My mistake, today, was in opening early. It's ten minutes before I'm even supposed to be giving the stink eye to the heroin addicts when a guy comes in with one of our plastic bags, throws it on the counter and says "How much for these?"
I am in Qughincy, so I can barely muster an eye roll. "What are they?"
"A bunch of old comics I found in my attic. They were my dad's. He says they're worth fifty bucks."
I open the bag, a little suspicious that his dad has one of our plastic bags up in his attic. Sure enough, the comics he has found in his dad's attic include such antique titles as Brightest Day #4, The Return Of Bruce Wayne #3, and Batman #700, which came out back in the dark ages of June 9th, 2010. "I think your dad is playing a practical joke on you. These comics are about two weeks old. We already have plenty of these items in stock, and no interest in buying more."
"That other guy who works here. The chink. He usually buys my stuff. It's valuable."
Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd we're done. "You're welcome to come back when he's working. His name's Tom, by the way. I'm not buying these from you."
And I walk over to the children's section to straighten out the books.
While I'm doing that, he meanders over to the dollar section, and starts picking up books at random. "Hey, buddy. How come these books ain't got no ratings on them?"
I am not getting roped in to this conversation. "Because they don't."
"They safe for kids? I got a nephew."
"Depends on the age, and the kid. Some of them are violent, some of them may have strong language and adult themes."
He giggles when I say adult. "So they nudie books?"
Eyeroll. "No. None of them have any nudity."
"Because I got a Superman book here once where Lois Lane puts a dildo in Superman's butt."
"Well," I say. "I tell you what. You go home right now, get me the DC comic of Lois Lane putting a dildo in Superman's butt, and I'll give you five thousand dollars."
The guy stares at me. "Really?"
"Yea. The dildo issue is one of the rarest comics in the industry. So you should go home RIGHT NOW and get it."
"Five thousand bucks?"
I walk toward him. "Six thousand if it's in mint condition. But you have to get it now, I'm being relieved in an hour, and the other guy will probably try and rip you off."
"I don't know where it is."
"Well go find it. It's worth FIVE THOUSAND dollars. Isn't that worth going through some drawers? An attic?"
July 2006: He crashes a car again and again into a van. Low speeds. No injuries. Slight damage. He has no insurance. Back at the house, a kiss, an argument, his body, a slammed door.
August 2006: A vacation. A lie about his father's health.
January 2007: He picks up the belongings he left behind. A kiss on the forehead. Never coming back.
April 2007: An apology. His body. A war with a horrid roommate. His body, loud.
October 2008: Sora calls with the same as usual story. His father and he blah blah blah fight and out of the house and what to do. I offer him a chance to stay with me, no strings, no implied relationship. He does not take it.
After a couple of months of me offering over and over a place, he comes up to visit. I ask my roommates if they mind if Sora stays with us. As long as he helps pay some bills, they don't mind.
Just before he moves up, I offer to do deliveries for the company I work for while the usual driver was on vacation. The usual driver never comes back from that vacation. And so, for the winter of 2009, I spend a few days a week driving a giant maroon van with a cartoon on the side. I drive blocks out of my way to avoid playgrounds and schools.
I am working while he moves up. He calls to let me know there is a party going on across the street, and that I should come.
"A party?" Manny says. "So there."
So Manny and Jim hop in the back of my cartoony van, and we drive to the party across the street from my house. We are barely parked when someone is bouncing drunkily toward the van, befreckled of smile and hugs. And it is not Sora.
"Hi!" The Slut Across The Street swoons. "Who is Sora?"
Here's how it ends: Over a table mugged up for beer pong, The Slut Across The Street asks me if Sora and I are dating. We aren't. We are most specifically not dating to the point where I even said that just because he needed to live with me, didn't mean he was beholden to a relationship with me. But we are sleeping together. And he does kiss me before I leave for work. And while it wouldn't kill me if he dated someone else, it would deeply wound me if he chose this drunk, worthless slut over me. So I lie. "Yes. He's my boyfriend. Don't."
Here's how it ends: Sora and I head back home together and make out. But he has left his iPod in his car, and goes out to get it. The Slut Across The Street intercepts him with his face. His fucken tongue. His bloodshot eyes.
