Give me a kiss to build a dream on and my imagination will thrive upon that kiss.
Sweetheart, I ask no more than this, a kiss to build a dream on.
By JD Davis January 2005
A cemetery is not the first location that leaps to mind when considering places to meet people. It doesn’t exactly rank right up there among singles groups, evening classes, the gym or any of the other places suggested in magazine or on-line help articles. There are far too many negative aspects attached to chance encounters in a graveyard; people have either lost loved ones, are homeless, or far too ghoulish to even consider. So the lonely figure standing beside a freshly marked grave was not someone with whom to strike up a casual conversation.
These somewhat depressing thoughts flitted through Paul’s mind as he watched the stranger standing with his head bowed, the bitter north wind whipping at his long black overcoat. They were the only two living beings in the place that cold November evening. It was the anniversary of his mother’s death and Paul had come to put flowers on his parents’ grave. Birthdays, Christmas, the anniversaries of their deaths – this was when he visited, bringing flowers for his mother. His father had scoffed at fresh cut flowers, declaring them a waste of money; they would only die anyway. But his mother had liked them so, five or six times a year, he brought her whatever was in season, marking the passage of time with snowdrops, daffodils, roses, lilies, chrysanthemums. He noticed there were no flowers on the new grave, not even a wilting wreath.
Feeling the biting chill of the wind, he turned away, walking slowly towards his car. The path brought him close to the stranger and he glanced at the young man as he passed. There was no sign of grief on the calm face, the expression remote rather than sad. The man looked up as he passed, distracted from his thoughts by the movement close by, and Paul registered his features in a desultory fashion. Not as young as he’d first thought, probably mid-thirties, fair hair worn unfashionably long, startling blue eyes behind owlish glasses, so blue he could distinguish the color from a distance. He nodded an acknowledgement as their glances met and continued on his way.
Jason watched the stranger walk slowly towards the car park. He had been aware of him for a while and almost unconsciously assessed him. Tall, lean, mid-fifties at a guess, although he moved like a younger man. He got the impression of quiet strength, a self-contained and self-sufficient type. As the stranger passed he realised his guess was wrong; he couldn’t be more than forty-five but had prematurely silver hair, a strong, handsome face, dark eyes shadowed with sadness.
When Paul reached his car he decided to stop on his way home to grab a bite to eat. He needed something to warm him up and did not feel like cooking for himself. He drove the short distance to a nearby restaurant and strolled into the welcoming warmth and noise of a Friday evening. The place was busy and he had to wait for a table so he perched on a barstool and ordered a scotch to warm himself up. Sipping at the amber liquor, he let his gaze wander around the room, taking in the atmosphere of the office crowd unwinding at the end of the week.
A cold draft indicated new arrivals seeking shelter from the wintry weather and he glanced towards the door. The stranger from the cemetery was making his way to the bar, shedding his coat, stopping to speak to the hostess, obviously sharing Paul’s urge to seek warmth and company after his cold vigil. He sat near to Paul and ordered a cognac, idly looking about him. His eyes slid over Paul as he scanned the room, then returned to him, a look of vague recognition on his face. He smiled slightly, uncertain, obviously trying to place him. Paul nodded as he had before and watched as the man struggled to recall where they had met.
“Forgive me,” the stranger said, “I’m terrible with names and you look familiar. Have we met?” Paul shook his head.
“Not really. I was at the cemetery a little while back.”
“Ah, yes.” Light finally dawned. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you.” Paul smiled.
“No bother. Bereavement is difficult enough to handle without worrying about social niceties.” The man looked thoughtfully at him, weighing his words.
“Are you recently bereaved?” he asked eventually.
“No, I was visiting my parents’ grave. I was referring to your loss.”
“My loss? Oh, I see . . .” His voice trailed off and he looked somewhat bemused. “I’m not bereaved,” he said uncomfortably. “An old man who lived in my apartment building passed away and there was no-one . . . I just thought someone should be there. I didn’t even know him, really, just passed him on the stairs sometimes. I suppose I felt guilty in a way that I hadn’t even spoken to him when he was alive. And then to die all alone and have nobody to mourn you . . .”
