Bad Breath

Illustration by Andy Li

Truth. The daily mirror, the unruly body that we find under the hot breath of morning. It dresses along the expressway of our rising from the bed, and we find ourselves again tearing like moths away from our skin. We are embarrassed. A mirror swells and we become a confounded dumpling. A punched, then deflated breast. This is truth that every morning shits into our mouth.

And then, their bodies were silently togethered on the bed. It was late morning. The air like the leftover beer, brisk and damp. And this: Will knew that something was unusual. He knew that exactly something had to be doubted about this boy waxed in his arms. He just couldn’t place his finger on it. What he could do, though, was get closer. He shifted his body so that his arms plainly rused with Asher’s, their legs felt together like cotton cloths. It was a fraught kind of warmth, so that for some two minutes of continued caressing, nothing could be said further about the doubt. Will sighed long, and peeked his eyes out at him curled. Asher smiled, his eyes still closed, hands fretting their way upon Will’s side. Upending on his ass, he slipped softly back and forth on the peach hairs of his skin.

What was it? Will couldn’t get the thought out of his mind. But instead of thinking, he reached over to the small of Asher’s back, and started to kiss him. Theirs was a light commiseration, lone stubbles fricting across each other. A little sweet, a bit merciful. He could smell the residue of last night’s cheap wine on Asher’s morning breath, and it was unevenly pleasing. He couldn’t understand all of his movements, but he crossed right under Asher’s neck, and started gnawing his tongue into the pool of his collarbone. Purple blossoms hunted out of Asher’s pale pink flesh, and the sunlight catching in hefted the color so as to crinkle each spot furlike. Will confusedly continued, wretching his shoulders into the movement. It was steady, but imbued with hints of anger. He closed his eyes. Asher then uncurled his lips, breathed numb, and caught himself to sit up slowly, remembering that he had to go to work within the hour. Suddenly irritated, Will landed back onto his side of the bed, he stared at Asher’s spine. It was invisible; he really tried to place it, but its bumps were out of reach from his sight. Asher sat there, thinking that he had to get dressed, but still paused. Will couldn’t help but question what was going on in his head.

As Asher stood up to put on his clothes, Will lay strongly quiet on the bed, staring into the skin past Asher’s freckles. It was so strange and so accurate, the sensation that Asher was a far distance away from him, in a type of gray that the sunlight caught heavily. Asher looked at him, and then at his own left shoulder. It was covered in purple blossoms. He chuckled and shook his head. Will smiled. But he stopped for a moment, now breathing more quickly, he still somehow cringed in his mind. He felt cold, a vertiginous pull that kept him from wanting to get up. But realizing how late it was, Will painfully shifted off the bed and put on his underwear. He headed to the bathroom to pee, unaware of the bitterness of the floor under his bare feet. Looking at his reflection in the mirror, he caught the unmoved scars on his face like they were fried fish, jostling in the oils of him. He huffed long and difficult. His eyebrows furled, and he closed his eyes as his hands brought cold water to his face.

Like in a bag of juice, his movement jerked furtively back to the bedroom. They both got ready to leave. The air held a melancholy that no breakfast could answer. It was permanent with the scent of illness.

They were mostly silent in their thinking as they exited the house. But their talking went on as though they could sparsely grasp the wind in front of them like a desperate first meal of the day. They were both hungry, but only Will could acknowledge it. He stared back at Asher for a good while, as Asher kept his usual sarcastic rants about college social patterns tightly forward, printed into the air like on a whiteboard.

Will breathed through his nose heavily… in him rose a frilled fear that Asher would leave him. It was a kind of new contact that hinged upon the superficiality of the conversation and the unevenness of the sex.

He tried to shake it off with some witty repartee, but his head kept numbing on pangs of red. His tongue felt constantly forward like a grilling leather. But maybe it was just because he only had four hours of sleep.

When they had to part ways, he had that pathetic aching that Asher would kiss him goodbye. PDA scared him, but if he could hold on to Asher, or at least the idea of Asher, through a farewell kiss that could promise a return to something, a nucleus for some kind of relationship, then Will would keep his mind alive for this first time in his life when hope could be a worthy fucking belief. He leaned into Asher at a skittish angle, ready for the kiss, but a whimsical moment—Asher smiled slight, and hugged him tightly. It was a gestured struggle. Will held on.

“See you later,” Asher said, with a small, coy chuckle. The smell of his breath returned to Will’s nose. They let go of each other.

“Yeah, see you later.”

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