This story is totally fictional. Like in life, there is unhappiness as well as love here, there is treachery, there is death, and there is sex. Eventually.
However, love is the key word in this story.
The author apologizes for possible lapses in idioms and grammar, but English is not his native tongue. His origin will become apparent in the story.
No living creature was harmed and no tree was cut down to produce this story.
Constructive feedback will be gratefully received at . Flamers will be ignored.
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MY BLOOD SINGS IN BENDIK
We came into the world like brother and brother;
And now let's go hand in hand, not one before the other.
(Where chapter 5 left off:)
He comes close to my face, his belt buckle almost hooks into mine.
- I took their boy, he says. – I stole their boy away from them. So they got me for it.
He puts his head to my shoulder and I feel him start to cry. His sobs pulsate against me. I close my arms around him, I rock him slowly.
- And he's gone, he whimpers.
My father's visit left me in an apprehensive mood. Alone, with time to reflect, the fact of Bendik's disappearance seemed to dig deeper into me and bury itself somewhere in my chest. A slow, nagging burn grew out of it.
Where could he have gone? Who did he know that he could turn to? The image of him, watchful, despondent, and achingly beautiful, crystalized in my brain. Why did I know so little about him, why hadn't I bothered to be there for him, how could I have been so selfish as to never even give him a call, all this time when I'd been away? I began to feel that old familiar sting of shortcomings, of guilt, of betrayal.
My unease grew into anxiety. What if he was still just as helpless, still just as easy to crush and to shatter as he was when we were kids? He would fucking drown out there, he would perish!
I pushed these fruitless thoughts away, they were nothing but idle speculations. For all I knew, he could be perfectly capable of handling his life. After all, he'd be 19 soon. What was I like at 19? I managed my life just fine.
But I couldn't get rid of the images in my head. The slender, handsome 15-year-old would blend with the chubby little kid who came running clumsily after me, arms waving and eyes wide open. The happy smile of the little tyke in my lap would transform into the red eyed face in the door crack. And these images would pop up at the most inconvenient times.
My last day on the set was almost a nightmare. I had hoped a day of concentration would kill off all my pointless forebodings, but the opposite happened. The more I tried to concentrate on my work, the more lines disappeared from my head, and the more my misgivings about Bendik seemed to fill up my brain. My character's exit from the series was supposed to be one of dark despair, followed by his off-screen suicide in the next episode, but when I later saw the show, I cringed from my bad acting. What came across wasn't the black desperation and deep misery that I was meant to project, what came through was just some vague bewilderment and distress. It was like I told the camera What did you say, suicide? Oh, sorry. I forgot.
I felt empty. I felt inadequate. I felt useless. Instead of moping around the flat, I decided to get away for a short time. What was the point of trying to look out for Bendik anyway? I didn't even know if he was still in the country.
I booked a four day trip to Budapest. I planned to spend all my waking hours in the thermal baths. Indeed.
* * *
I more or less carry him to his room. His sobs aren't that heavy anymore. Occasionally he draws his breath in with a deep, shivering sigh. I put him down on his bed, fully clothed, and I crawl in behind him, spooning him.
- Maybe it's time, I tell him. – Time for you to do as he says. Time for you to trust me again. For real. I mean, please?
A tiny moan escapes him as he moves slightly, shrugs himself more comfortably into my embrace. He's whispering something I can't hear. I tighten my arm around him.
- Tell me about this boy, then, I say, trying not to let my voice divulge the strange apprehension I feel.
He remains silent for a long while. His body is so still, the only movement I feel is his chest slowly heaving beneath my arm.
- My card was denied, he finally says.
I wait for more, but I can tell he's not yet clear about how to go on with this. I won't push harder, he has to find his own way. And at last he does.
- It's very cold outside at night, you know.
He shudders, like his body remembers.
- I wanted to go back to the hostel, but my money was all gone. Please don't judge me.
I understand where he's going. Something in my chest ties itself into a knot as I picture him sitting on a bench in the park, waiting to be approached. I rub his shirt clad chest.
- Don't even think it, I tell him. – I love you, remember?
His hand covers mine to stop my rubbing. He keeps his hand there.
- I was so frightened. This man ... In the room ... I was terrified. I was naked and he touched me and I threw up all over him. I was sure he was going to kill me.
He swallows hard, his hand leaves mine and he removes his plastic eye cover.
- But he was nice about it, I don't know why. He seemed to ... I don't know, understand? He cleaned up and told me he would watch me jerk off instead.
I can tell by his voice that he's about to get on top of his angst, he's beginning to get hold of the demon's horns. I get goosebumps all over my back.
