Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tango, Bloody Tango

1 A.M. in Greenwich Village…something awful had to happen. Martin was walking in a shamelessly ginger fashion on the way to the apartment overlooking the vast majority of Christopher Street, eager to reach the finish line of what had been a quite marvelous day. He had told Derek that he was going to a meeting with the "stout and comical" poetry submissions editor of the New Yorker, but he was really sneaking away with his Caribbean mother to talk about a relationship that wasn't necessarily crumbling, but had a few ruptures peeking through near the core. This encounter between mother and son, spent walking through Martin's old Washington Heights neighborhood, had enough layers of significance to fit a Paul Thomas Anderson picture.

There was the act of finally admitting to any human being that there, in fact, was something wrong with his seemingly perfect bond to the love of his life; the one everybody else had semi-officially deemed the "Gay Bogie and Bacall." Besides that, there was also coming to terms with a culture he was born into but never truly felt fully sheltered from, always too colorful for their frigidly accentuated gender roles. Apart from it all, though, was the thickest layer of this enjoyable piece of human drama: being able to talk to your mother about your love of a man for the very first time, with eye rolls and a grocery list of subjects to avoid a thing of the past. This ceremonial encounter is the Holy Grail for any gay man born into a once-backwards family, especially one with Dominican roots. This was the gay Lottery for the Dominican ones. After a few tepid sips of beer between the two of them, Marvin and his mother Patricia gave one last stalling glance around a local Dominican restaurant before Patricia put her left hand in her son's and, closing her eyes for a few seconds as if she were about to jump off a plane, said "Go."

What followed was a series of events that were saccharine enough to create an entire month's worth of Lifetime movie plots, with Marvin burying himself in his mother's arms for the first time in years, and it still felt the same, he thought. They talked about everything, an archival recap of what's been going on in their lives, nothing terribly taboo, just things you share between the most important members of the family; it felt like 100% organic catharsis for the both of them. By the time Marvin lovingly bid his mother goodbye till next rendezvous next to a seedy portal leading to the subway system, he felt as if he were sprouting a new set of legs better suited to fit this marvelous new era in his life.

It was on this sweet, savory note that Marvin rushed into his humble Greenwich apartment at one o' clock in the morning, ready to demolish the tension that had culminated in a dreadful fashion the past few months. Why did it matter if the scales of success were being tipped completely in one man's favor, nearly leaving the other with nothing to look forward to? This was a bump in the road, nothing more than that. "Nothing more than that" had become a trademark mantra by the time Marvin's mother was done giving relationship advice. He wasn't supposed to feel guilty for all the newfound career fortune but was supposed to support Derek during his time of professional hardship. It was as simple as that, and Marvin couldn't be happier at how stupidly easy the entire process of rising above the small things in a relationship could be.

He closed the door quietly and, as if to make up for lost time, began almost gliding towards the bedroom, excited to talk to his beautiful mess of a man and help them both approach their early thirties (the midlife crisis issue was one of the "small things" mentioned between mother and son) with vigorous motivation and the utmost compassion and support…until he was within earshot of what was going on in the bedroom. Derek was always obnoxiously loud in this department. As his pleasant stride painfully dulled itself into a meek tiptoe at about the halfway mark of their hallway, Marvin sadly imagined himself, in the midst of this newly arisen tension, as some sort of a human slingshot, being released by the dimensions of time at the very moment him and his mother bid a temporary goodbye and moving at a speed not fueled by optimism (like he had imagined) but by fate. He had a certain feeling that this was meant to happen, and the fact that he, a grown man, had to slow himself down before entering his own bedroom helped this anxiety plenty.

When the tip of his middle finger finally brushed the doorknob, Marvin aggressively grabbed it with his entire right hand and shoved the door ajar, exposing his to eyes to a tawdry snapshot of betrayal. Derek was in bed, grotesquely wasted, with another man, a disgusting little he-waif whose name he probably didn't even know. The fog of cheap lust invading the air prevented Marvin from yelling at the top of his lungs; his crushed spirit settled for a "what the fuck is going on here?"

Derek didn't even know what to say; he was under such a vodka-laden stupor that remembering the basic rules of the English language was about as easy as balancing two anchors on your index fingers. Still, Marvin could tell that Derek knew he was in more trouble than he could bear, casting a glance away from the situation when Marvin kept staring at him and saying nothing but maintaining the facial structure of an abused child. The shock of the situation, however slowly it may have been traveling, finally entered Derek's mind, and in a heavily muddled slur, began trying desperately to alleviate the situation, even if he couldn't remember to finish the sentences he began.

