Without Tony in the room the only sound is the gentle hum generated by the machines I had previously been hooked up to. I look around the room letting my eyes take it all in again from my new position on my feet. It’s all the same of course, same blinds, same TV…same walls. The sunlight pouring in from the window is new of course, it dances upon the floor and the bed bringing with it an unfamiliar warmth. I’m tempted to move toward the window, to move into the light…perhaps the rich rays might infuse me with something…something more alive. I don’t though, my thoughts stray to Benji and Tony and I turn away from the window moving with bare feet out of the room. Each step I take seems to send pain like fire up my legs and into my spine. I feel broken physically, like a cripple learning for the first time what it feels like to walk. I stumble but I manage to make it out of the room. I move down the hall past open doors all with patients laying on beds, patients eating and drinking from tubes, patients whose lives are probably less worth living then my own is. Nurses in white uniforms pass me, they don’t notice that I don’t belong in the halls, they’re too busy looking at charts and pushing trays of food to other individuals. I stay close to the wall like a scared kitten in a jungle of dogs. I have no clue where I’m going so I move as though blind through the halls looking for Benji, all the while wishing that I might collapse somewhere so that the pain in my legs might dissolve.
Eyes wide and coffee cup in hand, it’s Benji who finds me rather than the other way around. He whirls around the corner nearly bumping into me. “Joel, why are you out of your room?” Had he been crying I would never know, he had cleaned away any traces of it from his face. “You’re not allowed out until the doctor releases you.” He continues talking, his eyes taking in my disheveled appearance with something close to sympathy.
“Benji…I have to talk to you.” I say slowly, my eyes undoubtedly taking on a look of pain as the throbbing in my legs seems to increase.
He nods and takes hold of my arm gently turning toward the direction of my room, “Fine, but lets first get you back into your room. I’ll find the doctor and I’ll get him to okay your release.” He says quickly already moving me in the direction of the room. I wonder why he can’t tell this is important, he should be able to see it in my eyes, in my tone…but he doesn’t. I suppose it’s not his fault of course, his head is clouded with thoughts of Tony and that unexplainable thing called love.
“No Benji.” I yank my arm away and look at him trying to keep my gaze firm, my tone serious. He sees it now, the importance of my words and my need for him to listen. “It’s…” I pause my mind being overwhelmed by the soreness of my legs, god why do they hurt so bad. I move slightly hoping it might help them…like it would help a sleeping limb wake up, but it just magnifies the pain and sends me falling into Benji. He catches me of course, his strong arms saving me from impact with the floor.
“You got pretty banged up in that crash…” He says softly while meeting his gaze with my own. He sounds faraway again and I once again have to wonder what he’s thinking. He seems to hold me for hours but only a minutes passed when he slips his hands away letting me once again stand on my own. He shakes his head as if to clear away a thought, one still clinging to his mind like a spider clinging for its life on the side of a car window. “So what did you need to tell me?” He sounds like Benji, the one I used to know….the one who didn’t meet a tattooed beauty and fall in love. I’m almost afraid to mention Tony, because I know as soon as his name leaves my mouth the front Benji’s put up will be ripped down.
So I don’t mention Tony, not his name at least. “He loves you…” I think of Billy as I say the words and they hurt, they make me hurt even though they have nothing to do with me. “That’s all that matters Benji…love, it’s something you can’t break.” He looks into my eyes searching for the deeper meaning to my words, but there is no deeper meaning this time. I’ve laid it all out, given him every reason why nothing with Tony is really broken, all in those few words. His lip quivers and he nods, understanding flooding his gaze…he wont cry, not here, maybe later though…maybe. He pulls me against him burying his face into my neck.
“What would I do without you?” He questions, his tone revealing all the emotion that he fails to release in liquid form from his eyes. I say nothing, I let the moment control itself. The world doesn’t stop of course, the nurses still walk by, the clocks still move forward, but I think in his world, in his mind it has stopped. He holds me so close, so intimately…and for the first time he needs me rather than the other way around. He finally pulls away, but only barely, and his hand reaches up and he plays affectionately with a piece of my messy hair. A smile slides upon his face, a soft smile void of sarcasm or laughter or joy. It’s an unexplainable smile one made only for this moment, for the brief instant it flashes upon his face. “I love you.” He states, a mere fact…a fact with so much deeper meaning.
I smile, the best smile I can conjure and push his hand away stepping back to destroy our close proximity. “I know.”
