"Bobby, your boner is poking me," he mumbles. He says it in a way that implies the appendage is no more offensive than a leg or an arm. He came from a part of my life when people called me Bobby.
"Sorry," I say, shifting my body away from him.
He's a nurse from an old group of friends, a group that used touch as a form of communication. Boys and girls, resting our heads on each others' laps and casually draping our legs over shoulders. We could fit seven of us on a couch and still be comfortable. We embraced the warmth and care of each other without the pheromones and motivations that came with sexual exploits.
I guess that's what he and I are doing, considering we've been sleeping with each other for months but haven't so much as exchanged a kiss. When we sleep together we abide by the definition of the word, keeping our genitals and body fluids to ourselves but reveling in the connection of entering the twisted reality of dream with another person.
Besides, he smokes and I don't appreciate the taste of ash the way I used to.
I run my hand through his hair. His Chinese ancestry gifted him with sleek, wispy hair and high cheekbones, a strong but balanced brow and a wide jawline that seems to have a Western influence
A few minutes later he rises from bed, the bruise I planted on him last night blossoming on his side. The muscles of his stomach are always more defined in the morning, dehydrated and craving nourishment. His shoulders are wide from the push ups he frequently partakes in, like the ones he's currently doing on his bedroom floor.
He's been teaching me to spar in his living room, sometimes the back patio if the weather is comfortable. We exchange fists and feet in a flurry of violence then collapse into a heap of tangled limbs and affection on the couch, sometimes discussing our new love interests and other times soaking in the silence of our souls. I used to attempt to avoid that silence, fill it with music and books and movies, conversations with strangers and bottles of beer, but I've become more comfortable with it over time.
Usually we'll only spar for an hour or two a night, but sometimes when we're feeling frisky we'll go for hours, sweat spraying into each others eyes and knuckles sliding across shoulders. But we always remain to nurse bruised bones and bleeding elbows.
Someone to hold, someone to hurt, isn't that what everybody really wants?
We sneak in and out of each others' apartments, discover new ways to cover cuts and bruises, avoid intertwining our fingers around friends. The parallels to an abusive relationship aren't lost on us.
Eventually we mentioned our situation to friends. Some were hostile, others curious and full of questions we weren't quite sure we knew the answers to. We were met with some rolling eyes and we answered with shrugged shoulders, often responding with "I don't know." Some don't believe us and others ask "what's the point?"
Our friendship is defined in a way that crosses the boundaries of traditional camaraderie but doesn't quite roam into the realm of romance. We walk the borders in between, nomads declaring ourselves citizens of neither and left to fend for ourselves between the opposing sides.
It's about finding what's comfortable.
And sometimes running your fingers through the hair of a close friend while he rests his head on your lap, splitting a six-pack of Shiner Bock, and watching an episode of Misfits together is what's comfortable.