Black lungs, bad liver, dull eyes, aching stomach.
When Miles first noticed the notebook, he was excited at the prospect of Alex writing again. It didn’t look like his usual lyric book, but he was known to write in anything when inspiration hit. But as he flipped through page after page, he realized this was far from a simple lyric book.
Some nights, many nights, when I’ve drowned myself in excess, it’s hard not to believe your only purpose all along was to get fucked up.
Lately my body has felt like a prison.
God, this has been a tough week...
I’ve been getting panic attacks in my sleep...
I don’t quite feel motivated to keep this charade up for very much longer.
Miles slammed the notebook shut, then squeezed his eyes hard enough until he saw flashes of white lights behind his eyelids. The scrawl that formed those words was familiar, it was undoubtedly Alex’ handwriting, but the sentiments were so foreign, so unlike the person he thought he knew everything about.
Alex had been withdrawn lately, preferring to spend more nights in than at the pubs with the rest of them, and Miles had of course noticed, but also knew how Alex cherished his alone time. But could his more frequent reclusion be the sign of something more? Something darker?
In truth, Alex wasn’t alright. He dropped the facade so long ago he couldn’t remember where to pick it back up. Days and nights blended together, sunrise and sundown being the only indicators of time passed and time passing.
Days like this were hardest, when he hadn’t bothered to come around in so long, how long, he didn’t know, and his friends decided to come by like he was a charity case before giving up and leaving him to his own devices. More often than not it was Miles who came around, trying his best to act like Alex was still the same when clearly he wasn’t, Alex knew he wasn’t, and Miles did too.
“Why don’t you come out tomorrow? We’re just all getting together at my place, nothing big.” Miles tried as they sat on the couch, still unnerved by the contents of Alex’ journal.
“I can’t, no. Got some reading to catch up on.” Alex replied lamely, even though he hadn’t been able to finish a book in months.
“Are you alright, Al?” The tone in which Miles delivered his words made Alex shift in his seat slightly; it suggested you’ve been found out .
“Just tired, ya know… getting done with touring, all that. Moving…” Suddenly it was extremely important to reassure him, the guilt of knowing Miles was worried about him was too much to bare, added on to his regular guilt for being alive, breathing, taking up space, being a burden… It was the absolute last thing he could manage to carry.
“Just know I’m here for you, yeah? Call me, text me, anytime. I’ll be right here, if you ever need me.” Alex just nodded quickly in reply, lips pursed as he fought back tears. Just a simple sentence, I’m here for you , was enough to bring on the biggest, ugliest sobs from Alex these days. He always cried after his friends left; he broke down completely after Miles left one day, when he’d just given him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He’d done it a million times, but each time was filled with a genuinity that Alex couldn’t muster, he couldn’t even bring himself to show his love for Miles because he was completely broken.
If Miles had taken notice to his miniature collapse he let it slide, thankfully, because he only patted Alex on his thigh and turned back to the TV. However, there was a whirlwind going on in Alex’ head, like a lighthouse being beat to hell by a massive storm. A simple phrase, a simple, honest, string of words had chipped through the barely there exterior Alex was holding together, and he was exhausted.
“Will you hold me?” It was barely a whisper, but the quiet plea had been heard, as Miles shifted and lifted his arm to let Alex in. Alex shuffled to lay his head on Miles’ chest, closing his eyes as Miles’ arms wrapped around him in that particular way that always made him feel alright, made him feel at home no matter where he was in the world. He couldn’t stop crying. Big, ugly, horrendous sobs broke through, rattling Alex to the core, but Miles was the anchor. Miles was the rocky mount keeping his ramshackle lighthouse from being swept away, holding him firm and sound. His gentle hand caressed where needed, nothing more but everything that Alex so desperately required.
“I love you, Al.” Came Miles’ steady voice, all while Alex was breaking off piece by piece. Alex didn’t reply but he also knew Miles didn’t need one, he knew he was ok to be silent, to cry as much as he needed to, as much as he could. His painful sobs turned to heaves, hyperventilating as he let himself fall apart, to crumble in a way he hadn’t yet allowed himself.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d cried, but by the time he finally released the fist holding Miles’ shirt his fingers were almost numb, his eyes stung and he was completely drained.
“Let me get you in bed,” Miles’ calm voice told him, though Alex didn’t move. Instead, Miles gathering up all of the little pieces, all the tiny shards of Alex, scooped them into his arms and carried him to bed. All those fragile bits were rested gently on the mattress, stripped of clothing and tucked up.
Alex hardly realized he was being put back together until Miles sat next to him on the bed, pushing away tear soaked and greasy strands of hair from his face. “Don’t leave,” Alex hoarsely begged, weakly reaching his hand out to touch Miles’ arm. Miles took Alex’ hand and kissed his knuckles, resting the back of his hand against his cheek while Alex looked on pitifully. He almost started crying again when Miles let go and stood, but relief washed over him when he shimmied out of his pants and shirt. Miles slowly climbed in next to him, graciously gathering up Alex once again in his arms, putting him back in place.
“I’m not going anywhere.”