“Matthew, even though things look like this, you know what kind of person I am: I’m an exemplary citizen. The worst thing I’ve ever done was back before I’d graduated, when I slept in the lecture hall with my quilt. Even then, that was because the heater in my apartment was busted, and since it was Easter, no one would be out to repair it in a reasonable amount of time…”
“Yes, I know. You’re the most upright student, everyone in our year knows that.”
“So, this incident was completely accidental, I swear. I’ve always been a righteous person and a devout believer… Even though I never go to church save for Christmas Eve, I fully respect the cross and the Ten Commandments, just as much as I respect the European Convention on Human Rights.”
“I know, dear Werner, I know. Now hand me your glass, I think you’ve had enough of that brandy already.”
“What I need is your help, Matthew.” Werner continued, ignoring him. His azure eyes were glassy, and tears threatened to spill out of them. “This was all just an unfortunate accident; fate playing a cruel trick on me. I don’t even have a lawyer! I could’ve asked Connery, my dad’s lawyer: He used to help my dad update his will three times a year after all. And yet, just last month, he passed away. He didn’t even leave behind a successor!”
“As I’ve said before, you can trust me. Even though I’m currently working as a divorce attorney, I still completed almost all of the basic law courses in college, including criminal and tax law.” Matthew reached out and patted his old classmate’s hand comfortingly, after which Werner held it both firmly and thankfully to his chest.
“Tell me everything about the incident.”
“Okay, Matthew. Alright… can I have another glass of brandy though?”
Werner blinked pitifully towards him. He didn’t look that drunk to Matthew, but he still didn’t think he should give into his request. When Werner had gotten his first glass twenty minutes ago, their conversation hadn’t made any progress at all; it had simply gone in circles.
“Fine. It’s like this. Matthew…”
Matthew looked at Werner expectantly.
“…Will I get thrown in jail?”
Matthew instantly felt his already short patience wither.
However, he restrained himself and said, “Werner, first you need to let me know what really happened. Only after that will I be able to tell you if what you did is legal, if you need to get a defense attorney, or if you need to turn yourself in at the police station.”
“But I don’t want to go to jail; I’ve heard that sex offenders will have their other hole defiled by the inmates!””
Almost as soon as Matthew had increduously shouted the word, a fair and slender hand had covered his mouth.
“Shh! Matthew!” Werner said in horror, “It’s 12.30 in the morning, do you want to wake the neighbors?’”
“But rape, oh my god!” Matthew said, finally managing to struggle free from Werner’s hand clamped to his face. If he’d been any slower, he probably would’ve died from suffocation. There wouldn’t have been any need to deal with this ‘rape’ incident then—life imprisonment could only be sentenced once after all.
“Matthew, you promised to help me!”
“But Werner, what you’re saying is, is—rape!”
“Less than 5 minutes ago, you swore that no matter what, you’d still be my best friend! That no matter what crime I’ve committed, you’d never abandon me and our friendship!”
“I thought that you wanted to tell me that you had tried to do something like falsify some information on your tax reports, or forge a parking permit! But not rape!” Matthew still hadn’t snapped out of his shock at Werner. As he continued to stare at the latter’s golden curls and, admittedly, beautiful face, he felt his head spin.
“Like I told you, it was all an accident! Absolutely, definitely, one hundred percent an accide- wait, how did you know that I wanted to forge a parking permit so that I can park at the company entrance?” Werner asked suspiciously.
“Because that’s the worst crime I could think of you committing,” Matthew said, before reaching for the brandy bottle and taking two swigs from it in succession. After doing so, he felt slightly better. “I thought that you were someone who’d never commit such a serious crime; this is rape!”
“Do you have to add that word at the end of every sentence?” Werner asked.
He snatched the brandy bottle from Matthew’s hand and placed it back on the table.
“Now let me finish my story! I’m still not sure if what I did was really considered rape, else I wouldn’t have needed to find you.
