P.I. — The End
That wasn’t a letter, I know. It was a story. The start of one at least. One that I’m sure you don’t need a recap of.
You know what happened next of course, but I wonder if you remember what you said. The furious hiss of the question you asked following my cowardly step away from you.
We both know what everyone wants to happen, but this is not a film. Or a porno, come to think of it. Unfortunately, it’s just life…which we all know to be a lot less exciting than we desperately want it to be.
There you were. The not-so-distant streetlamps of Rose Street giving your golden mane a halo. Your thin white shirt sleeves stained with mascara that you swore you never wore. Throat trembling, jaw clenched, angry.
I could feel my ears and cheeks burning as I stared intensely at the brick wall behind you. For once, it was me who couldn’t look you in the eye. You let out a single sob before you said it. You probably do remember. Trust me, it’s not easy to forget.
“Are we just gonna pretend this is all in my head then? That I’ve imagined it?”
With my head in my hands, I pushed my eyeballs into the back of my skull. I wanted to say no. I wanted to lift you onto the banister, on top of those shitty lantern lights. I wanted to wrap my hands in your hair and feel how soft your skin was, but it made me feel sick.
“You told me you’d been with girls before,” you said, palms facing the sky.
“I have!” I bit back, “At parties. Drunk. Truth or dare, but not-”
“‘Cause you’re straight, right?” Your mouth never opened when you said it, just spat through gritted teeth.
You know when you were little, and your parents would drive really fast over a big hill? You’d get that feeling in your stomach, as if someone was trying to plunge it out of your arse. When you said that to me, it felt like a hundred hills at once.
I won’t describe the rest of the night for you. You were there.
I often wonder what would have happened that night if I had kissed you right there. Would it have turned out better? Would I still be getting to see you laugh every day? If the answer is yes, you can take an arm, leg, whatever you want in trade for me going back to that night.
Three days passed, silently. The next time I saw you, your trademark curls lay flat against your face. You looked tired, but arrived and left with your girlfriend hand in hand just like before. I couldn’t look directly at you because a monstrous lump would appear in my throat. I’d have to stand and bite my cheek as hard as I could bear it to be able to speak again. The thought of waking up to you or cornering you downstairs kept me awake at night. I had been with girls before, you were right. But every morning after, I’d feel a queasiness that wasn’t from last night’s alcohol. I’d think of your mouth, eyes, smile and feel a violent yank downstairs. I couldn’t bring myself to think of you when I made myself cum. If I did, I’d spend the next half hour sobbing into the pillow. I felt guilty, because it was wrong.
“Why’s there so many fuckin’ gays on the telly now? Put this off.”
In my head, I could hear my parents shouting at the T.V.
“How come there’s so many of them now? There never used to be.”
“I can’t fucking watch this while I’m eating my dinner.”
It was wrong. I was wrong. I disgusted myself.
I never felt the same way as my parents did. I didn’t feel angry when I saw you kissing her, or two men in the street holding hands. It made me smile that people had the freedom to be themselves and love who they wanted to these days. By the age of fourteen, I was telling my Dad to shut the fuck up whenever I heard his hate. Yet here I was, tearing my hair out over wanting to feel you on top of me.
I was struggling to carry twenty four bottles of Corona across the foyer when you came running towards me.
You were mid-shout when I was yanked five feet backwards by my pony tail. A few seconds later, your girlfriend hotfooted to your side.
In full view of every customer in and everyone we worked with, your brother told me to stay the fuck away from you. Mortified and distraught, you apologised repeatedly through tears. Your girlfriend however stood off to the side, attempting to look stoic. If I was the person I am today, I probably would have told him to fuck off. Kicked him in the balls, or ripped the box open and smacked him over the head with a 330ml bottle of pale lager. Back then though, I was sent home half an hour later because I couldn't stop crying. Maybe the shock. Maybe the overwhelming half sickness, half joy I felt after being dragged across a room by my bleach damaged tresses because you had feelings for me. Whatever it was, I stayed off for the next three days.
