Cantilever


They had a big fire going, and there was music—really kind of raunchy hardcore stuff—and everyone was wrecked. Someone had brought their dog, which Fay found really cruel to the dog at first, but then the dog seemed fine, the dog seemed like the most subdued one there.

Lorn was so drunk by the time Fay and the others showed up that he just came over and started talking to them as if they’d been there all along. Literally just mid-sentence he was like: ‘ . . . doesn’t matter anyway she’s not even here.’ And Fay was like: ‘Who?’ and Lorn grimaced but he was laughing, and he went: ‘Julie didn’t come so like, fuck it I’m gonna just whatever the fuck’ and he pointed off in the general direction of the house, but he pointed too high and kind of pointed more over the roof at the saddening contusion of sky there. Fay and the others went to the keg and milked some froth into a few Solos and barely got anything, let alone a buzz and so they went into the house to look for something else.

They rummaged through the medicine cabinet where there wasn’t really anything good, a couple of non-drowsy Tylenols and something called Clonidine which none of them had heard of but it sounded kind of like Klonopin so they each took a couple and waited to see what happened.

Back outside the dog was going around pissing along the perimeter of the yard and someone wheeled in a fresh keg, so Fay and the others got in line for it and managed actually to get a few full cups of beer and stood by the fire with them. Husks came up and said he had a bottle of vodka in his car if they wanted to get actually drunk so they all went to Husks’ car and the dog followed them and jumped in with them. And Fay was like: ‘Is this your dog?’ and Husks was like: ‘No I thought he was yours,’ and Fay was like: ‘No’ and they passed the bottle around and listened to some music that was better than the music at the party. Husks was being super funny that night and he’d just had a haircut, and Fay saw he had really nice big ears which was something her cousin had said about guys: that if they had big ears that meant they were also super hung and that also you could tell how hung a guy was by how much facial hair he had since testosterone was the thing that determined both beard-size and hung-size. Husks had both nice big ears and some serious stubble for someone their age. Fay hadn’t necessarily made up her mind about where she fell on the whole right amount of being hung thing, meaning what amount she liked best, but she made sure to laugh really hard at Husks’ jokes and make a lot of eye contact while she figured it out.

They named the dog Maiden, after a joke that Husks made, and the others tried to give Maiden a little vodka, but he didn’t want any and Fay got pissed at them because that was really cruel to Maiden, but she tried to be cool about it and didn’t say anything. When the bottle was empty they went back into the yard, and by now it was dark, like literally nighttime, and people were acting utterly raucous and moshing around the fire to some poppy-screamo stuff that was actually pretty cool. Husks was like: ‘Hey you wanna go fuckin’ mosh with me?’ and Fay was like: ‘Dude completely’ and then she and Husks started kind of walking together up to the mosh-pit being super careful and heedful of elbows and knees and shit that were flying around everywhere like a veritable bomb had gone off but instead of the limbs of the bomb’s victims flying off in all directions they kept flying off but then getting sucked back in and then flying off again, like they were caught in some kind of exploding time-loop.

Husks was really serious about his moshing, and Fay was a little intimidated by his sheer just wild energy. He took total control of the area immediately around the fire and some of the people who had been moshing really hard a second before had to just step back and admire him. And Fay did her best to keep up but kept having to stop and laugh at herself for her earnestness. And then all of a sudden she realized that they’d left Maiden in Husks’ car and she was like – really loudly over the music—she was like: ‘We gotta go get Maiden!’ and Husks was like: ‘What?’ and he threw a gnarly elbow just out into the world and Fay was like, even louder: ‘The dog! He’s still in your car!’ and Husks went: ‘Maiden!’ and he took Fay by the wrist and they ran across the yard to his car and opened it up, but Maiden wasn’t there, and Fay was like: ‘I guess he got out with us and we didn’t see.’ Husks was sweating and panting and had this smile on his face like he maybe knew a secret about Fay that she’d never told anyone and he was like: ‘Hey you wanna smoke some weed?’ and Fay was down, so they got back into Husks’ car and smoked a spliff that was a lot of tobacco and burned Fay’s throat and dried out her mouth and Husks didn’t put on any music that time and they didn’t talk really at all and so they listened to the music from the party, dampened through the metal and the glass of the car, and they got really stoned—more stoned than Fay usually liked to get—because all the smoke was stuck inside the car and so they were like smoking the whole spliff over and over and over again.

Finally Fay had to get out and breathe actual air. There was a meadow across the road, hemmed by murmuring woods on three sides and just, like, exploding with fireflies, and Fay looked at it almost like she was looking through glass at something. And she was like: ‘We should try to catch some fireflies’ and Husks laughed so hard he had to squat and Fay was a little embarrassed that maybe it was a really stupid thing to say, like maybe catching fireflies was just completely idiotic and everybody knew that except her but then Husks stood up and put his big hand on top of Fay’s head and was like: ‘That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard.’