- First I couldn't get it up. But then ... weird ... I closed my eyes and started to run the Pink song in my head. And then I imagined you were there, that it was you watching me ... and I so wanted you to see me ... to see what I could do. Make you proud of me. And I did everything in front of you ... In front of him. Oh God, this sounds so ... so twisted.
I can't help it. Tears flow from my eyes. I want to run away from him, I want to melt into him, I want to disappear, I want to kiss him. And kiss him. And kiss him. I'm lost.
- When I was done, I saw he had his cock out and had come on the floor. He told me I was spectacular ... And then he made me an offer.
* * *
I didn't spend all my time at the baths. I walked a lot. I walked in brilliant sunshine and in forlorn neon splendor. I walked among majestic buildings and ugly buildings, among superbly dressed people and down-at-heel people, among street vendors and dog turds. I sat down at sidewalk cafés and drank hard liquor before lunch, I snuck into art galleries and churches. I heard gypsy music seep out from bistros, I watched people mill out from theaters and cinemas. I ate delicious food, heavy with oil and peppers. I went to a piano recital of lovely Bartok music, and moved on to a disco on Király street.
The baths, yes. Those two beautiful, classic thermal baths not too far from each other on the Buda side. The strange and absorbing mix of relaxation and tension: The company of men of all ages and shapes, naked but for a small piece of cloth just there, the unhurried passing from one pool to another, then finding my place laid back against warm jets of water spouting from a lion's mouth. The subtle looks, the clandestine glances. The looks that linger. The movement and then the touch of a man's leg against mine. The thrill of a hand secretly finding its way under water. All so furtive, so unlike the bluntness of the gay saunas. So incredibly exciting.
And all the time, all the fucking time, I had Bendik's shadow next to me.
* * *
- They put me up in a room in this abandoned office building. I suppose they realized I couldn't be marketed in the ordinary way, I mean, as an escort or something, because they sort of left me to myself for two days. Then I did the first video for them. They paid me up front. Then the second, and they told me they'd pay me extra if I did a live thing, and they withheld the payment for the second video to push me into agreeing.
I still weep, softly, holding him like I'm trying to prevent us from breaking into pieces and fall apart.
- Well, I said I would do it ... if they could guarantee no one touched me. And I wanted the money, I wanted to get out of that creepy building, with the Bulgarian hookers and everything ... So, yeah.
He frees himself from my cuddle, turns onto his back to sit up, and starts a little when he sees my face wet with tears.
- Oh. Magnus, please! Don't cry.
I shake my head. My voice threatens to fail me.
- I'm sorry, I gulp. - I just feel so ... I feel it's all my fault. Like you are Jesus, and had to die for my sins. I'm sorry.
I hide my face in his pillow, take a couple of deep breaths.
- Let's go sit on the couch, I say, - and have a glass of wine. Then I'd like you to tell me the rest.
He gets up off the bed. – Can I have a beer instead?
* * *
I called Dad from the airport. Had he heard from Bendik? He hadn't. Did he worry? Of course he did.
- I'm so unsettled, he said. I don't know what to do. Part of me wants to set heaven and earth in motion to bring him back, but part of me says he needs his space, needs to find himself or whatever. I won't interfere, I won't push him to come back, I just wish I knew where the fuck he is!
I agreed. I told him about my last day at work, told him about my trip, told him about the way Bendik haunted my brain. He was silent and listened.
- Magnus, he said in the end. – Sometimes you are so dense.
I pondered over this on the bus back to the city. Why did he say that? Was I stupid to worry? Was I stupid to go to Budapest? I didn't at all get what he had meant, what his parting shot implied.
Back in my flat, I called my agent. Nothing. I called my Swedish agent. Nothing. I went for a run along the river, all the way up to the small lake where it starts, then the bus downtown, sweating like a pig. I stayed for ages in the shower.
I called my father again, wondering if he knew Bendik's financial status. He hadn't really thought about that. Now, who's dense? I asked for Bendik's account number, but he said not to worry, he'd transfer an amount to him just in case.
Late at night I called my old friend, the prop master, in London. I cried to him on the phone. I can't recall a single word of what he said.
* * *
Bendik just sips from the bottle. I've already downed my glass of red, so I pour out another.
- Yeah, he says, he sounds tired. – The rest. Really?
I nod. – I need to know. If you can manage.
He leans back, good eye closed, the other behind gauze. His mouth opens and shuts a few times. And then his words seem to emerge from their hiding place.
