|Primary Characters:||Nathan, Tom|
|Spoilers:||Just watch the movie, ok?|
|Warning:||adult themes, language|
|Description:||Tom has a hard time getting used to the inactivity. He starts drinking and going out at night. This puts pressure on the relationship. Then one night, Tom goes a little too far and suddenly, it seems the affair is over.|
He awakened slowly, rolling over on his back. The light coming in through the eastern window warmed his eyelids. By wiggling around a little, Nathan managed to remove the arm still lying possessively over Tom. He turned over again, this time towards the right side of the bed. It was time to get up.
The bed creaked a little under his weight. He squashed an impulse to get a cigarette. At his age he really couldn’t allow himself any more vices.
“What are you doing up so early? Come back to bed.”
Tom’s voice was thick with sleep and – perhaps – something else. Nathan looked over his shoulder. Tom had turned over in his direction, but his eyes weren’t open. He was trying to drown out the light by pressing his face into the pillow.
“I’ll be back in a moment.”
Nathan didn’t bother finding any slippers. This floor wasn’t cold. The only concern might be rats and so far there hadn’t been any sign of those, not inside the house. He could hear them at times, up on the roof. At least he assumed they were rats. In this place, it might just as well be snakes. Which might explain the absence of rats.
He made his way to the bathroom, used the facilities, then glanced into the kitchen on his way back. Right now, he wasn’t sure what he wanted most, a coffee or his bed. It would depend on whether Tom was still awake or not.
The slow sounds of Tom’s breathing told Nathan he might as well make that coffee.
Ten minutes later, he was sitting at the table, the morning paper in front of him, a steaming cup on the other side. On the one hand, this was all he’d ever wanted. Then again, there was a part of him which missed the excitement of his old job. The variety, and to be honest – the thrill. Of course, those days were over now. He’d found peace and –
About twenty minutes later, Tom emerged from the bedroom, still barely conscious. He mumbled something gruffly, then sank down on the other chair.
Nathan got up, poured another cup of coffee and half a glass of orange juice. In a minute, he’d ask if Tom felt like some toast.
There was no particular reaction from Tom, other than taking a sip of the coffee.
Nathan returned to the paper. By now, reading in Spanish felt almost as normal as reading in his own language.
It took another forty minutes and a shower before Tom began to resemble a human being, at least as far as the expression in his eyes went. Sleepy or not, his body still gave Nathan a rush, like every time he saw it.
Nowadays. Before too, but now that they’d actually crossed that final boundary, the one Nathan had never expected to breach, he felt a touch of pride. That beautiful, hot young guy was – Nathan paused in his train of thought. He’d been about to use the word ‘his’- or if he backed up a bit and went for another phrasing, ‘belonged to him’, but he’d checked himself. He didn’t own Tom.
For a while at least, he was privileged enough to be allowed to love him. To share his bed. There was no telling how long this state of affairs was going to last. Nathan was determined to make the most of it. Who knew if the Agency might not still get the idea it might be best to terminate them.
Tom’s head, then the rest of him appeared through the door to the bathroom. His hair was wet and he wore a towel wrapped around his waist.
“How about a swim? I mean, you are already wet.”
Tom followed Nathan’s glance moving across his chest. His expression didn’t change and Nathan was left wondering how he really felt about all this. It had to be completely new to the kid. Not something easily adapted to. Slightly abashed, Nathan decided to keep his eyes firmly on Tom’s face. There was enough to revel in right there.
Slowly, Tom seemed to make up his mind, then he nodded.
They had their swim, went for a walk, then did some shopping. It would have been easy to hire a woman to come in and cook and tidy up the place and do the shopping too, but it felt absurd. It was only a two room place. The veranda was their living room, and two rooms really was one more than they needed, so why bother?
After dinner, Tom began to act restless. Nathan frowned. That was happening more and more, now that the first euphoria had lifted. Practically as soon as Nathan had deemed Tom’s injuries fully healed it had begun. The restlessness. The ennui. Nathan could relate to that, but it must be worse for Tom. Being so much younger, he would be craving some useful occupation. It didn’t have to be anything like what he used to do, if Nathan had read him correctly. Just something.
