Excerpt:  Chemistry

copyright 2006 by Lewis DeSimone


Looking back, I tend to see us in bed.  Zach’s bed; in the beginning, it was always Zach’s bed.  He slept on the left, nearer the window, so the morning light would shine directly onto his face and wake him gently.  He hated alarm clocks, even radios; it was more natural, he said, to wake with the sun.  Life grew stressful enough as the day progressed; there was nothing to be gained by waking up to Bon Jovi.

Actually, we got little sleep in those days, up deep into the night, making love, talking.  I never knew what time we finally settled in for sleep; the only clock in the apartment was in the kitchen, its hands invisible in the dark.  I’m not even sure I can say that we ever really settled in.  After sex, ater our bodies and words were spent, Zach would snuggle in, his back against my chest, and I would hold him, measuring each breath, each contraction of his thick stomach muscles.  One arm around his middle, the other under his neck, I would pull him against me, stealing his warmth, my cock once again rising and pressing into his flesh.  Before long, I would be nibbling his ear as he wriggled beside me.  We could go on like this for hours, too tired to do much more than softly play at sex.  It was no act of volition that drew us into sleep, but sheer exhaustion, the rhythm of our rolling bodies finally matching the rhythm of dreams.

Zach used his entire body for sex, his cock no more erogenous than the inside of an elbow, the soft webbing between his toes, the tiny scar that ran along his thigh.  He welcomed every touch, the slight squirming of his body the only clue I needed for where to go, what to do next.  His eyes were always closed, head thrown back, as if he were imagining a different world, a world that was all flesh, all touch.  Even when he explored my body, I could never see his eyes.  He kept his head down, never turning toward my face, never willing to jeopardize his concentration.  Adam’s eyes had always been turned pleadingly up to mine, searching out my pleasure, to satisfy himself that he was doing it right.  Zach didn’t need my approval; when he made love to me, there was only one body in the room—four hands, two cocks, two tongues, but all connected, all one.

“How do you do it?” I asked, whispering into the stillness.  

Spent for the third time that night, he lay on his back.  He laughed, stretching his arms up into the air.  His fingers disappeared into the darkness.  “I don’t think about it,” he said.

“Maybe that’s the secret,” I confessed.  “I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“You think too much,” he said, rolling onto his side, facing me at last.  

“It’s a vicious circle,” I told him.  “I try not to think, but then I find myself thinking about not thinking.  It’s not something you can will into action.”

“Exactly.”  He tapped my nose and let his finger fall gently down past my lips, finally swerving away at the chin.  I could hear the soft scratch of my beard against his skin; it was my second consecutive night at his place, I hadn’t shaved.

“You need to shut it off,” he said.  “Stop interpreting everything.  Just feel it.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Do you know how to ride a bike?”

“Of course.”

“Explain it to me.”  He arched his back, snuggling closer.

“Well, you . . .”

“Go on.”

“You maintain your balance by moving.”

“And how do you start moving?  Without falling off.”

I was stumped.  “You just do.”

The comforter shifted noisily as he shrugged beneath it.  “Case closed.”

I tried to take Zach’s advice.  Like him, I shut my eyes when he touched me, so that we’d be seeing the same darkness.  I let the sensations ripple through me—the brush of skin on my ankle, the wet flicker of a tongue tracing my chest.  I tried to just feel, but all the while I found myself picturing the scene.  There were no simple sensations; they were Zach’s fingers that tickled my side, Zach’s lips that encircled my earlobe.  My body surrendered to his touch, but my mind held on, tenaciously, unwilling to cede control.  When the first tremor of orgasm stirred, I pulled instinctively away—not ready yet, not willing.  I wanted more.  With Zach, I always wanted more.

Those first weeks mesh in memory, like the delicate strands of a spider’s web.  I can’t trace a chronological line through them—this is when we did such and such, this is the first time I said I love you.  Each attempt at reconstruction veers off suddenly with the arrival of an image, a word, something to thrust me into another time, and eventually beyond those idyllic weeks, into the whirlpool that our lives became only a few months later.  I picture Zach in his baseball cap, the almost imperceptible orange merging of theS and the F, and abruptly, uninvited, another image cuts in—Zach, hair greasy and unkempt,  staring off, mute, not even registering my presence.

But in those early days, when our bodies and souls were still new to each other, they couldn’t be ignored.  On those long nights in bed, the nights that on weekends stretched into mornings, even afternoons, Zach’s body defined the world for me.  Whatever wasn’t me, was him, for there was nothing else.  Only us, only the oasis of his bed and the sunlight creeping in and, just as unnoticed, creeping out.

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