It was night, and tears ran down his cheeks and into his ears.
He cried without noise, without shaking, his mouth open, staring at the white blank ceiling, his warm lover sleeping beside him.
The alarm clock glowed red. Outside, chill rain fell on the cold stones of Christmas. He carefully moved his fingers to wipe his face.
He remembered the seasons of his father’s hands: for years he held that olive skin, softly wrinkled like crepe paper, crumpled over sore bones. Then, years later, they were shaking and tired, pale and frenzied around his dying, dazed face. Then blue, pushed into a clasp on his stone-dead chest, his eyes two violet marbles, his forehead on the slab, heavy as a rock, laughlines frozen, wrinkles fixed and deepened.
Wrinkles around those black eyes, like quivering wings, they used to curl and tighten when he laughed, as they played around the open fire, opening presents in the glow of coal and TV, even as he brushed ripped wrapping paper away from the grate and picked up and held his son, light as dust.
He had always loved this time, its guiltless allowances. The guttering hot wax and coiling breath in the silences of the midnight Mass, and, on their way home, warming his son’s fingers with his huge hands, passing his heat from one heart to the other.
Now he lay in bed with raw eyes, newly opened, and his ears were wet. He lifted his legs from the bed to the cold wood floor and his lover shifted and groaned. The light was rising.
He reached for the phone and, unblinking, dialled his number. He knew those chimes would not be answered now. But they still rang and rang in his hand, as the bloody day began.