Disclaimer: all for fun
Warnings: None

Author’s Notes: Thank-you to vedaprophet for the read-through, despite having just returned from the vacation from hell. And laud and praise once again to plumsuede, who transformed a grammatical mess. If your eyesight isn’t damaged while reading this, you have her to thank :)


“Anytime,” his voice is almost a whisper.

“Here,” he leans in to fasten the bracelet on my wrist.

His fingers glide along my skin. All of my attention is focused on that small area. I lick my lips and hope he can’t feel my pulse quicken as he touches me. It seems like every one of my nerve endings emanates from the point where we connect.

There’s a moment when I feel that we might kiss. And I know I have to reel this back in.

“Shouldn’t you be getting back to your boyfriend?” Whatthefuckshisface.

He hesitates, then agrees, “Yeah.”

We stare at each other a minute longer and he turns to go. I can feel the weight of the moment pushing me to do something. But it’s not time yet.

And it can’t be me.

I turn back into the loft but leave the door open behind me. Justin will get the significance of that gesture.

I make it as far as the stairs before I turn to look. The ghost of us lingers but I know he won’t be there. Nothing Justin does is that predictable. But I saw everything I needed to know.

It’s just a matter of time.

The burden of the last few days has been relieved, but in its wake I feel tired and hollow. I examine the bracelet which just exonerated me. It’s been with me for awhile.

Since 1994, Cancun Mexico, to be exact. I was there for the first gathering of what would become the Cancun International Gay Festival. It was my first time outside the States and I’d arrived, a force to be reckoned with. I spent every minute at the bars or on the beach. I slept very little, drank too much and had fucked my way through the top ten percent by the time my vacation drew to a close.

The last day I was there, I’d gone into the market to bring home something for Debbie and Mikey. I liked the Mexican silver and had picked out a few bangles for Debbie and a chain for Michael, when I stopped at a stall with heaps of cowry bracelets. I picked one up and rolled it through my fingers. One of my more entertaining tricks from the night before had been wearing one and I liked how it looked.

The woman behind the counter was small and wiry, bird-like in a predatory way. She was so wrinkled her eyes were slits and when she peered at me, I remember sliding the bracelet back onto the pile more nonchalantly than I felt.

“Hablas espanol?”

I shook my head. I had university Spanish, which, as limited as it was, had been serving me well when the directions consisted of suck, roll-over, and keep it right there.

“Esta bien.”

I turned to leave.

“Wait…por favor.”

She grabbed my hand and held it tightly. She picked up one of the bracelets, slid it around my wrist and started to wrap the lace around the leather knot on the other side. She laid her hand across the join and closed her eyes. “The cowry is very powerful… when it’s worn by those who echo its strength.” She paused and seemed to be divining something. “You, Senor, have the power of the ocean,” she opened her eyes for emphasis, “When the cowry favors the wearer this means great things.”

I was relaxing a little. She was in full blown sales mode and I couldn’t help but admire her pitch.

She tilted her head and smiled at me, “If you were a woman that would mean fertility but in a man, this power is sexual potency.” It was my turn to smile.

I moved to undo the bracelet but she stopped my hand.

“You should also know that the cowry is a symbol of wealth. This means something to you, si?”

I was intrigued, wealth and sexual power. This little lady was hitting every lesson I learned in Marketing 101 - identify your audience and know what’s important to them

She could see I wasn’t about to bolt and began talking again in a low kind of chanty way. “This shell is the source of the great river in Egypt, and the cause of its flooding, which brings life to its banks. Kings masturbated before their god's image to honour its power, which led the people to masturbate in public while they worshiped.”

Masturbation during religious ceremonies! I decided then to buy the bracelet.

I gave her the money and turned to leave.

“Senor,” she took my wrist again and turned it over. “Entiendes? This bracelet has eight shells and they all have meaning. Potency and wealth, are two…I can see that beauty is one more and the last shell is already named. On your bracelet, this last shell means redemption, but it’s at the end of the row. You will name the other four.”

Other potential customers stopped at her stall. I could see she was assessing them and her best approach. “Buena suerte,” I whispered. She winked at me and I slipped away.

I may have learned everything I know about hard marketing from that little lady in Cancun.

I gave the bracelet and that encounter zero thought until later that night when I was high as a kite on peyote with a trick that was more intelligent than most. At least he seemed to be, in the state that I was in. I told him the story about how I came to own the bracelet. The everyday becomes mystical on peyote and I named the other four shells; power, freedom, courage, strength. They were my mantra words growing up. The trick thought I was profound. He didn’t know that they were tattooed on my soul. That they were what got me through the Joanie and Jack show.

And from that night on, the bracelet just sort of stayed, a reminder of all the traits I needed to carry within me to ensure success. Potency, wealth, beauty, power, freedom, courage, strength - and redemption. I never got the last one. And it never really mattered. Until tonight.

I trace the cord that holds the bracelet together. The leather lace has been repaired. I touch the spot where the break happened and another memory comes rushing back.

It was a few days after Gus’ first birthday party. A few days after Justin had let me back inside. He was growing tired of how gently I was handling him, like I was afraid that jarring him too much would break the fragile web that I had come to believe held him together.

He was on his side and had suddenly rolled onto his hands and knees and demanded for me to mount him. Fuck him. Hard. I sunk into him slowly and lost a battle that soon had me pistoning my hips to meet his sharp thrusts back to meet me. It all felt like too much too soon. But it also felt like us again. Thrust replaced push, moan replaced sigh, abandon replaced restraint and blessed wantonness replaced frozen trepidation.

He dropped to his elbows to give him extra leverage and I followed, gathering his arms beneath his chest, pinning him. I used the lock of our arms to pull him back against me. I needed to fuse our bodies, needed to breathe out my loneliness and breathe in his presence.

He responded by sliding the backs of his hands down the inside of my forearms - worming his way forward, until his index and middle fingers slid underneath the thin band of the bracelet. He crooked his fingers and pulled. I could feel the leather cut into the back side of my wrist and I shifted to pull away from where we were bound. But Justin held us both there, pumping and squeezing, until, with a powerful thrust of his hips he sent us both over the edge. At that moment, the leather let go. The bracelet slid away to the bed and I clamped my hands over his wrists to maintain the tether that had snapped.

We had to work together to retie the lace - to make a new knot.

I slide the bracelet around my wrist until I can see the last shell.

And, I think I finally know what it means.

Not everything you need is inside yourself - and maybe that realization is my redemption.

I just know I don’t need the bracelet anymore.