When Craig opened his eyes again, ice had spidered across the windowpanes. Dawn filtered into Levi's shithole of an apartment a sickly grey.
Craig wondered if he had slept. Levi was out cold. In this light, with his expression relaxed into something other than the sardonic hostility it usually advertised, Levi looked boyish and harmless. Craig raised his hand to his own throat and traced his fingers across evidence to the contrary. In the afterburn of the comedown, the cut began to sting beneath his fingertips.
This was it. Craig was fucked. He was finally, officially fucked in every sense of the word.
He rolled off the mattress and sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth as his naked body touched the floor. It was freezing. He scrambled to his feet, found that his balance was shot, and steadied himself against the wall with his shoulder to stave off the wave of vertigo. As the room resolved itself to a standstill, he turned and rested his forehead against the plaster. Obviously Levi wasn't paying the utilities for this place, but Craig had read they weren't allowed to shut off the heat until the end of winter. Of course, in this city, mistakes were sometimes made.
He played out the coming day in his mind. He would come to work late. At some point that bitch Joanna would pull him aside and give him a reaming in the backroom. She would ask about the cut and he would tell a halfassed lie. Maybe she would ask him to wipe that stupid grin off his face. Wait, that was too hopeful. Alternate version: maybe she would ask why he was beginning to sweat and tremble. He would beg her to let him go home sick. She would tell him not to come back.
Then maybe in a few days he'd throw himself in front of a train.
But that was for the future. He needed to keep his mind on the present. Specifically, he needed to remember where he'd dropped his clothes before his balls froze off.
Ah, the bathroom. They had shot up in there. Levi first, of course. As Craig pulled on his boxers, he noticed the knife lying beside the toilet. Levi had dropped it only well after the two of them had stripped each other and begun to make out. Craig remembered, because at the time he'd thought the knife had made such a pretty sound when it clattered against the filthy tile floor.
Craig heard Levi groan in the other room. The sun had risen over the rooves of the nearby buildings and was flooding the room with cold light. Craig knew Levi couldn't sleep long in anything less than total darkness.
Craig picked up the knife.
It was only a matter of moments before he was standing over the mattress, but with each footstep the wood floor had creaked and Craig had waited in endless anxiety for Levi to sit up. His eyes were still closed, but his face was toward Craig's as Craig tightened his grip around the slick plastic handle of the knife. If Levi was dead? If all his sickness, his indifference, his sex appeal, his fearlessness, his self-worship, his full array of thermonuclear charms could be disarmed with a spatter of blood, would it be enough? Would things undo themselves, like a knot coming loose when you tug the right thread? Would Craig come loose of Levi?
Levi opened his eyes. They looked at each other. Craig counted his breaths. One. Two. Three. Four. As Craig breathed out, Levi breathed in. They were in perfect synch. Levi smiled
"You gonna kill me?"
"I was thinking of it."
"Then you've already pussed out. Ditch the shiv and c'mere."
Craig turned away and walked to the bathroom. He kept his grip on the knife.
"Where you going?"
"I'm getting dressed."
Craig bent over and took hold of his jeans in his left hand. He'd slipped the last of the wrapper into the jeans' back pocket before they'd moved to the bed. He'd hoped Levi hadn't noticed. He stood, but before he could find out, he felt Levi's body press against his back and Levi's breath in his ear.
"No you're not, hottie. C'mon, back to bed. We can get off at least twice more before the shakes kick in."
As Levi spoke, Craig felt his fingers sliding down Craig's right arm, then around Craig's wrist. Levi began to twist. This was going to be the game.
"You're a real cunt. You know that?" Craig said through clenched teeth.
"Actually, if anything, I think you would qualify as the cunt in this relationship."
"We broke up. I told you to stop calling me."
Pain was shooting up Craig's wrist.
"But you came anyway, didn't you?"
"I did. Now I'm leaving. Let go."
Tears were beginning to well in Craig's eyes. He squeezed them shut.
"Your intestines will be on the floor in three seconds if you don't fucking let go."
"I won't feel it. I cooked the last dose when you finally fell asleep. I'm still soaring. I'll die happy."
Craig yelped as Levi twisted a little harder. He tried to tug away, but Levi's other arm was fast around Craig's chest and Levi was stronger.
"Just relax, dear. You gave in last night. You'll give in now."
