The gold in his eyes swum in and out of focus. His warm hands cupped my jaw. His fingers twisted and pulled at my skin in a way that sparked electricity in my blood. It’s just the drugs, I thought. His hair fell dramatically into his eyes. He swept it back with grandiose gestures. It’s just the drugs. We embraced. Our ribcages pressed together with nothing but skin between. In those dark days, we probably weighed the same. We made love on the floor, the couch, the coffee table, against the walls, the outlets, the doors. We made love because there was none to be found. We had searched for it. Yes, we had searched. But, the only place we had discovered it was in the heat of our lips and the salt of my skin, transferred to his tongue. Our breath shared. Our sheets twisted. Somehow, the pain went away. Somehow, it packs its bags and vacated the premises.
His name was Simon. He wore two-tone shoes with socks that never went further north on the colour wheel than yellow. His breath always smelled and tasted like the salt in white-capped waves. The drugs he took made him sing strange songs. I always listened, my hair falling in my eyes and my cheek pressed against his calf. I don’t think it’s just the drugs.
“Marry me,” he whispered. I stared out the foggy window into the overcast night. People strode through the boxed-in, little streets, never realizing they were headed for a dead-end until they arrived.
“No. Marriage is what solid people do,” I replied, trailing a little finger over the window pane. Don’t broach this subject, Simon. Don’t let us descend from our lofty, cloud palace into the white-washed walls of reality. He laughed softly, behind me, releasing a grey cloud of smoke into the stagnant apartment air.
“And what are we?” He asked. Must be define it? It’s all very annoying to me. I turned to face him. He leaned back in his rollabout chair, his skinny legs thrown up over the arm. The white fabric of his T-Shirt rode up to reveal the streaks of downy brown hair around his navel. I love him.
“We are liquid, free to move and evacuate at a moment’s notice,” I moved to stand above him. Maybe I’m just grasping at the edges of the control I have given up in exchange for Simon’s passionate affections. Gently, I laid my fingers over his chest.
“We are effervescent. We are beautiful,” I finished, straddling his narrow hips. I will never get enough of this feeling. He looked up at me, placed his too-large hands on my hip bones, took another drag from his joint. Simon smiled.
“You are beautiful,” he told me, moving to tug my shirt up.
“Lame,” I countered, pawing his hands away. His enormous, gold eyes narrowed. He liked to play.
“You are light. Sometimes, I think that touching you will burn my hands. But, here you are and here I am, still here” Simon whispered, drawing on every syllable as if he could will his words into being. Everything drained away as I pressed my mouth to his. We let our tongues play their dangerous game.
We lay there naked, my right side and his left aligned like little, plastic people in a makeshift box. I began to wonder how it would all end. In flames that scald my insides and sting my eyes? In quiet monotony that slowly turns our childish worlds to grey? With my eyes closed, I could see it all. The almost imperceptible sounds of the undressing of his cigarette kicked me back to reality.
“Wait,” I touched his warm chest with my hand. He froze. We both waited, me in the darkness behind my lids, and he in the calm between words. “Don’t ruin it,” to what I was speaking of, I am not entirely sure.
“I don’t have to ruin anything for this to be over,” he stated simply, as if he had come, bearing the word of God. That is something I have always liked about Simon; he spoke in vague, metaphorical patterns. We could look as if we were discussing the sourness of week-old milk, when in reality, we were imagining something before the Big Bang. We fell in love over talk of comforters, tea leaves and metaphysics.
“Tell me what makes you happy,” he cut into my thoughts. I scrunched up my face and rubbed the bridge of my nose. What is happiness? I certainly know when I’m experiencing it, but it is inexplicable and fleeting. If I try to capture it, I am irreparably helpless to feel it slide through my tight fists.
“Orgasms, swimming, rain, driving, learning. I’m happy when I am an active participant in something exciting,” I told him. Without reply, he reached over to the nightstand, lit up his cigarette and stuck it between his teeth. I fell asleep, listening to the spaces between his breaths.
I sat atop his montone-grey covers, my bare legs tangled up beneath me. The pages of my weather-worn journal beckoned to me. My inspiration was buried beneath a haze of sex, smoke and Simon. The only complex trains of thought I could sustain were general, all-encompassing questions about the universe and humanity’s part in it. Simon asked questions like that, he even endeavored to answer them. He was not bored with the known unknowns. He was not content with the knowledge he already possessed. He lusted after omnificence.
In another sphere of time and space, I had a deadline to meet: 40 pages by Monday. Originally, my novel was supposed to be about Simon, the prodigy who ran off to squader his talent on the street. Simon, the incarnation of Peter Pan, strutting around with a guitar, a notepad and an undiagnosed mental illness. I was supposed to write about wasted potential, but that wasn’t Simon. Instead, I had begged and groveled to my publicist to let me write about the London underground. In her brightly-lit office, with its potted ficus and shiny arm chairs, I told her Simon would be my guide. He would be my key to a door, which reporters had never been allowed through before. Eventually, she had conceded. I was importunate, after all. I had done this all behind Simon’s back, with the secret, burning hope that he would find out and be overjoyed. In actuality, my boy-king threw me out of his kingdom.
