His hair is getting whiter quickly now—his face is still youthful, soft skin and big eyes, but his hair is shockingly peppered for his age. Neither of us has reached thirty, but the amount of abuse we’ve put each other through has brittled our bones. Tonight, however, we are here to forget all that.
We hug as if it’s nonchalant, but moments after his entry into the bar we are locked back into an orbit that has spun us out of control for almost a decade, and now we’re within each other’s arms again for the first time in years. Then apart again, spinning, ordering beer.
My friends lead us to dinner, another bar, a game of darts, but we speak to none of them for long, downing our pints of porter and shouting into each other’s ears over the music. He knows about my ears and how his breath near them can stab straight through me. He has always been more intuitive than he will admit, and now he must sense it. He’s leaning in too close. I lean still closer, savoring the memory, biting my lip.
We know we can’t be doing this, and the sparks of our metallic cores bouncing off each other glitter our eyes. Magnetic attraction? Force of nature? Ridiculous metaphors for a mundane truth, one we’ve danced around for five years almost-successfully since we last let it rule us. But we do not want to leave it behind—the first time we gave in to the immense gravitational pull between our bodies and minds, or any of the times after that, we smashed craters into each other until dawn. The heavy fate of it, the sweat, the way we slipped between each other’s ribs like daggers hidden inside our wrists. Who would want to forget the way our collision’s shadow flickered on the wall?
Our significant others were always there in our lives, but we were young and did what physics demanded, that first time. What else could we do? We tangled together, helpless and desperate in the darkness beyond candlelight, the moral deficiency of my apartment hushing our breath and stopping the night, stretching it into an interminable something. A few weeks later, before he went abroad, we came together once, twice more, silent and sad in the afternoon, hushed and locked away from roommates a wall away. I let them go, then, the threads of emotions I’d held so tight after another had broken me. For years I’d kept the untidy ends of myself wrapped around my knuckles, turning my fingertips white. But those first few times, I let them slip away and fall onto his collar bones. I let my eyes hold his through the film of tears. I begged him not to leave. The perfect fit of him inside me, the rush of the collision, the ache he left afterward, undid me. It was confusing and shattering, the way we locked together, and I was afraid of the dilation of his pupils. We stood like that for minutes, considering each other. It might have lasted for hours. But someone knocked on the door, and we rearranged ourselves, and the barrier we put up in that moment has never fully dropped. Too dangerous. Too much gravity to bear facing. Too much of us might show through our skins.
Years later we tentatively approached each other again, quietly. Exquisite nights, violent impact, in corners too dark for shame, behind our hands clasped over each other’s mouths. We fed this fire, this stupid, heedless blaze that we fan because we’re both adrenaline junkies and the few vices that get us to the same place as our bodies intersecting are, almost unimaginably, more lethal.
Tonight, it’s clear that we don’t want to forget the things we shouldn’t have done. We never speak of them, but they are there playing in his eyes on repeat as we discuss whatever we’re running our mouths about. We have not let those things happen for years, but they have never fallen from our minds. Tonight, what we both want to forget is the dull, brutal hatred that set in when I denied him. When I held him away with some power I didn’t know I had. To muffle its constant pressure on my solar plexus, the dragging force that his heartbeat exerted on my skin, I took up depression. He took up drinking, in earnest. Self-loathing is an appropriate substitute for the truth. We made shows of moving forward, attracted satellites and circled each other so slowly we seemed to be moving in straight lines—planet-sized predator and prey, never admitting we might both be devoured.
But fundamental realities don’t change—only our perceptions of them. The sparks of our gazes crossing transformed into slow-burning rage. By the time we gave up and left that place, we were far-flung dots in each other’s galaxies, white pinpricks we could quite not let out of sight. The contours of each other’s bodies were the only things we hadn’t been able to grasp in our groping for sanity, and the only realities that could have brought us back to it. Instead we’d fondled a new pattern out of our orbit—maybe less violent than our affair. We play-fought to ease the tension, blocks and jabs the only ways we could touch without combusting. He would have me on the ground in seconds and the aching between us would glitter in the air before we turned back to our manias, our sidetracks. I would lock myself in my bedroom, pondering masochism at the level of the soul.
And now here we are again, eyes locked again like they haven’t for half a decade, the novelty of our aging faces re-entwining us in this dance. Pupils huge in his slate-blue eyes. His hair whitening around his temples. Mine frizzy in the humidity. I wonder if my friends can see the electromagnetic field pulsing between us. I wonder if it’s making a Twilight Zone sound and warping the air between our faces, if our eyes are glinting with sex or hate or just booze.
