Harry was out for a walk. Nowhere in particular in mind; he didn’t find the idea altogether unenjoyable to take a long shortcut through a field of bluebonnets, standing unseasonably erect and barely tossed by the wind. The wind made Harry tremble instead, to balance things out, but the brie had given him fortitude. He saw an airplane pass overhead and took it as a good omen; perhaps he would apply for a job as a flight attendant.

A field of blue bonnets is as good a place as any to squat down and hide like an ostrich. A few weeks ago, maybe more, Harry was only about as tall as he was now, squatting; looking through chair legs up at the grandfather clock, tall as his dad, maybe taller. Harry sneezed and snuggled his coat in closer; he licked at the plastic wrapping of his now deceased brie wedge.

When he stood up again, the man squatting down next to Harry forced him back down again by the shoulders and made a shushing gesture at Harry with his finger. Then, he pointed out across the field; Harry immediately noticed what the man was pointing at: the bluebonnets were quivering like a sine wave and, what’s more, he could hear the noises the two over there were making. The man squatting next to Harry was nearly beside himself with laughter—

“Did you see her?” the man whispered.

“Who is that?” The man shushed Harry again.

“Keep it down, keep it; that’s my wife, the dumb bitch. Getting pickle-speared by the tenant.”

“Who is it?”

“Look at her. She’s such a slut. She lets him finish inside of her hole. Hey, hey, keep it down, they might hear you!”

Harry stood up despite the man’s protests; the man went supine, like an army-man toy, so as to avoid the attention Harry was now attracting by standing. Anyway, the other man—the tenant, Harry supposed—and the woman didn’t seem to notice. That man’s naked back was to Harry; the woman, the man’s wife, was a zaftig woman. She made exacerbated noises like she was having a nightmare.

Terrified, Harry took to a run in the opposite direction, back where he came.

“Hey! Hey! I’m gonna finish on her tits! Hey!” The tenant had gotten up and was calling after him, fully nude—Harry, trying to look back while keeping speed, caught sight of his plein air erection before almost tumbling over, but he managed to keep on his feet and keep his momentum—Harry ran.

“Hey!” Harry recognized it as the voice of the other man, the cuckold husband. “Dude, hey! Where are you going?” Harry stole a glance behind him and picked up speed; the husband was giving chase. “Hey, dude!”

Would that he never see a bluebonnet again in his God-given life, Harry sprinted with an efficiency that surprised himself. He could feel each stride as if in slow motion; his foot hitting the soil at the heel, rounding off to his toe like a trebuchet, his knee rising in the air. The husband had stopped and was now just yelling after him; Harry could tell from the Doppler effect.

Harry felt hungry again; he kept running.

It wasn’t too long before he came upon a wide dirt road made for tractors, with two small drainage ditches dug on either side. Harry came to a stop. He thought of Julia, of course; he thought of Julia, he thought of sex, he thought of the zaftig woman, her legs widened graciously for the tenant boy. Harry couldn’t do a thing; he couldn’t get laid. Exhausted, but more so than this, simply hungry, Harry lay down, even on the dirt. If he had his cell phone, he thought, he could have just called Julia. But he had walked too far, and now he wasn’t even sure how he’d get back. He got up and dusted the dirt off the back of his pants.

He’d be lying if he said the place wasn’t pretty. It seems it was for miles that the bluebonnets sprawled out like a sea. The clouds had burned off because now the sun beat down mercilessly, and Harry wrapped his jacket around his wait and knotted the sleeves.

“Well, I’ll be seein’ ya, Julia. Better be walking home right about now. See you in a jiffy, maybe even less,” Harry said aloud to himself. Not a soul in sight; Harry made sure of it, looking all around him, before shamelessly shifting his erection into his waistband. No one around to see he had a boner. Harry couldn’t get laid, or if he did, it was only sometimes.

Shamelessly, he jumped back down into the ditch and squatted in the field of blue bonnets again. Looking all around him, he shamelessly unzipped his pants and took out the erection, gripped it, and began to pump it, knocking on his pubic bone like it was a door and he was desperate to get in. It only took him a few minutes, less even, to shoot out like a popped pimple onto the soil, a drop landing on the leaf of one of the flowers. He looked around again.

“Howdy, partner.”

Harry could have died from a heart palpitation. A white man—medium height and build, with a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and a T-shirt tucked into his jeans, with a belt—leaned against a white pickup truck splattered with mud all along the side. Its windshield was burnt sienna with dry dust picked up from the road. Just a second ago, Harry had been wondering how the soil was so wet when the ditch and the road were so dry. The man must have drove up nigh soundlessly and Harry had missed it, steeped in thought, though truly, thought was steeping in him; some egregious tea, his mind saltwater, uninhabitable.

Admittedly, he felt a lot better after having masturbated: the tension that had been with him since the grocery store lifted like a weighted blanket they use for anxious dogs and kids with autism.

