Efren’s Place

New Work

By Trevor Corkum

It took Efren forever to open the door. He had to flip through a fat ring of keys, fit each silver key into the flimsy lock, and then wriggle it back and forth before pulling the shit key out and starting over.

Hijo de puta. This always fucking happens.”

The number on the apartment read 807. The three digits were written out in a cursive font, the rogue 7 dangling upside down like a skydiver. We were in one of the shitty highrises along Dovercourt, near Bloor.

“Fuck this shit,” he said. A sheen of sweat trickled down his dark forearm.

But the lock finally clicked.

I could hear, when we entered, what sounded like panicked whispering from somewhere inside the apartment.

“At last,” he said, ushering me through the door.

While he locked up behind me I surveyed the digs. A cramped living room with family photos in cheap black frames along one wall, a crappy TV, a long scuffed coffee table decorated with white knit doilies, a plastic fern and a pile of old Now magazines. Through the cavernous dining room—there was no furniture in that room—I could look out the streaked window almost all the way to the university.

“Do you want something to drink?”


We stood for a few minutes eying each other, trying to figure out which hombre would make the first move.

“Fuck it,” he said at last, cupping his cock through his jeans. His stroking set things in motion and pretty soon I was licking his wiry neck above the collarbone, breathing in the smell of latex paint and some other unnamed toxic chemicals. Efren had said he was a painter.

“Feel this,” he said, planting my hand on his crotch. I tiptoed my fingers over the warm denim until he moaned like the guys in movies.

“That’s it,” he said.

While he unzipped his jeans I knelt on the beige carpet. I could hear the whir of the refrigerator and music that sounded like Adele blasting from another unit. The whispering—if it had been real—was gone. From where I knelt, I could see straight down the hallway—three doors, all closed.

Then he shoved himself into my mouth and I got to work. Something round and unyielding like a popcorn kernel stabbed my left knee. Efren smelled like he hadn’t showered in a while. He jerked his hips hard and fast, holding me by the hair, and I tried to take all of him at once but my throat began to close. Still I looked up at him with watery eyes and he rubbed the back of my head like he was proud.

After a while he pulled himself out and hauled me up by the shoulders.

I could see on his sweaty arms drips of white paint, like tiny splotches of leprosy.

“Let’s go into the bedroom,” he said.


We had met—if you want to call it that—less than an hour before, in a café bar on Ossington. It was a slow afternoon and I thought the café would be a quiet place to study. I was reading a book by Foucault that I could barely understand. But I liked the long blocks of text, the clinical French vocabulary, the complex strings of ideas I could feel, like silvery fish, nibbling under the surface of every page.

Lifting my head, I saw an older guy watching me. His elbows rested on the bar while he nursed a dark pint. The café at that hour was empty—just a few girls compulsively texting, like they were afraid of being alone. Meanwhile this guy made no attempt to hide his desire. He sat on the tall stool with his legs splayed wide so I could take in the generous view.

He grinned when he saw me staring. His face was ugly in a helpless way—slack cheeks, chipped front tooth. His forehead shone bright in the punishing light. His shaved head made him appear forgotten and unloved, not tough like some Nazi subspecies, but reedy, anxious, sick and roughly vulnerable.

I leaned back in the church pew that doubled for café seating and maintained occasional eye contact.

A few minutes later he made his way to my table.

“I’m Efren.” He extended a paint-splattered hand.

The bartender, an older Italian gentleman with a cropped moustache and vigorous grey sideburns, stood behind the bar drying pint glasses. He eyed the pair of us suspiciously, as if we were Jehovah’s Witnesses or ISIS recruits.

I gave Efren a fake name.

We shook hands on it like businessmen.

“Listen,” he said. “Not sure what’s on your agenda today. But do you want to get the hell out of here?”


His room was to the left, the last of three doors. Through the second door, propped open a few inches, I could see a bed with a flowery spread and a white shag carpet matted with cat hair and lint.

“Here we are.”

He tapped open another door. The blinds in that room were down, so the space had the feel of a basement and smelled like pot, sweat, the reek of dried-up semen.

Efren pulled off his damp T-shirt. Dark patches of hair sprouted in coarse growths across his chest. A tattoo of a flying dragon swooped down along one shoulder, camouflaging his thick bicep.

“What do you like to do?” he said, shrugging out of his jeans.

I stared at his fat lips, soft with spit in the muted light.

I blinked a few times.


I unbuttoned my shirt and hung it neatly on his doorknob. His bed was unmade—jet black sheets and a soiled black duvet, piles of clothes on top.

Crumbs and flakes of dandruff dirtied the crumpled sheets.

He pushed this mess aside with one sweep.

“You’re hot,” he said, stroking himself.

I slid out of my own jeans and stripped off my shorts and felt the energy in the room—the humid stink, the stale aromas—settle onto my body.

“Come here,” he ordered.

I wasn’t hard anymore, but Efren didn’t care.

“Now turn your ass around.”

