by Cody

It's fun to pretend.

A game started long ago, when I only really knew you and you pretended you wouldn't rather be hanging with Joey and spent time with me so I wouldn't cry for my friends and my grandma, those first weeks in Europe when, god, was I ever really that young? It was you who began it, if I remember right, in some random hotel room in Germany. I'd gone to take a shower as you were on the phone with room service, and I'd told you to order me a beer, half-joking. When I came out and found one actually waiting for me, I couldn't fucking believe it. "You got it for me?" I was like, Score!

And you were like, "Hey, you're what, fifteen now? You're a man, baby. Cheers."

God, you fucking jackass. Because I tried not to seem too excited while I put on my pajamas, tried to act like I wasn't freaking out inside as I picked up the mug and put it to my mouth and… "Oh, fuck you."

You laughed so hard, rolling around on the bed, cracking up at me and my big brimming mug of apple juice. I glared at you. "That's just wrong, man." and that made you laugh even harder.

You said, "You can pretend."

And I said, "How 'bout you pretend to go fuck yourself?"

And you said, "How 'bout you pretend to do it for me?" Because you're lousy at comebacks. Yours are always like that; stupid and just thisside of nonsensical. But when you said that, it was like…there was this…shiver…in the air between us.

But it didn't happen that night.


"Let's pretend," I said to you, I think the next night; I'm almost certain. Those days blend together, but I know it was soon after the apple juice incident, very soon that we started really playing. We were lying in the same bed, under the covers, watching TV and eating Cool Ranch Doritos. "that we're really famous and, like, we're about to start a sold-out world tour…and we just came back from the Grammys and we won like fifty of 'em."

"Okay…" you said, and sometimes you can be funny. You flopped back on your pillow, rolled your eyes back in your head and stuck your tongue out. "Man, I'm drunk. The best part about the Grammys was the open bar."

"My favorite part," I said, leaning on your stomach so my elbow dug in, "was how in the acceptance speech, y'all finally admitted that I'm the real talent of the group."

You oomphed at my weight and shoved me off, pulled me into a headlock. "Your favorite part was when Janet Jackson told the world how much she wants my bod."

And I said, "Your favorite part was when you told the world how much you want my bod."

You laughed, pushed me away and said, "Yhea, right. You wish."

And I fell on top of you, went limp. "I'm sooo drunk; I'm gonna barf all over you."

"Dude, how far into the future are we? We won't win Grammies until you're old enough to drink? That sucks." You made a face.

I thought about it, amended, "I'm sooo drunk…on the drinks they served me even though I'm underage just because I'm so hot and famous…I'm gonna barf all over you."

I could feel the rumble of your laughter in your chest beneath my ear. "That's more like it."

Hid my face in your shirt, grinned. "God, I'm so drunk…" My hands came up and pressed against your sides.

"Me too." Your hands on my back.

We laid like that for a while, too long. Too long for two guys alone in a hotel room not wearing a whole lot of clothes. I slid over you, nudged you onto your stomach and laid kind of beside you, mostly on top and whispered in your ear, "Let's pretend it's the morning after…and we're waking up like this…"

"Justin…" your voice was weird. And I was quick to say, "Just pretend…come on. We're waking up and I'm like this…" slid my hand under your shirt, spread it over your heart. Hovered my lips over your neck. "And I'm kissing you awake."

I moved like I was really kissing you, almost close enough to count. You turned in my arms, turned to face me and your mouth was so close I drank your breath as you said, "Now we have to talk about it, because it was the first time we've ever…done that."

"Okay…" I opened eyes I hadn't realized I'd closed and looked at you. "JC…" and it was so thrilling, because it felt real. And it was so safe, because it wasn't real. "Last night was amazing."

Your arm came around my waist, pulled me closer. "God, Justin. I never knew it could be like that."

It came out of nowhere, right? Things weren't like that. It hadn't been just below the surface all along. It's hard to believe that when I realize how easily we slipped into this game. How could it come so easy to us both if it hadn't been there, waiting to happen? It's not like we had a flirtatious relationship; we had a friendship. We were just so comfortable together and you were all I had. Alone in this foreign country, I clung to you and you've always been the type who responds to that. And we were just. Playing.

