"Absolutely brilliant!" says Lisabet Sarai, author of Incognito and Fire, about Lambda finalist M. Christian's controversial manlove horror/thriller.
He looks just like you. He acts exactly like you. He takes away your job. He steals your friends. He seduces your male lover. None of them can tell the difference. Every day he becomes more and more like you, pushing you out of your own life, taking away what was yours … until there’s nothing left. Where did he come from? Robot? Alien? Clone? Doppelganger? Evil twin? Long lost brother? Then you discover there are still more "yous." Can you be sure you are the real you? And how do you fight to take your own life back?
An absorbing new approach to the question of identity, Me2 is a groundbreaking gay chiller you’ll remember for a long time – no matter who you are, or who you think you may be.
(Despite rumors that this book was written by an impostor - but, rest assured, this is the real 'M.Christian.' Accept no substitutes!)
"It's funny you should ask, 'cause I've put some thought to this. Really. Yeah, I know how it sounds. But I have, 'kay? I don't think it's all that fucking weird. At least I'm thinkin'. Hell, you're the one who's askin'.
"Nah, nah, I ain't upset. It's just ... well, the whole thing freaks me out, you know what I'm sayin'? It's just you asking makes me think about it some more. Ain't good thoughts, either.
"You know they can do it. You can't tell me they can't. They got stuff you and I ain't even dreamed of. All kinds of freaky shit. No, I don't mean no fucking UFOs. I mean the really serious shit. Chips in your head kinda stuff. Stuff in the water. Beams from the TV. That kinda thing. Like I said, really serious shit.
"Like I said, you know they can do it. The fact that you've heard about it means they can do it. I mean it. Look at it this way, they tell you all about it so when they really start doing it anyone who tells about it thinks you're crazy. Like the chip thing. They tell you about it, that no one in his right mind thinks it's true, 'cause that way anyone who finds out about it gets called crazy. See what I'm sayin'? Doesn't that make sense?
"This cloning shit is the same. They tell ya all about it, so everyone knows it. They make it sound crazy. But I tell ya, it's not. I don't know exactly how they do it. But it doesn't take a fucking genius to figure out that they're doin' it.
"The way I see it, they want you a certain way. But not 'you,' you see? They can't just make you disappear – at least not yet – so they're testing this out, seeing if it works. If it does, they'll do the same to everybody. Think it has something to do with their 'plans' for the country. Maybe this other one will always do what they want, but all the time it's fucking 'thinking' it's doing what it wants to do, but it never does, right? Or they've done something to it, so when they snap their fingers it'll become a soldier, or a killer. Bet ya somewhere out there there's a hole in the fucking ground with the real Lee Harvey Oswald's body in it. You know what I mean?
"How do I know? Open your fucking eyes! Look around! The only thing they want you to do is fucking obey. The government is nothing but assholes behind big fucking desks, guys in black suits with hypos in their pockets, and up in Oregon I know they're starting to put up concentration camps. I hear it all the fucking time. What's happening to you is just the next thing. A way to make you disappear but not really disappear. It's fucking perfect.
"It's true, I know it! Don't give me any shit. I know it fucking first hand, 'kay? I started asking some questions. I found a couple of Web sites, too, with all kinds of weird shit on them. A couple of guys I know did the same shit, looking where they didn't want us to look. Oh fuck, the stuff they found out. Made my fucking skin crawl, ya know?
"Then they found out. Don't know how. Maybe they always knew and were just waiting for the right time to go after us. But they did, man. My pal, Joey, he used to work for the VA. One day he just ups and dies. Like that! They said it was his heart but I'll tell you, that's what they wanted me to think. When I asked to see the body his mother freaked out, but that's 'cause they just got to her first.
"The next week someone broke into my car. Glass fucking everywhere. What's real weird is that I had a whole bunch of papers, but all they took was the stereo. I knew what they'd done, though. I got the fuckers. So I tossed my papers and stuff in the trash. I didn't know where they'd screwed with them, but I knew they had, see?
"Then I got this letter. Looked like it was real, right? But I noticed that the postmark had this weird color to it, like nothing I'd seen before. I knew they were just trying to scare me, you know? I'd been fucked by the mortgage people before, I knew what they were like. They wouldn't just send a fucking letter.
