Babe stared at his computer screen. He had the mail open and a notification had just appeared as the mail he had begun to write had been saved in drafts. He closed the mail and returned to open the window in which were his notes about Theories of Thought. He snorted bored. The classes were very interesting and entertaining; but on arriving home it was the most boring degree in the world.
He extended his arm without looking away from the computer. He had calculated the space between him and the pack of tobacco. He took a cigar to his lips and lit it without having to pay attention to any of the gestures he was making. They were actions that had more than internalized. He looked at the bottom of the screen to check what time it was. Seven thirty in the afternoon. He returned to the beginning of his notes.
Babe had smoked two more cigars and had lost count of how many times he had read the same phrases without moving forward when he heard the door of his apartment open and close. His flatmates had just arrived and he had not studied anything. Absolutely anything. It was getting dark and he had not taken advantage of the afternoon at all.
“Skinny” Answered from the door. Babe listened how the footsteps approached his room. He wasn’t going alone. “And Janovec.” Both roommates appeared through the door frame. “What do you do? It's Friday afternoon. Leave that.”
“He went for pizzas and beers with Eugene.”
Babe snorted annoyed. He was not going to study anything that afternoon. If Julian and Eugene had gone for pizzas that meant that at some point James, Tony and Shifty would appear by the door and that more people would appear with them.
“How are going? Did you finish the homework?”
“I’m not even started. I have the title and my name.” He lowered the computer screen. “And for next week I have an exam.”
“C’mon Babe, life is beautiful. It's Friday.” Janovec brought him a beer.
“I would have to be studying History or something like Janovec.” He opened the beer slowly, in case his roommate had shaken it.
“I already told you when we met. You did not listen to me.” He threw in face in the tone of "I already told you."
“Look, Malarkey, Penkala and Muck also sign up.” Skinny informed. “I hope Julian bought enough pizza.”
Finally, when there was no more pizza and they had filled a trash bag with beer cans and the atmosphere was formed by tobacco smoke; Bill Guarnere, George Luz, Frank Perconte, Chuck Grant, Joe Toye and Eugene Roe appeared at the door. The first thing Bill did was show them the bags they brought with more alcohol.
“But we don’t have pizza for you. We've eaten it all. "Malarkey informed him.
“We've eaten already. Make room for the elderly.” Bill Guarnere made his way.
“They're talking about you, Grant.”
Babe stared at Eugene Roe. He could not look away from him. He was smiling in that characteristic way of his. Of half a side; between sincere, amusing and "they do not have remedy". He had one hand in his pockets and in the other he held a bag with more alcoholic drinks. He looked at everything in general, except him.
“Roe, come. Let's leave things in the kitchen. What do we bring you?”
Babe stared at Roe as he passed through all the people in his room to go to the kitchen. It seemed to him that Roe had looked at him out of the corner of his eye but he was not sure. If he could, he would ask one of his, but he couldn’t. The relationship he and Eugene Roe had had for a while had been totally secret.
Without any of them noticing, the hours went by. There were more and more cans in garbage bags and less in the fridge. A part of that they had raised the level and they had left the beer and passed to the combined one. Now was the gin-tonic turn. The ashtrays emptied faster and faster. The smell of weed mixed with tobacco. They had pushed the cards aside for a while. Chuck Grant explained stories of when he was "young", as he called it.
“We've run out of ice.” Muck shouted from the kitchen. “Volunteers to go buy more ice. No so many at the same time.” He pulled his head from the kitchen to try to pressure his friends and that someone moved.
“I'm going.” Roe got up, extinguishing the cigar in the ashtray.
“Will you let Roe go alone? You do not deserve that Roe is going to buy you ice.” Malarkey came out of the kitchen with his glass full. G mixed the drinks using the index finger. Everyone knew who had finished the ice.
“I go with you.” Babe got up.
They went down in silence. They left the building in silence. There was nobody in the streets. They advanced in silence. Babe once looked at Roe out of the corner of his eye. He smoked. They talked to ask if with a bag there would be more than enough or better two. They ended up buying two. When they returned they also did it in silence.
The night lengthened, although for them it was short. Bill Guarnere, Eugene Roe, George Luz and Cuck Grant were the first to leave claiming that they were getting older for these things. The four shared a flat. Malarkey, Muck, Penkala and Shifty followed them. They also shared a floor. Frank Perconte and Joe Toye. The last to leave were Eugene, James, Hashey and Tony.
In spite of having thrown all the bottles and cans that were empty in the garbage bags overnight; the floor was still a complete disaster. The first faint rays of sunlight peeked out when they were alone at home. They decided it was a good time to go to sleep and that they would clean up tomorrow.
Tomorrow was not Saturday. Julian, Skinny and Janovec took the opportunity to sleep throughout the day. Babe was only sleeping during the morning and until mid-afternoon. He had a job to finish by Sunday, rather to begin with. At night Eugene, James, Hashey and Tony returned. They did what they did best. Play cards. But unlike last night, Babe went to sleep about three in the morning; He wanted to finish the job on Sunday morning. The rest of his roommates went to sleep about half past four.
Tomorrow was Sunday. While Babe finished the work, the rest of his roommates organized to clean it absolutely everything that was visible. And mainly, because the table that they used to eat and was hidden under a mountain of shit. In the afternoon, literally, they did absolutely nothing.
With Monday they returned the early mornings and the races. The rush to have fallen asleep and not wanting to be late to class early in the morning. Going back because they left something and finish arriving late to class. Babe would not have minded being late to class that Monday, or every Monday of the second semester.
When Babe arrived to class he did not look if there was a place in the front rows. He went directly to the middle of the class. Julian arrived a few minutes later than him. Ten minutes later, the class began.
Babe could recognize the deep voice that spoke anywhere. He knew it perfectly and also the person that belonged to. It was Eugene Roe.
“It does not seem incredible to you that on Friday he was having beers with us and that on Thursday he will suspend us in the exam.” Julian whispered to Babe. Babe chuckled under his nose and nodded. Babe did not look up from his notes, kept pointing every word that Eugene Roe said. “He should approve us, friends help each other.”
“Who told you that they are our friends. They may only come for free beer.” Whispered Babe. He smiled with complicity at Julian.
“Do you write what he said before?” He took the sheet from Babe. “It sure enters in the exam.”
Eugene Roe had not stopped talking. He was a teacher who managed to keep the attention of all his students put in his words and that only the scribbling of the pens on the sheets of paper or the pressing of the keys of the computer was heard. Sometimes he had to ask them to stop writing and to listen to him, that they did not need to learn it. Eugene Roe's classes were like an apnoea. A catch of air and keep it until the bell rings. They were afraid to blink and miss something.
“Remember that if you have any questions you can write me an email and that what we have given today in class also enter on the exam. Some of you have asked me if the class of tomorrow we can dedicate to review all. Come with the doubts written, I will not explain everything again. See you tomorrow.”
When Eugene Roe began to turn around, and the students were sure he was not going to explain anything else, they started to collect all their things to go to the next class. Some student, even with the notes in hand, approached his teacher to solve doubts that had been pointed out during those two hours of class.
“Let’s go, Babe”
“I need to ask him something. I missed half of the class because of you.”
