No Strings

These are the days that remind you. There’s Jimmy, in the bedroom, vomiting Valium. And he keeps telling you that he loves you. You’re talking hospitals and stomach pumps. Jimmy’s talking love. FIRST PUBLISHED IN 'OUTRAGE'

Oh yeah, it’s raining. It rains so much around here that sometimes you feel like you’re living at the bottom of the ocean. Only, all the fish are gone, and the plankton is like dead skin floating on the surface of an old bathtub.

Sometimes you don’t cry because you just don’t have the energy and you simply look out at the rain and your mother asks you what you’re thinking and you shrug your shoulders and make her go away.

And it rains. The way it always seems to rain, at this time.

All the world is quiet. There’s an empty chair in your heart. Wise words collect on the tip of your tongue, then melt into the humdrum.

These are the days that remind you. There’s Jimmy, in the bedroom, vomiting Valium. And he keeps telling you that he loves you. You’re talking hospitals and stomach pumps. Jimmy’s talking love.

You collect him. You gather his limbs into you like a dog that has seen the wrong side of a car, and you wish you could reach him so you could let him know how sorry you are. How sorry you are that you don’t love him. You can’t love him. Anymore.

He’s looking into your eyes. You know he wants answers but most of all he wants you, back – the way you were.

You’re almost fifteen. Your cock is the most important thing in your life. You’ve named it Casper because it keeps you awake at night and maybe cause of the white stuff as well. You find it difficult to walk down the stairs of double-decker buses – imagining that other passengers will see your carefully measured hard-on through your heavy duffle-coat. You imagine everyone staring at you. You consider the prospect of your duffle-coat flying open to reveal the physiological side effects of motion. You dream of turning up at school one morning sporting your engorged appendage.

You’ve stood over mirrors and ejaculated on them, never sure whom the fantasy was about; never sure if it was just your fascination with your own body.

One day you’re swimming at the Tepid Baths with a fallback friend from school – a guy who’s name is too easy to forget; someone who was always in the reserves. And he’s brought his friend Jimmy along and Jimmy moves through the water like milk blending into chocolate.

He is older. Eighteen, you find out later, and he smiles a lot. He dives into the pool and then he swims to the side and you watch him as he pulls his lean body out of the pool and he looks over his shoulder at you, all careless and confident and your face is so red that you imagine leaving a trail of steam on the water when you duck-dive and swim as far away from him as possible. But, just as you surface, you feel someone brush against your leg and when you glance down Jimmy pushes between your legs, his shoulder nudging your scrotum. You close your eyes for a second but as soon as his body has cleared your legs, you move slowly to the side of the pool and you dunk your head a few times and as the last drops of water from your hair roll over your eyes, you know you have to get out.

Your fallback friend calls out to you. He wants to keep swimming for a while. As you sit on the edge of the pool, your feet dangling into the luke-warm water, Fallback does a demented butterfly stroke until he’s only feet from you. “There’s a chick,” he says, pointing, “over there and she’s got a few stray hairs sticking out of her bikini.”

You laugh. He takes in a mouthful of pool water and he sprays it on to you. You kick with your feet, near drowning him and then you feel a warm wet hand on your shoulder and you look up and you are a mirror that Jimmy is standing over, his speedos sticking to his cock. You try not to trace the outline.

“Don’t go yet,” he says, bending to sit beside you and Fallback splashes water at the two of you. Jimmy places the palm of one hand horizontally along the tips of the fingers of his other hand.

“What the fuck does that mean,” Fallback shouts and Jimmy says, “Time out.”

You’re not sure how it goes from here. There’s a lot of girl talk. Things you’d do if you actually knew how to do them.

Jimmy catches the sun on the face of his watch. He twists his arm to reflect the glare onto your eyes and you laugh, half-heartedly push him away, becoming increasingly uncomfortable when you realize that you’ve forgotten to take your hand back off his shoulder.

You move away quickly and awkwardly. You know he’s looking at you but you avoid eye contact. You imagine that he has special powers. That he could hack into your heart or find the thoughts you hide in some coded cache. There are thoughts in there you’re sure you’ve never had. Thoughts you’re just stowing for someone else.

You feel the glint of sunlight on your eyes again. You laugh and even though your voice broke more than a year ago, your laughter still cracks. It’s rhythmic but uncertain, like a Gattling gun. And you turn to face Jimmy. He’s smiling. It’s infectious. He directs the glare onto your nipples. You imagine that they warm in the second-hand sunlight.

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