Downstairs, Fraser's vast bouquet of flowers, separated into three vaguely proper bunches, scent the air, and dead green bottles lie in state - "No more champagne," my friend Will slurred, shaking the final offering like a child's rattle along with an empty, ruinously expensive pot of Russian caviar and the sticky remains of nachos galore, carefully prepared and carelessly consumed as the gathered offered Andrew and me congratulations - "Happy first anniversary" - and talked about not much at all: work, movies, politics, the people we know. I don't usually leave these things to fester overnight, dreading their forlorn appearance in the told-you- so light of yet another day, but what the hell, we are marking a milestone, and there was Andrew, nuzzling my neck, nipping away until I got the giggles, seductively insisting that the plates could wait, but passion seldom.
I'm looking at Andrew right this second. Looking at Andrew is what the last 12 months often seems to have been about: speculative looks, looks of sheer disbelief, looks that could kill. I was about to describe him, paint a hopefully convincing portrait of pale green eyes and lighthouse grin, but why should you be interested? Why should you care? It's me he's special to, though everyone, of course, has their Andrew. Or did. Or will. He comes to us, hit and run, for a holiday, for his whatever allotted time: weeks, months, decades, sometimes, if the poets and singers of songs are to believed, for the span of your life, or the span of his. The sentimental dream everyone dreams, at least once.
Me in love with Andrew, adoring, besotted. The big perversity, the epic provocation, the ultimate insult against nature. And - whisper it if you dare - the bigots are right. It is unnatural. Bloody ridiculous, really.
Consider: it's not as if men are raised to love other men. Rather the harsh contrary. We are taught to compete, to defeat, to dominate. So, though you may be exploding with it, learning to love is hard and learning to last is harder. There is no school except experience. Experience hurts. Ask this too: how many times will you meet, burn bright, move in, burn out and move on before you grasp that the other boys and girls may be shrieking at one another in painfully divorced languages - He Says/She Says and never the twain shall meet - but you and your partner(s) are fighting for the same flat territory? No, you weren't born that way. You were made that way. The world did it.
Let me demonstrate: you turn around, see his sleeping face, one arm outstretched over a brow furrowed by some floating ugly thought, and there's this incredible deluge of feeling that the blinkered haven't even considered you capable of, because to them homosexuality is a medical term and a mechanical matter of who does what to who.
They are bed-bound. You know better.You look and are infinitely sure: you will breathe him in and out with every dumb breath, always. And still, in this very second, you are also at war, because each ego-ridden male instinct spits resentment at his hold. A hostage to his demands and passing fancies, a part of you remains determined not to surrender even one masculine privilege: Me, Top Dog.
Of course, most of the time you're unaware of this. And of the anger that is your first mode of communication, perhaps your only mode of communication, anger being the one emotion freely permitted impacted lads of all orientations. To be unaware is the basic male state, so learning, on both baffled sides, involves agony. Lessons that ought to be obvious aren't - define care/define share/explain compromise to two people trained to control - so they are repeated, again and again, a vicious circle you break out of, merely to go round and round again in the next life with the next man.
This is sweet reason, a rambling warning to myself as the hands of the clock crawl towards four. What does it matter when you finally see Him, and good sense flees, replaced by thoughts as cheap as "And where have you been?" In the end, we are doomed to rely on the the fleeting and possibly treacherous. Love: now you feel it, now you don't. What else is He for if not to disrupt, to dismantle, to ruin? To show us that there is no such thing as "emotional maturity", not when every feeling has turned teenage, and cherished theories about how relationships should be conducted in the new ice age (certainly, we will live apart, indeed, we will see other people) collapse and all our dazed minds can mutter is: Mine.
This foolish process of becoming. We stand guard and fall into the same old traps. We know we mustn't place the burden of our happiness on shoulders that might one day shrug the unbearable weight away. We know nothing can obliterate the damage done by the Others who came before, those false prophets, and yet... And yet a year has passed and this heart insists, despite the available evidence - circumstantial to be sure, but life is circumstance - on the crazed intensity that comes only when His (green) eyes flash both the Great Truth and the Great Lie: We Two Are One. And I'm staring at what I've just written, and I don't much detect a point. The real point is lying here beside me and looking at him once more, and once again, I find words, as usual, superfluous.