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A nickel, a dime, a quarter--this was the cake she gave me, deeply frosted, with it wrapped in wax paper at the bottom: money in the money cake. "Do not swallow the money!" "Do not cry if you only get a penny, or be greedy and eat another piece!" I did. I wore a cone-shaped hat called a party hat with a string tied under my chin. I played the part assigned to me: a child, impressively, enthusiastically, naturally. I said "please" and "thank you," when called for, and "may I"--and smiled. I blew air that unfolded in oblong shafts of collapsible paper, and rolled back and was gone. I suspected nothing. My voice was gone, too, or raw: I would bark like a dog for a joke. (I was hot, panting.) Blindfolded, I pinned the tail efficiently. I drank sweet, green, vitaminless drinks: I was thirsty. I ate pizza (no salad): I was hungry. I--not only I--said swear words, and excused myself. I was sugar-rushed, sore-throated from salty potato chips and jujubes, headachy from it, or heat: worse, I was sweater-prickly and dress-shoe-pinched: and flustered. I might slowly collapse or set myself down on a step, or take a warm, wettish nap in a corner on the floor: it was before my full development of odor. I was boyishly feverish. I was healthy. Frequently, there were carpet marks on my cheeks. I was flush, awake, calling-I was still dreamy and heated, fully clothed, sleep-creased-and my mother would touch my forehead to check my temperature: I was fuzzy sometimes, pliable: I am home for a moment to visit. I live two doors down. Did they worry? She would accuse me of lying, for no reason, about minor things, things which didn't exist, and I rushed back. Nancy Hill was the first to go home early. I had no trouble being asleep at night. Her fingers feel cool in comparison. I am eating cake again: I am back. I am spinning, dizzy. I am a fast runner, the fastest: my legs can do anything, outrun an attacking man! Or I am moping alone, desperate for attention. Laughing, happyish, perhaps, lavishly unconcerned. When I go home, when it is time for me to go home, she gives us loot bags with gumdrops and licorice and chocolate. The last is in silver tinfoil.

He says he is coming to kill me. I do not mind, really, that he says this. I am far removed from death, from my maybe-death. My implicit dominion gives me something to wish for. It is what I am experiencing, briefly, at the time, privately. It is hard to take his words seriously. It is what I say I am.

He is my best friend.

Happy birthday, Sulzer.

I had already dropped them. Sulzer held up the assistant and flicked the switch. He plucked fresh tissue from a box. He spread it in his palm-priming himself-and then lowered it under the cusp. He was ungloved. The rubber cup buzzed uninterrupted, which tickled, confused, pleased me newly. It lengthened telescopically. Bending slightly to one side from the pressure, I checked his face for indications of how I should act. I felt it tingle: it was as if it had forced an opening, laid live tracks of climbing electric vein.

"Dying?" he said. He laughed.

Succumbing, I said nothing. I looked him in the chin. He held my arm gently at the elbow.

"Soon," he said.

When it was time, he reached down and slipped it aside. He clutched it in his fist and pumped. I watched. When it started to, he was calm, dutiful, subduing it until it burst the tissue. Then, he softly squeezed the top between the pads of his thumb and forefinger. Which finished me off.

He did this for me. He wiped it with tissue-he was quite thorough. I was impressed by his heady professionalism.

If she comes in, he says, I'll tell her I have a cold.

It was lying on the ground. He bent down and flicked the switch. I raised them back up. I buckled them.

He is considered a light-skinned person. He has thinnish arms which are darkish and early hairy (relatively). His room has a blue rug with a window, and black specks on skates, framed, on a wall. He does not believe in God, who is gray-membraned with a linear mouth, has slits for eyes, is inflated (literally). A drawing exists to give me an image: there is a point for a nose. God is lipless, nostril-less, defined by absence: tirelessly watching through the slits.

He wears a dirty purple T-shirt and jeans, which is his trademark: he is twelve, twelvish. This is how we describe it.

