Feeling Human

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How do you put your past behind you? How do you do that? How do you put it all out of your mind and move on? Time heals all wounds they say, but how do you forget? You don’t, he thought, while looking at the black water of the Liffey. He was down, he felt his feelings drowning him as if he were under the very water below his feet. He desperately wished he did not feel like this, to have the strength to put it all behind him and move on, and enjoy the normal life he had built for himself now. The thing that hurt him the most was his shame. He was ashamed, he felt queasy only when he thought at some of the things he had done, it took all his will not to throw up. How could he do that? He had to. Had he now?

It was the only thing he could do then, but how can he live with it now? How can he hide it from her? If she found out he would just die. She must never find out. He would rather kill himself then let it all surface. The black water of the Liffey shining in the cold sun, with the wind shutting out all sound had an hypnotic effect on him, and he was taken back. Back to that moment when it all began. When the darkest time in his life began, and as painful as it was to admit it, he would not have his normal life now without that time.
He was waiting for the bus in Blanchardstown Village, it was raining and he was cold. Actually, he was in the bus stop, but he did not know where to go or what to do. He had been in Ireland for two months. He had had it rough, pretty rough. When he came he was sure this was the place where he will make it, where his life was going to come together. It did not. Not in those two months. He could only afford a few nights in a hostel in the beginning, but then, when he could not find anything to do he chose to save his money for food, so he slept where he found a sheltered spot. As his looks degraded, so did his chances of finding work. Slowly, but surely he began to lose all hope. And now he sat in that bus stop, hurting and hungry. When He came, John was almost asleep on the narrow little bench of the bus stop.
David entered the bus stop to get out of the rain. Work done for today, his feet hurt in the big construction boots he had on. He was so tired, all he wanted was a hot shower and a nice meal. He sighed deeply, if only he had someone to share it with. Lately the loneliness started to get to him. He was in Ireland for over 15 years. He had done well for himself. During the construction boom he managed to save enough money to buy himself a little cottage, and then over the next years he fixed it up and it was now his pride and joy. But other than that, not much. He had buddies, he had had some ladies, but none stayed and now, close to his sixties, his loneliness started to get to him. He loved women, but for some reason, he always did something that drove them away, not sure what. Oh well, whatever. David looked up at the bus stop sign, 20 minutes till his bus came. Enough time to have a smoke. He took out his cigarettes and lighter and light up. John opened his eyes wide when he heard the click of the lighter. He was dying for one. He was afraid to ask though, you never knew who you were dealing with. I don’t have anything to lose, he thought staring at the beautiful cinder of the cigarette.
“Excuse me, could I bother you for one?” and he made that smoking gesture.
David startled, he had not noticed John hidden in the corner. He looked at him with pity. A dirty young man, he felt sorry for him immediately. He usually did not give cigarettes, they are expensive, if you want to smoke go to work. He will make an exception this time, the young man looked so miserable that he will do him that favor. David took out his pack, pulled out a cigarette and gave it to John. John was so happy, he almost felt like crying. He light up and as the smoke invaded him so did a feeling of gratitude for the old man in front of him.
“Thank you so much sir, thank you so much!”
John hid back into his corner and enjoyed his cigarette. If only it were longer. But it wasn’t and soon it had finished. He could still feel the delicious tobacco taste in his mouth. He did not dare to ask for more, he was grateful for the one he got.
David could not help but look at the young man hidden in the corner, he was sorry for him and something inside pushed him to help. He came closer tying to start a conversation.
“My name is David. What is your name?”
John looked up at him with distrusting eyes. He could tell him his name, he owed him at least that.
“Hello, my name is John.”
“Hello John, nice to meet you. Are you ok? You don’t look ok.”
John was not sure what to do, to talk to David, to run, he had learned on the street that is best to keep away from anyone if you want to stay out of trouble, but at the same time, David seemed like a normal man, he had a toolbox with him, he had given him a cigarette and he seemed to be interested in his wellbeing, so why run?
“I am ok, he answered, just a bit hungry and cold.”
And scared, and desperate, and overwhelmed, and penniless. He thought, but something inside made him stop talking. He did not want to scare David away.