Paul looked at this strange young man in a different light. He did not know what to say, but that quiet statement impressed him. As he searched for something suitably non-committal, the hostess approached them.
“I have a table for two opening up if you wouldn’t mind sharing,” she said, waving a couple of menus. Paul was hungry and unwilling to wait for a single.
“I don’t mind, how about you?” he said.
They followed the hostess to a table by the window and studied the menus. After they had ordered there was the inevitable wait for their food and Paul stretched his hand out to the stranger.
“I’m Paul,” he said. The man shook his hand and said,
“Jason, pleased to meet you, Paul.” There was a brief moment as they assessed one another.
“Do you miss them?” Jason asked, then flushed slightly. “Sorry, stupid question, of course you would miss your parents.” He looked away, uncomfortable with his ineptness.
“Yes, I miss them,” Paul replied, ‘But they’ve been gone for a while. How about you? Are your parents still alive?”
“No, they died when I was a child – car accident.”
“That must have been hard for you.” There was an awkward pause, the subject matter too difficult for social chitchat between strangers. Paul watched as Jason’s face closed off, a hint of tears making his blue eyes shine.
“Yeah, it was – hard,” he finally said. Jason looked around then asked,
“Would you like another drink?” He rose to his feet as he spoke and picked up the empty glasses, heading for the bar. “What are you drinking?”
“Scotch and water, but I think I’d like a beer, thank you.”
Jason strolled away and Paul watched him slide his way through the crowd. He moved well, he thought idly, athletic and loose. Without the concealing overcoat he looked better, slim and long-legged, not an ounce of excess weight. A man of many contradictions, sensitive obviously, but not soft. It was pleasant to have company for a change, someone to talk to instead of being on his own.
The food arrived as Jason returned with the drinks - beer for Paul, wine for himself. They set to willingly and there was little conversation until they had satisfied their hunger. The awkward moment had passed and they were more comfortable with each other. Paul bought another round and they relaxed under the influence of food and alcohol.
“I’ve enjoyed this,” Paul said impulsively. “It’s been good to have company this evening.” Jason smiled slightly.
“Yes, you’re right. Mr. Ferguson’s funeral made me realise how alone I am most of the time. I don’t want to end up like him – living alone, dying alone, nobody caring.”
“You don’t have any other family?”
“No.” They were back to the difficult conversation, but what else did they have in common?
“So what happened to you after your parents – “ Paul stopped, realising his question was intrusive. “Sorry,” he said, embarrassed.
“No, that’s okay. I spent some time in a home, was fostered a couple of times.”
“God, you poor kid!” Paul could not stop the exclamation of horror. He could not imagine what Jason had been through. Jason looked at him thoughtfully, surprised at Paul’s reaction, reading something in his expression that gave him a warm feeling.
“Hey, it was a long time ago,” he said easily. “But – you know – sometimes, when something like this happens – you realise how alone you really are.”
“Yes, I know.” Paul’s soft reply spoke volumes. There was another long pause, then Jason cleared his throat.
“I think they want the table,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed talking to you, Paul” He made to leave and Paul said,
“Jason, wait.” He sat down again and looked inquiringly at Paul.
“How about we do this again?” Paul asked quickly. “Meet here, have a drink, dinner, whatever.” Jason thought about it.
“Sure, why not? Next Friday?”
* * * * * * * *
It became a routine – meeting on a Friday evening at the end of the working week. They changed the venue occasionally, but the evenings followed the same pattern; a drink before dinner, a meal and conversation, the slow process of becoming friends. There were some Fridays when one or other of them couldn’t make it, but it was something to which they both looked forward. They discovered some common interests – music (although their tastes were disparate), foreign films and Italian food. They differed in other respects; Paul was into sport – hockey and football primarily – whereas Jason preferred art galleries and museums. Paul liked to hunt and fish, Jason read history and biographies.
After several months, their relationship changed dramatically. One Friday, Jason was very late and Paul wondered if something had happened to him. As he waited he realised that Jason’s wellbeing was of primary importance to him. Their evenings together had become a high spot in his life and he looked forward to their conversation with an eagerness he had not felt for a very long time. He enjoyed Jason’s dry humor and quirky outlook on life, but more than that, he relished their time together. He had become very fond of Jason.
