Triptychs – Chapter 13



“Hey, Shithead.”


“Hey, Scarface,” the voice came back, in the dark of my room; from my open cell. I grinned, just at the sound of him; the slightly-sleepy sound of him, actually. “What’s up?” he went on.


“Nothing much,” I said. I hesitated just a beat, I couldn’t help it; then, “No, I just felt like – ”


“What happened?”  Cole’s voice was flat, and awake, now; we know each other, he reads me, he reads my voice.




“Nothing much, honest; it’s nothing – ”


“He didn’t come back, did he - ?”


I was sitting up on my bed, in my clothes, in the dark; my back against the headboard; in the mirror on the other wall, I could see the gleam of my cell’s lighted keys, but nothing more. Everything else black, like my life.


I just wanted to hear your voice, is what I wanted to say; but couldn’t. Instead –


“No; no, he didn’t come back; everything’s cool. Everything’s fine, here. Only . . . ” I swallowed. “I kind of fucked up. I was talking about him with my mom, you know – talking about what we should do . . . and I made her cry.”


“Oh, fuck. Fuck. Tell me what happened - ?”


I told him; slowly, starting and stopping, thinking about the whole conversation, the whole, fucked up situation, really, as I went. Cole just listened; I could hear him breathing, on the other end.


It’s what Cole does, for me; it’s what he’s been doing for me, for years and years, now; he listens, and he talks me down, when I need talking down.


Usually – like now – I don’t call him, for his help; usually I call him, just to talk to him, to connect with him; to hear his voice. The comfort of his voice. But it works out like this, regardless.


“Fuck. Trev, this is so, not your fault; you’re right, you really do need to go to the police.”


I felt another clench in my gut. “Yeah, I know – but the way she freaked out, the way she started crying – ”


“Like, that’s your fault? You make her see how fucked-up your lives are, she realizes it and starts crying, and that’s your fault? It’s reality, Trev. You’re not personally responsible for your mom’s reality.”


Cole’s mom . . . is like my other-mom, to me; but Cole’s always been a little, reserved, maybe, around my mom. Less close.


Because of the situation with my dad; I know.


I love Cole, I always will – but he doesn’t understand what it’s like, living with someone like my dad. Growing up with someone like my dad.


Thank God, that he doesn’t understand.


“Yeah, I know that, I know . . .  It’s just . . . ” my voice trailed off, as I tried to find words. “I made her cry. I’ve never done that, before . . . I made her cry.”  I swallowed. “Just like he did . . . ”


Full stop.


A long pause, on his end; a long pause. Just the sound of him breathing. Then –


“I’m coming over.”


THAT made me blink.


Sunday, when he’d heard about my dad trashing us, again, he’d wanted to come over, him and Jeremy, to spend the night; to stand guard.


And the idea of the three of us, Cole, Jeremy and me, in my own little bedroom . . . what with all my warped fantasies, about the two of us, about the three of us, like, doing it, like, being something together, as in, long term, together –


“No. No, I’m all right.”


“Don’t be a dick. I’m coming over.”  That Cole, utter-self-assurance in his voice.


“No,” I said, gently; those blue and red keys of my cell, reflected in the mirror. “No; honest, Cole. It’s not one of those times. Honest.”


Silence, from his end; another long pause.


“You’re sure?” he went, finally.


Like I said, we know each other, we read each other; and God knows, he’s handled enough of my crises. He trusts me to be honest with him.


And – I knew he’d come, if I really needed him. And, what that meant to me, that moment, that second –


“Yeah,” I went, smiling into the darkness, gently. “Yeah. I’m sure.”   I paused, just a beat. “No, I mostly just wanted to talk, about something else, anything else . . . and, fuck me, I almost forgot; I had my first day of Work Study, today! At the bookstore.”


“That’s right,” from Cole; a little cautiously, maybe. Still worried about me, I knew; but playing along, for the moment. “Okay. Work Study. So; how was it? How’d it go?”


“Well . . . it’s kind of a crap job, for right now, anyway; but I’ve had worse.” 


And, so, I gave him the high-level overview, or a slightly sanitized version of it, anyway; work-study was still a little bit of a touchy subject between us. But it just felt good, talking to Cole; hearing his voice . . . It felt good; it was so what I needed, and I could feel myself calming down, a little, minute by minute . . . Fuck, it was what I needed; talking to Cole.


And, it was fun, in the end, almost-like-normal-fun, telling him about Corbin, Mister Charisma, as I started calling him, and the Terry guy –


“ . . . and, oh! This is best of all. Remember the kid in my homeroom that I caught perving on me, the first day?”


