Chapter 1: Chapter One: Nothin's Real
The night is cold and rainy but most of the time the weather in November is like that, so that is nothing that Justin can’t bear. He knows it all, where to go to find the warmest spot in narrow corners of crowded alleys of Pittsburgh, where to get hot tea and nice meal and where you can melt with grey walls of dull buildings that were forming into deep flume of eternally flowing current of people. It’s not that hard to seem invisible. Everyone is always so caught up in their own world, their own problems that a bundle of clothes sitting on cold ground is nothing that can disturb their realities. Because who would like to take another burden to his already difficult life? It’s easier to pretend that everything is all right. That the look of pity is enough.
It’s not as if Justin minds. He’s used to it.
Because maybe, if someone would start to care it will bring the same old feeling of trust and vulnerability that he learned to hate. It was always so easy to fall into some cosy fantasy about living happily ever after, to believe that all it took was just a little bit of tenacity. He just couldn’t pretend any longer that everyone loved him. They accepted him because he made it impossible not to, with his constant pushing, constant smiling and never ending displays of feelings. That is why Brian let him stick around. It was easier.
That is why he left. He had to run away from Brian, not wanting to force him into something that was a pathetic display of fake feelings from the very beginning. He always knew Brian deeper that anyone. And he just knew that he would be an unwanted anchor that would keep the man in one place when all he ever wanted was to drift freely through unbounded space of life.
Now he was free.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two: Glitter and Gold
Sky is almost black now, and Justin thinks it might swallow him. It’s a middle of the night and he can’t sleep. He lays on cold concrete in a raw embrace of brick walls, with damp cardboard under his back. He feels his heart beating, somehow he knows it’s different and not right, irregular and erratic. Maybe there’s something wrong with it – he thinks, and wonders what would happen to him if he died. It’s not the first time he’s thinking about his own death. Life is pointless and all the days are the same for him, blending in rushed, grey trail of ordinality. He doesn’t know what happens to homeless people who die and he’s curious how will they burry him.
Justin can’t really think about his funeral because he thinks about his mother then, he keeps wondering if anyone would tell her that he died. She would be sad, he knows it, but it wouldn’t really change anything anymore. He is already dead for her. He also thinks about Brian, only he knows deep down that he wouldn’t came to his funeral anyway. For Brian he’s just a passing sentiment.
He doesn’t feel well. He’s not eating and when he finds something edible he usually just throws it up and maybe that’s why he’s waiting for something to happen to him. He expects death just as much as he waits for a sun to rise again over brick buildings. His death seems to be almost at his fingertips, and he wonders if he stretched his hand towards the moon would he still be here? Days seem to pass faster since his so lightheaded and he doesn’t know what happens to him when he’s not sleeping.
He doesn’t really have any energy to stand up when the morning comes. He watches as the sky is losing it’s blackness, as it waters down to become light grey with a soft hints of blueness of new day and he keeps this memory as something precious in his mind. He always loved the freshness of mornings. Looking at sky feels like painting with watercolours, with pastel taints blending softly into watery painting.
He lays through the whole day, on his side, staring blankly at peoples calves, at their shoes tapping, tapping and tapping on concrete. He closes his eyes. At the moments like this, he’s not even sure if he still exists. Justin stretches his hand before his eyes and staring at his palm he wonders if his body is even real. Bringing his hand to his face, he traces it over his nose, lips and cheeks, feeling his own skin that feels like paper under his fingertips. He thinks he remembers his face but when he tries to see himself in his head he fails, because someone who lost everything can’t look like he used to.
He feels all his bones as he’s laying on the ground. Comfort is long forgotten in his world. But while his body seems to become dry and hollow his stomach is something else. It grows and it scares him so much that most of the time he pretends he doesn’t see it, because the thought of some kind of tumour fills him with dead. It’s unusually big but then he remembers that severe malnourishment might cause belly swelling. It only makes him think of death more but he doesn’t feel real enough to die. He’s just a passing light.
He feels cold. Justin’s body is shivering, uncontrolled convulsions running through his body. He’s immersed in pain and it feels as relief because maybe he’s not dead yet. He doesn’t know why, but he fears death. He’s so lonely laying behind dustbin, so forgotten that he wants to cry. Justin doesn’t remember his voice anymore, it’s such a long forgotten memory now that he never talks to anyone. He can’t even speak to himself because his throat feels sore and he doesn’t really know what he could say.
Pain is the only insurance of his existence so he sinks nails into the skin on his forearms.
He wants to remember he’s still alive.
