We curled up in the bed together. Porter took off his shirt because between the shower and the heater in the house he found it too warm. He laid on his stomach and I studied the bumps his spine created along his back. I noticed he had a birthmark near his C4 vertebrae. I reached out a hand and brushed my fingers down along his spine, past the birthmark to his waist. He shivered. He moved so I could see his dark, reflective eyes.
He fell asleep before I did. I liked watching his peaceful form sleep and listening to his whispering breathing. Something I never told him was lying next to him made me feel safe and secure not only in where we were physically but as a person. I’d learn to fear not only others but myself as I grew, sometimes, when I was younger, I feared I really was crazy and a danger to society, but as I grew I learned what I heard had no power over my actions, I was fully in control, I can’t say the same for others who hear things.
Sometimes, I think about strange and scary to hear things that aren’t really there. Maybe that’s why I like the way that Porter is as well. I don’t feel crazy around him because I can’t hear him.
I felt I was accepted, I belonged, I was happy. I leaned my head against his shoulder, I felt the heat from his body bleeding onto my forehead. I fall asleep next to him, I felt like a real person and not a rumor that people liked to talk about. I wake up hours later at 6:00 am. It’s still dark in Porter’s room thanks to the curtain over Porter’s window. I lift my hand and rest it on the small of Porter’s back. I move it up his spine to the nape of his neck.
I run my fingers along where his hairline starts. I lean forward and kiss his forehead gently. I decide to get up and take a shower. I carry some blue jeans, a black t-shirt, a sweater, socks, underwear, and my glasses into the bathroom. I undress myself and climb into the shower and see some scars from the car crash on my stomach and legs.
I touch them, a harsh reminder of the reality I came from and had to go back to eventually, most likely. I stand under the shower and use the coconut lime shampoo to wash my hair. After washing myself I climb out and dry myself off and put my glasses on after wiping the fog off them so I can see.
I pull on my boxers, jeans and hang the towel back up on the hanger. I step outside the washroom with my shirt and sweater in hand. I stop at the sight of Porter leaning against the side of the door. He’s fully clothed again which disappoints me a bit but he probably got cold overnight. He glances down a little bit, as if he’s embarrassed, like he’s never seen me shirtless before or something.
“You good?” I inquire.
“Yeah, a lot better,” he replies.
He gets off the wall and leans forward and down planting a kiss on my lips with a smile touching my shoulder.
“I want to show you something,” he whispers pulling back.
“What?” I ask.
“We have to leave the house to see it,” he whispers.
“Are you sure?” I ask.
“Jerks like Harry don’t like going to the place we’re going,” he reassures me.
“Okay,” I reply.
“It’s early, what about breakfast? Are you leaving a note for your parents again?” I question.
“I will and we’ll get something on the way,” he replies. “You might want to put those clothes on, it’s still pretty wintery outside.”
I smile, “Is that why you put yours on?” I joke prodding his stomach.
“Yeah, hypothermia isn’t fun,” he continues.
I slide my shirt on and put my sweater on. I fix my glasses so they’re straight.
“Let’s go,” he says holding a hand out to me.
I take it readily, excited to see what’s in store.
We descent the stairs and as I throw on my winter clothing Porter writes his parents another note. I have no clue what this one says when he didn’t actually even tell me where we’d be going. He comes back, taking the keys off the hook and throwing his own, coat, boots, scarf and mitts on. He grabs a beanie and puts it on my head, you can only see my brown hair curling out from under it now. He smiles pulling on his own to hide his hair completely.
We open the front door and walk out into the rising sun; the winter wind is blowing cold still though. I shiver and wrap my arms around my midsection.
“There’ll be shelter from the wind where we’re going,” he reassures me.
We hop in the car and Porter turns up the heater and opens the vents so we stay warm. He drives under the speed limit, avoiding any black ice he can but it’s still scary. I look out the window at the snow-covered landscape riddled with footprints. We drive through the quiet streets to the outskirts of the city.
“Where are we going?” I question.
“There’s a bag under your seat. Can you get it out?” he asks.
I glance down at the floor of the car. I can see a non-descript gray plastic bag sticking out from under the seat. I grip a handle and pull it out. It’s full of spray paint cans. All colors.
“What are we doing?” I ask slightly concerned.
“Not anything that illegal,” he replies glancing at me as if expects me to jump from the car at the idea of breaking society’s rules even a little.
