by Philip C. Breakenridge

Beams of hazy sunlight stroked Christopher’s skin as he took his usual place at the window. The gently rustling drapes, a melancholy shade of mauve, fingered his thighs and calves carelessly like an inattentive lover. Peering out over the newly awakened city, Christopher inhaled the fragrance peculiar to a late spring morning in Vancouver. A lush, green aroma rich with the pungency of Japanese blossoms and lilac bushes clung to the air. Christopher closed his eyes, timidly inviting the quiet of the early day to wash over his nakedness. He envisioned what was ahead and shifted uneasily in the rigid wooden chair.

Christopher’s eyes flicked open, his body tensing. The familiar silhouette darkened the window across the way.

Suddenly, Christopher’s stomach churned painfully; a bizarre combination of reticence and excitement wrestled inside him. An icy tremor resounded through his body as his quivering hand crept up to explore the firmness of his own chest. It was still difficult for him. Christopher’s right nipple hardened under his fingertip’s chilly touch. He twisted it between his thumb and forefinger, conjuring a delicious sensation of pain. The sharply shooting twinges of agony freed him, releasing him from a disobedient body. Christopher’s escaped self hovered above, a shadowy apparition gazing down on a vacant shell.

Christopher felt the stranger’s anxious presence in the distance. It was time to begin.

Fiery streams of water consumed Christopher as the last traces of the morning ritual swirled down the shower drain. Numbness washed over him as he pondered the repulsiveness of being touched by hands other than his own: hands that had molested the bodies of other lovers, hands that had sweetly mussed the fur of filthy, dumbly-devoted house pets. The oversized washcloth resting on the edge of the tub invited him to scour away these thoughts, a foul grime slick upon his skin. He gripped the washcloth tightly, scrubbing until his pale, freckled skin flushed an angry red.

Exhausted, Christopher slid into a heap on the shower floor, swallowed by a thick, dank blanket of dewy steam. Consciousness slipped away from him.

The boy raised a bruised hand to block the sun’s fierce rays. The colorful shorts set his mother had placed out for him that morning glimmered in its bright beams. A tepid summer breeze danced on the backs of his spindly legs. He squinted, scanning the expansive greenness of the backyard. His eyes refocused as the formidable man came back into view.

His father crouched uncomfortably ten feet away on the meticulously-manicured lawn. He wiped away copious beads of sweat from his crinkled brow with a meaty, calloused hand. A sigh of exasperation escaped his mouth, unresisted.

“Okay, Tiger. This time I wanna feel it burn right through my glove.”

The freckle-faced boy grasped the baseball clumsily. He struggled to wrap his delicately boned fingers around its shape.

“Here it comes, Daddy.”

Using a madly hurled overhand pitch, Christopher threw the ball with all the might a six-year-old could muster. The boy’s miniature physique lunged forward as the fervent force of his throw sent him tumbling to his knees. For an instant, he cowered on all fours waiting for the call.

“You still throw like a girl. Get up. Let’s do it again.”

Christopher stared down at the grass wishing its fierce green blades would wind their way around his body and pull him down into the cool soil. Droplets of childish determination welled up in his eyes. They had been at this for four hours and he wasn’t getting any better. He was still a sissy.

“C’mon. Get up. Only girls give up.”

His father ran his hands through a coppery-colored brush cut and smiled smugly. His boy would thank him for this someday.

“I’ll show you how it’s done. I’ll pitch it to you. You catch it, then throw it back to me.”

The little boy stood up and brushed flecks of dirt off of his grass-stained knees, feigning the bravado of a major league player. He swallowed hard and braced himself for the impact of his father’s pitch.

“Are you ready?”

Christopher tugged at the ill-fitting leather glove that engulfed his left hand and nodded. His father didn’t hold back.

The force of his throw seared into the boy’s chest, throwing him onto his back. Christopher lay on the grass, winded, gasping for any faint wisps of air he could smuggle into his lungs. A raucous cough rattled his chest, bringing up with it a ghastly mixture of blackened blood and spittle. The putrid liquid oozed from the corners of his pink mouth and dribbled onto his chin. Christopher stared up at the awesome summer sky, a deliriously beautiful palette of soft blues. Its radiance mesmerized and comforted him as he floated upwards to embrace it.

