John Baptiste Philouza, the grand master of marching band music. I hate him and I admire him.
This confusing mixture of emotions has been tormenting me for years now.
Listening to his music throws me into a state of excitement not to say arousal and yet that imbecile can't even write or read music - in marked contrast to me, Salini. I'm an educated scholar of music. I studied under the finest composers of our century, yet still I can't put together one decent piece of march music.
I'm in hell.
Even my wife thinks that I'm a failure. Of course she never mentions it to me but I can see it in her eyes every day.
But this isn't the worst...
When I go to the soda shop every other day, to flee the narrowing walls of my room and the shrill nagging of my wife, it often happens that Philouza comes along, arms and legs flailing, singing and whistling and making all kinds of silly noises which, astonishingly enough, result in the greatest music mankind will ever know.
All those lewd women on the other tables around me start snickering and blushing when he walks by and every so often he stops and coquets with them. It is distasteful how they make sheep's eyes at him and laugh at every stupid word he says. I watch them with increasing disapproval.
And then he smiles.
And I forget the world around me.
Once he looked in my direction, flashing that smile and my heart almost stopped. I didn't know what to do. I greeted him with a curt nod of my head and pretended to be immersed in the piece of music I was trying to write.
Today it is similar. Philouza stands by the table at the far end and chats with two young women and I scribble something on the paper in front of me. At least it looks like I'm scribbling. The truth is I'm listening closely to what is said at Philouza's table, glancing surreptitiously over to them and hoping he will notice me at some point.
Pathetic. I despise myself for it.
Dear mother of God, he comes over.
"Hi, Salini," he says sweet and friendly as always, with a voice that lets me suspect he was hit over the head with something hard when he was a child and has the sun shining out of his ass since then.
"Good afternoon, Philouza," I say, trying to sound cool and unaffected, which, of course, I'm not in the least.
"How's it going?" he asks, not really interested in the answer.
"Fine. Everything's fine," I say. "There's rumor you will take part in the marching music competition?"
"Yes, of course," he trills. "You too?"
I nod gloomily.
"Well then, I wish you good luck." He smiles heartwarmingly and pedals away.
The bad thing is he really means it. There has never been the tiniest concern or hint of jealousy in his behavior towards me. Although it would be more than understandable in our business. Maybe he knows that I'm no match for him or maybe, and that's more likely, he is just not able to see anything bad in the world.
Later that afternoon I hide in the beams over Philouza's study. I have to find out how he does it. If he has a secret method that allows him to create such heavenly music.
I'm not surprised that he doesn't. He is stomping and fidgeting around below me, brandishing his baton, hissing and whistling and imitating trumpet sounds. Here and there he steps over to his desk and writes something down. Words like 'tsh' and 'clang' and 'boom' because he apparently has no clue how to do it right.
He wears only a white undershirt which is loosely hanging out of the waistband of his red pants and although he's at home and obviously feeling comfortable he is wearing his pompous hat with the red feathers which almost reach the ceiling. I could stretch out my hand and rip them off. That would be really fun but I have to stay silent and watch him.
It's fascinating in a weird way. He seems so innocent and sweet and still he's hanging out with these loose tramps all the time. They adore him and I wonder what they do with him. I can't imagine him having sex.
Or can I?
I lose my balance and fall off the beam, crashing down onto Philouza's floor.
Why doesn't it open up and swallow me? I'm so embarrassed.
Philouza just steps up to me and helps me to my feet.
"Oh, hey, Salini," he says like it's normal that people fall out of the beams. "I'm just writing my competition music score. Wanna see?"
He walks over to the desk as if nothing unusual happened. I brush the dust off my clothes and follow him. It's unbelievable. Nothing that I can do seems to catch his attention. I want to shake him and scream at him: "Take notice! Take me seriously, you idiot!" But I don't. Instead I look at his writings and for as much as I can tell they're brilliant. Again.
I'm screwed. Again.
He smells very nice, by the way. We're standing in close proximity to each other and I can't help but sniff a few times. I'm not sure what it is. It's just good and triggers the same feeling I got as a child when I stepped into a candy store.