So I turned around, facing the shut blinds, wondering what lay outside. Another apartment? A view of the long June sky? He ran his hands over my backside, spread my cheeks wide, then got down on his knees and inhaled.

“Fuck,” he said, in a junkie’s voice, and stood up.

While he bent me over the bed I willed myself to relax. I thought of what Foucault had said. Sex is power. Or was it that power is always erotic, shot through with looping currents of despair?

Soon Efren was inside me. It didn’t hurt, not much, not too much, and after a few tense minutes, the pivoting of his cock inside me began to feel like home.

“I always wanted a schoolboy,” he said, panting, cradling my hips with icy hands but leveraging his body away from me, so that the airy gulf between us—except where he was penetrating me—seemed enormous and unreal.

I said nothing. I just pressed my face to the sheets. I wondered what sorts of creatures were marching around the fabric. On YouTube I had seen a close-up of bedbugs or some kind of microscopic parasites that thrive in human bedclothes, feeding off the rubble of dead skin.

There were millions, maybe billions of invisible creatures, gorging on a buffet of endless human flesh.

Efren began to thrust harder and his cock seemed to trigger and then release some kind of pent-up agony inside me, so soon I was bucking back against him, whimpering and begging. I could feel in the loud pounding his fury and his loathing, how he despised and desired me both.

Only after he came inside me, with a few last jabs and one long, choking moan, did I realize there was no condom.


He wanted to shower but told me to stay. So with the water in the bathroom running I decided to explore.

Naked, I went back to the empty dining room and stood looking out over the city, to the far-off university with its fields of green turf, the museums and glitzy malls, one glint of tired lake off to the distant right.

The only place left to examine was the second room in the hall. Through the open door I could see a basket of folded clothes and what looked like a human shape beneath the flowery bedspread.

I pushed the door open with my toe. Light flashed toward me in a single savage glare, like some high-powered spotlight wielded by a jacked-up guard.

When my vision finally adjusted, I could see a body lying there.

An old person, a woman—though her white hair was so thin and her skin so pale and haggard it was hard, at first, to be certain—cocked her head toward me. She looked at me through filmy eyes as if I were an apparition, her time-travelling orphan child returned to her at last, soiled and diminished, in this broken adult form.

“Hi,” I said, as softly as I could.

I shuffled, nude, to her side. The room was neat and clean, the desk with a vase of silk lilies; a painting of a Mexican market over the bureau; a picture of a boy I wanted to believe was Efren in a square silver frame beside the bed.

“I’m Jay,” I said, telling her the truth.

The woman lay mute. I stood a foot away and could see—or I imagined, from the unnatural angle of her head—that she could not move her body.

“Don’t be afraid,” I said.

But she didn’t look afraid. Her eyes—rheumy and occluded, like the scum over chicken soup—followed me with an exhausted curiosity, some penitent form of waiting for whatever the world might deliver.

“Shhh,” I instructed.

I bent down beside her until I was inches from her cheek. She smelled fresh, spring-like, like lavender and baby powder. Our eyes were so close that I could see the blood vessels sprout in her iris, like cracks in a sun-scarred painting.

She blinked a few times. Her breath smelled of bad cream.

I kissed her once, chastely, to the left of the mouth, catching the damp edge of her lip. Her skin was so frigid. Then I sat on the edge of the bed but she did not react, did not even stir, just kept up with the ragged breathing, expelling mouthfuls of stale air in a troubled, raspy wheeze.

I ran my fingers through her hair, massaging her delicate skull, cradling her feeble brain in the warm palm of my hand. I wondered at the secrets stored there, the stories and stifled desires she would never be able to name.

“Everything will be fine,” I told her, admiring what I could decipher in her bruised gaze. She looked up at me for a long time without crying or calling out.

“You’ll see. It will all turn out okay.”

After a while, with one last indifferent sigh, she closed her beautiful eyes.


I dressed in the living room, paying close attention now to the photos on the wall, a family of five, I could see—mother, a father, three sons.

The mother stood in a white crepe dress staring at the camera with a defiant, secretive smile, as if her family and their lives were a fairytale.

But which of the boys was Efren?

The oldest? The youngest, with stringy blond hair?

The sullen middle child?

I couldn’t tell. None looked remotely like him.

And in any case, I thought, what business was it of mine?

I didn’t lock the door. Heading down, I took the stairs, jogging hard and gracelessly past each fluorescent-lit landing. I didn’t stop until I reached the ground floor exit that opened like a portal onto the blazing midday sun.

Outside I was out of breath but sucked in tiny gasps of springtime air. I caught myself starting to sing, snatches of sad lyrics from a ballad I had long forgotten, but which I remembered like a dream that muggy day—the words unspooling before my eyes with the ease of perfect recall, while I blinked back against the shock of so much light.

Post a Comment

Your email address is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Trevor Corkum

Trevor Corkum's fiction and non-fiction have been published widely. Among other awards, his work has been nominated for the Journey Prize, the CBC Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction, and the National Magazine Award for Fiction. His novel The Electric Boy is forthcoming with Doubleday Canada.