HIM – I teeter at the edge of the pavement, my feet hovering over the cracked asphalt. A billowing mist has started rolling out through the street, packing the air with sticky moisture that films my arms and forehead. I drop my head back, searching the star–flecked sky for guidance. Tonight’s the night. There’s no way out.
I had a dream last night that it was the end of the world today. A giant, flaming meteorite was on its way to earth and the entire human race was about to go extinct in a glorious blaze. I was with her, lying on the grass behind the pavilion. We need to go back to our parents, she said. You’re right, I said. I’d love to stay here with you till the end, she said. Me too, I said – but my heart was pounding like a high–speed train. It beats the same way now.
I could run away. Turn around and disappear. Come up with a lame excuse, like I’ve done the past dozen times the same opportunity arose – but how much longer can I put it off? How long before somebody questions her, me, us about those details everyone’s always so keen to brag about? Then what?
Suck it up. Move along.
HER – I spent twenty minutes hovering over the phone. I stared at the screen for so long all the letters eventually blended into a soup and none of the words made sense anymore. I tried to take my mind off it by reading a book, a magazine, the ingredients listed in the back of the cereal boxes in the cupboard. I cleaned the kitchen, the bathroom, the windows. I mowed the lawn. I took my dog out for a walk so many times he didn’t even have a trickle left to mark his ever–expanding territory. It was all pointless, anyway. Every time I finished an activity, there it was, my phone, sitting quietly on my desk, waiting for me to hit the ‘send’ button.
I couldn’t take it anymore, the way it was mocking me. I pressed my finger so hard against the screen the message was sent twice:
My parents are out of town again, do you want to come over tonight?
Five minutes later, the answer arrived in the form of a non–committal, nonchalant ‘no worries’ and the tumult in my heart subsided.
HIM – I ring the bell. My chest is like a clam containing a black hole. A whole world is lost inside it, a minefield of emotions. My brain is like a plate of pasta that someone’s picking through with a fork. My legs are like twigs in the mercy of the wind. The seconds pass, and the urge to turn on my heels and skeddadle is growing, spreading like a disease.
The door opens. She appears, a vision of beauty behind it. Long, jet–black hair cascading on her crow–wing shoulderblades. Eyelined green eyes. A silk black dress. No shoes.
‘Hi,’ she says.
‘Hi,’ I say.
HER – He was in the pair of tight black jeans we bought together two months ago for Christmas. His t–shirt was plain, loose, grey. I’d never seen it before, so it must’ve been new. He was not wearing his watch, but he was wearing that cologne he knows I love. He’d sprayed himself enough for the odour of almonds and elderflower to permeate around him, but not enough to make it sickening. He was carrying a bottle of red wine, no doubt nicked from his dad’s cellar.
‘Hi,’ I said.
‘Hi,’ he said.
An awkward pit of silence, then he drew closer and kissed me on the cheek.
‘So,’ he said, ‘what movie are we watching?’
HIM – The movie’s dull. I knew I should’ve picked it. I should’ve gone for one of those romantic comedies she loves. It’s not that she’s going to make the first move; it’s just that the longer I wait now, the more awkward it’s going to get. The clam–chest has opened and the black hole’s going to suck in everything around it: her, the sofa we’re lying on, the framed pictures of her parents and her brother on the wall. The pulled curtains covering the living–room windows. The bowl of sweet and salty popcorn. The elaborate candle structure on the glass table in front of us.
I need to do something, before it’s too late and the whole school, the whole world knows the truth.
‘Do you like the movie?’ I say.
‘It’s all right,’ she says, but she pins her eyes on me for the next ten seconds as it trying to communicate through telepathy.
This is my cue.
I lean in.
HER – We’d been kissing for about three minutes when I asked him to stop. I knew my parents were not coming back until the next morning ; I’d triple–checked that all the windows were shut, the curtains pulled and the blinds closed; still, as he was running his hand across my back, fumbling for the tiny zip on my dress, it occurred to me I’d forgotten to lock the front door and keep the key on it, just in case.
He was extremely kind and patient. He seemed as nervous as I was, which helped a lot. He slid the dress off me slowly, and spent a full minute glaring at my exposed breasts before removing his shirt.
We carried on kissing. He didn’t say a word.
HIM – Her lips are soft and smooth. She knows I don’t like lipstick, so she’s kept them naked. It’s a small blessing that helps with my illusion.
I went to the swimming pool today. I hadn’t been in a week – too busy obsessing over the inevitable – but I went today because I needed to refresh the image of him:tall, lean, fair and blond like a Swedish swimming champion. Perfect abs, perfect symmetrical face, perfect sky–blue eyes. He was there, of course. I knew he’d be. He always goes at the same time.
