You know those mornings, the ones where you pull on your thick jacket because a regular sweatshirt just isn't enough anymore, and your beanie in an effort to keep your head warm? You shove your hands in your pockets attempting to keep your fingertips warm, all the while your nose is chilling, but the fresh air is just... cleansing, like a new day born to fill with memories, another day to achieve some goal or make some dream a little closer to coming true.
Breathing in the cool, crisp air, the scent clean and fresh like the new day, was always the best on this morning, the morning after Thanksgiving. It was pure and untouched as I stepped out onto my porch at five thirty that morning, brisk as I climbed into my truck to go get some coffee before I started work, but the best part was coming, the part that I wait for all year, it's never the same as it is that first day.
Watching the large circle as it rises over the distant pine trees and the rays of light that turn from a golden yellow, to one so faint you can't see it anymore was normal, you could do that any day you wanted to, but watching it as your senses are finally allowed to smell what you have been seeing after a whole year of waiting, is like more than a new day, it's a new dawn. It's like the whole world comes to life suddenly, the added sensation a simple one, but powerful in the vivid memories it provokes.
Invigorating, refreshing, stimulating, it had to be though, to evoke a smile from me at six a.m. on a holiday weekend, but it did, just as it had every year for the past four years. The beams of yellow light breaking through the branches from overhead, cutting through the air and across the sky until they met with the earth making you want to grab hold of one and climb up it into that warmth and comfort, into that new day.
The clouds that seemed selfish in the way they tried to keep all that warmth contained just for themselves were losing their fight it seemed, as one by one, those beams of light pushed their way through the thickness to wake the world below. It was in moments like these that I relished in the pause of everything complicated in favor of the simplicity the birth of a new dawn offers.
Sometimes the sun could be harsh and demanding, relentless in its mission to drag you into the new day and then there were times like this, times when you willingly embraced the opportunity, eager to see what it held for you, but never impatient, savoring each moment as it happened. You bathe in the indulgence of the idea that today holds beauty and possibilities still unimaginable as you bask in the warmth shining down on you.
Mr. Wilson knew better than to expect me to be at all productive on the first day of the season until the sun was high enough that I could see it above the tops of the tall pines that fenced the hills we were nestled in. The first year he was all business and hustling around, probably growing restless with so much to accomplish in such a short amount of time, while I insisted on pausing to take in the majesty that painted across the sky in front of me.
By the second year, he was grumbling about it under his breathe, but I was pretty sure he only half meant it as he passed by me mumbling, "All this work to do and he wants to watch something he can see every day." He was wrong though, mistaken in his urgency to embark on the new season, for this was something you could see every year but something you could only truly experience and appreciate once each year.
It was in year three that I finally got him to slow down and at least take a look, however brief, and that was all it took to plant the seed. He stood next to me, his shoulder touching mine, as our breath rolled out in front of us before I inhaled deeply. "Smell that Wilson?" I asked him, my eyes closing momentarily as I let the scent infuse my mind, "That's the smell of a sunrise," I told him, as if he were the youth and me, the old man passing on an appreciation for things unseen.
Mr. Wilson resisted telling me that he had probably seen more sunrises on more mornings than I had been alive in all of my seventeen years, and instead, relented and broke from the bustle of the first day, if only for a few minutes. That year, on that cold morning in November, I knew I had won him over, that he was going to finally see a sunrise instead of just watching it make it's way overhead as it had done for billions of years.
This year though, I pulled up to Wilson's Christmas Tree Lot and climbed out of the warmth that had finally flourished inside my truck, only to be assaulted again by the cold morning air. I grabbed the cups of coffee, hoping the warmth contained inside them would percolate into me and walked around to the back of my truck, folding down the tailgate before sitting on it, the cold of the metal seeping through my jeans. The truck shifted as Wilson sat down beside me and without a word, I handed him his own cup of coffee, his hand outstretched and awaiting his cup, two milks and three sugars. He knew now, and there was no point in wasting any energy on trying to convince me otherwise, this was the morning I waited for all year and Christmas trees or not, I was going to see my sunrise.
The cool steel of the chain link stood high, obtrusive really, disallowing your capability to meander amongst the spruce, wander alongside the firs, but it could neither contain, nor stifle the scent that those trees gave off. Wilson's was the largest lot in town, and people would travel several miles just to get their tree from here, only confirming that Wilson's was the place to get the best of the crop, the freshest trees. They were full and tall, their aroma enticing you from the moment you step from your car.
