On a silent May night of 1992, Mark and Roger sat across from each other on the windowsill in their loft on Avenue B, the top floor of what used to be a music publishing factory. The two best friends shared a glance with each other before catching other's gaze and moving their heads back down to focus on anything but what was in front of their eyes. To them it was easier to ignore the world than to face it head on, but over that month of April they had, individually, learned to let out their emotions and deal with what was happening straight on without too much conflict.
Mark sighed, Still, no matter how much drama we were sent into that doesn't mean the hardships immediately stop and we'll forever live an easy life. No, it's not like that, ever. Everyday we're still fighting for our right to live the fullest life we can, whether it's with the disease or without it.
Roger cradled his acoustic guitar in his lap as he strummed the odd numbered chords of Musetta's Waltz. One leg was tucked under his body as the other swung out over the bench-like seat. That leg was sore, occasional bolts of pain rushed through his body the first few days after he got rid of his crutches but the feeling was soon getting better and Mimi had told him the limp was subsiding. Fingers poised in the ready position, Roger strummed a new chord and felt the music vibrate through his body and stopped for a moment to remember what he had done before moving back to Musetta's Waltz. Music was just itching inside Roger and he needed to get it out. Roger took a deep breath and sighed softly, his green eyes moved up to look towards Mark.
Fiddling with his camera, Mark chewed his bottom lip and shivered involuntarily as he felt the steady gaze of Roger on his body. His vision was blacking out again and he did not want Roger to see his eyes glazed over and lost. Mark called those moments Black Outs. Sometimes it was when his vision completely went, an actual feeling of blindness, but mostly it was when he could see only the shadowed-outline of things –just like before. They came on regularly, but other times Mark had full swing of his vision. Those were the times when the memories of the month of April came rushing right back to him. Mark nearly jumped when a found squeezed his shoulder, but he still did not look up.
"Is it your legs?"
That was just another brutal reminder. Mark didn't remember what happened during his whole ride to the hospital, nor did he remember the so-called surgery that was performed on his spinal chord a few weeks ago, but he did remember waking up in the hospital with Roger at his side. They'd told him of his leg "problem" and said that the surgery went as well as can be expect, but Mark didn't really expect anything. Physical therapy was still going on and Roger came with Mark to every single session, never missing a beat when Mark stumbled or hurt his back. Roger was being protective to the point of annoyance; the only thing Mark didn't like was that sometimes the musician treated him like he was made of glass.
"I'm fine," Mark mumbled, the thumps of his headache growing. Advil helped mostly, but only for a few minutes and then he went back to trying to ignore the pain all together. Once he'd caught Collins slipping him some placebos, the sugar pills, but it didn't have any long-lasting affect. Mark used a finger to push his sunglasses further up his nose. He didn't wear his black-rimmed specs anymore; besides usually it was easier to hide his glazed eyes behind sunglasses.
Usually being the keyword.
A hand worked its way underneath Mark's chin forcing him to look up towards Roger's eyes. He hadn't noticed Roger had stopped playing Musetta's Waltz until the musician cleared his throat and said, "You can't lie to me. Not now." Mark's eyes involuntarily closed as Roger's fingers wrapped their way around his sunglasses and gently tugged them off his face. "There. Look at me Mark."
"I can't." Mark chocked desperately. He tried to tighten his eyes shut but that only made his headache even worse then it already was. His hold on his camera had tightened though, and suddenly Mark had hung his head again.
"Mark…man, come on." Roger pried the camera from Mark's death grip and gently placed it down in front of the filmmaker. He rose himself slightly from the bench and carefully took the red wool blanket that was hanging off the dark brown couch before sitting back and draping the blanket over Mark's shoulders. "Cold?"
"…shouldn't worry 'bout me." Mark merely mumbled, tugging the blanket around his shoulders. His vision had steadily returned but Mark was still looking down into his lap, ashamed at the act Roger had caught him in. "Aren't you cold?"
"No. I'm fine." Roger replied. "Are you all right?"
Mark coughed down whatever had caught in his throat and finally blinked quickly, he still couldn't look into Roger's eyes. A small frown tugged at the corner of Mark's lips, but, nevertheless, he answered, "Yeah. I'm fine."
Roger frowned. "Why is it that you always think you can lie to me?"
"Maybe I try too hard."
Mark averted his sightless gaze, turning back to grab his sunglasses from the place Roger had previously discarded them and began angling them against the light outside. The illumination of the moon outside and the shining stars in the sky bounced beautifully through the large windows of the loft and magnified against the dark specs of the sunglasses. Soon the soft rock-rendition of Musetta's Waltz filled the air again and each bohemian was lost in their thoughts again.
