The Quiet Man: Leonard Bernstein's Lover?

in #fictionlast year

“This is your project this week.” Tom LaPorta, my boss at the San Francisco Art Institute informs me after my 9:00 a.m. return to work Tuesday.

“You and Jimmy should be able to knock this out in a couple of days, right?”

“Right, right,” I answer, telling the boss what he wants to hear.

Me and Jimmy stand in the newly framed painting department office that’s located within the rack room, where students’ paintings are stored. Outside sets a stack of four-by-eight sheetrock slabs. I exert my staff status power and put Damned, Damned, Damned on the Painting Department stereo. This bums the Painting Department ‘Deadhead’ student attendant a little.

“Jet along, jive my back…Don’t tread on my toes, don’t skivvy my back…Cheddar bone chops ya real fa fa fine…Take a chance honey you can be mine.” Virginia born Jimmy taps a cowboy boot a little faster than normal as Dave Vanian belts out a Bryan James classic. “This shit is actually good in the morning,” he admits, “gets you goin’.”

Jimmy and I stand at opposite ends of the stacked sheetrock then pick the first piece up and stand it on end against the studs of the new office. We firm it flush and begin sinking screws through the drywall anchoring into wooden studs. We’ve got two full sheets up and I’m starting to get a little tense when we break for lunch. I ignore the tightness in my stomach but I’m worried because I won’t be getting high again until Thursday night.

When it’s time for our lunch break we meet the staff electrician, Mark Doyle in the courtyard, exit the front entrance and walk down steep Chestnut Street. We turn left at Jones and head in the direction of despised Fisherman’s Wharf. We get lunch to go from a touristy Taco Bell, walk fifty feet down Bay, take a right at a boating dock, walk past more tourist stuff, then take a left and walk fifty feet or so down a small wooden pier.

We sit on a bench eating our burritos, tacos, and tostadas. Below us, and on both sides, fishing boats and water serve as a barricade against the nightmarish tourism merely a glance away.

After our return to work we manage to get a couple more full sheets up before finishing for the day.

Jimmy is humming along to Johnny Cash’s “Delia’s Gone” when I arrive at the Painting Department office a little after nine Wednesday.

“Tom said you were gonna bust this out in two days, right?” Jimmy asks.

“Right, right,” I answer laughing a little.

We struggle through a morning of slamming rock against two-by-fours and sinking in screws and by the time we break for lunch all of the sheets that don’t need alteration are in place.

“Wha’da’ya say we go down ta Chef Ji’s for lunch?” Jimmy suggests mispronouncing Jia (jee-ah) in his slight southern twang with a long ‘I’. We walk through North Beach down Columbus, veer right at Kearny into Chinatown, turn into Chef Jia’s, a favorite Hunan lunch spot of ours and set down to order. A few minutes later as I’m dipping a piece of onion cake in peanut sauce I notice, amongst a crowded table of yuppies, a member of one of S.F.’s more prestigious ‘Garage’ bands partaking of the cuisine decked out in full yuppie gear.

“We got fifteen minutes man, let’s go over ta the Lusty Lady!” Jimmy suggests emphatically after finishing the chicken from his Lemon Chicken with Broccoli.

We enter the establishment both staring straight ahead walking past the attendant. We each put a couple of dollars into the change machine and head off towards the booths.

A mere five minutes later I follow Jimmy out the front door.

“Oh man, she was asking me my name and stuff.” He tells me, “She mounted the window and put ‘er pussy right up against the glass an’ told me she wanted me right there with all the other girls watchin’…How was yours?”

“Pretty good,” I laugh. “It was that Italian looking chick that looks likes she just got off the boat from Abruzzi or somewhere.”

“Oh, fuck yeah.” Jimmy responds.

“I tol’ the quiet man ta go down an’ help you guys. Should be down there right now,” Frank tells me after our return from lunch and prurient activity. By the ‘quiet man’ Frank means Guy, a bearded, black, thirty-something student worker who barely talks above a whisper and avoids eye contact at all costs.

Guy stands slightly hunched, his pant-legs ending a good foot above the floor as he waits in the hallway outside the Painting Department’s rack room.

“Uh-uh, F-Frank, s-said, I was-uh, s-supposed, to work with you,” Guy whispers to me.

“Come on in with us Guy.” I answer, “We’re gonna have some fun on this project.”

I measure a two-by-eight foot piece of the paper coated sheetrock, mark a line with a pencil and cut through the paper and rock leaving the opposite surface intact. I fold the piece down and swing it hard, back past its original position breaking the uncut paper cleanly. I put the section in place and Jimmy holds it firm while I start sinking screws.

