As a senior in high school, I spent too much time in a boy’s basement. A classmate. We worked together on a project that spanned months. It was my idea. I wanted him to like me, and the more I knew about him, the more I could shape my interests to echo his own.
One night, after finishing our work, he showed off his weight room. He told me that when his friends came over, they would watch each other lift. Sometimes one of them would punch the boy lifting when he hit peak lift. Getting punched in the gut mid-benchpress was supposed to work your abs harder.
When he was done talking, I told him to hit me.
What did I mean? Like, hit me?
“You know, like what you said.”
Yes, now he got it. He could do that. We would do one set of 12 reps.
I lay down on the bench, the barbell resting just above my head. As I lifted my hands to the chilled metal bar, my shirt followed me like a low tide. I had been losing weight, approaching a smallness I’d dreamed of for years, but my clothing had yet to catch up.
He hit me as I raised the barbell to its apex. A light jab, a too-short burst of breath expelled from my mouth.
“I have a younger brother, you know,” I said.
“I’m used to getting hit. Don’t feel like you have to hold back or anything.”
We fell into a routine: me lifting the metal discs, him striking me, and me lowering the discs again. He continued to hit me like he was afraid I would break. I knew I looked soft, the edges of my body smoothed over with fat. But I was strong, too, an inverted fruit whose pulp oozed around a gnarled rind. I didn’t blame him for not knowing this. I ran, I jumped rope, I lifted, and I was convinced I could do all of this and more every day and still look edgeless.
“Your abs are firm,” he said.
I didn’t know how to respond. I wanted to say, “Hit me harder,” but then he’d know I cared more about his hands or his eyes on my stomach than my strength.
We finished the set in silence and he guided the barbell as I racked it. Our hands only inches apart.
“When you asked me to hit you, I thought you wanted some crazy Fight Club shit,” he said. I echoed his laugh, even though he was right. I wanted to feel close to him, to warm my body by the heat of his own.
When I fantasized years later about getting fucked, this is what I thought of. A warm hand against my stomach, my back, my face. That same limb cracking me open. I longed to be hurt in a way that would radiate outwards and throughout, a vicious ache whose path I could remember even when our bodies separated.
On the drive home, I felt a dull ache in my arms, but nothing in my stomach. I had hoped to feel an imprint of his skin on mine, my blood sprinting towards it like a siren. Something that, alone in the dark, I could caress.
Matthew Mastricova is the fiction editor of Third Point Press. His work has appeared in Catapult, Cosmonauts Avenue, Joyland, Redivider, and elsewhere.
Artwork by: TK Saeed
TK Saeed is an self-taught abstract artist and writer. Her body of work queries modern society and the human condition. Based in the UK, she worked in different areas of the legal industry before being adopted by a stray tabby.