I Will Forget the Sound of his Voice

Fiction by Thomas Kearnes

Tweak makes you ambitious. You fire off paragraph-length texts to friends you haven’t seen in months. You have marathon online chats with guys you’d love to fuck but know will flake. You disclose your extensive sexual history to men whose first names elude you. Our host Adam is higher than all the saints, has been for three days. This explains why some skinny dude stands before us, slipping off his Peanuts T-shirt with an enthusiasm that saddens me like last call on a Saturday night.

My boyfriend Curtis lies at the bottom of the mattress. He lifts his gaze, coolly appraising our unexpected guest’s likely skill on all fours. Curtis wears only a sheer pair of briefs. Its gray hue flatters his toned, tan thighs and taut abdomen. I know it’s crass, but it turns me on when Curtis flaunts his physique. It proves I’m clever. It proves I’ve earned the envy of other men. Now shirtless, the guest frankly surveys my boyfriend. He lightly rubs the bridge of his foot along Curtis’s calf. You have a great body, he says. Curtis chuckles but doesn’t thank him.

I ask the stranger his name. Thomas, he says. Like the tank engine. He laughs at his joke, my first clue he made one. He must be a smart guy or some shit. Curtis asks what’s so funny. Thomas’s smile falters. He stammers about the children’s character he had in mind. I’ve never heard of the fucker. Children disturb me. Curtis laughs, but I don’t hear joy. He asks if anyone ever laughs at that joke. Thomas mumbles and absently rubs his petite, hairy chest. I can’t make out what he says and don’t know if Curtis did. We don’t speak again until Adam returns.

Our host carries a loaded pipe. He never shows anyone where he hides his tweak. House rule. I’ve partied with him two or three times, but never questioned this. His paranoia doesn’t curb his generosity. As long as the dope keeps coming, I don’t give a fuck about its source. On the way home from our first encounter with Adam, Curtis spent the whole ride speculating where he hid his goods. He vowed to suck Adam’s dick so hard and long, the bastard would spill. I watched Curtis do just that at our next gathering, but Adam opened his mouth only to moan, nothing more. Adam asks Thomas if he’s high and learns he gorged Adderall last night. I’m surprised this fucker could be high on a drug I’ve never tried. It’s a stimulant medication for ADHD, Thomas explains. Way more powerful than meth. I want to ask if he has any left, but that might lead to more talk. I might have to suck him to keep the peace, but I won’t start before I must.

Thomas shucks off his cargo shorts, steps over Curtis and sits in the center of the mattress. Adam curls up in the far corner, elbow propped on the brick-and-plywood structure that serves as a low nightstand. Four men on one mattress, but we don’t touch, not at all. We pass the pipe. Adam jams at least three decent-sized crystals into the bowl each time, so the pipe makes numerous rounds.

Adam asks Thomas why he’s shaking. I look at our guest. Indeed, his hands tremble as he lights the pipe and sucks the stem. His tremor is so pronounced, I wonder if he gets any smoke when he sucks. After he exhales, Thomas assures us it’s just a side effect of the Adderall. It only flares up with fine motor movement, he says. I can still suck dick like I’m getting paid, he boasts, laughing again. Thomas blocks my view of Curtis, but I imagine my boyfriend’s sour look after hearing that. What exactly had Adam promised Thomas when they chatted online before his long trek to Dallas? Why hadn’t Adam consulted Curtis or me before making these promises?

After we cash the pipe, Adam stands and asks Curtis to follow. My boyfriend stretches, arms high above his head, toes flexed. Watching him tease Adam by pretending Adam bores him totally turns me on. Curtis knows I don’t care if Adam desires him more than me. This is Adam’s house, but I hold all the power. With a jerk of my head, I can swiftly end Adam’s little fantasy, and Adam knows it. I don’t realize until a few moments later that I’m alone with our guest. What was his name? Trevor? The guy looks at me, his lips mashed together yet not quite smiling. I have no clue how Adam plans to incorporate this skinny fucker into our playtime, but I decide empty chit-chat might distract him until Adam reveals his bonehead brainstorm.

I ask him what’s in Tyler. Roses, he says. Roses and bigots. Why doesn’t he move? Moving costs money, he says. He asks if there’s any dope left. I shrug and retrieve my laptop from the floor. Before Thomas arrived, while Adam puttered elsewhere, I reviewed my latest blog, admiring it. Curtis lay at the foot of the mattress, gazing at the ceiling. He knows I need quality time with my work. I’m a writer. I doubt you’ve heard of me. I write about whatever I want. Smoking dope greases the gears, helps the words flow. My latest post is about the not guilty verdict in that trial where the white trash bitch was accused of drowning her two-year-old. It’s stupid so many obsessed over that for weeks and weeks. I keep track of how many hits I receive each day. Not even Curtis knows the exact figure. I love the fucker, but I don’t tell him everything.

