Devil’s Lake

Fall 2016 Issue

Peter Kispert: Audition #21

Lee or Liam, whatever his name is, he takes me to the roof of his LA apartment, where a small pool sends bright waves of light onto the walls and perfumes the hot August air with a chloric bite. This is date one and drink six—pretty sure about the six—a kind of strawberry concoction that should have been drink one (that was the cheap vodka at Simon’s place before I ditched him, the rest at a dive bar with Lee or Liam). The city shines holographic in the distance, and I feel his hand on my thigh as I throw my head back to see the stars. Every time I view the city like this, from above, it saddens me—it is everything before me I cannot have because I am not yet a good enough actor. Looking up at the stars, clear and bright like ornaments, I think, I can’t appreciate these.

“What can’t you appreciate?” Lee or Liam says, and I realize that instead of thinking the words, I had said them.

“The stars,” I say in a tone that I hope communicates my desire not to discuss what I fail to appreciate. I shift my leg and his hand slides off.

“They’re just dying light,” he says, and I sense him lurch his head back in the same way I had just done. Lee or Liam is willing to agree with anything I say and do anything I tell him—he’s that grateful to be around me. Which is another thing I should appreciate. Instead it makes me feel sorry for him.

This on the heels of a two-year relationship with a five-foot-seven-inch tall man named Chad who co-owned an organic grocery store back in Phoenix, managed the produce section with the care of a feral possum, and frequently hit me during sex. Something I can call abuse now, almost two months out. It feels heavy, the memory of it. I remind myself—that’s because it is.

“The stars look the same as the city,” I say flatly.

“And the pool,” he says.

“Not really.” The alcohol emboldens me to say whatever I feel, but my feelings change immediately, and so I regret almost the entire wake of what I do.

Back in May, I had asked Chad if he thought I had celebrity potential. He had been re-sorting the pomegranates into a pyramid, and I had stopped in to visit him late one night after ditching friends.

“Not really” was his response.

In the next scene I arrive at my friend’s apartment in LA. 5 AM.

“It’s such a beautiful night,” Lee or Liam says. He looks at me, all he’s got, infusing the air with romance, but it’s just another chlorine night to me.

When I first met Chad he tried to get me to eat more vegetables, and we walked the produce section as he taught me the difference between kales. What is this one called? I might have said, holding up a thorny orange melon. There is nothing sexy about the way he would look at me. It would be the same stare of blunt desire, one-way want, and when it comes at you, you have to dodge it. What is this?

These days I hold kindness up like a strange fruit.

“In a certain way,” I tell Lee or Liam. “About the pool.”

I take a sip of the drink. Strawberry pulp races up the straw and clogs it. I detect he wants to kiss me right now, and when I look over at him I realize I’m right. I think, What the hell am I going to do? And then I hope—I just hope—that I didn’t say that, too.

Author Peter Kispert PETER KISPERT’s work has appeared in Salon, OUT Magazine, and The Carolina Quarterly and has been recommended by The New Yorker and Urban Outfitters. He served as editor-in-chief of Indiana Review, where he founded the annual Blue Light Books partnership with Indiana University Press, and is currently an editorial assistant at Penguin Random House. He lives in Manhattan. More from this issue >