by Daniel Ducote
            He’s gonna kill me as soon as he gets a hold of me. He’ll probably make it slow and painful. He’ll grab my neck and strangle me with his bare hands. Keep me alive long enough to torment me and make me beg for mercy. Say I’m sorry for what I did. Am I sorry? I think so. I never really thought about it. It was a mistake. I know that much. I don’t have time to think much about it. I’ve been running for an hour and he’s still close enough behind me that I can hear his breathing patterns. Vicious. Like a momma bear when you mess with her cubs. He wants blood. My blood. And I’m so exhausted I’m about to just give in and let him have it. My feet are bleeding. The soles of my toes are so blistered that it feels like a knife’s digging into my skin every time my feet hit the ground. I don’t even know where I am anymore. My vision is blurry and my ears are ringing. I think I’m walking on train tracks but I can’t tell for sure. I think it’s raining but I’m not sure if I’m just drenched in sweat. No matter how this ends, I’m ready for it to be over.
            That fucking bastard. I can’t believe I let him sucker me into this. He took advantage of me. He knew I was weak and vulnerable, and he exploited me. The pledge. I told him about the fucking pledge! And he did it anyway. He made me break my pledge. Now I’m gonna make him pay. I have to. It’s not that I want to kill him. But I have no choice. He’s getting tired. I can see it in the way he’s running, like every time his toes touch the ground he’s in utter pain. He’s sweating so much he probably thinks it’s raining. I’m stronger than him. I can last longer. Soon he’ll have to stop to take a breath. Or maybe he’ll trip. And when he does I’ll dive on top of him like a vengeful mother bear. I’ll strangle him. Make him apologize and beg me not to kill him. Then, slowly squeeze the life out of him, making sure he has enough time to regret what he did before granting him the mercy of death.
            “Son, I think it’s time I pass this down to you,” Jay’s father hands him a stainless steel pocketknife. Old, worn from being handed down to pair after pair of hands, from being used to slice everything from zip ties to tree bark. There’s a faded design of a cowboy on the outer casing.
“My father gave this to me. And his father gave it to him. And so on and so forth. It’s very special, Jayden. It means you’re ready to become a man, and that I can trust you to do the right thing. Take good care of it. And when you marry a fine young woman and she has your kids, one day you can pass it on to your son.”
            “Thanks, Dad,” Jay says as he closes the car door. It’s his first day of college. Jay appreciates the gift, but he hates what it means. His father expects him to live the same life every Sumner man has lived. Get a college degree. Go into the factory business. Marry a trophy wife. Have a ton of kids. Be the perfect patriarch. But Jay has never been the embodiment of hegemonic masculinity. Lanky, timid, and mildly effeminate, he enjoys art, music, and writing. The pocketknife, which Jay always knew he’d receive from his father sooner or later and had been dreading, symbolizes all that Jay’s father expects him to be, and all that Jay never can be. Jay knows the reality – that he’ll inevitably disappoint his dad.
            As Jay’s father drives off and Jay walks into his brand new apartment, he’s startled to find a guest waiting to meet him. The guy standing in the living room is a total stud. Tall, dark-haired, brown-eyed, muscular, wearing a tight tank top and black jeans that make his crotch look huge. Jay didn’t know he’d have a roommate. He was told he wouldn’t have one unless the university didn’t have enough open housing spots for a late enrollee. The stud introduces himself. Noah. He moved down here from---Jay doesn’t hear the rest. His mind’s fixated on that grin, those dimples. The symmetry of his face. There’s a rhythm to it all. The way the corners of his lips turn upward every time he begins a sentence, reach their peak mid-sentence, and descend back to resting position by the end of the sentence. The way his eyes seem to wince delicately every time he nods his head. Suddenly he pokes Jay’s chest. He makes a crack about Jay’s timid demeanor and weak, thin body.
            “I guess you need someone to look out for you, Little One,” Noah teases as Jay blushes and looks down at the carpet, his cheeks growing redder by the second. He hears Noah offer to be his workout buddy and nods meekly, keeping his eyes fixated on the forest green carpet.
