A lot can happen in four dates between two highly-sexed and scarred new lovers. Fiction by Jesus Angel Garcia.
We met on the fallenangels network. Her handle: SexxxeeYoungMama. She said she’d soon be in town visiting family for a week and was looking for “good clean fun (wink wink)” during the downtimes. She hadn’t dated “forever” since her last breakup. “I’m a hard worker and devoted mother,” she wrote, “but I need to feel like a woman again. Who’s up for showing a lusty lady a good time? Nice boys or girls, please inquire within. I’m an equal opportunity lover.”
We arranged to get together for a late Saturday movie, nothing special, some horror flick I can’t recall. It was early June, hot and icky, even after dark. She wore a pink baby T-shirt with I BREAK THINGS on the front and a black pleated skirt that swayed with her hips as she sashayed toward me outside the mall’s multiplex theater. Her lips were wide and welcoming. I gave her a bird of paradise I’d been hiding behind my back. We embraced like lovers too long apart. She smelled of cloves and shampoo. When we separated I held her hand, stepped back to drink in her mongrel beauty. She was a rare crossbreed of European (French, Spanish, Dutch), Asian (Filipino), African (via the West Indies slave trade) and North American (Arawak) ancestry—a true blue American. My first impression: Earth Mother Goddess.
Her untamed hair—milk chocolate, auburn-tinted, bleached from the sun—framed lotta-naughty eyes shaped like almonds. I longed to take them into my mouth. There seemed to be a sweet sadness to her smile, like she’d been beat down, through no fault of her own, but never knocked out. Her arms were smooth, toned, tan. I could tell she lifted weights. Her heels pumped her calves too. She was a powerful girl. Her real name: Shenandoah Brousseau.
Since we’d arrived early, we were able to chat before the previews and military recruitment ads kicked in and the people nearby hissed at us. I opened with a question on her equal-opportunity-lover pitch.
“Mmm . . .” She sipped her soda. “That lil confession never fails to get the boys goin.” She pursed her lips into a perfect o. “I fancy girls,” she said in her sumptuous country lilt. “They’re soft and beautiful, juicy like a Georgia peach, yummy like pecan pie. Girls are just plain kissable, lovable, the best ever. It’s a fact uh life.”
“I won’t deny it,” I said, adjusting myself in the seat.
“Now men.” She paused for some real-butter popcorn. “I’m attracted to manliness. Broad chests, strong arms that hold you like a man.” I tensed my forearm, bringing the veins to the surface. She ran her fingers along the blue lines. “Men are necessary, like bacon and eggs for breakfast. Girls are dessert, say, hot fudge sundae with cherry pie on top.”
Her poetry was intoxicating, her frankness almost shocking and, in truth, a little intimidating. She wasn’t like the other girls I’d known. She went on about how she was into spanking and restraints and various lubricated accessories, including strap-ons. “I’m open to pretty much anything,” she said, “if there’s trust. That’s the hard part.” She pulled away from me.
“I’m with you,” I said. “How can you know?” I reached for the popcorn in her lap.
“It’s a funny thing. Contrary to the popular notion, I’ve found in my experience that most guys tend to have trouble with me bein with girls.” I arched my eyebrows. “It’s true. They get all worried up in themselves, thinkin they’re not man enough to do it for me. But that’s not what it is at all. It’s just different. Cats and dogs.”
“You like it when it’s raining,” I said, aiming for wit.
“Bull’s eye!” She faced me all excited now. “It’s like most men are cat folk or dog folk, exclusive, and they don’t get it that they all cuddle bunches that come runnin when supper’s on. They all get fleas and they all got claws.”
“Do go on.” I was test-driving my newfound Southern politesse.
Shannon told me about a guy she was with for a spell, two-plus years of life and love, the only man she’d ever met uncomplicated with sharing a girlfriend on the side. “He goes and violates our agreement,” she said, “breaks the rules in our own bed.” She sipped her soda through the straw.
“Rules?” I was lost.
“Trust,” she said. “He violated the trust between us.” I nodded. “See,” she whispered in my ear, “the rule was he would only come inside me.” Tough love. “But when they thought I was sleepin in the very same sheets, I hear him scratchin and moanin and sayin how he loves her, then she up and gives him twins!”
