Something happened. When Till calls me at noon, he’s already far away. I need you. He doesn’t say that when he’s still there. His deep voice is frayed at the seams. Please, Herr. The address too, without hesitation or doubt. And there is a wail somewhere in his words.
My breath hitches and my stomach tightens with worry immediately. My first impulse is to assure him that he’ll be fine. Promise that I’ll help him whatever happened. Tell him that I’ll be there for him. But that’s not what he asks of me, not what he wants, not what he needs. I know that.
The intersection. That’s what he wants from me. The intersection where I am allowed to love him and take care of him, because I also hate and despise him at the same time. It’s unhealthy. Pathological of both of us. Problem is I can’t deny him that, because I want him, want to help him and I believe him when he says he needs me now. I know he does. He needs me to make him. Because he can’t make himself. Make him deal with what happened. Make him confess. Make him tell his truths. The truths lurking and hiding in the dark corners of his private garden. He can’t find them, can’t identify them by himself. But without identification, there is no dealing with them, no changing them into something bearable. And as long as the truths aren’t bearable, he can’t come back.
I let my stomach tighten further. I trace the feeling for a moment. I focus on the fact that Till is responsible for it. My racing heart, my uneven breath, the tense muscles in my shoulders, my gritted teeth. I worry about him all the time, but he only calls me when it’s already too late and stresses me out. His fault! The feeling of concern slowly turns to stone. Stone with jagged, razor-sharp edges. You’re always so needy, foxglove. So damn needy. But okay, I‘ll come over. Have you eaten today?
A moment of hesitation. He probably doesn’t know. I... he rasps. I’m not sure, Herr.
I sigh. Are you on something, foxglove? What is it? When did you take it?
Yes, is the immediate answer. The usual, Herr. Five minutes ago.
I groan. It’s astonishing really. You have no problems whatsoever getting drugs and fucking yourself over with them. Yet at the same time, you can’t take care of even the simplest shit. And then I have to do it in the end. I grab my leather jacket and the keys. Now pay close attention. Think you can do that?
Yes, Herr, he whispers.
Dandy, I snark. You will kneel at your front door and wait for me there. Only reason to leave that position is if you have to go to the toilet. And if you need to, you WILL go to the toilet. Is that clear? If I find you kneeling in your own urine or shit at your door, I’m going to leave again immediately. Got it, foxglove?
Yes, Herr, he whispers again.
Good. I hang up and head out.
It’s likely he doesn’t have real food at home, so I drop by a Chinese restaurant on the way and get a portion of Chop Suey.
The cast iron gate separating his house at the Wannsee from the rest of the world is wide open when I arrive. I can tell from the snow that completely covers the ground of the driveway that it has been for a while. Not a good sign. He values his secludedness highly. He depends on it, because his skin is thin and his heart fragile. But he let someone or something in recently. I drive through the gate hurriedly.
I grab the Chop Suey and the keys before I get out of the car and then I go over to the carved, heavy wooden front door. I unlock it and when I push it open, I see him immediately. He is kneeling at the edge of the corridor, his shaven head bowed, eyes lowered on the ground, wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. His hands are on his thighs, but they are not resting, instead his fingertips are rubbing twitchy circles across the fabric. That’s because of the drug he’s on. His broad shoulders are slumped. There is a streak of smudgy red on his brow. His cheeks are wet. He’s miserable. Pity and worry are blooming through the stone. I remind myself: He’s the reason why I feel bad. Not only now, but usually. Because he never allows me close unless he’s like this. He’s foxglove. He’s toxic. I pluck the blooms and throw them away.
Pathetic display. Really. Look at you! No proper clothes. Blood on your forehead. Crying. I take off my jacket and set down the food. Then I wander over to him, lean forward and sniff loudly. And good god, do you reek.
He looks up to me slowly. I’m sorry, Herr, he whispers. His blue-green irises are glassy, his pupils pinpoints in an endless, forlorn sea. They actuate things inside of me. His eyes are dangerous.