            He’s so close to me I can hear his heart beating. There’s a rhythm to it. Just like his grin. God, that grin. As I start to run faster, I hear his heartbeat accelerate. Then I have to slow down to catch my breath, and his heartbeat slows too. Then I hear him getting closer to me and I start to run even faster than before, and his heartbeat accelerates even more, as if his heart’s chasing mine. It’s like he’s playing a game with me. Or trying to send me a message. That he gets me. He gets me even better than I get myself. And maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to him. Even though he’s about to wring my neck.
            Our hearts are in lockstep. I can tell by the way his running pattern matches my heartbeat. I can predict his every move. Yet I can never get the jump on him because his next move is also my next move. He knows this. And that’s what scares him so much about me. He’s never met someone who knows him better than he knows himself, as I do. And he likes it. He’s aroused by the idea that I know every little thing about him, that I’ve mastered him. His secrets belong to me. His mind belongs to me. His body belongs to me. And it arouses me, too. I’ve never had such complete and utter dominance over someone before. I wish I didn’t have to kill him. But the pledge. I have to honor the pledge.
            A few weeks into the school year, Noah comes home with a dog. A pure-bred British lab with a beautiful black coat, warm black eyes, and a precious personality. He immediately develops a fondness for his new owners, making a habit within days of wanting to just sit on one of the guys’ laps and be petted. Jay is skeptical to admit it to himself, but as he grows attached to the puppy, who they name Charlie, after Noah’s deceased uncle, who strangely has the same name as Jay’s deceased grandfather, Jay begins to feel a stronger connection to Noah. The two take care of Charlie like he’s their son. It’s something they both care deeply about, a commitment they make not just to Charlie but to each other. By the way he cares for Charlie, Jay feels he is expressing his feelings about Noah, his commitment to their friendship.
            He killed Charlie. How could he kill Charlie, our Charlie? I thought Charlie meant something to us. Charlie did mean something to us. Charlie still does. Charlie was our son. Charlie was the chain that held our hearts together. But it was never about Charlie. The chain is still there. And it always has been. Charlie was just the physical embodiment of it. I still care about him. And he still cares about me. I know he does. How? I can… I can just… feel it. I can’t explain how. But he loves me more than he loves himself. I love him more than I love myself. And we both always have. Before we even knew each other. Our spirits have always been interlocked. If we’d never met, we’d still feel this way about each other. We’d intuitively sense that we were out there for each other, and that we were meant for each other. Even when he kills me, what we have always had will still be there.
            I thought that killing Charlie would set me free of the bondage that keeps my heart restrained to his. I had to break these chains, for my dad, for the pledge. But I was wrong. I can’t free myself. No matter how badly I want to. Besides, I don’t want to. And I never will want to, and I never will be able to want to. That’s because there are no chains holding us together. We’re held together by something greater, something of which neither one of us has control – ourselves. It’s like trying to sneeze without closing your eyelids. They say there’s no way to do it, that the human body lacks the physical capacity. I similarly lack the capacity to break this bond. Even after I kill him, and restore the pledge, the bond will still be there. Is it the L-word? No, there’s no such thing.
            Jay and Noah go grocery shopping. Jay’s weak so Noah helps him push the cart. (“Aww, what’s a matter? Little One needs help pushing a big shopping cart?”) Their hands are so close on the handle bar they almost touch. Jay enjoys it. Noah doesn’t say much. Eventually Jay starts to notice other shoppers giving the two strange looks. He feels the judgment of their bigoted eyes. Jay starts to blush with embarrassment. He could take his hands off the shopping cart and just let Noah push, but he doesn’t want to. He feels secure, like Noah’s taking care of him. Jay shyly beckons Noah to the stares of the shoppers. Noah just laughs it off.
            “Let ‘em stare, Little One. We’re comfortable in who we are, right?”
            Jay’s heart sinks when he hears Noah laugh the situation off like it’s nothing. He wants Noah to take him seriously, to take them seriously. He doesn’t understand why, but he does. He wishes Noah knew what he was going through and that they could talk openly about it – whatever it is.
