“the most powerful seductions are executed against the silence of few words”
cheek rub against shoulder
At twilight, when the earth is settling down for rest, MalKai is turning over inside. The colors of dusk pierce him like a rusty pin breaking skin. Yellow gets him in the gut. Auggghhh. It is the color of his home skies. Orange knocks him in the temple. Hhhhhhh. It is the color of his soil. Rose pushes against his heart. It is, like here, the color of love. MalKai’s spirit groans with aching for home. Nothing can soothe him. He spends his hours speaking the words. He has little use for human languages, but he feels the moan, he understands the feeling she sings about. The wail in that woman’s voice wraps itself around his loneliness and strokes his painful yearning to be among his people. He spends hours speaking the words, but in his own language: shoulder shrug, cheek rub against shoulder, body slump.
The buzzing that had settled in Cori’s ears over the past couple of days was MalKai coming to get him. When the first “zzzzzz” licked his ear drums, Cori had swatted at the air around his newly-pierced ear lobes. A meddlesome mosquito—he imagined—hovering near. He made repeated attempts to shoo it away, but his arms soon grew tired. His shoulder ached from throwing his biceps into repeated attack arcs. His fist grew bored of finding no tender little bug crushed in its grasp. Eventually he shrugged his shoulders and rescinded the attack.
Like any constant noise will, the buzzing eventually disappeared from Cori’s consciousness. Seeing MalKai’s frame draped in a relaxed stance at the base of a huge sycamore brought the “zzzzzz” back into Cori’s awareness. The sound reconstructed itself gradually, like the pieces of a forgotten dream slowly becoming crystal clear. Cori didn’t connect MalKai with the buzzing. He peeked at MalKai’s body out of the corner of his eyes while biting at his lower lip. What Cori discerned through the thick of his lashes was a mass of pulsating energy. Cori felt it radiating from MalKai in waves. It buzzed around MalKai’s form, building a composite of legs, arms, and wings. Wings? Cori flipped his head quickly to face MalKai as though to catch a culprit in the act of thievery. All he saw was MalKai’s brown body swaying back and forth in slow motion like a heavy fruit ready to drop to the earth. No wings. Cori dismissed his vision as a hallucination induced by the sun’s glare. He lifted his hand to his forehead and brought much needed shade to his eyes.
When Cori walked past MalKai, the buzzing exploded in his eardrums with a boom. Cori stopped short. The hair on the back of his legs felt like it was on fire. In the pit of his belly a million atoms danced a nervous rumba. His heart threw itself into convulsions, but he couldn’t look back. He felt if he looked back the zzzzzz would take over his brain and push him into insanity. He put his thumb between his lips, gnawed on his skin, and begged for his legs to unlock so he could walk away.
The noise now had a source: MalKai (a mosquito he was not).
Though MalKai’s skin might have felt like the brush of a thousand humming wings, it sheathed a strong solid body that could not be crushed with a smack. MalKai’s mouth was used for sucking, but not for sucking blood. The tongue housed in MalKai’s mouth was flat and thick and warm, quite contrary to the mosquito’s hollow tube. And the swell of a mosquito bite?—Negligent when compared to the swelling of the soul triggered by contact with MalKai’s lips.
The soft brush of something against Cori’s skin roused him from his frozen stance. It wasn’t a mosquito that had been flying around Cori’s ears, as he had first imagined; it was a moth. Cori automatically responded to the moth’s flirtatious touch with a shoulder jerk and an ear swat. MalKai, who had been morosely passing time under the sycamore’s shade, straightened and focused when his eyes registered Cori’s motions. Those involuntary movements spoke volumes to MalKai; in MalKai’s language, Cori had just whispered come on in.
Cori had no way of imagining a velvet people who spoke through balletic motions and muscle spasms, arced arms and bent necks. A nation that consisted of beings who were physically similar to humans but biologically distinct. A people who thrived on human nectar.
MalKai did not wait for the ancestors to confirm that he had found his last seduction. When Cori’s motions fully saturated MalKai’s consciousness, his hands flew through the air in a gesture of relief. That he had some nectar to collect before he could return home, seemed a mere formality. MalKai had plans, plans that did not include a lengthy chase. Under the crushing pressure of his homesickness he made no provision for elongated discussions that could discern the safety of his assignment. He did not care to proceed carefully. By whatever renegade tactics he had to employ, MalKai was getting the nectar he came for, completing his last assignment, and going home.