David smiled. His heart went out to the young man, and under all that dirt and smell, he could see that John was actual a normal young man, he just had had a patch of bad luck.
“Look, David said. If you want, you can come home with me. Have a bath, have dinner, I have a spare room where you can sleep. What do you think?”
John looked at him with fixed eyes. He had to eat something, and a shower was a dream. He had nothing to lose, he had to take this chance, he had to do something to get out of this situation.
“Ok.” John said, and that was that.
Soon the bus came and they both got on. David behaved like a dad would with his son.
When they got home John was overwhelmed. The house was much nicer than he would have expected and David was so proud to show him around. It was a three bedroom cottage with a big garden and lots of space. John felt like he was in a dream when David showed him to his room.
“This is where you are going to sleep, your bathroom is right there. Get washed, I will do the same and then we can have dinner. I will bring you some clean clothes.”
John was almost in tears. He was so grateful, he was so, so grateful. He got in the hot bath and washed properly for the first time in a very long time. When he put on the clean clothes he felt human again for the first time in a very long time. When he went into the kitchen David had already started dinner. John smiled when he saw what he was wearing, big fluffy jumper and soft pyjama bottoms. He smelt strongly like perfume.
“Your house is fantastic.” John said.
“Thank you, I am happy you like it.” David was staring at him with big round eyes. He could not believe how young he was. He had not realised it before, he had not seen it under all the dirt. John was beautiful, or so David thought. Beautiful, like a very young woman, delicate and frail.
“How was your bath?” He asked still stunned by the looks of the .
“Heaven on earth. I cannot believe how dirty I was, I had to wash twice to really feel I got all the dirt off me.” John laughed.
“Well, you clean up nicely. Wine?”
“Oh, go on!” A state of euphoria was coming over John, the smell of food, the feeling of clean clothes on clean skin, the wine and the cigarettes. “Oh, go on!”
Dinner was great. Meat and potatoes. David did not know when the thought came into his head, when he saw something in John that made him think at something else than just a man and a young man having dinner. John told him all about his troubles and expressed his gratitude for his kindness. He told him how on his twenty first birthday he upped and left home to see the world. David could not shake the thought of John’s clear, fresh skin of his mind. When dinner was done they were both a bit tipsy, David showed John to his room and left. But he could not go to sleep, he was controlled by the image of that clear skin, of those deep blue eyes and an uncontrollable urge took over him. He had to have him and the desire was so much stronger than him. He opened the door slowly and found John naked in the bed.
“I love the feel of sheets on my skin.” He said and that was all that was said.
David discovered something in himself that he never knew existed, a passion for the flesh he never had before. He wanted John, and the more he had, the more he wanted.
When the door opened John was not surprised, he felt actually a feeling of satisfaction that the man had come to him. He did not know what would happen, but he did not fight it, he went with it in spite of the pain and the strangeness.
In the morning David left for work. He was afraid to leave John there, for a moment he thought of locking him into his room, but then the memory of his skin made him feel that he did not deserve that, and decided to take the risk. He left and his entire house was at John’s disposition. When John woke up all he could feel was aching all over. He could not remember exactly what happened last night, he knew they had sex, but the details eluded him. He took a shower and went back to bed. He felt ashamed and he thought he should leave. But where to go? Under the bridge? To start hiding again from the people on the street? To starve and beg again? No, that was a very small price to pay for a nice bed and a secure place. And it was not bad, he actually could remember that at some moment he felt good too. It was a small price to pay. He fell asleep again sure that it was not that bad of a bargain.
David opened the door not knowing to expect. His house empty, all his belongings gone, but the thought of John missing was what hurt him the most. He opened the door to his bedroom and was ecstatic to see he was in the bed, sleeping. He could not wait to go and shower, he dropped all his things on the floor, got out of his clothes and got into the bed. He never thought sex could feel like this, it was like an unquenchable thirst. John opened his eyes and let him have his way with him. David was like a mad man. He wanted John and he could not have enough. Well after midnight he was done and fell into a deep sleep. John got up and went into the bathroom. He could not look at himself in the mirror, he washed and wanted to get back into the bed, but the big smelly man sleeping in the drenched sheets repulsed him. He went and lay on the couch. He did not get to sleep when he heard the shower running. David was up. When he came out of the shower he came like an animal of pray after John and took him back to bed. John went along with it.
