Darker and Brighter

I can remember him standing in the hallway, all sex and smirking. The boy beside him was wide-eyed and trembling, his head jerking side to side as he searched for an escape route. I’ve seen him in situations like this dozens of times, and I will again, different wide-eyed boys and trembling young girls and teachers standing there with a half-smile, more amused than anything. A cuff to the head or an arm playful around his neck makes him stop.

I’d never taken the time to study him like that. I did it then. I discovered his eyes get darker and brighter all at once, that the lines of his body are taut and perfect as he stands poised over his prey. The wide smile that spreads across his face is unlike any expression he ever shows, so antithetical to that small, private smile that peeks out only when he’s happy.

I grabbed his wrist, thin and bony beneath my fingers. “Why don’t you come with me instead?” I asked him. His skin was flushed and hot.

I can tell when the virus turns itself off. Instead of throaty moans it is high, thready gasps and sharp cries. He digs his fingers in my hair and presses his face to my neck. He smells like sweat and soap and apples and cheap spray-on deodorant. He didn’t take his necklace off and it pushes sharp against my chest. Later there will be jagged imprints in my skin and I will idly count the grooves. His glasses lay folded on the nightstand.

He puts his clothes on quickly and apologizes. His face is turned away from mine but I can see the tips of his ears, bright red. I want to press my fingers to the soft, hot skin of his neck, hidden under sex-mussed hair, but I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what to say. I don’t say anything. He leaves and the tips of his ears are still red.

I see him dozens of times, with a wide-eyed boy or a trembling young girl or a teacher standing there with a half-smile, more amused than anything. Did I start following him, chasing him down the hallways, waiting for it to happen again? I’m with him so often I can’t tell anymore. Maybe. It happens more often lately. I grab his wrist, thin and bony, “come with me,” I say. When we eat lunch together in the cafeteria he pretends like I’ve never done this, like he hasn’t come out of the lust-fog to find me thrusting up inside him. Is it rape if I take his thin wrist in my hand when he’s like this, when he’s out of control and out of his mind and his eyes are darker and brighter all at once? I don’t know. Does he know I’m the one to take his thin wrist in my hand, to tug him along, does he think it’s the other way around? I don’t know that either.

I’m addicted to the way the bones of his ribcage feel against the palms of my hands, solid and fragile, so hard beneath the softness of his skin but wound almost delicately around his torso. I’m addicted to the high, thready gasps that fill my empty room in the middle of the afternoon. I’m addicted to grabbing his wrist and pulling him down the hallway, up the elevators, I’m addicted to the smile that peeks out only when he’s happy, I’m addicted to the heat of his breath on my neck and the flushed skin beneath my fingertips. The numbers on my alarm clock flash red, the same color as the tips of his ears when he hastily pulls on his clothes and leaves. I’ve thrown my vest across the clock to hide them. He always apologizes. My fingers never come to rest on his nape.

“We’re different,” Ceasar tells me, his eyes darker and brighter all at once, “but we’re the same, exactly the same, perfectly the same. Do you understand?” I don’t, or maybe I do, I don’t know, I’ve never done this before. I pull him closer and I kiss him. His fingers creep into my hair and his face flushes hot.

We’re in the cafeteria. I grab his wrist, thin and bony beneath my fingers. His eyes are neither dark nor bright, the lines of his body all awkward and wrong. “Come with me,” I tell him, and he lets me lead him to my room like I’ve done this dozens of times before. I can feel his pulse fluttering where my fingertips press against his hot, flushed skin. He smiles that small, private smile that only peeks out when he’s happy. I’m so addicted to that smile, the real smile. I’ve always loved it.

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