Jason finally arrived in a flurry of bad temper.
“Sorry, sorry,” he muttered as he slipped into the booth. “If I have another day like today I think I’ll join a monastery! One of those silent orders where nobody can speak to me!” Paul laughed and beckoned the waiter. Jason ordered a drink and peered at the menu.
“Want to talk about it?” Paul asked, watching as Jason polished his glasses and ran fingers through his hair in a distracted fashion.
”Nope, not really, I’d rather just forget it! Assholes!” he added, sotto voce.
“Really bad day,” Paul commented sympathetically. “Doing anything at the weekend?” he continued, changing the subject. Jason had settled down and seemed grateful Paul didn’t pursue the reason for his mood.
“There’s an exhibition I was planning to attend.” he said, adding wickedly, “Want to come?”
Paul was about to say it wasn’t his thing but, instead, rose to the unspoken challenge and said,
“Sure – if you think I’ll understand it.” Jason grinned.
“Native American art, Paul, think you can handle that?” Paul knew Jason was feeling pissy but it rankled that he was being dismissed so lightly.
“I can do Native American,” he said huffily.
“It’s out of town,” Jason said. “I’m staying over Saturday night.”
“I can do Saturday night,” Paul said, wondering where this was going.
“Good.” Jason said nothing more and turned his attention to ordering his meal. When they were finished they made arrangements to meet at Jason’s apartment building. Paul could leave his car in Jason’s spot and they would drive together to the exhibition.
When they arrived at the motel Jason had booked they found the place full to overflowing. Apart from the art exhibition, there was also a convention and a gun show in town. Extra accommodation was unavailable, so they ended up sharing. After they checked in they drove to the room to drop their bags and freshen up before going to the exhibition. Jason opened the door and stopped in his tracks. Paul peaked over his shoulder and realised why Jason was confused. Their double room was exactly that – a king-size bed instead of twins.
“Um – perhaps I could see if they have another,” Jason said.
“Doubt it,” Paul replied laconically, “you heard the receptionist, they’re full. It’s just one night,” he said easily, “we’ll manage.”
“Well, if you’re sure . . .”
“Is it a problem?” Paul was amused by Jason’s reaction.
“No – no problem.”
They unpacked their overnight bags and had a quick shower, then found somewhere to eat lunch and headed for the exhibition. As they wandered around, Paul realised he was spending more time looking at Jason than at the exhibits. His enthusiasm was infectious and Paul found himself smiling as Jason expounded on various items. The guy was having a really good time and Paul decided he liked watching him enjoy himself.
Several hours later they were tired and hungry and Paul’s feet ached. He managed to drag Jason away and they drove around looking for a restaurant. They found a little Italian place and Paul sank gratefully into the chair, more tired than he had realised. After they had ordered the meal and a bottle of wine, Jason leaned back and studied Paul.
“Thanks,” he said suddenly. Paul quirked an eyebrow.
“For putting up with me all afternoon. I know you were bored out of your skull most of the time and I really appreciated having your company.” Paul smiled. He was about to deny he was bored, but he knew Jason would not believe him.
“Hey, you had a good time,” he said easily. “And I enjoyed your company.”
It was a simple statement but as they looked at each other it took on greater meaning. Jason opened his mouth to say something, then closed it.
“What?” Paul was surprised by Jason’s expression. He was looking at Paul as if he had just given him the Hope diamond. Jason bit his lower lip and looked away.
“What’s up?” Paul asked again.
“Nothing,” Jason said.
“No, not nothing, something.”
“It’s just that . . .”
“I think that’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me – or done for me.”
“Hey, no big deal. So I walked around an exhibition with you, what’s so wonderful?” Jason just shook his head. Their meal arrived and the moment passed.
As they were drinking their coffee, Jason said casually,
“We could go to the gun show tomorrow.” Paul choked and coughed. It had crossed his mind to take a look but he hadn’t given it more than a passing thought, knowing Jason would hate it. He realised Jason was trying to repay him and was deeply touched.