            As the two check out, the cashier, a tall, burly woman wearing a taped up Jesus necklace, gives Jay the death stare. She refuses to even look at Noah. She won’t let them buy the liquor. Noah’s 21. He gives her his ID, but she declines it, telling Jay that he is the one paying for the groceries and he’s not old enough to buy alcohol.
            “Do you want these drinks you were drinking bagged, sir?” the woman asks.
            “No, ma’am. We’ll take them separately,” Noah responds.
            The woman looks at the two like they belong in a mental institution as they pay for the groceries and push the shopping cart away together. Noah pats Jay on the small of his back as they walk out of the store, his way of consoling Jay with as few words as possible. Jay quivers, mildly aroused by the touch. He wonders what it would feel like if Noah left his hand there longer.
            His breathing pattern. It’s different now. I sense contradictions. Vaguely threatening, yet sprinkled with a layer of gentle reassurance that what he’s about to do isn’t personal. Livid, yet skeptical of anger. Vicious, yet tame. Every time his breathing starts to get heavier, it’s like there’s a force within him that starts to calm him down. It’s like he wants to stop. It’s like he’s trying to stop. But he can’t help himself. A sort of contractual obligation. He doesn’t want to do this. But he has no choice.
            I’m a prisoner of my own mind. Although I dread what I’m about to do, I’m also eager. I want to just get it over with as quickly as possible, but contrarily I’ll feel worse once it’s over. There are two forces within me fighting each other. I find myself forgetting how much I despised him just moments ago. I just want to embrace him passionately and… No, now I remember what he did to me. He ruined me. Corrupted me. Manipulated me. Stole my innocence. Preyed on my emotional vulnerability. Just like my dad. No, this is what Satan does. He distracts us with hedonistic pleasures and makes us betray the people who really love us and want to look out for us. My dad’s a great man. My dad’s the reason I am the man I am today. It’s all him. This is his fault. He’s jealous of what my dad and I have, and he’s trying to use his sexuality to break us apart. What a sick bastard.
            Jay meets his father one cold and windy November night in a dark alley behind a shady bar. It looks familiar. Jay’s father wears a brown trench coat and a black hat tipped over his face so Jay can’t see his eyes.
            “Be careful, Jayden,” his father lectures. “Be very careful about the choices you make. Remember, I can’t always be with you, but Jesus is. He knows everything you think, everything you do. Don’t let us down, Jayden. I gave you that pocketknife for a reason. I trust you. I pray you won’t betray my confidence.”
            “I… I promise, Dad,” Jay stammers.
            As Jay turns around to discreetly exit the alley, he is assaulted by a tall, heavyset Chinese man, who pulls Jay’s pants down and begins to rape him. Suddenly Jay awakens in sweat. He begins crying and runs to Noah’s room, telling him about the dream. Jay begs to sleep in Noah’s bed. Noah reluctantly agrees. As the two turn out the lights and begin to fall asleep, lying on their sides facing opposite directions, Jay blurts out something.
            “Noah, why you never bring home a girl?”
            “I’m waiting for the right one.”
            “Other guys just have sex with ‘em and never call them back.”
            “I don’t believe in that.”
            “Why not?”
            “I took a pledge.”
            “A pledge?”
            “A purity pledge. I agreed with my father and my pastor not to have sex until after I’m married. It prevents diseases and unwanted pregnancies.”
            Jay’s continued questioning leads to a lengthy conversation about sex. Noah eventually sighs exasperatedly, giving up on sleep, gets out of bed and returns moments later with a glass of wine. Jay confesses he has never had sex either. The two sit up in bed and talk. Jay asks Noah for a sip of wine. Noah won’t let Jay have any on account of his age. As the two talk Noah repeatedly walks to the kitchen to refill his glass of wine, ultimately getting drunk. He opens up to Jay for the first time. He tells him about his father. When Noah was younger, his father would take him in the backroom of a shady bar on the outskirts of town and “rent” him to horny men. His father would tell Noah he was paying his “fair share” to his family in exchange for food and housing. Not long after the day Noah came home to find his mother had fallen down the stairs and died, Noah’s father himself began groping Noah. Soon they took things to what Noah simply calls “the next level.”
