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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 3, 1984)
GAYS O F O CR LIVES
Life of Ryan
by Scott Siventek
The room is astonishingly loud for a
Culture Lab, so you don’t stop singing.
“ Get that Dave.’’
A tape recorder full of Keith Jarrett rollicks
on the lab bench. An ultrasonic bath screams '
in the comer.
"W hich that?’’
A low pulsed hum compresses into
“That, that” Plastic bonneted head bent
close to a box’s glassed window. Gloved
hands moving among glass and green light
You resume your cheery, modestly altered
rendition of Attica State’ and strangle the
autoclave timer, check the pressure gauge
and undog the door. A thick, damp roll of hot
metal and culture medium steams down
your fro n t Tardily, you reach for a labcoat A
bit of unexpected color snags your eye. The
coat's left breast pocket presents a quiet
anatomical drawing of a human heart verti
cally barred by a sliderule. A motto beneath:
‘occurrent nubes’ (clouds will intervene). The
right pocket simply: ‘Cheryl.’
“ Have a wash-up too.” Breath mists the
glass. "What is it brings you to Addison
“ Pleasure.” You upend dripping hands
over the sink, soaking your cuffs, and punch
the blower knob with your elbow. Shouting
over the hot air: "Travel for pleasure.'
“ The pleasure’s in the departure. The
‘State’ itself is one ofvastd/spleasure, usually
Dr. Addison’s. She believes in putting herself
out for the occasion." Her hands withdraw
from the manipulation gloves. She turns. Her
lab coat pocket bears crossed drumsticks
surmounted by a screaming baboon skull,
roses blooming in eyesockets. Printed above:
approaching extremes’ She turns further.
“What’s your sentence?" ‘‘davld’ announces
the other pocket
“ I got a whole paragraph.” Rolling up a cart
you begin unloading sterilized petri dishes
from the autoclave. “That woman can really
move my blood around." You maneuver the
cart up next to Cheryl. "I’ve been banished for
“To Dr. W iggant” Hands returning into
gloves. “ He’s been very loud about having
assistants quit on him. Dr. Addison would not
scruple to kill two birds by throwing them at
each other." She twists a valve in the box,
knuckles a door from the inside: positive
pressure gently pops it open. "Here.” She
pushes out a stack of innoculated plates, ac
cepts a clean stack from the cart “ Mark them
Sally 13AVS, drop them off and continue on
to the library. Read everything relevant to
Kaposi’s Sarcoma that Dr. Wiggant has
published and have a good long think. I’ll
cover for you here."
She looks up.
“And find a less personally revealing lab
knock loudly and enter. A male voice rasps:
"Stay still!!” Hissing. “ C lot”
A saintly, white-haired man in a dirty lab
coat is attempting to force a screaming
rhesus monkey into restraints. Underneath
the battle a white cloth is flecked with blood
and excrem ent Monkeys caged around the
lab shriek sympathetic. At the edge of the
table a syringe rolls with the fig h t daring its
needle to the void. You secure the syringe
and lean over the fray. The saintly, white-
fringed head butts you away.
"Gloves if you’re going to help." He jerks
his head, concentrating on squirming mus
cles with teeth. “ Over there. The thick ones.”
Clumsy in leather, you help buckle down
all flailing parts. Noticing how protective the
monk is of one limb, you probe gently. Under
the skin of the arm, near a puncture mark,
“ One of us moved," Dr. Wiggant explains.
"I don’t like restraint as a general rule. It
frightens them.” He swabs at the other arm,
selects a new syringe and, carefully, draws
blood. The monkey shudders. He sets about
unbuckling it "I see you’re trained in basic
animal care. Here you must be very cautious.
It is dangerous to have these monkeys bite
you.” He lifts and cradles the clinging animal.
“ There is something in their body fluids
which should not contact your own." Open
ing a group cage he allows the monkey to
leap inside among feeding, fighting and
copulating. He surveys the smaller cages;
single occupants who move slowly, or not at
all. “ I must instruct you in autopsy. There is
too much for me to do. I feel like an old man.
We will have tea and talk in a moment, but
now I will show you want to do.” He turns
baggy eyes to you, alive under glasses. His
hand rests on a cage latch. "You do talk do
“ They’re all male." Unedited words.
Momentarily you regard your tennis shoes;
look up. “ Sir."
Dr. Wiggant peers over his glasses; straight
ens. “ I see there is no keeping secrets from
you, Mr. Ryan. Quiet and observant are very
nasty traits." He smiles. “Which I happen to
appreciate. Please be so good as to demon
strate them." He places a young monkey in
your arms. "Take 3 ccs from this young boy.
You look into the warm, round eyes. Stroke
Inside, the car is a redolent plastic oven.