"They started to call, too, so I couldn't do anything, focus, like that. I think they also put something in my water, 'cause while I know I like to drink, I started to really fucking drink. Used to be a bottle, maybe two, a week. Jack Daniels. But then it was five or six fucking bottles. I tried to tell my landlord about it, but all he did was call me a fucking drunk, that fucking asshole! They did it, you see? That's what they wanted everyone to think about me. They did it! The fuckers did it!
"Just like they're doing to you. You watch, you just fucking watch. This other guy'll be everywhere; he'll take what's yours, put his out there instead, piss off your friends – or just fucking steal them from you. Then one day they'll come for you, and no one will fucking know because this other one will be you, hell, he might even be a better you than you are. But you won't fucking care 'cause you'll be in some hole somewhere or up there in Oregon in one of those fucking camps. You just see. That's the way it's going to be, that's the way it's always going to be.
"But we gotta fight them anyway. We got to! We gotta win, too, 'cause if we don't, then they'll get away with all the shit they've done. They'll win. We can't let that fucking happen.
"But we also got to be careful. Real fucking careful. 'Cause if we're not then they might think we're fighting them, might even think we're fucking winning, but you know what would be happening? Well, you know how fucking twisted they are, right?
"We gotta be sure, extra fucking sure, we don't end up doing exactly what they want us to..."
* * * *
Day and night. Night and day. Twenty-four hours. Two lumps of twelve hours. Two huge lots of minutes. Two heaping mounds of seconds.
One of them routine and peaceful, typical and quiet, safe and sane. One uneventful day. One ordinary day. One humdrum day. One run-of-the-mill day. One everyday-day. One unexciting day.
The day was mine.
The night belonged to him.
* * * *
Wakey-wakey. Up and at 'em. Time to get up, sleepyhead. Yawn. By my loyal clock radio, as recommended by the editors of Consumer Reports, I actually wasn't late. Imagine that.
Fuzzy thoughts while still in bed: call in sick, hide under the covers, pretend the world doesn't exist – make believe none of it had happened. Catch up on the popular highlights of daytime TV, as recommended by the editors of TV Guide.
It was tempting. Oh, so tempting. But I didn't. Don't ask me why – at least not the details – because my thinking was very definitely still fuzzy. Before I could tempt myself with further sheets and zzzz's I found myself getting out of bed and stumbling towards the bathroom. So ... once up, might as well go all the way – and head out.
Pretend that everything was normal. Ah, my fashion choices. "The Boys of Summer" was devilishly tempting, with that Cape Cod briskness so delightfully clean and fresh, not to mention being a fashion delight, as recommended by the editors of Men.
But I didn't put it on. Answer: apartments cost money, driving a brand new Volkswagon takes money, sipping drinks takes money, bounding from one club to another takes money, life takes money. Work delivers money, and I'd definitely pushed work – and work's spokesmen, bosses – pretty far lately. Sure I could roll the dice and hope for "one of them doesn't come in today" but considering my luck, I'd probably roll snake-eyes and get "in, and in a crappy mood" instead.
So, no blazing white linens and Protestant elegance. Sigh. Still, as far as 'uniforms' went I could have done a lot worse. Sure, I like clothes – and so far, clothes like me – but even I couldn't make a Weenie on a Stick outfit work.
So into my black shirt and pants. Sigh again. Bathroom again, a quick check for blemishes (none), flat hair (have to make an appointment), yellowing teeth (have to make an appointment) and any sign of unsightly age (not yet, thank god).
Then I was ready to go. One problem, though, and it was a big one: with a chuckle from the cosmic comedian in the background I realized that I wasn't late, I was early.
So I stood there, totally unsure what to do. Sure, I could walk out the door, down to the garage, into my car, drive the highways, drive the byways, get there with some minutes to spare – maybe even put a grin in the face of my maybe-there boss. But that wasn't me. Not at all.
So – yeah – I stood there, totally sure I didn't want to get there early. This is where the really big one surfaced, with a spine-chilling laugh from the Cosmic Son of a Bitch. Problem with not walking out the door, going down to the garage, getting into my car, driving the highways, driving the byways, and getting there with some minutes to spare is that, since I wasn't doing any of that, I had nothing to do but think – and thinking was bad.
Had it happened? I could almost convince myself that it hadn't, that it had been a dream, an illusion, a set of improbable circumstances, a bad trip. But I couldn't. It felt too real. Too damned real.
I had at least twenty minutes (and a smattering of seconds) before I had to go, but I left anyway: walking out the door to head down to the garage, climb into my car, drive the highways, drive the byways – and actually get to work early.
It wasn't like me – and then, closing the door behind me, I tried not to, but thought anyway: was it also not like someone else?
