Mark and Roger didn’t talk about a lot of things.
Money was one thing. How, despite their talk and big dreams, they were still living in a crappy, dirty loft in Alphabet City, surrounded by Mark’s rejected scripts and Roger’s broken guitar picks. They didn’t talk about giving in, getting a job bussing tables or tending bar or something that paid something; hell, Collins dreamed as big as they did but at least he usually had a paycheck to fall back on. They also never mentioned the times late at night when Roger would stay up, tuning and retuning his guitar, so Mark could read him a new page of dialogue for his new big sure-to-be-sold-soon film, or the crumpled ones that Mark would continue to scrape together so he could see Roger play, every time. They didn’t talk about sharing the last can of soup in February, sitting with knees touching, four palms cradling the heated cup so they wouldn’t freeze to death. Sitting so close their breath steamed out together, indistinguishable.
Parents were another non-topic. Fragmented messages on the answering machine: Mark’s mom worrying over his breakup with Maureen (Mark swearing that he’d never tell his sister anything ever again, how dare she), Roger’s mom hoping he was staying warm enough and enjoying New York. They never talked about Mark finding Roger, tears in his eyes and the phone in his hand, trying and failing to summon the words to tell his parents he had AIDS. They didn’t talk about after, with Mark touching Roger’s hand and Roger grabbing on and them sitting there together, white-knuckled and quiet.
They never talked about relationships. Not about April, during or after, or how when Roger didn’t leave his room for four days--and couldn't even look towards the bathroom--Mark waited with him. On the fifth day Roger broke, all tears and trembling hands, and Mark was there to cup his palm against the back of Roger’s neck and feel the burn of Roger’s lips crushed into his shoulder as tears slid, hot and wet, across Mark’s collarbone. They never brought up the night Maureen finally left Mark, when Roger walked noiseless across the dark loft to slide into Mark’s bed, slipping guitar-calloused palms around his waist to the rhythm of Mark’s still awake tear-soaked breathing.
They didn’t discuss the way Roger’s eyes looked in the middle of a laugh that made Mark want to kiss him, or the way Mark’s nose wrinkled in his sleep when Roger nuzzled that spot just there under his jaw. The words and half-words they murmured in the dark, mouthed against each other’s skin, didn’t really count as talking.
Once, Collins told Mark he didn’t get it: Mark and Roger never talked about anything. How did they get along so well?
Mark felt a small smile on his lips and, out of the corner of his eye, watched the smooth bend of Roger’s neck as he carefully tuned and retuned his guitar.
Oh, Mark said. We figure it out all right.
[Published September 30th, 2005]