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All the Words to Gimme Shelter

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Logan watched as the kid stepped up to the meat counter and asked the butcher for a pound of chorizo. He’d been trying to make up his mind for a while, poised at the counter, peering through the glass. Very serious about this decision. Very intent but very cool. Bent forward at the waist, just slightly. Wanted the links on the left, he said, and toward the back. Yeah, those. He put his hands in his pockets, almost premeditated about it, but the tone of his voice, as he addressed the butcher, was low and friendly. Tossed off. He reached in the back pocket of his jeans for his wallet.

Logan leaned against the counter near the door, arms crossed in front of his chest. He waited. Tried not to be so impatient. When it came to buying chorizo, Remy could be particular.

Remy smiled and said something and gave the butcher a bill. Waited for change. Tucked his wallet away and turned.

When he saw Logan, he dropped the package. It hit the ground with a thud and then rolled in front of his feet.

“Really?” Logan said. He uncrossed his arms, reached down and picked up the package. “You drop things now?” He held it out to Remy.

But Remy was holding out his arms wider, for something else. “Logan,” he said, coming forward. His face broke into a grin, the kind of grin that he couldn’t have planned. And he laughed.

“You buy that for me?” Logan said.

Remy just laughed again and Logan tried, for the life of him, not to smile too much.

*

The late winter afternoon sun glazed Remy’s windows. Logan lay in the kid’s bed and looked at the ceiling.

This was the fourth time he’d come to New Orleans.

“How was it?”

Logan blinked away the ceiling, turned to look at the kid.

He sat at a desk in the corner, shirtless, his back facing Logan. His shoulders were hunched and his elbows rested on the desk. He was writing something. A cigarette dangled from his lips. Every so often he’d put his pen down so he could tap the cigarette against the ash tray.

“How was what?”

Remy took the cigarette from his lips. “Japan.”

“Oh,” Logan said. “The food was good.”

“Did you find out anything?” Remy set his cigarette in the ashtray and gave Logan a quick over-the-shoulder glance. Then he focused on the piece of paper again.

“What are you writing?”

Remy took a drag, blew out the smoke. “A letter.”

“Anything interesting?”

Remy put the cap back on his pen. “Interesting, yes.” He leaned forward, stubbed out his cigarette, and rose to his feet and turned around. “Good, no.”

“I wish,” Logan began.

Remy stood before the bed. He stood in the shadows and looked down at Logan. “What do you wish?”

Without meaning to, Logan was touching his dog tags.

“I wish you wouldn’t,” Remy said.

Logan glanced up.

“Wear those things,” Remy finished.

“Why the hell not?”

Remy dropped onto the bed. He lay on his side, facing Logan. He sighed through his nose. “Because they’re tacky.”

“You should get some. Women love to ask.”

“I bet they do.” Remy propped his head up.

“It’s a conversation starter.”

Remy laughed. “Never did need no props to start my own conversations.”

Logan reached out and touched Remy’s wrist.

Remy looked down. “How long are you staying, this time?”

Japan had been a bust.

*

It had taken him two years to figure out how much he couldn’t figure out.  

To that list, add Remy LeBeau.

Logan’s life was a frozen pond. He could not break through. But Remy’s life was murky, bottomless. Dive too deep and you’d get lost. Best to float on the top.

*

The second time Logan had come through New Orleans, he was still learning things, mostly about himself. (Likes: cigars, dark-haired women. Motorcycles. Cheap tacos. Cooler-than-average air. Dislikes: most people, small dogs, swimming pools, dishonesty in any shape or smell.)

New Orleans pulled him in and tried to pin him down, but he only stayed for a few days or weeks at any given time.

Kid was the only person who remembered him from before. This didn’t matter though. What mattered was that Logan remembered him.

He was becoming a fixture, Logan thought.

Remy didn’t demand anything, and perhaps this was why Logan kept coming back. He didn’t need to see any results, didn’t want to know an endgame, and didn’t expect shit from anybody. He seemed, at his best, very unattached and uncommitted to anything, but not at all bothered by his own impermanence.

They did not, among other things, talk about themselves.

