“I can’t do this anymore…” He blurted it out in a rush, like he had to release it or it would never come out.
I looked at him. They were the first words out of his mouth after our greeting through the car window. I had pulled up outside the restaurant, he was waiting there for me. It was obvious that he had a lot more to say.
I nodded at him. “Wait, we can talk about it…”
I went and parked, walked back to the restaurant, my head not yet spinning, not yet in turmoil. I was curious, that’s all.
I greeted him properly, warmly, a touch, a gentle kiss. He tried to smile at me, but avoided my inquiring eyes, there was clearly something very wrong.
He had flown up to see me, was here for the weekend. I had made plans around the visit, we had been talking about it in the lead up, had both been looking forward to it. I had sensed nothing but enthusiasm from him, even up to and including his message not an hour before telling me that he had arrived.
As for me, I had barely been able to contain myself: this dominant sexual energy attracting attention as I walked around in the world, like a pheromone signal advertising that I was in heat, strange men like over-eager dogs panting at me and trying to hump my leg in response.
We sat down at a table. He was clearly distressed. I waited.
“I can’t do this anymore…” he said again, his face a picture of misery.
I felt my brow furrow, I didn’t understand what he was saying to me. I looked at him.
“I’m so sorry, I can’t…”
Words, words, so many words… reasons and reasoning and things and stuff and none of it made sense, and through all of it, disbelief, dread, a sickness of heart. I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. I asked him questions that he was unable to answer to my satisfaction. He apologised and then apologised some more. I listened, struggling to take it in. I told myself that I had not imagined his deep involvement in this, with me, I *knew* it was strong in him, I *knew* that he wanted more, that it made him happy, and yet, the knowing made no difference whatsoever.
I had left my murder kit at the hotel for him, he had had instructions to prepare the room for my arrival.
“Come,” I said finally, when there was nothing left to say. “We’ll go and gather my things then…”
We went up to his room in silence, the stunning anticipation now more like a funereal walk. I concentrated on keeping my focus on gathering my things, deliberately not yet processing this. I was not angry, or upset yet, I was numb. I was shocked.
He led me into the room and I looked around, confused. He had taken the trouble to set up the room exactly as he had been instructed. The toys were all laid out neatly, there were ropes snaking under and around the bed, he had tied neat figure-of-eight knots to the ends of the ropes, ready for a body to be tied to it. I glanced at him. His expression was one I knew well, he shyly sought approval from me for doing the right thing. I mentally shook my head to clear the disconnect.
“Get the rope.”
I started to put away the toys, one by one placing them into the bag while he skittered off to crawl around on the floor, untangling the rope from the bed.
He brought the rope to me, showed me the knots he had tied, smiled softly. “Did I do them right?” he asked me.
I looked at them quickly, I was able to smile back at him. “Right, right, right, wrong…” I said.
He looked disappointed at failing, I was wondering why it mattered to him now. I touched his face gently. He closed his eyes and leaned into it.
He sat on the couch, miserably watching me while I packed away the rest of the toys. I went to him when I was done, sitting on the arm of the couch, looking down at him. He had been, for me, such a lovely and surprising revelation, the most vanilla boy I had ever had, nervous and scared, with surprising depth of feeling.
I felt a rush of sweet affection and leaned down to kiss him, he reached up for me like a lifeline, opening his mouth to invite me in. We kissed for a long time, hot and sad, full of promise and dirty heat, there was no less passion for the ending, perhaps there was more even, in that last desperate connection.
I didn’t say goodbye, I didn’t look back, I picked up my bag and left. It was a good exit, a strong and purposeful striding out the door.
I want to end the story there, it is a fine ending, clean and satisfying, but these things never end just like that, do they? They splutter and flare and die slowly and painfully.
When I got back to the car, I sat there in the driver’s seat, stunned and sad and a little lost. I was still sitting there when he tapped on the window.
I opened the car door and he crouched beside the car. “I don’t want it to end this way…” he said.
I looked at him and shrugged slightly. I didn’t know what he wanted from me, but I had nothing to give him. “It’s okay,” I said, ineffectively. “It’s okay…” It wasn’t okay, though, we both knew it.
I touched his face, his cheek, his lips. I couldn’t help it, I knew, really, that I could take him if I wanted, and I held onto that a little, selfishly, even though it was meaningless.
“I’ll be here tomorrow… if you want…” he offered.
I looked at him, puzzled. I seemed to be doing that a lot.
I shrugged again. “What’s the point?” I asked him, getting a cruel satisfaction at his look of hurt at being dismissed.
We said goodbye then, I kissed his cheek, he kissed my palm.
I drove away from him, was stuck at the lights when I saw him for the last time, unobserved. He was walking away from the hotel, head bowed, hands bunched in fists, his gait long and decisive, as if he had somewhere to go. He looked lonely and I wondered at my desire to make sure he was going to be okay… I had to remind myself that it had been his choice.
The next day, I formally released him.