* * * *
Traffic kept my mind busy, the focus necessary to keep my movable object movable and not suddenly stationary in a crashed fist of metal and glass. For once, I was grateful my car lacked the drive to ... well, drive itself.
After a few blocks – the landmarks of Subway and Burger King and McDonald's meaning I was about halfway there the commute turned routine, the novelty quickly wearing off. Sure enough, the back of my head started to itch, a stinky thought crowning.
At a light, looking for anything to give my squirming brain a break from turning itself inside out, I looked this way (right) and then that way (left). This way was a bubblegum blonde, tanning-bed skin about to slip into a way-too-early leather hide, behind the wheel of the family car of the month. I could see the back of her left ear, her head cocked ever-so towards the cell phone I couldn't see. That way was a BMW and its favorite accessory, a power-player in Armani. This time I could see his phone.
When I looked past the BMW and its power-playing accessory in Armani, one car beyond him was a Volkswagon, just like mine.
Just before the light officially let me go, I slammed down on the gas, jetting me forward into horns and ASSHOLE! from the few cars who'd rushed past the yellow.
Looking behind me, past the cars who'd followed my leap from the light, there was the bubblegum girl, still chattering away on her cell; there was the BMW and its Armani driver, business-dealing with his; and next to them was the Volkswagon that was just like mine. But behind the wheel was a middle-aged Asian woman, phone also glued to one ear.
Heart eventually settling back to its regular beat, beat, beat rhythm, I drove on, giddy at being unique in a swarm of morning commuters.
* * * *
Pulling into the parking lot, I decided to be a model employee – at least for today – so I picked a spot at the back. Okay, okay, professionalism was only part of it ... okay, none of it. Turning in, I spotted a car that could belong to one of my bosses, a regional-district-supervisor-manager-something-or-other. Of course there were plenty of other seafoam green Acuras – in fact there were a lot of seafoam green Acuras in the lot that day – but it was rare to see one with a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker, at least in my part of the country.
Getting out, I glanced at my cell for the time. Grinning wide at my Team Playing and Responsible Employee-ness, I jogged across the warming asphalt, and in the front door.
Two of my fellow 'bucks were behind the counter. As usual, their names slipped through the cracks in my overly spongy brain. But I didn't really need them. Turnover being what it is in the Starbucks galaxy, there really wasn't a lot of time to get to know anyone. So today there was Dreads at the register, and Goth Girl at the espresso machine, and – clipboard in hand, corporate uniform on under her supposed-to-be-casual blouse and skirt – was Go-Getter.
"Hey, mon," Dreads said, his Marley channel coming in loud and clear that morning, a usual Jamaican sedateness put aside for the boss. "Good to see you."
Goth Girl, who I guessed by her stern mask never said more than three words, said one of them as I rounded the counter and grabbed an apron: "Hello," she whispered over one thin shoulder, chin almost touching her breastbone.
"Good morning," Go-Getter said, polished smile hiding evaluating fangs. "Ready to get to work?"
"As always," I snapped-to-attentioned back to her, my voice way too loud in the before-customer quiet.
"That's good," she said, looking down at her clipboard, pen in one hand moving across a sheet of paper, making a mark somewhere on it. "I was just saying that I'm here only to observe some customer interactions for Marketing. I'm not here to evaluate anyone, so relax and kick back and do your usual great job."
"Cool with me," I said, slipping past her and to the storeroom to get the morning pastries. Danishes, Cinnamon Swirls, and Toffee Almond Bars (in that order), I came back out to load up the display case. Yesterday I would have chatted with whoever was there, bubbled and giggled and laughed about who Colin Farrell was screwing, who Jake Gyllenhaal was fucking, who Pam Anderson was blowing, or who Beyonce was balling; yesterday I would have preened and polished in the bathroom, tamed any wild hairs, checked myself for anything blemishing between my apartment and my job; leisurely sipped my own special mocha-java-espresso rocket fuel until either it was gone or my heart was threatening to attack.
The way she'd said 'kick back,' the way she'd said 'not here to evaluate anyone,' the way her pen kept checking and noting when we hadn't even opened the doors made it damned clear that we shouldn't kick back, and that she was sure-as-shit evaluating everyone.
