~ 24 min read, publishedPublished 16 September 2018 19:05 - Updated 7 October 2018 01:54 (69 views)
Getting It On Like Penguins
I’m eating snow.
It’s seven in the morning, and I’m eating snow. The snow feels like shattered glass against my skin, digging its way into my nostrils, ears, and mouth. I squeeze my eyes shut as I wait for my assailant to show some mercy and allow me to breathe. He’s sitting on my back, one hand pressing hard against the back of my head as the other shoves handfuls of the icy cold substance down the collar of my jacket.
It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m gay. I was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Actually, I was at the right place at the right time – I was on my way to class. I’m simply having shitty luck.
Eventually, the pressure on the back of my head fades and the weight upon my back disappears. I dig myself out of the snow and draw a huge breath, filling my lungs with blessed oxygen. My attacker grins broadly at me, rubbing cold, red hands together to warm them. “No offense,” he says.
I shrug and head for the door, disappointed that he wasn’t exactly a looker. Hey, I might not be one of the giggly girls who love being chased by these bullies, nor a stereotypical promiscuous queer, but I’m not blind. How could I not check out the guy who’s spent the last two minutes riding on my back?
I move over to the door leading into the school and whip out a cigarette, ready to escape inside if anyone else gets the idea to drown me in a snowdrift. After lighting the cigarette and taking a deep pull, letting the nicotine ease the tension of the first day of class, I open the door for a red-cheeked boy seeking refugee from another boy aiming snowballs at him. Some students clearly aren’t glad that snow fell in August this year, but, to others, it offers an ice-breaker to get to know new students. What better way to get someone’s attention than by throwing a snowball in their face, or drowning them in a nearby snowdrift? The laughter in the air is testimony to the fact that people are having fun, even the girls – they take it as a sign of interest if boys choose to chase them.
“Thanks, Tobias,” a blond girl says when I hold the door open for her. I nod and smile. I have no idea who she is or how she knows my name.
When I finish my cigarette, I go inside. Though I shake off as much of the snow as I can, a lot of it has already melted against my skin, rendering my clothes wet and cold. I hang my jacket on the back of a chair and sit down, quite aware that a puddle of water is gathering on the floor beneath me, but I don’t give a shit. The teacher enters. He’s wearing a black fleece jacket and blue jeans. He’s in his early thirties and he doesn’t waste a second before beginning the lecture.
“Have any of you read The Importance of Being Earnest?”
I zone out and study my new classmates. The girl in front of me has stripped down to a top that leaves her shoulders bare. Out of sheer curiosity, I find myself studying the smooth expanse between her shoulder blades and I wonder what that fair skin might feel like beneath my fingers. Soft, I reckon, like a girl’s lips – once, a girl kissed me at a party just because she learned that I’d never kissed a girl before. It wasn’t bad.
Near the window, a tan-skinned boy is sitting nonchalantly in his chair, arms resting on the desk in front of him. He’s wearing a vacant expression on his face that leads me to believe that he’s not paying attention to the lecture, but then he suddenly raises his hand and makes a comment so sophisticated I feel my eyebrows crawl up my forehead in surprise.
“I think the duality in the play serves as an escape from oppressive marriages. It might even serve as cover for homosexual liaisons, especially considering the fact that Wilde was a closeted homosexual.”
I find myself staring at him with my mouth open. There’s something about his rough dialect and the sound of his voice that I find greatly… stimulating. I think he might be of Italian descent, and he’s not exactly good looking, but the way his full lips form those educated words in that sensuous voice makes me wonder what else he can do with that mouth. When his brown eyes meet mine, I instantly turn away, shifting my attention to the lecture.
The teacher nods to the boy who just spoke and then continues talking. I want to look at the possibly-Italian boy again, but I keep my eyes fixed ahead, afraid he might catch me looking again. Then, I realize something greatly surprising – something that nearly causes me to fall off my chair.
The teacher is actually teaching.
He isn’t complaining about lazy students, his personal life, or reading from notes in front of him in a monotonous voice dull enough to put a person in a coma. He is lecturing. I am baffled.
