QAF FanFic by Morpheus
The Prisoner of Tremont Street
Part 7: PRESENT TENSE
As soon as I get out of this fucking wheelchair, there's a bunch of people I'm going to kill. I'm making a list in fact but it's only in my head. If I put it down on paper, that would prove the murders were premeditated. My only hope will be to claim temporary insanity.
At least I hope it's temporary.
"Fuck!" I shout at the top of my lungs. I've just completed a long memo when the computer crashes, goes black, the whole fucking loft goes black.
“Justin, God damn it!”
“Shh, Brian, shh, I’m right here, stop yelling.”
I can’t see him but I feel his presence close beside me. ”What the fuck did you do, blow another fuse?”
He has the gall to laugh. “I blew up the whole power company this time Brian. Look at the window, the whole street’s dark.”
“I can’t see the fucking window.”
“Of course you can, it’s lighter outside than inside.”
I refuse to acknowledge that I can see the window. “What did you do?” I demand again.
“Brian, I didn’t do anything, it’s a black-out, the whole street’s dark.”
I’m inconsolable. “I lost my memo. A really long and unbelievably great memorandum.”
“Most of it will come back,” he chimes in cheerfully. “You were you saving it as you went along, right?”
I grit my teeth. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t ask me that. And if you say ‘I told you so,’ you are sleeping outside the door tonight. By the elevator. Without blankets.”
“I’ll help you re-do it when the lights come on.”
“You can’t re-do anything, it’s gone forever. It was fucking brilliant, and it’s gone forever.” I hear my voice, it sounds like I’m proclaiming the sinking of the Titanic. It’s almost as bad. Fewer lives were lost, but that’s the only difference. “Could you POSSIBLY light a fucking candle?”
“Sure,” he agrees quickly, “Where are they?”
“Justin, there is not a single item in my whole fucking loft that you have not washed or polished or hidden away somewhere so I can’t find it.”
“Okay.” He admits it. “Kitchen cabinet under the glasses shelf, behind the juice machine.”
I’m exasperated. “If you knew, why did you ask?”
“Brian, I was only trying to make you feel useful.”
That’s it. “Outside. I mean it this time.”
I hear him giggle as he slip-slides across the floorboards toward the kitchen; he wears socks and skates constantly around the loft. Slip-slide, slip-slide, slip-slide. Tomorrow when he’s at school, I’m going to burn all his socks. He’s at the cupboard and I hear him rustling around and finally I hear the scrape of a match, and I see Justin’s face illuminated from underneath his chin, his head disembodied, floating above the kitchen countertop. He lights another candle, then carries them both over to my desk.
“If you remember some of your memo, you could dictate it and I’ll write it longhand on a tablet.”
“Justin, don’t be - nice,” my voice takes on the whiny tone I’ve come to recognize means ‘Go to bed, Brian.’ “I’m wallowing. Let me wallow.”
“Okay,” he agrees soothingly, then moves around behind my chair and begins to massage my neck. “It’s late anyway, Brian, time for bed. Okay?”
I want to say no. I want to say fuck off. It’s probably ten-thirty or eleven, I should be out, I should be in the backroom at Babylon getting my dick sucked. Not being wheeled around my loft in pitch darkness by Saint Justin the Perpetually Horny.
“You should go out,” I tell him, as he wheels me across the floor toward the bedroom. “Put the poor helpless cripple to bed, go out and get laid.”
“I’m too tired to go out.” Justin parks me at the foot of the steps and goes back to retrieve the candles, sets them down on the table beside the bed.
“You are not tired. You’re nineteen for Christ’s sake, you won’t be tired for another ten years.”
“Brian, I don’t want to go out.”
“I do. I want to go dancing, I want to fuck four guys in a row, I want to get so drunk I fall down head-first in a snowbank.”
Justin locks the wheels and helps me stand up. “You’ll be doing all that pretty soon, Brian, just a couple months of therapy and you’ll be good as new.”
