He was beautiful, with an oily smoothness. I could—did—spend hours at a time admiring him as he worked; envying the tip of his tongue as it traced his upper lip, gazing at the curve of his neck as he bent over a notebook, resisting the urge to run my palm over every notch in his spine. He was nothing if not masculine, and yet he was all curves: curves of smiles and laughs, curves of hips and breasts.
The breasts. Every morning he bandaged them down without saying a word. He used to glare into the mirror as he yanked the tape across his chest, and the more he glared the more he hated seeing himself, until finally he only stared at his feet—not just when bandaging his chest, but all the time, as if preserving masculinity by avoiding eye contact.
He was an engineer and an artist, with lemon hair and dusty skin. Outside of the bedroom, he wore an undershirt and a t-shirt and a button-up beneath a sweater, hiding his chest behind a wall of clothes. But in the bedroom, he stripped down and let my eyes devour him. I feasted on the hills of his breasts and the flat, hairless plains of his stomach. I rested my hands on the hips that held up sagging, washed-out boxers. When he stood up, I kissed his kneecaps. “You’re a man,” I said.
I wanted to say, “You’re beautiful,” but he would have scowled, closed off and shriveled up. The words stayed curled beneath my tongue.