The skin on the back of his arms, the broad stretch of his shoulders, is a dry tan space of soft flesh and the nostalgic smell of suntan lotion. Do you remember the kind that was purpled and turned white when it was rubbed in all the way? I, one day in summer, spread it across Danny's shoulders and spilled some on the edge of the counter. I kept it there for years. It was there for years until I left. I washed it away the day I left home.
My hands touch his skin and it's hot, feverish hot, and it sears the palms of my hands.
"I think I feel hell burning in you," I inform Loren and touch my lips to his upper vertebrae, sharp stabbing from his neck. I've never been one to repent for my sins.
Just ask Danny.
No. No one asks Danny anything anymore…
My hands slide across the surfaces of Loren's body, the grains of sand sticking to his desert skin. His blond hair is falling in front of his wide ocean skies and he gives me a single smile over his shoulder. When my lips touch him again, I'm thinking of him. I'm thinking of Loren.
Why don't you think of Danny?
I think of deserts and oceans and long eyelashes sun-dyed sandy blond. I think of Loren.
Loren's great-grandparents, he tells me, worked for the Nazis. Of course, he adds with his fingers shoving his hair back from his eyes for a brief moment of revealing clarity, they had to or they'd be killed themselves.
Did that make it okay, I ask him, and he just stares at me through those wide innocent eyes, willful and unknowledgeable, the picture of naïve idiocy. I mean, I say, did it make it okay because everyone else was doing it like it was a trend or something?
His dull fingernails scratch at his freckled cheeks in a nervous, worried motion I've come to know so well.
Do you make him nervous? Do you terrify him the way monsters do?
No. No, things are different now.
He shakes his head and says, No, that's not what I meant. I meant like…you know. Lives were at stake. Everyone's. You did or you didn't and if you didn't, you died.
It feels like some Dr. Seuss rhyme, some round-about-riddle. Not of it makes sense to me. I shake my head. I look at him and ask, Who would want to live like that anyway?
I think he'll say Notme but he doesn't say anything at all.
Whenever I have nightmares, they're the real days of my past. They're a mirror of my present.
Danny once. Danny, once, he once placed a palm on each of my cheeks and tilted my head to look in my eyes. And I saw the dark veins around his eyes, bruised and smudged by the heavy hand of exhaustion. While he held me and looked somewhere deep beneath my skin, he said, It's okay. It's okay, Russell. It's okay.
And there were tears languidly and liquidly lounging along his bottom eyelid. I had a sudden memory of my mother and she was telling me that everything was going to be okay, I was mama's little boy and everything was going to be okay. I don't remember much of my mother after that. I don't know much about her at all, just that one day she was gone and I couldn't remember that things were supposed to be okay.
Danny at that moment looked so much like my mother that even though I wanted to shove him away and tell him nothing would ever be okay again, I let him hold my head in his hands and rub tears from dirty smudges on my cheeks. There's not much I remember after that with Danny and sometimes I'm not sure if I knew anything real about him. All I know is that he was holding onto the kite-tail of my mother's ghost and following her across the countryside. All I know is that soon after he told me that it was okay, he was gone.
Danny wanted to be a singer when he grew up, a photographer, a model, a dancer, a poet. He wanted to be it all and he could've. That's what gets to me sometimes: that he could've.
And Loren. Loren with his sunshine hair and his sweet lips and his slim body are wasted on a soul that spends its days free here away from the city, running around on bare feet and cool pebbles, lush grass and wet sand. He doesn't have dreams of having wings, of spreading them and flying away. He doesn't have dreams.
Danny did though, didn't he? Could you tell me what happened to them? I can't remember…
Everything Danny said to me, he wrote it down in letters decorated with doodlesand fingerpainted portraits of our neighbors, and he turned his every word into an intricate poem to lull me to a sweet state of semi-sleep. I made believe he was John Keats, writing me love letters about being butterflies and spending time too far away from me. Everything he said to me, he made beautiful (make it rich as a draught of poppies to intoxicate me). Even when all I had were ugly crow cawed words, he made them sparklingly beautiful and it drew me in. I collected them in the nest of my hair to replay and hear echo through my pounding head when all I could hear was the raspy bark of my own voice.
But Loren has the rough voice of a chainsmoker when he's much too young and he says ain't and when he's not soothing me with the soft heat of his body, his rough voice, joined together rough, staccato syllables, grates across my brain and even when he says, because sometimes he says it, I love you, it still hurts sometimes.
The way our mothers raised us made us the way we are.
How very Freudian of you. Sex and aggression. Remember this. I'm sure you remember without me telling you to though if you're willing to be honest with me for once.
My mother was very…hands-off when it came to raising me, Danny told me once. We were sitting outside a phonebooth and while I paged through the yellowed, rain wrinkled pages of the phonebook, his eyes swept up and down the road, waiting and watching, a hawk, a predator waiting for its purchased prey. And by hands off, he continued, I mean I don't even really know who she is. She'd bring me to work sometimes and the other girls, the other dancers, some of them probably not even legal, took turns holding me and treating me like their doll. Any of them could've been my mother, so she was very hands-off.
Some days he got this way – this rambling reminiscing – and I tried to remember too.
Mine, I said to him, she loved me. I know she loved me.
He sighed. His feet and legs and arms were all shaking and trembling and twitching, impatient and rattling. He shook his head and said, mine probably did too I didn't say she didn't.
Some days, I said, some days that's all I can really remember, that's all I meant.
And Loren, I see the way his mother treats him and she's all earthy smiles and soft hands and she touches my cheek sometimes and rubs my hair back from my eyes like I'm her other son though she can't be much older than me. And she's the kind of mom who tells Loren he's beautiful like I tell him he's beautiful, and she tells me I'm always welcome, for dinner or to stay over, whatever I want, I'm welcome.
When we eat peanut butter sandwiches at her kitchen table, she watches us with a warm smile before retreating to the living room to watch reruns of Wonder Years on a faded television set.
She really loves you, I tell Loren like this is a secret only a grown-up can know and understand and pass along.
When Loren smiles, he looks like his mother but she looks nothing like mine, and he nods and says, Yeah, I know. I know.
So if I was a therapist, some psychoanalyst, I could look behind this, behind our mothers, and then come to the conclusion that in their own special ways, they'd each managed to fuck up their sons.
End part one (meaning: there's more on the way).
So. Chasmodai Blue and myself decided to make a list of random words and write shit. She wrote about the same words and is going to post it on her account, ja? And so this is mine. Corny title. Written at different levels of being baked.
I like this kind of writing lately.