Travelling Home Ch. 03

Asian

Chapter 3: Athens

Athens has grown hotter over the years, and it’s not just me saying that. When I was a child, I remember that even in the summers we’d sometimes need a light jacket at night; that hasn’t been the case for a long, long time. We think it’s the constant forest fires and the buildings that have gone up in the place of trees, and we’ve put air-conditioners in our cars and in every room of our houses and offices, so even if the dawns and late nights are still cooler, who’d even know any more?

When the flight into Eleftherios Venizelos Airport takes you over the city, you see acre after acre of concrete baking in the heat, with the panels and bodies of solar water heaters gleaming on every rooftop. I can’t judge if it’s beautiful or ugly, though I guess most people would say the latter. For me, that last stretch, especially if I’m sitting on the left side of the plane and can catch a glimpse of Lycabettus… well, it heals something in me, even though I know that in two or three weeks I’ll be just as happy, happier, flying away again.

David was supposed to land earlier than me, flying in from Moscow, but the Aeroflot flight is delayed. I take advantage of the time to go to the ATM and get some money, then to rent a car. It takes several attempts to convince the customer service rep at the Sixt counter that I speak Greek fluently; it’s not the first time it’s happened. People see my name and assume I can only speak English, all evidence to the contrary. I guess a lot of us just don’t listen very carefully.

David and I have barely spoken over the past month, and the few conversations were awkward. We ended each one trying to check if we still planned to meet, trying not to be too obvious about it. I rehearsed my reaction in case he told me he had to cancel, several reactions, depending on how he led into it.

He’s here finally, walking through the sliding doors, scanning the waiting area. He looks exhausted, his face gray, his shoulders slumped in his business suit, but when he sees me, his eyes immediately lighten. For some reason I’m more self-conscious hugging him here than I was in London, and maybe that’s why he feels different in my arms. Even his smell seems different, and after a second I step away from him.

“I rented a car.”

He studies me for a second, a faint frown deepening the lines between his eyebrows, then he simply nods. “Lead the way.”

As I drive us out of the airport, he busies himself with the radio, trying to find a station with music. He stops at a familiar song that I remember slow dancing to with Benny in our apartment, then he leans back.

“Remember when flying into Athens meant landing in the golf course?” he asks me.

“It wasn’t actually in the golf course, you idiot,” I laugh, but he’s right, it was close enough. I sometimes miss the old airport. It was small and crowded, with those ugly yellow overhead signs you still see in some of the older and smaller airports around the world, but traveling back then meant something special, almost magical, at least to me, and the old airport became part of that.

His hand drifts over to mine, where it rests on the stick shift. He covers it lightly, his palm warm and dry against the back of my hand. I look at him quickly, expecting him to say something, but his head is against the headrest, his eyes closed.

“Tired?” I ask him softly.

“Yes. It’s been a long month.”

I don’t really have an answer for that, and after a while I can tell from his breathing that he’s asleep. His hand stays on mine throughout the whole way, growing damp with sweat after a while, but it doesn’t bother me. I lace our fingers together, to make shifting gears a little easier.

He stirs when we park, looking around, probably expecting a hotel, but seeing only a quiet neighborhood street with pine trees lining it on either side, two and three story apartment buildings standing in small gardens.

“Are we stopping off at your mother’s or something?”

I shake my head and point to a gate across the street.

“No. That’s mine.”

He unbuckles his belt and leans forward to look through the windshield.

“What, the whole building?”

“No, just the right half of the second floor. The balcony with the red and purple geraniums.”

“So this is home?”

I shrug. I don’t think of it as home really, just an apartment I bought years ago, using a big, unexpected bonus as a down payment. I had some half-baked idea of renting it out until I retire, but my friends told me so many horror stories about what tenants can do, not to mention the taxes and the difficulty of registering contracts, that I decided to keep it vacant and use it when I’m in Athens. I bought some furniture, and arranged with my sister, who lives only a ten-minute drive away, for her to check on things and water the geraniums once or twice a week.

I told my mother I’m coming home next week, because I don’t want to answer any of the questions she’s bound to ask if I show up with David, and I don’t want to give up any of our düzce escort time together while he’s here to show up alone, but my sister knows I’m arriving today with someone and she’s promised to steer clear. She’s never had an issue with my being gay, but ever since she saw ‘Queer as Folk’ she has a rather distorted image of my sex life, so god only knows what she imagines she’s avoiding.

