Through a hole in the insulation, plastic crinkling around his eye, Blackwell watches. It’s been a year of weather with many warnings. Wrought iron fencing scrims the perimeter, gate bouncing on four corners like a screensaver. Beams are screwed into the brick around the window. Crisp air sings against metal. The pool walls erode. A smell arrives, his cat cooling in algor mortis. Mounds of insect corpses crunch under-shoe. The clouds above Laredo tighten like sutures. Blackwell aims to nod off enough to tug the ends loose.

He enters the saloon through a swinging glass door. A bell above the jamb rings. There they are again, the lesbians, squeezing lemons in each other’s eyes. The larger, Cheryl, lifts an eyebrow, a feat that supersedes physique. His head’s dead center of an unfortunate number of Texans. She slips into the booth beside him, their thighs lightly resting. Blackwell welcomes any warmth. She talks for a few rounds. He nods, improving his ability to seem interested. He’s a good boy with those of an opposite orientation. Some ideas come free with the hardware. Although he’s been told to work on himself before. “Wanna fuck?” Cheryl leans into the question, patting his jacket where the powdered H might spring a leak. Everyone rollerblading by stares combatively. “Meet me in my Jeep,” she says. He doesn’t care if the joke’s on him. He’s used to that.

Ankle-deep in Laredo snow, Cheryl looks like a dying Mex-Mart florescent. Stomach mopped with lotions, as if the coke seeped through, she palms a $60 plan B pill. Lichtenburg bubbles sizzle in his drink. They played bumper cars with plastic cups before disrobing. “Almost died,” she says, steadying the crucifix slapping her chest. “Best experience I ever had.” Blackwell tunes her in and out during calisthenics. Most of his thoughts inspire a double take. “No one at my LGBT youth group can know.”

He tells Pancho and Lauren the next day. Pancho’s a metalhead who screams at crickets. Lauren is on the floor, inventing a religion in which her body is the Rosary. Laurens are what they call the beers she leaves open till they get warm. Lauren believes in waste. Her religion is cruel in a Paleolithic way. “Who fucked?” she yawn-shouts.

The unplowed streets fill further. In the windows of cars he passes, Blackwell sees his shoulders grow. Browned fat in his neck and back has multiplied to bolster a Prince-sized body against the cold. Dozens of civilians seem to have missed their medication, slapping zero-degree sunburns. The path to his parents’ house is neatly shoveled. They’re both in the kitchen, lifting dumbbells. A metal lid bubbles on the stovetop. “Carpe diem!” his father yells. Their outfits match. “Dig the tunes?” his mother asks, out of breath. “This album’s called Reiki Whale Song.” They move like a commercial. Another relationship to be accountable to, somewhere past god. Awkward to pretend he cares.

“Pancho,” his phone says. The minutes timed in green zeroes. “Guess who got inside you.” Cheryl, straddling a gigantic lemon, wearing a superman ice-cream flavored onesie, with a touchscreen lock code, suited to his fingerprints alone. Moving closer, her whole-body glows like a screen. Small white text fills black space. “You’re barking up the wrong pole.” He’s always behaved as if someone were watching and famously once wore sunglasses to bed. The parents grunt away—“one, two, three, four…” elbows in the air like they’re starting a lawnmower.

“Dick mouth,” Blackwell tells the mirror: as if there were a password for an easy death. The television ghosts on. A yuppie is kicking his dog on the sidewalk. In Blackwell’s precum slumber, hypnogogic exercises shirk the couch. The bed repels him. The blankets itch. A branch outside the window bends low, hung with a head-shaped wasp’s nest. Hands like a second grader’s papier-mâché him blind. Everything but the nostrils covered.

His shoulders grow each morning. Little bumps that prop his neck into an advertisement of posture. Between stints at digging, he traces these new features with a needle. The pleasure of numb organs, without shooting up, dawns. People act like he’s the skin and not the thing inside. Edges potholing from trickles of water thawed and frozen erode the pool. He’s piled himself for miles along Laredo freeways, a protein of AM radio, roads torn beneath a snowy fiber. Blackwell gulps a Lauren, tonguing the can, fortifying the body he didn’t earn. Strips of plaster, freshly wet, wrap themselves over every notch and node. Cool air’s blown rendering through a stink to meet him. He duct-tapes the hole in the window and keeps going until the roll is done.