“Tonight, just like any other night, I was getting ready to get off of work after finishing my phone call with you. It was 8.30PM, and everyone had already left the office. However, I realized that I’d forgotten to grab a document, so I went back to my office, and when I pushed open the door…
“There was someone unexpectedly sitting inside…”
Matthew waited for the rest of the sentence with bated breath
“Ack, hold on, I made a mistake. This incident didn’t really start tonight, but rather five months ago. Matthew, in order to let you have a clear understanding of the situation, I need to explain things starting from five months ago.’
Matthew immediately felt a headache coming on. Looking at Werner, he began to doubt if he’d hear the main point of the story before sunrise tomorrow.
“Five months ago, when my secretary, Christina, went on her maternity leave, I had to temporarily find a replacement. He’s a good-looking lad: Tall, about half a head taller than me… His hair is a sweet, brown color—my favourite color. And his eyes are a very light blue-grey, as if there’s a mysterious mist in his eyes when he looks at you.”
Matthew shifted uncomfortably on the sofa as he heard Werner’s continuous description of the man’s looks. The eerie feeling it gave him made him uncomfortable. Furthermore, he couldn’t grasp the reason Werner was telling him this, or what it had to do with the conversation, given the unsightly crime that had been mentioned before.
“When he looks at documents intently, his eyes turn a shade darker; akin to a winter’s dawn, the mist in his eyes mysteriously deepening and crystallizing. When I call out to him, he looks up and smiles at me, the frozen mist clearing and the sun coming over the horizon. That golden glow is so bright it fills the room. Do you know what I’m trying to say?
Matthew dryly said, “Sorry, I’m not sure I understand. Your new secretary… how is he related to the crime you committed?”
Werner’s azure eyes remained fixated on him for a long time, but he finally managed to utter a few words through his teeth.
“Of course. The truth is, he’s involved in the crime.”
“You’re saying that he’s your accomplice?!” Matthew shot up from the sofa alongside his outburst. “Oh my god. You know that the prosecution for crimes with multiple offenders is much harsher than crimes with single offenders right?”
“No, what I’m saying is… he is my crime’s target.”
“Oh!” After blurting out this single syllable, Matthew fell stiffly back onto the sofa.
Werner thoughtfully passed him back the brandy bottle.
After taking a long draft from the battle, Matthew weakly said, “Werner, if I recall correctly, you had a lot of girlfriends back in university; Susan, Clara, and that chick with the unbelievably long legs. What was her name, Dania?”
Werner replied, “I know, Matthew. I don’t have anything against women. I’d honestly never doubted my sexuality before I met him.”
He then looked down at the carpet at their feet, as if the flower motif design was blooming.
“I have no idea what happened either. Anyway, there was nothing unusual in the beginning. I saw him everyday, talked about work with him, and casually joked around with him. Sometimes, when we finished work early, I’d ask him out for a drink or two. That’s it.
“I’m not sure when things became different; probably about two months ago. I think that’s uhh, when something went wrong somewhere. I like looking at him: To me, his side profile is just stunning, like it’s straight out of a painting. I can’t really put a definitive description to it… you and I both know that I don’t know anything about art. But I think that you could just frame that image of him, sitting there reading, and display it at a museum. Everytime I see those stray strands of red hair against his forehead, I could…”
“Hold on, didn’t you say that he had brown hair before?”
“Yes, it is indeed brown. However, when the sunlight hits it, its color becomes a wine red that’s so enchanting I could die… Sometimes, when I walk past him and see loose strands of his hair lazily lying across his forehead, I have this insatiable urge to tuck them behind his ears, turn his face towards me, and give him the sweetest, longest kiss…”
”Werner!” Matthew exclaimed, his tone tinged with pure shock.
“Matthew, I know that this is shocking. Hell, this is a first for me as well. When I first had these thoughts, I dashed to the washroom and downed five gallons of cold water straight from the tap.
“Yet these thoughts kept popping into my head, each with less restraint. I kept imagining kissing every part of his body; from his hair to his lips, and from his neck to his toes. I began to imagine pushing my tongue into his mouth, intertwining his tongue with mine—how sweet it would be. I imagined pressing him down against that big office table of mine, unzipping his pants’s zipper…”
“Werner,” Matthew’s face paled as he said, “I beg you to stop continuing.”
