When I see them together, I don't see them as a couple. I see them as two people putting on a show for everyone else. But then again, maybe I'm fooling myself. Maybe he's happy with her in his lap, doting on her 24/7. Maybe he's lying when he tells me I'm the one he wants, it's just not a good time for us to be together, really together. Every night we end up with each other, he tells me he's worried about her. She's not stable, she needs support right now, she's going through a rough time. It's always something. There's always something dreadful waiting for her around the corner, always some reason why he can't leave her. Not yet. I beg him. I tell him how much I love him, how much I need him. He kisses me and tells me he feels the same way, we just have to be patient. He says stuff like this and that's when I don't know what to do. Do I trust him? Believe him when he says it'll happen soon? Or do I tell him I'm fed up and that I need him to be mine, and only mine, or nothing at all? But I don't want him to be nothing to me. I don't want that to be an option. I want him to tell her he's sorry but this is the way it's supposed to be. I want to work up the courage to tell her myself. He'd never forgive me if I did, and then where would I be?
This is ridiculous. I don't know how we made it this far. A month and a half. Six weeks we've been tip-toeing around, and no one's even come close to noticing. We're roommates. Now that everyone's gotten their own places, we're alone every night. Every night, minus the dreaded, sleep deprived ones that leave me here completely alone. The nights he goes to her place as not to raise suspicion.
Suspicion? When did this become a fucking soap opera?
It's time to face it. This is bullshit, and I don't need it. I need him. Honest, complete, loyal. I don't need a best friend who kisses me and makes love to me and whispers 'I love you' in my ear and then scampers off to his girlfriend's apartment before she calls, lonely and wanting to see him. What the fuck does she know about lonely? Is her heart torn into pieces every time he steps out of her bed? Does she feel completely alone only when her house is full of friends surrounding her? Does she have to watch him with someone else, pretending to love them, and hope he is, in fact, just pretending? No. She doesn't have to deal with that. Because he's too chicken shit to break up with her. Sure, he says he's trying to protect her. But six weeks?
He's fucking terrified.
As if on cue, the door opens and closes behind me. He joins me on the couch and smiles. I can't look at him, chances are if I do, there's no way I'll stay mad.
"Mark, we need to talk."
He sits back and winds his camera. "Sure, about what?"
"What the fuck do you think?"
"Jesus, calm down, I don't know. Breathe, then tell me what you want to talk about and why you're so pissed."
"I can breathe on my own thank you." I mumble indignantly before beginning my rant. "We need to talk about Maureen. When the fuck is this going to end, Mark?"
He immediately gets defensive. "Roger, you know I can't end it right now. She's not in a good place, and I need to watch out for her."
"Bullshit, you've been saying that for the past month and a half." He opens his mouth to protest but I continue before he gets the chance. "I'm not going to do this anymore. I love you Mark, and I want to be with you. All the time. Not just at night or when no one's around. I'm not going to be your fling anymore. If I'm going to be yours at all, it's going to be me, and only me."
"You are not my fling. I love you too Roger, but I just can't leave her like this."
"Why the fuck not!?"
He stares at me blankly, trying desperately to form a sentence in his mind. "Be…because she-"
"Because you're scared! You're too fucking afraid to tell her that you don't love her anymore. Well I don't blame you, Mark, because you've got the perfect little situation here, don't you? Maureen during the day, filling your consistency slot. Making sure you've got something familiar to come back to. And at night? You've got me to fuck and take for granted. What more could you ask for?" I jump to my feet and stalk to the window, looking out and pretending it didn't hurt to say what I just said. I feel his hand burn its imprint onto my shoulder, but quickly shrug it off. He stands behind me silent until I regain the composure to pose a question. Simple, soft, pleading. "Tell me the truth. Do you love me?"
Nothing breaks the silence, and I'm afraid if nothing does, the ripping of my heart through my chest will.
Luckily, he responds, in a tone softer than my own. "More than anything."
I stare at a water spot on the window pane. "More than her?"
"More than anything."
His voice is soft and true, but I'm just as confused as ever. "What does that mean?"
"It means that I would do anything for you, that you're the one for me."
