Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Safe Sex

Safe Sex
Photograph via Flickr by the_alien_experience

I have a system where I ask them, Are you a murderer? and it’s pretty solid
it’s worked every time so far. Normally the boy will laugh and say,
Yes, I have an axe upstairs, or else he will roll his eyes, or I will think he is rolling his
at me in the dark. I will want to put a hand over his face, lay my fingertips
over his eyelids and press the heel of my palm into his mouth. Instead usually I wait
and keep my fingers by my side. I let his hand move to mine like he’s making the
Sometimes, though, when I ask, Are you a murderer? A boy will look shocked.
He will look so shocked I know he has never thought about hurting anyone,
about teeth digging into his skin and spit on his wrist. He has never even thought of hurting himself, not even in passing, not even a little bit, not even a pinch that ends
         in a twist
not even a thumb curled into an out-flooding bruise or a butter knife pressed
into flesh until it turns white as lard until it turns pink as What the fuck am I doing
until blood is drawn despite it being a butter knife. This boy, he has never even
so much he bled all over his white shoes or he did it once
and never again or he at least threw the shoes away, didn’t keep them
like a trophy like a talisman, like a lucky rabbit’s foot. He didn’t wear them at
the next year like, Fuck you, didn’t vomit on them this time didn’t sink them in mud
and late October mulch. And when a boy looks like that looks surprised
and then says, No, God no, why would you ask that? And maybe pulls me to him in a one armed hug maybe puts his face in my hair, I don’t so much want to come
         upstairs with him
and I have to find a way to forget the surprise, to forget the story he told me earlier
about fishing with his father and the one about how they named three dogs the
because his little brother didn’t yet understand death
and his mum wanted it to stay that way so I ask him what his dog was called
and he tells me and it’s something unimaginative and a while later, in the middle of
the things we were headed upstairs to do, I can’t help myself I yell, Call me Fido,
and I make sure he feels my wet mouth all over him.