Paul Hostovsky

Peacock Patio

I had a summer job flipping burgers
at Peacock Patio, out behind the lion pit
in the Turtle Back Zoo. I was seventeen
and horny, a vegetarian and a smoker
of Parliaments—I liked the recessed filter,
a kind of metaphor for living life at one
cool remove, smoking and bussing tables
out on the eponymous patio, a Parliament
between my teeth. I very much admired
the erectile function of the male birds’ tail-feathers
which reminded me a little of myself. I was
masturbating several times a day back then
and I longed to display my erections to a female
of my own species. I could really identify
with those peacocks roaming around, trying
to balance their erections in the summer breeze
with the demands of a life, summer school, my
grandmother who was staying at our house
all that August and sharing my bathroom. It was
quite the balancing act. I remember one
slow afternoon at the zoo, a colleague and I
shared a joint in the walk-in freezer, and then
we each smoked a Parliament and headed
back outside. As soon as I hit the heat I felt
paranoid, like the eyes of the male peacocks
whose feathers were all eyes were on me—
I was seventeen and homophobic. I started
back-pedaling toward the lion pit, pursued
by a train of extravagant erections straining
in the breeze, turned tail and ran, not stopping
till I got to the house of the giant Galapagos turtles,
and lay down among them, breathing hard,
hiding myself beneath their ancient stillness.

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