first Eddie story!!
quickest set bc i'm too keen to PUBLISH
@ahlexandra KILL ME
SLEEPING SICKNESS - CITY AND COLOUR
^ quoted before each date
If there are spelling mistakes or whatever I'm sorry - I typed most this while shaking bc I'm just too damn excited lmao
ALSO there'll be a lot of words with slashes and full stops in them bc who the H E L L knows which word violated the guidelines these days lmao
“Someone come and, someone come and save my life.”
28 December 2016
The sun seems to glow differently in Paris, that’s what I concluded this year. My whole life I have travelled to Paris for Christmas with my family and tried to take something back with me that wasn’t just a headache and further deepened scars of a far too patriarchal family.
The balcony doors of my room in the apartment were open and the slight breeze kept the barely-there curtains floating. It was dusk and it was beautiful. I’d been drawing most of the afternoon, my sketchbook growing with architectural sketches instead of my usual portraits of people long forgotten and barely known.
That’s what the city does to you: it changes you. Every city has a lesson in it.
“Ed, have you eaten today?” I heard Olivia from across the room. I stayed staring out over the rooftops of Paris, the copper roofs glowing with the setting sun, suddenly making me crave something covered in caramel.
“Have you got anything with caramel?”
I smirked, looking down at my book once more, jotting down in capital letters - “get more caramel infused food” right over a poor rendition of the Eiffel Tower. Who knew a triangle could be so complex?
“Well, I’m going to get something. Mum and dad aren’t here, and I’ve not idea where Gideon’s gone - “
“Hopefully somewhere that’ll take the giant rod out of his a.ss.”
Olivia burst out laughing. “If he finds it, I hope he keeps their number as reference.” We laughed to hide the silence that revealed too much of our sibling dynamic before our faces fell back into comfortable blank expressions.
“Bring me back something, will you? You know I’m not picky.” I squeezed a few Euro’s from my pocket, holding it over my shoulder. She took it. “Sure.”
When I heard the front door close and watched her walk onto the street below, I swapped my pen for a j/oint, pulling it from my side drawer. It wasn’t that she didn’t know I smoked, it was just more relaxing when she wasn’t around when I did. The full extent of my relaxation could kick in now.
The house completely empty, Christmas finally officially over, it was time for two weeks of solitude in the Home Country. Paris: the underlying matriarch of this family. We were a close family, and we recognised this by not spending every waking moment together - especially when on holiday.
“We are private. Don’t over share and don’t give more than you receive.” My dad had said our whole lives, the mantra we’d be given to follow. How exactly to follow it, I had assumed was up to us.
I over shared, I gave too much, I received too little. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a Dumont. But I was making sure the name was sticking to me more than the gum in my hair had in the third grade.
My phone made a noise over on my bed, I flicked my eyes over to it, blowing out a breath of smoke. I carried the j/oint with me, running my other hand through my hair. It was getting long, but I was told it was nice to hold onto.
It was a text from someone I’d not spoken to in weeks, months even. At least, I was hoping time had passed that fast already.
Mike: I know you’re thinking of me.
Well, I certainly was /now/.
I threw my phone back onto my bed. That b/astard.
My stomach was squirming, my skin felt hot and I was itching to leave so suddenly. I didn’t want him to be infiltrating my mind again, not again. I was panicking, I recognised it immediately and though that should have calmed me even just a little bit, it worked me up further.
I grabbed my key to the apartment and pulled on my battered brown leather shoes, practically stomping down the stairs.
I ended the night in the most typical Mont Marte apartment you could think of, sans can-can dancers. It had been a random house party and my barely passable French (that my father berated at every chance he could) had made me a bit of a laugh, but I still managed to bed someone who was most likely a French runway model by the lack of body-fat and his still perfectly styled hair after we’d f.ucked.
“Vous êtes cheveux est belle à tirer,” he whispered, his body warm and glistening with sweat as it pressed against mine.
“Mmm,” I was too far gone to say I didn’t know what the hell he just said.
“Your hair … it is lovely to … /pull/,” he translated for me, pulling it to emphasise his point.
“ … Again.”
“Hmm?” He trailed kisses in circles on my shoulder. I definitely wasn’t thinking about someone else.
“Pull my hair again.”
And he didn’t stop til morning.
“Maybe I’ll sleep when I am dead but now it’s like the night is taking sides.”
24 January 2017
Connor and I were at our old favourite coffee shop - him with his poetry book, me with my sketchbook. He was having his first poetry reading of his new book tonight and I was documenting the hours beforehand in vague sketches and smudges.
“Anxious yet? I mean, /everyone/ is going to be there.” I poked, smirking.