"How can you say that? How can you say I'm the one when you hold her and kiss her and make her believe you? How do I know she's not the one, and I'm the person you hold and kiss and lie to?"
"You don't believe me."
"I believe you. But so does she. What does that say?"
"You're not going to leave her, are you?"
"Not yet Roger. She needs-"
"I don't care! I don't care about what she needs! I care about what I need. And I need you. But I'm not going to be your partner in crime until you finally decide to let her go."
"I'm in love with you. Only you. That's not going to change. When you decide you're ready to admit the same, let me know. I'll wait for you Mark. Come to me when you make up your mind." He steps closer to me and places a hand on my cheek, guiding my eyes towards his. He leans in to kiss me but I back away, wary of his affection. "Mark, no. You can kiss me again when I'm the only one you're kissing." I take a few hesitant backward steps before turning to forlornly walk into my room. I close the door behind me quietly and sit on my mattress.
I'm doing the right thing. This has to be the right thing. I can't let him play those games with me. Why should I let him take advantage of me like that? I don't owe him anything. At first I thought it was okay. We loved each other and we were only cheating until Mark could tell Maureen. Little did I know he would put it off as much as possible. Little did I realize that Maureen's "instability" was just a façade for all of Mark's insecurities. What I said was right, though. Why should I let him have both of us? Why should I allow myself to be his no-strings-attached fuck-buddy, when he has someone else?
I rub my eyes and run my fingers through my hair. He chose her. He chose Maureen over me. Here I am, willingly sacrificing every thing I have, just to be with him. If he loved me as much as he says he does, it would overrule his fears. It's good to know where his priorities lie.
None of this, though, changes the fact that I'm in love with him, that he's the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I will wait for him. When he realizes what, and who, he wants, I'll be here.
I haven't touched Mark in three weeks. We talk, as friends, and conversations have pretty much returned to normal. Or…as normal as conversation can be between two people who want each other this badly, but force themselves to remain "just friends," best friends. We don't mention those six weeks. I know he's sorry, but so am I. I'm trying to move on. I said I'd wait for him, and I will, but I'm not going to spend my days cooped up in an apartment alone with him. I don't trust myself.
It's cold. It's been cold all week. And now it's Thursday, and I'm sick of being cold. I grab my jacket and head to the door. "Mark, I'm going out."
He walks out of the bathroom holding his toothbrush in his mouth. "It's 11:30, where are you going?" The concern in his eyes makes me wonder just how much he cares.
I shrug. "I don't know. Just out. Don't wait up."
I turn from my position, halfway out the door. "What?"
I roll my eyes at him and leave, swinging the door shut behind me. Outside is no warmer, or colder for that matter, than the loft. I shove my hands into my pockets and walk swiftly, determined to find someplace warm, and fun. I'm sick of mourning. Talking to him and watching him and loving him, all the while holding an ongoing funeral for our relationship in my head. I find my wallet in my back pocket and take it out, perusing my life's savings for the moment. Twenty three dollars. Great. After almost ten minutes of walking, I come across a bar that doesn't look too skeezy. I enter, and remember that appearances can be deceiving, it's pretty fucking skeezy. I stay, though, too lazy to turn around, especially when the gust of warm air greets me as I open the door. I grab a stool at the bar and sit, waiting for the bartender to finish what she's doing. She turns and walks towards me, dropping a drink off on the way. She smiles and leans her elbows on the bar, directly in front of me.
"What can I get you?"
"Uhh...just give me anything...Absolut?"
"How do you want it?"
She nods and finds a bottle at the back of the bar. Turning, she places the shot glass in front of me. "Three dollars."
I nod, counting bills and handing them to her. "Thanks."
She takes the money and deposits it in the cash register before turning back to stand across from me. "So, how did you end up here?"
I take my shot and shrug. "Just walking, I guess. It's cold out." I look at her, really look at her, for the first time. She's pretty. Really pretty. She tilts her head to the side and I speak up again. "Why, do I look a little out of place?"
She laughs, and I'm instantly attracted to her smile. What's going on? I'm in love with Mark. But now this random girl...
