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The Weight of the Sky

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It's a collision -- like a scene out of a movie. The last scene, before the credits roll. Sam says Hitchcock against his mouth when they meet in the middle.

One street, and the gutters full of rain. It's icy, this rain, because this is December in New York and the season settles on his lips and the lips of the other man, making them red as the sunset coming down. It hurts Sam's face, standing out here. He's been standing by the Park gates for half an hour and the rain is in his shoes, sticking the fabric of his pants to his thighs and making his legs feel so heavy that he couldn't move, even if he wanted to. Everyone walking past ignores him: just another guy who chose New York to go crazy in. He smiles at them, because they don't know what he knows.

Eventually Sam sees a stranger. A guy he only met two days ago, in a little bar in SoHo. Some guy with eyes like dark, windless nights when it rains for hours and in the morning there is a flood; and a body like a thunderstorm, taller than his eye can reach, this guy's shoulders gathering like clouds, piled grey on grey, heavy as the whole sky on Sam's body.

They exchanged numbers, agreed to meet. They went home together and he laid kisses on Sam's belly like little pricks of pain, needlepoints, like standing out in the rain in nothing but your skin, waiting to drown.

The stranger gets closer. He is drenched, too: overcoat dark at the shoulders as though he has wrapped the rain around his neck like a scarf. His shoes have lost their shine from the dirty water. His face is red everywhere the wind has touched it -- nose, cheeks, forehead starting out of the storm. His hair is flat and thin. His beard glistens. His mouth is red.

Their eyes meet, and then they stand, each on an adjoining paving stone, touching with nothing but their thoughts. The stranger's eyes go straight to the base of Sam's throat, and the tightness of his white shirt just above the fold of his coat. They watch the wind pull his pants taut against his shins. They smile, though his mouth does not.

They walk around. The Park is deserted, and grey in its desertion. They walk along the little bridge across the stream and watch the river swelling. The stranger's hand comes out from his pocket and searches for Sam's. The pockets of Sam's overcoat are big enough for two hands. They keep that secret from the stream and the trees and the rain. They start smiling, to themselves, under the heavy clouds.

They agreed, last night: no names, no reality; the pretense is all. Sam doesn't know him, and he doesn't know Sam. They will never know each other except for these places, here in the rain, and the nights where the rain keeps on falling.

Sam doesn't realise that he's shivering. They have stopped, just to sit on a bench for a few minutes; to watch the sky keep on pouring forth, re-making the buildings and the bridges in grey and blank, bleached white. Sam doesn't realise that he is shaking and cold. The stranger puts his arm around him, and twists his hand to stroke Sam's hair. The warmth of his hand feels strange in the rain: like a tiny sun unpacked and unravelled, making a little halo. Sam leans on his shoulder; the stranger kisses his brow.

In the stranger's mouth the rain keeps on falling. It tastes sweet, and salt: of his sweat and the oils of his face, all washed through, and clean skin underneath. Sam sucks the underside of his jaw. Sam puts his palm against the stranger's chest, just over the heart place, and sets one part of his mind to watch how that place becomes warm when all around it is wet and cold and tired.

The rain keeps on falling; Sam keeps on falling.

*

Toby throws him a towel as he is stripping out of his clothes so that the thing hits him square in the face and almost knocks him off balance. While he is trying to get the thing off his face and step out of his pants and not fall over all at the same time, he can hear Toby laughing.

"You need a hand there?"

"There's no need to give me a head injury as well as hypothermia, Toby."

"The rain was your idea. I did ask if your insurance covers injuries sustained in pursuit of romantic idiocy."

Sam gets the towel off his face and kicks his sodden pants into the corner of the bedroom, almost knocking over Toby's fairly expensive antique lamp in the process. His thighs are stinging from the cold; his whole body is stinging from the cold. And he is still shivering.

"You know," Toby says, walking up, "I think one day I will end up killing you. And then I'll have to take you out to Coney Island, weight your body and throw it into the Atlantic and then deny that I ever knew you at all."

Sam grins, and the exhales sharply as Toby takes the towel out of his hands and begins to rub his chest down with less gentleness and more vigour than Sam feels is necessary.

"You don't already see that as the ending of our relationship? Well, that's actually comforting."

"Shut up, Sam."

"It's possible that I'll be the death of you, you know."

"Oh, I'm already aware of that as a possible eventuality."

"But you still like me."

"On -- " Toby shoves the towel down between Sam's thighs and over his belly, and shoves his head down to Sam's collarbone, which he bites, without any more gentleness, " -- sufferance"

"You're really still wet through, Toby -- " Sam says, with his hands in Toby's hair. "Really kinda still dripping, actually."

Toby stops, looks up. He smiles.

"You smell of the rain," he says, softly. Sam almost can't hear him over the sound of the storm, which has upgraded itself with thunder, lightning and, Sam worries, the imminent collapse of the Brooklyn Bridge. "I like that."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yes."

"How much would you say you liked it? If you had to give a figure."

"Sam -- "

"Just an estimate, Toby," Sam says, with his palms up in surrender. "Just a guess. Absolutely not to be used for any kind of bargaining or blackmailing purpose in the future."

"Get in the bed."

"Toby -- "

"Get in the bed."

*

When they wake up the rain has cleared. New York's gutters glisten. Toby's hair is still damp; it still smells of the storm. Sam lies with his head on Toby's chest, looking out the window, up at the sky. Weighted and weightless.