Cori began the seduction. Only he did it in ignorance. Didn’t understand he was parading his openness when he turned to face MalKai and offered up a weak, uncertain smile. Didn’t realize he was making it easy for his seducer when he sat quietly under the shade of the next tree (an oak), close enough to make pursuit unnecessary. Was too ignorant to know it was on when MalKai appeared in front of him with a huge grin plastered across that velvet face. The grin should have told Cori something. It was all teeth, without calculation or hesitation.
There was no shame either.
It was MalKai whose voice rode the wind first. Cori’s tongue appeared at the corner of his mouth to wet his lips in nervous preparation. He looked over his shoulder, scanning the area that surrounded the oak tree. His search for intruding eyes revealed his anxiety, but it was an unnecessary revelation. His anxiety was visible, he was suffocating in it, and his worried eyes were pounding out an S.O.S. on MalKai’s face. Those paranoid gestures were like spoken confessions. MalKai kneeled and skimmed his fingers over the back of Cori’s hand. Cori glanced up in confusion and found himself caught in MalKai’s brown eyes.
The buzzing stopped.
Cori could no longer feel the breeze. MalKai flipped Cori’s hand over and traced a slow circle on the skin of Cori’s palm. When MalKai pushed on Cori’s palm, Cori felt something wrap around him and squeeze out his secrets. He found himself releasing thoughts that had never before crossed his lips. Then somewhere, a little girl screamed, her mother cursed, and Cori blinked. With that blink Cori regained something like consciousness and jerked away. Heart first, then hand flying away from its resting place in MalKai’s firm grasp. Cori looked down at his hand, eyes clouded with disbelief. He could almost make out a trail of wildfire where the kiss of MalKai’s finger had seared his flesh.
Something inside him cringed.
The second his hand was free, Cori’s mind started buzzing. His mind buzzed all the way through chatty introductions, appraising glances, and MalKai’s smooth descent into a seated position beside him. The buzzing of Cori’s mind was nothing like the buzzing that MalKai had sent to sit in Cori’s ears. Cori’s buzzing was visual. It was composed of images of large square men tottering on tiny angular spiked heels. A television clip of a pedophilic priest and jagged pages from porno magazines displasying studs in ripped overalls.
No, Cori’s buzzing was not at all like MalKai’s.
The blood vessels in Cori’s hands were so strained he felt they would burst. He stared at his shaking palm, and his fluttering life line gave way to images of his and his cousin’s blurred bodies as his cousin chased him though his adult-empty house, of their nude bodies pressing together in his parents’ big empty bed, of their tingling bodies working together to achieve that sweet, sweet release. MalKai’s fingers crossed Cori’s fluttering life line and obliterated Cori’s memories
In this last seduction MalKai was tugging on needs Cori didn’t know existed and answering questions Cori didn’t ask. He was leading Cori down an invisible orchid-lined path, heavy with the scent of d?j? vu and lust.
Amidst the heady chain of events, Cori’s mind had become a blackboard upon which complex theorems were frantically being worked out. Spurred by velvet touches and hinging on fear, Cori nervously built the type of mathematical sentences he had learned could prove any geometric fact. “If someone sees me, then the whole world will perceive me as abnormal.” “If I do this, then everything I have done up until this day will be called into question.” “If I enjoy this interaction, then what am I?”
The chalk snapped in Cori’s mind and left him solutionless. Math abandoned, Cori offered a shaky-fingered reply to MalKai’s advances. Their hands began to dance. First teasing palm-stroking with fingers, then fingertips rubbing against each other. MalKai’s fingers were no longer alone in their advances. Cori’s fingers ceased their trembling. Both hands mirrored the intimate joining of lovers. The undulations of their hands fascinated Cori. He sighed in wonder at how such simple movements could shake him to his core.
MalKai’s fingers soon grew tired of palm stroking. They began to wander to Cori’s wrist, up his arm to Cori’s shoulder, and to the nape of his neck. They lingered there for a second. Long enough for MalKai to contemplate the next move…
…and also for Cori to contemplate his. Cori wanted to believe the dancing hands were the climax of this daring adventure. Thought that hand-fucking with a total stranger was risqu? enough to merit a life-long memory. He didn’t realize that the film had just started, the theme music was playing, the opening credits were rolling, and he was the leading lady. Anyone peeping from afar, watching the seduction play out as if on the silver screen, knew where Cori would be in scene two:
Naked, fingers in mouth, chest heaving, lips moist from nervous licking, lowered eyes, staccato breath, belly trembling, body spread across bedsheets… or grass… flared nostrils.