I wear heavy corduroy pants that sing to me when I walk: or captivate me-I am too young to be disturbed. I am enchanted by the sound of pants in motion.

He is next. Threats aside, to the best of my knowledge, Sulzer has killed no one yet. We do not lock the door.

Q: Were his fingers filthy when he cupped it?

Yes, most likely. Grubby. He was rarely clean. I prescribed soap, of the oval variety. Once, he said, he wore the same socks eight days running. Or, at least, I accused him of this, wearing the same socks eight days running, jokingly, and, blushing, he did not deny it. It was before I knew that his socks served double-duty: that he was on occasion coming forthright into his socks.

"Eight?" he said.

"Eight," I said.

Shoes removed, he was definitely fragrant. He seemed relieved I had not said sixteen.

Nevertheless, he went next, a veteran. He held it himself, pumped it himself, cleaned it himself. His mother did not come in. We did not lock the door. He said "ah." His lip curled.

He had a skinny, unctuous, fungusy one, string-beanish in a way, strangely shaped, erected to the left and quaintly dented-I watched it, I tried not to watch it, or, at least, I tried not to let him see me watch it-sprouting the first thin strings of blackish hair. (It was kind of a competition, actually, in which we could not influence the decision, only the description: he said mine was thick: his was little-but bigger than Alex Trester's. It was a boy's game. Or a man's game.) His bush was wild bush, sparse and straggly and new. He was unapologetic. I was not mad. His sack, yes, was petite. He had garbanzo bean-sized balls: chickpeas. I was not the type to overly worry about this, about the absence of it on mine, but I took flak for it at school, a lot actually, too much for my liking, for my lack of hair, when he betrayed me.

Bald, he says. Among friends it is enough to condemn me.

But what am I supposed to say to that in return? Puny? The thought does not cross my mind-to say it, I mean: I am not mean. But I cannot help what I see.

This is so much later. I am, what, thirteen again? I am so much rage and hormone: or not yet.

His father? No, never. I never saw it. I cannot even imagine. His house I did. It was decked with smoked windows and butterflies. Thus, no one saw us coming, Sulzer and I, no one ever saw us coming, we think, or I thought-this is the point. The smoked windows prevented anyone from seeing us hunched there with our pricks, or standing there with our pricks (my prick and then his prick, or his prick and then my prick, we alternated in a sense of fairness, regularly, Sulzer was only rarely fair) fit snugly in the cup of the assistant. The butterflies, we thought, were decoration. They were. They were cluttered, flapping, still: fancy. Mostly, we were worried about the Robertsons next door, that they were sitting at the window watching us, free fun for the entire family, that they, I conjectured, bucktoothed, behived and itchy, lived lives totally bereft of significance and consequently had no other activity with which to amuse themselves but to watch us, youngish, plugged-in, rubberized. Coming.

For a while, I thought we had a monopoly.

When I would see any of them on the street, I wondered if they knew. We had horrible phobias of telescopes, too, you can imagine. Or I did. Oh, they, the Robertsons-they had a Saint Bernard.

His reasons are Trina, it seems. It is what I would have guessed had I not heard (Janis). Or, maybe would have made up myself were it up to me (Ian). Nevertheless, it is not sufficient reason, whether it is true or not: it is too silly. It does not matter that I did it. That we did it-it amounts to nothing. Besides, I was a boy, or youngish. And she was a girl-or youngish. He is boyish, I think, probably, still (I am more girlish, I think, probably: or mannish; but not in a hairy, hairyish, way, or in a gruff manner: I am not chesty and agreeable). It does not matter, either, that he might be serious. He is the type to pull a trigger (he would use a gun) to give himself a little lift, or a grin, or to make me afraid: but not really mean it in an evil way-not for dramatic purposes, in a not-to-kill-a-person-but-to-kill-a-person way. He could do it, though. He would. In a place where it was quiet he shot BB's at the windshields of parked cars, and shattered them, the windshields, in sibilant, unconcurrent spider web-like line and arc, which formed beyond the outskirts of this circlish destruction arrested outward barbs (specifically, or unspecifically, they were flat, ravined). His crimes are minimal. But it was he who was less panicked. They remained, broken mostly, tangentially attached, in one piece, as did I, which is cute, roundish. He did three: a Datsun, a Datsun, a Benz. It was unpredictable, though, what was seen, what happened, what happens, with a point as secondary origin of an outward-sliding s-noise, his finger as reflex progenitor of unnameable, unmeasurable, shapes and laying waste, an instrument of concentration from elsewhere: unique, or goddish, or evil: a harbinger of new science. I watched. I am watching. I am with him.

