Just a little something. Reviews are adored and appreciated!
They're not mine.
I slammed the door of the loft as hard as I could, hoping it reverberated down the two flights of stairs, hoping she heard it, hoping the world did. At the least, Mark certainly did. I could see him out of the corner of my eye, sitting in the windowsill reading quietly until the sudden, unexpected noise of my entrance made him jump nearly out of his skin. It wasn't until that moment that I realized - belatedly - that the unsuspecting filmmaker would bear the brunt of this particular piece of frustrated, irrational behavior.
"Christ Roger!" he said, looking up at me wide-eyed. "You nearly gave me a heart attack!"
"Sorry," I muttered. He was still looking at me, the curiosity and lingering surprise in his expression quickly dawning into understanding.
"Mimi?" he asked simply, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose with one knuckle.
"Bitch," I said in response, flopping myself down onto the couch.
He laughed softly. "Yeah, but think of the make-up sex."
"I don't want to think about it," I said tonelessly. "I don't want to think about her. I don't want to... think."
Mark carefully turned down the corner of his page and set the book aside, moving to sit down beside me, his expression sobering.
"Was it bad?"
"No more so than usual." I sighed. "I let it get out of control though. I acted like a asshole."
"But no more so than usual?"
I shoved him and he laughed, repositioning himself so that he could prop his feet up on the table next to mine. We fell quiet. I was replaying my argument with Mimi in my head, idly contemplating Mark's shoes, battered red Converses with several holes in varying stages of seriousness. Thinking simultaneously of how angry I was and of how much Mark would need new shoes when the snow came. He just sat quietly beside me, totally still, and at some point the unusual degree of his stillness prompted me to look up at his face. I discovered that he was staring down intently at my fingers where they rested against my legs, curled into loose fists of cooling frustration. There was something in that focused look, the expression on his face that seemed to battle between complete emptiness and total openness, that I recognized but could not immediately place. When else had I seen Mark look like that? I remembered the day that Maureen had left him and the moment just after I had told him I was leaving New York, and with sudden guilt I realized the significance of that pensive expression.
"So, I haven't seen you for a while," I said carefully, finally breaking the silence.
His eyes snapped up to mine. "No, I guess not. I've been busy."
It's me who's been too busy, isn't it?
But I didn't ask, because I didn't have to, and he never would have confirmed it anyway. "Work?" I asked simply.
"Seen Maureen much?"
"Oh, not really," he said, sitting up and folding his legs underneath him. "She's pretty well occupied by Joanne, but she drops by every now and then." He laughed, picking idly at one of the holes in his shoe that I had been contemplating earlier. "Mostly when they're fighting."
As Mark continued to fiddle with his shoe, totally unaware of what he had just said to me, I looked around the loft, really seeing it for the first time since I had stormed in, maybe since I had moved out at all. All of my mess and chaos was gone, moved down to Mimi's apartment or shoved into a closet. The guitar picks and sheet music, the coffee mugs that I always left around and clothes I tossed haphazardly over the backs of chairs, all cleaned up and put away. There was some evidence of Mark's "methodic madness," as he called it: a pile of books beside the coffee table, film reels stacked in the corner, a couple of yellow legal pads with his handwriting scrawled across them in different locations around the loft. But that was it. Suddenly our little place, which had always been such a disgraceful - but ultimately lovable - dump felt cold and uninhabited to me. More than the lack of customary mess in the room though, I realized, it was the unexpected lack of sound that seemed so very sad. The refrigerator hummed quietly, sounds from the street occasionally drifted in muffled and indistinct, and a window rattled slightly in its frame with each gust of wind, but other than that it was silent. Totally still.
"It must get quiet up here alone," I remarked thoughtfully, a little sad at the notion.
"What with the lack of constant guitar-tuning and all." He smiled, glancing up at me with a shrug. "I guess it does."
He looked back down at his shoe, and I knew. And he knew that I knew.
"Mark..." I started.
"I'm okay," he said a little defensively, looking back up at me, knowing my question even before I did. "I mean," he shrugged again, "I'm not great. I'm not. But I'll be fine."