"I just don't get your type very often. Middle aged, way past their prime, men? Yes. Sorrowful divorcees? Yes. Young, handsome..." She eyes my leather jacket and bleached hair. "musicians? No."
"What makes you think I'm a musician?" I try to stay serious but I can feel myself blushing.
"Look at yourself. Dyed hair, leather jacket, musician's fingers..." She looks at my hand, still clutching the glass. "You're a guitarist, am I right?"
"Uhh..." She's managed to amaze me within sixty seconds of meeting her.
She laughs again, and pushes dark hair behind her ear. "I take it I guessed right."
I look down at my glass and push it towards her, still smiling.
She refills my glass and pushes it back to me. "Okay, I admit it."
I look up, confused. "Admit what?"
"I saw you play a gig with your band a few weeks back. That's how I knew you were a guitarist. I'm not that great of a guesser."
I laugh and nod. "I'm sort of relieved. You were scaring me a little."
She shakes her head and furthers the conversation. "You guys have some great music. Lyrics, especially. Who writes it?"
"I do lyrics, and most of the music. The guys add a lot though. They let me know when shit sucks, and we fix it as a group." She's nodding and smiling. "I'm rambling. Let me know when to shut up."
"You're passionate about your music. That's not a bad thing. Not to be a kiss-ass, but the lyrics really are great."
"Thanks. Everything we've been playing was pretty recent. I'm not expecting any more of that any time soon."
"Lack of inspiration?" I shrug. "The reason I'm...drowning my sorrows?" I promptly prove that I do intend on drowning them by taking my second shot. I hand her a five and she cashes it, giving me two back.
"I'm not trying to pry, but I'm a bartender, and I'm required, by law, to ask. What's the trouble? Want to talk about it?"
"Yup. It's an entire course in bartending school."
I chuckle and scratch the back of my neck, trying to remain nonchalant. "Nothing, I guess. Not anymore."
She nods. "Ah, yes, lost love."
"Not lost. Just...misplaced."
"Oh, love triangle. Got it."
"You've had this job for far too long."
"It grows on you faster than you'd think. Another shot?"
"Nah...not too much cash."
"It's on me."
"Trying to get me drunk are you? I don't even know you! Shit, I don't even know your name."
She flashes that smile...the one I've grown to love in the last five minutes. Reaching over the bar, she gestures for my hand. When I take her initiative, she shakes it. "April."
I can't stop thinking about her smile. Her lips, teeth, tiny dimples. They all just come together to light up her whole face. It's so different from the smile I'm used to longing for. Mark's smile is always warm, bright, but I can't get past that deeply buried underlying sadness that is somehow always detected in him. Whether it be through his voice, or his eyes, or his smile, there's always that incessant something. Sadness, anger, worry, confusion, sorrow. I'm so attracted to it. It shows me how deep he is, how much he's going through...his struggle. It makes him so beautiful. But this smile-her smile, it's so carefree. So simply pure. Unobstructed.
Before I realize it, it's 4 a.m. and last call. I stay until everyone else is gone and April has cleaned and locked up. I offer to walk her home, but she coyly declines and instead slips me a napkin with her number on it.
"Give me a call sometime, I'd love to talk more."
We part ways, and I walk-almost stroll-back to the loft.
Apparently, getting home at 4:43 a.m. is not considered being careful.
"Where the fuck have you been?"
I throw my jacket and head to the refrigerator. "I told you I was going out. What's the big deal?"
"What's the big deal? It's almost fucking five o'clock in the morning. You left at 11:30."
I grab a cup of pudding from the fridge. At least Maureen's good for shopping, if nothing else. "So I was out. What the fuck is your problem, anyway? I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself."
He sighs and flops down on the couch. "You could have called."
"You were going to bed."
"Yea. Was. Then you didn't show up and sleep was pretty much out of the question."
"You waited up for me?"
"I was worried."
"Don't be. I'm fine." I open the pudding and lure it out of its package and into my mouth without a spoon.
"Why are you being such an asshole?"
"Why are you giving me the fucking third degree?"
"Because I want to know why you haven't been home since yesterday!"
"I. Went. Out. I went to have fun. It's not like anything good happens here. So I went out. I met someone. We had a good time. Now, I'm going to bed."
