All We Have Left is Desire
by Jonathan Pizarro
I remember you that day running alongside the bus the day I left for the airport. As it rolled down the hill, you ran and waved and jumped. Everyone on board turned to look at you through the grime of the windows. At that moment you didn’t care about their stares. I think it freed you. And this liberation, this expression of tenderness, had to be at the moment I was leaving.
The bus turned a corner, and the traffic lights went red. This was the moment I could have told the driver to open the doors. This was the moment I could have chased you back, and told you I loved you with no feeling that I had anything to lose. This is when I could have stayed. But I looked out the window and you were gone. The lights turned green. The distance between us marked in roads, then oceans.
One morning ten years ago from now, we woke up together in my room. You opened your eyes and said, I’ll miss you. Deep hazelnut eyes. Arms tangled up in sheets finding their way under the pillow. I brushed you off with the last of the packing and said you can come visit whenever you want.
What a fear I had, of the bubble popping. This beautiful man waking up beside me and realising suddenly that he wasn’t going to navigate this strange, unspoken sexual limbo and that he was definitely straight. Or that I wasn’t enough. I was too short and too chubby and not cool enough for this twenty-year-old marble statue of a human being, who I was sure could have anyone he desired.
But for three years you desired me. On the edges. In the night. Unspoken and hungry. On and off. Between girlfriends. Behind girlfriends. On my sofa, my bed, my kitchen floor. And what I did in return was love you so complicated and painfully that leaving you behind felt like relief. You never came to see me. I never heard from you.
Some nights, I glowed with the bas relief form of my imagination, the imprint of you holding my knees against my chest and driving yourself into me. But the frequency diminished as my eye wandered and others took your place, in both real life and fantasy.
And now, I see your face now on my phone. I see the message pop up that you’re in my town for the summer. I scan your profile for the story of your past decade. The wife, the kids, the car, the dog and the business. The conversation spiralling tighter and tighter to where we both know it will go. You ask me to come, and every worn-out ember starts to burn anew.
I make excuses for abandoned meetings and I get in the car. I wind up the hill past every clifftop mansion looking for yours. I press the buttons on the keypad, checking my phone for the right house number. The gates creak open. I park outside your neighbour’s home, just in case. Outside, in the heat, I look at my reflection in the car window. I adjust hair strands and sweat. It smells of hot tarmac and flowers. A cricket chirps. The sprinkler clips away at the grass. My hand hangs onto the door handle of my car and I realise this is the moment I could get back inside and leave. I could block your profile and your number and the world would be large again, but instead…
The crunch of gravel as I walk around your house to the back through a gate like you instructed, to the cool shade and the tang of chlorine, to the discarded inflatable toys and the tricycle on one side and the plastic bucket and space that belong to your children, and the back door parted like a promise as I take off my shoes and I feel the cool marble on my feet, the carpet by the sofa the impersonal art of a rented property the doorways leading everywhere to the kitchen the spare room the infinite bathrooms (haven’t you done so well for yourself), the various keys on the table and your wife’s high heels and her bags, as I walk up the stairs like you told me and I look through every room I see every aspect of your life paused, unmade children’s beds and a paperback lying face up creased on a coffee table and the shaded stillness of a summer afternoon as I walk the hallway looking for you like you told me, down to the very end to your bedroom the bedroom you share with your wife and I’m here now inside looking for you in the crispness of gold and white sheets where we will soon fuck and I see nothing on each side of it there is nothing no hint of what life you have and the hissing of water through pipes as I look for the bathroom like you told me and I turn the handle and you’re there in the steam under the water looking tanned and lean after ten years only a bulk of masculinity posed for effect in profile your feet and your thighs and your cock half erect and your hands reaching up now to smooth down your hair and you turn and you don’t even speak and I’ve taken off my clothes now and I join you on my knees looking up at you through the water.
Jonathan Pizarro (he/his) is a Queer Gibraltarian writer currently living in London. His fiction has been featured in various publications (https://linktr.ee/jspzro) and explores Queerness through the Mediterranean, immigration, borders, culture, & the ruins of Empire. He also writes Exiliado, a series of non-fiction pieces about Gibraltarian culture, Queerness, and living in the UK (jspzro.medium.com). He participates in the Queer writing community, and facilitates writing workshops with Out on the Page (https://www.outonthepage.co.uk/). He is currently working on his first novel, Sons of Lot. He tweets @JSPzro