The apartment smells stale and I open the sliding balcony doors of the living room, trying to let in some fresh air, but it’s so hot and still outside that there’s no noticeable improvement. Something heavy and oppressive hangs in the air, and I try to pretend it’s the weather and not the unease between David and me.

“Living room,” I point out the obvious. “Kitchen through there.” David follows me down a short hallway, as I open doors. “Bathroom, bedroom, master bedroom.” I draw back blinds and open windows. “I need to get towels and sheets. I can never quite decide if I should make the beds before I leave, or when I come back.” I take a deep breath and order myself to shut up.

He ignores my babbling and stands in the middle of the master bedroom, his hand still on the handle of his wheelie suitcase. He rolls the suitcase to stand next to a wall, then shrugs off his suit jacket and walks to the closet.

“May I?” he asks, his hand hovering inches from the door handle, and I nod.

“Sure.”

He hangs up his jacket and loosens his tie, then sits down on the bare mattress, half-lying back and propping himself on his elbows.

“Why are you being so weird?”

I could pretend not to understand what he’s talking about, but he deserves more than that. Hell, we both do.

“I don’t know. Would you prefer to stay in the center? We can book a hotel room. There’s not a hell of a lot to do here.”

“No. This is nice.”

“There’s no cleaning service.”

He smiles. “I know how to make a bed and wash dishes. Don’t you?”

I try to smile back, and I shift my weight from one foot to the other.

“It’s more the cooking and laundry part that concerns me.”

“I know how to do those, too.”

“Yeah, me too. But this is supposed to be a vacation.”

“It will be. I don’t really associate hotels with vacations anyway; quite the opposite, in fact.”

I shift my weight again.

“So you’re okay with this?” I check again.

“If you are.”

The thing is, I didn’t expect it to feel this way. Sitting in Stockholm, this apartment had seemed like a practical spot to park our stuff and make further plans, maybe fly out to an island. Now, with him here, we need to think about groceries and cooking and making beds and splitting daily tasks, minimal as they may be. It’s too… domestic.

I sigh and go and sit next to him and stare at the wall opposite.

“Do you own property?” I ask him.

“I had a house right outside Budapest, but I signed it over to Nora. I haven’t bought anything since.”

“I don’t think of here as home,” I clarify carefully, although I’m not sure why it’s so important that he understand this point.

“Where then?”

I shrug. I feel the mattress shift slightly, then his fingers slip between my polo shirt and jeans at my waist, stroking my bare skin.

“There’s a pool in the back,” I tell him, still not entirely comfortable with the intimacy. “You have a bathing suit, right?”

“Yes.” His fingers don’t stop moving, a light touch, right on the edge of tickling, and I squirm a little. I twist around to look at him. He still seems tired, and that hank of hair that always hangs in his eyes is damp and stringy with sweat. I reach over and push it to the side, my own fingers lingering on the side of his face.

“Why don’t you go shower, and I’ll make the bed.”

He smiles a little and turns his face into my hand, kissing my wrist.

“You’re done being weird?”

“For the time being, at least,” I half-lie.

He laughs and sits up, leaning in for another kiss.

“Why don’t you come shower with me, and then we can make the bed together,” he suggests, and that’s an even better plan than mine, and suddenly it all feels light and okay again.

“What day are you on?” I ask him.

I only have air conditioning installed in the master bedroom, and for some reason it’s not working, so after we’re done with each other, we lie stretched out on our backs, sweating heavily, not even our pinkies touching. I wish I could levitate over the hot damp sheets.

“I’m not counting any more.”

I turn my head and raise my eyebrows in disbelief, even though he’s studying the ceiling and can’t see me.

“What? I’m not!” he insists after a long silence.

“How come?”

He shrugs. “It seemed a little stupid,” he mumbles.

“You didn’t want to go back to Day 1 and you couldn’t reconcile yourself to cheating. That’s it, isn’t it?”

He doesn’t answer, but the tip of the ear I can see reddens.

“I ran the days for you.”

He rolls over onto his side and gazes at me. I’ve always edirne escort been a sucker for eyes the color of his, that deep blue-gray, and I suddenly wonder if I might have preferred brown, like Benny’s, if David hadn’t been a part of my childhood.

“Did you?” he asks, his voice a little choked.