What's wrong with me?
Someone's calling Philouza's name from outside the open window. A woman's voice of course. I roll my eyes while Philouza leans out of the window and shouts: "Not tonight, Rebecca, I got work to do!"
I walk over and look down at the colorfully dressed trollop with a slightly triumphant face. She seems disappointed. Yeah, serves you right, tramp, I think, he's with me right now.
"Maybe tomorrow!" Philouza waves at her and she wafts him a kiss. Disgusted I turn away. Women are so... tiring.
"Isn't that exhausting? All these girls all the time?" I ask without thinking.
"What do you mean?" he sounds unaffected like always. With neither real interest nor disinterest. He appears to just take everything as it is and enjoy it. It drives me crazy.
"The women!" I yell. "They are exhausting, don't you think?!"
He backs away, holding his baton in front of him like it provides some protection against me.
"Why are you yelling?" he asks in genuine surprise and maybe a tiny bit of concern.
Ha! I got him. Finally.
"Because you never listen, moron," I say much quieter but still upset.
"I listen all the time," he argues, his voice soft and a bit vulnerable.
Oh my, did I hurt his feelings with that?
Never mind. Why should I care? He's the one who ruins my career!
He is looking at me with big eyes and I just can't be mad at him anymore. Instead I want to do things... things that are highly inappropriate. Jesus.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I didn't mean to..." I'm not exactly sure what I didn't mean, so I let the sentence fade. I'm kind of proud I got through to him for once and if it was only for a few seconds.
Philouza's face gains back its happy expression and he waves dismissively. "It's okay," he laughs and leans against the desk.
"You know, I always liked you, Salini," he goes on with that endearing melody in his voice.
I swallow. "Seriously?" Not possible. Why?
"Yeah," he chirps, "you're such a persistent, hard working man. You never give up. I hope you win the competition." He smiles radiantly and I'm completely baffled.
I'm sure my expression shows it and he asks: "Why, don't you like me?"
This is too much. He looks at me with wide-eyed innocence, the remnants of his smile still on his face.
I throw myself at him, knocking down papers, inkpots and quills, urging him onto the table. He has to lift his legs to prevent his spine from getting cracked. I shove him up the surface of the desk and climb after him. He just giggles like a maniac and welcomes me with open arms. He wraps them around me and his legs too. Suddenly I'm the one who's trapped. Trapped in a tight embrace. He is stronger than I thought and he just holds on to me, doing nothing else. I try to turn my head and kiss his neck. He makes an incredibly cute little cooing noise and wriggles underneath me when I start biting his skin. I don't know why I'm so turned on by this ridiculous man.
I shove my hand underneath his shirt. His skin is soft and warm and I can't get enough of touching it, caressing him, eliciting small quiet moans from his slightly parted lips. I capture his mouth and kiss him. He is not in the least hesitant or shy about it and now I get why the ladies love him so much. He's a magnificent kisser and for all I know women like that a lot.
I like it too. Way too much. I have to stop but I can't. It feels so good when he slides his tongue into my mouth and licks at my lip. With great effort I pull back before I lose it completely.
But this is a mistake because now I have his eyes close in front of me and they are so beautiful. It's like I can see directly into his heart and what I see there melts me away.
He gives me a questioning raise of his eyebrow and shifts slightly beneath me. That causes friction in places which are highly sensitive right now. Oh God.
He smiles but there is nothing dirty in it, just delight.
"You wanna come to the bedroom with me?" he asks and it sounds as if he's inviting me to join him on the playground. I'm frightened. What are we going to do there? Does he have experience with this? But I also feel adventurous and hey, it's Philouza. Nothing to be afraid of, for Christ's sake.
"Okay," I say and get off the table.
He takes me by the hand and leads me into his bedroom. There is a large four-poster bed with white sheets and pillows with gold-colored decorations. I have to suppress a laugh. This is so like him. And of course very suitable for the amorous life I'm sure he leads.
