the-sound-of-his-footsteps-10.html

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Eyl 3, 2022 // By:analsex // No Comment

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This is primarily a love story; sex will occur sporadically, not in every other paragraph.

Love will never abide by religion or by law. Love can be punished, but it cannot be cured. Love is the ultimate anarchist. The term “sin” is meaningless in love”s language, as is the term “underage”.

If you disagree with this statement, go find another story to read.

If some law says you should not be here at all, it”s your own choice to stay or go away.

If you should happen to like my story, please tell me: ota

And please remember: fty/donate.html

 

 

 

 

THE SOUND OF HIS FOOTSTEPS

Magnus Winter

 

 

 

CHAPTER 10

 

→ Sander → → Diary 2018

I am really and truly fed up with being categorized, defined, interpreted on such flimsy basis as age, post code, religion, gender.

I”ve done exactly the same myself, placed people in boxes for the most marginal of reasons: Looks, dress, language. And now I wonder who taught me this. Is it an innate mechanism to recognize members of your own species, or is it a cultural phenomenon we”ve developed to defend class distinction and discrimination? How useful, how functional are our rigid definitions to our society? Why does it matter if I am male or female or both? Do I need to be either gay or straight? What kind of a symphony comes from only one instrument?

And where do the criteria come from? Even more important, why are these criteria so bloody difficult to change? Is it just that those who want our money find it opportune to separate Lego for boys and Lego for girls? Or does nature decide the percentage of male midwives or female firemen?

I”ve had sex in one form or another with several people, coincidentally they”ve all been men. If I had been a woman, that would have put me in category “Tramp” or “Whore”. If my partners had been women, I would have been one hell of a guy. Since I”m placed in category “Gay”, it seems inevitable to put me in subcategory “Promiscuous”. Or “Irresponsible”. Or plain “Sinful”.

I fell in love with a sixteen year old. Correction, fifteen year old. So I qualify for category “Dirty Old Man”. Or “Child Molester”. Or “Pedo”.

Call me what you like, I can”t be bothered to defend myself. If it”s that important, put me in whatever category you want. I don”t give a fuck about you anyway.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Oslo 1987

 

The gallery was in deep shit. Vera was broke. Sander, who was suffering from a strange kind of embarrassment from suddenly having so much more money than he was used to, decided to help out. His mother”s lawyer, who now had become his lawyer, advised heavily against it, but fuck it, for the first time in his life he could afford not to turn every dime. He had his lawyer set up a partnership agreement with Vera and invested quite a neat sum in the business. He also payed off her creditors and her debts, it didn”t set him back that much. He recognized his actions for what they were: Selfishness rather than altruism. He needed to have one foot in this alternative environment, in this subculture. Not necessarily to participate in every shenanigan. More vicariously, really. Listen to their escapades, observe their behavior, let himself be entertained and forget about the stranglehold he felt life had on him.

But there is a season for everything. What at first had seemed so fascinating, so excitingly lawless, soon took the form of repetition. Too many times of too much of everything.

One afternoon at a vernissage party, Sander stood pissing in the toilet when the unpleasant Anders came in and without another word scooted over, knelt down and opened his mouth under the jet. Sander pushed him away, caught off guard by a sudden discomfort. Anders got up, closed in behind Sander”s back and grabbed his dick. Hoarse voice in Sander”s ear:

“I want your piss in my ass.”

At another time, in other circumstances, Sander would have laughed it off and let it pass. But a sudden rage took hold of his brain. He turned like an explosion, pissed all over the floor before he could stop, and knocked Anders hard against the sink with two blows from his fists. Intending to hurt him, wanting to see something break. Anders swore and doubled up and left in as much of a hurry as he could muster. Sander cleaned the floor, and stood washing his hands for a long time, snorting at himself in the mirror.

When he came out of the bathroom, the tension in the gallery was heavy and thick, someone had obviously painted a rather unfavorable picture of him out there. He felt no need to explain or correct anything, just glowered back at them and shrugged. He sought out Vera, kissed the air next to her cheeks three times and said good-by. She looked at him almost as if he were a child in need of help.

“Don”t worry about it. I think Anders deserved that one.”

 

“Maybe. But I didn”t.”

He kicked the door shut when he left.

 

 

Oslo, August 21, 1989

“Funny, it wasn”t at all as bad as I thought it would be. I did get a bit of a scolding, but after I had explained myself, they were actually quite nice.”

They”re sitting outside the train station, two cappuccinos in front of them at the small caf� table. Thomas has just arrived from Hamar.

“So you”re not a suspect?”

 

“I think I was at first. Now they”re looking for someone else. Something to do with timing. Dad was never in the picture, as far as I could gather.”

 

“So tell me. What did they say?”

 

“Well, initially a lot of harsh lip about me not having reported it when I found her, and the way I had wasted police time by hiding from them. So I told them the whole story. The officer who interrogated me seemed quite nice and well-meaning, and you know, I never learn. I”ve spent such a big part of my life being afraid of people, expecting to be yelled at or beaten up, so when someone smiles and seems nice, I”m all defenseless. Make bad choices.”