“I’ll never walk again. I’ll never dance again. I’ll never fuck again.” I’ve got one arm around Justin’s shoulders as he helps me maneuver the three steps to the bedroom. I plop down on the ledge of the bed and wait for him to bring the wheelchair up, then he moves the candles to the bathroom, comes back and wheels me close to the toilet and helps me sit on it.
“We fucked yesterday.”
“Don’t remind me.” Justin straddling me on the bed, doing all the work of sliding up and down my cock, me pretending my damn leg didn’t hurt, Justin pretending to enjoy himself.
We’re silent for a minute or two, then I threaten, “If you tell Ted that I piss sitting down like a girl, yours will be the next body found in a dumpster.”
“Oh, I saw Ted today, at the diner.” Justin’s at the sink, washing his face. “He says he’s thinking about incorporating.”
“Wow, that’s exciting. Jerk at Work, Inc. What a thrill.” I think for a minute, then ask, “What were you doing at the diner?”
“Oh, nothing,” Justin lies. “Just visiting.” He should know he can’t lie to me.
“You weren’t working?” We have an agreement, while Justin spends nights at the loft helping me, he’s off duty at the diner. I make up the difference in his paycheck. No arguments.
“No. Not really. Just helping out.”
“Fuck!” I throw the XY magazine I was reading across the room. Which is really stupid because Justin will have to pick it up. “No wonder you’re tired, you little asshole. We had an agreement.”
Justin turns those baby blue eyes on me and smiles, but tonight I’m immune, I’m fucking angry. He opens his mouth to say something but I cut him off. “Another broken promise?” I let my voice shred him, his smile falters.
“I wasn’t working,” Justin insists, wringing out the washcloth and looking me in the eye. He’s angry too.
“I was helping out for an hour while Juanita took a break. I just stopped by to see Debbie, and I offered. It was nothing.”
Justin turns away but his eyes hold mine in the mirror. “It’s not work if you don’t get paid, it was a volunteer one-hour no big fucking deal. Now shut up - or I’ll leave you on the toilet all night.”
We stare at each other for a long moment, then I laugh. I can’t help it. I want to stay mad, but he’s won this round. “Okay,” I give it up. “Put me to bed.”
“Say please.” He’s hiding his smile in the washcloth.
It’s Wednesday so I go straight from my morning shift at the diner over to Brian’s, stopping at the market for some special ingredients for my pasta. I use my key on the front door but I knock on the loft door. I hear raised voices, which doesn’t surprise me, Brian’s the crankiest invalid I’ve ever had to deal with, and that includes my great-aunt Sarah who used to take out her teeth and throw them at visitors. I have to knock a second time before the door gets pulled back and I’m greeted by a very red-faced Lindsay.
“Ooooh,” she’s fuming, shaking her head and glaring over her shoulder at Brian, who’s sitting on the floor at the foot of his bedroom steps, the leg with the cast on it sticking straight out and his other leg curled under him.
“What the hell?” I look from one to the other of them, “Why’s Brian on the floor?”
“He’d be at the bottom of the elevator shaft, if I wasn’t such a kind and gentle woman,” Lindsay exclaims.
“You mean if you weren’t such a weak and sniveling coward.” Brian’s scowling, it’s safe to assume he’s not joking. “Just hand me the fucking crutches. Now!”
Lindsay ignores him and turns back to me, taking the grocery bags from my arms and setting them down on the counter. “Brian tried to do the stairs on his own, he fucking pulled away from me and he fell on his ass. Serves him right!” But I can see that Lindsay’s near tears.
“I can do it, I’ve done it,” Brian says. “Now bring me the crutches, will you?”
I take off my jacket and throw it over the sofa, then reach down to pick up the crutches leaning against the chair but Lindsay stops me. “He can’t get up from the floor that way, we’ll have to get on either side of him and lift him up.”
“The fuck.” Brian’s glaring, but I can see white lines around his mouth and his eyes are scrunched up. He’s in pain. “You’re not strong enough to lift me.”
