The last stretch, here's the end! Eight pages goshdarnit!
"What the fuck are you doing here?"
I couldn't stop myself, the words just slipped out. I wondered desperately why I hadn't just stayed with Mimi, in Mimi's apartment, making love to Mimi, soaking up everything Mimi.
Not that we were making love.
Because every time we tried, every time I tried I thought of him.
Like I said, there he was, fucking me over.
I caught a whiff of Mimi as I anxiously whipped off my coat.
I grimaced. I smelled like Roger, minus the kinky sex and stale cigarettes.
"Good to see you too."
Roger's words snapped me back to reality. I instinctively prepared myself for anything that he would throw at me, lies, pleas for forgiveness, inanimate objects.
He had this look in his eyes…I hadn't seen it since before the drugs.
He looked so incredibly…alive.
It scared the hell out of me.
"What are you doing here?" I asked again.
He winced. "I know I've been gone a couple months-"
"Six months isn't a couple Roger. You were gone for half a year," I said darkly.
From where I was standing I could clearly see that he'd changed. His hair was clipped shorter than I'd ever seen it, a buzz cut. His flaccid arms had regained their former strength and then some. He looked almost…primal…like a jungle cat. And I was the prey, waiting to be pounced on.
"Are you going to sit down?" he asked, gesturing towards the table.
I did sit, warily though.
Close up I could see even more of him. His fingers which had always been calloused from playing the guitar were now pink soft tips without any prints on them. His nails were clipped short and I could see on his hand a kiss shaped scar.
"Who gave that to you?" I asked grabbing his hand with my own.
Roger winced again and pulled his hand away quickly. "No one," he said. "You know, shit happens."
"Where were you?" I tried asking a different question to see if I got anything.
"I was here."
"Here, in New York?"
How fucking ironic. So he hadn't really left after all. But that still didn't really answer my question.
"In that case, where the hell have you been?"
"That I can't tell you."
"You can't?" I was more than a little incredulous. "You've been gone for six months, left your girlfriend, your best friend, your home for six months and you can't say where the hell you've been sleeping?"
"Are you planning on staying?"
"Then why the fuck are you here?"
Roger took a deep breath. He tried to run his fingers through his hair before he remembered about it being cut off. I got a perverse sense of pleasure from that, seeing him missing something he couldn't get back. "What time is it?" he asked suddenly.
Was he serious? He was asking what time it was? "It's 7:43."
"Come with me!" Roger implored, grabbing my arm and dragging me out the door. "I'm going to show you where I was."
I was going to be sick. There was no doubt about it.
It's not that I'm squeamish…I'm not.
But seeing copious amounts of any bodily fluid had never been my thing.
Not that I had actually seen anything yet…but I could smell it.
I glanced at Roger. Obviously he wasn't sharing my disgust…he looked…excited.
He pulled open the door…
I don't know what I had been expecting…an all singing, all dancing musical…a book signing…a blood drive…
I didn't expect this.
I should've felt hideously overdressed in my shirt and jeans…all the guys were shirtless…and yet, I didn't. It was almost as if some sort of spell had been cast over me. I felt virile and strong…I felt like a man. I was surrounded by men I might not have known, but I felt like I had known them forever…and they were looking at Roger as if he were some sort of god…
As if he was their savior.
And in the dirty golden light with his tan skin glowing and his blonde hair shining…I wouldn't be inclined to disagree with them.
Roger opened his mouth and let out his sweet, ragged voice. As he spoke I began to understand why April had always described it as orgasm-inducing.
"Welcome to Fight Club."
The spell was wearing off now and I was more than glad. It scared me, how I'd felt when I first arrived…like I would've done anything for Roger. It was almost as if I didn't have control over myself.
But in this dark corner, I could see clearly what was going on here.
I had never expected Roger to be drawn into this type of pseudo-anarchy. In this place there was a feeling of lawlessness despite the list of rules Roger had read at the start and the ones he'd said casually to the select few. Only a few came to mind.
Do not talk about Fight Club.
Do not ask questions.
I wondered who this Tyler person was the whole crowd seemed to rave about. That is I wondered until he found me nestled away.
"Howdy Doody?" he asked when he saw me crouching in a corner. "Is that you?"
"What?" I asked, turning towards the voice. "Tyler?" I asked, immediately recognizing him from a Life Support meeting. "What are you doing here?"
He just grinned.
"You're not…wait, you are, aren't you? The Tyler everyone here talks about?"
"Sure. Close enough anyway. Wait, your name's coming to me…Mark, right?"
He reached into his front pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "Roger told me he might bring you tonight. So…" he glanced me up and down, taking in my clothes and unscathed appearance as he lit his cigarette. "You didn't fight."
"No," I said quickly. "Fighting really isn't my thing…the whole thing with blood…and bruises…and glasses. Brings back too many painful bully memories."
"You do know the rules right?" He took a long drag. "Rule Number 5, if it's your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight."
"Maybe next time," I insisted.
"This is going to be your last time," Tyler said confidently with one last suck on his cigarette. "I think we both know that." He stamped it out before leaving me alone with my thoughts.