When he falls asleep, he dreams about falling. His dreams are tiring because he’s going down between the stars into endless void, and everything is dark, lonely and cold. In his dreams he tries to scream but sound doesn’t exist in emptiness. He can’t hold onto anything, everything passes through him while he’s falling and falling deeper into nothingness.
He knows his dreams are reflection of his days.
Sometimes he dreams about Brian but he knows it’s stupid. It’s easier to miss Brian when he remembers that he’s doing it all for him. Justin left just to make Brian happier, because he knew that Brian was forced to care about him. He just hopes that Brian is as happy as he himself used to be.
Nights at Babylon are always intense and filled with overwhelming amount of pure need. Everyone seems to be immersed in the sweetest delusion, permeating to their core with beguiling pheromones that hung in heavy air. For Justin it’s mesmerizing. Tangled bodies are blending into one being that pulse in step to rhythmic beating of loud music, and he can only think that it looks as if someone infused life to all sculptures of Buonarroti. It’s all beautiful, all the glitter that falls from celling, every golden sparkle that softly settles on glistering bodies and Justin can’t believe how something so primarily instinctive can be paradisiacal.
He can’t resist temptation to take offered drinks that taste like Grecian nectar, purloined from Zeus’ goblet. The world is spinning around him, creating delightful feeling of weightlessness and he just closes his eyes to immerse himself in oblivion. Justin suddenly realizes that somehow he was brought into crowd. It’s hard to breath when he is pressed between muscular bodies covered in fresh sweat but the feeling of being the part of that ravishing entanglement is paradoxically liberating. He is embraced by countless muscular limbs that seduce him deeper into state of befuddlement. That is all he needed because no one here cares. Everyone who comes here is lost in some way and comes here to drown out unwanted thoughts. It’s easy to sink guilt in colourful drinks, to dance with your problems until they evaporate with sweat, to flirt with every day rejection and smother abandoned hopes in-between entangled limbs. Babylon is perfect refugee because it is the closest synonym to freedom. For Justin it’s nothing like home. Here he can be himself. There is no judgemental breath on the back of his neck, no hateful stares and hurting words that always try to tame his real self.
And Justin loves it.
That’s why he never thinks about the past. He can’t remember how the happiness feels like.
Reality and dreams are so close in his mind that Justin is going insane.
One second he’s so sure he feels warm hands on his face and hot breath near his ear only to discover that he’s lying in compete darkness, utterly alone. Fever makes him delusional. There’s cold sweat all over his body, his skin is overly sensitive and every touch brings him pain.
Sometimes some light breaks through this dense fog that’s swimming around his brain and for a second he can feel save.
He always thought that he had run away to save Brian.
But now, when he thinks about it, he starts to believe that he’d done it to save himself.
Loving Brian was as easy as breathing. It was the only thing in his life that he was sure about, that was right. He couldn’t bear a thought of being rejected by this man. Brian was so bright and he was the only star in solar system of Justin’s heart. He had this kind of charm that pulled him like the gravity and Justin felt as if without Brian he would fall. This feeling was strong and addictive and Justin knew that he could do anything to be loved by Brian. He was burning in Brian’s light, at some point he forgot not to fly too close to the sun, because he might burn his wings and fall into the sea. He understands what does it mean to have happiness written in stars when the whole sense of your existence is the brightest star of all.
When he thinks about it now, he knows that nothing changed. Without Brian everything is dark and cold. He just hopes that he didn’t cross a point of no return.
He doesn’t have strength for anything and Justin never felt this weak in his entire life. He doesn’t want to stay in this one place but standing up is too much for him. As he lays on his side he thinks that it doesn’t even matter what happens to him. It’s all pointless. He doesn’t want to move.
He lets himself to be carried away by his fantasies, thinking about someone finding and saving him. Justin feels lonely because he knows that he’s completely alone in the whole word. He’s dreaming about falling into familiar arms and melting with tabaco and vanilla of Brian’s Tom Ford perfumes and that everything will be undone but it’s unreal and fills him with a deep feeling of shame and regret. He can’t image his return to normal life because nothing is normal for him anymore. He can image all the disappointment and questions that would be washed over him if anyone ever found him. He knows he’s gone too far, it’s a black hole of life – Justin’s too close to the core of grieve to ever return. There was never going back.
He feels pathetic, really, when he thinks that all he ever wanted was to be loved.
Justin felt as if his heart was a moon, rotating around Brian and shining with stolen light. Without him he was nothing.
More frequent or longer chapters?
