Once 12 hit, Russell clocked out for lunch and rushed over to find Sal’s car. Usually, Sal would be waiting in it, but today he stood outside, his body leaned against it in what looked like a forced, seductive pose. Russell held back a laugh. It was cute. Then, he noticed Sal’s shirt wasn’t buttoned all the way up. Damn that’s hot.
“Hello, my beautiful sexy sex,” Sal said as Russell approached him.
Russell frowned. “Sexy sex?”
Sal ran his hand down Russell’s back, then hesitated.
“What’s wrong?” Russell asked.
“Nothing.” Sal turned his head away, and spanked Russell’s butt.
Wide-eyed, Russell glanced at his butt, then at Sal, then at his butt again. “What the-”
“Hop in, stud muffin.”
“Did you just-” Russell began, but Sal was already inside the car. The second Russell climbed in, Sal leaned over and kissed his lips, preventing him from asking further questions.
“Why don’t we take this somewhere private?” Sal whispered in his ear, and started the car. “The back parking lot should be empty.”
And it was. Sal parked as far away from civilization as possible, Russell too baffled to speak.
Sal turned off the ignition and gazed at Russell, giving him a flirty half-smile. Or, what seemed like a poor attempt at a flirty half-smile. Instead, it looked like he was in extreme pain. “You are one sexy mofo.”
“Thank you?” Russell felt more confused than ever before. He was still trying to process what Sal did earlier. Did he actually spank-
“Let’s take this to the backseat.” Sal winked and climbed into the back, nearly tripping over the parking brake.
Russell stared. Not knowing what else to do, he joined Sal, taking care not to trip.
Before he could even sit, Sal flipped onto his back, and grabbed Russell by the polo shirt, yanking him close. “It’s a shame your shirt doesn’t button all the way down.” He fingered the first button and hesitated before undoing it.
Russell glanced down. “What are you doing?”
“Unbuttoning your shirt,” Sal said simply, undoing the second.
“To make you feel desirable.”
“What!” Russell jerked upright. “What in God’s name-”
“I’m sorry I’ve been making you feel ugly.” Sal cupped Russell’s chin in his hand, rubbing his thumb over his jawline. “You’re not ugly at all. I may be ace, but even I can tell that you are the sexiest man to have ever walked the planet.”
“And if I wasn’t sex-repulsed, I would totally fuck your brains out.” Sal ran his hand to the back of Russell’s head, pulling him into another kiss.
The kiss filled his body with warmth, and Russell eagerly returned it. Sal slid his hand up his shirt, running his fingers down the small of his back. It was something he’d rarely do, and Russell’s body quivered at the touch. He slipped his hands under Sal’s shirt, rubbing them over his smooth chest. That sort of act never did much for Sal, but Russell loved feeling his bare skin. So much that he moaned between kisses.
Until a sharp pain shot through his lower lip.
“OW!” Russell tore himself away, rubbing at the sore spot. “What the hell did you do?”
Sal sat up, attempting another flirty half-smile. “Bit your lip. Did you like it?”
“No!” Russell took his fingers away from his throbbing lip to check for blood. Miraculously there wasn’t any. “That hurt.”
Sal’s smile fell. “I was afraid it would.”
“Then why’d you do it!”
Sal hunched his shoulders, eyes focused on the cup holders. “I wanted you to feel like the sexy beast you are.”
“Yeah.” Sal leaned in for another kiss.
Russell grabbed him by the shoulders, keeping him from getting any closer. “I’m not kissing you again until you explain why you’re acting weirder than usual.”
Sal rested his arm on the rear dash, posture slack against the seat. “I did some thinking, and I realized I’ve been making you feel ugly and unwanted.”
“What… How… Why...” Russell pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a loud breath. “Explain. Please.”
“Being ace, it’s never occurred to me how much a non-ace’s self-worth depends on how sexy they are to their partner.” Sal reached his hand out and set it on Russell’s knee. “But I know now, and I’m sorry I never made you feel wanted.”
“I don’t know what brought you to that conclusion, because you have never made me feel ugly or unwanted.”
Sal’s face lit up. “Really?”
Russell gazed into his shining, brown eyes. His cheerful expression paired with his ruffled up hair made him look adorable. “Really.” Russell found himself smiling, and broke into a laughing fit.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. It’s just cute, the lengths you go to make me happy.”
“What lengths? All I did was throw out a few compliments.”
“And bite my lip,” Russell said. “Like that’s supposed to make me feel wanted. You didn’t even do it right. You’re supposed to nibble a bit, not actually bite down.”
“Well excuse me for not watching how-to videos on lip-biting!”
“Calm down, it was cute.” Russell rested his hand on his shoulder. “Like your forced seductive poses, and your flirty smile attempt.”
“What’s wrong with those?”
“You make it look like someone shoved a cactus up your butt. If you’re being serious, don’t put thought into it. Let it come-”
Russell didn’t get to finish his sentence. Sal stepped out of the car, and slammed the door behind him.
Russell followed him away from the car. “Did I say something wrong?”
Sal stopped in his tracks, and spun to face him. “You have to ask?”
Russell recoiled Sal’s angry voice. “Okay, that last part was insensitive of me. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything bad by it.” He struggled to figure out how to explain himself in a way that wouldn’t make Sal more upset. “All I meant was, it’s hard for you to act sexy because you’re never in that state of mind. I’ll help you...” Russell fell silent. If Sal wasn’t angry before, he was pissed now. His face was red, but not from blushing this time.
