The only mystery before sex is whether you get to fuck him or not, S said to me. What is the mystery after? After? S said, breaking the silence. After, the mystery is why you even thought it would last.
S’s speech grew more impaired as the count of his T-cells dropped. When I left the ward each time I would force my mind into a state of blankness. I would look at the trees lining the path that led out of the home; I would focus on the hue of the leaves, the texture of the bark. Sometimes, if there was a bird, I would focus on that: how it made its journey from one branch to the next; how it fell from the leaves to the ground, to pick at something there; a seed maybe, a twig. And then slowly, slowly, I would rebuild our conversations. I would excavate the words, dust off each turn of phrase; I would gather them alongside the feelings I could not then confront in S’s presence. Only then would I obtain clarity, of what S said to me: that his joints had been aching, more so lately, for example – it must be a sign, he said, half-chuckling – or that he would wake up at night, drawn out of his sleep by the smell of his body – the stench of my death, he said – or that he was feeling a little tired, and would like to sleep a while, if I didn’t mind. When S slept, his flesh moved languidly to the rhythm of his breaths, so that one might even, for a moment, see in the body a metaphor for bliss and serenity. I would watch closely before leaving, just in case. At the gates, the road in front of me stretched past the church; on Sundays, from where I stood I could see the faithful pouring out from service, their cars gliding past me, contentment locked in all their faces. I would make my way to the bus-stop just outside. I would slide on the ear-phones, so I would not hear the laughter resounding choral-like around me.