- You'd think it would be, like really sleazy, wouldn't you? Like five or six seedy, leering, old trolls drooling at you ... But it wasn't, it was kind of ... distinguished in a way. Lots of suits. Even some younger guys. Well, the room was pretty dark, so I don't really know. About twenty guys, I guess. And one lady ... but that could've been drag.
He sits up, leans over with his elbows on the table and stares into my face.
- Two acts before me, sort of increasing in heat, you know. There was this small stage built up in the corner by the door that led out to the fire exit, well, the door was removed, there was a plush curtain instead, you get the picture? We all waited in the narrow hallway out there. First there was this guy ... I don't know, 16 or what ... he did a dance and a strip, not all the way ... I didn't see much of him and he disappeared after his act.
I see his mind working, the memories rushing through his brain, clouding his eye.
- Then ... these two other guys who stripped each other, and then did some easy petting, sort of soft porn in a way ... they didn't get hard, right? Well ... Actually I didn't see the end of their act.
He looks like his out of reach now, deep into himself, reliving this.
- Because I noticed the boy. I didn't see when he was brought into the hallway, but suddenly he was there. In just his underwear. I mean, he was so young ... Ten, maybe eleven ... and he looked so out of it, drugged, you know. And all I could think was You shouldn't be here! And then it flashed through my brain what was probably going to happen to him, and I snapped. I was right back to when I was nine ... and those people ... And suddenly I knew I had to get him out of there.
He's back from his dive into darkness, his eye is awake and clear and moist, and his voice almost falters:
- So that's what I did.
I sit here flabbergasted. Before I know it, words explode out of me:
- God, how I love you!
* * *
My Swedish agent called. There was casting on the way for another one of those typically Scandinavian social-realistic movies, and the producers had seen my former Swedish movie and were interested. I had to go there the next day to meet them, but I would probably have to audition for them, it wasn't a dead cert.
It seemed like sent from heaven anyway. Just what I needed: the prospect of absorbing work, the chance to get away from my futile and noisy thoughts. Recognition. Money. All of it.
I felt renewed. I put on a hat, yes, I did! and went out for coffee. As I sat there, drinking coffee and booking tickets for Stockholm on my phone, the process was interrupted by an incoming call. My phone did not recognize the number, but I answered it anyway, hoping it would be another possible offer of work; that was the state my mind was in.
It was from one of the big hospitals. What was my connection with Bendik Winter? My heart sank like a stone, my hands quivered as I told them I was his brother.
* * *
I see in his face how his defenses pop into action. There is disbelief written all over him.
- But you can't, he mutters. - I'm disgusting. I sold my body! I'm vile!
I don't know how to convince him, what to say to prove myself to him, what to do to make him stop with his self-deprecation. I blow out one long, resigned sigh.
- You're not the vile one. It doesn't make a difference what you say, Bendik. You can't alter the facts. The fact is that I love my disgusting, vile, whatever you say, brother. I know you have all the reasons in the world to doubt me, but please, please stop questioning it now.
He searches my face, then drops his eye.
- I'd so like to do that, he whispers.
He starts to scratch his shoulder. Unbuttons his shirt , slides his hand in behind the fabric to get at his scars. I ask if he's still in pain. He shakes his head. Just itchy. He bows down his head and keeps scratching, slowly, almost sensually. The sight of him fills my heart with the want and the longing I have for him that I can't explain away any longer, the longing that I can't escape, the want that I can't allow. That I need to fight.
* * *
I got to the hospital in a blind fog. Found the entrance to the Emergency Unit, staggered and reeled through several barriers, past several hatches where people perched and demanded identification.
Finally someone came to help me, to put me in the picture. My little Bendik was the victim of a stabbing, he was now in surgery having blood transfusions and wounds seen to, maybe operated on. He had been unconscious from the blood loss on arrival.
I felt my feet give way. I grabbed at the nurse to steady myself, he held on to me for a minute. Then a certainty, a conviction rose like a column of light in my brain.
- I want to give him my blood! Im tested, I'm clean, I'm his brother, please let me give him my blood! I want so badly to do it!
The nurse recognized my wish, my need. He convinced the doctor on call, took me through the required tests and preparations. I loved him for his efforts, he hadn't needed to help me at all.
And finally I was laid down next to my ghostly pale brother with a tube from my arm into his.
* * *
I'm awaked by the shrill and impatient door bell. Groggy from sleep I look at my watch. Shit, it's past 10. I grab my shirt and throw it on, run down the stairs and open the front door.
My Dad is there, grinning. – You could have put your pants on. Then he holds up a tabloid paper:
SEX RING BUSTED.
Huge spread, full frontpage photo of an uptown brick building. Subtext: City Council Member arrested.
(Hang on, one more chapter to go now.)