I didn’t think it was possible to hurt more than I did yesterday, but it is. I do. I wake up to find I turned into the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz overnight. Every joint is seized up and locked, and my oil-can is nowhere in sight. My one uninjured limb is asleep under his blond head. When I try to move, the ribs come to life and I groan. He wakes up and struggles out of the chair with a minimum of jostling to keep from hurting me. No such luck.
“It’s worse,” I say through gritted teeth. He nods.
“Second day usually is.”
Together, we manage to get me to my feet and I limp into the bathroom. He brushes his teeth at the sink while I take a piss. I tell him, “Will you fill up the bathtub? I’m not going another day without a bath and I think the needles of a shower will hurt too much.”
He obliges and then starts to undress me. It’s harder than it sounds when none of your joints want to bend. Unwrapping the elastic bandages from my ribs is like unraveling a mummy. When the last layer comes off we both wince at the skin underneath. A long diagonal slash, looking like the rip in Rage’s costume, extends from my right shoulder to the left side of my waist. It’s set in a large, deep purple bruise that meanders over my torso. The tape helped the pain, because now it hurts even more to breathe.
“Holy shit, Brian. You could’ve been killed.”
“If it was a little higher, if the branch hit me in the head, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you now.”
He spreads a hand on my cheek and sighs. “Thank God it wasn’t any higher, then.”
Getting into the tub isn’t easy. Sitting down in the water is almost impossible. I’m not even going to think about what it will be like to get up again. The hard porcelain is unforgiving against my bruised tailbone. But the warm water feels good. While I feared the motion of the Jacuzzi jets, after an adjustment, the pulsation is comforting. He leaves me soaking to go order breakfast, after warning me not to try to stand up without calling him. As if I could.
My eyes close. I remember last night. We had “the talk”. Once you have “the talk” everything is different, no matter what the resolution may be. You can never go back. I laid myself open like I never believed I would or could. More than a whispered, “I love you” or a determined proposal of marriage, this time I told him exactly how I feel. It scares me to think of being that open with anyone, even him, but it also makes me feel relieved. I did it. I expressed my feelings to him. For better or worse, he knows the whole ugly truth. I have needs, too. I have wants, too. And it may make me appear weak or vulnerable, but I hope he just thinks it makes me human.
Because I am.
And I’m lonely.
And I love him.
He comes into the room. “Thirty minutes on breakfast. You okay?”
I nod. He undresses and gets in the shower. I watch him through the glass door. My cock stirs. I wonder if…but no. Not now. No matter what sexual variation I come up with, having an orgasm involves muscles tightening, breathing getting heavy and fast, and right now the thought of that is excruciating. I elevate my thoughts. The soap smells like lemons and vanilla as I move the bar over my skin. He gets out of the shower, wraps in a towel and walks over to me with a small bottle of shampoo. His hair is sticking up in wet spikes, freshly washed.
“Let me do your hair. You’ll never be able to get your hands up there.”
I give in and close my eyes, letting him scrub it in. He rinses it out with a cloth, running it over my head and back from my face so the suds don’t burn my eyes. He is incredibly gentle and caring as he performs this little ritual. It is intensely erotic for me. When I open my eyes, he’s smiling that Sunshine smile of his. “What?” I ask and he nods towards my cock, which is standing at full mast. I sigh.
“I can’t help it. Mind of its own.”
“Want me to…?”
“Not sure I can take it.”
“My money’s on you.” He soaps up his hand and begins to stroke me. Yeah, I feel the muscles tense. And yeah, it hurts, but…
“Don’t stop,” I tell him and he laughs.
When I hit my orgasm, I try to control the clenching and convulsive shudders, but the body has other ideas and once the extreme relief and pleasure passes, the rest of me returns to the punishment. Getting out of the tub is the nightmare I feared it would be. Despite the pain, and ludicrous aspects of it, we both end up laughing as we try several different ways to accomplish it.
Finally I’m free of the torture chamber, and dry. I sit on the closed toilet as he rewraps my bandages. I tell him to pull it tighter, because the pressure does help. Finally I’m mummified again. Wearing a fluffy terrycloth robe, I return to “The Chair”. The bath was a good idea for more than one reason.
By now, breakfast has arrived. Wearing a robe that matches mine, he signs the ticket and has the table pushed over by me so I don’t have to get up. The room service waiter gives us that look that says “I know you’re queer and you disgust me”. I know that look very well. I hope Justin sees it too and doesn’t overtip him. Excuse me if I don’t pay you for your contempt.
When we’re alone, he sets everything up, and I stare at the oatmeal I thought I wanted, rethinking it now. He’s digging into pancakes and crisp bacon. “You want to trade?” he asks and I glare at him.