I know it was weird, because it would have felt weird with anyone else. I would never have acted like that with anyone but you. Never wanted to or dared. But with you, I could do it. I think for you, it's the same. It was weird because it wasn't weird, but it should have been.

I would never hold Chris like I held you in that bed; it makes me laugh to even think about it. I would never be able to keep a straight face while discussing lovemaking that never happened. But it seemed the most natural thing in the world to tell you, "I always knew we'd end up like this. I always felt it."

"Me too," you said, your hand covering mine on your chest. "Right here." You ducked closer, another mimed kiss. "This is where I keep you."

"And then we go to sleep in each other's arms," I said. And then we did.


It was just something we did after that, whenever we were alone. As soon as we stepped into an empty hotel room, I'd take you in my arms and my mouth would float over yours, our heads moving as though we were sharing a passionate kiss, and then I'd pull back and say, "I've waited all day for this," and I meant it. "My angel." It was nice to have someone to say those kinds of things to.

"Baby," you'd say, "you feel so good in my arms." And it was nice to hear words like that.

And it was nice to do it with you.


As time went by, we did it less often. We didn't need it as much. We dated girls, and during those times, especially when you were with Bobbie and when I was with Britney, we almost didn't need it at all.

But we never really stopped. When you didn't know how to tell Bobbie to quit spending your money, you worked out with me, and as you spotted me you wiped the sweat off my brow and said, "Sometimes I forget that life is beautiful, but then I look at you and I remember."

When Britney was pressuring me to get engaged and I wasn't sure if I was really in love with her but I definitely knew I didn't want to marry her, I came to you on the bus, knelt by your bunk and leaned over you, ran my fingers through your hair and told you, "You're what makes me know heaven exists."


When we went to the Grammys, when we performed and were nominated and went home with nothing, we didn't pretend then, but there was that shiver. That shiver between us, and I know you felt it. It made us not have to pretend. Maybe scared to pretend. But we didn't even need to.

It was there; it was right there.


It's all my fault. It's all me and my solo album nomination and I won; I fucking won a Grammy. I won and I got drunk and I was of age now and we still didn't have matching awards and you were right, it did suck. But I won, I won, I fucking won and I was drunk, God, I was drunk.

Too drunk to think about what you must've been feeling that night, and drunk enough to try to climb into your bed. You didn't look too happy to see me and probably not just because of my blood alcohol level. We haven't been getting along too great lately. Last time we really talked, you said that I disgust you and I called you a jealous prick.

Maybe I haven't been on my best behavior lately, but people just don't get it. They don't see. I'm trying to redefine myself; I'm trying to figure out who the fuck I really am. I want to be… It sounds pathetic, but honestly, I want to be…I want to be the people I see and wish I were like. I mean. The people who just don't give a fuck and do what they want and.

Now I see that instead of figuring out what I want and doing it, I've just been doing what the people I used to feel oppressed by don't want me to do. And I guess it just took me a minute to realize that it's not the same thing.

But hindsight's always had perfect vision, and that doesn't change what I did that night. I wish it did. You probably have no idea how much I wish it could erase the way I grabbed your arm, yanked you to me and said, "We didn't win together, so I guess we still can't fuck…but I won, so what's that get me? Blowjob?"

You ripped your arm out of my grasp. Didn't tell me to go to hell, didn't kick my ass. Just left. Just left me there on your bed. I wrapped myself in your blankets and fell asleep, drunk enough to not feel anything yet.


I know I have to apologize. I hate myself for what I did. I've almost called you a thousand times in the last four days. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. But now I'm stepping up to the plate.


I show up at your doorstep with a bottle of wine that better be fucking great because it was goddamn expensive, and you answer the door and step outside instead of letting me in. You take the wine and glance at the label, and I can tell you like it but you don't want to me to know. You ask me what I came for and I say, "I'm sorry."

You say you're sorry, too, but what does that change? "We're different now," you tell me. "Everything's different and it can't go back."

I know it's true. It's so true I want to cry. Maybe if I cried, you'd.

And I say, "Could we pretend?"

But you don't want to anymore.


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