Suddenly, the blackness of his father’s stern expression fell across the heavens, darkening the magnificent sky like an ominous eclipse.

An hour passed before Christopher felt composed enough to leave his sodden refuge. Stepping out of the shower, he wrapped a plush towel around his narrow waist. With a sweep of his hand, he cleared the bathroom mirror of steam. His estranged self stared back at him as he ran his water-pruned fingers through an untamable mass of wavy hair. The sun had already turned it a shiny carrot-red. The murky blue pools of his eyes reflected back a sad vacancy.

The stranger had been coming every morning for over six months now. Christopher hated what his dark visitor made him feel. The detached connection that came with being watched was something Christopher both craved and despised. He was losing himself, a casualty of a sordid inner conflict. His carefully-constructed guise slowly peeled away, exposing a pinkish, tender sensualist flesh. Christopher craned his neck, bringing his face closer to the mirror. He poked at the finely etched lines tugging at the corners of his eyes. Maybe he was better off lost.

Christopher stared out into the faintly glowing blackness. The night air had an edge that prickled the flesh of his exposed chest. The pearlized buttons on his finely-tailored dress shirt were all undone. Its crisp cotton shape billowed on the breeze. Christopher summoned all the energy he could and directed it towards the shaded window. His eyes cautiously scanned the prodigious high-rise that looked especially foreboding after dark. The cold, grey building gazed back at him, its scattered illuminated suites forming a menacing grimace. Christopher focused on the dimly lit apartment across the way. Nothing happened.

He knew it wasn’t time yet. The shared addiction was precise and calculated. Christopher slid the frosted glass door back into place, shutting out the night.

Morning slowly crept up on Christopher. He awoke from a restless slumber and took his post earlier than usual. The familiar anxiety embracing him made the wait excruciating. Tiny beads of perspiration blanketed his body causing him to shiver slightly in the crisp morning air. A distorted collage pieced together with visions of other mornings just like this one spun in his head. The endless effort given to resisting the perversion of his own thoughts wore him down.

The masculine frame stepped out of the shadows, bringing Christopher to his senses. The stranger was already aroused. Christopher closed his eyes and laid back in the chair, balancing himself on the very edge. He gently ran his hands over the expanse of his chest. The stranger liked this – Christopher felt his approval. He lowered his hands, examining his rippled midsection with probing fingertips. He moved deliberately, pausing to feel each section of taut abdominal muscle.
Growing impatient, the stranger looked over his shoulder, into the black of his abode. Christopher gave him what he wanted. The stranger watched intently, fixed in the moment by an eerie stillness.

Christopher’s body convulsed with the force of his climax. He lay trembling, listening to the hurried pant of his own breath. He slowly peeled his eyes open. The stranger was pleased. The dark figure vanished into the obscurity of his apartment. Christopher was alone.

Christopher peeked through the sad drapes. Two dreary and vacuous weeks had passed since the stranger had stopped coming. The desertion had caused something inside of Christopher to short circuit, making the maintaining of his make-believe daily life unbearable. He was a fraud, a disconnected being, an unlovable abomination. Christopher had stopped leaving the apartment a week ago. The sour stench of his unwashed body grew thick upon the stale air inside. A dense, coarse stubble had claimed his smooth face. He ate only when the growlings of his belly demanded it; sleep came to him infrequently, in dreamless and gloomy waves.

Christopher’s robe slipped into a neat pile on the living room floor. He slid the balcony door open and stepped out into the midday rays, the sun’s brightness assailing his dulled eyes. He hoisted himself onto the wall of his balcony, his bare feet gripping the rough concrete ledge. Christopher closed his eyes and inhaled calmly. The thought of erasing a mistake was strangely soothing to him.

Christopher leaned forward, letting go of his balance. He simply let go.

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