“Ouch,” I said.
“What can ya do?”
“Kick his ass to the curb.”
“Oh, believe it, I did,” she said. “But that man broke my heart. That girl too. She was sexy as hell, I wanted to kill her in her sleep.”
“If I’d been there, I’d have held her down for you.”
She smiled. “We had a dreamy thing goin. But I reckon you have to wake up when the chickens come home.”
I wanted to say if I were him, I never would have made such a choice. But I couldn’t rightly imagine making such a bed. I’m old-school, it seems like. Despite the downsides, I see the value of monogamy. I used to thrive on such security, real or imagined. I shook my head in silence.
“So to answer your question,” she said, “I don’t think ya can ever know for sure. Ya just open your heart and love like the whole world’s at war.”
Shannon appeared to be in control, well-balanced and passionate, forgiving. I felt inferior by her side, nowhere near at peace. She explained how that was her last serious relationship. Her priorities since then, going on thirteen months, were raising her son the best she could and slaving as an office temp and part-time body worker, when her carpal tunnel wasn’t crippling, to dig herself out of credit card debt run up by the heartbreakers.
I told her about the ex and my recent bad behavior. I knew she wouldn’t judge or force-feed me lame advice. I expected she’d provide a sympathetic ear. What I hadn’t anticipated was her clear-sighted way with words.
“It’s all good, sweetie,” she said, interlacing her fingers with mine. “Perfectly understandable. You’ve been wronged. You’re hurtin. You want what’s right. No more, no less.”
She saw through my bitterness to what lay beneath, forgave me for being helpless to act otherwise. She didn’t care that I was broken, a fraction of myself. She would accept me in pieces, put me back together.
I was glad the movie started then, afraid I might tear up (not the manliest maneuver on a first date). We held each other close, licked butter from our fingers. About an hour in, nuzzling at her neck, I kissed her. It felt right. She turned to meet my lips. We were school kids for the rest of the film.
In the parking lot afterwards, she pulled me into the back seat of the extended cab of her rental pickup. Its new vehicle scent was soon swamped by her own, a musty morning-in-the-woods wetness I could taste with every breath. “You can smell my pussy,” she said, raising her arms so I could lift off her shirt. Her son’s name was inked inside a gold star on her breast. “He’s a rockstar,” she said. Her nipples were small and hard. I teased them with my teeth. “Harder,” she said. I bit down and she whimpered.
Burying my face, I pressed her close from the back. My hands moved like starfish on the slopes of her shoulders and spine. Slippery smooth like the sea, she rocked in waves, plunging forward, easing back, rising up, crashing, then rising again. I was the moon and she was high tide. She tore at my button-down shirt, promising to mend it later. Then she said, “Make me . . .” I didn’t think she meant sew, but I wasn’t asking questions. I would listen to her body, follow its direction, take her where she needed to go. I was at her service. It felt like I could do no wrong.
We were rocking on our knees, my thigh between hers, our mouths hungry, greedy. The famine was over. I reached beneath her skirt, up the back of her thighs, to grip the waistband of her panties with both hands. I pulled it down just so, while she wriggled to assist me. But I wouldn’t get her bare-assed yet.
I slipped my finger past the band, massaging the topmost spot between her cheeks. Working my way down, I paused just before her tightest hole. “Na ah . . .” she said. Untensing her muscles, she eased backwards. This forced my finger up inside. She grinned. “Uh oh . . .” I kissed her hard as she gripped my shoulders for support.
I let her steer my finger with the movement of her bubble butt, as she called it, which I now grabbed with both hands stuffed inside her panties. She was a good driver and fast. I held on tight.
When my wrists gave out, we lay down. I made her leave her skirt on as I brought her lace underwear up to my nostrils. “That’s what all the girls do,” she said. This threw me, but I didn’t let her see it on my face.
She groped for my cock, pressing hard against my jeans. She took the head in her fist and squeezed, vise-like. I wasn’t complaining. Then the blessed sound of the unclasped belt, the zipper’s teeth, gasp of freedom, fresh air.