“In your Learning Community, you mean? Yeah, sure.”


“Guess who’s working at the bookstore with me? We have the same hours, and everything. And get this – ”  I grinned, relishing the memory – “he basically outed himself to me, without meaning to. The two queer boys in our Learning Group, and we wind up doing work study together! We’re so definitely going to be buds.”


“He outed himself to you, without meaning to?”  Cole sounded a little skeptical.


“Uh-huh,” I went, happily; and I told him the whole conversation, Noah’s careful try at covering for his perv-look at me. “So, yeah, he’s obviously pretty deep in the closet; poor baby. I figured, maybe, once we get to be buds – maybe we can help him out a little? Give him a little support - ?”


“Cool,” went Cole; and even without seeing it, I could just picture him smiling that Cole-smile, that can mean us getting in trouble, down the road. “Cool . . . Maybe we can find someone to set him up, with.”


“That would be fun,” I went, grinning. Thinking, the two of us, Cole and me, helping Noah get his hair mussed up, for the first time . . .


“Maybe Jason - ?” from Cole.


“No!”  I went, immediately. Surprising myself, a little . . . but. I was right, I knew; Jason was a serial dater, almost as bad as me; and Noah was sensitive, and pretty  obviously inexperienced . . . Jason’d eat him alive. “No, that wouldn’t be doing him a favor.”


“Well, we’ll think of someone,” from Cole, comfortably; I knew he was still smiling. And then, a brief pause, and a kind of dead sound from his end, and I figured he was covering up a yawn. It really wasn’t that late; but, it was a school night.


“Heard anything from Erik?” he asked, after a second. Carefully; a little more seriously, maybe.


I gave a little puff of laughter. “Are you serious? It’s only been two weeks. I figure he’ll call sometime around Halloween.”


A small, answering laugh on his end. “From what you told me about your last date, I doubt it’ll be that long.”  He paused, a beat. “Bet you a double shot,” meaning, a double espresso.


“It’s a bet,” I went; grinning. “I hope I lose.”  I wondered where Erik was, right that minute . . .


“You will.”  Another dead-air moment, of a covered yawn.


“I’ve kept you long enough,” I went; smiling into the dark, again. Still feeling bad, still fucked-up; but feeling a thousand percent better than when I’d called him. And so, so grateful. “Everything going all right for you and Donkey Dick?”  It was one of Cole’s favorite pet names for Jeremy; duh.


“Yeah,” from Cole. “We’re drowning in work, of course. I’ve got papers due Friday, and next Tuesday; it’s ridiculous.”


“I know,” I went; thinking about the reading I should have done tonight, and hadn’t; wondering when I’d get the chance. There was no way I could read anything tonight. Then I shook my head, a little. “I’ll let you go, then – ”


“You’re sure you’re okay?” from Cole; one, last time. Quiet; concerned.


“Yeah.”  I said it with all the love I could put into the word. “Yeah; thanks, Cole . . . Say goodnight to Jeremy for me, all right?”


A little puff of laughter, on his end. “Say good night to him yourself, he’s right here.”  The sounds of a phone being handed off, then –


“Hey, Trev.” He sounded sleepier than Cole.


I started laughing in the darkness of my room, I just so couldn’t help it. The lighted keys in the mirror, jiggled. “Hey . . . Jeremy,” I managed, at last. “Hey . . . Are you guys already in bed - ?”


“Yeah,” he went; sounding a little sheepish, maybe.


“I’m sorry I called - !”


“No, no, we weren’t asleep. We were just – uh, talking.”


And I tried so hard not to crack up again, I really did; I just KNEW he was blushing, and I knew perfectly well why they were in bed so early, and I could so picture Cole’s bratty grin, right then, lying in Jeremy’s arms –


“Talking. That’s cool.”  I had to stop a second, to smother another laugh. Then – “Well, anyway. You and Cole sleep tight, okay?”


“You too . . . ”  A pause, for a second. “You’re okay?”  He sounded less sleepy, now; more concerned.


“Yeah; I’m fine. And . . . thanks to both of you, okay?”  I paused, a beat, to smile. “G’night.”  And I closed my phone.


Grinning, again, into the darkness, sliding down onto my bed, still in my clothes, stretching out, some.


Feeling, in the middle of all my unhappiness, all the fucked-up emotions, a small, warm glow, from talking to Cole; from talking to both of them.


I tried to hold on to that glow, as I closed my eyes, and tried to empty my mind, and just, please-God, maybe get to sleep.