Part 3: Everyone Needs Love, You Know This is True

Well since nobody was going to swan dive from the 25th floor of the Miami Marriott this evening, one might as well order room service. A club sandwich because lettuce was healthy, and ham was a protein and Vitamin water had vitamins and who gave a fuck really. You could take the elevator down, hop out on the street in your Nikes and start running, pretending that if you jogged far enough you’d end up with your end up in South Beach. Clever. The thing about Miami was that you were always in the center of everything and the middle of nowhere. Two clichés bare-backing each other raw—maybe you’d find freshness underneath. Surprise, maybe danger, but this was not 1986 and Don Johnson was not about to hit and run you in pink slacks and stubble. You read a review in Rolling Stone about a former groupie who only had two words to say about Don Johnson. Huge Cock.
 
Scroll through channels to pay-per-view. Scroll through pay-per-view to adult. Scroll through adult to channels. Flip past gay and click on Gang Bang. Maybe it would be Italian or French or just something euro, meaning dick focused because here was the thing: nobody watched porn for the pussy, but to see the guy work it. That must be it. You almost click BUY, after all they’ll charge room 2513, but you weren’t paying for the room. And at some point checking out the front desk would ask, to whom shall we bill Gang Bang Sluts 6, sir? And you’ll think, at least that was better than to be asked about Hard Rods 2. Weren’t men supposed to stop beating off at 17?
 
In the car, a few months back on the way to a church retreat, you and two brothers in Christ were talking about sex, man-of-God style.
 
—Brothers, can I tell you this? It’s a… it’s a kinda thorn right here in the side.
 
—Yeah? You sure it’s in the side you have it?
 
Group laugh.
 
—Every normal man struggles with it.
 
—I know and the last thing I want to sound like is like some naïve Christian, but you know what? I really did think I was going to stop once I got married.
 
Group laugh.
 
—Brethren, at least I think about my wife when I do it.
 
—I don’t think about my wife.
 
—Oh.
 
—Who…?
 
—It’s just a struggle, I would never ever do something like that, you know me.
 
—But…
 
—But… It’s just that once somebody’s breasts are fully-grown there’s nowhere left for them to go, I mean grow.
 
—Boy can you imagine if we weren’t married? All this burning in passion. Man thank God you’re single and you don’t have to struggle with those things.
 
You look at the two of them. One deep in the middle of a bulging family and fucking his wife to a full womb every year, yet still stunned that he’s the loneliest man on the planet. The other wishing he could turn his God-fearing wife into a slut who would suck his dick like she meant it, instead of looking at it thinking that this too shall pass. Both making the mistake of thinking that the opposite of loneliness was company. You look at them looking at you, and you know they are thinking they at least dodged the bullet that is called your life. Almost 35, no wife, no prospects, you only have the lord, which is great but still.
 
—Masturbation isn’t a sin if you think about your wife, brethren. Future lonely man says. Later that same week, he will not tell you about the first and second women he cheated with, but the third and fourth, along with news of a fifth baby. Funny how God’s punishment for being a dog is usually to give you girls.
 
But you have nothing but boys, I say.
 
Meanwhile you wonder why you only have eyes in the back of your head. Why the only way you can view the trip is through the rearview mirror. Present is never present, just something you have to endure until it becomes past. You think we will ever get to the point where we stop suppressing ourselves? You said to Andrene, both of you sitting on the bed in that first apartment while Carson Daly introduced some woman bleating that she’s a bitch lover wife mother. Fast company had just come out with their Brand Called You issue, which called for all sorts of exercises starting with self and ending with -ation, most not having shit to do with business. She thought you meant overcoming business jitters to become the next Richard Branson, but you didn’t tell her that you meant how long will you have to wait for both parents to die just so you can take one breath.
 
The Sunday following the road trip with fuckstruck brothers in Christ, Pastor came back from Oklahoma with Bruce. A tall blond blue-eyed idea of a tall blond blue-eyed boy. Hey y’all, he said, sidestepped the ear and went straight for the heart. This was just another manifestation of what you want to be. Forget that heart leaps up bullshit, let’s talk about you not loving your own skin; come back to blackness, my brother, that’s what this was all about. No it didn’t matter that he fit in jeans very well especially when he sat sprawled right in front of you like the physical essence of his own drawl. Mangoes grow on trees? Aw shucks man I’m from Oklahoma y’all. But where in Oklahoma does one get a Jack Kennedy smile? After Wednesday night church you are in the parking lot watching good Christians head to their cars as they wave at the white boy. He asks about reggae.
 
—I have to tell you, I’m more a rock and roll guy, you say.
 
—Buddy, you and me both, I know I’m a Christian and all, but I’m not getting married unless they play November Rain at my wedding.
 
—Dude, try all you want, you’re not a bigger Guns and Roses fan than me. I want them to play My Michelle at my wedding, I don’t care if my wife’s name is Claudia.
 
—Sweet lord, you rock.
 
And just like that it comes out of two mouths at once.
 
Well well well, you just can’t tell
 
Well well well my Michelle
 
Well well well, you never caaaaaan tell
 
Well well well Miche-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-elle
 
Mah mah my Michelle
 
My my my my Michelle
 
Mmmmmmma-ma-ma-ma-ma mah my Michelle
 
My my my my Michelle
 
(Air guitar solo)
 
Michelle
 
Skipped the ears, went straight for the heart.  One week later he says, I feel like I can tell you anything. He doesn’t know what he’s doing here. Pastor saw him preach and thought a man like this so on fire for Jesus would ignite the youth. But here he was in the middle of Kingston with nothing to do and no fire to start. And the women in this church looked at him like there was a lottery for his hand in marriage. But sometimes you just wanna be …y’know right?
 
—I know.
 
Two weeks in you call him your favorite redneck, because he turns that Kennedy thing on every time you do it in public. Will the redneck please stop loitering and go to the car waiting for him, you say over the PA and watch 300 people pretend not to be shocked while one handsome white boy gets two shades redder with each guffaw. You have a lot of time to waste and so does he, so you hang out like bros but not brahs because brahs wear Hollister T-shirts that say Not You, The Pretty One, and brahs suck. Every time you’re with him you forget that you’re in Kingston and he forgets that he has nothing to do. You should come to Oklahoma he says, and you wonder if he means that in the global sense.
 
In October he heads back to Oklahoma. The night before you exchange bro hugs, clasped hands the barrier between two male bodies. Well if you’re ever in Oklahoma, he says. Sure, you say.  One week after he returns he marries some girl that he knew for only a few months, gets her pregnant weeks after that and never speaks to you again.
 

Front page image by WALLPAPEROSE.

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Marlon James

About the Author

Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. He is the winner of the 2015 Man Booker award for his third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. His first novel, John Crow's Devil (Akashic Books, 2005) was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and was a New York Times Editors' Choice. The novel was published in the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy in 2008. His second novel, The Book of Night Women (Riverhead 2009), won the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The NAACP Image Award, and The Minnesota Book Award, and was New York Magazine's third best book of the year. Marlon was Go On Girl! Book Club's 2012 Author of the year.
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Marlon James