Shapechanger
Issue 106 Fiction Poetry Nonfiction Art + Photography Film Music Books For Creators more

Shapechanger

 William Henderson
arrow_drop_down
 William Henderson
Shapechanger
by William Henderson  FollowFollow
arrow_drop_down
The firstborn of a firstborn, William Henderson spends his days taking care of firstborn & his second-born, and he spends his nights counting...read more words; listening for internal harmonies; and waiting for his happily ever after.
Shapechanger
4119 0 0 0shareShare
Share:

We eat dinner and watch a movie and drink a bottle of wine and I am ready to tell you that I love you, but saying the words out loud is difficult. I have even practiced my reaction, or lack of reaction, if you do not say the words back.
Will you take a shower with me?, you ask.
I hesitate before saying yes. I am not physically perfect; I am not as breathtaking as I think you are. You will see the scar that wraps its away around my body, the only sign of a series of surgeries I’ve had to remove the skin left behind after I lost 110 pounds during my sophomore year in high school. You have seen me naked, but only by candlelight. I’m sure you’ve seen the scar; you’ve just been too polite to ask about it.
You undress and turn the shower on. I wait for you to get into the shower before I take off my clothes. I turn off the lights. You have lit candles, so the room is not completely dark. What are you doing rabbit?, you ask.
Mood lighting, I say.
I get in the shower, and you get out of the way so I can get under the water, and it is hot, the way we both like it, and I wipe the water out of my eyes and shake my head to get the water out of my hair, even though my hair is short and very little water is in it. You kiss me. And I like kissing you under the hot water in your shower. We are each getting hard. You get on your knees and you take me in your mouth and you suck me off until I come.
Thank you, I say.
I should thank you, you say. I like your come.
I tell you about my surgeries and how the belly button I was born with was cut away during one. My surgeon made the belly button I have, I say. He did a good job on it. You stick your finger inside my belly button and you laugh.
It feels weird, you say.
I could have had him leave it off, I say.
No, you say, that would have been even weirder.
My doctor was very proud of this belly button, I say. He said he sculpted it to be fairly perfect.
You should pride yourself on sculpting a fairly perfect you, you say. Then you kiss me.
I don’t look like a page from a magazine, I say.
That’s all right, rabbit, you say. You look like a page from a magazine I have been waiting for, and now that my first issue has arrived, I am not going to cancel my subscription.
I like this, you say, rubbing the hair on my chest, stomach, legs, and arms. You can never shave any of it off.
OK, I say. I laugh. I think you like the hair on my body because you have mostly dated Asian and Latino men and they did not have very much, if any, hair on their bodies.

We finish our shower, and after we dry off, you raise my arms and roll deodorant in my armpits and then you do the same to yourself. You wipe the roll of deodorant above your cock and you do the same to me.
It is after 1 a.m. when I tell you I have to go.
Wait, you say. Let me pee. Don’t go until I come back.
While you are in the bathroom, I tear a piece of paper out of a notebook you have on your computer desk, and I write that I love you.
I have fallen in love with six people in my adult life. When I write I love you to you, I think that this will be the last first time I tell someone that I love them. I put the note in my pocket.
You come back, and I tell you I need to pee too. In the bathroom, I hide the note under a towel in your linen closet. I can text you after I leave and tell you I have left something for you. I walk back to your bedroom. I can hear you running and jumping into your bed. Inside your room, my bag does not look like how I had left it.
What?, you ask me. You look guilty.
I kiss you, and I grab my bag. I’ll talk to you later, I say.
I had a good night, Will, you say. I wish you could stay.
I do too, D, I say.
Outside, I text you to look in your bathroom. You respond that I should look in my bag. I wait until I get home. I open my bag. Inside is a note: I love you! D. I fold the note in half and put it in my wallet. I want these words in your handwriting with me.
I know why I chose that moment to tell you, but I don’t ask you what in that moment caused you tell me, or, if you had known for a while, why you chose to tell me then.

