If you try the best you can
If you try the best you can
The best you can is good enough
If you try the best you can
If you try the best you can
The best you can is good enough
- Radiohead

He lay in his armchair by the window, smoking heavily. The curls of pale grey smoke were curling out the gap in the slightly open window, blending into the pale pink-and-blue sky.
He coughed, and recrossed his legs.
5:10. The same time it had been when last he checked the clock. His damn clock was broken. Either that, or time had stopped.
Outside, his smoke was still hanging like its own little cloud in the air.
A man with long, dark hair smiled at him, a broad grin in his pale face. Sorry, Gateau, the man said, but I gotta blow this taco stand. And then the man disappeared into thin air, like smoke, or light, or life.
Gateau hadn't even realized that the guy had been there - or had he?
There must be something in the water, he muttered to himself.
His wristwatch read 6:30, so he stubbed out his cigarette and got out of the chair. He walked across his room and got dressed. Khakis and a polo shirt.
God, I'm such a good boy, he snorted, looking at his reflection in the full-length mirror. I'm wearing fucking khakis and a polo shirt. Fuck me... He went downstairs, grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator, and sat down at the kitchen counter to drink it.
After his third gulp, he reached for the pack of smokes on the counter. He lit one, and smoked and drank, looking out the sliding glass door at the dimming light in the small back yard.
He finished the beer, and put out the second cigarette, which was mostly ash, anyway. He put on his coat, and tugged on his shoes, and went to work.

Just shut up! I can't believe you!
Leave it be! Just let the whole goddamn thing alone, for the sake of all that is holy!
You peace of shit, no good son of a bitch! You come home at a decent time or you don't come home at all!
I work the damn graveyard shift, woman! Or hadn't you noticed?
Don't talk back to me! Do you think I'm stupid!?
Marron just kept washing the dishes. If he didn't turn around and look, it wouldn't be there, and they wouldn't be fighting.
He focused on the sound of the running water, and the sound of the next-door neighbors slamming their bed into the wall. It wasn't working. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't will his parents into nonexistence. He sighed, and turned off the tap.
He went upstairs, and lay down on his bed, smothering his face in the pillows. Maybe if I asphyxiate myself, something will iron itself out, he mumbled into the cloth-covered foam.
You will not step through that goddamn door without my permission, you whoresonning -
In case you hadn't figured it out, unless I go to work, I get fired, and then where will you be, hmmm? Out of this house, I can tell you that much!
And you know what I'd say, then? Hmmm? GOOD!' That's what!
Fine! Fine! Just let me go to work. I, for one, am still interested in supporting my family.
Fuck you! Get out of my sight!
The was the sound of the door slamming - his father leaving. His father had been an author once, but a string of bad marriages and an addictive personality had left him where he was, in a cheap flat with a job on the graveyard shift.
I have to get out of here, Marron said, rolling over. The clock read 7:30. His father wasn't supposed to leave for another three hours. That explained some things.
I need a better place to go.
He took all the money he had on his dresser and put it in his pocket.

Hi... I'm looking for Doctor Schlessing?
Gateau stared at the boy. We sell mobile phones. It was late at night, almost eleven.
The dark-haired boy stared back, looking confused, and then blinked. He smiled. Of course you do.
He pointed to the sign on the wall that read, Cell Phones.'
the boy said, I see. The boy ruffled his short, choppy hair, making Gateau want to do it, too.
Do you want to go get a cup of coffee? Gateau asked. You look tired.
The black-eyed boy smiled uncertainly, sweetly, at him.

Gateau tapped his ash into his coffee cup.
Shouldn't you be in your cell phone store? he asked.
No. They were going to fire me anyway. He smiled, and took a long drag on his cigarette.
He sipped his soda.
Aren't you going to eat that?
The boy shrugged. Gateau thought he couldn't be more than sixteen. Maybe not. You paid for it. You wanna eat it?
Sure, I'll try it. It reminded him of when he used to go out with his mother for dinner as a kid. She would always convince him to get dessert, and then she'd eat most of it. You remind me of my mother, he said suddenly, his mouth half-full of ice cream and waffle.
The dark-eyed boy laughed. I can honestly say you don't remind me of my mother.
No. She just used to do this thing with dessert... Never mind.
Yeah, I know, replied the boy. I get it a lot, if you can imagine. You remind me of my first girlfriend,' or, I had an uncle who used to do that.'
Do what? Gateau swallowed.