Cori kept replaying how he had gotten to this point. How was it that he had landed under an oak tree in the web of a velvety hand-fucker whose motions, intent on turning him out in plain view of the entire world, had him pressing through the fly of his new silk boxers. Cori’s eyes closed involuntarily when he felt MalKai’s hand on his chest. A muscle he didn’t know existed, twitched in his groin. His ears were burning with embarrassment. Could anyone see him?
The seducer stares ahead toward the end of the road, with his head cocked at a devious angle, calculating how long it will take to get there. The seduced looks behind at the beginning of the road and, with his brow creased in concern, wonders how it slipped so far away. Cori’s entire life, it could be argued, was an attempt to avoid any event such as this one. For years, he discretely avoided eye contact with men who wore their privacy in public like an expensive coat of chinchilla. Didn’t want to rub shoulders with those who stood outside their closets, for fear of contamination. Purposely refused his hand’s desire to linger on the shoulder of an especially intriguing friend. Newspaper clips announcing trysts in the park left a bitter taste in his mouth. That he could be so caught up as to release control out in the open and let down his guard unnerved him.
This was a propless seduction. There was no sensual wailing floating in the air, no liquid intoxicant on ice, and no satin sheets beneath Cori’s back. In fact there was nothing Cori could blame his transgression on. He was resting against the dirty bark of an old tree atop a hill covered with dying grass. Nothing short of a miracle could have brought Cori to this point—and the miracle was a touch so utterly sensual, an understanding so undeniably sexual, that it could not be ignored. Every refusal Cori had forced his body to accept in the past decade, delivered him here—a willing participant—in MalKai’s lap. Each little impulse he had previously suppressed quietly collected itself into an explosive mass, and now, two clasped palms had coaxed the explosion.
If there were a movie camera hovering somewhere in the skies, as Cori imagined there must be at this seminal point in his life, it would close in on the oak tree that sheltered the seduction. From a great distance, it would reveal the green silhouette before swooping through twisted, leafy branches to reveal Cori and MalKai’s heated embrace at the tree’s base. The camera would then pan over MalKai’s shoulder to reveal a brown moth resting on the tree bark and close in on the moth’s wings as it fluttered by, tickling the kissers and rousing them from their soul sucking.
The battle within Cori had been won. The mutiny was complete. Now, Cori had forgotten there had been any dissent, submitted completely to the lips that had devoured his fear, his indecision, his revulsion—and he couldn’t wait. Cori couldn’t wait to break down barriers and go where he had never gone before. To bring shame upon his family. To participate in an act he would never verbalize to anyone. To create a memory to file next to his afternoon pleasure trips with his cousin. Only this time, it could not be excused by age. Only this time, there would be no aunt to say, “Don’t worry, they’re just little boys.” There would only be condemning eyes and accusing fingers.
Arms encircled and crushed solitude from Cori’s lonely body. Lips soothed, and pushed tenderness through his teeth, down his throat. Hands left a trail of shivers along his passion-warmed skin. Cori had often found peace—or at least momentary joy—crushing some woman in his embrace. But he had never been crushed. Nor had he been seduced. Cori had never been the one with thoughts of escape up until the last moment.
Yet here he lay, under the boughs of an oak, ready to agree to anything this thick-fingered stranger suggested. A dog squeezed out a marathon of barks without stopping for breath. A painfully sweet bursting feeling split through Cori’s chest. His cells wanted to know the contours and textures of MalKai’s velvet skin, but his mind launched one last protest. He stood with his toes hanging off the brink of discovery and felt the intense desire to shuffle backward to a safer spot. His will faltered: did he really want to uncover the secrets he was coaxing out of hiding? Certainly he could live life without knowing what it’s like to be fucked under an oak tree by a velvet stranger. He took one more glance back to that point at the beginning of the road, but it was too late to turn back. This was happening now.
This is the now, Cori, and those are lips inching up the back of your neck. This is the now, and you don’t know the owner of those lips, you’ve just met him under this tree. You can’t take him home to meet your family or to your apartment to help you paint your walls. You don’t even know if you will see him again.