“Why? You’ll not pass the exam. Nobody passes with Roe, and you know it” Laughed Julian remembering the words of students who were repeating the subject.
Babe cursed his friend, smiling. He put on his jacket and waited for the students in front of him to finish solving all his doubts. That took more than five minutes.
“Heffron, it's something fast. I have class.”
“No, it's not something fast.”
“Come at two to my office.” Roe was collecting his things, looked up to see if Babe would confirm if he was coming or not and returned to look down.
“Professor.” Another student approached. “Tomorrow we will practice some case. You said that in the exam there would be a practical part.
“Yes. Any other question writes me an email.” Without saying anything else, and as he could, he left the class avoiding some students who were still there.
At two o'clock, after finishing all the classes that morning, Babe went to Eugene Roe's office. He knocked on the door, he heard voices inside, they seemed to be having a lively and fun conversation. He heard laughter. When he did not receive a response, he worried that they had not heard him. Knocked again.
“Come in.” He heard Roe's voice give him permission to enter.
Babe opened the door slowly. Inside, he found Bill Guarnere and George Luz picking up their things to leave.
“He looks like a respectable professor, right?” Bill Guarnere patted Babe's arm confidently.
“Until the day his students discover that he skipped most of their classes playing cards at the bar.” Luz teased, winked at Babe.
“You could ask the chefs, they're still working there, it's only been three years since he graduated.” They kept laughing. “We'll see you later, Roe. Babe.”
Eugene shook his head amused as his friends left his office. Both he and Babe waited until the door had closed to look at each other.
“Sit down, Heffron.”
“Why do you never call me by my name?” Babe sat down.
“Sorry?” Eugene looked at him surprised at that question.
“You always call me Heffron.”
“I think this is not a conversation to have here. I have more students to see and I really want to go home.”
“Yes, I'm sorry. Sometimes I find it difficult to differentiate when we are in the University and when not.” Babe ignored Eugene's annoyed expression at that comment. He took out his notes in which he had written down doubts to solve and questions he had and put them on the table.
“Where do you want to start.” He decided that the best he could do was ignore Babe's misplaced comments and focus on the reason of the meeting.
Babe asked him some of the questions he had about the history of theories of human behaviour. Eugene answered them each and every one of them, was entertained in the parts that cost Babe the most to understand and came to make schemes and drawings to make it easier to understand. The problem was that Babe was dumbfounded listening to him and seeing how he enjoyed explaining and teaching.
“Okay, I got it. Or I think so.” Murmured Babe looking at the last scheme that Eugene had drawn him. “I think it will not take you long to correct my exam, I will not pass.”
“Any other question?” Roe half smiled until he shook his head slightly. He did not think it was the most polite thing in the world, but he needed to look at what time it was. He really wanted to go home and nap.
“Can we meet tonight? They will all leave.” He added before Roe could say anything. He had learned to know all the reactions of Eugene Roe and was going to complain or find fault.
“It's not a good idea.”
“If you want me to pass, I need help.”
“It still does not seem like a good idea.”
“You always tell me that the university is not a place to talk, I have things to say.” Babe complained. He had not been able to say his since they had broken up.
“We are mixing things.”
“No, we can do both.”
“I don’t know, Heffron.”
Babe zipped up his backpack and left the office without giving him a chance to Eugene to reproach. He knew that if he stayed to argue with Eugene it would end up being a resounding no on his part, if he didn’t give him the opportunity to say he would not go, he would go. He left the door open, there was a classmate waiting to enter Eugene's office. He smiled kindly and then went to the door and asked his teacher if she could enter. Eugene was waiting for the elevator when he saw that the door closed behind her.
Chuck Grant came out of his room yawning and stretching. Last night he had forgotten to lower the blind and that Saturday morning the sun had sneaked into his room shamelessly. He looked for some sign of one of his roommates already awake. He scratched his abdomen, his eyes were still half closed and full of rheum. There was no one in the room but it smelled like coffee.
In the kitchen Eugene Roe was holding a cigarette burning between his fingers and the coffee puffing smoke in the cup. He was absorbed in his thoughts without paying attention to what was happening around him. Chuck served himself coffee and sat next to him.
“I'll take you a cigar.” He didn’t get an answer. It seemed that Roe did not even blink. “I use your lighter, I have lost mine.” Nothing again. “Roe?” He waved his hand in front of his eyes. “Eugene!” Reclaimed his attention.
Eugene blinked his head and looked at his partner.
“What were you saying?”
“In what world were you?”
“I don’t know, I have slept horrible.” Chuck questioned him with his eyes. Roe down played the situation. “Things.”
“Those things have a name, they move, they talk and they are redheads. What? I am an observer person.” Chuck defended himself before the inquisitive look of his roommate. “Don't worry, none of them has noticed. Penkala doesn’t even know that redheaded things are gay.”
“You can call him by his name.” Roe laughed. He was going to take the cigar to his lips but it had been completely consumed by the time it had been on. He picked up a new one.
“What is the problem?”
“I'm his teacher.” Chuck raised an eyebrow without understanding what Roe meant by that. “Teachers and students can’t maintain a relationship.
“That says Heffron.” Roe shook his head.
“What else does the redhead question say?” Eugene laughed again.
“That he does not lack so much to finish the degree.” Both boys laughed. Babe still had a year left to finish college.
“It's your fault for liking a student.” Chuck picked up another cigar.
“In any case, it's Malarkey's fault that talks to everyone.” Rose defended himself.
“As he can’t defend himself, all fault for him.” Chuck boasted. Roe smiled funny. “And what are you going to do?”
“I just told you. Keep moving; I would have problems if they knew I was going out with some of my students.”
“You knew them before knowing that they would be your students.” Eugene shrugged. There was nothing that could be done to change that. “Come on, let's take something over there.”
“It's midday.” Roe looked at Chuck asking if he was serious.
“And? It's Saturday, it's spring, it's hot for the first time in weeks, and the street calls us. Let's move on.”
“I have exams to correct.” He reminded to his friend.
“Roe, I'm not Babe, with me you don’t have to find excuses not to leave. You're going out. I'm older than you, obey” Both boys laughed. Roe blew out the cigar and nodded.
“But get dressed; I will not go out with you if you wear only underpants.”
Twenty minutes later both boys were ready to leave. Chuck had to wait for Roe, the second one couldn’t find his wallet. He didn’t remember in what jacket he had kept it. Finally he found it in the back pocket of the pants he had worn last night.
“We can go.”
“You've said something to the other two.”
Many people had made the same argumentation as Chuck Grant. The streets were full of people who went out to enjoy that warm and inviting spring day. The first since, according to the calendar, the spring had officially begun. The cold was reluctant to leave and many times they still had to put on scarves to go outside. Few people had dared to pull the short sleeve from the bottom of the cupboards.
There was a light breeze that ruffled the passers-by, although it didn’t bother. Was nice. Eugene and Chuck sat on a terrace where the sun could hit them. They grouped a few chairs and put together another table. Malarkey was going to go with Muck, Penkala and Shifty. They had also left a message to Luz and Guarnere about where they were going to be; in case they wanted to join them when they managed to wake up.
“And think that some snowflakes were still falling on the weekend.” Said an animated Malarkey sitting on the first chair he found. He decided to get up, he had sat on the farthest place, and come over to Chuck's side.