We drive for another ten minutes, we turn off the road into a ring of trees. There is an abandoned house that looks like the windows have been smashed in on and one too many summer parties have been had at.
“What is this place?” I ask.
Porter unbuckles himself and looks up at it.
“Come on,” he just says honestly.
He hops out of the car onto the gravel driveway. He looks up at the house, that despite its appearance seems pretty sturdy. If they fixed and cleaned it up it might be livable. I open the door and take the bag of spray paint out with me. I shut the car door behind me and Porter locks it. He approaches the house and I follow, slowly, in toe. We walk up the porch steps which creek under our weight. He ducks under a loose board hanging diagonally across the front doorway. I follow and look around once I’m in.
The place is clearly a little messy, but the walls are covered in murals. Despite the broken windows, the place isn’t that drafty. One wall has a giant eagle painted on it, the artist has signed their name at the bottom in a non-readable font.
A haunting looking graveyard, that reminds me of the one in Blue Hill is on another wall. There are ghost figures floating above some of the graves and bats above others and a giant glowing yellow and white moon.
“Follow me,” Porter beckons.
I do, watching the floorboards but they all seem solid despite the age and condition of the house. He leads me through the house which from the outside didn’t look very big but from the inside it’s clear, it’s everything you used to desire and more, at least, in house form anyway.
We step into the living room which is a big empty room with more street art.
MISFITLAND is printed in warped letters on the far wall with umbrellas, rainbows, waterfalls, lollipops, and wings around it. One of the longer walls has many phrases that read: ‘I can’t be lumped in.’ ‘My identity is true.’ ‘We will not deny our hearts, bodies, or souls.’ And ‘It’s not theirs, it’s mine and no one can take that from me.’
The background is a bunch of flags and designs representing different things, not necessarily just gender or sexuality but race, religion, and freedom and acceptance, too.
The longer wall on the other side is covered in initials and hearts from couples who have been here and left their mark. The names and hearts, and initials are dated all the way back to 2006, which means that the house has been abandon since then if not for longer.
Porter picks a side part of the wall that is still blank and about two feet by one and a half, he comes over to me and takes the bag. I follow him over to the wall where he sets the bag down and pulls out the red spray paint. He starts to create a gay pride flag on the left top hand corner of the square. He draws a heart in the middle of the square in black, puts an arrow through it, and writes his name in the right top of the heart.
He turns to me after he’s done.
“Your turn,” he replies holding out the spray paint to me.
I take it nervously. I sign my name slowly inside the heart. I’m worried a police officer is going to come out of nowhere and arrest me for vandalism. But I like it once I’m done. I glance at Porter’s gay pride flag in the top corner. I start digging through the bag looking for pink, purple, and blue for the bi flag. I put the three rectangles of color in the bottom right corner. When I’m done I look back at Porter. He smiles.
“Come on,” Porter says offering me a gloved hand.
I bend down to pick up the bag of spray paint.
“Leave it for the next people,” he says quickly.
I glance at the bag before stepping around it and taking his hand. He leads me back through the house to the staircase. He goes up to the first landing. I hesitate at the bottom.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” I ask.
“Yeah, come on,” he reassures me coming back down the stairs a bit and offering me a hand again.
“Please?” he says after he still sees my hesitation.
I take a deep breath and watch the breath dissipate out into the air before taking the first few steps carefully and taking Porter’s hand. He leads me up the stairs carefully to the back of the house where the walls have been taken out or broken out, I can’t tell which. It’s like they meant to put a balcony back here but they never finished building it.
You can see the sun rising over the trees in the distance. We stand there in the early morning sunlight chasing shadows back inside on the floorboards of the house.
“How did you find this place?” I asked quietly.
“I used to go for long drives outside the city after I got my license in August, just to get away from everything, I wanted to leave, because of Harry and the football team, I drove out and ended up here…” he replies quietly.
“Do your parents know about it?” I ask.
He shakes his head.
“So, what did you write on the note?” I question.
“Said we were going to a movie,” he replies.
“What if we’d fallen through the floor?” I question.
“We’d die together?” he asked sarcastically. “A little too dark?”
“Yeah, I’d like to live to see... a lot of things,” I finish turning to look at him.
Another birthday, our first anniversary, a lot of things…
A cold gust of wind blew across the top floor and I shivered.
“Should we go back?” he asks.
“We didn’t get breakfast,” I state finally listening to my stomach growl.
“Let’s go get food then,” he replies pulling me back towards the staircase.