"Wait-what? You met someone?"
"Yes Mark, I met someone. She's very nice, she's very pretty, she's fun." I head to my bedroom, looking forward to my bed, and not looking back at anything, especially Mark's face. As horrible as I feel for yelling at him, I don't know where he gets the right to be jealous. Six weeks he dated two people, and not once did I complain. I asked about it, yes, but I never got jealous. At least...I never let him know I was jealous. Now I meet someone that I like, and he flips out. I toss everything on my mattress to the floor and force myself not to think about it as I fall asleep.
"So then I was like fuck you! Because she deserved it, you know? She's such a total bitch. So then she turns around and hits me. Fucking slaps me right across the face. Are you hearing this, Mark? This cunt fuckin' hit me!"
What a great alarm clock. Maureen. Deciding that because of her obvious presence outside my door, there'll be no more sleep in my immediate future, I struggle out of bed and into the kitchen.
"You should have seen it, Mark, I fucked that girl up. I was like a fuckin' boxer. I could have done some serious damage if-hey Roger, late night?"
I grumble. "You could say that."
"You got lucky, didn't you? You're wearing yesterday's clothes."
"No. I got home at like five."
I glance at Mark to see him staring at the ground, purposely avoiding getting involved in the conversation.
"No wonder you just woke up. It's like 3:30 now."
I nod, completely uninterested, and pull the napkin from last night out of my pocket.
"I was just telling Mark about how I went to-"
"Sorry, I have to make a phone call."
Maureen scoffs, offended, and stands up. "Yea okay. I'm going to the bathroom. Mark, I'll be right back."
I pick up the phone, dialing slowly to make sure I get the number right.
"You should screen your calls. You never know who it could be."
"Hey, Roger! You get home okay last night?"
"I always do, yourself?"
I smile. "So...what are you up to today...or...tonight?" Looking over to the table, I realize Mark's been listening to - and watching - my side of the conversation. Shit. This is just plain mean. Wait. All the times he brought Maureen over, that wasn't mean? Fuck mean.
"I'm off work, there's gonna be a pretty good party at a friend of a friend's, if...you're into that scene."
"I'm totally into that scene. What time?"
"Around eleven. You want to do something before?"
"Definitely. Where do you live?"
"13th between B and C. You?"
"The corner of 11th and B. Want to meet me here?"
"Sure. I'll see you in a few."
"Yea, I'll wait outside. Later."
I hang up, proud of my accomplishments. Just because I'm waiting for Mark doesn't mean I can't have a good time while I'm at it, right?
So maybe "a good time" is an understatement. Four months of my life that I barely even remember, and I end up in a clinic waiting for some fucking test results. April, one of the most beautiful people I've ever met. And what do I do? Fucking kill her. Because I have too many track marks up and down my arm to think straight. How many times did she ask me to stop? How many times did I leave her apartment, leaving her sobbing on the bed, begging and pleading for me to quit and be myself again? She would have risked her life for me. She did risk her life for me. And lost it.
The receptionist calls my name, and I walk numbly into a small office. I barely hear anything the doctor says. I as much as expected it. I killed her, and this is what I deserve.
I leave the clinic with new knowledge and a death sentence.
Returning home, Mark eyes me cautiously, trying to determine whether I'm high or not.
He looks me in the face, but I know he's just checking my eyes. "I believe you."
"Yea okay." I hand him my test results as I walk by to my room. "I'm quitting."
"What? What is this?" He unfolds the paper and scans it, looking for any sort of clue.
I turn from my doorway. "What does it look like?"
His arms drop to his sides and the paper floats gently to the ground. He found the clue he was looking for. "Roger-I-Oh my God."
He moves to the couch and sits down, completely expressionless. "Are you okay?"
I drop my cold exterior and sit on the couch across from him. "I guess."
He slides a little closer to me and his eyes are looking through me. "Are you okay?"
I hold my head in my hands and scratch the back of my neck. Maybe if I keep my head down he won't see me cry. "I'm fucking terrified."
I feel him move even closer and rub my arm. "I'm here."
