By O Thiam Chin
I have been with my current boyfriend for almost two years, and have also known my boyfriend's ex for four years; we have known each other casually, and then intimately, cultivating our friendships and later, relationships from a larger pool of friends while we were all still in the army. Well, I had actually dated the ex, my boyfriend's, for a while, but nothing came out of it. The chemistry was never there in the first place, though the sexual spark was as heated as it came. But this was not something we talked about any more.
I have sometimes wondered how it would have turned out for the three of us under different circumstances, if we have known each other now, rather than a few years ago. I entertained these thoughts as far and deep as I could, trying to work out different scenarios, different outcomes. And then the words came out one day, after I met the ex for lunch on a quiet, bland Saturday: Hey, what are you doing in the evening? Want to come over later for drinks?
I waited for the reply. He smiled, nodded, and said why not. He was not seeing anyone at the time; the last person he dated was five months ago, and it failed the way it usually did: a lopsided love, with no reciprocity from the other party. I could sense the loneliness in him, a strong scent that clung to his skin. I kept up my smile.
When we dated four years ago, I had expectations that were sadly unmet by the ex. I was the one who had felt the attraction, the claw and bite of desire. But he was not ready, or so he claimed. He only wanted to have fun, and I was nice to be with, he told me, on the third date. I was young and green then, suffused with an unbearable yearning, even though the terms had been clear, at least from the ex's perspective, from the start; yet I fell headlong into it nonetheless, unthinkingly. I thought I could change his mind over time, but of course, it was mere wishful thinking. The thought still has the force of a sting whenever it surfaces in my mind.
They my boyfriend and the ex started dating after a period of mutual silence between us me and the ex which was how we had decided, unspoken, to end things between us, which had seemed the most appropriate way to approach something we did not have the guts to do so face to face. We moved away, and we moved on. It was a small circle that we hanged out in and we did not want to create anything awkward or uncomfortable for the other person. And also, people talk, and there was no need to be the gossip that was passed along in the grapevine. We did not have to say this, not to each other naturally; we knew how things work, and we stuck to it. But there was not to say that I did not know about their seeing each other from the get go. In our circle, gossips are transacted like weak currency, swopped with very little in exchange. I smiled at the news and let it slide. They lasted about eight months before it went south. I was hardly surprised by it, or cared much for it in any case, since I was seeing someone else at the time, and my mind was distracted by my own affairs.
Life then took another turn, and a couple of months later, I was dating him, my current boyfriend. Life bumps us up against one another, and we could hardly resist the chance to land our love at the right spot, on the right person. It's never easy, and we have to take our chances whenever, wherever we can.
So the ex comes over in the evening, three knocks on the door of our flat in Ang Mo Kio, with a bottle of Absolute vodka, which he presents to me with a sheepish grin. I hope you guys are in the mood, he says, and waits for me to invite him in. My boyfriend comes up and gives him a hug. Haven't seen you in a while, what's up. They exchange smiles. I'm good, I'm good. I push them into the living room.
Seated on the sofa, I lower the volume of the TV; we have been watching a rerun of a 90s wuxia film. The main lead in the film was someone I had idolised when I was in my teens, a closeted Hong Kong movie star who had dated young, upcoming starlets, changing one every few months. I used to mock at the terrible irony, but now, I found it all too sad to even bring it up. I leave my boyfriend and the ex to their chat, as I busy myself in the kitchen, mixing the vodka; they are always able to find things to catch up on, and never fail to amuse each other with their easy banter, their off-colour jokes. Together, they look great, and it's easy to see them as a couple, in the nascent stage of a budding relationship. The thought crawls into my mind and slinks away guiltily.
They sink their weight into the sofa and put their legs on the low coffee table. Both have strong, muscular legs, with ropes of veins that streaked from ankles to knees; both are runners since their army days, and they make it a point to run together in one marathon every year. They chart their progress and compare their recent runs and timings, in a convivial spirit of competitiveness. The strength in their legs how they had gripped my waist, pushed against my chest, my arms as I fucked them has always surprised me. They turn to me as I serve them the mugs of vodka, and catch the look on my face that I did not manage to erase in time. My boyfriend arches his brows, as if posing a silent question. Nothing, I say, by way of a reply. They carry on with what they have left off in their conversation, something about a new Polar training watch that both of them are keen to get.
There is an unforced camaraderie between them, something that feels at ease, natural. I sit and listen, careful not to join in unless one of them turns to me for a word or comment. They sip from their mugs almost simultaneously, from time to time. I refill their mugs and they continue to drink. The ex's face slowly turns red, his ears already flushed crimson. At one point, my boyfriend grabs one of his ears and gives it a hard tug. Monkey ears, he says. The ex leans forward and punches him in the chest, and both let out a laugh. I reach over and touch the ex's face.
