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One thing’s for sure was that he loved him. He loved their home, he loved the polished surfaces, he loved the cheap wooden floors. He loved the matching hoodies they had, the bag of Twizzlers they hid in the upper right kitchen cupboard, the fluffy slippers he had begged him to buy. He loved the piggy bank they had promised to save money together in for a new house, he loved the dusty glass coffee table they situated in front of the couch.
But above all else, he knew, he loved the man lying beside him at night. Terrence was beautiful, with his small lips and slender frame. He loved walking in the park with him, gazing into his eyes, clasping his hand so that he would never get lost.
Yes, they were in the park that day, and Terrence was skipping along the path, staring at his sneakers and the paths they made in the snow, and loudly counting the steps he took to that tree, then the next tree, then the next.
“Jordan, did you know that there’s a rocky cave in the heart of Indonesia? One of those caves with bats and clear green water, and damp walls, and a pink sky?” His voice, bright and innocent, cut through the crisp winter stillness.
“I didn’t know that. Did you hear that from the radio?” Terrence paused, concentrated hard, and, after a few moments of silence, nodded quickly.
“Yes. On the radio. They like to talk about these places a lot on it. Just yesterday, it was buzzing to me about that place in the Arctic tundra with...” And he’s off, his fluttering words pouring forth as clouds of warm moisture. He smiles, pulls Terrence closer to him, and continues down the path, sometimes nodding or agreeing with his statements.
Presently, they stopped. Terrence had dug his heels into the icy pavement and had pointed with a straightened glove at the stand on the side of the road. It was a hot chocolate and coffee vendor.
“Jordan, I want… Can we please get some...” He rubbed his hands together for warmth.
“Hot chocolate? You want hot chocolate.” Terrence looked at Jordan’s eyes before nodding.
“Come on, let’s go get some.”
And they did. Jordan removed each finger of his glove from his hand with his teeth, and carefully clasped the hot paper cup of coffee in his frozen state. He heard Terrence shriek. He spun around.
Terrence’s mouth was open. A sticky river of milk and chocolate was spreading across his jacket. One of his gloves was already soaked, the heat radiating from it like a hot air balloon of mist.
Jordan sighed. He pulled the hot glove off his hand, and pressed a handful of snow to the burn across it. Terrence didn’t say anything, just stared at the brown liquid dripping off his jacket front to the snow.
“Look, those are the guys I was telling you about.”
“Oh, that super hot one and the weird one?”
“Yeah, just look at him. He’s so hot. I have no idea why he’s with someone like that.”
“He’s not even that bad looking.”
“Yeah but did you see him sloshing that cup around. His babbling? He’s probably completely nuts.”
“I feel kind of bad for the hot one. Imagine having to take care of that, day after day after day!”
Jordan felt his face flush, heat crawling across his cheeks. With a grunt he stood, dragging the still silent Terrence behind him in the slush, back towards the gate that led not that far off, to home.
The brown patch bloomed on the white snow.
And he does love him. It’s only moments like these that he has to stand in front of the kitchen counter, drinking cup after cup after cup of a mixture of rum and Bailey’s. Terrence is playing with the edge of the tablecloth, running his fingers across it, humming some eighties song he informed Jordan forty minutes ago was stuck in his head. Jordan loves him. But sometimes, after one too many drinks, he has to lash out.
Terrence freezes, “What wrong Jordan?”
“What wrong?” His voice sounds unnaturally sharp, high.
Immediately Terrence’s eyes fill with tears. Like a child, Jordan thinks, like a goddamn stupid child.
“Was it the hot chocolate today? It was an accident, I swear. I didn’t mean to spill it! I was just thinking at the time how the chocolate kinda looked those mud banks in Shenyang! Do you remember? And I was just thinking, it’s like sliding--” Jordan sinks down to the floor, the sight of which causes Terrance to swallow his sentence and rush over.
“I did it again, did I Jordan? I’m sorry. I’ve been thinking again have I? I’m sorry about the hot chocolate. I’ll be careful... more careful… carefuller? Is that the right word Jordan?”
Jordan sighs again for the second time that day, pulls his hand out of Terrence’s grip, and tiredly rubs his eyes, “Forget about the hot chocolate.”
“Then you’re not mad at me?”
