No Remedy for Love Ch. 01bypodga©
Oh, Jesus God, the pain!
I woke up whimpering and, in a momentary state of vodka-induced amnesia, rolled over towards Thomas for comfort, but he wasn't there. Or, more precisely, I wasn't there. I don't mean that in a need-a-ghost-whisperer-to-point-me-towards-the-light kind of way (though given my hangover, I wouldn't have minded being temporarily dead, or, at the very least, deeply unconscious). No, it was simply that at the age of 47, and after over 20 years of, for want of a better term, marriage, Thomas and I had split up, and I had moved out of our house, leaving him behind.
I tried not to miss Thomas too much, but some times it was harder than others. On the infrequent times I'd tied one on in the past, he'd been there to soothe my fevered brow in the morning; he'd bring me orange juice, aspirin and bananas in bed, and then he'd help me shower (and get certain parts of me very, very clean). Now I'd have to drag my carcass out of bed all by myself, and I was pretty sure there was neither OJ nor anything even vaguely resembling fresh fruit among the Chinese delivery leftovers in my fridge. Although not normally a religious man, I uttered a short prayer for aspirin in the medicine cabinet, and painfully made the slow transition from prone to sitting on the edge of the bed.
It was then that I noticed the smell of coffee. And a fine smell it was, too, so fine that it took me a couple of moments to remember that I no longer had a programmable coffee machine (Thomas had kept that, fairly arguing that I would never use the programming function anyway). Given that your average burglar wouldn't make himself a nice cup of coffee prior to departing with my brand new 50-inch TV screen, I must have brought someone home with me. I racked my dehydrated brain for memories of the previous night: decided to take advantage of my freedom and go to a club rather than watch NCIS re-runs, checked internet for gay clubs since Thomas and I hadn't been to one in the 21st century, went to club, got ignored, ordered drink, got ignored some more, ordered more drinks, noticed cute and way-too-young-for-me twink staring and stared back, got called "Daddy"... and after that a deep dark void until this morning. Jesus, that was kind of worrying. I'd been drinking a fair amount in the past two months, more than I should, probably, but never so much as to have a complete black-out before.
Whoever was in the kitchen, we hadn't done anything extreme together. I was still wearing last night's jeans, and there were no tell-tale aches or sticky spots. My mouth tasted like something had died in it and I couldn't exclude a blow job; after all, the guy must have followed me home and stayed over for some reason other than to hear me snore. I slowly stood up, feeling shakier than I'd anticipated, and shuffled to the bathroom. I was curious about my guest, but I didn't want to face him without having first taken a piss and brushed my teeth.
I finally made my way to the living room to find him sitting on one of the stools at the bar that demarcated the kitchen area, his back to me. He'd been reading something on his iPhone, but he must have heard me, because he turned around. Definitely not the young twink I remembered from the club last night. This guy was my age, short dark brown hair starting to silver at the temples, a lean six feet tall. The way the light reflected off his reading glasses obscured his eyes, but I didn't have to see them to know that they were the color of whiskey.
"Tommy, what the hell are you doing here?" I croaked.
He didn't answer immediately, just ducked his head a little so he could look at me over his reading glasses, dark brows lowered in a frown, long fingers tapping the counter as he considered me. I wasn't exactly happy to see him, but I couldn't really say that he was unwelcome either. If I ignored the all too familiar disapproving expression, that was.
Hard to believe now, but there had been a time when I could do no wrong in Thomas' eyes. Not only during those giddy final weeks freshman year, when we'd seemed to spend more time in bed than out of it, but for years and years afterwards. We'd been best friends, lovers, soul mates, two halves of one whole. Nobody that knew us those first years thought we'd last, but we did, proving them all wrong.
No, actually that wasn't true, just part of the lore we'd later created for ourselves, what made us feel better during tough times and got us through them. The truth was that it had never occurred to anybody to wonder if we'd last, simply because nobody had known about us. Not during college, not during the couple of years we'd been continents apart, while I'd worked for a now-defunct brokerage in New York and Thomas had joined the Peace Corps, not during graduate school, where we both got our MBAs (Thomas specializing in managing not-for-profit organizations and I in finance) nor the first five years after that, when we'd still been young and broke enough that being merely roommates sounded plausible. After we finally came out, not only as gay but as a couple, Thomas' parents never spoke to him again. I don't give a shit, Thomas would say, his eyes overly bright, and I'd pretend to believe him and remind him that we were together against all odds, that nobody ever thought we'd last.
