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a sliver of an afternoon in the summer of '78

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It was easy to imagine, sometimes (and with the right recreational aid): burnt–brown Central Park grass morphing into a vibrant, dew–laden meadow somewhere high up on a mountain; the kind whose bigger siblings had frosty white tips. In the oppressive summer heat, Dizzee breathed cool, fresh air.

He pictured post–card–perfect sceneries. He imagined flying, as an eagle, over a saturated green forest, and plummeting down, down, down for miles upon miles, never crashing. Bird bones unbreakable. Surely this would be way different from travelling in a UFO. Dizzee figured there couldn’t be any shame in expanding his horizons a little – think about a different mode of aviation for a change.

Maybe, if he could fly, he’d lose all fear of falling. All he’d have to do was flap his wings and pull himself back up, then sail on the next gust of wind, let it carry him until he was ready to let go, dive even lower. Lower. Watching the ground come closer, chaotically fast; no line to pull for an emergency cut–away. And yet – the closer he'd get to shattering, the more certain demise would escape him. And just like this, it could (potentially) go on forever. Endlessly.

Had Dizzee not been so engrossed in his imaginary free fall, he might’ve noticed a change; might’ve felt his own form be eclipsed by a long, mirror–maze–distorted shadow. A small exclamation he would’ve known anywhere, in any state; one he regularly heard in his dreams (day or night), one that always found his ear – activated him like flicking on an overhead light, brought him back to New York. The noise of the city came honey–slow, like someone gradually turning up the volume from zero to four, or maybe five, depending – 

Something ice cold touched a sun–warmed cheek, crinkly and wet and unexpected. Dizzee smiled without opening his eyes, but reached to grab the mystery object. A car honked, long and aggressive, somewhere outside this big square of urban Eden. Beside him, clothes were rustling. 

Dizzee knew what kind of clothes they were and who they contained, had watched them walk away just minutes before, somehow casual and resolute at once. Dark denim stippled with colourful patches (freckle–like), a brown and blue patterned blouse, fabric soft and shiny to no end, with the top three buttons undone (heart–attack–adjacent). The offending garment was maybe borrowed from a friend, or discovered at a flea market. Earlier, Dizzee had found it incredibly hard not to slide a hand in the gaping mouth between two shiny buttons, or down the back, or inside the scandalously loose collar. It wasn’t that he didn’t know what he’d find. That wasn’t it, at all. He knew very well.

With that in mind, Dizzee decided that he just had to look – even at the risk of losing his eyesight. It helped a little that Thor was sitting up instead of laying down, shielding his companion from the menacing white marble in the sky. Dizzee still squinted, just out of principle. Thor was already watching him, his expression vulnerably fond. Ever since they’d met, he hadn’t lost that look of abject admiration, of reverent amazement. Dizzee reciprocated in the very same currency. 

He sometimes suspected that, to anyone but each other, they maybe looked a little ridiculous. Starry eyed, all moony. Like everything a galaxy contained poured into moulds of two people who just wanted to stare at one another. 

Thor breathed out a laugh (did you hear that? Can you read my mind? Blink twice if you –), his pretty, pink mouth first exposing, then pursing over his teeth, like he was trying to settle on what to say. It took him a few seconds. Dizzee waited, still soaring in the sky, steering towards silk and what was behind it.

“Want me to open it for you?”

Dizzee looked down; he was clenching an ice cream wrapper that was sweating like crazy in the summer heat. No, he thought, I can manage that.

“What do you think is the difference between flying and levitating?”

Plastic tore, crumpling and creaking in that unpleasant way. Bright orange liquid immediately ran down his fingers, making them sticky. He could relate; he himself was melting a little for the way Thor didn’t even seem fazed at the random inquiry. Instead, he looked thoughtful, his own (cherry flavoured) icicle weeping onto the cuff of his jeans. 

“You mean flying in a plane or like superman?”

Superman,” Dizzee said quickly through a mouthful of slush, equal parts affirmative and appreciative, because he hadn’t thought of that at all. “But… I was thinking… more like a bird.”

Thor hummed, nodding. He took a bite out of his pop and chewed, which made Dizzee cringe.

“I think flying takes effort, right? Levitating is something that just… happens.” Thor’s lips were tinted a few shades darker; he looked like he could’ve been wearing lipstick. 

“Depends on how you levitate,” Dizzee negated, being an expert on the topic by virtue of having thought long and hard about it some weeks ago under the influence of Shao’s very best herb, “like, for example, through psychic powers. That would take effort.”

“Sure.” Thor went with it easily, he always did. His smile widened a little more, a thing that Dizzee just loved to see, because he knew it meant that they had a secret between them. Something that they shared with no one else. Something that tied them together. “I was picturing a UFO.”

They were more or less always picturing UFOs. It was kind of their thing.

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, too, at first.”

A big, fat squirrel ran past them and up a nearby tree, chittering all the way. Dizzee finally decided to sit up, almost dropping the rest of his cold treat in the progress. Russet brown eyes caught on that first done–up button and lingered there, hypnotised. That was fine. His mouth could just run off without the rest of him, as it was wont to do.

“Flying – like a bird – that’s gotta be way liberating, you know? Even if it takes a lot of effort. Even if you’re tired when you land. If you land. You’re way up, and you got all the control, but none at the same time.”

Thor had eyes exactly like sea–glass, and they were pointed at Dizzee in a way which suggested he was making perfect sense. There was a pregnant pause in which neither of them cared to look anywhere else but right at their respective metaphorical suns.

“I still think I prefer the UFO,” Thor confessed, stabbing a licked–clean popsicle stick into the ground between them as a landmark. It sounded like he was disclosing some kind of classified information.

“Yeah, me too.” Dizzee, no longer smelling the above–god–himself–clean air of his made–up mountain, happily settled for the artificial orange taste on his tongue; the smell of burnt grass, exhaust smoke, asphalt cooking in the merciless sunshine. And, above all (when he leaned in close), the smell of sweat and hash and Thor.

Of course they’d never get sick of UFO’s.

That was their thing, after all.