Adam Henry Carrière
Confessions in a Corner Bedroom
from the novel
Shant brought Blaise up to his corner bedroom. He gestured toward the rollaway bed, where he had laid out a small pile of towels and a bag of hotel toiletries for Blaise to use ‘in the morning’. Blaise stared between it and his feet. He jumped a bit when Shant touched his arm and said, “Come on, spend the night with me. Sleep it off, relax a little.”
Blaise looked around the bedroom with a cheerless smile. “You just don’t want me to go out drinking.”
“Sure, but I wouldn’t mind the company, either.”
Blaise’s head still felt heavy, his tongue furled. “I’m nothing special, just a dull kid from the suburbs.”
Shant touched Blaise again. He didn’t jump this time. “That’s fine, we can be dull together.”
Indicating the rollaway, Blaise asked, “Who does that usually belong to?”
“Whoever needs it,” Shant said, flashing back to when he had been its first occupant.
Surprising both himself and Shant, Blaise asked, “If I’m going to spend the night, why can’t I sleep in your bed, with you?”
Shant felt as if he were about to relive an early conversation with Christian. “That’s not why I invited you over tonight, believe it or not.” Despite his bravado seconds before, Blaise tensed as Shant guided him over to the larger bed and sat down close to him. “Let me tell you a little story, Suburbia. Not so long ago, I was out on the streets. I’d been there for maybe a year. Well, there were these two young guys who’d just got out of college and bought this place. For whatever reason, they decided to try and help kids like me who were homeless or runaways or, you know, hustling. They found me a couple of days before I’d decided I was gonna kill myself. They fed me, washed me up, gave me some new clothes and a place to crash. The next thing I knew I was living here, permanent-like.
“One of the guys was named Christian. He was so kind, you wouldn’t believe how sweet, and he was hot, too. One day, I totally came on to him. I put his hand inside my shorts, thinking that was the price I had to pay for him treating me the way he did. It wasn’t, though. He wouldn’t go there, no matter how into it I was. Then he became like a mix between a mom and a big brother to me, at a time I never needed both more. But then he died, and his partner was so broke up over it he left, disappeared really, so I’ve taken care of the house since, trying to do for others what they did for me.”
Blaise slowly digested Shant’s account, trying to avoid asking a hundred questions about how Shant ended up on the streets in the first place, what he did to survive there, how Shant ‘inherited’ this partially restored mansion, or more about this mysterious fellow named Christian. A more relatable question came into his view: “Why were you were going to kill yourself?"
Shant let out a long breath. “I couldn’t take it anymore. My whole life, I’d been abandoned by one relative or another. My last stop was out in the middle of nowhere with an uncle who didn’t want me in the first place. The day I turned seventeen we drove downtown. He dropped me off near the train station, saying he was gonna park the car. Well, he never came back. It took me almost an hour to figure it out. I didn’t know what to do. I barely knew where I was. What was I supposed to do, call him up and ask him to come back for me when he’d left me there in the first place?
“For three days, I took buses all over the city, saw movies just to come in out of the heat, slept a little bit on a park bench, and ate the cheapest food I could find until I was finally out of money. By the third night, I was in a kind of trance. I was practically sleepwalking down the boulevard when a car pulled up and asked if I needed a ride. I could barely stand up straight by then, so I hopped in. After we were driving, the guy, just a regular person, asked how much I was. I didn’t know what he meant. He never came out and said anything direct so I couldn’t give him a decent answer. By the time I figured out what he was asking I was too hungry and fucked up to argue, forget about care.”
“What did you do with him?” Blaise asked, audibly upset.
“He gave me a twenty and asked to see my dick. I didn’t know what to say or do. All I could think about was eating. So, I pulled down my jeans just enough to show him what he wanted. He told me he liked it and wanted to suck me off. I was so freaked out by what was happening I could barely stay hard. He beat me off instead, gave me another twenty for it, and then dropped me off back near downtown, which was actually nice of him, but I didn’t know that back then.
“I was trying to find a restaurant when I spotted a rough-looking girl walking out of what looked like a condemned warehouse. I snuck in through where the fence surrounding it was torn up. A couple of guys were shooting up near the padlocked entrance. An older girl was fucking a guy on a mattress off in a corner while another guy wandered around, trying to sell everyone a boom box. And there was plenty more. I was so scared I almost pissed in my shorts. Then I took off.
“I wasn't even a block away when another car stopped and asked where I was off to. This time I pretended like I knew what I was doing and asked for fifty when he wanted me to blow him. I got offered a hundred to let a guy fuck me a few nights later. And on it went, for however long it did, a year maybe. You stop thinking about anything other than whatever gets you to the next meal, or what can get you a night or two at a flophouse to sleep it off, wash your clothes in the sink, stay in however cruddy a bed because it’s better than crashing in a dumpster or on cardboard boxes in that warehouse.”
Shant paused. It was like Graham always said: You stop thinking because you’ve stopped feeling.
“One night, after I’d been fucked by two different johns, I climbed up the fire escape to the warehouse roof so I could watch the sun rise before I crashed, but all I did was cry like a five-year-old, and I fucking hate to cry. When I slipped down two rungs on my way back down I realized how high I was, six, maybe seven stories up. That’s when I thought, fuck it, I’ve had it. I’m done. I’m outta here, and this is how I’ll do it. But Christian’s partner found me later that morning, and, long story short, here I am with you.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Shant calmly sneered.