So the moment dies.
We move back to my room and find the doctor. He kindly dismisses me giving me the simple advice to take Advil for my pain. We head for Tony’s of course, because Benji has to see him or at least that’s what he says. I understand the feeling though, the feeling of having to see someone…it’s a nagging feeling, nagging and intense like a craving. A craving, that’s what Billy is and I imagine that could be said for Tony too, he is after all what Benji is craving now with every pour in his body as he drives the car toward Tony’s house. I don’t watch Benji as he drives, not like I would were it Billy in the driver’s seat. I look through his CD’s trying to busy my thoughts with the bands on the circular disks. They’re all bands I’ve heard a dozen times before on the radio and on TV so the action of looking through the disks becomes boring almost instantly.
“I wonder what Paul’s been doing lately.” Benji says out of the blue. I turn to him wondering why his mind suddenly thought of Paul. I realize though that perhaps it wasn’t Paul he was thinking about, perhaps he just needed something to say, something to make the silence go away.
“I don’t know…he’s probably laying around waiting for us to call…” The sad truth is that is most likely what he is doing. I feel guilty all of a sudden, this is the first time I’ve thought about Paul since that night…that night he left our party without saying goodbye to me.
“We should probably go see him. You know after I talk to Tony and we figure out what we want to do with the house.” He replies while moving one of his hands off the wheel and to the glove compartment. He opens it and pulls from it a pair of sunglasses which he then puts over his eyes.
“What do you mean…what about the house?” Confusion coats my tone and I look to him with worry and concern. This is the first time he’s mentioned anything about the house and I’m almost afraid to hear what he’s going to say.
He sighs while slowing to a stop at a red light. He switches his gaze to me pushing his sunglasses up to rest on his head while he waits for the light to change. “Joel, I can’t afford the house anymore. I mean not with the hospital bills I have to pay… We’re insanely lucky Tony let me borrow this car while ours is getting fixed otherwise I’d be paying for a rented car right now…”He trails off as the light turns green and we start to move again. There was defeat in his words, its almost as though he had just admitted that he cant do everything, and I know that kills him because being able to take care of me means so much to him.
“What…what do you mean. Where are we going to live?” For once I have something else to be scared of and it’s not a broken heart. A million thoughts enter my mind, I imagine myself on the streets living in boxes, eating out of trash cans. I know I can’t fix this, so with my tone I’m begging that he can.
“Calm down…it’s going to be alright.” He soothes but I’ll have none of it, how can I be calm when my home is at jeopardy? The place I sleep, the world I know is being threatened to be taken away from me, how can I calm down?
“How? How Benji…how can this possibly turn out okay?” My tone is harsh, desperate…and colder than it’s ever been toward him.
He turns to me his face like that of someone who’s just been slapped, a certain surprise and pain filtering out through his gaze. “Because I’m your brother and you’re supposed to trust me…don’t you trust me?” And with those words, with his gaze, he’s telling me I can’t say no…my only answer can be yes because anything else would destroy him.
So I nod and give him absolute honesty, “Of course.”
He turns his attention back to the road “Tony said we could stay with him. He has a house huge enough to get lost in, so he claims it wont be a problem. I didn’t ask him for help…he offered it and it’s not like we have any better options right now.” He explains to me. Of course, Tony…I wonder why I hadn’t thought of him. And why would Tony object to us staying with him, he loves Benji…is practically obsessed with him and me I’m Benji’s brother, I come with Benji like a fucking side order of fries.
It’s probably the last thing in the world I want to do of course…live in the same house as Tony that is. But it seems unavoidable because any minute now we’re going to pull up to his oversized house and Benji is going to get out and he’s going to fix everything…every little problem between the both of them. Then we’re all going to sit down to dinner and their world will once again be perfect while mine is still in total chaos.
“Tony’s…well uh at least you’ll be close to him.” I try to hide my displeasure with the idea by looking out the window to hide my face. I look at trees and houses...Tony’s house which we’re all but seconds from reaching. We pull up the driveway slowly, the house looking exactly as it did last time we came, except now rose bushes have been planted near the stairs leading toward the door. I wonder what it must be like to have the luxury to afford frivolous things like rosebushes, it must be nice, but I suppose it would all get old eventually.
We get out of the car as soon as we stop, Benji is directing our movements though…he gets out first and I simply follow. He doesn’t bother with knocking, he simply walks into the house directing me to wait downstairs while he goes and talks to Tony.
