When I was a kid, my parents and I lived in a small boarding house uptown. In the apartment above us lived two men. In the mornings while my mom would walk me to school, we would always come face-to-face with one of them in the lobby. He was always wearing a well-ironed, matching suit and tie, all tied together with polished black dress shoes and gold cuff links. He'd tip his hat to my mom with a smile so sincere that you had no choice but to return the favor. I'd run home after school, with a heart of a thief, just to experience the joys of his bright smile, his hazel eyes peering down at me under curly black bangs.
The other was a southeast asian man with eyes the color of deep chocolate. He was a short, playful man that'd always wore a pair of paint-stained jeans with a white smock shirt. Sometimes I would see him playing soccer with the neighborhood kids in the lot next to our building. He had shoulder length,jet black hair and shared the same charitable smile as his partner. A thing of beauty. I never knew either one of their names, so I'd decided to call the tall one Barry and the other Bruce. I kept my fascination of them secret, eyeing them only in passing and when alone.
One night, when my parents went out to dinner alone, I let my vision linger out the window until the taillights of their brown station wagon had completely disappeared. My heart racing, I ventured outside our two room apartment into the teal-plastered hallways of the boarding house. I walked half-anxious, half cautiously down the long corridor until I met with the stairway going upstairs. I bit my lip in thought. Was I going to go through with this? My mom had told me all the time that this was wrong. I had never disobeyed my parents' lessons before. Until now.
I swallowed hard and took a hold of the white railing, letting it support each heavy, rebellious step I took. My eyes were glued on the dark brown door at the top of the stairs. It's golden handle glowed in the full moon's light, as if it was holy. When I reached my destination, I had lost the ability to speak or blink. Footsteps and conversation sounded within, and my heart jumped.
Swallowing the flooding saliva in my mouth I bent my knees and aligned my iris with the keyhole under the illuminated doorknob. I could see a studio apartment with well-polished hardwood walls and floors. I pinpointed the canvas in the far corner, the tall lamp behind it, the pile of used sheets in the center of the room, and the sound of water running out of sight. I hear one of them giggle.
“You know, I think I'm gonna sell Nimzy for $150.”
“Really? That much, huh?”
The water stopped running and both men came into view. I could feel my stomach get heavy, it was as if microscopic frogs were jumping around inside, crashing into one another, falling headfirst only to rise and leap again.
They plopped down onto the pile of sheets. Bruce rubbed his hand across the white linen as he spoke.
“Then we could have enough to buy a mattress from Juan.”
Barry propped his head on a knuckle in Bruce's direction. “Juan from downstairs? I thought his mattresses were a lot more expensive than that.”
“Yeah, he said he'd give up fifty percent on account of the many times I'd let him crash here after Marcella kicked him out of their apartment.”
They both laughed, genuine smiles on both their faces.
“Marcella, sure is a piece of work isn't she?”
Barry's face turned serious and calm, his hazel orbs cemented in Bruce's direction. “I'm so proud of you baby.”
Bruce smiled warmly. I could see the whites of his teeth clearly despite my keyhole lens.
Bruce let his hand slide up and down Barry's button-up, resting on his chest. His eyes unmoving, Barry combed his fingers through Bruce's dark shining locks with his free hand. Their faces, stamped with love, gravitated towards each other and finally met with fervent passion. My breath returned in a quiet gasp.
I found myself loudly scampering down the steps and down the hall to the apartment, speeding into the bathroom. My face in the mirror looked as if I'd just seen a murder committed. My deep, fast heaves further enforced that my breathing had fully returned. Anxiety pounded in my ears, my fingers shook ferociously against the rim of the sink, and my eyes felt dangerously heavy. I needed to lie down.
I knelt from the mirror onto the cold linoleum, letting my eyes wander amongst the ceiling. The image of Barry and Bruce replayed itself in my head. I could feel myself enlarging in my jeans more with every encore. On the thirtieth or fortieth play, I began to slip my hand beneath the elastic of my underwear. I closed my eyes and let my imagination devour me, feeding me the forbidden images of Bruce and Barry in deep embrace. A thing of beauty.