When he holds me, I’m a child again. I’m seven years old, being pushed away from an embrace with another little boy my age by a squeal of disgust from his perfect pink Cupid ’s bow lips. I’m eleven years old, sitting nervously in the basement of the first girl I ever had a crush on, being kissed lightly on the cheek and wondering whether that was it. Was the world over?
I’m fourteen, in my best friend’s room, video game controllers lying abandoned on the floor as I am clandestinely and clumsily fondled through layers of clothing; behind quiet gasps and moans I wonder guiltily when it’s going to end and yet dread the moment.
I feel happiness, but it’s tainted by shame, by a need to set things right, by an expectation unfulfilled. He would argue that I am still a child, that perhaps this is another bump in the road to discovering a sense of sexual and romantic peace within myself. But I’ve made very few life changing discoveries in my life, and I don’t expect one to be inspired by his large hands around my waist or his warm breath on my neck.
It’s killing me very slowly, eating away at my skin like acid and at my organs like cancer. It spreads, it festers, it grows. Every touch, every look, every sweet sigh or sensuous moan makes it ache and sting. I’m not good at keeping things secret, and I often feel myself opening my mouth around others, my lips beginning to form the words I so desperately want to say. I catch myself just in time, swallowing the words and ignoring the tightness in my chest.
He prefers secrets, prefers isolation. He told me once that he enjoys knowing things that others don’t, bits of information that he can store inside himself and pull out when necessary. Sometimes just to look, to admire the beauty of something he and he alone is privy to. When he told me that, I imagined his mind and body as a dusty attic filled with treasures. And I wanted to rummage through the old boxes, to peer myopically at yellowed and crumbling photos of people I have never known, to share in memories long forgotten. I want to be that person, but he keeps the door to his attic firmly locked. Barricaded.
I told him once that when he holds me, I feel safe. He laughed. And then he held me tighter, told me he didn’t want to let me go. Whispered in my ear and I shivered as his tongue traced the line of my jaw, his lips dipped into the hollows of my collarbone and kissed gently. I had wanted to be held forever and clung to him desperately as, close and slow, we’d fucked in the darkness.
It had felt better than anything I’d ever experienced because the pain had been unbearable. We fuck, we make love, we do it on an almost regular basis now even though it hurts. It hurts him, it hurts me and our pain is what makes it so intense, so fierce, so possessive. Because there won’t be any happy ending for Elijah and Viggo; that’s how the world works. Soon we’ll go separate ways, become separate people. Soon, perhaps, I won’t feel like a child in his arms and loving through pain will have lost its masochistic appeal.
He knows this and I know this and it hurts him just as much as it hurts me. I wish I had the power to hug him and fix everything that is wrong with both of us. But my embraces don’t have that healing power, my arms aren’t that strong.
Soon the cancer will eat away at enough of me that it becomes obvious, visible to others in my walk, my talk, my face, my eyes. And that’s when we’ll truly part, when we can’t stand being scrutinized and contained by others. When being held like a child becomes pederasty, when kisses become obscene, when love is questioned by skeptics who favor the sexual over the romantic. I don’t want to have any epiphanies if they are only going to be shot down by the media.
It hurts, but I never want to leave, I won’t leave until we’re both shells, corpses, emotional skeletons, our bones bleached by rumor and disgust. I’m going to fall, I’m determined to fall, and I will take him with me if I can. We’ll sink side by side, if not necessarily together. I hope he holds me through the purgatory of secrecy, the hell of acknowledgement, and the heaven of obscurity and isolation.
No one would say a word if I was banging a nineteen year old sorority girl with flowing blonde hair, slim hips, and large breasts. People might smile knowingly, although I’d be curious as to what they thought they knew. That I was some sort of lecherous pervert, seducing girls twenty to twenty-five years my junior? Or perhaps that her motivations were suspect, that she was willing to put up with an old man in exchange for an easy life and financial security?
But no one would say anything because it’s no longer a scandal. It’s old news. It’s stopped being interesting.
I think this as I run my fingers through his short brown hair, over the smooth skin of his cheeks and lips, down the soft folds of his sweater, tactilely examining every feature I can, memorizing colors and shadows and lights and small sounds for replaying later in my imagination. His eyes are blue, wide and startling and curious like a kitten’s. I’ve seen perfect pedigree cats with his eyes, frozen in a permanent expression of surprise and wonder.
He reaches up to imitate me, trails his fingers up my cheek and into my hair. As his eyelids fall, I remember that I’ve also seen dead animals on the side of the road with his eyes and they were hunted, afraid, assaulted. And the moment is suddenly bitter and slightly frightening.
There is space between us, infinite space no matter how close we are. It’s the fourth dimension, the curse of time. The experiences I have that he doesn’t, the wrinkles that won’t appear around his eyes for another ten years, at least. He holds my hand and grins up at me, gap-toothed and sweet without saccharine. I lean forward, closing my eyes, and touch my lips lightly to his. Now I’m memorizing his taste, slightly sour from tangerines and cigarette smoke. I breathe it in, swallow it, allow it to consume my sense until all I can see is the vibrant orange of the tangerines, all I can hear is the gentle exhale of smoke. One of his hands steals around to the back of my head, pulling me closer. His lips part and his tongue teases mine. His tastebuds rasp against my own and a low moan escapes his throat. I flick my tongue over his front teeth, feeling the slight break in uniformity for myself. It’s ecstatic, an imperfection that is still in all essences perfect, an aspect of his body that is ugly and beautiful at the same time.
I rape his mouth with my own and he begs for more. I am again reminded of carcasses of things once living but no more. Their eyes are wild and compliant. No matter what indignities they suffer, they can’t speak a word of protest. Docile, domesticated, deceased.
The interim separating the living and the dead is more than space; it is time. The holes the dead leave are filled by replacements so there aren’t holes in our world. There aren’t gaps or separations. The space between Elijah’s teeth is filled by air, my tongue, his tongue.
We build bridges to make the world seem smaller, seem connected, to turn a perforated line to a solid one. We want to fill every crack with caulk, cement every break in friends and lovers to make a smooth surface, a pretty surface. We live under the illusion that smoothness is equated to stability; we never think about the turbulence hidden by a silky veneer of false advertising and hours of work. But there are creases and crags in my face that I’ll never change and folds in my mind for with there are no tools to mend.
As we draw closer, the spaces between us seem less important. We’re more similar than the average observer would notice, similar in the ways all humans are similar. Our differences bring us closer, make us intimate, and we fit like puzzle pieces.
And closing a generational gap seems less and less important.