Bart dropped me off in front of a gray three-storey house on the East side. Once upon a time it had been one huge house, but now it was divvied up into apartments, two on the first floor, one on each of the top two. Roger and I had been roommates for eighteen months, now, ever since I’d moved off campus to spare the dorm expense. The bedroom was his, I slept in the living room and paid only half rent. We’d been in this place three months now and I liked it. It was larger than our old place in Fox Point and closer to the campus. In the old apartment there hadn’t even been a door between the bedroom and the living room, but I’d moved in with him anyway, the rent was so cheap. When it came time to quit the old place, I sometimes felt Roger had brought me along with his furniture. Roger liked to pretend that he didn’t need anything but his music, only sometimes requiring food, sleep, and sex. With me in the house, Roger had discovered that to have all his needs met, all he had to do was go out for food.
I put my guitar down at the foot of the mattress I slept on and shrugged off my coat. It was too cold out for just the thin overcoat, time to start wearing a heavy sweatshirt, too. I could hear him moving around in the bedroom. I threw the coat over a chair and poked my head through the open door.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed, a magazine open in his hands, but as I watched him I realized he wasn’t reading the magazine. He was just sitting there, staring, seething. I opened my mouth to say something trivial and then his eyes locked on me.
I forced myself ahead. “Hey, Rog, how’s that music history class going?”
“I’m sick to death of school. I’m sick of it!” Roger picked up the magazine and threw it at me. I ducked back out of the way. If he’d thrown it any other direction it would have hit some expensive equipment. “I hate this place. I’m never going to start my career by wasting my time in a library somewhere. It’s just not fair!”
Sigh. I’d heard this rant before in several different forms, and didn’t have anything new to add to the debate. I backed out of the room and closed the door. A while later as I lay awake on the mattress I heard the whine of a tape recorder and he started singing. The drum machine began to pulse. Some time around dawn I was just falling asleep when he came into the living room and sat down.
“What were you going to tell me?” he said, nudging me awake.
I yawned. “What?”
“When you came in, you didn’t really want to know about my music history class. You were going to tell me something.”
The band breaking up. “I don’t remember,” I mumbled. “Nothing important.”
He nodded and went back into his room. I didn’t hear any more sound so I assumed he went to sleep. I turned over and tried to do the same, but I couldn’t. I kept thinking about what Bart said about wasting time. I thought about how long Remo waited for his chance at success. I thought about finding a new singer. The winter sun was bright in the windows by the time I slept.
When I woke up, Roger was playing something at full volume with the door open. He only did that when he had finished something he wanted me to hear. It was dancey, with a throbbing techno-beat, his clear tenor distorted on one end into an industrial growl, into a soprano aria on the other. I went and stuck my groggy head into the room.
“OK, you got my attention,” I shouted over the beat.
He was perched in the middle of the bed, shaking his shoulders. “This is the new me, Daron, Roger Dodger — Disco Diva!” He threw up his hands and froze in a fashion model pose. “What do you think?”
I rubbed my eyes. “I think it’s loud. Don’t you ever sleep?”
He killed the sound with the flick of a switch. “You hate it.”
“No, that’s not it.” Roger Devon — Sonic Psychodrama, I thought. It was perfectly serviceable disco, though. I wondered if that meant his prog rock phase was over. From Jon Anderson to Jimmy Somerville overnight. “That’s good stuff, Rog.”
“I need to invest in a better sampler,” he said, running a finger along the edge of one black component. “Then I’ll be all set. I’ll never even have to leave this room if I don’t want. No outside musicians, no outside interference.” He hugged himself. “Life is full of possibilities!”
“Yeah.” I looked at the time, noon. “Is it Wednesday?”
“Just making sure I wasn’t supposed to be somewhere else right now.” I turned away from him, thinking about food. I crossed my room to the kitchen.
“Daron.” His voice was soft, beckoning me. I knew what he wanted; he always did after finishing a new song, a new tape.
“Not now, let me eat something.”
He came up behind me, circling my waist with his hands. He could kiss me on the top of the head if he wanted, he was that much taller. He leaned over to breathe in my ear. “I promise I’ll cook you a fantastic breakfast.”
“No, I have things to do.” I tried to take a step forward. He held me fast. As soon as I felt his erection pressing into my spine, I felt my own start to rise.
“Come on, Daron, it’s been weeks.”
“That never bothered you before,” I said. I never should have slept with him that first time, I thought. I had been crashing in his living room for two weeks and we had just written our first song together. We were sitting on the futon and I was playing the guitar, and he was belting out the words like a gospel preacher. His voice was amazing, always would be. I let it happen, let the sex flow out of the music like it was one thing. I told myself that’s what it was, the creative urge blossoming, uncontrollable, spilling into whatever receptacles would accept it, in this case each other. I didn’t think it would happen again, I shrugged it off, forgot about it. But after a few months the pattern became obvious. Roger hit one of these highs every couple of weeks, and sometimes I was there when he did. It didn’t mean anything to either of us.
“Go on, Rog, lay off. I’m hungry.” But the fight had gone out of my voice.
“So am I.” He nibbled my neck and I felt adrenalin rush through my legs and my groin. It had been weeks, and I’d been too wrapped up in extra hours at the studio and the practice hall to do anything about it. Cruising took time, sometimes a lot of it, especially when they wouldn’t let me into the one bar downtown. But I could only have Roger when Roger wanted it. I wasn’t sure if the rest of the time he had no interest at all in sex, or just no interest in me.
He pressed me down against the mattress, rubbing against my back, pressing my erection down into the firmness of the bed. He pulled off my shorts and licked the base of my spine, pressed his dick against my tail bone. He rocked his hips, rubbing himself on my back, his rhythm rubbing me in turn against the sheets. I lost myself between the roughness of the sheets and the heat and weight of his body. I came, shuddering against the mattress, while he redoubled his efforts until he squirted hot and wet onto my back. I lay there, limp and panting, while he stood up and got into the shower. It was time to wash the sheets again. I went back to sleep next to the wet spot. When I woke up, Roger was nowhere in the house.