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A Calming Touch

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John sucks in a sharp gasp of air as he grips the counter below the dressing room mirror.

He catches a glimpse of the beads of sweat forming on his forehead, and feels queasy. He hasn’t eaten all day and his stomach grumbles, but he knows if he tries to take a bite of something he might vomit.

I can’t go out like this, he tells himself, barely breathing, on the verge of fainting.

You shouldn’t fucking be anxious, you’ve done this so many times before, he tries to assure himself.

But it’s new material and it fucking sucks…you don’t have time to rewrite it. You’re just gonna go out there and embarrass yourself, you loser.

That self-hating voice is always louder.

He shakes as he fumbles through his bag to reach for a Klonopin, but he decides against it. He’s taken a few too many lately, and the more frequently he takes them the more he thinks about reaching for a drink.

You might as well just go get drunk right now, the voice tells him again. You’re funnier when you blackout anyway…remember those days? Fuck being sober…

The dressing room door creaks open behind him.

“John?” a voice emerges as a handsome, dark-haired, blue-eyed man enters.

John’s vision is blurring as he struggles for oxygen, but the sight of Bill helps him get a little more air.

“Jesus, John, you look like shit,” Bill says, scanning John’s pale face and quivering body.
Bill approaches the younger man and reaches around John’s slim waist beneath his suit jacket and places a hand on the small of his back.

John feels the warmth of Bill’s hand through the thin fabric of his dress shirt and takes a full, deep breath.

“You’re okay, John, it’s gonna be okay.”

John removes his jacket and Bill wraps his other hand around John’s ribcage and holds his body tightly. John lowers his head to settle between Bill’s shoulder and neck, and Bill drinks in the scent of his musky cologne.

Bill feels John’s racing heartbeat slowly begin to drop as he presses his own chest against him.

“You’re perfect,” Bill says. “You’re gonna be great.”