Michael could feel a small crystal of ice form in the pit of his stomach. His big doe brown eyes locked on Ben's diamond blue ones in a moment of horrid recognition. Michael watched as Ben's eyes grew wide and rimmed with red as the tears began to take form like the beginnings of a thunder storm in the middle of autumn. They were frozen in an instant of utter terror as they realized what had happened. The unthinkable had occurred. The sleeping elephant that had taken up residence at the foot of their bed since the first time they'd ever had sex was finally and oppressively awake. And with all of its massive weight was now pressing down on them, suffocating them.
After pulling out of Michael, Ben finally collapsed on top of him and began to weep agonizingly. His body was wracked with guttural sobs. As his hands pressed either side of Michael's head, his fingers laced through the damp silky raven locks. His voice was a blur of apologies and unintelligible noises. All Michael could do was hold Ben as his own tears began to tumble from his eyes and slide effortlessly down his face. He felt himself as if in a dream, raising Ben's face and kissing it all over while a litany of "I love you's" and "It's going to be fine's" poured from him with sentimental import. And yet delivered with such overwhelming love and sincerity as to by the sheer effort of believing it to be true would in fact make it so.
This was a moment both dreaded and anticipated. It was a moment all at once thought inevitable and yet someone how unimaginable. And so all there was to do was to cling to one another and sob as the ramifications of the condom breaking washed over them with the force of a tidal wave.
They'd weathered every storm that had come up in their relationship. And though this was extraordinarily different from anything they'd come up against in the past, Michael was sure they could weather this one as well. Michael realized that everything they had been through, everything that had happened to them, all the little and not so little catastrophes that come up in the relationship was preparing them for this. The moment when 'what might happen,' collided head long into 'what just happened.'
The hardest thing would be telling family and friends. But that would only be done after he and Ben knew for sure either way. He decided that as soon as he felt the condom break. He didn't need the people he loved second guessing him and his marriage to Ben. He didn't need or want them analyzing every aspect of the relationship so that they could justify ripping it and Ben apart.
People have an annoying tendency of doing that. They smile and pretend like everything is fine all the while waiting for the opportunity to present itself, for happenstance to show its face so that they can tear down what someone else has worked so incredibly hard to build. No it's not as incredulous as all that although at times it may appear to be. It's just that people have the tendency to not want to see or take notice of the gigantic white elephant sleeping in the middle goddamn room, until it wakes up hungry and in a rage. They tiptoe around it as if by doing so will make the thing disappear.
Life has a very rude and distasteful way of taking you so completely out of your complacency. Of taking that comfort zone you've found and shoving it unceremoniously down your throat making you choke on it. It has a way of testing the things you purport to believe in, shaking you down to the very core of you and exposing all the nasty and scary bits and pieces of yourself that you'd rather not reveal to the rest of the world. It has a very nasty habit of illustrating all of your flaws, real and perceived. But it also has an indelible way of showing you just how strong you are. Of punctuating for you just how much more you can take and come out the better for it. It has a way of showing you exactly what's important while giving you permission to leave the rest behind.
Michael wrapped his arms and legs around Ben pulling him in closer. Allowing himself to feed off of the warmth and strength of his husbands body. While in return giving off warmth and strength to his husband. The outside world while important wasn't as important as this moment. Actually the outside world wasn't important this moment was the world entire. Because in this moment they passed the point of deniability about what their lives really were. One would have thought that they'd passed that point along time ago. Ben's steroid use, Hunter, Anthony and Vic's sudden death. Those were just precursors to this moment. This Kodak inspired picture frozen in time like so many pictures before it placed in a photo album kept in a secret between two people who never shared it with anyone. But every now and again took it out and glanced at it to remember those moments that helped define and redefine the inevitability of their lives.
The naked truth of the matter was and is that you can deny a great many things while accepting others similar in size and import. But it's the 'one' thing, the thing so plain in its arrival and so huge in its descent to earth that blots out the sun and calls into question the plausibility of depth that makes every else pale in comparison. The thing that comes along and slams home for you the sheer vulnerability inherent in your nakedness.
We all think we've got a handle on things, or at the very least that's what we show to the rest of the world. We fall apart in slow unnoticeable increments every day but we keep it together enough so that we give off the appearance of knowing how depressingly and gloriously naked we are. Then someone or something comes along and hands us the fucking apple and we know for a fact how naked we are and we search in vain to hide our nakedness from the rest of the world and ourselves. We claw at the incorporeal air hoping against hope to come up with a handful so something that will give us the answer to the question of whether or not we can reenter the garden of ignorance.
But once you've been exposed to the truth and how ugly the world can be even in its devastating beauty there is no turning back. There is no going back to being a novice in your own life, there is no way you can lie to yourself about what and who you are and where you belong.
"It'll be all right," Michael whispered into Ben's ear.
"What if..." Ben shuddered at the very thought of it.
"We'll deal with it," Michael said holding him tighter in his arms as if to protect him.
"What about..." Ben stopped short again.
"I got into this relationship knowing the risks. I'm not going to turn and run now because of this. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, 'till death do us part."
"I brought thee roses and kissed thee tenderly on thy cheek. I gave thee wine whilst others promised thee eternity...Forever beloved is only a pauper's gift compared to a life well lived. And Oh my sweet how we did live..."
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