Thomas asks what I’m reading. I tell him it’s personal shit. I try to leave it at that, but I can’t help myself. I’ll tell anyone about my writing. First, though, I ask him to repeat his name. It’s okay, he says, laughing. I hate his laugh, how it stutters like a broke-down pickup. I don’t remember yours, either. That’s because I never told you, I snap. Thomas tries to smile, but I know his feelings are hurt. For whatever reason, I feel shitty watching his eyes dart back and forth, unsure where to look. I’m Bart, I tell him. Like Bart Simpson. Thomas laughs, slaps his thighs. I have a T-shirt that’s the top half of Homer’s head! He smiles at me so wide and earnest, I can’t return his gaze. Where did Adam find this retard? Too bad the show’s not funny anymore, Thomas says. I grunt, return my eyes to the screen.

We don’t speak. Thomas busies himself positioning the lighter at various angles to the bowl, trying to scare up more smoke. I peck at the keyboard. I basically forget about him until he asks if I want to read something. It’s real short, he adds. Only 400 words. I’m a writer too, he says, as if revealing secret code beneath enemy watch. I ask what he writes. Short stories, he says. Four hundred words is real damn short, I say, too high to keep my derision in check. I can’t remember the last short story I read. High school, probably. Every asshole knows real writers write books, like the kind you buy at Wal-Mart. He asks to see the laptop. Why not kill another two minutes while we wait for Adam and Curtis to finish sucking dick or whatever? When he returns it, the browser presents a sort of literary website with its title stretched across the top of the screen and ads for books draped down each side. Below the banner and a horizontal menu, I see what I assume is his story. It’s called “Put Your Hands Together.” Before the story begins, a dedication appears: for my dearest Mike. It hadn’t occurred to me this bozo might have a boyfriend. Thomas stares at me intently, like he wants to read my mind. I shake it off and begin.

The narrator buys some dope from his dealer. He mentions briefly that his lover is dead but then spends the story’s first half describing his high. I’ve never read a story written by a tweaker that’s about a tweaker. I don’t want the whole world knowing what I do with strangers. All the fags in the party scene have an unspoken pact. Society wouldn’t understand. Another reason to condemn us. I keep reading.

Suddenly, the dead lover appears, like a mirage. The narrator begs him to stay forever. The dead lover rambles about Peter Pan and urges the narrator to start clapping. Your emotions can go haywire when tweaked. Big storms of bad feelings kick up inside you at the worst possible moment. I never think to stop reading. I glance briefly at Thomas and find him still staring my direction, rude bastard.

The last paragraph reads: I pound my palms together. The harsh staccato of flesh against flesh scampers through my apartment. It’s the only noise in the room. I remember the last time he said he loved me, over the phone when he was drunk. One day I will forget his voice. I keep clapping and Jeremy keeps grinning.

I think of the men I’ve lost. None of them died, but I’ll never see them again. I ponder how things will end with Curtis. I’m not a dumbass. Men like him don’t play for keeps, only till the fun flickers out. Thomas had pinpointed the pain I believed would vanish if never acknowledged. What do you think, he chirps like a flight attendant. Fucking intense, I say. It took me ages to write a story about Mike that didn’t suck, he says, chuckling. Thanks for the feedback, he says and runs his fingers down my arm. He resumes trying to conjure smoke from the pipe. I must be a guinea pig to him. He will forget me the moment we toss his ass.

Since Thomas remains busy with the pipe, I read again. I won’t show this to Curtis. One day I will forget the sound of his voice. I concentrate, shut my eyes and recall Curtis’s voice. What did he last say? Fucking tweak, I can’t remember. What if he never returns? How would I keep his memory alive? I pray for Curtis and Adam to return. I don’t care if Curtis spent the whole time working Adam’s dick. The sooner they get back, the sooner I can convince them Thomas must go.

Hey, Tyler boy. Thomas and I both find Adam in the doorway. Sorry I’m obsessing over this pipe, Thomas says, crimson blazing his cheeks. No worries, Adam says. Let me show you something in the other room. Thomas springs from the mattress and scampers away, Adam vanishing with him. A moment later, Curtis saunters inside, stops at the foot of the mattress. I’m determined to conceal the turmoil seizing my gut. My boyfriend is sexy as hell, he makes me laugh, I love parading him before the other fags at the club on weekends. I don’t trust him, though, and I doubt he trusts me. What does Adam want with the reject, I ask. Curtis crouches upon the mattress, runs his hand along my leg, calf to thigh. I want him to grab my dick, get me hard, anything to obliterate that story.

Curtis says he persuaded Adam that Thomas was a mistake. I ask if Adam finds him attractive. Curtis assures me in his mesmerizing purr that our problem will soon disappear. He doesn’t offer details, and I don’t ask. Did the poor bastard make a move, Curtis asks. I know how to end this exchange. I pull my boyfriend’s face toward mine and we kiss, our mouths opening the moment they meet, tongues wild and heedless. Curtis finally pulls away, gasps for air. Sweat shines on our faces, our shoulders, our chests. Trust me, Curtis says. In less than an hour, you won’t remember that fucker.