He laughs and shakes his head. Looks up with an expression difficult to read. Sander”s stomach churns: Am I one of those bad choices? It feels like a door is about to shut in his face. But then Thomas breaks into his thoughts.

“So I let everything pour out. I even told them I had burned my diaries and the clothes I was wearing that day. Totally like a movie, right? I”ve no idea how I could react so completely irrationally. Well. After that, it was mostly questions. What I”d seen, who I”d seen, had I brought flowers? All the little details. But flowers? Why should I bring flowers?”

 

“Why on earth did you burn your diaries?”

Thomas lights a cigarette and his fingers run lightly across the scar at the back of his head. Ah, these memories that cut through Sander”s heart.

“Oh, you know. They were full of shit. I only wrote in them when I was on edge. In love or desperate or full of hate. And lately there was a lot of hate and a lot of bullshit about wanting to strangle her if she didn”t leave us alone and all that. Even a lot of details of how I would kill her. You know, when you”re really pushed enough, there”s a lot of shit that needs to get out. And that”s what my diaries were for. Just like the one my mum found that time in Troms�.”

 

“What was that about the flowers?”

 

“Yes, I wondered about that, too. And I asked. They only told me someone had seen a person with a wrapped bouquet ring the doorbell, but no one in her entrance had received flowers, and there weren”t any in her apartment, and no one saw anything more of that person. So I guess it was someone who had gotten the wrong address, or it could have been the murderer. Will you listen to that: the murderer. It sounds just ridiculous and unreal. And who else but me and dad had any reason to kill her? I mean, I guess a lot of people could have wanted to, but doing it? I can”t think of any.”

Sander”s brain is spinning. Oh, I can think of someone, Thomas.

“There could be a lot you don”t know about her. You haven”t seen that much of her these last years, have you?”

Thomas inhales and blows smoke out through his nose. Empties his cup. Moves his chair a little.

“No. Not until she came south last year. I went to Troms� once after I had come back from Sweden, I had some sort of idea I could make her understand that I was still her Thomas, and I hadn”t given up God even though I had left the church …well, left it, I was expelled. But she wouldn”t listen. Threw me out. Literally. And that was that. Oh, it hurt a bit, but I had grown stronger and more resilient to all the shitty things she did to me. Oh, and the door to your house was painted red!”

Sander aches to touch him, to hold him. Smell the skin in the crock of his neck. Erase his traumas, make everything right again. The distance between them is insufferable.

“That was my doing. Before I left.”

 

“Oh.” He swallows. ” Know what? I couldn”t bear to be even near the house the last two years in high school.”

He fiddles with his empty cup, then puts it down upside down on the saucer.

“But we were talking about mum. She started writing letters, that was just before she moved to Hamar. Very confused letters, half sermon and half assault. They got worse and worse, like she was completely psychotic. I showed them to dad, but he just shrugged and said that she had finally gone over the edge, and good riddance. By the way, I think I”ll change my last name to Braathen. That was my name until I was six.”

 

“That will surely please your father. He seemed like a nice guy to me.”

 

“He is. Did you pay? Can we go to your place now?”

They go by tram. Together, shoulder to shoulder, jeans clad thighs touching. Happiness. Euphoria.

 

Sander euphoria continues: Cooking with Thomas in the kitchen, setting a table for two, sitting opposite him during the meal, small talk about nothing, one foot touching his under the table. Little things that he rarely had experienced with Thomas. Drowning in his eyes, smelling his tobacco, and that distinct scent of his body and his deodorant. Sander reaches out across the table and lets his index finger stroke Thomas” thumb. Just to make sure he is there. Make sure he is real.

“Can you stay for a while?”

Thomas stares thoughtfully down on Sander”s finger. His voice sounds distant when he answers.

“A while? I have to go up and fix everything at work, I just can”t shirk it any longer. They”ve been very understanding up till now, but that won”t go on forever. I can stay until tomorrow. If it”s OK with you?”

 

“OK with me? Are you kidding?”

Thomas draws his hand back and rises. Leaves the table, walks through the open double doors into the living room and over to the balcony door. Sander sits watching him. Something falls into place inside him. This is as it should be: Thomas moving about in these rooms, like a reincarnated dream. Like all his dearest wishes have materialized.

But suddenly a demon changes gear in his mind. What if Thomas doesn”t want to go where he wants? Maybe his wishes, his plans are completely different?

Sander gets up and follows him. Touches his arm lightly.

“I”m sorry. I didn”t mean to push you into anything.”

Thomas opens the balcony door and goes outside. Lifts his arms and stretches his body.

“You don”t. It”s just … I”m a little frightened … No, not frightened. Hesitant? Careful, I don”t know.”

He looks at Sander with a small frown.

“God, I have so thought about ataköy escort you, fantasized about you, dreamt of you, you”ve no idea. There”s such an intensity in all my memories of you, of us. And an alarm-bell goes off in my head. What if that”s all it is? Memories? Fantasies?”