As he slammed the door, he muttered words I had never wanted to hear. He believed I had used him. And, he was right. But, not for my stories. I had used him as a stimulant, something to inspire me to make the changes in myself I had never been brave enough to undertake. Simon challenged my every inhibition. He forced me to build my own boundaries, for my own reasons, separate from society’s pressures. I had always been strong, bold and steadfast in my convictions. Simon makes me fearless. I loved him with a passion I wasn’t previously aware I was capable of. That being said, I had to find him. I had to find some way to tear my heart out and use it as a sacrificial lamb. Simon was enamored with martyrdom, so, I would light myself on fire for him. I would tie myself to a telephone poll and wait for lightning.
I found him at a train station, beat-up ‘97 Gibson in his hands, guitar pick thrown to the side, so he could cut the pads off his fingers. There was a modest crowd surrounding him. Some of them had their eyes closed. They all swayed in tandem to the haunting, almost atonal melody. Simon commanded a space between sound and sight when he played. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to develop synesthesia after listening to one song by Simon Alt. I waited for hours, until everyone left, until Simon’s voice grew hoarse and his fingers shook. I waited until his hair matted onto his forehead with sweat and a whole other crowd showed up to witness the beauty. I waited until Simon collapsed, cradling his guitar as if it were a helpless child. Only then, did I kneel by his side and dare to touch him. His shoulder shook under my hand.
“I love you,” he croaked, coughing softly. I hushed him and pulled him into my arms. Simon, there is no part of me that does not love you. His bleeding hands pushed my hair away from my face. We kissed clumsily, under the glare of an iridescent bulb in an empty train station. His leaking fingers left rusty streaks on my jawline.
We woke together, roused by the lake morning sun. It cast light through makeshift curtains. How many times had we fallen asleep this way? With his fingers tangled in my hair and our legs wound together like two Boa Constrictors. I wondered when this had all begun.
“You waited a long time yesterday,” Simon broke the silence. I could feel his throat vibrate against my temple. When did I become someone who desired to be this close with another human being? I had always been comforted by the silence of my isolation. Now, I was comforted by the warmth of Simon’s skin, the smell of his sweat, the quiet noises he made when he slept.
“I guess I did. Were you surprised?” I asked, running the edge of my thumb nail over the length of his forearm. Part of me missed the ease of a life before Simon, a life before commitments and obligations and a desire to share the tiny, inexplicable, screaming parts of myself. But, I couldn’t ignore the much more significant part of myself that reveled in its ability to care for another human being. It could be just enlightened self interest. Obviously, I had enlarged my bubble to fit Simon in as well. I could feel his anguish and his joys as if they were my very own. Unfortunately, the space between joy and despair is enormous and Simon traversed this terrain too often for any sane person to keep up with.
“No! Stop!” Simon slammed his coffee cup upon the counter, shattering glass in his hands. I jumped to help him, but his eyes stopped me. I could always judge the intensity of the commotion in his skull from the look in his eyes. This time, it forced me to draw back, afraid to be collateral damage. “You’re so fucking insane! You take and you take and then you bleed all over everything you’ve taken so when I finally get it back, it’s just covered in… you,” sometimes, great poetry would spring from his fights with himself. He’d look at me, jab his finger at the space between us, sway back and forth, but, when he’d speak, he’d say his own name. He’d blame himself for his father dying under the oppressive weight of thirty different narcotics. He’d yell at himself for his sister’s hatred. He’d tear his hair over the pain he believed he had caused me.
At the same time, Simon Alt was a beautiful person. He was an artist, with bolder brush strokes than Van Gogh’s. He composed brilliant pieces of music while improvising and could recall each and every one flawlessly. Their titles would be the dates they were born, hatched from the brain of man who could never fully grasp the extent of his talents. So, he’d sit, crumpled against the side of his refrigerator, with the skin of an alcoholic and the murmurs of a schizophrenic. And, I’d sit by him, because for all his pain and his carelessness, he was the most beautiful person I’d ever known.
“Simon, please,” I whispered, stroking his tangled hair away from his face. He lay, in fetal position, on the kitchen tiles, chin pressed to the center of his dark sweater. It wasn’t the anger that worried me, it was those quiet, desolate moments. The moments when he folded in on himself and began to eat away at the person I loved.
“I’m sorry,” he told me simply, all the emotion gone from his tone.
“I’m sorry, too,” I murmured, leaning down to fold his body against mine. I was sorry, I had never meant to delve this deeply into his personal life. I was sorry to have to be with him in that way.
“I know,” and he gripped my arm in his pale hand. We will be alright, I told myself, he will be alright.
When I walked away, so many years later, Simon did not try to stop me. He watched from the doorway, in a ripped leather jacket and scuffed jeans. For once, he appeared entirely solid, concrete, to me. He was not a figment of my imagination, he was not a twisted artist with childlike tempers and personality shifts. And, he definitely was not someone I could transpose to paper and sell on bookshelves, even though I had tried to do just that. He was simply a human being and I could see him, see his reality, but just that once....