Monday, February 12, 2018

WHY TRUMP IS US







Much political analysis of the Trump candidacy and presidency to date is dedicated to the forensics of his political trajectory (a daily obsession unparalleled in presidential politics), as if it were a mystery in which we know who did it, but we’re all really baffled by how it was done.  How did he destroy a field of 16 Republican candidates, while breaking every single rule of campaign popular wisdom?  How did he overcome the Access Hollywood tape, when for decades other candidates had been forced to withdraw for lesser scandals?  How did the electoral map swing his way, when all the polling foretold a Clinton victory? How have mere accusations from the #MeToo movement taken down dozens of powerful men, while the multiply-accused and self-described pussy grabbing President remains unscathed?  How does a payoff to a porn star for an alleged extra-marital affair cause barely a blip on the political radar?  How can the working class Trump supporters have such blind loyalty to a billionaire with a history of stiffed workers and business partners, outsourced labor, bankruptcies, reflexive lying, even fraud (Trump University), while convincing a large chunk of the electorate that he is not an elitist pig they should despise, but rather a very rich and smart stand-in for them?

Of course it makes no sense that such a dubious past should inspire so much confidence in a campaign waged on behalf of the ‘forgotten people’. No more sense than saying Wall Street billionaires like Steve Minuchin are the best people to guide the economy, when they were among the unpunished culprits in the ’08 crash and housing crisis.  Or that a staunch opponent of the EPA should be chosen as its new director.  I could add whole paragraphs of logical contradictions that should be sufficient to convince anyone with a logical mind that Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified, even automatically disqualified, to run for, let alone be, our president.  That is one of the problems with the Twitter speed at which the Trump presidency has unfolded.  There is simply too much going on to wrap your head around.  Too many twitter wars to get worked up over.  Too many convoluted scandals and conflicts of interest, however doggedly pursued, to keep straight or explain to friends over coffee.  So many fibs and outright lies on matters large and small that they swallow each other up, like a succession of ever larger fish in some animated movie sequence.  So many White House staffers and cabinet appointees coming and going that revolving doors should be installed in the West Wing.  It is to negotiate the political life of the nation as if it were a vast ‘Concentration’ board.

Well, if you are not following this stuff closely (probably like a good percentage of Americans), you can remain blissfully ignorant of the growing compendium of lies, potentially illegal Russian entanglements, scary regulatory changes, the swirl of chaos and scandal at the White House, or the totalitarian style attacks on the free press and rampant conflicts of interest.  A casual glance at headlines and sound bites gathered from select news sources can make the Trump presidency sound pretty good if you are favorably disposed.  He’s standing up to North Korea, China and Iran; he’s a staunch friend of Israel; he’s growing the economy and the markets through deregulation; we’re all going to get a tax cut; unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades.  If you have been paying attention, you can ignore all of the red flags as “fake news”, even video footage of the lies (which make for a pretty astounding montage), if you stay tuned to Fox News like the President.  Or, better yet, latch onto any one of a growing wish list of counter-conspiracies designed to distract from the Mueller investigation and goad the American public into an ever greater distrust of governmental institutions, so that when the facts do finally come out half the country will not believe them.  Never mind that these conspiracies ignore significant facts and rest on premises that can be undone with no more than placing events in their proper context within an accurate timeline (the Carter Page FISA warrant and the Uranium One deal for instance).  But, even when you hear someone in The Base acknowledge Trump’s deficiencies, it is usually limited to a critique of his use of Twitter, or accompanied by a rebuttal that all the other politicians are liars too.  Trump’s our liar, I guess, the logic follows.  Alternative Facts, a phrase presciently coined by Kellyanne Conroy after the inaugural lie about Inauguration attendance, are now the SOP for congressional Republicans, Speaker Ryan no less, to fully endorse, reinforce and replicate the reality bubble Trump inhabits, wherein what he thinks and wishes to be true equals reality. Trump World keeps getting bigger.  The tax bill is a perfect example.  Most American’s know this is going to benefit the wealthy and in the long run, perhaps even the short run, hurt the middle class and poor, if by nothing more than funneling more wealth and resources to the top 1% in the form of massive corporate tax cuts, while under the pay-as-you-go rule triggering automatic Medicare cuts.  The Trump White House had already aired ads about how well the middle class tax cuts were working before the 1st paychecks under the new tax rates had even been cut.  I saw such an ad the day before I saw the extra $15.00 I had last pay period (about $7.50 a week).  With the market reacting to rising interest rates and fear of inflation, I’m sure that $360.00 extra I’ll get this year will barely cover costs incurred by the spikes in gasoline, heating fuel and groceries that always go hand in hand with inflationary trends.  Etc. Etc.  Blah. Blah. Blah.  It means nothing to The Base.

That is one of the greatest sources of anxiety for Trump opponents, conservative and liberal alike.  It is popular wisdom that The Base has fallen so far down the rabbit hole that they are beyond retrieval.  And when you are talking about roughly 35 to 40 percent of the American public that’s a real problem.  The fact is that the rabbit hole has become so vast we have all fallen into it against our wills, or, perhaps, because in observing the spectacle so closely and faithfully we got too close to the liquefied edge.  That’s not the sky we’re looking at but the bottom of a brave new sink hole, formerly known as Making America Great Again.  Just look closely at the evidence and, despite the paucity of legislation, Trump is doing or attempting to do everything he said he would, even if the results (as with the Tax Bill) subvert his populist rhetoric.

The intent of legislative and deregulatory efforts thus far has been aimed roughly at undoing Obama era laws and directives.  Most of this is being done via executive orders.  In this sense, The Base is correct in seeing his administration as a success.  Even where he has failed (healthcare) they believe that he is trying. Admittedly, his lack of willingness to tackle the complexities of the healthcare system either conceptually or in the form of a plan, his abdication to the legislature and subsequent laying of blame at the feet of Mitch McConnell seems more like incompetence, indifference and sheer laziness than trying to me, but I guess the demand for basic competence and presidential responsibility is more elitist noise to be ignored.  The latest government shutdown and immigration stalemate has been Trump’s big chance to make a show of fulfilling The Wall Promise, something that had barely been on the radar for most of the past year.  Nevermind that if it becomes part of the federal budget, the American taxpayer, and not Mexico, will be asked to pay for it.  Blah. Blah. Blah.  Fake news.  It means nothing.

Deregulating to help small businesses may be a favored talking point, but know that among the vast rollback of regulations, are those eroding worker safety protections, removal of emissions standards for coal burning power plants, removal of rules requiring chemical disclosure for frackers, power plant water pollution and dental mercury waste controls as well, plus others aimed at weakening consumer protections that will benefit drug companies and the financial services industry.  No doubt the removal of so many regulations has spurred market confidence and will make companies more profitable in the short term and more powerful in the long term, but only at the expense of Trump’s “forgotten people”. Clean air, clean water and safe workplaces have long term economic benefits.  Just as the now partially rescinded Fiduciary Rule put in place after the ’08 crash was aimed at protecting the economic security of those saving for retirement. So say goodbye to secure retirement as financial advisers are once more free to steer investors toward options with lower returns and higher fees.   Follow the link for The Brookings Institute’s complete interactive list of Trump’s deregulatory activity of the past year and glimpse the depth of the economic and environmental sink hole Trump has in store for us:  https://www.brookings.edu/interactives/tracking-deregulation-in-the-trump-era/. 

Deregulation under Trump, as part of Making America Great Again, indulges several American fantasies:   that we can revive the coal industry, that oil and natural gas are the present and future of energy, that climate change is a hoax and we don’t have to demand green technologies, alternative energy and an infrastructure that supports it, that unsustainable short term economic growth (the kind that gets politicians through a couple of election cycles) is all we have to worry about.  The result of sustaining old fantasies for even one more decade will likely deny America any real chance of remaining globally relevant, environmentally sustainable and economically viable through the coming century.  We will be left behind—just a giant sinkhole around Trump’s 1950’s reality bubble.

But this nostalgia for getting things back to the way they were is not just about denying painful economic and environmental change, but about escaping the most painful of all changes:  demographic and social change.  The uneasiness of a country with an identity and power structure based on whiteness coming to grips with its inevitable browning is one of the drivers behind anti-immigration sentiment and policy. It is also behind the deeply undemocratic congressional redistricting and waves of restrictive voter laws.  Both are being exposed increasingly, in the media and recent court rulings, as unconstitutional, racially biased efforts to limit the effect of these unstoppable demographic changes.   Americans, especially older white Americans, are having an existential crisis.

