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The Brown Boy's Flesh
Ronaldo V. Wilson

A Cruise

The brown boy is dreaming about being on the open deck of the Orient Point ferry which travels between Long Island and New London. His head leans against the stomach of a thin white man with no money, who has a rust colored beard and cheap, amber sunglasses. Though he does not know the brown boy, the white man with a rust colored beard and amber shades is letting the brown boy lean into his stomach. The thin white man's small gut is the slight excess that the brown boy needs, his head pushing into the soft mat of it while staring at his sweats and plain, nameless, white tennis shoes.

The brown boy looks up and out to a cruise ship across from them, where people are standing in rows, holding champagne glasses. The brown boy's white man appears, coming up to the deck. It's not really his whole body, just a floating torso, his great stomach in a copper Polo shirt, appearing before the brown boy and the stranger who will soon be deserted. The brown boy knows he would never stand to leave his white man for a poor, thin one.

What he remembers, most, about this dream is the open deck of the ship across from the ferry; that he is leaning into a stranger's stomach, watching the cruise ship slip away, taking away the row of people, who are all still, rigid as chess pieces, and then the boat's escape, like a squid jetting away, its black cloud, murking into absence.

The brown boy is on the cruise ship, in a dreamed room with his white man, and they are eating from a large tray of chocolate desserts in front of them. One piece of chocolate looks like a miniature creme brule with a dusting of cocoa powder on top. Another is a tiny white-chocolate shopping bag filled with a dark chocolate mousse filling. The white man breaks off a small piece of the white "bag" and pops it in his mouth. The bag keeps getting larger. The room is filled with trays of chocolates, and the white man and the brown boy are lying against each other with trays surrounding them. There is no division between candy and their bodies, food and their flesh, chocolate and their hands or mouths as they gorge.

The Brown Boy Remembers Mr. Moreau

Mr. Moreau is big and white and sits on a high stool. From the brown boy's desk, which is lower than the counter, he can look up at the great bulge between his teacher's legs. Even though, in Physics, he would stare up at Mr. Moreau and thought at night about being fucked by him -- like a dog -- on the counters of his classroom, he knew this would never occur.

But still, he would imagine it: sometimes he would see the Bunsen burners on, the shooting blue flame and jet white heat. Other times, when he, himself, would sit at a counter on a stool, he would stare at a burner when it was off, fixating on the grooves that wound down the stainless steel shaft to the nozzle's small opening.

Then, the brown boy had never done it, but the thought, or thinking of doing it, there in the class with his teacher on the black counter top, his brown fingers, flat and spread on its surface was enough, each night, as he repeated his teacher's name,

Mr. Moreau, Mr. Moreau.

Once, when the brown boy's face was still smooth, round and dimpled, he came to Mr. Moreau's office. He had just washed his hair, the conditioner still in, dripping and smelling in the long black curls like the center of a flower, he dreamed yellow and wet.

In Mr. Moreau's office, there was a desk, two chairs, and a safety glass partition, the sealed, steel grid, opening to cabinets filled with bones, pig in formaldehyde, a boa's body, a skull, a hand's bones, and chemical after chemical in jar after jar.

Maybe they were talking about one object hitting another, the pieces of one, fracturing in space. But after impact, the distance between fragments did not matter to the brown boy who cared more about his leg pushing against his teacher's:

Push back. Push back.

Mr. Moreau did not. Despite being the first to call him bright, despite making the brown boy his mentee, despite his help, despite trusting that there was something special in the brown boy, Mr. Moreau's leg, under the table was still, his eyes not slid to the side to meet the brown boy's own, which forced their focus down into the problem on the paper, the fragments, flying.

But the brown boy, who was bright, needed to touch what he could never have. Often, he shook hands with Mr. Moreau. And like him, he would say, Put her there, extending his arm, his hand plunging into his teacher's. What Mr. Moreau taught the brown boy, as they shook, was to always use the hand not shaking to reach out and squeeze the forearm of the man you greet.

Once, to touch him again, the brown boy pretended to punch his teacher. He arced his arm, aiming for the chest, in slow motion, guiding his fist, through space, just so he could feel his hand being watched as it landed, softly, against his teacher's sternum. Pretending to be tough he asked: What if I did that, punched you, right there? Mr. Moreau's eyes locked on the brown boy's: I'd spit on you.

The Brown Boy Plays a Game

Once, when the brown boy was a child, he played like his mother was one too. He ran and ran around the field that they shared with dozens of other houses on the military base. In that field, the brown boy burned a red wagon to black by loading it with hay -- grass that had turned brown from the Tennessian sun. He burned the wagon while other boys, some white, some brown, some black, looked on. Once the wagon was charred to black, he was satisfied.