Then I realized it actually could be. Putting cheese Danish and pound cakes in neat, orderly, official display rows, I smiled a bit – in a neat, orderly, official way, of course. It would be a tough day, a stressful day, trying to tall, grande, and venti our way through the morning rush, look busy during the slow hours, and then tall, grande, and venti our way through the evening rush, and look busy until cleaning and closing, but could also keep me from thinking about anything but being a model Starbucks employee.
And so I was. After about half an hour – fifteen minutes after Dreads had opened the front door and the first early zombies stumbled in for their life-giving Juice of the Bitter Black Bean – I was clicking and whirring like the register; after the first full hour I would have bled motor oil; after the second I had gears where my fluttering, caffeine-super charged heart would normally be; by the third my brain was nothing but the contents of the Starbuck's three-ringed binder of Truth; when the fourth rolled up, and the first tidal surge had faded almost completely away, my skull was brass and my skin was like the plastic fenders on my GTI.
It was good. I was nothing but a cog, a gear in black pants, a black shirt, and a green apron. When I glanced up from taking orders, bagging pastries, making coffee drinks, or selling raw beans, I noticed that Go Getter was still standing off to one side, still writing and check-boxing on her clipboard, but with a whisper-soft smile on her corporate face. Seeing that, I allowed myself the glow of 'good job' even though she actually hadn't said it.
Then it was the first eye in the java storm, the calmness of cleaning the machines, polishing counters, re-ordering the storeroom, restocking and prepping the cream and sugar stations, and a tiny screw worked its way free in my brass skull, making the gears slip, the cogs jerk, and the pistons scrape.
I thought about what had happened. I thought about machines.
Beep. Hello. Beep. Greetings. Beep. He is a Mark something or other android. Maybe he escaped from a lab. Frankenstein with circuits, wires, computer chips... all that kind of stuff. Military, of course, because you know they'd do something like that. A metal soldier. But what if he doesn't want to fight? Just wants peace and love and hippies and a nice manikin to settle down with: ASAP AWOL.
Or he's Disneyland's Abe Lincoln. One too many "Emancipation Proclamations" (that was his, right?), too many times being fucked with by The Mouse. So late one night Abe looks this way, that way, then slips off stage, past dozing security guards and out into the parking lot where he grabs a ride (as one machine to another it would be easy for him) and out into the wide world: free at last.
Or maybe he began as something else. An ambitious toaster. A daydreaming hair dryer. A DVD player wishing for a better life. A blender that wants to see the world. Fed up with being a servant, it waits for the right opportunity, then ... I don't know what, but it gets out, hits the road as a footloose and fancy free appliance.
But he is still a machine. Beep. Machines are good at a lot of things, like playing chess or connecting to the Internet, or being cell phones. But they can't paint a picture, write a book, make dinner, sing a song – stuff like that. They don't do the originality thing. A Xerox machine copies; it doesn't make new stuff.
Beep. Hello. Beep. Greetings. Beep. A machine ... right. Footloose and fancy free. A robot stepping out into the world. But he can't – 'cause even Mr. Lincoln couldn't pass for a real person in this modern world. So what does he do? What anybody would do. He peeks, sneaks, scopes out the real world until he sees a way to perfectly blend in.
Theories had come and gone. It was only natural I'd be considering a machine when I'd been trying to become one myself.
But it didn't make any sense.
Wiping the fake marble countertop, under the approving gaze of the corporation, I tried to maintain my own precision engineering while also trying to think logically, rationally, precisely about what had happened.
Tempting, sure. Xeroxing and all that. But it didn't – and I had to use the next word, even though I was all clicks and whirls of the perfect employee – 'feel' right. Sure we've got all kinds of great and powerful technological toys, iPods with thousands of songs, cell phones that chat with satellites, a Web full of all the porn in the world, but having a copy full of gears, cogs, and pistons was crazy.
* * * *
Taking my break at six, with another hour or so of evening rush to go, wasn't a good idea, but I did it anyway, causing Go Getter's smile to fade completely into a subtle frown, making her hands perform damning check-boxes on her clipboarded form. Goth Girl sneered even more. Dreads looked like his buzz was being seriously harshed. But I stepped out anyway.
Night had come down while I'd served, processed money and plastic, and said for the thousandth time, "Welcome to Starbucks. May I take your order?" With the night, neon had come out, sparkling up the parking lot with all kinds of pretty colors.
Worry was still nibbling the back of my head, fear was still beating up my heart, freakiness jiggled my eyeballs, but walking out on a twelve-person line, proving my humanity under the glass and steel camera lens eyes of the corporate Go Getter, made me feel the best I'd felt in days. If I could stand up to the gears, cogs, and pistons of my punchclock then I could sure-as-shit stand up to ... whatever the hell was happening.