“You want me fat as well as helpless? No thanks.” I sprinkle some brown sugar on the tan gruel and dig in. It tastes better than it looks. The coffee is even better and I wash down my Advil with orange juice. I guess I was hungry after all, because once the food is in me, I do feel better. The bath, the food, the company, I’m slowly feeling human again. I appreciate the fact he hasn’t said a word about “The Talk”. The bracelet gleams silently from his wrist.
“I want you to hit the slopes today,” I tell him. “You came here to ski.”
“Forget it, Brian. I’m not leaving you.”
“I don’t want you hovering over me all day. Just leave me with the phone and the remote and I’ll be fine. The danger of the head injury is past, I’m not dying on you. I can get up to piss, which is all that really matters.”
“Did you ever consider the possibility that maybe I’d rather spend my time with you than on the slopes?”
I guess I really didn’t. I stare at him. “Okay, you can do both. Go ski for awhile, and then come back and spend the rest of the day with me. How’s that for a compromise? See how compromise works?”
He laughs. “You are such a dick.”
“And you’re surprised by that how, exactly?”
He leans over to kiss me. “Okay, I’ll take a couple runs and then I’m back by lunch. How’s that for a compromise?”
“Check the snow conditions first. It was icy yesterday. But it looks like a nice powder fell overnight.”
“You envy me, right?”
“Yes, you little prick, I do. I came here to ski, too. And if you fall, you’re on your own. Two cripples do not a whole person make.”
“There’s a handicap slur in there somewhere.”
I watch him leave the room to change into his ski clothes and I sigh. Bullet dodged. I know we’ll have to pick up that painful conversation again, but at least for now, I’m home free. Once he’s gone, I pick up the phone and dial a number from memory. My only regret is that it’s too late to be waking her up.
“You are so fired,” I say as she answers her home phone. She feigns innocence.
“What are you talking about, Brian?”
“Don’t even try, Cynthia. You and Mama Taylor must think you’re so clever. Well, I don’t need two fucking women interfering in my love life. And you don’t have the right to share my private travel plans with anyone.”
“Are you through?”
“No, I’m not through. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t fire you?” It feels good to be back in bitchy form. She doesn’t hesitate.
“I’m the only one who truly understands the billing system.”
I ponder that. Damn it, she’s right. “I’m not kidding about your breach of my confidence.”
“You’re right, Brian. Sorry. But it was Jennifer, your partner’s mother, not some skank trying to track you down to sleep with you.”
“If it was someone trying to fuck me, I might be more forgiving. I don’t know what you two thought would happen.”
“I guess we hoped you two stubborn, prideful, miserable men would sit down together and talk about your lives and your needs.”
I frown since that’s exactly what did happen. Damn it. “Well, nothing got settled. Happy?”
“Did you talk?”
“Of course we talked, what option did we have?”
“Then I’m happy. That’s a start.”
“Don’t interfere in my personal life again.”
“Point taken, Brian. And thanks for the gift certificate to the spa. A whole day of pampering is a wonderful gift. Thanks.”
“I’d cancel it if I could.”
“You would not. Quit being ridiculous. Why aren’t you out on the slopes?”
“I…had a fall. Nothing major.”
“Brian! You need me to do something for you?”
“Besides stay out of my personal life?”
“I get it. Let it go. Seriously, do you need some help?”
“I got all the help I need. I didn’t open your gift, by the way. It’s waiting for me in Pittsburgh.”
“No rush. Did Justin like the bracelet?”
“What’s not to like? It’s Cartier.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that’s what appealed to him about it.” She saw the bill come through on my Amex card. There’s no hiding shit from Cynthia. “Where is he now?”
“Who’s taking care of you?”
“I’m not a fucking invalid!” Well, close enough.
“Brian, don’t waste this time with Justin. Tell him how you feel. You’re breaking my heart. You put up an excellent front but I’ve known you long enough to recognize how unhappy you are.”
“Shut up. I am not and the rest is none of your business.”
“I care about you.”
I can’t stay mad at her. I know she does. And she believes in me. If I were straight, I’d marry her. “Are we clear on the concepts?”
“Good. When are you going back in the office?”
“Brian, good luck.”
“You know what.”
“I’m hanging up now. You’re tromping on my last raw nerve.”
I hear her laugh as we say goodbye. Am I really that transparent? Are other people thinking I’m some fragile little flower underneath it all? That possibility annoys me. I hit the remote and I surf until I find a game, any game, and settle on that. I watch and I wait. Wait for him to come home. Who am I kidding? Even now, I miss him. Time passes slowly when you’re alone. I hope he’s having great runs, but I also hope he comes back soon. Such is the strange dichotomy of love.