Blaise couldn’t shake the picture of some unknown creep pulling down Shant’s pants to fuck him in the corner of a deserted warehouse. “What was it like?”
“What was what like?”
“You know...getting fucked for money.”
Shant was bleakly amused at the question. “It’s the same as getting fucked, except you don’t know the guy and they give you money for it afterwards,” most of the time, Shant recalled unhappily.
Trying badly to put a face on something he could scarcely comprehend, Blaise said, “If I saw you out on the street I would’ve bought you a big meal and let you sleep in my car all you wanted.”
Shant made a sound through his nose. “People like you don’t come ‘round places like the warehouse or drive up and down the boulevard looking for people like me.”
“Huh? What do you mean by that?”
“Don’t play that shit. Kids who grow up in normal homes, go to big universities, live ordinary lives? Gimmie a break, dude.”
Without making a sound, Blaise flailed between feeling ashamed of himself for asking and being outright angry at Shant’s response. “Everyone’s home looks normal from the outside,” Blaise said timidly. “I got into the university on a ride, and I only ever went out for a sport because my old man pretty much forced me to.”
“What, at gunpoint?” Shant chortled unfeelingly.
“Pretty much. He was a jock in high school, so I had to be one, too. I screwed up every try-out except the one for the tennis team. They were desperate, so I got in. My mom loved it. She used to play. My dad said it was faggy. When I got good at it, he hated it even more. He never came to one of my matches. That really hurt.
“We made it to the state finals my first year. Mom was giddy over it. When she asked when I’d be playing, I told her I was quitting the team. The next thing I knew, Dad was dragging me into the garage by my hair. He screamed I was nothing but a pussy, a coward, some little faggot for wanting to quit. I wondered how you could be all three of those things at the same time and laughed. He went nuts. He belted me, right in the face. I lost a side tooth from it. We haven’t said a word to each other since. It’s been almost four years now.”
Shant found himself wishing there’d been four years where no caretaker had spoken to him.
“In high school I only got wasted on weekends. At the university, well, you’ve no idea how easy it is on a big campus like that.”
Shant shrugged. “You’re still not the type to shop for throwaways,” no matter how bad you think you want it, Shant added to himself.
“Don’t call yourself that.”
“Why not? It’s true. I was thrown away. I lived out on the street for almost a year, with no place to go except to whoever would pay me to be their bitch.”
“For food,” Blaise insisted unhappily.
“I’m still the same person who gave it up for money.”
“No, you’re not.”
Shant patted Blaise’s hands, which were tightly wound over his lap. “Thanks, but you don’t know me enough to say that.”
“Yeah, but if I offered you money now to, you know, let me-”
“I don’t need the money now. I have a place to stay.” Hell, Shant joked to himself, I even own half a station wagon now. “Can we crash now? It’s been a hell of a day.”
Without waiting for a reply, Shant tugged off his polo shirt and let his jeans drop to the hardwood floor. Blaise gasped. He’d seen dozens of guys his age naked, but the careless, almost contemptuous way Shant stripped aroused Blaise fiercely. To him, the thin leather choker and fat silver wristwatch adorning his olive-tinged body made Shant seem doubly erotic.
“You gonna sleep in your clothes, or what?”
Blaise undressed clumsily and climbed into the crisp, almost itchy sheets, hoping Shant couldn’t see how hard he was. “I’ve never slept in the same bed with another guy, OK?” Shant snickered. The bedroom was dark except for the faint glow of the streetlamp outside. Blaise stared wide-eyed at the ceiling for a long while before he spoke again. “I’m afraid to tell my folks,” he whimpered, “for all kinds of reasons. I’ve never told anybody, really, not with words, anyhow.”
“You told me easy enough.”
Blaise seemed to be struggling for breath through the dark. The silence in the corner bedroom became oppressive. Blaise felt lost in the usual mad swirl of words and feelings bounding between his head and his heart. He longed to dull them all with a bottle of Jack and wake up hours later having traded the angst for a simple new migraine, but a tiny gut feeling told Blaise to hang on. “You’re different.”
‘Different’? You have no fucking idea, Shant snarled to himself. In the blink of his mind’s troubled eye, he saw a familiar stack of psychic photo albums staring back at him. What exactly the fuck would it take to wipe away the catalogue of degradations he’d surrendered to during his year being pounded by the pavement? He hid his fuming repugnance behind two simple words: “You bet.”
Blaise swallowed audibly yet managed a short laugh. “I guess I am, too.”
A deeper creak of the bed gave away the return of Blaise’s hard-on. Shant giggled and let Blaise scoot closer to him. He expected much more hemming and hawing and bad foreplay out of Blaise, but the college student surprised him. “Can I…?”
Shant faded out with Christian’s beautiful, compassionate face in his drifting thoughts.
Adam Henry Carrière is an online habitué specializing in letters, publishing design, and instruction. A former NPR broadcaster, he holds a BA in Film & Video from Columbia College and an MA in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. He has taught writing at both his alma mater and for the United States Navy across the Pacific. Born on the South Side of Chicago, Adam resides in Las Vegas, where he has won the Nevada Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry. He styles as Verleger / Herausgeber of Danse Macabre, Nevada’s first online literary magazine, and DM du Jour, its daily gazette. He is the author of Miles, its sequel Shant, and the poetry collections Faschingslieder and Rhododendrons of the Sea.