“Could do,” he said briefly. Jason was smiling at him and his lips twitched. “Yeah, thanks,” he added, acknowledging the gesture. He suddenly yawned and they decided to return to the motel.
Jason insisted Paul use the bathroom first and was rather surprised when he emerged fully dressed.
“I thought you were tired,” he commented. “Aren’t you going to bed?”
“Sure, but I don’t normally wear anything in bed, so I didn’t bring pajamas to sleep in. Hope you don’t mind me in my underwear.” Jason flushed slightly but smiled and disappeared into the bathroom. Paul undressed, leaving on his boxers and undershirt, and slipped under the covers, positioning himself close to the edge of the big bed. Jason came out wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt and climbed in the other side. He switched off the bedside lamp and said goodnight.
“G’night,” Paul muttered and sank immediately into a deep sleep, worn out by the day’s exertions. Jason lay awake for a long time, acutely conscious of the man beside him. He had never shared a bed with a man before and realised he was somewhat uncomfortable with the idea. He had shared a bed as a youngster in one of his foster homes, had slept rough in sleeping bags round a campfire with a couple of friends when he was at university. After that, he had shared his bed with women, infrequently and not for several years. This was very different.
Paul had just accepted the situation and made the best of it, but Jason was dealing with a different problem. He knew he had feelings for Paul, his male, heterosexual friend. He had been vaguely aware of a growing attraction but refused to acknowledge that it was sexual. He had found a friend after a long period of loneliness that was all. They had become good friends but that didn’t make him gay, did it? It wasn’t like he wanted to fuck him or anything, he just liked being with him. But then he had started having a very disturbing dream. Jason drifted off to sleep and the dream recurred . . .
He and Paul were in his apartment having a beer and watching TV. Nothing unusual about that, they had done that several times both at his place and Paul’s. But then, Paul reached out and pulled him close, pulled him into a long kiss. Paul's lips tasted salty and Jason consumed them with ferocity. He urged them to part and plunged his tongue between them to plunder the rich, wet heat inside, savoring the indefinable taste that was Paul. Paul’s hands were stroking his back, pulling him closer. He pressed harder, his erection trapped against Paul's, urged on by Paul whispering in his ear.
Jason needed no further encouragement. He shuddered as Paul’s whispers increased in intensity, and with a groan he lay over him, pressing him into the couch with the length of his body, Paul arching towards him. He could feel the swell of Paul’s erection beneath him, rubbed his groin against it, the delicious friction making him moan with desire, Paul calling his name -
"Jason?" He felt a hand on his shoulder and opened his eyes, squinting at the light, totally disoriented.
“Um, what -?” he asked sleepily, rubbing his eyes, getting his bearings. Then he realised where he was and his mind numbed with horror. Paul was leaning over him, his hand on his shoulder.
“You okay?” he asked. “You were having a nightmare, I think.”
“Oh God,” Jason groaned softly, turning his head away. ‘What time is it?” he asked, trying to regain his composure.
“It’s two-thirty. Are you alright, Jason?”
“No – yeah – it was just a bad dream. Sorry, did I wake you?”
“I’m a light sleeper – you were tossing and moaning so much I thought I should wake you. Want to talk about it?”
“No,” Jason said quickly. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“Hey, you can’t control having a nightmare. I knew I shouldn’t have let you study those death masks,” Paul quipped trying to lighten the mood. He raised a quirk of a smile and felt better. Jason had worried him; it had sounded like he was being tortured in his sleep, groaning like that. He was still flushed and distracted, his hair tousled and his blue eyes squinting myopically at him. He looked disarmingly boyish and Paul pushed away the thought that he was actually cute in his disheveled state.
Cute? This was Jason, his friend, his male, heterosexual friend. His male, heterosexual friend that he had an overwhelming desire to kiss right at that moment. Paul swallowed and reached for the bedside lamp.
“Try and go back to sleep,” he said softly and plunged the room back into darkness.