“Sweetie,” I try the gentle approach, “Stop being such an asshole and let us help, you’re going to hurt yourself worse if you keep messing around acting all macho, trying to be Stone Cold Steve Martin.”
Brian barks a sharp laugh. “Steve Austin. And please, I don’t do wrestlers.”
“Come on,” I glance at Lindsay, “Let’s get him up.”
“No,” Brian says, but he doesn’t fight us, as we get on either side of him and put our arms around his shoulders and lift. We pick him up easily and though he sways on his feet, he makes it over to the wheelchair and we lower him into it.
“See, nothing to it,” I tell him, brushing my hands together.
“Don’t underestimate woman power,” Lindsay agrees, “You slog around a two-year-old all day long and see how strong you get, it’s a better workout than your gym.”
“And me,” I thumb my chest, “I’m carrying heavy trays at the diner five or six days a week, I bet I could take you arm-wrestling.” Brian just nods, his lips are clamped together. “Honey,” I rub my hand on his shoulder, “Did you do any damage, do you think?”
He shakes his head no.
“When can he have a pain pill?” I ask Lindsay, who hurries over to the mirror where Brian’s schedule is taped up.
“Not till after dinner, six-thirty or seven,” she answers, then throws me a worried look. She’s aware that Brian’s in a lot of pain. “That’s three hours away, at least.”
“I can take one now,” Brian interjects. “Vicodin, on the counter by the jar of lemons.”
“No, Brian, it says – “
“I don’t give a fuck what it says,” he interrupts her, “Give it to me now.”
We’re at a stalemate, then I suggest, “Let’s call Justin.”
“Oh, Christ,” Brian rolls his eyes.
“Good idea!” Lindsay agrees, picking up her purse from the sofa and pulling out a cell phone. She flips it open and pushes the buttons.
“Let me talk to him,” Brian stretches out his arm.
“Justin!” Lindsay says into the phone, “Hi, can you talk? Oh no, no – he’s okay, don’t worry, he’s fine.”
“I’m not fucking fine. Give me the phone.”
“Well, actually, he’s not exactly fine – don’t worry, he’s right here, and he wants to talk to you. But let me tell you first that he was a complete and utter asshole and tried to come down the bedroom steps - without the crutches, and without my help - and then he. . . Yes, on his ass.”
“GIVE ME THE FUCKING PHONE!”
Lindsay hesitates, then walks over to Brian and hands him the phone.
“Justin.” Brian closes his eyes and drops his head on his hand. “Justin, shut up, I’m fine. Yes, yes, yes okay? I’m an asshole, okay? Now listen.” He takes a deep breath and goes on, “I really am fine, only, I need a Vicodin now, and the LADIES won’t give me one.”
“Tell him what the list says,” I point at the schedule taped to the mirror.
“He knows what the list says, he wrote the list,” Brian throws a withering look at me. He’s listening for a moment, then he says, “Yeah,” and hands the phone to Lindsay.
“Justin? Can he have a pill or not? Okay. You’re sure?” Lindsay nods her head and smiles at me and Brian, but he just looks away. “Thanks sweetie, we’ll see you later. Yes, yes,” she’s nodding again, “I think he’s okay, just in a lot of pain.”
‘NOT A LOT. Christ, don’t tell him that, he’ll skip class and run all the way here.”
“No, don’t worry, Debbie’s here, she’s going to fix dinner, she’ll stay with him till you get home.” Lindsay glances at me and I nod agreement. “Bye-bye, see you later.” She flips the phone closed and announces, “Yes, Brian can have a pill, but he needs to eat something, a piece of bread or something. And Justin says we’re to make him lie down for a while, no arguments.”
Brian huffs, but he doesn’t argue. I spread some butter on a slice of bread and hand it to Brian as Lindsay pours a glass of water. Without a word Brian eats the bread, swallows the pill, and lets us help him up the stairs, one on either side. He’s moving very slowly, it’s obvious he hurt himself in the fall. Lindsay and I exchange glances behind his back but we say nothing. We help Brian sit on the edge of the bed, and he’s able to swing his legs over and lie flat. Lindsay pulls the edge of the duvet over him, and after a moment’s hesitation, she leans down and kisses his cheek.
