Photo by Luciana.
When you walked into the room, something changed. I felt like I’d known you my entire life. Your gaze swept the room and came to rest on me. You had me from that moment. You looked at me and looked away, then made your languid way through drunk ones dancing. Your image lingered, burned into my mind. I didn’t follow you, not straight away. There was no need.
It was later that same night that we properly met. I was listening to some self-indulgent woes, some manufactured drama, when you sat down next to me. I was being attentive to this other one, but I knew it was you sitting down next to me even before I looked.
When finally the other one realised she was not going to get the desired response, she stood up to leave, pausing briefly to look at you. She called you Ruby, said it with a soulless smile. You replied with a similar smile, calling her by name, told her she was looking well.
When she was gone you leaned towards me, so slightly but without looking directly at me, and you told me that if I want to be your friend, never call you Ruby because your name is Ruben Jane.
You asked me what I thought of the party. You paused at the end of the question, then added my name. Letting me know that you had asked. You had pointed me out and asked. How strange that we had friends in common yet I had never met you, had never heard of you.
I told you that I was not a party person, not really much of a people person. You asked why, then, I was here. I said it’s because it’s what we do. We talk to people we don’t necessarily like. We go to parties when maybe we want to be alone, it’s just what we do.
You should do whatever you want to do, you told me. There are no rules, we just think there are.
And with that you stood up to leave.
Coming? You asked looking down at me, knowing the answer. I stood up and came with you, nothing else I could do.
You asked me where I lived and you took me back to mine. Something too funny about this to laugh at. Just struck me as pure you. Maybe I smiled. Maybe you saw my smile reflected in the taxi’s interior windows. Perhaps you smiled yourself, knowing that this was always how it was going to go.
Back at mine, drugs spilled out onto a glass tabletop. Vodka from the freezer and I knew what music to play. Rapid-fire crunchy electric guitar, throbbing bass and banshee scream. I wanted you to be surprised or at least pleased, but you simply took your place, took your pill, took in that I knew the right music to play.
We should go to Dawnfire sometime, you said when my warmth was kicking in and I’d wanted to say something stupid. You said it at just the right moment because it snapped me and I said instead, yeah, we should go. I’ve been there before, but yeah, we should definitely go.
We didn’t fuck on that first night. I didn’t care. We were going to go to Dawnfire. We were going to be we. This was good enough for me. Much better than a fuck.
When we did fuck, it was like thunder. It was insane. It was rapidfirecrunchelectricthrob and I always wanted you to be surprised. But you were never surprised, just quietly pleased, in your way.
Hold me, you said one time as we fucked, and I held you.
No you stupid fuck! Hold me. Properly! Hold me down!
So I took your wrists and I held you down. You fought back and I held you down. My hands around your wrists, sharp tendons, deep guttural grunt, but I held you down. One hand slipped and it found your throat and grunt became a hesitant choke-laugh. You bit me. I kissed you. You kissed then bit me again. We kissed and we fucked. And you were happy. It was the first time I felt I’d made you happy.
Almost a year of yours-and-mine and we agreed on yours. You picked up some thing of mine you’d always liked. You paused at the door on your way out and asked if I was coming, as though you and this thing were leaving me and it was entirely up to me if I wanted to come along. I nodded and you turned and left like you always knew this was how it was going to be. And with that, yours became ours. We became a proper we. Much better than the stormy, the exhilarating fucking.
But the fucking was good.
Every time we were asked how we met, the story changed. We’d tell them we met on the banks of the Nile. In a Scottish Highland Village. In the ruins of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or a cobblestone street in Monte Martre. You would take the lead and I would follow and a scenario would come to life, a conversation imagined into reality. At a point our eyes would lock and we were two actors without scripts, inventing memories, living another time now.
Invariably they would think we were joking. They would think we were a little strange or simply in love. They didn’t understand, just didn’t get it at all.
Don’t leave me, you’d tell me from time to time, don’t ever leave me. Promise me that.
And I’d hold you in that other gentler way and tell you, I’ll never leave you Ruben Jane.
The cracks were there a long time before I saw them. That’s the nature of cracks. But I forced myself to see them that time on Turtle Beach. Remember that time on Turtle Beach? You’d gone for a swim and I buried your things and while you swam below the surface, I imagined you were not there.
Later you asked why I had done it, why I’d buried your things and imagined you weren’t there. I shrugged; I don’t know. In the twilight you rocked back and forth, tears welling in those eyes as we looked out to sea, a water spout writhing in the distance. I’d seen your tears before; I’d kissed away their saltiness. I’d seen your clenched fists and I’d uncurled your fingers and kissed your palms. But I’d never seen you rock back and forth before, like a dark and broken angel, and I didn’t know what to do.
The thing is, you told me in a voice fighting back a tremble, it’s no good here. It’s no good and it’s not ever going to work.
But we’re on holidays, I replied, it’s just us in some clean, nice place. We’ll go back to the city where everything is all right.
No, you said, that’s not it. That won’t fix things. It’s… it’s this that won’t work.
Your hand swept at this perfect vista, at all this peace, and that’s when I forced myself to see the cracks. Fine and delicate things, like fractures in the glaze of a favourite tea cup.
As the blade slid beneath your skin your grip on my hand tightened. I gripped you hard too. The blue vein above your eye pushed against your pale skin as you held back from crying out. I leaned over and watched this stranger slowly slice your skin. He dabbed professionally at the blood. There was a lot of blood. Your grip eased, then tightened again as the blade went back in. I wanted him to stop, but it was what you wanted so I held on and watched and was moved by what we were doing.
We dressed the wound. We dressed you. You looked pale. You looked at me and smiled and said, now your turn.
