Marley’s Discovery of Imagination

When I was eighteen, fresh out of high school in 1994, I got a job working at a full-service gas station and automotive shop. Overall, it was a great job for a young man and the lessons I learned there (up to, and including, how to potentially get away with murder) have generally served me well.

The first regular coworker I had, who we’ll call Marley, was a real education for me.

I grew up in a kind of hippy, intellectual, liberal bubble in an older neighborhood near the university. While there were people who worked with their hands in my parents’ crowd, they were craftsmen with serious theories about what they were doing. I could ask my dad’s friend (who was also my friend’s dad) what he was doing to that chair, and the ensuing lecture could wind up drifting into 19th century wooden church framing before I’d gotten free of it.

So heading out into the world of work at 18, I did think I had an idea of what people who work with their hands are like. I was wrong.

At the gas station, I was plunged into the real Albertan blue-collar world; where serious physical assault is on the spectrum of acceptable human interaction, and ideas die a miserable, lonesome death from neglect and abuse. Not a week of work had gone by before I was physically accosted by a mechanic in the stock room for spraying dirt on his tool box with the pressure washer. In his late fifties, and nicknamed “the Badger” by the other mechanics, he followed me in there, cornered and ambushed me prison assault style, and grabbed and shoved me into the lockers to tell me to clean up his fuckin toolbox.

Education commenced!

My fellow pump-jockey, Marley, was about three years older than me, and having worked at the gas station since he was fifteen, was my first guide into that world. He had his beefs and his allies in the station, and would tell people where to go in a dialect of Edmonton English that was more fascinating to me than any of the car repair I was learning.

Marley was a burly, oafish loudmouth who could pivot from affable to belligerent in an instant. Generally his default setting was friendly, so mostly he was okay as a coworker. As is typical with burly, loudmouth oafs, he was lonely (but would never admit it) and would glom onto anyone who gave him the time of day. Then, being a loudmouth oaf, he’d alienate them sooner or later (sooner, usually) and the cycle would repeat and intensify.

Over the first couple of months we worked together, he made a couple overtures at friendship, but I had him well figured out and was able to avoid those without too many hard feelings.

Marley’s younger brother, Travis, also worked at the gas station, and he and I actually hit it off. (In case anyone is paying attention, I have written about these two hosers before.) Travis was a year younger than me, had also worked at the gas station since he was fifteen, had dropped out of grade 10 (although pretended he hadn’t), and was intelligent, quirky, funny, and completely perverse. Over my first year at the station we wound up working together a lot and became good friends.

At some point in that first year, Travis and I were making plans to go downtown to see a movie and I suggested walking over to the apartment he shared with his brother, Marley, to meet up. Travis looked sort of pained about this and said:

“Yeah, okay, I guess so. You can meet our friend, Spanker. He’s coming over to do a Spankfest with Marley.”

Okay! Lots to unpack here!

Yeah, the friend’s name is actually Bob, but they’ve all called him Spanker since junior high school since he loves porno and masturbation so very much.

A Spankfest is when Spanker, Travis, and Marley rent a bunch of porno tapes, and Spanker brings his VCR over to their apartment to make copies. They plug one VCR into the other and record the tapes one at a time, playing in real time. They also will make more than one copy of many of the tapes, so for each rental porno, they might play it through from start to finish up to three times.

This meant a Spankfest was a minimum of a twelve hour affair, and sometimes could wind up being an all-nighter.

I show up at ten in the morning so that we can catch a bus in plenty of time to see a matinee (number 46 from Whyte ave to Eaton Center downtown – E-town represent!), and I’m trepidatious to say the least. Porno and masturbation, for me, had always been a deeply private and embarrassing affair. I quickly learn that this crew has no such shame in their game. (I would later be told that Travis’ Indian [Native American] name in this crew is: “Spanks With Lotion.”)