One day, Noah was taken to church and “absolved” of his “impurity” by a preacher, but he had to promise the preacher and his father he would never utter a word of anything that had happened before that day to anyone else, otherwise Jesus wouldn’t erase it from his past and he wouldn’t be forgiven and he wouldn’t get into Heaven. Because homosexuality is a mortal sin. And Hell is a miserable place where you burn and burn and it never stops.
            Soon Noah starts crying and Jay doesn’t know what to do since Noah is usually so thick-skinned and stoic. That’s when little Charlie trots into the bedroom, limping from the ankle wound he incurred earlier that week when a long-haired biker stepped on his little foot while Noah and Jay were taking him for a walk, quickly running away and hollering expletives at the couple. Jay and Noah both help the whimpering puppy into bed and they start cuddling. All three of them are asleep within half an hour. Jay and Noah both sleep with one hand on Charlie and one on each other. The synergy between the three is like a jolt of electricity straight to their hearts. They take care of each other.
            Maybe it’s the deliria setting in, but now I really fucking hate myself. I took advantage of Noah. He told me about the pledge, and I made him violate it. I brought everything that’s about to happen on myself. But it’s not fair that now he has to get blood on his hands because of my mistakes. He shouldn’t have to die knowing he killed me, knowing he broke his pledge. He deserves to live an entire life as great as that night.
It’s not fair. Not fair what he did to me. Not fair that now I have to kill him. Not fair that my life had to be this way. But, then again, whose fault is it but my own? I let my father use me and rape me. I let him beat and rape my own mother. I should’ve protected her. But instead I lied to everyone, even to myself. I let the li---Jay---rope me in. I let him make me fall in l… I let him seduce me. It’s all my fault. In fact, it is unfair. It’s unfair that now Jay has to die because of me. And because of that fucking pledge.
            Noah’s in class, or at work. Jay can’t remember which one and he sits in their living room watching Oprah in his underwear. He’s thinking about what Noah told him. They haven’t talked about it since that night. Jay isn’t sure if he’s supposed to talk about it. But he sees Noah differently now. Noah seems so vulnerable, like a piece of candy with a hard, salty shell but a soft, sweet core. Jay likes Noah more now. He’s more… human. Jay’s staring at a picture of Noah on his phone. One he took the other night when Noah feel asleep on the couch in his boxers with the hearts on them and his fly was half open and he looked so innocent and cute. Soon Jay feels a strange tingling sensation and he can’t resist the urge he is getting. He doesn’t quite understand it and knows it’s going to lead to trouble, but he proceeds to stoke his urges. Then Noah walks in, at first startled and embarrassed, but within a few minutes they’re both sitting next to each other on the couch and before Jay knows it Noah’s on his knees and it feels so wonderful. Jay ultimately loses all feeling in his body and it feels like he and Noah are in another world where nothing matters but the two of them. And then suddenly all the feeling comes back and Jay feels an ecstasy he’s never experienced before and he’s just so proud of his friendship with Noah. For a minute he totally forgets his dad exists.
            I can’t keep this up any longer. I can’t run anymore. Now I’m literally walking, and I hear him walking, too, right behind me. How has he not caught up to me yet? He’s way stronger and in better shape than me but somehow he still manages to stay exactly the same distance behind me as he was when he first started chasing me. Is he trying not to catch me? Does he not really want to kill me after all? Anywya, my memory is starting to fade. Oh no, please, not my memories. They’re all I have left. What was it that made me first fall for him? What were we talking about that night we first… First what? Whatever it was, I’d never felt anything like it before. A mix of pain and ecstasy. Or perhaps just one of the two.
            I’m growing weak. My mind is foggy. Why am I still trying to kill him? That’s right, a pledge. What did the pledge say? What did we do? I remember the experience vaguely. I feel a tear rolling down my eye. The thought of forgetting it – forgetting him – tears me up inside. By killing him, I’ll be killing a part of myself. Perhaps all of myself. But I won’t forget him. I can’t forget him.
            Jay’s dreaming again. He meets his father in the same alleyway, only the nightclub has been demolished. All that remains is an empty parking lot and a pile of rubble. His father’s wearing the same mysterious outfit he wore last time. But this time Jay feels liberated.
