"Okay," Roger says as Mark hears the jingle of keys. "Close your eyes."
Mark tentatively takes several steps forward into the loft, eyes blinded by Roger's rough palm, flingers splayed out, covering a good portion of Mark's face. There is a clink, and suddenly a tiny lightbulb's glow illuminates the entire room, reflected on Mark's eyelids the moment Roger pulls his hand away. "Look," Roger says. And Mark does.
"Oh my god, Roger," Mark gasps. "It's huge."
Roger snorts loudly. "That," he says decisively, "goes on my list of the top ten things you don't want to hear in a prison shower."
"Wh – oh," Mark mutters sheepishly. "Well, whatever. It is."
"So, I take it you'll be staying?" laughs the rock star. His eyes twinkle, their emerald sparkle drawing Mark away from the amazingness that is this apartment.
Mark nods vigorously. "It sure isn't Scarsdale," he murmurs, almost to himself.
"I'm glad you like it," Roger tells him. "Now, put your bags down and we'll go get some dinner."
Eighteen, impressionable, and deeply in love with this new, incredible world that is so far from suburbia, Mark does so immediately, dropping his bags rather than placing them down carelessly as he might have done in his mother's house. At the door, Roger slouches, a hand shoved deep in his pocket. "Here," he says, dangling a keychain before Mark's eyes. "I got my keys copied last month. These are yours."
A smile on his face that must make him look utterly ridiculous, Mark follows Roger down the stairs and onto the city street below.
"So," says Roger casually, "how's Nanette?"
Mark shudders. "We're long over," he assures his friend. "Then I was seeing someone else for awhile…"
"Who?" Roger asks sharply.
"Oh, you wouldn't know – "
Roger smirks. "I know everyone in Scarsdale," he drawls. "Who. Is. She?"
"Um," says Mark slowly, "Um. His name's Benny."
Roger shrugs. "When can I meet him?" he asks smoothly.
"Don't you… care?" asks Mark, baffled.
"Mark, this is New York," Roger says patiently. "Don't you know that everyone in an urban environment is at least somewhat bisexual?"
Mark shrugs. "It makes sense now. How about in the suburbs?"
Cackling, Roger agrees, "There, too."
"They just hide it better?" asks Mark, maybe getting the hang of it now.
Roger grins. "Exactly."
Throughout his first few weeks in the city, Mark appears to be on a permanent high. He sleeps with just about everyone within the city limits, male and female alike, and has a stack of condom boxes the size of Mount Vesuvius piled up in the bedroom he is supposed to share with Roger, but doesn't (because Roger, strangely enough, is just one of those people who can't sleep when other people are having sex next to him). Roger sleeps on the couch, wondering how the nerdy kid he knew in high school managed to turn into such a whore. He always regrets thinking it, but he thinks it nonetheless.
One night, Roger brings a girl home. Her hair is a vibrant red, her eyes the color of celery, her figure enough to keep Roger occupied in the shower for up to forty-five minutes at a time. Mark, who through some miracle of miracles has nothing to do on the night she shows up, stares at her from the moment she walks in the door. "This is April," Roger says, not taking his eyes off of Mark and his jealous expression. "And April, this is my roommate Mark." They disappear in the bedroom after that, and when Mark knocks on the door hours later, an open, nearly empty box of condoms hits him in the head. He gets the hint, and sleeps on the couch.
In the morning, April is making coffee. Mark wonders what the hell gives her that right, and when he lazily asks her who the fuck she thinks she is, she gives him an appraising look and informs him that because of that, he can make his own fucking coffee.
Mark shuts up, and gets some anyway.
After she leaves, Roger settles down on the couch beside his roommate.
"You were staring at her ass," he points out. When Mark is silent, Roger adds, "And her boobs, and her crotch. Jesus, Mark."
Mark reaches up to adjust his glasses and sighs. "Roger, look, if you're going to bring someone that hot back to our apartment – "
Roger grins. "Not like you don't do it enough."