So I wait.
Eventually I get bored though and I start to wander around the downstairs. I hear laughter and voices coming from one of the rooms and like a curious child I follow it. I recognize one of the voices as Matt’s and I have to assume the other one is Jere’s, having met him only once I can’t be too sure. My curiosity leads me to an open door, one that without a doubt contains Matt and Jere and something else….pot. The smell of the drug invades my senses as I step into the room. I find Matt and Jere on the floor leaning against a couch, their limbs tangled in each other’s. Matt looks up as I walk into the room, his pupils huge and black…almost entirely dilated.
I feel stupid for interrupting them, stupid for walking into a room I have no business being in. This is after all not my house, hell I don’t even officially live here yet. “Uh…I heard voices…” I say while feeling insanely awkward and wanting nothing more but to walk back to the foyer and wait for Benji.
“You smoke?” Matt asks calmly holding a joint up as if to clarify what he means. I pause before answering not because I don’t know what to say…I’m simply embarrassed into silence. “It’s okay if you don’t…” He continues while ignoring my lack of a reply. “You’re missing out though…I mean this is some grade A shit.”
Jere laughs and attacks Matt’s neck with his mouth his hand reaching up to try to snag the joint from his boyfriend’s hand. He fails of course but he doesn’t seem too upset about it, he seems perfectly content just kissing his boyfriends neck. Matt continues to stare at me, the joint still extended toward me like some kind of bait to pull me in closer. My mind starts to wonder if perhaps I should join them, let everything fade away as the smoke burns through my lungs and out my throat.. Matt’s voice interrupts my thinking and the thought simply slips away. “You’re the other twin right…I remember meeting you, you were the hot one.” He laughs and brings the joint to his lips wrapping them around it lightly as he inhales the poison into his lungs. I notice how he used ‘were’, past tense rather than present tense. I can’t blame him though, he’s stoned and I look like shit, well at least I can depend on Matt Lovato for honesty.
His boyfriends mouth leaves his neck and his eyes roam to me I expect to find disapproval in them but he just grins and tosses his arm around Matt. “He’s a slut, ignore him…he hits on everything.” He says while moving his hand to the joint this time successfully removing it from Matt’s hand. Matt doesn’t even seem to notice he’s taken it from him he just laughs and pushes Jere playfully away.
“Hey…I’m not a slut.” He attempts to sound offended but his laughter and the smile on his face ruins the whole thing. “You’re not getting any of the Lovato sex tonight.” He threatens his boyfriend while still flashing his gorgeous trademark Lovato grin.
I watch them for a moment more, they’re an odd couple, nothing like Tony and Benji or me and Billy. They radiate life and laughter as though life to them is one big game. To see them apart you would never guess they were together, Matt with his piercings and spiked brown hair and tattooed arms appears tough like someone you’d look at but never dare talk to. And Jere…he’s adorable, no tattoos, no peircings, just an adorable grin and a mop of brown hair perfect for touching. On the outside they’re two totally different people, but together they’re exactly the same.
“I uh…I have to go find Benji.” They don’t make me uncomfortable, I want to leave because I know I should this is their moment, their time together and I as usual don’t belong.
I slowly start to back out of the room, not to sure if I want to stay around to see where Jere’s kisses lead them to. “I uh…I have to go find Benji…” Neither of them seem to really hear me, they’re too involved with the pot and each other.
So I leave. I go back to the foyer and sit myself down on the bottom step waiting for Benji. Being by myself gives me time to let my mind wander and all over again I’m thinking about Billy and how easily it would be to leave now and go see him. However just as I start to get up Benji slides next to me on the stair, his familiar scent the only real give away that it’s him. Tony joins him and in seconds there’s three of us sitting on the step neither of us speaking. I move my gaze to Benji and Tony knowing already what I’m going to find. I’m not disappointed of course, Tony’s arm is snaked around Benji’s waist his cheek leaning on his shoulder.
They’re together again as though nothing ever broke them apart. They’re together because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
The smile on Benji’s face is priceless, he’s all but bursting with joy. I want to tear off a little bit of his smile, a little bit of his happiness and mix it in a cauldron so that I might reproduce it in liquid form. I could put it in bottles and sell it to people taking Prozac and all those other anti-depressants. Happiness in a bottle, I bet it could make millions.
