For Celibate Lovers Everywhere
Leo was almost seven feet tall; his skin, dusty
brown as baker’s chocolate, his fawnlike eyes liquid,
shining, his manner shy and delicate. I fell in love
with his polite voice that first night he came calling,
carrying his stack of Hindu texts in a wicker basket —
we were eating pizza, loaded with greasy sausage;
he looked down at us in my small dark room, polite, curious.
He spoke with a strange hesitation, his tone oval and clear
as the notes of a heavy iron bell. He had been a monk
for years, wearing spotless but wrinkled saffron robes,
his head shaved except for one small tattered tuft
on the high, vulnerable peak of bone at the back of his scalp.
His hand was leathery, dry, smooth, like an expensive saddle.
It was embarrassing how I always wondered about his desires
for sex, wondering does he lie awake at night, thinking
about the bodies of women? If so, what an awful shame,
for the way Leo moves, bowing his tall, elegant frame
through every narrow doorway, bespeaks a gentleness
with flesh, a respect for the gift of skin, the clarity
of nerves. What a waste, I always think, but he’s given
his life over completely to his god. His father was
disappointed when Leo gave up basketball; his long,
long palms still curve around in the air when he speaks,
as if reminding his body of what it once loved to do.
One day, I could tell he wanted me too, though only for an hour.
We walked the temple farm’s hot green fields, inspecting sacred cattle
together. The dirt path circled around a lake, then wandered away
from the main house; next to a thicket of velvety cattails the same color
as Leo’s skin, we sat together on a stone bench, the surface gritty,
cold against the back of my knees. I couldn’t look in his eyes.
I smelled the thick, wet breeze off the lake, and the wind ruffled
his gauzy robes. I heard the snap of cloth against his lean calves;
his toes long and spidery, the nails thickened, blunt in his
canvas sandals. His hand brushed mine on the bench – no accident.
But he had been celibate for nearly twenty years, and I would not
willingly be the cause of his release on that sad day, or any other.