You and I were on a video conference when, of a sudden, you stopped talking to me. Your face peered out from my computer screen, but you said nothing. I tried to draw you into conversation but there was nothing you were willing to say. You ended our chat without saying goodbye. Probably for the best, because I am not good at goodbyes.
But I decided to go to your flat, which had been renovated fairly recently. I showed up at your door dripping from walking through rain or snow. Or perhaps I was covered in blood. You stared at me, shocked that I’d come all that way just to see you.
“I love you,” I’d said. “I’m worried about you. You won’t talk to me.”
You shook your head, a very slight trace of a smile on your mouth. I left my clothes outside the lavatory door while I let hot water wash down over me in the shower. When I was done, you had left a thick bathrobe that smelled like you, hanging on the back of the door.
In the front room, you were watching Sherlock, and I sat on the wide chesterfield beside you. You took my hand in yours and asked me quietly how I was doing.
“Like I said,” I told you, “I’m worried about you.”
You smiled then, but your eyes were sad. You told me you hadn’t much to say anymore, and that made me sad. I felt my heart in my throat. The door opened and your brother jogged up the stairs. The brother you don’t have. His hair was red, and he was lean and very young. You introduced him as John, and he glared at me on his way into the dining room with a bowl and a box of cereal an a carton of milk.
“It’s all right,” I told him. “I’m wearing his robe because my clothes were …unwearable, and not because I’ve been with him in the bedroom up the hall.”
John smiled, and started in on his cereal. I began talking about the car accident, and you put your arm around my shoulders and drew me close to you. I could smell your aftershave – a spicy, soapy smell, on your collar.
The door banged open again, and when the well-muscled, slightly younger version of you popped his head into the front room, you introduced your brother Peter. You said he was the best-looking of your brothers, but I thought his eyes, when compared with yours, looked cruel. Hard. Unforgiving.
Peter didn’t say much to me either. From the dining room, John announced that you and I hadn’t been shagging, but that I had needed a shower and yours was the only one available to me. Peter didn’t say anything to me, but he looked you in the eye and said, “I thought you’d learned your lesson”.
His words cut you; I could tell. I bristled and was about to speak when you put your hand on my forearm and whispered “it’s just what he’s like. Forgive him.”
“It’s not me he’s wronged,” I said. “or should that be ‘it isn’t I he has wronged’? …I am not inconvenienced by his words.”
That was when you laughed. You kissed my forehead, and I thought everything would be all right. Even when the neighbour girl knocked on the door to ask for milk and we realised she was locked in the flat most days, your eyes had brightened and there was renewed energy in your step. But you were still strangely quiet.
I wondered if you wanted me to try at all.