He came back at 3.15. An innocuous return, a knock at the door. He stood with his head against the door frame, hair matted and skin grey as stone. His clothes were streaked with mud and soaked through. I pulled the door wider. He came in. A trail of water followed and made itself at home, like purposeful decoration. When the distance between us lessened, He collapsed into me as though returned to a part of Himself. My shirt grew soaked with Him. Still I grasped for more. I tried to make Him endless, hoped my arms would never meet around Him. I prayed silently once more for a miracle, only to feel the bones of His shoulder blades too sharp, His spine too mountainous. He looked up from me, with those pond-water eyes and scanned the room. In the dark everything became a menagerie of silhouettes. The only light in the flat came from the weak fluorescent street-lamps. Lines formed between His brows as he squinted at certain objects. The shelves, bookcases and window-sills were filled with wood carvings; small moments preserved in willow or silver birch. ‘Do you remember this?’ I said as I untangled myself. He watched me take down the oldest of them. A roughly whittled imitation of a tree, with tiny misshapen lemons closer in resemblance to tennis balls. As I held it out to Him, I thought of how He’d loved Italy for many reasons. The first time was for the smell of those trees, abundant with their yellow citrus fruit. In the peak of summer, He’d stood shirtless on the balcony with an espresso, breathing deep the perfume of them in the air. When we returned He couldn’t shake the thought of them, and nothing, despite how hard He tried, could capture their scent exactly. I forgot how He came to carving, but His glossary is still on the coffee table beneath my Mary Shelley. In retrospect, I should have noticed how He could never accept a fleeting moment. We had started in postcards and magnets and spiralled until we lived in His museum of miniatures. He took the figure from my hands and placed it back on the shelf. It was returned as though it had no greater importance than any of the others. Shelved among a canoe and a pagoda. Though it was dark, I saw the sadness in his eyes. A faint glassy film. And the bruised skin beneath them. His gaze stayed on the floor. Timid as an animal seeking forgiveness. I took His hand and led him to the bedroom. He gripped tighter as the light faded out. We were consumed by the pitch dark. I matched the pressure of His hand in mine and felt Him press against me, afraid I might lose Him in the black. I felt the same fear. We moved quicker, our steps in sync. ‘We’ll be fine.’ I said. He followed me to the bed and stood motionless as I sat at the foot. I took the buckle of His belt and loosened it. His trousers fell to the floor. He did not object to me taking off His clothes, for relieving Him of the soaked blazer and noose-tight tie. We exchanged no words, made no noise. All we gave of ourselves were our silhouettes. Two faint bodily outlines. As the last of his suit, the same one He’d left in, fell to the floor with a slap, I began to hear the rattle of his breath. I moved back onto the bed, turned onto my side and curled up. I closed my eyes and matched my breathing to the cadence of His. I felt the time since I’d last seen Him begin to melt. Those months without Him became nothing more than a strip of film, burning unattended in a theatre somewhere. When I took a deep breath it didn’t smell like smoke. It was something more subtle, earthy, like mildew. It seeped in slowly. The pressure of His body came with it. Softly pressed against my back, folding into a memory. One I knew was sat coated in dust on the shelves. Two bodies curled together; speech marks on creased bed-sheets. The world waited for something to follow. We said nothing. Maybe there were no words to surmise His return. Nothing fulfilling enough to explain it. Except for His lips as they gently grazed the back of my neck. Or the deep inhale of my skin through His nose. How strange, I thought, to have eulogised a man I worshipped. How much stranger that He’s walked back in. Returned in silence. But, is that not what I’d wished for? Every night alone was another in which I’d begged for Him to come back. For someone to bring Him back. And here He is. I feel Him. The cool of His skin. The pressure of His weight. Though it’s diminished a little. His bones more prominent than they had been. He leans over and His hair doesn’t fall as it once did. His hand doesn’t grip the way it used to. It’s all right, and so completely wrong. His lips touch my neck once again. I feel His teeth against my skin. I laugh. He was never one to bite. It’s warm now. I’m warm. The warmest I’ve felt in months. The feeling spreads, moving slowly down my neck. I touch the sensation and hold my hand out. It’s slick. He bites again and I’m bleeding. He tears at my flesh and I’m dying, as He had done months ago. It’s euphoric to know He must want me to crave me with such hunger.
Glynn Aiden Bailey lives in Nottingham with his two cats, Wasabi & Miso. He is currently working on two novels and several short stories – all of which he hopes to finish soon. He has a particular interest in stories about trauma, queerness & the supernatural.