Love and Obsession


Eros would never forget.

The pain, the humiliation, the fear - these were the small pieces of humanity buried deep within him. Even as he sat at his desk, head bent over the sketchpad he carried, he could not ignore the ache within his own soul. A brush twirled between his fingers, the thin body slick with violet and red paint. Lips pursed, he eyed his newest doodle.

It was nothing more than a heart. Not the organ, but the image children were fed when they were nothing but young, impressional minds. Violet and red. The two sides wrapped around one another, like two different sorts of fire at war on his paper. His classmates paid no mind to him as he rose and fetched the white paint, his eyes narrowing as he bled the multicolored, flaming heart with streaks of silver.

"As you all know, today's assignment is to represent yourself," his teacher said as she rose from her desk, plump hands slowly dancing through the air. When she passed him, Eros felt her still at his back. He knew she was eyeing the simple, yet complex, heart burning on a black backdrop. "Mr. Lockett, how, exactly, does this represent you?"

Eros paused, gaze on the gray swirls that drifted off the image like tendrils of smoke. He set his brush down, pressed his palms flat on the table as he answered, "Each of us has layers, Mrs. Tullio. Some burn, others freeze. The rare few do both, simultaneously."

She was silent for a moment. Her hand was inches from his shoulder, and Eros was stiff. A small part of him wondered if she would go all the way, if she would set her hand on his taunt shoulder. She withdrew, settled her hand on the shoulder of a girl sitting two seats down from him. Mrs. Tullio spoke as she moved, "Right you are, Mr. Lockett."

No one else talked to him. His gaze remained on his picture, his representation.

The battle, and blurring lines, of love and obsession.

.

The heart was a fickle thing. It truly was.

Eros packed his bags, paused to stare at his picture. Should he take it with him or leave it behind, as the teacher instructed. His gaze shifted to the shelves on the wall behind the teacher's desk, to all the pictures crammed within the limited space. He tucked his picture into his backpack when Mrs. Tullio had her back turned, and he left the room with his head tucked low.

The hallways were crowded. People jostled as he passed. His body was stiff, arms close to his body and shoulders hunched. As he neared the doors leading outside, he knew, in that moment, his day had only gotten worse. It was raining, the sky dark and unfriendly.

He stood in the doorway and looked out at the school grounds. Wet grass and the rivulets of water zigzagged across the hard, unforgiving earth. A harsh shove at his back had him hurtling through the doorway, and he landed, hard, on the drowning sidewalk outside the door. Behind him, people laughed.

As he went to stand up, someone kicked him. His arm wrapped around his middle, protecting the bruised ribs residing under his skin as his assailant laughed. Then there was a moment of silence before his attacker said, "Go on, freak. No one wants you. Up you go! You're out where you belong, now. In the rain.."

Eros rose to his feet, picked up his backpack. He stepped further into the rain, silent as his tormentors went silent. He heard them muttering, "Deplorable, isn't he? What a bore."

He trekked his way across the grounds, skin rapidly discoloring. He clutched his bag close to his chest and prayed his picture was safe. Once he was on the other side, he eased his way through the cafeteria door. He paused by the door, rummaged through his backpack.

With shaking hands, he pulled out the damp picture. The colors seemed to move and glow, to writhe and twist on the page like a living thing. He tugged his bag over his shoulder, made his way across the cafeteria. Eros carried many things with him, small shards of thought and logic and humanity. They were wedged deep within him, caught between the vivid purples and reds that were love and obsession.

He should have known, really. Drawing the truth made the dark, hidden corners of his being, of his soul, stand out. If he had known how the day would unfold, if he had fully grasped, had fully understood...if he could see past the masks, then the nightmare he was encased inside would have never been born.

The heart was a fickle thing, but fate was far crueler.

He was Eros, violet and pink and purple and glowing with brimming passion. Yet the violets were tainted, harsh and burning red searing the cool torrents of his soul and leaving him aflame within. His Eros would always have its counterpart, have its Mania.

His love would always have an undercurrent of obsession.

Part of him knew it was wrong, long before his own father raised his hand to him.

He had sat through enough services in his youth to know love was bound by rules. Love was sacred, it was holy, and it had to be guarded. Eros wasn't guarded, his soul too open to a touch of darkness and unholy longing. He knew this, but, against good conscience, he could not deny the flutter in his stomach when something crimson burned his gaze.