Dancing alone to Blondie in my flat kitchen waiting for the microwave to ping, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. Once, twice, three times. It was ringing but I didn't know the number. I stared at it until it stopped. The microwave pinged. My phone pinged.
“What’s your address? P x”
Queasiness washed over me. Dazed, I burnt my hand on a McCains five minute, baked potato.
“Fuck!” I yelped, launching it into a sink full of dishes.
I don’t know how long I sat on my kitchen floor before I text you back. I couldn’t even begin to guess what time it was when you rang the buzzer. I shouted down into the stairwell that the door was open and ran as fast as humanly possible into the kitchen. The door creaked and I made a big deal out of clinking some glasses together in the sink, after I’d fished the sodden potato out.
“I’m in here!” Even I was impressed by how level my voice was.
Each time I had practised talking to you in the mirror in the few days since I’d seen you, it always shook or broke mid-word before I could get to the end of a sentence. I heard you pause before you walked into the room.
Still no curls and still as tired, you cleared the space between me and the kitchen door in two confident bounds. Your arms encircled my neck.
“I’m so sorry,” you breathed into my ear and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
Leaning backwards, your arms still in place, you looked at me confused.
“My hands are wet.” I explained.
You smiled stiffly and waited. An elephant sat on my chest as I moved my hands onto your hipbones.
“Is your flatmate here?” you said quietly.
Your expression was unreadable. You pressed your body against mine into the kitchen counter. I tried to answer but my words came out all tangled. I tried again.
“No. She’s staying at her -”
There were no pauses after that on either side. You kissed me so hard it hurt my face. Every touch that night felt harsh and hurried, like a starving man desperately stuffing his face. As if the food in front of him could disappear at any moment. I couldn’t believe how soft you were. How impossibly warm and succulent I found every inch of you. Being with you, inside you, was like lowering myself into a warm bath after coming in from the snow. So many metaphors I could write. So many romantic adjectives that could never do you justice.
I looked at myself in the mirror after you’d fell asleep, my eyes like saucers. My hair a mass of amazing tangles. Pupils almost swallowing the iris. It had never been like this before.
I fell asleep by the window that night and when I woke up, you were gone. A few messages back and forth, excited to see each other the day after next.
The morning I came back to work, I messaged you after my shower. Another declaration of happiness no doubt. I strolled the twenty five minutes from my flat to George Street with laughter in my throat. The thought of running my hands through your hair alone, made my skin flush.
The looks from everyone as I walked into the staff room made my skin flush too, but not for the same reason. A few minutes later you walked in, teary eyes out on stalks. Just as you reached me, you shook your head.
“Everybody knows.” Barely a whisper.
Every pair of eyes in the room trained onto the back of your skull.
“My phone,” your eyes darted, “this morning.”
You cried for most of the morning. Nobody said anything directly to us, but they didn’t have to. I stupidly told you that it was okay, because I was there. Fuck everyone else. It’ll be fine.
I should have known that it wasn’t. Nothing was on the line for me and I was still reeling from a few nights before. You flinched away from me if I came near towards the end of the day. You wouldn't meet my gaze anymore.
A hundred hills. A few hundred more the next day when you asked to be switched to the downstairs bar instead.
Phonecalls came at 4am for next few weeks. I can’t remember anything you said, just the sound of you crying down the phone.
Then nothing, ever again.
On my last day of work, you swapped shifts so you weren't there. Ten thousand hills.
I could study a thesaurus for a few weeks to try and find words that might justify what it felt like to lose you after all that. I could feed myself into a mincer and hope my screams would do those next few months of my life justice. To this day whenever I think of you, that lump in my throat returns. Sometimes I think maybe I imagined our one night together. Because surely when someone looks at you like they’re seeing colour for the first time, they don’t just disappear.
But this is not a film.