The presence of Mimi Marquez was greatly missed by Roger that particular night, but she was working a late night shift for one of her employers over at the Life Café and wouldn't be back to the loft until the next morning. Since Mimi did not have a car, and Roger was too proud to admit he was scared to have his girlfriend walk home that late at night, Joanne was going to swing around after her shift at her law firm and pick Mimi up in the company car she got to borrow that week. They had figured Mark and Roger would be sleeping and did not want to be woken up from Mimi's late return so Mimi had insisted on staying at Maureen and Joanne's apartment for the night.
Hell, it was nearly 3:30 AM, who would've figured they'd be up? Definitely not Mark and Roger themselves.
Of course they hadn't planned on being up that late; just neither wanted to be asleep. After their short conversation from before they were just happy to be in each other's presence. Mark had found Roger's presence very comforting, his best friend had always been there for him in the past and the filmmaker just expected Roger to be there in the future. That thought always got depressing when Mark realized Roger wasn't going to be there in the far future. No matter how many times Mark joked about being the first to go –of course, those jokes stopped after Mimi's near-death experience– he had never really dug deep into his heart to believe it.
"What're you thinking about?"
Chewing his bottom lip again, a disgusting habit he picked up from Maureen and Mimi, Mark shook his head. "I'm not."
"You are," Roger insisted. He grabbed the neck of his guitar and moved it carefully out of his lap so that it leaned against the bench. "You're always thinking nowadays, even more than you used to, and that's saying a lot."
"I'm not thinking."
Roger sighed and Mark heard the musician shuffle in his seat, probably trying to find a more comfortable position. Mark tried to fight the urge to look up towards his best friend, and instead pulled his legs up to his chest and buried his face into his knees. It was a position Mark had used for the past month as a good thinking-inducer. The darkness, as much as it frightened him, calmed him and slowly his thoughts straightened. He could still feel Roger's eyes fixed on him though, and that made him all the more uneasy.
"What?" he finally questioned, voice muffled through his knees.
Roger didn't answer.
It was odd to Mark how the ignorance of it all unnerved him to a fault. It was questioning as to why humans felt the need to be noticed and not ignored by their peers, it never made sense –that need. What about the feeling of loneliness? What was so wrong with being alone that it drove people to near insanity? The facts killed Mark's mind, but one thing he knew, he felt it everyday. It was hard not to when you deal with the aspect of that actually happening in the future. Nobody wants to be alone; it's just a simple fact of life.
Nobody wants to be alone.
Others have no choice.
A hand was on his chin again, but this time it didn't force his head up. Roger's breath came out in a steady rhythm and Mark could feel the moist clinging to the tips of Roger's fingers, his hand was warm. The musician let out a heavy sigh. "Your eyes-" was all he could get out before stopping abruptly and dropping his hand. The filmmaker felt Roger's grip on his shoulder and suddenly Roger leaned forward to lean his forehead against Mark's own.
At first it was uncomfortable, but Mark soon found himself drawn forward and leaned against Roger to the point they were nearly hugging. The contact was so welcome to that point in time though that it was soon instinct. Roger's hand on Mark's shoulder was familiar suddenly and Mark liked it, he liked the touch. Touch meant that this was real, that Roger hadn't di- left yet and was still with him. HIV and AIDS hadn't won.
Soon the two broke out of their odd-positioned embrace and Roger held Mark at an arm's length away, both his hands now gripping the filmmaker's shoulders. Mark dropped his sunglasses near his camera and looked right into the emerald green of Roger's pupils. The musician's eyes looked as glazed over as Mark's felt right then and there.
"She's been gone a while now," Mark whispered suddenly. He couldn't dare break Roger's stare. "Seven days."
"Only seven days? It doesn't seem like that long." Roger blinked. "You know though…do you miss her?"
"Why not? Do you think she's all right?"
"I hope so," Roger responded with a shrug. "She can take care of herself, I'm sure."
"Even after that?"
"Even after that."
It doesn't matter to me. I still worry about her when I shouldn't, still can't sleep when I'm too tired to stay awake, still can't eat when I'm starving, still can't stay active when I need to be moving… Everything feels like the exact opposite. I need to be doing something and I feel like I can't no matter how hard I try.
"You're zoning out." Roger's voice cut through Mark's thoughts. An inaudible what? elicited from Mark's mouth, but he barely noticed it as Roger frowned and shot him a serious look. "You are," he continued, "when your eyes glaze over. It's like you're in another world. Are you sure you're not thinking?"
