‘It is not the “person” of the other that
I need, but the space.’ – Roland Barthes
He grabs a book off a high shelf, goes up on tiptoe – his shirt pulls up. His pants are tight around his hips, but the denim is stiff and leaves a gap around his waist. Pale light comes in, the afternoon is growing old; for a moment the shadow of the window’s cross-bar touches his skin.
I’m sitting by the window on the red wheeled stool. I was looking for a book on the shelves low by the floor, my hand is frozen in mid-air; my fingers are still making as if to search, pointing at a title on a spine.
We’re waiting for no cars. People are peering into the tunnel or looking at their phones. Two people next to me are telling each other about the week they’ve had, their stress at work. It’s warm out – summer still has a ways to go.
On the other side of the street a boy is sitting on a bicycle, he’s staring ahead but he’s not looking, not thinking, he’s just waiting. His striped shirt has wide sleeves that make his arms look skinny. Blond hair frames his eyes, small eyes, green or blue, I can’t tell – the sunlight mixes ochre into every other colour. I don’t find his face pretty until I imagine him blowing me.
When he looks up and I look away, the light changes, the huddle starts moving.
He pulls himself up out of the water, his lower body just visible above the jetty. He stays there for a moment, his arms stretched; he’s talking to his friends. He hadn’t planned on swimming – his boxer briefs are clinging to his thighs, the fabric has ridden up, bunched into wet wrinkles. His cock presses against the wooden boards through the soaked cotton.
One of his friends is looking – I can tell he wants him to look. He’s cracking a lame joke, maybe: someone else plants a foot against his chest and kicks him back into the water.
Rooms full of abstract squares, colour studies. Recurring names: Study for Homage to the Square: Night Shades. Study for Homage to the Square: Two Whites Between Two Yellows. Big letters on the wall: Elements – Of Colour. There’s a room full of canvases in grey.
A video is projected onto one of the walls. The artist, Josef Albers, is standing next to his work, gesturing at it. An old documentary, his voice sounds warped: My homage to the square has led me to demonstrate … what colour … does to us.
Next to the video, a bright yellow canvas with a small white square in the middle. Study for Homage to the Square: Now. The yellow is today’s yellow, the white is weightless. My body feels thin, translucent. It’s as if this day has been documented, like I’m looking at a memory bled of all its detail.
He’s talking to some friend who barely exists to me: I only have eyes for him. His hand is draped through a rubber loop, the tram pulls up, he grips on more tightly. I can’t make out what he’s saying.
Sometimes, when the tram turns a corner, I can see down his sleeve and glimpse a flash of underarm, a strip of chest.
When I get back home his book is still lying face down on the sofa. I know the story – I wonder where he stopped. There are rumpled stripes in the fabric: he shifted as he was reading.
F is not here.
The light on the wall is broken up by the tree, and I’m reminded of a narrow canal where the embankment is always in shade but where from time to time the light will bounce off the water and up onto the pavement. Of how the light moves there, how the waves refract it.
He’s lying on his stomach, his cheek pressing into the mattress. He is jerking off with both hands. I lift his ass up a little, spread the cheeks and lick his anus. Swipe my thumb over it – he moans.
His arched back is the rim of a circle in the air.
I get up and rub the tip of my cock along the hole.
We’re lying in the grass. It’s hot. I look sideways through my eyelashes. There are people in the distance, or phantoms. All the colours are trembling. F brushes my arm with the back of his hand.
He gets closer, blows in my face. I open my eyes.
He climbs over me. I put my hand on his stomach, under his shirt – or maybe we’re no longer wearing clothes. A warm breeze touches my lips. He leans on my chest, grinding his hips against my body.
I push into him.
His face blurs.
The morning smells of coffee and bread. The sunlight is still mild: the dark wood of the countertop looks soft. I can’t decide whether to have breakfast or take a shower first. I’m hungry but I want to rinse off. There’s a glass bottle of juice lying in the fridge – I love the colour of the label, the colour of the lid: the sepia yellow, the deep, cold red.
He’s standing at the sink rinsing off the AeroPress. Wearing yesterday’s white shirt. I know the coarse fabric, I can feel it in my fingers, the stitching, the seam.
I remember sunlight on his belly.
The edge of his briefs is hiding in the crease under one of his buttocks.