Keller insists on condoms but likes watching videos of men who don't. I have no porn so he brought one of his own. Locker Room Orgy? Locker Room Stud Orgy? I never can tell them apart. Keller removed the DVD from a clear plastic case so I was spared the cover art, the shiny-skinned boys staring at me from the slick cover with dead eyes, those same faces wrenched in ecstasy and concentration on the back of the package.
"Who's in this one?" I ask.
"You don't recognize him?"
A thick-biceped boy, no more than twenty, mounts a smooth, skinny blonde from behind. A bank of dark green lockers stand in for an actual locker room. Harsh white light from above gives the boys' skin a sickly glow. The blonde braces himself against the set's only bench while the biceped boy thrusts inside him.
"They all look alike to me."
"No, man, the hot one."
"The one bent over?"
"The one fucking him. Chase Broderick."
We're both seated on my plaid couch. I smile at him. I want him to know I'm paying attention, trying my best. Porn excites him, and it excites him to think I'm excited. He turns to me.
"You're going to miss the best part."
I look away and manage a quick, almost silent laugh. He must not remember he's shown me this one, back during our first month together. At the end of this scene, Chase Broderick pulls out of the blonde moments before orgasm and sprays all across the blonde's ass, the gooey semen like sweet dollops spat on a conveyor belt. ("I like it better when the guy comes inside him," he told me, "but this is hot too.") I return my attention to Chase and his screen partner.
"Did I ever show you his website?"
"I don't think so."
Keller stops watching for a moment and takes me in as if I were a dirty stranger seated next to him on the bus. He has a shock of short black hair, bent at every angle. His eyes are blue like berries. Freckles dust his cheeks. His limbs are long and thin. His lips twitch in what I have come to know as his admission of regret.
"I meant to."
I squeeze his hand. It's a risk, but I squeeze it. His long fingers, the white rough fingertips.
"It's fine," I tell him. "It's okay."
I asked Keller for tonight, this one last time together. He owed me after breaking up with me over the phone. My voice caught, made the startled hiccups that often precede tears. Still, the tears never came, perhaps because there was no one to see them.
"Bart, say something," he said. His voice, reedy and soft, faltered atop a stream of static.
"If you were that interested in what I had to say, you'd be here listening to it."
"I am listening."
"The easiest way you could find."
"Stop saying that."
"I don't know what else to say."
I picked up a photograph of him from my coffee table. I had taken it in the parking lot last Halloween. His moon-shaped face loomed over the left side, absorbing so much of the flash only darkness registered to the right.
"I hate these things," I said.
"These things, the cell phones, the text messaging, all of it." My fingernails dug into the side of the picture frame. "It's all the same. You wind up alone in a room talking to the air."
"What are you talking about?"
This was how it always ended for me. What was I saying? What did I want now?
"I want to see you again."
"For what?" His voice wavered. This, I knew, was not part of the script he'd written for us.
I laughed, low and bitter. "What do you think?"
"I don't know what to think, Bart."
"I want you to fuck me."
"No, I--I don't think that's a good idea."
It was the rage of a child refused but I gave myself to it. I hurled his photograph across the room. The framed glass shattered when it struck the coffee table.
"I wasn't asking your opinion," I cried.
"What was that noise?"
A calm descended upon me. Shards of glass shimmered on the table and beige carpet. The success of my violence thrilled me.
"I broke your picture."
"I'm sorry." Keller was right. Those two words made for a trusted safeguard against whatever dangers a conversation promised.
His tone became soothing, as if I were an angry baby. "I don't wanna break your picture."
Did he think I was crying? I wasn't sure. "Will you come this weekend?"
Silence stretched between us. "What about next weekend?" he asked.
"Do you want me to bring anything?"
"Bring whatever you need."
I had cleared the glass from the table. I picked it up from the carpet. Keller hasn't asked me where I put his photograph after destroying the frame. His face behind glass and I smashed it. Chase Broderick and his boy sweat on the screen and Keller is gone. He accepts this, I realize.
I keep it in the cabinet space of my nightstand, my photograph of him, behind the flimsy dark door. When I lie in bed, I reach down to pop open the door and he's waiting for me. I lay the picture frame across my chest, watch it rise and retreat with my breath. I drag my fingertip along the empty frame, expecting to slice it on a crag of glass. No blood, not yet.
Chase Broderick has moved on to another boy. This one has chestnut hair, straight, sweeping his eyes as Chase pounds him. He lies on his back on that sole sad bench, his legs high and bent like a frog.
Keller rubs his hand along my thigh. I stroke the back of his neck, not looking at him.
There's a close-up of Chase Broderick's bare cock as it charges through the other man's anus. I think about disease. I think about Keller. I think about how the glass sparkled in the sunlight the morning after he called me, how I left it there for days.
Fuck me, the boy on the video begs Chase. Fuck me harder. Fuck me.
"I can't believe you never got into this."
Keller grabs the inside of my thigh. My hand tenses around his neck and I twist my head away from the screen. He's beautiful, Keller, he's beautiful and I can't see it.
The chestnut-haired boy reaches out to brace both his legs as Chase intensifies his assault.
Fuck me. Fuck me.
He pulls me toward him and kisses me. His arms wrap around me as if I were a doll someone wished to steal. A dry miracle, his mouth against mine. My arms flail along his back as if searching a dark room. I close my eyes but the chestnut-haired boy's moans and commands clatter inside my head.
Harder. Fuck me. Fuck me harder.
I break away from him. I bolt from the couch and swerve around the coffee table.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
I lurch forward, reaching for the stop button on the DVD player. The quick sharp snap of pain in the bottom of my foot stuns me and my knee buckles. I bang my elbow on the television hutch as I crumble to the floor.
Keller hurries toward me, calls my name. "Are you alright?" He collects me in his arms. I cry out in pain.
The boy groans, loud and long. Harder. Fuck me. It's almost time. Chase Broderick will come inside him. Chase Broderick will take him there.
I clutch my foot, feel the sticky blood ooze between my fingers.
"Bart, what happened?"
My head rests against his chest. I'm crying and his heart is beating. I listen to its thump as he rocks me.
Oh, God. Thump-thump. Fuck me. Thump-thump. Fuck me.
About the author:
Born on America's bicentennial, Thomas Kearnes is an atheist and an Eagle Scout. His fiction has appeared or will appear in Night Train, Parting Gifts, Blithe House Quarterly, SmokeLong Quarterly, flashquake and other publications. He lives in East Texas.