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Day Eleven: The Silent Treatment

Leo winced as the sunlight hit his eyes and he flung up his arm. He had told Marc to keep the curtains closed. It was summer. It was six A.M. On a Saturday. He looked over at the other bed in the room and groaned. The sheets were on the floor, and the pillow had been balled up at the foot of the bed, which was empty. He was already awake, somehow.

The bastard.

He groaned as he sat up and he rubbed his face. Six A.M. If his memory was clear – and there was no guarantee of this – he’d gotten about two hours of sleep, at least once he managed to block out the snores. He stood on wobbly feet, picked up his robe from the floor and tugged it on as he shuffled through the dirty laundry, used towels and general detritus that his roommate had left behind.

Three months, that’s how long that bastard had been there. Three months. Leo had needed a roommate when Wayne left for California, and this was the best he could find. A sullen, uncooperative slob who had been, as near as Leo could tell, out of work for more than a year, but still somehow managed to pay the rent. At least he had so far. The future, as they say, was uncertain.

The kitchen was a graveyard of cereal bowls and pizza boxes. When Leo had tried to throw them away, Marc threw a fit, saying he was saving them for “a project.” Some bizarre thing he found online that he was going to get around to once he had enough large pie boxes stacked up. In the meantime, the cockroach population had been throwing a big old party in the kitchen and Leo was afraid to walk anywhere in his bare feet.

Leo could hear the TV in the other room. He listened for a moment and groaned loudly enough to be heard in the other room. The shopping channel. What else? He made a derisive scoffing noise, the one his mother always used to make when she saw him reading comic books as a kid. A moment later, the TV became a little bit louder.

There was no clean place in that kitchen. A lump of dried, rock-hard oatmeal was stuck to the fridge, cementing the note that Leo had left asking Marc to, “do a little cleaning sometime, you know, when you get around to it.” Leo tried to take the note down, but only got a corner. The rest was there for good. He pulled open the fridge. Inside there was nothing but a selection of ten half-used bottles of chili sauce, an open jar of mayonnaise, and the same tupperware dinner that Marc had brought with him the night he moved in. Leo let the door slam closed.

He turned on the faucet and started emptying the sink in search of a coffee cup. Bowls with soup still in them, dried-up remnants of spaghetti encased in gelled instant tomato sauce, a mug with a quarter inch of slowly solidifying orange juice. The soup can full of soggy cigarette butts and broken toothpicks. Forks caked with egg yolk and half a can of tuna dripping into the drain.

No mugs.

Fine. If that’s how it had to be, he’d go to the SmackyBurger around the corner. Their coffee was crap, overpriced and ate through the lining of his stomach, but it was still better than breaking down and washing one of Marc’s dishes. He went back to his room and rooted through the closet until he found the most reasonably clean pair of jeans he owned and tugged them on. He thought about changing his shirt, but what the hell – SmackyBurger.

He grabbed his wallet and keys and headed for the front door, which was through the living room. From behind the sofa, all he could see was the TV – a bottle-blonde woman was showing off some kind of fake diamond bracelet for only three easy payments of $19.95 – and a pair of feet, with immaculately trimmed toenails, jutting out past one of the armrests. Leo stood there for a moment, watching Marc (at least his feet) and watching the TV. He cleared his throat.

A hand emerged from the sofa with a remote and turned up the volume.

Leo strode to the door, went outside and slammed it behind him. He didn’t lock it. Maybe if he was lucky a crazed psychopath would break in and kill Marc while Leo got coffee.

Fifteen minutes later, and Leo’s hopes were once again dashed. The door was still unlocked, and Marc was no longer on the sofa, but Leo knew he was still there. He just knew it. The TV was still on, blaring something about 24-karat gold-plated electrum medical alert bracelets. The smell of fresh cigarette smoke hung in the air, and he could hear the shower running, accompanied by off-key singing.

Leo took his coffee into the kitchen. Casually, without making a big production of it, he reached over to the faucet, delicately took the hot water knob, and gave it a sharp turn. A moment later, the singing was cut off by a howl that came from the shower. It was all the triumph he needed.

Marc exploded out of the bathroom, soaking wet with shampoo still in his hair, and Leo thought – not for the first time – that it would be better if Marc were ugly. It would be so much more fitting if Marc were ugly. Really ugly. With chest zits and an unshavable face, maybe a unibrow and hair that stayed greasy no matter what you did to it. A chest that sagged like a deflated balloon and a beer belly that defied gravity, all covered with enough hair to make a Wookie proud.

But no. Marc had to be gorgeous. Leo had never wanted to sleep with another man; he had thought about it, sure, especially when the captain of his high school swim team came out after they won Regionals and had suggested that if Marc was interested in being the captain next year then he might want to be a little more open-minded. But he could understand why some men might, at least after looking at Marc. The man looked like underwear models aspired to look. He had chiseled features that even looked good when he was furious – like now – and had the kind of smooth, hairless, muscular body that would have made Renaissance sculptors murder each other. Even wet and disheveled and furious, Mark exuded a kind of otherworldly beauty that marked him out as different from ordinary people like Leo. It was the perfection of the human form that would no doubt one day provide Marc with a future of luxury and decadence.

He probably does porn, Leo thought. Gay porn. Lots of it.

The bastard.

Marc glared at him, which was hard to do with shampoo running into his eyes. He stood in the doorway for a moment, then went back to the shower and slammed the door. The water started up again.

Leo waited for a count of thirty and then turned the cold water knob. This time there was no shout – more like the sound of someone clenching their jaw and trying not to shout. He chuckled to himself and sipped the coffee. It tasted like it had been recycled from last night’s leavings, but it was better than nothing.

He went out into the living room and changed the channel from shopping to history. Marc hated this history channel. Probably because he could learn something, Leo thought. Today was their all-Hitler all the time program. Good enough.

Leo looked around the chaotic mess that was their living room – the unfinished projects, the dirty dishes, posters of optical illusions hung on the wall with tape that was constantly unsticking itself. Empty tissue boxes and wads. The place smelled like old feet and old underwear, and somehow Leo could see the smell hanging in the air. The place had never looked like that before, Leo was sure.

Saturday morning, he thought. He studied the room.

What to do, what to do….?

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