Register Wednesday | November 22 | 2017
Blowjob Tableau Vivant Photographs by Robert Karpa.

Blowjob Tableau Vivant

At Wreck Beach, I take off my shirt and he takes off his pants. We lie in the sun on striped towels and I slide on my sunglasses.

AT WRECK BEACH, I take off my shirt and he takes off his pants. We lie in the sun on striped towels and I slide on my sunglasses.

“Where’d you get those?” he asks.

I don’t answer. I got these sunglasses six months ago and it’s not as though I hide them in a drawer. Phil, myself and the sunglasses have shared an apartment for six months.

“Fine,” he says.

An old-growth log lies behind us in the sand, casting a shadow over our faces. A man wearing a T-shirt and no trunks, his balls swinging, sings out giiiiin and tonic, ice cold giiiiin and tonic. With every step, his fanny pack tries to swallow his penis. I wave the man over and buy two drinks. Twelve dollars. Not bad for the 474-stair slog of ice and liquor down to Wreck. I hand him fourteen in change and he shoves it in his fanny pack before wandering away. I set my drink between my boobs and let the condensation find its way down.

“There’s something I want to do,” Phil says. He has a coy smile.

“We’re not having a repeat of the Stanley Park incident.”

“I wasn’t suggesting we screw on the beach, Tam.” He turns away. “Your drink’s gonna fall.”

I relax my solar plexus to steady the cup. When I look back at Phil I notice he has a halfie.

“Seriously, Phil? Take care of it.”

Phil flops back and closes his eyes. While we wait, he tells me that what he really wants to do is build sandcastles. He wants both of us to make one. He’s staring at a faraway seagull as he tells me this. I sense impending emotion, and so we do it.

He starts his on log-left and I start mine on log-right. They’ll be hidden until completion. As we work, the sun rises higher and the log’s shadow shrinks to nothing. Down the beach, as I’m hunting the best and wettest sand, I can hear a gaggle of wakeboarders hollering to each other. A lady with a pinstripe of pubic hair tries to sell me a ham and alfalfa sprout sandwich, but I’m too busy.

My sandcastle is all about structural integrity and not about flourish, though I do plant a seaweed flag on its tallest tower. After I’ve finished building, Phil is still on all fours. His ass dances as he works. I point to the waxing tide—the waves lapping farther up the shore, their greedy fingers clawing back the sand—and tell him we have a time limit. Finally, he says he’s ready. He stands with his arms crossed over his chest. Kinda studly, my Phil.

When Phil sees my castle, he whistles. “It’ll last a thousand years,” he says.

He invites me to see his creation on the other side of the log. It’s a split-level resting on a sloping lawn with a pillared front porch. A row of boxwood hedges borders the driveway.

“This is the house I grew up in,” he says.

I had not realized Phil was a sandcastle god.

Phil puts his sandpaper hands on my waist and pulls me in close. Breathing in my ear, he tells me to come inside with him. His lips graze the side of my neck. “All right, all right,” I say.

He holds the front door open and we enter the foyer. The door crumbles behind us. In front of where we stand, a stairway leads downward. To our left is a living room with sand couches and a sand piano. A hallway leads off to the right and Phil gestures in that direction. On the wall is a deftly carved image of young Phil and his two brothers. The eldest is making bunny ears behind Phil’s head. For a moment I think, Good, that’ll toughen him up—then I realize that no, it did no such thing.

We walk into the kitchen. A sandman with rolled-up sleeves stands over the stove. In a frying pan are two sunny-side-up eggs with blistered edges. There’s a plate waiting with orange slices, baked beans and sautéed mushrooms. Little flecks of rosemary garnish the plate. When I touch one of the mushrooms, it crumbles away.

“I’d eat this,” I say.

Phil frowns. “He only ever made breakfast for one.”

That’s when I see, sitting at a Formica table, perfect replicas of young Phil and his mom. Young Phil is eating a dry piece of toast, looking longingly at the meal on the counter, sand tears peppering his cheeks. His mom is recognizable by her cat-eye frames. She ignores her crying son and focuses on an open magazine. Her left hand holds a cigarette that carelessly brushes young Phil’s neck. I run a finger along his mom’s housecoat.

“Huh. Didn’t know she smoked,” I say.

“Nice, Tam. Nice reaction.” Phil sweeps his arm across the stove and the frying pan bursts into granules. His father’s arm and shoulder crumble with it. Specks of sand ping off my legs. Phil storms through the hallway and turns down the stairs.

It seems I am to follow. As I pass the open front doorway, I see that the tide is bringing the ocean closer. A whitecap rolls over the base of the lawn, churning up Phil’s carefully molded sidewalk.

