A short piece today, and it’ll take me a few days to get what’s coming next just right. So…ZOMG! Holy Crap! I’m going to take my time on it! I’m aiming for another episode by Sunday latest. Sorry, K., this one may not be done by Xmas at this rate 🙂 But by end of December for sure!
“Wow,” was all Peter could say when Matt finished. “So you just…quit. No notice, nothing.”
Matt shrugged. “Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t the most professional thing to do, but, you know, it wasn’t like I was doing anything that someone else couldn’t do instead. And I just…snapped, you know? I couldn’t go back in there for even one more day, once I knew what I was supposed to be doing with my life.”
“But…what about bills? Rent, health insurance…everything? What did you do about all that?”
“I moved out to Hell’s Kitchen, dropped the insurance, and I didn’t have any charge card debt, so I was able to live pretty simply. It’s New York,” Matt laughed, “so of course rent took my whole paycheck for a long time. But I got the place through Terry; one of his customers owns the building. So I didn’t have to pay the usual blackmail ‘key fee’ to get in, and I got a decent rent.”
“Wow,” Peter said again, shaking his head. “I would be terrified. To let go of financial security like that, to start over with nothing.”
“I guess coming from money makes it different – you see…” Matt thought a minute. “You see how little it matters. Not that you can live without it, just that, it’s not worth giving over everything else in your life for it.”
“I suppose. But when you grow up in Section 8 housing, then money is like…” His eyes lit up. “This money, this huge stupid insane amount of money I just walked into, it’s like The One Ring. Half the time I want to throw it into Mount Doom, and the other half of the time I just want to jump up and shout, ‘The Ring is mine!’”
“Dude. Even fucking Gandalf had a hard time turning down the One Ring, remember. So cut yourself some slack there.”
“Ha, right! No shit, huh.”
“Just take the time you need, there’s no rush, is there?”
“There is and there isn’t…I don’t know how long I can stand going into work every day, working in an advertising agency, doing something, you know, totally meaningless and not useful to anyone, anywhere. Not when I know I can just cash out and get out.”
Peter looked at Matt, at his calm, warm, friendly gaze, his kind face… It was so stunning to feel this, to feel this acceptance, to feel supported.
The black dog inside woke up, stretched, yawned. You don’t deserve him. You’re going to fucking ruin his life when you cash that ticket, suck him into the crazy that will be your life. And you can’t give it up, tear that ticket up, can you? Because that’s the only way you can keep him.
No… Peter tried to answer. But some part of him knew it was true. He was clinging to Matt like a drowning man trying to use another man as a flotation device. You’ll take him down with you. You’re so fucked up. You’ll RUIN EVERYTHING.
Peter shook himself. “I should go.”
Matt was shocked. “Are you sick?” He’d had it all planned out, they were going to go from here to the little ice cream place around the corner, he was going to order the big-ass banana split, and maybe even feed Peter a spoonful, watch his gorgeous lips close around it, thinking about how they’d be wrapped around his cock later. He’d feed him a cherry and watch Peter’s sea-green eyes meet his, those sea-green eyes dark and roiling like troubled waters, so full of hunger for love, for peace, for everything…
“No. I just… I just need some time, Matt. I feel like I’m made of glass right now. Like anything could make me shatter.”
But that’s why I want to take you home! Matt wanted to shout. I can fix that, let me wrap my arms around you, feed you my strength, I can help…
He flashed back to one of his earliest days in Terry’s shop. It was late at night, and he was embroiled in an engine from a 1990 Nissan 300ZX that was feeling like a Rubik’s Cube. He was swearing under his breath, dropping tools as he tried to get to places he should have been able to get to, if the design of the damn thing hadn’t made it so hard.
Then Terry put a hand on his shoulder. “Stop.”
Matt didn’t stop. “No, I’ll get it, I’m…shit!”
“That’s an order.”
Matt sighed, frustrated.
“You know what you need to do next?”
“Yeah, I probably need to pull the damn thing and…”
“No. What you need to do is sleep on it. You’ve been pulling information all day, half the night. Reading up on the Internet, asking the other guys questions, getting your hands around the engine. Look, it’s like school. It is school. But you’re not cramming for a multiple choice test, you’re studying for an essay you have to write. What you do with that engine is the essay that you’ll write in it. So you need to absorb what you’ve learned. Let your subconscious work on the problem. Let go for a day. If you keep going now, all you’re going to do is fuck it up.”
Peter was crammed full right now, Matt knew, and the last thing that would help would be for Matt to come in on him with one more thing, one more demand. It was selfish of him, his desire for Peter. He told himself it’s because he wanted to help him, and he did, but he wanted him, too, so very badly.
“Okay. Maybe we can see a movie tomorrow?”
Peter smiled. “Yeah. That sounds good.”
They parted reluctantly outside the restaurant, hugging briefly before Peter tore himself away. He’s a good person with a good life, don’t ruin that, don’t let him ruin it by taking you into it.
Some part of Matt told him this was a terrible idea, that he should override all that good judgment and respect for boundaries and just hold on. That what Peter said he needed was the exact opposite of what he was really thinking, what he was really feeling – that Matt would need to make Peter be loved, accept love.
But there was Terry’s invisible hand on his shoulder. No, he agreed, you can’t make that happen. You can’t force a part into a place where it doesn’t fit, at least not until it’s been machined to fit.
But he stood there, watching Peter walk away, just in case Peter turned around, changed his mind, just in case Peter wanted to look and see if Matt was still there, waiting for him.
And even after Peter turned the corner without looking back, Matt stood there a while longer, just in case.
Peter was exhausted. Why did I sign that fucking ticket, he thought with sudden rage. Why did I give it to Mr. Plant for safekeeping. I should have burned it.
No, he thought, remembering more of “The Lord of the Rings.” The Ring is my burden. I can do so much good with it. It’s selfish of me, so selfish, to think otherwise. You were going to lose Matt anyway, you know that…
There was a man in a hoodie standing outside his building, leaning against the wall by the front door, smoking a cigarette with thumb and forefinger in a way Peter knew all too well.
A trap door opened inside Peter’s mind and he fell, relieved like a condemned man would be that the waiting was finally over, he was dead at last.
The man’s head lifted, and the light of the streetlamp illuminated his face, the face Peter already know was under there.
Cody smiled. “Hello, lover.”