The never-ending ache of love and sorrow.
We bite down on clenched fists and choke on what we’re told are Revolutionary Tales. Scattering pieces of ourselves through words that only contain half-truths; empty words with empty meanings and no emotions attached.
Still. Here Achilles and I lay; a mess of limbs and staccato rhythmed heartbeats. Hands touching. Our grins the size of watermelon slices. Two hearts as dense as osmium. With articles of our beings scattered across my bedroom floor; my shirt, his. His jeans, my shorts. My holed socks, his Keds. Our naïvety stays slouched and draped, forgotten against my recycling bin, waiting to be renewed, reused and recycled. Renewedreusedrecycled. Again and again and again. The pattern is never ending, the cycle unbreakable.
Achilles’ fingertips reach for more than just calloused hands. His nails barely graze the honey stretched skin of my protruding collarbone and he hums along to the song playing from the vinyl that rests on my bedside table. The plucked melodies and harmonies of the guitars are tangled, united together rather messily as though superglued by the voice of the singer in hopes the whole piece won’t fall into calamity. The need to relate the clumsiness of the song to my life is so profoundly overwhelming, however, I’ve no time to think about how the song confuses me nor compare the scintillating tune to my crumbling existence because Achilles bites down on my exposed skin, turning to bury his face into the crook of my neck.
“Patroclus,” he whispers, voice like silk, my name falling like three stones dropping from a great height. I breathe him in, then out, all whilst tangling my fingers into the halo of golden strands atop his head. “What do you know about death?”
It sounds like a different question leaving his lips.
Patroclus, will you ever tell me about The War?
The diamond stylus needle scratches against the vinyl. A stuttered breath and then the song halts all together along with my once deftly moving fingers. My room is plunged in silence. The air too thick and palpable, surrounding me where confusing melodies once were.
When I speak, I find that my voice is strained, mimicking the tight feeling in my chest where the pendant of the necklace I gave Achilles rests, burning through my skin as an: “I probably know more than you,” shuffles out of my lips.
Similar to his question, my answer sounds like a different one, a vague response wound securely in bubble wrap provided by all the many other times Achilles has asked the same question, in different variations.
Time moves languidly, creeping up the walls like poison ivy. Achilles’ fingers brush the underside of my jaw and I know what he’s going to say before he says it. Everything is like a dance with Achilles, a quickstep leading to our own downfalls; we’ve had this conversation one too many times within the last month that I’ve memorised the whole routine. The do’s and don’ts if I may.
“When will you let me in?” It’s quiet and pleading, dappled in so much sorrow and emotion I can’t bring myself to catch with my bare hands. It’s Achilles asking me to give him a reason, a valid reason as to why I won’t open up.
I want to tell him I’m not a flower in spring—that I can’t and won’t ever blossom as beautifully. I want to tell him I can’t I can’t I can’t. I want to tell him about everything and anything and nothing.
I want to tell him about the way the rifle felt so foreign clenched tightly in my hands—hands that were only ever used to holding his heavenly face between them. I want to tell him about all the days and nights I cried and cried until I felt as though I couldn’t anymore.
I want to tell him how I felt my own heart break and break and break some more in the span of 6 years as I read the letters he’d send, signed off with a press of his beautiful lips coated in his mother’s lipstick. I want to tell him about the many times I pressed the pages to my own lips and how it almost felt as though I was actually kissing him. Him and I had never—and still haven’t—once established exactly what we were to each other but we both knew, even then, that we were more. Much more than companions.
I want to tell him that my heart was fit to burst when I saw him waiting for me outside my Railway Carriage and shattered as soon as we collided and he finally held me in his arms. It felt as though he was merging all my fragmented pieces together.
I want to tell him that I can’t tell him any of these things because I fear he won’t want me anymore.
I want to tell him that he deserves so much better than me—that I can’t give him anything but the fractured pieces of my heart that still churn out love for him even though I’m beyond repair.
But instead, because all I ever do is disappoint him, I shrug and breathe out a long suffering sigh as though his presence alone is exhausting. At times it is. Exhausting, that is. He just seems to have a heaviness in his soul that demands to fix everyone he collides with and… And it’s absurd really. His desire to want to fix someone when he himself isn’t completely whole just completely baffles me to no end.
“I can’t.” I say, and the words are accompanied with another sigh that makes him rigid in my arms.