Sander closes in on him, behind his back. Sighs.

“Well, if that”s the case … I mean, what does your heart say, not your head?”

 

“My heart?” Thomas laughs. ” My God, Sveen, Sir, if I had listened to my heart, I”d have thrown myself at you and dragged you to bed three nights ago.”

 

“Which you sort of did. In a very puritan way. And do you know what, I”m really happy that you just wanted what you wanted then, and I can”t tell you how much it meant to me just to be there with you and the music. Because I know what you”re talking about. Something about expectations and reality and disappointments, right? Believe me, I”m just as ambivalent as you are. Just as afraid of losing something instead of finding something.”

Sander puts his arms around him from behind and rests his chin on his shoulder.

“But it feels so right. Just this. To hold you and feel you”re here. I don”t need more than this.”

Thomas covers Sander”s hands with his, leans back against him, his cheek to Sander”s neck. The stay like this until the streetlamps light up.

They lie down on Sander”s bed, on top of the sheets, fully clothed. With his arms around Sander and his nose hidden in the nape of Sander”s neck, Thomas starts to sing, softly, almost inaudibly:

“Day after day, alone on a hill …”

 

 

Oslo 1988

 

Within a year after Sander had injected fresh capital, the gallery actually boomed. From a somewhat obscure place you had to know about to find, it became a significant part of the city”s culture, a gallery to be reckoned with. The press covered the events without having to be beseeched, and they suddenly had a waiting-list of artists who wanted to exhibit.

Strangely, it seemed like the gallery”s success reduced the pack of hangers-on around Vera. She herself had also changed. As Sander, she now put more work than play into their venture. Almost overnight her appearance also changed: Gone was the flamethrower, and from the ashes a new and subdued Vera emerged: Short black hair, simple, but stylish clothing, a minimum of make-up. Sander felt bad about this, wondered if he was the reason everything seemed to change so much, that his influence reduced Vera more than helped her to shine, that his conformity and middle class attitudes were contagious. Vera saw this differently.

“Point one: There”s a time and a place for everything. Point two: Don”t be so conceited that you think everything has to do with you. Point three: It was high time to get rid of all those free-loaders anyway.”

Then the rumor spread that Anders had killed himself, and Sander felt even worse. He couldn”t reconcile himself with his behavior towards the guy, how he had despised him, ignored him, rejected him. Had his contemptuous attitude, and others” as well, been part of what had made Anders go over the edge? He was turning this over and over in his mind as he sat in the gallery, staring at a huge canvas with a gloomy, industrial landscape, when Vera and Theo came in, returning from Anders” funeral. He tried to put his thoughts into words. Theo cut him short.

“Ever heard of autoerotic asphyxiation? Tough shit, but Anders was just out of luck. To put it bluntly, he jerked him self off in every sense of the word. It had nothing to do with either you or me.”

Whether this was the case or not didn”t help Sander much. He continued to fall into his familiar dark hole of regrets and depression. He still did his jobs to the best of his abilities, but without any zest. His private life turned more and more into a hermit”s life, he built a castle for himself, fortified his isolation with books and films.

It started to irritate him whenever he had to speak to people, and he became noticeably short and annoyed in his interaction with others. Alone at night, however, he would have long conversations with his ghosts: Thomas, Jakob, his mother.

He sank deeper and deeper, oblivious to the questioning looks and head-shaking sighs from his associates. Until one day he had a sudden awakening.

He was walking down the street, past the newly hung Christmas decorations and vulgar shop windows, carrying on a complicated argument with Thomas in his head, when he noticed people staring at him and walking in wide circles past him. It dawned on him that he was shouting out loud what he thought he was only thinking. Embarrassed and sheepish, he hurried back to his apartment.

He felt exposed. He felt as if he at once had seen himself clearly. What had he become? What was the matter with him, that he got so self-absorbed, so obsessed with his own misery? His compulsion to change reality for dreams? And did it improve his life in any way? And his fog started to clear.

All right, his mother was gone. So was his brother. And so was his one love, for all that was worth. But Sander, he admitted to himself, you do have friends, and you do still have family, if you want them. They might even want you and need you if you let them. It all depends on you.

Distress grew in him. What a stupid situation he had put himself in. Emptiness, loneliness, and now Christmas coming on and rubbing it in. God, he felt so poor. So utterly useless. He had to do something.

 

 

The phone rang for a long time. Sander was about to give up when the small click came.

“Eva?” She said her name as a question.

 

“Hi. It”s Sander. Um … I wondered … What are your plans for Christmas?”

Shrill laughter ending in a hiccup. He felt almost offended. She found her words before he could do anything about it.

“Sorry, I didn”t mean to laugh at you. This was just so out of the blue. You”re not the one who communicates the most, you know, and then suddenly … Why do you want to know?”

 

“Well, I just had this urge to spend the holidays with someone other than myself. I mean, would you all like to come here for Christmas?”

 

“Thank you, but no. We”ll stay here. Johannes will be here with his new girlfriend, and Isak of course is here. But thanks anyway.”

