Not a Gift
Leo made a valid point and a full pan of beef with vegetables. We ate and talked about his end of semester plans. He needed to drive his car back home to be repaired. We decided I would follow him home in case he broke down along the way.
Kate was planning on having a few people over the night before to celebrate being alive. I nodded and agreed the gathering sounded like fun.
There was a sinking feeling in my body—all was not well. Something was fundamentally wrong with the world around me.
“You are eating like a machine, Al.”
“I’m always hungry now,” I explained, shoving my last piece of medium-well steak in my mouth. Leo laughed as he washed out the pan.
Everything I need Leo provides without question. When we were children, he was my playmate, when we were in school, we studied together when we were older, we taught each other how to love. The one time in my life, I’ve been sick, and Leo was with me every day. He moved to college, and I followed him. Now I will walk into the White, and he will follow me.
“We’ve had a good life together, haven’t we?”
“And we’ll keep having a good life. You’ll be a fancy doctor. I’ll run the fucken feed store or the lumber mill. Everything will work out.” Leo kissed me on the forehead and pinched my chin.
He could palm my whole head and was too tall to walk in my kitchen without ducking under the lights, but he could be as soft and gentle as an old woman.
“That last game I went to. I remember the hit you took.” Leo nodded his head and inhaled more broccoli.” It sounded like your bones cracked, but you got back up and charged the next guy with the ball. The look on your face was pure rage. I don’t think I can focus like that.”
Leo licked the sauce off the spatula in his hand. “If you get knocked on your ass, you will figure it out. It’s time and place like anything else. I can’t kill anybody no matter where I am, but I can focus on the sport and putting all my energy into the next guy with the ball.”
“I missed the fighting spirit package. I opted for the off-road tires and the luxury sunroof.”
“Let the wolf run. I think you keep your wolf bound and gagged in the basement and not in a good kinky way.”
I put my plate in the sink and hugged Leo for a long time. I could feel his desire rising in his deep long breaths. I kissed him deeply, sliding my hand down the line of his Adonis-belt into his briefs and began stroking his flesh. Leo unbuttoned his jeans and pushed them toward the floor. It never took me long to please him, but I made an enthusiastic attempt all the same.
I arrived at Henry’s with several bags in my arms. I decided to walk inside unannounced. The front door was unlocked, and he was expecting me.
“Hey, it’s just me,” I sang out into the room.
“I’ll be right out.”
I noticed a few shards of broken glass glittering in the sun on the living room floor. I set everything down, wet a paper towel and wiped up the glass.
“What are you doing over there?” Henry’s tone was accusatory. I became instantly annoyed with him.
“There’s glass on the floor.”
“Ah, just leave it. The housekeeper will get it Tuesday.”
“It’s nothing. I’m almost done. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Thank you, I feel stupid. I poured some tea, sat down, and fell asleep with the glass in my hand.”
“You poor man, so tired.” I laughed and walked the glass mess to the kitchen. “Can I get you a plate of Chinese food?”
“Sure, I’m surprised you’re still hungry.”
“Oh yeah, I can always eat fried won-tons.” I took the containers into the kitchen and plated up two portions. Henry squeezed my shoulders roughly as he walked past me to the kitchen table.
He turned one of the low-back chairs around and sat down. His back exposed to the room, he rubbed the back of his neck and hung his head toward the table. I set the plates down and rattled off what food was placed where. He nodded in recognition but didn’t say a word.
“Are you okay, Sweetie?”
“Yeah, too many different mattresses. My back is jacked up.”
“Let me see what I can do about that.” Pulling my plate with me, I popped a cheese won ton in my mouth and set my hands-on Henry’s tee-shirt covered muscles. His back was tight. He expressed winces and moans of appreciation as I pushed deeply over his tight muscles.
I popped a few hand towels in the microwave.
“I went through the apartment and gathered up things I thought you might need. Your toiletry bag and your other laptop are on your desk by the entryway.”
“Thank you, I need to get into the office on Tuesday. I’ll probably spend Monday on just email.”
“Doesn’t sound like much fun.” I placed the warm towels along his shoulders and down his arm and felt him relax.
“It’s not, but for those of us who work for a living, it’s necessary.” There it was again, another unnecessary jab.
“A hot shower will help your back, and maybe you can tire me out.” And stop whining and pissing me off was what I meant.
“Not sure it’s possible for a mere mortal, but I don’t think my back can take much more today.” Henry filled a fork with noodles and shoveled it into his mouth.
Mere mortal, where is that coming from. “You lie back, and I will take care of everything. I’m really curious to see how much of your dick fits in my mouth.” I could picture his freshly showered body in my hands and all the things I could do to improve his mood.
