I hadn’t slept much since Oakland, no matter what I tried. There were some nights I woke up after a few hours sleep and couldn’t even remember which city we were in, let alone the date or exactly where I was. I never was much good at sleeping when Georgia wasn’t there, and not even her voice inside my head could make enough difference for me to forget she was gone.
I took to wandering the corridors of Dr Abbey’s lab at night. The few lab technicians who were still around kept to a largely regular schedule, which means I wasn’t disturbing anyone else. There were only so many places I could walk before I ended up back where I’d started though.
Instead of the darkness I was used to in the living quarters, there was a faint light coming from beneath one of the doors. It was the room Mahir was using, and I drifted towards it, just to check there was nothing obviously wrong. You know, like he hadn’t spontaneously gone into amplification or anything.
I stood close enough to hear footsteps, pacing back and forward, reminiscent of my own nights of insomnia, and regular enough that I knew he was still him, so I knocked softly on the door. When it opened, Mahir was standing there, wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt, with his eyes bloodshot.
“I miss her,” he said, not waiting for a reason why I was there. “I miss her so damn much it hurts.” Neither of us was going to comment directly on the fact that he’d been crying, and for the sake of our mutual sanities, we both chose to pretend that he was talking about his wife.
“I know. It took me a long time to get used to sleeping alone again.” We also both pretended that Mahir wouldn’t understand what I was saying. I wasn’t ashamed of my relationship with George, it’s just that I never discussed it with anyone before, and I wasn’t planning to change that any time soon.
Mahir slumped down on the edge of the narrow cot with his head in his hands. “I just...”. His voice trailed off and his breath hitched. I understood that feeling, that helplessness, completely. I felt it every time I let myself think about what had happened.
So I made a decision.
I walked over to the cot and started to toe off my boots. Mahir looked up at me. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t ask,” I said, shaking my head. It was one the less sane ideas I’d had, but it was probably also one of the smartest. George would have been proud of me. I left my clothes on – I think that would have been a step too far for either of us – and squeezed past Mahir onto the cot.
“I just need some sleep,” I told him as I crawled under the thin blankets. “You do too. So come over here and we can promise to never talk about this again.”
Mahir laughed, slightly too high-pitched, but he followed my actions. He pulled the blanket over himself, turning onto his side with his back to me. I’d meant what I’d said – I didn’t have any dire need to discuss what was happening here – so I just reached over and switched off the small bedside lamp. In the dark, I could almost pretend that I was back home in Berkeley, with Georgia next to me.
I shuffled closer to Mahir, curling myself around his back, with my arm across his chest. He didn’t feel like George, or smell like her, and even his breathing sounded different, but that didn’t matter. He reached up and linked his fingers with mine, holding tight to someone we both knew I wasn’t.
“Goodnight, Mason,” he whispered in the dark. I didn’t want to break his spell by speaking out loud, so I just squeezed his fingers in reply and closed my eyes.
Goodnight Shaun, George whispered to me. Sleep well.