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I'm Not A Present For Your Friends To Open

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Elton is laying on his bed, wearing only a navy blue pair of briefs and a silk bathrobe. Everyone is gone, even the help. He is alone in this massive house, the rain hammering a steady beat against the window. In his haze, the staccato sound of the rain sounds like one of his tunes, maybe Daniel, it’s Your Song. He is already fucked up from the whiskey and pills he had with his dinner, but that’s no surprise because he’s always fucked up, truth be told. He won’t admit that to anyone, of course, but everybody knows anyways.

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no,” he mutters as he stumbles across his bedroom to the attached bathroom. His dinner has started churning in his stomach, burning, and he suddenly feels like if he doesn’t get it up and out right now, he will explode. He clutches at his stomach, feeling grotesque, feeling obscene with the sheer volume of what he has consumed. He can’t even remember all of it what it was, but it was too much, and now he is full and it must come up. He falls to his knees and stares briefly into the porcelain bowl in front of him before shoving his fingers down his throat.

The familiar, acrid taste of vomit floods his mouth as he retches into the toilet. This is a familiar scene, one he’s engaged in often for many years, and it doesn’t bother him as much anymore. It is simply a means to an end. He vomits until there is nothing left, dry heaving weakly into the bowl a few times to be sure that there’s nothing hanging around unseen. He collapses against the wall, breathing heavily, and fumbles around on the vanity for the prescription bottle. He pays no mind to what he’s got, just takes three more pills, concerned that he’s vomited the previous pills as well as the food. He allows himself to rest.

The tile on the bathroom floor feels cool on his bare legs, and he begins to feel more calm as the pills kick in. Time passes in waves, though he has no idea how much time. When he finally stands, the rain is still coming down in sheets, and he stumbles and peers at himself in the vanity mirror. As usual, he is unhappy with what he sees. His hair is thinning, patchy in places, and he looks old. His eyes have huge bags underneath them, and the years are beginning to show on his face. Moving south, he scans the rest of his body with similar dissatisfaction. His middle carries the same extra fifteen or twenty pounds that will never leave, and he despises it. He’ll never be the lean rockstar that everyone wanted him to be.

He stumbles from the bathroom and heads back into his room, pours himself a glass of gin and knocks it back. He then throws himself on the bed, the room beginning that familiar spin. He suddenly feels as if he is trapped, and he thinks he might vomit again. The calm feeling is gone, replaced by this wild urge to rip off his own skin. He curls up into a ball on his bed, tears flowing freely, unsure of where this has come from. The feeling is awful, but not entirely unfamiliar. Every so often his body feels like it isn’t his own, feels like he found someone’s skin laying on the ground and crawled into it. He wishes to crawl back out now, but there’s no way to. This is his body, his life, and it consumes him with a strange combination of rage and apathy.

He reaches into the bedside drawer and draws out the singular razor blade that he keeps there. It has spots of dried blood on it, his blood, and he rakes it across his wrists. The pain is terrific, and he knows he shouldn’t do it, but he can’t help himself. It is the only thing that wakes him up. He drags the blade across his skin until he has dripped blood over the sheets, and his hands are full of it. It is warm and sticky and there, and he is finally able to close his eyes. He falls asleep finally, his hands slick with his own blood, the sleep dull and dreamless.


”Reggie? REGGIE!”

Elton jerks awake at the sound of his former name being screamed into the void. The only problem is, it hasn’t been screamed into the void, it’s been screamed into his face, and by the look on Bernie’s face, that wasn’t the first time he’d said it.

“Bernie? What you doing here?” He mumbles, opening his eyes to the blinding sun and squinting. Bernie’s face appears in his line of vision, creased with worry and curiosity, and a faint hint of anger, if he’s not mistaken.

“I’ve been calling you for ages and you didn’t answer, so I had to come. Blimey, would you look at this mess…” Bernie says, looking around the cluttered bedroom. Liquor bottles, pill bottles, and remnants of food are strewn about, and he does the only thing he can think of in that instance: he begins to clean. He scoops up trash and tucks it into the bin, ignoring the moans and groans coming from the bed.

Everything is hitting him at once, and Elton feels like shit. He doesn’t know how long he’s been out, but he guesses just the evening, if this hangover is proof of anything. “I need a drink,” he mutters, reaching over to his bedside table and fumbling around. His hands close on a bottle of gin and he is ready to pry the cap off and take a long, relieving glug of it when Bernie wrenches it from his hand.

Hey!” he exclaims, wincing at the pain shooting through his head. “I need that.”

“You need nothing of the sort, what you need is a good, healthy breakfast-one you won’t yak up for once- and a bath because you smell,” Bernie mutters, holding the gin an arms length away.

“Come on, Bernie, don’t be like this,” Elton mutters, reaching his arm out for the bottle. That’s when Bernie sees it, the deep, jagged cuts that march like a ladder down Elton’s arm. Bernie tosses aside the bottle and grabs at his friend’s arm, shoving the sleeve of his robe up to reveal the marks in all their glory.

Elton doesn’t fight. He has nothing left in him to fight. And this is not, after all, the first time Bernie has found him like this. Not the first time by far.

“Reg,” Bernie says softly, his voice taking on the sad, warm cadence of a man who is both deeply sad and disappointed. “You can’t keep doing this. You’re going to get hurt.” He rises and heads to the bathroom, trying to mask his disgust at the state of things-Elton had unknowingly missed the toilet at least once the evening prior-and returns with some antiseptic, bandages, and a warm washcloth.

Bernie takes Elton’s wrist gently in his hand and faces it towards him. He begins to use the washcloth to sponge away the dried blood, and, briefly, Elton struggles and tries to twist his arm away.

“That hurts, Bernie,” he says angrily, but calms down and allows his friend to continue.

“Yeah, it hurts, mate, you took a bloody razor to yourself,” Bernie mutters as he finishes sponging off the wounds. He applies antiseptic, eliciting another groan from the peanut gallery, and then applies large bandages to the area.

When he is done, Elton’s arm is clean and bandaged, and the cuts are hidden from view. To look at him, you might think he’d been in an accident of some sort. He looks innocent, and pale, and very tired. Bernie’s heart is broken just looking at him.

“Reg, you know, I don’t like this. We’ve talked before and maybe you ought to get some help,” Bernie says, but stops when Elton holds his hand up.

“I’m fine, I have an arseload of shows coming up and--”

“I don’t care about the shows, I care about you.”

Elton stares at him incredulously. “You don’t care about the shows? It’s everything, Bern, it’s--”

“It won’t be anything if you don’t take care of yourself. You’re drinking like a fish and pounding down pills and God knows what else, you won’t stop making yourself puke and you’re hurting yourself. You’re going to die, mate, if you keep it up.”

Elton closes his eyes. Bernie knows that he won’t hear anymore of it, but he is tired of cleaning up these messes. He is tired of not hearing from his friend for days, weeks, and wondering if he’s walked off a building or slashed himself to pieces. It is hard, loving someone who is like this. It is harder than he had ever imagined, watching someone you love and care for self-destruct.

In the end, Bernie cleans up the rest of his room. He throws away the trash. He wipes the vomit from the floor. He removes some of the pills. He dumps out the booze, despite protests. He takes the razors with him.

He can get more, of all of it. Within in an hour, he can have another small arsenal of booze and drugs at his disposal, if he doesn’t have more stashed around the house already. There are other sharp things. There is more food for him to abuse himself with.

But he has done what he can do, small as it may be.

Elton watches him go as he lays in his bed, curled up with the blankets thrown over him, his body impossibly cold. His arm hurts. It is real.