Drew Payne’s Website
Is It in His Eyes
Ian lay back in the bath enjoying the warm, enfolding feeling of the hot water around his body. He always enjoyed the luxury of a long, hot and soapy bath. Most weekdays he only had time to shower. To jump in and jump out again, soaping himself in between. Therefore, Saturday afternoons were his quiet time to himself. He had the house to himself, Lucy always went shopping for several hours, so he would run himself a hot, soapy bath and laze away in it until the water ran cold. It was his weekend luxury. It beat his hurried weekday showers.
Ian slowly ran his hands down his body, gently stroking the hair covering his chest, caressing the paunch that was slowly developing over his stomach and finally coming to rest cupping his genitals. His hands just rested there as he closed his eyes and slowly allowed his body to sink the last few inches under the water until its surface was just below his chin.
He couldn't stop thinking about Joss. Joss' image was always flashing into his mind. Joss' corn yellow hair that reached down to rest lightly on his shoulders, which always moved no matter how slightly his head did. Joss' face, the skin so pale you would think he was anaemic. Joss' long, lean body that could always be wrapped up into the smallest of spaces. Joss' softly spoken voice with its gentle Scottish accent. Joss' warm smile, wide to reveal the beginnings of his small, white teeth, which he always used in greeting. He just could not stop thinking about Joss, beautiful and friendly and bright Joss, who always seemed pleased to see him.
Right from the first time they met, he had enjoyed Joss' company. Conversation was always easy and flowing. They would talk about any subject that took their interest, which could be any subject, and never seemed to get bored. He would always look forward to their times together. Once they were over, he felt a small sense of loss for what had passed. Sometimes he would find himself counting the days since he last saw Joss, but it always would seen an unconscious act to begin with.
Ian was almost certain that Lucy did not know about how he felt about Joss, but he couldn't be certain she didn't have her suspicions. He was careful not to mention Joss' name unless it was necessary, but he was always afraid his enthusiasm would betray him. He had always been careful around Joss - would that ever change.
Ian and Lucy had married when they were both just eighteen and Lucy was pregnant. It was the pressure from their parents that forced them to marry. They had had sex only twice, the first two times he had ever had sex, and on the second time Lucy had fallen pregnant. The wedding was hurriedly arranged. Everyone said they must be married before Lucy began to "show". All the arrangements were taken out of their hands by their parents. Once the ceremony was over, they were packed off for a weekend "honeymoon" in a wet, out of season seaside town, to stay in a shabby bed and breakfast hotel.
Two weeks into after their honeymoon, living in their tiny, cramped flat, Lucy miscarried. In the middle of the night, in a panic, Lucy had woken him to say she was bleeding. He rushed her to hospital where she stayed for the next two days. Their sex life had not been wild or passionate or even frequent before the miscarriage, Lucy said she wanted to protect the baby. Afterwards it fell away to only routine, neither of them seeming to enjoy it. As the months passed, slowly turning into years, their sex life decreased and decreased until it stopped altogether. They had no children, even after six and a half years together, but neither of them seemed disappointed by it, at least Lucy never said she was.
He could never describe his marriage as loving or happy, they were only two people sharing a house together on friendly terms. Ian couldn't say he was happy but he was used to the situation, familiarity breeds a kind of security.
Ian moved his body slightly, trying to ease his shoulders more comfortably under the water. Bathtubs seemed only to be designed to allow a person of his height to lie for a short length of time before becoming uncomfortable. Now he was. If he eased his shoulders backwards his knees would be pushed up out of the water and soon grow cold.
He had first meet Joss at Tim's flat warming party. Tim, Lucy's brother, had insisted that they come. Lucy was excited by the idea of the party but Ian was reluctant. He was sure he would not know another person there, except Lucy and Tim, and that unnerved him. Lucy was determined to go. She constantly kept on and on at him about it all until he finally gave in under her pressure. The night of the party Lucy spent and an age preparing while all Ian did was shower and then put on his favourite shirt and pair of jeans. The moment he entered Tim's flat Ian felt he was proved right, he should not have come because Lucy and Tim were the only people he knew there. At first he just followed Lucy around but he soon grow tired of it, especially when Lucy got together with some of her old school friends and they started telling obscure childhood stories. He wondered off on his own. He ran into another solitary man, drinking wine in the kitchen, about his own age. Easily, surprisingly easily, they fell into talking. Suddenly they were talking away as if they had always known each other. As they laughed together at an embarrassing story about Tim, Tim himself entered the kitchen. Smiling at them, though not realising why they were laughing, Tim performed the introductions they had forgotten to do. His brother-in-law Ian was introduced to his friend Joss. The two of then laughed again because they realised they had forgotten to do this.
At the end of the party Ian and Joss hurriedly exchanged telephone numbers. He didn't except to hear from Joss again. It had been a pleasant conversation when he had excepted to be bored. When Joss called a week later and suggested they meet for a drink Ian quickly accepted, feeling pleasantly surprised.
All they did together was drink and chat, tucked away in the saloon bar of one his local pubs, but the two and half-hours they spent there seemed to pass in the blinking of an eye. They had barely talked about themselves, mainly about their jobs, only briefly touching on their own lives. Ian told Joss about how bored he was in his dead end job while Joss spoke animatedly about his own job as a Psychiatric Nurse. Ian had never heard anyone so enthusiastic about their job before.
Soon their evenings together of drinking slowly and talking rapidly became a regular habit. They didn't meet every week, the shifts Joss worked saw to that, but they did more then once a month. Soon Ian found himself looking forward to seeing Joss, waiting for it as he had done as a child waiting for a favourite event - almost counting off the days. Strangely they never talked about anything personal, Ian never talked about his marriage and Joss never talked about his love life. It was their silent, unwritten rule.