“Never in that state of mind!” Sal shouted, causing Russell to back into the car. “So just because I’m asexual, you automatically assume I’m not thinking about sex!”
“No. I’m only saying sexual things don’t come naturally to you. Like 69. You don’t get it. There’s nothing wrong-”
“And now you’re insulting my math skills!”
Russell smacked his hand over his forehead. He ran his hand over his head, gaze lowered. “You’re right. I’m being an ass. I’m sorry. I’ll watch my mouth in the future.” He glanced back up at Sal, giving him a half-smile. “Are we still boyfriends?”
Sal remained standing in place with crossed arms. “You don’t get why I’m upset, do you?”
“Because I said you looked like someone shoved a cactus-”
“No!” Sal paced back and forth, gesturing wildly. “I’m upset because you’re making me feel alienated from the rest of the world. As if I don’t feel alienated enough, without your unwarranted advice on top of it all.”
“What are you-”
“There’s this… this thing out there that everyone magically has. They don’t have to think about it because it’s already there. But I don’t.”
Russell nodded. “That’s what I’m saying.”
“And you reminded me of what a freak I am.”
“You’re not a-”
Sal stopped pacing to glare at Russell. “But I am a freak!” He continued walking in circles, wringing his hands. “I’m a teenage boy who should be getting laid every night, but I can’t understand why anyone would ever want to. But everyone else does. So I feel like something is wrong with me, and your comments reminded me of it!”
Russell opened his mouth to tell him that nothing was wrong with him, but another glare from Sal shut him up.
Sal stopped directly in front of Russell. “All the ‘there’s nothing wrong with yous’ in the world won’t fix that feeling. Being a sex-repulsed asexual in this sex-obsessed society is painful. Do you even know what that’s like?”
Russell took Sal’s hand in his own, and squeezed it.
“It’s like...” Sal pulled his hand away to run his fingers through his hair, biting his lip. “It’s like… being arachnophobic in a world obsessed with spiders.”
“Being arachnophobic in a world obsessed with spiders?”
Sal nodded. “Exactly. Imagine everyone loves spiders. Everyone wants spiders. Everyone goes out looking for spiders, and shames those who can’t find any. And if you don’t want spiders, you need to go to a doctor and have them give you pills to make you want spiders. Because you can never be satisfied without spiders in your life. And if you hate spiders? If you want nothing to do with spiders? Well, you must have had a bad experience. You haven’t found the right spider yet. Because heaven forbid someone doesn’t like spiders!”
Pounding his fist in his palm, Sal continued his tirade.
“Since everybody loves spiders so much, let’s put an unnecessary spider-scene in this movie. Let’s put spiders in our cheeseburger ad. Let’s dedicate a class to spiders, and-”
“Sex-ed is important-” Russell clamped his mouth shut at the fire in Sal’s eyes.
“Sure, spiders-ed is important. But imagine being repulsed by spiders, when everyone else is acting like they’re the greatest thing ever. Everyone else can’t wait for them but you. And you don’t understand why you’re so different. You don’t know arachnophobia exists. You spend years thinking you’re the only one in the world. Except you don’t even have a word for it. And it hurts, you know?” Sal’s voice cracked, and he paused for a second. “But you can’t tell anyone. You have to keep your mouth shut and go along with it, because if anyone finds out, you’ll be the laughingstock of the school.”
Russell wrapped his arm around Sal’s shoulder in understanding, but Sal wasn’t done. It was like he had bottled everything up, and it all came to surface.
“After all, arachnophobes are immature. They need to grow up. They’ll start enjoying spiders eventually. ‘I used to be the same way when I was your age, but look at me now. I’ve had fifty spiders in one night!’”
“No on has had-”
“All everyone in this god damn universe cares about is sex. That’s all anyone ever thinks about.”
“That’s not true.”
“Not true!” Sal shouted, causing Russell to withdraw his arm. “You sexualize a number, for Christ sake’s!”
Russell couldn’t argue with that. He opened his mouth to admit it, but noticed an old, haggard man in a trench coat approaching them, and froze in place. Sal studied his fingernails, the anger on his face quickly replaced with disinterest.
“Yo kids.” The man’s voice was hoarse, and his eyes swept through the vacant parking lot before he continued. “You here for MJ?”
Every muscle in his body screamed to run, but Russell stayed in place, gnawing on his thumbnail.
The man looked at Russell expectantly. “Are you here for Mary Jane?”
Russell tilted his head. “Who’s she?”
“I got a special today. $250 for an ounce, $300 for two.” The man frowned at Russell’s blank stare, and looked over at Sal, who had his hand over his mouth. “Your friend straight-edge or something?”
Sal nodded. “Very.” He smirked at Russell, who felt as though he were missing out on some kind of inside joke. “Cute, right?”
“Pathetic.” The man looked to Russell again. “I’m talking marijuana. Want some, kid?”
Russell’s jaw dropped. “Good God, no!”
“Your loss,” the man said as he walked away.
Russell elbowed Sal. “Let’s get out of here.”
“It’s cute how you never think about weed, because you’re so sheltered,” Sal said as he started the car back up. “It’s hard for you to smoke, since you’re never in that state of mind. Like 420. You don’t get it.”
“I deserve that,” Russell said.
“Damn right you do.”