 

“OK, it was just an impulse. I know I”m no good at keeping in touch. Not that it”s an excuse, but it”s been a difficult year.”

Laughter again, this time ending in a snort.

“Do you ever have anything else?”

 

“Point taken. Well, as I said, it was just an idea.”

 

“Why don”t you come here then? We could play at being a family, you know, without anyone dying first.”

 

“Do you mean it? Wouldn”t that be intrusive? I really would like that, if it”s all right.”

 

“Of course it”s all right. Christmas Eve, then?”

 

“Thanks. What do you want for Christmas?”

 

“I want … I want you to bring a bottle of Aquavit and leave your unapproachability at home. Wear a smile, for once. For the boys, if not for me. They think you”ve changed too much.”

 

“Oh God. I”m sorry. I”ll do my best. Deal, then?”

 

“Deal. Oh, by the way, Isak wants one of those boxes that you hook up to the TV and play stupid games with. I can”t afford one right now, but I guess you can?”

 

It was almost like Christmas in the old days. Jakob had brought their family traditions to his new family, and Eva, having no particular traditions herself to keep up, had happily adapted. So it was all there: The snacks he remembered. Rakfisk on crisp bread, the Norwegian heritage from his father, then the Dutch treats: black caviar on toast, bowls of chopped onions, wedges of lemon, sour cream, marinated shrimps and bitterballen with pale French mustard. As a child Sander had suffered through the one teaspoon of caviar and the one slice of fermented fish it had been his duty to consume, but now he could eat caviar with a ladle.

The turkey had been substituted by a goose, as Eva loudly declared she was not going to eat turkey leftovers for a week, but the apple stuffing and the sprouts and the glazed little potatoes were exactly as his mother would have made them. Eva had even made real Dutch Hangop for dessert, and there were speculaas with the coffee. Sander”s soul was thawing.

 

Later he helped Eva clear up in the kitchen. Johannes and Hedda, as she was called, had disappeared to somewhere, Isak was in the livingroom with his new Nintendo box. Sander rinsed plates and Eva stacked the dishwasher.

“This is the best I”ve felt in a long, long time. Thanks for having me.”

Eva straightened, both hands to the small of her back.

“She”s pregnant.”

Sander gaped. “Jesus, Eva! How do you know?”

“I can tell. Women can tell these things. But it”s not Johannes” baby.”

Sander was speechless. This was way too heavy. He was sure she jumped to conclusions. He sat down with a thud and continued to gape. Eva examined the ceiling.

“Problem is, should I bring it up, or wait until he tells me?”

She sat down opposite him, elbows on the table. Squinted at him, as if he could help her solve her dilemma. But what on earth could he say?

“Let it go, Eva. You can”t know this. And technically Johannes is an adult, so strictly speaking it”s not your business, is it?”

 

“Bullshit! It”s so my business! Everything concerning the boys is my business. You don”t have kids, you”ve no right to an opinion here.”

 

“Well, excuse me! But why do you say Johannes is not the father?”

 

“They haven”t been together that long. She”s at least two, maybe three months pregnant.”

 

“You”re right about one thing. I can”t have an opinion about this.”

She opened the fridge, hauled out a bottle of Soave and held it up as a question. Sander nodded. She took two glasses and headed with the bottle into the livingroom. Isak was absorbed in his game, didn”t even look up. Sander and Eva sat in silence, sipping the cool wine. Suddenly she got up, punched the air three times with her fist.

“Oh my God, how I miss Jakob right now!”

She disappeared from the room.

Oh well, she would be back, he guessed. Sander didn”t want to interrupt Isak, so he rose , took his glass with him and slouched about in the room. The feeling of belonging that he had felt earlier had vanished, now he was on the outside of things again, feeling lonely and superfluous. In this room with no bookshelves, in this house with no brother. No one who needed him.

He put on his coat and went outside. Snow had fallen while they ate, almost ten inches. He found a shovel in the car port, started to clear the driveway. It felt good to do physical work, concentrate on simple movements, feel his body function. Satisfy some inner need by making clean and straight banks.

No one outside, not a single car passed. Lights in every window, shadows passing behind the panes. Christmas Eve in Suburbia. He leaned on the shovel and lost himself in thought. He jumped from the loud sound of a door banging inside the house. Suddenly the front door was thrown open, and Johannes came running out, his coat in his hand, struggling to get it on as he ran for the street. He stumbled ahead, deaf and blind to his surroundings. Sander watched his back fade down the street.

When Sander a while later entered the house again, Eva was sitting with her wine and a rather closed expression on her face. Isak was still into his game, as if nothing merter escort had happened. He felt more of an intruder than ever. Sat down at the far end of the couch.

“It”s been snowing.” His voice sounded forced, unnatural.

Isak looked up for a moment then. Eva twirled a lock of her hair around her finger and sniffed at her wine.

“I was right!” she abruptly said, looking at Sander and emptying her wine glass in two greedy gulps. “But then again, you were right as well. Oh, fuck it!”