Travis buzzes me into their basement apartment and there’s porno tapes, blank tapes, sharpies and cables everywhere. Spanker is introduced to me as Spanker and nods amiably from the floor where he’s organizing the tape sequence. He has an impressive mustache and goatee for a nineteen year old.

On the TV behind him was a group lesbian scene with a daisy chain of awkward, fake 90s lesbian porno cunnilingus. I believe the title was an earlier ,“No Man’s Land.” Marley was sitting on the sectional watching it with a glazed expression. He barely looked away from it once.

Then we sat around and watched porn together for about an hour. It was all very normalized. I do have the feeling that there probably was going to be some furtive group wanking later, but perhaps the boys had matured out of that behavior by that point.

We get done with the lesbo gangbangs, and Marley gets one of his titles loaded. Pretty soon they get to a blowjob and Marley tells Spanker to stop recording and just fast-forward through it. I can’t help myself: I have to ask.

“Okay, so why don’t you want the blowjob scene?”

“Whad’ya mean? It’s just a fucking blowjob! Why would ya wanna see that?!” Marley shouts.

“Uhhhh… I like blowjobs?”

“Yeah, but you aint fuckin gettin it! It’s just some guy’s dick in her mouth! Ya can’t even see her pussy or tits most of the time. Yer just lookin at dick! Ya like that?!”

“Yeah… It’s my favorite kind of scene, actually.”

Marley busts into high pitched, manic cackling. “His favorite scenes is blowjobs! He likes lookin at fuckin dick! Yer just lookin at cock! That’s fuckin gay! It’s fuckin gay! Ya like lookin at cock! It’s gay!”

This goes on for a while, with Marley laying it on really thick for far too long. I suppose even then I realized this was pretty blatant misdirection in trying to throw off any notions about the latent homosexual eroticism in the room. But I couldn’t get into it. I was intimidated of Marley, and was basically short-circuiting on an intellectual level.

I knew Marley wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but was now realizing that the shed I’d wandered into was all fucked up. Came in looking for a boxcutter and there’s only trashed wood saws and stuff made out of wire and animal bones.

Anyway, I got out of there okay and went to the movie with Travis.

Afterwards, I took to having Spankfests of my own with Travis: bringing my VCR and rented titles over. However, Travis and I would just run the VCRs without watching the tapes and play video games. Marley would lurk around and talk shit about video games and dicks and gayness and how meat is murder and fight about Star Trek characters with his brother. Once he interrupted our movie and forced us to look inside a big cut on his hand; pushing it open with his fingers like a porno pussy.

About a year or two after that, long after the whole gay thing (or that element of it) had died down, Marley was hanging around the gas station while I worked with his brother. I’m bored, having a smoke, holding the counter up, and Marley comes sidling up to me with a sly smirk on his face.

“Hey,” he says, like he’s really proud of what he’s about to lay on me. “I figured out why ya like watching blowjobs in porno.”

“Yeah?” (oh no)

“Uh-huh. Ya like watching the blowjobs cause ya pretend that the girl is giving you the blowjob, right? Like, ya watch it and pretend that it’s yer dick she’s suckin. That’s it, isn’t it?” He’s even more excited now, but still all quiet about it.

“Yes. That’s what I do,” I answer, totally deadpan.

Marley gets a really big grin and nods deeply at me. Then he moves off slowly, never breaking eye-contact, really happy, and clearly filled with a new-found respect for me. Like I had cracked a big code or discovered a cure for his herpes.

I guess that notion blew his fuckin mind. (In more ways than one.)

It does beg the question: what the fuck was going on in his head when he was watching porno before that? I can’t even begin to imagine.

So, if I have accomplished nothing else in my life, at least I gave Marley the gift of the power of his imagination. The power to imagine so many blowjobs and whatever other stimulus he decides to stick directly in front of his eyes. A whole internet full of possibilities!

But, keeping it real, it’s probably mostly blowjobs and anal sex for Marley. And why not?

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