He moves so quickly, with the fluidity of water. Before I can even blink, Achilles is clutching his shirt against his chest and baring his teeth at me in a violent growl. “You can’t?” His question sounds like an earthquake, jumpstarting my heart and my lungs and causing an ache in my chest. He’s hurt. I did that to him, I hurt him and it’s all I ever do. Constantly hurt him, constantly let him down. I constantly let myself down.
He’s so caught up in his emotions that he doesn’t even notice he’s tugging my shorts instead of his jeans up his legs. I don’t stop him. Because I’m weak.
“No. No Patroclus. No,” his voice feels like gravel against my feeble knees. Harsh, painful and cutting. Angry. “You don’t get to do that. Not again. I try to help you—”
“Achilles— ” He’s putting my socks on and I’m stumbling out of my bed, my feet tangling in the duvet.
“—and all you ever do is push me away. You always push me away and I don’t- I don’t know what you want from me. I just don’t get it—”
“Achilles— ” Wearing his Keds and I’m struggling to catch my breath.
“I just don’t get you, Patroclus. I don’t...” Standing in front of me in defeat, his exhaustion bleeding through his slouched shoulders and his balled up fists, saturating his slowly dying out voice.
Achilles Pelides’ eyes are a sad shade of green. His words and his sudden somberness make my heart ache and ache and ache because he’s been my best friend since we were five and now he’s telling me he doesn’t ‘get me’.
“You don’t get me? ” I laugh. It’s a mirthless one that grates against my throat and shatters my heart all the more. And I hate myself. Hate. That’s an emotion so potent it travels through my soul, latching onto the little gaiety that drenches my being.
I suppose it’s an indescribable sort of pain, to hear your best friend, of all people, say they don’t get you. It’s a different kind of pain, one that creates a perpetual festering wound in your soul, one that hurts and burns and leaves an ugly stain behind. When trust is broken, nothing remains but a wretched scar, a discoloured blemish right over your tenuous chest. It’s a chainsaw rearing its ugly head at your heart, threatening to nick at your heartstrings until they tear. It perforates your lungs and you can no longer breathe for fear of losing everything.
I’ve lost everything.
And there’s something shattering in me. It’s loud and violent in my ears and my eyes burn but I shove down a sob that climbs it’s way up my throat. Because no. I will not cry in front of Achilles.
“It must be your lucky day, Achilles, because there isn’t anything to get anyway.” My words are barely there. I can hardly catch them before they push their way through clenched teeth. “You don’t get me? Well welcome to the fucking club, because I don’t get me either. Make sure you take a fucking pamphlet on ‘What-there-is-to-get-about-Patroclus’ on your way out.” I turn away from him then, though the look on his face will forever be seared into my mind. It’s one that speaks volumes of his hurt. All I ever do is hurt him. And his crestfallen look should make me feel pleased, shouldn't it? Except all it does is make me want to take back my noxious words and take away his unhappiness. I want to carry his misery along with my own.
“Patroclus, I didn’t mean it like that, I-”
“Oh but you did, Achilles. You did mean it like that and it stings to hear you say such a thing. You’ve really hurt me, Achilles. You have.”
One. Two. Three.
This time the careful tumbling of my name from his lips embodies the sound of the severed pieces of our hearts colliding and collapsing on cold glass tiles.
He touches me, his hands pressing into my bare shoulder and turning me back around to look at him. His warm, tentative touch against my cold skin says ‘Please’ and ‘Look at me, please Patroclus’ and, ‘Give me a chance’ and I can't for the life of me find it in myself to refuse his pleas. So I give in. I press myself into his touch as much as I can and level him with a look that screams for him to fix this, to make it better. To fix us. To fix me. Please. And Achilles spews a bouquet of clumsy words.
He says, “When you went to fight in that War, it was as though my heart went with you.”
He says, “I couldn’t...I couldn’t function without you. I felt so...so incomplete and empty and so fucking terrified all the time and I didn’t know how to-”
He says, “I didn’t know how to get rid of my anxiety and just live without you by my side.”
He says, “I was so scared. Everyday that you were gone was torture. I was afraid you wouldn’t come back to me. And I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to live without you- I know that I can’t live without you, Patroclus.”
He says, “And I’m so scared all the time. I keep thinking something’s going to take you away any moment now and I’m sorry.”