Justin doesn’t remember how long he’s homeless. It might be a few days or a few months but it feels like eternity. He doesn’t have time perception anymore, it seems to be such an abstract feeling… The only thing he knows is when the sky changes colour, as the night’s ink is spilled on anaemic sky, slowly sinking into reminiscence of the day. Minutes pass in silence and they blend into hours but it doesn’t matter because nothing happens while he slowly drifts through the days. He breathes shallowly, suffocating with his reality as resignation and apathy grow into his lungs deeper and deeper like roots, pinning him into ground and not letting to stand.
Perspective changes conceptions.
It’s almost Christmas time and the streets are busier than normal, with everyone rushing from work to do everything at short notice. People run between shops, with countless bags hanging from their arms filled with presents and groceries. It seems as if nothing was ever sufficient for them and Justin thinks that they will never know that what they already have is enough. It’s always about getting more and more, looking for better things to astonish everyone, to show co-workers and family who’s better at giving. It’s Christmas, it means that everyone is trying to be the best version of themselves, to be a better person than every day and what’s a better way of showing it, than spending hard earned money on loved ones?
It’s different for him, too. Now, more pairs of eyes linger on him, passers-by notice his existence in the worship of their own altruism. He’s glad, because it makes his life easier. Justin isn’t in a place to be cynical and judgemental. He doesn’t care that with quickly approaching end of Christmas it will all end, because everyone will already prove themselves that they are good and caring.
At the beginning, he was always feeling terrible after receiving anything from strangers. It showed him how weak he was and how pathetic, not being able to provide for himself. It showed him his place, being only worthy of other people’s waste – made him feel that he was just like those things, nothing more than social trash.
But the burning feeling of embarrassment is long time gone now. When he wakes up, there’s a paper bag laying near his pit, smelling like cinnamon and raisins. Someone must have left it recently, because it’s still a little bit warm against his icy hands. The only thing he feels is the hunger that consumes him from inside. He feels like a wild animal, throwing himself at fresh pastry, not even looking around to see his benefactor. Food disappears in seconds, as Justin swallows big bites without chewing, trying to swallow it dry. There’s almost no salvia in his mouth, and he sits with uncomfortable lump in his throat. His stomach rumbles, not being used to receiving food anymore. His insides twist an move, and he squeezes his forearms forcefully to his belly, trying to calm it down.
Justin looks down, noticing that whatever grows inside of him is even bigger now. He can see the faint outline that it creates through thin, grey blanket that he stole from the night shelter. It makes him nauseous.
He’s laying on the ground with eyes shut tightly from blinding light that reflect on snow. He doesn’t sleep but that’s his life now. It’s freezing today, and snow sank through his clothes, making them dump. Some of the water from melted snow froze on his blanket, making it rigid and rough. His hands are vividly red, even through he hid them under his thin jacket. Even if he wanted he wouldn’t be able to move, too stiff to use any of his limbs. He’s worried because he almost can’t feel his toes. Is it how it will all end?
Justin is brought back from his lethargy by unexpected ache in his leg and then suddenly something burning is spilled on him. Someone is cursing above him and in a second he’s pinned to ground by heavy body.
“…fucking unbelievable! A damn trash laying on the ground!” A rough voice sounds like thundr above his head and he feels a pressure on his arm as someone uses it to stand up. He hisses in pain and curls into himself more. There’s hot coffee spilled on his torso, a painful and burning contrast to his freezing body. “Do you see what you have done, you stupid shit? People like you should be closed like animals in cages!”
Shouting of the man who tripped over him makes a few people turn their heads towards row but no one steps in. The man, with a few more curses spilling from his lips, kicks his side forcefully and leaves, muttering something angrily under his nose. Justin feels as the skin on his chest burns, sticky clothes making it all worse. A faint whimper leaves his mouth.
He’s very tired all of a sudden. He’s tired of pain, hunger, loneliness and humiliation.
Being homeless was his choice – it was supposed to make him feel control over his life again. For once he just wanted to make his own decisions and to feel free. His life was never really his, always laying in the mercy of someone else’s power. When he was younger, it was always his father who controlled everything – all of his time was carefully managed by someone who dictated what was right and wrong. What side to stand on.
And when Brian came to his life – he finally showed him what freedom was. He thought that the world of Liberty Avenue was going to be a place where he could create his own reality, instead of living a lie. Of course, it didn’t last forever and soon he realised that he was a true prisoner of his own feelings. That was why he wanted to run away, to finally feel like himself instead of being only a mirror of other people’s desires.
But he never felt as helpless as he feels now.
I’m truly sorry for such long time without posting. Sometimes life consumes all of my time and willpower to write. Hopefully I will be back soon with something new for all of you, lovely souls! I will be returning after my exams, probably at the beginning of July <3