Kickoff written by turtlemouse


The pain of masculinity, in three short sections.

Cars of varying quality line the parking lot, with the rich and the poor walking alongside. Many take seat in used vehicles, cars that have existed for over a decade and run on pure luck. The bumper remains attached by only a sliver of duct tape, and when started, the rattling can be heard for what seems like miles. Next to it, however, is a vehicle sleek in design, a model from at most three years ago with a shine that glows like a television commercial. There is barely a scratch of its surface. A man takes a seat, but he and the car seem to come from opposite worlds. This man, he lives five blocks down in a tattered apartment building that has been set for demolition for many months now. The soles of his shoes have removed themselves and act only as a humble imitation of a beach sandal. This man, he is struggling deeply underneath the roof of this brand new vehicle. That does not matter. His car is perfect, and so his life might as well be also. But is this what a man needs—to announce
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himself to others through the means of a nice car? He may think so, because he was taught so since the day he was born. To be a man is to be so many things, and for him, these so many things are slowly tearing him apart.

Looking up to an engine of muscle, strength, bravery, and prowl, there is no one he would rather be. Years spent watching this engine leave and return, clockwork, from the toddler whose red binkie never escaped the bare tic tac teeth coated in saliva sitting beside a rugged blanket to the boy slaving summers and drinking mouthwash for some flavored headspace, he never questioned. This morning is work, this afternoon is reeking of sweat, this evening is yelling and this night one long sleep with socks. This weekend, it’s the radiator. The next, insulation. And he watches. He drops acrylic paint spatter for sawdust, imagination for burning, smiles for the hunt. There is no one he would rather be. No one he would rather be. The soul his engine stomped out of those tiny
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front teeth that held itself with joy.

The street corners are dark. The alleys are dark. The lamps are dark. The bushes. The sidewalk. Each creaking home. All of it. Skin spoiled with dust and blood, the ties of shorts pulled loose, ice throbbing through the body on an August night. Head empty, eyes unseeing, ears deaf, mouth tight. To lose control to someone else, to be manipulated and hurt without the strength to fight back, to be violated beyond possible boundaries. In class they make it simple, a man and a woman. A penis and a vagina. Easy. They teach you to say no, never leave your drink alone, never be alone with someone you don’t trust—like that would really make a difference. Call the police, go to the hospital, get tested, file charges, and be protected by the bars that divide you. But they never say this, never thought to. If all else fails, it just is not possible. The blood trailing down the leg and into a filthy sock. The cellphone packed in a pocket. Not a word will
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be spoken, it doesn’t matter what they taught you. They don’t know and no one else can. Not for your own sake. Just take a breath, spit a tooth, and move on. That’s what you do.
Hands torn from the nails of a predator, faced scratched with dried tears, no one would ever believe. He enters his home and takes a long, cold shower.
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