This gets back to the unquestioning loyalty of The Base to this president.  While there are a hundred reasons they should see Trump as the antithesis of the populist champion, there is an even deeper level of identification with Trump that transcends the facts of his life.  Trump the presidential candidate, talked the way they talked, said all things they felt but were too afraid to say.  It is not new to point out that The Base elected him because of the things he said, not despite them.  The pundits had it wrong because they kept thinking he was going to go too far one time, when in fact The Base was saying ‘Right On!’ every time Trump pushed the envelope of anti-immigrant sentiment or racial animus.  When Trump said Judge Curiel could not rule without bias in the Trump University case because he was Mexican (even though he was born in the USA and is as much a citizen as Donald J himself), you know if Trump said it, there were millions like him in America who felt the same way.  American means white.  The identification with Trump on this level is as gut deep and contagious as C. difficile in an infected hospital wing.  It is very personal.  When they defend him it is as if they are defending themselves. Are they not?  When somebody tells you again and again who they are, why would you not believe them? They are Trump and Trump is them. 

Deepak Chopra is one of the few voices suggesting that Trump is not an anomaly at all, but a typical representation of the “shadow”, the unconscious impulses in society that once freed can wreak havoc:

The shadow compounds all the dark impulses--hatred, aggression, sadism, selfishness, jealousy, resentment, sexual transgression--that are hidden out of sight. The name originated with Carl Jung, but its basic origin came from Freud's insight that our psyches are dualistic, sharply divided between the conscious and unconscious. The rise of civilization is a tribute to how well we obey our conscious mind and suppress our unconscious side. But what hides in the shadows will out.

 

When it does, societies that look well-ordered and rational, fair and just, cultured and refined, suddenly erupt in horrible displays of everything they are not about: violence, prejudice, chaos, and ungovernable irrationality. In fact, the tragic irony is that the worst eruptions of the shadow occur in societies that on the surface have the least to worry about. This explains why all of Europe, at the height of settled, civilized behavior, threw itself into the inferno of World War I.

 

If Trump is the latest expression of the shadow, he isn't a bizarre anomaly, which would be true if normal, rational values are your only standard of measure. Turn the coin over, making the unconscious your standard of measure, and he is absolutely typical. When the shadow breaks out, what's wrong is right. Being transgressive feels like a relief, because suddenly the collective psyche can gambol in forbidden fields. When Trump indulges in rampant bad behavior and at the same time says to his riotous audiences, "This is fun, isn't it?" he's expressing in public our ashamed impulse to stop obeying the rules.

 


The problem with the United States is that all the while it has aspired to justice, equality and freedom and clung to a mythology of exceptionalism, it also has been about “…violence, prejudice, chaos and ungovernable irrationality”, from the peculiar institution of American slavery and another century of Jim Crow after emancipation, the extermination of Native American peoples, the ill treatment of Irish and Italian immigrants (who were also racialized during their initiation to the “melting pot”), the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII,  McCarthyism in the 1950’s, to today’s biased criminal justice system with its mass incarceration and for profit prison industry, and a political system corrupted by dark money, unconstitutional redistricting and racially motivated voter laws (what better way to erase a people than by eliminating them from the voter roles).  Add to this over two centuries of aggressive foreign policy and empire building, which means that we have been almost always at war somewhere in the world.  

It is hardly an exhaustive list of our shadowy unconscious at work, but it seems important to expose this continuous strain in our history at a time when both our President and many of our citizens have no grounding in our basic history.  A recent study concluded that only 8 percent of American students could name slavery as a central cause of the civil war. 
https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/A-disturbing-new-report-on-how-poorly-schools-12562060.php .  It would surprise me little if in some quarters of the internet slavery is considered a hoax made up by the liberal elite or maybe even the Chinese.  Such a list is instructive however if you happen to find yourself excluded from those who lived under those particular shadows.   The common thread in the list is that being the right shade of white would have kept you out of harms way and thus at given times and places made you unaware and out of sympathy with those who lived in America’s shadowland.  It would seem these so-called “unconscious impulses” are virtually free-ranging in American history and life, in inverse proportion to its stated ideals and global professions of exceptionalism.  That is US.  Trump is US.

Compare the character and personal conduct of Donald Trump with the general features of American life, and they present mirror images of each other.  Donald Trump is a rich celebrity in a culture that is obsessed with rich celebrities; he’s a reality T.V. star in a genre that has so oversaturated the market it is a wonder there is any genuine storytelling left on television.  The Trump campaign brought together the overarching desires of Americans to be famous and rub elbows with the rich.  After all being at a Trump rally was like starring in a rolling reality T.V. show.   When he told his crowds how much he loved them, it was like hearing ‘You’re hired!” on an episode of The Apprentice.  It was real; it was live; it was entertaining and most of all it was emotionally satisfying for people more let down than fulfilled by social media, or feeling squeezed out by immigrants, left behind by job outsourcing and wage stagnation, and generally ignored by a dysfunctional and out of touch government. The ratings driven news media was no less influenced by Trump’s celebrity and played no small part in bringing the Trump campaign to national prominence by covering his rallies, while his Republican opponents, all colorless and staid in comparison, languished off camera.  Then there’s Trump’s long history of outsourcing jobs for his product lines, and mistreating workers as a real estate developer.  A great many of the 3,500 lawsuits Trump has been involved in were brought by workers Trump failed to pay, including dishwashers, painters, cooks and waiters.  But it also included real estate brokers who’d sold millions of dollars worth of property for him and lawyers who’d defended him in court. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/06/09/donald-trump-unpaid-bills-republican-president-laswuits/85297274/Non-disclosure agreements as part of a multitude of settlements are the main reason we did not hear a chorus of voices against Trump during his presidential campaign. Trump is a good example of the general stiffing of American workers in the past 40 years through outsourcing, union busting, suppressed wages, and poor compensation, including lack of sick time and family leave for entire segments of the work force, like restaurant workers.

Moreover, Trump has been dogged by sexual harassment complaints and accusations of assault in a culture that has a major problem with sexual harassment and even rape in our workplaces.  From our hospitality industry to Hollywood, from college campuses to our military, from Silicone Valley to Washington D.C. we are waking up to the knowledge that Trump is US.  Trump’s shady dealings with foreign banks and Russian oligarchs mirror our own dubious dealings past and present with dictators and totalitarian regimes, our secret wars and arms deals.   We are a country drowning in debt, with a newly signed tax bill and two year budget deal that will raise the debt by trillions. Donald Trump’s entire financial empire has been built largely on leveraging debt.  The other part of Trump is branding, name recognition and reputation.  In that he shares a lot in common with the United States.  We market ourselves as the bastion of freedom and democracy, and as the champion of human rights around the world, but when you look at the human and environmental cost of our foreign meddling just since World War II it’s not that hard to see the face of not only a narcissist, but a hypocrite also in the mirror.  We may as well be Trump on the campaign trail yelling "Lock her Up!" In that we have failed to make it a priority to rebuild our infrastructure and transportation system and are falling behind many nations in healthcare, education and quality of life and yet continue to unabashedly think of ourselves as No. 1, we are drinking from the same river of narcissistic Lethe as Donald Trump, a man who kept touting Celebrity Apprentice as the No. 1 show, long after the ratings had slipped.  Those of us outside of Trump’s ideological bubble see the truth, just as those outside of the US, especially those who have managed to survive some of our foreign policy objectives, have a clearer vision of who we are.  Pretty much since our founding we have needed to promote our brand with Alternative Facts.  When we hold up our blinkered self-concept, mere wishes as reality, we are Trump.  When we are incapable of taking a hard look at ourselves, take responsibility and self-correct our dysfunction (such as our present course on climate change and the shamelessly treacherous and self-interested actions of today’s Congress) we are Trump.

Trump is our president today because the chickens have finally come home to roost.  We are so full of him, that he became, not an anomalous event, but the karma we deserved.  He is the embodiment of the way we live, or, at least, an unconscious wish of how we want to live:  spend without accountability; go anywhere in the world on a whim; live a life of lavish consumption; grab and harass anybody you want for your sexual fulfillment without consequence, exploit workers without oversight and reap fame and adulation while doing all of that in a system that rewards you with ever-accruing wealth.  That is the American Dream written by a narcissist. Trump is US.