His Mania. It was illogical, profane. Yet, as he moved closer, hunched into himself, his pulse quickened. His palms began to sweat, leaving him shuddering as he neared the group he had hoped to avoid. Mania was never in the cafeteria during the morning, his soul more inclined for the gym and its endless uses of self, physical torture.

"Party?" Eros glanced up through his bangs, once Mania's words reached his ears. The older boy laughed, shoved one of his many friends in the shoulder with a wide grin. The others howled with laughter as Mania said, "Do you honestly think I have any interest in the childish get-togethers your sisters throw together? I ought to be insulted, but, as we are friends, that would be bad for your health."

"Shove it, -"

Eros clutched his photo closer, feeling that, if Mania looked, he would see the burning beckon of sin writhing in his arms. He tucked his chin, turned his gaze on the floor. As he came closer, his father came to mind. Obsession, his father had once told him, was lust.

It was wrong to crave that which belonged to another. Mania was often in the arms of a woman, long nails stroking the side of his neck. On a rare occasion, the older student's hand would travel south, vanishing between his partner's thighs. No one ever saw them, no one but Eros.

He had watched as she would grind against his hand, lips caught between her teeth as she fought back whatever instinct was running amuck through her veins.

He might be obsessed, he might be a victim of sinful lust, but at least he had the modesty of not displaying it so openly. Nor did he have the lack of self-control she had. More than once Eros stumbled across Mania's partners touching themselves as they moaned their lover's name. He had heard the wet squelch of their lust as they pleasured themselves.

Even in those private moments, when he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, they never noticed him. No one did, unless he was in the way. This time, he was a passerby, one that was as unseen as a ghost.

He wrinkled his nose, disgusted at himself and the horny teens and young adults surround him. He pushed the thoughts from his mind, more than content in knowing the vivid memories had no effect on his body.

Yet craved Mania he did. This desire, this longing, for another man...

...Eros had known, from the start, it was so very wrong.

Profane, he told himself. Pray, his mind would urge. In the end, he would pray. He would sin, he would move on. Another few months, he would tell him. Another few months and he would be home for the summer. Yet he watched, content in the knowledge that, as long as he did not act on the fluttering warmth blooming inside of him...

Whatever thought was crossing his mind was gone as the finicky nature of the world rose up and made itself known. Eros was passing the group, mind calm. His thoughts shifted to somewhere safe, somewhere untouchable.

Mania was a few feet ahead of him, to the left. He was talking to a few friends, seeing nothing but those he called his friends. Eros was closing the distance between them, keeping at a safe enough distance to smell the other's scent but not too close. Being noticed was as horrid as the sin he carried, the lust that thrashed against the nose he strung it up in.

Then, much like what had happened shortly after his class was let out of art, someone shoved him. A hard push to the back, the air rushing from his body in one fell swoop. Eros clutched his eyes shut, braced for an impact that would never happen. There was silence, a lack of pain, and the sensation of being seen.

Eros's heart slammed to a complete halt as his eyes flew open. The ground, he could see it as clearly as he could see the arm strapped across his shoulders and the other wound tight around his waist. He could see the ground as surely as he could feel the hot, hard presence of another living being pressed against his back.

He was pulled backward, righted on his feet. When he swayed, the grip returned with a vengeance. It pulled him back, a hand wrapping around his wrist like he might fall into a dark, untouchable hole only one of them could see. Eros certainly didn't see a hole, so the man who caught him must see it.

"Lockett?" A firm hand turned him, slowly. Eros couldn't see anything but darkness, the edges of his vision flashing. A hand brushed the hair from his face, someone took the prized photo he held. "For fuck's sake, you're about to pass out. Breathe, Lockett. Breathe."

When he didn't imminently do as he was told, his chin was caught and his head forced to look up. Eros inhaled, sharp. His entire body locked, he tried to withdraw. Panic crawled at him from the inside, screamed at him to move away, but the other's grip was relentless.

Then Eros could see, his violet-blue eyes clashing with the brown-red that was Mania. His backpack clattered to the floor, the contents spilling across the ground as his eyes widened in comprehension. Mania was looking at him. Seeing him. His mouth was dry, then.

"You're okay," Mania's hands were on his shoulders, grounding him. "You're fine."

Eros laughed, but the sound was broken. "Alright?"

Mania blinked, grip tightening as Eros shook his head. The younger wanted to step back, but knew, somehow, the other would not let him. He could feel it in the way the other held him, see it in the clenched muscles in the arms of his obsession. Eros giggled.

This was, in many ways, the beginning of the end. The light before darkness.