Isak lifted his head again, shocked face. Obviously not used to hearing his mother swear. Sander felt a knot in his chest, like he had to say something, or do something, but he didn”t know what. Silence felt like a load, or like a punishment.

“Where”s the girl?” he finally said.

 

“In Isak”s room”, she sighed. “Crying crocodile tears. Such a bizarre show.”

She poured herself another glass, glanced at Sander”s glass that was still half full. Drank half of her wine and sighed again. Then she rose, stroked her cheeks, then her hips and thighs with the palm of her hands.

“I had better fix this. One way or another.” Then she was gone.

Sander remained seated, leaning forward and staring at the floor. Tried to overcome the feeling of embarrassment and helplessness that almost paralyzed him. Closed his eyes, and an involuntary moan escaped him. Then he felt something nudge his shoulder.

Isak had crept all the way close to him, looking at him with a strange and conspiratorial gleam in his eyes.

“Christmas, eh?”

That was enough to ease the pressure. Sander leaned back, Isak moved in as close as he could get, and shoulder to shoulder they sat quietly together, feeling united, feeling close. Such a rare experience. So peaceful. And then a bolt of lightning in Sander”s brain: He was too close. Much too close. What was going on here? Panic soared through him, he jumped up and moved to the middle of the room. Stood with his back to Isak, trying to lay his quills, but dangerous thoughts filled him. Isak? Isak? It can”t be! But the thoughts took hold and blood rushed to his head. And worse, to his groin. He had to get out of this. He made a huge number out of looking at his watch.

“Oh shit! Will you call me a taxi?”

 

“Suppose so. Why? What”s the hurry?”

Isak”s voice sounded different. Full of questions, disappointment, anxiety, contempt? Vulnerability? He couldn”t tell. He ought to turn around.

“Actually there”s no hurry. Things just got too weird for me.”

 

“Tell me about it! Mum is so going to fuck this up. She doesn”t get it all!”

 

“Seems to me she has gotten most of it, wouldn”t you say?”

Something indulgent, almost grown-up, in that young face.

“Not you as well! Come on, you of all people should have seen this. Mum thinks they”re sweethearts, but they”re not. They”re just friends. Don”t tell me you haven”t got on to the fact that Johannes is … well, he”s just like you?”

Sander”s brain went empty. Everything started spinning, and he sank down in Eva”s chair.

“What?”

 

“Why what? I”ve always known you”re gay.”

 

“That”s not why I reacted. But Johannes? I mean, if you know, how come Eva doesn”t know? I don”t understand a thing of this!”

 

“Mum”s been impossible since Dad died. He hasn”t told her because he didn”t want to add to the troubles in her head, I think. He talked to Grandma about it.” And unexpectedly he burst out weeping. “Hell! Everyone just dies and dies! It”s not fair!” he screamed as tears flowed down his cheeks.

Sander”s discomfort couldn”t grow any larger. He had no idea what to do, how to handle this. Finally he got up, came over and touched Isak”s shoulder.

“I know”, was all he could come up with.

Isak gripped his hand and pulled him down, wrapped both arms around Sander”s neck and wailed against his shoulder. Sander found himself in the most awkward position, both physically and mentally, forward bent, shyly self-conscious, incapable. The smell of Isak, that slightly tart and musky smell of boy, hit his nostrils. Oh God, he”s so young. Younger than all of them, his brain shouted. He couldn”t do this, he couldn”t have him this close. He broke free, pushed Isak back. Cold sweat on his brow.

Isak withdrew. Defiant, almost angry. “Well, forgive me!”

Sander felt like a traitor, a coward, a wreck.

“No, I”m the one who should ask your forgiveness. But … you reminded me so much of someone I used to know. Someone it hurts to remember.”

He shouldn”t have said that. If only he could take it back, but it was too late. Isak looked up, sniffed and dried his cheeks with his sleeve.

“Is that why you”re always so distant? And so sad all the time?”

Think fast! Get out of this, Sander! Say something, for fucks sake! But Isak wasn”t going to let this go.

“Is that why you don”t have a boyfriend? Is that why we never see you anymore? Is that why you”re so afraid of hugs?”

 

“Isak, please stop.”

 

“Why? Why does everyone think that I”m just a dumb little kid who doesn”t understand anything? But just be like that, you too.”

Eva was back in the room. “So tell me what it is that you understand better than the rest of us.”

Sander was about to answer, but Isak beat him to it.

“For one thing I understand that you are totally at sea. I just hope you get to shore some time.”

Sander expected an explosion. Eva”s face went through several stages of emotions, then she hurried across the floor and wrapped Isak in her arms.

“Oh shit,” she whispered. “I have been a terrible mother. I”m so sorry.”

Sander saw how Isak was torn between pleasure and embarrassment, between adult and child, between wanting to stay in the embrace and wanting out of it.

“Don”t. You”re OK. I mean it.”

Eva shook her head.

“No, I”m not OK. Not at all. And now I”m nearly worn out from everything, and I don”t want to think anymore. I”ll talk to you tomorrow, Isak. For real. And Sander, I apologize. This wasn”t what I invited you for.”