Many white liberals were exasperated to hear African American voters express indifference as to whether we got Trump or Hillary in the White House.   Or, like comedian Dave Chappell, express little surprise that America had gone for Trump, while white’s were in disbelief that the vote went the way it did. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHG0ezLiVGc .   Blacks would likely tell you that when they look at US, they have always seen the face of Donald Trump.  They are already living in the country whites are now afraid of living in under Trump.  Welcome to reality.  Trump is US.

But, we have self-corrected before at various points in our history, often after much blood-shed, when internal and external pressures have demanded a more perfect union.  The movement underfoot aims at nothing less than undoing those hard fought corrections.  In that the demographic shift in progress seems inevitable, it is possible to see Trump’s rise and the capitulation of Congress to him as a desperate last stand for cultural and ideological control of the country, to delay, at best, the inevitable social shift for as long as possible.  Yet, I suspect, (and this is a very real danger) if supporting a Trump autocracy were the only means of halting the browning of America and they could remain the ruling party in the deal, this Republican controlled Congress would flush our constitution, lofty ideals and exceptionalism right down the toilet of failed democracies.  They have already chosen.

For about two decades I’ve had a theory that the cultural and ideological split in the country would eventually lead to a splintering of America into autonomous and strategically allied nation states, and I’ve wondered if we would not be much better off to shed our superpower mantle. There is life after empire. Without our central government there would be no Washington gridlock, no US foreign policy as a target for world-wide terror, no need for US to be the world’s policeman, or for the endless, expensive, bloody conflicts associated with it.  In this particular moment, however, it would be na├»ve to think that such a fracture would provide anything but an opportunity for a totalitarian presence to assert control to keep the whole thing together, and in the event of such a split, a military coup could easily result to secure that end.  It’s not far-fetched.  The ideological fracture in the country is already set, and the New California movement suggests that geographic splits are next.  With endless legislative gridlock and dysfunction on the horizon, mounting problems with no movement toward solutions, not a few (including a gleeful Putin) believe that our democracy has already failed and needs a single will to rule and make things happen.  Don’t look now, the administrative coup is almost complete: Congress is in lock step with Trump in his purge of federal law enforcement, the President’s hurry-up on court appointments has the Judiciary is in his sights as well https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/11/us/politics/trump-judiciary-appeals-courts-conservatives.html, a host of government agencies, including the State Department, are being gutted, and with the echo “massive voter fraud” ringing in right wing ears, a purge of voter rolls is ramping up; and let's not forget that relentless campaign to discredit the free press.  The dominos are falling.  Every day, all day, as never before, the news and opinion is ever Trump.  He has already made the conditions of the totalitarian state a reality, and we have obliged him by granting him the totality his ego craves.  Trump is us.  If it were not so, we would have stopped him long before it came to this. 

 

 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"CALVIN ROSE" fiction by John Caruso






            My eyes pop open to a paneled ceiling.  It's a dim place.  One high window.  Slants of light through blinds.  Dark walls.  Only then do I feel my body.  I’m first aware of an essential stiffness, an unnatural posture to my sleep.  My arms are thrust above my head.  They will not move or I cannot move them.  I focus on my hands and start to raise them.  A painful stricture in my wrists halts their motion and a simultaneous metal clank follows the sound of their arrest.  I raise my chin, gaze up.  My wrists are handcuffed around a vertical bar on an old iron-framed bed.
            My waking haze evaporates in an instant, like drops of a sun shower on a blistering sidewalk.  I yank on the iron bar, sear my wrists, as though this were not the first attempt to free myself. Clank, clank, clank, clank.  I raise my head as far as it will go, look down the length of my body.  I’m naked.  My chest and stomach are mottled with crusty white spatters.  Someone’s prolific expenditure of sex on me.  My ankles too are shackled to the iron grill at the foot of the bed.
“Jesuh Chris--,” I choke out my first words.  My mouth and throat are so dry I can barely swallow let alone speak.  Not only am I cuffed to a strange bed in a strange room, naked and semen spattered, I don’t even remember how I got here.  At the moment nothing of me comes to mind except my name.  It was there all along like the consciousness of myself in sleep.  Now I know, as in the remembrance of a dream, that my name was the warmth hovering there in the semi-darkness:  Calvin Rose.  Other things come back to me.  I live in Cambridge.  Another wave of panic hits.  What day is it?  Should I be at work or school?  Then I think of my family.  My parents live in Rye, New Hampshire by the sea.  I have a sister at school in Minnesota, a brother in New York and another in Rye.  How long have I been here?  Long enough for my family to miss me and wonder where I am?
I break out into a sweat at the thought of it.  I want to call for help, but I don’t know where I am and who my rescuers would be, let alone what they would think, finding me naked, sexed and cuffed to a bed.  I wait and breathe in and out as slowly as I can to stem the panic.  If only I could remember how I got here.  Bondage had never gotten the better of me before, and while I can’t say I’ve never been so drunk I didn’t pass out during a night of pleasure, I’ve never woken up like this—alone, compromised and seemingly abandoned god knows where, for all I know in another life.
My lower back aches from being too long supine.  I scoot as far down as I can, extending my arms all the way so I can bend my knees and take the pressure off my back.  The movement causes a reflex clutch of my sphincter, which ordinarily I wouldn’t notice except the sensation evokes the raw intensity of unnatural use.  I close my eyes.  I’ve either had a loose and violent evacuation or I’ve been sodomized.  I’m familiar with the feeling, and not shocked I’d find myself on the receiving end of such a coupling, but I’ve never been taken by force.  I just don’t remember anything.
Behind me the click and turn of a key and the hushed intake of an opening door startles me.  A cool breeze breaks the vacuum of the room and makes me shiver with cold.  The door closes again and heavy male steps enter the room.  Footfall retreats and the sound of grocery bags—the crumple of paper, packaged items bumping, cans clinking, thumping as they are set down—reaches me.  It is as if this person is unaware of my presence, or is so casual about the naked man restrained on the bed as to require less urgency then perishables, something in no more need of attending to than a load of clothes waiting to be folded.
What I do at the return of my captor, a possibility I’d glanced but hadn’t confronted directly, is not at all what I’d thought I’d do.  I expected I would scream and curse and carry on, even plead for my release.  I also considered faking it, pretending to awaken with a contented stretch and a casual hello, as if I always wake up handcuffed, and also as if I remember everything that led me here and the night of misspent passion.  After all, having considered the dire possibility of ending up cooked and eaten by a psychotic cannibal killer, I also had to consider that my night’s partner had playfully left me sleeping handcuffed while he went out to hunt up a more conventional breakfast. But I don’t do either of those things. Instead, I close my eyes and pretend to sleep.
For a long time I wait, listening to the sound of groceries being put away, cupboards opening and closing, the white hum of the refrigerator when the door is opened.  I notice a smell now.  It hadn’t hit me before, no doubt from my having been saturated so long in the room’s atmosphere, but after the door opened and a fresh draft of air swept in, I recognized the difference as the room’s smell settled in again.  There is nothing here but the musky, pungent smell of male sex, the heaviness of which cannot be accounted for merely by my own diurnal sweats, or the bleachy funk of the deposits left upon my body, but something airborne, orgiastic and feral in its essence.
I wait and still nothing.  Another more distant door closes and then there is silence.  It stretches on for so long that even my anxiety cannot sustain its exhausting scenarios and, against all good sense, I drift off to sleep.


