“In the Dark”

In the movies at the ten o’clock late show showing something with Bruce Willis, I don’t really know the name, Clay huffed and puffed beside me. He used to have asthma or does have asthma he doesn’t tell anyone about except me, but it’s easy to think about in the past tense because he has it under control or something or so he said or maybe he didn’t say. I don’t know, but the point is that his breath was quick, and I was next to him. He’s always saying dude and what’s good. He had this billed hat tilted to the side, Chicago Bulls in the red and black, but underneath, when his head wasn’t covered he had hair puffed at an angle I wanted to pat pat down, rub-run my fingers through his coarseness. He wore these basketball shorts all the time, and the fibers made sure to hold the smell of him, pungent and sharp and earthy, a round kind of smell, and he was drumming his leg up-down next to me, beg begging, maybe? I wanted him to want it but didn’t know if he wanted it. This theater was old as shit with floors that glued your shoes or knees or hands. We were in the back. I picked the back, and he was like, okay. But I know what can happen back there, back here, here we are. Or were. Is this the past? I kneed his knee, sorry, an accident. But he knew. He knees me back, and back again. My hand, here, take mine, his is rough-soft, sand-papery smooth, do you feel that, that means here it is, down on him hard beneath those shorts. You know what to do. I am only picking up my cola from the floor, but I’m not when I squat between his legs. We are the only ones in the aisle. It’s dangerous but safe. Bruce Willis has his shirt off on the screen, nipple-flecked above me. Clay’s hand is in my hair. Don’t look, don’t see, don’t talk, you’re mouth-gagged. I can take him. In the dark.

We are in the past. He always wants us in the past like it didn’t happen. He has this girlfriend named Shannon, but since freshman year she’s wanted to go by Shay, and I’m like shut the fuck up stop it, you peed your pants in fourth grade. I didn’t know where she was during the Bruce Willis night. We walked out of the theater, and don’t look at anyone, don’t look at that bubble haired woman or those skate board kids, because if you look they’ll take you away from you, accused, or maybe they don’t know you know they know you know. We’re just two dudes and Bruce Willis. Afterwards, at Clay’s house he pulled out some good weed he scored, which he always did. His parents were out of town, so it was us in his room, blaring some football video game, probably called Madden or something where they’re digital and formed and helmeted for protection. We were such a disaster, me and Clay. That was slang I heard I’m using now because it came to me. Such a disaster. Meaning we were disastrous. Meaning we were dangerous, or was I the dangerous one? Or was he? And was he dangerous to me or me to him? Or were we to Shannon? Or was it that we were dangerous, a threat, to everyone else?

Bits of Shannon lay around. She left a lipstick. By the time we were especially high, I was like, hey Clay, what do you think of this? And I smeared it on my lips, popped them for him. It was pink, tacky with sparkles and glimmer. I wanted to be tacky for him because he didn’t know any better. I don’t know dude, he said. I bet he had popcorn kernels in the ridges of his teeth, and I could taste them even though we never kissed. He lay on the bed in an oversized tank top, and I just stood there, and he was masturbating through his shorts. Hey Clay, what do you think of this? And I slinked on underwear she left, black and lace-grainy, like the feel of Clay’s hands while they tightened, squeezing down the hair on my thighs. Come here, he said. Come here he was saying, and I didn’t know what to do.

About Michael Holladay

Michael Holladay was born and raised in Kentucky and is currently a transplant in Arizona. He holds an MFA from Arizona State University. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, The Saint Ann's Review, Paper Darts, and elsewhere.



  • Monique Gagnon German

    Wow. Great story. Alive with detail and emotion. Loved it.