It wasn't long after Alleviation Attempt #117, better known "baby, bay, it's…it's…it's not…zzzznot," that Marvin clenched his fists like a wounded Black Panther and told Derek to "shut the ever-loving fuck up," knowing that if he listened to one more thing this unfaithful prick said, he, the prick and the (disgusting) little he-waif in bed (their bed) with him would certainly not make it out alive. It was quite strange that even amidst all of this sooty infidelity culminating on the bed, something else was to disgust Marvin even more. Through the subtle cataracts of tears, he saw what was supposed to be a token of his and Derek's…thing, tragic thing. In the outer left corner, hanging helplessly onto a mountain of discarded clothing, the scrapbook in which both men had kept all the first copies of their odes to each other (which had unanimously been referred to as a "sickeningly romantic gesture among two cynical old poets"), pages sprawled out like pairs of broken legs. "I can hear almost hear it whimper," Marvin subconsciously choked out. It was after this discovery that Marvin went from sympathetic victim of infidelity to expert in karmic retaliation. He didn't know how Derek, in his idiotic, despicable state, managed to knock it down in a fit of filthy passion, but he didn't care. Now, he was angry.

As Marvin composed what was left of his good graces, he turned back toward the front door like a lieutenant leading his unit toward the front lines of combat, leaving Derek to be able to wake up alone in painful confusion. This was the first step. Marvin had to be very, very mindful of his actions now; he was much too quick to let go of his barriers before this debacle. It was time to be on the offensive, like he had planned a few weeks ago before deciding to actually work at improving this…thing, tragic thing.

Derek turned around to find that his drunken lark of a one-night stand had done what any self-respecting New Yorker would attempt in this situation: use the first fire escape you see. Luckily for what's his name, the first one available was just outside the bathroom window. Even with all that going on around him, the only words Derek (the newly branded cheater) could muster were "I'm in some shit…" before collapsing under the pressure of his actions, and more than a few shots of Smirnoff.

The next morning, Derek woke up from quite a night…at least, he thought it was quite a night, he couldn't really remember any of it at that moment, what with the lovely smell of napalm emanating through his morning after mind. This short spurt of memory deprivation was soon followed by a barrage of thoughts that all hit him at once like a swarm of miniature hangovers. Why the nudity, and where was Marvin? Then it all came back in the form of some disturbing grocery checklist: the face of that emaciated little man-whore that kept complimenting him the entire night, how one thing led to another and then to yet another, and Marvin's reaction…Marvin's wounded face. The image of Marvin walking in on the two friendly strangers had a merciful cloak cast upon it, all of it except Marvin's face. At that point, Derek wanted nothing more than to be passed out on a bar floor, or on a hospital stretcher being fed charcoal to prevent an alcohol-induced expiration, anything but this. Anything but feeling like disloyal, cowardly scum. He was waiting for the day he felt like this, and hitting bottom wasn't nearly as glamorous as he had imagined.

A few seconds after Derek began cradling his heavyset head in his nervously quaking hands, the lock was practically ripped open by Marvin, stomping towards the room with venom tucked inside his soles. Derek looked up and almost jumped at the sight of the cheated lover, the man he sincerely loved, staring at him with eyes that were meant to castrate without the use of a blade. Marvin was wasting no time, diving right into this unfortunately significant war of words as if it were a passionate goodbye dance and bordering his words with a fire reserved for the steps of tango dancers. "Oh, you're awake. Start packing. I'll help if you want…unless you have any more starved twinks that are here to do my fucking job for me."

Referring to their love for each other as a "job" would've easily gotten Derek going into yet another pent-up, passive aggressive tongue lashing in the past, but within this ever-humbling situation, he simply had to swallow his pride until it practically lodged itself inside his esophagus. "Marvin, baby…I understand completely if you don't wanna talk to me, but please, at least let me try to make it up to you-"

"I was talking to my mother yesterday," Marvin interrupted brashly. "I didn't tell you because I was being mindful of your emotions, since you were so prone to snapping at anything I said that wasn't a fucking pep rally in your favor. Me being mindful of your emotions! Where the fuck is a clown with a cream pie when you need one, right?" Derek knew he was in yet another elaborately choreographed routine with his loosely-dangling boyfriend, but unlike the other steps, there was no way to return the favor. He must simply take it all like a deserving pack mule, feigning two left feet because those were the rules.

