Such A Sweet Meat

Greg Gerke


There was no way to pretend to like the man he had become so George went to a psychologist, a recommended shrink, and she set him straight, mothering without touching, tethering without abandoning—she told him about five-year-old George and how it was time to hold him when no one else would, smooth out his hard back with delicate touch, but in a metaphorical way George, don’t start touching yourself, fashion warmth imaginatively, see the spirit if need be, be in a bubble, have it bright, bless yourself, imagine that your penis doesn’t matter but don’t emasculate yourself, your penis is not your problem, though it is, a little, but it’s more my problem, our problem, and we only do certain work at certain times, make friends with little George, I’m serious, think bright, white if need be, but don’t think about the racial problems, don’t worry about mass incarceration, and don’t ever think your substitute dream mother cannot be a woman of color, some vivacious Latina with rounded mounds you cuddle up on, or a beautiful African-American woman: tall, proud, and supple, perhaps an Asian den mother—she’s superstrict but supersmart—and you will be too and undoubtedly your life will be a successful one, but we are getting ahead of ourselves, and she buttoned her lime parasol because it had stopped raining and they shouldn’t have been talking on the street anyway, with HIPAA regulations, with a sky the color of bruised peach, and the grave possibility that such a sweetmeat of words might bind them together on an inappropriate sociological level, one didn’t need to get to know one’s shrink, even if titillating, even if elle s’appelle Raven, even if she knew why and how hard his hurt.

George gathered what was necessary and went back to work but almost immediately stopped because the prospect of her, analyst Raven, recommended Raven, was too much and he sat down in a chair he had found in the street, a chair in his house now but once on the street and before that another house, it sat and smelled like street, not a Brooklyn street, but the streets of childhood, those unfriendly avenues he had to cross in order to get home to safety after school, escaping play areas and playing kids—the haggling, the screams—and spiraling to his blue-walled room to play overlord with the big boxy toys he owned. He wanted to be five and hold little George, but he could only get to nine or maybe eight, his philosophy already bizarre in those blinkered years. And there he was. Little George had cut himself on a torn Lego and looked to the sky in disgust, cursing two little white clouds up there, calling them cloud shits and someone heard him. A strange woman, tall but small—his definition of thin—an angular woman with fingers that could hurt him, a morose woman from one of the haunting paintings he’d seen in the big museum. Blond hair in a bun, long neck—his definition of scary—a ring but no husband, a taste for beauty, but carrying an eternal facial frown. What if this babushka had been his mother or a babushka literally, strange because she took him for someone else, or wished he were someone else or wished she’d kept the one she once bore, but she didn’t know cloud shits from horse shits, she was confused by English grammar, and surprisingly, English swears, but he couldn’t understand why this viper would be in his hair when he pushed Legos to their breaking point—she was foreign, she wasn’t anybody’s friend, how could she be when she was wearing the essence of melancholia?

But home he wasn’t, was in a store, was in a waiting area, while his true mother shopped and shouted, angry for the crime of them being sold out of Shake’N Bake, and what now could she press on that fatty flesh to make moist and delectable in a most patriotic way for Memorial Day? One strange bird was enough, but two? And his mother clove to the fringes of the megaplex, eager for her child to hear her litanies and create a mess in his head so he’d be prepared to accept the mess of her own. And the babushka? She smelled like mothballs. She sat near the pharmacy, but she didn’t have medication, and seemingly was there only to make sure others did—the role fit her fundamentally as everyone else, mutants all, she had to endure. No wonder the crooked face—if you had no one to love your face would be twisted steel too. She kept her purse tight, holding it above the heat of her lap, the hot all around the two openings not her mouth. Fuck you, she smelled like herself, she knew it, she brewed it, she didn’t need any lessons in manner, she needed to touch male shoulder blades, kiss the freckled skin containing them, and shout all her sins into his back. Bend to keep her pity, bend to drain and unchain the circles surrounding her aqua eyes so she wasn’t marked as a décolletage of putty, a cartoonish face of modern art—she was human!—a mother spat from an empurpled vagina with a string, she heard Bach and liked it, the smell of flowers made her sick, but she’d laughed at the postman’s terrible jokes—sainthood somewhere on her person.

