Chapter 1: K. (Nattie and Noon)
Will remembered when he first noticed that Nattie liked him back. They were sitting down in a restaurant, waiting for the check. See, going out to dinner together wasn’t strictly against the rules. They could eat together, hang out. Everyone from the band had their own best friends. Well, not like this. Will could be pretty sure that none of the others had made love that day, no strings attached.
That was just how they worked. It was an agreement. They were just friends, relieving tension, letting off steam, looking for someone to keep them warm some nights. Besides, what happens on tour…right? That was what they told each other (and themselves), anyway. But Will could tell that something had changed how Nate looked at him then.
There was something warm in his-suggestions flew through his head-lover-partner-colleague-friends eyes, something fond, something that looked a hell of a lot like love, and that was a dangerous game to be playing, especially considering his own heart was beating at a 100 mph as it was. No need to encourage the misguided thing.
This is not something he should be doing. He should get up and walk away now. But he wants it, so badly, and he’s so close to almost, maybe, having it. He knows he should tell that part of his brain to shut up, but how can he when Nate’s looking at him that way? He’ll tell himself he’s pathetic later.
And on the Lower East Side, he’s dancing with him now. So, they’d bitten the bullet and tried this dating thing. Literally spinning circles together, Nate’s head on his chest. Nate wonders aloud why they just had to break the rules. Ok, bend. But they were slinkies now, not the tightly-pulled wires they were walking before. Easily knotted, but hard to untangle.
And Will’s taking pictures of him with flowers on the wall. He steps back, pretends he isn’t thinking and overthinking about everything that’s at stake because of this, pulls out his camera (what can he say? He’s old fashioned) and snaps a picture of Nate, looking beautiful and smiling. He thinks the ugly floral wallpaper behind him detracts too much attention.
Thinks he likes him best when he’s dressed in black from head to toe. There’s nothing quite like the sight of Nate, coming off-stage still high on it after a show, drenched in sweat, still wearing his pleather jacket, the same black jeans and shoes that he’d wear most of the time. There’s something about it that’s familiar, comforting, home.
Thinks he likes him best when he’s just with him and no-one else. They weren’t exclusive, by design, but the jealousy ate Will from the inside, anyway. Maybe he was kind of an asshole about it until Nate got fed up, told him where he could go. That fight was just them. It never meant anything. It never lasted long. Not until she came along.
And he’s kissing him, lying in their room. They’re in Paris, and he’s holding Nate until he falls asleep. He waited months for this to even happen, then it didn’t. Then he waited for Nate’s girlfriend-fiancée-his brain unhelpfully supplies-to be out of the picture, and it finally did. Him, them, together. Will thinks it’s just as good as he knew it would be.
Stay with me, I don’t want you to leave. Except Nate will, he’s sure of it. There’s a new she these days. Will thinks, with the way Nate looks at her, now, that she’s the one. The one he’s finally going to say he loves more than him. And then he’s going to call it quits and leave. He’s pleasantly surprised when it takes longer than he thinks.
‘I don’t think we should do this anymore.’ He’s going to text? ‘Oh.’
‘Yeah, I love you, it’s just…’ He’s too kind to say it straight. Will’s grateful for that as he says it for his partn-ex. That’s what Nate is now. ‘You love her more.’ Nate goes to type ‘Yeah’, but Will beats him to it, saves him the trouble. There’s nothing more to say. ‘K.’
Will’s glad that he’s the drummer as he grits his teeth through ‘Sight of the Sun’. He never wants to sing any line of a song that’s begging someone who’s thrown him away to come back. He nearly texts Nate that night when they don’t share the same room. ‘I’ve been waiting for you’ He deletes the draft, knowing Nate’s not going to slip back in his bed.
Chapter 2: Affection (Rachel and Nate)
Nate knows that Rachel says he gets mean when he’s drinking. It’s never stopped him before, and it won’t now. He tips the bottle back, again and again, getting for more gone than he ought to when he’s yet to stumble home and crawl into bed with her. But sometimes he gets really sweet, he’ll argue. That’s all they’ve done since he got here.
‘Then what does it mean when you tell me to go fuck myself? Or when you say I’m beautiful ‘to you’?’ There’s a million things he wants to say, to explain, to tell her that she’s gorgeous, and he loves her, and that he’s an asshole when he drinks, sure, but he never means any of it. He doesn’t.
Sometimes they talk, all night long and don’t shut up. They’ll sit, talking in circles and never quite getting anywhere. He’s always said that he’d like to think the symmetry will keep her close to him. It’s worked for them so far. When it’s late, they both still say they’re wide awake, so… maybe it will be okay.
Sometimes they talk about how she’ll come out to visit him. She rarely does. He always has to go to her. Her work is too important, she says, I can’t just up and leave. He tells her not to worry, he’ll see her when he’s already planned to come up, in the fall. She says ok, but he’s not, so he puts it to her, straight.
He tells her he doesn’t understand how a job in fashion is any more important than his job, pouring his heart out to a microphone stand. They’re both pretty meaningless in the scheme of things. He wonders when exactly he became so apathetic, if the alcohol numbs him or makes him feel better. ‘It’s my heart and soul.’ Once, he’d have agreed.