I take a swing. His lids drop and he inhales. I give him a hard slap across the face. His head jolts to the side. The slap echoes off the walls and the parquet. His cheek blossoms red immediately. I bend over him and yell, How DARE you look at me without my permission? Slip like that again and I’m gone. I’ll leave you alone with the comedown. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?
He flinches. Yes, Herr, he assures hastily, his eyes firmly fixed on the floor now.
I stare at his cowering form for a moment. I don’t want to leave. So he can’t make a mistake. Don’t fuck this up, foxglove.
I won’t, he promises hoarsely. I swear, Herr.
I take a deep breath and massage my temples with both hands. I have a headache already because of you. And I can’t focus on anything while you stink like a men’s locker room at the end of the day. It’s disgusting! I grab the shoulder of his shirt and pull harshly. Up!
Yes, Herr. He obeys immediately and stands up, eyes cast down. His fingertips are still busy, tapping against his thighs.
I haul him down the corridor by his shirt towards the big bathroom. But when we pass the open door to the living room, I stop – he also stands still – and give the room a cursory glance. In order to make him confess, I need to have an idea what the truth is.
Pieces of paper filled with scrawly, blue writing - it’s his - are spread across the parquet and the sofa. White porcelain shards, some of them tinted red at the edges, are scattered on the black carpet in front of the empty fire place. A butt-crammed ashtray and several empty beer bottles are sitting on the coffee table.
Did you have company earlier, foxglove?
Yesterday, Herr, he says quietly after a moment of silence.
Of course. Not only the regular kind of drug. “The usual” in more than one regard. How I hate it. How I hate him.
Why didn’t you tell me on the phone? I hiss. You know this is important so I can brace myself.
I was afraid you wouldn’t come then, Herr, he answers in a faltering voice. I am sorry.
I would have either way. That’s the problem. Too late now, foxglove. I shove him forward brutally with my elbow between his shoulder blades. Move, I bark at the back of his head. We haven’t even reached the bathroom and I’m already so angry.
He stumbles forward and hunches his shoulders even further like he’s trying to hide between them. He makes two steps down the corridor.
Stone-cold rage grips my heart. Stop, I snarl. What do you think you’re doing, foxglove?
He freezes. A visible shiver runs through his broad body and the tapping of his fingers gets frantic. He doesn’t understand. I... I..., he stammers, his hoarse voice an almost panicked whisper, I don’t know, Herr.
Turn around, I hiss. The moment he does, I slap him in the face again, but harder this time. He closes his eyes and clenches his fingers into the fabric of his pants. While I backhand him, I start to shout, YOU call ME and say you need me and I come here immediately and ALL I get for it is disrespect. First you withhold something that you KNOW is essential, then you presume you have the right to look at me and now you think it’s okay to not even grace me with words. He starts crying. Rough sobs he tries to stifle. I will NOT be ignored by you! If I address you, YOU. I hit him again. WILL. Another slap. He doesn’t draw back. ANSWER. With the last slap, his nose starts to bleed. I don’t care right now.
Yes, Herr! Please..., he sobs. His head is bowed deep between his shoulders. His cheeks are red. Blood and tears drip off his nose onto the parquet. A spate of hurried, frantic words gushes off his usually so taciturn lips. I’m sorry, Herr! Please, I swear, Herr, I swear I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. I just forgot...
A pained gasp cuts off the words when I bodycheck him into the wall. YOU FORGOT? I hold him against the wall with my lower arm across his chest and wedge my thigh between his legs. He doesn’t fight back. How can you forget the first rule we agreed on? You will answer me in proper sentences! I shout into his face.
Please, Herr, he whimpers. His head twitches. Blood drops onto my arm. I know he wants to look at me. He is so close to fucking it up. I press my thigh harder into his genitals. He groans with pain, but finds words anyways. I didn’t forget the rule, Herr. I swear! I thought I answered. But I forgot to speak. Please believe me, Herr. Please, please... A litany of please, please drowns in quiet sobs.
He is so far out and his explanation is so bizarre that I buy it immediately. Sometimes he gets distracted by the noises in his garden. Especially when he comes down from that specific kind of high. But I’m still fuming. I believe you. But all of this, I press him harder against the wall and grind my thigh against his crotch, he whines, only happened, foxglove, because you let yourself go and can’t stay focused now due to it. Pull yourself together!
