Wednesday 16th August

| BY 10 Magazine

From The Archive: Looking For A Kiss (Kiss) By Max Blagg

Blagg (1)

For a brief period in New York, in the early 1970s, drag was very hip. The New York Dolls were playing all around lower Manhattan, from the Mercer Arts Center to the notorious Club 82 on East Fourth Street. The music made me want to wear frocks and beat people up. Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling were starring in Warhol movies and off-Broadway plays. There were queens everywhere. Fabulous queens, freely mingling with the fabulous boys and girls all over the Lower East Side. You couldn’t tell the difference until the kecks came off. And, by then, it was too late.

New York was such a continual overload of sensual dilemmas that, on some nights, there just wasn’t time to go home at all. In the early hours of one autumnal Sunday, riding the broomsticks of Courvoisier, sharpened to a spear by a light dusting of speed, I stumbled into Ratner’s, an all-night kosher restaurant on lower Second Avenue. The place was crowded with rock’n’rollers, insomniacs, speculators in flesh and product riding down the night. I made my way to a vacant booth at the rear of the enormous dining room. Ancient waiters moved slowly back and forth on bunion-plagued feet, dispensing a wide selection of dairy platters.

The brandy had awoken a voracious appetite, but the single $5 bill in my pocket sharply limited my culinary choices. Broiled herring with onions was on special at $3.95, so I ordered that instead of something sensible like cheese blintzes. The herring arrived rapidly, a generous portion of oily fish smothered in fried onions. I was wolfing down this late supper with no though to the gastric consequences, when a very attractive blonde slid into the seat opposite. “Hi, hon,” she said in a deep but sensual voice. I felt a jolt of drunken pride that she had chosen to park her delightful carriage at my particular booth. “Even this harsh fluorescence serves your beauty!” I blurted, staring into her dilated pupils. She laughed, and introduced herself as Gina.

“Would you like a coffee or something Gina?” I asked as casually as possible, hoping I could retain her companionship without boosting my tab past the $5 mark. “I’m already wide awake, hon. Bet I could wake you up, too! Gina’s style was refreshingly direct. She sat across from me and smiled, exposing immaculate, white American teeth. Under the table, her shoeless foot, supple as a dancer’s, wriggled into my lap and began massaging my slumbering equipment. I pushed aside the bones of the herring and slid lower in my banquette. The waiter suddenly loomed. “Take that bizniz outside,” he said harshly to my dreamy blonde. “’Ere, don’t talk like that to a lady, you old fucker,” I squawked indignantly. “Give me your check,” but it was already on the table, $5 even. I didn’t have enough for a tip. I put down the five and hurried out in the wake of her finely sculpted buttocks. Their extraordinary curvature uplifted my mood, and the reproductive juices began to churn, colliding with the slow operatic motions of a well-marinated digestive process to produce a highly irregular sensation in my innards. We walked down Second Avenue in a clumsy embrace. Gina’s right arm was curled around, my waist and her ample hand skittered around the front of my pants, prodding and weighing the contents like a cook selecting produce.

It was a warm September night. The outdoors beckoned. We turned off onto Second Street and I tried the gate of the old cemetery hidden there among the tenements. It swung open. Wordlessly, we entered this small necropolis, stepping carefully among the grave markers until we reached the wall that ran across the back yards of Third Street.

If I did notice the shadow around her chin, I chose to ignore it, and her greedy advances gave me little time to reconsider. Squatting against the wall as nimbly as a Hindu temple dancer, she unbuttoned my Levi’s and slipped my slack wick into her mouth. Demonstrating an oral agitation that bordered on the bulimic, she quickly raised my interest. The herring chose this intimate moment to initiate a riot in my stomach, and my gag reflex was thrust into a neck-and-neck race with my sperm-release trigger. The vomit-expeller mechanism overrode squirt control and I stumbled off a few paces to gargle up my supper, festooning an ancient tombstone with streaks of fishy puke.

This heave-ho sobered me slightly, but my discomfort was now replaced with that particular physical urge that often occurs on a speed freak’s descent, a mindless erection that will yield only to intense and prolonged friction. We had come too far for me to press for details of her gender. Maybe that stubble breaking out on her chin was just some kind of skin condition. It did resemble a five o’clock shadow, but after all, it was almost 5am.

Without further ado, or preparation of any kind, I ventured where I had never gone before. I starshipped into an alternative universe, turning her toward the wall, fumbling under the tight skirt, and with her manual assistance, penetrating the available aperture without dwelling on that hole’s other functions. Her face was pressed against the ancient brickwork and I could smell the mortar as her enormous fingernails clawed grooves into it. Each window in the building facing us was a rectangle of darkness, and it seemed possible that just, momentarily, everyone on the Lower East Side was asleep as I ploughed that dark furrow, ruthless as a combine harvester in a summer wheat field.

