Boys with Insurance
Thomas Kearnes

Roman doesn't care if I give him the virus. In fact, he says maybe I could write a story about it, about this guy who goes around getting fucked by guys he knows are positive and doesn't care how things turn out. Ash, you should do it, he says.

We're naked together in this motel room on the outskirts of Jacksonville. The Coke machine outside the door is busted and every now and then we hear guests banging it with their fists. Roman had told me not to park directly in front of the room. He said to park and wait for him. I did, at the end of the lot furthest from the highway, but a Mexican kid with a sunken chest stared out the window at me so I got out of the car and just walked around the strip mall next door until it was time to meet Roman. People use this motel to get high. Jacksonville is a pretty small town, and he didn't want anyone he knew to see us enter a room together.

That could be your story, he says. About this guy who doesn't care.

But what does he want?

What do you mean?

Roman turns over on his side and props up his head with his arm. I kiss him, place my hand on his hip. He has long arms and legs, large hands. When we meet, I like placing my small fingers inside his palm and letting him squeeze.

In fiction, the protagonist, your main character—

I know what that is, he says, smiling.

Your main character has to want something. I almost ask, What do you want? But I catch myself. I say, What does he want?

I don't know. To get away from everything. The stress.

The stress of what?

He shrugs one shoulder and I notice his eyes are green. I had forgotten since the last time. Of living, he says.

Being sick gives you plenty of stress, I say.

I know, but there are pills now, right? It's sort of like diabetes now.

Pills are expensive.

I have insurance.

So do I, but still…

He leans in to kiss me and I let him draw my body close. We'd taken hits off the pipe when I arrived and the air conditioning unit hisses stale air into the room, so we're both hot. Sweaty, our bodies slide against one another.

He grabs my cock and begins to pull it, finding a rhythm, but it stays limp. Sometimes the tweak does that to me. I feel awful about this. Roman had called me earlier that night, asked me to drive down, saying he wanted me to fuck him, wanted me to come inside him. I want your seed inside me, he said on the phone.

I let him pull on me a few more moments. I listen to the television next door. I hate this motel, with its missing marquee letters and torn awning over the lobby entrance. When I got here, I saw a woman about my age wandering through the tall weeds in the vacant lot on the side opposite the strip mall. She rubbed her hands over her arms as if she were cold, but it's August.

Do you have any lube? I ask.

Shit. No. I'm sorry. What about shampoo? Would that work?

I could jump in the shower.


I kiss him and slide off the bed. My body glows from within, like a Japenese lantern, and I wonder how many other rooms in this motel hold people like us, people just wanting another person inside them.

Wanna join me?

Nah, I'll wait for you. Get it nice and hard for me.

I will, I say. But I doubt I can. Usually, if the tweak makes me limp, I have to wait hours before I can get it hard again. But Roman wants this, so I smile at him and step into the tiny bathroom. I close the door behind me. The toilet nestles against the dingy white bathtub. I pull back the stiff, clear plastic curtain and step inside.

I decide to run a bath instead of a shower. When you're tweaked, nothing feels better than to sit in a tub of hot water. I turn the knob and the water runs. I inch it back and forth until I find the temperature I want. Leaning against the back of the tub, I try to rip open the small packet of shampoo but my fingers are too slick. I try again, and again. No luck. I don't want to disappoint Roman just yet, so I start to stroke my cock with my bare hand but that never works even when I'm sober.

Once the water fills halfway, I shut it off and lay back against the tub. I keep stroking. I try to think about Roman, those eyes, the dimples that appear in his left cheek when he smiles. What I think about instead is the story. What does my protagonist want? What does he want? It's so rare when someone wants something from you, maybe you should just give it to him.

I lose track of time. Finally, I hear Roman call out from the bed. You ready yet? I look at the closed door and stop stroking. This isn't going to work and I'm going to have to tell him. I shut my eyes and say not yet. I'm in the story now, but I don't tell him that. I don't tell him I'm in the story, and in the story I'm not alone.

Thomas Kearnes is from East Texas. His stories have run in 3 AM, Night Train, SmokeLong Quarterly and others.

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Photo detail on main page courtesy of Arby Reed.

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