final installment to: the [semi-]last hurrah
well this is the fucking moment i have been building up the whole time i've been away. recently i've been pretty good at feeling like i have no patience for any sort of bullshit involving a pedestal and a boy, but maybe in some ways i will never be too old for that. i'm to find CLR somewhere in manhattan in the evening so i spend the day evening out my tanlines, eating nothing, and agonizing over what to wear especially in light of the newly blonde hair. i'm torn between something androgynous and hoodrat, and something glamorous and/or super cute. finally i settle on a nude body-con dress that ends half an inch below my ass, since now i actually have a clavicle and flat stomach to show off, with a high-pile weave leopard print shrug. briefly i worry that i will look too ostentatious and inaccessible. then i figure he and i have overcome more significant issues than my haphazard sartorial choices.
CLR asks me to find him in washington square, which i've been to as a highschool senior but really have no good recollection of. after getting off the subway i take two wrong turns and it takes me half an hour longer than it should to get to the damned park. i do remember the fountain from last time. it's past 8 pm and the sky is getting murky dark but the square is still crowded with couples and young families and hipsters looking poetic getting sprayed by the fountain. i hate looking for people in crowds. fuck it, i can barely stand strolling through bear's den looking for what booth my friends are sitting at, so this is honestly too much for me to handle right now. just as i call CLR, though, i see him walking towards me wearing a v-neck and a huge goofy grin. he looks pretty, as in so so so pretty. "well look at you," he says, rubbing my velvety head. i pull him in for a hug. his lankiness is heavenly.
we decide to get a few slices of pizza despite my newfound inability to eat cheese. "does it just destroy your system?" CLR says. i nod cryptically. we're in a tiny crowded divey joint, very brooklyn; none of the pies are labeled because of course a native will know what type each one is, and if you're not native you're worthless. two months abroad have caused me to forget how to interact with english-speaking business owners. i point wordlessly at the slice i want--a margherita, as it turns out--and the dude over the counter eyes me pityingly. i want to get out of here immediately, away from the damn employees and the drunk blonde girls devouring a pie each and the cashier that talks too fast for me to catch what he's saying. CLR pays for our slices and we take them in a box to go, only to realize that there's really nowhere optimal to eat them. so we sit on a bench within a sort of ring of bushes and i try not to cringe as oil drips from my pizza onto the paved walkway.
"so how have you been?" CLR says.
"gosh. i mean. where do i even. how do i even begin?"
"well, you pick up from when you last saw me and tell me everything that's happened in your life since. every last detail."
i laugh and run through a brief synopsis of my time in thailand and china, omitting details about boys 5 and 6 and the greco-german, and also the coke-bender in shanghai and the rape story from beijing--which makes me a little sad because those are all such great stories. CLR touches the back of my head where the wound has left an oval bald patch, soapy-smooth. his fingers are so long. i watch the tendons popping down the length of his forearm.
we sit for a bit talking after all the pizza is gone. i ask him what he's been up to in my absence and he's silent for a long time with a thinking expression, and finally says: "i...really have no idea. i know i've been doing stuff but i actually can't remember...anything...that i've been up to."
i could find this absurd if i weren't completely impassive. it's weird to realize that i don't actually care much, if at all, what he's been up to. he's been filming, i know that much. and he's been planning his trip to burning man, but all i can think in response to that is i can't possibly imagine him, gentle delicate him, in that sort of environment. CLR is a person who loves to fall asleep in movie theatres and concert venues--he's some dainty character out of a fanciful novel, a porcelain figure brought to life. he does things with meaning-infused deliberation. even one-night stands. even fuck buddies.
i talk about how it will be weird to go back to college. that i've been feeling so displaced and both exhausted and restless at home, that i can't even imagine what it will be like back at washu with its tired social rituals and infantile boys and distorted realities. CLR has his arm around me over the back of the bench. there's a man on another bench who keeps coughing in the most obnoxiously animated way and for whatever reason once i start laughing at this, i can't stop. maybe it's because i haven't been laughing, not the way i did before thailand whenever i was with CLR. the incredible appeal of his sardonic deadpan, his faltering cadence, his off-beat humor--i am trying so irrationally hard to be charmed again by it but it's like trying to pay attention to convoluted instructions and my focus keeps slipping, and now my control is too.
