"It's not the size of the boat, it's the motion of the ocean."
In The Gutter, every inch counts.
In The Gutter, every inch counts.
Noir Divine by M.J. Fievre
The doctor suggested Viagra.
The prescription, now a bit crumbled, lies on the dashboard. Still, hands on the wheel of his old Buick, Pinochet looks out the front windshield, at the pharmacist behind the glass windows of Walgreens. She’s a young, pretty thing from the Dominican Republic—tall, with dark messy hair and strong forearms. Sometimes she forgets her glasses, and there are little indentations on her nose and cheeks where her glasses usually are. She reminds him of the babysitter he had as a boy in Haiti. Pinochet imagines himself, now thirty-two, a black man from Okap (the city of real men), handsome and muscled, handing an admission of erectile dysfunction. The air in the car is stuffy.
Sometimes he still dreams about the babysitter. He imagines his hand going down Nathalie’s panties. In his dreams, there is no hair, just rough, sandy skin. In his dreams, he presses into the skin and it parts.
Sometimes the dream turns into a nightmare. A black widow, Pinochet climbs into Nathalie’s mouth and down her throat, where it is dark, so very dark.
Pinochet doesn’t go in. Instead, he starts the car and goes down the quiet one-way street in Little Haiti, with low walls and lonely old men hobbling home.
His girlfriend Anite is not into sex, but Pinochet knows how that story goes: Something becomes unavailable and suddenly everybody wants it. Anite refers to herself as one of the “good Catholic girls,” but aren’t those the wildest? They attend mass religiously on Sundays at Notre Dame, only to measure the men in guayabera shirts and Corduroy pants. The few times Anite has been in his bed, the only Catholic thing about her was the fervor in her voice as she cried out, “Oh, God! Oh, l’éternel Jesus!” And like Jesus, she opened her arms and sacrificed all pretenses for the divine mercy of sex. She called Pinochet her Pinot-Noir—firm, intoxicating.
This was, of course, before he became pinot-limp.
He’s tried strip clubs, watching girls with tasseled pasties that spin around like pinwheels. He’s tried porn, hoping for shaved pussies to free him from himself. One afternoon, on the TV room’s loveseat, Anite even agreed to put the soccer halftime to good use, but her tongue, small and pink, grew tired by the time Ronaldinho was back on the field. She scrunched her nose, the freckles gathering at the center of her face, and let go of him. Her fingernails were checkered white and black like a soccer ball. She lay quietly beside him that night, the silence and darkness so profound he felt like a black widow drowning at the bottom of a throat.
The sky is still lit, although the Miami sun has sunk fully down. The apartment and its walls still glimmer with gold light. The bushes glow and throb. Inside, Anite is doing the dishes, still in her Publix uniform. The TV is on, and terrible images are broadcasted from Port-au-Prince. There is blood. A lot of it, too.
“An accident in Champ-de-Mars,” Anite says. A driver lost control of a truck during Carnival and rampaged through a crowd of thousands.
Who calls it a keekeet? His babysitter Nathalie did.
Nathalie was nineteen, and he twelve. One night, when she was supposed to be watching him, she asked him to undo his zipper so she could have a peek.
“Such a small keekeet,” she said, laughing.
“Do you want to touch it?” He wondered what her tootoon—her “punani”—tasted like. If it was sweet like wine cooler, or salty like conch.
“No.” She frowned.
The government’s goons broke into the house that night, looking for Pinochet’s parents, wanted “semeurs de trouble,” agitators. They searched through the old house without a warrant and broke Nathalie’s jaw. When the blood spilled, Pinochet felt warmth inside his chest. As the blood oozed from Nathalie’s broken lips and slid down her neck, Pinochet was—alive.
It wasn’t just the blood.
It was the tears. It was her eyes filled with both fear and hate.
“You have no right,” Nathalie cried as the men looked for clues for Pinochet’s parents’ whereabouts.
When they slapped her once more, she spat some of the blood, and Pinochet felt it again: the warmth inside.
The want. The need.
And now, years later, it’s back.
One of the accident victims, her corsage stained with blood, cries on the camera, her hair dark, lavish, almost too much—just like Nathalie’s. Pinochet sits on the loveseat and leans toward the TV, taking in the woman’s oh-so-perfect beauty; he travels inward to beatitude, envisions her in a bathtub. Naked. Bloody.
All that red on her corsage—it is Poetry. Art.
He imagines the blood working its way down her belly, down her tootoon, down her leg, leaving little droplets on the dirty ground of Champ-de-Mars. He imagines a fistful of her hair twisted around his wrist. Then it’s Nathalie breathing, Nathalie panting.
After the men left, Nathalie cried in his arms. Crusty streaks mottled the lower half of her face, and there was a gap where her lateral incisor used to be. The smell of blood brought the warmth back. Pinochet could feel it roiling in the balls of his feet.
Pinochet licked the blood off her chin.
She pushed him away violently. “You’re sick.”
She rushed home, and he never saw her again. Except in his dreams, where there was blood on the floor, on his hands, and all over Nathalie’s breasts.
Pinochet feels Anite standing next to him. When he looks up, she is forcing her hair into a bun. He pulls Anite by the hem of her Publix uniform.