I’m counting the remaining seconds of my life on one hand–in the five steps along the concrete railing of the bridge crossing the river. People scream their car horns at me and some jerks in a Hummer order me to jump. The sun sets behind the haunted hotel overlooking the water, built beside a haunted WWII memorial, and I’m staring into the white-capped waters below. The jerks loop around at the turn-a-bout and hound me again to jump; the world would be better off without a faggot like me.
People wear scars of their sexuality on their wrists as though they are proud of them–smooth raised lesions of knotted skin. Pink shirt and tight jeans, black-rimmed eyes and chipped nail polish, iPod earbuds looped around my neck and I’m crouched, rocking back and forth on the railing, my hands gripping cool concrete.
I’m counting life slipping away, but this isn’t about me. I’m not fool enough to think anyone out there cares to hear about my life.
This is about him.
It’s two a.m. in mid-April and we’re walking down Fourteenth. The snow has been melting alongside the pedestrian path that snakes through the flattened yellow grass alongside the street.
Red and white signs advertise the Liberal Government every twenty-three steps; interspersed by chance at step fifty-six is a Green Party sign attached to a vintage bicycle. It’s fucking overkill, but I’ve heard someone is more likely to vote for a familiar name if they otherwise don’t know who they’re going to vote for.
He tells me that I can’t complain about the government because I haven’t voted since I turned eighteen. I hate this city. It’s a cesspool of cunt-licking right-wingers, and left-wingers who pretend to give a shit, hand out rainbow buttons at Pride, and claim they’re striving for change.
“It gets better.” That’s what everyone says–a global organization of video and song–a simple pat on the head as they shove society down your throat.
When is it supposed to get better–when religious fanatics in countries with legalized gay marriage finally realize it isn’t going to destroy the world in flames of righteous fire; when the religious fanatics in countries where homosexuality results in a prison sentence realize we also have the right to hurt and love and fuck; when they stop blaming hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornados on those fighting for equal rights, as though they are inherently different than human rights?
Or, when I’m older and dying of AIDS, lamenting my friends and lovers who’ve gone before me?
The day I turned seventeen, I waited with him in the sexual health clinic for his walk-in appointment. I held his hand as he stared straight ahead, his skin pale, and knees shaking. He lied and told the nurse that we were boyfriend-and-boyfriend, and I went into the examination room with him; he couldn’t stand being alone.
Needle jabbed into the crook of his elbow. Intoxicated blood tested for antibodies.
After six weeks trapped within six lifetimes, the results came back negative. But less than eighteen months later, I held him as he cried into my t-shirt, bony shoulders shuddering with unspoken words, bruises stark on his pale skin. I traced the healing scars and pinpoint scabs tracking down his forearms and leaned down to kiss him, wet and salty with tears.
He pulled away from me with a sad smile. We walked to the off-sale before returning to my apartment–drunken teenagers slipping over bananas in Mario Kart. He would shake with nausea and slip into the bathroom, while I searched around for my Zippo to light a joint.
When we graduated from high school at eighteen, I had decided to come out to my family, while he took a girl to our high school graduation and kissed her in the parking lot. I punched him and told him then for the first time, that I loved him.
I know I’d be good for him, but to him, I’m still a friend.
With irritated glances, Mom would disappear into her bedroom at seven p.m., light a votive candle, and pray. The following Sunday, she told me that we would burn in hell for our sin. She told me to pray at church to be saved.
The congregation held signs because political correctness required them, and I heard them declare, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” and I wanted to introduce myself to the priest as Steve, introduce him as Adam.
I told Mom that I screamed God’s name every time he fucked me. I invited her to come into the twenty-first century, I missed her when she dwelt in the Medieval Ages.
We cross the lane of traffic to walk down the boulevard in the center; we stop at Tim Horton’s for black coffee and lemon herbal tea.
“The world is going to die in a zombie apocalypse because I enjoy sex with men,” he tells me before he sucks the water from the tea bag, the string hanging from his mouth. He ignores the snickering and weird looks from a group of teenagers in the coffee shop and smirks at me.
“Can you imagine,” he continues with a laugh, “zombies fucking each other because they’re queer, infecting other humans with their tainted blood? It’s ridiculous, zombie cows will eat zombie chickens, zombie mosquitoes will pass the zombie malaria to those not infected. AIDS is a gay disease although more heteros are being infected. Probably by the gay zombies.
“A zombie apocalypse because Steve can marry Adam and get fucked in the ass.”
He frees his foot from his flip-flop and runs it along my ankle. I want to devour him; he is crimson jade and moonstone rubies with vibrant eye shadow, in a black pleather trench coat.
It’s three a.m., we’re only halfway to my house, guided by street lights flickering red. A Silverado rushes by through the four-way stop; water splashes onto the boulevard, onto my high-top sneakers and his neon green flip-flops. He’ll sleep on my bed after draining my bottle of vodka. I’ll crash onto the couch, but he might let me come and lay against him.
When we’re thirty, we’re getting married. He’s gone through a fuck-buddy every week in a desperate attempt to feel loved, and I’m counting down nine years with hospital visits and x-rays of fractured bones. Fingerprint bruises along his ribs, he flinches whenever someone touches him, and he’s always quieter after his uncle visits. He complains of cold-sweat chills and steals my Zippo lighter again, and I’m waiting beside his hospital bed after the naloxone treatment.
At four a.m., we arrive at my house.
When I crawl into bed with him, I tell him, “I’ll buy a six-pack and a shotgun for the zombie apocalypse.” He rolls over and we kiss–sleepily, drunkenly, with my hands groping his body and pulling him closer against me. He cringes when I press too hard along his ribcage. I kiss the week-old bruises left along his body.
