Men

4AM. Your breath fogs up in the still air as you follow this stranger home. Up dark and quiet sloping streets that make every streetlamp seem a precious star.

He shows you his home and the accumulated stories and artifacts of a lifetime. Portraits of a celebrity you don't know. Souvenirs from places you've never been. Before he offers you a little of what he's on. You politely refuse. You're here for the company, not the high.

He shares the last story, what brings him to this intersection with you at 3AM. The mid-life crisis at the peak of his career that saps the wind that once propelled his sails, and left him adrift.

These moments seem unreal, playing to porn in the background, smell of a bad trip in the air. You begin to fall asleep in his couch. And to his credit, he doesn't push the reason he invited you here. Maybe he knows you're here for the solace of his company too.

-

1AM. Absent lovers, you immerse yourself in the crowd. Resenting loneliness, you replace the kiss of a lover with the embrace of friends. Barhopping in this foreign city, chasing heat and noise and rhythm.

You speak of imagined futures and lifetimes with your mate. Philosophy and politics, the sexiest of conversation topics. He's not your lover, not even gay, but he'll do.

Until he doesn't. Because solidarity's so hard to find in this straight world, where boys and girls need only the smallest drink to start kissing and thrusting your loneliness back in your face. They're just as desperate as you are.

And when your mate starts making out with a girl, the heat and noise and rhythm recedes.

So you flee onto cold streets, the beginning of tears welling in your eyes though you don't even know why.

Absent solidarity, you chase phantom strangers on Grindr. Until you find him: the fella who lives in Norreborro.

-

7AM. He wakes you from your snooze on his couch. Another guest is coming, and you'd best be on your way if you don't wanna join in.

And so, two strangers part at that dreamlike intersection of their lives. Never to meet again.

A bus ride later, you stumble back into the room. Past the mate passed out in the toilet, past the mates cuddling under blankets, you fall into an hour's sleep before the sun rises, loneliness temporarily sated.

The absolute cruelty of being told by the boy—who speaks to your heart in every way that matters—that you're not right for him.

Holding back tears as he says he's looking for something serious. Not a heartbreaker. Not someone who carelessly moves from boy to boy. You're too young for him. Or too experienced for him. Or too fast for him. Or...

Biting back the frown, you put on a smile and say it's alright. Because it has to be. He's an amalgamation of every wound, every boy you've ever wanted but could never have, molding you into someone you don't even recognise.

To say otherwise—to tell him this isn't who you are; that your heart beats slow. that your feelings are true; to please don't make me somebody I'm not with this— would be to let it fester and sting, to fight a crashing wave.

But the wound festers still. You still remember all the times. The bitter taste of rejection in your mouth. It carves at you, poisons you, makes you the very thing you wanted to claim you never were.

And whose fault was it? The boy who told the lie, or I who believed it?

A precarious thing, always under siege from the outside world. Made all the more brilliant when it survives it all: When you carve paradise on earth from these precious moments, when you find reprieve.

The day is yours and his and ours. You melt into his arms and clutch him tightly. You ponder everything together between cups of coffee. You gaze into each others' eyes and you feel it. You're falling into his rhythm.

I still feel it. The smile after his kiss goodbye. Blissed out.

On the night bus, saying goodbye to the boy. Last hug, last kisses, longed-for time brought to an end. Left to stew in the memories. You've come back to this time and again, a different boy at every station. Beauty is impermanence, time is a flat circle, yada yada. Time and experience has numbed the goodbyes.

You'll crave that lapse and reprieve from worry. Him and his world are one and the same. Him and Tehran. Him and Tokyo. Him and Paris. The solace of his company in a foreign land. Interpreter, guide, lover, friend and companion, a shortcut to intimacy forged by that fleeting connection. You know it's a shadow of the real thing, but we make do with what we're given.

You cried for him in Tokyo—over kissing in the middle of Shibuya crossing, hands held in quiet lanes, solidarity with a stranger you'd never met before but feel for unlike anyone else.

You loved him in Tehran—for the road trip into the mountains, standing on the shores of the Caspain Sea, his every tender kiss a question to which your answer is a desperate yes.

