Brianís chest is
tanned brown, and firm. Healthy. He fell asleep on Nickís bed, too exhausted to
put his pajama top on after he showered, and Nick wants to put it on him the way
he used to dress Aaron and Angel for bed when they were really little and Mom
and Dad were passed out after a party, but he doesnít want to wake him up. So
instead, he just sits there in the dimmed hotel light and looks at him, at his
healthy brown chest and the pink scar running down the middle of it.
Nick can remember when Brianís chest was not quite so muscular, and not so brown, and there was no scar. When he was young and Nick was younger and Brian seemed like nothing could hurt him, like he was some young and beautiful god, always just so damn happy and so happy to be around Nick, to have Nick be around him. When Brian hugged him and Nickís head would come just high enough to rest against his chest, and he could hear Brianís heart beating loud and mostly even beneath his skin.
Sometimes it skipped a beat, and Nick could feel his own heart echoing it.
Beat. Pause. Pause. Beat.
Now, here, Nick turns off the light until everything is glowing silver in the moonlight and shadowed, and he lays his head on Brianís chest the way they used to sleep when Nick was younger, before someone told him that men arenít supposed to sleep wrapped around other men that way, arenít supposed to sleep with other men at all. Back when he didnít think anything sexual of it when he would fall asleep with Brianís arm thrown over him; it was just comfort, warmth, another heartbeat against his in the middle of the night reaffirming that there was someone there, that Nick wasnít alone.
Brian doesnít wake up, but murmurs something Nick canít hear and shifts in sleep, so that his face is pressed into Nickís hair, his lips against Nickís forehead.
Nick feels smooth firm skin beneath his cheek, warm and alive, and he presses his hand over the scar on Brianís chest, feeling its unique textureójagged imperfection in the middle of all this beauty. It doesnít matter though. Brian is still beautiful; even more beautiful, maybe, because of the scar. Because of the scar Brianís heart is beating evenly beneath Nickís hand; he can hear it where his head is pressed against Brian.
Beat. Pause. Beat.
Nick doesnít sleep, but stays awake all night counting the beats of Brianís heart. Making sure that it never stops or skips, because Brianís heart has always been the biggest, most important part of him. Of Brian, but also of Nick. It is the part that Nick echoes.
Beat. Pause. Beat.
If I could be anything in the world that flew
I would be a bat and come swooping after you
And if the last time you were here, things were a bit askew
Well, you know what happens after dark
When rattlesnakes loose their skins and their hearts
And all the missionaries loose their bark
All the trees are calling after you
And all the venom snipers after you
Are all the mountains bolder after you?
Title and lyrics from 'Andy's Chest' by Lou Reed.