I think my fingers trembled as I undid my buttons. I dropped my shirt to the floor and climbed onto the bench. I was determined not to squeeze your hand. It would prove something now meaningless to you, but as the searing pain set in it took over everything and I squeezed your hand so tightly. I remember looking up through a red haze of pain, and I remember seeing you smile. Not smiling at my pain, smiling at how tightly I was holding you. I forgot that smile at the time, but it would come back to me later on. Such a gentle, peaceful smile.
It took return visits, but eventually it was done. No wedding rings for us, no tattoos, no swapped vows. Scar tissue, you said, was real.
And our friends, they thought we were strange or kooky or simply in love. They didn’t get us at all.
Do you get us, you’d sometimes ask, do you really?
Yeah, I’d reply, I think I do.
Does it scare you?
Yeah, I think it does. Does it scare you?
Not really, you’d say with a shrug and that distant look.
But I’d see you sway and rock and gaze away into nothing as you absently fingered your scar, and I’d wonder about that.
At Dawnfire I sometimes liked to stand back and watch you, try to see you the way others saw you. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of how you must appear to others. They were energy, body spasms shooting at every beat. But you were still, compared to them. You were grace. You were elegance in this sweaty maelstrom. While they reacted to the auditory carnage of the surface, you found the melody, and you moved that body to the melody. You found the melody in the most jangled music, and you danced to the swirls. I thought that was some small miracle, the first time I saw it, and it comforted me every time after that.
Sometimes at Dawnfire, you’d look across and see me smiling. Well, that’s what I was smiling at.
All the others saw were the light times. They saw the laughter and the dancing and that special thing we had. They didn’t see the dark times, curtains drawn against the light for days at a time. They didn’t see the fear. You wouldn’t let me leave you for days on end, not even for food. We must stay together, you’d implore, and what could I do? I held you nights and days as you trembled. I gave up asking you what it was because you never knew, just knew that it was real. Sleep was an ugly hallucination. Our darkened home would become a silent nightmare of untidiness. We’d wander the rooms in search of some uncluttered space and we’d bed down there in our dank blankets and pillows and our clothes that reeked of us, and we’d wait for your fear and darkness to slowly pass.
No, they didn’t see the dark times. They didn’t see how scared you were and how much it broke my heart. All those times we’d vanish, all they saw was the eventual re-emergence into the light. They thought it was so romantic, how all we needed was each other and our love. They imagined sex and laughter and good times, just you and me.
They’d smile at how cute we were. They’d smile and admire us, maybe they’d envy us. But they didn’t understand at all.
One time, coming down through a cocktail of euphoria, coming down for a smooth landing in our home with chilled sounds in the air, coming down to some piece of Earthly perfection, you asked me the very last question I wanted to hear.
If I wanted to leave, you began in a way that ended the peace, would you do it for me?
My thoughts went from silver to shit in moments. I couldn’t process this.
What do you mean, I asked. Would I let you go?
No, if I wanted to leave all this, would you do it for me? I’d want you to do it for me.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want you to say anything. I wished you hadn’t said anything. And yet, I knew. I knew by then that it’s what you wanted. The late night talks when peaceful minds slept, the trouble inside that found its way to the surface in little ways, the constant flow of it all. The reaction from others, I knew, would be dismissive: get over it, get on with it, get help.
We lay there coming down, silent for so long that I thought you must have fallen asleep. I turned and expected closed eyes, but you were staring at me, waiting for my answer. I turned away and thought of other times, the banks of The Nile, a Highland Village, the streets of Paris.
Don’t get me wrong, you whispered when the music had stopped, I want you to come with me. You want to come with me, don’t you?
Looking away from you, I nodded, resigned to the way of things. It was not such a bad thing. It was inevitable. Things end. An end is a beginning. To end a person’s unhappiness is a good thing.
You must come, you said as you ran fingertips lazily across my skin. The sensation was exquisite.
Of course I’ll come, Ruben Jane, you know that. Followed with a hug, two bodies together, breath merging with breath, two heartbeats colliding. Sleep. Dreams of other times, other places.
The time came. No words. Few thoughts. One limb here, another there. Wrists bound. Ankles bound. There would be struggle in spite of everything. I had suggested taking drugs together but that’s not how you wanted to do it. I was to send you first and then I would follow. It just wasn’t right any other way, you said. It was a test of my commitment to you, a test of my love for you.
Your eyes didn’t leave my face as I went about securing you. No expression. What were you thinking? Were you scared? Did you want this to stop? Did you doubt I would go through with it? It’s what you wanted.
I laid down beside you. I caressed your skin, your beautiful skin. I conjured goosebumps, ran my lips over them. I could feel the thud of your heart through skin and bone, could feel the warmth of your blood as it raced through your body. We kissed one last time, so softly, so gently.
You wanted me to look into your eyes, so that’s what I did. I looked into your eyes as you started to struggle. You resisted the struggle at first, but then something took over. Some primal thing possessed us both. It was like it wasn’t me. I became something darker, something greater, something savage. My tears on your skin. Eyes, so wide. And then as it wore on a change, an expression I couldn’t make out. A shake of the head? Stop? Don’t stop? That look. That look in your eyes as you left me – what did it mean?
And you were gone. Just gone. I fell back and a howl came from somewhere deep within. I felt like my entire body would to crack. I wanted it to break.
Then numbness. An acute sense of time. Never before have I been so aware of the utterly blinding speed of time. You were gone, moving further away with each flicker of time. Not coming back. Gone.
Now my turn.
I poured bitter liquid into sweet and drank it. I sank down beside you, unbound your wrists and held you in that gentle way. Still warm. Your hair against my skin. Your scent.
I tried to follow you, Ruben Jane. They don’t understand. They don’t understand us at all.
Written by Lee Bemrose.