Nathan considered Tom’s options. He might make a living teaching English. There might be some odd jobs available for unskilled workers. He could ask around. Anything not too conspicuous would most likely be ok. Nathan decided to bring that up at the first opportunity.
By now, it was too late.
“I’m going out. To have a few drinks. Are you coming?”
Nathan hesitated. If the night ended the way it did more and more frequently, he didn’t really want to come. They’d only end up arguing and what was the point of that? On the other hand, if Tom got too drunk, someone might take notice and go for his wallet. In this place, that might easily involve a slit throat. All in all, he might as well come along and watch Tom’s back.
That didn’t seem to please Tom particularly. Nathan had a feeling Tom was embarrassed by being seen in public with him.
It didn’t hurt Nathan’s feelings. For most of his professional life, he’d learned to keep a low profile – or, if the circumstances warranted it – a high profile, flirting with women, dancing, getting them drinks. It had all been part of the job and he knew he’d done it very well. So well, that he was betting none or practically none of the women he’d gone to bed with, had ever guessed that his true preferences lay elsewhere.
More or less in silence they strolled off to the local bar. It was little more than a shack, but the booze was good, at least if you didn’t expect any vintage wines. As long as you knew to stay away from the corn brew that was made from spit. Yeah, that one was true. Nathan was glad he’d managed to avoid it.
There was enough homebrew to knock out a horse, so there was no need to tempt fate with anything more exotic.
They settled down with their drinks. Nathan merely sipped his, but Tom looked as if he was about to do some serious drinking. Nathan considered and discarded the idea of touching on the subject, but he wasn’t the kid’s father or his boss anymore. If he wanted to wake up with a hangover, it was his call. Nathan knew from experience that when someone was in that kind of mood, trying to stop them rarely did any good.
So he took another sip of drink, and kept a wary eye out, just in case. Old habits died hard. Nothing seemed to be off tonight. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Then one of the local working girls, a tall, tangled-haired one, with long legs and a stoned look in her eyes that wouldn’t have attracted Nathan in a guy, began to make frequent rounds to their table. She was using the pretext of dancing to the music from the ancient jukebox. Nathan vaguely remembered some of the songs from the seventies.
The puta was swaying with the music, swinging her hips, shaking her breasts in a way that was a little too obvious. Nathan had the impression she’d heard something about them. A stray rumor. Something in the defiant look on her face, whenever she glanced in his direction, not Tom’s, told him that.
So she was trying to ‘win’ Tom back to the other team. Or convert him. It would have amused Nathan, but the whole thing was just too sordid. Her skimpy dress was washed out from too many washes, and though it was carefully mended, Nathan could see at least three patches where it had been torn. When she raised her arms above her head, he could also see spots of perspiration in her armpits. Not just fresh ones, old stains that wouldn’t wash out anymore.
Nathan wasn’t fastidious, and before he’d met his wife in Korea, he’d slept with far worse partners, but somehow the whole thing turned his stomach a little.
With the way Tom was drinking, Nathan never expected him to look up and pay attention to the girl. He was using the word ‘girl’ loosely. There was something hard and aged about her face, while at the same time, her body seemed young, too young, in fact, all of which made it hard to judge her real age. In any case, it was a while before Tom noticed her presence.
Sometime around his third or fourth refill – Nathan still hadn’t finished his first glass – Tom looked up and let his eyes wander across the girl. Reflectively, or so Nathan thought. As if he was taking his time making up his mind about her. Nathan assumed Tom would arrive at the same conclusion he had, tragic, sleazy, unsavory.
To Nathan’s surprise, Tom got up abruptly, slightly unsteady on his feet. Nathan guessed Tom was going to the men’s room, which was actually just around the corner outside, but instead, to Nathan’s amazement, Tom began to dance with her. At first he didn’t touch her, merely moved in time with the music, not in sync with her. His eyes were partially closed and it didn’t really seem as if he was paying attention to her.
For a moment, Nathan had the impression Tom was doing it for him. Showing off to – increase his anticipation of the night ahead. Then Tom opened his eyes, moved closer to the girl and began to interact with her. Still not touching, just directing his moves at her. She responded instantly, by wagging her hips even more exaggeratedly, then shaking her breasts.
When Tom moved in and grabbed her, pressing his hips against her, she had time to cast a triumphant glance in Nathan’s direction.