“We all remember how you tried to catch them with your mouths. It is not necessary to remind us.”
“Yes, although we wanted we could not forget you, don’t worry.”
“You start strong.” Muck pointed out the beers his companions had ordered. He raised his hand to get the waiter's attention and be able to ask.
“Someone has to mark the level if we do not want to end up like Shifty's friends. Where have you left them, by the way?”
“Hey!” Shifty complained.
"Flies are going to come in, Shifty. Shut up.” Penkala laughed.
“Last night when I left, James was potting and Eugene had serious problems to stay on his feet.”
“And the others?” Want to know Roe visibly surprised. He didn’t remember that James was so harmed.
“Yes, and the others.” Chuck glanced at Eugene to see how he was killing him with his eyes. Chuck was snickering.
“I suppose that well, sleeping.” Shifty shrugged nonplussed, did not understand what was happening between Chuck and Roe. Nobody seemed to worry so he, either, didn’t care.
“We should make a barbecue or something.” Penkala proposed, suddenly. Completely oblivious to what was happening.
“I'm never going to be able to rest from you.” Roe muttered, grinning mischievously.
“You couldn’t live without us, Roe. You would get sick.”
“Not at all, I could correct the exams that I have pending. You don’t let me work.” Chuck laughed and shook his head. Roe kept murdering his friend with his eyes.
“Don’t worry Roe. It’s Saturday.” He squeezed his shoulder with camaraderie.
“Last night you told me the same thing and I arrived home at eight in the morning.” Roe reproached him. “I'm getting older for these things.”
“Are you calling me old. Roe; we're going to have problems when we get home.” Chuck warned him.
“Uh, couple fight.” Malarkey mocked softly. Muck and Penkala laughed. “I didn’t know you were together.”
“Yes, but it's not going very well. Roe doesn’t stop messing with my age. He says it affects our sex life.” Laughter. Even Roe got to laugh. Penkala choked on the drink and Muck had to pat him on the back.
“I already saw you getting married.” He kept laughing Muck.
Eugene Roe shook his head, decided to ask for another beer.
"You will not believe it, but I already proposed it and he said no. He said that my hair colour was not his style, that he liked darker and more exotic.” Chuck gloated.
“The truth is that he has it small.” Roe’s words dropped like a bucket of cold water on top of everyone. He said it in such a serious way that nobody knew how to react. Chuck was the first to laugh.
“You would like to have it as big as mine.”
“When you want, we measure them.” Challenged Penkala. “I have to buy XL to be able to keep it whole.”
"Shifty doesn’t say anything, but you would have to see his.” Muck moved his eyebrows up and down suggestively.
“When did you see mine?” He looked at Muck surprised.
“I didn’t know you were spying on your friends' penises.”
“Not all of them. Only those which worth it.” He said as if none of them were worth for being spying on. They all laughed again.
They stayed one more hour on the terrace. The surface of the table disappeared under the beer bottles. Roe, Chuck and Malarkey, each, bought a new pack of tobacco. Luz and Guarnere never appeared at the bar. When they got home, Roe and Chuck, both boys, were still in their pyjamas and were lying on the sofa anyway. As if someone had thrown them there, as if they were a sack of potatoes; and in the same way they stayed.
“I always wonder why Nicole is still with you.”
“Because I'm the best boyfriend in the world.” Guarnere said re-laying the underpants.
“Because he has not spent enough time with me yet.” He winked an eye at his friends. “Where do you come from.”
“To make a few beers, we've left you a note in the kitchen.” Roe informed them.
“I think we're already drunk. You have made something to eat.”
“Did you see us? I'm not even capable of going to piss.” Guarnere complained.
“We have to think something or we will die of hunger.”
“We can call to the italian” Proposed Luz. “Whoever has the phone nearby, phone.”
“And Guarnere's mother. You remember when she made that pasta with cheese sauce.” Chuck's stomach roared for remember it.
“Stop talking about food, right now we have nothing.” Roe complained. “Call, Chuck.”
“To Guarnere's mother or to the italian.”
“Yes, we'll call Guarnere’s mother tomorrow.” Luz scoffed.
The plastic containers with which they brought the food were left on the table. The sauce that had been left on the plates was sticking and hardening and the dishes were piling up on the counter, along with the dishes of the previous night, waiting to be put in the dishwasher. The table was full of breadcrumbs. Guarnere was gone; he had to meet with Nicole, his partner. Luz had been called to make a last minute substitution and had gone to work. Chuck and Roe stayed at home doing the same thing that Guarnere and Luz had done that morning: Nothing.
Chuck Grant was lying on the sofa reading while Eugene Roe, sitting on the floor and leaning against the sofa, corrected exams.
“What is the worst answer you've seen so far?”
“I would not know which one to decide. If I told you that Nazism is bad, what would you say to me?”
“I would ask you if it is an answer from Babe or Julian, to know whether to laugh or cry.”
“You can laugh. These are not their class. These make policies, not criminology.”
“The boy who has written that, has discovered America.” Chuck scoffed. He turned the page.
“Being a teacher is like shooting yourself every day or falling in love with someone that does not belong to you. Suffer for foolish.” He put the exams aside and stretched lazily.
“Yes, or like liking a student.”
“As well.” The two boys laughed. “What do you read?”
“I'm looking for the sexual parts of Fifty Shades of Grey, which don’t come out in the movie.”
“I did not know do you like these things.”
“No, Fifty Shades of Gray.” Roe mocked.
Roe picked up a new exam and started correcting it. Chuck continued reading diagonally the book looking for the sexual parts. You could hear the scribbling of Roe's red pen and the passage of Chuck's pages. They could hear the cars passing by on their street. How the neighbour pulled his chain. Some dogs barking in the street. A mother who quarrel to her son for having tried to escape from her side. Roe snorted. Chuck knew that the test owner hadn’t passed.
“With which note you have suspended him.”
“Uh, what a hard teacher. Surely that puts on your students.”
“They send me love letters every day.” He grinned sideways. He shook his head. Chuck was bored. “I'll go have a nap. Are worse than a bad novel.”
“I'm sure not, you're not reading this.” He showed him the book. “Are you going to leave me alone and bored? I will not have any teacher to bother.”
“You know where my room is. I have a very large floor where you can sleep.”
“Would you let me sleep on the floor? You've known me for years.” Complained indignant, Chuck. He sat on the couch suddenly while Eugene got up and headed toward his room with the exams under his arm.
“I suppose I can leave you a piece of my bed if you do not bother.”
“I'm sure they call you Roe the Generous.” He laughed at his friend.
Chuck got up leaving the book lying on the couch. He would not give Eugene time to think twice and close the door in his face. When he entered Eugene's room, he had taken off his street clothes and put on some old sweatpants.
Eugene Roe looked at the students who were sitting in the first row. He didn’t want to do it, he wanted to take a global look at the whole class but his body betrayed him. He discovered himself looking for Babe Heffron among his students. He was trying to force himself to stop doing it.
He changed the slide. His students lowered their heads again to write the title of the next subject.
He, again, found himself looking for a red-hair person. He turned his back on his students and went to the table, from his briefcase he took out the phone and checked what time it was. Normally, the classes he gave to third-year students of criminology were not so long and endless, that happened in other classes; although it used to depend on the day and how inspired his students were that day. It was half an hour before he finished his class. He returned his cell phone and faced his students again.