"Let's go," I say, worried that we will get caught. Everyone that is not us-or him-is police. The sky is police. I am. "We better go," I say.

"Let's do another," he says. He makes no attempt to hide his gun. "You do one." (He thrusts the gun at me.)

"We better not," I say. "If someone sees." (I refuse the gun, ducking under my collar in case someone recognizes me from a window. I do it, perhaps, stupidly: this is today's language.)

The rest is the classic chicken tale. I am the chicken, but my conviction, or fear, convinces him: there is no conscious awareness in him yet of human spoil: of me.

He does one more anyway.

Running across the park, toppling past our frosted breath, we dew the toes of our shoes and fall, or I fall, and smear mud and grass on my knees: I assume he does. He keeps on. I get mud and grass on my palms, too-the ground is soft-the impress of pine cones, brownish-knifish seedlings, acorns: no shit. It is coldish, dampish, but this has no special significance for the human deciduous: I am dressed for such. I am immune, mostly, waterproof. I am alone now-or feel alone-and low to the ground: it is an ultimate feeling, incurbable, lengthy as the slope of orange glow: or orange sky. My chin is cool and wet. I am worried. There are chestnuts everywhere-but they do not worry me-in the watery-leafy gutters, on the grassy boulevards ensquaring the park, rich and deep in their eatable color, under dead leaves bathed in an apparently unbuyable paint on the concrete sidewalks: and in the middle of the street, some in wet, prickly, green husks, near moss in cracks, where he is still running. There is present what is called a fresh smell, a green-colored smell, incredible, which is how, in age, we can never conceive of childhood and heaven. I watch him leave me, ditch me. You see, he has a remarkable ability to make himself cold, coldish, mean: to vanish. He is not mean: he is weather. I hunt him down to make sure that he still considers himself to be my friend. I find him by a fence, by a broken bottle, by a puddle that is thin. I am apologetic, aware of cowardliness in the face of evil. We play all day. The next day. The next day. The day is long.

The next day.

I trumpet meaning as if it has meaning. I examine as if it has passed into a thing. He is not my friend, by any sensible definition. We are not yet ten. We are not sensible.

We did not, I would not, not then at least-when we are thirteen, thirteenish-buy such a thing (it was Sulzer's father's), but he had certain ideas about purchasing attachments for Maxine and might have (he had purpled her nipples, it was reported by Maxine, via Lisa, by pinching them too hard, blued them in his inexperience: Yale had greened Lisa's, and turquoised and amethysted them, it was reported by Lisa, via Maxine-they had done this the same day in the same room. The whitish body is capable of great color in shame and injury. In death. Too, he had stolen loose licorice, a Mars bar, Cracker Jacks, an O Henry bar, a Kit Kat, a Snickers, Doublemint gum, Mo Jo's, Peanut Butter Cups, wafers, got caught with a dog). The last is a lie. His father did not know that we were using it, or, I am quite sure, use it himself for the same purposes, but I do not think he would have cared if he knew and did. He was a sophisticated system (many people had said so, my father included), partially effaced by the new, chafing technologies.

("It is a certain type of fungus," he insisted his doctor said about the thin, tannish husk, thinking this, a medical opinion, would vindicate him of sins of impurity.)