            “How have you been, son?” Jay’s father asks nervously. He suddenly seems so weak and frail, like he’s questioning his entire life.
            “Dad… I… I did something you’re not gonna like,” Jay slowly mutters with a sprinkle of thinly veiled confidence.
            “Jayden, you don’t have to go down this road.”
            “Dad, it’s time for me to move on. Here, this is yours.” Jay pulls the pocketknife out of his sweatshirt pocket and tosses it over to his father. It cracks as it hits the concrete beside his father’s feet.
“I… I’m not the man you want me to be.”
            Jay’s father, stunned by his son’s betrayal, begins to tear up.
            “Son, please, you can come back. We can go to the pastor. He can absolve you of your sins. Please. Jesus can forgive you.”
            “No, Dad. I know what I want and it’s not what you want for me. I’m…” Jay stops himself. He won’t apologize and he won’t tell his father details of his relationship with Noah. As he turns around and walks away he hears the sobs of his father.
            “Come back, Jay! Please! I need you! I need you!”
            Jay walks past a group of shady looking older men. They stare directly at his crotch but Jay can see in their eyes that they’re not going to bother him. They sense the boldness in Jay’s step and know he’s no longer an easy target. Jay feels free for the first time he can remember.
            And then Jay awakens from his dream. He doesn’t remember what day it is or what time it is, and frankly he doesn’t care. Charlie’s lying next to him in bed. He sees the worn out pocketknife on his nightstand and hears Noah’s snoring from the next room. Jay haphazardly hums the knife into the trash bin, collapses back onto his pillow and falls asleep.
            The knife. If only I had the knife right now. But I haven’t earned it. I disappointed, rejected my father. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why is our friendship forbidden? Tradition. That’s what my dad always told me. Society forbids it because that’s the way it’s always been. Kind of an argumentum ad populum. “It’s wrong because everyone else says it’s wrong.” But then there’s the biology of it. Only an egg and a sperm can reproduce. If everyone did it this way humanity would die out. So we can’t be together because of evolution.
            I’ve got his knife. Maybe I’ll show mercy on him. Just make it a quick death. I’ll just go right through his heart. He’ll die almost instantly. Sure sucks it has to be this way. Why does it have to be this way? Religion, I guess. Religion and biology. But religion’s mostly based in superstition, originally created as a tool for the people in power to stay in power. They had a divine right to rule, the monarchs would say. And maybe we are on the right side of biology. The world’s overpopulated. People in Africa are starving because there’s not enough food to go around for everyone. Maybe we are nature’s response to overpopulation. Maybe humanity needs to stop reproducing. Something to ponder.
            It’s Friday night. It’s cold, dark, and stormy out. Noah’s sitting on the couch, flipping through the channels on the television. Jay is in bed petting Charlie. He has a fever.
            “We’re out of Tylenol,” Jay groans.
            “You want me to go out in this weather to get you some more, Little One?”
For the first time, this name bothers Jay. It sounds patronizing and condescending. Jay doesn’t want to be the weak, vulnerable little boy anymore. He wants respect.
            “Why do you still call me that? I’ve gotten bigger since we met.”
            Noah admits to himself it’s true. When the two first met, Jay looked like an innocent, frail, helpless little boy who had barely entered puberty. Since Noah and Jay started going to the gym, Noah’s noticed a lot more muscle definition on Jay, particularly in his chest and arms. Jay’s also developed a fine bubble butt. His thighs and backside fill his skinny jeans quite nicely. Noah has recently found himself gazing at Jay’s ass on more than one occasion. It’s not that Noah’s aroused by seeing Jay’s capacious backside; he’s not gay. He just takes pride in knowing that the time he spent training Jay at the gym is what created that butt. In a way, Noah owns Jay’s ass, and he couldn’t be more proud of it. Sure, it took some time and energy. And sure they got a lot of judgmental stares from others at the gym who probably thought the two acted a little too close for two “guy friends,” but nonetheless they persisted. Noah views Jay’s gorgeous new figure as a token of his commitment to their friendship, and that’s why he feels immense pride in Jay’s butt.
            “You’ll always be a little one to me,” Noah responds stoically after a moment’s pause.
