‘Half Light House’, J.W. Bennett

(For G.F. Not forgotten.)

Artwork by Cécile Matthey © 2006.

Dark gables. Shadowed eaves. A man with a suitcase standing on the kerb.

Rain. Oceans of it. A leaden sheet to mask the world. Polished shoes in puddles. He pays the taxi fare. A smile that dies before it reaches the eyes and an ungracious 'thank you' in return. Welcome to England. Welcome home.

The sound of a leaf-throttled drain. The taxi swims away. His footsteps cross the street. A haiku on the air. A pause. Then mounting the steps to Half Light. One. Two. Three. They echo in the porch like a funeral drum. And so they should. So they should.

On the sanctuary of the porch, a reflection. It seems as though this is all there is. Three steps. Two Georgian pillars. A universe of falling water – and himself. The man once known as Lucas. The man still known as Lucas, though nobody really acknowledges it anymore. If he had friends, they would call him Luke. Surely. But he has no friends. People don't know him. Sometimes, he wonders if he is alive.

A door. A key. A dusty hall beyond.

And then, nostalgia.

 [ Your eyes are funny: image © 2006 Cécile Matthey ] Ten years to the day. When his tongue could stand the taste of gin. When his cock still got hard for magazines. Ten years to the day. When his patience could withstand small talk. When his eyes held a secret he didn't even know. A certain light only his mother and Falcon could see.

There are powerful dreams in there, his mother had told him when Lucas was nine.

Your eyes are funny. Falcon. In bed. The first time they made love. He was twenty-three. Ten years to the day.

I've never been like other men. Lucas knows this as he hangs up his coat and puts the suitcase down. Clunk. Drip. Sniff. I never bloody wanted to be.

And Falcon again. Always Falcon, with his colourless eyes and remarkable smile.
Thank God you're not, Luke. Thank God. If you're foolish enough to believe in Him.

Luke remembers lying naked in candlelight, perhaps on tarpaulin, perhaps not. Tracing a line on Falcon. Thigh to navel. To nipple, which he kisses. To navel again, then to cock. Falcon's exquisite cock. Always ready at a touch.

Luke shakes his head. The living room. Furniture draped in sheets. Piles of newspapers. Dust. All these sights create the memory. Living room. A strange expression. As if all the other rooms are dead. He catches the sob in his throat. Swallows it. Moves into the kitchen. He will not cry over sex. Love maybe, if he can recall it. Only love.

The kitchen. This is where he first met Falcon. Falcon the Artist. Falcon the Beautiful. Falcon the Dream Snatcher. Falcon the Whore. So many Falcons. A veritable flock. He may as well have been a Tarot deck. And that's what Falcon was doing, wasn't it? That day. The day Lucas set foot in Half Light House and left himself behind.

Do you play?
It's a Tarot deck.
Yes. Do you play?
I thought. Well. It isn't a game.
(Laughter. Sudden honey.)
You are new here. For sure.
Yes. My name is.
Luke. I know. I'm Falcon.
Yes. Do you play?
(Laughter again. The kind of storm you want to get caught in.)
Luke. It's fate. Fate is a game, if anything is.
Sit. I will read.
Do you play?

Now. A scarred kitchen table. Then. Smooth mahogany.

Now. Luke sits alone and strokes the wood. Then. Luke sits down. There is no handshake. No other chat. Just his destiny being read by a total stranger.

The Tower. Beware a betrayal.
The Lovers. Possibly from a lover.
The Fool. Possibly from yourself.

Falcon's colourless eyes and archer's bow lips. Is that a pout? A smile? Hard to tell. Like everything was. Back then.

Now. Luke gets up. He can call himself Luke in Half Light. It's ok. The house knows him by that name. He walks into the garden. The ghost of a glass of wine in his hand. The sycamore tree. Falcon is standing a little too close. Maybe because he is taller. Maybe not. Luke moved into his room and paid the rent a week ago. Luke needs a job. Luke has come here to the town by the sea to search for – what? Yes, that was it. For (love) change. Luke needs change. He also needs Falcon to stop looking at him like that.

