I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE DID AT THAT PARTY
“Oi, Christopherson—hand me a beer, will you?”
Aaron dips his hand into the cooler again and yanks out one from the bottom. For a split second he watches the melting bits of ice slip down the sides coolly, running over the curves of the beer bottle—then he tosses it back to his mate Connor. Connor breaks it open and hand it to a pretty brunette who’s wearing a sweater with what looks like a carousel horse on it rolled up above her midsection. He looks away from them pointedly, letting his friend do his thing, and sips a bit of his own beer. A short distance away from him, there’s a dance riot going on, and—did they just pull out silly string?
Aaron laughs as someone yanks his hand and drags him into the group. He just manages to set his beer back down on a table somewhere when he gets a face full of silly string and, wiping it off, he sees it was sprayed by a young blonde with cropped hair and a wide smile. She gets up close to him at the same time the music starts to get really loud, and their bodies are pressed together for a delicious moment before another boy yanks her away by the wrist.
“Boyfriend and designated driver,” he says as introduction, and Aaron can tell he’s trying not to be angry with his girlfriend. “Sorry, she gets crazy when she’s drunk.”
“No problem, man,” Aaron says, shaking himself free of the rest of the silly string and shrugging as the two slip back into the mesh of bodies and neon clothing. Aaron shimmies his way back to the wall again, unsurprised that the brief affection was so short-lived—he’s never had much success with girls, although they’re supposed to dig artistic guys. He finds his beer again (well, at least, he hopes it’s his beer) and takes another swig. To his left, a girl’s got her shirt off and is sprawled over the couch. The streamers on the ceiling have now sunk so low that they’re almost touching her belly, but another girl is bending over her and licking something off her stomach. Aaron watches them for a moment, immersed in the desire to draw them if he only had a sketch pad, but suddenly someone has been thrown into him, knocking the wind out of him and slamming him back against the wall. His beer falls out of his hand and breaks on the carpet, and he catches the someone by the hips as she—he—it, whatever it is, yelps and curls into a ball against his chest.
“DON’T YOU DARE,” it screeches, and by the tone of the voice Aaron determines it’s male. “Get that silly string away from me, I will not be washing it out of my hair—”
“Hold still, hold still!” Aaron yelps, trying to get the boy to stop writhing in his arms. Someone’s approaching them with a silly string can at the ready, and when Aaron looks up, he sees that it’s a young man with a mohawk he recognizes from the record shop across from his apartment—he thinks his name might be Marvin. Marv for short.
“GOT YOUUUUU,” he yells as he flings out the silly string can and sprays the boy Aaron’s holding and—by association—Aaron. They curl into each other under the pressure, and Aaron feels the boy’s hand grip his lapel as he lets out a coarse “God fucking dammit” into Aaron’s collar bone. Aaron splutters, the silly string getting into his mouth, and Marv laughs with glee at the pair of them.
“Thanks for holding him still, mate, I’ve been trying to get him all night,” Marv says delightedly.
“No problem,” Aaron says wearily, mopping his eyes free of the silly string and panting from the excitement. The boy in front of him seems to only then realize how close they are, and he peels himself away from Aaron, yanking off great chunks of silly string from his sleeves as he goes.
“Oh god, it’s in my hair, isn’t it?” he says angrily, touching his auburn locks carefully, Aaron has long since stopped trying to rid his entire body of the foul substance, so he leans back against the table and watches the other boy gingerly strip ribbons of silly string off his head.
“You look great, Colgrove,” Marv says genuinely, laughing and taking a beer from a girl to his left. He takes a massive gulp and winks. “Off to find my next victim. The two of you play nice now.” He and the girl disappear into the crowd.
“Need help?” Aaron offers after a moment of watching the boy struggle.
The boy’s head snaps up. “No, I do not need help from you,” he snaps, his eyes flashing wildly. “I was just trying to find my sister—I think she might have wandered in here, I live just down the street and—for fuck’s sake, why do they even make silly string—?”
Aaron lets out a giggle and moves closer to him. “I’m Aaron Christopherson,” he says genially, picking a few strings off of the boy’s shoulder, “And I’m the boy you used as a cushion two seconds ago to stop yourself from slamming into the wall.”
The boy looks at him, pausing from ridding himself of the silly string. “Kristopher Colgrove,” he says breathlessly, his eyes a little wider than usual, and not so angry anymore as they actually make eye contact for the first time. Aaron can see that they’re a charming greenish color—a color that would be beautiful to paint, he thinks.
“Kristopher,” Aaron repeats. “Nice name, good name, may I call you Kris?”
Kris is about to say something that may have been in protest, but the music vanishes for a second and then is replaced at a louder volume. The crowd jumping up and down in the room screams with delight, and Aaron takes this opportunity to grab Kris’s hand and yank him with him onto the dance floor. If he can’t get a girl to dance with him, he might as well get this boy to do it instead. He’s cute, anyway, with a lanky frame and an angular jaw, albeit brownish hair a mess with silly string.
“No, I don’t think—”
“Shut up, this way you don’t have to pay me back for the damage you did running into me,” Aaron says playfully, and then he begins to dance to the music, squashed in between bodies and screams and the loud beat of the music drumming in his ears. Kris stands there stiffly for a second before Aaron takes both of his hands and moves them to the beat with him. Kris’s slight smile is embarrassed and beautiful and Aaron thinks that maybe it’s the alcohol getting to him. No matter—he puts both his hands on Kris’s hip, shouts, “Like this,” and they move together, close for two people who have never met, and sway and bob to the beat as it surrounds them.
