No Remedy for Love Ch. 02bypodga©
I have no sense of direction. Thomas once joked that I could get turned around driving down a dead end street with no turnoffs. But even I know that once you realize you're going the wrong way, you need to retrace your steps back to where you were really sure you were on the right track.
It's not that simple with relationships. What if the problems between Thomas and me didn't lie in the recent past, in what had occurred directly before my decision to move out (or his decision to cause me to move out, depending on which way I looked at it), but in our beginnings, even in who we were in the first place? What if, like Columbus, we'd set off on the wrong journey and had landed, without realizing it, on a completely different continent neither of us had ever intended to discover?
"When are you going to come get the rest of your stuff?" Thomas asked me, interrupting my philosophical ruminations and jerking me back to the present.
I shrugged. I wondered whether his and my definitions of 'my' stuff were even the same. The painting he'd chosen for our bedroom but I'd paid for, was that his or mine? What about the cheesy refrigerator magnets we'd bought in places across the world, each one picked by one of us not because we knew the other would like it, but because we knew he'd hate it and half of the fun would be negotiating the sexual favors that would lead to its proud display?
"I don't exactly have much space here," I pointed out.
I recognized the sounds of his frustration, the heavy sigh and the finger-tapping. At one point in time I'd have done pretty much anything to avoid his being angry at me, not because the emotion itself bothered me so much – I'd had enough faith in both of us and in the strength of what existed between us – but because I couldn't stand the sound of it, all those sighs and taps and too-quiet clicks of doors shutting between us. I'd always wished he'd just yell at me (or whomever, it wasn't always or only me that irritated him) and get it over with, but he hadn't been brought up that way. Open displays of any kind of emotion – even of the simple affection that might lead parents to call their son Tom instead of always Thomas – hadn't been part of his upbringing; in fact they'd been actively discouraged.
"I guess I can come over later today with some boxes, pack it all up," I said, relenting. "If that's okay with you."
He didn't respond, but the tapping stopped. I twisted around on the couch so I could look at him over its back. He was polishing his reading glasses on his shirt and didn't raise his head.
"I don't know if you want to be there. It's probably best, in case..." I had to stop and clear my throat. In case what? In case I forgot something of mine or accidentally tried to pack something of his? In case he stopped me, and told me that none of all this was necessary, that we'd both made a mistake, and that we should just go back to right before things had fallen apart and take it from there?
Just because nobody has ever seen a pig fly doesn't mean it's never happened, right? I mean, surely at least one pig has been in an airplane somewhere in the world since the Wright brothers took to the skies.
I didn't see much of Thomas between Thanksgiving and Christmas break. Despite the fact that I'd chosen my side of the room with some half-baked idea of studying on my bed in a bar of sunlight, I'd discovered the first week that if I lay on my bed I fell asleep within seconds and the second week that I didn't have enough will-power in the world to stop that from happening. So I'd moved my studying to an uncomfortable chair in the library carrells and end-of-term papers and tests pretty much kept me nailed there. I only returned to our room to sleep and by that time Thomas was either asleep himself or out somewhere. I told myself that we weren't avoiding one another, but had to admit that we were when I came back to our room after my last test to pack for home and realized that his ditty bag wasn't in its usual place on his dresser and that he'd already left. For where, I had no idea.
I arrived back on campus late in the afternoon of January 2nd. I dropped my stuff off just inside the door of our room, then rushed to the dining hall to work my shift. It was pretty quiet, just a couple of varsity teams and even they weren't quite as boisterous as usual. I was wiping down the salad bar for the zillionth time, when I became aware of somebody waiting beside me, and I turned around to face him.
"Hey, Scott. Happy New Year."
"Happy New Year."
Thomas had a skiing tan: sunburned nose and cheeks with pale patches on his forehead and around his eyes and on the temples, where his cap and goggles had covered his skin. He still had his post-Mohawk buzz, but he'd grown out the last of the red dye. He'd replaced the ring in his nostril with a small stud and, except for his Doc Martens, I'd never seen him dressed liked that before, in threadbare blue jeans that were surely too thin for the minus zero degree weather outside and a dark blue LL Bean Norwegian sweater that looked brand spanking new. He looked like a preppy skinhead, if such a thing existed.
"Your parents?" I nodded at the sweater, trying not to smile. I knew Thomas held a pretty low opinion of LL Bean clothes and those who wore them. "What's next, duck boots?"
"My grandfather," he said with a scowl, but then he smiled and I realized that I'd missed him like crazy, and that it was completely irrational to feel that way, but that I didn't care. Suddenly it bothered me that he was seeing me in the stupid white paper hat and ugly polyester shirt I had to wear for work.
"When's your shift up?" he asked me and I checked my watch.
"Another half hour."