Usually, Nathan prided himself on never giving his emotions free rein. He enjoyed presenting an outwardly calm demeanor, no matter what his true feelings were. It annoyed him that this time, he reacted impulsively, doing exactly what that slut wanted him to do.
He pushed back his chair so violently, it pivoted on the back legs, but only just failed to topple over. After one last glare in Tom’s direction, Nathan stalked outside, hoping the night air would cool him off. If it didn’t, he could always take a midnight swim, as long as he judged the tides correctly.
On his way back, Nathan passed the silent young men standing here and there under a streetlight or a tree, following his passage with dark eyes.
For a moment, Nathan had a strong impulse to stop, pick one at random, walk up to him and ask for a light, then take him back to their place or – more directly – just tempting fate and following the guy into some stinking alley and blow off steam there. It would –
He almost bit his tongue. What he’d been about to put into words was ‘it would serve Tom right’. The second that thought registered, Nathan knew he wouldn’t do it. He was bigger than that. Besides, what right did he have to judge Tom? The kid had been into women when they met. He’d been lucky enough to have what they’d had now for – close to six months – without adding petty jealousy into the mix.
No, he’d walk back, then take that swim or not, as the case might be and simply go to bed. Tom would most likely be back in the morning. Late, but he’d be back. If not, Nathan knew he’d go looking for him. What Tom had done now, hadn’t changed the way he felt about him. Besides, how did he even know Tom had gone upstairs with that girl? He might just as well have sat down again, finished his drink and would be coming home tonight, or he’d have a few more drinks and pass out under the table and still be back in the morning.
There was no need to jump to conclusions. In fact, even now, Nathan was beginning to regret his pointless impulse. He’d let that girl win. Fine. There was no need to let her ruin more of his mood than she already had.
Back at the house, Nathan already felt a little better. At least the blinding anger had lost its grip on him. Instead, a cold dread settled on him. What if Tom had had enough? That was far worse than any one-night stand. If he never wanted to come back – or least not like before?
Nathan found that this scared him far more than anything. He realized that he’d allowed himself to – almost – take what they had for granted. To grow used to having Tom in his life, in his bed. The thought of the years ahead, without a lover, without someone to love, made Nathan feel old and disillusioned like never before.
He kept telling himself not to be an idiot, but the thought wouldn’t leave him alone. If Tom left him – what then?
Towards dawn, Nathan fell into a shallow sleep, interrupted by dreams. Dreams he didn’t remember when he woke up, but which left him feeling disturbed and ill at ease.
By lunchtime, Tom still hadn’t returned and Nathan was beginning to worry. He’d have to go back and take a look around. Already, he was beginning to regret not sticking around, swallowing his pride, and pretending to enjoy his evening out. Hell, he might even have bought one of the older women a drink. Tried to have a conversation with her. There was one or two who actually looked human.
Driven by a sudden urgency, Nathan got up and began to retrace his steps back to the bar. If he didn’t find Tom anywhere – But he refused to consider that possibility. Stubbornly, he forced himself to keep looking ahead, walking at a leisurely pace, acting as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
Tom didn’t know what had made him get up like that. His intention had been to go to the place out back, but then he’d caught a whiff of that girl’s scent. It was as if all those years that had gone by since he last left Elizabeth’s bed were gone, in an instant. Her scent reminded him of that. Of the unmade bed, her underwear strewn across the floor or the foot of the bed, of the cleft between her breasts where there’d be a damp patch, despite the feeble efforts of the whirring fan overhead.
Part of him knew it was stupid. This girl was nothing like Liz, then again, something about her kept reminding him of her. So he’d begun to follow the rhythm of the stirring music, which seemed to match the beat of his pulse, then unable to resist any longer, he’d grabbed her and rubbed against her, as if they were already lovers.
Worst of all, he’d never given Nathan a second thought. If he had, he might have made eye contact, pleaded with him, maybe even tried to get some sort of consent. Or – he might have tried to hint that, just this once, they could share the experience.
But he’d forgotten everything and not much later, when the girl had taken his hand and begun to pull him along, he’d followed, unresistingly, knowing where they were going and why. Wanting it, with a fervor he hadn’t believed himself capable of after all those long, monotonous days on that beach.
