One, Two

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They went, they were gone — six hours upstate in a town I’d never heard of. Rahmer had seen it coming, he made himself ready in his head, didn’t say a word for weeks. Ortiz, though — that silly prick dreamed himself all the way into sentencing, and that beat-down hadn’t bought him a thing. He could’ve gotten slit nuts to neck and the state would’ve made his fucking corpse serve the time.
     Me, I got what I could out of it. There was this girl I was all wrapped up in, this girl Dara. We hung out a lot but she never let me touch her until Ortiz and Rahmer got sent up.

If I wanted to be with her, she said, I couldn’t be a boy, I had to do better than that.

     She was the hostess at the Uno’s on Bell Boulevard when I was doing salad prep, she was tiny and boyish but what really did it to me was her lazy black eye — always drifting off on its own, looking for something. I guessed she was my kind from the way she kept sending people to hell every chance she’d get — telling delivery guys to shut up and wait outside, snapping at busboys, keeping one waitress begging for customers while she gave another more than she could handle.
     She’d get on the intercom, telling me, “You better be kidding — get that shit out here now,” and I’d tell her to fuck off, with the feeling screaming around in me that the best thing I could ever do with myself would be to beg her for something, really beg her, on my knees — talking fast to her with my throat hurting, kissing her stupid Pumas.
     But I never thought it would happen. After work we’d go up to her apartment — both her parents were doctors and they kept sending money no matter what she did — we’d get wasted, and the girl couldn’t stop telling me how she hated people touching her, that she only liked girls and that she’d only liked a few girls in her life but that she only really liked one of them.
     Then my best friends went to prison, it made the change.


     We were up at her place, we were doing coke, being morbid, talking about who was more fucked up. I told her how I felt with the guys gone, how alone — I danced it around in front of her lazy eye until she was ready to twist the whole room for me. I could see her face changing, the drift-eye shivering and the other one opening up at me. I told her everything.
     She was crying, she sniffed it back, leaned down for a line and when she came back up the drip from her nose was climbing over her lip. I wiped it away with my thumb — hand jittering, the pulse bouncing up against the little curving space under her nose and back up through my fingers, all through my arm, hot, into my face.
     “Your cheeks are all red,” she said.
     “I like touching you.”
     “Do it again.”
     Even with my hand on her cheek, even with her eye on me — the only one that ever looked at anything dead-on — I kept thinking I’d never get there, that she’d pull away. But she leaned her face toward me and then I had both hands on her cheeks with her hair coming forward, touching the tips of my fingers. I spoke to myself —
     That’s Dara’s hair — Dara’s — the little screamer, the lesbian — that’s Dara’s hair and her cheeks — and these are my fingers touching them.
     And that was Dara’s tooth and those were her teeth and it was my tongue touching them. She was kissing me harder and harder, shoving me onto my back while she climbed on top of me, choking me with her tongue until her spit was running down my cheeks.
     “Kiss me like that,” she said. “Don’t kiss me nice.”
     Something shot past the corner of my eye, this little flurry of darkness — I turned to see what it was and Dara yanked my face to hers.
     “Look at me.”
     “Look at me.”
     “I am.”
     She shook her head no, she put her hand on my throat — there were lights all over her face, bursts of red and yellow, the blue glow of the TV.
     If I wanted to be with her, she said, I couldn’t be a boy, I had to do better than that. She told me what it meant, we traded ideas, tried a few things — it didn’t take long before we’d worked it down to a system.

It’s not like her ass was in the way or anything — I mean, you understand, I was licking it.

     Dara would stop me after four drinks to be sure I could do my part when we got around to actually having sex — it was surefire, we were like a machine together, she knew what she was doing.
     I tried to quit once, I tried to bail out — we were working away on each other and by two or three in the morning I was so hungry I lost my place. When it started I didn’t even realize what it was, couldn’t recognize it — my stomach burning away and my mouth starting to run, wanting to take something apart.
     I’d have gone around the corner to the 7-Eleven and gotten one of those imitation Egg McMuffins you heat up in the microwave but, the thing is, Dara’s ass was in my face. It’s not like her ass was in the way or anything — I mean, you understand, I was licking it. Because I was her kid brother and if I didn’t do it she’d tell Mom how she’d caught me jerking off in the toolshed.
     “You disgust me,” she was saying in her Southern accent. “You just downright make me sick, you little pervert — don’t you stop!”
     What did the normals do with themselves — play soccer, think about law schools? What’s soccer? Schools of law?
     Dara reached around, swatting me across the face, told me to go faster, and backhanded, cheek stinging, I went faster.
     “Slow down, motherfucker!”
     We lived on this farm down in Texas — that’s why we had the toolshed in the first place. Dara liked doing the voice, she loved to say “motherfucker” as this bratty little Texan girl.      “Keep going, motherfucker. Don’t you stop. I’ll tell. I swear by the Lord I’ll tell.”
     We were Baptists, we name-dropped the Lord all the time — it was cool doing that.
     “You are in so much trouble, boy.”
     It was true — there was the whole night ahead of me and I was already getting dizzy from wanting some food. Dara was growling out her lines but I was having a hard time staying in the game. So many parts hadn’t happened yet and there was no part in it where I could get anything to eat — you understand, anything else.
     “Slow down, motherfucker! Lick me slower.” I slowed down, licked her slower, Dara shaking her head, saying, “Filthy, filthy, filthy.”
     Any second now I’d be going too slow, and then too fast again. Of course, there was no way to do it right, no way to be good, but I had to toss Dara’s salad just right or there’d be trouble. Trouble? Do it right or skin would fry, be good, keep the demons in hell — keep the Lord away. The Lord’s coming — hurry motherfucker! It’s coming! Quick now!
     “Go faster, stupid! Are you really that stupid? Hurry up!”
     Next came the part where I was supposed to admit I liked it and start begging her to let me keep doing it—telling her how beautiful she was and how much I loved all the dirty parts of her body. Then, together or almost together, we’d come.
     After that it would be Dara’s turn — me being, say, a teacher who could fail her or some stranger that’d snatch her up off the street. See, we both wanted the same role.
     “You just love my ass, don’t you, boy?”

