Benjamin Hewitt’s New Short Story – Every Photograph (Sex or Class War)

Every Photograph (Sex or Class War)

by

Benjamin Hewitt

typewriter love

I kick the leaves vaguely toward the wall of the alley, thinking that even if I go to college and become a writer (or if i start this band with Chris properly and we get really big) i’d probably still have to strip off for my Rolling Stone cover-story when it comes to it. I’ve got a big scar down my back because my dad spilt boiling water on me when I was six years old. I reckon this would mean for sure that the editorial team would want me to get my kit off – it would be 50% like a selling point for the childhood trauma being exclusively revealed by the magazine, and 50% a kind of public act that intrinsically overcomes said trauma in a sexually-empowering-because-my-body-is-still-up-for-wank-fodder-despite-it-being-flawed…kind of thing.

As I wait for Chris to show up, I’m kicking crackly dead brown leaves toward the wall of the alley, though it’s more of a scooping motion that i’m making with my foot. I slip my foot underneath a thick layer of them (like i’m grabbing a ‘footful’, I think to myself, then realise that’s not a good word for it as it’s more like the equivalent of putting them on the back of my hand), then I jerk my foot upwards. Half of the leaves flutter away and half stay on my trainer. I shake the remaining ones off and watch them fall to the ground. It’s not as satisfying as it could be, because I can’t scoop as many leaves as I would like to. My foot is only as big as it is, I guess. These are the kind of quirky things I will say in the Rolling Stone interview. Maybe i’ll tell them the anecdote about how me and Chris met, and segway into talking about how we became a musician power-couple. The interviewer will say something about Chris being a ‘very lucky man’ and they’ll print that I laughed at this, even though it will have been nervous laughter from feeling intimidated by the interviewer hitting on me alone in some hotel room where the interview is taking place.

I get scared sometimes that if me and Chris were put in a hotel room with no external stimulation or accompanying activities – like playing music together, or ironically watching TV, both things we enjoy – that we wouldn’t be together. It’s not like the sex is great. About a month ago I decided to talk to him about him being selfish in bed, and that it upset me that he must surely know he was getting more out of it than me but was fine with it (I made the mistake of saying ‘most men are fine with it,’ and that caused a storm…). Eventually I said that I wanted us to have a healthy relationship and so would educate him on how to pleasure a woman and have good, mutual sex. I said he could talk to me about things he wanted too (and I held back from pointing out it was pretty easy to make a guy cum. I did joke that on the few occasions he used to go near my clitoris, he seemed to think it was actually a button, and he didn’t laugh.)

After getting over the initial offence he (annoyingly) took, and after his ‘men have it hard’ speech, he seemed really grateful that I had opened up, and he was really eager (to become a master of sex in his words). I’ve realised since then that he’s not actually eager to make me happy, but wants an ego boost after this “blow to his masculinity”.

(Which is all very shit, to be honest, but there you go.) Fuck knows if we’ll stay together much longer. He’s too ashamed and emasculated, and probably needs someone fresh and uncritical once he’s done building up his sexual reportoire. We both have our own lives so it wouldn’t be too traumatic if we broke up. He’ll use his new-found skills elsewhere. The last few weeks since the talk he’s treated me a bit like a CPR doll for him to practice on. I can’t win. They need to teach this shit to boys in school when they teach them how to stretch a Johnny over their dicks.

(I hear a car horn from the street, and through the gate at the end of the alleyway I see someone slam their hands on someone else’s bonnet. It sounds tense and exciting. The air is really nice and it’s pretty warm, even for an autumn in San Francisco.)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Britney Spears, Jessica ALba, Janet Jackson, Buffy the fucking vamprire slayer, all in full-body photographs on the cover, all either half or fully nude. Barack Obama, Jay-Z, Robert Downey Junior, Johnny Depp and Don Draper, all in photographs of just their fucking heads (maybe their shoulders too, I don’t remember). With Cap’n Jack there was a tiny bit of chest poking out of his slightly un-buttoned shirt, but the shot barely went below the neckline (I guess it’s because he’s quite feminine). I can feel myself getting really pissed off and I kick a thick pile of leaves in frustration. It feels good. I hope I don’t end up ranting to Chris about it, when he gets here. He’ll get all patronising or say something stupid (I’ll get it all out via leaf-kicking before then).

I look up from the leaves toward the street because I think I see somebody entering through the alley gate, but it is just a woman who has stopped to get something out of her buggy. She reaches underneath it into a big pouch. She and the buggy are framed and dissected by the heavy metal gate. (If I had my camera with me i’d take a picture because it looks like a cool metaphor for motherhood as like a prison, or like, the female body as a prison maybe…I don’t know. Not everything is political or has meaning to be fair. I like the scene aesthetically. The concept is not very thought-out and i’m probably oversimplifying. People will take what they want though from the naturally occuring image that I capture with my camera. That’s why photography is the best kind of art. Constructed, obvious, preachy shit sucks.)

I haven’t had a kid, hopefully i never will. My vagina isn’t meant to stretch that wide (What a terrifying idea – who the fuck came up with it?).

I remember that raking leaves used to be quite satisying as a kid. Sweeping a driveway or cleaning a kitchen or shovelling snow are satisfying kinds of activities (I used to think this was a result of some middle class fascistic aesthetic that has been socialized into us, but then I saw an episode of Planet Earth, the nature show, that made me think differently. These Birds of Paradise were clearing up their display areas for mating, scrubbing branches and flinging bits of leaf away from where they would do their dance. It was super cute, and I thought they must have amazing sex with this sheer amount of foreplay that they do beforehand.)

(Chris is an hour and a half late. I have walked two blocks to his side of the neighbourhood because he said he was up late on his computer last night and is tired, and doesn’t want to walk to my block. We’re meeting in an alleyway because people on this block give us dirty looks. Supposedly it’s 2014 but a black woman and a white guy can still get teeth sucked at them. I ring his home phone and it goes to voicemail twice. He doesn’t have a mobile at the moment because he dropped it in a toilet.) Blah blah blah. So he’s not coming and it’s all fucked.

ink blotch

Photo by Tomek Dzido