He wears leather pants. They are, as leather pants should be, tight, and he when he walks it is with a stiff gait. When I first saw him, he appeared to be in his fifties. Either that or he lived a hard life and was in his forties. Prior to talking to him, I had seen him walking around Eureka a lot. Sometimes alone wearing a leather cap, vest and pants. Sometimes dressed casually in jeans and accompanied by an older woman. He was, as the more polite would say, a character.
One day he came into where I worked while I was manning the register. He was dressed in his finest leather, which wasn’t out of place at that business. He didn’t bother looking at me and instead went right to the various porn mags and movies while I read my book. I didn’t pay attention to what he was picking up and paging through. My many months of employment at the porn store said no eye contact meant no verbal contact, which was my ideal working condition. I didn’t want the customers talking to me, and I sure as fuck did not want to start a conversation with them. This guy was no exception.
I eventually sensed his presence at the counter and looked up. His eyes didn’t seem quite right. Excited. Unfocused. He was, and this is no exaggeration, foaming at the mouth a bit. In fact, during our short conversation, this whitish, thick slop had to be wiped away from the corner of his lips several times by the back of his gnarled hands. Some had dried on his face around the left corner of his mouth, and more than a few dollops had escaped his piehole with enough force to land of the glass counter between us. It was disgusting, but then again, so was he.
“You’ve seen me around town,” he said quietly. He leaned toward me over the counter. I was keeping my distance.
I nodded. My arms were crossed in front of my chest, my book forgotten for the moment.
“Don’t say anything to me when you see me with mother.”
I didn’t plan on it, Norman Bates. I didn’t say that, however. In fact, I didn’t say anything. For some reason, my lack of response seemed to be his cue to continue.
“You seem nice.”
“I’m not.” That really should’ve told him to stop this pointless banter. But those eyes and that oral froth said to me that he was far beyond comprehending social signals at this point. Drugs? On the down side of a bipolar episode? Rabies? I had no idea and didn’t care. He was intent upon continuing the conversation, however, and that did bug me.
“Do you like horses?”
I shook my head. I really didn’t care about horses one way or another, but I did not want to respond favorably.
“I do,” he said. His eyes tried to focus on mine. Tried. They went over me, around me, back in their sockets. Anywhere but on me.
He leaned closer. “They’re so big. I like to rub against them.” I imagined it was much like he was rubbing up against the counter.
I didn’t say a word. I feared that if I barked at him to leave or shut up, he would cry or collapse on the floor, screaming for his mother. That wouldn’t get him out of the store any faster.
“I was wondering,” he continued, “if you’d want to go horseback riding with me sometime.”
I don’t know in what universe this seemed like a good idea to him. I also was sure that if I accepted his invitation he would soon be demonstrating the forbidden thrills of rubbing up against God’s majestic creatures and encouraging me to follow suit. Horses, much like dogs and Dolly Parton fans, are not something I’ve ever been sexually attracted to … not even for dry humping purposes.
“That’s not going to happen,” I responded.
He quickly backed away from the counter like he was conditioned to dodge a fist after bringing up the subject. I’m sure he was, but I wasn’t interested in punching him. I just wanted to go back to reading.
“Please don’t say anything when I’m with mother.”
“This town has too many Christians.”
And with that he left the porno store. I never saw him come in again on my shift.
These days I see him around town from time to time (in fact, I saw him today at the Fourth of July celebration in Old Town). I don’t know if he remembers me, though I look the same now as I did then. When I see him, his eyes are more focused and that white junk isn’t on his lips and face. He’s usually wearing the leather, too. Proudly displaying it for the town’s many Christians. I haven’t seen his mother in ages. I imagine she died in her sleep, her son finding her body the next day when she wasn’t up before him, busy making him breakfast in a dimly lit kitchen. I imagine they owned the house she died in, and he spends most of the day with the shades drawn, erect at the thought of horses. Photos of the divine beasts line the walls … except in mother’s room. That remains as it was the day he found her. He dusts in there, though. Sweeps the hardwood floor. Sniffs her pillowcase every once in a while, convinced he can still smell her shampoo. No more tears. The rest of the rooms, however, are altars to that which makes his aging cock erect. Horses. Newspaper articles about zoophiles. Ancient porn he no longer has to hide. The kind of stuff you can’t easilybuy in the stores anymore. The kind of stuff about the love between a man and his mare.
He’s alone, but he’s happy. Content to live out his fantasies and not worry about someone saying something to mother. Why, her heart couldn’t take it, you know.
He doesn’t seem to remember me, but I remember him. I’m tempted to ask him, just in passing, “Rub up against any stallions lately?” That would be cruel, though. Slightly evil. In poor taste. I don’t do it, but not for those reasons. I don’t do it simply because I don’t want a conversation. His base desires are nothing to me. They are his fantasies, and his alone. I don’t share his fascination, and I definitely would not benefit from small talk. I learned all I want to know about him that day in the porn store. All the rest were blanks I can easily fill in with my understanding of people and artistic license.
I will admit, though, that the slightest conversations can lead to some very strange places. I didn’t think that this leather-clad clown would have ever admitted to getting his kicks by rubbing against horses. Nor did I ever think he would be that concerned about his mother. Most people would be so put off by the horse fetish that they would find the man morally reprehensible. I’ve heard worse, but even judging him solely by his standards he comes across as tragic (and, yes, a bit disgusting with the foaming at the mouth bit). He is a man isolated by society, and at one time fearful of what his desires would do to the woman he loved. He tried to let the world know he was different, his leather pants on a warm summer’s day a sure giveaway, but he could never let that same world know what he really wanted. I don’t believe he thought I would be like-minded when it came to his desires and that’s why he told me. I think he believed, like many who came into the porn store and blurted out whatever fantasy they harbored, that I was his confessional figure. If he told me, he told someone, and that made his connection to the world a little more substantial. Someone knew. Some who, by the very nature of the clerk and customer relationship, would be less likely to attack him verbally or physically. At most I would tell him to leave and his isolation would only be solidified.
Someone knew, and now his world felt a little smaller.
No matter. I still don’t want to talk to him.