I nod, trying to forget the last time Mark rubbed my arm, laying in his bed, completely free from worry. "I know." My voice is exhausted, and raspy, and...not mine. And it scares the shit out of me. I don't know what frightens me more - the shell I've become, or the fact that I don't remember when it happened. I don't remember a lot lately.
"I'm gonna go...you need some time alone. Come get me if you need anything. Anything."
I nod again, unwilling to verbalize my wish that he'll stay with me. I don't understand how I'm supposed to respond to this. I don't know what to do. What does it mean? I have an incurable disease. So I go out, get high, and for a few hours, I'm cured. Seems easy enough. If I just keep it going, I'll be illness-free until the day I die from it. Not like I'm hurting anyone but myself. Mark. What am I thinking? Mark's got Maureen. He always did. I don't know what saddens me more. The fact that I plan on spending the rest of my life half-conscious and oblivious, or the fact that if Mark would just come back, tell me the words I've been waiting to hear for months, I'd be willing to give it up. I'd get clean and I'd live like I'm supposed to if he'd give me a good reason. If only-
I stand quickly, alarmed, and tread to Mark's door. Opening it the slightest bit, I lean towards the room, wiping my eyes with a sleeve. "Mark?" When there is no response, I walk in.
He's sitting on his mattress in the corner. The one he usually writes in. Except he's not writing. His knees are drawn in to his chest and his arms wrap securely around them, creating some sort of pseudo-stability. His eyes dart the room, shrouded in fear and paranoia.
He doesn't look at me. "You might have given it to her."
I roll my eyes, pissed and ready to return to my brooding position on the couch.
I walk to the door
"Roger DON'T." His shout startles me and I turn, confused and concerned. I've never seen him like this before. "Just because you might have given it to her doesn't...you...it might not have been the needles."
He senses my blank expression and gets that I'm clueless.
"I have to get tested."
The thought never ever crossed my mind. Leave it to me to forget about everybody else.
"Yea." He's just sitting. He's not crying, he's not screaming, he's not punching me. He's just sitting. He never just sits. He's always doing something. Scrambling to help Maureen, or filming, or scribbling furiously.
But now he's just sitting. And it's my fault.
I step towards him, all intentions focused on holding him and hectically mumbling apologies. Apologies for everything. I'd say I was sorry for pushing him away. For yelling, for making him choose. I'd take back all the times I tried to force him to break up with Maureen, the times I refused to speak to him. I'd take it all back to be healthy, to take him out of risk.
Almost three feet away from him, he looks up at me. He's trembling, and his eyes have changed color.
They're cloudy, confused, absolutely frightened. And I can't take it. So I forget to hold him and mumble apologies. I turn and exit before he can see the guilt written across my face.
I'm a fucking coward. This is the man who I've loved for the last two years. The man that could have done anything to me, and I still would have loved him. This is the man I told everything. As soon as danger strikes, as soon as he gets scared, truly upset, I turn and run.
Things aren't the same. They are not, will not, and can not ever be the same. Two months ago I found out that not only was I killing myself, but I was killing Mark. He tested positive for HIV, and he's never been more withdrawn than he is right now. People now, they assume this is the way he's always been. It's not. He was always open, willing to share. But now...he never used to use his camera as a shield. It used to be a part of him. It used to be an extension of himself. Now it's a blockade, detaching him from everything and everyone else. It's an excuse. A way for him to decline from speaking with no questions asked.
The day he got his test results, we talked. He told me everything he was afraid of, and everything he felt. He told me he wasn't mad, and he didn't blame me. He was open. For one night only, it was just us again.
"Mark...I don't even know what to...I'm sorry."
He was so strong. Not once did he cry. He called Maureen, and told her he had to stay home, and I remembered exactly why I loved him. We talked about everything. The physical and emotional aspects of the disease, we even ventured back to talk about those six weeks, the ones we never spoke about. He told me he loved me, and I told him the same, but he already knew. He told me he wished things could go back, be the same again. I agreed, but we both knew it could never happen.
After a long, but completely comfortable silence, Mark told me he had made a decision, and he expected me to respect it.
"Roger, I'm not going to tell anyone."