She tugged me like she wanted to snap it off. I thought on what she’d said all night about girls versus boys. I wondered if I was only necessary at best. I stretched around to get my hand between her legs but she pushed me off, taking me into her mouth with the same roughness of her touch. My mind went blank.
After I came, she licked her chops like a trickster coyote. Her hair was mussed about her face, flushed and smiling. Now it was her turn.
I walked my fingers along her thigh, but she swatted me away. She said she’d give me something to dream on.
The next day after services I met Shannon for brunch at the Plucky Hen Café by Lake Pleasant. She ordered a glass of chardonnay to go with her omelette. Not wanting to spoil the mood, I requested the same and a fried chicken sandwich. I can drink socially, I told myself. This would be my first taste in more than three years.
Our glasses sparkled when the sun shone through the patchy clouds. Both of us felt the same about the night before and we agreed to make the most of the rest of our time together. Like giddy prom dates, we sketched out our plans on a napkin. We’d begun to talk about our kids when the plates arrived.
“Like I said, Duane’s a rockstar,” she said, showing me a picture of his cute curly head. “He’s beautiful and sensitive, which gets him into trouble at school sometimes. He won’t abide any teasin whatsoever. He’s a little slow with books. My fault . . .”
“No,” I said, reaching across the table, cupping her bare arm, smooth like high tension wire, bronze from the sun.
“Rather than go to the teacher he’ll try to settle his problems on his own.”
“A DIY boy,” I said. “We’re cut from the same clay.”
“I don’t want him to think he’s bad. I fret when the office calls, not for what he’s done—he’s so little, what harm could he do?—but I worry on how it makes him feel to be separated from his classmates, singled out as a troublemaker so young. If ya ask me, that’s a recipe for delinquency down the road.”
“Could be.” I saw a mother’s greatest fear in her eyes. “But nothing’s absolute.”
“I believe him when he says he never starts the fights. And it’s right for him to stand up for himself,” she said. “I just wish he could find a less violent way to do so.”
“Where’s his father?”
“He’s with our son now. But the man’s hot and cold. His ex-wife did a number on him, disappeared with his kids.” She laid her hand on mine. “He doesn’t even know where. And he’s too scared to be there for Duane but once or twice a month.”
“Shameful,” I said, swirling the last of my wine in the glass. We ordered another round.
“His teachers think he’s depressed. He won’t participate like he should. I give him all I’ve got. But I’m dogtired at the end of the day. I don’t know what more I can do.” Her eyes welled up. I offered her my sandwich.
“Don’t be sad,” I said, caressing her arm. I kissed her fingertips. Her epoxyed nails were thick and strong, burgundy to match her black dress. She smiled, blotting her eyes with a napkin, not smearing her mascara.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I leak.” She smiled again. “Happens every day.” She bit into my chicken, bobbed her head.
I explained how I barely knew my son, eleven weeks old last time I saw him. With no picture to show off, I was at a loss to describe him. “My son’s amazing. He’s a baby, I don’t know. He’s small and soft and squishy-faced. He smells like a baby. I used to hold him close and just breathe.”
“I know.” She veiled her eggy mouth.
“He’s got little fingers and toes, perfect little nails. Dark eyes like mine.”
It was Shannon now who reached across the table to touch my arm, brushing the fine hairs in small circles. “You’ll see them again, JAG.” She had read my mind. She made me look at her. “You will.”
I raised my glass, tilted it toward hers.
With an hour or so before she would have to leave for a shopping date with her aunt, we decided to stroll the lake. Little more than a pond with inflated self-esteem, it was all algae-muck, manmade, but the dirt trail on its perimeter served our needs well enough. We watched as couples walked dogs, carried kids on their shoulders. Without exchanging a word, we headed in the opposite direction.
Feeling the effects of the wine, we lolled for some time, not talking. She smoked a clove cigarette. I inhaled second-hand, scheming on ways to get my son back from the ex, guessing Shannon was thinking about her boy as well. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
She broke the silence first. “When I was little my daddy used to take me fishing on a bitty pond like this every weekend.”
“That must have been nice,” I said.
“I used to think so. Then I remembered different.”
