This story is a sequel to "Last Year"; it should make sense on its own but it will reference the events of that story.
Disclaimer: It's Jonathan Larson's. I'm just playing.
Dorms room are not unlike prison cells. They are not comfortable or "homey", no matter how many photographs and band posters are hung on the walls. "Homey" especially, because no dorm room will ever feel like home, no matter what, no matter if Zacktus the Cactus makes it four years, if Mom sends cookies once a month and your quilt is the one you have slept beneath every night since you were five years old.
A dorm room is never home, because it is irreparably dirty, grungy, used; there is a cum stain on my mattress (flipped to the bottom, covered with a mattress pad and sheets, but nevertheless unnerving) and one of the boys in the next room has copious amounts of loud sex with his girlfriend. No amount of cleaning can eradicate the dirtiness of a floor stomped on by too many feet.
A dorm room is in one way like my childhood home: a dorm room is a place to escape. From, not to.
"There's a band here… playing in Providence, we could go see them. The Well Hungarians." Benny laughed. "They're supposed to be all right and it's their final engagement in state."
I turned my head to give him a blank look across the room. "Why is that funny?"
"Think about it, you'll get it. Here--" he read from his paper, "The Well Hungarians are essentially another rock and roll band but, says lead singer Roger Davis--"
I interrupted him, "What?"
Benny looked up from his paper. "What what?" he asked.
"Roger Davis?" I repeated. Benny nodded. "Benny-- I have to go to Providence."
The beer was cheap and warm and not very good, but I took my big plastic cup and sipped a bit of foam into my mouth. Benny sat at the bar with a mildly bored expression. He couldn't understand, because I had never dared tell him what went on back in Scarsdale. I left that behind, just like Roger…
"I was never good enough to love you, Mark…"
My hand sweated blood onto the receiver. Blood pulsed too heavy in my ears, too light, and I was dizzy.
"Tell Tom good-bye for me."
…left me behind.
So what was I doing here, a wild-eyed college boy in a somewhat trashy bar listening to the set finishing, and wondering if that's him, if that's my Roger.
That's not my Roger.
It cannot be him. Under the bright lights, this man is certainly not my Roger Davis, who basked in every approving smile I shot his way and cried and punched out bullies and walls. This man, this man who plays his guitar with tremors of his entire being and sings as though he knows how beautiful his throaty voice is, cannot be my one-time best friend, my almost boyfriend.
Everything was for nothing, and I was a fool for believing it. Five long years I sustained myself by thinking only of the times we were friends; five years, and still sleepless nights I saw his face and wondered where he was. Was he safe? Healthy? Happy? I hoped so, but did not dare believe it. I hoped, the way teenage girls hope to meet actors and rock stars: I certainly doubted the likelihood of a dream coming true.
And it had not come true. Dreams did not come true.
I tapped Benny's shoulder and jerked my head. "C'mon, let's go."
His eyes frowned. "I thought you had some business with…"
"Thanks everyone, you've been a great audience and I hope you all have a nice night. Once again, we are the Well Hungarians, keep an eye 'cause we've got no intention of stopping yet." He gave the crowd an over-confident wink as the band carried their instruments off the stage.
Benny stood; I set down my beer. That was three dollars ninety-five I would never see again, but so what. It wasn't Roger. It was some bleached blond with muscles and cut-off T-shirt sleeves and a hoop earring, and I needed very badly to get out. Just as Benny and I were heading for the door, someone grabbed my shoulder.
I turned. It was him, the front man, the Roger Davis who wasn't my Roger Davis, standing before me with all his rock star glory and a hopeful smile on his face. "Mark! Mark Cohen?" I nodded. "Jesus Christ, Mark, don't you even remember me?" He looked hurt.
I adjusted my glasses. Roger Davis. "Roger?" I asked. It was a stupid question: of course his name was Roger, I knew that, everyone knew that from the advertisements and the band posters. "I thought…" I laughed. "You're so… different! You're… oof." He hugged me. "Not so different." I patted his back.
"Come on." Roger released me and grabbed my hand. "Let's go… somewhere. I dunno. You're in Providence! What the hell are you doing in Providence? Come on, let's go out, I want to know everything that's been going on--"
"Wait a minute."
"I never could have been good enough."
"Roger. That night--"
He shook his head. "Mark. We're here now. Everything is different, I am different, you. Please, let's just… let's forget that day, all right? You're still my best friend, Mark."
I nodded. Forget? Forget the day you broke my heart, Roger? Forget how it hurt? Shall I forget the boy who gave me my first orgasm? But he had that look in his eyes, and I nodded. "Okay. This is Benny, my roommate-- sorry, Benny, Roger, Roger, Benny. Come on, let's get outta here."
It was late but the air was warm. Roger took deep breaths and stared up at the stars as we ambled down the sidewalk, none of us speaking. What could be said? There was no idle chatter because the occasion was too important, too breathtaking-- for Benny, too awkward-- for banter.
"This place okay?" Roger asked.
We went to a cheap restaurant that served greasy burgers and French fries. Roger had a "brief argument" with the catsup bottle, and for a moment I saw my friend again, tongue clamped between his teeth as he smacked the bottle, annoyed. Eventually he ceded and used his fries to start the flow. "So what are you doing in Rhode Island?" Roger asked me.
"Well…" I flushed slightly with pride. "I'm going to Brown."
Roger dropped his fries. "You're serious?" he asked. I nodded. "Oh my… congratulations, Mark! That's great!"
I blushed. "Thanks."
"Man, I always knew you'd do it."
"Aww, but, if you hadn't taught me fractions I'd never…"
"You'd've got there," Roger stated, nodding. "You'd've done it one way or the other, Mark. Oh, man, that's so… does Collins know?"
I shook my head and fished a piece of ice out of my drink. The ice squeaked before cracking between my molars. "Collins went to, uh… UC Santa Cruz," I said. "He left a few months after you did." Senior year was probably the worst of my life. Roger was gone. Collins wrote, but it was never the same and I knew he was only hiding his unhappiness until he stopped writing altogether.
Some things never changed. Despite having his mouth full, Roger asked, "Are you happy?"
A rush of blood flushed through my body. Are you happy. It had been so long since anyone asked me that question. I was proud enough when Dad paraded me out at Hanukkah and summer holidays, but afterwards always felt dirty and unloved. Brown was great, but still I felt lonely. I wanted someone, a lover or a best friend, someone to be very close to. I needed someone to love.
"Yeah," I said, and I meant it. "I'm really happy."
I told him about everything, from graduation to my sister's kids to the year my mom tried to teach me to make latkes. Roger listened to every word, really listened to every word. It was the best time I had had in years: sitting in that restaurant with Roger, with my best friend and it was like nothing had changed after all those years.
At the night's end, Roger gave me his phone number. "I'm in New York," he told me. "Benny-- nice to meet you." He hugged me and kissed my cheek. "Take care of yourself, Mark."
I glowed. "Good-bye."
"Not for too long," Roger promised, hearing the rawness in my voice.
In my dorm that night, I pressed my face into my pillow and cried myself to sleep like some pathetic freshman on his first day. A dorm never feels like home…
TO BE CONTINUED