I awaken to the sensation of having to relieve myself.  The pressure on my groin is palpable, even painful with intermittent cramps.  I try to ride it out and hope it will subside.  It does not.  In fact one wave of cramps paralyzes my body, freezes my mouth in a rictus.  I can’t hold it much longer.  I cry out.  “Hey!  Are you there?  Help me.  Please I have to go so bad.  Hey, please.”
I wait.  The silence continues for maybe half a minute before a door opens and footsteps approach.  As the steps enter the room—the clarity and immediacy of the sound is unmistakable, as is the slight tremor in the bed—I suddenly regret initiating this first confrontation with my captor.
He stands over the bed.  I look him in the eye. He is not at all what I expect—some seedy and hideous lecher with cold malevolent eyes—but a casually hip fellow of about 30, dressed in a brown t and jeans, average in height and only modestly solid in build—some mounding in his chest and shoulders adds drama and tension to the shapeless t.  iHisHis hair is dark and uncombed, uneven bangs swept across his forehead, and a stylish rime of dark stubble darkens his face.  A mild expression rules his large brown eyes, subtly handsome, increasingly so as a range of expressions register on his features, evincing not least genuine curiosity, intelligence and quite possibly pity.
I swallow and clear my throat to speak, but I don’t know what to say.  It seems odd to ask to use the bathroom without first demanding some explanation of the circumstance that predicates my urgent need, but I can’t wait for introductions.  “I need to pee so bad. Could you let me loose?  Did you forget about me?”
The man just stands there, raises his eyebrows and folds his arms across his chest.
“Come on.  I can’t hold it any longer.  Come on, please.”
The man shifts his stance, unfolds his arms and puts his hands in his front pants pockets.  I think he’s reaching for a key, but he’s actually feeling himself through his pockets.
“I told you, I can’t hold it any longer.  If you don’t let me go I’m going to scream my  head--.”
As quickly as I utter the words, the man reaches into his back pocket for something and quickly plugs my mouth with it.  A bitter latex taste dries my mouth.  He’s silenced me with a large tan dildo.  My last words muffle in a hopeless groan.  Mmmfaah is my best attempt at motherfucker.
Having silenced me, he undoes the button on his jeans and unzips his fly.  He slides his pants down to his thighs and starts to stroke himself.  It is all done unhurriedly and carefully, like a patient man peeling a banana
I stare back in disbelief.  His cock is thicker and longer than his build intimates—slightly flattened but broad as a beer bottle, 10 inches in length, olive toned, a shade darker than his face and arms, with a large vein standing out in relief and a massive mushroom head.  It grows straight out with his stroking, the hardest kind of cock to take.  I wonder if it already knows the way inside of me.
I groan as another paralyzing wave of cramps attacks my groin.  I start to release, let go.  I feel the stream coming up my shaft, just enough to relieve the cramp and then I hold it, but it’s almost too late.  The man is stroking faster now, his face deepening to the color of his cock.  I press my knees together, clamping my own dick as a last resort to hold in my piss. I grit my teeth.  I moan “please” one last time through the rubber cock and then it overwhelms me, the burning, rising, sweet hot tingle of relief in the head of my shaft.  I close my eyes, let go and hot piss shoots up into my pubic hair and onto my stomach, running down again over my hips, some of it down past my balls between my legs, pooling warmly under my ass and in my crack.
A winded sound makes me open my eyes.  The man is pumping his cock with fury, breathing hard, right over me.  He doesn’t cry out, but he lets out a long and satisfied exhalation when he shoots, a prodigious deposit on my humiliated balls and cock.  The smell of his sex washes over me, the same feral smell that dominates the room.
He slaps his heavy meat against my hip to free the last drops of semen and wipes the eye on my stomach like a blade.  Then, just as carefully as before but with more difficulty, he tucks his still swollen penis back into his pants, zips and buttons up.  Then he reaches into the other back pocket and withdraws a syringe.  He unsheathes the needle, holds it up and shoots out a little to make sure there’s no air, leans over me, like a doctor with a sudden look of bedside concern and lowers the syringe to my exposed neck.  I groan my protest in a long held out ‘Nooooh.’
Then I feel the prick.


When I open my eyes again I’m staring at the floor.  The bed is to my left and I am midair, naked still, supported in some kind of sling.  My arms are hanging down below, hands free, the sling supports my haunches and my legs are wide apart, my bottom spread, my cock and balls hanging free, so exposed I can feel the slightest movement of air on them.  I tense my sphincter.  It feels tight and normal, no raw feeling or soreness.  I’m relieved.
I hear the man in the kitchen and smell cooking—something like onions and peppers, some kind of spice—and hear a faint tantalizing sizzle.  I’m so hungry I almost feel sick to my stomach.   Mingling with the smell of food is a manly smell of soap.  My skin feels tight and astringent, and I realize the clean soap smell is me.
“Hey,” I call out.  “What’s all this about?  Huh?  I’m sure we had a great time and all, but you have to let me go home sometime.  Just let me down and we can do whatever you want.  Just name it.  I’m game, but don’t hold me like this.  Come on.”
No answer.
“You got a name?  I don’t know you. At least you don’t look familiar.”
Again silence.
“Just tell me how I got here.  Where’d we meet?  Why don’t I remember?”
The man comes out carrying a folding table.  He sets it down under me.  He goes back to the kitchen and comes out with a plate and a tall plastic cup. There’s a plastic spork on the plate, the kind they used to give you in the high school cafeteria.  The plate is mounded with peppers, onions and mushrooms in some kind of egg frittata served with toast. 
I don’t waste any time eating.  I drain the glass of water.  He goes and fills it again.  The food is good.  As I eat, I’m thinking if this were a restaurant what you would call it.  The Dungeon Gourmet.  Chez Sade.  The Prisoner’s Palate.  Masochist’s Feast.
All of a sudden I feel a wet spray against my sphincter and before I know it, my mouth still full of food, I feel his massive mushroom head pushing on the slippery cusp of my anal ring.  He’s come around behind me while I’ve been dreaming up fanciful names for my predicament.  I try to swallow and speak, but before I can, he’s pushing himself into me with the slow and persistent force of someone pulling on a rubber glove that is 3 sizes too small.  I feel my insides split, a sharp stab, a raw hard grinding, tearing me as he goes.  I cry out, drop my spork, spitting out my food and coughing, trying not to choke.  Uhohhhhh.  The long slow syllables come out of my mouth like a verbalization of cock-in-ass pain, or pity for the raped male ass translated into the ecstatic rudiments of language.  The man can’t get all the way in, and so he withdraws and starts to pound his way into the tight just split cavity, bringing the pain sharper and faster, until he gives me every inch in every thrust.  Uho-uho-uho-uho-uho-uho…
The problem is he doesn’t have the decency to come like a fucking rapist into my pain and shame.  No the sick fucker has to go on nailing me--(with a cock as hard and contusing as a nylon dog bone) sometimes even removing himself completely just to sear my tender ring again—no, he just has to go on until the pain’s been translated once more into some kind of pleasure, and I’m just helpless, breathing out now with the sound of a boy caught up in the wonder of something awesome he hopes will never end…
By the time he comes—answering my breathless awe with his own robust sigh of wonderment--I’m so filled with desire and hatred I don’t know whether I’d embrace or kill him were I free.


He leaves me alone for the rest of the day.  In fact, he leaves altogether not long after sodomizing me.  This time he doesn’t inject me with a sedative, but leaves me suspended, wide awake, his cum (there is always so much of it) oozing slowly out of me and seeping down my scrotum, as if my bottom was a kind of liquid hourglass.  Then some time later I understand why.  My stomach starts to cramp and gurgle.  All at once there is a rush and my bowels let go.  Spread in a position conducive to elimination and so recently plied open, there’s nothing I can do to stop the flow.  It may be the after effects of his forceful plumbing, but I suspect he put laxative in my food and then left me here on purpose to defile the room.  Somehow I’m even more humiliated now than when he stood over me, getting off while I pissed myself.  It’s as if what’s inside of me is so revolting he wouldn’t even deign to stay let alone be aroused by it.  How is it I feel rejected and wretched, left alone to endure the stench of my excrescence? 
Something inside of me feels wronged, not the rape itself, but that when it was over I should feel it was nothing of the kind.  Feel more cleansed than violated.  It was harsh and yet somehow pure—for there was never any threat of harm or violence, as if coming to suspended like that, a creature born open, made his sudden transition from servant to master inevitable, almost arbitrary, not a question of choice but a matter of time.  Just as it was inevitable that I would fill my mouth when he set down food. 
Would I have felt more violated if my hands had been bound and he had picked up the spork and fed me, either as fussily as a mother feeds an infant, or whether he forced too much at once into my mouth?  But, then who hasn’t seen a hurried mother shovel strained peaches into a baby’s mouth, when you can plainly see the kid has hardly swallowed and the pabulum fairly oozes out from between its malleable, toothless gums?  So then would it have been force had I been bound and hungry and desired the nourishment he offered?  Would it have been a crime of any kind to forcibly feed a man’s mouth, so long as he didn’t asphyxiate in the process or die from an allergic reaction?  Would it be called rape, or exploitation?  There is no statute for that as far as I know.  A crime to withhold, or starve, yes.  Would I have considered it rape, or just an embarrassing fetish, if he had spooned egg scramble up my backside and filled my mouth up with his cock instead?  And then for all of it, his cum, the savory frittata, to come out of that single orifice was every bit as inevitable also, whether hours hence in a slow and moderate evacuation, or by this precipitous laxative outpouring.  Desire and violation, craving and satiation, both purged from my body in the end.
I can’t help feeling he knows my desires and knows that when I’m hungry, bound or unbound, I will take any cock in any manner it is offered.  He knows it is inevitable.
But now, unsedated and free to think for the first time since my captivity—neither deterred nor bullied by shame, my own foul stench—I also know something about my captor.
I'm troubled more now by how little I know of myself, apart from a certainty about my desires—that I have partaken in orgies and have surrendered what he forced upon me many times—how little detail I remember about the actual men I have coupled with, or even whether or not I have ever known the power of love, indeed whether he has abducted me from a lover.  I recalled my family upon first awakening, my parents, the number and sex of my siblings and where they each reside, even the sense that I am somehow committed to some time consuming occupation.  Yet, having been since accosted and sedated in repeated rounds, I have no more searched the details of my past, as if those superficial facts were sufficient to embody my whole memory.  Now, left awake for an entire day, suspended in my overwhelming essence, I cannot recall where it is I work, what my occupation is or the motions and mental processes of its special knowledge.
I know there are drugs that can affect the memory—date rape drugs, even excess of alcohol, that can cause blackouts, but these are short-term effects where only the events of a night, or a matter of hours are lost.  The fact that my memory is somewhat variable, growing vaguer rather than clearer as my captivity endures, suggests it is directly related to the injections.
I latch onto the moment before penetration when I was eating—mind loosed in the unconscious--and a string of restaurant parodies came out of me, as though I'd slipped for a moment into a familiar mode of thought, found my sense of humor.  Yet, that kind of self-discovery is all interior.  It does not give me a life, an architecture of events to build a past on, a narrative of experiences or a connection to people.  I wonder if I am a writer, or perhaps, I think it more likely, that I am in advertising.  This is complete fancy, at best an impression.  It is not memory.  All I know for sure is that my name is Calvin Rose and I have sex with men.

