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Looking In, Looking Out

Looking In, Looking Out

Michael Holladay

When he tells me to stop, I stop. When he tells me to leave, I leave. The blanket on my bed he likes is a blue shell, and he drapes it over his shoulders, a cape, a protection, a soft hard skin, and the late spring leaves glaze the window, outside but never in, the way Colin wants, and if he tells me to want, I want. He plays in a band because it’s been a year since he had a baby with his wife and he needs an outlet, he says, something that’s his own. He makes me listen to their low-budget recordings. The coffee I made is on the nightstand, growing colder by the second. I pinch in the earbud to my left, he has the other in his right, and I watch his head bob to the music in a rhythm, the looped string our connection. Sometimes I like to think, what if someone from, like, the 1500s teleported and saw me doing what I was doing at this present moment, and they would probably think, what the motherfuck, is this some kind of mind control? Or, if he takes that thing out of his ear, will he die? And maybe I would. Or what would they think when Colin fucks me because he refuses to be fucked? I asked him once, why? And he draped the blue shelled blanket again over his freckles and farmer-tanned arms, and he cricked his neck and said, I don’t know, I just don’t like the idea. But I know this means he doesn’t want to be penetrated, because that means hurt and hurt means touch and touch means feel and feel means this is too much to handle, so don’t ask me that again, because I’m not like you, I was raised to be a man, and you’re a man. His feet are coarse, coated with an extra layer of skin, extra epidermis, no nerve endings. I take them in my hands, the padded bottoms grafted with floor dirt, suck this toe, you like it, he says, and I do. If he tells me to like, I like, because no one else does this for him, he says.

. . . what if someone from, like, the 1500s teleported and saw me doing what I was doing at this present moment, and they would probably think, what the motherfuck, is this some kind of mind control?

In my car I’m the cliché. I’m trite. I’m beyond the cliché and trite, whatever that would mean. I tell myself, don’t do it, but then there’s the rev of my engine, the key ignites, and here I am being the cliché. The station wagon in the driveway means he’s home. His door is red. There is a porch swing out front, and maybe he takes a beer out there sometimes during spring to watch storms roll in while his life is behind him in that house. He told me never to say anything about us to anyone, and here I am, in a car across the street from his house, and if he knew I was here, he would say, no. He would say, go away. He would say, this is not a place for you. I don’t know anything about the wife because I don’t want to. He told me some stuff about her, and I tell myself I forgot, and nothing about her belongs here anyway. A lamp lights the front window. Maybe he is cleaning up a broken glass he dropped on the floor. Maybe he made pizza to eat while watching a movie. Maybe he is in a separate room, sound-editing shitty music I always tell him is good. I’m being creepy. I’m the creepiest creep that ever creeped. Other cars whir on the street. Maybe I need to tell myself to leave, but I can’t stop looking in. I can’t. Stop.


Michael Holladay is originally from Kentucky and is currently an MFA candidate at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, where he lives and teaches.

Illustration by Jeremy Anderson.

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