Guy grabs a second cordless screw-gun and spastically starts sinking screws missing the studs completely.

“No…! No Guy!” I stop him, then pause to let my frustration subside.

“That’s not ah…what you’re supposed to do…Why don’t you sweep up the mess we’ve made in here.”

After we’ve got a couple more pieces up we head to the courtyard for our afternoon break. Jimmy and I sit on a wooden bench taking in the warmth of a rare S.F. summer day. Short-skirted high school girls from the Young Artists Program bask in the sun around the fishpond showing off a bit of pure white and flowery cotton underwear.

“Mmmm hmmm yeah…I like it.” Jimmy mumbles loud enough for one of the girls to hear, then continues, “Oh yeah, Sharon’s gonna pay for this tonight.”

“,” I respond. “Ya know, as your superior, I should let you know. That..., um, kind of thing’s not permitted. It’s like, verboten, or whatever.”

“I saw Guy up in the library last week transcribin’ Bach to guitar or somethin’,” I change the subject.

“Hmm,” Jimmy nods.

“Yeah, did you ever hear ‘im play guitar?”

“No…, but I heard ‘im singin’ while ‘e was sweepin’ the Print Department stairs one mornin’. He’s got a real nice voice. His advisor says ‘e was fine when ‘e came ‘ere a couple years back. He was involved with Leonard Bernstein somehow. Don't know if they were lovers, or what. Or if ‘e was studyin’ with Bernstein. But after Bernstein died, Guy started to come apart at the seams.”

We put a few more pieces in place that afternoon and my uneasiness gets more and more intense. At the end of the day, Guy walks up to me.

“Ahh…, uhh…, Bob, I ahh…,” speaking softly he addresses me, “I was wondering if I could borrow ahh...five dollars.”

“Yeah…, no problem,” I answer.

“I’ll pay it back as soon as I can,” he responds looking off to my right a bit.

“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him while digging a five out of my pocket.

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After work, Jimmy and I walk into a student opening in the Diego Rivera Gallery. The place is made up like some kind of a southwestern circus with heavy rodeo overtones. Hay covers the hardwood floor and a fake wooden bull hangs from ropes dropped through the opening of a circus tent above as warped calliope music floats throughout the space.

“Well I see the alcoholics have arrived,” one of the exhibiting artists comments snidely.

“We prefer to be called drunks,” Jimmy drawls slowly in response. The kegs arrive and we help ourselves to some Anchor Steam.

Four beers later I stand with Jimmy taking in the oddness of the exhibit.

“Oh my God…! Have you ever been to the Bordeaux Region in the Spring?” A trust-funder, a necessary evil of an overpriced art school, almost yells to a group of her uppity friends.

“No!” Jimmy interrupts the conversation while leaning over a keg nearly tipping it. “But I been to Delacroix, Louisiana, late August.”

After my nine o’clock arrival, I cut a few pieces of sheetrock before Guy or Jimmy show up.

“Bobbehyyyah!” Jimmy exclaims entering the rack room with a football schedule in hand. “My Redskins play the Niners, first exhibition game, August fourth. We’re gonna kill them pussies.”

“Who cares? It’s pre-season,” I respond.

“I know, but it gives ya ah good feelin’ knowin’ the real thing’s just around the corner.”

“Yeah, I guess so, but I can’t stand pre-season.” Then, “I’ll be back in a minute,” I tell Jimmy and head off towards the bathroom.

I climb the lengthy sculpture ramp and take a right up a short flight of stairs leading to the library and Print Department. I veer left at the top of the stairs and walk straight down a narrow hallway with gray floors and white walls that leads to the library bathrooms. I push the maroon door open and go immediately to the fifth stall, the one farthest from the entrance.

My whole body is anxious because I need to get high. I won’t be doing dope until tomorrow evening, but there is one thing I can do to escape the pain for a little while.

Cloistered in the corner I pull my pants down, spit in my hand and begin rubbing the more sensitive part of my cock. A minute later the thing is pointing upward and it’s not long till I’m at full throttle.

With all the physical stress my body is feeling at this time it doesn’t take long till I am ready to finish. When I reach that point of joy I point the hardy old beast into the toilet bowl so I won’t have to clean up a mess afterward.