Curtis and I show restraint waiting for Adam and Thomas to do whatever Adam thinks might hasten his departure. It’s impossible to track time when you’re tweaked. I simply held Curtis, our breaths falling into sync. We’ve been together six months. This is a considerable time for me, but Curtis doesn’t know. He rarely expresses curiosity about my life before him. That might worry me were I not eager to hide my unpleasant history. Our friends tease that we’re still in the physical phase of our romance. One day, perhaps soon, the frantic sex will subside, whether tweaked or not. I know how this story ends. Curtis will likely shift, like a pianist from key to key, over to a new man. There will be no anger, no tears. I’ve survived the party scene over seven years. A simple rule: nothing lasts long. One day I will forget the sound of his voice. Yes, I’ll forget, and I won’t tell a soul. I may be a writer, but I know shame. I don’t display my grief for anyone with a modem.

Adam returns alone. I learn Thomas sits on the patio smoking a cigarette. As if on cue, Curtis leaves my embrace and chirps that he must want company. This is it. The plan has commenced. Bart, follow me outside, my boyfriend says. Adam has shit to take care of. His command stuns me. What part would I play since neither he nor Adam had divulged the plan? Curtis, however, is the most experienced man from our trio. Well into his thirties, he’s orbited the scene over a decade. I place my faith in his skill. We cross the living room, a big-screen television playing a porn DVD as if on reflex, and slip through the sliding glass door to the patio. Thomas sits in one of the wrought-iron chairs, puffing a Salem. Before he can express surprise, Curtis informs him they need to chat. He sits across from Thomas in another high-backed iron chair. I remain standing, tucked away beside a tall shrub. Curtis never intended for me to help him. My role is strictly to witness. He likes to prove how I need him. I pray Thomas doesn’t mention his story.

Thomas laughs, hikes his foot upon the small, high table between Curtis and himself. When the axe falls, it falls with a whisper, he says. His smile disturbs me. There’s no doubt or hesitation in it. I’ve watched men get bounced from fuck parties before. Hell, I’ve been bounced myself once or twice. Thomas keeps smiling, says nothing. Curtis exhales and brings his hands together as if to pray. His gaze cuts high to meet Thomas’s bright glare. This isn’t working, he says. It’s nothing personal, believe me. I’ve been in your position. More than once. I’m really sorry. I admire how congenial Curtis sounds, like a teenager in a box office announcing the new blockbuster has sold out. Thomas nods and offers his thanks that Curtis delivered the news with such class. That’s the word he uses: class.

As Thomas takes the last drag from his menthol and puts it out, Curtis offers him his phone number. I’m sure my face betrays my surprise. Fortunately, the two men have forgotten me. Thomas, himself, draws back in confusion. Why would you do that, he asks. Call me if you want, Curtis replies. Fumbling for words, Thomas expresses his gratitude, and the three of us go inside. I scurry toward Adam’s bedroom.

It’s safe in there, neither Curtis nor Thomas can unnerve me. Before I make it, however, Thomas thanks me for reading. I hardly bother with a reply, simply dart into the bedroom and collapse upon the mattress. I wait. On my laptop, his story still appears. Curtis is a master of this shameful sect of men, but he can’t remove Thomas from this room. I jab at the keyboard until another webpage appears. I hope Curtis won’t ask what Thomas meant.

When the front door shuts. I listen for Curtis’s footsteps. I hold my breath until I hear them stop and find him posed in the doorway, shoulders askew, propped against a bent arm. Confidence, I crave confident men. I ask him where Adam disappeared this time. Curtis shrugs, announces he doesn’t give a fuck and leaps on top of me. He’s a large man, tall and muscled. I imagine what it might feel like to smother beneath him. He kisses me, wraps his arms around my smaller frame. Perhaps it’s my body that rouses him—or the success of his scheme to eject Thomas. Whatever the reason, his touch feels the same. The tweak makes us sweat, makes us ravenous. I lose myself to overwhelming pleasure. Another weekend of killer dope and marathon sex. I need nothing else.

One day I will forget the sound of his voice.

The line slips inside my brain. As Curtis ravages me, it repeats…in my own voice. Curtis doesn’t notice my distress, how I clutch him as if I might zip toward heaven like a firecracker. He’ll never love me. His lips migrate down my throat. The man we forced onto the interstate loved Mike so proudly he shared his grief with the world. He shared it with me. I might receive such love one day. There’s still time, I’m still young. My cock stiffens inside Curtis’s grip. It must be easy to love a dead man.

thomasnov06Thomas Kearnes 35-year-old author form East Texas. He is an atheist and an Eagle Scout. His fiction has appeared in PANK, Storyglossia, Night Train, Pindeldyboz, SmokeLong Quarterly, JMWW Journal, Word, Riot, Ecelctcia, wigleaf, The Pedestal, 3 AM Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, Underground Voices, LITnIMAGE, Knee-Jerk and elsewhere. He has also published in numerous queer publications. He is a columnist for Flash Fiction Chronicles and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. He is currently at work on a website documenting his career. Until then, he can be reached at trkearnes@yahoo.com.
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