Sunday, August 10, 2014

Beside Himself

Beside Himself

*Story contains M/M relations, and violence references.*

The sun through the windshield was merciless. And the squinting had turned what had just been a mere annoyance, into a pounding headache. A fat fly buzzed lazily around a coffee cup that had to be two, maybe three days old – the thick film of decay on top of the inch of sludge sprouting with God only knew what kind of ick. But rather than reach out, grab the cup and heft it out the window, Gavin chose to ignore it. Like he did with most of the things in life that bothered or disgusted him... he ignored it until the day it made him snap.

The a/c in the car had long since given up effectiveness with the open windows. Gavin’s loose jeans stuck to his legs and twisted uncomfortably around his loose balls. Sweat ran down his spine and lifted odd goose-bumps over the back of his arms. His hair, still dirty, haphazard and tangled from his previous fit, clung to his forehead and neck like dying sea-life clinging to the face of a cliff wall. The fly continued to hum.

Reverend Jackson Juhlke droned through the car speakers in the kind of slow, drawn-out purr that only a true southern Baptist can muster. And why the hell he was listening to the man calmly, and so unaffectedly, preach about the surety of eternal damnation, Gavin couldn’t say. The voice was soothing somehow. Besides, most of the words were lost to the crackle of the tiny radio station attempting to push out its signal amidst the throng of chaos that existed within the hidden realm of wireless wavelengths. More than once Gavin had found himself imagining the air around him filled with waves and pulses and sounds and vibrations until he had to force himself to stop, lest he fall to the ground twitching and insane.

And the last thing Gavin needed was one more thing threatening his sanity.

He watched the door to the motel room with the eyes of a starving kitten stalking a mouse. He knew what would satiate his hunger, knew it was the only way, what he couldn’t be sure of was whether he had the skills to pull the task off. But like that starving kitten, he was just so overwhelmed with the pain of it all, he could no longer see consequence – only need.

Neither seedy, nor classy, the motel sat alongside the highway like any other. No scarlet A marked the door. No neon sign flashed arrows to direct salvation towards the sinners lying tangled inside. Nothing short of Gavin’s own weeping, bleeding soul even cared about the flesh being exchanged in that curtain-drawn, locked, forty-two-dollars-and-ninety-nine-cent-mid-week-special-rate space.

The fly lifted and buzzed past Gavin’s line of sight, pregnant with malaise and comfortable with the lack of resistance it had found so far. It was so close that Gavin heard the sound of its buzzing like chainsaws in his eardrums, so close he was sure he felt the heated breeze caused by the working wings. He tasted the revolting flavour of rot on the insect, smelled the putrid remnants of things that died badly and were left to decompose in fetid, forgotten piles of filth and disease, and....

“Arrgh!” Gavin’s fist smashed the dashboard like the very hand of Justice itself. Righteous anger found, fought and extinguished life in a satisfying splat of wing, body, and blood. The droning stopped and Gavin sat panting, flexing his smarting palm and staring at the smudged punctuation that had once been alive.

He turned his eyes back to the door of the motel and with his left hand, he fingered the pistol in his lap.

“What are you doing?”

The voice startled Gavin so much he let out a small peep. Terrified eyes flew to the rear-view, growing even more so when he took in the reflection there. Vivid blue eyes, twins to his own, were framed in the small mirror. Above them, a forehead creased in worry over perfectly arched eyebrows – eyebrows as black as night, as black as his own.

Gavin closed his eyes. ‘Go away,’ he thought. ‘You are not here.’

He counted the requisite ten, forcing his breath to slow, relaxing his shoulders, and checked the mirror again. Empty.

Thank fuck.

“I said,” and this time the voice was way too close and Gavin shrieked aloud, slamming himself against the driver’s door. He turned in wide-eyed terror at the passenger seat. “... what are you doing?”

Impeccable taste. It was always the first reaction anyone had. Perfect styling – Italian slacks, charcoal, and a short sleeve button-up linen shirt in the lightest dove grey available. Cool despite the heat, polished yet not overdone, perfection without the aura of snobbery. The man beside him sat, relaxed but postured, one arm propped on the open window, the other casually draped on the console.

“Talk to me, Gavin,” the man said, frowning.

Gavin closed his eyes quickly. It worked once, it would work again. This time he spoke the words aloud, whispering them in a rush through lips so dry they were starting to crack. “You’re not here. You’re not here. You’re not here.”

Twins. To a stranger looking in, had they been asked, they’d have looked pensively, nodded and said, “Twins.” Perfect reflections, if one could overlook the obviousness of the dishevelled versus the perfect. Except, of course, had a stranger been looking in they would not have seen two men.

