He came to me as Lyndon had come to me, that night. Naked, bared - both body and soul - stepping gingerly into an unknown and unsure future.
He stood before me, arms at his side, letting me see him as I wanted to see him, as he wanted to be seen. I marveled at the slender, reed-like beauty of his body, he like some kind of gazelle or colt, an elegant and graceful animal caught somewhere between the guileless innocence of childhood and the burgeoning understanding of his adult self, the man he would grow into.
There was nothing superfluous or wasted on him; everything had a purpose, a reason for being there, a reason to be this and not that. In time, as he matured, that might change … but I thought that he would only get more beautiful with time, that he would always be beautiful, even into old age.
I rose from the bed, went to him, embraced him, felt the heat of his body, felt his trembling and his fear, wanted nothing more than to still that trembling, to make him understand that everything, that this, would be all right.
We did little else that night but talk, as we lay there side by side in my bed … but that wasn't to say that we didn't take every opportunity to touch and be touched, to explore and be explored, to embrace and be embraced, when words alone could not express what we felt.
We talked about ourselves, where we had come from one, what had made us who we were and what we wanted to be.
I wondered what he saw in me.
When I asked him that, he turned to me. "You're joking." I made some gesture; he went on. "There's so much power bound up in you, so much strength. You … you make me feel safe, Omer. I feel like I can do anything when I'm with you." He trailed a finger through the forest of hair on my chest, my belly. "You … well, it's like you have this entire life, stored up in you, so many experiences. You have a history, a story to tell. It's written there, in your body." He sighed. "I haven't done anything."
"You will, Bryce. You will." I smiled. "This, doing this, being what you are, what we are … it's an experience, it's something, it has meaning and substance. And there will be other experiences, some good, some bad. We all have those. But one thing I have come to understand is that it helps if you have someone beside you, someone to go through life with. I … I want that to be you, Bryce. If you'll have me."
He traced the scar, the length of it, from my scalp, across my brow and cheek, my shoulder and chest, then under my right arm to my back, all the way down to where it stopped, right at my tailbone.
"Do you remember any of it?" he asked.
"Some," I responded. "Not much. It's amazing how the mind can forget things like that, things you think would be impossible to forget. I know that it happened, of course. I remember being in the hospital for a long time, then at home, waiting to heal. I was too hurt to go to school for almost a year; I was too hurt even to go to my mother's funeral. One of my aunts stayed with me, and we cried together. Sometimes I almost forget about it entirely, until I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and it comes back to me."
"Is that why you wrestle?"
"I think so. It … after it was over, I was just so … drained. I felt nothing. I was just this skinny little kid with a funny name, and a limp and a scar that had nearly torn me in half. I … I guess I didn't want to be that, and I started fighting back, slowly at first … and then I found that I enjoyed it, and that I was good at it. Of course, having a father and brothers who all wrestled didn't hurt."
I thought about my sport, about how it seemed to attract a lot of misfits, boys and young men who felt - for one reason or another - a compelling need to prove themselves. Not everyone in wrestling was that way, but I had met and competed against more than a few boys who were like that. I knew also that I could hide my true self behind it, using my strength and my skill to mask something I wasn't ready to understand. It seemed almost paradoxical that I had chosen wrestling, a sport that those who knew nothing about it were all too quick to condemn as being, in their opinion, the gayest of sports. They couldn't understand that when you were pitted against someone and - at least symbolically - fighting for your life, the last thing you ever thought about was the inherent intimacy of the sport.
"But now you're giving it up," he said.
"I am. I … maybe now I know that I don't need it to survive, any more. It helped me to get to a certain point in my life, and now I can go from there to something else."
We fell quiet for a long while; I thought, at one point, that he had fallen asleep … and that would have been just fine. But, then, he sat up in bed and moved to lay on top of me. It was only a first step, but it was a big one, to let yourself want this. I embrace him, let my hands wander idly down his smooth back and to his bottom. I could feel him growing hard against my own hardness, but I knew enough to let him feel that he was in control of this, of everything he felt.
"So much," he murmured. "There's so much I want to do. But it scares me."
"It scares me, too. I think it scares everyone, at first. It's not just the physical part, although the first time that you let someone else do that to you - the first time you allow them inside you - can be overwhelming. But, it's also the mental part of it. You have to want it to happen. You have to be willing to give up a part of yourself to someone else. You have to trust them not to hurt you."
"I've dreamed about it for so long."
"The reality is very different. No amount of imagining it will ever be a substitute for the real thing."
"And I want that. I want that with you. But … it's going to take time for me, Omer. Is that okay? Is this enough for you? For now?"
I chuckled. "If this is all that we do together, I will be happy. But the more you do, the more you can do, even with this."
We stayed like for another while; I felt him relax against me, felt his erection subside as he slipped easily into a drowsy, half-awake state. He was a furnace of comfort and security atop me; his breath was a sweet whisper in my ear.
Underneath the moon and the stars wheeling overhead, we slept.
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