Sûrah XXXV
"Is he, the evil of whose deeds is made fair-seeming unto him so that he deemeth it good, other than Satan's dupe?"


How to throw up tactfully? Franchone's barfing, overheard, has cast a queasy pall over the Japanese restaurant patrons. Faces, initially turned to watch the couple's one-way spat, faces wearing expressions from resentful to amused, are faces collectively pale in response to the audible upchucking...

... its unseen source, at long last, halts, subsides, but dares not venture from the noxious unisex loo—Franchone cracks a window—not until the vapors somewhat dissipate—he fans the fetid air—not until he rallies sufficient gumption to run the gauntlet that no doubt looms outside.

A stellar exhibition, if ever I performed one. Puked myself into ignominy, and lost-face to a dyke. Serves me right, I guess, for knocking-up a homophile—or giving her, on occasion, "ye old college try." What could I have been thinking; was I thinking? What did I hope to prove; potency cum proficiency In the Realm of (her hostile) Senses? Maybe Niecy's diatribe was a dressing-down deserved; if I never turn down nooky, how deny "machismo"? Though I wouldn't call mine "crude." Truth is I've perfected certain skills that ladies deem 'refined.' From a very early age, I hasten to affirm.

"How's about a smooch, Franchone?"
I tried to reach her mouth.
"Not a smooch up top; I mean a smooch on lips down here. This be my well, Franchone, my wishin' well. Pucker up, kneel down., an' plant a kiss right there."
I assumed all women wore underpants. Angel was naked underneath her skirt—except for hair; she had this wedge of itty-bitty curlicues that tickled my nose on contact. And that's what she was after; contact with a minor—a twelve-year-old, I was, when Angel cornered me in her duplex's second-storey bathroom—scared, not so much of her; I was scared of getting caught. My parents were guests at the party going full-swing downstairs. I'd gone looking for a toilet. Angel followed me then locked us in.
"You just make a wish and lick real good—the way I tell ya—and Angel guar-an-TEE that wish come true."
It never did.
She held my ears like they were handlebars, steered my face to her aromatic crotch (perched at the edge of a bathtub, I remember, with antique iron feet), then coached me, whispered either "cold," "lukewarm," or "hot," depending on her arousal.
"Ooh, that spot be worth some extra attention. Do like that—don' change; don' stop; nevah mind I get all squishy. Make a gal go squishy, little man, you make 'er fall in love.  Ooh, you found the bull's-eye; hot, hot, hot! Yo' makin' Angel come! Yo' makin' Angel love ya, Franchone; you're makin'... I'm in love."

Franchone flushes the toilet one more time, his senses clearing, his recollection swirling like the vortex now rinsing clean the bowl, gurgling, swallowing, replenishing the water as if expurgating sin:

  • hers, corrupting an innocent

  • his, cooperating fully

  • hers, encouraging more

  • his, obliging without shame

"What's going on in there?"
My father's voice, like thunder from Jehovah, put an end to our shenanigans.
"Borrowed your son to zip me up."
I wiped my kisser, as Angel lied.
"Mighty noisy."
"Boy's got hands like ice, Rev'rend Pinkney. Must've heard me gaspin'. Run along, Franchone. Don' mind us grown-ups; we be wicked in our ways."
Angel, unperturbed (and impudently charming), stared my father down.
I, on the other hand, shied from his displeasure as he scowled in the rearview-mirror—the long drive home like a silent inquisition; I, throughout, played dumb (pending hours of masturbation; Angel's wet impression a surefire lubricant for my post-pubescent id).
Then, a chance encounter at the grocer's, sealed my lovelorn fate.
"Yo'all drop by, why don'cha?"
Angel's casual invitation galvanized my groin.
"What time, Ma'am?"
Unless she meant on a weekend, I'd have to cut a class.
"What day, Ma'am."
"Thursdays would be good. Stop callin' me 'Ma'am.'"
Thursday with an 's' was all my hormones heard. "Cream-tea afternoons" she later dubbed our trysts. I became addicted to the 'liquor' of her avaricious loins. "Puppy-love," Angel called it—and me her "loyal lapdog."

Hoisted from the restroom tile using leverage—toilet seat and sink—Franchone leans toward a mirror to inspect his dark-skinned pallor.

Haven't thought about Angel since my freshman year in high school. That was when our semi-sordid sex crimes ceased. Slam-bam-thank-you-Ma'am was her agenda, not mine. But once I'd been initiated, trained to make her weak in the knees, Angel's satisfaction became the end-all of our sessions... and yet her glib departure affected only me.

"Have to call it quits, Franchone."
"How come?"
"I'm moving on."
"When? Where?"
"Tomorrow. Out-of-state, kid."
"Take me with you?"
"Not a chance."
And that was that; no more discussion. My accomplishments seemed to pale, their evident unimportance a precipitous fall from grace. First love / first lust? I failed to differentiate; what I felt was abject loss. Used, abused, and discarded, was I lucky, nonetheless, to have lapped at Angel's well? In retrospect I believed so, though I never got my wish. Nothing lasts, I decided. Holds true even now.

Splashing water on his face completes Franchone's prolonged revival. He pokes the hand dryer button, twists it's nozzle till it angles up, then tilts his groggy features into the roaring stream of air... grateful for its soothing dispensation.

Blown dry, reinvigorated, he adjusts his shirt and tie, squares his sturdy shoulders (rallies his self-respect) and steps out—all eyes tracking him—with affected nonchalance to make as dignified an exit as undue haste permits.