He nods assiduously. Bloody tears drip everywhere. His eyes are fixed on the floor again. Yes, Herr, I will, he says hastily. I’m sorry that I’m causing so much trouble. I’m sorry for everything I subject you to. Thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for looking after me, Herr.
I grit my teeth, take hold of his shirt again and yank him forward. I’ll make sure you thank me properly later, foxglove.
He nods again. Yes, Herr.
We make it to his brown marble bathroom without another incident. There, I tell him to strip, to wash his face and to brush his teeth. In the meantime, I put the cold Chop Suey on a plate and place it in the oven on low heat. Then I get the leather blindfold from his bedroom, because I don’t trust him. I also fetch fresh clothes for him.
When I come back, he’s just about to put the toothbrush down. Then he turns around in front of the washstand, gaze lowered, naked. He has paid dearly for letting him into his garden. Vestiges of his dare are covering his muscular, oh so invincible looking body. There are several cuts on his belly and on his thighs, bruises on his knees and shins, a small laceration on the top of his forehead. His fingers are silent at his sides now, but his breathing is shallow and nervous and his broad shoulders are still hunched. He hasn’t come fully down yet.
I stand in front of him, arms akimbo, and take all of this in for a second. The stone is much harder and thicker since I found out who he received. At the moment, I’m mostly annoyed, because he makes everything so complicated. You are so bad at taking care of yourself, foxglove, I sigh. Why did you cut yourself?
For... reference, Herr, he rasps. I needed to know the color and texture of my blood to be able to describe it.
I shake my head impatiently. Do you realize how insane that is, foxglove?
He nods. As soon as you ask me, Herr, I do, he whispers.
That’s one thing he needs me for: Make him identify when his moments are psychotic. But every time I force him to look at himself closely like that, I hear whispering in the willows of my own garden. And the whispers are angry and violent, because helping him demands so much of me and in return I get something, but I will never get what I truly want. So I say, And I’ll have to ask you a million times more, because you never seem to learn, foxglove. You could be avoiding the things that make you lose it, but instead you are just seeking them out every time like a moth flying against the porch light again and again.
He shifts uneasily from one foot to the other. I know he doesn’t want to talk about it. He never does. Yes, Herr, he says anyways, but real devotion is missing. After a short pause he adds quietly, It’s just these things are important to me, Herr.
And like a moth flying against the porch light again and again, I can’t let go. I snort. I know that they are important to you, foxglove. But the question of importance is not relevant here. The question is: Are they GOOD for you? Are they... I interrupt myself when I see him shift again and take a deep, angry breath. I will completely lose my temper if we continue to talk about this topic now, because he’s so pigheaded when it comes to it. He will drive me up the wall in no time and then I won’t care that he hasn’t eaten yet. But later, when he is cleaned and fed, I’ll try to get him to renounce. We won’t be having this talk right now, foxglove, because you still stink and need a washing. I grab him by the shoulders and turn him around. But you don’t have control over yourself today. So I’ll help you. I put the blindfold on him.
He doesn’t resist. Thank you, Herr.
I seize him by the nape of his neck, walk him into the huge glass shower and position him in front of the brown marble wall that is the back of the shower so he is facing forward.
He flinches, but follows the push and pull of my hand blindly without hesitation.
I let go of his neck and step out of the shower to take off my pullover, my sneakers and socks. I don’t think you’ve earned warm water today, I muse aloud while rolling up the legs of my jeans.
Yes, Herr, he rasps. His body stiffens immediately. His abdominal muscles contract and his arms twitch like he thinks about crossing them for a bit of protection and warmth. But he doesn’t. Instead he just hangs his head and hunches his shoulders.
I get back into the shower. Then I take the showerhead and angle it down towards his feet.
The sound of me padding around on the tiles makes him tense up even further, but he stays on the spot.
I wait 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes so the feeling of dreadful anticipation can really build up in him. Then I turn on the cold water.
He gives a yelp and flinches violently. It’s really cold outside and so are the water pipes.