“Be nice to Debbie,” she orders him; he says nothing, just turns his head away.
Lindsay and I exchange looks that say everything without opening our mouths. She gives me a hug before leaving the loft, and with a sigh, I begin unpacking my groceries. Poor Brian, I don’t guess he’s been helpless in his whole adult life and it’s killing him. And being Brian, he’s determined to make everyone else suffer right along with him. Doing a damn good job of it, too.
The funny thing is, Brian’s just as awful to Justin as he is to everybody and yet, Justin has some kind of control over him. Maybe control’s the wrong word, but it’s a fact that Brian usually does what Justin tells him, like he did this afternoon. Justin calms him down somehow, I've seen it happen a few times now. Justin’s not rattled by Brian like he used to be sometimes. Little Sunshine’s grown up a lot in the past few months. Well, heartbreak’ll do that do you, I know for a fact.
I just hope his heart’s not going to get broken again. I glance at the mound of Brian Kinney lying still on his bed and wonder, not for the first time, if and when that poor bastard’s heart is ever going to thaw out. It was starting to. No matter what anybody says, I know Brian was in love with little Sunshine. What he feels now, with Justin once again living in the loft after running out on him, I can’t begin to guess. On my way home I'll stop at St. Mary's and light a candle for Brian. Better light one for Justin, too.
Brian's gone behind my back and organized a date night for me. Ted and Emmett are dragging me to Woody's tonight for drinks and then to Babylon. I've been arguing against it, but in a way I really want to go. 'Bored' is not a word I'd use to describe spending every night in Brian's loft - you cannot get bored trying to keep Brian from throwing himself, or any visitor who annoys him, out the window. But in a way I'm excited to think about losing myself for a few hours in mindless dancing. I won't mess around. Though Brian says I can't come back until I've fucked at least two guys.
He's not joking. He really wants me to go out and get laid. I have mixed feelings about that. I've lived Brian's lifestyle and I tried to like it, well in fact I did like it, mostly, for a while. And yet I remember that I always just wanted to be with him. I'd watch some guy blowing him and I wanted it to be me. I'd watch him fucking some guy and I wanted it to be me. Nobody's ever turned me on the way Brian does. Did. Past tense.
I think we’re still in the past tense. I know we’re not back together. He made that clear from the start, and the thing is, I don't want to be back together with Brian - not the way it used to be, not the way it was at the end. It's hard, staying here with him, not to fall back into old routines. But I can’t go back there. I tell myself, forget the past - if not forget it, try not to think about it. And don't think about the future either - there might not be a future with Brian. Instead I'm trying to live in the present tense. And the present can get pretty tense at times, especially when other people are around. When we're alone, Brian's more relaxed. Not so defensive. He lets down his guard a bit with me.
Brian doesn't know it, but I've arranged a surprise for him too. I glance at my watch and realize I'm running late. Quickly dabbing gel on my hair and disarranging it till it looks good, I throw my wet towel into the hamper and hurry out to the bedroom to get dressed. Ted and Emmett will be here any minute.
I promised Justin not to do anything stupid while he's gone, I'm just going to work on the computer for a few hours and then go to bed early. I can manage the steps with my crutches, I get can get myself into and out of the bathroom, I can get myself into bed. I won't do anything to jeopardize my fucking leg, I won't fall down again like I did last week when Lindsay was here. Christ, that was so fucking insane, sometimes I amaze myself with the stupid things that I do.