The next few weeks were spent in a crazy daze. David was like an addict, he needed John always. John had gotten used to it and was loving the power this gave him. He was the master of the house, he could have everything he wanted. He got new clothes, shoes, even a laptop. They went shopping together and John got to choose what they ate, what they drank, what they watched. John loved the days, David loved the nights. John got so comfortable that one night when he was feeling particularly in control decided to refuse David’s needs, that was the first time he ever saw David angry and not only did he see it, he felt it. David threw him on the bed and was even more violent than usual with his needs. That was the first and last time John ever tried to say no.
Time went by and this was their life. David helped John to go to school and everybody thought they were relatives. John even went out with David and his drinking buddies, they were just two normal men sharing the same house. But once the door of the little cottage was closed behind them they became this strange couple made up of a sex addict and a homeless young man.
John started to have a normal life, he loved school, he made friends and even got a part time job in a café. Strangely enough though, the more he had, the more difficult it was to get out of his life with David. He had everything because David helped him, he could lose everything because David was in his life. Now he dreaded the moments when he came home and David would wait for him naked in his bed. David’s hunger for John had not faded at all, on the contrary, it had become more bizarre. Now he liked to experiment, he liked to dress John up and to try all the strange things he found on the internet. John hated him, he hated him deeply and profoundly and would frequently dream of how to kill him.
The most difficult thing to understand for John was how could David behave so normal outside the house and be such a violent and perverse man inside the house. He hated him and as his life was starting to shape up, all he wanted was to get away. He could run, but he did not want to leave behind his school, his friends, his job. He had to stay.
Of course everything changed when he met her. Women always change everything. She was this stunning red haired beauty, sassy and outspoken. He loved her from the moment he heard her swear at one of the colleagues in school for bumping into her and making her drop the books she was holding. He helped her pick them up and that was that.
David caught wind of it and somehow invited her to dinner. During dinner he was as charming as ever, he was overly nice and apologetic for his food and lack of talent. Una did not mind, she was not pretentious, she loved being invited in their house, and David’s approval was important for her. John felt like he was dying a bit every time David touched his hand or stroked his hair. He was relieved when Una finally left. David had him that night with a hunger that seemed even greater than before. He had his way all night and finally when he was done at 6 in the morning, he got out of bed and before closing the door behind him he looked at John looking at him.
“You should leave now. Please try to be gone by the time I get home.”
John was stunned, he did not react, he did not say anything. He waited until the cottage door closed behind David and got out of bed. He showered and started making calls. Shortly he had found a room in the same house with one of his school mates. It was a box room, so it was cheap and he could afford it. His school was already paid for by David … David. He had to leave before he came back. He only took his essentials and left. Once outside he took a deep breath, he felt like a human for the first time in a very long time.
He did not talk to David ever since, he thought he had seen him once or twice outside his school and job, but never clear. John moved on and now he had a normal life with his wife Una and their lovely baby girl Joana. And now it all came back with that dreaded letter. David had died and had left his cottage to John. Una saw the letter before he did, she was ecstatic. Their own house. That was unbelievable. And exactly when they needed it the most. The baby meant they needed more money and more space, the cottage was plenty of space and saving the rent money meant they had the extra cash they needed. This was such a game changer! Una was over the moon. John was numb. He loved her and he understood perfectly what this meant for them, but at the same time, to live there again, with his wife, with his family, in the house where he was that man, that man that he so hates now, how can he do that, how can he put it all behind and build a life there?
It is almost dark and the Liffey is now shining in the light of the street lamps. He feels cold and alone, nobody can ever know, his soul hurts, he wants to cry, but he does not want to draw attention. How can you put your past behind? The sound of wheels on the wood makes him look up. In the light of the street Una looks like a fairy, from the pram he hears a faint cry.
He looks at Una.
“Is she ok?”
“She is. Are you?” Her voice is soft and caring.
He takes his daughter in his arms and looks at her. Her little hand catches the air. How can you love somebody else so much? In that moment he does not feel anything else but love. He is overwhelmed by love for that tiny being in his arms. That is how you can forget, he thought, and for the very first time in a long time he cried and felt like a human again.

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