He was right. When I had removed myself from the crowd and stepped out from under that cloud of awe and illusionment I had seen this place as it really was. A dirty, dank, disgusting place where men pounded each other just to reassure their sick masculinity. It wasn't something I was drawn to, not like Roger who had gone in headfirst.
When the crowd started to thin, Roger found me.
"What'd you think?" he asked excitedly, fumbling to fit his hands inside his pockets.
I didn't say anything at first. Didn't want to hurt his feelings. But I really didn't have a choice.
"I hated it."
He sort of looked like a little boy who had just been rejected. In a way, I guess he was. It was apparent that if I rejected Fight Club, I was rejecting him too. "Wha-"
"Really Rog, what did you expect me to say? That I loved it? That it gave me warm and cuddly feelings? You have HIV Roger, or did you forget about that? Did you ever think about how every time you get a bloody nose how you're infecting every guy there? What about that?"
His face remained unchanged. "They know the consequences, they choose to take the risks."
What the fuck? "You honestly believe that?" I turned away, unable to even look at him. "You're not the Roger I knew-"
"Yes I am Mark! This is who I've always been! I'm not some heartless bastard, I'm not, but I was never the guy you wanted me to be. I tried Mark, but I never was."
"So this is what you choose. Mimi, she was worried for you, you sick bastard. She fucking loves you, she waits for you, she wants you, and this is what your choice?"
This is why I hated talking to Roger, because once I started, I just couldn't stop.
"I love Mimi Mark, you know that but-"
"No Roger, there should be no buts. That should be it. You love her. But that isn't enough is it?"
"Answer me. It's not enough that she loves you, that she doesn't love m-" I covered myself, if a little slowly, "that she gave up everything for you. None of it's enough."
"No Roger, I can't do this. You need to make a decision. Mimi's not going to wait forever." I took a deep breath, not believing that this was happening. "And neither will I."
And for a moment, I thought he would give me the last word, that he would watch as I walked out the door. But he couldn't. Damn the fuckwit, he was always for leaving things on his own terms.
Damn me to hell, because I did. "What?"
He shifted back and forth and beneath his buzz cut and his muscles, I could see that scared little boy again. "Tell Mimi I love her. Don't tell her about this place. Tell her I love her, but I'm not good enough. Maybe you are, but I'm not."
I must've looked at him with surprise, because he answered my question before I even asked it.
"I'm not dumb Mark. I can smell her all over you."
"And I'm happy for you. You deserve that."
"She wants you," I said, voicing the fear I'd had all along.
"No she doesn't," Roger said, shaking his head. "She thinks she does, but she doesn't. She wants you. It's your job to show her how much."
I left after that and I can remember thinking that it was almost worth not having the last word, just to hear him say that.
I couldn't believe that had just happened.
"I can't fucking believe that just happened."
Tyler let out a low laugh from behind me. He'd finally put his shirt back on, though it was just a thin tank top. "No shit. I guess he doesn't lay down the law very often for you."
I didn't answer.
"I always thought you would be the guy in the relationship," he chuckled again before slapping my back.
"If we had been a couple, I suppose I'd've been the one wearing the pants," I mused.
"Sticking your tongue down someone's throat or fucking them into oblivion does not make two people a couple," Tyler said casually, doing a couple quick push-ups. "But two people don't have to do either of those things to be a couple." He threw another look at me as he pushed up from the ground. "I think you and Mark have been a serious couple in a serious relationship for quite some time."
He was right. He was fucking right. Maybe that was why it had been so hard with April and Mimi. I'd always put Mark before them.
"Not that there's anything wrong with that," Tyler finished, getting up from the ground.
"Yeah right." I had never been that touchy about my sexuality, but Tyler made me hyperaware. "You're an alpha male."
"I once had a very serious relationship with a guy. Sexy as hell."
I couldn't help but laugh. "I really don't think that counts."
"But it does," he said, lying back on the floor. "Anyway, enough about me. What are you going to do? I don't think Howdy Doody would be receptive to your coming home right now, if that's what you were thinking."
I needed time to think. Time to sort out my priorities. I bit my lip, giving Tyler the smallest sideways glance ever.
"Just ask man."
"Can I keep crashing with you?"
"Can't," he said shortly, gathering up the few things he'd brought with him. "I'm actually heading out."
Heading out? "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Roger, it's been six months. I've got to move on. I'm thinking Atlanta or somewhere else warm. I'm so fucking sick of the damn cold."
How great for him.
How fucking horrible for me.
"You can stay here and head up this sect, or…"
"Or you could come with me."
"No man is an island," Tyler said. "And Marla wouldn't mind," he added as an afterthought.
Despite the fact that I highly doubted that Tyler's petite, spitfire of a wife wouldn't mind me living with them, I still only thought about it for all of a minute.
I'd never been to Georgia.
I slowly nodded yes.
"I am Jack's utter lack of surprise," Tyler muttered underneath his breath. He looked me up and down a couple times. "And you; you are Jack's Roger."
And even though I did not what the hell that meant, I wasn't about to disagree.