His voice echoed throughout the class. He was one of those teachers who didn’t usually write anything on the blackboard unless they were key words. The slides were so schematic that they didn’t help you study for the exams. His students didn’t pick up the pen from the sheet or the fingers of the computer keys.
“You will not listen to me.” He started after having paused a few seconds. “But what I'm going to say now doesn’t need to be written.”
“Only if you promise that will not enter on the next exam.” Joked one of his students; didn’t know his name and didn’t recognize his voice either. They heard some loose laughter.
Roe leaned against the table, smiled amused by that comment.
“I can’t promise that but listen, stop writing. It’s important.” He caught their attention with the last sentence. “This afternoon you will have the exam marks posted on the digital platform. Those who have passed you know that for the next exam you have removed a part of the subject. Those that don’t, you will have to study everything. That's why I couldn’t make any promise.”
Loose laughter again. Some more nervous than others by the pressure of the moment. None of them would be calm, even if they had suspended or approved, until they knew the marks.
Babe, who in that class was the only one in which he sat to the back of the room, looked at Julian. He had turned completely pale. That afternoon they would know the notes. If they had passed or not. Why no one had invented a time machine to make those minutes and hours of waiting disappear.
“Can you tell the hour?” Asked one of the students who sat in the front row.
“About five or six.” He caught air. He kept looking for Babe with his eyes; there was nothing he could do to stop it. Since they had had their last conversation it was so much complicated to ignore him or treat him as if there had never been anything between them. “Anyone who wants review of the exam sends me an email. You will have until twelve o'clock at night. Go.”
He gave the class finished. He turned around and started to collect his things. Now he had to go up to the third floor and teach second-year students in international relations. Then he would have a tutorial with a fourth-year law student about his final degree work and he could go to lunch. In the afternoon he had class with first-year students of political science. Eugene closed his eyes tired of only thinking about what day he had. He hated Mondays.
He closed the projector, went to the computer and closed his session. When he turned around he felt his heart breaking out of his chest with a single leap.
“Fuck, Heffron.” He had not heard him approach. Although he could not think of the scare of dead he had given him. Babe was too close for Eugene's taste, even though he had been looking for him around for the whole class. “What do you need.” He walked by his side and went back to the table to take his things.
Eugene wanted to get away from Babe; although this wouldn’t happen, Babe was following him to talk to him.
“Guarnere had to give you something for me.” He followed. Julian was waiting for him at the door.
“Yes.” He affirmed after remembering for a few seconds. “But I don’t have it with me now and I can’t give it to you. When I’ll have a moment I send you a message so you can pick it up at the office. Excuse me, I have class.”
The morning was extremely long and heavy for Eugene. He didn’t remember sending the message to Babe, when he had a free moment he took the opportunity to go for a coffee outside the university building and change the air in his lungs and of atmosphere.
What he did remember, and non-stop, was the conversation he and Babe had had a couple of weeks ago in Babe's apartment. In particular, a question that Babe had asked him. What was he really afraid of? He really cared so much that they were a student and teacher or it was something else. Eugene ran his hand through his hair frustrated and angry with his own thoughts. He had no answer for it. Everything had been very clear to him until then, but Babe was always there to make him doubt and turn everything upside down.
He took out a cigar and brought it to his lips. It took a few tries to get the lighter to make a flame.
Searching for the keys, he found, in his briefcase, the package that Guarnere had given him for Babe. He took it out of the plastic bag, curious, it was a music CD. He didn’t know them. He put it away again and kept looking for the keys. He had completely forgotten that he should say something to Babe to come by his office to look for it. He would apologize and would give it to him tomorrow. Although he could also tell him to go through the apartment to look for it if he had nothing to do or was close. There would be people in his apartment all afternoon and they wouldn’t be left alone.
The first thing Roe did was take off his shoes and pick up the briefcase from his shoulder. He stayed next to the front door. He took off the sweater he was wearing and started unbuttoning his shirt. There were people at home or they had left the television on the last one that had left that morning. He didn’t recognize the voices he was hearing. He went to the living room. Chuck and Luz were watching television. He was going to greet them but Chuck didn’t leave him. He pointed to Luz. Chuck had turned to listen to his footsteps.
“Is he really asleep?” He asked in whispers. Chuck nodded.
Eugene passed by and went to his room. He had had such a tired day that he had a horrible desire to take off his street clothes and get comfortable. Chuck got up from the couch and followed him to his room.
“Tell me” Eugene turned confused. He hung the shirt on the desk chair. He leaned against him and crossed his arms. Chuck sat on his bed. “How has it been with your favorite student?” Chuck jested, smiling with a slight touch of mockery that didn’t go unnoticed for Eugene.
“Very good. My common sense says one thing, my body makes another. Normal when you put something as prohibited.” He ran his hand through his hair. When something did not finish liking him or the things didn’t go as he wanted always did it.
They remained in silent. Eugene left the desk and decided to finish changing. Chuck, lying on Eugene's bed, looked at him askance. What should he do?
Chuck Grant liked Eugene Roe. He had lost count of the years they had being friends, so he had also lost count of the years Eugene liked him. It had been almost instantaneous. He had only needed Bill Guarnere to introduce them. For that reason, Bill Guarnere was the only one who knew that he liked Eugene and tormented him with his long monologues about him. Chuck felt confused. When Eugene came to his mind it was like a tornado and all his thoughts and feelings were messy and mixed together.
On the one hand he wanted to help Eugene to be happy with Babe, he knew how much Eugene liked Babe, other than that he was an observant person, he had told her himself. And he liked Babe. On the other hand, that may be the time to try something with Eugene. The black-haired boy had said that he wanted to turn the page, he knew that he was very caught with tweezers and that the phrase was because he didn’t have things completely clear because Babe was his student; but he had said it.
He also had in mind that in this last year he and Eugene had spent a lot of time together and something had changed between them. Maybe there was a minimal attraction. Was it time to be selfish and try to get the boy he liked or generous and throw him into the arms of Babe?
Eugene went back into the room. Chuck followed him with his eyes. It was like if Eugene pretended he was not lying on the bed. He went back out. He returned a few minutes later. He had his briefcase hanging on his shoulder and a can of beer for each of them in his hands. He left the wallet carefully, grabbed the ashtray and tobacco from the desk and sat on the bed next to his friend. Chuck sat down and accepted the beer Eugene offered him.
“Luz works tonight?”
“He has guard at the pharmacy.” The click of the can was heard when it opened. Chuck had opened it slowly in case it had been agitated at some point. They always had the beers in any way in the fridge. “Guarnere today has a dinner with Nicole. It's his mother-in-law's birthday.”
“So we’ll be alone.” Murmured a thoughtfully Roe. Chuck turned on all the alarms. He was alert to any movement that could give him a clue as to where Roe would go. “What are we going to dinner?”
Chuck laughed for him. That the kitchen and Eugene were not great friends was not a secret. They had been sharing a flat for to many years to know that Eugene could die of hunger before cooking. He was not good at all.
“I can cook.” He reached for a cigar from Eugene.
“Or we can order pizza. A fucking barbecue pizza.” Eugene closed his eyes and surrendered to his own imagination. He took a drink of beer.