I loved watching families walking amongst them, dads lifting this one and that one, turning them as moms surveyed the quality, the fullness of the branches, leaning forward with gloved hands, caressing the needles ever so softly, as they inhaled the fragrant bouquet that could only be found here. The children would scurry from one tree to another, making suggestions, all the while secretly wondering what all their gifts would look like nestled carefully under all those green needles.
We hoisted the large wooden sign above the entrance, me holding it in place, supporting it from underneath, as Mr. Wilson fastened it to the poles high atop the fence. Wilson's Christmas Tree Lot, since 1967. For almost forty years, Mr. Wilson had been selling Christmas Trees to the families here in town, becoming a part of each of their holidays, subtly and unimposing, as he worked away his own. It took me a year or two to notice that I never saw a Mrs. Wilson around, never heard stories about her, and I finally asked him one year about his family.
I'll never forget what I saw behind his eyes that night. There was sadness, flashes of anger, there were scenes of warmth and memories, the confusion, wonderment, all enough to make you dizzy, but mostly... just loneliness masked by busyness. Always on his way here or there, rushing to get this done or hustling to get that done, one menial task replacing the one before it, all in a meager attempt to stay occupied, to be too busy to remember he was alone on the holidays.
All he said was that he didn't have any. I found that inconceivable, ridiculous, infinitely sad. He had to have someone right? Some parent, sibling, child... someone that he loved, and I suppose he did, but he didn't tell me about it. I asked my dad about it and he seemed unaffected by it. Not in the way that makes him sound cold and steely, hardened and unfeeling, but in the way that said he really hadn't ever thought about it, merely shrugging it off like he would news of a new shop opening downtown. Interesting, but not provoking, some bit of information stored away but never really analyzed or investigated.
Each year after that I asked him to come over for Christmas Eve dinner, and each year he turned me down. "I have to close the lot Stephen," he would say and nothing more. After the first year, I stayed with him until closing. He told me I should go home, I should be with my family, it was a holiday after all, but I was persistent, resolute in my decision that he would not spend his Christmas Eve alone.
Wilson was getting up there in years now though, after forty years of selling Christmas trees, and though I never asked him how old he was, it was safe to assume he was at least sixty. Sixty and still going strong, like running this Christmas Tree Lot was his duty, his responsibility to the town that he had lived in most of his life, the town that he had contributed to and taken from equally.
"We have a nice crop this year," I remarked as I looked around the lot. It was sectioned off, like most lots are, with Firs on one side, Spruces on the other, and then by height, with another section in back that was closed off to the public where we stored the remainder of the crop we had to sell and where the fresh trees were delivered daily.
"Seems so," he agreed as he climbed down from the ladder. "It's gonna be a cold one this year," he commented, and I suppose he would know after spending forty winters out here selling trees all day and night.
"Guess I'll get the tree trimmer's area set up and blocked off," I said and he nodded. Apparently I didn't need much direction anymore and I think I almost saw a smile play across his weathered, thin lips, a smile of pride perhaps.
We worked steadily all morning, hanging signs, setting up the wreath booth where Maggie sat creating some of the most beautiful, fresh wreaths, the cash register which was one of those older rinky-dink ones, but Wilson didn't need anything fancy and the shelving where he sold tree stands. Maggie showed up around ten a.m. wearing her usual smile and saying the same thing she did every year, "Let me look at you Stephen. So tall now, almost a man then."
It didn't occur to me to argue with her that I was, in fact, an adult now, I suppose to her, and to Wilson, I would always be a kid. I could appreciate that though, and the freedoms it allowed me, not that I took them often, but it allowed them nonetheless. I blushed a bit as I smiled at her, hoping that the cold had reddened my cheeks enough to hide it, even if I was bundled up in jeans and work boots, my dark gray t-shirt over my long sleeved thermal shirt, and my beanie pulled down over my ears.
"Hi Maggie," I offered with my hands shoved in my back pockets.
"Hi Maggie?" she questioned, almost offended. "I don't think so! Get over here and give me a hug," she scoffed, and as her arms wrapped tightly around me she was mumbling still, "hi Maggie... psh."
"I set your booth up already," I told her as I was finally let go of. "Do you need any help getting things from your car?" I asked her.
"No sweetie, I've got it. You can go back to work," she answered and I so I did.