One afternoon, a year ago, Remy dragged him down an alley, said he needed to show him something. Then they went down another alley. Turned a corner, then another. Remy reached for him but didn’t take his hand. Logan had no idea that New Orleans could be so maze-like, so byzantine.

Remy stopped in a doorway, whispered something in his native patois. Pretended to listen. Pretended to wait for some kind of answer.

“Jesus Christ, what are we doing here?” Logan said.

Remy took the cigarette from his lips. Dropped it and stubbed it with his toe. Put his hands in his pockets and shrugged, eyes full of secrets and half-smiles. He kissed Logan, hard. Pulled away. “You still jonesing to know?” He grinned.

The next day was different. They were at a bar in a seedier-than-average part of town. They were just sitting there, talking and not talking, looking at the mirror or the clock, when Remy suddenly looked up, eyes flashing. In one swift motion—so swift Logan had doubted it had just happened—he turned and slipped from the bar stool.

The man behind them had a knife. Before Logan had a chance to do anything—to pop his claws, for instance, or even to think about it—the guy was on the ground, lying next to an adjacent table. He groaned.

“Did it for your own good,” Remy called to the man.

“Fuck you, brother.” The man got up and stared at them, his forehead pinched with pain. Held his forearm. Said something in French.

“Trust me,” Remy said.

“You’re such a piece of shit.”

Remy led Logan to a table in the back of the room where the lights were dim. They couldn’t even see. “Not really my brother,” Remy said.

“What the hell was that about?”

The kid shrugged as if annoyed, but his eyes didn’t meet Logan’s. “Who the hell knows. Probably goes back to the old country. Shit.” He lit a match and placed a cigarette between his lips, but his hands shook. He took one drag and then set his cigarette down in the ashtray and tucked his hands between his knees.

Logan left the next day.

*

Two years now. They’d known each other for two years. To Logan, that felt like a while. It was all he had.

The memories of Pennsylvania were fading. When he’d awoken there (Pennsylvania he knew because he recognized the shape on the highway sign and the word was familiar and not at all strange though perhaps it should have been, it shouldn’t have been that easy), he moved. Thought, but nothing came. Panicked only once. (Woke up from a nightmare in a cornfield with dirt caked to his knuckles. And what came out of his knuckles sent him into another panic altogether, one he chose not to recall.) He hitched a ride, climbing into the front seat of a big rig, and didn’t talk. Made his way to the east coast, and then, only then, did he regret that he had sent the boy away. What boy? The boy was slipping away from him. There had been an island, a river—some kind of crash? There were pictures in his mind, grainy and dream-like. Undefined. Words came to him, unfurled and retreated behind his eyes. He was trying to make sense.

I am trying to make sense, he thought. He obsessed about the towns he’d come through, collected their names. The high temperature was fifty-two degrees. The low was thirty-seven.

On a street corner in a town he did not know, two white guys on motorcycles pulled up beside him, stared. Tattoos, tags, emblems on their leather jackets. Logan tried to keep himself from stumbling forward. A bus pulled up to the side of the street, dropped off two children and an old woman.

He read a billboard. He read a newspaper. He read the back of a bottle of wine.

It wasn’t until New Jersey that he thought to look at himself. He was squatting in the upstairs room of a credit union in an ugly resort town, and in a small, narrow mirror on the wall he examined his reflection. He brightened. His heart beat faster. A bunch of words rose to his mind—and then fell away.

His head hurt sometimes. For hours.

The beach was blocks from where he was staying, but he could hear it, he could hear each wave as it crested. On the wall there was a picture of the New York skyline. He knew this, he knew New York, recognized it, knew it was in between New Jersey and Connecticut. So he had been to New York then. He closed his eyes but the images wouldn’t come. Willed himself not to panic again.

What amazed him was the fact that he remained himself. What amazed him further was that he understood this. He was what he was; he felt certain of it, and then dismayed. His mind raced.

Amnesia, he thought. He knew the word. A Greek word, he guessed. The fact that he remembered the word to describe his condition (not to mention its language of origin) was no comfort.

He thought about asking someone. Asking for help. But what would he say? He had the vague feeling that he was not a person who should go to the authorities—that, if anything, he was the sort of person the authorities would take for a different reason.