Set your feet shoulder-width apart, foxglove, I order while I slowly let the jet of water travel up his shins.
The cold water is almost too much for him, I can see that. His fists are clenched and he inhales and exhales in short, panting intervals through his mouth. But he obeys my command immediately anyways. He gasps out, Yes, Herr, and sets his feet apart so that is genitals are completely exposed.
I lift the showerhead and direct the jet of water there.
He cries out and presses his fists against his thighs hard to keep himself from recoiling.
I linger there for a moment. I listen to his heavy breathing and the barely audible whines that accompany it. I look at his hunched shoulders and his trembling chin. I watch how the icy water patters against his sensitive dick, how his muscular arms tense against the pain. I indulge in his suffering for a moment. Then I angle the jet of water further up. The intersection. I want him to suffer, but I also want to take care of him.
Arms up, foxglove.
Yes, Herr. His teeth are chattering. He lifts his arms above his head.
I up the tempo so he doesn’t become hypothermic. He cries out two more times while I’m rinsing him. The first time when the water hits his head. Then again when I tell him to turn around and to spread his butt cheeks with his hands so I can direct the water there. But he never makes a move to cover himself up or to wriggle away. Eventually I turn off the water. His shivering is almost violent, I think he couldn’t stop his shoulders from hunching even if he tried, his gooseflesh skin is pale and his lips have a blueish tint.
I take his hand, pull him out of the shower and wrap him in one of the big, warm towels that hang on the heated rack. I rub him down, gently, especially where the cuts are, the chattering of his teeth loud in the quiet bathroom. Bit by bit, the shivering in his limbs decreases. Finally I pull him close against me with one arm, the towel around his shoulders, and bow his head against my collarbone with my other hand so I can inspect the laceration on his forehead.
Since I haven’t allowed him to lean against me or to hug me even, he just stands there, unmoving apart from a sporadic shudder.
The cut is short and narrow, but it’s deep enough that it will turn into a scar. What did you do there, foxglove? And close your eyes.
Yes, Herr. His voice is even raspier and quieter than before. I broke a mug there, Herr.
I sigh while I lift the blindfold with one hand so I can dry his face underneath with a corner of the towel. His eyes are closed. Why, foxglove?
Because I was angry at myself, Herr, he confesses in a whisper.
I hum in understanding, adjust the blindfold back over his eyes and dab it off too. I take my time with it, let him be close to me for a moment, enjoy his body next to mine, the way his brow almost touches the collar of my t-shirt.
He relaxes. His breathing becomes lighter and he lets his shoulders drop. He’s back on the ground now.
I wish there was a healthy way to have this, to have him. A way without a blindfold.
I start talking before the stone forms cracks, Let’s get some food into you, foxglove.
Yes, Herr, he breathes.
I put briefs on him, jeans, socks, a t-shirt and a hoodie. Then I take his wrist and lead him into the kitchen where I have him kneel on the floor next to the head of the kitchen table. The living room would definitely be more comfortable, but it feels occupied, haunted by the presence he let in yesterday. I take the plate of Chop Suey out of the oven, place it on the table and fetch a big glass of water. Then I sit down at the head of the table.
He remains relaxed while he kneels there, shoulders slack, hands resting on his thighs, blindfold over his eyes, waiting. I don’t question the rhythm and tempo of our meetings, don’t try to understand the way pain, tenderness, punishment, pleasure, humiliation and appreciation alternate and I think he doesn’t either. I wonder, every time, if he regrets his inability to do so just as much as I regret mine. Maybe, if we both truly understood what’s happening between us, we could turn it into something whole, something fertile.
Still there would be him though. The ghost in his garden.
I’m getting irritated again instantly. I seize the glass of water, all but shove the rim between his lips and order curtly, Drink, foxglove. Then I tilt the glass.
He flinches and the hunch of his shoulders is back immediately. He tries to swallow fast, I can see his throat working, but the angle of the glass is just too steep. Water runs down his jaw, chin and neck and spills onto his hoodie, but he doesn’t draw away. When he starts coughing wildly though, I put the glass aside.
Yes, Herr, he gasps out, bent over, between coughs since he hasn’t had the chance to answer my order before.