"Can I take off your hat?" I ask because the damn thing is still on his head like it's glued to it. It didn't even fall off while he was lying on the table.
"Sure," he says cheerfully.
Beneath it there are thick, light brown strands of hair and I'm slightly surprised. Somehow I assumed that he hides a bald head underneath that hat. I ruffle his hair with my fingers because I can't resist touching it. He snickers and then he hops onto the bed and begins to jump up and down on it like on a trampoline.
I stare at him in disbelief. Was that the reason why he wanted to come in here? No, right?
"Come on!" He beckons me to join in the childish hopping around.
I make a face and don't know how to react. He bends down, grabs my hands and pulls me up onto the bed. I give in and start jumping too because his lightheartedness is contagious. I feel like a fool though - until I start laughing for no reason. We bump into each other, lose our balance and fall down onto the mattress.
"See, it's fun," he says happily.
I'm a bit out of breath and nod. However, I'm pleasantly relaxed now. Gone is the fear of what might happen next. Maybe I should jump on my bed at home when I'm in a bad mood. But I'm sure it's just half the fun without Philouza.
We're lying next to each other and I feel his eyes upon me. I turn my head to look at him but at the same moment he rolls over and climbs onto me. He kisses me again and I'm amazed how pleasant his weight feels on me.
Then he lowers his hips and grinds tentatively against me. I swallow down a gasp but I can't keep myself from moving into the slight pressure. I want more. He takes it much to slow for my liking. My body decides on its own to grab him and roll him onto his back, so I can get his thigh between my legs and rut against it.
He chuckles and arches into me. I like that.
"No need to be so impatient," he says. "We have all the time in the world."
"No, we don't. Damn it, Philouza, I need to come."
I take his hands and press them down into the pillow in case he wants to stop me. But he just makes a nice chortling sound and squirms beneath me. I entangle my fingers with his and move my hips.
It doesn't take long til I feel a familiar tension in certain parts of my body and with an ungraceful grunt I spill myself into my pants.
I hide my face in the crook of Philouza's neck. The blood returns to my head and suddenly I'm ashamed and I can't look at him. The haze of desire and lust fade and I become aware of what just happened.
My wife, I think in shock. I cheated on my wife. Although can you really call it cheating when you do it with a man? Oh God, I did it with a man!
I have to get out of here.
Philouza tries to move underneath me and I sit up and get out of the bed.
"I have to go," I say, not looking him in the eyes.
"What? Why?" he asks amazed. He is not in the least irritated just somehow curious.
I mumble something about 'wife' and 'writing for the competition' and leave the room in a hurry.
While I'm hasting through the dark streets like a wanted criminal, my collar turned up and warily looking from side to side, I realize how mean my behavior was. Running away like this is not only rude but also cowardly. I don't know of what to be more ashamed - the fact that I just had a sexual encounter with another man or that I left him like that; without taking care of his needs at all.
Again I think of my wife. She would die of embarrassment if she knew. I'm deeply ashamed that I imagine life without her for a moment. I love my wife - at least I think so. But it was never as thrilling with her in the bedroom as the two minutes with Philouza were today.
There's something horribly wrong with me.
Ah, screw it. Deep down inside I always suspected that I'm somehow different. And now it dawns on me that I probably had a crush on Philouza for all these years.
I have to get back to him.
But my wife is waiting.
You left the poor man without satisfying him.
She will be pissed as hell!
Philouza possibly thinks you hate him and did this on purpose.
Maybe he's sad now.
I turn around and head back to Philouza's house.
I sneak into the bedroom. He never locks the door because - well, because he is who he is. He lies in his bed, curled up and apparently asleep. Great. I have a bad conscience and he sleeps like a baby as if he doesn't care at all. For a short moment I'm disappointed and a little angry but then I remind myself that he isn't normal and never will be. So, either deal with it or leave.
I climb onto the bed and put my hand on his shoulder.
He opens his eyes and turns around.
"Hey, you're back." He beams at me. Not normal at all!