And you write for him now on the night bus—over dancing in tiny clubs, the breathtaking views from the Montmarte, the escape from real life into the complete fantasy that is this weekend in Paris.

You know it's a lie. Repetition won't change things. Knowing doesn't alter the outcome—time and experience will never numb the goodbyes.

I can't stop staring at those eyes in the scarlet light, radiating across this diner. Vulnerability and pain, inviting me to reach across this smallest of spaces between us. This gap growing ever closer with meandering talk of what this life means, of biblical tales and being abandoned by god, of existence preceding essence, what it takes to be happy; consumerism or nirvana. Down these roads we walk, until our lips meet in the shadow of my building.

And gosh, that feeling: that sacred emotional chemistry drowned out by a devouring physical need. The search for solace ends with my hands around him, with the taste of him on my lips.

Lost in that sea of bodies—in that vortex of lust and longing, ecstasy and numbness, vibrant colour and vivid motion—

Oscillating wildly between excitement and envy. Endless energy and kisses aplenty. Drawn into the song, into a rhythm you can see exploding before your eyes, shards splintering across the endless dancers, elevating us all.

Then the crash. The oscillating ends, resting on envy. On the cold streets, you see the world through tear glazed eyes. It's a numb pain, devoid of true feeling and hurt, yet the tears flow regardless at the end of this lost weekend.

The witch distortions He's a stag A woodland prince An imp of desire A demon Asmodeus He's an efreet He's human

There's frames of time between us Between this paper and me His face is like cinema unfolding before me

Frame by frame His face It's beautiful

The room is breathing There's a lag between thinking and feeling There's a world of meaning between every word Focus You cannot focus

Graduating from his face to the rest of the room Psychedelic, temporal You're struggling Struggling to remember this To hold on to these flickering moments of time You're losing something you can't even mourn Temporal Everything feels temporal Temporal

I can't tell if I'm warm or not We're on a tent Under a blanket Experiencing all of this in comfort Sitting by the fire Puzzling existence under blankets and all Words can't convey... The serenity? The bliss? The peace Whatever.

You're literally trying to construct meaning It's taking so long A boat! We're on a boat On a sea of sensory experience

Dragonflies It all flies away like dragonflies

What will you think tomorrow when you read this? What rubbish? Volumes of sensation Volumes of feeling Locked away in these pages Are we at the end of the trip yet? Heartbeats The room has a heartbeat

Rubbish = When you're drunk But it's different now, now = Meaning is all Funky.

Learned wisdom Do we all trip the same way?

I'm experiencing the music in a way I've never felt before You feel the breaths The sound entering and leaving the room The rhythm you float in That it lulls you into this Hypersleep of the mind Gosh. The aura of the song This is what they must've felt The aura

This boat could go deeper But we choose to thread in safe waters tonight. I'm being hypnotised by the paper.

I have him close his eyes, as the beginning of ODESZA's A Moment Apart sets in. We breathe the same rhythm, ache for the same vision. We share something, even if only for sacred moments. Amid roman columns, under shivering stained glass, in the violet light...

Like being in a precarious bubble, this golden egg of life, floating in a dark fearful meaningless void and oh god, the walls could fall away at any moment but only if you let it. If you let that cold in—push it away with the radiance—We're here. We're alive. We're never going to die. This moment is an eternity that is ours and nobody else's. It will stay frozen forever in linear time, like a page glossed over in a book but there forever all the same.

This warmth was real and it existed, amid the cold and against that dark, it persevered. And it always will, in a frozen flicker.

Staring into his eyes, whispering lies that feel more sincere than any sober truth you've ever spoken. Making promises you'll both forget once the heat of the moment passes, once he steps out the door.

All you're left with is that lingering heat in your sheets of promises made and forgotten.

the morning after, clad in the warmth of a lover's arms.

Basking in that scorching closeness of two beings. And feeling the afterglow of that connection on the journey home.

The morning sun lights the path. Euphoria in every step.

Could you ever belong to anything else but this?