He slid his eyes left and right, then leaned forward in an exaggerated caricature of someone imparting a state secret he shouldn't be. "I smuggled in beer," he whispered in my ear. His breath tickled and I shivered.
"What, here?" I asked worriedly. Bringing beer into the dining hall meant an automatic suspension, if caught.
"No. Back at the room. We can ring in the new year and term in style."
"With beer?" I asked sceptically, and he grinned.
"Imported Belgian Trappist beer. Trust me, you've never had anything like it."
About an hour later I found out that you didn't drink Belgian Trappist beer, at least not the one Thomas had brought, out of a bottle. That you couldn't pour it too quickly and that you needed to leave the last bit in the bottle, because of the yeast. He'd been right, this was ringing in the New Year in style. We sat on the carpet across from each other, backs braced against our respective beds and toasted one another with the weird glasses he'd also brought back especially for the occasion.
Thomas told me with an extraordinary lack of enthusiasm that he'd been to Aspen with his mother's parents for a week, and that he'd then met up with his parents in Detroit for a couple of days. I told him about my own holidays, purposely making them sound even more boring than they'd actually been, and still could see that he was sure I'd had a better time. We were on our third bottle each – and Belgian Trappist beers pack the kick of a mule – when Thomas dropped his head back onto his bed and stretched his long legs out, until his crossed bare feet lay next to my left hip. One of his hands was curled loosely around his glass, which balanced on his flat stomach, and the other lay palm up on the carpet.
"It's good to be back," he mumbled fuzzily, and I grunted in agreement. He raised his head and smiled at me lazily, his lids at half mast. "Is your schedule as crazy this term?"
"I guess so. Not classes so much, but swimming. I'll be busy. You?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. There's some off-campus stuff I might be interested in. We'll see."
He looked embarrassed and it intrigued me.
"Off-campus? Like what?"
He cleared his throat. "Ah. You know. Volunteer work. That kind of thing. I don't know. It's just a thought." He took a drink and let his head drop back again, breaking eye contact.
I leaned my head back as well, staring up at the ceiling. I felt his feet bump against my hip as he adjusted his position slightly, and I dropped my hand on his bare ankle.
"Your feet are cold," I said. I flexed my fingers, massaging the fine bones and tendons.
"Are they?" he asked. "I'm not really feeling them right now. Or my cheeks."
I rubbed the top of his foot to warm it, then let my hand slide under the cuff of his jeans to his shin. I caressed the fine hairs there with my fingertips and his leg jerked.
"I can feel that."
I stopped moving, but left my hand on his shin and continued to stare resolutely at the ceiling and at the scuff marks that all seemed to be gently spinning. Thomas pulled his legs and feet out of reach, and my hand dropped to the floor. I closed my eyes, but now it felt like I was spinning.
I heard him move, and then he was straddling my lap, his hands on my shoulders, his thumbs stroking along either side of my neck. My eyes still closed, I placed my palms on his thighs, then slid them upward to his hips. Holding onto him like that made the spinning stop. We'd closed the door, because of the beer, but we hadn't locked it and I knew that anybody that barged in wouldn't mistake our position for anything other than what it was, yet I didn't push Thomas off of me.
"Scott?" he whispered again, and I wondered how I could hear him over the rush of blood in my ears. I opened my eyes reluctantly and met his.
He bent his head slowly and brushed his lips softly against mine. I didn't respond, but I still didn't push him away, either.
"You want this, right?" he asked, still so close I could feel his breath on my lips, and I raised my head so that he could kiss me again, but he drew back.
"You need to say you want this. And that you won't be a dick afterward."
"Okay." My voice sounded foreign to my ears, like it was somebody else speaking.
"You need to say it," he repeated insistently and shook me a little by the shoulders.
Or what, I wanted to ask him, because the dark flush along his cheekbones and the boner he was grinding into my lower belly were sufficient evidence that he'd give me what I wanted even if I said nothing at all. I didn't want to make any promises to him, even though he was asking for hardly anything at all. Certainly a hell of a lot less than any of the girls I'd ever been with.
"I want this. And I'll try not to be a dick afterward."
He narrowed his eyes in thought, then shrugged. "Good enough," he muttered, and bent down to kiss me again.
Like the first time between us, I mostly remained passive and let things happen. Part of it was that I didn't know what I was doing (though I later realized that Thomas' prior experience wasn't as extensive as his nonchalant tone had implied when I'd asked him in New York). Part of it, though, was that I liked not having to plan it out, not having to think whether I should first touch this in order to then nibble on that. Everything was up to him, and as long as I was enjoying it, I was willing to follow wherever he led.
He slipped both hands under my clothes and stroked my stomach, murmuring something into my mouth and I arched up against him, pulling his hips more firmly against me.
"Wait a second," he gasped. "Wait."