Werner lifted his head up and looked at him.
“I scared you didn’t I, Matthew?
Matthew avoided Werner’s gaze, instead looking around the room for something else to focus his gaze on before eagerly finding the liquor cabinet, and the 1985 Irish Whisky inside.
“Werner, trust me, I don’t have anything against this matter… er, homosexuality I mean. I’m just a little, no, very shocked actually. Like, extremely.” Matthew murmed, after retrieving the whisky bottle.
“Furthermore, I never would’ve thought that you’d be, that you were… you know how, back in university we were in the shooting club? The members would all guess that you were, because you were so beautiful, but in the end, everyone knew you were straighter than anyone. You were always with a bunch of chicks, and your eyes would light up when the topic of girls came up…”
“Yeah, Matthew, I know. Back then, my thoughts were all focused on the ladies, until, well… like I’ve said: When I met that guy, I realised something was off. In my defense, everything is because of that guy. If it weren’t for him, I see myself living happily ever after as a straight man, screwing the ladies, marrying one, and having a kid normally. Instead, here I am wrapped up in this mess. And it’s all because of him.”
The bottle in Matthew’s arms was already half-empty, but as a professional lawyer, he still had enough rationale to speak with worry and caution,” Werner, please refrain from saying such in front of the judge and jury; it sounds like you’re trying to make up excuses for your crime.”
Werner simply replied, “I’m just trying to explain things to you as honestly as possible, Matthew. I want to assure you that I didn’t commit this crime on purpose.” After saying that, he knelt down in front of the couch and buried his head and buried his head beneath the cushions.
Matthew reached out and gently gave the latter’s head full of golden locks a few pats.
“I know.” He said gently.
“Now then, are you able to continue the story? Did it happen tonight?”
Werner’s head, still buried beneath the cushions, vaguely replied, “Yes.”
“You… raped him in the office?
After remaining quiet for some time, Werner reluctantly removed himself from beneath the couch cushions and said, “I don’t know.”
“‘You don’t know’! What do you mean ‘you don’t know’?!”
“I mean exactly that: I don’t know,” Werner turner turned to the side, as if he didn’t want to make eye contact with Mattew, and muttered in a low voice, “I did it with him, but I’m not sure if it was considered rape or not.”
”So, what you’re trying to say is that you two did it willingly?”
“Matthew, I don’t know if he was willing.”
Matthew felt like he was thoroughly confused by this brat.
“When you had sex with him, you couldn’t even tell whether or not he was willing?”
Werner raised his arm and made a weak waving gesture. “Matthew, can’t you tell from everything I’ve told you? In front of him, I completely lose all sense of rationale. You can’t judge me using a normal person’s perspective, nor should you seek my opinion on the matter considering such.”
“Did he resist?”
”Does that mean that if he didn’t resist during that time, it doesn’t count as rape?”
Despite his throbbing headache, Matthew tried to recall the contents of his criminal law textbook. “No, that’s not necessarily the case. If the victim didn’t resist due to duress, the allegation of rape is still valid.”
Werner buried his head back in the couch cushions for a while after hearing Matthew’s answer, before finally looking up, as if he’d made up his mind.
“Matthew, I need to tell you what happened tonight all over again. Only then will you be able to give me a good evaluation.
“When I got to work this morning, the moment I opened the door, I saw him. I’d given him the week before off when I realized something was off about me. I thought that if I didn’t see him, that everything would go back to normal. However, in the end… it was all fucking useless!
“Today was his first day back to work. When I spotted him entering the company building all the way from the 17th floor, my hands and feet wouldn’t stop shaking—it was like I had malaria. I kept finding excuses to lock myself in the conference room and resource room. I didn’t dare to step back into my own office, worried that once I was alone in the same room with just him, I’d lose control and pounce on him. At the same time, I was like a crazy stalker: I’d peek through the door crack and observe his every move. Every time he got within 5 meters of me, I’d get an erection.”