“Enough,” the man growled. “Stop playing those ridiculous games, Gav.” Gavin’s eyes snapped opened. He pulled the pistol towards his groin protectively and the other man tsk’d. “I mean, a gun?! Are you serious? All this time, all this progress, and this?” A tanned, well-muscled arm flung its way forward to point at the motel door. “This is what you’re going to lose it over?”

“Not here, not here, not here,” Gavin began again, clinging to the pistol like it was a security blanket. He peeked through slitted eyelids

“Gavin, please.” The man sighed. “This is important. I need you to focus.”

“Not here, not here...”

“I’ve sat back patiently these last few months. Even though I could see what he was doing to us. Because you wanted him, you loved him, you needed him. When you started forgetting to eat and stopped going to the gym, did I start poking you? No, I didn’t. When you decided to drag us off to counselling and weep to a stranger instead did I admonish you? I did not.”

“Not here, not here, not here.”

“But if you think I’m going to sit back and let this moron ruin our life, you’re wrong.”

A thin whine came from Gavin’s throat as he struggled to maintain the self-imposed mantra of denial. His voice rose. “Not here! Not here! Not here!”

“Am I not?” The other man hissed. “Oh, really?” He reached over suddenly and Gavin yelped again. Long fingers grasped the sensitive skin at the back of Gavin’s upper arm and not only pinched but twisted. Gavin squirmed, yowled, and smacked at the arm that brought the fiery agony.

“You fucker,” Gavin snarled, glaring. “You know I fucking hate that!”

The man sat back, pleased. “Yes, well. You know what you’re going to hate more?” He pointed at the handgun Gavin cradled against his groin. “Jail.”

“Shut up,” Gavin whispered, turning away and focussing on the motel door again.

The man chuckled. “You will have no more success in trying to shut me up than you did trying to pretend I’m not here. You should know that by now.” Gavin flicked his eyes to the side and watched the man set his gaze on the same door Gavin himself had been trying to stare holes through. They both watched it silently for a long moment.

Gavin couldn’t help but wonder if his passenger focussed on the same patch of worn paint that Gavin did; if he noticed the mat was askew or that the plastic chair out front of the door had a wonky leg. Did the man hold a desperate hatred for the fact it was room number eleven? Just because it was one of his favourite numbers?

The other man finally spoke. His voice was low, calm, sympathetic. “You don’t need him you know.”

Gavin intended the sound to be a sharp, annoyed huff – not the pathetic sob it ended up tumbling out as. He fought it, fumbled, recovered, “You don’t know fuck about what I need and what I don’t.”

A frown darkened the face of the man beside him. “Wrong,” he said. “No-one could possibly know better.”

And for that, Gavin had no comeback.

“I know you love him,” the man continued, his eyes still firmly fixed on the motel door. “I know you want him. But neither of those things mean you need him. What you need is someone who loves you back. What you need is someone who cares enough about you that he’s not going to jump into bed with every willing little baby he meets along the way.”

Gavin shot a glare filled with daggers at his passenger. “He does love me!” He should have been incensed by the quiet eyebrow lift he got in response. Instead he was horrified. The look seemed to both shield and turn the figurative knives back in Gavin’s direction. He felt every single one of them sink into his heart. Frustration began to samba with heartache, dancing to a tune written by angst and played on instruments of destruction. Tears welled, agony blossomed in his chest and his throat clamped closed to further lies. Gavin couldn’t hold it back. “Why?” Gavin’s voice cracked. “Why doesn’t he love me? Why am I not enough?”

Salt-water spilled from Gavin’s exhaustion-reddened eyes on to cheeks flushed with heat and fury. In response, the man beside him lowered his head in what could almost be taken as silent prayer. “I need him!” Gavin screamed at the silence. “I need to feel him!” The shout echoed through the vehicle and Gavin watched, without care or concern, as a woman pushing a buggy on the sidewalk opted to cross the road and continue on her way from the safety of the other side.

His passenger remained speechless, as if prompting the rant – urging Gavin to fill the silence with his confession.

Gavin lowered his voice but began to stroke the pistol. “I need love. He knows I do. And he’s going to pay for taking that from me. He’s going to pay for his lies and his betrayal. I gave him everything and all he did was take.”