            “I have fever,” Jay whines, changing the conversation back to his lack of medicine. “What can you do for me?”
            “Well, I could warm you up some soup or tea. Do you want me to run to the pharmacy?”
            “I hate soup. And I hate tea. And I don’t want you to go out in this weather.”
            “Then what do you want?”
            “Get me drunk.”
            “Jay, you know you’re not old enough to drink. I could get arrested for giving you booze. The school says I’m really not even supposed to have any in the apartment since you’re under 21.”
            “Come on, Noah. I feel like shit. And who could possibly find out?”
            “Well, I suppose I could give you a glass or two of wine. But we have to see how much you can handle. We’ll start off slow since it’s your first time.”
            As Noah gives Jay his first glass of wine, he sits beside Jay on the bed and watches as the first trickle of wine hits those rosy red lips. Those lips. The way they caress the edge of that glass. So slowly. Jay reports feeling his headache go away and his fever break. Noah starts to drink, too, and soon they’ve both had several glasses and are kicked back in their boxers on the bed, side by side, drinking wine, arguing incoherently about whether Lady Gaga got breast implants.
            Soon Jay’s eyes start to shift below Noah’s face. He notices the perfect symmetry of Noah’s chest. His nipples are hardened and pointy.
            “No…Noah, your, your, your nips…must be cold,” Jay slurs, realizing he’s drunk.
            “I know,” Noah manages, also buzzed.
            As a drunken Jay’s eyes venture down to Noah’s torso, he is aroused to see the fly on Noah’s boxers wide open. And, to Jay’s pleasant surprise, Noah seems to be similarly aroused. Jay’s cheeks redden and he starts to regain his senses.
            “Noah… do you…” Jay tries to begin a question but doesn’t know exactly what to say. And he realizes he doesn’t need to finish, by the way Noah’s looking at him. Jay’s never seen that look on Noah before. His cheeks are as red as the wine. His eyes are dilated. His tongue is trying to dampen his dry lips. He leans in closer to Jay, gently placing his left arm around Jay’s hip. The touch, so soft and delicate, sends Jay quivering from his neck to his thighs. He moans. Like a cruel tease, Noah’s sensual caress leaves Jay longing for more intimacy. Noah begins to pull Jay’s underwear down his hips. Then he pauses. Noah pours another half glass of wine and takes a few sips of it. He hands the glass to Jay, who swallows down the rest. Before Jay can place the glass on the nightstand Noah pounces on him. The glass falls and shatters on the floor as Noah embraces Jay in a passionate kiss. Their tongues wrestle inside their mouths. After a full two minutes, Noah takes a pause from the kiss.
            “I love you, Jay.”
            “I love you, too. I always have.”
            As Charlie curls up peacefully on the floor beside the bed and falls asleep, the two make passionate love, their moans and gasps drowning out the sounds of thunder and lightning, which, once intimidatingly boisterous, dissolve into a gentle, comforting lullaby that seems to synchronize with the rattling of the bed as both men work their way to a thunderous orgasm.
            Now it’s raining hard. I hear the thunder, see the lightning. That sound. The thunder. Now it all comes back to me. The night we had sex. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. To completely abdicate control of my body to him. To place all my trust in him. It was both horrifying and soothing. It hurt like hell at first. But once I learned to completely relax every muscle in my body and put my brain on autopilot, the feeling was surreal. I had always felt like he was a part of me. Like we were connected in spirit. That night, we took our connection to the next level. Oh, the indescribable feeling, of him physically inside of me, our genitalia conjoined. We became one, not just in spirit, but in body. Suddenly I completely cease to run, surrendering myself to him just like I did that night. I close my eyes and imagine that I’m right back there in bed. It sends a chill down my spine. I wonder why he hasn’t killed me yet.
            I remember it now. It felt so empowering. Someone completely relinquishing control of their mind and body to me. The trust gave me a rush. Like heroine injected into my veins. I was careful not to violate his trust. I took great care of his body, being careful not to go too fast or too hard. I was completely in tune with how he was feeling. When he felt pain, I felt it, too. When he felt ecstasy, so did I. For that short period of time, we were literally one. Like we have always been.
