“Dammit,” Justin cursed, slamming the phone down even before he heard the first ring.  He rubbed his hands over his freshly shaven scalp and shut his eyes.  There were times he thought everything might disappear if he could only shut his eyes tightly enough.  Hating the feeling of his shaved scalp, he mentally kicked himself for his drunken impulsiveness: shaving his beautiful curls only to spite “him” was pure stupidity. 

He looked around the shabby, one-bedroom apartment with blurry eyes and frowned.  There was a time not long ago that his surroundings would have been quite different.  But he was far away from the grand house on the hill, and the stained carpet and worn furniture only served to remind him of his loss. 

Scowling, he turned his head and looked towards the kitchen.  His eyes found a bottle of cheap vodka, mostly empty, on the counter.  He stumbled towards it, and not bothering with ice or a mixer, he dumped the remainder into a glass, and walked outside to the small patio, the apartment’s one and only luxury. 

It was a rare summer night in San Francisco; it was raining.  Leaning against the railing, he tilted his head back and emptied the contents of the glass.  By this time in the night, the bitterness of the alcohol had no effect on him.  The rain fell down on his half-naked body and mingled with the tears that fell from his eyes, blurring together his confusion and pain. 

“Why me?” he screamed into the night sky, hoping, demanding an answer from some kind of higher power.  “Why did he leave me?” 

He had asked that question hundreds of times and never had gotten the right answer.  No solace or forgiveness would come to him, no matter how many times he cried out.  In his heart he knew the answer, yet he still cried out. 

He was alone and broken, because his boyfriend was tired of dealing with the lies, fed up with the cheating, and sick of waiting for love that was never given.  This was why Justin drank himself into a stupor night after night - searching to find peace that always eluded him. 

He squeezed his eyes shut, so tightly that the tears could no longer fall, and gripped the railing.  His mouth opened in a silent scream; he tried desperately to stop the memories, the raw emotion that careened through his drunken mind. 

But nothing could stop the memory of the night it all fell apart, the night “he” left. 

“I can’t take any more of this shit, Justin.  It’s killing me,” Daniel screamed, pushing Justin away.  “Can’t you see that?  You’re killing me.” 

That night went all wrong when Daniel arrived back at the house and found Justin in bed with another boy, for what seemed like the hundredth time. 

“Wait,” Justin stammered, trying with one hand to cover his naked body with the sheet while reaching for his discarded boxers with the other.  “I can explain.” 

The invisible stranger, the boy who didn’t matter, had a look of confusion and embarrassment on his face as he tried to hide under the sheet, but he was having a hard time as Justin kept ripping it out of his grasp. 

“No,” Daniel stated in a tired voice, his tone icy and barely controlled.  “No more explanations, no more lies.  No more, Justin.” 

Hopping on one foot, Justin tried to pull his boxers on while saying, “Wait!  It’s not what you think.  I didn’t want this to happen.  He was a mistake.” 

“Really,” Daniel said, spinning around towards the two boys.  His eyes filled with rage.  “Did he force you at gunpoint?” 

“Daniel.” 

“Did he have a cardiac arrest and the only way you could think of to give him CPR was to pound him up the ass?” 

“I…” 

“No,” Daniel cut him off, pointing a finger at the boy.  “I’m sick of you fucking every little twink you meet the moment my back is turned.” 

The invisible boy spoke up, “Wait, I’m not just…” 

Justin and Daniel both turned and yelled, “Shut up.” 

The invisible boy ducked under the sheet again as Justin fell to his knees and begged, “It won’t happen again, I swear.  Just give me one more chance.” 

Tears fell down Daniel’s cheek, but he shook his head sadly and said, “I can’t.  Not again, Justin.  You don’t get any more chances.” 

Justin stayed on his knees as the door slammed shut.  He stayed on the floor, his arms wrapped around his body, crying.  He didn’t notice the invisible boy leave the room, nor did he care.  The man he loved just walked out of his life.
 

Shaking from the power of the memories, Justin cried as he tilted his head back and let the rain wash over him.  But the memories that crashed into his fragile mind would not let go until he looked at each and every one.  Gripping the edge of the railing, he screamed again.  But the scream couldn’t prevent the images from smashing through his defences, shattering the last of his control, forcing him to remember. 

“You’re so peaceful when you sleep,” Justin whispered into his boyfriend’s hair, causing the sleeping boy to stir.  He leaned forward and kissed Daniel’s forehead, all the while fighting the passion that threatened to consume him.  He moved down and gently kissed Daniel’s lips, tenderly and filled with love. 

“Mmm, I love you,” Daniel mumbled, still in that semi-lucid state somewhere between reality and dreams.  “How was the club?” 

“It was fun,” Justin replied, kissing Daniel again.  “But Sheila was really wasted.” 

“Tell me about it later,” Daniel said, then yawned as he settled back onto his pillow. 

Snuggling up behind his boyfriend, Justin lay there in the manner of all lovers - gently connected with legs and arms intertwined, making it hard to distinguish one from the other.  And when Daniel pushed back into his embrace, Justin felt the warmth of his lover gently caressing his whole body.  Daniel moved his head back until he could feel Justin’s shallow breath on his neck. He sighed. 

Justin’s lips found the back of Daniel’s neck and softly kissed him, completing the nightly ritual they shared before falling asleep.  They drifted off, both feeling the comfort of the intimate experience they shared.
 

“I had it all,” Justin mused aloud.  “Why did I ruin it?” 

And as always, when he reached this point of inebriation, reality and fantasy blurred together.  Not that he would listen to the truth if he heard it, but he always asked. 

He tried to wipe the tears from his eyes, but the pouring rain replaced them.  His bare chest was slick from the rain, and his pants were soaked through.  He shivered, the cold drops feeling like punishment from the heavens.  He stood there shaking, crying from the pain in his heart so long that he turned numb - which is what he longed to truly feel. 

His ravaged mind tried to sort out this reality, to comprehend this behavior, but the pain and disillusionment kept him from seeing the destructive nature of this nightly ritual.  So he kept playing this scene out in his mind, night after night, drinking until he couldn’t feel the pain any more, drinking until he passed out for a few fitful hours of sleep, before the agony set in again with the dawn, wracking his body with nausea. 

“I love you, Daniel, he stated simply, staring up to the dark sky.  But it was too late for any kind of admission.  Daniel was gone, and nothing would bring him back. 

Stumbling inside, he headed for the bedroom, not bothering to remove his wet pants.  He fell on the unmade bed and curled up in a fetal position, continuing to sob.  A note lay next to him on the nightstand; he reached out for it and clutched it to his face until the tears made it a blurry mess. 

But it didn’t matter; he knew the words by heart.  He had read it over and over again until the words were etched in his mind, burned there for all eternity.  The letter was from Sheila, written two weeks earlier.  The last line of the note read, “I’m sorry, Justin, but he’s married now.” 

His world exploded around him and his mind finally had enough for one night, and he drifted away to the nightmares that haunted his dreams.  His last moment of clarity was a longing look towards the phone sitting on the bed beside him.  But he didn’t call Daniel.  He never did.

 


 

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