"I'm sorry. I should have--" He cut me off.
"Really, Roger, it's okay. It's not your fault; you should be with her. I'm just... having kind of a tough time right now."
Kind of a lonely time. I knew it was what he meant to say. Loneliness was one of the only things that was ever tough for Mark, so much so that he even avoided mention of the word.
"It's not okay, Mark. I'm sorry I haven't been around, but you have to let me know when I'm fucking up okay?" I said. "Believe it or not, I can't always tell."
A smile ghosted across his face. "Okay, I promise."
"Me too," I said and settled back down into the lumpy cushions of the couch we had found abandoned in an alley two years ago. Mark relaxed beside me, his arm just brushing mine. "So what did you see today?" I asked. Mark always saw things that I would never have noticed. I liked to hear about them, and he liked to tell me, so this was not an uncommon ritual. "Anything interesting?"
"I saw a man trying to kick pigeons as he was walking. Not because he looked angry or anything, kind of just to see if he could. And I saw Richard Foreman getting a cup of coffee at a Starbuck's, of all places. And there was a man who proposed to his girlfriend in the park, and she said yes, but she looked really... sad. Like it was this moment that she had been waiting for all of her life, and it didn't live up to her expectations." He paused a moment, his expression briefly clouded, and then looked up at me. "What did you see?"
I looked at him, into his clear, deep blue eyes, almost green around the edges, and his eyes drew me back past that day and that morning into all the other times I had looked into them. The first time, when I had been onstage at a club singing and had met the gaze of the sound operator, who looked much younger and smaller than he really was behind all of his heavy, exotic equipment, smiling at me for a moment before returning to his pulsing lights and levels. I saw Mark when I woke up in the hospital. He was holding my hand almost too tight, staring at the monitors hooked up to me as though through sheer force of will and vigilance he could keep my heart beating. He saw that I was awake, and I saw from his face and red-rimmed eyes that she was dead. And then he curled up beside me on the bed, on top of the stiff white hospital sheets, and whispered that the test results were back, that it was true. He held me tight while the waves of shock and nausea washed over me, and I was sure that he was trying to hold me together. I saw the resolute expression on his face when he locked my door and placed a chair in front of it, holding me back when I tried to claw through it, sobbing and sick and desperate for a needle. I saw him trying desperately to make me laugh, going to all extremes in his attempts to draw me back into the world. I saw him dancing on tables and trying to do the right thing for everyone and shaking the phone after hanging up with his father and smiling over the top of his camera at us and laying an extra blanket over me on cold nights when he thought I was asleep, and suddenly I was acutely aware of the skin of his arm against mine. I looked into his eyes and I saw Mark putting himself on the line every day, trying so hard, silently begging for someone to want him, to love him the way he deserved.
"Roger?" Mark asked hesitantly. "You okay?"
I nodded, never breaking eye contact. Then I leaned forward and kissed him.
His surprise was evident, but he didn't pull away. His lips were warm and dry, and I felt the tips of his fingers move to rest lightly on my cheek and trace my jaw line with a gentleness I'd very rarely felt before in my life. The inside of his mouth was soft and sweet as I deepened the kiss, and I brushed my fingers through his hair, cupping the back of his neck. After a long moment we both pulled away slowly.
"Well," I murmured, his face still close enough for me to feel his breath against mine.
"Yeah," he smiled, then let his hand drop from my cheek. "That was weird."
I laughed. "No kidding. But it was worth a shot."
He shrugged, smiling. "Can't say we didn't try. And now we know at least."
"It's too bad. It might have made life a lot easier."
He laughed aloud this time. "I doubt it!"
I smiled. "I guess you're right. I better go talk to Mimi."
"Good idea," he said, and I could see the smile he was trying to conceal, because he had known I would say this all along, just as I had known, because I always did. He grabbed his book from the windowsill as I stood and headed toward the door. I reached it and paused, turning back to look at him as he hunted for the sentence he had left off on.
He looked up at me, his eyebrows raised. "Yeah?"
"Want to do something tonight?"
He smiled. "Yeah. I do."
I smiled back. "See you later then."