Dara got on her knees — I hated seeing that.

     I did. But I hadn’t been food-hungry in so long that it came to me hard, that hollowness rolling over itself in my stomach, throwing fire at the bottom of my throat. And there was still so much to do.
     “No!” I said, in as young a voice as I could make.
     “Don’t you dare lie to me, reaching around and pulling me to her by the hair. “If there’s one thing the Lord hates, it’s a little liar. Now tell me you love it, motherfucker!”
     I could feel my stomach vibrating in the hinge of my jaw while my tongue reached out for her. The whole thing was rising up, begging me to put something in it, so I pulled my head back, brought my palm up, and brought it back hard — flat across one cheek of her ass.
     “Oh,” she said, turning around, lowering her head a little. “Is Leon improvising?”
     Leon was trying to get a bagel. There was no way I’d ever make it out of there without Dara getting her turn, so I was jumping right into it.
     “You’ve been bad,” I said, getting up from my knees, “you are in a lot of trouble young lady.”
     “Me?” she pouted, putting her hands behind her back. “But I’m good.”
     I shook my head no — two shakes, two beats per shake — one-two, tick-tock.
     “What did I do bad?”
     It wasn’t her voice anymore, it was higher now, smaller — a scared little kid, her breath trembling under the words.
     “You don’t know? You don’t remember what you did? Well, you’d better start thinking about it. Think about what you did.”
     “But I don’t remember.”
     That was enough whining, I told her. “Do you really think that if you pout enough and give me those sad little baby eyes I’ll let you walk away like nothing happened?”
     She didn’t say anything. My stomach made some noise, and Dara got on her knees — I hated seeing that, but the one time I’d complained, Dara had smashed the bathroom window with a bottle of Drano.
     “Are you really that stupid, girl?”
     Her head shook no — one-two.
     “You’re not?”
     Well. Now she was just plain lying and we both knew how the Lord felt about liars. She had to be kidding me — she knew what she did, she remembered — everyone told her — even if they didn’t know, they told her and she knew it. And she’d admit it, right this second — now! — or there’d be trouble.

“If I am naked and you are thinking about something else,” her toes crawling up my chest, pinching a nipple, “I will absolutely kill you.”

     It was one thing to be stupid, but we came down hardest on the liars.
     “You’d better start thinking about it, little girl.”
     No? Did she just say no? I had to light a cigarette for this.
     Her eyes were getting bigger, darker, her face going red and her breath making the words quiver —
     “But I’m a good girl!”
     If she was so good, then why was this happening? Could she answer that? Of course she couldn’t, she was too stupid.
     “Or are you just a little liar? It’s one or the other, young lady, because it’ll never be both.”
     “Hurry,” in her own voice, looking up from her knees, rubbing herself.
     “Okay, okay.”
     As I was walking her out the bedroom, to the couch, Dara said, “Damn it, Leon, put that out,” so I went back into the bedroom, snuck another drag, and snuffed it. Back in the living room, I couldn’t believe the couch was still so far away, that I still had her by the hair, was still dragging her to it. Then we finally got there, I finally pulled her across my lap telling her she was getting what she deserved, but — fuck! — we hadn’t even started yet.
     A spanking isn’t just a couple whacks on the ass and then you get to go have a Pepsi. These things have rhythm, these things take time. I had to let my hand hover, bounce it in the space above her so she felt the air moving — tap, make her wait for it, stroke her back with the other hand — so she knew I was there, so she had to wait for it.
     The room was looking watery, my head filling up with air and all these gripe-noises coming out of my stomach. But I still had to do everything, all of the slapping, the spanking, the smacking — plus the hover and tap in between — slowly — and then speed up — three smacks, four in a row — four, five — then show down, hover and tap, get fast again — five, six in a row — six, seven —
     “Don’t lie to me, you little slut!”
     Egg McMuffins — Jesus, I loved those things. They were so warm and soft, salty . . . Sausage McMuffin with Egg — even better, with that cheese melting over the sausage, the egg kind of popping in your teeth . . .
     But we were so just in the beginning of it, it wasn’t even the beginning of the middle — I’d barely put a shine on that ass. There I was hovering, asking her who was right.
     “Me,” she said, so I had to reach down and yank her hair, hiss at her, call her a liar — or was she just stupid?
     “Say it!”
     Oh, we’d be at this all night if she wanted. It didn’t matter if I was starving because it wasn’t over until she said it was, until she admitted that I was right — that she was a stupid little slut, a liar — that she was bad. And she absolutely wouldn’t do that until she had all the commotion going, the screaming and crying and the “Please look at me!”
     “This is what you get,” at top speed. “Do you hear me? This is what little liars get.”
     I couldn’t even hope for a break, something to nibble, a little refreshment — hell no. Like there’d be food in that anorexic refrigerator of hers? Food?
     7-Eleven was right around the corner.
     “Pay attention!”
     “I’m sorry. I’m just really hungry.”
     “Are you for real?” she said.
     I wasn’t even close to being for real. I said, “What do you want from me — I’m starving. Some of us like to eat food once in a while.”
     She said she couldn’t believe me and rolled over, stretching out on the couch, her legs over mine, squinting at me in the dark.
     “Look at me.”
     “I’m looking right at you, princess.”
     Each word was high and sharp, it was her teacher voice, her getting-near-a-fight voice.

