Three Velvet Boyhoods

by Andrew J. Smyth

published November 21, 2014


To have been delighted by a jumpsuit. An unusual circumstance in which to find oneself, granted, and perhaps even an uncomfortable one, but not, as you can see, or rather as we can agree to be shown, an altogether unreasonable position. It’s not that the jumpsuit has any inherent advantages in respect to other garments. Indeed, having entered and then zipped oneself inside, the jumpsuit wearer will probably find herself in possession of a dangerous handicap whenever the impulse to urinate, or especially to masturbate, should materialize. A botched removal, one imagines, might even result in some irreversible tangle, a gridlock, which, in its most absurd and tragic iteration, could go so far as to cause an actual amputation, the circulation of oxygenated blood having been denied to the ensnared forearm. And anyway, unless she has sustained a truly devotional commitment to her yoga instructor, the slouchier bits of her body will achieve beneath this vestment a severely impolite dangle. Yes, the jumpsuit is a parlor trick. A deliberate sartorial gag intended, basically, to provoke a few raised eyebrows. I am the astronaut and the alpine skier, she who wears the jumpsuit shouts. I am the laborer, the prisoner. But, obviously, I am also not these things; I am not these people, because I have adopted this attire as a conceit, out of boredom, for fun. And when the party has expired, she suggests, I am capable of sliding out, after which I will retreat to the confines of my apartment and reclaim my fur vest, or whatever. The irony thickens, of course, if we consider etymology. That is, if we remember the jumpsuit’s original intention: to describe military pilots hurling themselves out of fighter jets. It follows, then, that to wear a jumpsuit, the suit for jumping, is also a kind of gesture upward. A finger pointed at those downward plunges, a grasp at that insane velocity, and finally a wink at the descending paratrooper, whose behind, it must be said, looks so incredibly firm beneath all that insulation. But then, there are jumpsuits, and there are jumpsuits. The specimen here belongs to this latter category. A jumpsuit with fanfare, if you will. A jumpsuit whose magnetism eclipses its genre, and whose features I will singe upon your memory, so help me God. 



To have adopted the most delicious posture. No doubt a pleasant status to achieve, to have achieved. You lean into the contraposto, arrange an angle for your elbow, you look up into space and grin. A poise without perimeter. It’s lavish and splendid. All that blue satin calibrated to maximum vigor, rigor, and then partnered with a force of nature, this boy who is a hurricane. A glance that would halt a rhinoceros, or skewer a goldfinch in mid-flight. A charged, erotic, fuck-you stance. Like certain Dada instigators, or dynamite inside a temple. As if I’d bathed in kerosene and felt it to be sumptuous. That zone of sensation without a flicker of doubt, no hesitation, only pleasure and surprise: “Whose hissing Corals part — and shut — / And Cities — ooze away —”.What kind of lapis lazuli, or indigo, or sapphire has conjured this electric shock? What is it to be zapped, and with what shape might we accommodate that voltage? I, for one, am having trouble cooking up a language, outfitting a match, locating a discourse to accord with the experience. Obstacles abide the entryway. The very passage into language, into satin, as it were, is freighted with a clumsiness of which I do not know how to dispose. It is wearing shoes with velvet bows: suddenly I am prone to tripping, liable to fumble, given to skidding, subject to wobbling. It’s as if, in my writing, in my walking, in my adjusting my lace collar, I have become hypothermic, and so have been made to misplace my facility for speech. How else to explain the seizure set off by that hat, and also by its associated feather? Or those lips, which are a volcano, that embroidery which may as well have ignited. So many joyous surfaces, so many sites of pleasure that resist transcription. It is not that images at large elude designation, or cannot be spoken. Enough time and ink, and every stitch of those trousers will have been catalogued. A veritable index of fabrics will have been generated, every textile assigned a footnote, all the patterns sketched and cited. The snag in the procedure is this: no archive, no system, no method can ever reproduce the flash, the bite, the snap. The moment goes on, and I am bewitched. 



To have worn a codpiece with a scowl. A promiscuous intelligence. Elegant and cruel at once; the most lascivious intention. For what is it to wear a codpiece, never mind that slender grimace? The usual excuses bore me. Custom, ritual, tradition; all of that we know already. Better to introduce promotional terms, to think of the codpiece as a kind of advertisement. A notice-me economy. Strap it on, and here I am, he says. Capable of reproducing, wellendowed, able to make more of me. And don’t be weirded out by ample nose, or my lazy eye, either. Even in my silk turtleneck, I am qualified to inject whomever it is that I should select me as mate with viscous, necessary, life-giving fluids. That is what I wish to be known of me, and to be represented upon the canvas, in paint, with aplomb. Yes, that is what he has said, or he has had said about him. Because cod, apart from signifying a rather bland North Atlantic white fish, is also the Middle English word for scrotum. Little imagination required to establish that particular linkage. And indeed, is there not something fishy about portraiture? Does the portrait not deliver a certain stench, does it not communicate a funerary odor? Why is it that I like so many likenesses? The question is, he says to me from 1550, am I dignified or constipated? Either way, am I not present, am I not scowling? Yes, in this moment, my scowling does not seem to be debatable. It is a permanent, factual, immanent scowl. For the duration of the image I am a scowling subject. Even if afterward I am threading my eyebrows, smoking my cigarette, painting my nails, and beating my chest. Even if I am now winning at chess, giving fellatio, dancing a tango and firing a musket. This is the image unraveling in a single shout. This is me like the storm cloud or the sea sponge absorbing it and squeezing it out again. This is me like Bresson’s Pickpocket wiggling it between my slender fingers. This is my gravity at work upon the meteor shower, because I am tugging at it, I am reeling it in, I am gnawing it to dust. This is my meal, because I am unbuttoning my vest, I am applying my lipstick, I am snapping the waistband of my jockstrap, and I am laughing, laughing, laughing to the blonde waiter, “Yes, darling, I think I am ready for the liver.”