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Regrets, The Day He Left and Losing My Religion

During the days when Roger's eyes were bloodshot and perpetually angry, when he spent hours clawing at Mark's skin and spitting hateful words and longing for the fake happiness that came with the sliding of a needle into his black and blued skin, Mark would spend hours with his eyes closed, wondering what his life had been like if he'd stayed at Brown. If he'd become a lawyer like his parents wanted him to, if he'd moved to Boston like he had originally planned to do after college, if he were anywhere but here.

Darkness surrounded these days and he'd often spend his afternoon alone with a wailing, crying, shaking Roger, sometimes holding his friend to his chest during the days he was more mellow and willing to accept help, or with his back against the door as Roger's boots stomped through the loft, the guitarist ripping, tearing, destroying everything within his grasp, all while spouting painfully hurtful things to Mark, from racial slurs to things like "queer and fag", which Regular Roger would have never, ever, said if he were in the right state of mind.

Those days were roller coaster-like, up and down, down and up. Maureen was cheating on him and he knew it, Roger wasn't Roger, and Collins and Benny were gone. It was the only time Mark missed April, because she used to listen to him whenever he needed it.

Palms pressed to his ears, eyes closed tight, back and feet bracing against the sliding door of the loft, Mark would allow himself to slip into a different world - a world where Roger's cries didn't exist, drugs weren't a part of his life, and Maureen wasn't stumbling in at all hours of the night smelling of alcohol, marijuana, and sex. The pounding would fade away, Roger's hoarse anger soaked voice would drift into nothing, and Mark would find himself back on Brown's campus, tightening his scarf around his neck as he hurried to class. In his head, back on campus, he was laughing with Benny, learning about emotions in his Psychology of Emotions class, and going to the little college bar on the edge of town.

In his head, he was safe, with his peers. He was content, he led a normal life, and the sense of adventure he thought he had been lacking when he HAD been in Brown didn't exist. The reality of it was that this wasn't his life. The classes, the professors, the friends- he had given it all up to live among artists.

But the reality of it was that he hadn't gotten much of any sort of work done, and hadn't felt like he was a part of any sort of art, unless you count watching Roger slide a needle into his arm as art.

He loved his bohemian friends, but he wasn't as strong as he thought. So when the day came that Roger's frantic, violent shaking had reduced to gentle shivers and he'd picked up his guitar once again, the dark hums of the unstrung chords echoing through the thin walls, Mark had packed a single bag, leaving his notebooks and camera behind.

Crawling back to his parents wasn't as humiliating as he had predicted. The genuine expression of happiness on his mother's face made the shame melt away, and he cried as he explained to his mom how helpless he had felt during those months with Roger.

He didn't forget them, oh no he didn't. Benny, Roger, Collins, even Maureen - their faces, their smiles, their laughs - they all stayed in his heart as he returned to Brown, two years behind but with a new outlook on life. He'd seen things some of his classmates had never even witnessed in a movie, and he knew he was a changed man.

The pain died, along with the homesickness he felt for New York City, and it all occurred much faster than he'd thought. He'd done the right thing, going back to school, leaving his friends and their problems behind. While in the city, he'd seen nothing but a lonely future - with Roger and Collins testing positive with a disease that wrote their death sentence, his girlfriend cheating on him, Benny moving up in the world, and April's face nothing but a memory, Mark couldn't see what there was for him there except more heartache.

The selfishness he exuded was astounding, and he knew it. He had only been thinking of himself and that often kept him awake at night, and it was the only thing stopping him from picking up the phone and dialing the loft to see the status of his roommates, especially Roger. Hearing the hurt in their voices wasn't worth the shame that was sure to burn through his heart.

So he grew up, or, at least, that's what his parents said it was. He finished school, took the bar and ended up a lawyer in a small office in Connecticut. His memories of the two years he had spent as an "artist" filed somewhere in the back of his mind and he didn't think much of them. It had changed his life, he knew, but the old memories of living in squalor with a pseudo rock star and an anarchist took the back burner to the new ones of winning his first big case and meeting his wife. The birth of his son and his promotion to partner.

The death of his mother, when his son broke his leg, the arguments that went from petty fights to full blown arguments to days when he slept on the couch.

The divorce papers in the mail, the tears in his son's eyes as his ex-wife drove them in the little black Volvo down the block and out of his life.

He hadn't thought about them for at least a year, been to New York City in at least three, and seen any of them for about eight, so when he found himself on a subway, headphones on and claustrophobia setting in, the last person he thought he'd see was Collins and Roger.

"Roger?" He said, as he stared fairly openly at the man sitting across from him. He pulled off his headphones, cutting off Michael Stipe's voice as Losing My Religion faded, "Roger Davis!"

Roger, who must've turned in the leather jacket at some point and grown out the bleached hair, stared back at him with a confused stare. Mark gestured to himself, and then to Collins.

"Tom Collins!" He said, his voice high with surprise. Collins looked at him, recognition finally settling into his eyes.

"Mark!" He asked, jaw dropping. Mark laughed.

"Yeah," He replied, sitting back in his seat. Roger's eyes were on him, but Mark took no notice, a warm, unrecognizable feeling spreading through his chest.

"Wow, how are you?" Collins asked.

"I'm good. How are you guys?"

"Good," Came Collins' smooth voice. Roger just nodded.

Mark suddenly felt foolish. He hated these kinds of things, when a past punches you in the face like it was doing right then. Roger and Collins had a past, had a friendship, and judging by the clean clothes and healthy glow to both of their skins, had their health.

He wanted to ask all sorts of questions, but he'd lost that right when he'd walked away so many years ago.

Awkwardness set in and he found himself looking down at his gloved hands. The train rumbled to a stop and Collins and Roger stood. Collins reached over and touched his shoulder.

"Hey man, it was fantastic seeing you," He said, with a reminiscent smile. Mark nodded and tried to hide the internal feeling of regret that was in his chest.

"You too," He replied, a tight-lipped smile ending their conversation. Roger looked down at him as he passed, and with a light hand, touched the side of Mark's head.


He watched them climb out, overhearing Collins' next line.

"We have to meet Maureen and Joanne at the Life at six."

Mark sat back, his heart feeling indefinitely heavy in his chest. He slid his headphones back on, clicked the player to "Losing My Religion" and poured the volume up as the train slid away from the station, giving him his last glimpse of two people that had changed his life.

At home, his hand faltered on the phone. He looked around, taking in the small house he had, cluttered and beginning to look dirty. Pictures of his son were scattered about, the little boy's eyes reminding Mark that his ex wife hadn't let him see his son for about a month now.

Two days later, at the sound of a knock on the door, Roger slid the loft's door open to see a crying Mark Cohen in the doorframe.

No words were needed as Roger took Mark's bags and pulled him into a hug, drawing him into a life that Mark hadn't realized he'd missed so much.