He didn’t want to go to a hospital.

Then one night, a week into his stay, he heard someone approach. He was lying awake in a room that smelled like bad shellfish and trying to sleep (trying to do anything but be conscious anymore) when he heard a small shuffle coming from the stairwell. Someone took a few steps and then stopped, like they were listening. Then they took a few more steps. A floorboard creaked.

He got up, threw on his shirt. Stood at the door and listened. Then, went.

It wasn’t much of a scuffle. The kid didn’t resist. In half a second Logan had him pinned against the wall by the throat. (Added “hair-trigger reflexes” to the list of things he knew about himself.)

The kid looked at him. He blinked slowly, staring down at Logan. His face turned red, then blanched. He grabbed Logan’s wrist with both hands. Then his hands went limp.

Logan could feel the kid’s gag reflex pulsing. And he knew, right then, that if he pushed harder or squeezed down, he’d snap the kid’s trachea. Then, if he pushed a little harder than that, he’d break his neck. And then he smelled it, the fear.

He took his hand away.

The boy fell to his knees. Sagged against the wall. Clutched his throat with both hands and wheezed for a minute, face inches from the floor. Waited there for several moments as if deciding whether or not to vomit. “Jesus Christ,” he finally exhaled.

“Who the hell are you?”

The kid took another deep breath, hands braced against his knees. “I told you.” He told him again.

Friend, Logan thought. Trust me. Kids are safe. He remembered the smell of diesel fumes. Tried to keep it all in his mind. He took a step forward and held out his hand, and Remy didn’t flinch, despite every reason why he should.

*

Over a few beers at a local biker bar, Logan willed his heart to stop beating so hard, and he and Remy pieced together a narrative. They did not speculate about things. They did not say things like, “Well, maybe it happened this way,” or “Maybe you have a whole family in Reno, Nevada.” They just worked through the facts. Remy gave him what he’d seen—no more, no less. Then he gave him some names. The names meant nothing. Told him about some kind of facility. That also meant nothing.

The reasons he gave—for Logan’s condition, for Logan’s motivations for going to Pennsylvania, for everything—were frighteningly, maddeningly fragmented. Almost inexplicable.

Logan stared down at the bar and took a drag from a cigarette. He ran his hands along the wood. He would not panic, he decided. But he was devastated. This was worse than he’d imagined. Kid didn’t know him at all. Or, if he did, he wasn’t willing to act like it. “Fuck,” he said. “Fuck. A day?”

“More like a night. Eight or nine hours.”

“You called yourself a friend.”

Remy shrugged as if to say, Details.

“Where am I from?”

He shook his head.

“What do I do? What’s my last name?”

Kid just sat.

“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?”

“You don’t. I guess you’ll just have to trust that I’m not a lying man.”

“If we don’t—if we don’t even—why are you even here?”

With his arms crossed in front of his chest, Remy looked small and impassive. “Didn’t like wondering what happened to you. Don’t like stories with no ending.”

I bet you don’t, Logan thought. Remy had the frank, detached demeanor of someone who liked to be entertained. Someone who liked to watch. Logan gave him a hard stare. Kid was tall and slender. Young. Early to mid twenties, Logan guessed, and with a face that would always get him smiles and special favors. But there was also this: a pair of thoughtful, searching eyes. “How did you find me?”

“Got lucky.”

Logan tapped his cigarette into the ash tray. “Right.” He reached into his pocket for some cash. He needed to settle up and get the hell out. “It’s been thrilling.” He set a ten down on the bar—the last bill from a roll he’d found in his back pocket a week ago—and slipped off the stool.

Remy reached out and set his hand on Logan’s forearm. Now his concern was palpable. “Okay,” he said, and lowered his voice. “I got what you got. Just different.” He dropped his gaze and took a drag from his cigarette. Blew the smoke away from Logan. “That’s how I found you.” Then he picked up Logan’s ten and held it between his fingers. “Just put this in your pocket, okay? I got this.”

And they sat next to each other at the bar and didn’t speak for a long time, and the night became very quiet.