I pull the plate closer, but give him a moment to calm his breathing and take a second to compose myself. Then I pick up a bit of Chop Suey and some rice with my hand, reach down and hold my palm with the food in front of his face. Eat.
Yes, Herr. We have done this already, so he knows what he’s expected to do. Still he inches his mouth forward slowly since he can’t see where my hand is exactly. When his lips, wet from the water, touch the side of my thumb, he lifts his chin a bit. Then he starts feeding off my hand. He’s careful to not hurt me using only his lips and his tongue. First he plucks small amounts of Chop Suey and rice off the flat of my hand with his lips. When they don’t find something substantial anymore, he uses his tongue to lick the remains off my palm and fingers. We repeat this a few times. It’s a slow process and today, he makes it more sensual that it needs to be. He is so thorough, licking along every line in the palm of my hand, dipping the tip of his tongue between my fingers, taking each of them between his lips, sucking every bit of Chop Suey off of them. I don’t stop him, because this is already build-up. I washed him. I’m feeding him. And when this is finished, I will have taken care of him. And then he will be thanking me. And then I will try to make him confess and renounce. I’m feeling elated and afraid at the same time.
Two more handfuls of Chop Suey, then I deem it enough. I give him another drink of water, a small one this time, then I ask, Do you have somewhere else to be, foxglove?
No, Herr, he responds, his voice so hoarse, but firm.
I take his wrist. On the way to his bedroom, we pass the living room again. I close my eyes for a second. I can feel the ghostly presence. His presence. It lingers in the corners of the room like cigarette smoke. It forces itself into my awareness like the sharp smell of nail polish, demands attention like the shrill feedback of an electric guitar. How can he escape if even I can’t? The presence is so strong it seems futile to even try to make him. The moment I think that, I know I will anyway. Time to shed light into the dark corners so he sees.
His bed is big and sturdy and has a steel headboard that looks like something you would find in either a movie involving a Victorian asylum or a BDSM club. The bedding is all black and several pillows are propped up against the steel. I walk him to the foot of the bed. Then I step back and sit down in the black leather wingback chair opposite of the bed.
Undress, foxglove. I cross my legs and recline. Take your time.
Yes, Herr. He grabs the hem of his hoodie and pulls it slowly over his head. The t-shirt below gets dragged up a bit in the process, revealing a strip of skin scathed by cuts, tensing of strong muscles beneath it.
So, I say calmly. I want to yell, but I have to be subtle. Now we have time to talk about it. So let’s talk. For starters, let’s actually say it. Who was your visitor, foxglove?
His movements falter, his arms stretched above his head, holding the hoodie. Richard, Herr, he admits finally, pulls the sleeves off his arms and lets the hoodie drop onto the floor.
Tell me about his visit, foxglove.
He halts, takes a shaky breath, then he turns his head into my direction and pleads hoarsely with his deep voice, Please don’t make me, Herr. I’m glad the blindfold is still in place so he can’t look at me with the vulnerable expression I know is behind it.
I lean forward, so my voice is closer to him, But I will. I want to hear about it. I want to talk about him.
His broad fingers fumble around mindlessly with the hem of his shirt.
So tell me about it, foxglove. And get on with undressing.
He hesitates for one more second.
NOW! I bawl at him.
He flinches. I’m sorry, Herr. I will, Herr, he sputters and pulls the shirt up over his head. He came over yesterday evening. He opens his jeans. I cooked for him. We ate, we drank beer, we made some music. He left late at night. He shoves the pants down his legs, without regard for the cuts on his thighs.
I lean back. What happened between you and him that pushed you over the edge, foxglove?
He steps out of the legs of the jeans. Music, he rasps slowly. There was that melody, Herr. He played it on the guitar. He said, he kneels down to take off his socks, it came to him when he thought about all the things we’ve experienced together. He takes a deep breath when he sits up. That made me sentimental and sad. He pushes down his briefs and lets them drop onto the floor as well. Now he’s standing at the foot of the bed, just a few feet in front of me, naked apart from the blindfold.
Get on the bed and prop yourself up against the headboard.
