Mark’s asleep, curled up on his side and snoring. Justin rolls over gently, so not to wake him, and because his limbs feel like lead and his head is pounding.
Fuck high school reunions, honestly. Fuck cheap hotel rooms with droopy mattresses. And fuck margaritas for the way they unearth shit no matter how deeply it’s buried.
Justin studies the back of Mark’s head, his brown curls glossy in the dawn light. His neck looks graceful, tender, and Justin wants to touch the dark, downy whorl under Mark’s ear. Fuck broken hearts, he thinks, burrowing deeper under the thin sheet.
We promised. Actually looked into each other’s eyes and swore it.
We’d keep our hands off. No more kissing.
It was fine, for a while. He volunteered to post watch with Stan, the new guy; I switched to days so we’d be on opposite ends of the field.
Thing is, that means we cross paths at oh-six hundred, when I’m waking up and he’s heading in. My chest feels hot. I turn and he’s there, rumpled and smelling of grass and moonlight. I stop myself from reaching out for his hand as he brushes by. I don’t forget our promise.
I can play it cool when I’m handing Kai the Blizzard he ordered through the takeout window, or when I’m secretly checking him out from across our Biology lab. But being paired up with him for the portrait unit for our Art elective isn’t the same.
It’s because I’m allowed to look at him. Really look. Study the shape of his eyebrows, memorize the slant of his neck, count the freckles that are only visible close up. And he has to sit still, quiet, and let me.
I wish my hand would quit shaking. I wish a lot of things.
He and his dark coat and blank face are as far away from me as the back seat will allow.
It’s late; that dour string quartet could put anyone in a mood.
We pass Superior, then Huron. If he doesn’t speak by Grand, I’ll chuckle and say, “Remember that restaurant in Seattle, the one with the waffles?” I’ll reach out my hand.
We were young then, beards brown instead of white.
“Remember how it rained?” I could say.
That taxi was smaller than this one, and full of zydeco. He was wet and shining, breathless.
We ride, in silence, home.