It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic, the two of us limping through the airport to get to our gate. He offers to fetch me a wheelchair, an idea that I kill with a shriveling glare. It’s not that I don’t want a wheelchair, I’d love a wheelchair, but my ego won’t allow it. I don’t want to appear that fallible. I haven’t been with Justin for this amount of time without fucking him since…well, never.
I hate it.
I really want to fuck him, but damn, we both hurt. It’s like a cosmic cruelty joke. I upgrade him to sit next to me in first class, and for once he doesn’t resist. I think he knows it will be an easier flight up front when he hurts the way he does. We get the bulkhead so we can both elevate our aching limbs by propping them up on the wall. I take the aisle. My legs are longer and if I have to get up, it will be easier from here.
By the time we’re underway, I’m exhausted. Just the hassle of checking in, going through security and boarding took all my gas. I order water instead of booze, feeling a little shaky. He orders a beer. He’s less shaky, less injured.
“Did you boys have a great ski trip?” The faggot steward leers at us, managing to make fun of our obvious injuries by asking. I glare at him.
“It was a non-stop fun fest. Why do you ask?”
He moves on, unsure of what to say to that. Justin snorts. “You are such a bitch.”
“I can be.” Thank God we’re not delayed. Once we’re in the air, the ride is smooth and I start to relax as I adjust the seat to accommodate my tailbone.
“He probably thinks your ass is sore from my macho ramming,” he continues to trigger my nerves. I glare at his smiling face.
“Your ramming my ass would hardly cause a grimace, short stuff.”
“Not short where it counts.”
I get to laugh now and it hurts my ribs to do so. “I have only a vague recollection of that boast.”
He reaches over and puts my hand squarely on his crotch. “Bring back a memory?”
I give him a squeeze and then withdraw before the straight middle aged couple across from us fall into a righteous rage. “Oh yeah, now I remember. Not bad.”
“We can’t all be Mr. Nine Inch Nail.”
“It’s a burden, but I shoulder it well.”
“At least one of my balls isn’t made out of jelly.”
From anyone else, that would be cruel. From Justin, it’s funny and I laugh. “That’s no problem for me. Since the other one is jumbo sized, it more than picks up the slack.”
“Is this turning you on? Because it is me,” he says with a leer.
I smile at him as my water is delivered. “Everything turns you on. It’s your age.”
“It’s the fact I haven’t been laid in awhile. I didn’t spend Christmas Eve with Dr. Trick.”
I wince. “You didn’t miss much. So you just have a vague, free-floating horniness, nothing to do with me?”
“Maybe a little to do with you and the discussion of your nine inch nail.”
“Moving on, since it’s never easy to get off in the head of a jet, and when you’re as crippled as I am, it’s an impossibility. Maybe when we land and the loft awaits. You are staying with me, right?”
“No, I thought I’d stay with my mother. Christ, Brian, of course I’m staying with you. Sheesh.”
“Just checking.” If he didn’t want to stay with me, I’d know it was hopeless. “So what did you get me for Christmas? Nothing?”
“It’s at your loft. I asked management to put it inside your door.”
“What is it?”
“It’s not from Cartier’s.”
“I don’t need anything from Cartier’s.”
“Just wait and see.”
I lean over him to watch Canada disappear beneath the clouds. I think of Gus. I feel sad. I already miss him and my encounter with his mommies was particularly brutal. “I want my kid,” I say to him. He looks at me and then pats my arm.
“I know. What can we do?”
“I’m not sure.”
“That’s why they have lawyers.”
“Right. But do I want to put him through a custody battle?”
“Yes. You do. Because he has a right to know his father. You’re a good man, Brian. You love him. That means a lot to a boy. It’s not as if you’d try to cut them off and become the parent he lives with. You just want to enforce your rights to visit him and have him visit you on a regular schedule. As much money as you pay towards his support, it’s only fair.”
“Right.” I know he’s right, but the thought of going through the battle makes my head hurt. I can hear them now. What a rogue I am, how promiscuous I am, how careless and unreliable. What about them? Lindsay’s affair with that idiotic painter, Mel’s cheating on her and their on again off again relationship, their unreliable income record and finally fleeing to Canada. I don’t know. The knife seems to cut both ways. No one is perfect. Do we really want to fight this out in public? Why can’t we just settle it among us like adults? “Did you notice my goggles when you packed? Did they get in the bag? Gus gave them to me for Christmas.”
“Yeah, two pairs, and your torn parka. I packed it because I think it can be repaired and it’s obviously expensive.”
I let my hand cover his on the arm between us. I squeeze it gently and he smiles at me. “What?”
“Nothing. I’m just glad you’re here.”
