My eyes flew open before the alarm was set to go off, as they had for the last few days. It took a moment to clear my head and remember where I was, then I looked over at the other side of the bed. He was facing me, sound asleep, and for once wasn't snoring. His features are relaxed and smooth; his hair sticking up in all directions. He looks like a little kid. It's strangely endearing to see him so unaware and unguarded, a sight that only I am privileged to see. His breath lightly brushed my cheek. I want to reach over feel the rasp of his stubble against my fingertips. I want his warmth and skin on me. But I don't touch him. It's better to not wake him up. He had been getting a decent amount of sleep over the last few days and I'm not going to be the one to bring an end to that winning streak. Carefully and quietly I get out of bed, pull on some sweats, and shuffle to the kitchen.
The floor is cold beneath my feet as I stand at the sink and fill the coffee pot with water. The chair is cold against my back as I sit and wait for the water to boil. The whole apartment is just plain chilly. But I don't do anything about it. I just sit and wait on the water.
Greg and I have been together for quite a while now. Longer than any of those snarky naysayers would have ever believed. More than a few people lost some good money in the office pools they tried to keep secret, I'm sure. Greg and I made sure to keep the fact that we laughed our asses off at them a secret. Let them laugh. As if we care.
We're good for each other. We belong together. We keep each other sane, depending on what your definition of sane is.
But it could have very easily gone the other way. There was a time that I was afraid he would reject me if I tried to get too close.
To say that I was a wreck after my third divorce would be the understatement of the century. When Greg let me stay with him it was a huge relief, a weight off my shoulders. It was understood that it was just until I got back on my feet, and I respected that. His apartment was his sanctuary, his escape from the world he couldn't stand to be around, and who was I to intrude on that? I told him that I would be gone before he knew it.
Yet somehow I never left without intending to come back. That time I thought about leaving him for someone else, I wasn't half as serious as I thought I was…let's not go there ever again.
He once accused me of pining away for him in the spare bedroom. He hit that nail right on the head. I admit that I had my fantasies that got more detailed as they went along, usually ending with us ripping each other's clothes off.
Of course, there is the other side to that fantasy. The one that doesn't have the happy endings that Greg doesn't believe in to begin with. The one where he rejects me when I tell him that I want to be more than friends. Where he kicks my sorry ass onto the curb and tells me to never darken his door again. Leaving me to wallow in the loneliness that he knows I despise.
I'm not saying that it would have happened, but it could have happened. That fear made me keep my distance for too long. By then he had it all figured out anyway, so the point became more than moot. And he didn't reject me. He liked having me around. The moment he said that our friendship meant everything to him ranks among the greatest moments of my life and always will.
But what if he had…what if he had…?
What would have happened to me? Another divorce? More alimony to pay? Long, long days followed by longer, lonelier nights pining away for that one person I couldn't have?
But what would have happened to Greg?
Would he have realized his mistake? Even if he did, would he ever admit it? Would his loneliness have been more unbearable than mine? Would he have been able to endure it much longer?
What if this…what if that…what would happen…
It didn't happen. Let's not forget he was the one who came to my office and kissed me, telling me to hurry up and finish up my fucking paperwork, what I had been waiting for would be at the apartment. Then he waited behind the door for me to come home. Not letting me look at him. Threatening to take off my tie and gag with me it if I didn't take it off first. Dragging his fingers up and down my chest just because he knew it would drive me absolutely insane. Then I was able to take control and kiss him back…dear God, when I felt his tongue slip past my lips and I could taste the bourbon he had been drinking, and how the room began to spin…
Whoa…it's way too early in the morning for that.
Thankfully the coffee pot started to screech and brought my thoughts to the here and now. As I was pouring the water into the cup I heard the alarm go off, followed by some cranky protestations that it can't possibly be time to get up. I chuckled and poured him a cup, listening to continued muttering, the faint rattle of the Vicodin bottle, the opening of a drawer, then as the tapping of the cane become louder and louder. I held out the cup of coffee as he limped into the kitchen. He blinked at it, then at me.
"How long have you been up?" he asked, taking the cup.
"Long enough to hear your joyous greeting of another new day," I said.
Greg eyed me suspiciously. "What, is there something special about today? Is it our anniversary? Was I supposed to buy you a ring to celebrate our perfect love?"
"Not that you would even if it was our anniversary."
"You got that right," he grumbled, sitting down. His eyes were still red and sleepy. Once the coffee got into his system he would be in a better mood.
"Do you know when our anniversary is?"
"Apparently it's not today."
"Do you even care when it is?"
"No. Do you?"
"No. You want some waffles?"
I got his favorite blueberry waffles out of the freezer and stuck four of them in the toaster. So he didn't know when our anniversary was. Honestly, neither did I. It was actually sort of relief, since my wives would have skinned me alive if I ever forgot. Those things didn't mean much to him and I accepted that. I meant everything to him and our friendship and relationship meant everything to him, he meant everything to me and then some, and that mattered more than a date on the calendar.