“We should leave,” I call after Phil, but he’s sitting on the bottom step with his head in his hands. It’s darker in the basement, but there’s enough refracted light to illuminate a foosball table and some psychedelic posters. Phil raises a weak hand and gestures forward into the dimness. I glance outside once more to see a section of lawn fold into the tumult.

I try to hold on to the railing as I descend the stairs, but of course it falls away. I step around Phil and into the room. The pile of the shag carpeting collapses under my steps. My eyes adjust. Phil’s teenage brother sits on the couch, fly open, and a perfect replica of a teenage girl kneels in front of him, sucking him off. Phil’s brother leans back, his Metallica T-shirt lifted to reveal an adolescent gut. His mouth hangs open. I cover my face.

“Oh. My. God. Phil.”

Phil talks through his hands. “This, Tam, is my first heartbreak.” He tells me that the girl is his childhood babysitter. “She did it on purpose,” he says. “I loved her so much.”

“You know what I love?” I say. “I love not seeing teenage oral sex.”

Phil stands up and takes me by the hand. I can hear the waves outside. We walk over to a closed door and he crumbles it with his shoulder. On the other side, on a futon mattress, lies a dog with a line of dark green seaweed emerging from its mouth.

This, Phil tells me, is his family dog, Martha. Hit by a car at age four. He kneels, cups his hand around the dog’s back leg and restructures it so it’s bent at an unnatural angle. His shoulders begin to shake. He runs a hand along the edge of Martha’s ear. He looks at my face. “Comfort me.”

I stand by his side but I don’t touch him.

He grips my ankle. “Tam.”

“I’m not buying it,” I tell him.

A trickle of water runs down the bedroom wall; a crack forms behind a shelf full of board games.

“What?”

I yank him to his feet. “I am not buying it.”

The math doesn’t add up. Phil’s brothers are one and two years older than him, respectively. So unless the babysitter was the same age as the children she cared for, that blowjob scene never happened.

Phil points at his eyes. “I’m crying, Tam!”

“I’ve seen pictures of Martha as a bony old dog in your Heighton Hills place.”

“Please,” Phil whimpers, “suck my ear.” I look at his face. There are two lines of red where he’s rubbed tears into his skin.

Water filters up through the shag carpet and my feet begin to sink. The dog’s paws and tail deteriorate, and a bedside table slumps to its knees. I tell him again that we have to go, but instead Phil crawls to the closet door and claws himself a hole. Again I follow, and we sit on the floor as water pools around our bare legs.

Phil leans his head against the wall. Sand garments hang above like stalactites. One drops and forms a pile of mush between us.

“Sorry, Tam,” he says. “Do you have any hurtful stories from your childhood that you want to share?”

He knows that I do not. And right now, all I want is to impress upon Phil that the walls are literally coming down around us. Death is about to be our great leveller.

Phil burrows through the wall. Another room opens up as I crawl after him, past a water softener and a furnace encased in mother of pearl. We pass sand rats and mice and voles, their crawling bodies fading into the saturated ground. Phil wedges himself behind the furnace. He wraps his arms around his knees.

We need to go. I am compelled to put my hand on his shoulder.

“This is really what you need?” I ask.

He nods.

A repeat of the Stanley Park incident, then. But right now I can’t see another way. I turn him around, pat him on the cheek.

“Okay,” I say. “Come on.”

Clumps of ceiling fall around us as we leave the boiler room, the closet, the spare bedroom. When we’re back in the rumpus room, as Phil watches, I stride over to the blowjob tableau vivant and use a finger to adjust the cheekbones of the girl. I rub off layers of sand until they’re worn down to the curve of my own. I reduce her bust size. Her eyebrows, I arch. I grab a handful of couch to shape her chin, neck and shoulders. Now she is me.

“Check it out, Phil. I totally blew your teenage brother.”

He grimaces. But the halfie has returned.

I hear a river. A torrent of frothy water pours down the steps, eroding their corners. Our route out of the house is now a slip and slide. The water sinks into the carpet and disappears. The next wave will be along soon.

Phil stands and looks at the scene, his head cocked in grim appreciation. I take him by the arm and we try to climb up the slope of the former stairs. Another wave rolls down. Saltwater pours down my throat and I gag.

We sink our fingers into the sand and pull ourselves up arm over arm. Wet sand scrapes my stomach. The walls collapse; family portraits melt into gruesome zombie faces.

With one final push, we make it to the upper level. The roof of the rumpus room collapses. The face of Phil’s father looks up from the wreckage of the kitchen. Phil’s mother and his young self are nowhere to be found.

Phil clutches his heart and we walk out the front door just as a long wave levels the house.

The sun hangs on the far western edge of the sky. The wakeboarders are gone, leaving behind their beer cans. Our waterlogged towels cringe along the old-growth log. The ocean has stolen my magazine. Phil lies down along the top of the log and wipes a final tear away.

“So, to be clear,” he says, “this ends with you screwing me on the beach?”