I am still awake, still thinking when he returns.  He does not react to the smell and the mess I have left.  He moves casually around his apartment.  I hear the refrigerator open and close.  Hear him pop a bottle top.  He passes across the hall—at least I'm facing the hall and other rooms in my current suspension—and turns on a TV in another room.  I strain to hear, hoping to catch something—the name of a show, the time of day, the name of a familiar broadcaster or actor, a line from a movie I have seen, anything at all to place myself in the world—but the volume is too low and I can only make out undifferentiated voices.  It is impossible to say whether they are lines of dialog in a drama or conversations on a political talk show.
He passes again through the hall--t-shirt slung over his shoulder, still in his jeans--and goes into the bathroom.  His bare torso is graceful and slim, just enough weight to his chest and shoulders to lend drama to his leanness.  I hear the shower run.  I have yet to see him naked, as if he hides himself from me, keeps himself covered and protected, while I am constantly exposed.
He comes out almost immediately still half dressed, unshowered, and enters the room, my room you could say, holding a stack of towels.  These he spreads over the mess I’ve made on the floor.  Then he withdraws handcuffs from his back pockets and stands before me.  He looks at me appealingly, motioning for me to hold out my hands for cuffing.  I comply.  He’s going to shower me.  After I’m handcuffed, he lowers the sling by a pulley on the wall, releases the soiled supports under my haunches, and the cross support beneath my armpits until my feet touch down on the floor.  Then he shackles my ankles and walks me into the bathroom.
I am still harnessed across my chest and around my waist.  He guides me by the harness into a huge glassed in shower stall.  He gives me a push and I start to fall, but he has my harness and lowers me until I’m on my knees in the echoing stall under the drone of hot water.  The water runs down my face and into my mouth.  I crawl so that my head is out of the heavy stream and fight for air.  I kneel there for a moment, my back to him.  I hear him behind me opening a door, followed by a thump of something on the floor.  The next thing I know, a painful cold jet of water is rushing like a liquid plumber in my crack and up my sphincter.
“Ow, hey.”  I roll over on my back, hands slipping on the wet tile, and wind up flat on my back, legs splayed. The cold jet jolts my scrotum with surprising force.
“That’s fucking cold you asshole—“
The jet comes up into my mouth and stops me in a loud gurgle.  I spit and choke and role away, face down, spitting water on the hard cold tile.  I just lie there now, catching my breath and letting him hose me at will.  He’s cleaning all the shit and cum from my crack and scrotum, but he’s overdoing it on purpose, pummeling my nut sack, tearing at my sphincter and the fragile line of flesh along my taint.  Then the hose quits.  I lay recovering, breathing hard from shocking cold, when I feel the sharp stab of a needle in my ass cheek. 


When I awaken in the sling again, smell sausage, boiled eggs and coffee wafting from the kitchen, I know exactly what I’m going to do, because I know exactly what he wants to do to me.  I start in as soon as he appears with the folding table.
“Hey, I’ve been thinking.  You know what I really want today?”
He hesitates on his way across the room, holding the table in front of him like a shield.
“It’s kind of twisted, but what if you made me a really man sized breakfast and fed it to my ass, you know stuff me full, pipe some hot coffee in, and cork me up good with a butt plug, then stop my mouth up with that cock of yours and give me a good pull on your cream, well I’d be happier than a glutton at an all-you-can-eat buffet.”
His face freezes.  His large and curious brown eyes turn cold and flinty.  He just stands there for a minute looking at me with suspicion and contempt.  Then he flings the folding table at the wall and storms off down the hall, muttering to himself.
He comes back now with what looks like a table tennis paddle, still muttering, goes behind me, swats my dangling nut sack without warning like he’s going for a kill at the tennis table.  Aaaawwwgggg.  I cry out once and then my breath is gone.  First light shines behind my eyes and then darkness.  I’m paralyzed with pain, wheezing air, and then he strikes again.  My legs kick and gyrate.
“You see that coming too?” he says his first words to me.  I’ve broken his silence.  He’s broken my balls.  “Or maybe this isn’t quite what you wanted today?  Not twisted enough for you.”  He strikes a third time.  Aaawwggg.  Now I’m blind with pain, hovering on the sickening brink of rupture, no longer a man at all but a pair of roaring, battered testicles.  He doses me again, not once but twice—a needle jabbed hard in my buttock and another in my inner thigh.