The lecturer – Mr. Eliassen – is perhaps 1.75 meters tall and he has short, slighty curly, dirty blonde hair. Barely discernable eyebrows hang over sky blue eyes fixed in my direction. His smile makes him look ten years younger than he is. His black fleece jacket is unzipped a way down, but not as far as I would’ve liked. It’s not hard to see that he’s well-built, the way the jacket hugs his chest. I notice the tightness of his pants and feel blood rush to my face.
I could take a few paragraphs to tell you about how I got to know my teacher, but I think it’s quite obvious what is going to happen. I could talk about all the times I handed in assignments and made sure to brush a finger against his hand or all the times I fixed my eyes on his until they finally met mine – but let’s just skip ahead to the good stuff.
About a month has passed and I’m currently eating lunch with Mr. Eliassen. We’re supposed to be discussing my latest paper, but instead he’s telling me about his brief career in the military, as some sort of fireman. I’m not the best conversational partner, so I appreciate the way he solitarily manages to fend off awkward silences. I can’t ever seem to think of appropriate things to say, so I usually remain silent, but he keeps me talking by asking questions, and he seems genuinely fascinated by my answers. Do I have a girlfriend? Do I enjoy sports? Do I have a boyfriend? Do I plan to attend college next year?
We’re sitting in the faculty lounge, and there’s nobody else around. He paid for my food in spite of my objections. I’m eating a shrimp sandwich, even though I despise shrimps. I had the option of a sandwich with cheese and ham, a shrimp sandwich, and a plain-cheese sandwich. The mere smell of ham makes me gag, and, though I love cheese, the cheese sandwich seemed… boring, so I picked the shrimp sandwich. I’m not really eating much anyway, being too busy studying the way his lower lip is slightly fuller than his upper. Even while he talks, his lips seem to permanently form a barely distinguishable, yet very alluring, smile.
Mr. Eliassen speaks in a different dialect than I. He’s from the south – Stavanger, more specifically. I fucking love his dialect; the way his Rs start deep down in his throat before they roll off his tongue. I tease him about this and fail miserably when I try to echo him. Sometimes, I have trouble understanding what he’s saying, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
After lunch in the faculty lounge, Mr. Eliassen becomes Kristoffer, to me. We realize that we both enjoy jogging, so we sort of become exercise buddies. Kristoffer is the kind of guy who wears those tight fitness shorts that leave nothing at all to the imagination, regardless of how cold it is outside. While I wear a light jacket on top of my t-shirt, he doesn’t, and I’m glad. We jog together six times a week, and we quickly become good friends.
As I’m exciting my apartment one Tuesday morning, on my way to school, a red car pulls up in front of the house. I recognize it immediately and feel a grin spread across my face when the driver rolls down the window and waves me over. Kristoffer announces that we’re skipping school, but he won’t tell me exactly where we’re going. The roads go up and down, and I sometimes feel weightless due to the fact that he’s driving like a lunatic. I’m suddenly reminded of being out on the sea in the middle of a storm, riding four to six meter high waves that threaten to engulf us while my dad grins wildly as he maneuvers the boat left and right. I’m feeling nostalgic, but I’m torn out of my reverie as Kristoffer puts a hand on my thigh and smiles.
By the time we stop by a hotel, it is dark outside and snow is pouring heavily from the sky. The moment we step out of the car, Kristoffer runs off a bit and throws himself down on the ground where he starts making an angel in the snow. I can’t help laughing out loud – I’m here with a thirty year old child! As a family of four pulls up next to our car, I beg Kristoffer to stop what he’s doing but he says he won’t until I make an angel of my own. I sigh and flit over to his side. Dubiously, I lie down and start moving my arms and legs around.
“What a feeble effort,” he says, and before I know it he throws a handful of snow at me. I gasp as the coldness collides with my face, instantly melts, and pours down my collar. Revengefully, I throw myself at him. He’s taller and stronger than I, so I know it’s only because he allows it that I manage to bury his head in snow. We roll around in the snow, laughing like kids until our insides hurt and we’re out of breath. We lie there for a while, watching as snowflakes continue to fall and the green aurora wavers in the wind. He hands me his woolen gloves and I put them on, and then I squeal as he puts his cold hands under my shirt.
