"Young Boy": Painting by Olga Sinclair, 1994
Steven Rydman
Two Portraits

Between Mortals and Monsters

In the presence of the Skateboard Princes, the boy feels fallen. With their thrones on four fluorescent wheels, adorned with graffiti and those California burger joint stickers, cut-out to read "In & Out _urge_," they float through the neighborhood all summer.  They are beautiful boys who rise on the clouds of pre-teen worship.  Their long, greasy hair hangs like Medusa's snakes over boiling zits on their foreheads.  The boy is stone around them and hopes to blend in with the sidewalk whenever he hears the thunder of their arrival.  As they rumble on the horizon, the boy prays for these sons of Ford factory gods to teach his feet and legs to push and pump, to graze the pavement and be swept up in their air of masculinity. Instead, they glide by, each swoosh of wind lifting the boy's skirt, splashing summer puddles on his shirt, as they scream in voices that echo across the playground: "What're you looking at, you fucking fairy?"


You Don't Know What You're Wishing For

The sister is bleeding now too. The boy can smell shed iron wadded in cotton. He sees hibiscus tea leaves shriveled in the trash like discarded hearts withering. This time of the month, the woman's world closes to him, like the sister's bedroom door when she and the mother begin quiet conversations that bloom only between them.

In the bathroom mirror, the boy tucks his penis between thighs. Sparse hair reaches like fingers into this plump V. Steam billows from hot water in the sink. He melts a red crayon in it. He dips a maxi-pad in his witch's brew. Clumps of crayon stick like rose clippings plucked in a wish: he loves me; he loves me not...

Out in the living room, pad tucked in his BVDs, he finds the sister curled fetus-like on the couch. A heating pad is strapped to her back. "Leave me alone," she snaps. "No," the boy slaps back, "you leave me alone. I'm on the rag, too." The sister's eyes contract to blood-shot slits. "Get out of here! You don't know what you're wishing for."

The boy sulks away, wincing each time dried wax pinches his skin. Behind him, cramps grip the sister's waist, like a man's hands holding her hips in place.