He pushed up off of me and went to lock the door, then turned off the overhead light. I heard him curse and the sound of the bottles I'd lined up falling over, then he tripped over my stretched-out legs and landed awkwardly half on me and half on my bed. I twisted around and lifted him fully onto the bed, then crawled up on top of him and trapped his wrists against the mattress, as I waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. I couldn't see much even when they did, just the dark outline of his head against my pillow. I tried to kiss his mouth, but my lips landed on his cheek and I lingered there, tracing his light stubble with my tongue, tasting his skin, then moved lower, to a tender spot right below his ear, that made him squirm and buck up against me. He twisted and pushed me off of him, squeezing me against the wall, pressing his whole body into mine, and I let him, even though I could have easily held him down.
Suddenly he seemed to stop.
"I want this," I told him again, worried that he'd changed his mind.
"Yeah, me too," he assured me, and then his hands were under my shirt and on the bare skin of my stomach again, reaching up to stroke around my nipples. Nobody had ever done that to me and I couldn't believe how good it felt, especially when he pinched them lightly, then scraped them with his thumbs. Eventually I had to grab his wrists and pull his hands away, because I didn't want to come in my pants. He twisted them free, then his fingers curled around around my waistband. I felt it give as he unbuttoned the fly, then his hand was digging into my shorts and wrapping itself around my dick.
"Oh, Jesus," I gasped and jerked away from the sensation, which caused my ass to slam hard against the wall and he laughed. I thought he might be making fun of me, but then he kissed me, his aim better in the dark than mine, and any protest I was about to make was forgotten as his tongue licked and coiled against mine. He continued to jerk me off, grasping me firmly but not too tightly, his thumb brushing over the head of my cock every third or fourth stroke, It was enough to bring me right to the edge, but not enough to push me over.
"Thomas..." I mumbled, not wanting to beg, yet needing to come so badly that I was prepared to do so.
"I want to fuck you," Thomas said suddenly. "Can I?"
I hadn't realized I was still moving my hips in counterpoint to his stroking until I froze at his words.
"Wh- what?" I stuttered. This wasn't right. I was bigger, stronger, the athlete. He was majoring in French literature, for Christ's sake. How could he think I'd let him do that to me? "No! No way!"
"Okay," he said, letting me go suddenly, and I was about to snarl at him for stopping when both his hands wrapped around me once more. Only this time he was also holding his own cock and pressing it against mine. For the third time I grabbed his wrists in order to push him away, but something – maybe the added lubrication of his precum, maybe the way his breath was quickening, maybe simply how good it felt when I managed to ignore the voice in my head screaming 'too gay, too gay' – stopped me, and I finally cupped his hands in mine and followed his motion, feeling the tendons and muscles in his wrists flex as he stroked, the smooth skin of his cock against mine, his damp forehead pressed against the side of my neck. "Okay. Okay," he repeated breathlessly, as if he was trying to reassure me, and I let the sensation build again, build and build, until his warm spurts set me off as well, our semen pooling in our cupped hands.
He didn't cuddle or kiss me afterward, just rolled onto his back, which gave me a little bit of space to move away from the wall. I was still fully dressed and sweating heavily. I wiped my palms against my jeans. I could smell spunk, and beer, and Thomas' shampoo on my pillow, and I thought I might throw up, but that would have probably qualified as being a dick afterward, so I swallowed hard and stayed put and tried to settle my breathing.
"It's hot in here," he commented suddenly. He raised himself, dragged off the sweater he was still wearing, dropped it onto the floor and lay back down. I wished he'd move back to his own bed. Then I wondered if he wanted to go a second round, and I thought that maybe I'd be okay with that. Cautiously I reached forward and laid my palm on his belly. His T-shirt was damp and I smoothed the material against his flat abs. Touching him like this was soothing, and I was starting to feel a little better, not so much like I wanted to jump out of my own skin anymore.
"You don't really like this, do you?" Thomas observed. His tone wasn't accusatory or defensive, but wry, as if he already knew the answer and it was all he could expect of me.
"I don't know," I answered honestly. "I don't dislike it. It's just that..." He waited quietly as I tried to formulate my thoughts. "It feels good, better than with girls. Just not... afterward. When I start thinking about it."
His belly moved up and down under my palm as he breathed. He was probably going to accuse me of being a hypocrite. I knew I would have, if I were him.
"I've never been with a girl," he said finally. "I can't imagine I'd ever want to."
There didn't seem to be much I could say to that and anyway, my mind was on a different path.
"Have you ever been... you know."
He didn't pretend not to understand me. "Yeah. But I prefer the other way around."
I could understand that. Other than his dubious major and the fact that he seemed to like kissing me – and not girls – Thomas wasn't in the least effeminate. And it stood to reason that only effeminate guys would like being fucked. Guys like Thomas, like me, we might like other guys sometimes, but only if we fucked them.
Of course, it wasn't very long before I learned that I didn't understand much of anything at all.