What kind of mother, she thought, and rubbed her hard nose on a shred of hard tissue and the tissue broke, cheap American . . . mother leaves, the boy doesn’t know, the boy has nothing—well, be a mother like that you vile duct, you muck of shit, I’m not watching him, I have too much to do, I am not welfare, I have my mother my own, a woman who blind was kept alive by the voice of her only living daughter, or the only living daughter that counted—the other two having gone back to the home country, keeping their doors shut to visitors. A blind mother, but she didn’t miss anything—she heard her daughters' thoughts like they were piped in, and getting stuck on an imagined woman and not himself, George judged his exercise in loving little George did not have the guts to work and he felt the underside of that chair—some old staples, gum like malachite—and tried to get back to cloud shits, but that first woman, tall but small, but not her blind mama, stared straight at him, and he cried to be cut by his friend the Lego, the only thing he could control, the most colorful piece of happiness in his house, such a major massive letdown, they’d childproof his ass and take it to Milton Bradley, or if he’d had some cash of his own he’d point the finger, he’d jiggle a lawyer’s ear, make a case for Washington, do something with his life, find a bright hotel and forgo fantasy, grow up and start taking more of everybody’s money like he had been taught, and he looked at that strange woman, her bloodless eyes, and figured she had nothing interesting to say except wild language that sounded like an old Bible in backwards-looking letters. Who was she? Bella the thin? but his fucking finger, it hurt.

