AS YOUNG AS YOU FEEL
© Clare London
I’m hammering on the door of the bathroom. “Come on, come on! The cab will be here in ten minutes, and the guys are all waiting at the restaurant! What’s the problem?”
I listen for an excuse, like he’s flushed his sock down the toilet, or aliens have abducted his toothbrush. I get nothing but a strangled sob.
“Is something really wrong?” I ask, alarmed.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” comes the muffled reply.
“Sure.” I shrug. I risk a glance at my watch. This is a special occasion, isn’t it? I guess there’s plenty reason to indulge him.
The door flies open and he’s standing there, pants unbuttoned, silk shirt undone, hair plastered to his freshly washed forehead. I can feel the gentle, familiar throb in my groin. I’m sorely tempted to push him back into the room, turn him around and slide my hands down inside those new chinos, making us well and truly late…
“No,” he says, reading my lust like a neon sign, not that it’s ever needed sophisticated translation. “Not now. There are more important things on my mind.”
I bite back the inevitable comment. “Can I help?”
He flushes. He tilts his head to the side, his hand pushing at the hair at his temples. “Look!”
“Do you think it’s receding?”
“Do I- what?”
“Receding!” he snaps. “The roots are further back now, aren’t they? Can’t you see it?”
What do I say? I shrug ruefully, and make a pretence of gazing at the roots of his more than generous hair. I like the smell of his new shampoo. I like the tickle of the hair on my upper lip when I nuzzle his neck. That neon sign is winking again…
He turns to peer into the bathroom mirror. “And what about nose hairs?”
“Uh-” I’m bemused. “Everyone has them, don’t they?”
“But not so prominent!” he groans. “Do you think they’ll appear in my ears next?”
My eyes are drawn irresistibly to his nose, but it’s not like there are thick ropes of nasal hair hanging from its tip. It’s a well-defined nose. He has strong, handsome features; the hint of stubble on his chin even after shaving; a full, sometimes sardonic mouth…
Neon light sputters with overheating.
“And my muscle tone’s softening. Do I look flabby to you? Are you listening?”
I sigh. He peers down at his chest, struggling with his worries. OK, so he’s broadened out with the years, but the definition is still pretty impressive. His belly is flat – ish – apart from the shadowed curves that frame his navel, and I can still trace the ribcage under his torso, taut skin stretched over bone and sexy muscle…
“Shit!” he gasps. “It’s a grey hair! Look!” He stabs at his chest, poking around his left nipple. There’s a trail of fine, warm hair on his torso all the way down to his pubic nest. It’s all dark, like the hair on his head. Well, it’s always looked dark to me.
“What’s this all about, then?”
“What?” He glares at me, defensively. “I’m just noticing things…”
“No you’re not just noticing. You’re panicking. Getting paranoid. Just because-”
“Don’t say it!” he cries out.
I lean in, relentlessly, pressing him back against the sink and staring fiercely into his wide eyes. I can smell his skin; feel the delicious warmth of him.
“Just because you’re a year older, today! You hate birthdays, don’t you?”
“It’s not just a birthday-”
“No,” I agree. “It’s not just a birthday, indeed. But that’s not the point, is it?”
“What do you mean-?”
I give in to just a little bit of that temptation, pressing my lips to his jaw, running them up to the lobe of his – hairless – ear.
“You’re as gorgeous as you were when we were both angry young men. You’re fit and fierce and provocative. You know stuff I’ve never thought to ask; you make things happen I never thought could. And you’re as dear to me now as you were all those years ago. More so! Sure, you can’t cook for shit, and you’re no competition at Xbox. And you never remember to put out the trash in time for collection. But you’re the sexiest, wittiest, horniest, cutest guy I ever met, ever tumbled, ever fucked-” I can hear his breath quickening. He’s very flushed – he’s bracing himself for some kind of put-down.
I don’t give him the chance.
I kiss him quickly, yanking the sides of his shirt together. “Get dressed. You’ll get into the cab, eat dinner with the guys, accept the birthday cards with good grace and the jokes with less, and then we can come back home and play ‘who gives best head’ until morning. OK?”
He smiles. “You say things like this every year.”
I’m angry with us both; the emotion is sharp inside me. “And I mean them, too! This is what it’s about – being together for the long term. It means sharing the growing up, too. You appear no different to me, then, now, next year. I love you just the same, and I’ll keep telling you, if that’s what you need to hear. Everything is just more familiar, adding layers to our life, every day.”
“Shit,” he sighs. He gazes at me with misted eyes; he looks punch-drunk. He fumbles with the button on his shirt and I resist the urge to slap his hand out of the way and do it for him.
“After all…” I say, stepping cautiously back towards the open door. “You only reach this hallowed age once in your life, eh?”
He scowls. “What?”
“Naughty Forty! Haughty Forty! Portly Forty!” I whoop, bounding down the stairs two at a time, the doorbell ringing the cab’s arrival, and him stampeding after me, yelling.
“Bring your walking frame!” I call happily, grabbing my coat. “We’ll get a senior citizen discount at the restaurant!”