When Eugene opened his eyes, he and Chuck stared at each other. None said anything. Eugene was the first to look away. His phone was ringing.He apologized to Chuck and got out of bed. He left his own room to answer. He went to the kitchen.
Chuck was dying to know who had called him. Would it have been Babe? No, it was not. Eugene's expression would have been different and he would not have apologized for answering a call from Babe. Chuck brought the cigar to his lips. It was better to think of something else.
Chuck looked at Eugene's room. They had shared a flat for some years and had never stopped to look at it closely. Nor was it his habit to check the rooms of his roommates. It was simple and orderly. On top of the night table was a picture of Eugene with his family. Above the desk was a large stack of papers and the shelves were overflowing with books. He got up to read the titles of the books.
“Sorry. Little Sisters.” He showed him the phone, the screen was black, it was blocked.
“Yes, if by grave it’s understood that she has been discussed with our mother. He wanted to run away from home and call to ask if she could come here.
“And she will come? Will she pay her rent?” Eugene smiled. He shook his head.
“For now she stays at home, although she says she wouldn’t talk to our mother never again.”
“Why have they fought?” Chuck sat back down on the bed.
Eugene imitated him. He left the phone near him in case his sister called again.
“Friday there is a party. They tell her to go home at one in the morning and she wants to stay until later.”
“It's hard to be a teenager.” Declared Chuck as if he really put himself in the shoes of Eugene's sister. They both laughed.
Eugene had talked a lot about his little sister and they had met her. She was the center of the world for Eugene. Now she was seventeen and whenever she argued with her parents, she called Eugene to give her the reason and to say with her that they were the worst parents in the world. As it had happened this time, sometimes she also called to get away from home and go to his brother's house. Other times she calls when their parents told her no and she wanted Eugene to convince them and change their minds. Eugene always managed to calm her down and make her take things easy. If Eugene always smiled proudly when he talks about his sister, she did the same with her older brother.
They fell in silent again. Neither of them would know how many minutes had passed without saying a word. Chuck had at some point taken his eyes to Eugene. He was not so sure if Eugene had looked at him. He seemed to be absorbed in his thoughts, again. His silence was broken by noises that were heard from the room. Luz had woken up and was getting ready to go to work.
“What are you thinking about?” Eugene asked Chuck. He had reacted with the noise Luz was making.
“Nothing, it was stupid.”
“What is so special about this stupidity?” Eugene checked if there was any beer left in the can. It was empty. “Sorry, again.”
Eugene's phone rang again. Left the room. It was his little sister again. Chuck looked at Eugene with his eyes until he lost sight of him. When he was alone, he picked up the two cans of empty beers and also left the room.
He may not have to do either one thing or the other. Maybe what he had to do was let the days go by and see how everything developed. It was so easy to fix the lives of others, but so complicated to fix your own life.
Maybe there was the solution, he needed someone else to come and fix his problems. But someone who wasn’t Bill Guarnere, his advices were horrible. Many times he had wondered if he had used them with Nicole, if the answer was yes he didn’t understand how it had worked.
He shuddered at the contact of his hands against his skin. They were cold. It was usual in him but he didn’t remember them so cold.
“Sorry.” He whispered against his lips. “Sure no one will come, right?” He had turned his face to look at the door of the room, now was closed.
“Sure.” He murmured smiling.
He forced Eugene to look at him again. He grabbed his face by the chin and returned to join, without thinking twice, his lips with Eugene’s. He had waited, for many weeks, for this to happen again. They moved in the dark. Babe crashed against his bed. They separated. Babe took off his shirt Babe took off his shirt and followed with his socks. Eugene Roe imitated him. They lay on the bed. Eugene placed himself above Babe carefully.
Someone knocked at the door four times.
Eugene forced him to tip his head. He hid his face in the curve of his neck. Calmly, without any haste and with delight, he covered the skin of the neck area. Babe was getting desperate. Eugene was doing it on purpose. Roe wouldn’t let him move his hands. Babe didn’t want delicacy. Babe didn’t want delicacy. Babe wanted the same abruptness, repressed desire and desperation for the other of some minuts ago in the alley.
They nocked at the door again.
Baby squeezed his eyes. He turned on the bed. He searched for the sheets and covered himself again.
They insisted by knocking on the door.
“Babe!” They shouted from the other side.
“Go away, I'm having a beautiful dream.” Babe complained; both because it was a dream and because they interrupted it. He tried to fall asleep again and recover the dream where he had left it.
“Can I come in?”
“If you want to see me jerk off or do it to me.”
“No thanks, but hurry up. We’re leaving.”
“Go!” Shouted annoyed Babe.
Julian laughed on the other side of the door. Before leaving, he knocked at the door a couple more times. He heard the growl that Babe let out as a complaint and walked away from his friend's room.
In the living room were Skinny and Janovec finishing breakfast. A new weekend had arrived and again the good weather was with them. They were mid-April and could finally start taking summer clothes out of the closet. They looked up when they heard Julian coming back. He was laughing.
“Masturbating. He has had a happy dream.” He went to the table and picked up a cupcake from the bag.”
“What depress.” The cookie broke in half and fell into the milk cup.
“You told him that in half an hour are waiting for us to play basketball.” Skinny licked his upper lip to wipe his mustache of milk. Like a cat.
But they didn’t have to wait much longer for Babe to leave his room and join them.
“I hate you.” Wished good morning Babe. He entered the room replacing his underpants. Without saying anything else he went to the kitchen for a cup of milk.
“How about the morning straw.” Janovec picked up a new cookie.
“You want to smell my hand.”
“Haven’t you washed your hands? You are a piggy.” He brought the biscuit to his mouth.
“You never wash your hands after pissing.” Laughed Skinny.
“But I do after a straw.”
“And after shitting?” Julian asked.
“Nor, what touches my ass and the rest of the shit is the paper, not my hand.”
Skinny and Babe laughed at that comment. Julian drew on his face an expression of complete repulsion at that act; although he wasn’t sure if he should believe Janovec or not. Janovec had that gift to make all his stories look real and all his comments too. He could both make you believe that it was true that a dragon existed as he went to church every Sunday morning.
Dirty cups remained on the table. Because of Babe they were late. Shifty, Jackson, Hashey, Tony, Perconte and Malarkey were waiting for them.
Babe had a serious problem with the alarm clock and with the punctuality; he wasn’t friend with any of two. He never put the alarm clock and it was Julian who had to wake him up; when on some strange occasion he programmed it, he turned it off without realizing because he was asleep. Punctuality was the other leg he limped from. Whoever wanted could tell him the time in more than one occasion and remind him again several times; Babe Heffron wouldn’t arrive at the time they had said. The minimum that would arrive late would be ten minutes.
Babe couldn’t stop reproducing the dream he had had that night. He relived it again and again in his mind. It was as if he had hit the repeat button. Both Roe's gaze fixed on him, the contact of his skins and all the sensations that had caused, he had felt it so real that it could have happened that night and he wasn’t sure because he had get very drunk.
What was Eugene Roe doing at that moment? Would he be sleeping? Would he be awake? He still wouldn’t have slept? Would he be accompanied or alone? Would he be working or lying down doing absolutely nothing? Would he think of him or even remember the color of his hair?
