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Persistence of Memory

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David Rose remembers everything. You wouldn’t think that about him, but he does. He collects the big moments and the tiny details and keeps them forever.

David remembers developing a lot of bad habits in New York. He had to fill the endless hours and even more endless loneliness with something, because when he was alone, the creeping tendrils of anxiety would take root. He remembers countless nights in clubs and bars and penthouses and sketchy apartments. He doesn’t remember much after the drugs kicked in but he does remember waking up filled with shame but feeling a tiny bit of relief that at least he was filled with something.

David remembers assuming Patrick played by the same rules. Self-centered, self-obsessed, selfish. At least those rules were something he was familiar with. He sometimes has difficulty even now remembering that Patrick isn’t like this, isn’t like them. When Rachel showed up, he almost wasn’t even surprised because that was the kind of behavior he was used to, because the nagging voice in his brain kept telling him there had to be something that would ruin all of this. Even the gifts weren’t new. It certainly wasn’t the first time he had been given apology chocolates. But they were, David remembers now, the first ones that meant something. At the time, he let Patrick keep sending them, letting the gifts fill the hole Patrick left in him until he couldn’t stand being alone anymore.

David remembers the look on Patrick’s face when he realized David had been collecting his olive branches, waiting for more. That’s when he realized Patrick was different. David has tried desperately to forget the look of pain Patrick gave him, but he can’t. It might be because it was the first time he saw someone look as hurt as he had felt in the past. He had always believed that other people weren’t as hurt, didn’t feel things as deeply, because he was weak, that he was broken. He remembers whispering this to Patrick much later that night, in the dark, murmured into his boyfriend’s back to keep the words from escaping out into the world. He remembers Patrick holding his face in his hands, saying “emotions are not a weakness, David.” Patrick made him keep repeating that, punctuated by gentle kisses, then less gentle kisses, and then, well, David lost the capacity to do much more than swear and beg for a while after that.

David remembers the naked photo. To be fair, there are a lot of naked photos of him out there. He is certain that at least one is still in one of Sebastien’s numerous albums. But this one was different. He and Patrick were in bed together. It had been a quiet day at the store, and they were joking about Miguel’s sexy advertisements and if they should try the same tactic for the store. Patrick pulled out his phone, saying “sex sells, after all!” David tried to stop him from taking the picture--he might be vain but fear and past experience made him wary. But in the instant before Patrick took the picture, he whispered “I love you” in David’s ear. The picture captured their dual expressions of love, quiet and pure. David would prefer to forget those other photos, but this one was perfect.

David remembers the day he and Stevie turned one of Patrick’s rants about his spreadsheets into a drinking game. They opened one of the store’s better bottles of wine (which may have started the rant, incidentally) and took a drink anytime Patrick said something like “profit and loss” or “inventory” or “assets” or any word they didn’t know (who the fuck even says “fiduciary”?). Eventually, they started taking a drink any time Patrick looked at them disapprovingly. Needless to say, it did not take long until they were shitfaced. Neither Stevie nor David could stand very well, much less walk home, so Patrick dropped Stevie off at her apartment and drove David to his. About halfway there, David felt a wave of nausea and before he had a chance to ask Patrick to stop the car, found himself vomiting wine and artisanal cheese all over the floorboard of the car. David remembers feeling mortified. It certainly wasn’t the first time he’d thrown up in someone’s car, but it was the first time he’d thrown up in the car of someone he cared about, respected, and thought was nice. He remembers Patrick’s audible, frustrated sigh which made him try to grab the roll of paper towels jammed in the center console to try to clean up the mess, apologizing, praying this wouldn’t be the thing to make him leave, that it wouldn’t be the last straw. But instead of leaving, Patrick carried David upstairs and held him until they both fell asleep. In the drunken twilight just before sleep, against all odds, David remembers mumbling, “you should probably just get a new car.”

David remembers mornings waking up alone in Patrick’s bed because his boyfriend is a morning person and David is decidedly not. David remembers wrapping himself in the smell of Patrick’s sheets in the moments before he had to open his eyes. When he lived in New York, David kept a box under his bed of things he had stolen from lovers to keep smelling them after he left. Pillowcases, bed sheets, t-shirts. Anything so he wouldn’t have to let go. They were a crutch, a drug, another in a long line of useless fixes for the broken pieces of him. A small comfort, a memory that someone had been there. The smell of Patrick’s sheets was more intoxicating than any of the others, but David discovered he didn’t need it to get through the day because Patrick is there when he needs him. David remembers he stole a pillowcase and hid it at the motel, just in case.

