Crushed, A Love Story | Victor Marsh

For an athlete is enamour’d of me, and I of him,
But toward him there is something fierce and terrible in me
eligible to burst forth,
I dare not tell it in words, not even in these songs.
— Walt Whitman ‘Earth, My Likeness’ from Calamus

Crushed, A Love Song

By Victor Marsh

For The ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Award


I wonder if you notice, Terry Johnson, that for a brief few days I have a crush on you. I am that sandy-haired, softer boy, quite popular in school, but shadowed by a secret.

One day after school we ride our bikes down to the river for a swim and for the first time I have to struggle with the pain of the pleasure of another boy’s company. You change into royal blue swimming trunks. Your skin glows and your perfect limbs make my blood beat harder. Fine hairs dust the hollows where your spine meets your buttocks’ rise. Do you catch my eyes snatching glances at the swelling shapes of your thigh and calves?

My gaze lingers across your shoulder muscle, along your arm, over the biceps, to where your forearm curves into the magical square that holds your wrist and man/boy hand so right. You’re a sketch by Leonardo, sprung to life, 3-D.

As we frolic in the warmth of this early summer afternoon, my longing almost bursts its banks. We are near the jetty, chest-deep in water. I want to cross the gap and grasp you in a dizzy embrace: hands gripping arms and bodies struggling, wriggling, skin to skin.

And the urge bursts free of constraint. I lunge against the water to grab at you. But as I push off the river bottom, I kick my big toe hard against a sharp-edged rock and slice off a part, unseen. In an instant snapped back from the brink of desire, my attention is drawn one-pointedly to an acute, searing pain where my toe should be.

Poor Terry, suddenly pressed into service as paramedic; you bundle me onto your bike and urgently pedal us both back home, me uncomfortably riding side-saddle on the cross bar, head spinning in shock, you afraid that I might bleed to death before you make it there.

If our bodies brush together as you carry me to safety, no frisson of pleasure rises through stark pain to allow me to savour the feeling. Love abandons me before I can speak a solitary syllable of its dirty, secret shame.

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