“Watch my blouse, honey! Don’t be so rough!” she suddenly bellowed as the cheap nylon of her garment caught on a hangnail. This spontaneous remark emerged from her throat unsullied by feminine intonation and I was compelled to acknowledge the fact that I was bumping a man! A brief image of chalk across a blackboard spelling out F-A-G in scrawled white capitals. “Homo! Homo! Homo!” chanted a delinquent inner voice synchronised with my thrusting, but I continued to wale away gripping her broad shoulders, testing the muscular configuration of her ass cheeks with long and short bursts. I worked with surgical precision, gaining half an inch with each storm-trooping jolt, until finally, I was buried to the hilt. I held myself there for a hallucinatory moment, boy/girl/boy girl/girl boy/she loves me/he loves me not, trying to ascertain the difference between this encounter and love with a proper woman and finding none as my Brancusi quivered and fired several rounds into the dark.

Desire evaporated, romance replaced by peckish thoughts of Polish bread smeared with jam, or two thick slices of rye loaded with sharp cheese and ham, or maybe blintzes, the blintzes I should have had instead of herring. Gina, apparently reading my thoughts, invited me to breakfast at her apartment a few blocks away. How delightfully this evening had progressed to morning!

We slipped out through the old iron gate and across Second Street, to the Avenue, still and always humming with various species of life. I walked her discreetly toward Thirteenth Street hoping no one I knew would be out and about this early or this late. The light over Brooklyn was beginning to ignite the ageing brickwork of tenement facades with the opulent colours of a New York dawn. “Sunday morning, and all that wasted space so close behind…”

As we passed Gem Spa, a large man in a ragged sweater was chattering animatedly to two teenage girls. A shock of reddish hair sprouted from his head and he radiated the wired energy of crank, sweating profusely, despite the coolness of the morning. With a small thrill, I recognised him from his photograph on the back cover of one of my favourite books of poems. It was Ted Berrigan, author of The Sonnets.

Ted turned and fixed us with a demented smile as we walked by. “Hello Gina!” he said loudly. “Hi, Ted,” Gina casually replied. Ted turned back to his Vassar girls. We walked on.
“You know that guy?”
“Sure I do, hon, we have the same dealer”
“Did you know he’s a great poet?”
“Well, I know he’s a poet. He gives me books once in a while. He can’t touch Frank, though.”
“Frank? O’Hara?”
“Yeah. You like his work?”
“Lunch Poems is my bible!” I gushed.
“A sensible choice,” she drily replied.
I was falling in love with this literate sex bomb.

On a ruined section of Thirteenth Street we turned up the steps of a dilapidated brownstone and climbed a rickety staircase to the third floor. Gina fumbled with several locks and the door finally swung open. There was a smell of patchouli, of slightly gone flowers, clothes scattered everywhere and books, hundreds of books! I hungrily scanned the shelves, eyes locking onto various first editions, as a thieving urge commingled with the ambivalent desire jetting around my gut. But the fumes in my head had begun to dissipate and the idea of kissing a man seemed a most unedifying prospect, that burning stubble, the un-enticing flatness of the chest. Even though Gina’s literary qualifications were a stimulant comparable to finding an early Firbank in the basement of the Strand, a maternal air now prevailed that contrasted sharply with her earlier carnality, as she insisted that I eat something. Her carefully prepared omelette was delightful, not too runny and nicely browned on the outside. Where do boys learn to cook like that? Shortly after consuming it, I fell asleep browsing through a mint copy of O’Hara’s Second Avenue, with its exquisite cover by Larry Rivers.

When I awoke, Gina was sleeping beside me. I studied her delicate face, and though it still had a girlish cast, it would never be quite smooth enough, no matter how carefully she shaved. And the enormous cock now loosened from its bondage and draped across her thigh was another factor in my decision to withdraw. I whispered goodbye and slipped out onto Thirteenth Street.

I occasionally thought about calling Gina, usually very late at night, but never did. It wasn’t just that her feet were bigger than mine or that the Adam’s apple bobbing in her throat told the world she was more than just a boyish girl. I wasn’t man enough to challenge the snickers of every sidewalk sailor, and I wasn’t girl enough to love the man.

Taken from issue 18 of 10 Men, Summer 2009

Text by Max Blagg
Illustration by Stephen Doherty