Meeting No. 29

      “Hello, David!”  I welcomed him inside with a big smile.  “How nice to finally meet you!”
       He thanked me for inviting him and held out his hand.  We shook.  I saw him looking at my brown leather gloves, but he didn’t comment on them.  His eyes went from my hand to my waist to my face and back again.  “Woah, firm handshake!” 
     “Yes,” I acknowledged.  Men always say that to meWhy do men always say that? Is my grip really that unusual? Women never mention it.  
      I noticed that he wouldn’t look me in the eye for more than a moment or two.  His kept looking around, at my clothes, my boots, the room.  I myself seldom avoid eye contact.  I have a tendency to stare at people I am talking to, unless I am delivering bad news or confessing something shameful or difficult.  I look them right in the eye. I like to see their facial mannerisms, the texture and color of their skin. Dates and students have told me that it makes them feel uncomfortable, which bothers me because I don’t like to be rude.  Most of the time I’m not even aware that I’m staring. 
       I asked if he would like a drink of water, and when he said yes I gestured to a water cooler on the other side of the room.  I said, please help yourself, it’s nice and cold.  I watched him as he went, assessing his figure and the way that he moved.  I saw one thing that I like right away: for an athletic, medium sized guy, his tread was very light.  He didn’t thud and make the floor vibrate when he walked, and when he took a paper cup out of the dispenser, he only grabbed one instead or four or five.
  (aside: Good God, it aggravates the hell out of me when men thud and thump and bring their hands down hard on tabletops, rattling the cutlery.  It drives me nuts.  In my heart I’ve murdered a hundred men I’ve seen sprawling out in the subway, taking up two seats for themselves.) 
       David was wearing khaki trousers and a striped button-down shirt.  The khakis had no cargo pockets, patches, or pleats.  The shirt was neatly ironed but untucked.  His hair was short and bleached and gelled into some spiky figuration.  Freshly shaven face.  No jewelry that I could see.  He was wearing thin-soled brown leather loafers and patterned socks that were not white or athletic.  The outfit screamed “22-year-old boy going to Church,” and I realized, approvingly, that he had tried to dress up for me. 
        As he drank his water, I gestured around at the place, giving him a tour.  The studio was pretty self-explanatory.  One rectangular room, wood floors, exposed brick on one wall, large windows on the other.  The windows had both closed blinds and drapes.  There was a mini fridge stocked with refreshments and a trash basket beside the water cooler.  A small sink.          
        I asked him if he’d had any trouble finding the place.  We chatted about subway delays due to construction.  He was starting to get a little more relaxed.  Starting to openly look at my face.  Lord, he looked young.  Not movie-star beautiful, but quite pleasing.  There was something unusual, almost exotic–but very subtly so–about the cast of his face.  In time, I would learn that he had an Asian grandparent.  
     “I like the way you look, by the way,” I told him.  “You are a fine-looking boy.  Very attractive.”
      He smiled, both pleased self conscious, and I noticed his chest swelling up.  I knew that he thought that he was handsome.  He was counting on it when we started corresponding, hence the Spring Break photo of him in swim trunks. I understood this preconceived notion, his vanity, very well.
       Before he could respond, I said, deliberately (but in a casual tone of voice): “ I expect you’ll fix your hair color before you go to work in Washington.  You’ll want your new colleagues to take you seriously, after all.” 
      He froze instantaneously and completely, like a kid playing statues.  A taste of his discomfort for me, like a sip of fine wine.  Delicious. 
      Before the implications of my remark could really sink in, I said:  “I bleached my hair once as an undergrad.  Turned my hair bright canary yellow!  You did a more thorough job on yours. I see how light it is. My brother has the same kind of hair as you.”
       Relief and faint confusion on his face.  I turned away and motioned for him to follow me.  I said, “I’d like to review a few things with you, David, if you please.”  I took a seat behind the gray metal desk.   David stood in the middle of the room.  I liked that.  Is there another position of power dichotomy more universally recognizable than that?  
 I remember all this, and what I was thinking at the time, but the full flavor of it—the compulsion—is out of reach, until I’m in that state again.  It is very hard to explain to others. 
       It is more than aggression or competitiveness.  It is the will to control (and I realized that David was special because he evoked—strongly evoked—that impulse in me).  I am wide awake and focused, thrumming with kinetic energy.  ‘Control,’ to be honest, is an inadequate description of the desire I experience in these rare, precious episodes.  The truth is deeper and more unlovely.  Control is the euphemism my ego uses.  In therapy, when we took a spade to the hard, rocky soil of my subconscious, I faced the unpleasant truth of the basis of my urges in dynamics like this one, with David:  I want to oppress him.  I want to oppress and control everything about him.  I want to control and have access to his privacy, his dignity, his boundaries.  Mine mine mine.  My desire for him—to do this to him— is relentless and destructive.  Pitiless.

         In its most extreme form, in the rarest circumstances–perhaps half a dozen in my life–I go into a queer and alien state of mind: I have acute empathy for the subject of my attention (which thrills me–I won’t deny it)–but I have no sympathy.  Not an ounce, not a grain of compassion.  (This part of me frightens me somewhat, because it is so completely at odds with the rest of my personality and my understanding of myself…and in the world, I find oppression and exploitation to be unspeakably ugly.  I hate it; I find it intolerable.) 

       They can sense it in me, you know.  That capacity I have, the potential for crushing.  It is irresistible to them.  I know, because I can relate to their perspective, as well. 
        But here—now—in this space, this vacuum , David and I are able to safely express ourselves a little.  To move these aspects of identities closer to the front of our faces, closer to the skin, instead of keeping them far in the back.  

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