We saunter along the beach, sometimes walking out on the frozen water on the inside of the rocky pier. In the hotel room, I spend days familiarizing myself with his body; with the fine hair around his nipples, the soft hair on his legs – even the rare stray hair on his back that I try to pull out when I spot them. I like the way his muscles feel hard under my hands, the salty taste of his skin, and the minty smell of his breath. Every move he makes and every word he speaks makes me want to be closer to him and I press myself against him as if hoping to melt into him completely.
In the middle of the night, a storm builds up, which isn’t uncommon this close to the coast. As the wind collides with the window in waves, rattling the glass, I get up from the bed. Thanks to the light provided by the full moon, I can see the violent waves far out in the sea, crashing into each other, looking white rather than dark blue. Below the window, a woman is standing, trying futilely to light a cigarette. Silently, I pity her for being a slave to the addiction, especially in this weather.
By the way, I don’t smoke. I made that up.
Kristoffer gets up as well, muttering, as he dresses, something about growing old and rolling the bottoms of his pants.
“You’re not old,” I say.
As he makes his way over to me, he mumbles something about time and a winged chariot, but I’m not really paying attention. In the moonlight, Kristoffer looks like a Greek god, and the sight of his muscled chest takes my breath away. As he puts his arms around me, I notice how the parts where his bare skin touches mine seem to be more alive than the rest of my body. I watch his blue eyes as he stares out of the window, seemingly enthralled by what he is seeing. Finally, he breaks the silence, reciting a poem called “Dover Beach.” As he talks, I get an inexplicable feeling that the poem is somehow relevant not only when it comes to the situation I am in at the moment, but also in a bigger way, like my life in general. However, I’m not exactly sure how, so I don’t dwell on it but instead admire Kristoffer’s ability to memorize so many lines. When he finishes speaking, the word “love” seems to echo in the suddenly eerily quiet room for a long time.
“Do you love me?” I eventually ask, but I instantly regret it as the words come out. “Never mind.”
He laughs and tightens his grip around me. Instead of answering, he quotes a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning that leaves me speechless. I suppose the poem sort of does answer my question, but I’m not entirely sure if I believe that he loves me to the depth and breadth and height that his soul can reach. It’s a nice thought, though.
“Do you like poetry?” he asks.
“I wish I did, but, usually, I can’t make much sense of it.”
“That’s all right. Poetry is… complicated. What do you think about the book we’re reading in class?”
I hesitate. “I’m not sure.”
He smiles. “What do you like about it?”
“The fact that it’s short.”
He lets out a laugh so hearty, I can’t help smiling. “What would make it more interesting to you?”
“It would help if a dragon was included, or maybe a witch or a wizard. I wouldn’t mind a sexy vampire or two, either.” I continue, more seriously, “I wish I could appreciate the book more, though. I think few things tell you more about a person than the literature they enjoy. Ever since I met you, I’ve been looking up literature you have quoted.” I pause and look away from him, ashamed. “I find most of it excruciating to read. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
He smiles and ruffles my hair. “You know when you read literature you’re told is amazing but that you find mind-numbingly boring? I say stop reading. Why poison your mind with things you don’t even like? You have to be willing to get a bad grade every now and then in order to shield your mind from corruption. Skip literature you dislike and devote the time you save to rereading literature that you do like.”
“Really?” I say, grinning. “I never expected to ever hear a teacher say such a thing.”
“You will – if you haven’t already – encounter teachers who will say that good literature is an acquired taste. Well, who’s to say what good literature is? Do you know what else is an acquired taste? Smoking, beer, and…”
He grins widely and I feel a flutter in my stomach. I’ve heard enough, so I pull him back to the bed.
