titled you are my mister bulletproof
personnages presents holland and spain.
warnings for violet-colored skies and violet-colored sex and weed and (b)romance where you'd least look to find it
summary And the catch is, "I am never going to let you down."
notes 2300 words written for my biggest broho. happy sixteenth!
you are my mister bulletproof
It doesn't snow very often in Delft anymore, but when it does it's always a blizzard. He knows this very well because he sits on the steps of the department store in the afternoons and the evenings, and wherever his fingers touch and wherever his ears turn pink, he can see the snowflakes blur against the sky. The blizzards greet him like old drinking buddies, and he wraps his scarf around his neck tighter, feels a chatter slip up his lips and through his teeth and over his tongue. It's a special kind of sky when there's a blizzard, one with pieces that reflect against the streetlamps and gild the rectangles in his eyes and light up in a burst of flashbulbs and fireworks and somewhere in the center of the rink there's a Christmas display with a jolly man in a red suit who comes around every year, all the way from Helsinki. So in the midst of the trials and triangles and times of day, there is always a blizzard, except it doesn't snow very often in Delft anymore.
"I'll sing it for you one last time," he tells the lady in the fur coat on the steps of the department store, and she nods and the corners of her lipsticked-mouth curl up to her eyes. So he sings the chorus again, hails Mary and Joseph and the Morning Stars, and she presents him with a guilder, then another for the second verse, then another and another for the third and fourth and the last refrain before the bridge. He pockets the first three and leaves the fourth one in his palm. The coin sparkles dark in the evening sky, bitter and bulletproof against his frostbitten fingertips.
(This was Christmas, in 1997.)
From the back of his head, he'd already begun to realize the changes that had come across the country.
And you wouldn't believe it, but he hadn't noticed it before only because he had wanted to ignore it as much as he could, choosing to throw his ideas out the window and against a pillow of wild grass, breathe in the clouds and sip a few drinks in peace under a sky that reminded him of limestone counters. The air smells sweet and uninfluenced at this time of year. No windmills, only water wheels and a frail sheet of linoleum here or there. The city is slushy and drained bare of its sentiments, and the roads are the color of cotton fabric. He only wished cotton was warmer.
They are all at war with the chestnut tree at the end of the lane. Earlier in the winter, it had been infected with a disease that gave it bumps on the side of its chest. Tumors and malignant growth, so to speak. He hadn't known that trees could get cancer. The greenhouse-workers and the environmentalists had tried to explain it to him in layman's terms. The disease was going to spread, and every single tree within a two-kilometre radius, damn right, every single tree was a likely candidate for the disease (even the yew trees or willow trees or oak trees or any number of trees that were not chestnut trees). And then it may spread again. And it may spread again after that. And again and again and again until the whole world gets covered in tree cancer now you wouldn't like that would you?
"I only like chestnut trees," he says stubbornly.
"And I only dislike tree cancer," the man tells him, and he opens his chainsaw and then they're all at war and the corners of the town are quiet and the sky feels like it's deluded.
She has a nice smile. She bakes him a lot of shit, and her eyelashes are very feathery when they brush against his skin. She's such a beautiful girl, innocent and flat-chested and cute on the small-side of pretty. Largely abstract, obsessed with horses. A lot of mature ideas and immature methods of expressing them. Studious in her classes, but nothing to detract from a healthy level of guns and germs and steel. She doesn't do mindthink, doesn't shoot whiskey, doesn't commit herself to anything sketchy. She's always ready to see him, and so now he's not sure why he'd broken up with her in the first place. And you wouldn't believe it, but she was very much his type and everything he'd probably wished Spain could be.
(And like Spain, she isn't his to take.)
"Bet you're too chickenshit to do it."
He squeezes one of her hands between his fingers. The skin on her fingers get really dry in the winter no matter how much of that daily moisturizing stuff she uses, and they feel brittle under his thumbs. He keeps telling her to wear gloves but she never listens to him. Her nail polish is always chipped. He runs a finger over the center of her palm and instinctively wants to reach out and kiss it. He has a box in his pocket and inside there's a diamond ring and he's interested, he really is. He's only trying to understand why he isn't running away. Tries to entertain the thought of running, but realizes that he'd only be trying to escape from himself. "Bet I'm not."
And then his life-support dies.
When he mentions the incident with the chestnut tree at the end of the lane to Spain, he'd only received a shrug in response.
"Just telephone Germany," Spain smiles a little, scratches his head. "Simple enough, right?"
"Yeah. You know how much he loves to garden. He was out there yesterday, too. All shirtless and sweaty under the sun. Trimming the rosebushes. Difficult not to notice, y'know. He's bound to have some trick to deal with tree cancer."
(So he misses Spain, but it's in a way that disgusts himself and makes his breakfast taste like regret.)
But the truth is, he doesn't mind it. As he watches the raindrops slide down the lip of his windshield, his head begins to hurt so he hums between his teeth and one of the girls in the shops invite him inside; they dip ivory soap into buckets and mop up the smiles in the windows and the cigarette smoke from ceiling fans. When he's back in his car, he looks out and he realizes that the city is the still the city full of slush and flimsy curtains as it was thirteen years ago, and his story is one so despondent that he forgets about it himself. Everything looks better when he's drunk.