He laughed, shaking his head. “Ed, you’re not gonna put me off.”
“That sure does sound like a challenge Mr Shah. Tread lightly.”
“Aren’t you a little scared?”
I looked up, mid-smudge of his oh so poetic hair in my portrait of him. “Me? And why would /I/ be scared?”
“Oh, y’know … just that /everyone/ is going to be there, and I’ve specifically told you /all/ not to pre-game my reading.”
I was silent. “Shah, I literally have no idea what you’re talking about but it sounds like you’re really learning something at your AA meetings, I’m glad.”
“Eddie … you’re going to be around a few people you haven’t been sober around in a long time. Just be careful.”
My eyebrows furrowed and I felt the pit of my stomach clench slightly, but I pushed it away. I shrugged. “No worries my man, you can count on me to be sober /and/ completely able to socialise,” I laughed. “Dude, what the f.uck, I got this.”
Connor shrugged, looking back down at his book. A small smirk was on his lips and I resented that. I didn’t want to think about what he was most likely musing about myself.
“I’m leaving for Connor’s poetry reading!” I called out from the front door and immediately footsteps started down the main staircase. I sighed.
“Dad … it’s just a poetry reading.”
“Uh-huh, and will Michael be there?” He was oozing with thinly veiled anxiety.
“B.loody hope not.”
We’d not talked about Mike in months and dad wasn’t sure if that was because we had broken up or because we’d decided to be more nonchalant about our escapades. I hadn’t seen it when I was with Mike, but dad’s perspective of him was, of course, completely correct.
“Look, I know we’ve not talked about him in a while and you’re probably dying to know how the abstinence from s/odomy is going,” at this, dad made a face, “but I dropped him. We’re not together anymore and he sure as h/ell won’t be at the poetry reading to ‘tempt me’.”
He nodded, “Alright. Well, good.” I nodded. “Have fun then, Ed. With different boys.”
I looked at him for a few moments: while I had been with Mike, I believed adamantly that my father was a homophobe. In fact, he just hated Mike. I smiled at him, a genuine smile.
He pat me on the shoulder and closed the door behind me, where I stood on the front step for a minute trying to process that encounter. It was unfathomable to my teenage mind that my father was anything but a figure to defy. Yet here he was defying the box I had placed him in.
I texted Con as I walked to the book shop.
Ed: Did you know my father doesnt actually hate me and he just hated Mike?
One minute hadn’t even passed before he replied.
ConArtist: We all hated Mike, you idiot.
Connor was waiting down the alley of the book shop, where we’d agreed to meet each other. He was scribbling inside one of his many notebooks and I chuckled.
“Only now realising you’re a fraud and have no actual poetry to read tonight?”
Connor looked up, smirking. “Actually, just writing your obituary because after this reading, you’ll have passed onto the better world, my friend.”
“You’re an a.ss, but you’re a high achieving a.ss I’ll give you that.”
I pulled out my near empty pack of cigs and quickly lit one, blowing out almost as soon as I breathed in. This was an intimate event, with many bodies squeezed inside the shop that was going to feel infinitely smaller was full. I wasn’t anxious about small spaces, I was anxious about being in small spaces with certain people.
I leaned against the bricks, staring up at the slowly darkening night sky. The purple was rich and plum-like, with stars poking through just enough to make the sky look unreal and composed by a master artist. I wanted to draw it, I wanted to capture it, but I’d stupidly left my sketchbook at home. I could see it sitting on my bed.
“You want a coffee or something, man?”
Connor shook his head, not looking up. I nodded, knowing he didn’t see me do so and walked to the front door of the bookshop.
It was of course a bookshop and a coffee shop because you couldn’t have one without the other - especially not in Brooklyn. There was a ‘ding’ as I opened the door. The warmth that always radiated from within a bookshop hit me in the face and I was thrown back to my early adolescence and the trips Con and I would take after school to shops just like this one.
I ordered an double espresso because caffeine didn’t seem to work on me anymore but I enjoyed the taste anyway. As I was waiting for it, I heard the door ‘ding’ a couple more times. I heard the chatter within the place grow slightly, the bookshop turning further into a cafe in that moment.
Connor turned up by my side, nodding in hello as I was handed my coffee.
“Did you happen to invite everyone in the city or what?” We were facing the room from the back, and it was almost overwhelming. Connor shrugged, “We just happen to know the whole city.”
I left Connor to prepare his stuff and set up the make-shift stage that was a rug and some fairy lights surrounding the trim. The baristas were helping him so I didn’t feel too bad walking towards a corner of the room to settle into before everyone else could choose their seats.
The door hadn’t opened in a while and I assumed that the place was full so when it ‘dinged’ once more, I turned to see who was late.