"Tell anyone what?"
"About...this. The disease."
"What do you mean you're not going to tell anyone? Mark this is when you need to get help, support...people can-"
"People can fuck off. This is my problem, and I'm going to deal with it my way. I expect you won't tell anyone either."
"What about...what about Maureen?" I didn't even try to pretend it didn't hurt to have to ask.
"I'll push her to get tested, but I'm not telling her. Listen, everything's taken care of. I have doctors, medication, Maureen and I have always been safe. There's no reason for anyone to know."
"That's different. That's because I love you."
That's when I cried. He stayed strong, and I broke down. I let him hold me, and comfort me, and tell me everything would turn out okay. I let him lie to me.
But since that night, he films more and speaks less. He reminds me to take care of myself, to stay warm and remember my medication. I can't do the same. Every time he tells me to take my AZT, I shoot him a glance, but he pretends not to notice. His eyes fall to the floor, completely emotionless, and he disappears into the bathroom, or his bedroom, or anywhere else equally as convenient.
Somehow, I've managed to keep it a secret. I've found the courage to look my friends - his friends - in the eyes and keep silent. As if that weren't difficult enough, we can't talk about it. It can be the middle of the night, and he's laying in his bed, and I in mine, torturing me every minute of the night, knowing how close he is, not quite understanding the need for separate rooms, separate beds. And I can crawl into his bed and tell him I'm scared and that I don't like knowing that I'm dying. And he won't say a thing. He acts like that night never happened, and he never told me anything. He'll tell me it's okay and he knows I'm scared and that he'll be there for me. But never, ever, will he just say "I know," or "I'm scared too," or "I don't like it either." We're completely and totally alone but he won't admit anything. We'll be alone in the loft midday, and he'll ask me if I've taken my AZT. I'll reply "Have you?" He doesn't respond. He never responds. For the slightest instant, the most miniscule amount of time, his face falls due to knowledge and fear and guilt. For that instant, I can see his heart break. But faster than I can recognize it, it's put back together and seemingly stronger than ever.
I wonder if he notices. I wonder if he notices when I stare at him. And if he does, I wonder if he cares. Sometimes I even wonder if maybe he stares at me, but I just don't notice. But then I just assume that he couldn't possibly care that much. And then I wonder, if that's true, why do I still love him?
I think one of the most long-standing questions out there is that of the ability to be in love with more than one person at the same time. After all I've gone through with Mark, April, and this amazing girl called Mimi, I think I have the answer to that question.
The answer is no.
As hard as I've tried, I can't fall out of love with Mark. And I can't force myself to be in love with anyone else. I can have feelings of admiration, trust, respect, and desire, but they always fall short of love. Until I pick up a random strip of negatives off the floor, or see a 'gone shopping' note taped to the door. Then I feel it. All of it, including love, rushes back to me and I know what it means. I know who they're directed towards. It just doesn't seem fair. I've offered to give up everything. For him. Just for him. But it figures.
He and Maureen broke up, but not by his accord. She left him. It was about fucking time. As soon as it happened, I was filled with this ridiculous hope. God, he's going to be mine again. No. That doesn't happen. Not for me, not for Roger Davis. He gets scared. I get persistent, and then angry and disappointed when he's unresponsive.
So nothing happens. For two months, we live as roommates, best friends, amidst a tension so incredibly complicated, no one even wants to try and undo.
And then I meet Mimi. This wonderful little girl with the capability to distract me from everything. I've been whisked away into her world, full of excitement and adventure and romance. It kills me, the fact that I should be in love with her. I want to be in love with her. She's given me everything I've ever asked for. She's beautiful, smart, fun. And I've tried. I've tried so hard to fall in love with her. But I can't.
I think it's some sort of masochism. I finally find someone I want-who wants me-and I can't tear my mind, or heart, away from the man who broke it so long ago.
All it takes is one night. All it ever takes is one night.
A night of hanging out with the guys. I leave Mimi's at six, and tell her I'll see her tomorrow. We go to a bar. Me, Dan, Toby, Scott, and Mark. After a few hours of idle chat about nothing in particular, and a fairly large amount of alcohol, it's time to call it a night.