Henry shook his head, and with an exasperated exhale, he pinched the wrinkled skin between his eyes.
“What? We’re alone. Nobody can hear us. Why you are so distant all of a sudden. Does it bother you when I tell you what I want?”
“No, it’s just one more reason you are so fucking perfect for me.” Henry pulled his shirt over his head and reached out toward me. “I need to test something. Would you give me your hand?”
“Of course.” He put my hand on his bare chest. The feeling of unease from earlier in the day returned. “I don’t want to play around in your bad memories. They suck the life of me.” He shook his head no. I could see his eyes just starting to redden and water.
My stomach fluttered, uneasy and excited.
I was in the living room. The smell of the ash in the fireplace filled my nose. The grain of velvet fabric under my wrist and the heavy laptop in front of me told me I was sitting in the corner chair.
My voice talking to Leo through the speakers, filled the whole room. You can’t be judge, jury, and executioner.
I felt hopeful and happy, and then, bite me, rang clear, followed by the sounds of Leo’s pain as I broke his skin. I felt afraid and confused. Indistinct chatter was followed by the metal buttons on Leo’s jeans hitting the floor and his loud, full sounds of sexual release. Rage and disappointment filled my stomach, and I felt myself toss my glass to the ground.
I blinked several times, not knowing quite what to make of what I just experienced.
“The speakers were playing my voice in your living room. My private conversations? You broke the glass on purpose.” I moved my hand to Henry’s shoulder. His face was resting in the most distant and unappealing way.
“I heard your playdate with your fuck-buddy through my laptop sitting on the bar in your kitchen.”
“What?” My head began to throb. My chest began to tighten. “You were listening. I don’t understand how you could, you’re...”
“What? Blind, stupid, clueless. I can tell Leo’s in love with you. He’s not going to share you with anyone.”
“Out of the two of us, he’s the one who shares the easiest. You spied on me?”
Henry’s voice changed. I could hear him yelling, what did you think would happen, how can I trust you with him, what do you want from me? But I couldn’t focus on his words. My head buzzed.
“There is something fundamentally wrong with you that has nothing to do with your eyesight.” I picked up my joyfully packed weekend bags from the entryway and left.
It felt like I was watching someone die. My eyes ached from holding back tears. I drove away and parked around the corner to catch my breath. My gut rolled, and my head felt hot. I was so angry. I felt violated, hopeless, sick to my stomach. I questioned if I could make it home.
Kate was sitting on the couch, eating leftovers when I arrived. I recalled the day for her in detail. When I got to the part about the eavesdropping, she pulled a few teabags out of a pouch in her backpack and brewed me a cup.
“Drink this, Love. It will let your mind rest. What you can see will not always feel like a gift. You have to learn to purge this shit energy, or it will eat you from the inside out.” Kate stroked my hair and unbuckled my sandals. By the time I was done ranting, she had me laid out on the couch covered by a blanket handing me a second cup of tea.
“I don’t know what to do.”
“You’ve done it. You left gracefully before either one of you could make the situation worse. You need to sleep and let this day die.”
Kate moved a box of tissues close to the edge of the coffee table and started a movie in the DVD player. Dune an old science fiction flick with a mesmerizing effect on me. I’ve watched it hundreds of times and can easily recite the dialogue.
The room melted away, leaving me with only the television screen and a brief and fleeting awareness of the activity around me. My eyes dried, and my mind numbed as I relaxed and ignored my grief. Occasionally I could feel the skin on my neck crawl, and my fingers twitch spasticity on their own.
The sound of Pax’s articulated tail rattled in my ears. “There you are, Little Worm.”
“Pax? I wondered when you would visit me.”
“You can call on me whenever it suits you.”
“Can you take my life? I’m so tired of failing every day.” Pax contorted and writhed, twisting his neck in unnatural directions. The fear rising through my body sobered me to my surroundings.
“Offering me such a proposal lightly is very stupid.” Pax stood frozen with his eyes closed. He seemed to be breathing deeply.
“Offending you was not my intention.” My eyes filled with tears and his eyes flew open.
“Show me this anguish. I assure you nothing is worth your tears.” I accepted Pax’s outstretched arm and felt the siphoning of my thoughts as my skin touched his.
“This invasion was not the slight you perceive. This will not be the last you see of your blind suitor.” Pax grabbed my hand firmly. I looked up into his unnatural green eyes but didn’t pull away. “We have work to do. It may not be easy for you.”
“Less easy than drowning or burning to death?”
“Yes.” Pax smiled and nodded his head. “Shall we begin, Little Worm?”