Here's how it ends: For once, Sora is honest. He tells me about the kiss, prepared for my anger. Is surprised when I say "Look, the guy's a total slutbag. You're hot. He kissed you. Are you going to start dating him?"
"No. I don't even really like him."
"Then we're fine." Right?
Here's how it ends: I still love him. I know he spends time with The Slut Across The Street when I'm at work. I know something is happening. I don't like it, but it's not how we are supposed to end. So I try and pretend everything is fine. And it would be except there's another party across the street and no one invites me. I call Sora, and when he does not pick up, I call one of my roommates. And there is planned karaoking, but Sora doesn't want to go and The Slut Across The Street doesn't want to go, so they come to the house, and everyone else leaves. We play Mario Kart, and The Slut keeps looking at me with more desire than guilt.
I am not drinking. His face is a plaster bust of plaster. Sora is prickly at both of us.
It is the next day when my roommate tells me that eveyone went to karaoke because The Slut Across The Street told everyone that me, him, and Sora were going to have a threesome.
Here's how it ends: An ultimatum. "Sora. Please. You don't owe me anything" but money "but not him. It's making things....difficult."
My roommate is friends with The Slut Across The Street, but he doesn't like his ethics. Doesn't like the potential drama always brewing in his always beered up brain. "It needs to stop."
Here's how it ends: My roommate gets him a job so he can contribute to bills. He spends his money on I don't know but not me or bills.
"Adam, it needs to stop. You need to talk to him."
Here's how it ends: We talk. Via Instant Messanger. I come up with an arrangement. A terrible terrible arrangement. Our relationship will be purely sexual. He can fall in love with whoever he wants, safely fuck whoever he wants, but as long as he lives with me....
"Your life." JBoB says, when I explain the arrangement to him, "is not real. Relationships like that don't happen. They don't work. They destroy everything."
But it's so much worse than that.
Here's how it ends: Sora comes home from work and says the arrangement is fine.
But I couldn't really treat a stranger like this for sex. Certainly not him.
Here's how it ends: A drifting. Sora passing out on the couch.
One night he insists on playing a video game to the end. And when the credits roll he starts calling out for his mother and then blacks out.
Here's how it ends: Slumped over my shoulder for the third night in a row. I carry him to a bed we share nonsexually. I can't keep doing this. I can't keep doing this.
"He can't keep doing this." My roommate says. "He just sits at home all day when he doesn't work, playing video games on my TV. He doesn't pay any bills. He just...It's not that I don't like him. He's a good kid." kid kid kid kid kid kid kid "I just don't know how much longer I can put up with him."
Here's how it ends: My roommates throw a fake prom at a local bar. The Slut's favorite bar. And we all go. And we're all excruciatingly nice to each other. But it's actual niceness. We all appear to be okay. And there is dancing. And Sora is drunk, but not horribly so. And he says something funny, and I lean in and kiss him. And I say "I love you."
And he says. "I know."
Here's how it ends: In the living room. We are talking about whether or not we're in a relationship. I make some throwaway joke about how he moved out of our last apartment while I was in Texas to take care of his father.
And he finally says it. "My father never had a heart attack."
"I know. I've always known."
"I just didn't love you. I don't love you."
Here's how it ends. A fucken cliche. I am for the first time I can remember crying, actually crying. In the shower so no one will hear me. This is entirely my everything fault. I told him I wouldn't do this. I told him we'd be fine as just friends. Why do we keep lying to each other?
Here's how it ends. A party at our house. Everyone from our house and the house across the street except the slut. A cook out. Beer pong. Promise of dinner and karaoke. When no one invites me, I invite myself.
Sora follows me into the house when I go to get changed. "Adam, we shouldn't go." He says. "This is a bad idea. Let's just stay home. You and me."
The Slut will be there. So my roommates don't want me there. They are afraid of drama. Which hightens the drama, because I no longer worry about Sora and The Slut, but I worry that The Slut and Sora's non-relationship is hurting my living situation, my friendship with all the people we mutually know.