We continued what it was we did, our daily release into tissue: for me, once was always enough-for a while. I ran-or walked briskly (there is an imperative in this distinction: to be distinct-but not merely to be distinct)-I walked briskly over to his house, with the worst anticipation and delight; or something else, much different, perhaps opposite, or a heavy muteness swallowed by the glomerule of space and tree and whatever weather. Or, overawed. Or that it was only my smallness. Or I was afraid and fairly killable at the neck. I did not know yet what delight is: the sky might still collapse. We had cans and string for communication, codes. We wrote notes and passed them. I had not yet learned, or even heard of, the spit-and-palm, the double-nub, or the lotion-and-froth techniques, and thus was in high thrall to Sulzer, Master of the Orgasm. My master. He controlled us all, in a way-not just in the realm of ejaculation (though this was significant, I think, but not in the usual way, if it can be said that there is a usual way), in almost every way, in our relationships with our friends, our parents, our gods-and we fought constantly for this right. Always, at least almost always, perhaps most of the time, I wished to be near him, as did so many others, I think, I think they wished this, to be the object of his gossip, to be "let down," "lifted up," brutalized by him. There was a loyal crew of us: hapless. Willing. But I would forgive him for his insensitivities. I would forgive him always. Almost always. He would apologize. I mean, he would apologize, but not until sufficient and obvious silence had existed between us, until I had gone out of my way to give him the you-have-wronged-me face at school. I would wait for this, his apology; but it betrayed his weakness ultimately, if it can be referred to this way, weakness, his need to be loved, or, more accurately, his fear of being unloved, if it can be referred to that way-I am sometimes so unsubtle, so unpsychological and dumbish and illy informed: or, I think, maybe, in actual fact, that it was more a purblind, semi-animal levying of power, an I-al tribalism of the child, a wicked chiefdom in miniature, a greenish instinct or holographic claw: scratching my life. I was the Indian, with meek, imperial-less aim. I was blunted by him: he blunted my goodness: I let myself be blunted. I was blunt, colonized, displaced, swallowed, but listening to my breath well in his belly: I mean this figuratively: that I retained myself, that I was at the last staunch, inviolate-lifted and placed aside. That I was hiding. But I felt as if my acceptance of his SORRY was his absolution of me; that I had somehow wronged him by being stronger, or appearing stronger, or seen as right. I had: or had not; or was, or was not-but this does not concern me. It does not matter. It was the gurgling of surface: social. I remember how hard it was to say it, to say SORRY, and now so easy that it is (perhaps) cheap. Or I am expanded. Or collapsed inward. Neither.

I am not a ready-made.

It was a time when right and wrong still had some significance for me. I do not say this wistfully. I am sincere here. We were best friends. I was best friends with him. I could say this and it could be agreed upon by a general consensus of witnesses. I have never meant to suggest that he was pure evil.

Oh, with respect to our proximity, not once was there ever the consideration of having his finger inserted at crucial moments. Or mine. For some, you probably know, it is required. It provides a heightening. We were young at the time, what we did not figure to call simple pleasure the limit of our innocence and lament.

Aged, somewhat hunched and gentled, surely weary, Sulzer's father was worth only fifty per cent of his original price, in a bullish Westchester market. He had been purchased originally for a milky-teaty cow, a sack of flour, a pound of fresh broccoli (trimmed), a can of honey-glazed ham with candied maraschino cherries and a pineapple ring, mashed yams, millet, an elephant tusk, a bag of lard. He could barely fetch a loaf of bread, rye. At least this is what was said about him by the unkind-or words to this effect. They all knew and made horn jokes behind his back. At fifty, the odds were against him that he would live to forty-six. At least this is what was said about him by the scientists, certain specific scientists. Nevertheless, oblivious, Sulzer's father always returned happy, happyish, giddy specifically, or gleeful, with an expensive present for Sulzer-sophisticated toys mostly, with remote controls mostly (which was, perhaps, fitting), an apology for being gone maybe-and thus Sulzer always had the most expensive presents, which he could electronically beckon at whim. His room was full of them, these toys, lying newly unwrapped and superficially used, amusing him for as long as his gratitude would last.