Jordan rubs his eyes and spits, “Mad at you? How could I be mad at you?” Hot tears are clouding his vision, “I’m just tired, Terrence. Tired that I have to be a mom everyday. Tired that I feel like I’m dating some twelve year old kid that doesn’t even know where he is half the time. No, I’m not mad.” He pauses, swallows.
“I’m just tired. Leave me alone, okay?”
Terrence is unusually silent. Slowly, he rises. He walks away.
When Jordan’s emotions have calmed a bit, and the reality of what he said sets in, he’s panicking. He calls Terrence’s name, and, hearing no response from the house, bolts up and outside the door.
He searches everywhere. The park, the nearby deli, the streets. He even takes a midnight bus downtown, screaming his boyfriend’s name into the dark. Running across each frozen path until his shirt is sticking to his back with sweat and his damp hair begins to gloss over with shiny icicles.
But when he finally finds him, it isn’t anywhere far at all. Terrence is squatted on the side of their building, knees drawn up to his chest, slowly rocking himself back and forth as he shivers. He didn’t run away at all. He’s waiting, waiting for Jordan to let him back in.
Jordan wraps his arms around him, breathing out so many apologies into his ears that his breath gives out, and when Terrence looks up, there is such a sad smile plastered across his face that he feels the air escape his lungs again.
“Hey. You’re back.” Jordan nods as he wipes away the tears glistening down his face.
“I’m so sorry Terrence,” he says again, and he’s never meant anything more in his entire life.
“Sorry? Why? Could you not win the teddy bear?” Terrence’s eyes are shining with a lie, “It’s alright. We can just go buy one at the souvenir shop later!”
His heart sinks, “Terrence. What are you talking about? Tell me. Where are we right now?”
Terrence replies so quickly with the answer so obvious in his mind “...we’re… we’re at Disneyland, Jordan.”
Without any more words, Jordan wraps his arms around the smaller man, and, gently, ever so gently, carries him back up the stairs, the stream of words from his mouth trailing on into the empty hallways.
Terrence gets sick. Of course. It was freezing that night, and he hadn’t put on a coat before leaving their home. Jordan spends the days by his side, cradling his head, smiling to the uncontrollable stories that keep coming, words raspy and dry from the fever wracking Terrence’s body. It is some time before there is enough quiet for Jordan to ask his own question.
“What goes on in your head Terrence?”
“My head?” He smiles, tapping his boyfriend’s temples, “I’m travelling around the world up here. You know, just a moment ago I was at the tip of Mount Fuji. There was this flat wooden platform, and I held onto the rails and leaned by head forward so much, I fell off.”
“Yeah, and it was so beautiful as I fell. There was this open, empty feeling inside me and… and…”
Jordan laughs, “I’m sure you wouldn’t say that if you actually fell off a mountain Terrence.”
And suddenly, the bed creaks, and there are two angry brown eyes boring into his.
“But how do you know Jordan? I might have loved it. Can you just imagine that exhilaration, that bottomless free fall past beautiful pink and green cherry trees? The rush is so scary, Jordan-- scary enough to feel unsafe. But after a while, you just suspend in a vortex of nothing, and you relax. See, Jordan. Sometimes you just have to imagine. Where is the fun if you just let someone else, someone boring write the endings to your own stories. Sometimes I think I do the imagining for both of us.”
Jordan wants to argue, but he’s breathless from the intensity of it all, the glare, the gentleness of the hands that take hold of his own.
“But it’s so beautiful, Jordan. It’s like having chunks of the world in your hands. A piece from Arizona, a shard from Tanzania.”
Jordan leans down and presses his fingers to the side of his face. They trace out letters, paintings, priceless novels in those soft cheeks until Terrence catches hold of them again.
“Sometimes, I dream that I’m off to Spain-- and right after I’m getting onto a plane. But then the scene shifts and I’m climbing into a cab in Barcelona. Other times, I dream that I’m twenty years, thirty years in the future. But you know what’s same about every single dream?”
He presses his nose to his.
So Jordan allows his bird to fly into the sky, allow his hand to be grasped and pulled into. He looks up, and sees Terrence rush into the forests, the plains, the snow capped mountains all around the world. He watches the spinning planet Terrence has called home. He looks up at it, at how brilliantly that land seems to shine. And because beauty is best left untainted, there’s no need to discover how or why it seems to glow so brightly.
But when his star glides down and kisses his forehead a thousand goodnights, he knows there is no place better than the place Terrence has chose for him, right here, in his arms.
Because Terrence makes love easy. Always has, and always will.