*

 They squatted the rest of the week in an old abandoned house on the shore. Asbury Park. The house had no electric, no hot water. It cold and damp and smelled like mildew, and the sofa was chewed up and sagging in the middle, and the dishes and plates in the cupboard were chipped and dirty. They slept on piles of blankets in the middle of the floor. “This is prime real estate,” Remy said one morning, looking out the window. “Beach front property, and damn. We fix this up, we could make a killing.”

Logan lay in the middle of the floor, turning away from the sunlight, away from the window. He wanted his memories back. Nothing else would do.

Remy was the one who had told him to lie still as much as possible. People with head injuries should just take it easy, he said, and what Logan had was probably just a simple concussion. “Does it still hurt?”

Logan shook his head. It hadn’t hurt for a while. “You don’t think I should . . . go to a doctor.” He tucked his hands under his cheek.

Remy dropped down next to him, sat Indian-style. “Lords no. Unless you really want to. Do you want to?”

Logan closed his eyes.

“Just try to sleep. You don’t want it to get more jumbled.”

Remy told him that maybe if he stopped trying to work so hard, his memories would fall back into place. But the opposite seemed to be coming true. He had fewer fragments now, fewer faces in his mind. Even the place names were slipping away.

The scary thing was that he did remember things—all the wrong things. He remembered how to read of course, and how to write. He remembered how to drive. He remembered how to speak a few languages—pieces of Spanish and what he guessed was Japanese. Other things, too. He remembered that Toronto had beat out Detroit for the Stanley Cup in 1963. He knew that Dover was the capital of Delaware. He remembered the first few lines of “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” and all the words to “Gimme Shelter,” and how The Last Picture Show ended.

 “See, that’s good,” Remy said. “That’s a good sign.”

 “How is that good? It’s not good. It’s fuckin’ bizarre.”

 “Means it’s just a concussion, nothing more. No real damage. It’s all in there, just scrambled. It just needs some coaxing. Needs to take its sweet time. You don’t want to rush it. You rush it, maybe you lose everything. But I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.” They were sitting at the table, eating the pizza that Remy had carried in from some local shop. It was afternoon now. “But the way I found you, ami? Well, it’s like I said. You coulda been a vegetable or something.”

 Logan ate without tasting. “What about you?”

 “What about me?”

 “What’s your gig? Don’t you have a life?”

 Remy looked like he was deciding. Then he laughed. “Bastards can wait. ‘less you want to come down there with me and get into some things. Might be fun. And it’s definitely warmer.”

*

 They waited until the third night before sleeping together.

 Spring on the Jersey shore was late in coming. The house was cold. Three nights in a row they went outside and built a fire. Smoked and drank a few beers and didn’t say much. Said things like, “Heard Prague is nice this time of year,” and “Wonder what the fishing here is like.” Remy always sat with his knees pulled up to his chest, arms curled around the back of his legs. Shivering slightly. He was clearly uncomfortable, and Logan wondered what he was he was doing here. Then Logan wondered why he was still here, why he hadn’t headed west. (He had an urge to go west.)

Once in a while they played cards, a game of poker. Logan remembered how to play—another thing he found troubling and comforting. But the kid always won. It was no use.

The third night, around one, after neither of them had said anything to each other for about an hour, and after the deck had been cast aside for twice as long, Remy took a final swig of his beer and set the bottle down in the sand. Made a move like he was getting up. Logan figured he was heading inside to go to bed. But instead he just rose to his knees and crept over to Logan’s side of the fire. Then, knelt in front of Logan, placed one hand on his shoulder. Looked like he wanted to say something. Just touched Logan’s shoulder for a minute, stroking him through two layers of fabric. It would have seemed at any other time like a friendly gesture, but Remy’s eyes said otherwise, and Logan could smell his desire, and then he could smell his own desire.

Remy’s fingers were long and almost hesitant. But not quite. He touched the collar of Logan’s shirt and his eyes flickered away. He said something in French.

“What’s that?” Logan said.

“Thank you,” Remy said. Then he bent forward and kissed Logan casually, brushing his lips with his own—more a whisper than a kiss, really.

Logan thought about pushing him away, but instead he looped an arm around Remy’s waist. And Remy, who had been tense, relaxed and fell against him.

He’d known they were going to do this.

