Words || Cameron Colwell
[Content warning: Death of a loved one, sexual themes]
Isaac is splayed out across his bed, staring blearily at the television. The words “You died” are emblazoned across the screen in spidery red letters set on a black background. He’s still in his polo shirt from work.
How long has he been sleeping?
He comes to awareness, sits up, and is immediately hit with a heavy wave of grief that comes so heavily it makes it hard to focus. There’s a knock at his door. He throws on a t-shirt, it is blue, bearing Superman’s logo, and gets up. What time is it? Outside, Marrickville’s streetlights glow through a navy haze that could mean either really early morning or dusk.
He opens the door and there, face to face with him for the first time since the funeral, is Jericho. He’s in denim shorts, white Adidas runners, and floral green singlet that’s a little tight and faded. “Hey,” says Jericho, leaning on the doorway. Isaac jumps back on his bed, imagines himself looking at the room through Jericho’s eyes: Chris’s collection of DVDs on the desk in their meticulous order, Isaac’s clothes including his funeral suit are strewn about the room, thrown off of his body the moment he came home and crawled underneath his sheets with the lights off.
“Jericho. Where’ve you been?”
Jericho sits down on his bed, rolls over to Chris’s side of the bed in a way that makes Isaac’s heart twinge in a way that feels too much. Jericho shields his eyes from the light. His armpit hair is thick and brown, slicked with sweat. There’s a layer of metallic deodorant over his slightly pungent boy-scent. “I went for a bit of a trip,” Jericho says.
“What? With who?”
He recalls Jericho at the funeral: wobbling unsteadily and red-eyed. He crawls over to Jericho and his hand slides to his leg, his fingers running over his leg hairs. It’s not suss; they’re physically intimate like this all the time. But also he’s surprised, because out of the monolith of emotions that’ve been dropped on him, a fair part of it is composed of wanting the sensation of someone’s skin on his. He’s shut himself away from the world, he plays video games all day, he doesn’t shave, he now has to sleep alone and he’s afraid of the dark.
“Do you mean like…Like you’re on anti-ds?”
Jericho turns around and smiles at him like it’s an indulgence. “I mean drugs, Isaac. I suppose you’ve just been in here playing that?” He points to the PS3.
“Yeah.” He turns it off.
“How come you came here?” Isaac asks.
Jericho puts his head on Isaac’s chest, and then the hand on his hand tells him that he’s not imagining this, that there will be a satisfactory ending to the gravitational force that’s pulling him towards Jericho.
“I thought about you being alone and it made me sad,” Jericho says, and smiles upwards at him.
Isaac kisses his forehead, and then Jericho’s straddling him, and he thinks they should talk more, but what is there to talk about? What word are there to honour this dull grey fog hanging between them? They’re undressing one another and holding each other tight and Isaac’s crying with his lips on Jericho’s neck and then Jericho says the one name he doesn’t want to hear. “Chris.”
Isaac draws back, and if there’s any doubt as to what that one syllable means it manifests itself in the way Jericho mouths “fuck” as he realises what he’s said. Jericho’s shorts are around his ankles and Isaac’s shirt is off and neither of them knows how to react. Because Isaac had always thought… because he said Chris could sleep with other boys if he wanted…and there was a long time before Isaac had met Chris and Chris and Jericho were friends and so…had they…? And now Isaac knew.
“Isaac…” But what is there to say?
“Chris,” Isaac says, and then he gets up and pulls off Jericho’s singlet; he reaches for the lube that’s sitting next to Chris’s laptop, he hands it to him as his jeans are being pulled off, and then Jericho’s in him with his fingers and he gasps “Chris,” and —
“Chris,” replies Jericho, as Isaac takes Jericho into his mouth. The memory of Chris in his bed with his lube is superimposed over all this. Then his head’s on the pillow looking up at Jericho and there’s one finger in him, then two fingers, his toes curl as Jericho’s shaft sends a burst of pleasure through his body. For a while, there’s nothing, but lightness, just the heat of skin touching as Jericho grunts above him. He feels and tastes salty tears but does not know where it is coming from. Jericho gives one last moan and Isaac came long ago so they wipe themselves off with the sheets, and Isaac feels the pall of his loss draw over him again, but it’s bearable, maybe, because he is no longer alone.