A little Lust on a Sunday afternoon

February 22, 2009

Posted by Nick Sarno


The following can be found in Lust and Cashmere. Lust and Cashmere can be found here.

It was soft like a girl. Always small and soft like a girl. Sort of dirty like a girl, until I cleaned it. Now it was small and clean, but still soft. I looked for the girl, the one who went with the sweater. If I found her, she would have found it and she would wear it and it would be worn and she would be warm. When it would get cold she would rub the top of her arm and her elbow and cuddle with herself, with her arm, with the sweater. And the sweater would feel good, because of the soft grope. But I didn’t find her. I kept the sweater.
I can tell you this about Jonnie, when he’s out walking around and looking at the world through his blue doe eyes, he is looking for things to fuck. But you wouldn’t know it because he doesn’t know it; he takes it in stride-walks like a tourist. This is a story about blond Jon McManus
There was a particular night that embraced him. Blond Jon left his house for a party and knew the evening would be different. Already, he loved that night because he felt it opening up with promise: it was a rocking, fecund night. It teased him with possibility and his senses grew prematurely drunk by the rustling of night’s creatures that followed the wake of his path.
He arrived at the party. He had fun drinking and dancing with the sweaty mob of people he did and did not talk to. He made a good joke when he was outside cooling off, and when the people laughed he felt close to them. There was a girl smoking a cigarette who laughed too and he wondered if she might be the one to embody the night for him. He felt close to the world on that night, so close that even when the smoking girl went back to party without him, nothing was lost.
Bricks, bushes, and a cup of warm beer made his walk home. The night was around him in every way. The beer in his veins filled him with the night; it dissolved his singular identity, and together, Blond Jon and the night, met and mingled. Everything was wet so it glistened; everything he saw felt different because of the night. Blond Jon was as close to a blank slate as he could be, and he moved with a lumbering grace that would be forgotten in the morning.
The light changed on a bush where fabric absorbed it; a question rose in Jon’s mind. Jon McManus focused on that question and in doing so repronounced his singularity. From that singularity, other temptations were born. They swelled and multiplied inside of his head.
Blond Jon woke up, turned over, and saw the sweater in his closet.
McManus was a man-child: a big blond hockey jersey with Keds. He touched the people he met. He liked cookies and chocolate milk. He was a man-child with missing teeth.
With the party over and his roommates asleep, McManus took me out and laid me on the couch. Head still drenched with sweat and beer, he held me up against the light and contemplated.
Looking into his eyes I saw him fall in love. I saw those same eyes change. Without affecting his smile Jonathon’s eyes betrayed concern. Quicker than when he first picked me up, I was tucked back into the darkness of his trousers and carried to the bedroom. In the closet, underneath dirty laundry, I waited for morning. I thought I knew what would happen. Jonathon was not the first to find me alone at the end of the night.
Sure enough, he carried me down the cobblestone street the next day. Inside a storefront, I was brought in line with naval uniforms stinking of urine, vomit and semen from Saturday night. I was back on his bed before nightfall. A small lamp lit the room dimly and Jonathon rubbed my newness between the thumb and index finger of his right hand. With his left one he contemplated the homemade flyer he would Xerox and post. “SWEATER FOUND!” it said, “All inquiries to contact Blond Jon McManus.” And then, after a moment’s pause, he’d added his phone number.
The flyers were not posted for weeks. When they were, he posted them beneath other, older notices. And then, each night, McManus took me out of his closet looked at me as though he wanted more than ever to meet her.
Bow three times west. One. Two. Three. Three times south. One. Two. Three. East. Two. Three. North, just like someone taught me. Bless what you’ve got, someone said. I’ve got a dry cleaners wedged in between an abandoned building and McDonald’s. I’ve got some kids who don’t like to work and a dying mother. I’m outside with a smoking stick blessing what I’ve got. God bless what I’ve got. This chemical factory. These stinking suits. Again. Three times north.