Sander waved her apology aside. She held on:

“I”m going to bed. Isak, Hedda is in your bed, can you please crash on the sofa just for tonight? And please tell Johannes whenever he returns that I”m really, truly sorry.”

She left them there, to cope with the awkwardness between them that she had interrupted. But they were both to shy to go any further with it, and Sander again asked Isak to call for a taxi. He did. As they stood by the front door waiting, Isak suddenly grabbed his coated arm and put his cheek to it.

“Uncle Sander. It”s not me you need to be afraid of, you know.” Then he disappeared. Sander heard a final “Merry Christmas” called out from inside.

 

The taxi skidded and slid through the snowy lanes. Suddenly Sander was aware of a dark, sunken creature heading towards them.

“Stop! Stop the car!”

He rolled the window down, put his head out. The creature reached the car.

“Feel better, Johannes? Anything I can do?”

Johannes grimaced. Hoisted his shoulders up to his ears and rocked back and forth.

“Nah”, he drawled. “It”s just too silly. Nothing you can do anything about.”

Sander regarded him closely, looking for something that could tell him what to say to help him, how to do the right thing. He finally took a chance:

“I”d like it if you came to see me before you go back to uni. There”s so much I”d like to talk to you about. Will you please do that? And bring Hedda if you like?”

Johannes kept on rocking. “We”ll see.” Then he turned and trudged on.

 

However, Johannes did come by three days later. Alone. Came in without a word and flopped down in the middle of Sander”s sofa. Sander stood hesitantly by and watched him, waiting for some kind of sign.

“Can I have a drink? Something with alcohol in it?”

Sander fetched glasses and red wine. Leafed through his record collection, found an old favorite from his Troms� days, Joy Division”s Closer, put it on fairly low so as not to disturb their talk, if Johannes should eventually feel like it. Johannes finished almost all his wine, then leaned back, and with no further prompting started to unburden his heart.

He told Sander about Bergen, about his studies, and then about how he”d befriended and later fallen head over heels in love with a fellow student. A guy who kept him on a string, pushed him off for a long time for later to allow him access to his body and his skin, mainly letting him suck him off, and never reciprocating, and then rejecting him again. And then he”d thrown his net over Hedda, Johannes” closest friend, perhaps mostly to manifest his power over Johannes. He had used them both, Johannes for sucking, Hedda for fucking. And Hedda had fallen for him big time, and got pregnant. And then he had left both of them high and dry.

He told about how he and Hedda had gone from a brief spell of hostility to an even closer friendship.

He told Sander about the trouble he had with his mother, about the years after his father died and how he had undergone the unwelcome situation of being almost like a replacement for his father, how he felt compelled to grow up, take responsibility for both her and Isak while he was still only a teenager. About how alone he had felt. And how hard it was for him to speak with his mother about this. About anything.

And about his grandmother, Sander”s mother, who had been the only person he could talk to about all the things that bothered him, about his grief for his father, about his feelings, his fears. About sex. How she had listened to him, never uttered a critical word, just hugged him and allowed him to pour out all his difficulties. And like Isak had done, once he started talking about his grandmother, tears started to roll down his cheeks. He kept on weeping, softly and quietly, and it got too much for Sander. He gave in and cried with him. And there they sat, on each side of the coffee table, on each side of the generations, on each side of sorrow and love, and cried.

In the end they looked at each other and started laughing. Sniffing, snuffling and laughing. And then there was more music, more wine, and more memories. Along with some good advice and well-wishing. Until Johannes more or less collapsed on the couch and fell asleep.

D�j� vu: A sleeping boy on his sofa. A hurt and confused foal of a boy with red eyes behind closed lids. Sander sat watching him, full of regrets because he felt so useless, so unable to help. So unable to understand why everybody seemed to have to go through so many purgatories, endure so many wounds, and lose so many battles.

 

 

Prague, September 6, 1988

 

Sunny start of autumn. Warm day, early noon and all the time in the world. Wandering through the streets, looking at the fantastic buildings, feeling the atmosphere. Sit in the old marketplace, coffee and Slivovice, sadly tasting more of solvents than plums. Accidentally pass open church doors and slip inside to listen to a harp recital. They sit there in semi-darkness, close together, shrouded in fleeting and brittle tones, like pearls in a spider”s web. Sander understands why the harp at one time or another had been elevated to become the most celestial of all instruments. His hand finds Thomas” hand, squeezes it softly. If he ever should start believing in heaven, this is what it should be like.

The sun blinds them when they come out from the church, both of them in some sort of sacred reverberation. Jackets off, they saunter in their shirtsleeves over the bridge and bahçeşehir escort down along the banks towards the Kampa. They let themselves be cajoled into taking a boat trip on the river, complete with white wine in plastic cups and a guide who is incomprehensible in three languages.

Afterwards, up the hills to the castle, through the courtyard, past the cathedral and into the short, narrow street with the little pastel houses, The Golden Street. They stop outside the house where Kafka lived, Sander falls into a daze. The small house touches something profound deep inside him, and he lets the whole vessel of congested emotions overflow through his body, like an avalanche of happiness and a landslide of anxiety.