All the lights are on.  It must be night.  I blink as I awaken to the overheads glaring in my eyes.  I am in the sling, face up this time, legs pinned to my chest and straddled wide, bottom tilted up.  I can see down the hall if I lift my head.  There is no sign of my captor.
            My nuts are so sore their resting weight throbs like an abscessed tooth, the slightest shift in its position makes me wince.  My sphincter hurts when I close it off.  The change in my position worries me; I can only anticipate with dread what this might auger. 
I recall everything that has happened since waking up a captive.  I remember the rape and the shower. I know he’s dosing me.  I am still aware of him, although just now I cannot conjure up his face.  There is something else.  Surely there is more.  I feel a history somehow, not only in the sensations of my body but in my strangled dreams, like the empty silhouette that remains after a shape has been cut out of dark background.  If there is more, more than the shadow, the desire to make up what I’m lacking, I cannot fathom it, but, if there is nothing, why do I bother to resist or worry about what happens to me?  This is who I am, and there is nothing to escape to.  I am Calvin Rose and I have sex with men.
As if in answer to my thought the apartment door opens and a man walks in, but it is not my captor.  He stands on the threshold for a moment.  Above him on the wall to his right, there is a clock that wasn’t there before.  It is midnight.
He walks straight toward me without a word.  He stares at me, the spread invitation of my suspended body, as if he’s been charged with remembering it.  In a moment I see he’s turning on to me, touching himself through his jeans.  Then he unzips and lets his bulge out.  He’s six inches long and remarkably about half that in width.  He pulls the leg straps of the sling to him, meets my eye with a modest nod of courtesy, as if asking me for a dance, or as if to say ‘excuse me’, and then he simply fills me with the same slow unitary push as my captor, but with the utilitarian demeanor of a plumber joining male and female fittings.  My bowel aches radically at the imposition despite his courtesy—that classic paralyzing anal pain, when the ring, as if subject to changes in the psyche (intramuscular withdrawals and virginal reversions) is unprepared for penetration.  I grit my teeth and try not to cry out.  If you plead for mercy in a sling, it is an invitation to receive cruelty.  How do I know this if not by memory?  The laws of a sling? 
There is something modest and manly about his fucking, almost dutiful and pure like all true expressions of dominant masculinity.  It is incumbent upon him to endure, its seems, rather than punish, and his cock is just a fact not a condemnation. He does endure, for a full half hour without a lapse of stoutness or vigor.  When he comes, the exclamation is that of surprise, as if his virility and the pleasure that another man’s ass affords him has never occurred to him before.  But it is the pain of having to give up so much as a drop of his essence to me, even in the act of domination, that contorts his eyes and mouth with such loss and regret you’d think I’d tricked him into dying.  And that is what makes him turn on me.   Even as he pumps his cum in me he knows I’ve seen him die, knows that he’s been intimate with me despite himself.  He pulls out and his eyes go cold.  His mouth curls in a snare and he cuffs my nuts.  Awwwgggghh.  He wipes the sudden sweat on his cheek with the back of his hand, buttons up and walks out of the room.
Another man enters.  He is also dark, but tall and slender.  He unzips and enters without so much as a glance of acknowledgment.  He is slightly longer than his predecessor but not so stout. 
He appears intent on getting off, but he does not pop off in five minutes as I suspect.  He remains in me like the other man for precisely one half hour and then he comes with greater force and more obvious loss of self-control.  This earns me a sadistic squeeze of my balls in his fist.  I cry out and it is the only time he looks me in the eye—to register my pain and helplessness.  I know now, as I know all the other laws of the sling, that these men and all those that will follow do not have sex with men.  I am their first.
When the third man walks in—dark-haired, slit-eyed with violent twisting lips—I know exactly what the night will bring.  For his cock is a little longer.  It’s going up in half hour increments.  Six inches at 12.  12 inches by six.  That is what will be.  Perhaps my genius is in guessing cock size, like those people at carnivals who guess people's weight.  My captor knew if I could see the clock I would see the inverse pattern—he too knows my genius. 
I will endure six hours of continuous pounding, friction, widening.  It is one o'clock and I am ecstatically sore inside now.  Both men have taken me to the point of auto-orgasm and left me hanging.  My captor has built desire into this regimented rape, made me crave this sneering brute, who has only a stout seven inches with which to punish me.  It is as if he knows his size is unequal to his capacity for cruelty and so he is intentionally rougher.  He sees the lost expression on my face and is demonic in his efforts to make me cum.  If I do he will hurt me; if I don’t he will hurt me more.  I know this too.  It is as if I know each man’s desire--by his look, by the size and shape of his cock, the order of his appearance, each an inversion of my mental and bodily state—even as my captor knows mine, knows that if I am forced to submit I can suffer my own desires without complicity.  What will become of me once I climax?  Once desire ebbs?  He knows this too.  I will suffer as I only appear to suffer now.
Just before his climax, it finally flows out of me.  He smiles at my sexual incontinence, having forced me to ejaculate against my will.  Then he comes and the smile changes to a lurid mask of rage.  I can see he wants to pull out, avoid the cataclysm of intimacy, master me with cum, but the heat and clutch of my bottom is too much and he succumbs.  Our desire ebbs together and is replaced by fear and wrath.
He leans over me.  Not only is he enraged at having lost his sex in another man’s ass, but also because he’s given me relief and pleasure despite his desire to be cruel.  For this he knees me in the crotch.  I howl stupidly, absurdly like an animal, the pain is so spectacular.  He absorbs it like nourishment and reaches into his pocket.  Between his fingers is a silvery gleaming razor blade.  My crotch is so inflamed I wonder if I will even feel the cuts he’s about to make.  He holds the blade delicately between his fingers like a surgeon, and makes a fine shallow incision up the center of my scrotum and up the back of my penis.  I feel it.  A vicious sting.  Blood beads form and merge in a pure red line.  Then the line wells and drops begin to roll down my scrotum.  He leaves and the next man enters.


By 5 a.m. I am weeping, seeing the men through my tears, starry and blurred under the bright overhead lights.  They are all the same.  Dark-haired masculine and cruel.  Yet, I have broken the law of the sling and now I plead with each one.  My canal is raw.  The men have since found better utility in manly cruelty by coming on me.  Those early lubricious loads of semen have since absorbed.  Though expanded, the ring stretched to an open portal now, my canal returns the necessary friction.  For the cocks grow larger in their sequence, and my anus is rubbed harder as with massive rods of steel sealed in skins of emery.  It is now unlined and each cock ejects red and pink with blood and mucus, like something born.  “Please.  You could just pretend, couldn’t you?  I can’t take any more.  I’m completely raw.  Please don’t--”
But all I do is excite their mercenary cruelty. 
The last man enters at 5:30.  He is so large, engorged upon arrival--no doubt from hours of anticipation—he is wearing sweat pants to give with his erection.  He is tall, dark-haired and handsome as the rest.  He is a foot in length and every bit as stout as the man who entered me at midnight.  His cock is harnessed and sheathed in a mail of metal studs.  His first thrust sears with unprecedented fire.  All the studs feel like broken glass.  He takes me stem to tip each time, lacerating me the full twelve inches.  I cry out with every thrust, plead for him to stop and urge him on.  It is inevitable.  I am Calvin Rose and I have sex with men.
Toward the end I feel shredded inside, bruised around the mouth of my canal.  My cries are ragged too, echoing the laceration of my insides. The exact sensation reminds me of a burn.  Not that I remember an event, but I recall the sensation of a deep burn on my arm, the crawling maddening unrelenting pain of nerves on fire.  My insides have begun to crawl and burn and roar like that.
 At last he delivers his load inside of me.  He hesitates a moment, his hand in a fist.  His face is red, ashamed.   “Please don't hit me there.  I'm going to rupture,” I beg him.  But he is not ashamed of what he is about to do, but ashamed of what he's done.  I have given him the greatest pleasure a man can give another man, yet having taken pleasure he returns contempt.  For, like all the men who've come in me tonight, he's lost his self-control, and having lost that it is beyond his power to regain.  He strikes my snuts with his fist, lingers to savor his revenge--to watch my mouth open, my eyes flutter, my muscles tense.  Then he leaves.
            I am drifting toward delirium.  The hands of the clock blur and waver, settle vertically.  Six o'clock.  A moment later my captor enters.  He approaches me like the others.  His eyes are dark and dead, staring at my trembling body--my scrotum, swollen like a grapefruit, dark with hematomas; my pitiful opening, a bloody cavern.  It is as if all that remains is for my entrails and vital organs to come tumbling out.  They too feel bruised, lacerated, dislodged from their tenuous connections and precise placements, like those babies born with their organs exposed.  I am a man transformed--not merely naked, exposed and sodomized, balls bludgeoned to the point of rupture.  For if I am damaged beyond repair, then my desire is desecrated, destroyed forever with it. 
My captor does not undo his pants.  He raises his hand, whispers something between closed lips, and then he makes a fist and plunges in.


In my sleep this time I dream.  Who I am is not explicit.  As in all dreams, identity is assumed, fluid.  There is someone in the dream I never see, yet who remains next to me throughout.  Not myself and not entirely another.  A presence I depend on that keeps me strangely whole, like the embodiment of memory, something nearby but safely housed in an invisible body.  There is nothing outstanding in the dream except that it is the most perfect summer day, and I feel good in a way I've only felt a handful of times in life.  Most days are marred by at least some small distress:  adverse news, an argument with a friend, the residue of bad dreams, the death of someone close, oversleeping, gloomy weather, financial worries.  Not so today.  There is not a cloud or a shadow in my dream.
I keep moving, sometimes traveling in a car, sometimes on foot.  The road is open, the sky blue, perspective closing its aperture down the road in a distant v between the tops of trees.  Then I am at a public street in a city by the sea.  People I don’t know speak to me as though everyone feels generous and free, unburdened by the blue open sky.  Nothing happens and there is no purpose to any of my movements, no destination to my intermittent travels.  I belong here it seems, and everyone is happy to see me, looks at me with admiration.  This is enough.  I gradually become aware of the presence at my side.  I don’t see or speak to this presence.  For it never rises quite to consciousness of itself.  Yet, I understand then, that it is this invisible embodiment that fills me with elation and peace.  At the height of the day, the joy and levity of the crowds, their generosity and freedom also, seems unbounded.  Familiar faces that have passed before suddenly return with laughter and the joy swells to the point where I hear the word 'love' inside his head.  At that moment, a man with a seductive smile laughs at something witty I have said. He repeats it and then everybody laughs.  The sun is very high and the day seems destined to defy all other days in its exceeding joy and permanence.


