Older

January, 2003

The room is red. Deep red -- red from the light in the corner on the floor and the one dangling carelessly above my closet door. It’s so thick, this red. You can hardly see through it, and there is a vague feeling of floating underwater. Like we're sitting around the hull of a submerged ship. I half expect a school of silverfish to come swimming by. I can see him, though barely through the thick haze of booze and red light, and he's sitting there at my desk, hardly paying attention to me, packing the bowl and he's talking about something having to do with school, something about his roommate and lighting a bottle rocket off a window in the dorm and I feel so ... removed. Not that I don't believe what is  happening, but hyper-conscious of what’s going on. Like I'm watching the whole thing from the corner of the room.

His hair stands on end in a way I wish mine could, thick and disheveled and his eyebrow ring - sex. It just calls, making you want to take it in your mouth. His shirt is open, down to the third button - it's the hottest part of summer - exposing his neck and light chest hair. I’m not drunk, but I should be. A few cocktails in but things sobered up quickly in disbelief and nervousness when he asked me if he could stay the night. He's that person - he looks like the way I feel when I feel sexy, and cute. It's a narcissists fantasy. Gay men feel this innately, I think. Men and women are attracted to each other because of differences. Gay men are attracted to what they want to be, or how they see themselves. The sameness.

He passes me the bowl. No choke, so it's a harsh intake. Cough. Coughing. I'm coughing like a 18 year old at my first college party, all fingers and thumbs and sweat. I get up to go get some water. I don't have air conditioning, because this is my first apartment in the city and I don't have much. I Wander to the next room, fill a glass from the tap. The whole time thinking, what is going on here? At the club, we talked of journalism and school and music, and dancing, and theatre, and I think he was impressed by the things that I don't think are impressive about me. It's an easy game to play. Puts the attention on my accomplishments instead of me. It's safer this way. But he came up behind me and put his arms around my waist and kissed, gently, the back of my neck in a way I can't remember ever having. It was passionate, and I felt so wanted. So wanted.

So we end up here, in my apartment, lights down low - red - because I’m worried that he'll see my insecurity. I'm worried that he'll see past the things I thought he'd be impressed by and to the me that's underneath all that - the me that is acting all this out like a carefully crafted scene study - which is why I'm aware of everything once removed, from the corner of the room. The music lulls us - carefully selected of course - It lulls. It lulls him. How old is he? I never asked. 21. Maybe younger. Younger than me, at 25. He must be younger. I don't think about it.

I’m laying on the bed, propped up on my elbows. I'm stoned now, which isn't helping the grinding of thought after thought in my head. He comes and sits down next to me. I can feel his nerves. He's nervous. I'm making him nervous. How can he be, with youth on his side - so beautiful. The curve of his chin, his messy hair, the eyebrow ring. His big molasses eyes - the way he talks incessantly about things that don't matter but should. He sits down next to me. I feel the warmth of him on top of the warmth of the summer night. I can remember the intensity of the warmth. 

I don't remember what happened next. I think I leaned over and kissed him, hard, on the mouth. Ignited him. Let him know it was ok to want it, me. This. I felt his breath warm with a dank sweet on my neck; that I can remember. His hands fumble up my shirt; the jar of him kicking off his shoes. His hemp necklace, some beaded thing, tugs at his neck. His belt buckle, too sharp against my belly. The light hair on his chest, shoulders. Mumbles, moaning softly and saying sexy things - just right - in my ear in a way that men my age just can't say to you - it's not honest. It's not true. You know it's been said four or five times before, the innocence is gone and scripted - it worked before, so he's saying it again. is words have purpose behind them. What he's saying is true. It’s the first time he's said these things; felt these things. I feel this in his breath. This feels like the most real thing that has ever happened to me. 

Most of all I feel his youth. His innocence and his youth. The tightness of the skin around his waist, the premature fumbling of his hands. His uncertainty of what's next. His breath speeds up and the sounds are unrestrained. We slow with the music. I’m not his first. But I'm better than others. Our intensity accelerates and he is pure joy in my arms and he allows himself to feel wanted, like I feel. He feels wanted and I give him back what he is giving me. I have made this perfect, magical. I'm the magician. He gains confidence and starts taking control. Not nervous anymore, the tentativeness is gone - now he's not asking, he's doing.

When we're done, I have felt things - felt fire and passion and immediacy I haven’t felt - not since the other one, the one I loved, left. I don't want him to move, to speak, and ruin the moment and thankfully he doesn’t. He lies there and the music hits the right moment. Strings. Denouement. Just as planned. Just as I had planned, starting at the right time and pacing so this would happen. I'm a Magician. He whispers something I can’t understand - I made it this way. Seems magical, but its not. I just know. I know what it takes. I've been there, here, before. He nestles into my neck. His breathing gets heavier and heavier until it is rhythmic and I now I am lulled, Lulled to the music and him. We fall asleep. 

In this deep red room, with this man I just met a few hours ago, I am brought back to places I haven’t been in years. Dark dormitory bedrooms, with men I thought loved me. Cold attics, waiting for everyone else to leave, so one would put his hand on my face and pull me towards him and kiss me - late nite encounters that burned memories like dry ice into my skin. Night spent creating space for men I thought I loved. Remembering hips, biceps, lips. My first kiss in a frozen white Escort on a December night in an empty mall parking lot - I was so terrified. Old bedrooms with shadows stained into walls. The smell of a half smoked cigarette on a boy's breath in the winter when you kiss. Mistakes. Satisfaction. Intimate moments forever on me like tattoos - soldering iron on metal. The smell of burning metal, here in this moment. I am burning this moment into my soul. These are memories I will relive forever, replicate eternally. Things that should matter but don’t.

Here in the deep red of my current rented room, I start to know what it is to be older. To feel, be conscious of, youth in your my and be taken back, instinctually, to that which you had been before. To find the index marker of memory when you felt these things for the first time. Before I was older. Connecting to lost youth. He'll remember me in a moment like this 8 years from now the way I'm remembering someone else, and on and on in with the memory of heat and intensity that doesn't ever fade, even when language does in this underwater, deep red space. We're synapses. The junction across which an impulse passes from cell to cell. We're just synapses exchanging energy.

I look down and he is not being transported - he is right here in my arms and I am not here. I have betrayed the trust of this moment. He has been "like another" and taken me "somewhere else". I have become something different because I've been here before, and I already know what happens next.  I've betrayed him, this, us. I am older. Older. I'm in the corner of the room, not really present, watching all this happening once removed and Id give it all up in a second to experience exactly what he feels right now, again.

WIlliam PacholskiComment