It’s an exciting day because I’m finally getting to see Kristoffer’s house. On the outside, the place looks rather shabby, but, on the inside, it looks stunning. It looks very modern, with a black and white color theme. It’s very spacious, and the little furniture in the room look chosen more for their aesthetic value than their comfortableness. It looks like a bachelor’s haven.
I sit down in a black, leather chair and feel very classy when Kristoffer brings me a cup of homemade chocolate soufflé and a glass of scotch. We don’t spend very much time in the living room, however, before we make our way to the bedroom. The bed is huge and the sheets are made of black silk. Kristoffer’s phone rings and he decides to take it in the other room, so I sit on the edge of the bed, impatiently awaiting his return.
A little boy appears in the doorway, eying me with dubious eyes. He’s wearing baby-blue pajamas with yellow ducks on them and his bottom lip quivers as if he’s about to cry. Hastily, I zip up my sweater and ask him what’s wrong. He brings a book out from behind his back and hands it to me. It’s a book of children’s tales and I immediately grasp what he wants.
I lift him up into my lap and briefly see that he’s the spitting image of Kristoffer before I lower my gaze to the book and start reading. I read him a story about a princess masquerading as a waitress. Her father, the king, has promised her to a prince for whom she possesses no affection. She exposes the suitor as a fraud and a liar, but, by then, she finds that despite being free of having to marry the prince, she actually prefers being a waitress over being a princess, so she goes on to live a life of dancing and singing. Next, I read him a story about a woods guide who journeys meandering roads from one dodgy town to the next, experiencing bad food and worse people. He loves the challenge of precipitous hills and entwining passes, pouring rain, whipping wind, and blinding snow.
I’m about to start another story when the boy interrupts me, wanting to tell a story himself. He tells me a story he loves so much he’s learned it by heart. It’s about a king who’s lost his ability to speak, so he has to make all his orders through written instructions. However, since the king never allowed his subjects to learn how to read, he in the end loses his kingdom in addition to his voice.
I laugh genuinely in response to the story. I can’t help thinking that the boy truly is his father’s son, and I smile even though a voice in the back of my mind tells me that I should be troubled by this. As I continue reading stories to the boy, I occasionally glance down at him to make sure he hasn’t fallen asleep. Though his head is resting against my shoulder, his eyes are incredibly wide, as if to better take in the world’s wonders all at once.
Abruptly, Kristoffer reappears and yanks the boy away from me. He puts him down beside me and tells me to hide. I’m perplexed, but I drop to the ground when he indicates that I should get under the bed.
There is something about being forced to lie under a bed with the company of nothing but a couple of fist-sized dust bunnies that puts things into perspective. I listen as the front door is opened and the muffled voice of a woman drifts from the living room. I can’t make out the words, but the tone indicates that she’s in a good mood. Soon, she appears in the doorway to the bedroom.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” she says in mock-admonition
The boy jumps off the bed and runs over to embrace his mother. She lifts him into her arms and buries him in an embrace. Kristoffer appears and puts his arms around the two of them. I notice a ring on his finger and I’m stunned by the observation. The ring had not been there a moment earlier. I know every mole on the man’s body – I think I would’ve noticed a fucking ring on his finger. A ring! What do I have to show for after all this time? A couple of scratches on my back and a bruise on my left butt cheek?
I want to be angry, but I’m distracted by the expression on the woman’s face. She’s so… happy. She’s utterly blissful. She doesn’t have a god damn worry in the world. When they pull apart, she fixes her eyes on him and they’re brimming with affection, with sheer devotion. Till fucking death does them apart.
They disappear for a while, presumably to get the boy into bed, and then they reappear. The woman throws herself down on the bed and lets out an audible sigh. Kristoffer soon joins her, lying down next to her. Shortly after, clothes fall down on the floor and the light’s extinguished.
For a moment, it’s utterly quiet, but then a wet smacking noise pierces the stillness like a cannon shot.
“I’m really tired, darling,” Kristoffer says.
“Are you all right?” she asks, voice filled with incredulity.
