Enrique gazed out the window, watching the dusty trees sway in the spring breeze, he couldn’t help but think of him. The years passed faster than he expected and if it hadn’t been for his college classes distracting him, he wouldn’t realized the four year mark had just passed.
Young Enrique drew his legs to his chest, straining to ignore the ache he felt when he thought of his death. Four years should had been enough time to grieve, yet still he could not stop. He hadn’t even known him for a year when it occurred but they had grown so close so fast it still felt as though he had lost a lifelong friend.
It was these emotions which made him so angry towards those who believed someone you only met and talked to on the internet was not a real friend. Enrique would look at them with a harsh look in his eyes and tell them sometimes internet friends were more real than offline ones. But though Enrique said that, he would recall he would never had met him if not for an offline friend.
“Ahh…” He sighed, “Sometimes I’m jealous of him. At least he got to meet him in person.”
And it was because of that friend’s connection with his sister, he found out about his coma and eventual death.
His thoughts drifted to more positive memories before once again recalling he had begun to love him. Something that had only been realized when his heart skipped a couple beats when he suggested Enrique visit Laredo for his birthday and they would actually meet. If only he’d gone.
Enrique often wondered if that niggling feeling was the reason he still was in partial denial over his death. As every year around this time he would lurk on the sites they both frequented, in the vain hope it was all some nasty joke.
He rubbed his eyes, thinking thoughts both depressing and exhausting. ‘What if’s’ did not change what had actually happened. The dark had gathered outside as he had stared blankly out into it, lost in thoughts as dark as the outside world had become. But at least, he thought, he had finally stopped crying.
I sat on my bed watching him, packing a bowl I’d smoke by myself. I’m okay with that, I hope you know. There’s a boy who I love, maybe just a little bit. I guess the strange part is I used to love him a whole lot more, but things change and I try to look at occurrences more realistically now. He never, and will never, love me but that’s okay right now. You know why? Because there are men in this world who are passionate even when they are not in love. I want to be one of them. There are people who write these beautiful, powerful prose about being in love with people they have yet to meet. They are able to because they have hope, because they are okay with being vulnerable. They are okay with believing they are worth love, and one day they will live in it. I love someone who doesn’t love me, so I will never again give him my heart. I refuse to numb myself any longer. I refuse to shut away something as beautiful as love, simply because I feel absolutely, horrifically vulnerable in loving. I figured out how to be happy on my own, not because a man put his hands around my heart or pulled the drawstrings at the corners of my mouth into a smile.
The restaurant boasted old wooden floors and large plate-glass mirrors behind the bar. It’s full, cordially so. We sat at the bar and I ask why we never sit in a booth. Javier says this is easier. He orders something spicy to drink and I ask for gin and vermouth. Why is there a baseball game on? I wanted to drop my face on the bar and let the blood slowly draw away from my nose, drip and pool to a puddle below my stool. Instead, I snatch the menu. Shake my head. Snails and gizzards and cracklings and why the fuck is it wrapped in bacon and stuffed with bleu cheese? Do you have ranch dressing? Of course not. Every place Javier wanted to go to is too good to have ranch dressing or salt n pepper and let’s talk about sex. Fuck me. From behind. I roll my eyes. He smiles at my embarrassment.
Our drinks come and his is manlier than mine. I try it and cough a little. He sips at mine. What is that? Martini? Yeah. I’m hungry. Why do you like me? Because you’re fucking weird. I like you. I know. Javier asks me to go to Mexico City with him and I stretch my lips across my face like a smile and say maybe. The bartender takes our food order and I get the only thing I recognize and he gets the chilaquiles in green sauce. I loathe green salsa. When it arrives, Javier asks me to try it. I say no. Please? No. This continues and I become frustrated. I want to leave. I want to drop my face on the bar and break my teeth, force them into my gums and pucker my nose in on itself, piercing my brain. Javier says if I don’t eat one then he’ll never be mine. I laugh and say we are now officially wasting each other’s time.
I catch myself in the plate-glass mirror, where two panes come together, and I look crooked, deformed, demonic, and utterly charming. Black leather jacket. Grey button-up cotton shirt. Black tie. Stubble. How could he not want me? He cuts the overly fried egg lying on top of the chilaquiles in half and says to try that much. I tell him splitting it apart doesn’t help. I think about leaving and I begin thinking about what I’m gonna say, ‘cause I have to say something. Or would it be better to simply walk out without saying anything? Not even a glance at him. Leave, man. Get up.
The old, bald man in the cowboy suit next to me leans in and mumbles something in Spanish about the game. I say something back to prove I am a man and I know sports and stuff. Then Javier and the bald man talk with me in the middle feeling suddenly awkward, but watching this scene in the mirror. Javier likes the bald man’s ambition and his gold watch and the fact he speaks four languages. I notice his black teeth, halitosis, and beady little eyes. Javier says he’s moving to Mexico City, the bald man asks when, Javier says the beginning of May, the bald man says he should be visiting down there then. I mumble we should get going. The old man extends a withered tentacle and massages Javier’s shoulder. He giggles. I finish my drink and don’t order another. I morosely glance at Javier, look at the bald man, the game, the condensation ring, the mirror, me. What the hell happened? Heavy sigh, noticeable. Javier leans to my ear, You gonna fuck me when we get home? If you want. You wanna go? Yeah.
I pay and in the backseat of the taxi, Javier asks if I want head as he massages my crotch. I smile no and ask the taxi driver to turn the radio up. I’m hard but we’re almost home. Up the stairs, to my room, push the blankets aside. I fuck Javier bent over and I pull and push into him, using his hips like handles. Fuck me ‘til you come. I tease then give it then take it then give it deeper, taking Javier to the furthest until I have to pull out and empty onto him, weakened as steam in cold night air. I like you. I know. But why, though?
The following morning, it was surprisingly easy not waking him. He lay there, curled up on the sagging, old bed with his head comfortably nested between the safety of his arms and shiny, ebony hair curtaining a calm face, slumbering. The room was still dark and reeked with the mixed, pungent bouquet of dust, musty clothes, and dried semen. I broke my lingering gaze from him and got out of bed. The young man remained unmoving, drawing deep breaths from the air around him, and I studied him again as I pulled on some of the few clothes which weren't packed down in my suitcase. I looked at him turning around in his sleep and reaching for a person who was no longer there. The emptiness of the vacant body didn’t stir him to wake — instead he withdrew his arm back towards his chest and hugged it with his other. It wasn’t like I didn't want to be there with him, quite the opposite, but I needed to go, and yet I didn’t want to pull away from the sight of him, didn’t want to turn around and leave him there. So vulnerable and so pure. Yet I felt I had to, so eventually I did, tearing my gaze away and unwillingly stepping out into the cold morning.
I walked over wet, cracked sidewalks to a corner café. Ordered a coffee Americano from a grimacing Indian woman behind the cluttered counter. The sky was as grey and bland as I felt that somber moment. I stared out onto the cobblestone plaza which stretched in front of the silent cathedral across the street. The smell of piss and wet dog hung in the air. Several city workers slowly made their way across the plaza with fire hoses attached to a tank on wheels washing away the filth from the previous night. They moved slowly as if in a dream.
I watched as I sipped my bitter coffee. The heat scorching my lower lip. I thought about him. Should I go back? Why am I so afraid to follow up on the pursuit of a relationship? Emotionally, I am so lonely, but the walls I have built around me are far too high and far too thick. I am truly lost.
I casually toss the styrofoam cup into a trash can cascading in putrid garbage and briskly walk back to my room. I am going to show him love, compassion, respect. Everything he asked for throughout the previous night. I stop. Light a cigarette, and return home…