Standing in front of the Subway next door, taming a few wild hairs that had threatened to push me from perfect to sloppy, I tried to hold onto the strength I'd felt when I'd walked out. It was slippery, but seeing that – damn – I still looked good even after six hours of slaving over steaming espresso, greasy desserts, plastic cups, half-and-half thermoses, and a popular selection of CDs kept up my feeling of empowerment.
Behind me, caught up in my preening mirror, a hand truck rolled by, pushed by a wild scarecrow of a guy, all feral hair, NASCAR baseball cap, just-barely sunken cheeks, and grinning at my back. I never remembered his name – or maybe he'd just never told me what it was – but I called him NASCAR. I know, I know, not the most original label in the world, but when that word – or is it an acronym? What is it when a word is made up of initials? – is right in front of your face it's hard to be original. At least for me.
"Hey, man," he said, putting the cart down, the boxes on it wobbling but not quite falling. "What's up?"
"Hey," I said, smacking a mental hand on an imaginary forehead at ever first talking with the guy. One "what's up?" and suddenly a delivery guy who looked like he was actually looking forward to the cosmetic appeal of meth mouth became your best friend. "Not much."
"That's cool. Taking a break?" Chipper, eager, happy to see me.
"Yup." Go away.
"Got a smoke?" Desperate, needy, a bit pathetic.
"Nope, sorry. Don't smoke." Go away.
"That's cool. That's cool. No problem, man. No problem at all."
"I'm glad. Really." Please, just go away.
"Hey, man. Can I ask you something?" Really desperate, really needy, really pathetic.
"Well, I've really got to get back to work." Got to get out of here.
"Won't take a minute, man. Really. Just want to ask you something." Incredibly desperate, incredibly needy, incredibly pathetic.
"Well, okay." You big softy.
"It's just that, well, I've seen you around town. When I'm driving, you know. And you always look... kinda nice. Not that I'm like that or nothin', no way in fucking hell. You get my drift? But that don't mean I can't say when a guy looks good, right? I just wanted to know how you do it. How I could get to look as good as you."
I didn't know what to say.
"I hope I haven't freaked you out or nothin'."
I had to say something, so I did: "No, you haven't. Just that no one's asked me before." Fuck that, no NASCAR fan had ever asked me before.
"Can't imagine why they wouldn't. You always look good, man. Always. I can't figure out how you do it."
Then a light came on. Poor guy. NASCAR life on the outside, GQ or even Men on the inside. Trailer park world hungry for even a taste of Tommy Hilfiger, a meal of Armani, a snack of Boxer. It would have been sweet – and sadder – if he was queer in world fueled with testosterone and beer, but it was hard enough that he just wanted to look better than he was supposed to.
"Nice of you to say so. Can't think why anyone would really want to look like–" then I stopped, chilly even though the night wasn't. I'd almost said: me.
"What is it, man? Look, I really didn't mean to freak you out. "
"No, it's not that," I said, shaking my locks, trying to clear the head they grew out of. "It's just..."
Why? Don't know. Maybe because he was being so innocent with me, so unbelievably desperate, unbelievably needy, unbelievably pathetic, I felt I could be a touch of the same with him. So I told him a little about it, about how I might well be worthy of someone trying to be me, someone wanting to become all that I was. I asked him what he thought about that.
Then NASCAR talked about being a clone.
* * * *
Time to leave, so I did: putting my green apron in its appropriate spot, not caring what the Go Getter, Goth Girl, or Dreads thought about me. Tomorrow I might not have a job to come back to, my performance not being up to the high Starbuck's standard, but frankly I didn't care.
Despite it all, the day had gone well. I felt in control. I felt like whatever was happening, I could handle it. I didn't know what was happening, or how I would handle it, but that didn't matter.
So I drove home, looking forward to ending my day with a top-rated TV show, maybe some empty-headed chat on my cell, maybe a to-go pizza, or maybe delivery Chinese, maybe a cruise of porn sites and a good, long, professional-grade jerk-off.
Who knows, in the morning all this could be just a misunderstanding, a weird twist of circumstances, a day or two of strangeness that just happened to feel real, right, actually happening.
So ended my day: in a good way.
But when I got back to my apartment, his time began. And his was much better than mine.
* * * *
Along Main to Broadway, Broadway to Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King to Main, Main to a row of apartment buildings, one of which was mine. Down then, down into the cool more-night-than-the-night-outside garage, and into slot 511, my car's home several floors below its owners.