I get up slowly and move off the stair to stand in front of them. Tony’s eyes follow me as I move, as do Benji’s. I wait for one of them to speak. It’s funny, if anyone were to walk in on this moment they would never know Tony and Benji had ever been apart, not with the way they’re sitting so closely…so attached to each other. “We worked stuff out…” I want to laugh…his statement is so obvious I wonder why he even bothered to point it out. I wanted this though, I wanted them back together and they are so I should be over flowing with happiness…but I’m not. I guess the human mind is deranged, it tells you one thing while all the while wanting another. Yes, I wanted them back together but even that was selfish since I only wanted it so that I could see Benji happy again. Now…well now there’s that ping of jealousy tugging at my side again and I’m wondering all over again why my problems can’t be fixed so easily, can’t be so easily repaired. My lack of speech causes Benji to speak again, “Joel this is our home now.” He finishes with a grin, one almost bigger than his last, almost but not quite.
Both he and Tony look to me for my reaction I smile of course because that’s what I’m supposed to do…smile because smiles never lie, if only that were true. “That’s great.”
Benji’s smile is instantly deflated, he stands Tony moving with him as though he’s part of him, another one of his limbs. “You have to get over this whole Billy thing Joel…you have to move on.” It’s the same speech he’s already given me in means as little now as it did before. I’ll listen to his words but they wont have any real meaning I’ll still crave Billy with everything in me…every single bone, every fiber, every cell… It’s ironic how he assumes every fake smile I give him is some how related to Billy…it’s how ironic how he’s usually right. But this time he’s only partially right, yes I miss Billy but I also miss my life, the one I had only a few days ago before the world shit on me and gave me something beautiful only to take it back over and over again.
I shake my head and shrug, “I cant.”
He doesn’t bother to try to hammer the fact into my head he just nods and pulls Tony closer to him a sigh escaping his lips. “How about we all go get something to eat…”
“okay.” The word escapes Tony’s mouth weakly, one single word but it means everything to him and Benji…it means they might have a future.
I shake my head though, I don’t want to be apart of the celebration meal, I don’t have anything to celebrate. Besides the only reason Benji mentioned it was so that he might change the subject save me from the topic of Billy. “I’ll uh hang out here…see what Jere and Matt are doing.” I just want them to leave though so that I can escape. I know I can’t go see Billy while Benji’s around he’d never allow it, not because he’s cruel he just likes to think he knows what’s best for me…and maybe he does and maybe I’m a fool for not seeing that. A fool, that’s exactly what I am.
They disengage themselves from each other momentarily so that Benji can take a shower. While Benji is gone Tony leads me upstairs so that he can show me the rooms so I can choose one. I really don’t care what room I get, there was a time I probably would have cared but now the little details of life are meaningless. “This one has a fan and it’s own bathroom…it already has a TV in it…me and Matt sometimes hang out in here but if you want it you can definitely have it.” He says while leading me into a huge room. I feel out of place in it, like a homeless person might feel upon entering the Whitehouse.
“Are you sure?” I ask slowly while roaming my eyes over the huge TV screen and large bed. The bed in itself looks like it could consume me, it’s set high above the floor adorned with half a dozen pillows. I want to fall upon it, but I know if I did I might never leave it’s comfortable mattress.
“Of course…go ahead it’s yours.” He grins, and with that one grin I can see exactly why Benji loves him. He’s irresistible, it’s his charm the way he carries himself.
“Thanks…hey um…I’m happy you guys are back together.” It’s all I can offer him, the only thing I can give him in return for the amazing room….my approval.
“That means a lot, I know how close you two are.” He smiles warmly and pulls me into a friendly hug. I feel nothing but ribs against my chest as he holds me for that brief second, I imagine my eyes go wide and I’m lucky he cant see my face or else he’d be aware of how shocked I am of his condition. To see it is one thing, but to feel it…to feel nothing but bone beneath your touch…it’s so different. I wonder how Benji deals with it, how he can look at Tony everyday without tears or shocked silence…how he can touch him…”I better go check on Benji in the shower…make sure he hasn’t fallen or something.” He says with a grin as he pulls away. “You can get yourself situated, we’ll um come by before we leave to tell you where we’re going.” He moves out of the room then disappearing around the corner and down the hall toward the bathroom. I try not to think about his skinniness anymore, instead I move onto the floor flicking on the TV with a nearby remote…and I do something normal, something I haven’t done in so long, I watch TV.