LSD - lighter

- Hey Handsome.

David looked up from the row of canned soups. Sonny had appeared beside him, all dimples and mischievous grin. Before David could raise an eyebrow, he sprang forward and gave a quick nip at his nose. David choked on a strangled chuckle, managing not to lose his balance, then couldn't help but glance around for potential onlookers. The alley, like most of the shop, was empty. Through his long eyelashes, Sonny's black eyes were bottomless as he scrutinized him.

He knows. He knows I don't mean it like that, that it's a reflex.

A tang of guilt soured David's face nonetheless. Sonny was so relaxed about everything, he felt bad not to be able to be so too and just enjoy his company, without a care about what people could think of them hanging out together - albeit acting closer than average youth would do.

He cleared his throat and tried to sound casual as he dropped random cans in the cart.

- What are you doing here?

Sonny pursed his lips.

- Following you, maybe?

He poked him in the ribs and grabbed the cart, pushing it towards the cashier and adding, over his shoulder:

- What are you doing here, anyway?

David followed, failing to remember what else he needed to buy.

- Grocery shopping? ... Grandma doesn't feel so good today so...

Sonny hummed as the other boy dealt with the shop clerk, and grabbed the bags. Once outside, David retrieved his bicycle and helped him stuff the groceries in the rusty front basket. A dirty, once skin-colored bandage was plastered on Sonny's right wrist. David touched his arm gently, rubbing his thumb on the soft inner skin.

- What happened?

- It's nothing. I burned myself with a lighter.

Sonny fingered the bandage.

- Wanna see?

David didn't, not really. But there was something about Sonny, about how he cared or didn't care for himself, that tugged at his curiosity. Every day came with a new bruise, a new cut or scratch. David would spend long minutes trailing his fingers over them, trying to understand where he got them. If he asked, Sonny would just shrug. Ain't they pretty? was all he would say. David wondered. Mostly they would disappear after a few days time, but he wondered - what if he cared that much about his life too? He would never wait for the green light to cross the street...

David shuddered. Sonny had peeled the bandage off. A tiny, inflamed blister glowed white on reddened skin.

- It looks kind of bad..." David said, frowning. "It'll scar.

- I hope so. It'll be D-shaped. Like a "David" D.

David looked up. Sonny smiled at him, looking somewhat pleased with himself and clearly expecting an equally glad reaction from him.

- You're..." David sighed. "Unbelievable.

They started to walk beside his bike. Sonny shrugged.

- You never tried? Kids do that all the time, burning themselves with lighters, when they've had a little alcohol. For real.

David shook his head, dubious.

- Are you mad?

The boy turned his head. Sonny's gaze was fixed forward, and suddenly he looked gloomy, his colors faded against the bright green of the yards lining the street. David's insides churned.

- No. I just don't want you to be hurt is all." he admitted in a low voice.

He wished he could drop the bike and reach over, and burry his face his Sonny's hair, and be instantly transported to a place where nothing of it mattered and they wouldn't need to find detoured ways to express their clumsy feelings.

When they reached the house few minutes later, the mood had lifted a little, but Sonny still kept quiet. In those moments, David couldn't think of anything to say. Every subject seemed shallow. So he just waited. He busied himself with the groceries instead, while Sonny lagged on the porch behind.

- David, is that you boy?

David crossed the kitchen to lean on the living-room doorframe. His grandmother looked up from her sock stitching.

- You took your time." she said after a while, a disapproving brow arched over her large glasses.

- Sorry." he answered half-heartedly. She did that more and more often since he'd met Sonny - calling him just to check he was around, then dismiss him. He didn't like to dwell on the reason why. It kept him awake at night and he needed his sleep.

He went back to the kitchen and started emptying the bags on the counter, when a peripheral part of his brain registered the content of the wicker basket sitting there. Spare keys, bits of string of random length, expired coupons, matchbox and lighter. He paused, then took it out of the basket, the cold hard plastic quickly warming up on his palm. It was a stupid idea. But it was equally stupid to... what, be afraid? He thumbed the head, down on the spark wheel, pressing the pulp of his finger hard to imprint its tiny dents on his flesh. It definitively wasn't something to be afraid of. Afraid was for blazing furnaces, and besides, everyone had done it at least once.

So here you go, Dave, try to fit in a little.

The flame flickered on and he gently tipped the lighter on one side, then the other, to warm the metal up. A muttered voice in his head started counting; he swallowed, trying to shut it up. He lasted until the tip of his thumb couldn't handle the heat anymore then pressed the head of the lighter hard on the back of his hand, determined, almost angry. The burst of uncontrolled feelings was as much of a shock as the harsh bite of pain that flared up his arm. He jolted, dropping the lighter, his elbow knocking a can of beans off the counter that went clattering on the tiled floor.

- Ow, fuck!" he yelped. Then swore some more at the noisy mess he'd caused. "Fuck, fuck...!

- David! What is it!" his grandma called from the living-room.

But before he could think of an answer, Sonny was with him, shouting over his shoulder.

- It's alright, Ma'am, I got him!" He glanced at him inquiringly. "Nothing happened.

David winced, breathing harder than he should have. Sonny inspected his hand, noticing the lighter at their feet.

- Silly boy..." he muttered, and David felt as if he was being scolded.

Yet he hoped he read worry in the way the boy furrowed his brow. Sonny brought his hand to his mouth and suckled on the throbbing skin. His velvet tongue felt even hotter, trailing incandescent saliva around the swelling.

- It hurts..." was all David could manage to break the silence. Sonny straightened.

- Of course it does. What were you thinking?

The boy licked his hand some more. David couldn't exactly remember why he'd tried it. It had seemed stupid after all... So why did he feel a little disappointed, like some misplaced pride got hurt at the idea that Sonny could endure that kind of pain and he couldn't?

- Shane did it to me the other day." Sonny said quietly, turning the tap on to get cold water instead. "It's not something to joke about.

David swallowed. Remorse emptied out all other emotions. He'd acted like a child once more. Nothing like the love proof he'd somehow foolishly hoped to show Sonny. And hearing Shane's name again! David tried not to let it get at him, but at times he failed not to notice how out of reach Sonny was, how a single name could dig such a wide gap between them.

- I'm sorry." He sighed.

Sonny gently squeezed the nape of his neck. He stepped closer and stroked his warm cheek against his bare arm, and David laid a soft kiss on his forehead. A creak of the flooring announced his grandmother had decided to come assess the situation after all, so they parted smoothly; Sonny blinked, and it looked as if he'd winked at him, brushing his concern aside.


short-story / end