She told me how her CMT training involved body work from other students. Once, when one of her classmates was kneading the pressure points at her hips, she flashed on a memory of vomiting over the side of a canoe while her daddy held on to her. She connected this with an image she long thought was a dream. She was four years old and her daddy was peeing on her. Later, she realized it wasn’t a dream. And he wasn’t peeing.
“No,” I said.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” she said. “It’s in a past I only see in bits and pieces.” I squeezed her hand. “My stepdad, on the other hand . . . he’s the one person I would kill if given the chance.”
This man married her mom after her daddy was locked up for narcotics distribution. Her mom was a lifelong addict. Her stepdad took advantage, had his way with Shannon and her siblings. He only got to her once, after which she left home to stay with a high school friend. She still feels guilty for abandoning her brother and sister.
“I told my friend’s mom,” she said, “a good Christian lady. I’m grateful to her for takin me in. But she never did nothin about it. She told me to trust that God would provide.”
Shannon dropped out of school to work at the mall to support her brother and sister. She would leave bags of food and clothes, some CDs on their back porch. Eventually she got out of town. She’s never been back.
“You did the best you could,” I said. “You were just a kid.”
She called me a sugarpie, leaned her head on my shoulder. I felt helpless.
When the sky thickened with storm clouds, I suggested returning to the café. But SexxxeeMama Shannon was prepared. Lifting a compact polka-dot umbrella out of her leather carryall, she said, “We’ll be alright, sweetie.”
As we walked on, I thought about my own upbringing. I couldn’t tell her about my mom. How she was pregnant with me while scouring toilets at the Houston Airport Holiday Inn. How she was barely seventeen when she gave birth. How I never knew my father and she never would tell me about him. “This is your daddy,” she would say, pointing to my future little brother’s dad. I was four or five. She was pregnant again and they had recently wed. “This is your daddy.” I couldn’t see myself in him at all. He must have felt the same.
I remember how he’d ignore me, pretend like I was nothing, invisible. No matter how well I behaved, he’d never toss me a baseball or read me a single rhyme from Dr. Seuss. I used to love “Green Eggs & Ham” and especially “The Foot Book.” Fuzzy fur feet. Clown feet. Quick feet. Trick feet. I always was a fast runner. I had to be.
Thunder cracked the sky. “Angels bowling,” I said to Shannon. That’s what my mom used to say. We hiked up a slope that led to a lonely grove. The live smell of green grass and black earth filled the air around us. We breathed deep, grinning beneath the dots as the rain pounded. It was a tight fit, and when our bodies came together we kissed.
Her mouth was wet, warm. I could taste wine on her tongue, rank with traces of egg and smoke. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t helpless now. I would erase her past, if only while the sky was crying.
I pressed into her softness, one hand on the curve of her ass—visions of the previous night—the other on the roundness of her slight belly. I could feel the ball of her navel ring through her dress. Her nipples nudged against my abs. Once I’d spread my legs to better position myself between hers, I pushed up into her through my pants, through her dress. She exhaled hard. Devouring my lips, she kissed me crooked. All I could do was thank her.
When our teeth clacked together we both apologized, laughing. To give her arm a break I took over umbrella duty. This freed up her hands to massage me in the front and from behind. As I bucked my hips, she parted her lips, smiling up at me. I growled at her then, sucking her tongue into my mouth.
We were shameless teenagers, not once glancing around to check our privacy. When the storm let up she tore away from me, whirling circles in bare feet, heels in hand, singing, “Like a virrrr-gin . . . hey!” It kind of felt like the first time for me too. Only I wondered if she wished I were a girl.
I worked the next few days deep into the night to free up time on Wednesday evening for Shannon, who messaged back and forth with me a hundred times or more before I saw her again. Our correspondence was flirty and fun, but so unfamiliar, I was on guard. We had both been beat down. While I know it’s foolish to compare, my wounds were skinned knees to the violation she’d suffered. Yet she walked tall with open arms and an open heart. Still unsure of my role in the play we were improvising, I was determined not to choke as the curtain rose on Act Two.
When she messaged she was coming over with a homecooked meal, I wrote back: “I see you in the kitchen with only an apron on.”