David remembers the first time he saw Patrick cry. This was notable because Patrick Brewer was not a crier. For David, crying was a regular weeknight activity before Patrick, and even now, is hardly a rare occurrence. David remembers that it had been a terrible day. There had been that argument with a vendor who pulled out last minute. The customer from out of town who made a snide comment and left the store when he saw them kiss. But the last straw was when David made a careless mistake on the inventory list and Patrick lost it, yelling at David to just stop before he fucked anything else up. David remembers shouting back, “Maybe you shouldn’t have gone into business with such a fuck-up, then!” and stomping into the backroom. David remembers slumping into a chair, finding it hard to breathe. A sharp pain in his chest, vision greying around the edges. Panic attack. He had a name for this feeling now but labeling it didn’t make him feel any less like he was dying. David remembers Patrick following him behind the curtain, maybe to apologize, maybe to continue the fight. David didn’t even look. He was bracing for the pain, for Patrick to say he was done. He must have looked terrible, slumped in the chair, hand on his chest, face shining with tears, breathing hard. David remembers hearing a soft, “Oh.” And then, “Oh, no, baby. I’m sorry. David, I didn’t mean it.” He felt Patrick’s hands on his shoulders, on his face. “David. Are you ok? What’s wrong? David?” David remembers wanting to say something cutting and witty but finding his brain spiraling between i’m not enough and i’m too much. He remembers Patrick pulling out his phone, debating if he should call 911 or if it would be faster to just call Ted. This, incidentally, is what made David look up. He remembers brokenly explaining, “panic attack, not heart attack” because he was not going to have that conversation with Ted again. He remembers Patrick pulling him into a tight hug, alternating between “I’m so sorry, David” and “It’s ok, baby, I got you.” David remembers noticing that his shoulder was oddly damp and pulling back so he could see his boyfriend’s face, only to find Patrick’s eyes filled with tears. He remembers only being able to stare for a moment, unable to understand what would make Patrick cry. Eventually he asks, “Why are you crying?”, a little more aggressively than he intended. David remembers Patrick looking at him with such incredulity that it almost sent him into another spiral of anxiety and shame. “I was worried about you! I hurt you! God, David, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it.” David remembers noting that not only was this the first time he saw Patrick cry, but the first time anyone had ever cried over hurting him. It was a long time before he was able to fully process this information.

David remembers that the next time he saw Patrick cry, it was because they were both laughing so hard, they couldn’t breathe. He isn’t sure how they got there, but they were both lying on the floor on their backs, Patrick wheezing and trying to catch his breath, tears streaming down his beautiful face. David remembers thinking that he had never, never, been so comfortable with someone that he could let go this much, this easily. At least not while sober. He remembers rolling onto his side, wiping away tears from Patrick’s face with a thumb and planting a soft kiss on his forehead. He remembers thinking that this must be what it’s like to love someone with your whole heart.

David remembers meeting Patrick’s parents, how could he forget? He hadn’t told Patrick this, but he had never met any of his lovers’ parents before. Never mind that none of his relationships had lasted long enough for it, there was no way he would have put himself through that kind of trauma for anyone else. Patrick talked about his parents a lot and it seemed like they had a good relationship, but David’s anxiety was in overdrive at the prospect of meeting people he felt he needed to impress. David remembers that Patrick noticed how keyed up he was in the days leading up to the party. He made up a thousand excuses because he was not going to ruin the surprise, goddamnit. He just kept apologizing until Patrick banned the word “sorry” from being used in the store. David remembers the feeling when he learned that his boyfriend’s parents didn’t know he had a boyfriend. Like his lungs were somehow both imploding and exploding at the same time, like being held down under icy water. The old David would have just noped right out of that whole situation. He was so far out of his comfort zone but he was going to make this ok for Patrick, whatever it took, because fuck, he adored this man more than anyone, even Mariah Carey.

David remembers the box of letters. He had dropped one of his engagement rings and it rolled under Patrick’s bed. He was not going out with only three of them, because that would be incorrect. His fiance had opened the store this morning, letting David get a bit more sleep, but of course David slept quite a bit later than he had intended and was trying to get ready to leave, knowing he was going to get shit from Patrick for being so late. David remembers that his ring had rolled behind an open shoebox that looked like it was full of letters. He remembers pulling the box out. He wasn’t trying to snoop, but how could he not look? He thought about the time his mother had found all those horrifying letters she had written to his dad, but David was sure that he’d never written Patrick any letters like that. He remembers pulling the box out, setting it on the bed, and sitting cross-legged in front of it. He remembers staring at it for what felt like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, his heart jackhammering in his chest, his ears ringing. Eventually, he remembers, he pulled the top letter out and opened it and felt his heart drop. The letter was addressed to him, in Patrick’s neat handwriting, dated nearly two years prior. He pulled out another, and another, and another, until he was surrounded by letters on the bed, their contents ranging from tender and sweet to tremendously filthy. Most were from before they got together, but there were a few from that terrible week after the barbeque, and at least one from a time that David knew Patrick had been out of town at some sort of tax seminar. David remembers feeling a flood of emotions and bursting into tears. He was confused, but also overwhelmed by love and maybe just a little turned on. He remembers Patrick opening the door to the apartment, saying “David, what are you doing? I was worried about you” and then, “Oh. I...I didn’t think you would find those.” He remembers his fiance frozen at the front door, blush rising high on his cheeks. He remembers asking, “What are these?” and Patrick trying to explain that he got into a habit after they first met of writing down his feelings because he was afraid that David wouldn’t feel the same way. That his feelings were so much more than he’d experienced with anyone else that he had to do something with them to keep from losing his mind. David remembers Patrick’s blush deepening as he added, “I kept writing them whenever we were apart for a while.” David managed to extract himself from the pile of letters and embraced his fiance tightly. He remembers whispering, “I love you so much” and then, lower, sultry, “We should try some of those things you wrote about.” He remembers standing there, holding Patrick for a long time, and that Rose Apothecary just happened to stay closed that afternoon.

David remembers these moments, keeps them on hand for evidence that this beautiful, sweet man currently asleep on David’s lap loves him, adores him, because sometimes David has a hard time believing it. He keeps these memories nearby because sometimes, in the darker moments, his anxiety lies to him. These memories help to keep the panic and fear at bay. And when they don’t, when he is overwhelmed, these memories remind him that he has someone to ask for help. Patrick is his lifeboat keeping him safe from the dark, icy waters of his mind.

Patrick opens his eyes and looks up at David, who is looking down at him with a soft expression.

“Hi David…”, Patrick says sleepily.

David tucks a smile into his cheek and says, “Mm, hi.”

“What’re you thinking about?”

“You.”