Here's how it ends: We go out to dinner. And when I announce I am going, several people decide not to go. It is me, Sora, one roommate, one of the guys who lives upstairs, and his girlfriend, who lives with The Slut. We are to meet The Slut for Mexican food, and then go to karaoke.
The Slut is there before we are. He is smoking and not very much talking, so Sora goes gattling tongue. "Mexican food poop is the worst." kid kid kid kid kid kid kid "....poop....poop...."
My roommate laughs uncomfortably. "You know, every time we end up going out you always end up talking shit. It's like you do actually know shit, but nothing else."
Here's how it ends: I left my wallet in my other pants when I got changed, and I need to go back and get it. I tell everyone not to wait up. I'll be back. And I run full-intentioned back home to find my other roommate crying.
"It's over." She says. "He doesn't love me."
And we hug, and we talk, and we play Mario Kart, and I call Sora to tell him I won't be back. And she calls my roommate, to tell him we're not going to meet them there. And we laugh a lot. And things are okay.
Here's how it ends: Things are not ok. The couple fights. Sora and The Slut flirt enough that my roommate decides the night is over, and everyone should go home. So they walk home.
He arrives first. He sits down at the kitchen table and says "Everyone else is about five minutes behind me. Look. Adam. He's got to go. This was a nice drama free house before he got here and now....He's a nice" don't say it "guy" thank you "but I hate all of them right now, and I need a break. And I can't break from him if he's living in the same house with me."
Which is reasonable. And he lived here first. He invited me into this apartment. "Okay."
"It doesn't have to be now. Or tomorrow. Or in a week. Just...he needs to start working on a plan out of here." And my roommate takes out a knife and stabs back and forth between his splayed out fingers. "I'm sorry."
"No." I say. "It's okay."
"We'll all be single!" My just dumped roommate says. And we laugh. And we laugh our way through a full hour with no Sora and no couple and no Slut.
After two hours, the others go to bed.
After three, I am looking out the window, and watching The Slut's house. The guy upstairs and The Slut's roommate, walk across the street and upstairs to his apartment.
"Was Sora with you?" I ask.
Which is worse than a yes.
Here's how it ends: Hour four I pack his belongings under the guise of cleaning the room. I am not kicking him out, I'm just....organizing.
"Hi." says Sora. He is all smiles and drink. "You're cleaning your room!" There is no y in our. "That's...." and the smile fades."that's a box full of my stuff."
Here's how it ends: He won't stay. Not another night. Not another minute. "It's embarrassing." He says. "But I get it. I definitely get it." And he starts carrying boxes out to his car.
"Don't leave." please don't leave please don't leave "I am packing all our stuff while I clean."
"You want me to go."
No. "Eventually. But not tonight."
"We didn't even do anything."
"It's not...look. My roommate got you a job, hoping you'd contribute money to the house, and you haven't paid us a cent. You're always drunk."
"What's so funny?" I ask. Also laughing. Though I don't know why.
"The last time we lived together it was all lies. I lied about my feelings, about my father, about everything. And this time...I like you. I don't love you, but I really like you, so I tried to be honest. But it's the same thing. We just don't...we just don't."
Here's how it ends: We are standing apart on the porch. We are both smiling. "Promise me something."
"When you write about this. Let it end with the word pathetic. Because that's what we are. That's what I am. Pathetic."
"No. No you're not. And we're not. I'm sorry it's over." It's actually, I'm pretty sure over. "But it's not...I'm not sorry we met. I wouldn't give up knowing you. I l...I'm glad for the fun times."
"Pathetic." He says.
But I mean it. I would erase Ryan if I could. I never liked Elvis. David I could go either way with. I wouldn't rid my world of Ben, but I don't even understand how I used to be attracted to him. Everyone inbetween felt like filler. But Sora. I don't think I will ever be able to say I loved Sora. Because I don't think I will ever be out of love with him. I don't always like him very much. I kind of hate what the lies put us through, but you can't really have hate without love. An enormous weight of fucken love. Even if what we had wasn't noble, the fact that we kept trying was. I don't think that or him was a mistake. I will move on. I will find someone else. I will be happy. And I hope he will be too. And I think that's enough. I think we were worth it.