Improper Handling A short story by Alison T. Bond
Micheal slumped against the bathroom door, covered in blood, his mouth was full of it, leaking out from inside his cheeks, dripping rapidly down his chest. The pain was excruciating, his lips were in shreds and he was gasping for breath. If he didn’t get help, he would bleed to death. He had to get to a phone. ~•~ It had started merely a year ago. ~•~ Micheal was high up in the food chain at an advertising agency. It was an extremely busy city office and they had weathered the recession, just. A few bumps in the road, but now things were looking up. There were positive vibes flying around and this certainly in part was due to Micheals tenacity. His charm filled pro-activity had kept the clients attention (and therefore purse strings) at close proximity. He had been single for some time, so had plenty of time on his hands to afford the attention to both work and clients alike. It was not the way he chose to be. It had just worked out like that. He had tried marriage in his twenties. A dreadful mistake from vows, right through to divorce. He was gay, something he always knew from being quite young, but it was a state of being that his middle-class, church going parents would never have felt truly comfortable with. And so, he lived the lie as best he could. Until his parents passed away within a few short months of each other. In his grieving state, he was able to admit the marriage was a sham. The divorce lawyers had their swag. ~•~ Once he was free to do as he pleased, his life was much easier. Though romantically, not what you could describe as successful. A few rather enchanting dalliances which had intermittently put a smile on his face, and indeed a spring in his step. But they generally ended with him wondering where it had gone wrong. From the wandering happily down life’s road to walking straight into a proverbial lamppost, finding himself emotionally bruised and alone once again. Lately, only the odd drunken attempt at seduction had been achieved. It was beginning to get to him. Everyone else seemed to have it all worked out. He was in his late forties and felt time was passing him by. 2
~•~ The flirtation had begun the minute Ben had walked in, Micheal had felt his innards lurch. He suspected this was what love at first sight felt like. I was certainly nothing akin to anything else he had ever felt. The young man was tall, over six feet. Quite beautiful in a rather odd way. Not exactly handsome in the traditional sense, but angular, he stood out from the crowd. He was graceful and had an easy demeanor, almost an inviting presence. If truth be told, he was the exact opposite to Micheal, who on a good day perhaps only just topped five foot six in his stocking feet. He was still pretty active and slim for his age, but was soft looking with boyish cheeks. His dark hair was peppered with grey, his beard and body hair matched. He didn’t exactly stride with manly confidence either, he took rather small childlike steps as if almost always on the edge of panic. That though, is the world of marketing for you. It was an instant ‘click’ situation. Chatting by the photocopier: the water cooler, in the kitchen. Any meeting they both attended, was conducted with the utmost professionalism, meaning avoiding eye contact as much as possible lest they gave the game away. By the time Ben had moved into Micheals apartment they had got arriving and leaving separately for work off to perfection. They kept their heads down. But there is no smoke without fire along the office grapevine. They were outed far sooner than they would’ve cared to be, they rode the storm as best they could. The younger man was not used to the lifestyle of a high flyer, but he took to it like a duck to water. Nights at a fancy restaurant followed by the theatre; charity events, a dinner party every week, gallery openings. All the things Micheal had generally had to suffer attending alone. Now he was on a high, in flight with his companion. Being in love suited him very well. Happiness emanated from him. Every now and then Ben’s need for the typical club scene got the better of him. His needs took the front seat, his older partner tagging along, feeling out of sync with it all but willing to endure it in order to keep Ben happy. Ben enjoyed the thrill of the chase, the flirting and the dancing. He knew it made Micheal uneasy and seemed to enjoy it even more if he knew he was making hhis lover jealous. The assurance was, ‘It’s just a bit of fun, I’m just teasing’. 3
But the more nights spent clubbing, the more the energy between them altered. Ben was becoming ruthless, latching onto any available ‘game’ and giving them the come on. He wandered off for periods of time that were too long for comfort. Micheal invariably left standing at the bar, waiting for him to return, awash with panic whilst being given unwanted attention from every free and easy debauchee in the vicinity. There would be arguments on the way home, Ben with glazed eyes after indulgence in substances that the long arm of the law would frown upon. Drugs were something which Micheal had always avoided like the plague, preferring a clear head both in and out of the office. Ben’s usage caused him both worry and revulsion in equal measure. It began to make the young man aggressive, emotionally veering between bar fly thug and pitiful childishness at not getting his own way. The arguments turned, as time went by, into fist fights. Fights which Micheal could not possibly win. He was not, and never had been, a fighter. Covering up the bruising was vastly becoming a problem for the daytime office hours. You really can only walk into so many open wall cabinets, trip over so many curb stones, catch your forehead so many times getting into the car. ~•~ Though it tore him apart, Micheal knew that it had to end. The final straw had been a trip to the clinic. Antibiotics may well cure the disease, but not the heart. He couldn’t sweep the betrayal under the carpet. And so, he told Ben it was time for him to find somewhere else to live. He was no longer welcome. It was not news which Ben took with any grace. He was not about to give up his privileged lifestyle now that he had got used to it, he wasn’t going back to the dingy studio loft from which he had come. He was going to stay. He wasn’t going without a fight. ~•~ And so somehow, here was Micheal, covered in his own blood. Reeling from a smashed left hand, cheek bone and several cracked ribs. He had several slash marks across his chest from the kitchen knife which had been wielded at him once the fist work had stopped. And there was only one small lock between him and his attacker. If the assailant got in, Micheal would die. He’d bleed to death anyway if he didn’t get help. 4
‘I’m going to die, there’s no way out.’ In the end death gave no time for dramatic gurgling or sighing, the stereotypical norm in cinematic representations of these incidents. Just a split second and it was over. So much blood. Everywhere a sea of red on otherwise clinical white tiles. As Ben had burst into the bathroom, there was nothing he could do to stop himself slipping and hurtling head first onto the floor. The knife, his weapon of choice, the implement he intended to slay the cowering victim with, plunged into his own chest as he landed. And death was instantaneous. The sea of red was now made up of more than one man’s blood. Whether it had been his own death or Ben’s, it was the only release from abuse Micheal would have. ~•~ All the press attention always focused on straight relationships. How women are victims of spousal abuse. How they often were viewed with great sympathy after murdering their spouse, because of their circumstances over the years. No one had believed Micheal though. It couldn’t have been an accident. He couldn’t have been a victim. A man; how could a fully grown man have been abused? How often does society ask that question. He must have murdered his lover in a fit of jealousy, after all the dead man was a known philanderer. ~•~ In years following the incident, some of them spent at her Majesty’s leisure, Micheal had looked back on those days with mixed feelings. Both love and fear experienced in equal parts.
ÂŠ Alison T. Bond 2014 email: firstname.lastname@example.org