Some asses were built by the devil just to haunt you. Aoudad, named after the Barbary sheep that roamed his oil-wealthy family’s vast ranch along with a gallery of other exotic imported game they’d hunt, was keeper of the fundamental rump that left an indelible dent from whose negative slant of flesh I’d choose my future fucks. It wasn’t long after I met him, and it might have been before or even at the same time we were introduced, that I saw Aoudad’s bare soft divided push of orbs jiggle solid and pale in front of a locker row’s glossy red grates still tacky from the multimillion dollar renovation his father funded for the school’s football program, himself a former pro turned petroleum lord who had framed movie posters signed by celebrities in his mansion in the hills behind gates with the neighborhood name on them—an obscene degree of memorabilia shelved and locked on display behind sliding plate glass with signs that all had the same illustration on them of a hand holding a revolver pointed at its viewer that read: ain’t nothing I got is worth your life.
No, it was all worth much more than my life, I’d think during team dinners hosted there, even though what the sign meant was if I took anything he’d shoot me, that none of his macho pop culture relics were as valuable as the life I’d lose for stealing one of them, a pair of gloves signed by the famous actor who wore them in the movie about a boxer, to name one. I routinely purloined cash from a box of end-of-day register till envelopes on a shelf high in the bathroom in the back of the pool chemical store where I worked, but I wouldn’t dare swipe these tokens of a dominant life. Aoudad’s butt was a shelf on which rested a priceless collectible, an object of infinite agony I’d die for even thinking about tickling past the fluid screen of his loving family, his rich daddy’s guns. To reach the part of his body I wanted most, I would have to dig an underground tunnel, come crumbling up through the Sicilian tiles in his kitchen’s bountiful pantry, pad by his father’s private museum of opulent bro-kitsch, past the various rooms with sole purposes—the video game room, the pool table room—up the tall stairs, down the long hall, into his room, where there the plump bulk of it lay, its hard outline faintly perceptible in the dark like my own thief shape. I would have to dig a different manner of tunnel. I began to orbit him online.
The advent of social media coincided with my finding masturbation as one finds religion. I enacted the sequestered fervor devoutly, hourly upon myself, often with encouragement from the computer, though casual scenes from the locker room had already seized my imagination with ample carnal vibrancy to sustain my efforts. Even boys I presumed straight I saw glimpse Aoudad’s prize while he changed and showered—it was that grade of marvel, an exceptional chunk of anatomy at which the butchest would gasp. I anticipated and planned my assward glances during those brief windows when the buoy surfaced in full from underneath the fabric, a sun hovering above—squeezed by to bulge—an elastic horizon, the red mesh shorts we all wore. It granted me the eyes of a cannibal. Aoudad must’ve known, been self-conscious of, its vulgar magnetism.
He was a year below me in school but we were the same age. I was young for a sophomore and he was old for a freshman when he first entered the JV locker room the spring off-season of that year. The coaches were preparing him along with other precocious freshman to play on varsity his sophomore year. He was the youngest of four brothers who’d all played football at East River, some of them going on to play in college, so he was a legacy there, the road already paved before him. I wouldn’t make varsity until my senior year, which was standard, the status you earned after two years of pretending for the varsity team to be the opposing team they’d play that week, a duty called “scout team” where you “gave them a good look” of what they were to expect. During the period of the spring of my sophomore year to the spring of my junior year, I had very little contact with Aoudad, only speaking with him for reasons I’d half-fabricated, like asking to borrow his cell phone while waiting for rides in the parking lot after practice. I didn’t have a cell phone, yes, but I didn’t have to borrow his. I just watched him. It wasn’t until the spring off-season of my junior year that we had no choice but to interact, being teammates and in the same locker room again.
Spring training involved a lot of lifting in the new weight room, of which Aoudad’s father, Deets Ballast, paid for a large portion. Aoudad and I played different positions—he, a back, and I, a lineman—so I never got to spot him as he lifted, which was for the best, because had I stood behind him as he squatted, which in silhouette was some odd and rigid pantomime of sodomy, I suspect I would’ve either collapsed or burst from lust. Coach G, the defensive coordinator, told the team at the outset of spring training that he’d be selecting groups of us to travel to and compete in powerlifting meets on weekends. We all had to do it once and, as if to test my resilience in the face of a perfect temptation, one that could decode my longing to the point of total organ prostration, Aoudad and I were put in a group together.
Aoudad seemed gay—it should be mentioned—to myself and others. The matter of his appetite was a prominent murmur. His personality and behavior made a penchant for men all but undeniable. He had a high, bright voice and made pals with girls, mauling and pawing them non-sexually and sisterlike in the common area in conspicuous view of puzzled boys. His backside formed a mound on which his backpack sat. The glut of musclefat protruded twofold from his spine’s end near-perpendicularly. The boys he hung around with also seemed to present as gay, if unknowingly, or immutably. I had no idea what they were up to among themselves, maybe nothing of imminent interest to me. I hadn’t heard much of anything from anybody other than the most basic-headed speculation that even a stranger such as I had already made. I moved in circles outside the primary ones if not wholly on my own. I wasn’t known for being a potential fag. I was known for being a weird person, a spaz, prone to outbursts, wild, crazed, hilarious at times, irritating at others, relentless, defective, puckish, moody, but not gay. Being bizarre was an armor, a camouflage, a diversion that, to me, just felt like living. That secret was nestled safely inside me like a slick, blind, baby eel.
But it’s not as simple as not telling anybody you’re gay. The “closet,” a phenomenal term unfortunately suitable in its domesticity, is a behavioral structure, a carefulness that prevents acting on unlearned desires. It’s something anybody can try to be inside of and anybody can try to assemble around anybody else. The closet is pretense. It’s not exclusive to sex. Its functional scope is as wide and varied as desire itself. Anybody can live, or be demanded to live by cultural necessity, pressure, or coercion, dishonestly. In a dishonest and hostile world, practical survival isn’t always an honest occupation. Often, it’s a flat out fraudulent racket. There are gay people who are out of gay closets, yet still confined to others. Some never have a chance to be in the closet, innately deprived of the option of that special lie, ripped from any inkling or scheme of one and punched young. Some feel, and rightly so given their thorny circumstances, that at least part-time concealment is the only maintainable choice. To live honestly in any given moment means to face whatever may thrash from the punitive power of the fearful, confounded, bureaucratic, surveilled and self-surveilling masses. This, however, is not a “coming out” story I’m telling you, a person who is no longer here, so that’s all I’ll say about that.
Sculpture: Willem de Kooning