It was Kam. And Eli and Casper.
I didn’t want my heart to clench like it did but I wasn’t able to control the way my organs reacted to certain people. I watched them as they walked in, scoping out the place as they did so as if to find the perfect place to ignore me from.
But then Kam’s eyes found mine. I was glad I was shrouded in shadows because I felt instantly warm and ill because of it. I smiled, and he did so as well before turning away, laughing far too hard at something Eli said. Casper was completely blank.
‘B/astard’, I thought. He’d been ignoring me ever since he’d come back to the city. Of course it was easier to not think about that night of his mothers funeral when he wasn’t here. Now that he was back though, it only amplified what I was trying to k/ill inside of me.
“Alright everyone! If you could all take your seats now, we wanna get started!” One of the baristas said over the microphone, as another one dimmed the lights. A ‘ooh’ travelled through the crowd, some giggles from the girls.
“We are happy to present Connor Shah with a reading from his newly released poetry collection, ‘It’s You’! Give him a hand!”
The crowd clapped and cheered obnoxiously: Elias was the distinctive voice I could hear above the others, whooping and throwing punches to the air much to Kam’s amusement. I clapped, frowning at them, as I pulled out a paper and some we.ed to prepare and have ready for the end of the night.
Connor sauntered onto the rug, bowing just enough to elicit a laugh from us all. While probably the most ambitious of us all, he was also the most modest so it was a jarring image to have him in control of the crowd. I smiled, I was proud of him.
“Alright, so I’m not going to use this,” he moved the mike stand off the rug. “Just gonna use the depths of my stomach. Poetic right?” The crowd laughed.
“Uh, so this is called, “It’s You”.”
Kam was in the periphery of my sight but I was too aware of his presence to not notice him. The coffee that was almost gone now was desperately wanting the company of a cig, and I was desperate for a distraction. But I couldn’t leave.
“And you, too, made a mess on his pretty face with paint.”
I stared at Connor, focusing on him. ‘Distract me,’ I urged.
“...and you, too messy to showcase your emotions, you went around the Met in a circle…”
I felt my stomach clench once more, my eyes pricking. I hadn’t heard this poem of Con’s. When had he written this? Out of habit, I looked around the room and of f/ucking course I landed on Kam.
“...and I followed you and went back to my lover after to tell him of your pretty pouting face…”
Kam wasn’t looking at Connor. His eyes weren’t meeting mine this time - it had been months since they properly had. I followed them carefully and cautiously, though it was for nothing because I knew I would be hurting myself. Kam was looking at Eli.
“...and I painted your pain with words on a page. I wish I knew before this draft, to warn you…”
But Eli was looking at Cas and both our stares were misplaced. Eli was leaning in so close to Cas that I felt I was intruding on something. He whispered something into Cas’ ear, who blushed, laughing, and I returned my gaze to Connor.
“...high, the taste of him sprinkled on your tongue—your deathly panic, because he tastes sweet.”
My heart was racing. My chest was sore with it’s rapidness and I could feel my eyes glossing over. When the /h.ell/ had Connor written that poem? Why did it hurt me so much to hear it read to the thirty odd people inside the bookshop?
I couldn’t breathe, I looked over at Kam and made it worse - because when you’re hurt, you always need to make things hurt even more. It was Kam who was whispering now, whispering right into Eli’s welcoming ear.
The joint was rolled and I stood quickly as the clapping was starting to die down and I didn’t want Con to see me leave. I managed to get out of there without anyone stopping me and the cool of the night was fresh and welcoming on my cold face dripping with sudden tears.
I was alone: how every night seemed to end when Kam was involved.
“Like the sea, I’m constantly changing from calm to ill / madness fills my heart and soul as if the / great divide could swallow me whole, oh how I’m breaking down.”
Flashback to the party the night of Kam’s mother’s funeral
It was the most somber party I had ever attended and yet of course it was: mere hours after the funeral of Kam’s mother, he had us all packed into his place, drinking for our shared sorrow.
He was broken into shards of himself, I knew this was going to change him. It had already changed him. He was stood against the wall near one of the tables covered in miscellaneous drinks, staring off into space when I saw him. The dark circles were deep pools of purple and his lips were glistening with the drips of whatever drink he hadn’t stopped pouring into himself since the funeral ended.
I was almost as far gone as he was, so as I walked over to him I felt like I was floating: floating towards the setting sun that still drew me in.
“How’re you rollin’ my friend?” He blinked hard, stuck in a trance.
I pat my pockets. “All out.” He nodded, looking ahead, taking another long drink, licking his lips after. I was slipping into a trance as I watched.