American Idol? CSI? Which CSI? A glance might be needed, a sampling of what was the must-see of the Summer according to TV Guide. Afterwards: Pizza? Chinese? What does the happy young gay man eat after a long day at work? Which sites after dinner? Which oh-so-pretty, oh-so-horny, domains of delicious masculinity to drown myself in fantasies of porn movies made reality?
Out of the car, into the elevator, a push of "5" to take me to my floor. With each number counting up a bit more certainty: I'd check TV Guide online for the new top show of the evening, and watch whatever that was. Pizza for dinner. Beer to drink. After, Manlove.com for pictures, followed perhaps by the indulgence of actually paying for a download of something juicy and hard to my desktop, a video of someone young, blond, hard, and eager.
Out of the elevator, into the hall, stroll down to my door. But I wasn't the only one there. Passing me, waiting for me to leave the elevator so he could go up – or maybe down – was a suntanned and calloused jeans and work shirt, tool belt and boots part of the building's family, an element of its until-now-invisible paint, plaster, and planting workforce.
“Hola,” the Handyman said as we passed. "We ... have your key? You not forget?"
"I have it," I said as he went in and I went out of the elevator.
"Good," he answered with a large-toothed smile. "If you need again, I help."
"Okay ... thanks." No idea – not a one – what he meant, not caring enough to try and work through what he was trying to say, I grinned, and walked away as the elevator doors closed between us.
And so: home. Key in lock, door open and in. It felt safe to be there, damned good to be there. It was my place. I paid the rent, filled the fridge with food, slept (a lot) and fucked (not as often as I wanted) in the bed, played with the computer, watched the television, and sometimes even cooked in the kitchen (okay, I warmed or microwaved). Tonight, even though I had people I could call, fuck buddies I could lay, clubs I could shake my ass at, restaurants I could eat at, bars to drink in, it was going to be just my apartment and I: just the two of us.
I must have been tired. The day before – and the day before that – must have been larger, heavier than I thought. I must have been distracted. Pick one: they were all good enough to explain why it took me so long.
I didn't notice when I came in the door, dropping my keys on my tiny computer desk. I didn't notice when I passed the kitchen – a quickly arriving and just as quickly passing thought about getting a beer. I didn't notice when I went for a piss. I didn't notice when I went into the bedroom and changed into evening wear of running shorts and last year's AIDS walk T-shirt. I didn't notice when I finally did decide to have that beer, and went into the kitchen, then the fridge, for a Corona. I didn't notice it when I sat down in front of the TV, grabbed the remote, and began to aimlessly surf the world of basic cable.
My place, I thought, was still my place. Picture perfect as only Ikea could create: each nick and each knack as seen in the Spring issue of Genre. It was comfortable, it was safe.
But it wasn't.
It sometimes takes an hour or more for me to start thinking about it. Other times, like if I'd had a really frisky trick over or been extra-lazy, it would smack me in the face the instant I walked in. Between the two extremes, I usually didn't think should really clean up until my beer was half full – or was it half empty?
But that day I didn't think that. Instead, I thought: No.
Right after that, came: It couldn't be.
Off the couch and into the kitchen. Out of the kitchen and into the bathroom. Out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. Out of the bedroom and back into the living room.
In the kitchen the counters sparkled, the dishes all put away. In the bathroom, the toilet gleamed, the products neat and orderly on the sink. In the bedroom the bed was made, the only clothes on the floor were the ones I'd just put there. In the living room there was order, no dust anywhere.
I'd forgotten I'd cleaned. It slipped my mind. Lots going on.
Sitting in the sofa again, my bare feet left the shampooed indoor-outdoor carpet. Wrapping my arms around my knees I pulled them close, turning myself into an aching ball.
I could see where there used to be a full trashcan next to the desk. Now empty. Turning away, I could see the kitchen and where there used to be a spiteful brown stain in front of the fridge. Now gone. Twisting, I could see the front windows, the view of other apartments across the street normally cloudy. Now clear.
Fuck, was my next thought. No fucking way, was the one right after.
It wasn't my bedroom, not anymore, but I had to get in there. Holding my breath, even though I didn't need to, I rushed in, stripped down, put on the clothes I'd just taken off. They were dirty, they smelled like work, but they were still mine.
I didn't know where to go, but I had to get out. I had to leave.
It wasn't my home anymore. It was his.