it's not just him, it's the city in general. we're waiting for the F train and usually i can appreciate some sort of beauty in the blistery heat and bleary lighting of this underground tunnel, but now all i want is to be away from it. i don't want the gum on my soles or the rats or the running stream of shit water on the tracks. maybe trying to navigate around asian public transport had so exhausted and frustrated me that i've come to be completely fucking over this whole scene. i can't even be bothered to act like i know which directions to turn when we get off at the stop--who am i trying to impress? CLR won't care either way, and even if he does, this is the last time i'll be seeing him.
this is a terrible way to think.
we come up into his apartment, which is now a place i find eerily familiar. even the smell. or especially the smell. and it's weird because the last time i was here was almost two months ago and in those two months i saw incredible things but of course for people in their mundane lives two months is nothing, in two months nothing changes, and of course in two months the smell of your apartment is not going to change. but i'm less bothered anyway by the sameness than by how well i can recognize it.
CLR's hair has gotten longer. there's a slight wave to it in the front, a debonair plume of sandy brown against his bronzed forehead. i don't know why i continually think of him as a pale person because he tans quite well. i flop backward on his bed, marveling at how comfortable and soft and wonderful it is to be able to roll around in fluffy sheets after sleeping on the ground in thailand and on my couch at home. he watches me smiling and i know i look cute and am also flashing him my bright pink thong and he comes down and kisses me.
well this is the fucking moment i have been building up the whole time i've been away and how many times did i offhandedly half-imagine what the first kiss upon my return would be like, and how i'd feel that absence of apathy, that prodigious investment? now i'm not sure what to do. what is it that's changed--how i feel about him? how i feel about men? how i feel about me? or merely the taste of my own mouth? because now there's something off about the taste of his and i want to not be feeling the things i'm feeling, or rather their absence. my eyes are closed and briefly a shuddering image of some ghoul-like creature looms in my mind. what the fuck. i open my eyes and focus on the darkness of CLR's lashes, the grey-blue crystalline patterns in his irises.
these are the titian-like colors you loved. this is a boy who made you feel something illusory anew. this is a boy who finds you marvelous who you find lovely, lovely, lovely.
this is a boy who you made into an idea that you depended on too much, to reassure yourself about your own shortcomings that you really can't deny but tried to anyway.
we have sex but there's a certain element of it that's turning me off now. i don't know how to understand it but it's not because of anything he's doing--he is the same exact way as when i left him. the smell of his saliva, the taste of his sweat, the thudding under his ribcage, the way his nose presses against my cheek--it's all the same but it's not brilliant now. i once could have devoured him whole, tucked him away inside me--and now the thought of that makes me want to take a shower and leave.
the sex can't really be described as bad mostly because it doesn't feel like anything. it doesn't help that the incredibly loud and athletic romp with DOD had occurred just three days prior. CLR gets soft without coming and i can't bring myself to blow him to completion, so i rest my head on his chest instead. his dark chest hair tickles my nostrils and i sneeze.
a modest sliver of understanding rises in me--that this right now is the fucking moment i've been building up the whole time i've been away. not seeing him at first, not talking to him in public, not kissing him and not fucking him, but being in this hushed proximity to him. indulging in the illusion that our togetherness has been and will be endless. the ephemeral slow-burn comfort. one of the things the ex and i fought over constantly was how i was forever falling asleep whenever we were together. when we were talking, when we were cuddling, when we were watching movies, when we were on the phone, sometimes when we were fucking. it was irritating and wrong and rude and awful of me, no doubt, but i didn't know how to avoid it. it wasn't sleep deprivation from lack of self-care--but how could i express the truth convincingly that this is what happens around the people i am most at ease with, that if my fondness for you transcends or circumvents carnality, i will not be able to allay this ingrained urge to let down all my guard and my consciousness will dissipate with the shutting of my eyes?
within minutes i am asleep curled against CLR. at some point he gets up to turn out the light and pulls a blanket over me even though the room is too warm. i still adore this gesture yet am unnerved by how it feels like a familiarity--some laughing perversion of a ritual between two people who should know each other well. CLR and i don't know anything about each other, just the projection of what each wants the other to be. that is how he plants soft sporadic kisses on my neck and cheeks and nose during the night, and that is how i keep trying to cherish those like the first time they ever happened. i try because it sucks when things in the world move on indifferent to you, but it sucks even more when you're the one who has forgotten how to care.
in the morning we wake up at the same time--which we have become quite good at doing. "how did you sleep?" he asks me, as he has asked me every time. "pretty well," i say.