Once we have written the word love, we use it often in our text messages, but we do not say the words out loud, not for another week, and when I do, we are kissing and I am hard and you are hard and I say the words because I mean the words and you say the words back.
I’ve been waiting to hear you say it, you say.
I laugh. You could have said it first.
No, you say. I wanted you to. I needed you to.
I love you, I say. I love you. I love you. I love you. In between each I love you, I kiss you. And each kiss gets longer and deeper and I wish you didn’t get high before I come over because I can always taste the marijuana in your mouth, no matter how long you brush your teeth and gargle with Listerine.
Do you want to?, you ask, and you reach under your bed for a box of condoms and lubricant. Do you want to?, you repeat.
Yes, I say. And I do. I have wanted to since our first date. I love you, I say again.
We take off each other’s clothes. I ask you if you are sure. You say you haven’t been surer of anything. You close your eyes when I push into you. I watch your face. I feel you around me, under me, your legs bent at the knees and wrapped around my waist. I fit inside of you. I fit well inside of you. I do not want to forget this moment, I say. And I stop, but you do not stop, and I am caught up in this wild ride we are on. Am I hurting you, I ask, and you say no. And you moan and you touch yourself with one hand and grab at my back with your other hand. You pull me in deeper. I love you, I say. When I’m going to come, I tell you I’m going to come. Come, rabbit, you say. You stiffen your body. You tighten yourself around me. I come. Your moans match each ejaculation. You kiss me. You are hard. You haven’t come. I settle into you. I am not sure I will soften. I am content staying inside of you until I do, but you pull yourself off of me and take the condom off of my cock, almost in one fluid motion. You tie the condom closed, get out of bed, and throw the condom away in the garbage can near your desk. I roll over onto my back. I am sweaty. My breathing is just now becoming normal. Was that OK?, I ask. It was more than OK, you say. It was love.
We start making love every time we see each other, sometimes two and three times a day. Once or twice a week, I leave work at lunch, pick you up, take you to your apartment, and we make love in your bed, or against a wall in your room, and once in your kitchen.
One night in bed, after, you hold my hand and start to name the parts of my body in Spanish, a language in which you are fluent. My fingers (dedos), then my hand (mano), then my elbow (codo), my arm (brazo), my shoulder (hombro), my neck (cuello), my stomach (stómago), my leg (pierna), my knee (rodilla), my feet (pies), my cock (pene), my eyes (ojos), my nose (nariz), my mouth (boca). You kiss me. Un beso. You kiss me again, and then again. Dos besos. Tres besos. We make love a second time.

