The Sun in Our Bodies
By Christopher DiRaddo
We track sand into the house, through the back porch and into the kitchen, spilling off of us like hundreds of tiny marbles onto the wooden floor. The remnants of a day spent at the beach. We had lounged there, the five of us, laughing like sisters at the park. At some point, Tony took off his shorts. “I’ve forgotten how big your balls are,” Danny said, and we all howled. You took yours off too, naked before the open sky, and we sat in the sun and revelled in the heat, replenishing that which is drained from us each winter in cold Quebec, reanimated in moments like this, here on the Cape.
We drop our bags on the kitchen island, colourful purses overrun with sand and the remnants of our lunches: almost empty bags of chips, half-wrapped ends of sandwiches. I throw the contents out, pour myself a tall glass of cold water from the fridge and rush it down my throat in a torrent. “I’m going to shower,” you say. I soon hear the spray of water behind the door. I take your damp shorts off the floor and hang them outside with our towels. The surface of the deck is hot from the sun, and I dance from one side to the other in bare feet. The tips of my toes shine on the dark wood, my body light.
Danny mixes himself a cocktail and puts on some Sade. I open the door to the bathroom and join you in the grey-tiled standing shower. Washing up, we find sand everywhere, between the cracks in our toes, along our backsides. The glass of the shower wall steams up and through the mist we can clearly see the outline of someone’s palm. “Oh my God, is that Tony’s?” you exclaim. It’s unmistakably his large hand pressed against the glass, receiving his guest from the night before. I laugh and then move to kiss you, the taste of the day on your lips. I get hard while in your mouth, and you go down. You take me whole, on your knees on the tile, the water crashing down around us like waterfalls. And through the drain: sand, soap, semen.
I never thought I’d get used to sleeping next to someone. Before we met three years ago, I had resigned myself to spending the rest of my life alone—the cool dark sheets my lover, wrapping and compressing me into a deep and uninterrupted sleep. Your new body was all elbows and knees and feet. You didn’t like it when I made the bed because I tucked in the sheets. You needed to be able to kick them off at night, to release the heat that churned within you as you slept. It was hard to adapt to the way that you woke me, grabbing me close in the darkness; your arms slick with sweat and hot to touch. But soon, I adjusted to your body’s temperature and slept soundly in the same bed as you, night after night. And then, when you weren’t there, I’d miss your warmth, the weight of your body in the cold empty space next to mine.
At home in winter, we kick around the pebbles we drag in from the streets. The city uses them to de-ice the roads and they scatter as we take off our boots at the door. There are always holes in my socks when I pull them off. You call the soles of my feet hooves, how dry they get. And when we attempt to touch, our bodies snap apart from jolts of static electricity. “I’m sick of this weather,” you had said. The grey, the snow, the slush. I agreed and started to look for summer rentals, you over my shoulder. Within a day, we found a place and the three others were on board: Tony, Danny and Matt. We all drove down together, tight in one car. And when you finally saw the ocean, you cried at its beauty. “I can’t believe how much I missed all this,” you said, choking through tears. And I watched as the stress left your body and got sucked into the blue.
After our shower, we decide to take a 15-minute nap before getting dressed for the tea-dance. Sade is still playing in the kitchen, and I can almost hear the ice in Danny’s drink on the deck. The wind picks up for a moment and sends a gust of air through the house, scattering the sand further into the cracks in the floor. We close the door to our bedroom and lay down, the lazy box fan in the window rustling pale curtains. I pull you close and I can feel the sun in your body, the day’s energy glowing, radiant to touch.
We never really fall asleep, just close our eyes. And when we rise, there is a text message from your friend John saying that he and his friends have arrived at their B&B. The five of us get dressed and walk along Commercial Street to the bar. It’s still bright out, but the sun has begun its swan song into the sea. Donna Summer sings to strong cocktails, but we don’t want to drink too much too fast. When John arrives, he lifts you up in his arms. Five years younger than you and twelve years younger than me, but he looks like he could be my age with his height and weight and moustache, a bull in short shorts. Even though he and I don’t know each other, he grabs at me with his free hand and pulls me into the embrace.
“Do you think John is going to want to sleep with you?” I had asked before the trip. I know the two of you have kept in touch over the years. I know that, in some way, you still love each other. “Probably,” you answered. “He’ll probably want to sleep with you too. He thinks you’re sexy.”
The thought gave me a flush, which is rare. At 32, you are much hungrier than I am. I can see it in the way you look at others, the frequency with which you give yourself pleasure at home. We joke and call me a sexual camel, a Vulcan, someone who can go a long time without sex. I know that you, however, cannot.
“Would you want to play together?” you asked.
“Maybe,” I said.
The next day John meets us on the way to the beach. We make our way through the dunes. The tide is in and he takes my bag and smiles and puts it atop his head, a gentleman in the sand. You start complaining about how raw your feet are. The sand on Herring Cove isn’t as fine as what you might find elsewhere, like on the pristine beaches of the Caribbean. It’s rough, exfoliating; it shaves away the dead skin as we walk. Eventually, we find the same spot as the day before and pitch our umbrellas.