Her reply: “It does get hot, all that meat slow-broiling in the oven.”
I couldn’t tell her how hungry she made me. But I intended to show her, however she wanted me to.
If I didn’t mind, she suggested tuning in to American Dream Gods, her number-one TV program, while we ate. Non-judgment, I told myself. “Anything you want is yours,” I wrote.
Her too sweet response: “I want to know you more. I want to feel you, feed you, hug and kiss and touch you.” She promised me a massage.
Compromise is a sign of maturity. I could bear one evening of “reality music in real time,” as the show’s pitch put it. I’d wear earplugs.
“Yes, please,” I wrote back. “Feed me, hug me, kiss me, touch me with your healing hands.”
“I like it when you say please. I would be honored to touch you in a healing-loving way.”
“The act of giving is receiving?”
“You understand this part of me.”
I used to feel the same back when I was a father, a husband. Now I didn’t know how to feel. But I was willing to be there for her, whatever that might mean.
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” she said, once in the door, arms loaded with plastic bags. She had been up all night, couldn’t get it together to cook for us. She kissed me on the cheek. “I brought some Mexican. Hope that’s good for you.”
“You’re good for me,” I said, helping her empty the bags on the kitchen table. I told her the foodstuff didn’t matter as long as we were together. In truth, I rarely eat Mexican. The beans and spices disagree with me.
“My son,” she explained. “His sleep’s a mess. Sometimes he gets so scared.” As we served up the dishes, she related last night’s horror story.
Every time he’d close his eyes, she said, her little boy would see the blinding lights of a semi barreling down the road in front of their house. “I’d be sittin in his red wagon smack in the middle uh the yella lines, evidently, swingin my legs and wavin at him with a huge smiley face. He’d call out, ‘Mommy!’ he said, and once he did, bam! The rig would plow right into me. He said he saw my head smash on the pavement like a pumpkin with the insides all spilt out.”
“I told him mommy never plays in the street, but he fretted all night on the phone. His father, that no-good so-called man, kept tellin him stop bein a baby. That led to a bawlin that broke my heart. I nearly jumped on a plane then and there, but I couldn’t well afford it.”
I brushed back the hair from the nape of her neck, kissed her softly. She handed me a bottle of Chilean cabernet, asking me to uncork it. A simple task, to be sure. A reasonable expectation. But I didn’t have an opener, so I felt inadequate, phony, spanking the forks and knives in the utensil drawer.
“I do the best I can,” she went on. “But it’s never enough.” I was stirring up a racket, knocking around the silverware. “I can’t be my boy’s mother and father. That man needs to step up. I don’t know what I’ll do. We got into it again last night. Why can’t he just be a man?”
I figured she’d lay into me next for my ill-preparedness, “no common sense,” “stupid bitch behavior,” the ex used to say.
“I’m sorry, sweetie.” Shannon came up behind me now with a baby bear hug. “You don’t need to deal with my drama.”
“Yes!” I shouted, remembering the corkscrew on the Swiss Army knife in my backpack.
“That’s the spirit,” she said, patting my chest. I wriggled around, planted my lips on hers, then raced off to the bedroom to fetch the opener.
We settled onto the cushions around the coffee table in front of a micro TV I’d borrowed from my buddy Cyrus. The competition was in its early stages. This meant a two-hour program of karaoke performances, judged by the Wrath of the Almighty (a panel of music-industry overlords), plus Q&A sidebars with contestants who coveted stardom like it was the end of the rainbow. “I’ll do anything,” they’d say. “I was born to be the next American Dream God.”
Not to sound pretentious, but it was painful for me to witness the total absence of artistic intent on this show. I knew Cyrus was with me. The episode I saw had nothing to do with creative expression or exploration or even a nod toward music’s transformational power. Songs were merely used as a means to an end: judgment as entertainment. This was a slap in the face to the music, and more so, to those musicians whose main instruments are their voices. Nina Simone, Polly Harvey, Gillian Welch, Chan Marshall, even Billie Holiday, I’d wager, would never have made the ADG cut. Such sacrilege sickened me. But out of respect for Shannon, who had so few diversions in her life, it seemed, I kept my observations to myself.