And so he’d come to that shabby little room, with the bed which now, in the warm light of late afternoon, was nothing like the one he and Elizabeth had shared. It stank of other lovers, too many to count, a rank old smell. The sheets and pillows were stained and there were damp patches on the wall and other spots where the paint had flaked off.
The girl was no longer there, but he heard someone moving about just out of sight. His head pounded as if something was trying to beat its way out, but no matter how dazed he was, he could clearly recall last night’s events in sickening clarity.
He tried to skip the details but no matter how he tried, he couldn’t avoid the predominant feeling of guilt. Nathan. They’d come this far together and now he’d thrown it all away for this? Now that last night’s madness had left him, all he wanted was to rewind and undo the damage he’d done.
Slightly wobbly, he managed to get to his feet. To his relief, he found his clothes lying quite neatly on a chair beside the bed. He repressed an image of how many times the girl had done this before.
That reminded him. A hasty search through his pants produced a crumpled up banknote. He squinted at the unfamiliar currency and calculated it was the equivalent of twenty bucks. Would that do? Disgustedly, he began a new search, which turned up a handfull of coins.
He looked around for a drawer or box, anything where he might leave the money, but found nothing. Taking a deep breath, he braced himself. He’d need to see her again to hand over what he owed her. Anything, to be free of this oppressing little room. The memories wouldn’t be as easily shaken off.
She must have heard him. When he pushed aside the dangling beads, serving as a drape, she was standing in the hallway, wearing a tank top and a skirt he didn’t remember from last night. Her hair was tidier now too.
Wordlessly, he held out the money. She made a scornful gesture, then stood aside to let him pass. A string of words followed him outside. Something about men or – a man. It wasn’t until he was downstairs and outside, that he managed to put the words together and form a sentence.
So you were a man, after all. There was more, but he couldn’t decipher it and by now, he didn’t want to anyway.
Fool. What a fool he’d been. He’d let that bitch play him and now – he realized that he couldn’t face Nathan now. Maybe never. What would he tell him? You’re not enough for me? I missed – No.
Without thinking, he’d been heading back in the direction of their house. Nathan’s house. Out of habit. He stopped and turned and began walking quickly in the opposite direction. Towards the center of the town, if this scatter of buildings qualified as a town.
He found him, towards the end of the second day after he went missing. By then, Nathan was so relieved Tom was still alive and well, he was able to hold back the pain. Time enough later. Clearly, he’d been taking things for granted. Things he shouldn’t have.
He’d been stupid to think this could last. After seeing with his own eyes what Tom was willing to risk to save Elizabeth’s life, he shouldn’t have allowed himself to hope. Besides, even if Tom was – Whatever else he was, Tom was young. Too young for someone Nathan’s age.
Maybe it had it just been gratitude. Curiosity? A wish to – experiment. In any case, it didn’t matter. It was over. At least now he knew what it would be like.
Nathan shook his head. Just as he’d known, at the back of his mind, it had been too good to be true. The main thing was that Tom was ok. He was working, keeping busy. Even if the menial job he had wasn’t what Nathan would have wanted for him. And the cheap room he was renting had to be unhealthy.
Silently, Nathan argued with himself. Bargained. He could ask Tom to come back. There was still that room, which was standing empty. No strings attached. He’d rather have Tom nearby, than in a seedy room, smelling of mold and rot.
In the end, Nathan turned and walked back to the house. Tom’s house. If anything, he should offer to move out. Tom’s savings had bought that house.
He’d tell Tom later. Right now, he wanted to be alone. Think things over. Walking back, a wry look on his face, Nathan couldn’t help feeling like a fool. An old man who’d made a fool of himself over a pretty young face. Pathetic. The age-old madness. Nathan had a feeling it went as far back as Socrates, but that didn’t make it any easier to bear.
The house still felt empty, but not quite as bad as when he’d begun to fear he’d never see Tom again. Not that he would, not in any way that mattered, but at least the boy was safe.
With a feeling of defeat, Nathan began to remove his own things from the bedroom. He might as well be the one to move out. Maybe it was time to pack up and leave. But first he’d try to come to terms with his loss. He carefully avoided looking at anything belonging to Tom.