One More Revolution
I only possess things that hold history, specifically a history that I know intimately and played a role in creating. Yes, I do own certain kitchen appliances and pairs of jeans that lack a nostalgic backstory, but for the most part, as I look around this sparsely furnished room, I can recall where and when and why most of the eclectic objects within eyeshot have survived the many purges of my recent years. Trinkets and tokens, stones and statues, coasters, whiskey glasses, lamps, pillows and pictures... I live in a menagerie of memory.
I don't believe in having filler, despite the half-dozen unpacked boxes still stacked in the garage. This disdain for meaningless things is, I suppose, a natural symptom of being a writer. I have forgotten what those boxes contain, and have felt no urge to open even one at the behest of some desire for a tucked-away object in the past four months. Humans adapt to absence when things are kept out of sight. Having gone that long without opening them leads me to think I should blindly toss the boxes, make a harsh edit, like slicing out bad exposition from the start of a story, but as mentioned, they're out of sight and mind.
It is winter now, and my closet is rearranged, with the t-shirts demoted to the bottom shelf and the two-deep stacks of Henleys and sweaters elevated to eye level. The t-shirt on the top of the stack, just below my normal gaze, has been catching stray glances for weeks, and I've stubbornly refused to move it. It would hardly appear special to anyone else. You wouldn't notice it. Folded in half, only the top of the graphic is visible—white screenprint knuckles of a clenched fist. I can still make out the faint fade on the dark grey cotton, a silhouette of salt and sweat ringing the neck. I don't remember the last time I wore it, but I can recall the night I received them—the stain and the shirt.
It was during a nebulous trip back home, to a world before, to a place where my edges no longer fit clean. I was trying to gather up all the love left there, scraping together the fragments of friendships into some sort of reminder, or time capsule, or funeral pyre. Bouncing between familiar neighborhoods that felt newly foreign, I ended up tipsy on wine beneath a statue near sunset with a small group of disconnected souls. They each peeled off one at a time for various delights and drunken fights, leaving me with a sole companion. He was a tangential piece of the past, tied to me first by platonic triangles, but more deeply linked through a love of literature and laughter. He was a devilish goof of a human who never lost hold of his grin. He had a boyfriend, one whom I found charming and wildly clever, and also considered a friend.
As the night wore on and the wine bottles emptied, we considered the pros and cons of dropping acid on that unremarkable weekday (since forgotten). We eventually settled on the choice that had been obvious from its first timid suggestion. What spun from that decision was a night of joker-wide smiles and painful conversations, of stumbling confessions and star-gaze decompressions, our backs flat on the wet grass of midnight revelation, buckshot through with raucous bouts of laughter in the corners of unknown bars, side-eyed suspicion chasing every shot as we rollicked into one another's confidence.
The first time he kissed me was on the lawn of his apartment, or perhaps it was under a streetlight between pubs, or pushed up against a brick wall not fifty yards from where he still worked and where I'd met him many years earlier. I wish I could remember the spot—the spot where I first kissed a man. As in, really kissed one. Back. I had kissed a handful of men in college, and after, mostly during my years abroad, or my years in theatre, but this was something entirely different. This wasn't in some South London kitchen after too much cocaine, or a spring musical wrap party with a sea of drunk gay gods planting kisses to tease my hetero stubbornness.
This was a man leaning in, slow and intentional, testing unknown waters, but trusting that he knew me well enough, that he understood the comfort I required and felt the neutral connection of humanity, not one maligned by sex and pigeonholes and definitions of affection. Once the dam was proverbially broken, however, there were dozens more, stolen kisses in alley shadows and passionate grapples on the sidewalk, muscles flexing madly against one another, against ourselves, against whatever rules we both suspected were being broken.
Miles later, when we finally found our way home, it was close to 3, and though acid still pumped loose in our brains, exhaustion was seductive. It was an unspoken decision to both stay in his guest room, perhaps through some fidelity to not abandon our trip. Over the course of my life, I have undressed in front of hundreds of men, whether in locker rooms, hot springs, gyms, hotels, backyard barbecues and tiny cruise ship cabins. I had never, however, undressed in front of a man with whom I had just taken a four-hour gay pleasure cruise on the streets I'd once called home.
