In those days, we drove through the night.  The cats in their carrier and Steven at the wheel, and for a while I read to us.  Then later we got stoned and listened to music. We went from dark country roads to long empty highways and then into the tunnel to the city becalmed.  We parked the car and carried our stuff upstairs and as soon as I let the cats out, I noticed the black feathers in their cage.  “Steven?” I called.  “What’s in here?”


He peered into the carrier.  “Feathers,” he said.


“Very good, Mr. Cornell.  But where’d they come from?”  I pulled out the towel and spread it on the dining table.  Black feathers stuck together, they were glossy with moisture.  “You think they got a bird?”


“The girls?  I doubt it.”


I walked into the bedroom where the cats lounged on the bed.  It was true what Steven said.  Our girls were far too finicky to eat in the wild.  “Sweetie,” I said, lifting Toledo toward the light.  My little gray tiger, more a love junkie than a hunter.  She watched me with big eyes and waited for my diagnosis.  But there was nothing around her mouth, no feathers or bird remains.  I dropped her on the bed and reached for big black Omaha.  Rolled her on her side.  She growled and hissed, and spread her legs wide open.  “You big toughie,” I said. There was nothing on her either.


So maybe the feathers—  I tried to remember.  Had I closed the basement windows?  Was there a chicken behind the boiler?  It was always like this.  Two houses, two sets of problems.  Worrying about one place while living at the other.  I tossed the feathers in the garbage and shook out the towel.


That night, we fell asleep with the television on.  I woke a little after four.  Steven was snoring beside me.  I pulled back the curtain and peered outside.  It was quiet, no traffic on the avenue in front of our apartment.  I climbed over Steven and gathered the take-out containers from atop the desk.


Out in the main room, I noticed Parrain.  His portrait light was on, shining down on those dark eyes which had cared for me since adolescence.  “You should be in bed, Ducky,” I said, imitating his voice.  He used to call me Ducky.  He used to sit up, waiting for me, the nights I came crawling home at dawn.  “Go back to sleep,” I said, flicking off the light.  “Everything’s fine.”


Usually Steven peed with me.  One of us rising, the other following behind.  Our bed was small like that, and when one of us stirred—  We would stand together around the toilet, toes touching, eyes squinting.  Then we’d hurry back to bed, and curl together as if we’d never gotten up.  But this night, he slept on, even after I flushed.


I went to the front windows and peered through the wooden shutters.  Outside, a cab slowed and stopped at the intersection — and then ran the red light.  Across the avenue, a doorman sauntered into the night.  He was tall and dark, not wearing a coat or hat in the late summer heat.  He straightened his tie, ran a hand over his hair.  Thick raven-dark hair.  He strolled to the intersection, then back to the awning.  Toothpick in his mouth.


Apart from the doorman, the avenue was deserted.  No pedestrians, no cars, and very few lighted windows in the buildings along the street.  People were sleeping, and in the final hours of night, it seemed the doorman and I were the only ones awake.


His feet planted apart, the doorman scratched his groin and gazed toward my window.  I pulled open the shutters and feigned a yawn.  Stretched my arms above my head. Then palms against the window, I stared at the doorman across the street.


He leaned against the awning’s brass pole, and looking down, cupped his crotch. Then slowly he lifted his head.  His eyes holding mine like a flashlight in the dark.  I slid my hand into my boxers and he nodded and narrowed his eyes, and in the silence of the room, I heard a low moaning whistle.


I shoved my boxers to the floor and climbed atop the window seat.  My face against the glass, I spit into my palm and stroked my dick.  The doorman stepped off the curb and in the space between two cars, he opened his pants.  He pushed them to his thighs and rubbed his hand across his briefs.  Then he let loose an erection which he grasped in both hands.  His face a rictus of desire, his eyes bored into mine and his long tongue unraveled— and brushed against my face like a web wet with dew.


Without warning, without thinking, I was suddenly coming.  Gobs spewing from my dick, splatting hard against the window, like rain, like glue, my breath coming in gulps, clouding up the glass.


Across the way, the doorman ran his tongue over his lips, licking almost to his nose and down to his chin.  He licked his palm and smoothed into place the black forelock that had fallen forward.  And once his face was composed, he fastened his pants, and then turned and headed back to the building.