"Scott. I'd say you're looking well, but that would be an exaggeration," Thomas said dryly, his mouth curling up in that smirk that I used to find sexy as all get-out and that at this moment just made me want to plant a fist in it.
I ignored him and went to the sink to pour myself a glass of water, gulped it down, then leaned against the counter and looked at him, the bar between us. Even though it had only been two months since I'd last seen him, he seemed older, the lines between his brows and bracketing his mouth deeper, his eyes tired.
"Right back atcha," I drawled.
"You called me," he finally answered my first question. "Last night. Some story about having met an illegitimate son you didn't know about."
I gaped at him in disbelief. "You're shitting me." It sounded like my attempt at humor, especially when I'm tanked, but I wouldn't have called Thomas to share the joke. Would I?
His smirk turned more sincere, and now it made me want to plant my lips on it, so instead I reached for a mug and poured myself a cup of coffee.
"You do know the term 'daddy' doesn't actually denote a familial relationship, especially when uttered in a gay dance club, don't you?"
"I drunk-dialed you, shared a stupid joke and then begged for sex," I made a wild guess. Unfortunately that last part sounded like me, as well.
"'Beg' is a weak word."
Too shaken by both last night's excess and today's revelations, I teetered to the couch and sank down on it. Still, Thomas hadn't been drunk last night, I didn't think, and he was here, so what did that say? I pondered for a while, my brain evidently unequal to the task of seeking logical solutions, as all I could think was that he was where I really wanted him, here, with me.
"Why are you here?" I repeated weakly, staring into my coffee.
"I shouldn't be," he finally sighed, but he made no move to leave and we just sat there, he on the bar stool, me on the couch with my back to him, just sat there and listened to the silence.
Part of what makes life both wonderful and horrible is how unpredictable it is. I can't remember what I was thinking of in September of 1981, sitting in the back seat of my family's 15-year-old Jeep Wagoneer and looking through the window at the dorm, where I was to spend my freshman year. Probably how I was finally on my way towards my version of world domination. Certainly not that I was about three minutes from meeting the love of my life.
My dad helped me carry my beaten-up trunk (actually his, from his army days) up to my assigned room, my mom following behind us with my boom box and pillow. I scowled at the Detroit Lions dry-erase board fixed to the door -- that was definitely coming down -- and wondered whether I could simply walk in, seeing as it was my room too, or needed to knock first. My dorm etiquette quandary was solved by the door being swung open by a skinny kid in a T-shirt apparently held together by safety pins, tighter-than-tight black jeans and Doc Martens. My conservative working-class parents and I gaped at him.
"Hey, I knew I heard someone out here. You're Scott, right? I'm Thomas," he said, killing my fervent hope that this wasn't my roommate. I shook his extended hand automatically, inwardly cringing at the short bright red Mohawk and small silver hoop through one nostril and wondering what sort of a pretentious dickhead called himself Thomas and not Tom.
Our room wasn't very big and the sturdy double closet and dresser combos looked like they'd survived generations of students since the beginning of time. There was a sleeping bag on the bare mattress of one of the two beds, and a suitcase lying open on the floor, clothes (what wasn't black was dark gray, I noted) spilling out of it untidily.
"Figured I'd wait for you before picking sides," Thomas said, a shy smile lighting up his narrow face. My general impression of punks so far had been that they were surly and only liked their own kind, but Thomas seemed friendly enough.
"Yeah, thanks," I responded gruffly. A bar of early afternoon sunlight was falling across the unoccupied bed, and I figured it might be nice to lie in the warm sun and study, so I pointed towards it. "I guess I'll just take this side, if it's okay."
"Sure," he agreed, then flopped sideways onto his now official bed, propping his shoulders against the wall and resting one boot on the mattress. I saw my mom flinch at that. Thy shoe soles shall never make contact with furniture was the 11th Commandment in my home.