Matthew tilted his head back and took another draft of whiskey.
“After a nightmarish day of this, I was on the brink of madness and breaking down. I was so thankful when the lights in the office went off; it meant that work was over, and that I could finally leave. However, I had to retrieve a document from the office for Wilson Jr. to sign tomorrow. So, I opened the door to my office…”
Werner paused abruptly, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, as if it was hard to get the words he wanted to say out. After a while, he finally spoke in a dreamlike voice.
“…I found that he hadn’t left yet. He was sitting there, with the lights off. The moon outside was shining in on him. I think he was wearing a white shirt, but it looked blueish as well. He was leaning on the sofa, his gaze looking out the window, as if deep in thought. My god, he looked beautiful.
“He must have been lost in his own thoughts, because he didn’t hear me come in at all. I chose to lean against the half-open door, and stay as quiet and still as possible in the dark. I didn’t dare to step any further inside, nor could I turn to leave. I could also hear my own heartbeat loud and clear.
“In the end, he finally noticed me. He looked shocked as he asked, “It’s so late, why are you here?”
Mathew froze. He eyed Werner, his pale grey eyes full of disbelief.
Werner continued, “At that moment, I considered every single possibility. I wanted to confess my love to him: I love him like crazy, and have been in love with him all this while. I had been a fool to realize it too late… And once I had realized it, my fascination towards him had started to harbor ill intentions. The mere thought of him not accepting me and leaving me caused me to lose all my courage. I’d rather it remain like it was; we were friends. Sometimes I’d ask him out for lunch, or go fishing with him during the weekends. It’s not that bad this way—at least I’d still get to see him, and I can even hear him tell me things like ‘we’ll be best friends for life’.
”But, I’ve been pretending for too long. I’m truly about to go nuts…”
Matthew was already sitting bolt upright on the couch. He was shaking so uncontrollably that his hands couldn’t even hold the whisky bottle still.
Werner’s blue eyes had lost their usual lively spark, but he continued to speak, as if these words were escaping on their own.
“I’ve known him for five years: It all started back when all of us were just students at that university, when we joined that ludicrous shooting club. From when I first realized my feelings towards him until now, it has been a full two years. You see, my stupidity is equal to my lack of courage
“Matthew, didn’t you ask me over the phone why I’d cut my week-long vacation in the Canary Islands short and come back halfway through? Let me tell you the real reason now: It’s because I missed you. I missed you every single waking second. I wanted to make love to you. I missed you to the point that I lost all sanity.
“Did you know? When I was standing by the door, I was seriously considering committing a crime. I planned to confess everything, before raping you here so that I could realize the countless acts I’ve practiced on you in my dreams.”
After he’d finished speaking, he leaned over and gently swept the few loose strands of burgundy hair from Matthew’s forehead and tucked them behind his ears.
Matthew just looked at him for a moment. He was no longer shaking, but the whiskey bottle in his hands fell from his hands to the carpet in front of the couch, the alcohol slowly soaking into it.
“Matthew, I’m sorry,” Werner whispered, “I’m such a coward. I know that I couldn’t be convicted of acts committed in my imagination, so I made up that story.”
“Oh.” Matthew responded.
Werner continued, “In fact, I realize that I’m a terrible criminal. Probably because I’m too scared of going to prison. Though, I still feel as if I’m living through hell right now.”
Matthew suddenly reached over and hooked his arm around his neck. “It’s okay.” Mattew smiled. “Werner, I think I have to let you know…”
”First off, I’m your best friend. And of course, I’m also your lawyer.”
“Secondly, rape is defined as involving any form of sexual penetration carried out against the victim’s consent. If you want to ensure whether or not you’re committing such an act, you could try asking if the other person is willing. As for your case…
He summed it up lightly, “There won’t be such a thing as prison.”
Werner stared at Matthew blankly. The latter’s grey eyes twinkled, a hint of playfulness in them, as if the frozen mist had cleared and the sun had crested the horizon. Even though it was already one in the morning, to Werner, that golden glow was so bright it filled the room.
”Werner, do you plan on committing a crime now?”