“Do you think Kafka was right?”

 

“I have no idea what you”re talking about.”

 

“For instance that we”re all caught in this inexplicable stream of events, that life is just an absurd chaos with no possibilities of escape or retreat?”

Thomas squints against the sun and hums. Giggles.

“Want me to write an essay about it?”

 

“Don”t mock me. I mean, he sat here, right here, and wrote some of his difficult, difficult stuff. Sick and pessimistic and misunderstood. And sometimes I feel so related to him in a way, that life does what it pleases to me, and I just have to tag along without being able to influence or control it. At the mercy of something incomprehensible and inevitable, you see?”

 

“I never read Kafka. And honestly, from what you”re saying, I don”t think I want to.”

 

“Aw, forget it. It”s just words anyway. Pretentious bullshit.

Sander spreads his hands, lifts his shoulders and puts on a vacant face and quotes in broken English:

“Eez from Barthelona. I know nooothing …”

Thomas laughs and comes closer.

“Difference between you and me in a nutshell. I felt like I was in a fairytale, you dipped into black nihilism.”

He pulls Sander”s earlobes and kisses his nose. And suddenly Sander”s world is all sunshine and laughter again.

“Why are your ears pierced when you never wear earrings? Oh, let”s go find a nice place to eat!”

 

Darkness and evening fog seeps over them. Over the Charles Bridge the bronze saints pop up, one by one through the fog, like enigmatic creatures from a ghost story. Sander has slung an arm loosely across Thomas” shoulder, full, a little drunk, and content, no charging expectations, no agenda.

At the large crucifix, Thomas slips out from under Sander”s arm and goes over to the statue. Leans against the plinth and reaches out for Sander.

“Wanna hear how I met my father again?”

Sander takes his hand and leans in beside him. Close, but still feels a mile off.

“I”d been at a job interview in Hamar, and was going back to Oslo. I had to wait for the train, and I was a bit excited from the interview and the prospects of a job, so I walked into the men”s room and stood at the urinal. You know. I noticed someone entering and coming up to the other end, and then there was this waiting and tension, right? And you never look at faces first, you know, you just sneak a look down and to the side, you know all this. I remember getting a glimpse of cock, and I just thought wow! because it was a spectacular one. So I looked up, and there he was. I recognized him at once. He looked up too, but obviously didn”t know who I was.

He lets go of Sander”s hand, straightens his back and pushes his shoulders back.

“Not that strange, actually, he hadn”t seen me since I was six or something. Anyway, there he was. And it just slipped out of me: “Dad?” Oh, you should have seen him when it dawned on him who he was cruising. I”ve never seen wilder eyes, or a faster zip-up, or a more hectic escape. I had to sprint after him to catch up with him. He was really, really disturbed, just wanted to get me out of his hair, but I wouldn”t let that happen, he just couldn”t leave me now. So I more or less forced him into the caf� with me and tried to calm him down.”

 

“I can so imagine what it must have been like for him. But you, then? Weren”t you equally embarrassed?”

 

“I wasn”t. Weird, maybe, but my only concern was that this was my dad, and I wasn”t going to lose him again”

 

“Like Dante in the seventh circle of hell. Messer Brunetto, are you here?”

 

“What”s with you today, Sveen? Literary coma?”

 

“Sorry. But dear me, weren”t you at all shocked to find him in there?”

Thomas shrugs, turns around and gazes down into the murky waters, almost hidden in the fog. Pulls out his cigarettes and lights one. The flame from his lighter bathes his face in orange.

“I should have been, shouldn”t I? But you know, it was more like something fell into place. Surprised, yes, but not in a bad way. Like getting an unexpected gift or something. Like sharing something. A joint venture, I don”t know.”

He leans forward on his elbows, crosses his feet, looks relaxed and at ease.

“The only thing that bothered me later was the thought of how close we had come to having sex. And admitting he had made me horny as hell before I knew it was him. That was a hard one to digest, pardon the pun.”

 

“I can”t believe this. It sounds like a joke. Or the plot of one of those really trite porn movies. Ooh, Daddy! Please, Daddy! Fill me up, Daddy!”

Thomas straightens and leans against the crucifix again. Scrutinizes Sander with a strange gleam in his eyes and a smirk.

“I know. Can you imagine? Some movie! He”s really hung, you know. God, why am I telling you this?”

Before Sander can think of an answer, he pulls him in and kisses him, hungrily and wet, his tongue deep into Sander”s mouth. He grinds his hips against Sander and whispers:

“It”s time now. You and me. Isn”t it?”

 

Back at the hotel, up in their room, and there”s the big bed. Sander is attacked by a sudden paralyzing fear. The pace is forced, now there is an objective, a program to the sequence of events. Something to perform, something to live up to, something beyond his control. Something that really counts. And something that could go very wrong.