"you didn't grind your teeth as much."
i'm a little taken aback. less by the fact that apparently i grind my teeth, which i never knew, but that he has noticed this habit of mine, knows it about me. there's that precarious line between transient intimacy and the intimacy of starting to know someone, really know someone, and i still can't deal with the thought of the latter. "i didn't know i do that."
"it's not too bad."
we kiss and roll around. "check out this tanline," i say, referring the pasty white section left by my bikini bottom. "it's really amazing."
"yeah, that looks pretty good. i can basically imagine you in your bathing suit."
i beam and tilt my hips at angles that make my stomach look flatter. "now you're just showing off," he says, shaking his head.
"i have cause for celebration," i say. "with this new hair i can actually go to the beach and go in the water and get wet and not worry about my hair."
"well, it looks really good. like. really fucking good." he strokes the side softly. "i know you're not fishing for compliments, but. there it is."
this pleases me more than is justifiable. "no, if i were fishing for compliments i'd say oh, i feel so fat today. oh, this blonde turned out so awful. oh, i hate my fat cheeks. oh, i wish my ears were shaped differently." i pause. "actually, this hair would look a lot better if my ears were just a tad more flared out." i show him, bending the cartilage forward almost imperceptibly. "see?"
"you've clearly investigated this," he says.
i end up jacking him off onto my ribs. still i can't shake the thought that i'm marking something off a planner or a grocery list: blue balls, remedied. looking at him, taking what i know is my last opportunity to soak in the details of his lips and wondrously imperfect teeth and long lithe limbs, i know i still adore him--so why this nagging reluctance?
CLR makes oatmeal for the both of us, which seems like a perfect food for him. not the part about it being bland, but rather that it's good and safe and warm. it doesn't shove you up against walls in grody strip clubs or fuck you in metal shacks then ignore you. it doesn't tell you you're something special and then treat you like a venereal punching bag. it doesn't ridicule you for being too young and impressionable.
and yet i have never liked oatmeal.
"i'm so lazy today," CLR says distractedly. and i am so sleepy today but i know exactly why that is. back in bed, we crawl under the covers, pull them over our heads so that it's pitch black. "i can't see you at all," he says, "but you smell incredible. what on earth is it?" he's play-acting like some sort of critter, taking deep breaths around my neck, arms, stomach. "i'm trying to figure it out..."
i laugh. "i probably smell like your spit."
i feel him shake his head. "i know what my spit smells like. it's not that. it's just you. you taste good, too. i mean, some people's sweat really doesn't taste good."
i find this funny but don't really know how to respond to it. we end up both dozing off for a while more. it is cave-like. the cave of CLR, of brooklyn boi, of this prettiest boy, that i don't want to want to escape.
CLR gets dressed to walk me to the subway stop. before we leave, he hoists me up on his hips and kisses me--like the first night we met when he tried and sort of failed to carry me. i pinch his earlobe and he squeezes my ribs. i make an involuntary squeaking noise. "sorry, fuck that weird sound," i say.
"that is an adorable sound." he makes it happen again, laughs delightedly.
i will memorize the way he smiles in that moment, eyes crinkling and slight overbite more apparent than normal. no, no, i think. don't find me adorable. don't let me abuse your delight.
for more than half the way to the subway stop we are both silent, but then CLR says, "like i said before...i'm glad i got you see you before you leave."
"likewise." except i had been expecting sadness, and instead have been met with a bemusing self-disappointment. sadness is formative. damage fosters growth. but this blankness here that i am begrudgingly acknowledging is dissociative rather than formative, fosters guilt rather than growth.
"thanks for everything," i say. we are standing at the top of the steps. people are trying to get around us. i don't know what to say. he kisses me, rubs my head brusquely, then starts walking.
"bye," i call after him. "for, uhm, ever."
he laughs, takes a few steps back and kisses me again. i pause for a minute, watching him walk away and hoping he doesn't look back. he doesn't.