Also he missed him, you know, he was not all or only brute and unfeeling, he missed his father, when he was gone on his trips. He said so. I should say so. Or, at least, I am saying so for him, in hindsight, because it is true, he loved him, or, I think, he wanted his father's love, or attention, desperately -flogging cheap, ersatz clothing East. Sulzer was very weak, actually-I do not wish to be mean, or criticize, or even pretend to accuracy, there is no connection here-and needy. And monstrous, in an amazing way for such a small, or shortish, boy-but pitiful (and much more so in hindsight-but evil even and maybe prideful of this, smirky-evil: I am no inquisitor of the past: or, inquisitor: I am: I do not think it is flattering to me to be so, or true in an ultimate sense, not even temporarily). Nevertheless, Sulzer proved to be rude to him upon his rearrivals, immediately, picking fights, as sons might, because I think, maybe, if it matters what I think, that he was angry or, more accurately, needy because of his absence (he could never say-certainly not see-this himself, so I am saying it for him, seeing it for him, not that he might say it himself were the thought to make itself apparent to him, for it is too late for that, but so he might: I do not know). He was angry, I guess, or needy, for all sorts of things, probably legitimately. But his rudeness would always surprise me-I cannot have his recollection adhere to my adultish terms: he is a child here, and I am old. And I have forgotten the gratitude that launched me. But his rudeness, his slow tornado of self, God-it was so stark.

Trina, she did not live through the period of the assistant, or through the fast collapse of father and family. It could be said about her that she was post-assistant. Or post-Ian. Pre-Ian did not exist, or was prespeech. It was a syntactical lie of diapers and crying: this is a make-believe taken from books. I have known Sulzer since I was three, at least. Trina since sixteen. Just know that she is not worth being killed for. Not even I am. But I always thought he would make a consummate killer. He is still capable of vengeance, or pinning an impulse to it, a rare-not-so-rare, atavistic talent.

Sulzer and I continued with daily visits with the assistant. Then, if you will, air was ripish pine (on occasion), and very sweetish and green grass and marigold-and not soot and city fume: marigold, you see, kept bees away, if I recall it correctly. I think the logic was protective. Time was different, significantly. Sometimes, perhaps, it was aphids on vines, or, I guess more accurately, I noticed some once, aphids, their smooth, roundish-whitish husks, or roundish-greenish husks, or something, their somethingish husks climbing, or trembling imperceptibly quartzlike, on tomato vines, and watched awhile a little awed, calling it time: or now do. Aphids were wild to me: to be that smooth, arrogant shape on earth, unearthly: lunar, dewish. Or, time was waiting to come. I was so simple and inarticulately aggrieved and happy-before it required a definition. I was wind-resistant. I still am, sometimes, often actually, simple, I mean, in a way that is strange to me, and fine and maybe new, vaguish, and okay. But not-easy-but-easy. I am far from anything here. I am not aggrieved. I am not dead yet.

If you wish, to humanize me, I can list a horde of important, meaningless complaints, which might make me credible to you: but I will resist. I was never afraid of him. Not physically, I mean. I was never afraid of her. Not mentally, I mean. Come kill me.

One time it was deepest summer, if such a thing exists. By that time, however, I could catch it myself, catch myself myself, and was hardly afraid to release it into my hands. Bedecked and hued and thonged and shirtless and cold-tea'd I was, and stubbed integumentally sometimes-an infinity of lost and uncatalogable things. It was so amazing, though, more so, I think, for me, who was amazed by the newfound ability of my body.

I did not think I would ever have to share it. I did not think I would ever have to give it up.

It is right here that Trina moves in with Sulzer. I mean, into the basement of Sulzer's father's house (the Sulzer house). Innocently, or, what I mean is, innocent of the desire for sex from him, but not, I think, of his wishes. She needs a place to live, her mother, I think, drunk often, with clubs for fists, and he, Sulzer, offered. He expects his generosity to be recompensed in leg and possession.