To describe how and why we broke up, because of course we broke up, means thinking about how and why we broke up.
After writing I love you, we said it, and texted it, and moaned it, and wrote it, and believed it (we did, right?, believe it), until one night we didn’t. Or we do, but we can’t. Something.
I’m good at I love you. I’m not so good at no longer loving you. Why should I be? You promised me forever, and the world hasn’t ended, and I am still here, and I have to believe that you are still there, or here, but not here, and you are no longer telling me you love me, and I am no longer telling you I love you, thought I do, and I hope you do too.
My therapist tells me I have to fill the time I once filled with you.
Join a gym, she tells me.
I do, though I have never belonged to a gym.
I get a free training session. The session involves a weigh-in. The number surprises me. My weight surprises me.
Is this right?, I ask.
Within a few ounces, the trainer says.
I have some work to do, I say.
5:30 a.m. That’s when I run. Or walk fast. A treadmill at a local sports club. The colder mornings, I have to force myself to get out of bed. If you were beside me, I never would have wanted to leave. But I get up, and I put on mesh shorts and sneakers and a tank top, and I go to the gym, and I get on the treadmill, and I listen to music (usually songs about heartbreak and moving on, because I need to learn how to move on from this heartbreak), and I run, or I walk fast.
How about yoga?, a friend suggests.
You do yoga, or said you did. I never saw you do it, though I saw you complete handstands, mostly to entertain Avery. My son, Avery. Your son. Or so you said. You had become a parental figure, and had someone told you at the start of the year that you would become a parental figure, you would have laughed. But this becoming, you say the shape of your life has changed. And you liked how the shape of your life had changed.
On your head, or hands, the way your legs would extend in the air, your toes pointed, and the way Avery would look at you and laugh and clap his hands and say more. And you would laugh, upside down, and you would oblige.
A contortionist. That’s what you were were. You contorted your body to mine. We fit together, you used to say. We fit in a way you had never fit before.
So yoga. I try it. And I like it. I may even love it. And I do not know how much practicing yoga has become part of my life, until I miss a class. I feel uneasy. My body doesn’t feel right. My practice is how I’ve started to see my life. Find balance in yoga, find balance in life. My friends are tired of me telling them this. I am practicing six days a week. Avery has started mimicking some of the poses at home. He knows the poses by their names. Holly and I are looking for a daddy-and-me class for him and me.
Once I’ve conquered crow, I start working on a hand/headstand. This position is important, Chris says, because it’s the one position that puts our hearts above our brains. Love over logic. Chris tells me that of all of his students, I’m the bravest. I tell him that now that I know how to fall, I’m no longer afraid of falling on my ass or on my head.
I am in downward dog one afternoon, and Chris asks us to turn our head to the left and then the right. Facing left, I see the red EXIT sign above the door. I read the sign as EX-IT. Ex it. I am your ex it. The sign has been there. The signs were there. I didn’t see them. I chose not to see them.
In four months, I lose 60 pounds. I am running five miles every day, and on some days, depending, I run more. I tell people I go to the gym as much as I do because I have time to fill. Really, I go to the gym as much as I do because I like the changes in my body. I like how now, in the changing room, some men pretend not to look at me when I change. Sometimes, in the shower, I leave the door a bit open, in case anyone wants to see more.
A man I have sex with turns out to be a yoga teacher. We talk about yoga and the poses we are separately working toward. Later, in bed, he says here, this is your yoga muscle. He is touching my head.
I no longer avoid my reflection. I like who lives on the other side of the looking glass.
I am a shapechanger. I have always been a shapechanger. A shifter. I married a woman because I was afraid. I clung to your written I love you and your spoken I love you and your promise of forever because I was afraid. I knew you could not give me the forever I wanted, but I fought for our relationship because I no longer recognized me without you, and I didn’t want you to recognize yourself without me.
You wouldn’t recognize me today. I hardly recognize myself.
I’ve been grieving, not just for you, but for our when-not-if future. All of the plans and dreams I had had in my head are gone. I heard somewhere that you have to give up the life you planned to find the life that’s waiting for you. I know. Slogan. We are defined by how we grow, and we grow by giving up things, and by moving forward, even when moving hurts. Another slogan.
I’ve become someone who talks in slogans.
I don’t always cry when I think I might. A song you introduced me to doesn’t make me cry, but I’ll cry when I put on a pair of socks you bought me. A television show you and I watched together doesn’t make me cry, until one of the characters refuses to admit she’s a drug addict, and then I do. I cry when I’m alone, and I still cry when I’m with Avery.
You sad?, he asks me.
I don’t know what to say but yes.
And he will come to me, if he isn’t already in my lap, and he will pick up my hand and look for places where I’m bleeding. He links sadness to physical pain.
Where?, he asks me.
My heart, I say.
Oh, he says.
He doesn’t know where the heart is. Sometimes I don’t know where my heart is.
I gave you my heart. I thought you would be the last person to hold my heart. And maybe you will be. Maybe this new me has no heart, or, maybe this new me has a heart that is not so easy to give away. Or maybe one day I will give it away, but not promise forever because time, like bodies, is not set. Shifts and changes, seismic, ripples – nothing constant is constant. And constantly I remind myself of that.

0 comments

Discussion

There are no comments yet...
 

Join Red Fez

Start your adventure

By signing up you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.
Already a member? Log in

Log in

Continue your adventures