“Behold Hadrian’s dead old wall!” said Liam. He hopped up onto the ruined stone, then got out his cock. It was semi-turgid from his little liason with Nigel; Nigel who was lying in the bushes on the Scottish side, his hand on his fat, hairy belly. He smoked a Marlboro Red. His prick stood up and proud in the chilly autumn air.
Liam jiggled his knee, a little, and stared up into the open sky. Tension, then release – a golden arc flying over Hadrian’s wall and splattering all over the frosty English soil. A little pagan pillar of steam rose up, coiled around itself, mingled with the fog and got lost.
Nigel took his cigarette out of his mouth. “Fuck the English,” he mumbled.
“Aye,” said Liam, “fuck the English”.
“Fuck you,” said Nigel.
“Aye,” said Liam, “fuck me.”
Nige shook his head, and took another puff of his cigarette. “Later,” he said. He paused, and cocked his head to the side. “I love you,” he said. “Is that weird?”
“Nope,” said Liam. “I’m pretty great. I have a Netflix account and all my own teeth. I barely even did junk that one time.”
Silence fell – heavy, leaden. Wind whistled through the old Roman stones. The proud bulwark between North and South was now low enough for a man to sit on, and have his feet still touch the ground.
“Don’t even joke,” said Nigel. “Don’t you fucking dare, you knob.”
Liam squeezed his bicep – lightly, but it hurt. There would always be scar tissue there. How long had it been since his last time? Not long enough for Nigel, clearly.
“I’m just having a wee bit of fun,” said Liam.
“A wee bit of fun?” said Nigel, “oh aye it was a wee bit of fun for you back then wasn’t it? Because you were high the whole time. You didn’t have to -”
his voice broke. “Fuck,” he said. “Fuck. Look, I’m sorry. It’s been almost a year and I still dream about it sometimes. You don’t know how close you came. You put a needle in, then you woke up in the hospital. Me? Fuck mate, your missing time was a hell of a night.”
Liam pulled up his pants, went to zip them closed. The mood was, to put it lightly, dead. “Do you really love me?” he said. Funny word, love. Noun and verb; state and flux; stone and wind. A snake that eats itself every night, to be reborn in the morning; a coiling pillar of steam, lost in the fog.
“Always” said Nigel. He wasn’t quite crying. His cigarette was a flameless stump, doing a lazy circuit of his mouth. He sat up. Liam hopped off the wall, then went to him and lay down. Nigel’s skin was a minefield of goosepimples.Trust a Scotsman to want to fuck outdoors in the cold. He didn’t pull away when Liam touched him. He smiled, just a little.
“Love’s an act, innit?” said Nigel. “It’s a process. It’s something you do every day, until you stop doing it. I love you – love, verb. You know who told me that?”
Liam shrugged. He had a suspicion, but he didn’t want to give it words – to make it real.
“You did,” said Nigel. “You said it while you were barely conscious, strung out of your mind, strapped down in the back of an ambulance. You were muttering it over and over: love’s a verb love’s a verb. Ain’t that the fuckin’ truth: I pulled the needle out of your arm, I called the ambulance, I hauled your ass out into the street even though I was convinced you were deid. I did love. Did, see?”
Liam saw. He bit his lip. “What can I do, then?”
“You can lay off the jokes for a few more years,” said Nigel.
“Aye,” said Liam, “I can do that.”
They lay together in the bushes, and they loved.