“Have you seen Eli?” He knocked me out of my stare.
I shook my head, drinking from my own beer.
“Seems about right.”
Someone passed around shots to the sullen group of incredibly drunk teenagers that we were, and Kam and I knocked ours together messily, drinking them fast before grabbing another each and practically sipping. He was sipping to feel it, and I was sipping because I couldn’t taste it anymore.
“Will you help me to the bathroom?” Kam mumbled more against my shoulder than my ear, and I felt warm all over. I nodded, “Of course.”
He threw his arm around me, though it was clear he could manage perfectly fine by himself. We walked with arms around each other until Kam opened a door that I knew was his to bedroom. I went to say something but he shut the door and pressed his finger against my lips, “Don’t.”
“K-Kam,” he smashed his cold lips against mine and I couldn’t ignore the pit in my stomach that growled for him. I pushed him against the door, feeling his hair through my fingers and pulled hard, eliciting a moan I wanted to hear again and again.
It was messy and the heat grew too fast for us to keep up with. I was whispering things against his chest and he was responding, I could feel it, and I pulled the rest of his shirt off, a button flying off in my impatience.
He kissed me hard and fast, like he was losing time and had to do it before something else could happen. I welcomed the roughness that matched the neediness gnawing at my being for so long. For so long …
“Mhm …” I was wrapped up completely in his presence, in his smell, the cologne mixing with the alcohol on his breath. I couldn’t think straight but I knew I wanted him. He finally wanted me. He finally wanted me back.
“E-Eddie, stop,” he was laying flat with myself straddling his waist, kissing down his stomach, my hands toying with the edge of his pants. I sat up unwillingly, my face flushed.
“What is it?”
He didn’t say anything at first. I could tell the mood had changed though, and slipped off him, sitting on my legs next to him.
“Eddie, I can’t do this …” He trailed off, and I felt red with embarrassment. I felt like my throat had closed up.
“What … what do you mean?” I having an out of body experience: I was still kissing him, he was still pressing his body to mine. This wasn’t happening.
“You know what I mean.”
My eyes felt too dry. As did my mouth. I looked anywhere in the room but at him.
I felt him sit up, and find his shirt, buttoning it back up. He got up quickly after that, rushing to his ensuite, door slamming. I rubbed my hands over my face, trying to gather my thoughts.
He was throwing up in the bathroom, I could hear him. He hadn’t seemed drunk enough for that but he always was the better one at controlling his outward appearance. I felt like I could have thrown up then too but for completely different reasons.
Did he even know it was me he almost let f/uck him?
He came out of the bathroom looking yellow, the circles far more pronounced now.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered. I could only stare. What could I say? He had put his mother in the ground that afternoon and had clearly drunk triple what anyone else had tonight.
“I’m really tired,” he said, I nodded. He pointed to the bed that I hadn’t moved from. “I’d really appreciate it if you stayed.”
That was hardly a good idea and I wanted to scream out at the thought of it. But … I didn’t want to leave. I couldn’t. So I nodded, “Okay.”
We held each other softly, breathing and dreaming in unison. When his breathing became slower than mine, I knew he was in a deep sleep, and I finally let myself cry.
He was gone when I woke the next morning.
“Could it be, this misery will suffice.”
Back to Con’s poetry night
24 January 2017
I had finished the joint and it hadn’t helped. I lit a cig and jumped up and down, shaking out memories and moments that didn’t mean anything. Not anymore.
I wiped away the few remaining tears that didn’t want to stop falling and I breathed deeply, in and out, in and out. The city was cold and was especially empty in the alley way. That is, until Connor came around the corner from the front of the shop.
“Hell no, man, I don’t wanna see you right now,” I turned away, shaking my head, my chest rising again.
“There you are, dude, stop.” He was walking towards me and I was trying to walk around him to walk home.
I shook my head, “Con, that was a great reading, really, congrats, but could you get your inspiration somewhere else? I mean /f.uck/!” I took a drag from the cig.
“Can we talk? Please?”
I stopped walking, throwing the cigarette to the ground, standing on it. “I’m not sure if you’re able to do that. Seems you have to write about things instead.”
I looked at him and saw my best friend of what seems like my whole life. His eyes were pleading, and mine were red rimmed and tired. Months of nothing to suddenly be given too much, I wasn’t able to separate everything in my mind fast enough to keep up with reality.
My shoulders slumped and I rubbed my eyes with my fingers. Connor was in front of me, hands on my shoulders as I let out a small cry. “Will you let me speak?” he said calmly.
I eventually nodded as he pulled me in for a long hug.
Cities always teach you something. Paris changes you. But New York reveals things you thought were secret.