A sip of wine. A slant of the head.
Do you have a lover? Falcon makes it sound like an accusation.
A pretty boy like you?
It's life.
Don't shrug.
It isn't life.
What do you want in a lover?
(Awkward laughter.)
I don't know.
Dream it up. Tell me.
So I know what to become.
(Awkward silence.)
Falcon. I'm not. I don't. I'm sorry.
I know. It's wrong. Against nature. God. The known laws of fucking everything.
You're bitter.
You're lying.
Please. Don't touch me there.
Kiss me.
Kiss me.

They kissed. A doorway opened. And later, flesh.

Now. Luke has climbed the stairs and stands in the bedroom door. The paint is flaking on the doorframe and the room is empty. Bare boards. No light bulb. Then. Luke stands uncertainly in the bedroom door. Red paint. Pink light. He has never been in Falcon's room before. He has never touched a man before. Now. He leans against the frame. A sigh. A tear. Back then there was a different kind of sigh. His cock was in Falcon's mouth.

Later, a cigarette. Shared. A cliché, but a good one. Luke is lying naked on the bed, tracing lines. He is trying to shake a feeling. The feeling won't leave him be. When he came, he thought the ground would open up and Hell would swallow him. It didn't.

I once heard. Luke hardly dares to say it.
I once heard that.
Someone told me.
Your father.
Luke. Your father told you that to fuck like this is black magic.
How did you?
I can see it in your eyes.
Your eyes are funny.
Kiss me.

The memories are clear. Until he stepped into Half Light, he remembered nothing. Only a whisper. A rumour of something missing. Something stolen.

Now. Luke sits on the floor. He notices an old cigar box in one corner and crawls to get it. Then. He sees himself in a mirror of the pose. Naked. The last time they made love. Did he ever wear clothes in this room? No. Luke doesn't think so.

Falcon is speaking again. This is a month later in before-land. Luke is sore. He wonders if Falcon needs him. Is bored of him. Either of these.

I have given you truth. See?
That's your cock, Falc.
Yes. Truth.
I don't understand.
You don't need to. I want. I want something in exchange.
Here we go.
You want my love. I don't know if I.
(Those colourless eyes. An ocean you want to drown in.)
You don't want my love?
No Luke.
I want the dreams.
Your dreams.
All of them.
To use. You go on now. If you can't give me that. You go on.
I don't understand.
No. They never do.

That last week. Falcon's scowl. Falcon's coldness. Until the last night ten years ago. In the living room where a part of Luke died. Fire in the grate. Jewels sparkling on Falcon's timeless face. Luke reached. Falcon withdrew.

I can't bear to do this. I have to touch you.
You are selfish.
No. I will. I will.
You will what?
Give you my dreams.
(Laughter. A lightning bolt you hope will strike you.)
Come here.
It's that simple?
Kiss me.
Kiss me.

Then Falcon was gone. Life turned grey.

Joyless jobs. Speaking in crowds. Not being heard. Smiling at strangers. Frowns in return. Leaving Half Light. Leaving the town by the sea. The stint in Amsterdam. The accident. The hospital. His best friend's death. Ten years! And all the time he was a shadow. Feeling nothing. Touching nothing. Tasting nothing. Fading. Fading. Faded.

Then the letter from Falcon. Three days ago.

I'm sorry. Go back to Half Light. Go back.

 [ Your dreams are good: image © 2006 Cécile Matthey ] Now. Luke opens the cigar box. There is nothing inside but a note.

An absolution in twelve elegantly lettered words.

Your dreams are good. I give them back. Thanks for playing. Falcon.

A rush of light that isn't quite light.

A tingle in his chest and groin.

Then the sobbing comes for real. Luke wonders how much of himself he has spent in this room. In Half Light House. It's stopped raining. It's raining inside again. This time it's good. This time it's wonderful.

This time it's love.

© 2006 J.W. Bennett

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