            Jay wakes up the morning after losing his virginity, less surprised by the fact that he just got drunk and had sex with another man than by the fact that he didn’t dream of his father last night. He hears the shower running. Noah’s already out of bed. After icing his aching forehead with frozen pizza rolls, Jay goes for a jog, quickly learning that a run in the hot morning sun is one of the worst ways to cure a hangover.
            Jay returns a mere 30 minutes later and breaks down in tears. Noah is gone. A dead Charlie lies on the bed the two slept in. A death threat signed by Noah is left for Jay on the wall in Charlie’s blood. Jay fearfully rummages through the trash bin for his father’s pocketknife but is unable to find it. Noah stole it. He wraps Charlie’s carcass in a large black plastic bag and drags it out to his car, which he finds has been vandalized with homophobic slurs. He’ll have to wait until night to bury his – their – dog, to avoid suspicion.
            I love him. He loves me, too. He said it that night. And I said it. We never spoke of it again. But we didn’t need to. We both understand what we have, and always will have. I know he understands, and he knows I know he understands, and I know he knows I understand. Words only create complication, confusion, and chaos. Like the words he wrote on the wall – in Charlie’s blood. He didn’t mean those words. He doesn’t understand the meaning of those words. Words are mortal. But emotions, feelings, love – those are immortal. Death doesn’t mean the end. It just means the physical embodiment of an everlasting feeling dissolves and the feeling evolves into its eternal form. And that’s what’s about to happen to us. There’s no point in fighting it. I surrender myself to him now, just as I did that night in bed. I place my complete trust in him.
            I said it for the first time in my life that night. The L-word. Did I mean it? It doesn’t matter. It’s just a word. And words only have as much meaning as you assign to them. What matters is how I feel. I can’t put the feeling in words. But I care about him. I am him. As I take out the pocketknife to kill him, he’s completely surrendered. I’d rather kill myself. But death is a privilege, and I’m not entitled to that privilege tonight.
            Frightened, confused, and unsure of where Noah has gone or what comes next, Jay drives into a deserted grassland late at night to bury Charlie. He digs a hole in the ground with a shovel, his eyes soaking in tears to the point that he has trouble seeing straight. He throws Charlie’s rotting body into the hole and begins to replace the dirt, paying his final respects to the tragically short life of his perfect angel. Jay begins to feel a chill. He suspects he’s being watched. Surely enough, moments after Jay finishes burying his deceased dog a mysterious figure with a knife lunges at him. Jay smells the familiar rust of his pocketknife. The aggressor doesn’t speak, but Jay knows who it is. Noah manages to scrape Jay’s arm, causing a superficial cut that drips a minimal amount of blood but succeeds in making Jay drop the shovel, his last line of defense. Jay begins to run for his life as Noah pursues him.
            The thunderstorm is severe now. The winds are powerful. The weather is a direct contradiction to the mood the boys feel. They’ve reconciled and reached a mutual understanding of what has to happen, without uttering a word. Jay trusts Noah despite knowing that he’s about to be killed. Noah knows that he’ll really be killing himself when he sticks the knife through Jay’s heart. He can’t explain how or why in words. But he intuitively understands it. As Noah gracefully approaches Jay with the knife, there’s a calm sensuality to the scene. Jay spins around to face his lover, his owner, throwing his hands up in erotic submission. His face calm and his eyes glassy like they were after that second glass of wine, Jay relinquishes control of his body and soul to Noah, just as he did the night Noah made him into a man. The two begin to simultaneously strip naked in the pouring rain, throwing their clothes into a nearby rain puddle that has grown knee deep. Despite the bitter cold, they are both physically aroused. The two embrace erotically, becoming one for the last time.
There is no longer a Jay and there is no longer a Noah. There is one man. He’s an outsider. He realizes he always has been and always will be. The only difference now is that he finally accepts himself. He realizes that labels and words don’t matter, that self-fulfillment is truly all any being exists for. He understands that he has achieved this self-fulfillment, which is what he was truly looking for all along. And then, as if mechanically fulfilling a menial duty, he sticks the pocketknife all the way through his back. The last thing he sees before dying is the blade coming out through the other end of his body.


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