We walk home in silence, and stumble up the stairs to the loft. I manage to finagle the key into the lock after a couple minutes of laughing at myself, and pondering why keys are shaped the way they are. The door is open and we're both inside. Mark shuts and locks it.
He trips on the way to his bedroom, and we both laugh hysterically. I reach out a hand to help him up, but fall to the floor next to him in the process. We're still laughing, but when Mark turns his head to look at me, he stops. I let out a few soft giggles before realizing that his expression has turned serious.
The next thing I know, he's kissing me, and I'm kissing back. I know this is cheating. I know I shouldn't let him have me this easily. But I want him to. I want him to have me, I want to be his.
Unfathomable amounts of lust-passion-alcohol-desire-need are circulating the room, pushing us further. Tongues touch with the electricity I haven't felt since what seems like forever, and I forget about Mimi, about cheating, about guilt. All I know is I love him. I want him, and I've wanted him for as long as I can remember.
I barely even notice that neither of us have shirts on. We're on the floor, Mark sitting on my stomach, and I laying flat, straining to reach his touch. We struggle to our feet, barely separating. Moving to a bedroom, I'm not sure whose, touching-kissing-wanting-loving. Things have never moved this fast between us. There have been nights of exploration, as opposed to the usual romantic atmosphere, but never has there been this much raw magnetism. An attraction so deep that we can barely find time to remove our clothes.
We're drunk. And we're together. The night is filled with touching-kissing-thrusting-pushing-wanting-loving.
The next morning isn't so pretty.
I open my eyes and it's still dark…or…almost light…or…I can't really tell. Everything's fuzzy, and my head hurts. I lay blinking for a few minutes before attempting to sit up. My vision is clearer, but my head is still pounding. It's not still dark, the window is covered with a sheet. A bottle of generic pain killers and a glass of water are on the floor next to me, and I'm the only one in the bed. I'm not incredibly surprised, and focus on taking the pills that will make this headache fade away.
The door opens and Mark enters the room quietly, not noticing I'm awake.
"What's with the sheet?"
"Huh?" He's startled. "Oh…I knew you'd have a headache, so I tried to cut down on some of the light."
"Oh. You don't? Have…a headache?" This is awkward.
"I never get hung over. You know that." I nod, groggy and disoriented. The knock on the door to the loft echoes incessantly in my head. "Lay down, I'll get it." I find myself drifting off in the thirty seconds between Mark leaving the room and reentering, throwing my boxers at me. "Put them on."
"Just do it. Now, okay?"
I maneuver my underwear on under the sheets and gaze at his nervous tendencies.
Almost immediately, Mimi walks in. "Hey baby, what are you doing in Mark's room…in his bed? Are you sick?"
"He was pretty wasted last night. My room's closer to the door, and I can't carry him too far."
"Oh, okay. I was worried, baby." She smiles and kisses me sweetly on the lips.
"I'm alright, just tired…my head hurts." She places a cool hand on my forehead and pushes my hair away from my face. I shoot Mark a glance from behind Mimi's caring touch, but he remains completely oblivious. He stares at the floorboards as if they'll show him something if he looks long enough. Show him why he's hiding, why he's alone, how he could change it all, if he wanted. But floorboards don't show you things. People show you things. And if he would just look up, look at me…look at me…I could show him. He doesn't look. His eyes remain fixed on the floor, avoiding the slight chance of revealing any emotion. God forbid someone know what he's thinking.
Mimi kisses me once more before standing. "Roger, get some rest…take some Tylenol or something. Come downstairs when you feel better." She smiles. "Love you."
"I love you too." She turns to leave and my eyes unconsciously swerve towards Mark as I finish my sentence. He's still not looking. I hear Mimi let herself out and sit a minute or two in contemplative silence. Mark doesn't move or speak. I begin to wonder if he's even breathing. I sit up slowly and slide to the edge of the bed. "Can we talk about this, please?"
"I'd rather not."
"Whatever happened, happened. It's over and done with. No need to talk about it."
"Bullshit. You never want to talk about anything."
"So?" He speaks quickly, becoming defensive at the slightest accusation.
