It was another world. It feels impossible now. When Carl thinks of the great loves of his life, when he contrasts, compares, regrets, rejoices, Anthony is never among them. He hasn’t yet figured out why.
Anthony was, in fact, the closest Carl had ever gotten to having a boyfriend. The word still fills him with a certain kind of giddiness, that forbidden thrill that should have disappeared at least two lifetimes ago. No screaming matches, no guitars thrown out the window or grand romantic gestures - they had been…domestic, as much as he hates to think of anything like that.
Carl has never written a song about Anthony. It worried him then and it confuses him now, as if love is not quite real if it’s not on the radio. And it had been love, it seems obvious these days.
Anthony had moved in right after Annalisa had left and despite being used to trading one comfort for another, it had still tipped Carl just a bit off-balance, left him feeling a little like a spectator. Or maybe that could be attributed to the drugs, partly aided by a broken collarbone. Anthony had, of course, helped with that too.
It was all a bit nebulous. History changes along with his moods. What he does remember is sleepy morning when he’d hide his face in Anthony’s neck and wonder how he’d gotten so lucky. He remembers Anthony finding a solution to every little thing Carl categorised as “too much” and he remembers his awful taste in coffee and the fact that he was always permanently warm. All of it gives Carl what he thinks is a well-deserved headache.
Even now remains from that discarded other life clutter journals, drawers, closets, cupboards. He’d even kept the tattered Union Jack he’d used as a makeshift sling, it had been one of Anthony’s inventions after all. He’d called it a “souvenir from home for the road”. Carl never asked what his souvenir had been in the long months he’d spent in Carl’s rainy half of the world but then again he never asked much of anything back then.
Their first American tour had been horrible yet just as exhilarating as Carl could imagine. It finally, finally proved (to himself, most of all) he’d come out of the wreckage of The Libertines alive and breathing. Some of his best memories of the two of them are from that tour, even if they continued to practically live in each other’s pockets for two more years.
Somehow Carl had known it couldn’t last, that the past would eventually fight its way into his future but for a while living on borrowed time had been awfully nice. Their goodbyes hadn’t been anything special, Anthony had obviously been struck by the same realisation as him.
Years later, when Carl ran into Anthony at Mairead’s wedding, things somehow weren’t awkward at all, annoyingly so. Anthony’s innate ability to be the most easy-going person Carl had ever met had never been used against him before, not like this at least. That evening that brought it all back.
Carl hadn’t bothered with the effort of forgetting it all over again but he still can’t quite help wondering if the present would be different if he hadn’t taken so much for granted, wondering if they ever had anything more than a chance.