The Five People You Meet In Hell (One: The Recruiter)

This is a short story/work in progress. This is FICTION.

 

He had made him bleed.

Since reading Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays while recovering from his first suicide attempt made on the occasion of his twelfth birthday in 1973,Parker had been asking: What makes Iago evil? Which springs to mind because last night to a man he knew as Recruiter, who knew him as Sebastian, Parker had Grindr-messaged the Didion quote, Just so. I am what I am, in response to Recruiter’s unsolicited input on Parker’s — well, Sebastian’s — sexual performance, which review he’d prefaced with, Don’t take this the wrong way but…

The-Preaching-of-the-Antichrist-detail-of-Christ-and-the-Devil-from-the-Chapel-of-the-Madonna-di-San-Brizio-1499-1504-xx-Luca-SignorelliWhen the too-old-for-this-shit Parker overpowered the submissive Sebastian-alter and sneered (which is not that easy to achieve in a Grindr-message, but Sebastian had gifts) What is the right way to fucking take it?, having never met the Parker hiding inside Sebastian nor seen The Three Faces of Eve, Recruiter mistook it as an invitation to offer anatomically specific advice on inserter and insertee behavior, including a suggestion that Sebastian’s over dramatic response was a boner-killer.

At which point Parker — again mid-weeping, unable to stop obsessively re-reading the first sentence of the first story in Patrick Ryan’s collection, The Dream Life of Astronauts, a first sentence that got immediately to the point and the pith, telling the reader at least eight important things in only thirty-four words, a first sentence in a book published by a division of Random House with a hardback cover boasting a blurb by one of Parker’s idols, Ann Patchett (he’d hugged her once and photo-opped at a book-signing, could Patrick Ryan — younger than Parker, godammit — say that? Well, probably. And probably in Iowa. At the workshop. They all fucking went to the workshop where Parker had only managed to spend one summer and only because he’d been near-bullied into it by a dear friend over the passive-aggressive objections of — never mind, he didn’t want to revisit that relationship.), whereas Parker, trying to write now since he’d been six, was unable in thirty-four pages to describe even the simple deleting of a Grindr account without it devolving into what one kind and loving and supportive and ultimately uninterested agent had called beautiful Balzacian excess which no one will read or buy — had dropped the Just so. I am what I am.

To Parker, this made sense. If he would never write a thirty-four word sentence communicating an entire backstory in a Random House hardback blurbed by Ann Patchett, then he would drop Joan Didion quotes on people who had no idea that Patrick Ryan, Ann Patchett, Joan Didion, or Parker existed.

Let alone Balzac. (Ha, he wondered, can I comfort myself imagining I am a “let alone Balzac”?)

And like all the ultimately uninterested agents, Recruiter would join the ranks of the ultimately uninterested Grindr-tricks.

At first, Parker/Sebastian had blocked Recruiter. Lie. At first, Parker/Sebastian experienced chest-pain and abashment at Recruiter’s comeback; Don’t get all shitty bitch just trying to help you get more cock. At second, Sebastian wanted to apologize. At second, Parker, tired of the situations into which Sebastian was getting him, thought it best he erase Sebastian.

Of course, Parker being Parker and not Sebastian, spent days picking at and worrying his latest psychic-wound inflicted by yet another thirty years younger trick, chastening himself for allowing the admonitions of someone with whom he didn’t trust his actual identity or age to affect him so badly. Then again, Recruiter did make his living rounding-up tops to train-fuck his favored bottom for X-Tube paywall videos, so, he was something of an expert.

As had been the ultimately uninterested but much gentler agent. Maybe if Recruiter had been kinder. Maybe if Recruiter had not called him a boner-killer. Maybe if Recruiter had said his reactions during sex displayed a Balzacian excess in which no one was interested, that no one would buy.

Parker was feeling old.

Parker was feeling sorry for himself.

Parker couldn’t quite believe the thirty-four word first sentence of the first story of the collection published by Random House blurbed by Ann Patchett written by Patrick Ryan was both so damned concise and suffused with evocative detail. Parker couldn’t quite wrap his Balzacian distorted Three Faces of Eve fucked-up thinking head around  the reality that he had spent a life being rejected by the Catholic church, his peers, schools, theater directors, literary agents, men, his family, and now, well, Sebastian.

Who no longer wanted to play. Which was why he had to be edited out. Sebastian — like all good subs — was ultimately in control of what was acceptable, of his limits, of what could be done to him before he called out his safe word and brought the action to a halt. And Parker — like many bad doms — had let things go too far with Sebastian, allowed Recruiter — and others — to use too much, too rough, too without regard for the wear and the tear on Sebastian.

Who, despite not even actually (even and actually? this is what no one buys) existing, had started to bleed. Who was bleeding. Who, when Parker looked down, there, was surprised to see his hands were not red, but a sort of purplish-brown, sticky and slippery at once, dripping, cold like winter already here at the end of another summer, one hand — the right, Balzacian detail: as with clipping nails, it had been surprisingly easy for right-handed Parker to wield the razor with his left hand, of course, he’d played Sweeney as left-handed but that story would never be told now, would it?  — still holding the hollow ground 6/8 inch round tip straight razor, etched with his name, given him by his director when he’d played Sweeney Todd.

These sentences were too long. There needed to be less. There needed to be a safe word for Parker to have called. To have stopped it some time ago. Much earlier. But, one word? Parker. Not likely. Maybe, two?

Ann Patchett.

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