Here's the last installment!
I never did call Christopher back. It was enough to have the message. Before Josh returned from the hospital, I used Christopher’s voice mail as leverage with Kevin. One final meeting and it’s all over. He tells me fine, that’s fine, where the fuck do you want to meet? After a little deliberation, we decide that we’ll go to Canada, to a French restaurant in a strip mall that we’ve been to a couple of times for various celebrations, such as those are in an adulterous relationship -- anniversaries become too depressing so it’s mostly birthdays and holidays, the ones that the spouse hasn’t commandeered.
"What do you want to eat?" Kevin asks. He’d usually order for us without asking. I thought about the steak tartare from last time, but I didn’t think I could handle a mouth full of raw meat.
"No steaks," I say. "That’s my only request."
"Somehow I doubt it," Kevin says.
For once I saw what it must have been like to be my parents, wanting something from something from someone who is determined not to give you anything more than it would require to keep the peace.
"So what will it be for you two?" the waiter asks.
Kevin orders appetizers and drinks for us like he always does, but left the choice of entrée up to me. I usually ordered something cheap because I knew we’d drive up the bill with drinks, but I don’t care. I order the steak au poivre.
"I thought you said no steaks," Kevin says as the waiter left us to bathe in the glow of the one romantic candle he’d lit.
"If it’s cooked, I don’t mind. I don’t want anything that’s going to make me sick, that’s all," I say.
"Doing a good enough job of that yourself," Kevin says.
"Doing a good enough job of that yourself," Kevin says.
I took a sip of water. Never to early to hydrate for the next morning’s misery. "I thought that’s what you liked about me."
"Correct use of the past tense."
Our waiter set two huge vodka martinis in front of us, oceans of comfort and grief. You could get this kind of drink anywhere, a bar that plays the Allman Brother’s "Whipping Post" with a floating neon sign to a place like this, all Debussy and candles. Kevin and I were always at the extremes, skirting the edges of his known world.
I pick the olive out of my drink and eat it, then take a big bracing sip, the gag of vodka that would be the only hurdle to getting the rest of it down. When will I tell him that I’d slept with his son?
"Do you want money? Because if it will get rid of you, I’ll pay." Kevin says.
"I’m sure you’ll pay, but why would I want money?" I can hear the other people around us, the hushed muted tones and wished I was having a different conversation, any conversation but this one.
He looks at me, and I look at him and I think about how what starts in such joy can catapult to abject misery so fast. "I want one more night with you like it used to be."
I have a fleeting sensation that what I am doing is wrong, but I swallow it with more vodka. Part of me longed to be at work where I could listen to other people’s pain.
"I guess I shouldn’t ask what happened with Chris," Kevin says.
"At least I got to sleep with someone in your bed."
"You’re as sick as your fucked up brother."
I down as much of my drink as I could. "We should order some champagne. Being a celebration and all."
"You do it. I’m going to the bathroom," Kevin says.
I couldn’t believe how much of the martini was gone. Switching to champagne seems sensible. I once drank too many martinis here and vomited all over the floor of the bathroom. I even fell asleep on that floor for a second, as cool and inviting as a blanket. That would not do for tonight.
By the time Kevin returns, the waiter has the champagne in his hand. He cuts himself on the wire hood that covers the cork and starts to bleed on the table.
"Sorry for the mess," he says, as he eases the cork out. "I keep cutting myself lately."
"I know how that is," I say, thinking of Josh and giving him a wan smile.
"I hope they bring out the food altogether," he says. "I’m starving."
"Me too," I say. "Me too."
"Here’s to the last supper," I say, lifting my glass. "I’d offer you my body and blood, but I believe I’ve done enough."
"I’ll say you have," Kevin says. I was beginning to see that things were not going to start being fun anytime soon.
After a drunk ride home, I lead him into Josh’s room. It looks a little homier since Coley took up partial residence for a brief time, a few more things put away, but it’s nothing like my old apartment where Kevin and I would spend those afternoon hours, pieces of time shaved off his real life so thinly that nobody would notice. The nights during those days were hard to fill, dying light by four in the afternoon, longing. I’d look out my window and try to imagine other lives. I could see Marvin Gaye’s face from outside my apartment, his luminous sad eyes the same regardless of the weather, Hennessey’s ad imploring us to Never Blend In. I could see the blue from my neighbor’s television screen, tried to see what had so captivated them.
Sometimes Kevin would spring for a hotel when his paranoia got the best of him, covering his tracks in some strange version of a preemptive strike. I almost always got to the room before he did, given that our dates were the main events in my nights back then and they were something he slipped into an otherwise full day and had to account for -- Did you already spend all of your money? I never watched television while I was waiting, a point of honor, a show of restraint played to an empty house and I would sit and listen as the ice melted around the champagne I’d brought, making the bottle shift positions. My fantasies of running away had ceased. Part of me thought this was a good sign, of maturity if nothing else. But another part of me knew this was just another version of me and Josh’s childhood games -- all of them different, all of them the same, one of us telling the other what was wrong with them and the other one acting sick or paralyzed or amputated. It never occurred to us that there were other games.
"So what do you think?" I ask. "Do you want me to turn on the light?" He hesitates because while he understands that I was asking something important, he isn’t sure he understands. And how could he?
"Whatever you want."
This infuriates me and I flip on the light and take off my dress.
"What’s all over the walls?"
"Handwriting," I say. "That’s the handwriting on the wall."
Kevin and I did not make love in Josh’s room on that night or any other. When Kevin left, I locked the door behind him and turned on the television. It was a habit from the days of my affair. I never turned the sound off completely, but I kept it on low. I thought about how Josh always watched the television on mute because what people said annoyed him. I thought about all the rooms I had been in with Kevin and how we could be anyone there and that always meant we were nothing anywhere else. What had he said or done that could have been such a comfort to me?
I put on Nick at Nite and find an episode of the Twilight Zone, one that I’ve seen before. It’s the scary one with a ventriloquist dummy that hates his master. At night, the man would ease his friend, because of course, he considered the dummy to be a benevolent force, into his box to sleep. But the friend never slept. Night was his only chance not to say the words of others, but his own, to live like everybody else did. He’d open his eyes as soon as the box was closed and start plotting his escape.
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