The Big One

May 20, 2011

Photos by Damien Maloney

We were going at it for three days. Water. Beer. Fruit. Matthew’s weekend — he’s a waiter — is Sunday through Wednesday. And, on Sunday, at 4:20 sharp, we super-sized mimosas while he closed out his brunch shift, picked up a six of the latest microbrew for the ride home, slammed a few shots of whiskey down on the rickety kitchen table when we stopped at my place, then grabbed veggie burritos and sangria at midnight to keep us going. For three days.

It’s Wednesday morning and Carlos, Matthew’s boss and housemate, must be sipping Yuban black and having a pre-shift smoke. Sharp-sweet smell seeps through the pocket door seams. While I try to sleep, they banter.

“You get her pregnant yet, hijo?” Carlos asks. “Lo que sabes? These walls are thin.”

Matthew laughs from his stomach, voice scratched up from last night’s debauchery.

“No, dude. I’m tryin’ hard though — ”

“That’ll wake her up, eh?” Carlos says inhaling.

Someone jimmies the lighter, it lands on the table. “She should have a kid,” Carlos exhales. “Niña bonita. Pops anyone out of their funk.”

Funk?! I shoot straight up in the futon-bed. Then the bedroom shudders like a tossed boat. Matthew’s books, battered guides to the World of Islam, Marxist thought, Ska and the like, list and droop in their shelves, neat towers of nickels and pennies collapse on the dresser. An overstuffed laundry hamper veers toward me sprinkling dirty T-shirts and boxers onto the bed. A mountain bike bungee’d up in the corner sways and slaps the wall once. Then, as suddenly as it all started, the room tilts back, upright and normal.

“Whoa,” Matthew says. “What the … ?”

“Ay Dios,” Carlos says, probably crossing himself. “I thought that was going to be the Big One.”

“Dude,” Matthew says. “Thought I’d finally have a reason not to go to the restaurant.”

They laugh. Pause. Flick, flick. Another cigarette.

Someone clicks on Bay Area Morning to find out where it hit: Where was the epicenter? What fault line? The TV spits out Richter scale levels, past and present. Experts micro-dissect moments-ago satellite video, voice-over Loma Prieta archival footage.

Matthew bursts into the doorway wearing boxers. His white, topless body glaring.

“Hey, did you feel that, baby? Are you all right?”

I roll over and shut my eyes. Three days. For three days we’ve been drinking and living on sex, weed and takeout, and I can’t stand my bacchanalian self. Maybe this is why I got fired from writing dog food commercials. For the Web! Not even real, million-dollar TV doggie commercials with pet wranglers and puppy pedicures. And now this senselessness about getting me pregnant? Ever since I met Matthew and Carlos I’ve had to readjust my attitude to what I call their barn-raising crazy Californian mentality. An urban pocket of young whites and Latinos bonded by weed, car swaps, construction work and the will to somehow thrive.

“Oh, mama,” Matthew purrs wrapping his arms around my flat belly, kissing the ridge of my ear, the back of my neck. “I’m glad we’re all OK.”

Community, hippie, family-minded freak.

Peace and love. I thought they were all done with that in San Francisco. The ‘60s died. But, apparently, not in this house. I’ll be at my best when I’m knocked up and baking bread. They cannot be serious.

I can’t even water plants.

I try to wriggle out of his hold with my shoulders, but Matthew gets right on me. His right hand reaches between my legs and my left hand automatically reaches behind me to undo the little latch on the cigar box where he keeps condoms and foreign coins. I slip off his happy face boxers single-handedly and he spreads my legs expertly, gently with his knee, slows a second, big brown eyes on me. The eye contact makes me nervous.

I can’t undo the latch so I swat blindly at the cigar box until it falls to the floor and breaks open. Purple, foil-wrapped condoms skitter. Suddenly, I feel like one of those people in the movies who, in the midst of a tussle, is just struggling for that pistol, bat, andiron, whatever that’s just out of reach. Matthew’s lapping up my pussy now and when I look down I see his penis in the distance hanging down. Hard. I’m being selfish because I haven’t put his dick in my mouth and I’m not massaging his nipples, which for some reason he likes, but I’m distracted. I’ve got to protect the eggs.

“Goddess, Goddess,” I say, arching my back with pleasure, yet still stretching like a mad gymnast for a condom.

“You like that?” he asks.

He murmurs between licks, low, slow sounds, and the vibrations are getting me hot in spite of myself. His red-blond hair has fallen like a tiny sheet across my thighs.

Matthew gives great tongue. He dropped out of college three times. He drinks way too much. He doesn’t always have his rent on time and he never takes me to the movies, but his tongue can move. I’m a lesbian, he once said to me, in a man’s body. True pleasure. I stroke his hair with my hands and nudge my ass forward so he can get in deep. Pushing with full force, I’m writhing and shouting all at once, coming in his mouth, loving it and he’s pushing right back giving it to me the way he can’t give it to anything else — work, school, life responsibility. Next thing, I’m drawing him up by the elbows, splaying my numb thighs for him. His lips are dripping. He wipes with his forearm and attacks me with kisses, slipping inside, condom-less.

