Imagining You Care

Back booth by the window, not that it mattered. At two AM most people are in bed. I can only think of a few reasons why being awake at this ungodly hour are acceptable. Sure, in our line of work it's not uncommon to be on the road this late, but I've made it an unwritten rule that whenever I can I'm in bed by now. Not to sleep necessarily, but in bed nonetheless.

I can't help but heave a sigh. We had blown into the hotel just shortly past one. Miraculously the room had been held, and by one thirty we were rolling beneath the sheets. One forty-five found me here, in the coffee shop. Alone.

"What's wrong, can't sleep?"

In spite of the fatigue, the frustration, my head whips around at the sound of his voice. He's so cocky, so sure, so composed. To look at him one would think it was a decent hour of the morning, an hour when people met regularly to discuss the business over a cup of coffee. Not now, at the dead hour, in the middle of nowhere.

"I could sleep Sean," I say, my voice gravelly, "If it wasn't so god damned cold up there."

He slides into the booth across from me, looking every inch the devil's advocate he plays on screen. I roll my eyes, pick up my cup and take a slurp of coffee.

"Cold?" he says as he pushes aside the mess of creamer containers and sugar packets I've strewn across the tabletop, "In the middle of August?"

"Look, I'm not going to spell it out for you, although I know that's what you want." There's a hint of irritation in my voice, I'll acknowledge that. Just as I'll acknowledge that he will begin to wheedle and pick until I spill the entire story. Nothing is sacred where he's concerned. I shrug inwardly. It's not as though I don't expect it, don't know what he's capable of.

"It's up to you Dave," he says. He looks up at the sleepy-eyed waitress. "De-caf."

I snort, and watch as she fills his cup. He drinks it black.

"Well, since you made it your business to disrupt my snit," I say between more slurps of my rapidly cooling coffee, "I suppose I have no choice. He kicked me out."

His brow arches, and he slouches low in the booth, his feet up on the seat next to me. "Go on."

"Fuck Sean," I hunch forward irritably, "That's the extent of it."

"No," he says calmly, "It isn't. If it was, you would have asked for another room. Something's up."

"And it's none of your fucking business," I snap.

"Fine, suit yourself," he says, but makes no move to vacate the booth.

I can feel the scowl deepen on my brow as I turn to look out the window. He's so stubborn, he has been since the early days when we first met back in Louisville. So arrogant, so full of himself. How many times over late night beers in that shit hole dive did he coax me into spilling my guts? The thoughts have been circling around the never-ending wheel in my brain, and I realize it's either let them out or suffocate.

"Ok," I grate out, "Let me ask you a question."

He has the decency to lift the mug to his lips again, rather than shoot off some platitude.

"Has anyone ever told you before that it hurts?"

"What? When you fall from heaven?"

"Cut the crap Sean, I'm being serious here." My fingers tighten on the mug. "He told me tonight that he doesn't want," I can feel my ears turn red. If I were going to admit this to anyone, Sean would be the guy and two am in Podunk USA would be the place, but it still galls me to have to say it. "He doesn't want anal intercourse with me anymore."

I'm not sure what I was expecting him to say, but his response blows me away. He doesn't say anything, just closes his eyes, wraps his hands around his mug, and says, "It does hurt."

I look up at him, and all the suave sophistication has fallen away. Even with his eyes closed I can see the look of pain crinkling across his features. I don't respond, just wait for him to continue.

"Even with a gentle, loving, caring person," he says softly, his eyes finally opening, flashing vivid blue fire at me across the table, "It hurts. It's not always easy to filter the pleasure through the pain." He pauses to swallow hard, and then says, "And on top of that, it's damn near impossible to tell the partner who's hurting you how you feel."

I bite back the bitter response, lean back against the booth.

"Look," he says, "If he said something to you that's proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that he cares, that you mean something to him. Trust me Dave, if you didn't he'd have sent you a Dear John letter or given you the 'it's not you it's me' speech before you even knew it was coming."

"Doesn't seem like," I say, "Right before the penetration is the best time to say anything."

"I see," he pushes his empty cup aside, "So right before you head out for a match, that would be a better time? Or out of the blue on a flight, during a long drive, or on that casual phone call when you both miss each other the most, you think that is a good time?"

Whether he means to or not, I feel worse by the moment.

"I was in a relationship once," he says, his voice softer now. " The first time there was that unspoken battle for dominance, and he won. Every time we hit the sack after that it was pain, so much so that after I while I couldn't even feel the pleasure anymore. I knew he wasn't trying to prove anything, wasn't getting off on causing me that pain, didn't even know he was. I suffered in silence until it all broke apart. There's not much I fear, you know that, but telling him he was hurting me when I knew he didn't mean to...I couldn't face that." There's silence for a moment, and then he says, "Maybe you don' know because you haven't ever taken the bottom."

"I don't know how I can feel that connection unless our bodies are joined." The words slip out before I can stop them. No matter how many times I turn it around in my head, I can't imagine a sexual relationship without anal penetration.

"You don't feel it when he's inside your mouth?" He raises his hand to hold the waitress at bay.

"It's not the same as being buried balls deep inside of him, my heart beating wildly against his, his breath harsh against my ear."

"Harsh with pain," he says softly.

That gives me pause. I turn to look out the window.

"Tell me about your first time," he says softly.

"What the fuck does that have to do with anything," I say, not quite keeping the irritation out of my voice.

"Then I'll tell you about mine," he says. "Halting, tentative, neither of us knowing exactly what to do. There was a lot of touching, and encouragement and it took us over a month to get down to actual penetration. And as I progressed from that to more serious relationships, the best part was always the cuddling after. The kisses, and touches." He's quiet for a moment. "I know I wouldn't feel that way if it hadn't been for the way it all started. Sex is what you make it, and I think it's shaped by your baptism into it."

Somehow the image of Sean kissing and cuddling doesn't quite jibe. I want to laugh, but deep down inside I think I understand what he's saying. Rather than dismiss him, I say softly, "I was taught aggressiveness."

"You were taught to top."

"I guess," I say, my thoughts already back in the bed upstairs, my thumb tingling with the imagined feel of tears.

"If he means anything to you," he says softly and his feet drop to the floor.

He slides to the edge of the booth and stands. I finish his statement in my head, and look up at him.

"Don't mention it," he says, and as suddenly as he appeared, he is gone, leaving me to wonder if he was ever really here at all, but also to contemplate.

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