Unsure of what he expected, or wanted, or what I would do if he made certain desires known, I stripped off my dress shirt, leaving my jeans firmly buckled. Sliding into sheets like nervous virgins, we laughed through acid-haze giggles of a warm mutual shiver, but my secondary shivers were different, and came on fast, like an alarm in my body using the only bell it had left. Without a word, he got out of bed and quickly returned with a t-shirt, emblazoned with a white fist, and I slipped it on in silence. We didn't speak anymore after that—not until morning—but I lay awake for what must have been an hour, his arm hung over my shoulder, his chest against my back, pumping hot like a furnace, his breath not steady enough for him to be asleep. In conjunction with my nerves and pounding pulse—caused by the LSD or otherwise—it made me sweat.
I remember feeling, as the parts of my skin touching his began to bead up, the same blushing shame I'd often felt when my flushed thighs stuck to a woman's cool flesh, before sex (anticipation), during (kinetic energy), and after (residual heat). I didn't want to fuck him, or rather, given our arrangement and dynamic, be fucked by him, and while I suspect he felt the same, I still don't know. I suppose I don't fully know whether I wanted to fuck/be fucked by him. I've thought about it a lot. Telling a story through our perceived lens of the past is the best one can do as a writer, but whether the stories we tell about those moments are true... well, there isn't an answer to that. We deceive ourselves best.
For those who understand the tail-end throes of an exhausting LSD trip, you know that sleep comes like a thief, unbelieved until it occurs. My last memories were of a physical presence, a form mirrored to mine, yet completely alien. I could not explore beyond its mere existence; the bent synapses of thought and the imbalanced chemicals in my blood could only consider the depths of doubt and identity for so long before sliding into slumber.
And that is precisely where I woke, to the shifting mass of a man beside me, into the broken spell of morning, to the empty shell heart of an acid-drained mind, to the thousand doubting queries of a cage-free heart, and the stale stench of aging sweat rising from my chest.
The shirt still stuck to me with nearly forgotten lust, soaked in the creeping saliva of silent nerves. I slipped to my feet and went for a contemplative piss on stuttering steps, without that sacred knowledge of which boards would creak. The pupils staring back from the mirror were nearly normal, cheeks flushed pale, hair a messy product of sweat and the oil of strange fingers. It was the same face, my face. I pulled up the t-shirt, enveloping the bold fist on my chest in a cloud of wrinkles, and looked at my body, investigating for some physical sign of the change in my head—a scar, a blemish, a signature. The skin was unmarred, familiar, deserving. I felt a surge of sex, but not a desire to go back to bed, just the hard want for fresh air.
He was sitting up in bed, shirtless, when I came back, and we sheepishly good morning-ed, embarrassed, but with an edge of amused flirtation, like two cats who had both gotten the cream. I repacked my bag, ensuring that all the essentials were in place after a night where possessions had felt laughable and temporary. While pulling on my shoes, his hand fell on my shoulder, flexed with the effort of my tug. I looked back at him and loosened, taking in his head cocked to one side, his face a goofy grinning question left unspoken. I smirked and crinkled my forehead, feeling some final sparkle flicker there, and his query relaxed into a grin.
It was a ten-minute walk back to my car. We emerged onto the sun-strewn street, bright and full of accusations, ambling down the sidewalk together, saying little, each with a cigarette in hand, unlike the night before, when we had simply passed one between us. I could feel the imprint of the t-shirt brushing the hair on my chest, and rubbed the hem between my thumb and forefinger. I thought to offer him the shirt back, but stopped myself.
The streets had transformed since midnight, changed in some immeasurable way, indistinctly altered, broadened perhaps. The streetlights switched slower, and my steps were shorter, or the sidewalk tiles had stretched. It was nothing, really, just enough of a shift in the gravity of reality for my brain to clock it, and adjust.
We reached the corner, where he would go one way, and I another. He pulled me in for a hug, wordless, compressing my shoulder blades, crushing the gap between us, as I pushed my fists into his back, squeezing a morse code message into flesh, and then the empty space returned.
“I'll let you know when my feet come back home.”
“Please do. That shirt looks good on you.”