Cover Story: Ease

Neither of them were drunk, but the taste of alcohol swirled and bubbled as their lips touched again and again and again. It had been a long night for both of them, what with the distance, the bubble of people and party chatter, and light that had rested between them since Nathan had first opened the door for the party guests. Troy had watched from behind the kitchen counter, pretending to make himself a drink, as Nathan’s knuckled and long-fingered hand, attached to his blond, tattooed arm, had moved forward and turned the door handle. It was in the dim, orange light – their light, of their low-ceilinged living room – that he watched him put on a newer, brighter, heterosexual face, and Troy had to look away.

But now Nathan was under him, and their clothed and unclothed chests kept touching. Troy pulled away, for a moment, to glimpse the moment when Nathan’s eyes were still nearly closed, savoring the kiss. His lips parted as his eyes flew open, but Troy was watching his neck. He was watching the sinews and the lines, and he was watching the way it bobbed and trembled when he swallowed a shallow swallow. He was watching the way the tattoos creeping onto Nathan’s collarbones shifted as though they were entities of themselves. He was watching the white hairs on the edge of Nathan’s jaw stand on end remembering of how his lips had been just there. He could write a pamphlet on Nathan’s neck.

The light from the couch-side lamp in Nathan’s blurry vision settled like leaves in the folds under Troy’s eyes, and along the curve under his eyebrow. He wanted to reach across the thinner man for his glasses, but feared the barrier it might create. The tension between their minds kept building, though they crashed against each other again and again like waves. He found his hands bunched in Troy’s baggy tank top, and found Troy’s hands resting tensely on top of his, as if they couldn’t decide to hold them in place or to push them away. The material hung off of his ribbed, shaded torso, tight against his angled shoulders.

It was all Troy, Troy, Troy.

“Nathan, Nathan, Nathan.” Troy was sitting back now, he words still falling from his mouth, his fingers running in all the curves he could find on the man he loved. Nathan made an involuntary sound. He was putty in his hands, so he closed his eyes. Troy leaned down and pushed his nose into the crook of his neck. “I missed you tonight.” The skin was soft. Ghosts of the friends who had just been in their home moved teasingly and bitterly through his lidded eyes.
“I think one of us should move out.” Nathan tried to say it all in a rush, but it came out too slowly. When he opened his eyes, Troy’s face wasn’t the right expression. It was sort of blank, with the corners of his mouth slightly tweaked up like wire, frozen in processing. Nathan brushed a finger over Troy’s elbow, but he brought it inwards and away. “You don’t love me,” Troy assumed aloud.

Nathan actually did, but he didn’t say anything. Images of breakfast in little streets in Italy and late night liquor store runs in sweatpants plagued Troy’s mind. Nathan put on his glasses and blinked hard. He took them off and swiped them quickly on Troy’s shirt before putting them back on. “It’s complicated.”

“I like complicated.” Troy’s voice was really soft, almost sheepish. Nathan leaned forward, his forehead resting flush against his chest. He didn’t adjust to accept or reject him.

“You hate complicated,” Nathan groaned.

“I like you.” Troy noticed that Nathan kept fidgeting and pushing gently against him and looking away, and he was glad that he had trapped him when he had gotten the chance. “Don’t think about anyone else for a second. Just don’t. Just think about me.”
Nathan reluctantly brought his eyes upwards. “What do you feel when I look at you? When I smile at you?”

Nathan didn’t answer at first. “It’s complicated.”

Troy secured his chin in his thumb and index finger. “Don’t think about them.” His grip loosened when Nathan’s eyes dropped to his hand. “What about you?” He put a delicate, chaste kiss on where his fingers had been. “What do you feel?”

“Stupid.” He grabbed a breath and let it go. “Crazy. Dumb. Drunk. Like I can’t breathe.” He grabbed a longer breath and held it, then pushed it away. “Like I don’t know. I don’t know, Troy.” He wished he hadn’t answered.