We cuddled up in his bed one morning, my ex and I. But we were dating back then. Boyfriend. I couldn’t remember how long ago this was. Maybe I was 18, maybe 19 then. Probably 19. I remembered the moment clearly; I recalled him pressing his lips to my collar bone, then up my neck before he bit down. He whispered my name. I whispered his back.
“M… Love you.”
He smelled heavily of smoke. We both did. It clung to our clothes, our hair, our lungs. It choked me up every time we kissed, but I knew he loved the taste of my mouth on his. Desperately. He’d chew my lower lip, slip his tongue inside so we could feel each other. We knew it was killing us, but at least we’d be together. It felt a little less lonely that way.
When we were together, his hands always wandered. They trailed up and down my body, caressing me. His favorite place was my sides, where he rubbed gentle circles into my skin. Every time they ended there. Every time his hands were warm. He took my cold ones in his, pressed a kiss to my knuckles.
“Faust,” he breathed against them. “Have you ever thought about getting a tattoo?”
“Not really… I don’t know what I’d get. It’s kinda permanent,” I shrugged.
He traced a finger along my leg. “I think it would be cute.”
“I mean… Yeah? I guess it would.”
“Something small to start off,” he continued. “I see you staring at mine all the time.”
It was true. I did. My eyes were always drawn to the patterns across his back, the tiny little stars on his hips. I rubbed my thumb across his shirt, where they would be. He shivered, then bopped me on the nose.
“Come on. Think about it!” he grinned. “Maybe we could match.” He placed his hand over mine and gave it a squeeze.
“The stars?” I asked. He nodded. “Hmm… Yeah, I’ll think about it.”
The sun rose a little bit higher and he had to go to work. He slipped from my arms and fumbled through his closet of entirely black shirts. It was always entertaining to watch him get ready. He brushed through his hair, swapped some piercings, then tugged on some pants. He fiddled with his hair a bit more before giving me a kiss and a goodbye.
I stayed home.
I stayed home a lot back then.
Being in public was difficult, everyone always looking and judging.
He was fine with being the only one working, and I appreciated it. Sometimes I went to beg on the street corner, see if anyone would have mercy upon me. Not very often… but often enough. I felt bad about it sometimes. I didn’t want M to know, either, because I thought he’d be upset with me. But he never got upset with me about anything.
I never heard him raise his voice. He’s always been soft spoken, a little quiet. There was a certain warmth to his tone that made him feel like home. When we go out together he always dresses like a punk. He’s always looked like one. Even when we first met. But I was entranced, drawn to him. He just looked a bit scary. I don’t know what I expected when we met, but he was kind.
I wished I could look like him. Beautiful.
M always insisted I was one of the most beautiful men he’d seen. I didn’t always believe him, but sometimes I did. When I was in a good mood. I’d kiss and tell him he was right. That he should praise me more. He always did.
Now I was alone in the apartment. It was hard to recall what I did all day. Nothing of importance, I assume. Sometimes I drew. Always portraits, mostly men. Mostly M. I liked to give him kind eyes that gazed back at me and a tiny little smile. I liked the way his lips quirked, how the dimples formed on his cheeks.
I remembered when he got home from work. He was tired, worn, and wanted to wrap his arms around me. I’d fallen asleep on the couch and he shook me awake, face close to mine.
“I want to cuddle,” he said.
“Now?” I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. “I want a smoke first.”
“Mmm… You can smoke in bed. It’s fine.”
I blinked at him, then pulled a cigarette from the pack on the coffee table and lit it. He helped me up, then pulled me to the room. Once I settled in bed, he turned on his side and took the cigarette from my mouth. I let out a noise of protest. He blew smoke in my face, then leaned in to kiss me.
The kiss was deep, slow. It felt like time froze around us. When he pulled back, he set the cigarette back in my mouth and gazed down at me. He stroked his thumb over my cheek, then settled at my chin to tilt my head towards his. As I breathed out, smoke curled around our faces before dissipating into nothingness.
He kissed me again. And again and again, trying to taste every part of me. He pressed kisses into my neck, my shoulder, my mouth, my cheeks. He gave out a pleased hum every time I made a sound.
I returned the favor. His skin was salty, smokey. He breathed quietly as I admired him.
“Do you want top surgery?” he asked suddenly.
I pulled off of him to scan his face. He looked serious. “Yeah. Someday. I don’t have the money.”
I probably never would, but I didn’t tell him that. I knew I was such a downer, even if I was trying to be happy. I thought it’d make him feel bad.
“OK. We should schedule it.”
“I’ve been saving for a while,” he said, running his fingers through my hair.
“Because it would make you happy.”
I just stared at him for a long time. He smiled down at me, dimples forming just how I drew them.. I think I saw love in his eyes.
“I want you to be happy.”
“You mean it?” I chewed my lip. I’d dreamed of this moment for years, but it had never been within my reach. Not by a long shot. Sure, there’d be a wait, and I’d have to get some approvals… But this was the closest I’d been.
I cried in his arms. It was the first time I cried from being happy.
It was also the last.