After a long or longish trip, the father of Sulzer went to court for certain financial lacks. He claimed that there was no evidence against him, and that any collaboration on any person's part was "a form of torsion." This was the high time of the first collapse. I felt guilty, somehow responsible, at the bad result, for not intervening more thoroughly. No, that is not true-it is too pretentious, pathetic. However ruined, however, he got off. Hooks and barters were useless. Beams, too, and God especially. Nothing maintained it-self. (Yellow excelled. Okay, then.) History has always done thus to losers (I do not exclude myself from either). He, Sulzer, had not been implicated-at least, not in this. He seemed embarrassed that they might be poor, that they might begin to appear poor (even as a young man-child he would always keep a wad of bills in his pocket, an ascension as he grew older from ones to hundreds, folded in an envelope or enclipped-and show them: for him, simple power: or for me). Nevertheless, he continued with the assistant-pretending nothing was wrong in Sulzerville-sharing with me, which was great, our pants regularly down to our ankles and thrashing into crumpled bunches of crusted tissue (the key then, as it is now, was to hold out as long as possible before shooting; no, that is not true, either: the thought to stall never crossed my mind), sharing with Kempner (against my wishes) and, heavens and thanks, not sharing with Pulmp or Fossil, whose appetite for such sexual endeavors we later found out was relentless: we would never have gotten our hands on it for ourselves!

(Because of the assistant's soft, comfortably pulsing rubber cup-and it is foolish of me, I know-I thought that the vaginal tract was equipped, too, with a quivering disc of silky, inward skin, The Undulator, perhaps, which could make a man come for nothing. Thus, the baby. Hence, sweatless sex.

I do not know when it was that I was instructed of the in-and-out technique-disabused of my illusions of ease and convenience-or limited by it. Pulmp, perhaps, talked about it and, perhaps, I pretended I knew.)

I knew, truly, nothing. This is the oldest lie.

Once we used pantyhose as a buffer: an enticement.

Once we used Vaseline for ease.

Later, I cannot with any accuracy say how much, it was discovered that Sulzer's mother was having an affair with a youngish, mustached man, had been for some time, and the family soon and quickly broke apart. This is a different story, maybe.

It is what I hinted at earlier. She never once discovered us.

But the mustache was memorable.

Sulzer's mother had a lisp, you see, and reddish hair, and a bluish broom and was pretty, which was how we learned to describe her. I guess she was. Can you piece it together? The floor, their floor, the Sulzer floor, was reddish, too, faux brick, linoleum maybe, oily and enstenched from the fresh piss of cats, Boots and Lupus, famous for a time in my world. Also she drove a violet-y car with the trunk up front, a Corvair, a convertible: our hair! I never touched her in the evident crevice, the upsuck, but I do not hesitate to say it beckoned. Those strange pants: looped, sashed-or slacks. I do not wish to be the arbiter of pants. Worse, or better, I cannot decipher which-and it is not for me to say, I guess, if I could-her head would quiver when she washed dishes. I remember this so clearly: she was red-lipsticked, bright-redded; her face was red, too, freckled also, from holding a mirror up to it in the sun, and, I forgot, pants, red, too, seething or bleeding they were, and a blouse with pinkish or reddish swishes-and she would be washing dishes, twitching over the sink, lisping, showing so much concern for us, who were fidgeting with our finger-streaked-but-palm-warmed cups of coldish milk and playing hockey or soccer, table-top style, with nickels and cookie crumbs. She often bought us glazed doughnuts, or jelly doughnuts, too, french fries and ketchup, onion rings at the Big Scoop near our school, called me "Love"-and not Sulzer. I mean to suggest nothing here. She drank black coffee with lit cigarettes, gossiped with similarly dressed women about I-do-not-know-what, left lipstick on the rim and filter. She was so sweet to me, you know. Not once, not ever, do I remember her not being sweet to me.