I’m embarrassed by an admission that I didn’t really intend to make, and by the ways I think he might be interpreting it, so I turn my head to look up at the ceiling again.

He sits up, and I can see trickles of perspiration running down his ribs.

“We might have to go to a hotel after all,” I tell him. “It’s the middle of August and everybody’s on vacation. I don’t know if we can find someone to fix the air conditioning.”

“No,” he says firmly. “No.” He scoots to the side of the bed and leans over in search of his underwear. “I’m going to go out to the balcony for a cigarette.”

“You don’t have to go outside,” I tell him, but he just shakes his head, then rummages in his suitcase for a new pack and in the pocket of his trousers for a lighter, and walks out of the bedroom.

I wallow for a while, trying not to think of anything, then I get up, take another shower, pull on underwear, shorts and a T-shirt and go to find him on the front balcony. He’s leaning against the railing, an ashtray balanced precariously next to his elbow.

“I need to go the supermarket for some supplies. You want to come with me?”

He nods. “Do I have time for a shower?”

“Sure. I’ll make a list in the meantime.”

Athens in August is a silent, empty city, especially if you’re not in the center where the tourist attractions are. Many shops are closed, and people are away, so it’s easy to park and get around. David wanders through the supermarket, a happy smile lifting the corners of his mouth, and he puts more food in the cart than we’ll ever get through in a week, especially if we head out to one of the islands.

“You’re buying too much,” I warn him, watching him compare the ingredients labels between two brands of cereal.

“Do you realize that sugar is the second or third ingredient in most cereals, even in supposedly healthy ones like bran flakes?” he says with a frown.

“I don’t eat bran flakes. Do you need me to find you some prunes, too?” I smirk.

“Oh, good. Toilet humor,” he says dryly. “That’s mature.”

“No, that’s middle-aged,” I correct him and he laughs. “I’m serious, though. You’re buying too much. I thought we might spend a couple of days outside of Athens, maybe Hydra or Spetses.”

“Do we have to decide now?” he glares at me.

It’s the first time I’ve heard him whine.

“No, I guess not.”

He smiles at my answer, good mood restored, and tosses one of the cereal boxes into the cart.

When we get back to the apartment, he asks me for my tool set, which he seems to find pretty pathetic after inspection, and goes to tinker with the air conditioner, while I put away the supplies.

“Do you know anything about what you’re doing?” I call out, worried about the validity of the warranty if he breaks something. Yeah, I’m a cheap bastard.

“Yes. Relax.”

“How do you know? You’re not even a real accountant.” I love his laughter.

“I went to a technical high school,” he tells me, coming to stand at the door of the kitchen so that he doesn’t have to yell across the apartment.

“Oh. Well, I think technology has progressed a little bit since then.”

“Screw you,” he says calmly.

He watches me for a while, and I make a production out of bending over to put things into the fridge and in the low cabinets. One thing I’m certain of, and that’s that he loves my ass. “Where’s your breaker panel?” he asks finally, a trace of humor in his voice.

“Behind the door.”

He opens the panel door and stares at the switches and the little labels written in Greek stuck over them. “Do you have a dedicated breaker switch for the air conditioning?”

“I’m not sure.” I come over to stand next to him, reading the labels. “Yeah. That one.”

He flips the switch down, then kisses me quickly on the cheek and walks out again, humming.

“Can’t we at least first try and find a repair guy?” I plead after him, and then I hear a couple of clanking noises. Obviously not. I can either worry or distract myself, so I pull a pint of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer, and carry it to the front balcony along with a spoon. It’s still hot, and a slight breeze has kicked up, so that now I feel like I’m in one of those ovens that cook with hot air. I pull off my T-shirt and hang it over the back of one the teak armchairs, then sit down and prop my feet against the railing. The ice cream is already starting to melt, just the way I like it, and I scrape my spoon along the edges of the container, slowly working my way toward the more solid center.

He joins me after half an hour, looking like he’s going to need his third shower of the day. I guiltily try to hide the empty carton under the chair, but he catches me elazığ escort at it, and grins.

“Buying too much food. Yeah, right.”

“This isn’t food, it’s ice cream,” I point out the obvious. “So, did you break it?”

“No.”

“You fixed it?”

“I think so.”

“What do you mean, you think so?”