Hauling the trees out from the back, cutting them open and sorting them by size, type, and height, tagging them and propping them up against the wooden fencing that ran along the inside of the lot. Before I knew it, it was lunch time and Maggie was pulling out the traditional turkey sandwiches, made from leftovers from Thanksgiving, and some homemade turkey noodle soup for us just like she did every year. Sometimes, if I had worked hard enough that morning, those sandwiches were like the sunrise, the best I ate all year, and warm soup on a cold day was almost enough to thaw you from the inside out and get you going again.
I almost had to force Wilson to sit down and eat something, but eventually he conceded; either the cold or the hunger winning out. Maggie winked at me as subtly, as only Maggie could, when he finally took a seat on the bench and started eating; she knew how he was when it came to work and the lot. I suppose I could understand that though since it had been such a huge part of his life for so long, and now that he was getting older, he didn't say it, but I could tell, he was worried what was going to happen to it when he just couldn't handle it anymore, and the work was getting harder on him I thought, as I sat there and watched him rubbing his knees.
We worked away the afternoon, and if you kept busy enough, you managed to stay mostly warm, which was nice as it got cooler in the late afternoon with the evening approaching, bringing along with it the cold that bites harshly and is unforgiving and relentless, so I appreciated the warmth while I had it. I hauled trees around the lot, trimming them and throwing them up onto the tops of cars and into the backs of trucks for families who were eager to start their holiday season right away, their transition from one to the next immediate.
It was about four o'clock that afternoon when I finally saw him, his long golden hair blowing gently in the breeze, looking like he absorbed the power of the suns' rays and then used that energy to power his brilliant smile. He stood there, hands shoved in the pockets of his faded jeans, the ones that had this way of clinging to him in all the right places, and making me suddenly wish that the ones I was wearing had been just a little bit more forgiving. I hadn't heard him walk up, and I don't even know if he said anything to me either, not that I would have heard it with the chainsaw going, but I really didn't need to ask what he was doing here anyway.
I smiled at him playfully, and I'm sure he couldn't tell from behind the sunglasses I was wearing, but I was more than a little bit ready for a break and some time with him. We hadn't made any arrangements to meet today, no plans needed, because I knew that eventually he would show up, and besides, the first day at the lot was always crazy and hectic and finding some set time to meet would have been almost impossible to commit to and then follow through on. Instead, he casually showed up and waited patiently until I had finished trimming Mr. Bennett's Christmas tree and tying it to the top of his car before he walked over to me.
"Hey, you guys look pretty busy here today," he greeted me with a smile.
"Yeah, the first day is always pretty busy. Die hard Christmas fans and devoted providers of holiday cheer, you know the type," I responded.
"So, can you take a break from all this ‘tis the season' stuff or what?" he asked, perhaps knowing I wanted to do nothing more.
"Umm, let me see what Wilson is up to," I said as I looked around the lot for him, "but yeah, I should be able to get away for a little while," and I had no doubt that the smile playing at my lips was giving my thoughts away.
"Okay, so umm, I guess I'll just wait here then?" he asked, wondering what he should be doing.
"Actually, why don't you go around to the back of the lot, to the entrance on that side, and I'll meet you there in a few minutes?" I suggested and Jesse seemed pleased that we were going to get any time at all, especially on such short notice, and so he flashed me one more excited grin and turned and walked away.
I went and found Wilson and asked him if I could take off for an hour, promising to be back in time for him to have dinner, and he agreed. I ran over to my truck and grabbed the blanket I kept in the back seat, the one that, it turned out, had come in handy more than once lately, and then walked to the back of the lot. I opened the gate that led to the part of the lot that held the extra trees, the chain link fence lined with white tarps to keep the trees cooler and out of the direct sunlight.
The far corner was discreet, and the lot was still full of all of the trees I had spent all morning hauling out and cutting open, so it seemed that we would be safe and unhindered back here for the short amount of time we had to spend together. I smiled to myself as I spread the blanket out amongst the trees, glad that Jesse had shown up to see me, and even more glad that I had managed to get some time to spend with him.
I walked across to the entrance to the back storage area and opened the gate, seemingly surprising Jesse as he stood there waiting right where I had asked him to. I peeked out the gate momentarily, as Jesse tried to figure out what I was looking for, before I grabbed him and pulled him inside with me, closing the gate behind us. It seemed as though Jesse was still trying to figure out why I was being so covert, either that, or impressed by the amount of trees we had back here, shaded and frosted by the white makeshift curtains that surrounded us, but instead, I took that opportunity to be impressed by his presence, wrapping my arms around him from behind, and pulling his body up against mine.
