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from Phallos!

[On moving to New York City’s Greenwhich Village from Bethynia, New York, a recent college graduate, Adrian Rome (the narrator), discovers an anonymous, paperback, gay, pornographic novel Phallos! among some old books left in his new apartment. With his friend Harvey, he goes to dinner at the home of an elderly black writer, Lewy, who turns out to be (“more or less”) the novel’s author. Curious to read it, Adrian finds on his return that the books—including Phallos!—are gone. In Delany’s novel, the “synopsis” will appear as an appendix.]

46. In the apartment, I wandered to the bookshelves to look at the space I’d left at the “P”s. “Chairs . . .,” I mumbled. I could have had some nice chairs. And lamps. I looked around the bare room. I said out loud: “And some books.” The phone sat on the floor in the corner.

From the shirt I’d left last night on the floor by the bed, I got the paper from my breast pocket on which Lewy had written his phone number. Going to the phone, I squatted on the floor, rocked back, crossed my legs, leaned forward, and lifted the receiver. As soon as I dialed, I got a busy signal.

Over the next ten minutes, I tried Lewy three more times.

Then, because I knew his number by heart, I tried Harvey’s.

“The boy from Bethynia,” I told him, as soon as Franjo put him on.

“Excuse me? Adrian . . . ? Wha’z up?”

“Did you know that Lewy’s novel—Phallos!—was about the boy . . . a boy from Bethynia?”

“Oh, yeah. That’s right,” Harvey said. “You’re reading it?”

“No,” I said. “And you said you hadn’t, either.”

“I . . . no, I haven’t. But, well, yes—I know that much. That’s how Lewy and I first met.”

“How do you mean?”

“It was back when I first got to the city. I was at some to-do at Julliard, three or four years ago now. Lewy was there that evening. Over some plastic cups of white wine he began talking to me. I said something about being from Bethynia, New York. Lewy laughed and said, ‘I wrote a novel about you, once—the boy from Bethynia.’”

“Oh,” I said. “I was wondering, actually, if it was . . . about me.”

“You’re from outside Bethynia,” Harvey said. “I’m from Bethynia proper.”

“Yes, I know, but” [End Page 142]

“It is kind of funny,” Harv said. “I mean—but, well, Lewy didn’t know either one of us when he wrote it. Still, that’s how him and me, we first became friends. The next time he saw me, he gave me a copy. I think everybody in the house here has read it except me! Ernestine, Franjo—I know they both went through it. But gay porn—somehow, queer as I am, unless it’s the real thing, it doesn’t get to me. How do you like it? But you just said you weren’t reading it”

“I lost my damned copy,” I said. “I mean the copy that this guy Harris had left here in my apartment-”

“Oh. Hey, Adrian! Did you ever call your dad?”

“Huh?”

“Because he phoned me this morning and said he hadn’t heard from you. He spoke to your cousin, who said you were pretty much all moved in. I told him I’d had dinner with you last night—and that you looked okay to me. But I think he’d like to hear it from your own sweet and sensual lips.”

“Oh, Christ!” I said. “I forgot to call Carl when I got in! I’ll phone him as soon as I get off with you.”

“Do that, babes,” Harvey told me. “You have a nice daddy, who is concerned about your welfare and is probably, if I’m not mistaken, paying for the champagne you brought Lewy last night. All the black folks outside it think New York is a jungle.” He growled, a mock tiger.

“No, don’t worry, Harv,” I said. “Really, I’ll call him.”

We said good-bye...