#1058

Oh sister, don’t you see? Someone cannot become a ghost if they never existed in the first place. You are no specter like he; you are a figment, a concept, an ideal, impossible from the very beginning. It’s a terrible pity that he should live and die and thus be granted a phantom’s immortality while you, you who would have sucked the marrow of life to taste even its final dregs, will never have that chance. If any deserve animation or resurrection it’s you, my dear, but what can I do? These long years have proven I have no power to spark real breath from my words, that I cannot make you a thing of flesh and bone simply by desire alone. Only in dream may I glance into the mirror and find you staring back, slender hands pressed to the glass so I can pull you through. You aren’t in that mirror when I wake – why else do you think I never look too closely as I pass by? You do not haunt my dreams, sister. You are my dreams. And I haven’t the heart to tell you that it only pains me more to know you once in fiction than never in reality. Don’t you see? I would rather have never known the liquid lyricism of your voice than to wake alone when seconds before your laughter tickled against my ear. I would give anything for you, but I’m not a child anymore. I no longer search for fairy rings; I rarely check under the bed at night; I don’t believe if I stand at my mirror and chant “thee to me, sister, thee to me” you will cross over to this world. I know you are impossible. It’s time you accepted it as well. You can’t haunt me if you’re not a ghost.

#1056

It had been a rough night; Daren could tell the moment he woke to dry, puffy eyes, burning cheeks, and an aching throat. So he’d been crying in his sleep, possibly even screaming. Lovely. He couldn’t remember what fever induced night terror or resurfaced memory had triggered the episode, for which he was grateful, but the fact that he also couldn’t remember how much he’d freaked out bothered him immensely. He’d already made a complete fool of himself in front of Tanim by being found nearly delirious from fever. Tanim had given up his bed, privacy, and free time, all to nurse Daren back to health when he could have dropped him off at a hospital and wiped his hands clean of the whole thing. Now the poor man had to deal with Daren’s constant nightmares as well?

Distracted by the sheer embarrassment of the situation, it took Daren a moment to realize that unlike the last times he surfaced from the haze of exhaustion and dizziness over the past two days, he wasn’t alone in the bed. He pushed himself up on wobbly arms to inspect the warm weight by his legs. Sometime during the night Tanim had fallen asleep in the chair he’d brought in to monitor Daren and now he drowsed half seated, half sprawled over the bed. Pale morning light fell over his face, accenting the shadows beneath his long eyelashes and the worry lines between his creased brows. Daren wondered if Tanim had slept at all since taking Daren in or if he’d spent every hour worrying over his patient. By the looks of his exhausted face, it was most likely the latter. Somehow that didn’t surprise Daren.

A lock of dark hair drooped over Tanim’s eye and Daren found himself oddly tempted to brush it away. Daren had never touched Tanim before. Tanim had touched him, of course; hell, he had practically carried Daren the last few blocks to his apartment the night he found the younger man half conscious and hypothermic in an alley. Yet Daren never initiated touch, not even a handshake or a light tap. Now, though, he gave in to temptation and reached out to carefully brush the stray lock back in place. One corner of Tanim’s mouth twitched in a faint smile at the touch but otherwise he showed no signs of waking.

He loves me. The thought twisted Daren’s already unsteady stomach. This wasn’t the first time he’d come to the realization, of course. The first inklings tugged at him months ago, back before the sickness had worsened, he’d lost his apartment, and everything went to hell. It was the way Tanim said his name, the way he watched Daren with a sweet, sad longing when he thought the other man unaware. Tanim never alluded to the blatant affection in his voice and eyes but he didn’t need to; Daren would have to be blind to overlook his friend’s restrained desire. Here, though, was the proof Tanim cared for him far beyond mere friendship. Even Tanim wouldn’t wear himself ragged playing nursemaid to just anyone, yet here he was doing that very thing for a sick, delusional man he’d not even known a year. If that wasn’t love, what was it? Of course, Tanim would never admit it. Daren suspected he would rather suffer in silence for the rest of his life than risk rejection and the ruin of what connection they already had.

Daren shivered as a wave of nausea washed over his clammy body. He didn’t have the strength or mental clarity right now to analyze how Tanim’s emotions changed things between them, nor his own complex feelings on the subject. Thanks to Tanim’s ministrations the fever would pass soon. When it did and Daren could do more than lie in bed and take small sips of chicken broth, then he’d deal with the issue at hand. Right now he had just enough energy left to not collapse as he lowered his trembling body down and drew the blankets close. His last thought before he sank back into heavy fever sleep was the way Tanim had smiled when Daren brushed back his hair, and how silky the coal black lock felt against his skin.

#1054

I’m not sure what I expected. I could see the first time we met that Tanim is a lonely, troubled man. He sought out my dreary company, after all, and that reeks of desperation. But I never imagined someone so gentle and kind could be so broken inside. I think I’m beginning to understand better now that I’ve seen the place he calls home, though. There’s nothing here that feels like Tanim. No personal photos, no piles of clutter, nothing to betray a single fact about the man who lives here. The furniture all matches so I’m sure it came with the apartment, just like the minimalist, passionless décor. I could be in any penthouse hotel suite in the city, not someone’s residence of fifteen years. This place isn’t a home; it’s a prison, a punishment. And I thought my shit hole of an apartment was bad. At least that place inspires emotion, even if that emotion is utter revulsion. Here you can’t feel much of anything. It’s a study in apathy.

The only thing in this apartment that seems truly Tanim’s is his bed, which I’ve inadvertently stolen while he nurses me back to what poor condition counts for me as ‘health’. Soft sheets, thick blankets, a perfect mattress… it’s obvious this bed belongs to a man who craves a comforting embrace, even if he can’t find it in another’s arms. Though my strength is slowly returning, the fever that’s kept me bedridden abating, I don’t want to climb from these blankets just yet. Tanim’s lingering scent is the worst temptation I’ve ever experienced. I can’t help but imagine him lying here alone night after night, unable to sleep, tossing and turning as I do now. I don’t know why Tanim’s chosen this tragic, reclusive lifestyle, but I’m determined to find out. There’s a reason this bed is big enough for two; two people belong here. Tanim isn’t meant to be alone. And if I have anything to say about it, he won’t be any longer.

 

[ A description of Tanim’s apartment can be found here, if you’re curious. The man may be miserable, but damn does he know how to live well. I mean, he has a fully stocked private bar. ]

#1053

[ Oh, Tanim. Such a drama queen. What am I going to do with you? ]

Don’t ask, don’t tell.” That’s the motto. Polite society doesn’t want to know about your fetishes or what shameful thoughts the right come hither expression inspires. You’re a pervert; you can’t just flaunt your sins in public where good, clean people might see. What if your taint spreads to others? You don’t want that, do you? Of course not. Society can be merciful, though. You don’t need to deny yourself completely. Play your role of dutiful husband and law abiding citizen by day and by night lose yourself in the arms of strangers and the high of drug and drink. If you keep such illicit liaisons to yourself there’s no need to punish you before the multitudes. Just remember we deviants are relegated to the slums, the dark corners where names are forbidden and encounters brief. Sate your hungers in private if you must but never dare admit the truth in the light of day. That’s the deal; they won’t ask and you won’t tell. Everyone wins as long as you remember your place in the shadows.