He ties the bracelet to my wrist. The leather cords are almost too short, that fucking Peter obviously trimmed them off. I'll never be able to tie it on alone. I watch the fall of his beautiful hair. It's so long. He probably can't afford a haircut anymore, never mind Alberto's salon, where we used to go. It smells like the artificial fragrance of some cheap shampoo, but it's still beautiful.
The bracelet is on and he leans back again on the doorjamb. He looks older with his long hair. It emphasizes his mouth, and I just want to hold that soft mane in my fists and kiss that small smile, lightly, then hard, wet, sloppy, our tongues deep in each other's mouths. How could he have not known how much I love him, want him, crave him?
When did he stop understanding me, knowing me better than I know myself? When did he stop listening to the unsaid words, seeing the minute but oh so telling touches, smiles, stares that gave me away? When did he start taking things at face value, taking his knowledge of me for granted?
Was it after the bat? Was it after I accepted his rules, which he broke without batting an eye? Was it when I got him that stupid hustler for his birthday? Was it when I pissed on his art? Was it when I fucked my alter ego? Was there one significant moment, one particular turning point, or was it a progressive process that allowed him to forget his love for me and walk away?
"Shouldn't you be getting back to your boyfriend?" I ask. Oh, fucking hell. Why? I have craved his presence for months, I have beaten myself up repeatedly for everything I have ever said and done that alienated him from me, and now that he seems unhurried to go back to his new lover I say this? Why am I such an asshole? 'I love you Justin. Come back to me...' What I need to say, what I should say, what I want to say, that I will never say. Why?
He looks at me, and whether because it had been months, or because his eyes are half hidden behind his hair, or simply because he is no longer the wide eyed seventeen year old who stole my heart, I have no idea what he's thinking. He is no longer an open book, for me to peruse at will. The light smile is still on his lips, and the moment lengthens as he stares at me speculatively.
"Yeah," he says finally, and my heart curses me. Why could I not have offered him a drink, asked how he is doing, talked to him. Now he will go away, and never come back... I wonder if he's happy. I wonder if he has found what he wanted. I don't know... It might be just wishful thinking on my part, but it seems his radiance has paled. Perhaps the thrill is gone. It is pathetic how that thought makes my heart speed up.
He turns away and walks down the stairs, taking my heart with him, and I watch his retreating back. I re-enter the loft, incapable of shutting the door, as if leaving it open means I'm still connected with him somehow. I go up the stairs to the bedroom, look at his side of the bed, which is undisturbed in the morning, because even in sleep my body refuses to accept his absence.
I decide to go have a shower, but then I picture us, rivulets of warm water on our bodies, me fucking him, deep inside his warmth, my arms encircling his torso, feeling so close to him I am sure we share one skin. I retreat, going down the stairs again, to stand in front of the window, watching the night descend on Pittsburgh and concentrating on the pain in my chest, which against all logic has gotten worse every day. I welcome it, and nurture it, because its name is Justin.
From here, I see the lights of the street I used to rule, when the night was mine. I ponder the irony that tricking, which I told him was such an essential part of me that I would not change it no matter how much pain it caused him, has lost all appeal now that he's gone. Was it just a means to control him, to keep him insecure, thinking each man I met was his competition? Did I do it so he would feel humiliated each time he had to walk in the diner and face the smirks of the other men I'd fucked? So he would not realize that the admiring looks aimed at us wherever we went were at least as much for him as for myself?
So many times I chose to hurt him, telling myself I needed to remind him whom he was dealing with, when in truth I was doing it to convince myself I had not changed. So many times I refused to do the things that I knew would make him happy, would mean so much to him, because what would it say about me if I cared? If I loved making him smile? If I enjoyed his happiness?
I have rewritten our story in my mind, revising it, editing our lives, buying the roses, sitting down for a picnic on the floor, staying home when he looked so worn-out instead of dragging him to Babylon and bringing back some trick for us to share, joining him in Vermont, calling him on kissing that boy, telling him that he was giving away to that fiddler something that was not his to give.
But there are no second chances in real life. No do overs. No way to apologize, no room for regrets.
The door to the loft slams shut and I turn around, suddenly remembering I left it wide open, the alarm unset. Justin, out of breath, dumps his heavy duffle bag on the floor, takes off his leather jacket and throws it on the first kitchen stool, as he always does.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" I ask, because I don't want to believe, I don't want to hope. I want to know.
How did I get from the window to the door so fast when I can't remember moving? He takes a couple of steps, now standing so close to me, I have to look down to make eye contact. I love him so much it makes my skin burn, my hands itch.
"I am doing what you told me to do," he answers, the look in his blue eyes both soft and determined. I can feel his breath on my lips. "I'm getting back to my boyfriend..."
The knee jerk response: "I don't do..."
"Brian?" I am utterly grateful for the interruption, for the fact that he will not take that bullshit from me right now. Especially since he then adds, "Shut the fuck up and kiss me, already."
I realize that the idea that a body rejoices is not just a cliché, as mine forgives me for depriving it of Justin's for so long by my stubbornness and pride and just...sings.
Surprise, surprise. A second chance. There is a God, and he loves me...
The Shmoopy End.