"I'm sorry," I begin. "That was lousy of me to run away. But it helped me clear my head. And I wanted to come back - that's if you still want me here," I close with a bit of a pleading undertone.
"Sure," he trills and moves to the side to make room for me.
"You're not offended?" I ask hopefully.
He shakes his head.
"Not the slightest bit?"
"Why would I? You're here now."
That's true but... Ugh, I will never get it. There are probably some parts of his brain missing. But does it matter? He is nice and harmless and wouldn't hurt a fly. And he is sexy. I'm more than willing to continue where we left off.
This time I let him take the lead. It's easier now because the first strong urge is gone. He is gentle and takes his time. I start to like it and realize that being intimate with someone can be a really enjoyable thing.
Our kisses get slower and deeper to downright lewd. His tongue is almost in my throat and I still want more. I feel his hardness pressing against the inside of my thigh. My hands are on his back, digging into his skin and the muscles underneath it. I want him to take his shirt off but before I can say something, his roaming hand comes to a rest between my legs and the words are stuck in my throat, changing into a low groan.
"Oh, please don't stop," I hear myself beg. It even doesn't sound like my voice; all hoarse and breathy.
He chuckles into my ear and simply that is enough to push me over the edge of reason. The movements of his hand are tantalizingly light and I bring my hips up to increase the pressure. He takes pity on me and rubs me firmly through my pants. Of course I didn't last long. I have never been that aroused in my life. Seems women really aren't my thing.
For the second time today I come in my pants, adding another uncomfortable, wet and sticky stain there.
"Oh God, Philouza." I try to catch my breath and this time I look at him.
He smiles and reminds me with a slight push of his hips that it's his turn now. With death-defying courage I reach down and grab him.
It doesn't feel so bad, or weird, at all. Frankly, it's nice to have something so big and hard in your hand.
"Hey, easy," he snickers and I loosen my grip a bit. He closes his eyes and I try to find the right pace to please him. It helps watching his face and listening to the wonderful noises leaving his mouth. I lean in and wrap my leg around him to hold him in place - we're lying on our sides, facing each other and he grabs my shirt, pulling me closer.
"Salini," he whispers; or is it a whimper? I'm not sure how to name those sounds. He opens his eyes and I look right into them. The blue of his irises is just a thin circle around widened dark pupils. They allow me a glimpse into his soul right now and my heart stops for a moment. I'm completely fascinated and my hand tightens over him. He bites his lip, his body tenses and his fingers curl into my side. He doesn't break the eye contact and I'm overwhelmed by the intensity of this.
Gradually he relaxes and rolls on his back but he makes sure he is close to me and I put my arm around him. I want to keep his warm body at my side.
This is all completely different from the bashful humping in the dark I always did with my wife. It makes me realize that I don't know anything about making love and how to enjoy each other. I'm glad he seems willing to teach me.
The next few days leading up to the competition I spend almost entirely at Philouza's house. My wife believes we are working together on some piece of music. I'm glad I have this excellent excuse.
The truth is I haven't written one single note since the first night with Philouza and although I know I'm gonna fail the competition, I'm kind of relieved. Because, let's be honest, I'm hopeless as a composer. And to be even more honest, all I'm interested in right now is having sex with Philouza. I learn something new every time and I wonder how this wonderful part of life could have been obscure to me for so long.
I don't know if he is patient with me or if he is, as always, just enjoying the moment. He may be rather dim when it comes to things of daily life but in bed he surely knows his way around. And it's so much fun. He makes me laugh all the time. He's a real sunshine and brightens my days.
I know I sound corny but the thing with cliches is that they are true sometimes.
The day before the competition I wake up in Philouza's bed. Last night I just couldn't bring myself to leave because we were cuddling so cozily in the pillows and it was raining outside. My wife's going to be furious, but frankly, I don't care anymore. She should get a life of her own too. I won't stand in her way.