So they walked across the road into the meadow and Fay was really feeling the air on her skin on account of the weed and maybe even feeling something else, like some kind of stuckness in her brain where her thoughts were kind of snagging on their way out. The grass in the meadow was so high in some parts it came up over Fay’s knees, and she was thinking about ticks and stuff, because she was wearing shorts and no socks, but when she was thinking about ticks the thoughts didn’t get very far, like she thought ‘ticks’ and ‘shorts’ and then the thought kind of calcified, or evaporated, and she had to start over with it, and she felt kind of stupid and helpless. Husks didn’t say anything but occasionally reached down and took Fay’s wrist like she was a child who couldn’t be trusted to walk in a straight line across the street or something, and she wondered if maybe she was stumbling a little without realizing it because the vodka was starting to hit her pretty hard after dancing and whisking it all up inside her body and then smoking a spliff on top of it. But she didn’t feel bad, there was nothing wrong, and she liked Husks’ big hand on her wrist, the way it went all the way around like a grownup’s hand and for a second she was struck by that Husks was a grownup—with stubble and big ears—which meant that she was also a grownup since they were the same age and always had been. And she tried to say something about this, about being stuck in the passage of time and the terror and awesomeness of this condition but instead she just kind of went: ‘Ho boy, death’ which made Husks laugh sharply, like he was delivering a karate chop, and go prancing off across the meadow swatting and scooping at the fireflies and Fay thought, when he got a certain distance away, that he looked kind of like a deer running on its hind legs, which sort of disturbed her, so she forced herself to chuckle and scratched at the inside of her thigh where it felt like something was crawling.

Husks waded back through the grass toward Fay and held out his hand and opened it and went: ‘Oop!’ and closed it again to keep the firefly from getting away. And Fay suddenly felt like maybe this had been a mistake, like catching fireflies was really cruel to the fireflies—though on the other hand if they didn’t want to be caught then why would they just hang there in the air and flash and draw attention to themselves?—but so she peeled opened Husks’s hand and they watched the firefly kind of totter up and meld back into the swarm of other fireflies and then she felt like she had to explain why she’d let it go especially after it had been her idea to catch them in the first place, but she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to explain herself, so she went up on her tippy-toes and tried to kiss Husks instead. But Husks turned his head away and went: ‘It’s hotter if we don’t kiss,’ and he took her by the wrist and led her to the edge of the meadow and pressed her against a tree and rummaged around under her shirt and undid her shorts without kissing her. And it was all good, she wanted him, even though she imagined—with the thrumming woods sprawled behind her—what it would be like if she didn’t want him or if for some reason she changed her mind the way people do sometimes and she imagined she was probably too drunk to convincingly assert that she had changed her mind or have to explain why. But it didn’t matter because she did want him, and it was all good and he’d picked the right tree to press her against because it wasn’t too fibrous or anything and his hands were warm but not warmer than the air, and he smelled kind of woodsy or maybe it was the woods themselves that she was smelling or a combination of both.

It started to become apparent like a minute later that her body wasn’t really in the mood to cooperate, because of the weed and the booze and whatever, and she wasn’t, like, producing moisture. And she could tell that Husks was discovering this along with her but didn’t know how to say to him that it wasn’t his fault without literally saying ‘It isn’t your fault’ which was a terrible thing to say to someone because pretty much always when someone said that something wasn’t your fault they meant that it actually was. So she kind of switched places with Husks so now his back was against the tree, and she opened his jeans and used her hands on him. It turned out her cousin was right, like he was pretty hung but not too much or in a weird way but in a nice way that Fay thought maybe would be the right amount for someone who was her boyfriend to be. But Husks would never want to be her boyfriend because he was kind of all over the place and always had been and Fay had never known him to have a girlfriend or show any interest in having one, and it wasn’t like Fay was crushing on him or anything like that at all, so the whole premise really didn’t warrant any actual consideration. She was into him, sure, like she was out in the woods giving him a handjob, and she didn’t just give out handjobs all over the place, like she had to at least think a guy was hot and nice and whatever, but she didn’t want to like be with him the way that, say, Lorn and Julie had been together all the way from tenth grade until like a month ago and now that they were breaking up on and off all the time it was like everything they did with anyone else was this huge deal and couldn’t just be something they did with someone else but necessarily included each other, too. She and Husks were just friends who thought each other was hot and nice and this was their way of showing that, it was the way grownups showed each other that they thought someone was hot and nice, by giving them pleasure. And like none of this stuff was new to Fay, she wasn’t a kid and she’d thought about it all before and really didn’t do things that she didn’t want to do or didn’t understand why she was doing them, it was just that out here, at the edge of the woods with the strobing fireflies in the meadow behind her and the earthy smell of wood and dirt everywhere it just felt really conducive for self-reflection, like whatever she’d happened to be doing out there at that moment in that environment she would have been compelled to think about more fully.

