Fic: The Unlocked Door

Viggo left his door unlocked to let things come as they would; then he tried to be gracious when, of course, they did. If he were honest, it was for fear of the loss of what might have come. There had been a series of leaves blown in onto the linoleum in Idaho, that one year, and he had painted and painted for weeks. Of course something in the whole construct of inspiration, to which part of him cleaved quite desperately, was just so unbearably fatuous, but there it was: what could you do?

Sometimes women showed up through the unlatched door, too, and he took them to bed; though by no means so many of them as you might have thought — he congratulated himself uneasily. He was curiously well-known among some sorts of people, and not among others; it was not always clear to him why this was.

Today there was a Dickensian scene, in his kitchen behind the unsnibbed screen, and he had no one to blame but himself.

An urchin, cap in hand. Elijah was here. The fraying of his jean cuffs was regular, falling in a starched bell. His hair was gelled into tousled shapes like leaves.

He was guilty enough to flinch, at least, when he heard Viggo lever the handle of the screen. Still, he stayed leaning against the bench with a teenager’s theatrical nonchalance, and said sunnily enough, “Hey!” And then, “How was your interview?” In the cocked head there was an invitation to conspiracy.

“Foul,” Viggo said. Elijah was between him and where he need to stack the groceries away. “Can I get in there?” he said.

“Sure,” Elijah said, but moved slowly, and not far enough. Viggo trusted falsely, and moved forward too soon.

For a moment, it seemed he had gotten himself into a great deal of trouble. He kept his face neutral, held his shoulders resolutely unturned toward Elijah, and after a pause, Elijah withdrew.

“Do you wanna hang out tonight?” Elijah said.

“If you like,” Viggo said, “but I need to paint.”

“One of these things is not like the other,” Elijah said. He looked unreasonably amused. “I have your number, you know.”

“You should call, then,” Viggo said.

“We’ll just pretend,” Elijah said, “that we think that’s what I meant.”

 

The truth was, Elijah was so small, and there was something of a child’s doughiness in the flesh under his chin. And something in that was unwholesome, a fish-bellied sleekness: one would not care to eat something so raw.

The truth was, Elijah’s persistence was beginning to make Viggo feel churlish.

He was disinclined to turn people down — he had a deeply felt impulse of graciousness about a fuck. Something compelled him about another’s offer of the damp, private crevices of the animal self.

For the things that tended to follow from the fuck, particularly with women, he did not feel such compunction. Only a faint shame attended the deletion of the voicemails of the woman he had last slept with, at the hotel in Auckland.

In fact the truth was, his own son’s recent pubescence had drawn a line around very young men, with Viggo on the other side. No, that wasn’t the truth. The truth was, even when he was working out for a role, as he was now, Viggo’s body had begun to have a certain burnished desiccation to it that had not been there ten years before, and the funhouse mirror of a young man’s body was becoming grotesque.

Of course, he had had a young woman some months ago, without demur, upstairs on a nylon bedspread at the ski lodge when they’d been filming on the mountain. He had not been displeased by the kneadable chubbiness of her hips and belly, by her mouth breathing adolescence and vodka tonic. But that was different: a woman was not a comment on yourself.

And — there was a certain satisfaction in the admission that he was a hypocrite — he had not been able to resist Orlando.

There had been that almost comical quality of aspiring ephebic discipleship about him. Viggo had offered him a massage — he almost wanted to tell people that and laugh. But no, the private sense of one’s own unspeakable obviousness was half the delight of it.

All it had required was to extend a downstroke all the way to the waist, unbutton Orlando’s jeans, and go down on him, without preamble, with perfect certainty of his welcome, and amusedly to leave Orlando to catch up — to lace his fingers in Viggo’s hair, to begin to hiccup and sigh.

And for Viggo afterwards to be able to lick his lips clean, while watching Orlando struggling to pretend unperturbation, sitting up and rubbing his hands across the bare sides of his scalp — it was delicious.

Everything about Orlando was delicious. The way, if they had not hooked up that week, he would visibly stiffen when Viggo came into the makeup trailer. The sudden sucking in of his stomach when Viggo touched his cock. The urgency with which he would lace his fingers with Viggo’s while Viggo was fucking him.

He didn’t want to tell people and laugh; he wanted to write about it to the letters page of a 1970s men’s magazine. He wanted to pin it to his wall.

 

Viggo was unwilling to let a teenager — and he was a teenager — undermine the habit of fifteen years. But there Elijah was, not a leaf blown onto the kitchen floor, but deep within the house, leaning half-visible in shadow in the arch to the den. And his odd, large eyes were direct.

“Hi,” he said, as if he were not lurking there, an unsolicited package left below the eyeline of the window. “I was wondering how you were doing today.”

“I’m fine today,” Viggo said, leaning — a step back — against the couch.

“You’re cryptic today,” Elijah said.

“No,” Viggo said.

 

Viggo had known it was poor form, but how could he not? There was a dark and pleasing corridor of shadows down the side of Elijah’s house, and part-way into it an archway, beyond which the world simply ended, if your eyes were dazed from indoors. Beyond the world’s end he and Orlando went. Three feet above their heads, people were talking, muffled through glass, and the yellow kitchen light was shining, muffled through curtains. Orlando’s spine was frantic, rigid; his cock leapt quick and telling in Viggo’s hand.

It would not have lingered in his mind as it had, but Elijah had held the door open to let them back in, and had looked Viggo full in the face, and had not said — anything at all. Viggo had had to quell the urge to explain.

In fact he had been secure that his silence would let them all assume he had been failing to corrupt Orlando with a spliff, or something equally inoffensive. If you believed that it was as good as true, so would everyone.

There had been nothing to hear, surely. Only breathing, and softly squalid sounds, like animals.

 

Then there came the day that Elijah was actually in the studio, standing before the easel. Too close to the easel, in truth, with an angle to his head, a softness around his mouth, of almost wounded confusion. And when he saw Viggo from the corner of his eye, he did not break from the canvas. And Viggo was sure that that appalling question, that fatal question, was brimming in him; that any moment he might begin to say it: “What does it…?”

If you could ask, it threatened to expose everything.

For the first time, it was Viggo who said, “Hey,” and forced Elijah to turn and acknowledge him.

“Come have a beer,” Viggo said.

“Really?” Elijah said, straightening.

“Come on,” Viggo said, and ushered Elijah under his arm.

Part way through the den, it looked as though Elijah might speak again, but Viggo turned an extravagant circle around him while showing him through that door, so that Elijah grinned, gap-toothed.

At the bench, beer in hand, Elijah turned his head back towards the studio (he had never lost track of where it was, invisible behind the walls), and opened his mouth, undeterred. But Viggo stepped close to him. Viggo was not accustomed to being able to loom so over another man.

Eljiah’s face tilted up; his throat stretched — all of the urgency was out of him. That was how it happened the first time. It was when Elijah said, “You don’t want me to ask. Because then you might have to tell me.”

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