Another quick smacking noise sounds, and then the bed creaks as the two of them reposition themselves and silence falls again. It does not take long, however, before the bed creaks once more and more wet smacking noises break the quiet. This time, the smacking noises are more urgent… louder… wetter. The woman lets out a soft moan and then the bed starts creaking steadily.
I can tell by the movement of the bed that he is being careful with her. I can’t help wondering if he’s afraid of hurting her or if there is simply a lack of passion. I am distinctly aware of the scratches on my back and I feel a wave of sudden claustrophobia engulf me. I want to run out of the room as fast as I possibly can, but I force myself to stay still. I put fingers in my ears to block out all sounds, but I can still feel their weight press down on my butt, against my bruise. It doesn’t really hurt, so I’m beginning to think it might be a hickey.
After what seems like forever, the movement slows down and I remove my fingers from my ears. The woman is breathing heavily, and so is Kristoffer. The sound of his breathing is familiar and exciting in my ears, but it’s somehow tainted by the sound of the woman’s breathing. Then she whispers three words that seem to crush what little spirit I have left.
“Do it harder.”
Uselessly, I squeeze my eyes shut, and then I start tapping my tragi with my index fingers, making a noise in my ears that drowns out all other sounds. It is not until the bed stops moving that I dare to remove my fingers from my ears, and I listen as the woman’s breathing changes from rapid, to soft, and then to heavy. Soon, a delicate snoring sound fills the room and tears instantly well up in my eyes. Snoring? That’s what makes me cry? I contemplate this for a moment and I realize I’m angry with the woman, but that I have no reason to be. She’s innocent in all of this. Kristoffer is the villain. No, I’m the villain.
Furtively, I creep out from under the bed and exit the bedroom. I head for the front door as fast as I can and nearly scream out loud when a hand touches my shoulder. I turn to find Kristoffer looking at me, eyebrows contracted in worry and his hair out of control. He’s shirtless and he looks great. I feel sick.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers.
I shake my head. He doesn’t smell like him – he smells like her. I open the door and step outside. Snow sparkles in the moonlight and I’m surprised to see that there are people about. Somehow, I expected it to be later than it is. During this time of the year, when there’s only a couple of hours daylight available, day and night sort of run together. Winter is the season during which darkness doesn’t seem to descend from the sky, but rather creeps out from among the trees and puts up a great fight when daylight tries to force it back.
By the time I realize it‘s freezing, Kristoffer hands me my jacket. I grab it without a word and start running. As I run, I pass a couple of children making angels in the snow. “Angels are gay!” The words escape my mouth before I can stop them. Feeling ridiculous, I keep running. I can’t help thinking that I’m losing my mind.
I spend some time being furious with Kristoffer, but I quickly realize I am only angry with myself. Kristoffer is doing the right thing – getting married, having children. It is what people are supposed to be doing. The woman’s life is better thanks to him, and the boy wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. I’m the problem. I’m a malignant tumor, threatening to tear it all asunder.
I know the Bible says that God put people on the planet with the intention that they should reproduce, but never mind that. Biologically, being gay doesn’t make sense. Screw religion, but I can put my trust in science.
“Tobias!” I turn and see the possibly-Italian boy from my class running toward me from the other side of the corridor. “What’s going on between you and Mr. Eliassen?”
I feel my eyes widen. “What do you mean?” I demand.
The boy looks surprised, and I realize he had only been joking. “The two of you have both been absent for the last few days. Either you are both werewolves and have been absent because of the full moon, or there’s something going on between you.”
I shake my head. Werewolves?
“Sorry, I read way too much fantasy,” he apologizes.
I wave away his apology, feeling intrigued. I want him to continue talking in that sexy voice. The side of his mouth is drawn up in a kind of roguish smirk. I feel an undeniable attraction to the boy, but it’s not love. It’s purely physical, something animalistic. There are gay penguins, aren’t there?
“Let’s go somewhere,” I say.
He grins and follows when I start walking down the corridor. As we pass a Christmas tree, I kick one of the ornaments hanging on a low branch – a white angel – and watch as it flies through the air and shatters into a million pieces against a wall.