The Compliments They Slip You by Alan Beard
The compliments they slip you, little pearls of poison to make you drowsy, to take you under, make the currents and eddies take you down. His fingers like seaweed, light but insistent, only drag you down to shipwreck.
"Grow up," she said to me, after I "stole" her husband. "Why don’t you grow up."
Yet, after a while, I couldn't make him relax, he got self-conscious with me, at sex always watching himself, measuring the tick of his cock. After, his feet near my head, I’d touch the sock imprints above his ankles.
The teacher took my poem, stapled it on yellow backing paper, laminated it, and put it on the wall. I remember the muddy air in his laugh when he came back from break supervision, when he peered over my shoulder at my words. I remember the moustaches he sometimes had.
When I left school, the day I left, he pounced with his bag full of compliments and promises. I was happy strong enough to burst my knees and elbows like a fat man his buttons. His sex raced through me, even away from him. We got a flat as I lazed a pre-uni year away: him leaving for school each morning; leaving me criss-crossed with lines of grey sperm.
He didn't go back to his wife with the white, thick features and shocked-looking eyes, but on to someone new, this time nearer his own age. If you can fall in, you can fall out, he patiently explained to me.
I drink—wine, whisky, Benylin—and drowse in front of the fire, remember before him, boys’ hands on me, stroking as if I’m a cat, murmurs, kisses. I watch it now as if I’m inside a tank of water, my hair flowing upwards, electric shock hair, yellow like the hair of women in cop shows and adverts; the boy in the room awkward but strong, helping me out of my clothes.