He says, “I’m sorry I keep pushing you but it’s for your own good, Patroclus. I just want you to talk to me. I need you to talk to me.”
He says, “Because...you hardly do. You’ve changed. You don’t talk to me anymore and sometimes it’s like you’re not here, or there.”
He says, “It’s like you’re stuck in this abyss of nothingness and I’m trying to be your tether. I’m trying to bring you back but you won’t hold on and it hurts.”
He says, “I miss you, Patroclus. The old you. And I miss everything we used to do together.”
He says, “You’re my best friend, you know I’d do anything for you.”
He says, “I love you Patroclus, all the different versions of you. I love them all.”
And in my mind, the room is in disarray. A supernova explosion has obliterated my lungs and my heart. Pieces of myself are scattered everywhere, melding with the floor and the walls. The ceiling is crashing heavily down on the both of us; Achilles and I, crushing our bodies to powdered ceramic dust.
In my mind there is nothing, nothing, nothing but screaming. The universe is expanding up and out of me, polluting the air around us with light and darkness both intertwined. It hurts so much, so much that I can’t breathe.
In my mind, my room is pulsating. I can hear the faded melody of the complicated song from earlier ringing in my ears and Achilles’ eyes are freckled with sadness. Everything is bright but dark and muted. Quiet but not quiet enough. I’m here but I’m not. I'm here and Achilles is here and he’s touching me, his fingers still burning into my shoulder and he’s still talking and I’m here. I’m alive. I’m alive and breathing but I’m breaking and hurting all over.
But that’s only in my mind.
In reality there is only the soft melancholic timbre of Achilles’ voice as he tells me he loves me again and again and again and I know he’s trying to help, I know he’s trying his best and trying to shake me out of whatever funk I’ve been in since I came back but it’s not helping. He can’t love me. He just can’t. It’s making everything worse and I just.
“Achilles,” I choke out. His hand falls away from my shoulder. I just want the pain to end. “You don’t understand.” My fingers grip onto my bedside table and I’ve never sounded this small. I’ve never felt this small. I just want the pain to end. “You weren't there. I was. I was there and I have so much pain inside my heart and I’m harbouring an ongoing war inside my head because of it. And I’ll never be the same. How can I be the same after what happened? I can't just forget, Achilles. That’s not how it works.” I just want the pain to end.
Tears glisten in Achilles’ eyes and I’m aching. “I’m not asking you to forget, Patroclus. I’m asking you to let me in. I’m asking you to share your sorrow with me. Don’t you remember what we promised each other when we were 8? We said we were “in this together”. We are in this together.”
When I don’t say anything, Achilles’ gaze falters, fluttering from me, to my bed—the bed that we laid tangled in each other’s arms not even an hour ago—to the clothes littered on my floor that are mostly his seeing as he’s wearing my clothes, to the door and back to me again. And although his gaze faltered for a few seconds, his voice does not. Achilles plummets on and his words are a different type of agony even I couldn’t have anticipated.
“I want this, Patroclus. Whatever this is. I want this. I want you. And… And if you want this too then show me. Let me in.”
I just want the pain to end.
“No…” The word scratches my throat and tangles with the dry sob escaping me. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
“No?” Achilles’ voice cracks mid-word and I feel my heart break with it.
I just want the pain to end.
“I don’t…” I heave in a breath that does nothing but remind me how irrevocably hollow I am. “I don’t think I can do this anymore, Achilles. I can’t. I’m sorry but I can’t. If you can’t trust that there are just some things that I can’t mentally prepare myself to tell you about, then… I don’t know. I don’t think I can… I can’t carry on doing this, whatever this is.”
Now it’s Achilles’ turn to not say anything and I can physically feel my heart revolting against my ribcage, wanting to collapse in his hands.
I want so badly to caress him, to take his face into my hands and to press our foreheads together and to tell him… I want so badly to tell him I love him too. But instead, I watch the beam of light that shines itself directly at Achilles. I watch the way that light illuminates him and he’s so beautiful. So devastatingly perfect with soft edges and angelic features and I know what I’m about to say will be the best. Not for me, but for him.
So I force myself to take another breath. I force myself to watch as the dust motes swirl around his beautiful body, caressing him the way I wish I could. I force myself to stand taller, to deliver the blow I’m about to land “like a man” because that’s what my father taught me to do.
