Aching Hours


It's been some time since they were a couple, at least a month.  Probably longer.  Maybe three.  They look like siblings.  Leslie says no, wants nothing to do with him now.  Still he persists, stands in front of her building in the aching hours of morning, every morning, and calls out her name.  He calls it but once, loud and begging.  "Leslie!" he calls, hoping for an answer.
      He claims to be past his heroin habit, is into other things now.  Woodworking.  Candle making.  Reading old recipe books that call for cans of Campbell's cream soup.  But no TV.  He still doesn't watch TV, won't enter a room where one is on.
      Leslie is his name, too, just like hers.  When first a couple, it was funny, all the confusion.  Then it wasn't funny, all the confusion.
      She loved him once.  She loved his looks.  He's gorgeous. But it's difficult being gorgeous and being male.  "For women," he said, "it's desirable."
      "And for men?"
      "It's not."
      They first met in winter while on line for the restroom at a restaurant that served only raw foods and carrot juice cocktails.  Each was with a date.  Both toilets were broken.  "Use the sink," she told him.
      "It's not like that," he answered.
      They left together, abandoning those they'd come with.
      Her place was unkempt, smelled of overworn laundry and rotting dill.  The radiator pipes clanged coldly.  Her cactus was dead.
      She turned on the TV.  He threatened to leave.  "Turn it off now," he yelled.
      She did.
      "You could be my brother," Leslie said, pressing against him.  They looked like siblings.
      They kissed then stripped then did the things couples do.  They tore at each other until they were too tired to tear anymore.
      "What should I do?" he asked her the next morning, naked and brilliant.
      "Become a model," she told him.
      Success came quickly for him.  It left just as fast.  One day he was on billboards across the country for a corduroy and cashmere clothing store, the next he was filling out an application to work there.
      "What should I do now?"  His career over, he felt his organs stripped, like the silent, hidden process under his skin had ceased.
      That first time was a whim.  A friend of a friend of hers gave it to them.  She showed Leslie how it was done, tied off his arm and drove the needle down.
      Later, she begged him to stop.  She was wrong to have shown him.  "I was wrong," she said.  But the second, the fourth, the ninth time he didn't need her help.
      Still he was gorgeous, even when she'd find him half in the closet, swallowed in a deep nod.  Still they got naked when he's half cognizant.
      She loved him.  "I love you," she told him.  But he loved other things; he loved his habit, the act of slowly killing himself.
      It slowly killed her to watch.
      She determined it was either her or nothing.  She told him, "It's either me or nothing."
      With one shoe on and his body half off the couch, he chose nothing.
      "Out!" she demanded, but he wouldn't leave.
      She turned on the TV.
      He rose, groggy.  "Turn it off now," he pled, gorgeous and weak.
      She didn't.
      But that was some time ago, at least a month.  Probably longer.  Maybe three.  He's better now, claims to be past his heroin habit, is into other things.
      Still, Leslie says no, wants nothing to do with him.
      Standing out front of her apartment, he calls to her, loud and begging and only once.  "Leslie!" he calls, hoping for an answer.
      Each morning she violently wakes, certain she's heard his name.  
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