Paul awoke early the next morning, dawn just beginning to lighten the sky outside. He lay listening to the quiet breathing of the man beside him and he remembered waking him last night. They probably should talk, he thought, because there was something going on although he could not quite define what it was. Jason had woken him last night calling his name, something he was not going to ever tell Jason. He had obviously been dreaming about him, although the dream itself had not appeared to be all that pleasant and Jason had agreed it had been a nightmare. And when he had shaken him awake he had wanted to pull him close and comfort him, kiss him better, ruffle his hair and tell him he was cute. Crazy!
Checking his watch, Paul padded to the bathroom, then climbed back into bed to catnap until it was late enough for Jason to wake naturally. He was NOT a morning person as Paul well knew and he wanted to let him sleep as long as possible. Paul drifted off and did not wake again until a car door slammed outside as a guest made an early departure. He opened his eyes and registered several things at once. It was much brighter in the room, so several hours had obviously passed; he had his usual morning erection, half hard but not terribly uncomfortable since he had relieved himself earlier; and he had Jason snuggled into his back, his right arm around his waist, his breath tickling his ear. Jason also had an erection, which was currently poking him in the ass. His first reaction was that his semi-erection became full, his second was full flight or fight mode, and his third was acute embarrassment. Jason would be horrified if he woke up and found himself snuggling into Paul!
He tried to ease out from under the encircling arm without waking the sleeping man, but as he inched away Jason muttered something and tightened his grip, shifting position slightly. Paul caught his breath as he felt Jason’s cock settle between his thighs. Trying to move had been a bad idea – now what was he going to do? He wanted to spare Jason any embarrassment when he woke, but how could they explain this? And, despite himself, he was enjoying the close proximity of the younger man. In fact, he had an overwhelming desire to turn around and pull him into his arms, just hold him close. He groaned softly to himself and made another attempt to extricate himself.
The arm around him did not move, but Paul knew Jason had woken up by the sudden rigidity of the limb in question. Paul feigned sleep, hoping Jason would not have realised he was awake and the ploy seemed to work. Jason stealthily removed his arm and inched away from him, rolling onto his back. The sudden coldness he felt was not just from the drop in body heat. He felt abandoned and, without thinking, he turned over and pulled Jason back towards him, his eyes still closed. Jason lay still, apparently holding his breath. Then he whispered,
“Paul? Paul, are you awake?”
“Mmm, kind of . . .”
“Paul, you’re cuddling me!” Jason’s whisper became urgent.
“I know, you were cuddling me so I’m just repaying the compliment.”
“I was cuddling you? I don’t think so . . .”
“Yes, definitely cuddling.” Jason tried to move away but Paul held on and breathed into his neck.
“Then I was asleep.”
“Could be, probably, nice anyway.”
“Paul, wake up! Wake UP!” Jason shoved at his shoulder and broke the embrace, pulling back and sitting up in bed looking very red in the face and decidedly flustered. Paul smiled and turned onto his back.
“Good morning,” he said quietly. “Sleep well?” Jason gaped at him.
“You were awake all the time,” he said indignantly. Paul sighed then smiled, trying to put his friend at ease.
“Yes, Jason, I was. I pretended to be asleep because I wasn’t sure how you would react if you woke up and found yourself snuggled up to me with your arm around me. I thought you might freak out, although it was a perfectly natural thing to do. Seems I was right,” he added, “you are freaking out.”
“I’m NOT,” Jason said indignantly, “I was just caught off guard. Anyway, that doesn’t explain you cuddling me back!”
“I liked cuddling you,” Paul said simply. Jason’s mouth dropped open and flapped soundlessly.
“You look like a fish out of water,” Paul said, laughing.
“You l-liked cuddling me?”
“Yeah, it was nice.” Paul sighed and sat up. “Look, Jason, try to stop freaking out for just a minute. I’m - “
“I am not freaking out!”
“Oh you so are, but stop, no – aht!” Paul held up a finger and stopped Jason’s indignant response.
“What I am trying to say,” Paul continued, “is that I woke up and found you snuggled up behind me. It’s a long time since anyone snuggled up to me and it felt good. I liked it, okay. I’ve been alone in bed for a very long time and having a warm body that close felt good. The fact that it was you doesn’t bother me, you’re my best friend, and we’ve shared everything else together. However – “
Paul stopped for breath, wondering if Jason was going to say anything. He was just sitting there looking at him, a strange look on his face. Paul shrugged and continued,
“However, the fact that you’re a man takes some adjusting to, I’m sure you’ll agree.”