It was a long trip back home, so my parents didn't linger long and I walked them back to the car, where Mom hugged me and my pop half-squeezed, half-patted my shoulder.
"You can ask to change rooms," Mom whispered to me, as if Thomas could somehow overhear her.
"I know, mom. Don't worry, he seems fine," I reassured her, not sure I meant it.
But he was. Despite our agreeing on almost nothing, from our football teams to our music to our politics, despite the fact that I'd grown up in Bethlehem, PA and had never been outside of the state until college, while Thomas had followed his General Motors executive dad across several countries and continents, Thomas and I got along well enough.
Part of it was probably that I didn't really see that much of him. I was on an academic and athletic scholarship, and what little time I didn't spend in classes, the swimming pool, library carrels or dining hall, where I worked, I slept. Other than classes, Thomas didn't seem to move from his bed much (he never got sheets and continued to sleep in his sleeping bag) reading Goethe and Proust in the original and listening to his Sony Walkman. Sometimes he'd hum along to the music under his breath, but overall he was pretty quiet.
Still, we spent enough time together, watching his small TV, discussing campus events and courses, that I found that we shared a sense of humor and that he cared more about things than he tried to let on. A lot of our interactions were composed of the same types of insults and putdowns that I'd exchanged with my friends back home; despite his upbringing and love of literature, Thomas delighted in the same scatological humor my buddies in high school had, and I felt comfortable with him. When he got rid of the Mohawk a few weeks into the term, I almost missed it.
From time to time I'd become aware that he was staring at me, and it made my gut coil in a warm and slightly nauseating way I didn't quite understand or want to acknowledge. Some mornings, as I lay in bed dreading the alarm clock that would start me off on my day, I'd look across the room at his sleeping face and listen to his snuffling snore, and it made me oddly content.
"What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" Thomas asked me one Sunday evening.
I paused sorting through my laundry and realized it was less than a week away. We'd agreed with my parents that there wasn't enough money for me to go home and that we'd see each other over Christmas break anyway, so I'd tried not to think too much about it.
"Just hanging out here."
"You want to come spend it with me?"
"I thought your parents are in Thailand."
"They are. I figured I'd go to New York. It's only a four-hour bus ride."
He didn't elaborate on what he'd do there, and somehow I doubted that it would be visiting the Empire State Building or Coney Island.
"No, man, I think I'll just stay put, get ahead on a couple of my papers."
"If you're worried about money, you don't have to be. It'll be on me," he said.
"I'm not worried about money," I quickly retorted, my ears burning.
Of course, that was exactly what I was worried about, not that I'd ever admit it to Thomas. I turned away and started to strip my bed. Suddenly Thomas was standing next to me, his hand on my arm, pulling me around to face him. I'd always thought of myself as being much bigger than him, and was surprised to find that we were exactly the same height, both just a hair over six feet. I was more bulked up, but it occurred to me that if it weren't for my swimming, we'd have pretty similar bodies. I instinctively inflated my chest a little, trying to look larger, as if I needed to defend myself against him.
"You work too hard. A couple of days' break won't hurt you."
I swallowed, a loud gulp that I thought he surely must have heard.
"Scott? Come on, it'll be fun," he insisted, and I found myself nodding.
He smiled, squeezed my bicep in approval, and went back to his book, leaving me to my weekly chores.
Despite the fact that I knew Thomas' family was wealthy, it didn't quite sink it until that weekend, when I saw him spending money like it was going out of style. Later on I realized that he was actually fairly frugal; I'd been dazzled by a combination of my own upbringing in a family that had to scrimp and save for the basics and the glamor of New York, where even eating in a Chinese restaurant or going to the movies somehow seemed more expensive than it actually was. He drew the line at Coney Island, but he stood beside me for the 45-minute wait and we went up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building together. It was there, looking across the city, a landscape composed of the excitement of skyscrapers and the serenity of Central Park that I decided I wanted to live in New York after I graduated.
We had sex for the first time during that trip. We were both a little drunk, but I think I'd have done it even if I were stone cold sober. I wasn't a virgin, but I'd never been with a guy before, though I'd known for years that I wasn't indifferent to my own sex. Like a lot of other things I couldn't have, the car I'd like to have bought, the vacations I'd liked to have taken, I'd put my attraction out of my mind, and tried to be satisfied with what I had and what was expected of me.
