Chelsea Laine Wells
You will think of it again and again irresistibly, too often, the arc of Cain’s fall, his arms flung wide and his sick body like a bird skeleton picked clean of feathers and meat and flattened in the sun, his head swept back like a doll’s head loosely moored, the balls of his arched feet rolling against the edge of the third story eave until he was horizontal and cutting down through still summer air past his bedroom, past the window seat where you squirmed against him, past the kitchen with the bread box, his body drawn swiftly down to the earth by the greed of gravity until it mated unforgivably with the square of cement below, and his ribcage snapped like bone twigs and pierced the sponge of lung and gnarled heart, his jaw pulverized, teeth cracked off at the gum, sharp grimacing face crushed up into itself like a ground cigarette and when they found him in his thin, meager pool of blood at first they believed that his face had somehow been buried in the ground, but then they rolled him over, hyperventilating and slipping in his offal, and saw that he was formless and jellied and bruise-black as smashed fruit where once your hand had framed his restless junky jaw. But they don’t know this. They don’t know you. You, concealed in semi-darkness, sliding along his walls, silent on your back in his unwashed bed, letting his hands tie you off and ease the needle in, the sound of his even breathing, the smell of his scalp, the way he straddled your prone body and hung his face over yours to watch unblinking as it rolled open inside your veins, and what happened after that was feverish and deniable, for a while at least. By the time Cain orchestrates his fall you have sworn him off, or tried to, and taken up residence on the tile floor of your darkened bathroom, backed into a corner, sweating and panting, rocking, clawing at the rancid bruises inside your arms, until your mother calls you to dinner. Which you will rarely keep down. Which you will vomit under the cover of the shower, down the bathtub drain, which clogs, and which you plunge with your wounded arms, and then collapse on the bleach-scoured tub floor in the steam and the smell of barely digested potatoes and pot roast and you think of Cain’s fall, his body that you touched and touched and touched more than you want to admit, mostly impotent but responsive in twitches and writhing groans, his lacework of badly abused veins and the spider thread hairs along his neck and his chapped-raw mouth with the red tongue bitten at the tip, and this mouth opening for you and on you and nuzzling you like an animal nosing into your armpit, your arms spread like crucifixion across his sweaty bed and the rubber band uncoiling and falling to the floor, his mouth running down your throat, your side, your bones alive like tuning forks struck by his voice whispering ceaseless against your agonized flesh. This mouth: opening to smile and swallow the rushing air and then in a split second crushed flat and formless against the cement of his family’s unkempt yard, and you feel the speed and trajectory of his fall in the pit of your belly and along the base of your cock, rising with blood, and you can’t deny what it means about you – the fact that Cain is still with you every second as though he lives inside your eyes, the fact that you went with him in the first place, the fact that you think about his hands and his mouth and his death all in the same shuddering breath, what it means about you, former nice boy, now sick on the tub floor shuddering with want for the dead junky queer, as they call him, the nice boy no longer on the baseball team or the honor roll, and his mother sleeping lighter these days and craning towards his directionless footsteps and the thudding noises and sometimes what could be crying. I wonder, should we get him a counselor? or maybe it’s just a phase.
The first time he got you there, you call it, can’t quite put the language in your mouth, although you put plenty of other incriminating evidence in your mouth didn’t you – the first time he got you there his house was empty, the kind of big echoing house that poor people somehow acquire, with water stains in the ceilings like brown sweat and cracks climbing the walls and doors that don’t close. He shot you up in the scummy yellow-lighted bathroom, watched your face unstring itself as you died and resurrected inside the profane church of your body, and then led you stumbling out into the hall and back against him in the window seat. His arms vised around your chest and crushed the air from your lungs until they twitched like fish dying, and the world slipped focus and you floated between the ratty square of yard beyond the warped window and his touch, the heel of his hand ground into your heart as if intent on stopping it like a clock, and his palm against the fly of your jeans rubbing so rough the zipper teeth scraped through the material of the boxers bought for you by your mother and left tracks on you like tiny bite marks. You sounded so surprised, he told you, when you came, your hands startling up like a baby who feels himself falling, flying apart in the open air after a lifetime of suffocating airless womb, and he was laughing into your ear and the sound of it rattled down through the corridors of your entire body into your core and his unhealthy fevered skinny body glued to yours seemed more solid than the ground beneath you. Sweet-sick-pulsating, melting, your voice threaded desperate into the back of your breathing. He talked and talked to you, his mouth against your ear, and you heard none of the words, just felt his low hoarse voice vibrating from his chest into your spine, and anything this hypnotic had to have some connection, however tenuous, to love. You thought this, in your brain lit up like a three story house burning to down the ground, but inevitably you turned away from it once the fire was out.