Philouza stirs next to me and I turn over to wrap my arms around him. We fell asleep last night covered in sweat and other juices which are proof of our intimacy and I still feel so close to him. It's like I'm caught in a blissful dream and I don't want to wake up. I bend over him and kiss his neck, move my lips over his jawline and back to his earlobe. I stick my tongue into his ear because that always makes him laugh. He giggles and turns around in my arms so we can kiss. He is lazy in the morning and moves his tongue sloppily around mine. Somehow that turns me on. It means he's going to be wax in my hands.
Okay, not every part of him, I notice when I let my fingers wander and I want to go down on him. Again. I like it. He actually tastes good - not at all bitter, salty and altogether peculiar like I've been told. Once I persuaded my wife to do it and she said it tastes awful and that was it. No more head for me.
So I was really nervous when I did it the first time and was surprised: it was more like cream and buttermilk with a hint of cloves. Sometimes I get the impression that he is filled with candy instead of flesh and blood and all the other ugly stuff normal people have inside their bodies.
When I mentioned it to him he said: "Oh, that's why the ladies wanna blow me all the time," and chuckled to himself.
These days the 'ladies' aren't very happy because he spends all his time with me.
Eventually I leave because I have a heart after all and my wife is probably worried sick by now. Philouza reminds me of the competition tomorrow. He says he's looking forward to hear my contribution. I haven't told him that I'm not going to participate.
"Salini!" my wife calls out when I enter the house. "Oh Salini, where have you been? I've been worried sick over you!"
See, what did I say.
I sigh. "I'm sorry, wife. It took longer than I thought. We were working all night long."
"Is that so?" She stands there, looking at me through narrowed eyes. Why is she staring at me like this?
"I heard otherwise," she says, stressing the words in a way that makes me nervous.
"What... what did you hear?" I ask warily.
"I heard that you and this... Philouza have some kind of... indecent relationship." She gives me a disgusted look.
"What? Where did you... who told you this?" I exclaim enraged.
She turns to the side as if she can't stand the sight of me anymore.
"I overheard two of those... women talking about it at the grocery store - " she breaks off, pressing her hand to her mouth. Then she lets out a dramatic sob and rushes out of the room.
For a whole minute I stand there dumbfounded. I should've known better. Of course the so-called ladies of our town are gossiping about what goes on in Philouza's house. Especially since they are no longer part of it.
I should feel bad, but honestly, I'm relieved that she knows already. Telling her would have been really hard and I'm not sure I would have been able to do it.
I go to my study and my gaze drops to the shellac on my desk. It's the record of Philouza's music I used to listen to all the time. My mood lightens up immediately and I sit down, take a piece of music paper and start to write.
The day of the competition dawns bright and clear and I have a feeling that it's going to be a great day.
My wife refuses to come with me. She says she is too embarrassed to show her face in public since the whole town knows about my repellent affair. I try to appease her but she won't listen. So I make my way to the town hall alone.
The marching band is waiting on the lawn in front of the building, ready to play whatever score the participants will put in front of their noses. Hilford Hanson, the eleventy-twelfth president is sitting on the porch, surrounded by the honored guests.
When Philouza shows up they all cheer and clap their hands because he is the known star of marching band music. Nobody clapped at the sight of me, by the way. Normally this would be the point where I start to get jealous, but not this time. I feel very confident today. Maybe because it doesn't really matter anymore.
Philouza smiles at me and I know what's behind it - all the things we did together and my heart is flooded with warmth and affection. This is what matters.
People are unsurprisingly enthusiastic about his march and I'm happy for him.
Then my big moment has come. I hand out the music papers and raise my baton in front of the band.
Never has something in my life felt so good. It's triumphant. Hearing what I have created played out loud is overwhelming because for the first time I wrote something that is almost as heavenly as Philouza's works. If not even a tiny bit better.
The audience is stunned and for a short moment I'm sad that my wife isn't here to see this. She has always hoped so deeply for my success.
The president presents me with the winner's baton and congratulates me cordially. Everybody claps and cheers at me. I'm dizzy.
Philouza appears at my side and says, only audible for me: "See, you just needed the right muse." I look at him and he twinkles.