Monday, September 26, 2011

I Will Always Love You excerpt by Victor J Banis

In Victor J Banis' I Will Always love You, sometimes the path of true love takes you straight to where you want to go. And sometimes it doesn't. Then it rambles and twists until you're hopelessly lost, and you just know you're never going to get there...and, one day, you look into a pair of eyes, you hear a voice, and you know you've come home.

I Will Always Love You
MLR Press (August, 2011)
ISBN# 978-1-60820-430-4


I have always felt like I was married to Bill. Which, really, is a nutty thing to say, considering that, when I ran into him at the class reunion, I hadn’t seen him for almost twenty years. And, even back then, even when we saw each other every day, we never talked. Not about us, about our relationship, whatever exactly it was. Love was never mentioned. For sure we never talked about marriage, not ours, anyway, him and me together. In those days, that idea wasn’t in currency. Even in my own mind, I wouldn’t have put it in quite those words. I sure wouldn’t have said them aloud.

We didn’t even ever talk about the sex, for Pete’s sake, and there was a lot of that. A serious lot of it. Blowing one another in sleeping bags in the noisy privacy of tents, or in the bedroom he shared with his brother, taking great care with the creaky springs. Or, depending upon who slept over, in the greater freedom of my quieter bed. My fucking him in the damp summer grass in the back yard with the crickets cheering us on and the old barn owl shocked into exclamation. Best of all, at night on the gritty shore by the brown-green creek where we’d go skinny dipping, his dick tasting of muddy water. He’d lie with his legs wide, staring up at the sky. Sometimes, especially when he was close to coming, he’d clench my head in his thighs while I nursed in Edenic bliss, my tongue lapping in synch with the gentle murmur of the nearby water.

We did it all lustily and, at least on my part, happily. And often enough, surely, which is to say every chance we got. But never a word was spoken. Not before. No, “Would you like to…?” And not during, and not after either.

Which at the time did not seem peculiar to me, but later, as I got older and had other experiences, I thought of it not so much as odd, but as wasted opportunities. Because I would like to have told him how I felt about him. I’d like to have heard how he felt about me. What a difference if might have made.

But, no, nothing. The sounds of love, but never the words. When you’re young and a guy, words are the least of it. Dicks are important, maybe the most important of all. Nuts count too. Jism counts. Words…words come later, and they’re not always the right words. Whoever says what they really meant to say? It’s a twisted road from brain to tongue, isn’t it? We got lost on the way.

Bill was my high school friend. The first real one I’d ever had, and from the first time he smiled at me and fell in step with me in the school hallway, I was in love. I was the school nerd, the sissy who was always last to be picked for the softball games at gym time. Bill was no star athlete, but he could hit the damned ball, at least, which was more than I ever managed. Swinging mightily, while the ball sailed somewhere else, and the guys smirked or outright guffawed.

Everyone except Bill, who just gave me a commiserating smile and, later, the two of us alone, pushed me back on the sandy shore and took his turn sucking me off, sucked the softball poison right out of me, like draining a wound. He must have taken flak for hanging around with me. On his own, he could have passed as just another one of the guys. Strolling around school with me had to mark him too, but he never said anything about it, and I never asked. Another non-subject.

And, here is a funny thing about all this. No matter how often the sex, no matter how hot, it somehow still remained innocent. Maybe that was why we never talked about it. Maybe the only words we could have come up with were dirty ones that would have spoiled everything forever. It was like, it wasn’t so much sex as it was that we were expressing our affinity for one another, our essential oneness.

Talking about it would have made it into sex. I think I knew instinctively when Bill sucked me off, did it without any hesitation or clumsiness, like he’d been doing it since the cradle, although I was his first, his only, I think I knew from the start that Bill could handle all the rest of it, just not that. Just not turning it into sex. Maybe he was more Greek than I had imagined, thinking of it as friendship and not love. Platonic.

I asked him one time, “Do you read Plato?” Thinking that was the explanation, that somehow he’d stumbled upon the Symposium, but he only blinked at me and said, “That dog in the cartoons?”

Bill wasn’t dumb, but he wasn’t a brain, either. Smart enough, but not much of a reader. I was the brain. He was the good looking one, not cigarette ad or movie poster handsome, just as in he looked good. His eyes were beautiful, with lashes so long he could have swept sidewalks with them. For sure, they swept me off my feet, all it took was one glance from him, and I melted, total ice cube in August sindrome. His mouth was too full to be classically handsome, but it was soft and sweet on my cock.

I wondered many times what it would be like to kiss his mouth, dreamed of it in glorious Technicolor and stereophonic sound, but I never quite got up the courage to try it. I settled for his cock. That was soft and sweet too, and always, always ready to go. Kissing was like talking, it would almost certainly bring another dimension into it. I waited for him to bring that up. He never did. That was okay. I had that beautiful cock for compensation. I kissed it with my lips, and sometimes it seemed to kiss me back. Long after I’d lost the use of it, I dreamed of it nightly. Cinerama. Three D. Smell-O-Vision. They knew how to make movies in those days, but the films that showed on their screens were nothing compared to the ones that ran nightly in the theater of my imagination.