Ignoring his fresh whispers of doubt, Cori bravely turned his face to MalKai’s and opened himself under the caress of the breeze and the watchful eyes of the skies. It was all-consuming curiosity that made Cori unbutton the top of his shirt. It was vanity that made him think of all the women who had ever loved him. It was pride that made him consider how shocked they would be to find him here—half naked, crushed in a strange man’s embrace.
All philosophy went out of the door when MalKai attacked Cori’s lips with a finality that shook Cori to his bones. MalKai pressed his body against Cori’s. Cori’s eyes rolled back in their sockets, and his shoulders dropped into relaxation. He boldly began a grind that signaled he had left all questions and doubts behind—or at least swallowed them, so that they might resurface at a less critical time.
When Cori opened his eyes he was startled to find himself reclining on one of the wide branches of the oak tree. His eyes felt heavy like they did when sleep had a powerful hold upon him. His mind was as jumbled and confused as it was whenever he was abruptly disturbed in the middle of an intense dream. He saw what looked like large moth wings folding down into MalKai’s back. Under the intensity of the moment he could not focus on supernatural visions.
MalKai’s lips on Cori’s open thighs were too distracting.
The birds must have been shocked: Cori and MalKai’s bare backs writhed and undulated as the sensations traveled up and down their spines. The squirrels must have been pissed: Cori and MalKai jerked like epileptics, shaking the branch and disturbing the tree’s peace. The ancestors must have nodded knowingly. Though muscles cramped and body parts twisted, pain was not felt. Not until the dam broke and the waterfall flowed.
One of the last visions that burned in Cori’s retina that day was the golden glow radiating from MalKai’s body. If he hadn’t just had his mind blown, Cori would have noticed that the glow was most intense where MalKai’s lips touched his skin. If he hadn’t been reclining on a branch twelve feet in the air, he might have realized that the glow was coming from him and that MalKai was drawing it out of his body. He might even have concluded that the entire love dance had been executed to render him so full and so yielding as to make MalKai’s nectar-collecting possible.
But Cori’s feet were not firmly on the ground, and his mind was far from its clearest state. Tracing the path of an after-sex glow was not at the height of Cori’s priorities. Instead he confused the glow of his own nectar with the setting sun and squinted in its glare. Through the slits of his half-closed eyes, Cori saw MalKai throw his head back and the moth from the tree land softly on MalKai’s lips. Cori slowly reached out a shaking hand to brush it away. Then as if on cue, hundreds of moths attached themselves to MalKai’s body. Sure that his eyes were tricking him, Cori rubbed them with a sweat-soaked hand. When the moths began to flap their wings, Cori stuttered some phrase of incomprehension. The moths took off with MalKai’s body, and Cori drew in a deep breath of disbelief. Overcome, he rested his throbbing head back and closed his eyes in exhaustion.
When Cori woke, it was night. He opened his eyes, and saw darkness; then his eyes dilated into focus, and he began to discern the cocoa brown ridges of bark. As Cori’s mind raced to orient his body to his surroundings, his eyes flitted around seeking something familiar to grab on to. His body welcomed him back into consciousness with the tingling sensations of a painful resting place; his skin greeted him with the gritty roughness of dirt. Cori sighed. His chest was tender where the bark of the tree had rubbed against it. As he turned his head upward, to the sky, his nose brushed the base of the tree and his ear separated from the earth packed around the tree’s roots. Cori sat up and supported his weight with a trembling arm.
The moon was low that night, low and heavy. The fingers on Cori’s left hand itched to touch it. With his hand outstretched and his arm fully extended, Cori felt a memory tug at his gut. He didn’t remember MalKai, but he remembered a feeling. He thought of his mother, but the minute she appeared in his mind, so did ten other women. He could not hold his mother in his mind without simultaneously thinking of his grandmother, his best friend’s mother, and that crazy woman who sat on the corner selling religious papers. It was as if the singular had been erased from Cori’s mind. His thoughts could no longer focus on individuals; he could only focus on groups. He couldn’t remember his job, his vendettas, or his debts. He couldn’t remember his closet either. Nations of communities had set up camp in Cori’s mind, and he began to work connections and create links between them.
He lowered his head in exhaustion. A night breeze blew past him, and his skin rose with goose bumps. He looked down and realized he was naked except for a pile of moth’s wings resting in his lap.