I knew Kip Winger and Motley Crue were getting blow jobs
even though I didn’t know what blow jobs were.
When I first heard the phrase, I thought of hair dryers,
the robot helmet-looking chairs inside
my mom’s beauty parlor. Where the viejas called
MTV “mierda,” but I couldn’t get enough. Heavy
metal was my favorite, backstage footage in black
and white, so it had to be real. Rockers who
looked like girls surrounded by more girls.
Indistinguishable. Make-up from the neck up.
But the girl Girls. Girls big-boobed and Aqua Netted
blondes with toasted brown skin, lined up, hobbled like bruised
peaches in halter tops, raising rail thin,
downy haired arms in bangle bracelet
unison. Yelling Woooooo at the camera,
like it was all they knew how to say.
When Poison played live on Headbanger’s
Ball, one of these girls lifted her “Open
Up and Say Ahhh…” t-shirt, exposing white
breasts. Bounced awake my insides. The camera
caught it. Just a flash, but long enough.
Long enough to hum electric in my mind’s eye
buzzing red as the Coca-Cola light in our drug store’s window.
And I wanted to touch a boob.
I decided one night, sweaty under Batman bedspread.
I wanted to touch one so bad. Even though my Cuban
grandfather called me a “fag” when I couldn’t catch
a football while he was watching. I wanted to
touch a boob. But I couldn’t play
the recorder, let alone guitar. And I didn’t have
money to buy a puffy ruffled pirate shirt or
spandex. Nor the thigh width required for
tight leather pants. No hair to style up and out.
To tease. Mine was low and tight, combed over and
back with Abuelo’s long black comb, licked fresh and
unsheathed from his back pocket. When he was done
my hair resembled Batista’s gelled helmet, not the
curly chaos of Guevara’s guerrillas.
The 90s came to solve all our problems.
Those pansy ass glam bands. Fuck them
said 1992, ripping Jon Bon Jovi and
Warrant off my wall. Nevermind,
said 1992, in a ringer ree, naked baby cassette in hand,
throwing away Hysteria and all those used GNR Illusions.
Said 1992, “No one gives a fuck.” Not Nirvana,
nor Mudhoney nor Fugazi. Tool. And Pearl Jam pissed off
Ticketmaster and nobody wanted seals clubbed.
Or wars started. Or New Kids. Or videos.
And the cool girls wore overalls.
And Abuelo’s closet was filled with all the flannel
I needed. And I walked to high school washed in
pre-soaked Old Spice and Pall Malls. My thighs the perfect
width for denim.
That fall, Billy Mirabelli got a blow job in his bathroom
while we watched Gremlins on HBO.
His mother worked the dinner shift at Ground Round,
so his house was where that kind of shit went down.
Drugs. Sex. Billy went into the bathroom like a virgin,
came out like a prayer. Hoping to be a man.
I studied his gaze. He still looked like the rest of us,
except dazed. Not older, as I’d suspected,
from the way my brother talked about the girls
who stood on Boulevard East, their pink lipstick
and yellow teeth. Their frayed, waxy bodies a
parable. Their jeans ripped down an entire thigh.
Our girls only ripped at the knee. The
denim threads, taut, like Venetian blinds.
Wigwam socks rolled calf-high. Our girls wore
beige lipstick and never smiled. Never talked.
Always bored. Like the girl who blew Billy–
she didn’t say a word, looked straight ahead while
Phoebe Cates described her dead Santa dad,
his neck snapped in bottled-up chimney.
Crumpled forward in soot.
I stared at the blowjob girl in spite of myself.
Though I knew enough to try not to. Her cheeks shiny
as fruit skin, reflecting the dancing yellows and
blacks of the movie. The gremlin death cries. The water
and bright lights. The eating after midnight.
Something in Billy’s eyes told me not to envy him,
his new blowjob life. Not to trust the other boys
when they clapped him on the back
raising rail-thin, downy-haired arms
in high-five unison, yelling Woooooo
at each other, like it was all they knew how to say.
Joe Costal begins listening to Christmas music right after Halloween, but not one second earlier. His writing has most recently appeared in The Maine Review, Ponder Review and Pif Magazine. His poetry will appear in the forthcoming anthology Challenges for the Delusional Part 2 by Diode Editions. Joe is an Assistant Editor at Barrelhouse. He writes and podcasts about books, music and movies for Quirk Publishers in Philadelphia and Jersey Ghouls. Joe teaches writing at Stockton University at the Jersey Shore, where he lives with his four children. His writing has earned awards and distinction from Grub Street, Painted Bride, Rider University’s Hispanic Writers Workshop & Wesleyan University.