She was giggly like a school girl at the start of the show, telling me the bios of everyone at the microphone. There was the Sioux City farmboy who sang cowboy ballads to the cicadas, the single mom from Chicago who belted out blues on the blustery streets, the Born Again from Charleston, claiming to know by heart all the top-charting tunes of the last five years. When asked if his passion for pop conflicted with his faith, the pockmarked teenager said, “I believe the Holy Spirit’s the guiding light behind each and every hit record.”
After we had our fill of fajitas, chimichangas and taco salad, we moved from the floor to the sofa, lying together like cutlery. We only stirred during the ad breaks to finish off the cabernet. By the time the credits rolled, Shannon was snoring and I was restless. Unsure if I should wake her, I lay still, listening to the cadence of her sleep, feeling the roundness of her ass against my lower abs, my insides surprisingly at ease.
I flexed in my jeans. Harmless exercise, I told myself. After undoing my belt I unsnapped the tops of the button fly to relieve scrunch. Her black skirt was cotton. I rubbed against the soft fabric, tentative at first, then with more conviction. I wondered if the pleasure would be the same if she were conscious.
Smelling her body’s response, I inched up her skirt. She wasn’t wearing panties. I pulled down my jeans to get lengthwise between her cheeks. That’s when her breathing shifted and I froze.
She pushed back against me. “Hey, sweetie,” she said.
I reached around and with the palm of my hand brushed light circles on her nipple. She groaned, matching the rhythm of her hips with my own. I kissed her neck, traced my fingers across her lips, throat, breasts and belly, working my way down between her thighs. She was hairless, her hood pierced with what felt like a tiny horseshoe. I tugged on it and she moaned. “I want you to fuck my pussy.”
Maybe I didn’t believe her. While I’d been dreaming this moment for days, I didn’t have protection. Or the ex was right. I was a stupid bitch. Perhaps I couldn’t bring myself to believe. I saw Shannon’s past and whispered, “Have you been tested?”
“No,” she said. “Have you?”
“Not since the ex.”
The mood was broken.
“I never cheated and I don’t think . . .” I wanted to say the ex never slept around on me either, but I didn’t know for sure. The ex can’t be trusted, that much is certifiable. I couldn’t imagine the partners Shannon had been with. I faded at the thought.
“JAG,” she said. “Touch my pussy.” I loved how the word dripped off her Dirty South tongue. “Don’t you wanna fuckfuckfuck my wet pussy?” I was full-strength again.
I licked my fingers, stroked her lips, polished the hood ornament as if she were a Rolls Royce. “Want isn’t the question,” I said, gnawing on her earlobe.
She twisted around to guide my finger up inside her. She was hot caramel. I reached for her sugar walls.
“Listen,” she said, gripping my wrist. “You can play my pussy like a piano.”
She pushed my other fingers inside her, up to where I used to wear a ring. I could hear Mozart’s “Fantasia in D minor.” Then she pressed the knuckle of my thumb, making a warhead of my hand. And shoved.
When she yelled I almost pulled out. “You okay?”
“I’ll always be okay,” she said, clutching my forearm, ramming me into her up to my wrist. She screamed again, full-voice, eyes thunderstruck.
I gave her what she wanted, punching like a piston, afraid I was hurting her. But this was what she made me do. I gazed at her features, twisted beyond recognition: the face of ecstatic annihilation. I was awed by her desire, her self-knowing, her need, frightened by the beast she called to service within me.
“Do you believe in Christ?” I said after a long kiss hello. This would be our last night together. She told me to take off my shirt and pants and lie down in my bedroom. She insisted on touching me before we’d do anything else. She’d brought over candles, incense and a CD of meditative Indian bansuri music. The ambience was soft and warm.
After undressing, I was almost embarrassed, uncertain of the protocol, not wanting to disrespect her. She was, after all, a legitimate massage therapist, licensed and certified, and I was a wolfman, rabid for hands-on healing. “What do I do with this?” I gestured toward the tent I had made of the sheet.
