The Mall

Repost from old blog, 1/28/2008

Breath shallow, feet taking me to my destination, I would enter the warm light of the bookstore and duck the imagined glare of the clerk. I might browse the science fiction section for a minute, but inevitably, I’d go to where I really wanted to be: the “Relationships” section.

There is one of these in every chain bookstore in every mall in America, so perhaps, right this instant, there is a pre-teen boy whose parents are shopping at K-mart, oblivious, while he leafs through the gauzy, vanilla-flavored naked bodies pictured in The New Kama Sutra, the book jacket worn and torn at the edges – a book for browsing only, a book that nobody buys.

I had discovered the motherload – over ten paperback volumes of the Letters to Penthouse anthology, some of which, crucially, contained a section of stories titled “Boy Meets Boy.”

I would read them crouched down low, my knees and ankles beginning to get sore, my palms sweaty, my quivering little hard-on pressing against the inside of my jeans, one eye always on the lookout. I didn’t know if I could get in trouble for looking at this stuff and I didn’t want to find out. Just the act of reading it was shameful enough.

On my second or third trip, I noticed the book displays at the entrance to the store, placed right at the threshold, so that one could pick up a book and browse it while standing, technically, outside of the store.

As much as I wanted to take home my favorite volume of Letters to Penthouse and get to understand it on a more intimate level, purchasing it was not an option. That would mean owning up to my desires, even if it were only to an anonymous Waldenbooks clerk.

Instead, I experimented with covertly carrying it around, inching ever closer to those exterior book displays. Soon I was standing outside of the store, the book still clutched in my hand. No alarms were going off. Nobody was watching me. Technically, I reasoned, I was already stealing, so why not just take a few more steps, down the hall, out of the mall, to my car where I’d be safe and free and full of the promise of porn.

I walked away without consequence. I did it on subsequent trips, again and again, until I had about five volumes of the series. I never got caught. I would walk through the mall with my heart racing and the paperback cupped in my sweaty palm, tucked underneath my sweatshirt – a pervert, a thief, a homo at the mercy of his dirty little secret.