When Thomas leaned against me and slung an arm around my shoulders in the slow, creaky elevator on our way up to our room, I started to make a joke about people that couldn't hold their liquor, but I froze when he leaned his forehead against the side of my head and nuzzled my ear. We both stood there, neither of us breathing or moving a muscle, both waiting for the other to make the next move. Finally, I slid my hand around his waist under his jacket and pulled him a little closer, and he sighed and kissed my neck.
"Is this okay?" he whispered.
"Yes," I choked out, my heart hammering painfully in my chest, and I felt him nod. We stood like that until the cab came to a halt, his breath warm and moist against my ear and neck. He stepped away from me to open the door and we smiled self-consciously at each other. I followed him down the hallway, my dick hard, the phrase 'this is it' repeating itself in my head, although I didn't know what 'it' really entailed - other than from derogatory terms that indicated what fits where - and oblique references in books by James Baldwin and Christopher Isherwood, or even if I wanted 'it'
When I closed the door behind us, I suddenly realized that it was a pretty big leap to conclude from an awkward hug and kiss in the elevator that Thomas wanted sex. Maybe he was simply drunk and had no interest in taking matters further. I leaned my shoulders against the door, my hands clasped tightly on the doorknob behind me and simply looked at him. He shrugged his jacket off and tossed it on a chair, then thrust his hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched up to his ears, and stared back at me, his whiskey-colored eyes wide and uncertain. The foot or so distance between us seemed both too close and way too far.
"Have you ever... uh, you know," I asked. "With a guy, I mean," I added, then barely resisted the urge to thump by head back against the door and, with any luck, knock myself unconscious for being such a dweeb.
"Yeah," he said. "You?"
I shook my head.
"Do you want to?"
I really did, but sort of didn't. Or maybe it was the other way around. Whatever I decided, it felt like I'd either be crossing a boundary or shutting a door I'd only just discovered. This wasn't the way I operated; I liked to take my time, think things through and at the moment I was incapable of doing so.
"I don't know," I said finally, hoping he'd decide for me one way or another.
He sighed slightly, then turned away from me and pulled off his sweatshirt. He was withdrawing. The stab of disappointment surprised me, but at the same time my body sagged back and my eyes closed in relief. I opened them again when I felt his palms, cool on my burning cheeks, and his lips on mine. My hands came up instinctively to push him away, but the moment I made contact with his bare shoulders, I was diverted by the feel of his skin, and of the muscles and bones beneath it. I flattened my palms and slid them down and around, feeling the hair-roughened planes of his chest first, then the smooth skin of his sides and back.
I'd had a couple of girlfriends in high school, and kissing them had always been a means to an end, part of a series of actions that girls expected and that eventually led to mutual masturbation, and the last summer before college, to sex. I expected Thomas to quickly move on, after all it's not like we loved each other or anything (and I hadn't really thought kissing was part of what guys did between themselves anyway), but he didn't. He continued to cup my face in his hands and to kiss and nuzzle me, the feel of his chapped lips and rough stubble unfamiliar and alien to me. But exciting, God, so exciting. For the first time in my life, I felt like I'd be happy to kiss someone forever. He touched the divot above my upper lip with the tip of his tongue, which tickled and made me smile.
"Take off your coat, stay a while," he murmured, pushing it off my shoulders. I had to let go of him so that I could take it off. Ι let it drop to the ground behind me, then figured I might as well take my pullover off, as well. Thomas pressed his bare chest and stomach against mine, and we both moaned. He kissed me again, and it was harder and wetter now, his tongue in my mouth, searching out mine.
I hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about how men come together, but I had expected quick and dirty, not slow and, well, tender. He had a way of touching me with his whole body, curving into me and wrapping around me, as if he couldn't get enough of me but was also trying to protect me from something. No one had held me like that and a small part of my brain that so far had been resistant to what was happening told me I didn't like it, but my body clearly disagreed. I found myself pulling his groin against mine, wanting more pressure, more heat.