Like letting Justin come stay with me at the loft again. Being around him is too - comfortable and uncomfortable, both at the same time. But I know I could not have survived with anybody else on the planet staying here with me. A hired nurse would have killed me, if I didn't kill her first. Lindsay and Deb are good to me, but they drive me up the wall with their chatter and their bustling and their nagging. Michael would be good to me too, but he'd be too good. He'd let me have my own way most of the time, and even I know that I'm a stubborn son of a bitch. Justin has a way of keeping me sane without either bossing me around or kissing my ass. That's comfortable and uncomfortable, both. It's good for me, having him around, but I know - like Jennifer said - that it's not good for Justin, not in the long run.
Having so much time to lie around and think, I've become introspective. God damn it. I loathe introspection, I loathe self-analysis and all that psycho bullshit. Yet I can't stop thinking about the mess I made of things with Justin. I should have followed my instincts in the very beginning, and kept my hands off that little juicy morsel after our first night together. I tried. Christ, I tried, but he dogged me everywhere I went. And I kept thinking, 'Just one more time.' Then somehow I got sucked into his life, completely and utterly against my will.
Debbie challenged me once, when I thought Justin was finally out of my life, and by his own choice. That first time he walked out on me. Debbie hunted me down at Woody's and tried to make me admit that I was in love with Justin. I didn't say I was, but I didn't say I wasn't. Useless to tell Deb I don't believe in love. I didn't and I don't and I never will. Yet I had to go find Justin and see if he'd come back. I wanted him to live with me, I wanted to come home to him every night. I don't think that's love. It's just - something else. You don't have to put names on everything. You don't have to say everything out loud.
I know he wanted me to say it, but I wouldn't. Probably that's why he went looking elsewhere for all that ridiculous romance shit. Well, he found it, and what good did it do him?
Don't go there, I remind myself. Just log on to the computer and get caught up on e-mail and forget everything else. And I do, and I'm concentrating on my response to Gardner Vance's latest bullshit directive to everyone in the agency, when somebody pushes the buzzer downstairs. I'm not expecting visitors - I don't want visitors - everybody who is scheduled to annoy me today has already done it, so who the fuck is downstairs demanding admittance?
At first I'm going to ignore the buzzer, then curiosity gets the best of me and I wheel myself over to the door and push the intercom button. "Who is it?" I bark, in my best go-away voice.
"Brian? It's Rick."
Closing my eyes, shaking my head, I reach out and push the button, buzzing him in. What the fuck is he doing here? And tonight of all nights, when Justin's not home.
Unlocking the door, I'm able to pull it open a few inches, I don't have the leverage from this chair to open the heavy door all the way. I listen to Rick's footsteps ascending the stairs, and I wonder what the fuck I'm going to say to him.
He stops at the top of the stairs when he sees me in the opening. "Hey," he says, and walks over to the door. "Can I come in?"
"Yes. You'll have to open the door, I can't get leverage." Rick pushes it open and I back up my chair as he walks in. He hesitates a moment and then closes the door behind him.
He looks good. I haven't seen him for a couple weeks, since he came to see me in the hospital, and I barely remember that, I was so overwhelmed with pain and misery. Now he's standing in front of me looking good enough to eat. Juicy. I'm not sure why the juicy boys move me in ways that no body-builder, thighs-of-death, hunky gym stud can do. Until Justin, I was immune to the charms of the boytoy type.
Okay, not really, but it sounds good. Let's just say, I wasn't always susceptible to younger guys. Christ, I hope that's not a reflection of my encroaching old age. It's a sobering thought. And I'm already sober, thank God. I'd considered sneaking a glass of JB while Justin was gone. Not sneaking - it's my house and my decision whether to drink or not. But I want him to have a good time tonight and not come home to deal with me vomiting my guts out. Which the combination of Vicodin and JB seems to do to me.
All of these thoughts are clamoring inside my brain while I sit there staring at Rick and wondering what the fuck I'm going to say to him.
"How are you feeling? You look great," he smiles at me. He's wearing that camel's hair coat I like and I watch him unbutton it and shrug it off his shoulders. He's wearing white jeans, very tight, they cling to his slim legs and outline his large cock, I can tell he's not wearing briefs. My fingers almost twitch with the desire to grab his jeans and release him from the confines of the denim. All I have to do is gesture him to come stand a bit closer to me, in arm's reach. I could blow him without moving from my wheelchair, it's the perfect height, Justin and I have proved that a few times already. Justin.