‘I’m coming,’ she says, once. ‘We’ll get a car and drive upstate. Something other than relieving your glory days.’ It’s a cut to his ego, and she knows it. Sometimes, the old places in Phoenix are the only places he feels like himself. He wonders why he doesn’t feel like him with her. He thinks he doesn’t want to look that hard at anything.
I think of you, I want you too, I’d fall for you… isn’t that the kind of thing he used to sing for her, when he wasn’t too busy crying over past loves of his instead? He thinks he needs to appreciate what he’s got. So he sends her gifts. He flies up early to surprise her, takes her on a lunch date in the middle of her work day. She laughs and smiles-happy.
She sends him home for smothering her. It’s been a week of each and every romantic gesture from every one of those shitty romance movies she used to try to make him watch…he hopes she’ll chase him through the airport, but 9/11 kind of ruined that with the ‘buy a ticket and go through 6 layers of security’ thing. At any rate, she doesn’t come.
So he writes her a song. A love song, his heart poured out on the paper. It’s affection, always. You’re gonna see it someday. He records it on a cassette with Sam’s help, and fills the rest with songs both he and Rachel love. It’s the perfect romantic gesture. She sends it back. He calls her. No answer. A week later she’ll talk to him.
‘I love you, but you’re smothering me and I can’t do this anymore.’ My attention for you, even if it’s not what you need. He writes her another song, records it on a cassette with the guys. She sends it back not having been opened. He plans to put it on his next album and cries his heart out to it every night. It doesn’t take long until he’s over the song.
Chapter 3: John Wayne (Nate and Sam)
Sam’s got so much love for him, but he doesn’t know what to do. He’s sitting in the car, waiting outside of school. It’s September, the first day back. He’d graduated last year, but Nate was only a junior. Sam finished early at work so he could come pick him up. His face lit up realizing he didn’t have to take the bus. Sam changed his hours after that, knowing Nate would be sixteen soon and would be able to drive himself.
He’s in for a heart break if it’s all been blind faith. It’s December now. He’s been driving Nate home for months. Sometimes they stop by the mall. Go see a movie or get a bite to eat. Troll the record store. They’ve spent way too much in quarters down at the old arcade, but they’re regulars now and are known by name. He doesn’t expect it when Nate tells him he’s seeing someone on Friday. A girl from his Spanish class.
‘Oh, so that’s why you’re failing,’ Sam says, hip-checking Nate to throw him off his game. Nate loses, and Sam smiles as he racks up his tenth victory today. ‘Si.’ Sam shakes his head. Nate asks where to take her as they switch to a shooter game. He suggests the mall. ‘That’s not a date. That’s us, hanging out.’ He shoots Nate dead. ‘Damn, that’s my last quarter.’ Nate pulls out a fiver and heads toward the change machine.
Sam puts a hand on his shoulder. ‘Sorry, man, I gotta go.’ Nate follows him to the car. Sam’s chest hurts when Nate spends the whole ride talking about this chick. What about him? Has he not been right there for years? Call him stupid but he always thought the way Nate was with him was special. The way he looked at him. Now he’s thinking he should have seen it coming. From any point of view.
Sam’s got so much in his heart but he doesn’t know what to do. Sure, it’s the 1990’s and people are basically over the ‘gays all get AIDS’ thing; and sure, he’s not totally gay. There’ve been girls. There’ve been lots of girls. What’s the other label…Bi? Isn’t that the one for gay people who pretend they’re straight or something? Whatever. The point is, he likes Nate. But both of them are dudes, and this is goddamn Arizona.
All he wants is Nate, lying inside his room. That’s not so much to ask. He knows Nate’s not exactly a virgin, himself. So it wouldn’t be that big a deal if Sam asked him to fool around, right? Right. Nate would be more likely to punch him in the face and then tell everyone he’s a fag. Sure, the whole punk scene is about being alternative. But he’s not sure if that ‘screw the world’ mentality extended to boys who like boys.
He’s always feeling cheated. That’s the best way to describe the feeling he gets when Nate goes out with her. Or any other girl he gets because he’s in a band. He feels like Nate’s cheating on him. Which, obviously he isn’t, because obviously, Nate and Sam aren’t together. He’d always thought there was an unspoken agreement between the two them that said ‘I’m yours and you’re mine.’ Apparently not, according to Nate.
Telling all his secrets, that Nate couldn’t keep. It’s not like Nate went out and told everyone on the scene about Sam’s pathetic little crush on him. But he wrote about it and changed the pronouns so that everyone would think it was Nate, crying over some girl. They were good songs, but it killed Sam to hear Nate singing about his secrets like they were just another line. He wished Nate had never found out.
He’s got to be crazy. Hanging with Nate all the time, staying late after practice to listen to him talk-not drone on, anymore-about his latest conquest. He’s living like he’s John Wayne or something. Facing the world, and chasing the boy who’ll never want him. Yeah, he thinks, when his heart gets broken again and again with each of Nate’s new girlfriends. He’s got to be crazy.