She squeezed me hard with both hands, said she’d take care of that later. For now, I was to roll over, be still and breathe. I did as she instructed. She placed her hands on a knot in my shoulder and pressed down. I flinched. She said to breathe into where it hurts.
Shannon was strong, her touch firm, and she didn’t let up even when I complained. She didn’t move around much, stroking or kneading as expected. Instead, she targeted the tension on my shoulders and back and applied pressure until the muscles released, dropping into a healthier, more natural posture. She said the idea was to attend to the trouble spots where stress poisons the body like a tumor and directly deal with the pain. She could feel it, she said, just being in the same room with me. I could feel hers as well, but I didn’t know how to make it go away. The healing would come by letting go, she said, giving in to wherever her touch led me. “It’s okay, sweetie. Breathe in, breathe out.”
I felt vulnerable, like an abandoned child. “I am Jesus,” I said.
“I’m a believer then, sweetie.” She kissed the back of my neck.
“No, really.” I tried to breathe into her fingers as they prodded and popped the toxins. I thought I might throw up. “My name is Jesús Ángel García.” I was truthtelling now, on how I was born Latino, in part at least, but raised A-mer-i-can. Mom was an immigrant, dad’s unknown. I told her about my little brother. “Technically we’re half,” I said, “but we don’t think of it that way. I’ve never had a father. My brother’s dad wanted my mom, never me. Their last name’s Green. He tried to kill me once.”
“I’m so sorry,” she said, pressing down on a sore spot, nails digging into my skin. “Wanna talk about it?”
“Not so much,” I said. Then I told her everything.
I talked about how we were on our way home from Disney World, me and my brother acting up in the back of the wagon, like all kids do, when his father threatened to pull off to the side of the freeway and leave me there in the middle of no place. I told her how he’d often bully us like this, but I bore the brunt of it. I was the oldest, he’d say. I had to man up. We’d usually chill when it got to this point, but I was fourteen, a raging adolescent. I called his bluff. “Lemme outta here, daddy!” I never called him daddy. That’s what did it.
He screeched the wagon to a halt as the traffic zoomed past. “Get the fuck out, boy,” he commanded. “Find your own way home.”
My brother was bawling and my mom begging for peace. I was defiant. I pushed through the door, walked away with my thumb out.
When I told her this, Shannon placed a finger on my lips, nuzzled up to my ear. “I’m right here,” she said. “Inside voice, sweetie.” I forced a laugh, tried to whisper. In no time I was shouting once more.
After a quarter mile or so the wagon came up fast behind me on the shoulder. I swear to Christ I thought he was gonna run me down. But I didn’t care. My little brother’s daddy then leapt out of the driver’s seat and said, “That’s enough, boy. Get your ass back in the car.” I balled up my fists and straight to his face told him to go fuck himself.
“No,” Shannon said as told her that, her hands unmoving on my lower back.
“Hell yes,” I said.
That’s when he slapped me upside the head and his wedding band gashed the ridge above my eye. He then talked real slow: “Get . . . your . . . ass . . . in . . . the car.” I told him to go to hell. He hit me again. Same place, same full force. My blood on his hands now.
I knew how to defend myself. I used to get in fights at school sometimes. But I wasn’t fighting back. My brother watched from the car as his daddy slapped me around. He busted my lip and eye, knocked my jaw out of whack. I stumbled but never went down. I wouldn’t give him the pleasure.
I told Shannon how there was blood everywhere and I spit it in his face. He only stopped when my mom got between us. I’ll never forget her screaming, “You’ll kill him!” and he hollering back, “If I wanted him dead, he’s dead!”
“No,” Shannon said again, her hands still frozen.
“A few weeks later,” I told her, “he was summoned to slaughter civilians in some non-white nation for NATO. Crusaders for Christ.”
“Jesus, JAG,” Shannon said, laying her head on my back, as if listening for a heartbeat.
“So here I am,” I gave it my best Reverend voice, “the scarred son of God.”
“We’re all the sons and daughters of God,” she said.
“Then we’re all called to be crucified.”
“Maybe so, sweetie. But there’s always the Resurrection.”
