Another March evening, the first of impending summer nights. The heat is extravagant. Steam wafts from the day-heated soil, after the mid-afternoon thunderstorm. The cicadas are more alive. The curtains are looser. The winds more forgiving. The emotions, with more velocity. In bed, I read myself to sleep. A pocketbook of short stories. Something light, and less heady for my gin-blossomed cheeks, my day-worn skin.
In the midst of flipping pages and swinging somnolence, he arrives – drunk from exhaustion, hoarse from the day’s pleasantries and discomforts, tired from the travel. He comes in the room, a stealthy silhouette against the quaint diffusion of the bedside lamp’s light.
“Hey,” a measured baritone carrying the weight of a working day.
He slips into the bathroom. A shaft of light from the distance. The noise when unmaking. The particulars of cleaning. Toothbrush echoes. Faucets leak. He comes out in a few minutes. Face is wet. Hands are glistening. Hair just moist. Too tired for a shower. The murmurings of a former stranger now undressing in the bedroom. He scratches his hair, reaches for his back, takes off the shirt, unbuckles the leather belt, and pulls down his jeans. A quiet routine of stripping, peeling the externals, down to bare essentials: briefs and a vulnerable soul.
There is still the faint smell of his musky cologne, and the faint trace of chest hair trailing down his abdomen, to the places I’ve been.
He climbs into bed, steers under the sheets, swiftly invades my space, then holds my legs, caresses my knobby knees, kisses me – forehead and cheek – and then chatters irresponsibly, until the open book in my hands is rendered obsolete. He sounds tired but relentless. Shirtless and noisy, a decade ago a complete stranger now company in sacred grounds. All of his stories: his day, his worries, the imprudence of routine, the vanity of society, the afternoon ennui.
He is beautiful. His eyes are gentle, his lashes frail. His stubble is unkept, his lips dry as he struggles to stay awake. His nipples are crimson, his abdomen lean, his clavicle dotted by the four exquisite moles long seared in my memory. The edges of his shoulders freckled, his face similarly, though subtly, adorned.
I listen and laugh. I smile back obligingly. I agree in many ways – nodding, gripping his cool fingers, playing with his half-strewn hair of rich molasses. I forget the book, and it slips into the deep recesses of the bed. The stories fade into whispers, soft piercings in the room of private affairs….
Silence. The cicadas are gone. The wind has died. His eyes are closed. No goodnights. No I love you’s. Adrift.
My spine tingles. For he is mine. This beast of a man splayed on the bed. I have memorized every detail of his face, of his body, of his being. The features and accessories, the scars and the birthmarks. I know his pleasures. I know his sorrows. The woes which bruise him. The victories which strengthen him. The fluctuations in his eyes, the nuances of his voice, the varieties of his bodily vibrations…
Thus, I observe for the longest few seconds, the careful, mechanical up and down of his chest, the movement that tells me he is alive, and still mine; the involuntariness of his beating colored rich by grace and serenity. Such unbearable beauty of a body bound to the plagues of mortality, now lost to the few hours of dark unconsciousness; something beyond and something odd. Lost to fleeting rest. Yet he is mine, and not mine.
In having him, it seems, I am both at my strongest and weakest.