I wrote this piece which she generously published on her website, as she does with all her students. Some of the work that comes out of these classes are nothing short of brilliant. The passion of the people brought together is contagious and intoxicating and I want to read all the books people talked about having inside them.
One of the exercises we did was to write about a picture and a word she gave us randomly. We were to just start writing; weaving the picture and word we were given into the story as we did. We were given six prompts that would begin the next paragraph. The prompts are in italics in the piece below.
I was given an incredible photo of two men hanging from telegraph poles in their harnesses kissing. I wrote a gay romance in the time I had. I just saw passion, romance, love. The word I got was "damage". I contemplated the damage that having a crush does to you. The bitter sweet, irresistible, forbidden, terrifying, crippling, nauseating and euphoric damage.
I knew I wanted to publish this story here, so I looked for the photo on the internet, hoping I'd come across it. And I did. And they were kissing. For life.
The photo is iconic. It was taken by photographer Rocco Morabito in 1967. One man was actually giving the other mouth to mouth when he became unconscious after touching live power lines. It is truly an incredible story that you can read about here.
Anyway. Here is the photo and the piece. Enjoy.
Image credit: The Kiss Of Life by Rocco Morabito, 1967
Once upon a time there was a huge storm. They sent Joe out to fix the fallen lines. It was his first time alone since finishing his apprenticeship. He was nervous, but eager. He climbed carefully, checking his harness as he went. It was tight on his crotch, but it kind of excited him. He tried not to look down, but the temptation was irresistible.
The higher he got, the more composed he felt. That is until, Pete showed up. Pete was the new foreman. Joe didn’t know Pete was coming. That changed everything. His confidence; his calm resolve suddenly turned to shit. His palms were instantly wet, his heart was beating and the harness got tighter.
Everyday since Peter arrived, Joe had felt more and more like a school boy again. Stammering his words, trying to avoid powerless confrontations, watching him from afar. He thought he sensed reciprocity, but he could never be sure if it was in his mind. From the moment he saw him the damage was done.
Joe stopped to wait for Pete to climb to his height, which he never quite reached. Rehearsing a witty greeting and hoping to god his voice wouldn’t break. When Pete spoke, Joe’s mouth suddenly went dry, but as soon as their eyes met, the world stood still long enough for him to get his breath back.
One day he’d shed all this bullshit anxiety and insecurity about sussing out if someone liked him. Of course he didn’t know how to start that conversation. He didn’t want to make any assumptions, but he didn’t want to miss the chance either. What’s the worst that could happen anyway? So he smiled. His mouth said, “G’day boss.” His eyes said, “I really wanna fuck you.”
They worked quietly and with perfect synchronicity. Handing each other tools and making banter about the havoc the storm had wreaked. Because of that they had their work cut out for them and it gave Joe the time to centre himself. To focus on the job at hand, not the attraction; the unbearable and all-consuming desire he felt for Pete.
They stopped briefly when Pete cut his finger on a rogue nail and Joe fumbled in his tool belt for the band aid he knew was floating around in there.
And because of that, Joe had the opening he needed to direct the conversation to a more intimate place.
“Is it deep?”
“Nah. Just a flesh wound, but it stings like a bastard.”
“Here. Put this on before it gets infected.”
Joe reached over and handed the band aid to Pete, their fingers brushing one another’s briefly; electrifyingly. Pete carefully unwrapped it and wound it round his bleeding finger.
Until finally they had two choices. Continue with the work, letting the delicious moment pass them by possibly forever. Or make this the story they told their friends and family.
“Are you Ok?” Joe said.
“Better now.” Said Pete.
“Me too. Better than I’ve been in a while.” Replied Joe, attempting to inch closer by trying to release the harness a bit to drop down to Pete’s level. The harness slipped and he jarred backwards ending up upside down. At precisely the same time, Pete caught him by the shoulders. They kissed.