He has been sitting on the couch, holding this beer for forty minutes. He hasn't been paying attention to the television; but he has been looking at his cellphone, where it sits on the table; where he tossed it when he got home. His anger from earlier has vanished; and he doesn't know how to feel now; what to think; how to handle this whole situation. Because things shouldn't have happened like this; and he shouldn't be sitting here alone; and there should be another beer on the table.

And that phone should be ringing.

But he isn't sure he should expect it to, because things are wrong, so wrong; and he doesn't know how to fix them, or if he can; he knows only that he wants to; and that he misses his friend, his lover; his everything; and he doesn't understand why he is always letting little things like-two million eight hundred thousand little pieces of paper; that are now ashes; that seems like a good couple million reasons to be angry- money, and work come between them.

He was angry; but now he is just numb; and he isn't sure when that will change; and he hasn't even had a single sip of this beer, and he regrets opening it, because he can't just jump in his car and go look for Lem; not that he knows where to start, because-if he wants to be honest, and he does tonight; because if not now, then when?-he doesn't really know Lem. And he never has.

And now he never will.

It's taken him years to think that he might understand what love is; but now he isn't sure at all, and he doesn't quite believe he ever will; because surely if he was in love he wouldn't have done Lem the way the others had; surely he would have been his first, and last line of defense-but as usual that role goes to Vic; who seems to be their beginning and their end-but instead he had been Shane's offensive.

And he isn't entirely sure what happened tonight; and he isn't sure he cares-he's only thinking about two million, eight hundred thousand little pieces in the bottom of a fire downtown-he just wants tonight to be over; because he is too numb to deal with this; too numb to pretend to care.

And he isn't sure it should hurt like this, when he realizes he will never fall in love.

There is nothing he can do about this; and he doesn't have anything to show for having had the side of his face held down against a stove burner (for a crime that had been committed when he wasn't even in the room!), and he realizes Lem thinks he did it for the good of them; but the good for him would be knowing he had that money if he ever needed it. And he doesn't think he can breathe right now.

And he realizes he doesn't want that phone to ring.

What is going to happen, he wonders, when Lem comes back here? When he sees Lem walk into work in the morning? What is he going to say? Because he doesn't care to forgive him; and he doesn't want to see him go, but he isn't going to try to hold on.

And the phone is ringing; and he doesn't reach out.

What would he say? And why? He doesn't know who they are right now; and he doesn't know if he should even care. Lem obviously didn't. Tonight he will climb into bed; and Lem won't climb in after him; he will get cold when he leaves the window open; and Lem won't be there to get up and shut it for him. He isn't going to have Lem anymore, he realizes.

It takes more effort than it should to reach out and pick up the phone.

It hasn't been that long since he talked to Lem; only a few hours, but the other man's voice sounds so foreign; so distant; and he almost doesn't recognize it. He almost doesn't care; but there's a voice in the back of his mind screaming that Lem is a friend; has been a friend; and he is scared and he is alone right now.


It seems impossible to speak; and he realizes he needs to do so anyway, because he doesn't want Lem to go; and neither does Vic; and he knows if he can just get the words out things will resolve themselves in time; so it comes as a surprise when he hears his own words echoing in his ears;

"I don't think you should come back."

The line goes silent, and for a moment he thinks they've dropped signal; but then he realizes what he said; and that he said it aloud; and he waits, with bated breath, for Lem to respond.

"I am sorry, Ronnie." His voice is small; and Ronnie realizes he sounds like he's going to cry; and he realizes he just doesn't care,

"Yeah." He doesn't have to say anything else, because the line goes dead; and he is left looking at a television he isn't watching; holding a beer he isn't drinking; and holding a phone, which rings will go unanswered.

He is numb.