With a start, as the song changes, I recall the text messages and pictures we sent a week ago. So predictable. Flexed muscles, naked torsos—sad, modern adults. I feel a first stab of something shudder through me—not shame. A flicker of recognition. Disappointment.
A year ago he restarted his tip-toe dance, the kind he’d once used to knock me to the ground, panting and empty. Though we’d managed to avoid fucking for four years, we hadn’t stayed out of each other’s force fields. Every evening spent together had ended in something nearly disastrous: miniature cataclysms. The dance was as exhilarating, but we were growing less dexterous. We missed a few steps, but ignored the gracelessness of the stumbles. More fun to pretend we were our once-young selves. Harder bodies. Lithe minds. Until one night he started to shadowbox me again, a year ago, in a bar over Scotch. I noticed a bungled ball-toe shuffle, a lax pirouette, and I felt the pull of his gravity wane. “Do you love her?” I’d asked, eyes wide open.
He’d blinked. I could feel his spin decelerate. “Yes.” He’d looked me in the eye. Slow turn around the apex of the orbit.
“Good,” I’d answered, and realized as I said it that the pain of it was blunted by its truth.
And that was the last time we’d seen each other. We’d let it rest again, die down to ashy embers. Distant galaxies. But still we feel the shadows of those devastating nights playing out inside our stomachs every month or so, and in those flickering moments in the lying-awake blackness, we dream the same dreams. Send messages. Pictures. Predictable transmissions from our separate corners of the universe, as we begin the inevitable approach.
And now we’ve been leaning in, closer and closer as the night goes on. The gravity has gotten too cloying for a public setting. We get a cab.
At my apartment, we drink more—bourbon poured on the fire. The tension of making him wait is palpable. I feel my breath waver on every syllable, imagining him throwing me into the wall, onto the floor, ripping me apart. The verbal repartee grows less witty as the night progresses, but also more difficult to maintain, and therefore, in our minds, worth more points. We’ve been drawing closer as we give in to the lack of words, sometimes our only anti-gravity devices, our glasses clinking, our tongues wetting our lips instinctually, and in a brilliant instant, we lock together.
In the moment after the supernova of his lips on mine—the pure white light of the demolition of worlds—I shatter again, inwardly. The flash of our bodies touching lights it up for me; I see the night ahead if we give in to physics. The need in us, the built-up kinetics we’ve spun into being while avoiding this for so long, will shred our clothing from us in seconds. We will destroy one another—scratch and slap and smash, our inability to give a face or a voice to this thing we’ve created screeching itself out only in the dim light of the living room, too violent after stifled years to manifest gently. He’ll touch my body as he wishes he could approach my spirit, clumsy and alien and heedless, and I will let him, without saying what we both know—that he is hitting my center with every thrust, that he pares me down to a tiny brittle knot I cannot let him see but which he can feel deep inside my belly. The same specks in his eyes that I look away from when we are fucking, that neither of us can bear to witness for fear of exposing the fragility of what we have. Those specks are our trembling hearts, the violence we feed one another is their blanket. The pain we exchange is what brings us back to what we could have been, what we skipped over without becoming. That thing, whatever it was, it crushes us and someday, if we continue this collision course, we will grind each other to dust.
We will do this for hours, our eyes only meeting a few times. Every part of me will be stretched and raw and brush-burned when he leaves. I will drink heavily for weeks. So will he. We will not speak for a month or two, pretend we haven’t done these things, before we send tentative hello messages to ascertain whether the other has moved too far away in orbit to begin another circuit—if we must wait another five years to return to our gravitational impasse.
We pull apart and stare at each other. He leans forward, his eyes sliding down across my throat. I sip more bourbon and slowly push him down onto the couch, straddle his stomach, and drip whiskey into his mouth from my own. As he swallows, I place my hand squarely in the middle of his chest. I summon our kinesis, the need, the violence, the scorching reality of what we are doing at this moment, and I draw it into my palm like a ball of dark matter, all the invisible desperation holding us together. I whisper, “This is all,” and I push it into him, a brilliance too dazzling to see through into the knot I’m opening for him, untangled and weeping, for just that infinitesimal blink it takes to create a universe.
His eyes widen. He stops breathing. I don’t wait to see if he starts again. Instead I stand, walk to the bedroom, strip naked, and lie down.
Lynsey G writes lots of things for lots of places. Aside from her blog at LynseyG.com, she has written extensively on the adult entertainment industry for places like McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, WHACK! Magazine, xoJane, and elsewhere. She can often be found performing with the New York Poetry Brothel or telling stories at seedy bars, or at home working on her graphic novel.