Even by Bohemian standards, the loft was a mess. Sure, you could call it "artistically cluttered", or claim that the piles of boxes and the ripped-up couch and the weird bookshelf cabinet thing (they were never quite sure where that came from) were really just part of a look, an image. Or at least kept the place warmer when Benny cut the power. Which he did, rather frequently, when he tired (again) of their not paying the rent, or when he remembered that they'd all used to be friends (remember?) and got pissed off. Or if he'd had a bad day. You never knew.
Mark, standing in the center of the room, could close his eyes and see it, like sped-up film, the accumulated stuff building in scattered slopes of papers and tattered paperbacks, first Collins' philosophy textbooks and battered copies of musings on the meaning of life and who thought so (Mark had given him Douglas Adams for his 25th birthday and a card with 42 scrawled in it. They'd had to explain it to Roger after they stopped laughing.). Collins was never neat, the absent-minded professor in him didn't really allow it, but it fit, so Mark never really mentioned how he sometimes tripped over Kant or some modernist reworking of Plato on the way to the shower; slipping on Aristotle when he looked for Ramen in the kitchen cabinet. It was who Collins was, an equation that balanced out, with nothing left over.
After Collins came a new swell of objects, Roger's guitar picks (he had seventeen, which Roger had once told Mark was a better lucky number than thirteen, but don't tell. Of course, that was during withdrawal. But he still had seventeen) and broken strings and sweatshirts with sleeves and sweatshirts with no sleeves and posters from CBGBs, when the Well Hungarians made money. And of course the scattered pages of songs, half-scratched out notes that, if ever collected together, would be more music than was ever crammed into a Broadway show. But they weren't ever together: a chord here, some choruses there, a few lines that would have fit with those lines, but they were from a year back and Roger would never find them again. There were, Mark knew, things in his room that had been there since the beginning (since before April's end) and had never been seen since.
Mark, standing in the middle of the loft, wondered if, somewhere in there, inside a notebook or scrolled and tucked in the worn collar of a shirt that needed to be washed, there was April's note from the bathroom, a note that didn't fit any kind of equation, mathematical or otherwise, because there wasn't a reply (couldn't be a reply). But even that lack, that loss, had become a part of Roger, of his mess, his inner piles of memories and half-remembered thoughts.
The loft, even by the standards of being lived in by Bohemian boys, was a mess, with one exception. Mark's room was uncluttered, almost bare; in the way that institutional walls are stark even with posters on them, and alleys look more naked with ungrammatical graffiti. He knew it made him weird, that his things had to align, fit into piles and stacks that couldn't, wouldn't, couldn't topple, weirder than the thing he had for film (his love affair, Maureen once sighed dramatically; but then Maureen also had her own love affairs that didn't involve Mark.). The lines helped him breathe, with the area of the angles made by the wall and the floor and the too-dirty windowpane so much like the frames of the camera lens, the edges of the film frame. Compartmentalized, even when they were chaos. Clean, even when they were dirty.
Usually, that was enough.
But, sometimes, the angles and the formulas and the moments of clarity when there was a camera to his face or a scarf edge in his hands weren't enough. Not enough to calm the flickerflicker of film moments past his closed eyelids (Collins, Roger, April, Maureen, April-gone, who next?) and feelings that he couldn't compartmentalize, couldn't clean.
Collins' books didn't offer relief, only more questions without answers, sums without numbers and thoughts without words. Roger's room felt like Roger, a little jagged and unorganized, sharp and soft, guitar calluses and notepaper secrets. It was a place that was smooth, curves that were undemanding and clear, like Roger's smile when he laughed, like the clasp of his hand on the guitar as he taught Mark a chord (this is a G, like this).
When Roger opened the closet door (guitar pick number seventeen in his teeth), Mark only burrowed deeper into the clothing on the floor, the darkness whispering its notepaper secrets.
"Either come in, or close the door." For a moment, the words hung in the air, feeling like something weighty, important. Maybe Kant. Or neo-Socrates.
Roger's arms felt like the best answer to any equation and Mark leant back, feeling the peace of life, the universe and everything cling to his shoulders, to the angle of his breathing, to a place that was compartmentalized chaos in the a city that was edging towards the cleanliness of dawn after a dirty, cold night.