I pull off my shirt and remove the cap from the sunscreen. I squirt some lotion into my hand and then rub it into my chest and arms. You take the tube from me and do my back without me having to ask, and then I do your back too. You then get naked like the day before and so does John, almost tripping on his feet as he steps out of his underwear. We all look, the four of us—Danny, Tony, Matt and me—at John. At his untamed bush of black hair framed by solid hips. At his modest penis. The two of you spread out your towels and lie in the sun and let the wind lick your bodies. John may be twenty-seven, but I feel like Gustav in Death in Venice, an old man contemplating Tadzio.
At the end of the day, we shred the bottoms of our feet walking back from the beach. It’s a twenty-minute walk to our bikes, through the dunes, the sun deep under our skin by now. Your feet still hurt, so I try to distract you. Get you to sing along with me to your favourite Madonna songs: “Material Girl,” “Borderline” and “La Isla Bonita.” It seems to work; you brighten up and forget your pain.
We hop on our rented bikes and head back home, the six of us gliding through town like best friends in an 80s’ teen adventure. You take a few quick runs at the pedals and then stand up and soar ahead of me, sailing tall under rainbow flag buntings and around pedestrian shoppers.
That night at the house, Tony makes us all dinner while Danny mixes cocktails. Sade is on again. I sit outside with Matt, playing chess, while you and John run around the house. Wine is poured and we light candles as the sun sets. After dinner, joints are lit and we toast absent friends. “To Alan,” I say, and get teary-eyed in the glare of the candlelight, in the roundness of being full. “To Alan,” everyone says.
After dinner, you, John and I take our bikes onto Commercial Street and ride down to MacMillan Pier. We stop at the end to sit and watch the boats as they rock in the glow of the full moon. Under a lamppost, night fishermen hunt the bioluminescent bodies of squid below, pulling them up into buckets at their feet. John sits down beside me and our legs touch, the bare knuckle of his knee kissing mine. He smiles, and you rub my shoulders. And then John leans over to kiss me; energy flowing through his lips like the bodies of marine life down below.
Back at the house, we take off our clothes and fumble into the bedroom, the rest of the house either out or asleep. John stands akimbo while I kneel down on the floor, taking his unfamiliar cock in my mouth. His sex swells like the ocean, and in it I am drowning, swallowing the sea. I get back up, and you both fall backwards onto our bed, your mouths together, your legs kicking for dominance. Exposed, the undersides of your feet are flush and smooth, the tips of your toes round like grapes. I am thirsty from the day and drink both of you in, running my tongue along his back, your neck, tasting the salt on your body. Outside our window, I hear the rocking of boats in the water, the soft passing of cars on the street. Inside, your breaths rise fast and short like waves upon the shore. All three of us are warm, blood rushing through our bodies; sweat pouring from our skin, filling up our tongues. And when we come, coiled and twisted, I am sure I can feel the crash of the tides against the rocks, the gravitational pull of the moon on this sleepy little town. We collapse into bliss, the splash running across our skin in rivers.
“Someone got some Vitamin D last night,” Danny jokes as we emerge the next morning. He tells us that he, Tony and Matt are going to Race Point for the day. You say you would rather go to the pool and give the soles of your feet a chance to heal. “At the pool, we can have cocktails too,” you reason. So the three of us pack up our bags and bike down to the Boatslip. We rent chairs and towels. Waiters in tight shorts serve us strong sweet drinks that knock us back on the first sips. John asks me to put on sunscreen for him, and I do. I rub some into his back, and then turn to do his front. He smiles as I paw at the wall of his chest, much like I had the night before. He can do his own legs, of course, but I kneel down to do them anyways, dried bits of him of me of you on the hairs of his thighs.
We wade into the in-ground pool to cool off and frolic in inflatable florescent tubes. There we meet an older man from New Jersey who has spent a lot of time in the sun. His skin looks thirsty, deep wrinkles on his face and forehead, the red lines on his belly all shrunken creases. I think of Alan and wonder if this is what he might’ve looked like today. Alan, who took me to Provincetown for the first time. Whose body can no longer worship the sun.
“Aren’t you jealous?” Danny asks, back at the house, as we both watch John give you a back rub on the deck outside. “I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe.” But if anything, it is John I am jealous of: his youth, his beauty, the uncomplicated depths of his generosity to you, to me.
On our last night in town, we go dancing in the basement of a seafood restaurant on Commercial Street, our arms and legs a frenzy of kinetic activity on the floor. John takes us into the bathroom and we do bumps of pure MDMA from the meaty part of his hand. I’ve never done it before and don’t think I can feel anything. It’s only the next day that I realize how light I had felt, how awake I was, how I floated inside of my body in a way I hadn’t in years. I remember telling John that I loved him, in front of you, and also meaning it. And I remember that he then told me he loved me too.
When it finally came time for us to leave, you cried again, saying goodbye to the sea, saying goodbye to John. I teared up too, but I wasn’t sure why. Was I mourning the passing of the week, alive with the people that I love most in the world? Was it because John gave himself to me, to you, so freely, reminding us to kneel before the sun while it’s out? Or maybe it was in reverence to this fleeting energy—the memory of the sand, the sea, the sun in our bodies—that we hope to take back home with us to keep warm whenever it gets too cold.
“The Sun in Our Bodies” was first published in Here & Now: An Anthology of Queer Italian-Canadian Writing (Longbridge Books, 2021)