“In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” -The Crack-Up
I spend the next few nights home alone. And other than a couple of dinners, I give myself some distance from The Writer, mostly hanging out with work friends. I don’t want to see any LAGs, and I definitely don’t want to spend another night in gay world. But it’s good. I do some writing and some reflecting, and I get to know some of my colleagues better. They kind of love me.
A week and a half later, it’s Monday night, and The Writer calls me. “Want to come over?” He asks. “Sure,” I say–our favorite show is on tonight. Usually, we eat dinner first, but he called late, so I ate alone. I don’t know why, but tonight in particular, everything with him has swallowed me. I cry a little in the car on the way over and decide I can’t do this any more. I can’t pretend not to feel the things I’m feeling. When I pull up to his house, I park and take a moment to myself. My eyes are dry now and not too puffy, so I make my way up the steps to his front door, the words I plan to say on loop in my head. The instant I ring the doorbell, I know that I can’t say anything.
“Hey!” He says opening the door, and I know what’s written all over my face. His smile sinks a little. “Everything okay?” He asks. “Yeah, my nerves are just…shot.” I lie–and not well. We go lie down on his bed and find the right channel, while he tells me about his day, but my glassy eyes and eerie silence distract him to the point he forgets his words. My lips try to form my own, but he interrupts: “What can I get you?” “Nothing,” I say. “Come on. Do you want a Xanax? Or I can make you a drink. I’ll make you a drink,” he insists, leaving the room. He comes back a minute later with an extra strong rum and coke. “So why are your nerves shot?” He asks. “Work.” I lie again, this time even less convincingly. “Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” “No,” I say to stop the pressing. He gets the hint, and we watch the episode.
“I’m tired,” he announces as our show ends, turning off the TV and the light. “Are you spending the night?” He asks. “Sure,” I say, turning over. He strokes my arm, which makes my stomach sink and my eyes fill up with water. Then I have a sudden streak of strength run through me. You are strong, I tell myself, and I fall asleep shortly after.
An hour or two later, my eyes flutter open. The Writer is rifling through his cluttered drawers and picking his dirty laundry off the floor. “What are you doing?” I ask, dazed. “I can’t find my sleeping pills,” he says. “Just take one of mine,” I offer. He calms down and swallows it, then gets back in bed, relaxed.
An hour later, I roll over and feel like I’m falling when I realize he’s gone. I’m shockingly unsettled, but try to convince myself that he’s not worth losing sleep over. Not that it helps. Thirty minutes later, I hear him move from wherever he is in the house and walk to the bathroom, so I get up. “Are you okay?” I ask him. “There’s some weird light in my room that’s keeping me up, and I can’t find my sleeping mask,” he says with a little irritation. “I just saw it,” I tell him. He follows me back into his bedroom, and I hand him the mask. “Thanks,” he says as we get back in bed. My nerves are finally settled, and I fall back asleep with great ease.
* * *
I feel a tap so gentle, that I’m not sure it’s real, waking up for the third time tonight. I stir a little, but I’m quite out of it. “You’re a great guy,” he whispers against my head. I don’t respond, and I’m not sure if he even knows I’m awake. I just lie in the black with my eyes wide open.