Today is the Fourth of July. Tonight we shall stand naked by the window of our darkened apartment and watch the fireworks over the river for the last time. They’ve begun putting up another high-rise west of us, and in less than a month it will block our view forever. So another tradition comes to an end.
We live on the sixteenth floor of a low-income housing project in midtown Manhattan, two blocks from the Hudson. Garbage litters the sidewalk by the entrance; spray-painted gang graffiti cover the steel walls of the elevator, which smells of urine, and whose cables squeak menacingly when you ride it. You walk down a poorly lit, cinderblock corridor to reach our apartment, a concrete box divided into two little rooms with a kitchen like an open closet to the left of the front door. Our bathroom is a closet, with sink, toilet and squat-in tub packed so close together one person hasn’t enough room to turn around in. Our large bookshelf, a sofa, a table that can seat six, and four chairs take up most of the living room, and our double bed and dresser nearly the whole bedroom, so we live pretty much on top of one another.
We’d known each other for several months when I invited him over to watch the fireworks. We knew we’d make love too, though we didn’t say so. It was inevitable – casual sex between friends. Those fireworks marked the end of our independence. He moved in before the end of summer, though I felt cramped there just by myself. Now, six years later, we’ve grown used to getting in each other’s way, but we do notice it. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t wish I could get away from him, or he from me, if only for an hour or two, but neither one of us can conceive of living apart. I imagine conjoined twins must feel the same.
We didn’t start out naked our first Fourth together, as we will tonight. We sat side by side on the bed waiting for the sun to set, our wine glasses on the window sill. We stood up to watch when the explosions started, our shoulders touching. We clinked glasses, we kissed, and ran our hands over the light clothing that clung to our skin in the heat. We nodded silently, and began undressing each other, more curious than eager, anticipating nothing in particular, not knowing who would do what to whom. Eagerness came later. It built gradually, as our explorations of bodies we now know like our own revealed that we liked the same things and the way we did them and how we meshed. In retrospect it seems we both did everything, though I don’t see how we could have in a single night. Whatever we did, our mutual trust was total and immediate, and each welcomed the other doing what had been done to him.
I won’t compare our first sex together to the fireworks; that would be too corny. Now we do… intentionally. We take turns standing behind each other and synchronize our pounding to the starbursts and Roman candles, a silly game we play once a year. That night we soon lost interest in everything but each other and tumbled into bed, so we missed most of the show. We didn’t even notice when the noise stopped.
Next year there’ll be nothing to see. I suppose we’ll make love on the bed and only listen, but perhaps the room will glow faintly when the fireworks light up the sky.
Anelas Viz, whose P’tit Cadeau won a 2011 Golden Rose for best contemporary m/m novel, has been a regular contributor to Gay Flash Fiction and Wilde Oats since their inception. His work has appeared in a number of other magazines, in anthologies, and as individual publications. He writes in many different genres, from flash fictions to very long novels, as well as verse, prose poems, stories, humor, and essays. His most recent publication, The Thought Collector, an urban fantasy, was released by Silver Publishing, and coming in late August, his first short story anthology, Kaleidoscope, also with Silver. He is currently working on more projects than he can keep track of.
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