In the field, the brown boy was running, ran: he ran and ran in circles laughing at his mother. You cannot catch me, he may have thought to himself. What he remembers is the breath that took over his body, his pant, in sync with his heart, fast with abandon.

The brown boy's breath fed him, gave him to play, to roll around while his mother stared at him through a screen. He ran toward her, then away, stopped, played, played again and teased his mother.

You cannot catch me, he may have thought to himself.

Not being caught is something the brown boy hopes to always achieve. And though he never lies, he does hate. He holds back, tells some, speaks quietly, or attacks. Sometimes, he believes in nothing, especially not in God, unless he needs something like to not have herpes when he discovers a pimple on his beautiful cock.

          DEAR GOD,

And then the brown boy goes back to whatever he is doing. He hopes that God will help him, but knows that for him to truly believe in him, it would mean believing in lots of other things that would not help him get what he really wants. When the brown boy asked the white man to name the things he thought were most important to the brown boy, this is the white man's list:

          1. sex
          2. your body
          3. being mean to people
          4. fashion
          5. being spoiled

The brown boy stopped him at number five, because he realized the game was perfect. He decided to answer the question, himself, making a list of the things most important to the white man:

          1. work
          2. meditation
          3. your house
          4. your mother
          5. your father

Trap door spiders are smart, too. They hide just under the forest floor, where bark has fallen; they nestle in, dig a hole, pull a piece over their bodies and wait. Not suspecting its death, a stupid cricket or other dumb bug will pass by and get snatched by the spider, who rips out of the bark, like the brown boy's mother did, but she with a comb that hooked into the naps of the brown boy's running head.

I caught you, she must have thought.

Of course, the brown boy was punished so effectively that he does not remember the size, duration, nor extent of the beating. And like all perfect traumas, the memory is recessed so deeply in the brown boy's brain that it may never surface. The memory, like the dumb cricket or other dumb bug is dead.

The Brown Boy and the Baby

The baby could speak. He remembers lifting him up on his shoulders, and carrying him up a ramp into a room where there were dozens of fish tanks laid next to one another. It was not a pet store, because in front of the aquariums, there were vats of cooked seafood, which matched the fish in each of the tanks: crab cakes next to crabs, butterfly shrimp next to shrimp, ginger steamed cod next to cod. The baby was fascinated, and it asked all the appropriate questions:

What's that? What's this?

The brown boy and the baby left the tanks and trays of fish and walked down the ramp. Outside, they were surrounded by a green ocean. It was cold and the sky was darkening. He carried the baby to the edge of the water, where he looked up into the grey, knowing that he had to take care of this baby and somehow get him home.

The baby laughed and played. In joy, after being tossed into the air and caught by his stomach, he looked down at the brown boy, then glared into his face and said, I went to the bathroom. His diaper was sticking out in a mound, in which there was an immense load of shit. Did the brown boy have to change him? And how could he, given that the only diaper they had was the one the baby was wearing? He waited for the baby to explain itself.

Maybe it was a nod? It was some sign -- not speech -- the baby gave him, some sign that let him know that he had to rinse him in the green water and let his shit fly loose into the sea. So he did. He took the baby in the water, where it was warm, where it turned for one second, from green to clear, the sand shown to bottom, the shit breaking up in the tide.

The brown boy held him tight. Though the baby was bottomless, and it was getting cold, it didn't care; in fact, the baby said, I'm enjoying myself. The brown boy played with him as he carried him back up the ramp. Though ashamed that he was bringing him back to whomever he belonged with neither pants nor a diaper, he felt that he had to take the baby back happy. Just as he got closer to the room with the fish, the trays and the tanks, the baby vomited all over its stomach, spilling down the brown boy's shirt, his chest and down to his shoes.

Panicked, the brown boy ran back down the ramp that led to the shore. What he remembers is the cold of the wind down the stretch of beach where he'd never been, and how bad he wanted to rinse the baby off in the water, again, but how afraid he was that getting him wet would make the child even sicker.

Around them, water started to rise, quickly, on all sides. Green surrounded them, and the brown boy's only thought was, Save the baby. Sure, in the dream, he found higher places in the sand, peak after peak, where they could escape the water's rush. But in the end, where would they go?

When the baby asked, How will we get out of here?-- the brown boy said Pocket! -- as fast as though he'd asked and answered the baby's question. Pocket, a suburban paradise in South Sacramento is where the brown boy, growing up, always wanted to live. It is filled with man made lakes and nice houses, and is all the way down at the end of Florin Road.

Before the growing green water started to overtake the last surviving mound of sand, the brown boy remembered leaping up with the baby in his arms away from the rush of it. If he could only get close to one of the man made lakes in Pocket. If he could only get to a dock, on the lake, near the houses, where the rich people kept their boats. If only he could leap from the shifting sand, carrying the baby up, out of danger, onto one of the large, lush front yards.



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