It wasn’t necessarily what Logan had been planning on doing—but when he felt Remy press back against him, he knew that the kid had wanted it, that he’d been thinking about it. Planning on it? Maybe they both had. Logan hadn’t been paying attention; he’d simply been wanting his memories.

They kissed for a while. Friendly, at first. Then they got needy. They stopped occasionally to change positions. Remy’s kisses were urgent and short but meant—particular in their intensity. Logan nudged him onto his back, and Remy ground against him, hips thrusting gently, imploring him. He reached down and popped Logan’s zipper. Then, pushed Logan onto his side. Reached into his pants and ran his fingers through Logan’s pubic hair. Logan was already stiff, his erection straining against the fabric of his jeans. He sighed. Might as well, he thought. Reached down and wrenched himself free.

Logan rolled onto his back. Felt a certain eagerness floating up from Remy, an artless enthusiasm he wouldn’t have expected. Remy knelt over him, straddled his knees. Logan felt the coolness of the air, felt Remy’s hand on his cock, the hot wetness of his mouth. Sliding over him now. Slow. Annoyingly slow. He sat up a bit, braced his hands against Remy’s shoulders. Remy went faster now, breathed through his nose. Wanted Logan to come this way, apparently. Logan pushed the kid off of him and sat up completely.

“What’s wrong?” Remy asked, leaning back on his haunches. “Don’t you want to—”

“Here,” Logan whispered. He motioned to him, held out his arms.

“Wait,” Remy said. He stood and looked down at himself, the firelight flickering over his thin form. He pushed his shoes off one after the other. Untucked his shirt. Started to undo his buttons, very quickly now.

“It’s too cold for that,” Logan said.

“With the fire it’s not so bad.” But he left his shirt on and then joined Logan. Pressed the length of his body against Logan’s so that there was no empty space between them.

Logan opened Remy’s pants, slid them down to his knees. Remy helped him, taking them the rest of the way off. His legs were pale, less hairy than Logan’s but still muscled, still strong. The fact that he was still wearing his socks made him look almost vulnerable. The kid exhaled through his nose and hooked one leg around Logan’s waist, pressing his own erection against Logan’s lower abdomen, his hand reaching for it, fingers pushing. Logan placed two fingers at Remy’s entrance, eased them inside, stretching him a little.

“You don’t have to do . . . that,” Remy said quietly, shaking his head against the ground. “It’s okay.” Raised his head, looked at Logan’s cock still damp with saliva. Then lay back down and closed his eyes.

Logan rocked against Remy a few times before grooving into him. Settled there, trying to gauge how far he could go. (Was he nervous?) He tried to be slow—gentle maybe—but Remy clenched down, urged him on. Took his hand from his cock and circled it around Logan’s back, gripped his ass and pushed against him. Logan didn’t think anymore. He rolled his hips. Came without even realizing it, shuddered, and arched his back, hips still thrusting. Groaned. (The first noise either of them had made.) Curled his fingers in Remy’s hair and pressed his other hand against his collarbone. Hard.

(So, fucking a man was apparently another thing he remembered. It was infuriating, that his body remembered when his mind did not.)

The kid still hadn’t come. Logan pulled out of him and then worked on him. First with his hand, then his mouth, then both, fingers skimming his length. Remy thrust against him, dug his heels into Logan’s back, pressed his hand against the back of Logan’s neck. Convulsed once and then came all over Logan’s shirt. He didn’t make any noise other than a soft gasp.

Logan sat back and pulled away, zipped up his pants, nudged the firewood with one boot. Glanced down at Remy’s come and pulled at his shirt. Remy rolled over and stood and reached for his pants. Dusted the sand and dirt off his legs, his ass. Got dressed. Put his shoes back on. Went over and sat down again, leaned back against the rock.

They talked.

“Do you have kids?” Logan asked.

“No.” Remy pulled his jacket tighter around him, tucked one knee to his chest and stretched the other one out in front of him. “None that I’m aware of.” He was trying not to smile.

“You go to school?”

“I’ve never been to school.”

“What do you do with yourself then?”

“I freelance. I’m a freelancer.”

“Freelance in what?”

