Today, we are proud to welcome “Luces” by Ran O’Wain to our New Voices library. In this story, Luz, the protagonist, deals with an increasingly strained relationship with his partner. At the same time, he is working on an artistic project that explores his childhood in Iowa, coming of age, and the discovery of his sexual identity. At least, that is the plan.
“In his heart and mind he was not a woman, as his biology suggested, but undoubtedly male. Never did he feel more fulfilled, more real, than in moments when, strap-on aside, he was in a position to change a tire, to build a shelf—cliché masculine performances that made Luz giddy with self-satisfaction. If Luz must choose, if he had to categorize himself then he was a gay man, butch for sure. But that’s it isn’t it, Luz thought, the crux: the O’Malley’s knew nothing of Luz and Luz had so purposefully maintained this mystification that Mother sent Christmas and Birthday cards that read To My Precious Daughter. Home is a fantasy.”
The first time Luz saw the new neighbor, he and George were fucking, not making love, no, to make love one needed some semblance of foreplay, an act the two often neglected. Neither preferred doggy-style, but ever since Bastion Hill won an American Soap Award and George was promoted to head writer, Luz had refused any other way; he hated how George stared down at him with this self-satisfied look and besides George complained that kneeling hurt his back—everything else came easily for George, after all.
Luz watched the thin man across the alley as he ran his fingers along the windowsill inside what had been, at least since Luz had moved into George’s second home in Asheville, a reliably empty apartment. Luz was transfixed and George noticed the change, the body now cold with distraction.
George plopped down on the bed, sweating heavily. Before he could say anything, ask questions—Where did you go? Where do you always go?—Luz pulled on a velour robe and went to the bathroom for a shower. When he returned, brushing out wet tangles, George stood in a pair of jogging pants at the bedroom window. “Neighbor?”
“People move out and people move in,” Luz said. “If we were crustaceans we’d have new neighbors each time the moon finished a cycle.”
“Is that true?” George asked. “Do crustaceans float with the tide?”
Luz didn’t know if this was true or not, but enjoyed the reckless imagery of crabs scattering along the ocean floor.
“I fly to the city at nine,” George said. “How about Indian food?”
Luz pulled on a pair of cotton underwear that belonged to an ex. They were thick with holes around the waistband and felt utilitarian in a way that made him want to work for long hours. This, the house and allowance, was his time to produce something great. Too many years had been spent distracted by romance and Luz didn’t want to squander the security George offered. A balance had to be struck between black lace and white cotton.
“No eating out tonight,” Luz said. “I had a vision.”
The vision, a memory: Luz lost their virginity to a boy named Wally, an act Jo Ann said didn’t count because Luz had not been penetrated, such Catholic wording, but had instead worn a strap-on. Wally, a freckled boy of sixteen who had never hid his infatuation with Freddy Prince Jr., was so eager for the experience, Luz recalled. Luz hadn’t known what type of sex he desired, not like Wally had known, but when approached suddenly Luz had never wanted anything more than to wear Wally’s jet-black dildo. Wally was still in Iowa, Luz realized, working at Game Pros in the Coralville Mall.