“It didn’t occur to me to want more from that moment”
Charles Tex Smutney and Charles Buddy Stanley, 1941 ©George Platt-Lynes
As we walked away, laughing again, K. hung his arm around my neck. It was a casual gesture but one I wasn’t used to, and I was almost frightened by the happiness that overtook me, that filled me up and charged me and at the same time carried a threat; it was too unrestrained, there was nothing to keep it in check. I felt solid again as I walked with him, more certain of myself than I had been for years, with his arm around my neck and my own slung at his waist. We knocked against each other but what did it matter, there was no one to see us, we moved with an awkward freedom but a freedom nonetheless.
We lay beside each other, as always endlessly talking, and then K. complained about his back again, asking if I would rub it for him. […] I worked his neck and down the column of his spine, the muscles bunched on either side, and maybe for the first time in our friendship our constant chatter had ceased. I had never touched anyone in that way before, I wanted to keep touching him, and I was dismayed when K. shifted his weight, I thought he had had enough and was getting up. But instead he began to lean back, so slowly that I was confused at first and resisted him, pressing my hands more firmly against his back; it was only when he insisted that I understood and allowed him to lean into me, as he pressed farther leaning back in turn, so that we fell slowly backward until we were lying on the bed again, I on the bed and K. on me. I hadn’t taken my hands out from under his shirt, I had reached around him as he lay back, and now I held him in an embrace that if he didn’t return he didn’t reject, either, he received it, he let his head fall back against my chest and we lay like that for a while. Then he shifted again, or maybe I did, and we were lying beside each other. […] For a long time we lay without moving, and as we half slept I was conscious of touching him, of his stomach where my fingers curled beneath his shirt. In the center of his abdomen there was a line where the sheets of muscle met, a rivulet or ridge that I traced with the pads of my fingers; it was covered very lightly with hair, impossibly soft and fine, like the skin of certain fruit. […] I couldn’t imagine anything more perfect, he was entirely beautiful. It didn’t occur to me to want more from that moment, to test it and see how far it might be stretched; it didn’t occur to me to touch him in some way other than I touched him, or at least I don’t remember it now.
Garth Greenwell - What Belongs to You. Part II. A grave (Farrar, Straus and Giroux-2016)