Craig remembered the press of the blade against his throat, his stiff, useless hands, how the room had all of a sudden become so sharp and every crack in the wall had stood out like veins. He remembered Levi's slurred, sick hiss in his ear, the utter opposite of this morning's easy confidence. "Cough it up. You swallow that shit, you die here. I will cut it out of your fucking stomach."
Craig dropped the knife. It clattered against the tile. It was the ugliest sound he'd ever heard.
The pain in his wrist faded slowly. Levi was groping his crotch. Craig kept his eyes closed and let Levi hold his weight.
"You got work today?"
"Fuck, that blows. Well, maybe we can get a quick one in before you go. You getting paid soon?"
"I was paid yesterday. I caught up on rent and blew the rest on the skag."
"Shit man. When they paying you again?"
"Next month. It doesn't matter. Joanna's gonna fire me."
Craig could feel a subtle relaxation in the press of Levi's body against his own.
"Well, we'll figure something out. No worries."
Craig disentangled himself from Levi and put on the rest of his clothes. When he turned back to the other room, Levi was stretching his arms above his heads and yawning as he looked out the window.
Craig stood still in the bathroom dooorway and said nothing. Levi hadn't even bothered to kick the knife away. He knew Craig wouldn't pick it up again.
"That was smart of you, to keep the wrapper in your mouth. You didn't use to do that," Levi said.
"There've been more muggings lately."
Actually, Craig had figured he'd swallow the smack if Levi turned out not to have the money he'd promised over the phone.
"You mind if I crash at your place soon? The landlord's been banging on my door the past couple days."
"Do whatever you want, Levi. I don't care. Fuck some guy on my bed if you like. Hell, fuck several. It'll be just like old times."
"Sure. I'll even share the skag I get if I do. Just like old times."
"Fuck off and die."
Levi laughed. Craig felt the beginnings of the itch, just beneath his skin. He walked to the door, but stopped dead in front of it.
"No one's stopping you."
"You locked the door after me last night. Remember?"
Craig heard Levi walk over to his own pile of clothes and rummage until he found the key. He walked up to Craig, slipped his hand under Craig’s shirt to tweak one of Craig's nipples, and with his other hand reached around and unlocked the deadbolt.
Softly, gently, Levi whispered, "You're beautiful. I love you. See you soon." Then Levi pulled his arm out from under Craig’s shirt and pressed something into Craig’s hand.
Craig opened the door, pulled himself away, and closed it slowly behind him. He let whatever it was stay clutched in his fist. The grimy balcony of the apartment building was slick with ice and, combined with the nausea, Craig had to go slow. At the bottom of the stairs, he would have had enough time to lean over the railing and puke into the concrete window-well, but he aimed for the landing instead. He left the gate open behind him.
It had been warmer the night before. He wasn't dressed for this cold snap. He walked quickly, his eyes fixed on the El station a few blocks up to keep his balance. At least he had enough money left on his card to get home. As he reached the corner of the last block, a homeless man in flannel and a ratty winter hat stepped in front of him.
"Brother, I'm begging you, can you spare something? I just want to eat."
Craig stopped. He finally unclenched his fist and saw what Levi had pressed into it. Craig began to laugh.
The homeless man looked at Craig with bewilderment. He stepped aside. "Brother, please, if you can spare anything..." but his tone was hesitant.
Craig continued to laugh, feeling like he was about to puke again. He thrust out his hand.
"Here. Take it."
The man took the folded money, expecting a dollar. His eyes went wide as he unfolded the wad and realized how much he’d taken.
"Naw brother, I don't need this much, I..."
"Just take it. Take it all."
The man looked from the money in his hand to Craig’s face and back again, trying to puzzle out the catch, wary of this kid’s unhinged giggling. Craig wished the man wouldn't just stand there like an idiot. If he'd had any sense he would've shoved the money in a pocket somewhere. Already Craig was feeling his muscles tense to snatch it back as vicious pragmatism began to reassert itself in his thoughts. But before Craig regained control of himself, the man had reluctantly put the money in the breast pocket of his overshirt. He opened his hands wide.
"God bless you, brother! God bless you. God bless you! Jesus is watching, Jesus knows, He'll be watching out for you. He knows the hearts of men and he loves you. He loves you. God bless, God bless. He loves you. He loves you. Truly, he loves you."
Now the man was shaking his hand and Craig felt dizzy. His vision was beginning to go blurry and looking at the sky seemed to be the only thing that didn't nauseate him. He opened his mouth to say, "Thank you."
But what came out was, "I hate you."