Behind me, I heard the bed creak.  I hopped from the window seat and reached for my boxers.  I was staring at the mess on the window when Toledo jumped onto the cushion.  Her eyes searched mine, her nose in the air, as her tail swished back and forth across the glass.


“Oh, no.  Don’t do that,” I whispered, whisking her into my arms.  I swabbed the window with my boxers and wiped at her tail.  “You don’t want that on you.”


But she didn’t care.  She just purred all the louder.  The purr like a gurgle, her happiest sound.


“What are you doing?”


I turned and there was Steven, at the room’s far end.  I couldn’t make out his face; he looked more like a shadow.  “I had to pee,” I said, dropping Toledo into a chair.  “You didn’t hear me get up?”


“No,” he said, heading for the bathroom.


I followed him in, stood next to him at the toilet.  I stroked his side as his water hit the toilet.


“I thought you had to pee,” he said.


“I did,” I said, staring at my dick from which nothing more flowed.


“Where are your shorts?” he asked.


“I kicked them off.  I got hot,” I said, reaching for his dick.  “You hot too?”


He batted my hand away — and then took it by the wrist.  “C’mon, come to bed,” he said.   He pulled me from the bathroom.  “What were you doing by the window?” he asked, pointing toward the open shutters.


“Just looking out,” I said.  “I’ll close them.”


I kept my body from view as I shoved the shutters back into place.  Then I latched the two together and locked out the night.  I knelt and felt around for my boxers.  My head cocked for listening, not just for Steven in the bedroom but also for the sound which had drawn me to the window in the first place.  A voice, a whistle?  I shook my head and sighed.  It hardly seemed like me now.  Stark naked in the window—


Things happened in the city.  All across its smooth veneer, there were streaks and smudges, specks of dirt.  People weren’t always what they seemed.  There were married men on their knees in the underbrush of parks and priests in peep shows and doctors who diddled while their patients were unconscious.  There were honors students who hustled in high-rise hotels and ladies who lunched on young Latino boys.  They all lived in the city. And the doorman and I, we lived here too—


“C’mon, what’re you doing?” Steven called from the bedroom.


“I’m coming,” I said, shoving my boxers under the armchair and heading for his arms.


The next morning, there were two things.  They stuck in my mind like grit in my eye.


I met Billie for coffee.  Billie lived in the building across from ours, when she wasn’t on the road.  I told her I’d noticed her new doorman the night before.


“What new doorman?” she asked, scanning the headlines of the morning paper.


“You know, the dark-haired one,” I said, touching her hand.  “Very humpy.”


Billie shook her head.  “I didn’t see him,” she said.  “Chester was on the door when I came in.”


“Not Chester,” I said.  Short gray-haired Chester.  “The tall guy with thick black hair.  He has these really dark eyes.”


“Wrong building, sweetie,” she said.  She went back to her paper.  “What time you guys get in anyway?  I didn’t see your lights when I got home.”


“It was late,” I said.  “Later than usual.”


And though I wanted to ask again, just to make sure, I didn’t say any more about it. And it seemed she was right.  I didn’t see that doorman again, not that night or the next. Only Chester at the door.  And passing him one night, when I mentioned something about another doorman, he said the same thing Billie had.  There was no new doorman, not at the building across from mine.


And the more I thought about it, the less likely it seemed that the doorman I’d noticed was a doorman at all.  Maybe just a guy in white shirt and tie.  Maybe I hadn’t actually seen him come out of Billie’s building.  Maybe he’d been hanging around outside, leaning against the wall.  And maybe when it was over, after he’d turned away from me, maybe he hadn’t gone into the building but just walked away down the street.


There was no way to know for sure, not that I could see.  Not about the raven-haired doorman or the other thing that bothered me.


That next morning, after Steven had left for work, I’d gone to the window.  I’d spritzed down the glass and wiped it clean and I’d knelt by the chair and felt around for my boxers.  But my fingers had brushed against something—   And I’d lifted the chair skirt and peered under, and there stuck to my boxers was one black feather.  I pulled the feather off and held it to the light.  I held it out to Toledo but she hurried away.


I was sure it was one of the feathers from the cage.  But the garbage had already gone out and I had nothing to compare it with.  So I flushed it down the toilet and tried to forget about it.

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