Something wept inside, but he knew qua Raven he was to be the comforter and not latch on, especially to a frenzied, childless, anal, but fraught with unending energy Eastern European with a heavy handbag. His life might never be the same and they might pluck him out of his own crazy house and into a controlled home, where they only ate potatoes, and his insides would shrivel, maybe the other thing too. He knew the woman he wanted wouldn’t care how big or small he was, but there were women who did and he might meet them along the way to the other woman, this real woman, with the class not to judge a man by his rod and who probably didn’t lie about her life or lust, self-starter or surprise orgasms, she was the true, and the others, including that sad sack from the sandwich shop who would say he was a taller Jackson Browne, she thought his thing would be big too, and that because of his muscles, well no more sandwiches—how could he feed those muscles now? and his life turned from one scenario in order to shit itself silly on another. Raven, you beautiful big brain, how can I love little George without more help and guidance? Where the pledge, where the assist? So he started to do it, to comfort his phantom, and at first he was only groping little Lego boy, piloting his soul to spin hard away from emotional ties to his mother, their frail relationship obviated by shopping, though inclusive of coupons, nurturing a supreme act of transference, because when you buy you get and when getting you can give, but what can be given without purchase? and his eight-year-old eyes steamed up and a dynamo of despair overcame him, the body falling out of a chute into a chilly pool because though still linked to his mother by aurality and the invisible cord one sees mama duck pulling baby ducks with, he began to eat his mother, biting and chewing as nonchalantly as an eight-year-old little George could muster. It didn’t taste like flesh or hamburger or hot dog, it tasted like work, like having to do something he didn’t want to do, like the dishes, but that was an older George, eight-year-old George did not squeeze Joy to wipe plates with a blue country cottage emblazoned in the middle, and he didn’t tongue on a certain part of her body, D cup didn’t register, mother was a blob, no eyes, no toes, no yoni, a blob of soft kraut but sans salt—she smacked of communion wafer and the blob she was easily came apart in his hands and he stood holding those pinked parts in the left and right and Bella made her mouth small. She caught what was going on, or she pretended to know and judged that she should probably do the same for her itzy-bitzy eight-year-old Bella before death kicked her off the planet. George spat out some of his creator because it didn’t go down, couldn’t get there, and he looked to the aisles of the store in search of wine and magically some old man in a dumpy gray train conductor’s hat brought him a mildly cool Chardonnay and little George said,  Thank you, and the old man said, I hope you aren’t thinking of leaving us anytime soon, and little George looked at Bella to be able to reproduce her patented small mouth for the elder and he did and the Chardonnay went down and made parts of the blob easier to gulp, yet his mother still called from the bowels of the store, some sale and what was his size now that he had read Hegel and had multi women of color sit on his face, and he tried to eat faster but soon tired and separated himself from the blob in order to find a resonance in his outer life, a matching fund, a grand make-a-wish that could help diminutive George—some scene, some emotion, something not staged—but that life was empty, underfunded, no hope, never, and he quickly paddled away from asshole George in hopes of the cad who could stand to change and he found glimmering George, a man made of vine, but someone who had been worked on without his knowing, a daguerreotype of his most cherished misery, another generation George, the one who helped old ladies with their groceries, the one who donated to the earthquake relief funds, the one able to use importunate in a sentence—a being in vine who had been there all the time, apparently an outgrowth by yet an understory—the man, though once a child, who had heard everything he had to but heard with an eye to the bare base of living—he’d heard his drunken confession to a coloring book a friend had given him as a birthday joke, the confession that began with, I’m olive today, a sentence that still made little sense and even less because he cared little for poetry and all its involutions and didn’t distinguish between a need for language and specialty language, if the latter less would listen anyway, and he then continued, I want to tell the world something so important I might need to go into hiding after I do so, and George even at this, felt constrained, though feeling the glossy cover of the space kids coloring book, felt he wasn’t getting where he had to go, his life a series of such powder-puff pronouncements, and because he had no money nobody listened, not even him, and he cried to the coloring book that it was not fair, that he had done all he could to please people, that he had gone out of his way for those who couldn’t be bothered to be grateful, but a little voice told him that was not their concern, if you went around Americanized, expecting to get when you gave you followed the fool’s recipe to perfection—you’d get medication, sympathy from those who sickened you, and a Christmas card from a dentist, but you’d doom yourself and go dopey for more, better attention, and he said, Suck my cock little voice, because that little voice often resembled the pitch perfect pronunciation of a woman born in Britannia and because she probably worked for the BBC, he knew she was right about him, about society, and the coloring book was crumpled and tossed into the recycling bin before he temporarily rescued it and added it to the trash, burying it with banana peels, coffee grounds, and onion skins—oh shitbags! that poor coloring book and he wept for what he’d done to the uninnocent, and he saw what he was doing, in the mind of his forked imagination with every chapter a diversion, he saw he had pulled himself away from the words that meant the most, pulled and fussed to throw him off the path and he developed instant hiccups because he felt gross and miserly, a wastoid disguised as a wastrel, something incompatible with compassion, and he began to beat at the parts that bled him for their pleasure, sacking his species for all it was worth, so his skills would crust, any joy freefalling like a fly after being bashed by a swatter. Something indigo to his fortunes remained, something snide and he searched his discrepancies for the golden bowl, went through the world and the telling, hoping to bring the doctrine back, the smooth union that still made him so uneasy and darkheaded he growled under invisible chains and he floated briefly, not a limb useful, and came back to the dirty ground and ran his fingers in and found the familiar negation not—and certainly that it was, always would be, but needed the next, the pure participle to complete the ugly that was so essential, Not fare?—no, try again, Not fair?—um, could it be the place with people, games, and fun—might be called country but happened in the city with sewers in the street, men stinking from sleeping on cement and so, it took country fair to take him to not fair and all the searching brought his emotional indicators to display TILT and he again was lost and on his way to inconsolable when a hand born in the Ukraine took him out of the blank and closer to the cuts of land where he drew his heat, and she simpered, I know you boy, and this charged him to try and derail her by attacking the woman not his mother but Bella only held him tighter and this brought the coloring book back clean and in front of him, dimming herself from that alone night so he could do it again and meet his lower self, his pleasure with a dome, Mr. Understory, in the blue light, kiss him to create, and he looked toward that babushka never a babushka, found his form above the coloring book and began that it was Not fair, but he stopped and waited for help from babushka or BBC, but he only heard his mother far off, telling him to get ready, get ready quickly because they had to go and though he cursed her he obeyed and felt the Not fair in his pants, jacking him up and thought that really was too much, Mr. Understory had gone too far and he briefly tabulated his chances of psychosexual disorder, remembering all his decreases and diminishments on the way to hacking his penis back to its worm state, but it held high and harder than ever and Bella shook her head, saying, All you men, all the same.