 I awaken alone in the darkness.  The dream dissolves and in a moment, before I grasp the sweet, melting center of it, it vanishes beyond recall.  The sedative has worn off too soon.  I never awaken in the night, or at least I don’t remember it.
My arms are thrust above my head.   I cannot move them.  I focus on my hands and start to raise them.  A painful stricture in my wrists halts their motion and a simultaneous metal clank follows the sound of their sudden arrest.  I have felt this before, but I can’t remember it.  I remember the sling.  A dozen straight men in succession abusing my ass and balls, probably paid to absolve their curious lust but still ashamed.  I remember my captor’s fist.  A sweat of panic breaks out on my forehead and in my armpits.  I smell of manly soap, but in the background like a warning I smell sweat and semen, a lingering musk of masculine aggression.  I must escape.  I cannot endure one more cock or cruel fist.  My sexual organs, inside and out, are like ruins, used up, broken cisterns, crumbling viaducts.  They feel like the pulpy rinds of fruit trodden underfoot.  The sweat breaks into rage.  I have not forgotten my desire, but I swear I will kill the next man who whips out his cock or raises a hand to swat my swollen balls.
I pull on the cuffs.  Clank, clank, clank, clank.  I stop.  If my captor is home, he will come out.  I imagine him stuffing a latex cock in my mouth to silence me.  Yet, if I wait until the morning, there is no telling what I will be made to endure before I’m left alone again.  I slide up as far as I can until I can grab the vertical bars on the headboard.  They are not solid metal.  Perhaps the bed itself is not that strong.  I begin to rock.  The headboard grill has give. If I can make it give it’s going to be the head, because the grill at the foot is against a wall.  I wait and listen.  There is no sound from down the hall.
  I rock again, harder.  The bars themselves have begun to bend.  I get another idea.  I take hold with both hands on the bar around which I am cuffed and I begin to yank in earnest.  I rest and listen.  He either doesn’t hear from behind his door or he is not home.  I pull and pull, but I cannot see if I have made progress beyond the initial bending.  Just when it seems I have reached an impasse, the weld around the base and top lets go.  The bar begins to spin.  I work it around and around.  It bends more.  It’s loose at the top.  All I need is for one end to come free.
I spin and spin and reverse the spin, and then it breaks and my hands are cuffed but free of the bed.  I quickly scoot forward and put my manacled feet between the bars, drop them down to rest on the bottom of the grill.  Then I begin the process again, but now with greater leverage.  It is not long before my feet are free.
Still there is no sound from down the hall.  I wonder what to do.  Lie here as if still chained to the bed until he comes in and goes to sleep, or get up and wait behind the door, take the chance that I can take him from behind and overcome him before he flicks the light and sees that I am not in the bed.  When my eyes adjust to the dark, I go down the hall as quietly as I can to see if he is already in bed.  The door at the end of the hall is open.  His bed is empty.  I find a chair in his kitchen and carry it out to my room.  Kneeling first and then sliding my feet under me as I hold the chair back I’m able to bring both shackled feet up on the chair.  I stand up and remove the bulbs from the overhead light fixture.



I squat, back pressed to the wall and wait behind the door.  I grew tired of standing and had to give my legs a rest, though the position recalls the sling and exerts gravity on my abused and beaten parts.  The reminder keeps me alert and focused. I practice sliding up the wall silently in preparation for his return. I wait and listen.
Twice I hear footsteps outside the door, but they move on.  The third time, the footsteps stop and the key turns.  I slide up to a stand at the click and turn of the knob.  He enters, left hand on the doorknob, the right hand flicks the light switch.  Nothing happens.
“Shit,” he curses.  He keeps the door partway open.  In the slit of light, I see him in shadow, the back of his head.  He starts for the light switch in the hall and I make my move, leaping out, cuffed hands raised, coming down over his head and jerking back suddenly on his neck.  He croaks, staggers, pushing me back first into the door.  It closes with a slam.  I hold on.  He lurches forward trying to throw me, hands going for the cuff chain at his throat.  I pull with all my might.  His wind grows thinner and he falls back into me.  I crash again into the door, but this time I use the leverage to hold myself and master my stranglehold on him.  My cock is pressed to the crack seam of his pants.  It starts to stir and I know what I will do.  I had no thought of anything but escape, yet a new desire has come to me.  My cock pulses harder.  My captor’s wind is a high, thin wheeze about to quit like the last turn of a whistling water valve.
He goes silent and limp.  I let his body fall to the floor, and then I go to work.


When he awakens, I have him naked in the sling and with the overhead lights on.  The hard part was deciding whether I wanted him face up or down.  On the one hand I wanted to see the look in his eyes, when I filled him up, see him react to the overmastering pain of a first cock thrust through him dry in a single stroke.  On the other hand, face down he will feel even less in control, more mine, because he won’t be able to anticipate it, and it will be enough to hear the pain and outrage in his voice.  In the end, my choice to have him face down, unable even to guard his passage with his eyes, is aesthetic.  For there is something about the inviolable tightness of the ass of a man who cannot conceive of his own penetration, not just the pristine, dime-sized, sun ray of a sphincter that has never taken more than a doctor’s finger, but the very way he holds it.  It is never provocatively pushed out or spread in his naked attitude, but held firm like a consolidation of his power.  If it ever parts, it does so incidentally during some masculine endeavor like sports—the football huddle, the base runner’s crouch—that invites the visual possibility of surrender in a context where it is impossible.  My captive likes sex with men as well as I (he is too committed to my body for it to be otherwise), but, now that I have seen his ass unguarded, I know he has never taken anything inside of him.
His body is far more elegant and beautiful than I imagined beneath the generic shapeless T's and relaxed blue jeans.  It is the kind of body I have always envisioned for Adam, elemental and uncomplicated.  Not overly wrought and stiff with musculature. Not self-consciously masculine at all—his chest the modest well-formed mounds of an athletic teen, biceps ropey, thighs long and articulate, the trapezias slope gently from his neck and then bunch and square at the deltoids.  The points of his clavicle stand out like finials on the cupolas of his shoulders.  His beauty is in the clear articulation of the male form, uncluttered by the baroque striations and articulations of gym bodies.  His mystery is in the rich straight dark hair that combs his arms, chest, and legs and again in a kind of dark ray rising from his pubis almost to his navel.
I sit facing him in a chair when he opens his eyes.  It takes only a few seconds for him to see the situation, how it has reversed.  I have a latex cock stuffed in his mouth and his hands are safely cuffed and hoisted on a guide above his head.  He tries to speak to me, a wild urgency in his eyes, a protest as if against injustice. 
“You think you haven’t had this coming?” I tell him.  “This is your fault.  Look at me,” I gesture at my swollen balls.  I stand up and turn, spread myself for him.  “That's what's left of my desire, my body.  So there must be new desires.   I thought at first I could just leave here, escape, be free, but I can’t.  You’ve not only damaged my body, but my mind as well.  I cannot go anywhere without it.  So I have to begin again, right now.  And when I’m done with you, you are going to tell me everything.”
I walk around behind him.  He’s trying to talk, vehemently now, but the words are all muffled by the rubber cock.  I stand behind him, take hold of his narrow hips.  I stare into the innocence of his virgin ass.  He expects me to sodomize him roughly, and that is what I have planned, but suddenly I know that if a new desire is to be born in him, that he must come to love surrender, as he now loves control.  After all, his worst fear is that my cock will give him pleasure (pain a mere artifact).  And pleasure is what I intend to give him.
I go to the bathroom first and cut my nails very close.  Then I get a bottle of oil from the kitchen cabinet above the stove.   I keep the bottle behind my back until I’m around him.  Then I uncap it and pour a generous stream down his crack and rub the oil over his tight cork.  I push in a little and, even at that slight intrusion, he tries to tense his cheeks.  The sling keeps him spread for me.  It is hard not to be cruel, hard not to feel tender.  I’m still torn by the aesthetics of revenge.  Whether it will be best satisfied in his suffering cruelty or in my expressing tenderness.  Those other men who had me would have preferred cruelty.  For them it would have been a punishment to endure, rather than an emotion to experience.  This man knows emotion.  I have seen it in his eyes in the care he took giving me a needle.  I decide he must be punished and then tenderized.
I plunge my oily index finger in and pull it out.  That is enough lubrication to let me through, but not enough to ease his pain.  I plant the head of my cock against him.  His ring is so tight and my head so swollen the disparity in size alone is going to pain him greatly.  I take a hold of his hips.  He knows what’s coming.  His body is tensed.  I plunge hard, all the way.  A cry stifles in his throat, comes out like a humiliated and astonished grrrrr, as at a sudden purge of vomit. I pull out.  I wait a minute.  I sear the ring and plunge again.  Grrrrrrr.  Then I pound him, deeply until he opens for me.  Each thrust is accompanied by a vocalization that reflects the changes in him.  The first time any man takes a cock he cannot master the full feeling of having to evacuate.  I hear the deep slow moan of discomfort and dread of incontinence.  Penetration resonates with all the sensations he’s ever had in his bowels--nerves, fear, vertigo, diarrhea, constipation, the expanding cramp that comes from holding it in too long—all contained in this constant filling and emptying of his canal.  Yet it is none of those things because it is sex, a man having sex in his ass, plumbing its history without limit, and all those private sensations are now exposed like imminent possibilities to him.  He reveals himself in every sound he makes.
            A half-hour in I pull the dildo from his mouth to better hear the sounds.  He is so lost in them now, the torrent of words he screamed at the outset, are diminished chants to himself.  Over and over his protests, ‘No’  ‘Oh’ ‘Please’ seem no longer directed at me but constitute a prayer to end his suffering that eventually, through repetition, becomes a mantra of endurance despite itself.
Near the end of the hour he is weeping, for he is being pushed nearer and nearer the point of incontinence, thinking he will wet himself for the first time since he last wet the bed as a boy, fearing he will climax at his own rape.  I fuck him harder.  He cries out, a long held “oh, noooo…” and then his cum sails to the floor like white ropes tossed down from the sky a length at a time.   I grab his cock before he spills it all and dispense the last wad of it in the palm of my hand.  I coat my index finger and work it into his pliable hole, and then I force myself on him again and drive his cum back into him.  Now, he must endure my climax even while his is on the ebb.  With the thrill of pleasure past, the raw and violated feeling is all that’s left. I pound harder yet.  It is so long coming, I have a feeling I will never climax.  Then the sting, ethereal high pleasure, rises up my shaft, like a red line of mercury climbing a thermometer.  I come and shout, rock until the last ebb of orgasm has subsided.  I stand behind him for a while contemplating the beauty of his violation.  It feels insufficient to my suffering.  The utter ruin and loss of myself.
I walk slowly round and sit down to face him.  His eyes are still shut tight, in expectation of some further violation.  I could do anything.  I could go at him another hour with the unforgiving size and texture of that latex cock, six hours if I wished to match him in temporal cruelty.  I could paddle his nut sack as he paddled mine.  Yet, all of this would just be pain.
            He opens his large brown eyes.  They are still wet with tears.  His lashes, matted with tears, are remarkably long and childlike, but his eyes are not the eyes of a child.  They are not bewildered, but resentful.
            “You promised, no matter what happened, that you would never do that to me,” he says.
            I sit up.  “What?  I don't know who you are.  You are lucky I don't do worse.  I want to know what you've done with my memory.  What you've been giving me.  How I got here and who I am.  I remember all the men, all that night.  I remember your fist.  But there's so much more I sense and keep losing.  All I seem to know is that my name is Calvin Rose and I like having sex with men.”
            “Calvin Rose?”  He shakes his head.  “I am Calvin Rose.”
            “You're lying that's my name.”
            “No, I'm Calvin Rose.  I can show you.”
            “Who am I then?”
            “You are--” He hesitates.  His eyes lose focus and grow distant, as though remembering the dead.  “Paul LaPlante.”
            I sit in silence and focus on the sounds of the name.  It means nothing to me.
            “Why can't I remember my own name?  Why have you taken my memory from me?”
            “Please, let me down from here and I will tell you everything.  No tricks.   It’s over.  There is something you need to see.”