“George Luz! I don’t remember inviting you.” Janovec firmly shook his friend's hand.
“You didn’t do it, it was Malarkey, he loves me.”
“Yes, well, we all believe that he lacked air at birth.” He looked at Marlakey mockingly. His friend showed him the middle finger. “And your roommates.”
At that question, Babe stopped his ear to try to hear some information about Eugene Roe.
“Sleeping. As normal people do on a Saturday morning.” Luzt shrugged, as if the question didn’t make any sense. Who would think to ask something so obvious.
“Don't worry, we accept you with your abnormality.” Janovec mocked him. He tried to get away as quickly as possible, but couldn’t. Luz threw the basketball at him, hitting him squarely against his body.
They were playing basketball all morning. Perconte, who was a great fan of that sport and never missed a game, had never seen so many faults together. On more than one occasion he would have liked to pull his hair. He had seen Hashey jump on Tony Garcia's back trying to steal the ball and drop both of them to the ground; Hashey was twice as tall as Tony. He had also seen Malarkey run the entire basketball yard without bouncing the ball once. Skinny throwing the ball away because they had passed it to him while lighting a cigarette. George Luz wanted to play while he drank a beer he had taken from the fridge that Shifty had brought along with Malarkey. Shifty to ask everyone to stay still and Malarkey to get four legs to the ground to make a mate. Perconte doubted if they did it on purpose or if they really were so stupid.
“For this I have got up early?”
“And what did you expect? Saturday, ten in the morning. Forget about that weird basketball that you watch and have fun.” George Luz patted the back of his friend and offered him the beer can of which he had been drinking.
Perconte accepted it with all the intention to take a drink but it was empty. He turned it to see if something fell, a couple of drops wet the floor. He looked at his friend indignantly.
“Who said it was full? Don’t throw it to the ground, be respectful.”
Towards noon appeared at the basketball field Penkala, Muck and Chuck Grant. They had no intention of playing. They didn’t wear sports clothes but they were wearing sunglasses. They greeted from afar and sat on the benches they had occupied with all their belongings.
“Guarnere and Roe?” He asked, shouting, Luz to Chuck.
Babe moved slowly, disconnected from the play and secretly paid attention to the conversation that began between the roommates.
“Guarnere working and Roe has gone to visit his family, come back tomorrow.”
“Does he stay to sleep in his parents' house?”
Luz showed him his thumbs up as he had listened to him and that the answer he had given to him seemed it was fine.
Babe was disappointed, he hoped that his disappointment at not seeing Roe throughout the weekend didn’t show up in front of his friends. He reconnected with the match although Roe was still the protagonist of his thoughts. He cursed him for going to see his parents. He was an adult, he was twenty-seven years old, he should be there with them, not with his parents; he was twenty-three and wasn’t going to see his parents every weekend.
“What kind of adults are you that you keep visiting your parents every weekend.” Somehow it had to be disguised.
“Lazy ones. You don’t understand because you're a teenager and you still think your parents hates you, that the world is against you, that nobody understands you, that life is shit and you want to die every five minutes. But you will understand.” The irony was the protagonist in Luz's tone of voice and his look was full of mockery.
Babe Heffron snorted with laughter. Luz had stopped chasing the ball and approached to his friends. Babe decided to imitate him. He gave a look to the rest of his friends; they no longer played basketball, now they passed the ball between them, preventing Hashey from catching it.
“When you leave home is when you start to appreciate your parents and when you are three days without clean underwear and a week eating pasta with tomato you call to them begging to return home.” Malarkey assured him; he was supported by Muck and Penkala.
“It really happens on the second day. At the third you show up at your parents' house.” Chuck corrected him.
“Why do you always have to explain battles? It doesn’t make you feel old.” Muck protested.
Babe sat on the floor. He had taken a can of beer from the cooler. He opened it slowly allowing the gas to escape in a controlled way. He didn’t trust in his friends. Muck and Penkala were governed by the motto "whatever for a laugh".
Shifty and Skinny joined them, as if they had waited a while for the first deserters to show up. Quickly followed by the rest of their friends, they ignored how the ball bounced more and more weakly until stop as they walked away.
The cans of beer began to run from hand to hand, some of them didn’t have the same caution as Babe and left all agitated soaking his hands, legs and everything it could; they took the lighter from their hands fighting over him as if there weren’t more and they promised that later they would return the cigarettes they borrowed.
Babe knew that he wasn’t going to have any messages sent by him, but he also checked his messages. Skinny had just read a message that Eugene had sent by the whatsapp group they all shared in response to a voice note from Luz. Everyone laughed; it was one of those comments in which Eugene threw a bucket of ice water over you and left you with the face of an idiot and stunned and then make you laugh. It wasn’t related with him, but he also read it a couple of times while shaking his head and cursing him.
It didn’t cost him anything to send him a message, even if it was a car emoticon. The sense of what was right in Eugene annoyed him in a sovereign way.
Babe was so caught up in his thoughts and focused on making a list of the things he liked and annoyed about Eugene Roe that he didn’t realize that Chuck Grant was watching him intently. Babe snorted, couldn’t get anything out, only confused himself more and couldn’t find a solution to the big problem he was in. He had never liked anyone so much and nobody had ever rejected him so many times. He unlocked the phone once more and stared at the conversation he had with Eugene; the last time they had said anything had been a month ago. Eugene was online, he closed the application as fast as he could, nervous and trying to keep the phone from falling out of his hands.
Chuck, who had been a spectator of the whole scene, smiled sideways, looked down and read the answer Eugene had sent him. Babe, on the other hand, cursed inwardly his reaction, he seemed so adolescent. Worst of all, according to Babe, was that Eugene was oblivious to everything that happened.
“Who are you talking to, Chucky?” Chuck looked up from his phone and looked at Luz, he was looking at him as if he were a piece of shit he had just stepped on. He looked down again ignoring him. “Grant, I'm talking to you.”
“Roe.” He still didn’t pay attention. Luz knew that he hated being called Chucky.
“Roe answers when you speak to him privately?” He replied indignantly.
“I wouldn’t answer to you either. I can say more, I wouldn’t read your texts.” Janovec scoffed. He lay on the ground with his back to George Luz.
“Directly I wouldn’t write to you.” He spat; although deep down he was proud of how much Janovec had learned from him. “What does Roe say?”
“You're an idiot.” Janovec stepped forward.
“Tell Roe that we already knew that.” Perconte interjected, as if that were the most obvious thing in the world and whoever didn’t know it was an idiot.
George Luz got up to complain and be able to point to his friends comfortably. Babe stopped paying attention to him although he kept on laughing; he dedicated his attention to Chuck Grant, who also kept laughing at Luz but with most of his attention on his conversation with Roe.
In the end, none of them discovered what Chuck and Roe were talking about; the conversation was diverted and they ended up discussing whether they should send voice notes to Guarnere so he would be jealous or not.
But Babe was thinking about it all afternoon. Not in a row, but it was for long minutes when he got into it. He didn’t focus only on the possible conversation that Chuck and Roe could have; he wondered why Roe and Chuck would talk for whatsapp and they didn’t do it, all the possible conversations they could have, he wondered about the possible relationship they could have and if they were more than friends, if it was true that Chuck and Roe spent a lot of time together ignoring the fact that they were roommates; if anything had ever happened between them, if they could like each other and that was the real reason why Eugene rejected him, if they had a secret relationship like they had had.
