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Revelations in Retrospect

 

This has been on my mind the last few days. Don’t ask why, because I don’t really know….

            He was getting ready to leave for Shades of Blues, drying off after his shower in my bathroom with one of my towels. “Are you sure you don’t wanna come along, Precious?” he asked.

            I answered from my bed without looking up: “Nah. I have to work tomorrow. You have fun, though.”

            He didn’t respond and instead apparently chose to finish readying himself in silence. I had my laptop open on my lap as I typed, and “Closer to You” by the Wallflowers played on repeat. I do that when I write, though not necessarily with that particular song every time.

            “Ugh. I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten all day.”

            That was probably an exaggeration. He never went more than a few hours without eating. “Why don’t you make yourself a PB&J or something? I think we have lunch meat in the fridge, if you’re not in the mood for peanut butter,” I answered, this time looking up at him.

            He was wearing his usual overly-baggy jeans, a blue CSM shirt, black suspenders, and plaid button-up shirt he hadn’t bothered to button yet. He might have said something in Russian as he shuffled off to the kitchen. He might have also acknowledged the dog, but I don’t remember.

            “Precious?” he called from the kitchen.

            I sighed, hit “save,” and closed my laptop before I hopped off my bed. I was damn tired, and my hip ached.

            He stood by the table eating a sloppily-made sandwich, his shirt halfway buttoned at this point.

            “Yeah?” I asked.

            “Do we have any soda?”

            “No, just juice and milk, I think. Oh, and some beer that I don’t know how long it’s been there or where it came from, but I guess you probably shouldn’t drink that if you’re going to be driving to the city.”

            “No, I guess not,” he agreed. He poured himself a glass of water out of the pitcher by the sink in the end.

            My kitchen overwhelmed me, and I hated looking at it. Since Matt had come around, things were just messier. The sink was overloaded with dirty dishes, there was…something…burnt to the stove, the floor was, in a word, disgusting. Like I said, overwhelming.

            “Hey, Precious?” I asked. “Do you think that maybe tomorrow we could clean up around here a little? I know I didn’t dirty more than a few cups and bowls in that pile.”

            “Yesh,” he said through a mouthful of sandwich.

            “Thanks, Precious,” I said. “How late do you think you’ll be out tonight?”

            “I dunno, at least ‘til midnight.”

            “If you don’t get back to the East Bay before then, can you just stay at your own place tonight? I’m really tired, and I need to get a good night’s sleep.”

            “But, but…. I love you.”

            “I love you too, but I have to get up early tomorrow, and you always wake me up when you show up late.”

            “Ok,” he sighed.

            Fearful I’d made him feel rejected, I wrapped my arms around him and told him I loved him again. He returned my embrace, slightly lifting me off the carpeted living room floor in his big arms.

            “Ok, I have to go now, or I’ll be late.”

            “Alright. Have fun, and behave yourself,” I smiled.

            He frowned. “What do you mean by that? ‘Behave myself?’”

            I shrugged. “I dunno. Just behave, that’s all. Be a gentleman.”

            He continued to frown for a few moments before giving me a weak smile. I could see the wheels turning in his head, but I couldn’t figure out why they’d suddenly kicked into motion. It was like asking a child if he’d stolen a cookie moments after he’d shoved it into his mouth. The child would shake his head, “no,” but there was still guilt there. I shivered as a cold blast of air hit me when he opened the door to leave, and I momentarily wondered if he was really going out to buy heroin that night. He’d insisted many times that he was still clean, but I couldn’t help but wonder at the look in his eyes.

            “Goodnight, Precious,” I said.

            “Goodnight.”

            Maybe he forgot my request, or maybe he didn’t care. He showed up around 4 am. Thursday growled in the darkness of my bedroom, and I sat bolt-upright in bed.

            “Shhh, shhh, Duppy. It’s just me,” he whispered.

            I relaxed a little when I heard his voice, though I was still irritated. “Why are you here? You were supposed to go home tonight.”

            “I missed you,” he said apologetically.

            “It’s 4 am. I have to get up in a few hours. We talked about this.”

            “I can leave if you want.”

            “It’s fine. You can stay. Just be quiet. I have to get back to sleep,” I grumbled.

            “Sorry, Precious.”

            I curled back up on my side and angrily gazed at my bedside clock. This was the makings for a long day. I was still anemic. I was still weak and got tired easily. My day was going to suck because of him.

            He got into the bed next to me and curled his body around mine, slipping one arm under my head and laying the other over my ribs.

            Duppy took his dangling hand as an invitation for a scratch behind her ears and licked his finger-tips. He pulled his hand back in surprise, and it collided with my open left eye.

            “What the fuck?” I shouted.

            “I forgot the dog was in here. Sorry,” he said.

            “You hit my eye. God damn it, I need some ice.” My head was already pounding from the blow. A shitty early morning leads to a possible black eye, which leads to a shitty day, right?

            “Oh, Precious, I’m so sorry. Let me get it for you.”

            I was already up. “No, you stay here. I’m going to take my dog out to pee, and then I’m going to get an icepack, and then I’m going back to sleep.”

            Duppy looked up at me with worried eyes. “Come on, Dup. Let’s go,” I muttered.

            The cold morning air hit me like another slap in the face, and I scowled at the overly-bright lamp outside our door. Dup dutifully peed in the patch of grass across from the door, and came back to me to be let inside for a treat. I handed her a piece of duck breast before rummaging in the freezer for an icepack.

            He was sitting up in bed with his face in his hands when I wandered back into my room, Duppy trailing close behind.

            “What’s the matter?” I asked.

            He looked up in anguish; he’d been crying.

            “Precious?” I said.

            “I hurt you. Oh, my God, I hurt you. You have to ice your face, and it’s because I hit you. I’m so sorry. Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” he sobbed. Even militant atheists pray when they’re in despair, even if they don’t realize it.

            I let my hand drop to my side with the icepack still in it and sighed. “It’s ok. It’s really not that bad, and I know it was an accident.”

            “No, it’s not ok. I hurt you,” he insisted.

            I slid under the covers beside him and carefully balanced the icepack on my eye. “It really is ok. It was an accident, and accidents happen. Just do me a favor and don’t do it again, ok?” I managed a half-smile.

            He buried his face in my abdomen and held me tightly. “I promise I’ll never hurt you again,” he murmured into my body. “I love you.”

            Still, as the ice stung the swollen area around my eye, I couldn’t help but wonder again if he’d been out buying drugs after dancing.

            Where there is love, there can be no fear. Where there is fear, there can be no love. The song’s simple lyrics flashed through my head. There was love there with him and me, so I couldn’t let fear in, I reasoned. We tend to force ourselves to think the best of the people we love, though. I wanted to think the best of him, that he was stronger than his addictions and cravings, despite what statistics on heroin and cocaine users tell us.

            “I love you, too,” I whispered back. There was enough love to push that nagging, fearful thought away, I was sure of it.

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