"So that's not healthy. I want to know what's going on. I want to know how you're feeling for once. So can we please just get it all out there?"
"You want to know what's going on? You're in love with a beautiful girl, and I am perfectly content by myself right now. You want to know how I feel? Since when do you want to know how I feel?" He's yelling. Months of barely saying a word will do that to you, cause you to lash out at any real admission of emotion. How do I respond to this?
How do I ever respond to this?
I yell back.
"I've always wanted to know how you feel! I do everything short of begging you to tell me what you're thinking! But you refuse. You never have, and I'm starting to think you never will tell me how you feel. Christ, I'm beginning to wonder if you feel at all!"
"Funny, I was wondering the same thing about you. If you feel. You traipse around here like nothing's wrong. Like everything's just keen. Well you know what, Roger? It's not. It hasn't been for almost a year now." He's pacing the room while yelling, never able to put all of his energy into any one thing. I'm still sitting, just brewing, just waiting for him to say the wrong thing.
"You can't keep pretending, Roger!"
And there it is.
I leap to my feet, a blur of anger-fear-hangover-rage-hurt. "I'm pretending? Me? You've got to be fucking kidding me, Mark. Who lied to their girlfriend for six weeks? Who's refusing to acknowledge he slept with me last night? Who won't admit to anyone, not even himself, that he's dying?"
I never knew a silence could resonate that loudly.
The volume of my voice and the higher volume of the silence following it and the abrupt stop to Mark's pacing and the thought that maybe Mimi heard me from downstairs and the persistent ache in my head all become hands. Strong, menacing hands pushing me back onto the bed, ripping into my chest and swirling my insides around and taking what they please. I'm left sitting with an undefined feeling of…something. Something wonderful and something horrid. Something liberating and something terrifying beyond words. My voice softens, but retains its potency. "You're sick, Mark. You know it, and I know it. You said you didn't want to tell anyone, and that's fine. But you told me. I already know. When you don't reveal things to me, I feel like you're not revealing them to yourself." I had wanted him to look at me, and now I got it. He's staring, but I can't bring myself to meet his gaze. I'm on the verge of tears as I continue. "You said…you said that you told me you were sick because you loved me. When you don't admit it…to yourself…to me…does that mean you don't love me anymore?" I've never felt such a sad, scared, need come over me like this. A need for knowledge, a need for redemption, a need for him. I venture my face up to sneak a glance at his face. It's sad-angry-defeated-crying-lonely. It's then that I realize my expression matches his. From the sorrow, to the defeat, to the tears.
He doesn't answer my question.
"Roger, you told me that you would wait. You said that you would always be in love with me, and only me, and that I could come to you when I felt the same way." He spreads his arms to the sides, offering everything, offering himself. "I'm here. And I feel that way. And now I'm going to wait. I'm going to be here and love you until you can do the same. Because you said you would wait, Roger, but you didn't wait long enough. But I will. I will wait for as long as it takes."
This is it. This is my dreams, my hopes, my desires for the past 10 months of my life, coming true. But it doesn't work like that. I can't do that to myself. Let him fight-yell-cry-sob until he admits he loves me then give myself to him. I can't waste the meaning of those words. I can't let him love me.
I blink back the tears and stand. I walk past his open arms and numbly pull on clothes. I give him one last watery glance before exiting the room. "I've got to go to Mimi's." I try and swallow but the lump in my throat won't allow it.
The next I can remember it's 3:27 in the morning and I'm bounding up the stairs and fumbling with my key and running to Mark's room and entering without knocking and shaking him awake. He's startled and worried and groping for his glasses. I'm crying-panicking-whispering-apologizing-sobbing. "Mark I'm sorry I'm done making me hurt, making you hurt, making you wait. I'm done I'm done it's done I love you I want you. I've always loved you, I've always loved only you. The others, they mattered and I cared but I want you and I've always only ever wanted you and you and only you." I'm not sure when I stopped talking or when I stopped crying or when he took me under his arms, his covers, when he started stroking my face and my hair or when he started shushing me or crying too. I'm not sure when we started kissing, or when we stopped.
I'm not sure when we started loving, but I know we never stopped.