"Maybe." Mark simply shrugged. "Seven days. It's a long time."
"You haven't been sleeping as much."
"Well, it is nearly 4 AM; besides I can say the same thing to you."
"I'm worried about you. I can't sleep when I worry; you know that."
"You worry about Mimi. Don't worry about me." Mark frowned. He liked that Roger worried about him, truth be told, but he always felt guilty when Roger actually did worry about him because that meant Roger wasn't paying enough attention to himself. Basically, the musician was not good at multitasking.
Roger frowned. Their eyes were still locked. "Why do you look…?"
"How come your eyes are glazed?" Roger ran a hand through his long brown hair. "Do they hurt?"
"No." Okay, Cohen, a half-lie is just as bad as a whole. "Do they look that bad?"
"Look for yourself."
Mark followed Roger's finger until he was looking head-on into the clear glass of the large loft's windows. It brought an image of the two of the friends in a sort-of squiggly appearance against the run-down, foggy glass. He couldn't really see his reflection though, it was too blurry without his glasses on –of course that would've explained why his headache was getting worse by the second.
"It's hard to tell." Still a half-lie, Cohen, it's still lying. Mark turned back and found Roger's eyes looking intently back at him. "You tell me."
"You look tired…worn out, really. Like you want to go to sleep but can't because you forgot how." Roger said. "Is that it? It's almost like when I…after April– well, you know."
Mark bit his tongue; he couldn't ask Roger the question that had been lingering in the back of his mind the whole week since Tammy had left. Hell, how could he not wonder though? Didn't he have a certain right to worry? "I was-" Mark stopped and shook his head, blinking slowly. He couldn't ask that question, couldn't voice his thoughts on that particular fragile subject… Could he? "I've been thinking…"
"It's just… I don't know –"
"You don't always have to know."
Mark looked up again. His own ocean blue eyes met Roger's emerald green and suddenly Mark felt very innocent underneath Roger's concerned gaze. If the musician was more observant than Collins and Angel than Mark would've thought the man could see right through him and into his innermost deepest thoughts. Finally Mark shook his head and broke the eye contact, with great effort, and said, "Nothing."
Mark sighed. He looked up and, not knowing why, said, "Roger."
"Rog." Mark was exasperated at this point, almost as if too lazy to actually say Roger's whole name.
Roger shook his head suddenly. "You know, Tammy's not April, Mark. She's stronger than that; wouldn't take the easy way out."
Mark frowned, he didn't want to dig up bad memories for his best friend but he had to ask, "How do you know?"
"Tammy's her own person; she can't live under the name of sister-of-a-suicidal-druggie. Give her a chance to get over everything, just like she's giving you a chance to get over everything. As much as you both don't want to admit, but you both need to spend some time away from each other so you can get back to normal."
"How normal is normal when you're in a wheelchair?" Mark's frown deepened. "There is no normal under these circumstances."
"Maybe it's not normal, but you need to cope." Roger shrugged. "It's been a month since it happened and it's not getting easier any time soon. Take it one stride at a time. Remember what you told me in the middle of my withdrawal? Waiting is always the hardest part, but it's worth it, even through all the pain and suffering. Wait for the end results and you'll see." Roger smiled. "It works. Wait for the end; and every inch of pain will be worth it."
"I don't like waiting."
Roger placed a hand on Mark's shoulder. "You'll see. It gets better."
Roger stumbled back in his seat on the windowsill and hit his back gently against the wall as the light form of the blond filmmaker pushed against his chest and flopped down. The musician had to scoop down to catch him before Mark slipped off his seat and onto the floor. A small smile inched its way up Roger's lips as Mark's light snores filled the loft.
Roger smiled and gently allowed the smaller man to curl on the bench and rest his head on a pillow in Roger's lap. He pulled the wool blanket tighter around Mark's shivering body. "I'll be there for you, just like you were there for me."
UPDATE (June 19, 2007)
I've just finished editing this whole story in a matter of three days in order to take it down from the M rating I had currently had it to make it a T rating instead. Some things in some chapters may make it seem M, but there's not enough, in my opinion. Some is revised and I did tone down the major language I had used before. Hopefully, however, I haven't cut the quality and appeal.
Blink Tears: The titled came from the simple phrase I found myself using in many serious stories that went "(insert name) blinked back tears as he/she struggled through the emotions of (insert instance)". Plus, I added it to the fact that I got from the movie/play of RENT that the characters, particularly Mark and Roger, found it hard to express their emotions.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for reviewing.