Harry, still squatted, swung away from the man in the cowboy hat and, jutting his palm out on the soil to leverage his weight and crushing a bluebonnet or two in the process, used his free hand to zip up his pants. He felt a hand on his shoulder—

“It’s getting late. Do you need to be somewhere?”

Harry responded aphonically; shame, it’s true, steeped in him.

In the pickup truck now, our hero’s new friend—the cowboy—kept a respectful silence. Harry sizzled with some sense of shame or another; his mind, as a general rule, a pan on the stove of shame: thoughts like drops of water to test its temperature.

“Where can I drop you, partner?”

It wasn’t until they were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge that they cowboy deigned to speak again. Harry began to feel alarmed when the man’s hand missed the stick shift and landed among his inner thighs.

“Do you want some money, partner?”

His penis was the opposite of erect; it was inverted upon itself, shrunk by shame and fear, like such a cold current of river water. Harry demurred, forcefully, yet so politely that the cowboy didn’t quite catch his drift; his hands were exploring Harry’s swimsuit area, not so delicately at that, a forcefulness to them in a way similar, Harry imagined in this moment, to how he might have felt up girls in college.

The man said, in a lower voice now: “I saw you down in that field…”

The events of the day went down Harry’s esophagus with a gulp. Like a frog. “I would need $1,200 cash up front.” It was not without fear that he stole a sharp glance at his homoerotic farmhand of a chauffeur; the man was smiling all wile-like. It was everything Harry could do to not open the door and throw himself out of the moving truck. Yes, Harry thought like that, sometimes: ideated in a manner that could only be described as suicidal. A small part of him felt happy to finally have a rational, mature reason for his death drive.

“How bout 800?”

Harry shrugged and unlocked his passenger-side door.

If he had waited until the truck had crossed the bridge, there was a red light and Harry could have alit from the truck without sustaining any serious injuries. Such as it is, however, our hero was knocked into a month-long coma, during which the old man with the cigarette from the abandoned building returned to Harry, only this time as a dream.

Harry knew the man—felt him, if you’d rather—to his core, but couldn’t express it to a soul because his fall on the Brooklyn Bridge going at 35 miles per hour had rendered him mentally retarded.

Julia would be lying if she said she wasn’t relieved by the turn of events, as beguiling as a particularly witty turn of phrase. She soon shacked up with a social media consultant from Williamsburg. Julia was never one to care for the haughty literary references preferred by Harry in the lieu of casual conversation; her new beau, she was proud to say, had gone to business school, none of that liberal arts bullshit. Her parents never asked what became of him—Harry, that is—and figured she’d dumped him soon after they had met him, accidentally, one day when he barged in unsolicited to her brownstone in Park Slope (Harry explained to her later that he had only come to ask for a cigarette). In any case, Harry had introduced himself to Julia’s parents as her “boyfriend,” much to the emblushening of her cheeks. “You never told us you had a boyfriend,” they had said to her later. Not one to speak of sexual licentiousness to her genetic forebears, she dropped the subject. (Harry, for his part, had agonized over the whole thing. Julia’s parents never asked about him again.)

But, it’s true: she did love him.

A parent should never be forced to bury their own child; and especially, they shouldn’t be expected to clean out his apartment. “Just sell that crap, what could he have had?” Harry’s mother tried to explain to the landlady over the phone. Now she and Harry’s father had to schlep into Brooklyn for the first time in what must have been 15 years. They were sad, or as sad as they could be. “He may as well have been dead anyway, the way he called,” adjoined Harry’s father. It’s worth noting, however, that Harry wasn’t dead; the details with the hospital were somewhat hazy (though the doctor on call suspected the woman on the other line was misunderstanding on purpose, so that she wouldn’t have to come and fill out paperwork for her son). “He’s dead!” she screamed to Harry’s father; as the doctor hurriedly tried to correct her mistake, the line went dead. His parents found in Harry’s loft-style single-room 100 or so books, 30 long-player vinyl records, and $1,500 worth of prescription amphetamines in a Ziploc bag in a cabinet in his kitchen. The fridge contained a half-drunk bottle of red wine (“In the refrigerator!,” cried out Harry’s father) and various condiments, procured by Harry by way of slight-of-hand. The mattress was disposed of by the city, and Harry’s parents left the ticket therefrom on the kitchen counter—“for the landlady.”

For Harry’s part, when he awoke from the coma, he was sent to a state-funded rehabilitation ward in Connecticut. He remembered the old man, with the distinguished face, the cigarette, and the gift of the gab. He remembered Julia, of course, though an objective bystander with a keen enough knowledge of Harry’s inner life would be able to perceive that his piece-meal ideation of “Julia” was indeed a pastiche of various women from his sexual past.

Harry lived out the rest of his days in bed, reading every book he had started but never finished. (Harry lived out the rest of his days believing himself to be reading in bed, though of course his brain functioning was such that reading, for our hero, was, cerebrally speaking, out of the question.)


For all installments of “Out for a Walk,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2