Ian lifted his hand out of the water and ran his fingers through his short, brown hair wetting it and plastering it down to his skull. Then slowly he stroked his wet hair again, feeling the length of it under his fingers. He had been thinking about growing his hair out long, as long as Joss'. It would not be the same soft, loose curl that Joss had but he'd be happy with it if it was just straight and as long as Joss'. Lucy would not approve of it, she had always said how she didn't like men with long hair, but he wasn't concerned about that.
The realisation that his attraction to Joss was not just friendship but was also a physical attraction had crept up on him slowly until it arrived with surprise. As usual that evening they had gone to one of Ian's local pubs. Joss had gone to the bar and was buying their drinks. Ian sat at their table watching him. Watching the way he moved inside his loose fitting clothes, the warm and welcoming expression on his face. Suddenly he realised that Joss was the most handsome man in the pub. He also realised that he felt a great deal of pleasure from just being with such a handsome man.
He had always noticed handsome men, walking along the street, sunbathing at the beach, changing at the gym, longing at his local swimming pool, ever since he had passed through puberty. Whenever he felt safe, when he was certain no one would see him and misinterpret him, he would just stare and stare and stare at those handsome men. Never had he touched any of them, never had he ever made any advances towards them, he was far too afraid of rejection or worse. For all those years he had carefully hidden away his feelings, buried them deep down inside himself. Fear was an excellent motive. Then came along Joss.
Joss was certainly one of those handsome men but it was more then just staring with him, his attraction for Joss was more then just physical, it ran much deeper. Joss was the first man he had ever "fallen" for. He had grown to know Joss, grown to more then just like Joss, grown to want Joss as part of his life, grown to want a physical side to things, grown to want more then a simple friendship with Joss. Was this what they called love? He had certainly never felt this way about Lucy, about anyone before.
However, everything had come to ahead the evening before. That Friday Lucy had invited Tim for dinner. She had planned the meal out of more then sisterly affection; she wanted to quiz Tim about his new girlfriend. As usual, Tim was late. For the first part of the meal, Lucy fired off a stream of questions at Tim about his new girlfriend and Tim dutifully answered them. Lucy and Tim only ever seemed to be able to have a conversation if one of them was asking the other a list of questions. The turning point of the evening had come when Tim told them how he had met his new girlfriend. Joss had introduced them. Ian's brain had clicked into interest at hearing Joss' name. It seemed Tim's new girlfriend had come to live in the large shared house were Joss also lived. She was the sister of one of the other women who lived there. Joss had introduced the two of them one evening and things had rapidly progressed from there. But as he explained, Tim had been surprised to meet her there because everyone else living in that house was gay. Like a dog, seizing on a smell Lucy seized on this, this meant that Joss was gay. Suddenly Lucy, her face filling up with anger, began one of her homophobic out-pouring. Gays were disgusting, unnatural, perverted, wrong and dirty. The idea of two men having sex together turned her stomach, as she kept repeating. This was greeted by Tim laughing at her almost uncontrollability. His response, as always when he finally managed to control his laughter, was to tell her how bigoted and stupid she was and that she should open her eyes. This only made Lucy worse; her out pouring became more acid as she almost shouted at Tim. For a woman who usually seemed so placid, except when telling Ian what to do or wear, she seemed to have a flash point where homosexuality was concerned. At the mere mention of the word, she would pour out a list of intolerance and prejudices always under cut with anger. He had never asked her why she hated homosexuals so much, he had always been too afraid of her answer.
All through their exchange, Lucy angry and Tim laughing at her, Ian had kept silent. He didn't want to say anything. Lucy's views and Tim's responses were no surprise to him, but the news about Joss was. The surprise of finding out about Joss had taken away any words he might have wanted to say and left his emotions running cool. Slowly he had turned the information over in his mind.
That night he had dreamt about Joss. The dream had been unfocused with no discernible logic to it, not even one of those twisting dream logics that seem real at the time. It was mainly different images of Joss passing through his mind. Joss drinking at the pub, Joss shirtless sunbathing on a beach, Joss laughing and hugging him, Joss asleep covered only by a sheet, Joss driving into a swimming pool, Joss smiling a broad and welcoming smile straight into his eyes. Ian had woken with a start to find his penis in a painfully hard erection. He was embarrassed to find it there, embarrassed that Lucy might wake and see it, embarrassed about the cause of it. He lay on his side, his back to Lucy, faking sleep and waiting for his erection to subside.
Suddenly he felt confused by it all. Joss was no longer an unobtainable ideal, now he was a man who might, who could return Ian's feelings. What should he do though? Should he tell Joss about his feelings for him? If so how? Joss now offered him a chance of happiness, a new lifestyle, a new life. No longer would he be hopelessly longing after some unobtainable man, he could be loving another man. Yet, there was a flip side to this. What if Joss rejected him, laughed at his hopeless longing or worse pitied him, patted him on the knee and said he was sorry but he already had a lover. What if Lucy found out? She would not be exactly forgiving and supportive. What if his employers found out? They didn't approve of "alternative lifestyles".
The only physical contact he'd had with Joss was to shake hands yet now he could imagine more, a hug, a kiss, more. Ian felt excited and scared all at once. It felt for the first time in his life like he had the chance to make a discussion which could change everything, rather then simple drifting with the flow of what everyone else wanted to do, but he was afraid to move. Even if he closed his eyes, he still did not know what to do. The only thing he did know was that he could not carry on as before, doing what he had always done. Could he?
Ian sat up in the bath and found the water had begun to turn cold. He hesitated for a moment before leaning forward and turning the hot tap on.