Werner was younger then, 17, and always on the look-out. He had long been a walker, a flâneur, a seeker from an early, an earlier age. Although Weehawken, and Boulevard East where he lived, looked directly across the Hudson River to Manhattan, it was merely the outlands of urban adventure, a tame suburb with neat spacious houses down tree-lined side streets. Its big lure was its entry to the Lincoln Tunnel, under the Hudson, three tubes for traffic, directly into the Port Authority Terminal on 42nd Street, centre of the city. Board in Weehawken, alight on 42nd Street: a change of gear was required. One night, alone and bound for home from an evening with a girl in Manhattan, he missed the last bus through the tunnel. No pedestrian access to the tunnel. He waited several hours for the morning, without any harm: it is worth recording. He had an innate capacity for being alone and self-sufficient.
The Tunnel is like a thread of the subconscious, under the water, under the earth, the passage from the surface to the viscera, one could argue, though this story lightly challenges that.
One evening he went out in the early dark for a walk. This was a normal kind of thing for him, a walk for its own sake, a gaze through windows, a sizing-up of possibility. What possibility he did not quite know, though sex was always in his mind. But Weehawken was not New York City, or London; its potential for adventure was small. Once with a local girl down a silent street in the dark they had stopped by a tree for some mild petting and deep kissing. She was pressed up against a tree, enjoying herself, as he was enjoying himself, when a gentleman resident hastened down his driveway and arrived beside them to tell them to go somewhere else for their sex-show. Werner said, ‘We have nowhere else to go. You do this same thing inside your house, yes?’ The man threatened to call the cops. That is how it worked, and they were reminded, and away they went, their zest flattened.
So this evening walk was dull, just a loosening of the body, decompressing the mind. The attractions of Boulevard East to the family mind were not attractions to Werner’s mind. What was in his mind during his walk it is hard to say. The quiet emptiness of the place impressed him, not favourably. The loneliness of long evenings interested him as idleness suggests novelty to a restless mind . What did not come to mind was that eyes peering from apartment windows, or out of passing cars might have asked what a slim youth, a nice looking boy, of such an age, was doing walking somewhat aimlessly about in the dark, and maybe they should check their doors.
Then Werner saw his first non-driving person, a black man, standing still, leaning against a tree on the sidewalk of Boulevard East itself, within 100 yards of his own apartment block. He was lit up less by the streetlamps than by his stark white shirt which even at a distance contrasted dramatically with his skin colour. White long-sleeved shirt, dark trousers, dark black skin, leaning only slightly off the perpendicular and rather elegantly if one can lean so.
Werner experienced a qualm inside him. Things awakened in him that settled into agitation as he walked closer and closer towards him. As he did so he scrupulously avoided looking at the loiterer, went past him as if he was not there. The white and the black, nevertheless, etched a mark in Werner’s brain. A quality in the other’s stillness, his impudence, to stand there patiently in such luminousness, registered with him. He wished he had passed more slowly, or taken a better close-up gaze. So, further on, at an opportune moment, he found a way to reverse his route to reassess it.
This time he slowed down; took more of a saunter. Whiteness grew closer and lit up Werner’s brain, though now he was nervous, his powers concentrated. When he was close he looked directly at the man who, calm as a pond, looked directly back and fixed his focus unwaveringly on the boy, picking him out from all distractions. They might have nodded at each other; it seemed like it, recognition or acceptance. This was no man to tell him to go home or he’d call the cops. He said to Werner, at the moment of passing, confidentially, ‘Are you free?’
It was a trigger question, setting off a cascade of thoughts and feelings, all in the instant.
‘Do you wish to come for a drink? At my place. It’s nearby.’ Cultured slow speech, polite, detached, self-possessed.
His house pleased Werner: booklined sitting-room, pictures, bronzes, rugs, kept up by a housekeeper. And silent, muffled, like a place set apart. Werner sipped his beer while the man sat back in a fine chair and just looked at him.
‘You live nearby,’ he said. It was not a question. Werner thought he was going to ask how old he was. The man was twice his age, he guessed, fit and urbane. Werner wanted to know something about him but didn’t know how to go about it. This man did not encourage curiosity. Nevertheless, out of the silence, he said, ‘What do you want to do in your life?’ Werner thought he was already doing it, so a fuller answer was difficult. But he said a thing he had never said to anyone.
‘I want to be a writer.’ He said this because it was true, but also in the hope that the man would tell him that, oh, he himself happened to be one, what a coincidence, we can look into this.
The man just nodded his head, no conviction or interest, as if Werner had declared his favourite colour or that rain was in the air.
This man was not going to reveal or commit himself. Werner, the junior in this meeting, the less worldly, saw that his host was avoiding incriminating moves. It was evident to him, as if he was reading it, that this man, so white and black, so languid and superior, perceived Werner as jail bait, and was not going to make a move, just wait for the boy to make it.
So Werner, bold as a rent boy, said, ‘Do you want to give me a blowjob?’
‘Yes,’ was as far as he’d go, and he led his pickup into an immaculate bedroom and told him to lie down at the end of the bed, on the white sheet without a wrinkle, with his feet on the floor. Such is male sex.
Fellatio is the formal term for it, blowjob the common one. Werner did not have enough experience to separate the two into different styles of action. Afterwards he inclined to think that it was the formal that he received.
His fellator – he might have called him – went about his task with dignity and the skills of a professional. He knelt between Werner’s legs and took his penis deep into his mouth. Werner felt that he had lost possession of it and that he was entirely in the man’s control. His large hands travelled under Werner’s shirt almost to his throat to caress again and again his skin, with consuming relish, while he sucked and licked and fondled his cock, rendered hard almost to painfulness. He put all his concentration into it. Werner moved his leg so that he could feel the fellator’s cock against it, an urgent need that came over him as a surprise. Already he had felt the man’s starched shirt move over his legs and such fabrics Werner sought and found erotic, here more than erotic, and a dangerous stimulant to his orgasmic progress. Yet Werner was uncomfortable with the extent of control over himself that he suffered. At one point he moved against the flow of unity without effect in much the same way that the man had dismissed Werner’s comments earlier. Werner raised his head for a few moments to see the man working on him, saw the extent of the white shirt below him, felt the hands still stroking him urgently. It was as if he searched for something, a body search that wanted to find where Werner’s soul resided at such a time. He wanted to strip off a layer to bare Werner’s young soul and Werner himself did not know where his soul might be at such a time, in a hiding place or coming up to see what commotion was under way. Then, soon enough, Werner’s stressed body rose to its peak of sensitiveness, and while his hands roamed frenziedly the black man in the white shirt sucked the day’s supply of semen out of the boy’s slender body and into his mouth.
Before this act, while he walked Weehawken’s streets, his body primed, now relaxed, Werner had thought about August Kleinzahler, notable poet and a man of the streets himself, who had lived in the township. This knowledge teased him. He thought maybe he could meet him; he would know what advice to give. Even better, Werner would have heard how he talked, how his words worked face-to-face and he would have out-talked the terse fellator. Werner would have gone off with him eagerly too, to learn his art even above the art of the stripped bed.