He rests his head on my shoulder. “When I was eight, my mom gave me my all time favorite Christmas present. It was a downsized artist’s easel and three paint-by-numbers kits. One was a collie, one was a house and trees and one was a parrot. I loved that gift! I felt like Rembrandt when I finished that collie. It was so awful, and yet my grandmother had it hanging up in her home forever. I never thought my mom could eclipse that gift, but she did. This is my all time favorite Christmas present, now. I was mad at her for meddling, but now I can’t be mad. I loved being with you, even though you were hurt and grouchy.”
I shake my head. “I wasn’t grouchy. I’m always like this.”
“You’re worse when you’re sick or hurting.”
“Really? Oh well. I’m entitled.” I reach down and rest my cheek on his soft, soft hair. I’m also grateful to Jennifer, and even Cynthia, though neither will hear it from me. No matter how we resolve this, for a few painful, soul baring days, I had him back in my life. All the way back in my life. And that filled the gap.
We both manage to sleep and it’s the prissy steward who wakes us up to tell us to put our seat backs up and prepare for landing. I’ve stiffened up during the flight, not in a good way. I wince as I sit upright and Justin climbs over me to limp to the bathroom. The man on the aisle across from me leans over and asks, “So what do you think of gay marriage?”
“I don’t believe in ‘gay marriage’,” I tell him. He looks surprised.
“No. There’s no such thing as ‘gay marriage’. There’s only marriage. Between two partners, who love each other and who are willing to accept the conventions of society and follow the rules. Gay, straight, who cares? Marriage is marriage. It’s a personal thing. How do you feel about it?”
“I believe marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman.”
I nod. “Like divorce.”
“What do you mean?”
“That’s obviously reserved only for men and women too, and since every other marriage ends in divorce, that little nuance gets a lot of use. Not quite as sacred, I guess, but maybe the sanctity wears off of all these solemn vows you people share.”
“We’ve been married fifteen years!”
“Congratulations. You know anyone who’s been divorced?”
“That’s not the point.”
“True. The point is, it’s sacred when you want it to be sacred, but when you decide your hot mama secretary tweaks your interest more than the old lady at home, and you want to move in with her, forget the vows and let’s move on to door number two. Or three. Or four. Serially sanctimonious. I like it.”
“You people are the ones who are so promiscuous, who introduced AIDS to our society!”
I laugh. “If AIDS was limited to my tribe and it’s now in your tribe, someone on your side of the fence was visiting on the down low.”
Justin comes out of the john and looks from me to Mr. Straight America. “What’s up?” he asks nervously and I grin at him.
“Sit down, baby. We’re discussing gay marriage.”
“Baby?” He repeats as he sits down and buckles up. “Let it go, Brian.”
I reach over to kiss him but he leans away and puts a finger on my lips. “No,” he says. “Not putting on a show for the man.”
I sigh. He’s right. I turn away from the man across the aisle. Let him bait another queer. I’m going home. I’ve arranged for a driver to meet me at the airport and he loads our luggage. He drives me often, and he seems pleased to see Justin is with me. At the building on Tremont, we wait for the creaky elevator, neither of us willing to tackle the stairs. It’s a slow ride up and he opens the door and drags our luggage in as I collapse on the chaise, still wearing my coat. I’m happy that he still carries his key to the loft. That’s childish, I know, but I am. He brings over a rectangle wrapped in red foil paper. No bows. I take it from him and tear off the paper to reveal bubble wrap. Under that is a beautiful abstract painting that shows off his maturing skills.
He smiles as he straddles my thighs, careful of where he puts his weight. “I thought it would look good in the bathroom.”
“Your time in New York is paying off. This is really, really good.”
“Thanks.” He leans down to kiss me. I kiss him back. He gently takes the painting from me and carries it over to the sofa, then returns. He helps me out of my coat and sheds his. We kiss again. We’ve had some very good times on this chaise, with and without ice cream. He moves his ass against my crotch as we kiss and I moan. I want to fuck him, I really do. He reads it in my eyes.
“You think we can?” He asks. He shares my need.
“Maybe with you on top and keep some of your weight on your legs. You’d have to do the work.”
“I don’t mind that.”
His hand loosens my belt, unzips my jeans, reaches in to stroke me. My hands run down his back and slip under his sweater to feel his skin as our tongues dance. And then it happens.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Fists on the door. Voices outside. “Brian, are you home? I know you’re in there! Open up!” Bang. Bang. Bang. I look at him and groan. He winces and rests his forehead against mine.
“Welcome back to Pittsburgh,” he whispers and I come up with a revolutionary idea.
“What if we just refuse to answer the door?”