A seashell lies embedded upon the shore, curling inside itself. It cuts into my foot as I stumble upon it, its sharp coil slicing through the leathery skin of my sole. The pain tantalizes, quickening my heartbeat, grinding my teeth, rattling my spine. The sand bristles into my open wound as I walk on; it is a different kind of pain than the seashell’s, one more familiar and less enticing. I swallow hard and ignore it.
I can see him in the distance, a silhouette hazed into the dull blue of the dying sky. The hushed rumble of the waves expands into my ears, louder and louder, as I walk toward him, closer and closer.
At last I stand beside him. He does not look at me. I smile at him but he does nothing. I touch his shoulder but he does nothing. I lean into him but he does nothing. He is nothing. Or am I nothing?
I murmur his name into the bone of his shoulder, and his neck tilts, almost imperceptibly. He still feels it. I know it. Denial can only imprison the desire so long.
The sea’s briny breath slaps against us in gusts, slapping my face, slapping his. I retreat it from it slightly, but he does not move. His eyes are open--unafraid. His spine is stiff--unrelenting. He endures so much, for too long. An unnecessary duration of self-inflicted punishment.
My arms wrap around him in a possessive embrace. Selfish. But I have some right to this. Often he rails against my touch. Yet when he thrusts himself forward to escape, he inevitably falls back into me, limp and exhausted, closer than he was before. He stiffens somewhat within me, yet he also melts. It is as though a battle rages beneath his stony features, an elemental war between control and submission, between education and instinct. Regardless, he never pulls away from me. He flits around decisions like a frightened deer at the edge of a road.
I know the desire hurts him so much, but I cannot resist. What I feel inside smolders and smolders until finally I reach him, and the firestorm ignites.
I touch him and he says it is wrong.
I kiss him and he says it is wrong.
I tell him I love him and he says nothing. The silence deafens all sound around us.
I ask him if love is wrong, too. He says feebly, no, it is not wrong.
Then is it right?
He says he does not know. His voice fluctuates like a flicked harp-string.
It is not right or wrong. It is beyond such archaic principles. What can it be other than itself?
He surrenders. He kisses my mouth, my eyes, my neck. I tumble inside, a tight coil unfurling rapidly within me. My bones stir, anxious to burst from the confining elastic of my skin.
Rain falls, blots of hot liquid searing into my body like blood. He breaks our embrace. The separation throbs like the amputation of a limb, but I understand; I wish I didn’t. His gaze wanders everywhere. He stares intently at the ocean, at the gray tarpaulin of sky suspended above us. He glances at everything but me.
We stand side by side, very close but no longer touching....