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The Americans

The drapes open automatically at 7 a.m.  They roll back on the wheels of a mechanism that needs to be greased, revealing a slate gray sky.  The half-light of morning fills the hotel room.  Here, on the ninth floor, when the sun begins to peek over the horizon, it will seem to be eye level with the room itself.  They wake in anticipation of this, having trained their bodies for this moment.  They are naked, sophisticated, and fit, and there is a feeling that nothing can touch them.

“I’ll make coffee,” she says and goes into the living room to the small bar studded with concave mirrors that resembles something out of the sleaziest Las Vegas nightmare.  She uses the coffee they’ve brought from home, not trusting even a four-star hotel at the end of the world to have anything other than sludge.  When they tell the story of this place, they want to say they were drinking the right things when it happened.

One wall of their bedroom is nothing but glass.  He stands and stretches.  His skin tingles as if he can feel the particles of light bouncing off his skin at 186,000 miles per second.  He goes to the windows and stares straight out.  He presses against the glass, feels the coolness of it.  The head of his penis brushes against it, and he shivers.  Two inches of glass is all that separates him from the void.  He’s careful not to look down, not because he’s afraid, but because he’s saving himself for the moment.  He needs her with him.  They are in a part of the downtown that is spiked with skyscrapers and hollow shells of buildings that would hardly pass for squalid projects back home.  Here, they comprise primary housing for what passes for a middle class, that is to say, the people existing just above the poverty line.  Their great facades are now crumbling, and if there’s one that doesn’t bear a scar of past unrest or fatwa, he can’t see it.  The city is like the bombed-out shell of a vast creature with many legs, now filled with parasites bugs who’ve come along to make the dead shell their home.  It is so satisfying to watch, and everything seems covered in fine dust.

She returns with the coffee.  She sets them on the small table and joins him at the window.  Their arms entwine, and they look down onto the streets.  Near their hotel is the wreckage of the street riots, which have been going on for weeks now unabated.  The anti-government rioters run through the streets throwing rocks at anyone who looks official.  Occasionally gangs of pro-government supporters will ride horses or motorcycles through the streets, armed with knives and even swords, some with guns or Molotov cocktails.  They will attack the rioters, hack at them and set fires.  The anti-government people will fall back and surge around them.  A pro-government man will be pulled from horseback and beaten until he is rescued or killed, and his compatriots will run away.  The anti-government people will then fill the gap they leave, the ebb and flow of an endless tide.  Military men in olive green garb stand by, congregating near the tanks, which wait passively for the order to begin a genocide.

He doesn’t say it, but this is far better than the bank of televisions they keep in their upscale home, each turned to a different twenty-four news channel.  He doesn’t need to say it, for this is plainly written on her face as well.  Gooseflesh starts on the right side of her body and spreads across her shoulders, passing over onto him, where it continues as if their flesh was one, continuous thing.  She sees he is erect and offers herself against the glass.  Her round breasts flatten, and he is enticed by the way they spread so evenly outward, their pink nipples always in the center.  He goes to her with the greatest greed, and works himself inside her.  He fucks her, and she allows herself to be fucked.  There is no tenderness in the act, no love.  There is only grunting, and pain.  She is dry; he is merciless.  The mutual discomfort is perfect.

A pro-government supporter on a camel begins what will undoubtedly become a historical ride.  He holds the reins in his teeth, swings a khopesh blade in his right, and Molotov Cocktail in the other.  He breaks the cocktail on a young student with a radical’s beard.  The student bursts into flames.  He begins to flail about.  At such a distance, and with the thick, leaded glass separating them, his scream cannot be heard, but some trait of the ear supplies one anyway.  The scream is shrill, raw, final.  The man fucks the woman harder.  He ejaculates as the student dies, filling her with a scalding load.  He does not stop taking her.  His gonads ache with his release, but he pounds her further.  Her face thuds off the glass.

When it is done they retreat to the bed and drink their coffee.  It makes them feel smarter.  She curls up seductively, never relenting in her desire to arouse him.  She laughs, and he plays with her toes.

“Do you remember that winery in California, the one who owned by the two queers?” he asks.


“We should go there again.”


“I don’t know what it was about that place, but I’m thinking of it this afternoon.”

She shrugs.  She doesn’t care why he’s thinking of it.  Wine is appropriate.

She takes her foot from his hand and moves it to his penis, which is thick even when flaccid.  She would not tolerate anything less.  “I’m glad we came,” she says.  He says he’s glad as well, and he thinks about all of the people who were running the other way at the airport as they were getting off the plane.  Who were those people, he wonders?  What did they think would happen, in a place like this?  He hoped the tanks would open up soon and blast something.  It didn’t have to be a miniature Armageddon.  He just wanted to hear what it sounded like, what it felt like, when a shell destroyed something.  This sort of thing could never happen at home, he says with some lament.  Even if there were tanks rolling in the streets, and everyone was dying, no hotel would stay open so others could enjoy it.  You had to go other places for that kind of thing.  He recalls a scene at the winery, late in the evening of their visit, when he saw the two gay men having a private argument when they thought no one was looking.  One tossed a glass of red into the face of the other.  The wine had barely hit him in the face when the offended man lashed out and punched his attacker in the stomach hard enough to double him over.  That was as close as it ever got in America, two fags punching it out in a pantry and probably fucking to reconciliation later.  You had to pay extra to get the real thing, like here, in a place where people understood that their world falling apart was no call for closing down a four-star hotel.


L. Joseph Shosty lives in Texas


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