“I just came to let you know that I intend to flip the breaker switch back on, so that we can test it. You might want to be ready to call an ambulance and the fire brigade.”

“Oh.” He’s teasing, right?

He comes over and squats next to me, so that our heads are almost level, and he kisses me, licking at my lips.

“Mmmm. Sweet and cool,” he murmurs. Meanwhile, I’m finding that I like salty and warm.

He stands up.

“I was just kidding. I fixed it.”

“Really?”

“Really. Wanna come see?”

I follow him to the bedroom. The door is closed, and when he opens it, the cool air seems to rush out at me and I moan in appreciation.

“You’re my hero,” I tell him, walking into the bedroom and doing a belly flop onto the bed, my arms spread out.

The door closes behind me, and his weight lands on my back, knocking the wind out of me.

“How are you going to thank me?” he asks, sliding his hands along my arms and pinning them down, rubbing his bare chest against my bare back, and rocking his hips into mine. I can feel his hard-on through our shorts.

“Didn’t we already have sex today?”

“Yep.” He’s chewing on my shoulder.

“You’re objectifying me.”

“Yep.”

“You see nothing in me beyond my handsome face, ripped abs, and long. Thick. Dick,” I try, since he seems so agreeable.

“I don’t even see those.”

Bastard. He could have at least given me one out of three.

“You have to get us naked. I don’t think even you can drill through four layers of clothing.”

“Three.”

I’ve been humping my ass up into him, but I still.

“You’re commando? Why did you not tell me this before?”

He groans and flips off me, onto his back.

“God, do you ever shut up? How did I ever get the impression you’re shy and retiring?”

I get up on my knees next to him, unbuttoning his shorts and dragging them off. His cock snaps up against his belly. I swoop down and lick the drops of pre-come off, then take him into my mouth, and he groans.

“Jordie,” he whispers, one hand coming to rest on my head, and I can’t help how I tense. He seems to realize it, and his fingers just drift on, down my neck and onto my shoulder, stroking there, showing me the rhythm he wants me to use on him. “So good,” he sighs.

His taste is stronger than I remember it, and I figure we’re both a little dehydrated with the heat. I try to take him in as deep as possible, relaxing my throat and swallowing, listening for that little stutter breath that means that he’s surrendering to me, to us. I rub his balls, and his perineum, and he jerks up, moaning.

“More,” he begs, and I pull up his knee, replacing my mouth on his cock with my hand, then kiss around his hip, rolling him to face away from me, leg still lifted, and push my face into his ass, nuzzling, licking, loving how he responds to me.

“Oh, god,” he gives a long, thin cry. “Oh, Jordie.”

He rocks, thrusting forward into my hand and then back onto my tongue, repeating my name like a chant, over and over again, then falls silent, and hot liquid floods my palm.

I roll him onto his back again, and reach for the lube and condoms that are still on the nightstand from earlier today. He lies passive and sleepy looking, his eyes half-closed, as I brace his legs against my shoulders, lube his hole and then push into him. I close my eyes, because he’s almost unbearably beautiful to me at this moment and I think my heart will burst if I continue looking at him. I press my chest down, forcing his thighs against his body and folding him in half, so that I can reach his mouth, searching for it blindly. His lips are soft, and his languid response excites rather than calms me.

It suddenly dawns on me that the loud, harsh grunting in my ears is me, not him, and it scares me, because I thought I was totally self-aware and in control. I lift my head and open my eyes.

“David? Are you okay?”

His face, throat and upper chest are flushed with color, his lips swollen from my kissing, his arms stretched above him with palms flat against the headboard, protecting his head from ramming into it.

“Yes. Yes, Jordie. Yes.”

I shove my face into the curve of his shoulder, licking his collarbone, sucking on the salty skin, and I drive into him as deeply as I possibly can, thrusting forward, then thrusting forward again without backing off in between.

“Oh, fuck,” I groan, and I come so hard that I’m not sure if it hurts or feels good, and I have to fight for my next breath and the one after that.

Afterwards, he squirms a little and we adjust our bodies, so that he can lower his legs without my pulling out. His inner thighs are soft against my hips, and he wraps his arms around my back, shifting me a little so that my full weight isn’t on him. I prop my chin on his shoulder.

“I think I’m about to have a heart attack,” I joke weakly.

He rubs his cheek against mine.

“Okay, but not before we’ve had our week,” he says. “Promise.”

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