Marvin continued, subconsciously then almost obviously relishing in being able to commit verbal manslaughter with no one questioning his sanity. It was his place to yell at this bastard. "She told me to keep trying, that it was just a few road bumps in the way." A short pause. "Leave it to yourself to go play in traffic." The dominant partner was luring the animal out of the following partner, no longer Marvin, now Martha singing Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the top of her lungs. He wanted to wound Derek as badly as he was wounded, and he wanted Derek involved in the process.

Derek, even through the avant-garde fuckfest infiltrating his cranium, managed to dance circles around Marvin with a routine amount of excuses. "I love you so much and I really don't even remember what happened, I barely remember what he looked like. Please don't hate me. You can torture me, but I'll take it, I deserve it, I love you, just, just…" He began sobbing in that stifled, staccato fashion, the kind that always looked real no matter how theatrical the application involved was. "I just made a mistake, the usual one when you feel tension in the relationship…I know we had our problems, but I really couldn't feel, like…I could talk to you about them, but that's no excuse for what I did. I should've just acted my age and taken my aggression out in a positive manner, but I'm just a pig when I don't watch myself. If you let me make it up to you, I'll be so grateful. I love you."

Marvin was as impressed as an arts critic of the New York Times at this presentation, the raw intensity with the crying; it was indeed quite a lovely show from the man he once held so high in his existence. A slow Tori Amos ballad would have probably fit as the background music. It's too bad for Derek, though; that was just what Marvin needed to add yet another barb to his kicks as he kept the two moving in jagged unison.

"Our fathers were right about you."

It was with this remark that the deck of cards became a lexicon of weaponry, their disheveled bedroom the new Hiroshima. Derek immediately closed his mouth shut and stopped crying in an alarmingly quick rate, looking straight at Marvin's cunning brown eyes with craven shock. "I know I did something terrible, and I deserve your worst…but who the hell are you to bring him up?"

"The whole nation looks at us like we're smut peddling, cum guzzling perverts who can't call themselves real men, and while I've never had a perfect track record, I've never been able to prove them right. Thank you for making our fathers right about our kind, faggot. Thank you so much. You've made it easy."

Derek couldn't take it anymore. His eyes were beginning to fill with as much hatred as Marvin's. Yes, he had gone into a self-indulgent drinking binge the evening before; yes, he committed what could be the worst sin in the realm of kinship; but he never enjoyed saying "faggot" so much, nor did he bring up anyone's abusive childhood; that was always unofficial off-limits material, no matter the situation. Once the thoughts of his father pushing him into corners and yelling to "get the fuck up and fight back" entered the already broken down scenery, the scales were finally even in Derek's eyes. This was to be a lover's dance with two leads, and all that's ever led towards was a bloody, bloody tango.

"So you act like a rigid fucking cunt for months now, get a goddamn poem published in the New Yorker, act like I don't even deserve to stand next to you everywhere we go, need a bit of encouragement when the fucking publishing company lets me go, and when I have yet another cry for help that goes too far, so fucking sue me, this lets you talk to me that way? You're not that goddamn powerful."

All that, and Derek didn't realize he was the one being dipped by the lead. All it managed was a smirk from Marvin, one plastered on his face to represent some sort of personal victory, a knockout solidified in Marvin's next remark: "Like I said, sweetheart…thanks for making it easy. Oh, and another thanks for bringing my mother and I together in my woes about this…thing, this flimsy, tragic thing. I'll at least have a support system for when I go through inevitable little withdrawals from your codependent ass."

With that, Marvin walked in a shamelessly ginger fashion out of the humble and now violated Christopher Street apartment, leaving Derek to helplessly dangle around, looking for a remedy to his two left feet. Marvin was sure that this was only the beginning of the situation; that he wouldn't be able to live with himself if it just ended like this. For now, he enjoyed the sadistic side of his psyche, watching the man he (regretfully) still loved climbing arduously to regain his affection, frustratingly eager to find the rhythm.


  1. that's pretty intense. but you don't need me to tell you that you have a way with words. it pulls you along fast and stops just short of being overwhelming. the imagery of the dance juxtaposed with this raw, merciless dialogue is really masterful. hate to be nit-picky, but in the first paragraph it says "Martin" instead of "Marvin." that's my only complaint lol :)

  2. thank yooooou love! I am SO SO SO glad that someone noticed the juxtaposition with the dancing, I was worried whether that would come through <3