“Art.”

Logan crossed his arms against his chest and watched the fire flicker. It was going to go out.

“I was married,” Remy volunteered. He stared into the fire, his gaze steady. “Now I’m divorced.”

“Really,” Logan said.

“It just didn’t work out.”

“Why not?” Logan was surprised that he asked this question.

Remy lay on his side, traced circles in the sand. Then he started to talk. He laid out short staccato sentences, one after another, like he was counting cards. In between things he took a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a lighter from his shirt pocket. Offered the pack to Logan.

Logan refused.

Remy continued his story—if you could call it a story. It was disjointed. More associative than linear. Digressive. This happened, then this. But not because of this, but this, which reminded me of this. That kind of thing. Logan had a hard time following. There were gaps, breaks. Silences. Then Remy was describing a tunnel in Central Park, a pair of legs that stood in the light. Then he stopped talking and seemed uninterested in finishing. Seemed tired.

He did not look at Logan. He stubbed his cigarette out in the sand and rolled onto his back, one leg bent at the knee, the other out straight.

The fire had almost gone out.

Logan rose. “Well.” He stood over Remy, reached down and pulled him to his feet. Wrapped an arm around his waist.

In the house they pushed the blankets together and lay side by side. But they didn’t have sex again. Remy laced his fingers through Logan’s and laid his head on his chest, and Logan stroked his hair. And his hair was soft, like a woman’s, and Logan thought. And it was then that the panic started to set in, that he began to wonder if it would always be like this.

 

*

 

He awoke from a dream to find himself alone amid the blankets. It was still dark and he felt for his things.

He rolled over onto his stomach and waited for his eyes to adjust. Being alone uncomplicated things, but it also pissed him off. He could still smell Remy on his fingers.

Then he heard it: the slight scuffle, the sound of someone moving, slicing through the air. He heard it coming from outside, stumbled to his feet to look out the window.

Remy’s car was still parked in the driveway. In the yard, he was practicing something. Not a fight but a dance. After each round, he stood there and breathed. Rolled his shoulders.

The dream was about a war. Logan wanted to shake it off, but he knew he should try to hold onto it instead. He went back to bed and hoped to dream again.

*

When he awoke again it was later and it was light outside, but the house was still empty. He could feel it stewing in its stillness. He got up and checked for Remy’s car. It was still there.

He dressed himself and left the house. Walked down to the beach. The day was warmer than the previous day had been, but it was still damp and cool. He found a shower near the boardwalk, stepped inside. Sure enough, someone had left an old bar of soap inside. Logan took his clothes off. The water was cold. He washed quickly.

He went to the town and took his last ten dollars to a convenience store. Bought a copy of the Times, a state map, a bar of soap, some packets of lube, a box of cigarettes, and a small bottle of detergent.

When he got back to the house, Remy still wasn’t there. He caught himself frowning, but was comforted by fact that the kid had left his staff on the porch. He was coming back. He tore open a new pack of cigarettes and took off his shirt and got out the laundry detergent. It needed to be washed. He’d been wearing it for days, and Remy had come on it besides. They had no hot water, but anything was better than nothing. He filled up the sink.

Remy walked in when Logan was wringing out his shirt. His mouth twitched at the sight.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Getting money. Buying things.” Remy set a bag on the table and opened it. “Did you one better, ami. For you.” He tossed Logan a turtleneck with an Atlantic City insignia.

Logan caught the shirt. Slipped it over his head. It still had the tags. He reached up and plucked them off. “I had a dream. I was in a war.”

Remy took a package of red vines out of the bag and opened it. “’Nam.” He offered the licorice to Logan.

He knew what Vietnam was, but it was like a story he’d been told or a film he’d seen. He had an image in his mind, a map. A country with a long, skinny neck. It was . . . a jungle?

“Have a cousin who dreams about the VC.” Remy tore a piece of licorice and ate it. “Vivid-like.”

“I got the sense this was . . . different.” Logan draped his shirt along the sink. A flash in his mind, a machine gun. Not a jungle. “Earlier.”

Remy stopped chewing. “How much earlier?”

Logan shook his head.

Remy was quiet.

“What?” Logan said.

