Storyglossia Issue 44, May 2011.


by Thomas Kearnes


I'm clean. I was clean five minutes ago. I scrubbed every inch of skin, washed my hair twice. Now I stand as the water streams over my body. The shower curtain is clear plastic. On the other side, standing before the mirror, Henry shoots the dope into his arm. I can't see him with any clarity. All I see is the shape of his body, the minimal movements of his arms. He told me to stay in the shower until he was finished. Can't stand being watched, he said. This is private, he said. You don't need to see this. I wanted to say, I love you. Show me everything. But I said nothing. I snorted my share of the dope earlier. I was just starting to feel it, so I agreed to shower. Henry said he liked his boys clean. Can't stand fucking a dirty boy. The water starts to cool. I'm running out of heat. I've never used the needle, always believed that was too much, so I'm not sure how much time to give him. Surely, he must see himself in the mirror with its water spots spattered along the bottom of the glass. What does he think, gazing at his reflection as the dope sprints through his veins? Are you finished, I call out. The bathroom's acoustics make my voice sound hollow, dead. Just another minute, he says, the words coming with difficulty. Once, soon after we started fucking, he asked me if I wanted to try it, to shoot up. It's incredible, he said. You look in the mirror and forget who you are. But I said no. I tried to say I love you, but all that came out was no. The water now carries a distinct chill. I wrap my arms around myself, but they're wet like the rest of me. There's nowhere to go. Are you all right, I call out just to hear the sound of my voice. I hear, Oh, God. Oh, fuck me. Jesus fucking Christ. But I know I'm not meant to hear. I stare at his distorted silhouette through the plastic curtain. What am I waiting to see? It's June. The air conditioning hums outside the room. I am thirty-two years old. I know my mother loves me. Henry exhales so loudly, I wonder if he's done. I'm so wet and cold. I could turn off the water and simply stand in the tub. No, the thought of silence terrifies me. Just then, Henry's silhouette moves closer. He has left the mirror. He moves like a twister surging through a pasture. He wants to fuck me. Always, after he's done, that's what happens. He pulls back the curtain. He's so handsome I forget my name. He may not recognize himself but I will always know him. Baby, he says, still holding the curtain. Water splashes onto the tile floor. Baby, he says, you're shivering. Gimme a smile, he says. I wasn't gone that long. Don't I always come back for you? I want to say I love you, but instead I simply say yes. In less than a moment, he will touch me and I will remember the first time he touched me. I will remember everything.

Copyright©2011 Thomas Kearnes

Thomas Kearnes is a 34-year-old author from East Texas. He is an atheist and Eagle Scout. His fiction has appeared or is scheduled to appear in PANK, SmokeLong Quarterly, Night Train, Eclectica, Word Riot, JMWW Journal, 3 AM Magazine, wigleaf, Bound Off and other publications. He has also appeared in several queer publications. He is a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee.