So here’s how the story ends. There’s no point in waiting until the end to find out how the story goes. Here’s how it ends:
Four. He has a kid.
Five. John walks into gunfire.
And then there’s nothing. Nothing matters after that. That’s it.
John thinks -
Brown eyes. And a crooked nose, and black hair, and his body, open and raw against the brick wall, light coming out from under his skin -
Breaths in between. So he’s -
He’s got a heart made of flowers. No. He’s got a heart made of plastic flowers. Better. He’s got a heart made of plastic flowers and rotting fruit. Yes, okay. So in the summer heat Alex’s eyes held a glint that John knew from somewhere deep in his core. The story starts in a bar. So do many other stories, and most of them don’t end well. Some of them have good parts in the middle. He guesses so does this story. It’s hard to find a story completely bad or completely good. No one wants to read this story. Everyone wants to know it. Most people want to know it. John wishes he didn’t know it, and he doesn’t want to tell it.
Is this a story worth telling? It’s not. He’s got his scars. Alex has his. He’s counted them. He knows them. He thinks Alex knows his, too, or at least he used to know them.
Here’s the thing: neither of them matter in the grand scheme of things.
So Herc’s loud, but in a friendly way, in a good natured way, in a ‘is everyone having a good time, huh’ way. And he’s got big hands, but he’s pretty short, so to see over the chaos he gets Gil to sit on his shoulders. Gil wants everyone to have a good time too. Gil has a voice that’s thinner and whinier than Herc’s, but he knows how to make it go rrrr in his throat. He makes do with what he has. Herc has warm hands. John likes them on the base of his spine. Herc needs them to hold onto Gil’s legs so he doesn’t fall off.
Alex has big eyes. Big nose. His face always looks severe in a specific way. He’s pronounced in ways John can’t keep up with. Bony fingers. Soft hips. He looks so hungry that John doesn’t know what he wants. Anything? Would he be satisfied with anything? Fingers in his hair, nails on his back? He’s so vague. He makes secret faces. John sees them and understands. He too holds a hunger larger than his body in his bones. He wants something more specific than this.
Alex at the bar standing next to Burr. Alex at the bar standing next to Burr yelling. Alex at the bar and Burr, at the bar, and John at the bar. John buys him a drink. He says Rise up. Alex likes that, and he repeats it. John says it again until it sticks to the roof of his mouth. He wants Alex to lick it out of his mouth, wrestle it into his possession. He doesn’t want to give him anything easy. He thinks he doesn’t want anything easy. He looks like he’s never gotten anything easy in his life. He looks like he’s fought for everything he has.
Burr says shut up you lot and Gil and Hercules both repeat it. Rise up. Rise the fuck up. Burr looks nervous. Alex looks like he has nothing to be afraid of and John likes that because he has nothing to be afraid of either. The two options are death and pain, and you can’t hurt forever. Experience one kind of pain and you’ve experienced them all.
Alex with his hands in John’s hair and his back scraping against the brick wall. He feels like no matter what they do they always come back to the brick wall. He thinks no matter what they do there’s no other way for this to go. It’s so cold. The tents aren’t any warmer. They sleep together because at least then there’s the body heat. Winter wanes into spring and then the clearings. The fucking clearings. Alex presses him into tree trunks and kisses him. There’s flowers and it smells like pine sap. He feels like pine sap.
Letters. Or maybe that comes later. It doesn’t matter. He has a beautiful handwriting and John loves his hands and his writing and his stupid letters. And of course it’s more important than that and of course John loves him and of course he would fucking die for him, of course. Of course.
The twirl of Eliza’s seafoam green dress and her black, shiny hair. She’s laughing with Alex’s hands on her shoulders, arms looped around her shoulders, hand on her waist. She’s laughing. She’s beautiful and Alex is smiling at her. She’s laughing. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing and Alex is smiling at her and does anything else matter? Does anything else matter?
Will he ever be satisfied? Will he ever be satisfied? Will he ever be fucking satisfied? Is he hungry for anything? Will he take anything you give him? Would he take anything? Anyone? Anything at all?
He touches him like he’s important, like he matters, like he’s more than what he is, like he’s worth something, like he’s delicate, not like he’s rough handed and thick skinned, and John draws for him. He paints for him for god’s sake. He wants to build his bird cage inside of him. God there’s no love that’s ever going to let him stay free but this one comes so fucking close. It’s so fucking close he can taste it in Alex’s mouth when he kisses him.
There’s pollen everywhere or there’s snow everywhere or there’s mud everywhere and in any case it’s everywhere and gets everywhere and it gets in the cracks and it gets in between and John holds onto him like it could ever last but it’s so good to just imagine, he’s so good at imagining, he’s so good. They get so fucking close.
She has a beautiful voice and she’s so good for him and he’s so in love with her and that’s good, isn’t it, it’s so good.
His dear boy. His boy. He knows him. They stand shoulder to shoulder. They sleep hip to hip. They know each other like they shouldn’t. They know each other. Palm to palm. Know each other mole by mole and freckle by freckle. Cut him out by numbers. God help and forgive me.
He has big eyes. Brown eyes. Darker than deep water eyes.
Who cares about his eyes. He knows what his hips feel like against his own.
Crooked nose. Broken nose. John knows broken noses. He knows them. What kind of a fight would a kid that size get himself into, he would think, except he’s the exact same, he’s been in those fights. He instigates those fights. He is those fights. He’s the punch that broke his nose. He’s the way it never healed right.
Two men walk into a bar. Two men walk out. One of them stays the same. The other one changes. Which one is it? One thousand and seven hundred seventy six points. Show your work.
Show. Your work.