Kris is pressed very closely to Aaron now, his arms around his neck, actually getting into the music, and it thrills Aaron to see him let loose a little even though they’re both still webbed with silly string. Aaron presses their foreheads together after a moment, feeling his hips move under his fingers, but that’s when Kris seems to come to his senses. Those eyes snap open and Aaron catches them again, but then Kris backs up and starts squeezing out of the crowd. His fingers link themselves with Aaron’s, who follows him willingly out of the mesh of bodies and sweat and screams and into the kitchen.
Kris is trembling slightly as he finds a beer in the fridge. He opens it and takes a swig, swallows, and takes a deep breath, as if he’d just run miles. He offers the bottle to Aaron, who sips a bit of it gratefully and hands it back. The kitchen isn’t empty, but it’s less crowded than the previous room. Even so, Aaron stands right next to Kris as he leans against the counter, their shoulders pressing together and their hips almost touching.
“I don’t usually do this,” Kris says after a moment of listening to the echoes of screaming and drunken laughing coming from the other room. “I don’t usually drink or party or anything. I’m barely twenty-one.” He laughs shakily and brings the beer to his lips again, just holding it there. Aaron watches his lips touch the droplets of alcohol left on the rim of the bottle, and there it is, that familiar urge to draw something so… oh, beautiful, that would probably be the word. It’s the artist in him wanting to capture beauty, rising in him like an animal.
“Me either,” he says honestly, “And I’m certainly not used to partying and sharing drinks with such handsome fellas as yourself.”
He grabs the beer again, takes another gulp, and puts it back in Kris’s hands. Kris is staring at him unblinkingly, curiosity swirling in his eyes. After a moment he gives a nervous laugh, flushing around the ears with pleasure. Aaron grins at him and says, “Alright, Kris, let’s get the rest of that silly string out of your hair.”
Kris gulps down the rest of his beer and the two of them fight their way back through the crowd and up the stairs, and all Aaron can feel is Kris’s hand in his and the music pumping through him as he searches for the bathroom he knows to be up here.
They go inside, and two people are lying with each other in the bathtub—Aaron recognizes it as Connor and the brunette he was with earlier. Her carousel sweater is now lying at his feet and she’s in her bra and skirt when Connor peeks from around her, sees Kris and Aaron hovering hand in hand at the door, and says, “Leanne, I think we need to go. Everywhere else taken, boys?”
“We’re just—” Kris sputters. “We’re just washing the silly string out of my hair.”
“Mmmm,” Leanne mutters, stumbling out of the bathtub and scooping up her sweater, putting it on inside out accidentally. Connor catches her before she falls.
“We’ll see you later, Aaron, don’t get him pregnant,” he says, grinning at Kris, who sputters incoherently again in response. Aaron laughs as they leave and shuts the door, flipping a light on and moving towards the sink. Kris takes a deep breath as he turns on the water, apparently embarrassed, but Aaron tries not to notice that so much as he just watches him take handfuls of water through his hair and try to comb the remainder of the silly string out.
“You’re getting it stuck,” he observes.
“Shut up,” says Kris, but he’s smiling. “I wouldn’t even have to be here if you hadn’t held me still for Marv.”
“In my defense, you were very nice to hold.”
“What’d you say you were doing here again?”
“I didn’t. I just go to school with Kathy. She was in one of my GE classes a while ago and we’ve kept in touch.”
“What are you studying for?” Kris asks, lifting his head from the sink and catching Aaron’s eyes in the mirror. Kris’s eyes glint in the semi-darkness, catching off of reflections from the sink and the mirror; Aaron wants to capture him on paper again, to make this sort of beauty blossom in the eternal form of artwork.
“I’m an artist,” he says.
“Oh.” Kris blinks. “That’s cool.” He runs his hand through his hair again, and Aaron sees one strand of silly string bury itself beneath a lock of hair.
“Hey hold still,” he says moving rapidly closer, and Kris freezes, sucking in a breath. The music is now very audible in the silence, pumping through the floor, diluted into a muted muddle via the feet of wood separating them from the stereo as Aaron moves Kris’s hand from his hair and puts his own fingers in there instead, feeling for the bit of silly string. He extracts it carefully and, holding it up between two fingers, nods at Kris.
“You missed this,” he says, shaking it off his hand and onto the floor.
When he looks back up at him, Kris is blinking. “Thanks,” he says quietly, and they’re both silent for a moment, letting the music from downstairs fill the bathroom. Aaron can see beads of water from the sink hovering on Kris’s lips, and Aaron becomes so incomparably filled with that artist’s urge again, a deep desire to make something so incredibly small and simple and yet beautiful his own.
And then suddenly they’re kissing. Aaron isn’t sure if he initiated it or Kris did, but suddenly their lips are pressed together, lightly at first, and then fiercer as Kris takes Aaron’s hips in his hands and pulls him closer. Aaron’s hands find Kris’s feathery hair again, this time taking hold at the back of the neck, and they move against each other feverishly for a moment, suddenly possessed by a whirlwind of passion that Aaron can feel rolling off of Kris in waves. He tastes like beer and sweat and flavored chapstic and for a moment Aaron thinks he hears Kris whimper in the back of his throat and he almost looses it right there, pressing him into the sink and propping his hand up against the mirror to steady them both.
Then, as if suddenly coming to their senses, they break apart. They’re still very, very close, hovering within inches of each other, each boy’s gaze flitting between the other’s eyes and lips, half in the mindset of going at one another again.
“Fuck,” Aaron whispers breathlessly after a moment, trying to rationalize what just happened.
That’s when Kris says softly, his grin an inch from Aaron’s lips, “If you insist.”
Nobody comes into the bathroom for the rest of the night, and it is with complete honesty when, the next morning, Aaron finds Kathy in her bedroom and tells her imploringly,
“Best. Party. Ever.”
THIS IS BRILLIANT.