What happened to those boys, who beamed, who smiled? Who joked. Those boys I rode down the blacktop with hanging out the back of a Chevy S10 tearing around corners throwing empty beer bottles at speed limit signs. The bottles connecting with violence, leaving the sound and fragments somewhere in the air by the side of the road. The small growl of the truck engine fractured the banality of the passing landscape—its green and white blur, its comforting heat, its split, rocky clay hills with the occasional cow or malnourished horse. What became of those boys from the back of trucks and living rooms scattered with bud light cans and a haze of smoke split with jibes and taunts and the circling narrative of things we had already done at 16. Of who busted someone’s eye last night. Where did those boys go, who felt the wind in their faces and thought it tasted good and desirable, who wanted nothing but motion and pleasure where everything around them had become still. Whose parents walked with a limp and whose grandparents were the stillest of all.
Who spread over the land and filled it with their chorus because the land was only for traveling through. But saw nothing they wanted in the comfort of this steady landscape that neither threatened nor challenged. The land that bore no sustenance and had been insufficient, even as it tied them. A small territory whose bony curves bound them not through passion but because she was all anyone knew. Whose worn looks allowed our boys to play at a prowess they had not yet earned. They knew each hill and rock where their back could land. Who thought this forgiving landscape was everywhere and in everything and would absorb and forgive their mistakes. But it was not. The familiar earth and body of its clay had emerged indifferent and treacherous in its quiet perfidy. Uncaring to how we meant no harm. The land’s slide into autumn when the grasses turn to brown and the forests are hollow and barren. Where only the truly wild knew how to roam and take and be taken.
Our women saw them and desired them. Their desire was for the one as for the group. When I hold this bent picture in my hand, I am forced to take in the entirety of the sweeping group. This semi-circle of already men who knew to fuck and fight and damage. To fight because this too was a pleasure and part of the narrative. The flesh and fight for it was the story’s begining. This pleasure that only required talking and touch. A delight they rode the bus with in third grade. So these boys bragged of the sex they held in their hands and of the sour perfume of women they laid with. And she wanted not one but all of them. She wanted to fuck him as she saw him in their eyes. So she slept with them too. But slowly they left, and some even found cities and women from other countries, even, who had never seen the group. Women who they would have to reckon with as who they had become.
And in this one picture, what became of those boys, whose faces are already swollen and stippled with alcohol but also with love for each other? The one sits steady and upright as if on the verge of rising. His face already taking on its metamorphosis from what I knew. The other with his ruddy Irish smile leaning on the baseball pitcher’s shoulder with a mock affection. But the pitcher seems unmoved, ready to rise, to search new pleasures, as if pleasure were receding. His eyes aware of the world outside the frame. Scanning the room and through the door to the night that comes. His father who will call and ask for a final absolution in the hospital where the pitcher was born one floor below. This boy who will never see Paris. Who will never see flesh become flesh. Who is now only flesh. Whose body has become unparticular. Who never left this land and is now just as unremarkable.