I wonder what stars feel like? Would they be gaseous and feel like nothing? Would they be crystal-like, hot, invigorating to the touch? Could you walk inside a star and be drowned in Celeste, taste the Universe on your lips and never know hunger again? Stars can explode, right? All the gasses build up and its atomic structure explodes and explodes, bits of star streaking black void in a spectacle of Galactic beauty. This is his specialty. Matthew turns us into stars every time he lays me down.

But fuck if I’ll have his kid. And fuck if I feel guilty about the 25 grand on my credit cards and my lack of employment. And no, cocktailing in a tight, cheap dress at Carlos’ restaurant does not count as a job. Matthew’s always telling me how smart I am, the only college diploma between us, but as time and my crisscrossing three states has proven, having a degree doesn’t mean shit about success. Especially when your college is known for two specific things: Jewish movie stars and groundbreaking medical research, and you’re not a doctor or Jewish. Still, he won’t let up. Matthew says I’m just in a rut, a lousy funk, but whatever happened, whatever put me on the outs this time, it’s hard to see a way back now.

“We can’t ignore it,” I say thinking aloud.

Matthew pauses mid-stroke. Sweat beads his collarbone.


“Don’t you think we need to use something?”


He reaches up for the cigar case. Not there. “Right.” He snatches a condom from the floor. Says nothing about the busted cigar box.

Once inside me, he closes his eyes and I massage his nipples the way he likes so we can climax. But he doesn’t get there. He opens his eyes and smiles, but I know he’s blaming the condom. He gets hung up on intent. Like, why would he be using condoms unless this is just sex for sex? Well, isn’t it? Hasn’t it been? Don’t get me wrong, condoms suck. And, I already know the sensation of Matthew’s naked penis. Drunk and begging him, he’s dipped in for me, but I don’t know what “it” feels like when baby-making is the intention. I imagine it would be different. Bigger, maybe. But when you get into that whole unprotected thing, you better know what you want from a person. You better know how to approach a soiled diaper. You better know how to say, I love you. And I can’t say it.

“I love you,” Matthew says.

He massages my back, pushing his thumbs and fingers into the places where I have muscle knots. But all I want is for this three-day sex marathon to be over. I want to sit down to breakfast, then smoke cigarettes and force him to tell me weird travel stories. I want time.

“Have you ever tried Tantra?” he asks.

Thirty-five minutes have passed and he hasn’t come. Not even close. And, I’m guessing Tantra has something to do with it. It’s times like these, as I co-star in a soft-porn how-to-Tantra video that I wonder whether it’s a good thing that Matthew reads. Voraciously. And he’s certainly not shy about adopting fringe theory or cooking up some of his own. After speed-reading some stuff on Pacific Asian identity politics and hanging around those whack jobs down at the Civic Center, he told me I have American-born Filipina disease. My past is suppressed; my mind, imperialized. My true Path, Dharma, Bliss, whatever he called it that day, is blocked. “You don’t even know who you are half the time.” I was so full of poison I barely heard him out. “And the other half of the time?” I asked. “The other half of the time,” he said, “you’re beautiful.”

The bedroom lurches from side to side. Creak. crick.

“What was that?” I ask.

“I think it’s the Big One,” he says. He lifts his shoulders away still inside me, resumes. Sweat falls from the tip of his nose and makes a tiny, salty stream between my breasts.

“The big one?” I ask.

Outside the window, large tree boughs rustle. Birds — freaked out — take flight.

Matthew opens his eyes, focuses.

“Should we stay or should we go?” I ask.

“Stay,” he says. “Die with me.”

He’s laughing now at the face I’ve made and he’s stroking hard. He kisses my neck and I lose myself in the nuzzling, the radiating tingle. The futon lifts us as if we’re coasting on a slow wave. Rwoll, rwoll. Then, snap! It’s funny to think that this could really be the Big One, way overdue, and I’ve never won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay or been to Paris or Venice or done something even slightly more realistic like take the GRE. But it’s not as if I’d been studying or saving money for a trip or staying up late at night constructing plot twists. If this is really the end, it would be too late for all that anyway. Too late for me. Creak. Again. Crick. Now, Matthew is talking into my shoulders, still pressing, hard and deep. Rwolllllllllllll.

He whispers.

How lucky we are to be naked together at the end of the world.

And then the tremor’s finished. The bookshelves are still; nothing’s even fallen or dropped. But that condom didn’t have a chance, right? I run a finger over the base of Matthew’s cock, and all the latex is bunched high on the shaft. A slippery tear. If only we were stars and not human. If only our lifespan was simply about how long we could shine before we blew up. If only we didn’t have these evolutionary leanings to propagate or romantic notions to travel and see the world. They just confuse everything.

“Wouldn’t it be nice,” Matthew says all the time, “if we just let things?”

He also says I complain too much. And worry. Maybe I do. But when it comes down to it, with Matthew, all I want is to be a star.

His face is open. His eyes are giving. Circles within circles within circles.

For three days, between showers, beer runs, earthquakes and takeout to keep us going, this man has been making love to me. Lifting us until we weigh as little as clouds. And now he’s bursting, breaking this atmosphere and pouring into my insides, all stardust and seed, into the black spaces of the other half of me.

Evelyn R. Manangan is a student in the master’s program in creative writing at San Francisco State University. She blogs at 

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