(damaged boys) 12

(damaged boys) 12: burnt
There were five of them in the row of townhouses, and underneath the sheen of public normalcy and personal success lived the gaping damage within.
Ben paled as he thought about life after Adam. Somehow, in his core, he knew it would be a very long while before they saw each other again – let alone, actually spoke to one another. It was as if the magic had suddenly run out, completely and without fault.

There was no anger or humiliation. There were no hateful thoughts or words. There were no regrets for the trips to Baltimore, the conversations and casual dinners, the parties attended by the new people in Adam’s life. There was the wistful memory of their passion, the searing physicality of their coupling…the exhilaration of their fitful climax, and the excruciating fall into sadness, the abyss which consumed him afterward, always.
Then, there was also the clarity which came at dawn. The buttery light seeping through the edges of heavy curtains, finding its way to Ben’s eyes. Things always looked decidedly different in the morning, especially when it was time to go home. The energy was different, less connected…as if Adam was more than ready to return to the sanctuary of his other life. And, Ben supposed this was true…after all, if it had been reversed, he would have been anxious for departure. He would have hoped for few words, too.
Ben thought back over the details of his trip to Baltimore, and filed them away. He would be home in less than an hour, back to the routine of his life…studying for exams, doing his laundry and flicking endlessly through the cable channels. Somehow this mundane distraction kept him from sliding backwards, into things past.
There was one thing he couldn’t erase from his memory, though. An unfortunate choice while Adam was showering. He’d listened to the answering machine next to the living room phone. It did not blink, indicating new messages, but Ben knew Adam. Adam would save any message he thought interesting, or significant. He was rewarded with a seemingly innocuous message from someone named David…rambling on about the upcoming week’s plans. He thought nothing of it until the message said,
“OK, call me later, baby.”
It hit him like a sharp slap across his face. Certainly he wasn’t naive enough to think Adam wasn’t dating. But somehow, the confirmation of it made him sick with jealousy. This person Adam had failed to mention all the while kissing Ben, sleeping with Ben…loving Ben. And yet, why should he be surprised? They were, after all, history. But there was a longing deep inside Ben that couldn’t let go of Adam, wouldn’t stop tugging at him…caused an ache like no other. His lip trembled as the hurt welled within him…tipping over and spilling tears onto his cheeks.
Why had he done that?! He had no need and certainly no use for this information…it only tortured him. And yet, his curiosity got the best of him. When Adam stepped out of the shower, Ben could barely look at him, the shame and jealously welling inside.
Adam asked what was wrong, to which Ben coolly replied, “nothing.” He felt sick to his stomach and he knew Adam knew something was wrong, but he could never admit what he’d heard. He would never let Adam know he’d breached his privacy. He smiled more convincingly and said, “Can I buy us breakfast on the way to the airport?”
Ben was anxious to get some distance between them…to settle his nerves, to resort his life and to just think about things. He couldn’t get his mind off David. Had they kissed? Had they slept together? Did he like what David did to him? What was David like in bed? Ben churned the questions over and over in his mind, frustrating himself, stirring his jealousy and making him maddeningly aroused for Adam.
His mind coursed furiously as he disembarked from the plane and made his way to the baggage area where his best friend, Kate, was waiting. Kate was 32, blonde and drop-dead gorgeous. A litigator for a huge firm specializing in environmental law, Kate had enjoyed moderate success since graduating from Marshall in ’97.
“No, don’t look at me….I’m all red-eyed and bleary.”
“Nonsense. You look great. So, how was it?”
“Fine. It’s definitely the end.”
“How do you know?”
“It just is. It’s over.”
They piled into the black Jeep Wrangler and headed back toward the city. Kate said, “I’m not so sure all these trips to Baltimore are good for you. Promise me you’ll stop if it’s torturing you.”

Nov 13, 2005 By Todd 1 Comment