"Hi," I greeted softly, nuzzling into his neck.
"Hi," he returned just as softly, and I wondered if he could feel my smile against his skin. "This is kinda cool," he commented looking around, "and you brought the blanket," he added, spotting it where it lay over in the corner.
"Mmhmm," I mumbled. "We should go over there," I suggested, nudging him in that direction as I stumbled right along behind him, having no intention of letting go of him until I had to.
"Seems we are," he mentioned as he let me guide him over there, my hands on his hips, our feet shuffling in awkward steps, and his head leaned back on my shoulder allowing me the room I craved to taste the creamy skin that hid just below the hood of his sweatshirt.
"Mmhmm," I repeated, deciding that my lips would be much more effective if they continued their current action, than if I used them for speaking.
His fingers laced through mine as my hands found their way under the hem of his sweatshirt where it was resting just below the waistband of his jeans. His skin felt warm against my cold fingers, and I felt him shiver with the sensation, his body shuddering slightly against mine as he instinctively leaned into me, seeking out some warmth. His movements were reactive, but only seemed to succeed in getting him closer to me, if that was even possible. My chest was pressed against his back, and when he stopped moving forward, I assumed we had made it over to the blanket, although I had long since stopped watching where we were going.
"We're here," he said, confirming my thoughts before he let out a sound that sounded like someone was offering him a little piece of heaven and he just couldn't refuse.
"Thank God," I murmured as I slowly managed to turn his body around, my lips trailing along his neck as he moved until he was facing me and I realized I could be kissing his lips instead.
I think my eyes caught his momentarily before my lips found his, but it wasn't graceful or tender, it was strong and passionate and fantastic. Our kiss was distinct, decisive, I knew what I wanted, needed, and it was Jesse. It didn't matter how, or when, or even where, I decided, as I pulled him down with me to the blanket I had spread out.
"I know we were just together last night, but I feel like it's been way too long since I've been able to kiss you and touch you," he said, his words invisible on the cold air, or maybe it was because his mouth was investigating a part of my throat that made it impossible for me to see them pass over his perfectly red lips.
"Mmmhmm," I mumbled incoherently, my chin stretching as high as I could get it to, exposing as much of my neck to him as I could.
His shirt would be wrinkled after this, I decided, but almost in that same moment I decided I didn't much care as it crumpled in between my fingers once more. My fingers wandered from where they had been woven in between strands of his soft hair down over his back until I found his hips and I grabbed them and pulled him down against me tightly, his stomach pressing into mine only momentarily before he arched his back slightly, allowing him to press his hardness into my own. It sounded like a hiss as my breath escaped from my lips, a sound that wasn't lost on him as he repeated his movement once again.
"God I love watching you like this," he whispered.
I decided I liked being like this too, even more so when his cold fingers shimmied up underneath the hem of my shirt. I shivered, but I couldn't tell if it was from the cool air hitting my newly uncovered skin or from the feel of his lips on my stomach as they moved upwards toward my chest. His cheeks were cold against my warm skin, and I clutched at his shoulders as his tongue randomly sketched some figure on my skin.
"No one's going to come back here are they?" he asked as an afterthought since his fingers were already working to unfasten the button on my jeans.
"Nah, they shouldn't," I managed as he tapped my hips gently,
silently asking me to lift them some so he could slide my jeans down over
His eyes wandered the newly bared expanse of my body, not as if he was seeing it for the first time, but as if it was something that fascinated him, something that, when he was near it, touched it, unwrapped it, it was rapture. Who knew that something as simple as a look could make you feel a warmth inside, so strong, that even the coldest of weather couldn't faze you? Perhaps that's what they mean when they talk about something melting your heart.
"What?" I asked when he had been watching me for some amount of time longer than I had expected him to, his pause, while comforting and characteristic of someone truly in love, left me longing something more.
"Nothing, you're just... perfect," he decided, causing my cheeks to flush, even after all this time, and lying half naked underneath him, he still found a way to make me blush.
"Oh yeah?" I teased.
"Mmhmm," he mumbled out as his mouth found mine again.
My head was spinning, whirling somewhere between total and complete abandonment of anything tangible and a place where I functioned coherently, but the gentle nip I felt across my bottom lip seemed to pull me closer to this side of reality once more. Maybe that was Jesse's way of telling me I should pay attention for what was coming next, because before I knew it, his tongue had swirled its way around one nipple, across my chest, and around the other, swiping at them agonizingly, before heading downward at a painfully slow rate.