"Not the point," Mark snaps. "The point is, you can't just expect me to keep my eyes off of her. It's not like you offer my one-night stands the same courtesy."
"How can you expect me to?" Roger shoots back. "You bring them in here half-naked, already practically on top of you, and you make it obvious they don't mean anything."
Mark laughs hollowly. "So April means something to you?" he sneers.
"She might, for all you know," Roger mumbles, evading the question.
"But does she?" Mark presses.
Roger shrugs. "I've known her for one night."
"And sex already!" Mark declares in mock-horror. "Dear me, is prudish Roger losing his morals?"
His eyes narrowed, Roger points out, "You're one to talk, you fucking slut. Is there anyone in the city you haven't fucked?"
Maybe he's hungover, and maybe he's just giddy and wants something to say, or maybe he genuinely believes that this is the only answer, but the only word that seems to fit out of Mark's mouth is "You."
"Well, as long as you don't make any moves…" Roger warns.
Mark takes a sip of coffee.
He looks to his room.
"I have enough condoms to last us awhile, Roger," he murmurs provocatively.
Roger bites his lip.
He glances around the loft.
His eyes fall on the window, where the sun is mocking all the hungover citizens of Alphabet City by shining brightly.
"Um," says Roger slowly. "No."
Mimi is the next one to catch Mark's eye. This time, he isn't jealous so much as he is resigned to this, to the fact that Roger is a rock star and will always have someone to fuck for extensive periods of time. Now, it is a nineteen-year-old stripper without any of the raw beauty once possessed by April. No; Mimi is all sex appeal, and only that to a select audience. She is the epitome of sex to the forty-year-old men commonly frequenting establishments such as the disreputable Cat Scratch Club.
"What the fuck, Roger?" Mark demands one morning. "What the fuck?"
"What the fuck what?"
Mark exhales. "What are you doing with a whore like Mimi? At least April was…"
"Dead?" Roger supplies helpfully, because among other idiotic things, Mimi is known to preach ideals such as to forget regret; his eyes shaded by Mimi's desperation and eagerness, Roger often attempts to follow these terms. He fails every time, or ends up feeling more depressed, and Mark wonders just why someone like Roger is so hell-bent on changing for someone like Mimi.
Mark groans. "Well, yes, she's dead," he concedes, because it is never wise to argue with facts, "but, you know, there are other girls like her. I mean, even Maureen – "
"Is a lesbian," snickers Roger.
Mark chooses to ignore that tidbit, and continues, " – is realistic, isn't a teenager who wants someone to fuck and is afraid of dying, so she thinks it's okay to just pretend she's okay with it, pretend she's fine and cool and not dying, to live every moment as her last when everyone else wishes it was."
Roger, taken aback, advances toward the door. "I'm going to go," he says slowly.
"If you want," Mark sighs, and waves his hand limply. "I'll be here."
The door is already halfway closed behind Roger when Mark can hear a muttered, "Aren't you always?"
After Mimi's death, things are quiet and unstable. Collins stays in the city, for once, teaching at Columbia; Mark, in the meantime, remains with Roger, who refuses to leave the apartment for any reason. Mark brings him food and booze and all sorts of things, but Roger injests only the bare minimum, then gazing out the window at the couples ambling along Tenth Street, arms interlaced, feet moving in rhythm with one another's.
The musician looks up, his fingers paused in the middle of Musetta's Waltz. "Yeah?" he rasps.
"Do you want to… get out tonight?"
Mark knows what the answer will likely be, but adds, "We could… go clubbing. Bring girls home."
"I think I'm fine here," Roger mutters.
"It's not healthy, Rog," Mark insists. "You need more friends, or a girlfriend, or just sex, or something."
Roger chuckles hollowly. "Are you offering?"
Mark raises his eyebrows. "Are you?"
"Don't answer a question with a question," Roger recites. "Just give me a straight answer."
And Mark does.