingness on me like the vanilla stench of Shalimar. I took Farinâs advice and saw a doctor. I thought of going out with men as walking along a bluff blindfolded; I knew I would fall, I only didnât know when.
I lay with Richard on blankets in the back of his station wagon, the night mild and bright under a half moon and a sky full of stars. I felt suddenly that I could not make love to men who took no pains to please me. Not any more. And Richardâhe should have known! I had once opened my heart to him. It was so hard to swallow the lump in my throat, to find the courage to say, âRichard, Iâm unhappy, Iâve had enough of this, being whatever I am, not your girlfriend, itâs not enough, itâs not right, it has to change.â My voice quivered. I knew I was cutting myself off from him. I meant no challenge, no ultimatum, I fully expected never to see him again. What I wanted was for him to understand why that had to be. Why I deserved more.
Richard was, like me, naked below his shirt, sitting half-raised to lean against the side of the car, smoking in a lazy way. He didnât answer me for a long time, though I saw that he was looking at me as if I were a strange animal who had slunk through a crack in the wall. I felt a surge of anger, so much anger it flushed through me and made me hot and agitated, and then, before I could speak of it, regret washed through and made the anger weak. Richard rolled the window down to toss out his cigarette, and then he turned and moved on me roughly, putting his hand over my mouth as he bit