§ § §

But, then, I’d never considered the possibility of losing the use of it, not when it was so readily there for me. It went on like that through high school, and for a while after we had graduated,going to the prom in one another’s company, but without dates. During all those years, neither of us had ever really dated, at least not anyone but one another. To be sure, sometimes we shared the company of girls, made up foursomes even, but there were no illusion on anyone’s part. Bill sat in the front with one girl, and I in the back with another, but the girls seemed to know that they were there as friends, and maybe window dressing. They expected nothing more from either of us but a free night out—a movie, greasy burgers and creamy malts at the Reddi-Go, and a goodnight peck at the end of the evening. And Bill and I were off to bigger and better things. Meatier than the burgers. Creamier than the malts, too.

In school, though, we saw one another every day. After graduation, less often. I could list plenty of reasons why that should be so. I had taken a job a few miles away. We still got together, but not as often, and not always for doing the deed. I lived for a while in a rooming house, no guests permitted. He shared a place with roommates. Sex wasn’t always so easy to arrange. Lots of times, we ate together, or had coffee and people watched or went to a movie. That was okay. I was happy just to be with him.

Once, at the movies, I slipped my hand across and he took it in his and held it for a long time before relinquishing it. I didn’t want it back. He could have severed the fingers from the hand and tucked them into his pocket if he’d liked, but that seemed not to occur to him. Who’d ever have imagined that holding hands in a darkened movie theater could be so intensely erotic? My hand felt useless for the rest of the night, like a wasted appendage. What good was it, if he didn’t want it? It was my left hand. I didn’t use it for days, and when I saw it, I looked at it as if it had been guilty of some criminal neglect. Oh, traitorous fingers, that couldn’t seduce the man into holding on to you.

(fast forward. Bill marries. The lovers drift apart)

They had me to dinner one night, Bill and Terrie. He was right, she was shy. Plus, she had a way of looking at me. I’d be talking with Bill—she had little to say, at least when I was around—and I’d turn my head to find her staring at me in…not exactly a hostile way, more the way you’d look at some strange flying creature: What a beautiful moth. Will it eat holes in my things, do I suppose, if I let it stay, or should I stamp it out now?

I wondered if he had told her about us. But no, surely not. He’d never told us about us, I couldn’t imagine his telling a stranger, just because he’d married her. Still, I had a notion she’d guessed. Maybe I was obvious. I looked at him the way I’d always looked at him. The only way I knew to look at him. How hard could that have been for anyone to read? Anyone short of a lobotomy, I mean.

Maddeningly, I thought he looked at me the same way too. So why were we sitting at this table with this strange young woman looking sideways at both of us, surely knowing exactly what our looks meant, and that they weren’t for her. Because she couldn’t have been that innocent. No one this side of Bo Peep could have been. She must have known she’d lost more than her sheep. But I wasn’t the one who found them. I wasn’t getting the wool either. Someone else must have been to blame. I never did trust Mother Goose. Living in a shoe—it was bound to warp your thinking,
wasn’t it?

It wasn’t a successful night. Despite the light in our eyes, he and I were awkward with one another. She might almost not have been there. Except that she was, a presence not to be ignored. The more she tried to fade into the background, and I could see that she did try, the more prominent she became.

I didn’t go again. They didn’t ask me, either. Well, she wouldn’t have been that foolish, and he was married to her. You did owe something to the one you married. Although he’d cancelled our debt easily enough, it seemed to me.

I thought that he and I were done. I still loved him, of course. How can you turn something like that off? It was simply time I got on with my life, and I tried. But even when I began to experience other guys, in some part of my mind, I still thought of myself as Bill’s.

I never reasoned any of this out, mind you. It was just how I saw things. I hadn’t realized then that I’d never really love anybody else. When we’re young, we give our love so recklessly, mistakenly thinking that we’ll always have more of it to give, never imagining that the supply is limited.

I “experienced” a great many guys as the years passed. Lots of one night stands, anonymous link-ups. Sometimes I’d repeat, date someone a time or two or three. Nothing more than that. Once somebody, I don’t even remember his name now, told me he was in love with me. The point of the conversation, though I was slow to get it, was that he wanted to settle in together.

“I’m married,” I told him, blurting it out without thinking. How could I settle in with someone else when Bill was still there? Maybe not in the room with me, by this time he hadn’t been for a number of years, but he was still there where it mattered, where I’d never be able to make room for anybody else. I knew that by now. “I guess I should have told you upfront.”

“Yes, you should have,” he said, annoyed. That was the last I saw of him. It didn’t matter. There were plenty of others, and he signified no more than any of them. Which is to say, not at all. I gave them all generously of what I had to give, but of heart I had none to share. I’d given that away long before. By a muddy creek.
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Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Nothing like wedded bliss...well, maybe...

Kimberly Gardner said...

I loved this excerpt. In fact going to buy the story right now so I can read the rest.

C. Zampa said...


What a flash of memory, of youth, so earthy and natural and beautiful. And sexy.

That's Victor. Nobody does it better.

Victor J Banis said...

Thanks, all, for the nice comments. I confess, this one is rather personal with me - as probably you could guess.

Jardonn Smith said...

The moth analogy is perfect. I've taken that look many times myself. Never quite knew how to describe it until now. Good job, Victor.

AlanChinWriter said...

Beautifully written, Victor, and very moving. I've seen an example of this kind of love. My father died twenty years ago, and in my mother's eyes, they are still married, still a couple. She has never dated another, never even mentioned another. It is a rare thing now days to give so totally of yourself, and even rarer to be able to capture that in words. You, however, managed to capture it perfectly. Bravo!!