By noon I had worked my way over to Bart’s house and knocked on the door. After a few minutes his roommate whose name I could never remember opened it.
“Bart here?” I realized then that I didn’t see his car.
“Nah, he took off for Boston with Michelle.” Like it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Yeah, right, of course.” I wondered who Michelle was.
“You wanna leave him a note?”
I didn’t–I’d see him tonight, I hoped. I thanked the roomie and went back down the steps. I climbed back over College Hill to where all the used record stores, used clothing, used books, and fast food stands were. With four dollars in my pocket I could get a pretty decent meal if I doled it out right. But I wasn’t hungry. Lack of sleep was turning my blood to mud. I went through the motions of looking through the record stores and got real depressed looking through the dollar-bin. Band after band I’d never even heard of, the cover photos on their albums seeming utterly ludicrous in the face of their failure. It was time to go home.
When I stumbled in the door, Roger was sitting in a chair in the living room, reading a magazine, the same one as the other night. I let my coat fall on the floor and let myself crumple onto the futon. Roger spoke up. “So are we rehearsing tonight?”
He sounded too smug for his own good, or maybe I was just getting paranoid from lack of sleep. “What?” I said from the pillow. “I thought you were going solo with your disco project.”
He huffed and crossed his wrists over his knee. “As far as I know, I still work for you. Unless you’re prepared to release me from my contract.”
I ignored him. “Midnight. We’re supposed to meet at midnight.”
I went to the studio around four in the afternoon, to do an engineering shift for the guys in Tygerz Claw–they’d asked for me which was cool since it meant I’d almost surely get paid. They were trying to do some original material again, none of it brilliant, but I did my best to make it sound better. They turned in when their five hours were up. Roger brought me some dinner around 10 and I let him watch the boards while I laid down a few tracks I had going around in my head. I was psyched to play; it had been too long and we were all itching, I was sure.
I looked at the clock around ten after midnight. Bart still wasn’t there. “Is that clock right?” I said to Roger.
Roger looked at his bare wrist. “I have no idea.”
We sat there in the control room like toys with no batteries, Roger not voicing his annoyance, me not voicing my fears.
At 12:30 am I heard the outer door open. Bart came into the room, empty handed, brushing cold off his sleeves. He didn’t take off his jacket. “Just got back,” he said, his eyes sliding in annoyance onto Roger.
“You’re late,” Roger said, his lips pursed.
“Well, that doesn’t matter now,” Bart sing-songed. He looked from Roger to me. “I’m going to have to quit.”
“Why?” I wasn’t taking this news sitting down. I stood up, the chair rolling out from under me and hitting the edge of the console.
“I’m moving.” He shrugged. He directed some venom at Roger. “I obviously can’t make it here on time for rehearsals.”
I almost laughed. “So screw that, we can go back to rehearsing in the recital hall. We can work around your class schedule.”
“I’m not taking any more classes. I am out of the conservatory.” His voice didn’t betray any emotion at all, but he made a little boot-kicking motion when he said the word ‘out.’ “I’m going back to Boston. I thought I should come and tell you in person.”
I tried to say “Well, thanks,” but I choked on it.
Bart clapped me on the shoulder. “See you around.”
“Yeah.” I watched him go back the way he came, my brain doing a little flip that was the start of a panic. Like a little voice trying to say “do something!” in my head, but stuttering instead.
Roger spun his seat around in a full 360. “Well, let’s get to work.”
I shook my head again. “No. That’s it. Consider this band gone.” I turned around as if I might see something in the studio that might answer my questions and solve my problems, but there was nothing. What now?
Roger stood up next to me, watching me stare into the empty studio. “Look, there’s no reason you and me can’t pair up, just the two of us.”
“No,” I said without really hearing him.
“Why not? It makes more sense this way. You and I have so much more in common, Daron.” He turned my head so I was looking at him. “You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t.” I wondered what Roger-nonsense he was speaking now.
“You and me, living together, recording together, it makes sense. I’m gay, and you’re gay…”
“No.” I took a step back and bruised my thigh on the corner of the console. The stutter of unfinished thoughts crescendoed in my head. “No.”
He folded his arms. “When are you going to grow up? Wake up and smell the cappuccino, Daron, you’re as queer as a three dollar bill.”
I shook my head. “You’re wrong.” I tried to rationalize while I still could. “I’ve slept with women.” Well, that wasn’t exactly true, but it was the one coherent thought I was having at that moment.
“Yeah, and you’ve slept with me.” He closed the physical distance between us, his height looming. “How many times have you slept with me? Ten? Twelve? Twenty? How many…” he breathed in my ear.
I pushed him away. “Don’t talk shit. I didn’t…” My mouth and my brain weren’t working together. I could have said so much about why I moved in with him, there were all kinds of reasons, dammit, I didn’t even know that he liked me, or other men, when we met. Actually, despite what he was saying, I wasn’t sure he liked me now.
And he was saying all kinds of melodramatic things, about how I didn’t have to be afraid, about how he had ben afraid until that time he’d tried to kill himself, but now he realized… I was shutting down the equipment and pulling my sweatshirt over my head, not hearing him. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t just storm out, since I was the one who had to lock up the place. Roger seemed to be talking to hear himself talk, and as he neared the door in his coat, I pushed him out and locked it behind him. Then I sat in the dark for I don’t know how long.
After maybe an hour, I went to Candy’s Post-It-Noted desk and picked up her phone. Yeah, it was late. But I called Bart.
He answered, still awake.
“Why are you moving to Boston?” I asked him. “Are you doing it just to get away from Roger and me?” I hated myself a lot just then.
He actually laughed. “No, it’s nothing like that. Can you meet me at the coffeehouse tomorrow? I’ve got a lot to tell you.”
He sounded so normal and happy, it didn’t seem real. “Sure, what time?”
“Two PM. Don’t be late.”
“Ha. I’ll be there.” I hung up the phone unsatisfied, but less angry. I slept in my clothes on the couch in the reception area.