The room kept getting darker and darker while I kept talking about us, kept going.

    “If I am naked and you are thinking about something else,” her toes crawling up my chest, pinching a nipple, “I will absolutely kill you. Does that sound fair?”
     “Oh, absolutely.”
     Her head went no — tick-tock. She wanted convincing, wanted to hear me say more things. Forget being slapped around and pretending she was being forced to give a blow job she was giving — talking’s what really got her. She leaned her face forward, watching me through the tops of her eyes, the steady one beaming into me while the other one drifted away.
     I said the things I always said. But I’d never heard them so sober before —
     Ah, wasn’t she great but, more important, wasn’t it great how we understood each other? And even better than all that wasn’t it, like, critical? — like we were at the heart of something and it was something we made ourselves? Wasn’t it just the two of us and death to all outsiders because no else would ever get it?
     “World?” I said. “What world? It’s just us because we understand each other and we understand each other so it’s just us. And we never forget it, we never forget each other — we never forget anything.”
     My stomach was making a fucking feast out of itself. I was so dizzy Dara’s eyes were going in and out of her face and the room kept getting darker and darker while I kept talking about us, kept going —
     We, we, we, us, us, us, you, you, you, me, me, me . . .
     “But, fuck, Dara, there is a world. And there’s food in it!”
     She smiled, wriggling onto my lap. “Look at me.”
     “Listen, princess, listen,” I said. “Can’t you hear the racket going on in there? There’s a whole motherfucking orchestra in there — listen to it.”
     Tick-tock. “Stop being a baby, Leon.”
     “It’s a concert in there, Dara. Hear it? The horns? All that brass? There are cymbals in there, there are drums!”
     Dara watched me for a second, scanning me with the steady eye, the one that was in this world. Then she bent down, pressing the side of her face to my stomach.
     “Damn,” she giggled. “That’s crazy.”
     “I know. What do you think I’m telling you?”
     “I can hear it.”
     “Of course you can.”
     “But, sweetie,” she said, kissing me. “Don’t you know how they end symphonies?”
     “Um?” I shrugged.
     She was whispering into my mouth, breathing into me.
     They’d set off rockets and cannons before it was over she said. We’d get to see everything light up, the both of us, the sky catching fire, choking — all the people and buildings and houses glowing in the dark, and us too.
     She pressed her lips together and the lazy eye focused on me for the first time, its lid shivering. She cupped my jaw in her hands.
     “Everything has to be burning.”  


Excerpted from the novel Everyone’s Burning (Villard).

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Everyone’s Burning,
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©2003 Ian Spiegelman and

the Sex & Drugs issue  
SubURBAN Photography by Robert Petrie
One, Two by Ian Spiegelman
Lucy & Rachel by Lisa Carver

Romancing the Stoner by Ondine Galsworth
/personal essay/

Clean by James Frey
/personal essay/

Sexy Dancer by Erin Cressida Wilson & Sean San Jose
Dirty by Daphne Gottlieb
I Did It for Science: Drugs by Grant Stoddard
The Night Visitor by David Amsden
/personal essay/
Tweak by Nicolas Sheff
James by Bruce Benderson
Dirty and Sober by Em & Lo
Amanita Virosa by Jenny Boully
A Life of Substance by Richard Hell
7 Days to Better Sex Through Recreational Drug Use by Carrie Hill Wilner
Slippy for President by Steve Almond

Ian Spiegelman was born in Brooklyn in 1974 and raised in Bayside, Queens. A graduate of Queens College and a former staff writer for New York, he is currently a reporter for the New York Post‘s “Page Six” and a contributing editor at Details. He lives in Forest Hills, Queens.