You wait until you’re careening down Sunset
Highway, breasting rush traffic with both
windows open before you start it
“There’s a scientist back there,” you
Cheryl’s eyes flick automatic to the
rearview m irror; to you. “Almost 200 people
work back there," she says, signaling for the
fast lane. “You were bound to meet Wiggant
“ He was in his lab — working — when I got
there.” You bend forward, air flows between
your prickling back and the seat “We talked
right there and he showed me things, ex
plaining why they’re one way and not another.
Then he didn’t vanish into his office. He really
cares that things are done righ t For the first
tim e I’m not bored dry."
“ But you didn't invite him to the barbecue,”
Cheryl states, zooming by an incredible
tangle o f underpasses. "He’s God already.”
Leaning her elbow out the window alters the
airstream. Her fine hair blows.
“Don’t make a hero trip out of it" Your shirt
is damp when you settle back. "I don’t know
him well enough. He’d be too busy to come
“As I said.” Accelerating around a sluggish
Impala. “He’ll topple eventually."
“ Cheryl, 1 like the old guy."
“ Then you be careful you know what
you’re doing.” The slopes of Southwest
Canyon rise in dusty summer green. “You’re
more likely to be contaminated by him than
by the monkeys. You’ve got purpose and
music. Don’t stretch after more."
Riding through a crack in the concrete of
Portland, towers grow as embankment walls
run into the ground — then diminish as you
ascend the foot of the Fremont Bridge. The
aerial view of river’s curve gives way to
scrubby anywhereness of Scotch Broom,
tarmac and overpasses.
"I don't think I want to be that narrow. It
never looks good in other people.” The wind
drops as the car takes Delta Park exit. "I’ve qot
“ Only so much. You can’t get any more.”
Tacked to saplings along the access road are
paper plates sporting flocks of multicolored
arrows. ‘2nd Annual Non-Sectarian Blitz,’
reads a banner siding a parking lot. She
stops; engine running. "Unless you’re one of
the lucky ones you’ll have to decide what
single thing you want m ost"
You grin. “Karl.”
All the serious lines vanish. She laughs.
"By all means. Keep him. I’m done wasting
my tim e on him.” Sobering. "I’ve got to get
home, get Brian and get ready. You can
"Yeah." You rattle fingers in rolling synco
pation on the dash; open the door. “ I’ll man
age fine.” Slip outside, stick your head back
in. “Wear the Hawaiian dress, ok? I can watch
“Womanizer.” She pulls out, the car door
shuts under your hand.
“Yeah.” Close by a blond woman in a polka
dot summer dress bends into the rear of a
familiar Ford station wagon. You^print over
and grab her from behind. She shrieks,
squirm ing around in your arms.
"David!" Hugging back. "And early!"
“ I paid out for a quick ride." Bringing hands
back around you gently cup her breasts. “Still
“They’re just fine, Honey. But with the dues
lue been paying lately I could buy my way off
the fence and leave the nagging reminder
dangling. Either that or back to severe busi
ness suits." Meditatively, Trace hoists two
bags of ice from the car. “There's no cheers
for sailors under false colors.”
“ May I help with the ice, pretty lady?”
“ Oh, sure,” she says abstractedly, moving
off. “ I’m working the Pump Bar with the girls.”
Hefting four blessedly cold bags of cocktail
ice you stagger into a sunburnt field. Tables
and booths rear in all stages of preparation.
The unpeopled stage cluttered with equip
ment boxes and unassembled electronics.
Your drum set half-unpacked by some
You dump the ice under an awning by a
row of keg distended plastic buckets and
draw a beer. Charlie is talking with Trace and
five or six other humans. There’s sweat down
her sides and patches where nipples stretch
the sleeveless khaki t-shirt. For the occasion
her crewcut is red with white sidewalls. Her
green eyes catch you — a wink — and return
to business. The mastermind of the Blitz.
One-handedly removing your shirt and
juggling your beer, you clim b onstage, sit on
your stool, kick off your tennis shoes and peel
down the socks with your toes. Closing your
eyes for the sensation, the day rolls by in the
dark. Interesting and unpredictable. Maybe
he mould have come. Blinking, making sure
there’s no one around, you skin out of your
jeans, reach into the bass drum for your red
bikini briefs and pull them on.
“ Nice show."
You smile at the voice. Tilt your head back
against his thighs and look up all skinny six
feet to the black wavy hair of Karl O'Halloran.
“ I was thinking.”
“ O f me?" His little finger delicately enters
your ear. You shiver involuntarily and close
your eyes again.
“Nah. Someone older.” The sun feels good
on bare flesh. "I'm working with this guy
studying Simian AIDS. He really digs into it
and I’v e . . . ”
The finger disappears from your ear.
Behind your head, thighs stiffen. You open
your eyes onto is.
"Something wrong?" you ask.
End Episode II
C 1984 Scott Swentek
Your impeccably white coat sleeve rides
down the tendons of your wrist as you knock
below the office door nameplate. It crinkles
uncomfortably in the hand of your elbow as
you knock again. Shaking it back down, you
walk the hall to the adjoining lab. A monkey is
being annoyed inside at peak decibels. You
Just Out February 3-February 17