The first time he gave you the drug was outside in a public place, the most dangerous place, a park teeming with children and families and ducks, and in the naked daylight he backed you against a tree alongside a remote pathway and told you to hold out your arm. Deep-seated obedience and a desire to please and your embarrassed confusion at why you were here, at a park on a Saturday with another boy, it wasn’t normal, why don’t you get out more? his parents had been asking, why don’t you ask out the Donnely’s daughter, why don’t you try out for baseball again this year, why have you been so quiet? Your arm extended itself and you watched blankly as Cain tied a large red rubber band around your upper arm and clamped your wrist between his elbow and his ribby side, drew a syringe from his back pocket, pulled the cap off with his teeth, grasped your elbow with his large hand, and distantly you were aware of child voices pealing all around like birds, the sun ringing high and bright and gilding the windswept water of the man-made lake beyond like an overdone Technicolor movie scene, and Cain’s straight eyebrows drawn together as he guided the biting needle into you honeymoon-tender and pulled the plunger back and you saw your healthy oxygenated American baseball middle class blood crowd into the syringe with the grainy brown liquid there, and they mated, your blood muddied, and you let go of anything that was before, and released a trembling breath as he emptied himself into your virgin vein. And then the feeling, like the first orgasm you ever gave yourself – accidentally in the shower, such a shock – but rolling limitless along every nerve, rolling out infinitely in the walls of your body, and the walls of your body turning lucent, seething light, and you zero on his mouth half open, tongue on his teeth, raw-bitten bottom lip wet, his eyes bloodshot and shark flat and burning feline yellow in his anemic face as he watched you come and come and come, sliding down against that tree, until his rough-knuckled hands, the biggest part of him, caught you and nailed you forever there, a part of you would be forever there, and his quicksilver minnow smile, Cain Kelly, queer junky AIDS white trash they called him, but never to his face, smiling at you crooked and head-cocked and he leaned forward and put his mouth over your open breathless mouth and said something you didn’t understand at the moment and then kissed you, not deeply, but slowly, and well, and it woke you up. Braced and steadied by his hands with the tip of his tongue slicked across yours, something dormant within you stirred and opened its eyes. Then he pulled away, gently, and led you to the edge of the man-made lake, keeping you close, laughing under his breath at you tripping over your feet, and he sat on the grass and pulled you down with him compliant as a baby, and you were struggling not to moan out loud, and he settled the back of your head against his thigh and opened the plastic sack he had taken from the kitchen bread box. Your eyes skidded over the acidic blue of sky, the fouled green water, the children whipping past like bees, the triangular underside of his chin, the acne there, the ginger brown stubble there, his Adam’s apple jutting from his corded throat suggestive somehow as a hard-on, the threadbare white t-shirt spotted with dried blood, the black-banana track marks along his skeletal arms appearing and disappearing as he pulled stale bread from the bag and scattered it over the water for the ducks. The ducks crowded around, fought, they looked mean and flea-bitten. You were throbbing. Dissolving. Boneless. The shame would come later. Just then you were nothing but a vessel for Cain, you were saturated with the smell of his unwashed clothes, his sweat, the copper salt of his mouth, your eyes honed with microscopic focus on the freckles across his bony nose and his eyelashes tipped in gold. You quaked on your back in that public park with his thigh hot against your neck and his hand ripe with the yeasty tang of bread tracing the wingspread of your ribcage, cupping your cheek, watching you, and if anyone stared, if it seemed odd for two high school boys to couple this way in the middle of a Saturday in the middle of a park in the blaring relentless sunshine, you were oblivious. Already you were drinking Cain irreparably into your marrow, an opiate more poisonous and addictive than anything injected. And finally you heard the words he’d slid into your mouth up against that tree, resurfacing in his gravel voice as though he was speaking through you like a demon and maybe he was, frowning down at you with the sun eclipsed at the back of his neck, drawing his thumb with the cut knuckle and black-grimed nail down the line of your nose and along your trembling bottom lip.
The first time I saw you, he said, I knew you would belong to me.
About the author…
Chelsea Laine Wells is a Dallas, Texas native who primarily writes short stories but is working on her first novel, entitled The House of Little Moons. Her fiction has appeared in Evergreen Review, Pank Magazine, Bluestem Magazine and Housefire. Currently she is pursuing her master’s degree in librarianship and works in student services at a technical college. She lives in Dallas, in her pajamas, with her husband and their clan of cats.