The eyebrow rose again and the other man turned to face him. “He took nothing more than what you offered. You allowed him to use you. As penance for your own perceived weaknesses, as if you weren’t good enough. Like you were making up for some kind of shortfall. And until you realize that you are worthy, you are doomed to keep offering yourself up as sacrifice, Gav. When you start to look in the mirror and see the man that you are instead of the one you think you are, when you finally understand that the beauty and grace and class that you envision, but somehow can’t see, is actually something you already have, well then... then you might just have a chance.”

“I. Can’t. Be. You.” Gavin hollered, his voice startling a small bird from the sanctity of its own nest. Gavin wept silently. He choked, repeated the phrase, this time much quieter, “I can’t be you.”

And then the man was right beside him, cupping Gavin’s jaw and tilting his face up to meet the blue eyes he saw every morning in the mirror. “I am you. And I love you.” Gavin grit his teeth at the words and tried to turn his face away. The other man held him still. “And you know something? It’s okay to love yourself, Gav. You should try it sometime.”

“He should still pay...” Gavin whispered into a palm.

“He will. Every time he hears your name spoken by a mutual friend. Any time he sees you walking down the street with a new lover.” A soft thrum in the other man’s fingertips kept time with Gavin’s own heart beat. A breeze reached through the car window to toss his unkempt hair. “Any time he looks backwards and realizes what he let slip away will force tears into his pillowcase and acid into his stomach.” Thumbs pressed tears away from the corner of Gavin’s eyes and traced down his cheeks to clear them. “Trust me.”

Gavin opened his eyes and his other self was sitting back in the passenger seat, again fixated on the locked door. He was reaching for Gavin’s cell phone. “Front desk, please. I have an urgent message for a guest in room eleven. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s for them. No, no, I just want to leave a message. Sure, go ahead.” A pause followed before the man cleared his throat again. “Let him know that I accidentally hit the car parked out front of... yes, room eleven – that was the one... anyway, I didn’t have time to wait but I left my information on his windshield. Yes, if you wouldn’t mind. Thank you.”

The cell phone was disconnected, dropped, and the man turned to stare Gavin in the eye. “Your call. Do I get out the car? Or do you?”

It wasn’t even half a minute. The door to the motel room burst open and Alex, in all his glory, still buttoning up pants, shirtless, shoulder-length blonde hair tumbling around his face, ran for his ‘baby’ – a 1972 white Camaro. Only Alex could pull off a Camaro, Gavin mused, momentarily lost in the sight of his lover running. And right behind him, baby-faced and gorgeous, hurrying after Alex with concern and adoration, came a similarly half-dressed young man.

“They always are,” his other self mused, nodding at Gavin. “Gorgeous, of course. Alex is very choosy.”

The weight of the pain was crushing. To see it face to face, to watch the two men circle the car in a panic, to know the sweat on their skin was in direct relation to the activities they’d been enjoying. “Gavin,” his passenger insisted.

Gavin gripped the pistol until the metal dug into his skin. He could do it. They were close. One shot, maybe two. The only thing he wasn’t sure of was if it would be appropriate to blow the young toy to hell as well. He looked at the man beside him. And the man looked right back. He was beautiful Gavin realized. His eyes were stunning. He was classy, well-dressed, had great taste. He carried himself smartly and he was kind and caring and concerned about the wellbeing of others. He was likeable.

He deserved to be loved.

Gavin set the pistol on the floor mat. His other self smiled... and pressed open the door to step out of the car. Long legs carried him a step from the door and a stiff back held him straight and proud. Gavin leaned against the driver’s door and watched himself stand resolute and strong. Drawn, perhaps by intuitive connection alone, Alex lifted his eyes away from the car and saw him. Gavin saw the shock, the guilt, the panic. The regret.

But it wasn’t the other man that was standing outside the car at all. Gavin realized it was his feet on solid ground. It was his legs, his back and his resolution that had him standing tall and staring down his lover. His ex-lover. And with a quick, almost panicked reaction he looked through the window and confirmed the placement of the pistol – still abandoned on the floor.

Gavin caught Alex’s gaze. He lifted his arm, pointed his finger and raised his thumb. He pretended to sight the man with his fingers, clicked his crooked digit back and then bounced his hand in a mock shot.

A blooming wound would not have been as satisfying as the look on Alex’s face was.

Gavin crouched back into the empty car, kicked the pistol under the seat and slid his seatbelt over his lap. It was time to go. He had some packing to do and it had been too damn long since he’d showered.

As he pulled out of the motel, two bodies standing still and watching him drive away, he couldn’t help but wonder if he’d lost too much weight to wear anything other than cinched jeans. He hoped not. He was in the mood for something Italian.

The End

Copyright © 2011 AF Henley

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