Nonfiction by Jonathan May

Animal Mouths

Jon and Michael hallucinate in Michael’s room, which gyrates in its own bordello light. They touch each other’s skin, the color of television milk. Even through the drugs screaming their liquid way down his brain furrows, Jon sees that Michael is too thin. Even his nose is too thin. Michael wipes at it every few minutes. He wants to do more cocaine, but that makes Jon feel hot and bored. Jon saw Michael on the scale earlier: 120 pounds. They’ve been in Michael’s room for hours.

*

Neither has any idea when they took the acid. They didn’t have much to split, so Jon put it all on his tongue and started to eat Michael out until both of them were sweating and spermatic and laughing, their eyes the wide spectrum of diamond light. They both feel beautiful.

*

The television is silent, but the animal kingdom show always plays when Jon comes over this late. They bathe in the light of twisting whales, midway above water; they thrash about on the bed and make whale noises to each other. Snow falls in the tiny glimpse of window. They nuzzle in the deep silence. I hate the animal noises, says Michael, his voice green and echoing. Jon doesn’t know what to say, so he inches even closer into Michael’s thin scythe and waits for the ribcage to even out its rhythm against his back.

*

Michael’s lost fifteen pounds since he started using a lot. No one can tell except Jon and Michael’s girlfriend Danielle, who both peel off his ordinary high-school layers and lap at his inmated body, his thick penis, his dank licorice curls.

*

Danielle and Jon sit together in Government fifth-period. They touch each other’s hands and kiss hello, European-style, but that is as far as it goes. Their teacher’s name is Mrs. Krebs. Krebs mean cancer in German, says Jon. Fat cancer bitch, says Danielle.

*

Jon hasn’t told Danielle that he and Michael take turns inserting into the other.

He knows that she knows. Doesn’t Michael have the greenest eyes? she asks.

They’re brown, Jon says. She looks at him for a long time before laughing; after school, she grabs his face and spits into his open mouth and licks her pink-brown lips.

He’s so skinny, she whispers. Jon breathes into her face, not even thinking about his breath. Isn’t he so skinny?

*

Michael wears one of his twenty different Superman shirts every day. Each one radiates the same big logo in a different color; one of them is even tie-dyed. Michael hands Jon a bag full of little yellow pills. They’re Percocet, he says. Don’t take too many at once.  Jon nods and touches him on the elbow. Michael walks away, towards the kitchen, and throws three of the pills into his mouth. He pours Jon a glass of water.

*

Jon hasn’t been taking drugs for very long now. He met Michael through school. They got high after school and listened to Fela Kuti or something until Jon’s mother called, because she worried about his new friends. Jon wanted her to understand; these guys weren’t “dopeheads,” they were musicians and artists and a whole litany of bright words that shone down each suburban avenue, kicking against the goads of this new life Jon lived.

*

Jon attends the university in the Fall. The day Michael shoots himself in the face, Jon’s friend calls and tells him the news. Jon falls down on the sidewalk at the university. He screams and clutches his cellular phone. Michael’s voice echoes green in Jon’s shaking head. Two girls with monogrammed backpacks rush over and ask what’s wrong. It is Fall; everything burns in a waxy orange haze.

*

Michael throws a party for high-school graduation. Everyone is wonderful teeth, music, drinking. Jon, Michael, and Danielle get high in Michael’s room and blow a little cocaine off a mirror; they use a straw because they’re worried where all of the dollar bills have been. The television rages in silence. Lemurs float in an invisible green mirage along the walls; the snorting and the thumping of music from downstairs form no recognizable pattern when in tandem. Michael says he loves them both very much. He weighs 110 pounds. Both of them say the same thing back, knowing it is easier to say it in response. Their blushing is hidden by the warbling waves of light. He kisses Danielle on the mouth, and then Jon. This is as far as it goes.

*

The three of them stay in the same city for freshmen year of college. Danielle and Michael break up. They don’t stop seeing each other some nights; they get fucked up and have sex for hours in a lazy cave of love. Two weeks after the fact, Michael calls Jon, and tells him to meet in the park. He leads Jon into the woods behind the baseball diamonds, where he asks Jon to suck him off. Michael has gotten even thinner; his hips create a beautiful white valley. He comes inside Jon’s mouth, and both of their hearts shine for one brief second. Michael kisses him on the mouth. He’s crying. They walk back to their cars and drive home in opposite directions.

*

Michael shoots himself in a chair set up in the middle of his parent’s living-room. The police find near-lethal amounts of cocaine in his system.

*

Years before, Jon asks Michael about the Superman shirts. They were, after all, only part of a vast Superman collection. Nothing can beat Clark Kent, he said. Kent is the man who gets it all, a normal life and a super life. Leopards stalk across the dusty veldt; it is so very hot. Don’t you want a super life? A hidden life? Termites build a brown mound to God.

*

Two years after the funeral, Jon and Danielle run into each other at a pizza restaurant. They exchange new numbers. Danielle is with her new boyfriend; she looks very happy. Jon carries a pizza in hand, on his way back home; his right arm feels warm and moist beneath the box. They pick a date out of the air for lunch and go their separate ways. Neither calls.

*

Jon and Michael sit in Michael’s room, glowing with jungle light. They touch each other’s thighs; they’re getting high while Michael’s parents sleep downstairs. Michael asks Jon to suck him off because he does it so well; he’s coked to his pale gills.

Jon blows Michael for a while, but his lips start to feel all puffy and red. Michael can’t come because of all the cocaine in his system. Jon stops, and Michael nods to him. The white around his eyes shine like an inverted night sky. Jon, who isn’t doing cocaine tonight, falls asleep in Michael’s bony lap. Both of them are naked; their swimsuits hang wet off a chair. Birds caw in a noiseless void of leaves. Whole nations of plumage alight in the canopy, hoping to mate. Michael raises Jon’s head and scoots out from beneath him. As he gets up from the bed, his foot lands on the remote control. The whole screaming July rainforest fills the room, full volume. Jon startles awake and fumbles for the remote. Michael cries, sitting on the toilet. The gentle hush of porcelain glistens around him.

 

Jonathan May grew up in Zimbabwe as the child of missionaries. He lives and teaches in Memphis, TN. His work has appeared in [PANK], Superstition Review, Plots With Guns, Shark Reef, Duende, One, and Rock & Sling. He’s recently finished translating the play Dreams by Günter Eich into English. Read more at http://memphisjon.wordpress.com/