An uncle who used to do what?
Oh. I don't know. I mean, I used to know, but I don't remember.
This is awful, Gateau said, pushing away the dessert. Who thinks of putting ice cream on a waffle, anyway? He ran his tongue over his teeth, like he was trying to roll the taste out of his mouth.
The black-haired kid took a taste. Hmmm. It's not that bad. But I won't eat it.
I'm just not a dessert guy. I always have a little, and realize that I hate it.
But it doesn't stop you from trying it, right?
Gateau smiled, and took a long sip of coffee. It tasted weak, and like ash. So what's your name?
said the kid.
he replied.
Marron said it like he knew already, and he ruffled his hair again.
Did you used to have longer hair?
Marron made a quiet sound and let his hand drop from his head. He stared at it, white on the faux-stone diner table top. How'd you guess?
You keep touching it. Like you aren't used to it.

Gateau took another pull on his cigarette before looking over at the smaller man. How old are you?
Marron shrugged, looking away before meeting Gateau's eye. Seventeen yesterday.
Hmmm. Happy birthday.
Marron didn't look very happy.
Anyway, that isn't what I meant to ask you.

No. I... Have I ever meet you before?
Never that I know of, Marron replied.
I think I had a dream about you.
Marron tucked some bits of hair behind his ears and studied the table top uncomfortably.
Maybe. I don't know. So, when did you cut your hair?
Marron sighed, and fluffed the hair on the back of his head again. Earlier this evening.
That recently.
I needed a change. And it was better than asphyxiating myself.
I guess so, Gateau said dryly. He paused, before crushing out his smoke. Why do you say that?
I had to get out some way or another, the young man said simply, his dark eyes shining in the fluorescent diner light. Like I said, I needed a change. It was leave, or die. Which would you choose?
I don't know, sometimes.
Marron agreed.
Gateau thought about it, licking the nicotine taste off his teeth. He felt strange, all of a sudden, talking to this young boy in this dirty, low-class dinner. Do you ever look in the mirror and just -
- Absolutely hate yourself? Marron finished.
It was like his question had become Marron's question, or maybe they had all just become the same thing.
Marron nodded, and took another sip of his soda. Will you take me home with you? He was playing with his hair again, using his left hand to alternately tuck it behind his ear and untuck it. His right hand was twirling his straw.
I'm twenty-three, Gateau said quietly.
I'm sure you are.
That would be statutory rape. He watched the boy's hand twirl the straw.
Not if I'm eighteen, Marron returned, not meeting Gateau's eyes.
You said you were seventeen.
Marron smiled, but didn't look up. Only because you looked like the kind of guy who liked younger boys.
That seemed sort of unfair, but Gateau didn't say anything.
So, you're really twenty-three?

Marron chuckled. Let me guess. Just legal.
Went bar-hopping for the first time this year, Gateau replied, a little surprised. Legally, anyhow, he amended.
So let's go home. Your home.
My home, he repeated.

They'd made love quietly, not saying much of anything to each other. The only real sound had been the shifting of the bedclothes beneath and above them.
A sheet sandwich, Gateau commented absently.
Marron paused. He had been tracing patterns on Gateau's shoulder with his lean fingertips. Now his hand lay against the larger man's back like dust.
Oh... nothing. Just thinking out loud.
Marron said, sounding like he understood. What time is it?

In the morning? the younger man asked. It couldn't have taken that long.
No. My clock stopped.
So what time is it, really? Marron asked.
Don't know. Does it matter?

Gateau sighed, and rolled over to face Marron. Are you going to go back home?
I don't want to, he replied, sounding bitter, but also childishly angry. I hate them.
I know what that's like, Gateau said sympathetically.
I hate people, Marron muttered into Gateau's skin.
Don't you ever just wish you could pin all your faults on the general populous...?
Marron's bitter, harsh laugh conveyed Gateau's personal opinion. That is so dysfunctional!
This whole thing is dysfunctional, the blonde corrected.
True enough.
They lay there, staring straight at each other but not really seeing, for some time.
Then Marron's eyes flickered up past Gateau's head, and Gateau realized that he was looking out the window.

Gateau turned around. The sky outside was a pale, unnaturally light grey. It was probably only two or three in the morning, but the sky was the colour of a roomful of cigarette smoke. Gateau wondered if it was a life's worth of smoking just up there in the clouds. The moon was shining through, a pale red-silver halo around it. Maybe the sun would come up soon.
It's pretty, isn't it? Marron said softly, into the skin at the base of Gateau's neck.
he replied, but weird.
Well, that's okay, isn't it?
He felt Marron slide a thin arm around his waist, pulling them flush with each other.
Gateau imagined the sun coming up while the haloed moon was still in the sky. Couldn't they hang in the sky in conjunction? And the clouds could be the eclipse.
He smiled a little.