His thoughts were going so fast and he had so many things in his head that, didn't matter the turns in the bed he did, Babe couldn’t get asleep. One theory was followed by another, and other, and other; although some didn’t have any kind of sense. He got up from the bed to take a break, he decided to go to smoke a cigarette. But it didn’t work, he kept thinking about the same thing. He ended up sleeping at four in the morning and more confused than ever.
Eugene protested when Chuck Grant scolded him for getting out of bed. In the background you could hear the laughter of George Luz and his crude imitation of Chuck. Eugene tried not to look in the direction that George Light was in, he didn’t want to laugh in Chuck's faces. He really tried, but the laughter escaped from under his nose.
“You two stop! Yes, I am seeing you and I’m listening to you Luz. Roe, go back to bed you have almost forty of fever.” Chuck scolded them both this time.
“If I wanted to be punished, I would have stayed living with my parents.” Luz protested.
“Go back with your parents, do us the favor of freeing us from your presence.” Guarnere appeared in the living room trying to tie his tie. How he hated wearing a tie, but it was because his job liked too much that he hasn’t thrown his tie away a long time ago. “Stupid tie.” He mumbled when the knot didn’t come out again. It seemed incredible to him that despite having been working as a museum guide for two years, he still didn’t know how to tie his tie. “Isn’t anyone working here?” He looked at each of his roommates.
“Roe has infected us all.” George Luz coughed mockingly.
“Sons of bitch.” He murmured in the middle of a smile.
“We already told you that studying history was useless. See how you have finished, working every day.” George Luz continued to mock him.
“Someone has to raise the country and it is clear that you will not do it.”
“Hey! I educate, or I try to, the future generations. I try that they be able to think.” Roe defended himself. He coughs again. He had gone to the kitchen for a glass of water.
“And how do you carry on?” Guarnere was preparing to leave but before he wanted to hear the response of one of his best friends.
“It’s terrible, we’re lost, the future is lost. I suspend almost everyone.”
Guarnere, Grant and Luz laughed. Guarnere said goodbye to his friends and left the apartment they shared.
Roe went to the sofa; his intention was to sit next to Luz and take the free command of the play station. He had been in bed for three days; he was tired of being in it without doing anything. Roe had never had a problem admitting that he was a horrible patient. He didn’t like the hospital, the doctors, or the nurses. Until he was really in a hurry he didn’t go to the doctor. This last time, after spending the whole weekend in bed with fever, it was because Chuck forced him to go to the hospital, almost dragged him to the hospital.
The name of the game "Call Of Duty" appeared on the television screen when Chuck Grant realized that Eugene was there. That he had cheated him without any problem.
“Roe! You want to go to bed!” He complained again as he demanded to his partner to go to rest.
It was normal that there was no human way for the fever to subside in Eugene, there was no way that the boy was more than five minutes in bed quiet and resting. When he was for two minutes in the bed reading, he put the book aside and left the room to meet Chuck and a stern look that ordered him to go back to bed. And it wasn’t that Eugene didn’t like to read, it was one of the things that he liked most, what he didn’t like was to be forced to be into bed.
“Let the boy, if he dies of fever, we will rent the room to someone else. Don’t worry, Chuck.” Luz downplayed the situation in his defence so that Roe could be out of bed.
“You see; listen to Luz, your share of the rent will not go up.” Roe coughed again.
“You’re a pair of imbeciles. It's like I have two children and I'm gay ‘cause I don’t want to have children.” He complained again provoking the laughter of his friends. He sat next to them and took his command.
“It's a good reason to be gay.” Luz supported him. He looked to his right. There was Roe. “You, why did you become gay.”
“‘Cause I wanted you to be my boyfriend.” He answered without even looking at him; he was choosing his weapons.
“Have told me before, now I'm meeting someone.” Reproached to his friend.
“It's just that you didn’t ask me. But we can be lovers. To share is to live.”
Chuck Grant shook his head. Eugene Roe couldn’t stand up because of the fever he had but he would do anything to not rest in bed.
“I'll ask Rachel.” Laughed Luz.
He hit the accept button and they started the first game.
They rang the bell a couple of times. Luz jumped up from the sofa and went to the door to open it and meet Babe Heffron, Skinny and Donald Malarkey. Both smiled from ear to ear, it seemed to be the attempt of a charming and angelic smile but if he didn’t know them he would have closed the door in their nose and with a key.
“We come to see the patient.” Malarkey announced, showing his friend the bag he was carrying.
“Do you bring alcohol to the sick? He's medicating, you moron.”
“No, Babe brings the bag for the sick.” He pointed him with a blow of his head.
“He will penetrate your ass with that. Come on, come in.” George Luz stepped aside allowing his friends to enter the house.
“We come ready for all, we bring lubricant too.” Skinny wanted to calm him.
“Where is the patient?”
“And why have we come then?” Skinny was outraged.
“That is what I asked, nobody told you to come.”
Babe stopped listening to the conversation, or rather the false argument, which his friends had about why they were there. Malarkey claimed that it was to visit Roe because he was his friend and they were worried about him, while Luz affirmed categorically that it was because they were freeloaders and they had run out of food in his house.
One of the doors leading to the living room was closed; it was the door that led to Eugene Roe's room. He stared at it. Roe was on the other side. Roe was a few meters away from him. Roe was there, on the same flat as him. Babe would like to cross the door. He would like to open it and go with him. To be able to see how he was, to know how he was feeling right now, if he needed something. See him sleep again, like when they were together. Lie on his side. Keep long conversations and let the time go by without any of them noticing. Get lost in his dark gaze. Be the cause of his smile. Kiss him again. That he whispered words in French to him.
He sighed deeply, resigned. There was no sign that this would happen. Eugene Roe was doing his best to stand firm in his words and his position. That was something that Babe liked about Eugene and that he hated with all his being.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Chuck appeared in the living room buttoning his pants.
“Where do you come from?” Skinny looked at him with a mischievous smile on his lips.
“That I should ask to you, is my house.”
“They come to eat our food.” Luz hit again without trying, either not wanting to, avoid it.
“Shut up. We came to see Roe, but we brought beer.” Malarkey smiled and showed Chuck the bag.
“He was sleeping.”
“He was?” Babe reacted, landed again in the conversation. He stopped looking at the closed door of Eugene's room and looked at his friends.
“I doubt that he could continue sleeping with all the noise that you are making.”
But if the noise had awakened Eugene or not, they didn’t know at that moment. If he had been awake at some point, he had turned around in bed and had continued to sleep; the door to Eugene's room didn’t open.
Malarkey, Babe and Skinny stayed there all afternoon, and yes, they ended up emptying their friends' fridge. When Guarnere returned from work they were still there and Eguene Roe hadn’t yet shown signs of life. He hadn’t left his room at any time or they hadn’t realized; that also could be.
“ And we shouldn’t check if he is still alive?” Malarkey worried.
“We should ask?” Skinny stared at the closed door of Roe's room.
“But if he is dead he will not answer us.”
"And if he's sleeping either, idiot.” Recriminated Luz to Malarkey.