As that tower of blood beat to the sum of the great tiny-titted Eastern European logic chopper, George held his arms out, palms up and picked into that sour sonofabitching Not fair, blurting he’d gone out of his way, though he probably didn’t have a way, for people, those that he saw everyday on street, those who made noise by laughing, crying, or farting, those he had made a choice to get to know better, brushing their hair with his hands though he’d never touch their souls—these people had given him something and he wanted to give to them and not just count the gray hairs his hands might have touched or query on the snowflake qualities of their dandruff puffs, people were messy, that’s why they sweated soap, but he couldn’t just pull up short of coming in contact, they had hearts, thousands of nerves and billions of receptors for every English word depending on the shading of tone, the recombination with other words and the circumstance, and those were only the lazy uni-language people, and George said, When you told me you thought I was still blaming you for divorcing my mother when we were by that used car lot in Cincinnati with a quarter mouthful of ginger ale still rinsing your nut-brown teeth in a creepypeepy “I’m the coach of ten-year-old boys” voice, I felt flummoxed because though we lived in Cleveland we were in Cincinnati, I had just bought you a ginger ale, we were looking at used cars for the fun of it, I hadn’t said anything about the divorce in over six years, I had been going through a hard time in my life, few returning my calls, fewer smiling at me, just having sex with someone who may not have been my preferred gender, that rash still explicit above my right kidney, and though I was thirty-eight, still thought eating kidney beans made my kidneys grow, plus I had just said to myself, I really enjoy my father, he’s really come a long way and he’s not so painful to be around and if I’m blaming anybody for the divorce it’s me, and now that I’ve been reminded I would like to leave Cincinnati and Cleveland, buy a pint of ice cream and have it love me like I knew both of my parents never could—this bringing the pre-come, a coconut-colored goo of happiness, and though George believed hearts blackened, he still thought his parents could be scooped out of their sensorium and walked onto a different road, not to go a different way, but to find a more meaty solitude and he quickly checked his own beater by telling himself it was beautiful so it would crest and shoot good hard blood up to the brain—it did and he cried for understanding from Raven PHD, Bella, BBC, or mom, but only Mr. Understory could teen with confidence that he would cut off his most conspicuous pleasure and besides, sometimes when entering another from behind, every four wafts of air were vaguely shit-scented, being together being all about mess, and George saw that by romanticizing the cock he bypassed his brain, the money man of the relationship, the one that had to stay sane so he could have heat in the winter, eat good cheese and he talked tongue and how he had outfitted his maw with a slippery, spidery dionysiac pleasure producer—the tongue that didn’t move when he thought it moved when he opted to bury it hairy, and if he wasn’t bringing women close by promises he attuned himself to the stirrings of their spirits, but he had caromed well out of the territory, the special hold for a special little boy grown into a fop with a penchant for futzing, the titanium hand etching an ode to petite George helped not and he was sure his soul could swerve, his attitude could change if he was headed for what he thought he was headed for, as he remembered a college buddy who’d taught him deer stance from the sexual kung fu website, something about little and big draw, intakes of air, sweat swirling pubicly, the massage from the woman born in Dresden, her green eyes and the smear of happy on his face when the rolling of something more than endo- or octo-, of something more than agon or logos started to surface and beat his blood to open all its fists faster than lightspeed and the reason for living was hurled out of him and he witnessed it fly high and bright, as it surpassed Bella and his mother down aisle twelve, growing as it stretched into sky—his organ disattached and gruesome, sent away so he could come to something else, done in a hiccup but as damaging as a torpedo, his purposefulness less now, an angry shake and suddenly no sewage—what would Bella, BBC, or mom say about no juicy fruit in his future?

