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The Ugly Name
When Anthony met Noah, the adolescent was wearing a sweater- the sort with a zipper and hood, further adorned by stylish stripes of various widths across its chest. Noah's eyes never left his equally fashion conscious shoes, and he hadn't spoken to anyone that night.
Anthony could have believed it was love at first sight, was it not for a natural sense of skepticism held for anything that could be considered even remotely fairytale.
There were no princes for f***ots.
And so instead of sweeping Noah gently off his feet, Anthony approached him with delicateness of dynamite, touching his waist and slurring, "You look hot, like that."
Noah's face flushed dark with more than intoxication. Even his clothing seemed to grow warm, "What's your name?"
"Does it matter?"
"A name is everything. I'm Noah," he turned and properly faced Anthony. His eyes were brown, half-lidded and smiling without his mouth.
Honesty was rewarded with a laugh; forwardness was rewarded with a kiss when Anthony sealed their lips together tight and Noah was curled so close to him in the next seconds, minutes, hours. They wandered, traversed, groped, stumbled, collapsed, explored, stripped-
"Don't take off my shirt," Noah whispered, touching Anthony's hand. Their breaths mingled, suffocating. "I want it on."
"Anthony, just…I want to do this, come on."
Curiosity always played second to need; they f***ed, and the morning came too soon, woven with unspoken goodbyes as Anthony woke naked to an empty room.
So they drifted, affected and yet unchanged; they were rebellious to fate, ignorant of influence, and wondered where their emptiness came from.
It was years later- chance, that Anthony spotted a sweater aged with stains and loose stitching. Its owner had faired better, and he still sounded the same. Drunk as Anthony recalled, "Anthony? I didn't know you knew Mary…"
"Yeah, I work at CEC, too."
"Seriously. How are you?"
Noah shrugged, "I don't know. You?"
"Alright, poor. Not making as much as you, probably. I think you're a manager. There's a manager named Noah, right?"
"You slur the same. With a lisp."
"You've never met me sober."
Anthony grinned, "And I'm not disappointed. Do you remember at all…?" A long silence, and his countenance faltered, "No?"
"I was a kid, I mean…"
"I think it defined me. Do you want to redefine yourself?"
Noah paused, as if truly considering what this meant. He knew Anthony was staring, "We could, I s'pose."
But what was this memory? Purely physical, maybe, as they rushed away to an unoccupied room and this time waited for the door to be locked to kiss. To caress, to ignore the cool feeling on Anthony's wedding ring when it skimmed Noah's neck. To forget they were two strangers, nothing more than passing figures in each other's lives.
They could have been lovers.
Anthony's fingers were on the zipper of Noah's sweater when the man stopped him; a broken record dusty after years of sitting in the closet played its melody, "I don't want to take my shirt off."
"No. I want this to be…how about you tell me? Show me?"
"It's an ugly name."
Noah's fingers slowly removed the casing from his body; his fingertips trembled, his eyes went thicker with moisture. Not tears; a rheum, Anthony murmured to himself. A rheum.
There was a scar, carved with the precision of an artist, knotted thickly on the man's abdomen. Letters, where skin was once perfect, where there was once nothing but self. It was ownership, in the sense of inability forget; Anthony wondered who 'Adrian' was as he traced the path a blade must have taken. "I think you're beautiful."
"But he isn't." Noah exhaled and took Anthony's fingers from him, "Do you…do you want to be my escape?"
"Do you have a lighter?"
Anthony's eyes widened. Noah gazed through him, his skeleton, his mind. There was no distance between them, then; they were nothing but their souls.
Souls that couldn't feel pain, couldn't hear the lighter click in several nervous attempts, smell the burning flesh as fire cleansed sin after a few tentative attempts, hear the sobs, the pleas to finish, and watch Noah finally scramble for the phone to dial an ambulance.
Anthony left, this time, but Noah thanked him weakly before he walked through the doorway.
Was this purpose?