Free Short Reads

Brighter Than Any Dark

(written for Boy Meets Boy Reviews Anniversary)

One day last summer we saw two boys kissing in Central Park. You ran your hand through your neatly shorn hair, looking shy as you pointed out how bold they were, how brightly their love burned. I glanced away, pretending I couldn’t look—too afraid to tell you how I felt.

A few months later I hurt you again. We were walking home one night after you worked late, you gripped my hand because the darkness scared you, and I never wanted to let you go. But instead, when some kids came by and looked at us too closely, I stepped away, making you feel what we were doing wasn’t right.

Now I know you’re falling in love with someone else.

I sent you a text tonight saying I was in Times Square thinking about you and what might have been. You haven’t replied. I know it’s too late.

You light up my dark and I lost you. Ironic that losing you is what finally made me unafraid.

“Ben?”

Your voice—at first I think I’m imagining it but then I look up and see you, hardly daring to believe it—my Alexander.

“What are you doing sitting on the curb? It’s so busy tonight,” you say.

You’re so lit up. I wonder if she’s with you.

“Watching people’s feet. Waiting…” I say, glancing at the cigarette butts and rubbish strewn across the ground.

You hold out your hand. I take it, your skin warm against mine, and let you pull me to my feet.

“Waiting for me?” you ask, dipping your head in the unsure way that you do, but keeping your gaze holding mine like it’s important, like you can’t let it go.

You bite your lip and that’s when I know you’re every bit as scared as me right now. I don’t want you to ever be scared.

I nod. “It’s too late though, isn’t it?” I don’t let go of your hand. In fact I hold it tighter.

If I can’t have you, I’ll have this—this one moment where I held out my heart. It’s yours, anyway. It always was.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

You shake your head. I don’t know what that means, but you’re smiling.

Stepping closer, you take my other hand. You pull our arms into the warm space between our bodies. We’re so close I can feel the wet heat of your breath on my cheek.

My heart is pounding. My only thought is—I want to kiss you—I want to try to catch a hold of this desire swirling around us, as delicate and ephemeral as tendrils of smoke. I’m terrified this isn’t real.

“I’ve wanted this for so long,” you whisper, your lips brushing against mine.

I tilt my head. I feel like I’m falling, but if I am, I no longer think I’m falling alone. I’m falling into place, falling into you.

Closing my eyes, I kiss you again, and we are illuminated. Brighter than the electric lights of Times Square. Brighter than distant stars. As bright as those boys in Central Park.

No longer afraid of the light inside us, we burn brighter than any dark.

 

Our Secret Weakness 

(featured in the Dreamspinner Press newsletter August 2014)

It’s late and we walk silently and a little lonely, up the hill and over the bridge home.

There are no cars, no people.

The rich houses all sleep with folk who go to bed at a respectable hour, folk that aren’t out late plucking up the courage to nick a CD off the shelf of an independent music store in W1.

I wish he’d hold my hand, there’s no one else around to see our secret weakness.

“I wish I’d nicked something else,” he says despondently.

I wish he knew how I felt. I wish I could tell him.

“Like what?” I try to keep my voice light, jovial, like I’m not. I’m shaking inside. I pretend it’s the cold.

“Anything, I don’t know… something better.”

I don’t know why he steals at all. But I don’t say anything—we’re at the bridge.

He stands in the middle looking over.

It’s a small bridge over a small river a long way down.

If I jumped I wonder if the water would wash over my body and take me away, or if I’d just splay out wide and red across the stones, filling up the gap between the banks like a bloody, awkward dam.

He pulls the CD out the inside pocket of his zipped up blue coat. It has a fur trim that tickles my neck when he hugs me goodnight.

“I’m chucking it,” he says smiling, like it’s the best decision he’s made all night.

And he leaps atop the thick, painted white wall, that’s shiny to the touch, so even if the streetlamp flickering above us dies, the drunks will know in their semi-conscious staggering state that this is a wall with a warning set in stone.

This is the wall I dream about.

The wall he pushes me against with his hips, the wall that digs into my lower back as he holds me tight and kisses me.

This is the wall we walk past every Friday night after the club, when I’ve waited and waited and left at the same time, called out his name from down the bottom end of main street and caught up with him. And he’s hung back, his hands ploughed deep in his pockets, his feet drifting to some wave of music, some drugged up beat, all the while dreaming dreams that are lost in the running of the water, in the sounds of the stream.

He’s still smiling as his arm arcs and the disc flies off toward the trees, not the stream. It clatters as it breaks against the branches, disappearing into the leaves.

He’s still smiling as he slips.

He holds out his arms to me. His hands are huge I think. But he’s tipping the wrong way.

And I hold my hands against my ears—to stop the sound of his body, to stop the sounds of the stream.

So all I can hear in my head are my own screams—a breath torn out between heartbeats. For a life that’ll never happen.

Not even in dreams.

 

Sunset

We go to clubs, bars, gigs, we become anonymous, showing off our love to the world, not caring what anyone else thinks.

I didn’t think it was possible to feel like this, I didn’t think it was allowed. I glow like the sky at sunset when I’m with him.

We touch incessantly, hands, bodies, skin on skin, still no sex though but we’re getting closer to it. Some days I think I’m going to just explode if we don’t do it soon.

Joe’s bathroom, the toilets in bars and clubs, I have been intimately acquainted with them all, splattered across the walls, not literally of course.

He’s so beautiful, he gets come—ons all the time, girls with gorgeous hair and soft mouths but he’ll look away and smile at me, knowingly, like we have captured the essence of something.

Sometimes he whispers “I love you, I adore you” down the phone before I sleep but most of the time we sleep together, his arms around my chest, his lips to my ear.

 

The Sky is the Sea is the Sky

Four miles along the coast from Penzance there is a pirate who paints pictures of the sea.

He lives for the storm clouds—that hungry mass of grey devouring the colour of everything. He lives for sea, for the rage resting just beneath the surface—locked in the waves that tip the boats, that smash like glass against the rocks.

Though an old man now, with a grey-white beard and a body crooked as a child’s drawing, he was once young, wild as a summer storm, and I had loved him.

There he is, standing at the door of his stone white cottage, his clothes alive with the wind. Steam rises from the heavy cup in his hand, he brings it to his lips, turns, and goes inside.
This is how he spends his time—though I’m lost at sea, this is how he waits for me.

My body aches with the warmth of memory.

The days grow worn, old teeth in the mouth of time. Shadows long etched across the earth, billow in the wind—as if the curtains in this great window looking out on the universe, are being drawn together inch by inch.

I wander the moors, waiting.

Rain drives into the earth, endless bullets from a sky-wide gun, until the grasses lay flat, on their bellies, in the trenches, waving flat-faced white flowers like flags—you’ve won, you’ve won, they cry to some deaf god beyond the stars.

Deep in December I walk to his cottage. The night is grey and green, the dawn a bright pin of light on the horizon, a star fallen into the sea. There is salt in my hair and my hands are black as peat from the secrets I buried here, in this wet earth. I carry them with me now, as proof of my love, to show him- the black bones of my children, their bodies heavy as my heart.

He is sitting by the door of his cottage, a thin, line drawn form, no longer substantial- all the points that held him to this earth are slowly being plucked away.

The air smells like the sea, the sky is black and rolling in waves. The horizon has become a bright line of light, an electrified limit between us and the stars.

I give him my hand.

I’ve been waiting for you, he says.

Though I must have imagined it, for when I turn, his body is hollow as a flute.

 

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