Brian hasn’t been to Babylon since the reopening. He has to get a lot done for tomorrow, he tells Mikey and hangs up.
He closes up and drives home ten minutes later. Home is the loft, partly refurnished and fridge full of what Debbie sells as Italien cuisine. She might sell, but she hasn’t bought Brian’s shit in a while.
She visits once a week. Brian is always home.
A kiss pressed to his cheek, Tupperware shoved into his hands, a piece of rolling paper placed in front of him, and they’re sitting in the living room, lulled by sweet-grassy smoke.
“I heard it’s Willy Wanker tonight at Babylon.”
Brian tries for a smoke ring. He used to be better at this. “Yeah.”
“Not interested in that?” Debbie asks from above him, reaching for the joint.
Brian hasn’t been interested in a while. He feels like he doesn’t belong. Babylon is hot, pulsing, life — everything that Brian is not.
“Not particularly,” he says after a while.
Brian closes his eyes. He knows what’s coming. He pleads with the weed to please fucking be stronger this time.
“You should talk to him.”
The ache shoots through him like it always does.
They left it too indefinite, too unfinished. Once he was alone, he felt the divergence in every pore.
“I tried calling last night,” he reveals. He’s done pretending. It’s no use with her.
He hears her tiny gasp. “What happened?”
“Nothing. I tried. I couldn’t.” He hopes it’s enough for now.
How is he supposed to explain that the fear of what could happen is more maddening than the pain of the status quo? How can he know what’s best for him? For him and his pathetic little heart and all their combined ignorance?
Debbie leaves and with her, restraint.
Brian marvels at the way his cheeks shine with wetness. He kind of forgot how he looked like, crying.
He thinks that maybe he’s going to keep it up. It would give him something to do while he waits for that fucking ache to weaken. Maybe he could drown it.
Sleep doesn’t come like it usually doesn’t. His eyes continue to water, he doesn’t know why, and he rubs his damp face into the pillows that smell too much of fabric softener and too little of him.
Brian wonders if he could ever make his heart unlearn the past years.
Brian dreams of lost chances. He wakes up in panic and texts him.
A minute later, a reply. “I’ll be waiting,” it reads and Brian feels something inside him spark. He feels his skin prickle, something bubbling to life. Over the course of the day, it keeps building up. At some point he can feel it clearly: that little crackle of a flame.
He meets the guys at Babylon that night. He dances, he drinks, gets sucked, really exists for the first time in months.
He comes home around two in the morning and starts packing.
Brian won’t dissolve yet.