I must admit that a number of times, when Sulzer was away at The Cabin with his father, I used the vibrations of an electric Weedeater (the handle; Sulzer never lent anything to me-and he did not, of course, take the assistant with him: the cabin provided no privacy), the Lees across the street-the ones whose cars I washed, whose snow I shoveled, whose lawn I cut, whose weeds I with increasing frequency trimmed-to fuel my lust-they had an impressive apparatus, impressive-and once the washing machine, our own, but it took patience and I could not come until the constant buzz of the spin cycle provided adequate percussion (the slightest click of the dial would set me back minutes). I had sex with Jean there, too, she on top of the washing machine, when my parents were out, sitting on its edge, and me tiptoed and reaching up, but I was oldish by then and embarrassed by it, by having sex with someone I did not have anything with but a brief bodily attachment. This did not stop me. But the episode is . . . I was going to say unrelated. I was going to say that. I had sex with Trina there, too. I was not stopped either. It was too sloppy to be called intrigue.

Oh-it was well past the time when I would scream in my sleep. I do not mean to pretend to shock: it was a new exuberance, merely. Impermanent.

You should know the following, though-I guess. You should know that not once, not ever, has any of this been rich enough to call my life-along either, any, continuum. It has not even come close. Even though I have been told the opposite, from a very young age, by a number of people, both partial and impartial, relatively, I mean-even though I was told I would be successful at whatever I did-or in spite of it-I have always had the personal air that I might fail. That there was no way that I would not fail. Do you detect it here? Do you think things might be easy for me?

I am summing up: I have grasped nothing, with a widening girth.

Sulzer eavesdropped on Trina. He did not let her leave without receiving complete details as to her plans. He bought her a ring. He accused her of sleeping with me, which accusations were groundless except for their accuracy. Betrayal is an overrated outrage: it is self-generated, predictable.

By late thirteen the assistant went from working in fits and starts-it was awful if you were partway, there was the monstrous fear of, or, perhaps, the burning curiosity about, "blue balls"-to sparks, to being cracked not quite in half. And dangerous. I felt rushed, he would rush me, and the accommodating buzz would often stop and then still rubber, a quick limpness, a growing cold and then so self-conscious: it was broken. In total, we must have gone through hundreds of boxes of tissue-each. Sulzer? He ceased, really, to interest me, stuck as he was, as I now see it. Or I was tired of being hurt by him. Or, I think, I got stronger, perhaps more ruthless in the transaction of my own ensconcement, or enfleshment (mommafication, maybe)-but not meanish, I think, not "consciously" meanish (as if being blind to my iniquities might be mitigating), steeled against the assaults of others. And self. This requires no analysis. I was cushioned in and out-along the lines of vein: I had thinnish, thickening skin. I was a pharaoh-or pharaohish: conquered, overcome. Or, informed of pharaohs: slavish and escaping. And hot. I was a moatless pyramid of self, reposed, vulnerable, solidish. A secret about nothing uttered by Sulzer could pillage me. I am a kid.

I take a big jump in time.

I forget things. I make things up.

My most accurate observation here regards the ones I have neglected to make, is self-referential. I have said nothing here.

At seventeen, Sulzer quit school and moved to Minnesota, I think, with "a girl with blond hair," got a job hawking ties. In that ancient hiatus, many other betrayals and events had happened for which I believed I had used sound judgment in dividing us. Actually, he had long before begun to play a minor part in my life. He was still a little boy, really. We were no longer interested in contact, really. We lost it. I tried to move on. I was moving on. I was discovering new ways, I think, to signify my difference, with hair and shirt and rip. I refused to be submissive. I still do, I think, unless it is calculated. I am conscious of even the secrets I keep from myself. Have I made this much up? Only last night I ran into Mitch Davis, and we talked about him. If you care, his head was shaved, Mitch's was, but he has the same face. He lives here now, where I live. A little older, okay, scarless, yes, nice, in a likable way, for me at least, but boyish still, in a likable way. A good way. The thing is, we talked about him still. We talked about Sulzer. Really. Still. Kind of laughingly. Without reverence. Which is okay.