I wheel my chair back a few paces and consider my words. "I'm feeling a lot better. But it'll be a while till I get out of the cast, out of this chair, back to normal activities." My voice sounds strangely cool, almost formal.
He tilts his head, he's noticed the way I'm speaking. "No dancing for a while yet," he jokes mildly. He's thrown his coat over one arm and now he shoves both hands in the pockets of his jeans. "We could do - other things." He raises his eyebrows and gives me a slight smile.
"Rick - " I begin, then stop. He's waiting, and I force myself to go on. "Rick, my life's kind of in turmoil right now. I'm not ready for - anything but recuperating, dealing with my job, nothing else. Nobody else."
He nods, the smile disappearing. "I'm nobody else. Right?" When I don't answer, he sighs. "Brian - I can wait. Till things get back to normal. You can call me then, okay?"
I'm tempted to say okay. I want to say okay. The best I can do is, "I don't know."
He's silent for a moment, studying my face. "Are you getting back together with him - with Justin?"
"No. Probably not. I don't know. Maybe."
"You want to." When I don't answer, Rick shakes his head. "You want to." He pulls on his beautiful coat and stands there while he buttons it up. I can't say anything.
"Well." Coat on, ready to go, Rick glances around the loft, then brings his eyes back to my face. Swallowing hard, Rick murmurs, "He's a nice guy. I hope it works out." Then he turns and walks away.
For some reason, I don't stop him.
Rick pulls open the door and slips out. Before closing it, he looks at me again. "Good-bye," he says, and I nod.
"Good-bye," I manage to mumble, as I let him walk out of the loft, walk out of my life. Rick shuts the door, and I listen to his footsteps going down the stairs.
Brian’s asleep when I get home, it’s almost two o’clock and I try to be quiet, but he hears me and calls me to the bedroom. A few days ago I moved my bed into the living room – Brian says we can sleep together, but I think that’s a bad idea. It’s too – settled, or something. It’s too much like boyfriends again. So I sleep on an airbed in the living room. I’m close enough to hear him call if he needs me, but not close enough to roll over and grab his dick in the middle of the night.
I kick off my shoes by the closet and hang up my jacket, then go to sit on the bed ledge beside him.
“Did you have fun?” He sticks his arm out from under the covers and grabs my hand.
“Brian, I had a great time, I had two beers and I danced non-stop.” It’s the truth, I really had fun. I just closed my eyes and forgot everything – forgot about school and money and deadlines and the diner and Ethan and Rick and even, almost, Brian. I forgot everything in the world and just threw myself into the music.
“Non-stop?” He squeezes my hand. “No backroom breaks?”
“Only because you insisted.”
“Good boy!” Brian exclaims, pulling me down toward him till we’re face to face, then he kisses me. I’m wondering if he’s sniffing my mouth, but he won’t smell anything. Or anybody. “Tell me.”
“Just a guy. Semi-cute. I didn’t really pay attention, I just wanted to fuck somebody.” That’s the truth too. I was dying to fuck somebody. Even if Brian would let me, which is unlikely, he’s not ready physically yet. But I didn’t talk to the guy, and when he gave me his number, I threw it in the garbage as soon as he walked away.
He’s quiet for a minute, then he says, “Maybe next time, you can bring a trick here with you. Let me watch you fuck him.”
“No.” I pull my hand away gently. “That’s not my thing.”
“Used to be.” Brian folds his arm under his head and studies my face in the dim light from the living room.
“No,” I say again, looking him in the eye. “It’s never been my thing. I won’t do that any more.” I’m firm about that. I mean it, and I see him nodding. He hears what I’m saying.
“Well,” I stand up and stretch, “I’m going to sleep now, I’ve got to get to school early tomorrow.”