It's so warm. Are you feeling okay?
I'm fine, no worries, I feel better than I look.
My boyfriend watches us, and then takes a long sip of the vodka, a grin lingering on his face. His eyes strains with the beginning of his drunkenness, a fact he is failing to hide.
I stand up from the sectional where I have been sitting and move to the sofa, where I insert myself between them. My boyfriend shifts sideways to give me more room; my leg presses against the ex's. He smiles at the touch, but does not move away. I lean into my boyfriend; his body heat seeps into me, warm and pleasantly comforting. We drink more, sometimes from each other's mug. The jokes turn bawdy, then intimate, personal. The ex says something about the size of his last date's cock, how it's shaped, tapered at the head, and fuller, thicker at the base, how he could not suck on it without visualising it as a chunky carrot. We call out insults; the ex feigns ignorance, shrugging his shoulders. I put my hand on his thigh and hold it there. The ex does not glance down.
I get up at one point and bring out a tumbler of ice from the fridge and leave it on the coffee table. I pop two ice cubes into my boyfriend's mouth; he crunches down hard on them, the crisp grating of the ice escaping his mouth. He kisses the back of my neck, a sliver of cold on my skin. The ex looks away and fixes his eyes on the TV screen. I reach for the remote and shut it off. Silence sneaks back into the living room.
What, no TV now?
I slip my hand over to the ex, touching his thigh again. He raises his left eyebrow, half puzzled. He grabs a handful of melting ice cubes from the tumbler and throws them into his mouth. He waits; his eyes stays on me. Then he leans back on the sofa, stretching out his legs, flexing them. He knows I'm watching him, studying his movements. He smiles; his eyes sharpen, glint. The delicate moment tilts out of position, shifting from point to point. My boyfriend shifts behind me, adjusting my weight on him, his muscles tensing behind his white, loose t-shirt. He wraps his arm around me, pulling me in, whispering: What are you doing?
I drink up what's left in my mug, the vodka diluted by the icy water. I swallow the tiny shards of ice. I pour the dregs from the bottle of vodka into the other two mugs. Finish it up, there's the last of it.
The ex does as he is told. He drinks up. His face has blossomed into a deep, snug red. I touch his cheek; the heat rises up to meet my hand, magnetically. He leans in for a kiss. I miss it; his lips brush the corner of mine. He moves to cover my lips in the next moment. I break away from the kiss and turn to my boyfriend and catch the look on his face. For a long pause, I can't read what's on it, the decidedly blank expression. He scrutinises mine for signs - a familiar expression, a frown, or a smile perhaps - unsure how to move forward, to move from this to the next moment and the next. He is slowly making his decision: dark currents streak across his face, like dark creatures skimming below the surface of the water. He would need my assurance, again and again. He has never been sure of what he wants, even in our relationship, often in doubt, yet unable to give himself fully to it, to see where it might lead him. I was the opposite of him; I call it as it is, and I refuse to back down, or look away.
So I give him my permission, wordlessly. Go ahead, don't worry, it's okay.
I kneel there, as he pushes himself forward, inching towards the ex, who meets him halfway, his hands on my boyfriend's chest, gentle, poised. The air is thick with anticipation, with shallow breaths. They move their hands with a studied cautiousness, and then slowly they lose their tenseness, their stiffness. They break from a long kiss and smile at each other, seemingly embarrassed, as if they cannot really believe they are doing what they are doing now. They look like shy college boys, breaking into new skins, initiated into something new, into something potentially bigger than the sum of both of them. I look at them and imagine them as lovers, back when they were still lovers, touching and kissing for the first time. The thought pierces me, but not in a way that pains me; a prick of light needling in, letting out the blood. It feels salutary, almost a sweet relief. I let my imagination loose, as it winds down a narrow, thorny path. Everything's still in control, I remind myself, remember this is what you want, this is for the good of everyone.
Now, they look at me, eyes blazing. I nod: go ahead. The ex withdraws his legs from the coffee table and yields his body up to my boyfriend. I move to give them all the space they need. I run my fingers along the thick veins on the ex's calves, across his smooth skin. My boyfriend and the ex kiss some more; they gather their confidence, individually, and then as one. Under their skin, I feel their muscles arching and hungering and remembering, leaping into action. Aches of memory, from their past, from the days of their love-making, ripple through their bodies, igniting anew.
They glance at me, searching my face for something to keep them going: confirmation, reassurance, encouragement. I give them another nod of acquiescence. Isn't this what you want? The decision feels right, and of course, it's the right thing to do. And then it hits me: How do I know this? How long have I known it? This mutual, latent attraction between them?