We have sex that he forgets in the morning.
That Hummer has circled back again. I recognize the one man in the passenger’s seat, because last month I was at this gay bar and buying a beer for someone who looked like he belonged in Abercrombie & Fitch ads. I whispered in his ear and brushed my fingers along his cock, hardening in his tight jeans.
He fucked me in the girls washroom before he beat the shit out of me in the back alley.
Gay-bashing cunts locked in the closet and terrified of their own homosexuality like their shadow come to swallow them. Two weeks later, I’m back at that bar, alone and buying myself a shot of rye . . . of whisky . . . of vodka . . . and watching girls latch onto their boyfriends, another telling me he’s not gay . . . he’s not gay . . . he angles his body close to the guy next to him . . . she’s not lesbian . . . she sniggers and blows a chokecherry kiss to a woman across the bar.
This is a gay fucking bar!
“Our community is fading into the background with the illusion of acceptance,” he once told me, over the sound of beating techno. We were staring across the multi-colored dance floor from the balcony and were three months into our nineteenth year, still harboring idealizations about legal-aged drinking and one-night-stands. “Hatred masquerades itself as acceptance, breaking disguise when it believes no one is watching.”
Fucking breeders in a gay bar and I had broken ribs because I touched a guy’s cock and let him fuck me in the girls washroom. In a fucking gay bar–where every gay man in there is looking to get his cock sucked or his ass fucked.
He abandoned the gay bar two months before our twentieth birthdays, and instead became wasted only on vodka bought from the off-sale. That last night, we left the bar at two a.m. and leaned against each other as we wandered downtown. With drunken excitement, he led me toward the haunted hotel where we entered and sought our ghosts on the third floor. Resting on the ground of the haunted gazebo, we recited the names of the dead soldiers etched into the stone.
We shivered as our imaginations ran away without us.
The Hummer has nothing better to do and still screams at me to jump. The asshole in the back seat tosses his half-emptied slushy at me. It hits and rebounds from the railing between the traffic lanes and pedestrian path, sloshing Pepsi into the air and onto my pink shirt. The plastic cup falls to the asphalt and rolls into traffic. I stare at it, liquid leaking through the ice and into the traffic lanes, over faded yellow paint lines dotting along the center.
Slow seconds of life trickling away, and eyeliner smears down my cheeks as I wipe away tears. His black felt-tipped eyeliner and sparkling black nail polish he left at my apartment one weekend, worn in honor of him.
Once upon a time, we had waltzed at dawn along the barrier dividing the traffic lanes from the pedestrian path on the bridge. He jumps across, to the edge of the bridge, balancing on the concrete. He stretches his hand out for me to take.
I still want to devour him but I don’t take his hand.
I now rock back and forth on the same railing, staring into the dark water below.
I tell him that his twin sister came out to me, that she is a lesbian because heterosexuality is too mainstream. She wears baseball tees with cartoons that were popular in the nineties and has the audacity to claim they are retro. She attends the Pride parade and the other women in her office cackle about her, about the new receptionist who has short hair–because apparently, lesbians don’t have the estrogen to grow their hair long. They say she wears a strap-on beneath her pantsuit.
“They’re just jealous because she has a bigger cock than they do and is going to marry Jane Lynch one day,” he smirks at me, angling his head to the side. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his cargo shorts. “I’m marrying Hugh Jackman, but only if he’ll fuck me with Wolverine’s blue and yellow spandex on.”
He lets one of his flip-flops drop into the river below. “What did you tell me? Legalize gay marriage and you’ll buy a six-pack and a shotgun for the zombie apocalypse, isn’t that right, Chris?” He sniffles, and I’d like to think it is caused by the cold. But he is bruised eyes and cheekbones, broken soul and hollow voice, and all I can do is stare at him as he glances at the water below.
He extends his hand to me again. This time, I pull him from the railing and embrace him. He rests his head against my chest. I can feel his body shaking against mine.
“You love me, right?” he asks.
I nod my head.
“Do you want to fuck me?”
I clear my throat and nod again.
Five steps along the concrete railing of the bridge crossing the river, and I imagine freezing water rushing over my head, swallowing me in darkness.
I crouch again, rock back and forth.
My skin vibrates and I wonder if this is what he felt.
It always takes me a moment to realize he is gone.
At one a.m., almost a year after we had walked down Fourteenth Street, we bought a bottle of vodka from the off-sale and walked to my apartment because he didn’t want to go home. He poured himself shot after shot and I counted the bruises along his body as we made love. I held him through the night, but when I woke, he had vanished.
Dawn breaks along the horizon, reflecting from the haunted memorial with sparkling light. Seconds slip away in crushing oblivion as I rock back and forth on the railing.
“Chris? I’ve been looking for you.” I turn at the sound of the voice–his sister’s voice, choked with tears. “Dad found Alex’s journal. He beat the shit out of Uncle Jim this morning.” Mascara streaks her face, glistening weak in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. She extends her hand upward to me and after a moment, I take it.
I leap down to the pavement and embrace her.
Alex had left a note scribbled with magnetic letters and numbers attached to my fridge–d0n’t wrry 4bout me, i fina1y fi9urd it 0ut. Five days later, a small ceremony, and his sister and I illegally scattered his ashes over the playground we used to frequent while we were children, and then while we were drunken teenagers discovering sex for the first time–me and him, me and her. Over the plastic slide of the wooden jungle gym, into the sand, rain pouring from the dark sky, three a.m., and he soared away from me on silver wings of abandon.