We swam in parallel lengths. I cleaned my goggles thoroughly to catch better glimpses of him every time we met in the middle of the lane. When he left, I left. The showers were busy, so we showered next to each other. I kept my swimming trunks on; he took his off. Keeping the goggles on would’ve been too conspicuous then, so I put them away. Still, I managed to glance at his penis a few times. It’s remarkable how much bigger it is than mine. Thicker, too. I wonder how much bigger it gets when he’s hard. I wonder how it would feel to touch it, to put it in my mouth, to have him inside me.
The thought helps. I can feel my own dick growing.
I might be able to pull this off after all.
HER – My parents wanted me to go with them, of course. They said my nan wanted to see me. One last time, they said. One last time before she leaves us.
I wanted to see her, too. It’s been so long since the last time I visited her, and she’s been so poorly. But I went there just three weeks ago, so nothing would’ve changed. She would’ve just kept staring past me at the wall, apropos of nothing. Failing to recognise who I am. Failing to engage. What would’ve been the point? Anyway, there’ve been so many wasted opportunities, so many chances for this moment now to happen, and there was always some last–minute complication that put a damper on our plans. Not tonight.
I hope somewhere deep inside, my grandmother’s still there. If she is, she’ll understand why I didn’t come.
HIM – There we are, in the showers. Him, bent over in front of me. His butt exposed.
I slowly slide it in –it’s tight and warm– and then I start thrusting as he spreads his legs into a reverse–V and presses his palms against the tiled wall to keep his balance.
I’ve never heard his voice, but in my head his moans are deep and husky.
HER – It didn’t hurt as much as I’d expected. I thought there would be gallons of blood and unimaginable pain, but it was…tolerable.
He was a gentleman, anyway, like I said. He didn’t push too hard; he didn’t go too fast; he didn’t do anything before asking for my permission. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but I hadn’t expected it to be and given the circumstances, it was the best I could ask for.
HIM – Now our roles are reversed and he’s fucking me mercilessly in the sauna, the steams clouding around our bodies.
HER – The whole thing lasted about…five minutes, or so. He kept kissing my neck and biting my earlobes, which I thought was really sweet. (He doesn’t really like earrings, so I didn’t wear any tonight.) He didn’t stay hard throughout; I could feel the shape changing every now and then, thickening, softening, thickening again, which was probably because of his nerves. I thought that was sweet as well.
‘Are you close?’ I asked.
HIM – ‘Are you close?’ she asks, interrupting the fantasy.
‘Yes,’ I say, and imagine him go faster and faster until my body can’t take it anymore, until the world dissolves around us and we’re just two boys discovering each other and –
HER – I really hope my nan doesn’t die before I get to see her one last time.
HIM – then he pulls out, discards the condom and comes on my back, and I feel the warm, sticky liquid trickle down my skin.
A second later, I come.
HER – ‘You can’t stay the night,’ I said as we cuddled on the sofa, the movie still playing in the background. ‘My parents will be home early.’
‘It’s OK,’ he smiled at me and kissed my forehead. ‘Do you mind if I have a shower?’
‘No, let me get you some towels.’
HIM – It’s done.
I feel dirty. I feel unclean. I know they’re supposed to be synonyms, but they represent different things. I feel dirty because I just did this to her, because I just used her. I feel unclean because I’m happy. No one will be able to question me anymore. No one will be able to call me a faggot.
I feel dirty because those images of him having sex with me are still in my head, were still in my head while I was cuddling her.
I feel unclean because I imagined for a moment, only for a moment, that I was cuddling him.
Water can’t wash away any of this.
HER – ‘Thank you for tonight,’ I said as I led him to the door. It was past midnight already; after the thingwe’d ordered pizza, picked a different movie altogether and sat on the sofa, next to each other, savouring each other’s company.
‘It was great,’ he said, hands in pockets.
We kissed one last time, and I watched him ride into the darkness with his rusted bike.
I stood alone for a minute, then I shut the door.
That was when the phone rang.
HIM – Two hours later, I’m on my bike.
There’s so much in my clam–chest now: images of future girlfriends, future wives and children. Images of further lies, of folders within folders within folders of renamed gay porn. Images of myself, sneaking out in the night to meet a guy like the guy from the gym, somewhere in a park. Images of this, happening all over again.
But I can’t let it consume me.
If I take it bit by bit, maybe I’ll be able to survive.
The solution is to compartmentalise.
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the option of killing myself.
Noel Dandes is 29 years old and lives in North London. His credentials include a degree in Communication, an A* in GCSE English and a 90% in a Creative Writing module at university. He also published 12 short stories in The Time Post Office, an Italian online magazine in 2012. (The magazine closed down shortly thereafter.) You can find his horror novel, Fright Radio, on Amazon and other outlets.