Here comes someone. He’s tall. Taller than most doors where I come from. He’d be good for my daughter. He would help her with things. Like lifting boxes into the closet. He’s got something in his hands. He’s going to walk by me and go into McDonald’s for French fries. He looks confused. Maybe he’s lost. He gets there-to the door of McDonald’s, and then he seems less confused. He looks at me and I stop blessing what I’ve got. In his hands he’s got a sweater-all crunched up in a ball. Like he found it under a tire somewhere.
“I found this.” he says. I’m kind of amazed at that; it’s nice. “How fast can you clean it?” he asks, polite, but not friendly. He wouldn’t be good for my daughter. He wouldn’t listen to her well. She would get angry with him and come looking to me for help.
Allison was curious about who put up the fliers but was unable to bring herself to call the number. She was curious about who had her sweater. The bottom of the flier read: “Call Blond Jon McManus,” and then there was a number. The curiosity she had about her sweater made the name stick in her head. She would repeat it to herself, wondering whose name it was. She was only a freshman and she didn’t know many people so she didn’t know whose name it was. Finally, she asked her roommate, Dana. Dana was a freshman too, but she knew lots of people. She spoke to whomever she pleased and didn’t ever feel embarrassed. Her friends were always stopping by the room to look for her. Instead they always found Allison; Dana was a busy girl, and it was something her friends never seemed to consider. Instead they always nodded at Allison, both disappointed and polite.
When Allison asked Dana if she knew Jonathon McManus, Dana responded with a snort. She nodded her head wildly, as if to suggest what a character this boy was and how well she knew him and how fun everything was. She told Allison off-handedly that she would point him out sometime. Allison waited patiently.
One day, they were both leaving the room at the same time to go to class and they walked together. As they were walking across the quad, a big blond boy with very pale skin came out of Crispin Hall. Allison looked over at him and heard Dana speak the mysterious name, ‘Jonathon McManus. “That’s Jonnie McManus”, Dana said. Finally, Allison had seen him. Finally each of those familiar flyers could borrow shape from this grinning, big-handed boy.
After that, Allison watched him. It happened sort of accidentally. When she saw him in the cafeteria, she would sit two tables away, within eyeshot. She would sit alone, but she didn’t mind. While she watched him she would think to herself: “There’s Jonnie McManus and he has my sweater”. It was such a soft sweater. Allison wore it in high school and loved the way it felt on her skin. Sometimes she wore it without any under shirt so that she could feel the softness lying equally on all parts of her chest. She wore it to that party because it felt so good; she thought she would be safe in it even if the party got out of hand.
She puzzled over Jon McManus, and poked listlessly at her salad. That big boy seemed so different from her sweater; it was funny that he had it. She liked knowing something about someone else, even when that someone seemed so far away.
It was clear that the sweater had made a big impression on Jonnie McManus. He mentioned it in an all too off-manner to a large number of people. Inevitably those people found out from each other what Jon had shared with them about the female qualities of the garment. We all knew that he could not, and would not let it go. But Jon had really backed himself into a corner this time. He had been talking to a girl about the virtues of the sweater. He proceeded to describe the sweater in overflowing terms. Eventually, after sheepishly mentioning that he had tried the sweater on and found it too small, the girl asked the question that Jon should have seen coming.
Can I have the sweater?
What could Jon do?
He turned red and tried to make a joke out of it. When she kept asking for it he began to stutter. Finally, he just said no.
Jonnie McManus graduated from college. After accepting his diploma from the Dean, he packed up his station wagon and returned to Boston with his parents. He was living in the same house he had grown up in, and now, the lies had to be perfect.
For Jonnie, the perfect lie is pretty easy to understand. The truth is, for him, like a fuse box, and lies result when certain fuses get blown. The rest of the story is about a busted fuse.
Because it was so soft, even though it was too small, it was nice to touch. And I carried it around, in my hands; it was like having velvet fingertips. It was soft like a girl, a sweet soft girl. And I carried it around in the day like a sweater, but at night like a girl. Then I was in my father’s office, just sitting, with the sweater. It was in the day, but it was so soft. And it was cold. It felt like the night.
I have a son.
I don’t think he’s gay, but he has this sweater.
I think it must be from a girl he knew once.


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