Shannon was a good example of life after death. She had dumped the badge of victimhood, imposed on her through no fault of her own, and was reborn a healer. She had so much love inside her, such compassion for others. She was selfless in her willingness to give, despite her own sorrow, despite the constant struggle to do right. “Living is more than survival,” she’d say. “Open your heart and lovelovelove.”
After listening to my story, she gently turned me over on the bed, pressed her fingers into my chest. I heard a crunch then a pop, and at once I felt funky. She said that was all the bad inside flushing out. Her hands were magic. She cracked me wide open. I couldn’t hold back the tears. “Let it go, sweetie,” she said. “Everyone cries the first time.”
Waves of nausea ripped through me. “I think I might be sick.”
“That’s why I’m here, sweetie.”
“No, really. I don’t wanna puke.”
“Close your eyes and breathe,” she said with a mother’s smile. “What will be, will be.” She brushed her palm across my eyelids. Shannon the coroner. JAG the corpse.
A half-hour later my body was humming at an unusual low frequency. “I feel like a cell phone on vibrate,” I said.
“Should I tuck you between my legs?”
“Would you, please?”
“You know I like a boy with manners,” she said, cupping me down low in her hot little hand.
“All this electricity, but I don’t think I can move.”
“You don’t have to,” she said. “You’re not in charge anyhow.”
She took me into her mouth, still rough but less so than the first time, twirling her tongue up and down my shaft, already firm from her touch. As she licked and nibbled the head, tickling my balls with her nails, I said, “I know it’s crazy but I didn’t think you wanted me you talked so much about girls.”
“Oh, sweetie.” She climbed on top of me, raking her fingers through my hair. She kissed the scar above my eye, hiked up her skirt, planted herself on the only part of me not comatose. Tonight she was wearing panties, black satin and wet. “The cock,” she said. “Gotta admit, I love the cock.” She locked her lips on mine, then arched back to fix me with her almond eyes. “I told you so too.” She grinned, clamping my tongue with her teeth. “And yours is perfect,” she said, pulling back once again. “Just like you.” She kissed me, lingering at my lips, breathing into me the breath of life. “If you want to know if I want you—if I neeeed you, in Jesus name—dip into my plum puddin, turn my water into wine, sugarpie.”
I tugged her panties to the side, plunged to the hilt. We were animals now, gnashing and clawing, baying by candlelight. Her eyes flashed red as I tore at her blouse. Enormous wings burst from her spine. They were black like a vulture’s and reeked of raw flesh. With nails like talons she drew blood from my chest. I yanked at her horseshoe, my thumb brushing the red button below. Knocking hard at the mouth of her womb, I felt myself being born anew.
“I so need this,” she said, tears drawing black bars down her cheeks. “Thankyouthankyouthankyou.” I needed it too, to be needed like this, but that’s not what I was thinking then. I wasn’t thinking at all. I was done with reason, rationale, being careful. In the sweat and scream of communion with this fallenangel from the Waydown South, I slipped into a state of all-knowing. One in the Spirit. “Heal me, my savior.” Her words, not mine.
This would be the first of three times we’d make love that night. Her desires were challenging: forced restraints, flagellation, unlubed sodomy. But the way we came together was lovemaking. For outsiders who might protest the legitimacy of such phrasing, I direct them to Shannon’s own words: “Thank you so so much for sharing your love with me.” She said this as we were walking from my place to her rental truck. The sky was dark, the moon a sharp crescent outshining the stars. Cricket song cut through the thick night heat.
We embraced like lovers at the threshold of the void. “Thank you so much,” she said again. In a couple hours she’d be on a plane headed back home.
“Don’t be sad,” I told her, licking the salt from her eyes. We were on the curb across the street from her pickup. We kissed soft and slow.
“You need to take these feelings,” she said, “give them to someone else now.”
As we crossed the street I held one of her hands while she disarmed the lock with the other. Inside the cab she switched the engine on and the window came down. Megadeth played on the radio. “I loved you for a week,” she said.
We kissed one last time with open tearful eyes. “You brought me back to life, Jesús Ángel García.” Oh, to hear her say my birth name! We touched fingertips and she was gone.
I stood where she left me, staring down the empty road, sure of my path from here on out. Then the nausea rushed over me and I had to lie down.