After a few minutes Husks was like: ‘I think I’m a little too drunk, is the problem,’ and Fay was like: ‘That’s okay that’s what happened to me too.’ Husks put himself away, and Fay straightened herself out and then Husks was like: ‘I’m sorry about the not kissing thing. I thought it would be, like, kind of dirty and hot, you know? But actually kind of I just want to kiss you now, if that’s alright.’ And Fay felt like insanely happy and relieved about what Husks had just said, and she tried to subtly suck some saliva out of her saliva ducts or whatever and then she went on her tippy-toes again, and she and Husks kissed really nice and soft and full there just inside the woods. And both of their mouths started salivating together and they kept kissing really, like, sensually, and Fay started to feel Husks getting kind of aroused, and she even felt herself starting to kind of get aroused and so they kissed harder and their clothes got pulled down and aside until they were both on the floor of the woods getting dirty and covered in pine needles and having like full-on sex but also maybe it was also kind of like making love because they were kissing really passionately and making eye contact. And Fay had a moment where she was kind of blown away that she was having this kind of sex with Husks because she really hadn’t thought that Husks was necessarily capable of having sex like this, like passionately. And then she wondered if he was thinking the same thing about her, if in his mind she was the female equivalent of him, kind of rambunctious and hot and more into fucking without kissing than having sex—which she wasn’t, really, but could understand why people might think that. Fay closed her eyes and felt Husks on top of her, and he probably weighed twice as much as she did but it felt good, really good, his weight and his stubble and his being inside her all kind of swarming together into this really just satisfying somatic frenzy. But then Husks started making this weird sound, like this kind of oinking sound and Fay thought that maybe he was cumming and just made a weird sound when he came which whatever, she wouldn’t judge him for it even though it was a really, really weird sound. She opened her eyes and saw that Husks was looking around and obviously wasn’t making the sound, the sound was coming from somewhere else, and he was looking for it too. He’d stopped like thrusting or grinding or whatever but he didn’t pull out or anything they just lay there and looked around the woods and the meadow where the fireflies had disappeared completely, and now it was just sterile darkness that might as well have been a lake or a gorge or something. Fay was like: ‘What is that?’ and Husks went: ‘Shh!’ and put his fingers on Fay’s lips. And that’s when Fay got a little scared, because Husks was acting serious, and she’d never really seen him be serious before even in very decidedly serious situations, like when Mr. Grobusch had a heart attack right in the middle of class and collapsed on the floor and people started screaming and freaking out and shit and Husks had said, pretty loud so everyone could hear: ‘And I thought I was the only one who was about to die from boredom,’ which was such a hilarious and crazy thing to say given the circumstance and was really like a defining moment for Husks. But now he was serious, his shadowed face full of gravity, peering around the dark, serried woods.

The sound seemed to be coming from really close and it wasn’t really like an oink at all but more like a rasping sound that someone sick makes—and Fay thought about her grandma smoking through the hole in her neck—and then Fay thought about her grandma smoking through the hole in her neck while standing in the woods, like behind a dark bush, rasping and watching her granddaughter have sex with some boy, which was a really weird thought and made Fay’s fingertips cold. Then all at once she realized: a deer! It was a deer making that sound, because she didn’t rightfully know what sound deer made, but she’d heard someone once describe it as being kind of weird and disturbing so she pulled at Husks’ wrist to move his hand away from her mouth so she could tell him this but his eyes were wide looking at something behind Fay. Fay craned her neck to look where he was looking but couldn’t see anything except crowded darkness and underbrush. She tried to go: ‘What is it?’ but it came out muffled on account of Husks’ fingers, which were now kind of wedged between her lips and pressed against her teeth. And Husks’ eyes went from really wide to really narrowed and focused, and he kind of cocked his head a little, as if he was listening—and Fay thought it looked like he was nodding slightly, as if the oinky rasps were somehow intelligible to him, which made Fay even more scared because they were animal sounds and no one could understand them except another animal. And then Husks did the strangest thing Fay had ever seen, which was that he coughed really hard almost like he was choking except the strange thing was that bubbles came out of his mouth and floated up into the dark and he heaved and coughed more and more bubbles came out and his body seemed to get heavier on top of Fay and Fay smelled this hot, ferric odor like nothing she’d ever smelled before and she flailed and grasped at Husks to try to move him or to wriggle out from beneath him except the problem was that he was still inside her, like deep, both down there and with his fingers pushing into her mouth and Fay, in her escalating terror, felt her body kind of clench up and constrict around him, which was the opposite of what she wanted it to do, which was release and flee. But instead she felt herself snagged on him as his body swelled and pushed her down into the dirt and with her hands she plied at his face, which was seeming to bruise in the darkness, his eyes crossing and rolling back, a strand of bubbles leaking from his mouth and nose and braiding upward as if he was underwater and yet Fay, trapped beneath him, was not.  

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