“It’s Friday, you don’t have any Friday classes.”
“Yeah, but I have to catch up on my section of the mural we’re doing in Professor Arlen’s class. Do you need anything?” When he says no, I tell him good night, return to my bed in the living room pulling off clothes as I go. I fall onto the air mattress, asleep almost before I drag the blankets over me.
Sun streaming in the windows wakes me next morning, I sit up and rub my eyes, then hurry to the bedroom to see if Brian’s awake. He is, and I help him out of bed and into the bathroom. We’ve devised an elaborate system of wrapping his cast in two layers of garbage bags with rubber bands securing them to his leg. With a hand on the wall and a hand on the shower door, Brian can stay upright for a few minutes, long enough for me to soap him up and rinse him off, and his cast stays dry. Wrapped in a towel, Brian sits in his chair, he can brush his teeth and shave that way, while I hurry to the kitchen to make coffee.
After I help Brian get dressed – he’s got a couple pair of jeans we’ve cut the leg out of so he can feel like he’s partially clothed at least – and fix us breakfast, he settles in to work on the computer and I say good bye, in a hurry to catch my bus. Michael’s scheduled to come and bring Brian lunch from the diner or the deli, and I’ll be done at school in time for grocery shopping and to fix dinner tonight. Maybe I’ll make that sun-dried tomato pasta alfredo Brian likes – it’s loaded with calories, he still needs to gain a few pounds, his face is too thin.
I’m late for the bus and I make a run for it down Tremont Street, tearing through a crowd of people lined up outside Starbucks. I knock shoulders with a lady wearing a black shawl with long fringe nearly sweeping the ground, so I hesitate briefly to apologize, “Sorry, ma’am!” then I turn back to run onward down the street, and smash head-on into a guy in a camel’s hair coat who was hurrying in the opposite direction.
“Sorry!” I mutter again, meaning to brush by him and run for the bus, which I can see just turning the corner. Then I do a double-take and it stops me in my tracks. “Rick!”
“Oh!” He’s as surprised as me, and we stand staring wordlessly at each other for perhaps half a minute.
Then I pull myself together and say, “Nice coat.” Immediately I’m wondering what he’s doing in Brian’s neighborhood, but I can’t ask. Then I ask anyway: “Coming to see Brian?”
“What? No.” He shakes his head, then holds out his hand and shows me a thick manila envelope he’s carrying. “I’m delivering papers to a client a few blocks from here, I decided to stop for coffee first.” I remember that Brian told me he’s a paralegal, he works in a law office.
“Well,” I turn around in time to see my bus pull away from the curb. I’ll get the next one. “I’d better go.”
“Justin.” Rick puts his hand on my arm so I turn around again to face him. I’m almost afraid of what he’s going to say. He takes a deep breath, then says, “I wanted to – to thank you. For last night.”
I really don’t want to hear this. I just nod and I look away again, I’m trying to pull my arm out of his grip.
“Justin,” he’s holding tight, and he goes on, against my will: “He – he doesn’t want to see me any more.”
What? I didn’t hear him right. “What?”
“I went to Brian’s place last night about ten, just like you told me to do, and he was alone, like you said. But he,” Rick gulps, “He sent me away.”
“Brian sent you away?”
Rick nods, he looks really unhappy and I feel sorry for him. I honestly do.
“He said. . .I asked him if you guys were getting back together again, and he said. . .”
“What?” I’m frozen to the spot, unable to breathe. “What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Maybe.’”
Maybe. Brian said ‘maybe.’ It’s the most amazing word I’ve ever heard.
Somehow I get away from Rick, I tell him I’m sorry, which we both know is a lie; I’m sorry he’s hurt, but I’m not sorry that Brian sent him away. I walk on down the street, oblivious to the crowds of people passing by, I keep walking past my bus stop, I walk and walk and walk, till I’m turned around, till I’m totally lost, I walk for what seems like hours and hours, and as I walk along, all I can think is, “Brian said maybe.”