“So you’re freaking just as much as I am?” Jason said with a slight smile.
“I wouldn’t call it freaking, just – er – surprised. I’d like to be totally cool about this, but I’ve been lying here thinking and – “ Paul’s voice trailed away as he realised he had maybe said too much.
“I’m not sure,” Paul said, obviously struggling to formulate his thoughts. “I don’t think I’m gay,” he said. “I mean, I’ve never wanted to do it with another man before . . .”
“But you’ve wanted to do it with me?” he asked sharply.
“That’s not what I meant,” Paul said defensively. “What I’m saying is, I’ve only been with women, men just didn’t do it for me. But . . .” God, he was having a hard time trying to explain himself to Jason, and HE’d started it by cuddling up to him in the middle of the night.
“But,” Jason prompted, his voice softer, curious.
“Well, actually, I found myself wanting to kiss you.”
“Jeez, Jason, give me a break!” Paul lay back down and pulled the covers to his shoulders then said quickly,
“I find you attractive, that’s why!” He was flushed and embarrassed by his candor. Jason sat thinking carefully about what Paul had said. He remembered his dream, remembered waking up feeling safe and warm cuddled up to Paul, remembered how good it felt to feel Paul’s encircling arms pulling him close. Paul said he wanted to kiss him. Paul said he was attracted to him. Now what?
He slid back down into the bed, pulling the covers close. They lay side by side looking at the ceiling, neither able to say a word. Jason cleared his throat.
“Do you still want to?” he asked awkwardly.
“Do you still want to kiss me?” There was a long silence and Jason cleared his throat again, ready to apologise, nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
“Yes,” Paul said before he could say anything more. Paul propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at Jason, searching the confused blue eyes, contemplating the full lower lip before him. He wasn’t sure what he was doing, but then Jason’s tongue flicked out and licked his lips in a nervous gesture. Paul groaned and leaned in, pressing a dry, close-lipped kiss against Jason’s mouth.
It was terrible; they were clumsy and uncertain, slightly off-center and ended up clashing noses. Paul fell back on the bed and sighed, disappointed, closing his eyes in despair that he may have ruined their friendship for the sake of a disastrous experiment. Then Jason moved above him, taking his place, and leaned in towards him. Their dry lips met again, but Paul was taken by surprise and his mouth opened slightly as he gasped. Jason’s tongue slipped tentatively inside, tasting him, exploring the hot moistness opening before him. Their tongues tangled and Paul felt a strange warmth flooding through him. It was better, but still awkward.
They broke apart, in urgent need of oxygen, and Jason flopped back onto his pillow.
“Wow,” he said softly, “that wasn’t quite what I expected.”
“Want to try again?”
“I think so.” Paul leaned over Jason and this time it was perfect. He nibbled at Jason’s lower lip, slid his tongue around the edge of his mouth, licked at the soft indentation of his upper lip, questing for entrance. Jason opened to him, pulling him closer, and they kissed deeply, with increasing passion.
“Oh, wow, double wow,” Jason said as Paul finally released him.
“Yeah,” Paul groaned. “Does this mean we’re engaged?” he added wickedly and Jason hit him with a pillow. They tussled and wrestled for a few minutes before collapsing again side by side.
“Um, Paul?” Jason said quietly after they got their breath back.
‘Did you – um – you know - ?”
“Did you notice anything happening just now?”
“When we were wrestling? Yeah.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Paul said, slipping his fingers through Jason’s and holding his hand, thumb rubbing the palm. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ll maybe have fun finding out just what we’ve got ourselves into. We only have to go as far as we both want to.”
“Yeah, step by step. I can’t see us – “
“Nah, nor me.”
“But kissing is good.”
“Yep, kissing is good.”
“Still want to go to the gun show?”
“Maybe later. I think right now we should practice some more.”
* * * * * * * *
List of All Short Stories