And as he watches the raindrops slide down the lip of his windshield, he considers taking his hands off the steering wheel for just a second (or perhaps a minute or three), closing his eyes, never lift his foot and accelerate into the sky; he considers screwing his head off from his neck and questioning the values of the universe; perhaps he'll sing a little ballad about clumsy girls and well-dressed noblemen, sailboats and sea shanties. The ballad will make him giggle in the way that he's always wanted to giggle but could never bring himself to giggle, and perhaps that will be the end of that
And you wouldn't believe it, but his handphone rings and the moment is dissolved.
"11 pm. Amusement park to your left, theater on your right. Meet me there, Holland."
He swallows. "What are you doing in the sketchy part of town, Spain?"
"Shine your headlights on me and you'll see."
(Antonio isn't carrying an umbrella, and it's still raining when his car arrives so he looks like he'd been dunked deep into the closest reservoir. There are chunks of mud and sidewalk spray in his hair. Close-up, his fingers resemble prunes and his smile is flat, a little waxed and too thin around the corners. His headlights bring out all the details.
"I'm here," he says, rolls down the passenger window and unlocks the doors.
"You are," Antonio dips his head into the car, "you really are.")
The rain beats a solid rhythm against the roof and the tin of the storm pipe. He curls into the shoulder of the couch and hears the kettle whistle from somewhere above him, and he doesn't look back. He doesn't look back when he feels Spain curl into the other shoulder of the couch, doesn't look back when he feels the upholstery shuffle and fold against the back of his legs, when the tables turn on their sides and the dreams stop in the middle and tie knots against the side of his face. He doesn't look back when he feels a breath against the back of his neck, mouths and kisses shallow and entirely-too-subtle, a giggle, a gasp, a fear, a grin (a perhaps there's a hare trapped in its cage), he doesn't look back doesn't look back doesn't look back
"Fuck," Antonio murmurs, and yeah, that's probably how he'd summarize it, too.
He gropes for the can of beer, pushes the lid in front of his mouth before he takes a sip. Gulps, blinks, eyes open wide.
"This isn't alcohol. This is fucking mineral water. Just the what the hell are you playing at?"
"Buh?" Antonio groans, sits up against the other side of the bed. One side of his hair is still plastered to his face, and he shakes his head a little before he realizes what's going on. "Aw, man. You got me. Heh."
"Guess I just needed a reason to kiss you, that's all," Spain laughs tentatively, and Holland's eyes narrow before the blizzard tumbles through the rest of his house.
"Get out, Spain. Get the hell out of here."
...because there is a difference between him and Spain, and it stretches a mile high into the sky. It is a wall constructed from cement bricks, bounded on both sides by soft puddles of earth and comfortable curtains made from flour and windmills. Flocks of passing albatrosses land on it and look into the depths of a charred-sky from the tips of the balustrades, and once or twice or thrice in a blue moon they'll fall on their beaks. The clouds are viewing frames, and the sunlight is the click of a camera shutter. The cement wall is taller than the the tallest tree in the world at some places, and at other places there are a few cracks (but nothing a little superglue can't fix). Sometimes he can see a small hole or a fissure in the side of the wall, where he can peek at Spain and maybe Spain will peek back, but it's never wide enough for either of them to hop through.
It's a very beautiful wall.
Sometimes he likes to pretend it doesn't exist.
(but then he runs headfirst into it, you see, and his head hurts against the bricks so he knows that it's never going to go away, not even in the next dimension)
The joint doesn't make him sick the first time he tries it. He's still a little boy, so it's only a little prickly at the back of his nerves and he's a little sleepy and a little hungry afterward, but it's not much different; it burns through his lungs the same way that the summer liquor and the old dreams and hopes had burned through his lungs, and he thinks that he's always been sort-of lit up and the flashbulb shines and shines again, so he grows accustomed to it.
"You're killing so many brain cells with that shit," Antonio tells him with a sigh.
He lifts the joint from his lips and blows a ring into the air. "Hey, Spain, guess what?"
"Shut the fuck up."
And you wouldn't believe it, but the sky looks so close from here. He could probably reach out and scoop a handful of snowflakes here, right from the ragged teeth of that cirrus cloud, brush his hair against the edge of the world, eyelashes and eyelids flipped away the sky, pitiful silence eaten up by a three-inch diameter of the sun and a pocketful of lighthearted thoughts.
The woman in the fur coat passes him another guilder. A fruit fly only needs 100,000 brain cells to survive.
"I thought perhaps I was in love with him," she tells him quietly, "That's why I left. I wandered around in the snow a lot that day, you know. Trying to find a way to tell him what I suspected. But then you were there and I saw you there and I realized that perhaps I had been making myself believe that I was in love with him. I'm not. I don't have to be. It's so complicated when it doesn't have to be, you know? I had so much fun with him picking out the scarf for you last Christmas. And then we went to eat at the coffee shop around the corner of the street with red and green decorations, and I had pumpkin cream pie with my coffee. There was a faint buzzing in his ear the whole time. Yeah, that's why I left. And I thought perhaps I was in love with him."
The raindrops trickle down the lip of windshield, and he turns the radio dial up, all the way up.
"Can you hear me?"
"I can't hear you at all."
"You can hear me."
"Does it matter?"
"Does it make you regret it?"
"...I dunno. Does it?"
the end %
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