In between hotel sheets, stiff and crunchy under me, and the impossible blackness of a room without the faint glow of moonlight, I lay, naked. My eyes are open, but useless, and in my blindness I feel silly and exposed, despite the shelter our thick hotel curtains provide. I stare at the ceiling, willing it to answer the voice in my head, the What are you doing?
No matter how many times I check, the answer isn’t in this darkness. It’s become comforting, this invisibility, the anonymity of the witching hour, the world and I separated by a thick drape of obscurity. I can’t help but feel like an offering, some kind of exalted virgin sacrifice you might see in bizarre black-and-white films like Cat People. This bed my altar, and this moment my climactic scene. I like that idea, that perhaps by the end of the night I’ll have transformed into a ferocious beast, either by the power of arousal or incredible anger.
The room smells like nothing, the same way all hotel rooms smell like nothing, meaning it was certainly something but impossible to name. Perhaps this is just the way Branson smells. It smelled this way when we first got here, each of us throwing poorly packed duffel bags onto our own identical twin beds. It smelled this way when he asked to sit on my bed because it had the best view of the television. It smelled this way when he slid his phone to me, where no one else could see, where he had written his proposal.
Then, I thought I had been caught, that my furtive glances had not gone unnoticed, the private stares I cast at the other boys when the shedding of a sweatshirt allowed a peek at the supple and soft skin beneath fabric. Maybe he noticed me noticing them, the older boys in their swimsuits at the hotel pool, the too-good-looking man at the check-in desk. It never occurred to me that Jon might be watching me, not until I read those words, black-scripted font against the digital yellow notepad: Your bed, tonight.
And all I could do was nod.
From the shadows now, a sound: a steady and deep snore from Kenny, asleep one hotel bed over. Kenny, who had come on this choir trip despite sleeping through all of our choir classes. Kenny, who can sleep through anything. I hope.
The hotel room is cold, set to 67 degrees at Kenny’s request. Despite this, I start to sweat, little beads collecting at the small of my back, between cheap sheets and nervous skin. As Kenny’s snore fades away, I listen for Jon, somewhere on the other side of Kenny in a twin bed just like this one. I wonder if he’s naked, too, and if not, when? How soon? For the fiftieth time, I consider putting back on my clothes, going to bed and pretending nothing happened. Pretending nothing was about to happen. Maybe then I can stop holding my breath.
In the corner of my eye, the darkness shifts, and the outlines of Jon’s body manifest. It could be anyone, really; the room is so void of light that identities vanish. Nevertheless, it is Jon, and I am still me.
“Harrison?” he whispers. I flinch at the sound of his voice, and at my name, and at the loudness at which it is spoken while Kenny lies there sleeping. I flinch at the implications of being caught, right here in this moment, by anyone. I hope Jon thinks flinching is sexy.
His hand finds my shoulder, the bed shifts under me, his bare thigh meets mine, hairs entangle and the inherent electricity of hormones charges between us. The air is still, and as he turns to me in the shadows I feel my skin rise to meet him, excitement erupting into goosebumps. I try to interpret the sound of his breath, if it sounds nervous, if mine sounds nervous. What does nervous breathing sound like? Before I can translate, he straddles me. For the first time, I’m thankful to be wrapped in the pitch black, because it means he can’t see that I have no idea what I’m doing.
He knows better than me, I know that much. I have heard the stories, told like Greek epics by chorus girls: Jon and Forrest, Jon and Matthew, Jon and Mr. Park. He knows better than me, and here between sheets and his body I am only another gawking sacrifice to sex and its relatives.
He dives down beneath my waist to the place I had (until now) referred to as uncharted territory; a land for natives only. Still, he persists, mapping the hills and valleys of my body, planting flags with his lips in places only I would see. In the shadows our fifteen-year-old bodies collide, mine beginning to find the rhythm of intimacy, his breath on my—
The feeling is sudden, enveloping, eye-rolling, toe-curling, melting. It is luxurious, inappropriate, likely to drive one into a giggling fit. My eyes flutter, alternating shades of black looking back at me as I lose touch with reality. I feel like a computer, blinking and broken, endlessly processing, processing. At the mercy of his mouth, every chance to come up for air is snatched away by lips and tongue and, once, teeth. Far away, in another hotel bed, Kenny is still snoring, but whatever small part of me is concerned with him has been silenced. I am intensely focused on prolonging this experience, holding onto it, but involuntarily my hands fold into the bed sheets, curling into fists. Tension takes hold of my body quickly, and suddenly the experience is over as blindly as it had begun, except this time I am exhausted. The life drains from me.
Searing light slices into the room, burning through the bathroom door, where I can now see Jon and his reflection in the mirror, his nakedness. I had lost track of him in the hazy afterglow, in the moment where all sensation came and went, and now he stands in front of the mirror in the too-bright lights and stares at himself. I watch him, the rise and fall of his dark chest, the way he squints back at himself in the harsh light. He is looking for it too, whatever I was searching for while I laid on this bed in the darkness. I wonder if he will sleep in my bed tonight, if I should go and join him in the mirror, if I should return the favor. Too soon, though, he turns the light off and we both disappear into the darkness.
Harrison Geosits is a creative writer at the University of North Texas. He is the editorial assistant for the American Literary Review, an executive board member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, and an avid tweeter (@HGeosits).