I force myself to not cry even though my heart is stuttering and shaking in my chest. I’m not going to cry, I’m going to stand here and take the aftermath of these words and I’m not going to fucking cry because my father told me that “tears are for pussies. For little boys with lights from candles burning bright in their eyes and their hearts and their souls and not for men.” Tears aren’t for men so I’m not going to cry because I’m 24 and I fought in the War and have endured these pains like a man and I bear these scars as proof.
I’m going to stand here, look Achilles in the eyes. I’m going to look him in the eyes like a man, like my father would. Except my father would never be caught dead half naked with another man. He’d probably beat me half to death if he wasn’t already dead himself and could see me now, about to break my heart and the heart of the man I love.
“I think… I think we just need some time apart.” It hurts. “I need to be alone for a while. I need to be my own friend for a few weeks.”
Tears have never looked so beautiful but as they stream down Achilles’ face, I can't help but notice how elegantly they fall, leaking from his sombre green eyes. “But I’ve only just got you…” His words are nothing more than a gasp that pricks my heart all the same.
And I scramble for words of acute assurances even though I feel as though I’m lying through my teeth. “You’re not losing me Achilles. I just… I just need some space, okay? Some time to think, to sort myself out and to find happiness within myself. I can't fully love and commit myself to you if I don’t love myself first. It isn’t fair on you.” And it’s not fair on me either.
“Patroclus…” I’m never going to get the choked sound of his voice saying my name out of my head.
He goes to reach for me then, but I involuntarily flinch and he cries harder. I’m in agony. I just want the pain to end. Tears are for little boys with lights from candles burning bright in their eyes and their hearts and their souls and not for men. Tears are for little boys and not for men. Tears are for little boys and not for men. I just want the pain to end. Tears are not for men. Tears are not for- I clear my throat once more.
“You should go.” It takes everything in me to utter the words and my voice sounds nothing like me. I sound cutting and cold. I sound just like my father. It’s for the best, it’s for the best. Tears are not for men.
I suck in a breath and hold it, long enough for the dust motes to disperse and for the light beam to taper off. Long enough for a new wave of tears to shake Achilles’ whole body. I’m so cruel.
“No.” I sound less like my father now and more like I did when I was a timid, stupid little boy. I don’t know which I prefer. “No, no, no, no, no. Please.” Men don’t cry. “Don’t. Please. Just go, please Achilles, please!” Men are cruel and they’re harsh and they shout just like I am right now. They shout and they wreak havoc and they don’t fucking cry.
I will not break. I will not break. I will not break.
And I don't think anything will ever hurt me more than the pain in Achilles’ eyes when he looks at me one last time before he leaves, his footsteps heavy but the weight of the sadness in his heart and in the air, heavier.
I barely hear the main door of my house close before I sink to the floor. The carpet burns and itches my knees but that’s hardly distracting me from the overwhelming wound in my heart and the eerie white noise clouding my mind.
I will not break. I will not break. I will not—
And I’m breaking. Shattering. Colliding headfirst with the overwhelming desire to shake and sob and I’m so sad I’msosadI’msosad and I’ve never felt this much sadness before, not even when my father told me I’d “never amount to anything good”, not even when my mother died and I was sure my life was plummetingplummetingplummeting, not even when my hands were drenched in another man’s blood and all I wanted to do was scrub myself raw. I’ve never been this sad.
I think too much and I feel too much.
There is a distinctive tragedy in us humans. We crave the love of others when it isn’t being given, yet refuse it when that same love is being handed to us on a silver platter. We refuse the love we try to give ourselves. We give and we take then we push people away and it’s an endless cycle that goes round and round and back again. Back to the start, back to the drawing board. Let’s do it again, ruin everything.
And maybe if I were smarter, stronger, mentally healthier, I wouldn’t be feeding my self-destructive tendencies. Maybe if I wasn’t so broken and bruised. Wasn’t so hollowed and sad. Maybe then I could change everything. But I’m all of these things so I can’t.
I just want the pain to end, and my father said tears aren’t for men but here I am. Here I fucking am, crying like a tired child. I’m not a man. My father is probably rolling in his grave right this minute because he raised a pathetic little boy not worthy enough to be deemed a man.
I’m not a man.
But what I am is so used to falling apart.