She told me. He proposed on one knee. He said he would ruin his life if she said no, which she instantly did: it is ridiculous to hear, even now. It is ridiculous that he would say such a thing: this is my judgment. He never threatened me, though. I never knew his intentions until recently. He told her what he would do to me. He was afraid of me. I grew smarter, I think, the unbittered paste of betrayal laid and somehow instructive. He still is, I think. He is still afraid of me.

I did not become bitter.

I am not bitter.

Sulzer is in prison for embezzlement or something and, I have heard from Trina, steeped in an easy rhetoric of blame: he is not so criminal. He will be free soon, and is already sending word of my death, which I eagerly receive: I have too much language already. Do not let me mislead you. But I think I am included in it, this blame, maybe, crucially, perhaps, for not taking a more commanding role in his life. I am sorry, but I make no apology. I cannot take responsibility for him. I have left out so much! Nevertheless, I proved, in some way at least, to be the stronger one, the one more capable of slapping language on the unimaginable and hacking my way out of the traps. But it was nice of him, you know-I still think this-receiving another boy's first, when there was no law or custom or tenet of politeness to require this of him, or known Western tradition of such. I will always cherish him though, or, at minimum, more or less accurately, I think, remember-for a while, at least, a little while longer-but might avoid him if I saw him walking toward me, for a while at least. I have not seen him for some nine years (and that was accidental, in London, he was with a girl that looked inbred or retarded or maybe just gummish and underlipped and silly-but nice: this is a different story), the same amount of time I have deprived myself of berries. He was nice to me. I think he is far enough away now to do me no further harm. For now. It is safe to say he is a lifelong curse. Or blessing. This is silly of me. Theology is silly of me.

Just know that I was not involved with her in any significant sense. I was not interested. I was not capable. It was accidental, greedy, short-lived. I had my own wicked, forgivable-unforgivable motives.

He never told me.

Sulzer's father is long dead. Sulzer, I heard, missed his burial for a last-minute trip to Winnipeg. A girl with one eye or something. Or a limp. The man his mother ran off with-I have heard this, too-has lost his mustache, for a more acceptable style. It has been said that she has done her fair share to grow her own, which is fine by me. She did not attend, I have heard, either. He died, I guess, alone. Only tonight I was told I look blissful.

And otherwise? I use my hands for what I need, no assistants, and brace myself for the crush of some unbidden gust of memory. I am hard. Hardish. I am soft-okay. I wonder, too, with increasing frequency, if I will die before I have had time to put all my things in order, which things are significant. What are referred to as gaps, I have left many, here and elsewhere. Even with so much high regard for myself, I can't continue to pretend not to see what is happening around me-what is happening directly to me. I expected, I still expect, to have a great life, to die unexpectedly.

For God's sake, I did not know such horrific things could be witnessed by me, that I would have to take responsibility for a single decision, that I would grow acceleratedly old at the smallest calibration of space and time-that the ungraspable abstractions, refused, would vanish. By comparison, Sulzer's brutish unkindnesses were slight; and I would do almost anything to relive them in lieu: I was fine, if you will excuse this, in a fine way. I was vibrant, differently. I can say this now, without regard for truth.

Please, if you can find it in you, understand this much of what I have said, what I am trying to make plain to you: I will always be stultified by these and other matters, here and elsewhere, by definitions of time, by human time, by all category, and surely by my love for Sulzer-or his influence. Please understand that it was she who initiated things, and that she never told me, either. Please understand this, too, that I consider myself to be a good person, a decent person. I tried to resist, really. Initially, at least. But it overtook me. My body is weak, maybe, touchable and fairly willing. I notice things differently now. I am priming myself. He will quiver, a bit, at the beginning, and near the finish. I might not cry. But I am primed. I am waiting. My fingers are limber. I wonder if it was hers, if she had hidden the attachment herself. This has so little to do with it. I have forgotten so much. It is spring. I am older. Trina isn't listening. Come, Sulzer. Sulzer will be coming soon.

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