And looking at them, it finally strikes me how good they actually look together, moving in a syncopated rhythm of their own, drawing pleasure out from one another, from inside themselves. They would not have been able to stop now, even if they, or I, want to.
My boyfriend's hand seeks mine and places it on the ex's waist. He holds it there for us, for me not to move it away. I don't. He wants me in, as well. He doesn't see this the way I see it, as a final act of release; for him, this is leading up to a realm of possibilities, each one a beginning of something new, fresh and exciting, an end in itself. There's no escape, no backing away now; his hand holding firmly to mine, demanding a response. I hold still.
He pushes the ex deeper into the sofa, raising both the ex's hands above his head. I lift the hem of his shirt and pull it over his head, my hands grazing his blushing skin. I guide my boyfriend's lips towards the ex's nipple. He takes it gently. I take the other nipple in my mouth. The ex moves his hands across our hair, eyes closed. He sighs.
I unbutton and ease the Bermuda shorts off the ex. His erection is straining against his white underwear, a wet spot darkening the fabric. He lets out a cry that my boyfriend catches with a kiss. I guide my boyfriend's hand under the waistband of the ex's underwear, and see it turn into a fist, gripping his stiffening member. For a moment, all our eyes are locked on one another, and we take in everything, seeing and unseeing what our bodies are telling us, what we want, and what is within our reach. Everything's permissible now, but only now, if we make a grab for it. I move to act, and the decision is made for all of us.
I release my boyfriend from his shirt and shorts, and watch as he does the same to his ex, tugging off his underwear, freeing his erection. They move with the rehearsed grace of dancers; they know their respective movements, the arcs and bends and manoeuvres that would lead them deeper and further on a trail into the dark forest of their desires. I have given them the signs and directions, and now they are on their own, charting their course, and I let them go. They no longer have any need for me.
They push on, their arms and torsos and calves moving in tandem with the force of their passion, a tangled beast, multi-limbed, hungry, powerful. I lick the salty sweat from their shoulder blades, the back of their ears, the small of their backs. I tease their nipples into rigidness. I move my hands over their erections, the loose smooth sacks of their balls. I savour their bodies in turns. I'm a part of them, yet excluded; I'm all in, and I'm miles away.
And, as if sensing my thought, they push me onto the floor and hold me down with their bodies, their hands and mouths making proprietary claims over every inch of my skin, nudging me to yield, to give in. They coax me into hardness, into opening myself up to them, to their fingers and flicking tongues, to their bare-knuckle hunger. They grip me, and they force me to shrink into a tighter, truer self, one that is all of me, nothing extraneous, unnecessary, frivolous. They test my resolve, my initial decision, the choice that I have made for all of us. They edge me nearer and nearer, waiting for me to come, to give myself up. And I did: I come hard, despite my resistance, into their gaping mouths, emptying myself into them, and they eat it all up, their tongues teasing me for more.
I move from under their bodies and push them together again. They kiss, and then they take their time to get into each other. They glisten, their skins glossy from perspiration. The cheeks of their butts flex and tense in exertion, with each thrust. I watch their faces move from expression to expression: pain, sensuality, agony, relief, gratitude. Are these the stages of desire, its ebb and flow, its constantly changing face?
My boyfriend pulls me towards them, tries to pull me into their embrace. His eyes plead with me, come, come here. I smile and kiss him instead, holding back. He turns back to the ex and enters him slowly, almost tenderly. I watch as they come together, pull apart, and come together, their rhythm fixed, steadfast, and I wish it would never stop, and that I would always be here to witness this, this act of love between the men I love, and who love each other still.
After they are done, they fall asleep on the sofa, raw and pliable and naked, and at one point in the long endless night, I bring out the blanket from the bedroom and spread it across their bodies. They have spent themselves out, like boys after a day of play, their mouths slack, issuing low rumble-snores. Their arms lie like torn branches across their bodies. I lie on the floor, studying their sleeping faces, my body still geared up for release? For penitence? I'm not sure. I stay like this for half the night, a cyclone of thoughts spinning in my head. It's done, and it won't be undone. It's there, and it's not there anymore. I feel these thoughts no, I'm not ready to accept them as facts, not yet settle somewhere in a corner of my mind, sinking dark roots, growing. A huge, inexplicable loneliness shivers alive inside me, and I can do nothing but wait for it to thrash itself out, to expend all its energy. I hold on as long as I can, afraid of moving any part of my body, afraid that any move I make now would cause it to double its strength, to reinvigorate itself. The night lays its heavy hand on me. I close my eyes, and for the rest of the night, as I dip in and out of shallow, fitful sleep, I try and try and fail to keep at bay the ghost of a man that I have become, a man waiting only to fall away, to disappear, any moment.QLRS Vol. 14 No. 3 Jul 2015