Fuck. I’d thought for a minute, that maybe, just maybe. I’d seen something on his face, some fucking tenderness, or idiocy, or soft bits where there’s usually just hunger and I let myself believe, let myself think.
I stopped and leaned on a wall, pressed my forehead into the brick. Fuck. As if anyone could feel that way about me. He was just trying to get me the way he wanted, just trying to use me like everyone else. Just in a different way, just wanted a different thing, but after he got it what use was I to him anymore? What fucking good was I, when all he wanted was some part of me? Some idea? He was just like everyone else, I knew that, he was no different and why the fuck did that make me feel so fucking sick?
Because he wasn’t like everyone else. Because he was different. Because I needed him to be something that he wasn’t, and I didn’t need his booze but I fucking needed him and he wouldn’t, and he didn’t.
I shocked myself by starting to cry, right there on the sidewalk.
It was more than this stupid guy and the stupid ways he made my stomach want to eat itself, if I was being honest. Yeah, the guy was amazing, and I wanted him, and I wanted him to want me, but shit was getting worse than that. Shit had become more. Yeah, there was him, and the way he wouldn’t fuck me even when he could, the way he told me he wanted me, and there were his eyes, so green and so bright and so cold, and his voice and the way he commanded and then the next instant soothed. His lips, and all the things he’d made me taste. Even if those memories were only half remembered.
Fuck. How strong must those feelings have been, to make it through all the shit I had done, to drag themselves past all the walls I’ve been so fucking careful to put up. Fuck his lips. Screw his way of making me want him.
But it was more than that. Now, it had become more than all of that. It was the way I had eaten breakfast, for the first time in a long time, the way pancakes had tasted in someone else’s home after I hadn’t even done anything, hadn’t made any lies, any advances. How I had made some other kind of thing, created something with my own hands, and they had liked it. All of them. They had taken the things I had created into their bodies and didn’t act like it poisoned them. It was the thanks they let fall from their lips, it was how easy that had seemed to them, how genuine, the way I could exist in that space. It was the sound of happiness and joking and the way that had somehow lifted things inside me that I hadn’t even realized were heavy, those things that now threatened to drag me down to the deepest, darkest, fucking-est pits of the places I always was, would always be.
Why couldn’t he see that? Why didn’t he look at me and understand that I was nothing, that I was anything but someone you ate pancakes with for no reason except to eat pancakes, that the strings that I always attached to actions were the only things holding up my goddamn life?
He kept cutting at those strings. Kept hacking away at the ways I lived, at the things I did to survive. When I fell, when there was nothing left to hold me, what the fuck did he think I was going to do? How the fuck did he think I was going to be able to live? It wasn’t like there was going to be someone there to catch me. Fuck, it wasn’t like he would be there, his arms open, his eyes green and looking at me, only me, my name on his lips...
It had been really, really fucking stupid to give him back the alcohol. I needed a drink right now, and I didn’t have any money, and not a lot of bars served me without an ID. But I had felt so guilty, had felt so fucking shitty with that stupid bottle in my hand. Somehow I knew that I wouldn’t be able to drink it anyway. Somehow, I think that bottle might have done for alcohol what he'd done for speed, and I couldn't fucking have that. Not now. Not when I was like this.
Not when I was all the things he had made me.
I remembered, with some embarrassment, that I was still leaned up against the brick wall of the alley I had thrown myself into. I pushed myself off the wall and wiped at my treacherously leaking eyes, and I realized that my hands were shaking. Bad.
Fuck this. Fuck all of it.
I stalked off down the street, jamming my idiot hands between my arms and my body, trying to keep my shakes to myself as I ran through my list of men who would open their doors for me at this early hour and knowing that, like I always seemed to do, I would end up blowing Chad for a free drink in the backroom of that stupid fucking bar.
I tried everything to keep me out of that bar. Excuses, lies, halftruths. Anything to keep me away from that place, to keep me away from him.
He was bad for me. There was nothing I could do.
I dreamed of him, dreamed of him often. Sometimes he would be fighting and he would take a bad hit, and I would watch him fall, unconscious, beneath the feet of men who didn’t care. Sometimes he would be beneath me, and I would kiss him and he would smile, and his pupils were the right size and his smile was true and he gave himself to me, for me, and I would wake up with my sheets soaked and my heartrate up. Other times I would see him lying in the parking lot, his breath slowing, his heart slowing, everything slowing but the pulse of the nightclub behind him, alone but for the the bouncers, statues, looming large above his corpse.
Sometimes, in those dreams, I would look away to yell at the bouncers and look back down and his face would be my own. And I would wake, again, my sheets soaked and my heart pounding.
But none of this was fair to him. How could I look at him, how could I act around him, when I couldn’t even divest his experiences from my own? He wasn’t me; he was his own person, with his own experiences and reasons for doing what he did. Who was I to tell him what he should be doing? Why the fuck did I think I had the right to ask him to stop?
And yet. And yet. I remembered, so well, so clearly, how it felt to be in those bars, how it felt to live only through the quick rush and slow falls. The pain the next morning when the deals you made came collecting. The soreness, inside and out. The anger. The isolation.
He wasn’t me, as Bren reminded me over and over. I knew that. Of course I knew that. I understood him. I <I>knew</I> him. That was part of what made this so fucking<I> hard. </I>Because he might not be me, but he was running fucking parrellel at faster and faster speeds and I couldn’t just stand by and watch him jump the tracks.
I also knew that Bren was right. Being around him was playing with fire. So I tried to avoid the bar, for as long as I could.
We lived our lives, as we did. Bren fought his fight - he won, and won the purse, but nearly lost his boyfriend. Orin was a bear, in all the ways bears are, and I think in some way he’d still held onto this idea that Bren was a delicate thing to be protected. Even after seeing Bren fight in the bar that night. Because there was seeing Bren fight, and then there was seeing Bren fight.
I’m being unkind. Part of it, I’m sure, was watching Bren dominate the other guy. But part of it, and I’m confident in saying it was a large part of it, was watching Bren get fucked up in the ring. You can only watch the person you love get body slammed, get kicked, get punched in the face, the kidneys, kneed in the stomach and so many other attacks a finite amount of times before you just can’t take it anymore. It’s hard for me, and I live this. I mean, flyweight is fast, and it’s brutal. Those guys don’t hold back. They hit often, and they hit hard.
Every time Bren took a hit, Orin nearly lost his shit. And Bren took a lot of hits. It was a win by submission, in the end, but it went into the third round.
“How you doing?” I asked him after the bout ended.
“I wanted to crawl into the ring and strangle that other man,” Orin said. His voice was tight; his knuckles were white.
I put a light hand on his arm. “Please don’t. Travis is a friend of ours.”
Orin looked down at me, shocked. “A friend? He did that to a friend?”
I wasn’t sure if he was talking about Bren doing what he had done to Travis, or Travis doing what he had done to Bren. All in all, Travis came out worse for the fight. I just patted his arm and led him to where we could wait for Bren.
Orin did seem to like the aftercare portion, where he got to dote on Bren and make sure he was alright. He did not seem to like the part where Bren went out and stood, shirtless, bloody, to meet his adoring fans.
“Its seems gratuitous,” he grumbled, and I shrugged. It keeps the industry alive, and the industry keeps us alive, and so we do what we have to do.
Bren and he got into a shouting match that night, and he wasn’t over for three days afterwards. But on the fourth day he showed up with flowers, and Bren had rented his favorite movie, and so they didn’t even get through the beginning credits before the retreated to the room.
They announced later that night that they’d decided to celebrate making up by going back to that fucking bar. And guess who got to DD.