He came in and followed the bag to the floor. The day depressed itself in both bodies of weight falling to the cool tiled ground, common to Mediterranean houses but unfamiliar and therefore delightfully alluring to Northerners. His shoes scudded off and the folded up hems of his trousers exposed the lower leg: a lightly haired, tightly bound sculpture of skin over tendons, bone and muscle.
His friend had music playing, a laptop out. He looked up and out of the glow of the laptop lid and the backing track of a favourite song of theirs, asked where he’d been, why he hadn’t messaged. But unmeant questions broke out a smile as he framed his friend on the tiled floor.
The arch of his body curved and he brought his head close to the ground, arms stretched back behind him, pressing on the cool of the stone. His chest and taut stomach arched into a bridge, a gesture that worked out the length of the day in a long, intense moment (for both of them) that was both aerobic and erotic. How he loved to see his body used, played, twisted and stretched. The loose t-shirt finding contours and structure, then settling back off its frame.
How did he look back at him? As a figure on a bed, in the glow of a laptop? The lack of light and the time of day were turning the room into a monochrome shade of brown. Both men had a habit of wearing plain, dark clothes and these blurred into the dusky room.
The electronic light of the laptop was abrasive, inadmissible, but it shone on like a metaphor for a relationship that was formed, understood and lit up only in light of where they were.
He with the laptop knew the next step: his friend would lift out of his arched gesture and rise to turn on a row of small fairy lights. The choreography was expected, but he mustn’t yet close the lid of the laptop, he mustn’t change the sacred tempo.
The pretext of the lights, following from the foreplay-foregound of acting on the floor, was part of a performance that led his friend on to the bed, to its end. Leaning back, his back lay down and his head rested behind his crossed-legged laptop-table.
An intentional move. To put himself directly in his friend’s eyeline (but for the laptop) and to put his head in such a way as not to have him in his eyeline. I was forced to close the laptop lid, pushing the metal computer briefly and playfully onto his cheek as a cool reminder of the tiled floor and my chaste presence.
What joy. To be given the right to stare, to drink up the face of someone else without their eyes on you. To chart, discover, and memorise the face of someone: eyes, nose, cheekbones, mouth, lips, chin and neck and forehead. A one-way opportunity that is both charitable and cruel, giving and taking, gorgeous at the same time as it carries with it the terrifying possibility of finding, at any moment, the grotesque. Find it there, inches away from you, in the face of someone you love, and it never goes away. The grotesque in all of our bodies, a layer beneath, skin-deep.