Remy came over to the other side of the sink. Stood next to Logan. Leaned his back against the counter. “Some things about you . . . make me think.”

“Think what?”

“Things.”

Logan gathered himself. This kid was not going to screw with him. Not now, not with that weird, elliptical speech of his.

“Some mutants . . . age slow,” Remy continued. “Some’s older than they look. Much older. Heal up from things fast, don’t get sick or drunk.” He gave Logan a quick glance. “Don’t know anything about you, really. Just that when I found you, you had a head wound that closed up pretty quick and didn’t leave a scar. You fight good, too. Then again, so do I, so I don’t know if that really—”

Logan surged forward. Grabbed Remy’s arm and pushed him into the wall. His head hit with a slight thump. Logan held him there, his hand pressed against his arm. “What the hell do you know? What the hell aren’t you telling me?”

Remy looked both frightened and sympathetic. His brow tightened—as if deciding. Deciding how to react. “Logan, Logan.” He spoke quietly, soothingly. “I don’t—I don’t know.”

Logan took his hand away.

“Anymore than you,” Remy concluded. He reached over and touched Logan, took his hand. Ran his thumb along his knuckles. “You probably know more than you think you do.”

That afternoon, Logan was rough with him. He felt he’d earned the right by that point, even if he hadn’t. He fucked Remy on an old mattress on a sun porch upstairs, warm and musty. Remy lay on his stomach. He pressed his fingers into the mattress. His left foot twitched and tapped when he came—a weird tick, Logan thought.

Remy didn’t say anything as he put his clothes back on, as he slipped into his shirt and pulled his pants up, sighing softly when he did the zipper and fastened the button.

*

The air in the house grew stale—staler than it had been when they’d first gotten there, if that was possible. Logan knew that this, whatever it was, if anything, was ending. Had ended.

“I’m thinking . . . west,” he told Remy. He sat at the table. His thumb traced the letters grooved into his dog tags.

Remy dropped into a chair across from him.

“You don’t seem surprised.”

“Something about you feels west,” Remy said. “And that guy you showed up with, more so.”

Logan had already asked Remy to describe the man, and he had, but Logan recalled nothing.

“When do you want to go?” Remy said.

Logan tucked his dog tags back into his shirt. “Don’t take this the wrong way.”

Remy nodded and glanced down. Got up from the table and turned away and went into the other room. But then he came back. He came back holding a pen and a pad of paper.

“Gonna give you a way to get in touch with me,” he said, writing something. “If you’re so inclined.”

“Your address?”

Remy looked up. “Of a diner. Owner’s a friend. Holds my mail for me.”

Logan sensed that the kid didn’t have a real address, that he skimmed. Squatted. Moved around a lot. Didn’t like to be found. Liked to do the finding. All at once, Logan ached.

“You need me, send a letter to this address. You want to find me, roll up here and ask.” He tore off the piece of paper, folded it in half and handed it to Logan.

*

 Remy insisted that Logan take his car. “Don’t worry, tags are clean. Made sure of that.”

Logan glanced down at the Ford Pinto. It hadn’t occurred to him that the car was stolen. “What about you?”

“You can drive me to the train station.”

At the train station, Logan parked the car illegally. He took the keys from the ignition.

“You don’t have to,” Remy said. “You don’t have to get out.” He shuffled out of his jacket and handed it to Logan. “Here. That’s yours.”

Logan took the jacket. “Don’t you need it?”

“Not where I’m going.” He flashed a smile.

Seconds later, they stood on the sidewalk together in front of the train station. “I wish you’d stayed in the car,” Remy said. He looked at his surroundings, eyes rolling with humor and distaste. “Hate this kind of thing.” He caught Logan’s eyes. “Like I said, thanks.”

“For what?”

“Just—” He avoided Logan’s eyes. Reached over and adjusted Logan’s collar. “I sleep a lot better now. I mean, there’s the other shit that keeps me running. But you took care of half the problem.” He pressed his hand against Logan’s shoulder.

And before Logan had a chance to . . . do something (had he really thought that he was going to make some grand gesture, mark the moment in some way?) Remy slipped away from him, went through the revolving doors of the train station and got lost among the people.