“We knock on the door?” Asked no one Malarkey. He looked at his friends one by one.
“Leave him alone.” Chuck Grant got up and went to the kitchen to empty the ashtray. A large amount of ash had accumulated.
“Yes, what you should start do is go to your fucking house.” Guarnere came back. He had changed his clothes and now he was wearing a tracksuit. According to Guarnere this was one of the greatest pleasures of life.
“You know, we might think you're throwing us out.” Malarkey recriminated to his friend.
“I'm throwing you out.” He assured him by saying the phrase more slowly than usual; he didn’t want any doubt to left.
“We will not listen to you, you are living with a sick person and you’re delirious.” Malarkey assured Guarnere to calm down.
Guarnere snorted, he was never going to get rid of them. The only thing he wanted was to lie on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Wasn’t anyone going to give him that little pleasure?
Finally, when they left it was eleven o'clock at night and they hadn’t seen Eugene Roe. Babe was quite disappointed by that. Before leaving he gave one last look at the door of Eugene Roe's room, Chuck didn’t miss it. Nothing escapes from the attentive look of Chuck.
The only time that Eugene Roe left his room was to go to the bathroom and another to fill the bottle of water he had taken with him so he wouldn’t have to get out of bed every five minutes; none of his companions noticed. He also didn’t bother to make notice them that he was awake for five minutes.
The insistent noise of the doorbell woke him up the next morning. Eugene wondered, confused, who he would be. It was not any of his roommates, that was clear, they all had a key and although some of them had left it, wasn’t time for them to return home, they would still be working. He didn’t think of any of his friends either, none of them had told him that they would come to his flat that morning. He thought that maybe it could be one of his neighbors who had something to complaint about, which wouldn’t surprise him at all, happened quite usual.
When he opened the door he was petrified, unable to react, at the other side of the door there was Babe Heffron. He didn’t know how he should feel and how he should react. He didn’t know if he had to be happy or wish that the earth swallow him. He should invite him to pass or close the door in his face. Maybe he could run out even it was his flat. They were alone. There was no one else with them. He was getting nervous because of his own thoughts. It was difficult for him to control himself when there was no one next to them. Eugene's throat had suddenly gone dry.
“Heffron, what are you doing here? You don’t have class?” He couldn’t say anything else and it seemed to him that it had sounded rather awkward.
He looked Babe up and down carefully. It may have been the first time he had looked at him that way since he had left him a few months ago. He clung to the door; that helped him to not throwing himself on top of Babe.
Babe Heffron shrugged, dismissing the fact that he wasn’t in class.
“You shouldn’t be in bed?” He used the same tone of reprimand, it was completely involuntary.
Eugene Roe imitated him and shrugged as well.
“What are you doing here?” Insisted.
“I've come to see how you were. Yesterday we came with Malarkey and Skinny but you didn’t leave your room.”
“I know, I heard you. Let's say you're not what we call ... discrete.” Eugene Roe smiled sideways.
Babe felt that his knees were going to betray him. Eugene was smiling at him. This time there was no one else and there was no doubt about what he was seeing. But that wasn’t the only fact that caused it. They were talking, they were having a conversation and this time it wasn’t a dream, it wasn’t happening inside his head. He was completely sure of that, if it was a dream he would not have stayed in the doorway. If it was a dream Eugene would have let him in and they would have let themselves be carried away by his most carnal and primitive desires. None of them would have any clothes left on and they wouldn’t have arrived to Eugene's room.
“How do you feel?” Babe tried to control his tone of voice and not to be betrayed by his own thoughts.
“Better than yesterday, fever has gone down.”
They remained in silent. They looked at each other. Anyone who would been there would have wanted to run away because of the pressure and tension that was felt in the air; you could cut it with a knife. It was suffocating. Eugene Roe was still leaning against the door. Babe stared into his eyes; Eugene's dark eyes were like a powerful magnet for him.
“I'm glad to hear that.” He broke the silence without caring of that it wasn’t the most ingenious of all those sentences that had crossed his mind in that space of time.
“Come in, I think there's some beer in the fridge of that you brought yesterday.” Eugene invited Babe to finally pass.
Eugene wasn’t quite sure of what he had just done, he didn’t know if he would later regret what he was doing, he didn’t know when he had stopped listening to his common sense, he didn’t know how to control his desires at that moment; he attributed everything to the fever that clouded his judgment. On the other hand, Babe smiled from ear to ear inside himself. If it wasn’t because it was going to be too obvious and embarrassing to do it in front of Eugene, he would be jumping with joy all over the flat. He just followed him.
At that moment Babe realized about something. Yes, he finally had it. Eugene and he had crossed more than two words. They had talked about something that had nothing to do with the subject Eugene was a professor of. He had gone to his house and Eugene had not only opened the door for him, but had also let him into his house. Eugene and he were alone. All this was fantastic. He had been working for weeks for this to happen. What was the problem then? He didn’t know what to talk about with Eugene.
Silence had taken over the place. Eugene had gone to the kitchen for something to drink for him, had a few minutes to think about a topic of conversation and a witty phrase that would help Eugene not kick him out of his apartment. It had to be witty and funny. What were they talking about when they had been together? It couldn’t be so complicated. They had spent a lot of time together, and alone, when they were dating in secret.
He had to hurry in thinking something, Eugene could leave at any time, to take a can of beer from the refrigerator wasn’t something so complicated and didn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
And as Babe had predicted in his thoughts, Eugene came out of the kitchen. He carried the beer can in the right pocket of his sweatpants and in his hands he carried a glass of water in each one. Babe looked at him strangely.
“What do you do?” The suspicion dominated the question.
“Take the can.” He indicated by showing him the pocket it was in. It took to Babe a few seconds to react but he did. It seemed to him that his hands were more trembling than usual; someone hit him, he was just going to grab a can from Eugene's trouser pocket. “And I have to medicate myself. If I don’t, Grant gets mad at me.”
“Grant gets mad at you?”
“Yes, I'm a horrible sick man and Grant knows it.”
“How lucky we’re to have Grants with us”. Murmured Babe with a background full of jealousy that he hoped wouldn’t have been noticed too much. He hadn’t been able to avoid it; he had said it without any kind of filter.
Why did Chuck always have to be involved? Again, all the theories about Chuck and Roe gained strength in his head. Maybe it was their fault they weren’t together. Was he preventing Eugene from being happy? Was it better for him to leave? Had it been a bad idea to go to Eugene's house?
Silence was once again the protagonist in the room. Babe played with the can in his hands, Eugene had decided to take out a cigar. Both looked for each other with the hope that the other wouldn’t realize that he was looking at him. Babe looked for Eugene's eyes; Eugene was looking for Babe's lips. Babe cursed himself for having the horrible idea of showing up at Roe's apartment, it was a complete disaster, in his mind things hadn’t happened that way; Eugene tried not to think about the fact that Babe was a few inches away from him and that they were still alone.
Alone. That word resonated heavily in Eugene's mind. They were still completely alone, none of their roommates were there and it would still take hours before they returned. They were alone. Eugene glanced at Babe once more. His gaze quickly dropped to the boy's lips. Babe was running his tongue for them after having a drink of the beer he was holding. Roe stopped looking at him. He looked back again.
Eugene had a horrible desire to kiss Babe.