Bella tried to console him, giving him pink and green gumdrops to chew but he didn’t keel—Are you kidding me?—No, eat, eat to forget—I don’t want to forget, that thing has been my life for almost four decades—Get disability—I don’t want disability, I want a new one, bigger—and she threw the gumdrops at him and he caught one before his mother’s querulous and conflicted voice reached him from the registers—We need to go Georgey, get in the car please—and he skulked into the lot because he hadn’t gotten from this episode but only lost and nothing replaced, though could that be right? He was so angry his voice didn’t work, but his mind still sang and emptied its ugliness in case he would need to lose more, sending a sublime screed of complaint to his betters, the muck chuck of so many years wasted, anxieties sublimating anxieties . . . you wouldn’t be able to look at me for over five seconds if we were somewhere . . . the son’s tender words to . . . if I don’t entirely wash my face it’s not because . . . it’s not good if both people in a relationship are struggling financially . . . days when he would create disorder in order to avoid, the bag of cantaloupe incident, the uncommon crayon he always needed to finish the picture, who, except for you do I feel love, listen to your mother, because if they don’t often buy underwear and 6% of divorced children don’t—all these clanging, scudding in their particular folds to create a costume—an ensemble outfitted with negative doxology because when big George held little George there was extraordinary pain.

With nowhere to run, his face curled out of its indiscretion and shook itself out in front of Bella and though he didn’t confuse her with warmth she understood she might now have to furnish because she remained, and she let go her handbag to sustain something in him, and though she complained that the fucking woman was again the sacrificial figure in all this—they did all the work while the bedecked got all the good lines—he was penisless and in foggy need of something she didn’t know how to define but Freud did—he made it so by making it up—and she hated Freud because though everyone said his name nobody knew what shit he was talking about and all she understood was that holding George might be something coldly religious and again her own mother loomed until she gave George all she had and the ghost with no English about her died silently and unhappily.

Bella stepped with him a few steps and he looked around to see if his psychologist saw the hold. They were in a valley between two towers, and Raven didn’t wave to what happened to be them, but she wouldn’t, he reasoned, she would be reserved, even if he was crawling in mud, she’d want to see how he crawled, no, see what he sees—she couldn’t shade or give comfort to him. And though in that valley Bella held him, it was like he bolstered a dead person to show her off, saying, Look what I have to do, I have to give, my holding myself is helping other people, and he wished this could be pleasing, but he felt the mistake even as they ambled on with no ponds, meadows, or trees, all dirt—no edge to angle up to, quietly pleading to the doctor that being dehorned had arighted and set him to sight with pure eyes and he whispered to Bella—You know what I don’t miss? When I did it to myself . . . when I made love to myself. And why? I didn’t know myself well enough to be having sex with myself, I realize castration is the only viable form of affection for someone so afflicted—someone me—and Bella turned her nose up so it pointed at the far tower and he heard the psychologist say that something wasn’t working and that he needed to make a new appeal to himself, shiver if necessary, and suddenly after a pop, Bella was gone and he stood there blank, in disharmony, still mightily attracted to the hair of her, the brain of her who pushed him to expend. The horizon was bleak, BBC not forming any foundations, mom and Mr. Understory missing, and he pulled a cover over his front so the wind wouldn’t harm his opening. He didn’t know where to go, but this was what it meant to be, though the freedom of it fell flat. To be alone choked. He moved with a starving light, frightening his breath to make it something better than it had ever made itself. Now he was high over everything. To see what I see, he said.