He didn't dawdle with pleasantries for my belly button or linger longingly amongst the fleshy foothills of my stomach, in fact, he didn't do anything. His inaction was enough to make me seek out his eyes, but once he knew that I was paying attention, I watched as his deep red tongue slipped out from in between those full lips I longed to sink into, hot and wet, and I suddenly couldn't decide if watching him lick my cock, or the feeling of his tongue circling it, was more enjoyable.
I sucked in a breath harshly at the sight, delirious with the sensations it brought, and overwhelmed by the suggestive thoughts that had entered my mind as I watched him. I watched as he smirked and then repeated the same action again, this time his eyes focused on mine. That only lasted for a moment though before I was feeling a sort of sensory overload, unable to concentrate on his eyes any longer, my own closed as my head dropped back against our blanket once more, and then, as if I needed any help to become incoherent, his tongue traced down the length of my dick until it could go no further, and then so very slowly, and with just enough extra pressure to make a difference, it returned to where it had begun.
Then, without hesitation, he took me to that place I craved to go, moist and supple, the place where losing your mind is preferred, and thinking is highly overrated, breathing almost unnecessary. It wasn't until he was kissing me again that my eyes fluttered open, only momentarily before closing again, as I floated back down to Earth and kissed him back.
"When do you have to go back?" he asked me in a pained tone.
"How long have we been back here?" I wondered aloud, only still becoming aware of reality again.
"Umm, I think about a half an hour," he decided as he looked at his watch momentarily.
I groaned, mostly because I knew I had to be getting back, but also because I wanted nothing more than to just be here with him. Times like these, where nothing else seems more fulfilling or perfect, the instinctive need to almost just let yourself be swallowed up by the moment, and to let that same moment take you somewhere unknown, but the best part of it all is that you know, wherever it takes you, it will be beautiful.
"I know, believe me, I don't want you to go back any more than you do," he said, a pained tone trailing along the tail of his response.
"I'm sorry babe, I promise I'll make it up to you," I assured him and sealed it with a kiss.
"Yeah you will," he joked. "Now come on, get moving. I have to get you back before Wilson never lets you leave with me again," he decided as he slapped my ass.
"Ow!" I yelped, rubbing the tender spot. "That hurt," I pouted playfully.
"Well I'll kiss it better... after you finish working," Jesse teased.
"Alright, alright, I guess I'm not gonna get a better offer than that," I said standing up and zipping my jeans closed again, while Jesse shook off the blanket and folded it again before handing it to me.
We headed for the exit hand in hand, but just before he reached the fence, I pulled him to me, my lips landing expectantly on his, inviting and welcoming, parting once more as if there was nothing they would rather be doing.
"Thanks for coming to visit," I smiled against his lips. "I could definitely get used to this."
"I think you might just have to," he agreed as we walked over to my truck to put away the blanket before heading back into the tree lot to find Wilson.
The sun was hanging low in the sky, almost like it was hesitant to leave us without its vibrant, sharp orange glow that spread across the skyline, and the white lights I had spent a large part of the morning stringing along the fence tops and around the lot, would all be twinkling soon, dancing on the backdrop of the night sky. Jesse and I walked into the lot, laughing with each other, his contagious grin ever present and lighting up his beautiful face like the sun lit the sky until our eyes landed on Tim.
"What are you faggots doing here?" he asked snidely. "Can't I fucking go anywhere without you two having to be in my face?"
"Dude Tim, come on! It's a Christmas Tree Lot, anyone can come here," Jesse tried to point out.
"And you just had to come to this one?" Tim argued.
"Well, I work here so I guess I did, but if you don't want to be here, you can always leave," I suggested.
"You work here? I wonder if your boss knows he hired a fucking homo..." Tim was almost shouting now.
A look of shock, a surprised sort of fear painted across Tim's face as Wilson's strong hand came down hard on his shoulder, squeezing it tightly for added emphasis.
"What I do or do not know is none of your business, just like who I choose to employ is none of your concern. What should be of some interest to you though, is the fact that I don't do business with closed minded bigots, so you can just run along and tell your daddy over there that we don't have any tress for sale, or... I can tell him while I explain to him what kind of hateful kid he is raising. You decide," Wilson said leaving Jesse and I with a surprised look on our faces.
It was nothing though, next to the look of anger and indecision that Tim was wearing, as Wilson's stern look haunted him, before Wilson directed it at me, his eyes focusing clearly on mine.