            He sits me down on a couch in the little room along the hall where he has his TV.  He puts in a CD and sits on the other end the couch.  He is about to turn on the player, when he remembers something.  He leaves and comes back with a small hand held mirror.  Only then does it occur to me that there are no mirrors in the apartment.  At least not in any room I've been in.  I chance a look at myself.  I am very pale, a little older than Calvin, but my eyes betray the stress of my captivity, bloodshot, dark circles and fine lines under my lids.  My hair is coming back after having been shaved, sandy brown with flecks of gray.  It is a handsome face heading toward premature ruin.  I recognize it.  Not as my own, but as one familiar.  One I could pick out from a gallery of strangers.
            He sits down on the other end of the couch.  We are both still naked, sign of some uneasy but bearable truce between us.  He presses the clicker once and the video begins.
            The lines waver and straighten out.  The first image to appear is my own.  I am much younger, my hair is brown with a sunny copper tint.  My younger self looks to the side then into the camera and begins to speak.
            “It's me.  Paul LaPlante.  Being of sound mind and body,” I say.
            Off camera somebody mutters disagreement.
            Paul LaPlante giggles, briefly, and then a genuinely serious expression comes over his face as he begins to talk.
            “According to my own wishes and by my own design, I give my body over to the keeping of Calvin Rose.”  Calvin comes into the picture now, his head appearing in the close-up beside Paul's. 
            “He will keep me in this place, administer the illegal designer drug,  Lethex, known on the street as Lex, and after I have forgotten much about myself including my instructions to him, I will be his captive indefinitely and submit to my own desires, unmitigated by the desires of others, or by any criminal law or restraint of human decency for the first time in my life.  Also, he will videotape the results to verify that he has carried out my wishes.
            “I have written my instructions out in detail for him and the order and sequence in which they will be acted out--”
            I sit speechless, staring at the screen. 
            “I wanted this?”
            Calvin nods at me.  He fast forwards the CD.
            The image fixes.  I'm face up in the sling.  A blond man walks into the room, straddles my body and begins without ceremony to sodomize me.  I cry out.  Calvin stops the CD.  The image of the rape in profile remains frozen on the screen, slightly blurred.
            I cannot look at Calvin.  “All the men this time were dark haired.  How many times has this happened?”
            Calvin sits back, pulls his knees into a tuck and looks up at the ceiling.  “Many times.  Blonds.  Black men.  Latinos.  Asians.  Athletes.  Rednecks. Convicted rapists.  Young suburban fathers with wives.  Older married men.  Skinhead punks.  Dark-haired straight Italians.”
            “How long have I been here?”
            “Seven years.”
            “Seven?”  I tip my head back to keep the tears in.  “All these years.”
Still looking at the ceiling, I ask.  “What was I, what did I do before—this.”
            Calvin looks at me.  His eyes have that dead dark look, like the moment before he fisted me.  “You,” he says, and his eyes warm up, as if at a specific memory.  “You were a semester from completing your masters in Environmental Technology—specifically water treatment.  Clean water was your other passion--and then you quit.”
            I don’t remember it at all, as if he is telling me about a stranger.  “How old was I?”
            “Twenty-four.”
            “Did I ever say why I quit?”
            “You said the only way desire had any meaning for you was if you could experience it every time as if it were your first.  And to do that meant forgetting all the other times before.  You became obsessed by the idea of it.”
Calvin looks at me now, addresses me, but not as if I am the Paul of whom he speaks.  “You said all the things you wanted didn't excite you any more, because you could control what happened.  And when desire failed you, you could always opt out and say no to it.  That was how desire died, you told me.  And you said, you'd rather die first.”
            “I gave up everything.   Including all my memories?”  I am stunned.  I feel like all the light has gone out of my seeing, all the space and buoyancy of my insides has collapsed.  My insides weigh dark and heavy, like something sinking in a sunless lake, yet I am strangely hollow.
            “I was afraid this would happen. One day you would forget so much of yourself, that even the deepest internal wish or desire would seem alien to you, and I no longer would be the one to fulfill your desires; I would become your torturer.  I--” Calvin falters.
            “But why did you?  If I didn't remember anything, you could have changed the rules.  Changed the instructions.  Anything.”
            Calvin looks away and says nothing.
            “You gave up everything too,” I say, suddenly illumined.  For only desire could have committed him for so many years.
            “He said if I didn't agree to it, he'd find somebody else.”
            There is a long silence.  We both stare at the frozen image of two men united by strangeness, the willingness to forget and abandon everything except desire itself.
            “Were we lovers?”  I finally ask him.
            He stares on for a minute, then turns to look at me.  “What do you think?”
            “I don't remember.”
            We sit in silence again.  Another question comes to me, not essentially different than my penultimate question, but somehow essential in its precision--because in a sense he is all that remains of me.
            “Did you love me?” I ask, chancing once more to look at him.
            He stares straight ahead at the frozen image on the screen.
            “I don't remember.”


The End