Phantom Limb

Chapter 10

Story by Ray




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I didn’t see Drake the next day. I paid attention to every face I passed while I was out running errands, in hopes that one of them would turn out to be his. None did. I saw many vaguely familiar faces, and a handful that were new, but I never saw the one face that was even more familiar to me than my own. If I was going to see him again, it would be on his terms.

When I returned home for the day, Adam was there to greet me with a kiss. Normally I would have enjoyed it. That time I almost slapped him. But I did my best not to show it; I kissed him back, and I tried to make it seem real. For once, deceit wasn’t just a hobby. This time, if he caught on that something was going on, there were stakes. I could lose him. I could lose Drake, too. More than likely I would lose them both, and if that happened, it was back to that fucking coldness. So I guess I did feel something when I kissed Adam back, but it sure as hell wasn’t fondness; it was determination. I could make things work. I had to make things work.

After the kiss was done with, I noticed something. With a small laugh, I asked, “What the hell kind of music are you playing?”

“What, you got somethin’ against swing?” Adam asked, swaying over to the living room. Moving to the beat, he beckoned me closer.

I smiled, but crossed my arms. “Not a chance, Casanova.”

“Come on, we’ve never danced,” he said, committing even more to his moves as the song picked up. He had that goofy grin on his face. I would’ve thought he was mocking me, if the rest of his swinging body didn’t attest to how genuine his intentions were. “When’s the last time you heard of a love story where they never danced?”

“We’ve never danced for a very good reason,” I insisted. “I don’t know—”

Sure you do!” he said, working his way back to me without losing the beat for a second. I’d seen him dance at parties, but he never looked as committed to the idea as he did that night. It had me a little worried. Did he know?

But when he took my hand and pulled me to the living room, the thought left my mind and I followed along, rolling my eyes as we went.

“Can’t we just have sex like we usually do?” I complained as he walked me in circles. I hated to admit it, but I did feel the rhythm. I wouldn’t have felt it on my own, but he moved me to the music, and I’d begun to step in time with him. It was clumsy, and I acted like it was incidental, but to tell the truth—I liked it.

Wrapping a hand around my waist, he said, “Why ruin such a good mood with something so routine? Let’s mix things up!”

With that he pulled me closer, forcing me to keep up. He was leading, although a better word might be carrying.

“There, that’s it!” Adam said, still grinning. Without warning he spun me around, and that brief dizzy moment finally rearranged my mood.

Cracking my own goofy smile, I asked, “What is up with you tonight?”

He didn’t answer. Instead, he just reached for the radio and turned up the volume. His dismissal made me nervous, but as the night went on, I couldn’t have cared less why he was so keen on dancing; I was just glad to be a part of it. Every worry melted away with the rhythm, and even if I sucked, getting lost in the music was just plain entertaining.

By the time a slower song came on, I’m not sure if what we did could be called dancing. We didn’t step, we didn’t swing, and we hardly moved. We just stood there, wrapped around each other and swaying back and forth, simply existing in Foxboro Paradise. And maybe it really was paradise, at least for that moment. Maybe, if that moment had never ended, poisoning paradise wouldn’t have been so tempting. But for every wonderful moment Adam and I shared, breathtaking as some of them had been, he just couldn’t compare to the one who had held my heart for as long as I could remember. The only thing that could have made that night with Adam better is if I had shared it with someone else.

The next day, I couldn’t find a moment away from Adam—he followed me from room to room. Sometimes he would offer an excuse. In the kitchen, he just wanted to get a snack. In the living room, he wanted to watch TV. But as he ate, and while the TV was on, he never paid much attention to what he did. If I looked his way then he would act normal, but from the corner of my eye, I always saw that he was much more focused on something else: me. It was driving me crazy by the afternoon, and when he followed me from the bedroom to the living room for the third time, I outright asked him about it.

In response, he said, “Guess I’m not so subtle then?”

“Have you ever been?”

“Yeah, fair enough. It’s just that I’m going back to school in a couple of days, and I’m really going to miss you. So if I’m being a little too overbearing then I’m sorry, but that’s the reason why. I love you, you know that?”

