Part 9: I Bop, You Bop and They Bop

Fuck-boys on the make. Boys bursting out of briefs playing man games that summer post high school but pre college. At Hughie’s house waiting out the dead days after the hurricane, trying not to think of the home you will soon have to go back to before it gets dark. Canned mackerel dinner by kerosene oil light and Guns n’ Roses on the radio once a week if the batteries last. A cracked dirt September of fallen tree trunks and rising libidos, we are young, heartache to heartache. You said you would stop at 17. You read it somewhere in an adventure book named Executioner or Penetrator or Destroyer or some book title that ends with –er. Butler? Where our hero said he stopped at 17 and began to fuck real girls. You knew you had to stop at 17 because if you didn’t then you would start to think of boys fucking real girls. Then boys you knew fucking real girls. Then boys you knew.
 
Hughie and Rob spy the girl next door. Bet you I fuck her before next week Saturday, Hughie says. Bet you lose, Rob says. Bet! Hughie says. And when you lose I going take just three day and fuck her myself, Rob says. Bet! Hughie says while you say nothing, but laugh because you are in on the joke and maybe your friends are giving you the he-used-to-teach-Sunday-school pass. Besides, four years of making like a real man in front of the mirror and correcting your voice with the help of a tape recorder and sitting like a man and staring down your motherfucking wrist because you’re so not playing with this limp wrist fuckery has paid off and nobody thinks you’re that way now. If you can’t have sex right then de-sex, motherfucker. Watch boys talk about big man things while you stretch age 17 to the very last second so that you can lock the bathroom with a key and he-bop. Nobody has to know that you came of age in between two now fused pages of Hustler. You say to Ray,
 
—You hear about that bet Hughie make with Rob?
 
—Eehi.
 
—Can you believe that fuckery?
 
—I know! I mean which girl would seriously fuck Hughie?
 
—What?
 
Countdown at Hughie’s house. His brother, cool when shooting shit, cold when beating the shit out of women, passes in and out. To him we were just boys anyway, cooped up in the one house with electricity and watching Terminator 2. He’s not the first man to smack you with the realness that some grown men hit women. But we were boys in the kitchen making stew and listening to news about rebuilding efforts. Shipments of Zinc that vanished at the wharf and a benefit concert on TV somewhere with the Rolling Stones and Terence Trent D’Arby. The Olympics where a Jamaican running for Canada wins a race then fails the drug test. Guns N’ Roses hits number one, but your life is still too damn fucked to make it through that bridge without crying where do you go? Where do you go now? Where do you go? You fill the week with dead space—This is not some game of wait, damn it. This will not be you watching boys become men and leave you between bed sheets rubbing your youth raw.
 
Because sex is everywhere, but mostly over there. Sex is a rumor of school girls, pantyless hoisting themselves on boys in the back of buses. Minibuses packed tight girl-boy-girl and boy-girl-boy while Shabba Ranks pumps through the speakers hard and stiff fi mek she boom shift. Sex is the senior student caught fucking the school librarian who vanishes before the next day of school. Sex is loose talk among loose boys losing space in school and not giving a fucking shit because European magazines show the real thing so fuck you and your Hustler—hey what happened to page 55-58? Sex is the almost white boy standing up to the art teacher saying yow, I beat woman your age. Sex is another boy holding court in the changing room telling boys that you have to stick your finger in the pum-pum and smell it first. Sex is the boy tall and chill because he had a girlfriend who looks like she is getting fucked. Sex is the nerd who became jock because he was caught holding a girl’s hand. Sex is the boy who said I don’t watch no fucking blue movie when I have the real thing. Boys sprawled on couches with nothing to prove, over there. Not here. Not in seven days to Saturday. Six days. Four days. Two.
 
Saturday. In Hughie’s living room you are on the floor, Ray is in the armchair playing with the dog and Big Trouble in Little China doesn’t look like much trouble for the guy from Escape From New York. The boys who usually cook in the kitchen while cabbage-patching to dance music are cooking in the kitchen while cabbage-patching to dance music. Rob is pacing up and down the staircase and you try not to watch him. Failing that, you try not to worry. Failing that you worry about what kind of man thinks this is something to worry about. Really? This is what you’re going to bring to the bedroom with some girl, worry?
 
At some point, boys becoming men develop that man code that’s moving right past you. Ray doesn’t look like he’s wondering about the bet, he might have even forgotten it. Maybe they have forgotten it. Maybe it was a joke—you know that you’ve got to work on your irony. But there is Rob, pacing up and down the stairs, looking out the window to the house of the girl next door.
 
—Man this movie fool, Ray says.
 
—Your idea.
 
—I know, but can we just finish watching Witches of Eastwick?
 
—What the fuck wrong with you? No.
 
Ray says something, probably something snappy, but you’re watching Rob look out the window. At least he’s stopped pacing.
 
—What the fuck? Rob says. What the fuck… him… haha. Haha.
 
You laugh as well. You imagine Hughie slouching back to his house, after the girl next door told him to fuck off, what kind of girl you think this is. The door opens.
 
—Oi brethren me hope you have money in your pocket y’know cause me want I going need it, Rob says.
 
You hear Hughie stomping up the steps.
 
—Think you is a stud. Boy like you can’t get nothing from girl…and…brethren what so funny? What so… Fuck. Shit. Fuck.
 
Hughie says nothing. He walks into the living room, still quiet with a huge grin. He open his arms wide in a Jesus Christ pose, the front of his pants wet-streaked with jism.

Front page image by justine-reyes.

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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