Thomas senses his quandaries and takes the rudder, softens him and thaws him with his hands and his lips, slowly and carefully steals into Sander”s anxiety. But Sander still burns with something frightening, something ominous, and some of it has to come out.

“I”m getting old, Thomas. My body isn”t what it used to be. You”ll be disappointed.”

Thomas shuts his mouth with his own. With his lips stuck to Sander”s, he starts to undress. Sander can”t see what he is doing, he just feels the movements: How he toes off his socks, loosens his pants and twists out of them, pulls his underwear down, and at last gets rid of his shirt. Now he”s naked and warm, tightly wrapped to fully dressed Sander. Sander tries to make seven years disappear into the kiss, his hands find skin, firm and silky, his fingers wander over the shoulders, down the back, over the buttocks and thighs. He tears himself loose from Thomas” lips, he must see. See Thomas. His Thomas.

Thomas sits down on the bed, leans back and supports himself on his hands, his gorgeous erection like a king”s scepter in front of him. Sander is for a moment transported back in time, to the room where it all began, to the innocence and the purity, and a sting of longing surges through him, so sharp he almost loses his grounds.

“Take off your clothes.” Thomas” voice is warm and full of air.

Sander lets his resistance go. It”s too late to back out, too late to worry about measuring up or not. The only thing to do is to present himself for what he is, here and now. No coy strip-tease, he undresses as he would were he alone, folding his clothes, putting them aside. And now he”s naked and exposed, feeling shy and looking helplessly at Thomas. Thomas” beautiful cock is as hard as ever, and Sander feels his own begin to stir.

With a nod Thomas commands him hither. He”s the stronger of them now, Sander is the yielding one. Thomas takes hold of him and lays him down, then his wonderful and longed-for body covers Sander”s. He rubs his cock against Sanders groin, lifts himself up on his elbows and a small, breathless groan escapes him. But Sander is again attacked by this smarting fear, and now that corrosive shame from the park falls like a load on him. His erection withers. He wants to die. Thomas rolls halfway off him, lifts his upper body.

“What”s wrong? Is it something I did?”

Sander pulls him down again, hides his face against his neck.

“No! No! It”s something in me. Oh, it”s so stupid! And I”ve longed for this all these years, to feel you like this again.”

Thomas is about to let go of him, but Sander holds on to him.

“Thomas, listen. A few years ago, when I lived in Holland, someone did something to me that … that I didn”t want to happen. And the worst part of it is it was in many ways my own fault. It was a terrible, terrible experience. And since then I”ve had … well, a difficult relationship with my body. It feels so dirty, so shameful, I can”t explain it. Ugly.”

Thomas lifts his head, stares into Sander”s eyes for a long time.

“You”re not dirty. You”re not ugly. You”re still the most handsome man I”ve ever seen.”

 

“Oh God. I wish I could believe that! Oh, please, make me forget everything!”

Thomas puts his cheek to Sander”s and whispers in his ear:

“I”ll tell you a secret. I”ve been in love with you since 1982.”

His hands. His skin. His lips and his tongue. The divine marriage between taste and smell. Thomas lets his tongue roam Sander”s mouth, puts his fingers in Sander”s ears, and Sander”s head is filled with the echo of his pounding blood and the sweet song of tongues and spit: If you stop now, I”ll die. If you don”t stop now, I”ll die. Sander is sold now. Thomas can do with him what he wants, tie him up, cut him, strangle him. Annihilate him.

“Thomas. Please take me. I want you in me.”

Thomas lifts his head, bores his eyes into Sander”s.

“I don”t have condoms.”

 

“I want you bare.”

 

“Sure?”

 

“But be gentle. I need to be loved, not just fucked.”

Thomas takes his time, does everything softly, reassuringly and warm. He”s not sixteen anymore, shoots through Sander”s brain. The sudden thought scares him, he pushes it away. Thomas makes love like a man now, like someone who knows what he”s doing. He seduces Sander out of his anxiety. The sharp pain when he finally penetrates lasts a mere moment, now he takes them on a slow ride upwards, like a breeze growing into a storm, soft and hard, tender and merciless at the same time.

He”s about to pull out, but Sander grabs his ass cheeks and holds him in an iron grip as deep into him as he can get, hangs on to Thomas” lips and bores his tongue as far in as it goes. Thomas sends a shivering moan into Sander”s mouth and Sander feels the cock inside him throb and pulsate. He explodes, sent into space with the speed of light, and yet all time and movement stands still.

Panting breath subsides, body sinks into the cotton of the afterglow. Thomas moves as if to pull his cock out. Sander holds him still.

“Don”t. Stay in there. Forever.”

 

Later. Wrapped in each other”s arms, skin glowing against skin. Sander brain is going in lazy circles. This is my first naked and whole night with him. And now he”s a grown-up man. With all of what”s inside him he wants to rest in this satisfaction, this happiness, let it embrace him, let this peace without boundaries envelop him and stop all thoughts. But at the edge of his mind this unwelcome and disturbing feeling cuts through his peace: He”s a man. And I want the sixteen-year-old back …

 

(To be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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