“Sure, you tell me every day. I’m going to miss you too, but hey, it’s not like we’ll never see each other again.”

“But it’s not the same, and you know that,” he said, taking my hand in his. Squeezing tight, he explained, “I like being here with you in every sense possible: mentally, romantically, and physically. And If I can’t have all of it then I’ll take what I can get, but at some point, they all build on each other. And I’m worried that if I leave for another few months, it’s all going to come crumbling down.”

I didn’t even know how to lie to him at that point. For one thing, I wasn’t sure what kind of lie I could tell. If I said everything would always be great between us, then it would only make ending things that much more impossible. If I said that things between us had never been great, then I’d be doing him a disservice; Adam was still incredible, even if there was someone I would rather be with. Someone I couldn’t stop myself from being with. And even if there was a lie, I wouldn’t want to tell it to him.

I hugged him. I told him I loved him, and maybe I meant it. We spent the rest of the day together, as well as the rest of the days until he left. In hindsight, I’m glad we did. I never realized I would miss him someday. But as glad as I was to spend time with him, I was also glad to have him leave: it meant that Drake could come back, like he’d said he would.

A few hours after Adam left, there was a knock at the door. And sure enough, there was Drake on the other side. The door hadn’t even closed by the time we were embracing. His grip felt so familiar, so comforting. So warm. I wanted to kiss him, but when I tried, he pulled away.

“Not right now. I don’t know how deep things are between you and Adam, but if you have any feelings for him at all, I want you to think about this. He could offer you a whole lot more, I’m sure.”

“He could,” I nodded, still clinging to Drake. “He could offer me a relationship that I don’t have to hide from the world, and he could offer me plenty of good times with the parties he goes to, and he could offer me more affection than I could ever ask for.”

“Then I guess I’ll start with a simple question—why, Mister Maxwell, are you groping me?”

“Because, I don’t want any of those things,” I said, nuzzling against his chest. “I don’t care if I have to hide something from the world, because I’m used to doing that anyways, and I don’t need their approval to be happy. I don’t care about the parties, because at the core I’m boring as fuck, and I can’t say I’ve ever found enjoyment in being around a bunch of strangers.”

“And the affection?”

“I don’t hate it,” I admitted with a shrug. “But all the affection in the world can’t replace the one thing Adam could never give me.”

“And what might that be?”

“You,” I said, wrapping his arms around me. “It’s you. It’s always been you.”

“Then how do you want to make this work?” he asked.

“First, we are going to snuggle on that couch, and I hope you enjoy it because that step is not optional. Then you’re going to tell me all about what you’ve been up to for the last few years: all about it.”

“And then?” he asked, following me across the living room.

“We’re a couple of smart guys. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”

Steps one and two went off without a hitch. I laid on his chest, feeling his voice as he told me about his new life. The one he’d made for himself from scratch. It sounded peaceful. Not much happened in Bellpond, Nevada.

“I’m sold,” I finally told him. “I break up with Adam, we move to Bellpond, and everybody lives happily ever after. How’s that?”

“Not bad. But it could be better.”

“Why, what would you rather do?”

Some say there’s no such thing as a happy ending. And, to a point, I suppose they’re right. I would just add to the notion by saying there’s no such thing as an ending at all.

And as I stand in the streets of San Samarra, holding hands with the man I love, things are far from over. Maybe the law will never find Drake here. Maybe he’ll even maintain that newfound inner peace of his. But there’s always that chance. The chance that things might resurface. That he’ll make mistakes. That one day he’ll wake up to find that he’s not the knight he always tried to be, but instead, the monster he always fought against. He already has the name for it. And me—I can never escape. Not from some things.

On the morning Iris called to say that Adam had died from cardiac arrest, a part of me died too. I never wanted to hurt him like that.

Among all of my regrets in life, the way I treated Adam over the years easily tops the list, and that list will follow me wherever I go. My life has been one cold fucking blizzard, and as a lying lawyer in the most awful city on earth, with a killer holding my hand as we stand in a pride rally, nestled in the midst of thousands of churchgoers, I’m well aware that the coldness is far from letting up. I welcome it.

Bring on the cold.


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