By the time I zip up, my body’s foremost desire is at the front of my brain. I return to the Paint Department to a full cup of coffee that has been cooling since the start of my shift. I grab the paper cup and skull the whole thing in three seconds flat. I wait for the caffeine rush, it hits me hard, and I feel great for half a minute.

Guy shows up, we work on completing the walls, and by lunchtime, we’re ready to start with the ceiling.

I meet Lisa in the courtyard and we head out for lunch. We pass through an alley while walking in the direction of the Bay Street Safeway Center.

“Nice Truck,” Lisa comments addressing an older guy polishing a 1965 Ford pick-up truck. “Well, It’s a cool truck,” now turning her attention towards me referencing my disdain for Fords.

“I didn’t say anything,” I answer.

We pick up some jalapeno poppers, chicken wings, and potato salad at the Safeway deli. Then we find a decent spot looking out on the water near Fisherman’s Wharf. We sit quietly enjoying the deli food with our backs to the tourists.

“I love you,” Lisa breaks the silence catching me completely off guard. Instead of responding with what I am feeling, which is, “Ahh…, ye-ahh…I ahh…I ahh…I love you too,” I only hesitate for a fraction of a second and reply, “I love you too.”

Anxious excitement runs throughout my body as Guy, Jimmy, and myself get to work on the ceiling in the afternoon. I take a measurement for the largest piece, cut it, and we hoist it partially into position before easing the whole thing into place. One corner hangs up on the wall refusing to settle in. I gently push around the area but Jimmy steps in shoving upward. “Man, we c’n make it fit,” he announces, anxious to get back to his regular routine of cruising around campus doing light tasks while humming Allman Brothers tunes.

The entire corner breaks off in Jimmy’s hand then hangs by the surface paper.

Using the same measurements, I cut another piece. We move it into the office and lay it on the floor. I look at the width, then up at the vacant spot in the ceiling; so does Guy. “It won’t fit,” he whispers. I instantly know that somehow he’s right. We hoist the sheetrock into position, begin to settle it into place, and the section is one-eighth of an inch too wide.

“I want you to fuck me, it’s been so long,” Lisa tells me after dinner at her place.

“But I’m jonesin’, ” I make an excuse.

“You said jonesing made you horny.”

“Yeah, It does,” I answer.

What I had meant when telling her that jonesing makes me horny was, if on a particular morning I am having withdrawals while standing on a ladder in a print studio, with a cute eighteen-year-old blonde getting to work on a litho stone below, I might have a strong desire to whip out my cock and give her a show right there.

Instead of explaining this to Lisa I push her, face down on the bed and pull her jeans down a little exposing her smooth white buttocks. It’s not long before she’s wet and in the state I’m in, lengthy foreplay can’t be bothered with. I give it to her from behind for a few minutes. Then I turn her over and take her pants completely off. I unloosen her blouse and bra exposing her large breasts. I wrap my arms tight around her pulling the ballerina’s body close, and atop her, in the missionary position, I take in the full skin-to-skin thing.

With my hands in the small of her back, I pull the soft white flesh ever closer. I run my hands over her hips, down to her thighs and then to the calves of her boyishly sexy legs.

With one hand wrapped around her neck from above, I caress her soft dirty-blond hair as we go at it doggy style. With her right shoulder firm against the back of my left bicep, I go as fast and hard as I can while stopping any forward movement of her torso with my arm. Slamming my body up against her backside I jab as hard and fast as possible with the sound of skin slapping skin filling the room.

“Did you like that last bit there?” I ask while resting afterward.

“I don’t know, I’ve never had anybody do that before,” she answers and I remember all of my former girlfriends asking for the hard and fast thing quite regularly.

Shivers of near delight run up and down my body as if it thinks it will be getting high soon. I work by myself mudding and taping all of the seams of the drywall. I dip a ten-inch mud knife into a rectangular tray and scoop the plaster, or ‘mud’, out. I run a sloppy wide line over the area where two pieces of sheetrock come together. Next, I tear a long piece of non-adhesive two-inch paper tape off a roll and place it in the wet mud over the seam. I apply more plaster over the tape, smoothing it out as much as I can to help cut down on the sanding process Monday.

I begrudgingly agree to go to dinner with Lisa at Su Lan, a Vietnamese Restaurant that serves really good food but lacks a little in the area of ambiance. It’s located where 18th Street meets South Van Ness. I voraciously devour my egg rolls and soup minimally satisfying my desire for dope with appetite indulgence.

After dinner, Lisa drops me off where Scott Street crosses Oak. “See ya later, junkie,” She jokes half angry as I get out of the car.