Almighty, you gave us an assortment:
A head and a pair of hands to exist.
Why couldn’t you make it so, without torment,
We could kiss, kiss, and kiss?!
Binkley and his bag of stuff and a copy of Leaves Of Grass came thumping into Milo’s room through the window around three thirty AM. Major Major and the widow are asleep with their hearing aids out, so nobody hears Binkley’s boot clad feet hit the floor except Milo, up reading with a flashlight.
“Were rain boots really necessary?” he asks.
“It’s wet outside!” Binkley starts his usual round of kvetching, wailing, and appealing to Jesus against hypothermia. With his arms dangling awkwardly in his raincoat Milo is reminded of a penguin- a big, blond Opus.
Psychoanalysis would probably determine that Binkley complained so much about the rain to avoid the big purple elephant of him having skipped out of his father’s house after the old man had up and left, forgetting his teenage son in favor of Missouri or something,
“Mikey.” Milo says. “Stop dripping water on my copy of Newsweek and get in bed.”
“Bed?” Binkley replies, and Milo realizes that was a come-on worse than the seductive eye flutter or the Tallahassee Boot n’ Scoot.
“The bottom level. It’s a trundle, see?” He unrolls the drawer and quickly moves his stash of Physique Monthly hidden atop the mattress.
Binkley is still staring like fish are flopping out of Milo’s mouth. “We aren’t married.” he manages to say.
It is such a left field grand slam that Milo dissolves into laughter, followed by Binkley’s hysterical chattering. He starts by self flagellating, then weeping for the recent breakup of Luanne and John Arbuckle, then a mewling snuffle that should be listed in the DSM as symptom one of a Binkley style nervous breakdown.
But once the breakdown train starts rolling downhill Milo can’t stop the brakes so he leaves Binkley to it and clicks his flashlight on to continue reading In Cold Blood. The prose excites him, the sharp stabs and splashes that shape a character making Milo’s fingers itch to pull out his typewriter and continue his tale of hard boiled detective Riley Montana, Iowan legend.
After a while Milo hears Binkley get up, then feels the bed shift as Binkley crawls up and sticks his chin in the crook of Milo’s neck. The other boy is light enough Milo doesn’t feel crushed. Actually, it’s kinda nice, like a face down spoon.
“I had an anxiety closet dream.” Binkley begins. “Except this time when the closet opened nothing came out. But then the whole closet came out of the wall and sucked me into an alternate world where I had a wife and two kids and was a semi functioning alcoholic who chain smoked and contemplated suicide on the drive home from a job at a paper supply company.”
“Sounds typical.” Milo says.
“Milo, my anxiety was the closet. I’m terrified of being closeted and I’m terrified of being out and I’m terrified of women but I’m also terrified of men-“
“-and you’re also terrified of fish, early morning Prince, a permanent Republican House majority, and Barry Manilow in a speedo.”
“The last one is less terror and more animal monkey lust.”
Milo suppresses a laugh, covering it up as a throat clearing snort. If he turns his head as far as it’ll go he can just barely see Binkley’s watery eyes and icepick nose.
He suddenly realizes he has his childhood squeeze hanging onto him like a koala. Binkley is breathing right into his ear, which would usually feel like a gross invasion of privacy but instead reminds him of being under a dryer fresh blanket.
When did they stop being close like this? He remembers their heads pressed together on the school bus as children, sitting next to each other right in front of the television for MTV marathons, being back to back on this very same bed during the summer of eighth grade when Binkley Sr. ran off to Reno and married a call girl and got a job renting out shoes at a bowling alley before it turned out that she only wanted a green card.
They’d probably stopped touching after all the kids said that’s how you got AIDS and Binkley quit using the water fountains because people said he’d spread the AIDS and then Binkley really did start to think he had AIDS. In response Milo watched the news for any scrap of information he could find. He was tired of listening to Binkley plan his own funeral during Meadow Party meetings, as it cramped on the ozone layer debates.
I want to kiss Michael Thurman Binkley. Milo thinks. It’s the scandal of the season: LOCAL REPORTER MACKS MEADOW PARTY TREASURER DWEEB. Our poll ratings will drop, local voters will be disgusted, and I’ll have to turn in my typewriter to the Bloom Picayune.
“Milo?” Binkley says. “Can you please turn the page? I’ve finished reading this one.”
Milo obligingly flips. “Do you know if your dad is coming back?”
A shrug. “Usually he leaves a note, but this time he didn’t leave a note, and he even cancelled our subscription to People magazine. So it’s looking about as likely as him marrying Brooke Shields.”
“Maybe he just needs a break.”
“From what? And then where does that leave me?”
The question hangs in the air like a coil of smoke. Milo can’t hide Binkley in his room forever- even Major Major would realize something was amiss. But if he tells then word’ll get out and Child Protective Services will finally figure out that Milo Bloom has not been living with that nice aunt and uncle they’d packed him off to but instead with an elderly cat lady widow and a WW2 vet who looks like Henry Fonda. Oh, and they’ll throw Binkley in one of those group homes where he will get gay bashed because they need numbers and official guardians and paperwork.
Major Major had a point about government being a trap.
“I’ll figure it out.” Milo says, and then, “Maybe Oliver will have something, like papers that say you’re emancipated from him or airplane tickets to Argentina.”
“They have celebrities and newspapers and cowboys there. It’ll be like America except everyone speaks Spanish.”
“I don’t speak Spanish, Milo!”
“And we aren’t married?”
Binkley laughs again, but this time it’s because he’s actually amused. His open mouth is right next to Milo’s neck, and if Milo could just flip over and press their lips together some whirlingly crooked part of his heart might be made back into a whole.
Of course he’s kissed Binkley before, kissed him like two stray cats awkwardly bumping noses. But that was all dares and childhood ridiculousness, not the kiss of dime novels or the Doctor Zhivago poster. He needed drama and passion. He got the sickly feeling of doing something illicit.
“You can stay here tonight.” Milo says, and Binkley slides off his back to lay beside him.
“Thanks, Milo.” he says. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”