Smoking With Martin Cloutier

by Beth Thomas Read the Story December 20, 2009

I love the voice and attitude here. Where does it come from? Where did you get the idea for Arturo?

I’ve worked in restaurants for many years, where people from extremely divergent backgrounds and cultures toil together in high stress situations. Individuals who normally would never mix with each other find themselves fighting side by side in the food service trenches, apologizing for a tardy cassoulet or mopping up the Pouilly-Fuissé. There’s a lot of joking and sexual banter to relieve the pressure. Gay waiters flirt with Latino busboys, who are often unused to sexual advances from men, and consider themselves somewhat above it. I wondered what it might be like if one of these young Latinos actually were gay. How does a new arrival in America deal with the overabundance of things, and the prevailing attitude that every desire is meant to be fulfilled?

“I never fuck with mens before coming to America.” What has changed this man?

I think being away from his wife and family makes a huge difference; he’s lonely, but being alone has given him more time for self-reflection. This new environment where men actively make themselves sexual objects influences him. And, having sex with someone foreign distances the sexual act. He can tell himself, this is what I do with Americans but it’s not really part of who I am.

Who is Arturo? What is he looking for? Running from?

I think Arturo wants the kind of intimacy and affection he has with his wife back home. He doesn’t yet think it’s possible to find this with a man. And, quite rightly, he doesn’t see it exhibited in the wisecracking waiters at his work.

Does Arturo love the Americano Mens? Does he hate them?

Arturo is attracted to American men but he’s not comfortable with his attraction, so he decides to pity Americanos. For him, America represents something exotic and lucrative, yet also something degrading and superficial: he is degraded at work and in his love life as much as he is fulfilled. One could say this is the quintessential American experience, though for Arturo it’s more polarized.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Stoner, by John Williams, which everyone needs to go out and buy immediately; one of the best books of the last century. Also, Kevin Wilson’s inventive and moving collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth.

About the Author:

Martin Cloutier has fiction forthcoming in Story Quarterly, The Bryant Literary Review and The Southeast Review, where he is the winner of The Worlds Best Short Short Story Contest. His stories have also been published in The Portland Review and Bombay Gin. He holds a MFA in playwriting from Brandeis University. Currently living in Brooklyn, New York, Martin has just completed his first novel about the possibility of romantic love without sex.