Yes, Herr. He feels for the edge of the bed. After he’s found it, he climbs onto the mattress and crawls forward on all fours, one hand in front of him. Then his fingers find the steel and he turns around, sits down and leans against it. He looks like the last soldier of a defeated army that sat down for a moment to calm his breathing, like a sacrifice offered either by a deprived tribe of barbarians or a Renaissance painter.
Why did it make you sad and sentimental? Tell me about it while you work yourself open for me. Do it so that I can see it, foxglove. I keep my voice level.
Yes, Herr. The stone, the blindfold, whatever I do: There’s never only one emotion with him. When I am angry at him, I am also sad. When I am happy to be with him, I am also terrified. So when wild arousal burns through me now at the sight of him bending his bruised knees and spreading them wide, I also feel regret. It’s a faint feeling, nothing substantial that would actually change my behavior right now. But it’s still there, reminding me how pathological all of this is, making me wish - as so often - that he and I could have a normal relationship.
He spits onto the fingers of his right hand and reaches down between his legs. His lower arm presses his soft dick and balls to the side. He doesn’t bother with one, instead he instantly slowly pushes two of his broad fingers - index and middle finger - into his anus. His jaw clenches for a second, then he says, voice quiet, completely detached from what he’s doing, I got sentimental, because the melody was, and then the memories came and made me sad, Herr.
I watch his fingers inching into his body and open the buttons of my jeans. What memories, foxglove? I push my pants down my hips and legs and wrap a hand around my half-erect cock.
He takes a deep breath and inserts both fingers deeper into himself, past the second knuckles, pulls them out again, pushes them back in. Memories of the time Richard and I were young and clueless, when we were only friends. Memories of a simpler time, because I didn’t want what I want now, Herr. He leans the back of his head against the steel and tilts his pelvis forward to have a better angle. He’s not there yet, but he is merciless with his body anyways and adds his ring finger. His face screws up in pain for a moment.
I get up and take off my t-shirt, then I sit down on the edge of the bed, one hand moving up and down my dick. So what is it that you want, foxglove?
He groans, but it’s pained and desperate and not with pleasure. I want..., he pushes all three fingers ruthlessly further into his anus, I can see his hand shaking with the effort, I want him. I want him to love me, Herr. His left hand lying passively on the mattress next to him clenches into a fist now.
The urge to conquer at least his body becomes overwhelming. I push myself over to him, get into a kneeling position and spit into my hand to lube up my cock. So why don’t you just take him, foxglove? My voice is loud now, derisive and scornful, but I don’t think I do a good job at covering up my own desperation.
He pulls his fingers out and forces them back into himself until they’re almost gone. Because he’s affectionate, Herr, he rasps, charming, friendly, encouraging, enthusiastic, loving and beautiful. When I grab his wrist and pull his hand away, he spreads his legs further. And I’m not. I am no match for him, he confesses tonelessly. He takes a deep breath when I push the tip of my cock slowly inside of him. Now he knows what the truth is and he gave it a name too.
I could make the truth bearable for him now. Direct the light somewhere else. Illuminate all the wondrous plants that also grow in his garden. Talk to him about the things he doesn’t know. About his kindness, about his loyalty, about his humor, about the sublime things he creates, about his unyieldingly beautiful eyes. Could just tell him the truth: That Richard would be a lucky man to have him. A part of me wants to do that.
I brace myself with one hand against the wall behind him and press the other against his chest. Then I slide further into his body and capture that hidden place inside of him that the ghost has never been to.
His breath hitches, because I didn’t give him enough time to prepare himself and it hurts, but he doesn’t complain.
I lean forward and bring my mouth to his ear. Hold me, foxglove, I whisper.
Yes, Herr, he breathes and puts his muscular arms around my waist.
But when I love him, I also hate him. And if I can’t make him renounce, I at least want him to suffer, because he makes me love him without loving me the way he loves Richard. But no matter how much I hurt him, no matter how much I degrade him, no matter how deep I push my cock into him, none of the pain I inflict will ever be comparable to the suffering he brings upon himself by loving Richard. So I say nothing.