“And how do I know that?”
“Oh Greg, why would I make something like that up? What would I get out of it?”
“It’s not happening Josh.”
I sigh deeply.
“I can’t go against his wishes.”
“He is been buried in the family plot with his grandfather. That makes more sense.”
“He loved his grandad but this is what he wants. I won’t go against him.”
“And if we all go against you?”
“Don’t you want your brother’s wishes to be carried out?”
“Their not his wishes! He was influenced by you! An Aetiest.”
“It wasn’t like that. Me and Tristan never influenced each other’s faith or lack of in my case. We respected that in religion we thought differently.”
“My father nearly passed out when he heard you were an Aetiest.”
I feel like saying that his father nearly passes out about most things but I refeign.
“My da didn’t mind Tristan been Catholic.”
Greg’s eyes widen.
“Why would he? It’s right to believe in God.”
“My da isn’t Catholic though. He’s Protestant. In fact I grew up in the Protestant faith.”
“Protestant? I always thought your father was Irish.”
“Strange that is.”
“Not really. It’s less frequent but there is Irish Protestants. Like Bono.”
“Bono is Protestant?!”
“Look Josh, I know you cared a lot about him …”
“I did Greg. And I loved him to pieces.”
“But if your going to behave like this, I don’t think you should come to the funeral.”
“I think it would be for the best if you didn’t. People have got to know their place at these things.”
“Look Greg, I know that Tristan would want you there …”
“I’m his brother. Of course he would.”
“But I don’t want you there.”
“Oh, what happened to doing everything for Tristan?”
The smugness is evaporating from his face. I feel like punching him but I refeign. I have a bad temper and I’ve been going to anger management classes since I hit Tristan.
“I am doing everything I can for him but you there would make it incredibly hard for me to do what I have to do. This isn’t an easy time and I don’t need you here or at the funeral undermining me, our relationship or my rights in this situation. I don’t want you at the funeral and I’d like you to leave.”
“This is your flat so I will but this is not the end of this Josh. Not by a long shot boy.”
He walks to the door and opens it before turning to look at me.
“By the way Josh, my brother could have done so much better than a cheating bar man who he rented a below standard flat with.”
He leaves and I lament what he’s just said. It is true. Tristan probably could have did better than me. He is beautiful. Dark brown hair. Blue eyes. I never knew myself why he chose me. I cheated on him once. I hit him once. I’m in anger management classes. There is so much baggage with me that I never understood why he wanted to be committed to me. The hitting did nearly drive us apart. He did ask me to leave for a bit. But he took me back. He wanted me to be his boyfriend for all of time and I never understood why. Me? Why? And though I was confused, I wanted to be in his life forever and I put my confusion to one side and I was so happy.
We had the occasional arguement but we didn’t argue all that much. We were best friends as well as partners so I think that helped. We had mundane times. We had exciting times. We had exhilarating sex. We had nights when neither or either of us was in the mood. We had a bit of everything really. And I took us having numerous years to look forward to before death for granted. I never took him for granted. I know people do but I suppose I was so insecure about having him that I never could. I’m sure he probably took me for granted. Maybe he didn’t when I cheated? I don’t think he ever trusted me after that. It was the last time I cheated on him. Not the first. I’d cheated a few times on him. No excuses. I was wrong. I’m just a very sexual guy who is intensely flirteous but I didn’t feel anything for these lads. It was just sex. I love him. Of course Tristan would never have forgave me if he knew I’d did it more than once. And I was glad he didn’t know because that one time broke his heart and I watched the consequences of my actions in front of me with flowing tears and a man who wanted to break everything in our home. He could have left me and I realised I had to stop this. If I lost him, it wouldn’t be worth it. So I never did it again. I finally got my act together.
My thoughts are interupted by another knock at the door. Oh no, not another visitor. I don’t want to talk to anyone right now. I decide to ignore it until I hear who it is.
“Hi Josh, it’s me Will.”
The voice is nervous, meek. Of course it is. His boyfriend killed mine.
Anger is rising through me.
“Josh sweetheart, are you there? We need to talk.”
“Go away!”, I shout.
I hear him sigh slightly.
“I’m not your mate! Go back to your useless boyfriend!”
“I’m fuming with him too.”
“He’s alive though.”
“He’s in a coma.”
I soften slightly.
“In a coma?”
I sigh. This is my best friend. He so obviously needs me. I have to try to be there for him though it kills me that his husband was driving the car in the crash that my boyfriend died in. I go and answer the door. There I see Will. His eyes are swollen with red. He has obviously been crying heavily.
“I’m so sorry Josh about Tristan.”
“Yeah. Thank you.”
We stand in silence for a few moments that seems like an eternity. Finally I break the silence.
“Would you like to come in?”
“If you don’t mind.”
I can see that he is guilty. I throw my hands around him in a hug.
“It’s OK. It’s not your fault.”
“Thank you.”, he says and tears fall from his eyes.
“Come on in.”
I let him in and close the door.
“Sit down. I’ll get us some beers from the fridge.”
He sits down and I go to get the beers.
“Sweetheart, here you go.”, I say handing over the beer to him.
I sit down beside him.
“Thank you. I need this after the day I’ve had.”
I know I should ask him about Glen but I can’t.
“Yeah. It’s been a really tough day, hasn’t it?”
I sip my beer. Really tough day? The things that are coming out of my mouth. It’s been the worst day of my life. Glen rubs my hand gently.
“I’m here for you Josh.”
I struggle to know how he’ll be there for me. He’s obviously in bits himself. It’s strange how one day has changed both our lives completely.
“I’m here for you too Glen.”, I say.
“He’s just lying there still. His eyes are closed …”
“I’m here for you. But mate, I don’t want to talk about him.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean for it to happen. He adored Tristan. He really did.”
“OK, I’m sorry.”
I take another sip from my beer.
“Is there anything you need me to do? Like for the funeral?”
I can see the word funeral is making him feel sick to say. I feel sick every time I hear it.
“When I’m going to see Fr. Edwards could you come with me? I could use a friend there with me.”
“Of course. Was he Catholic? Not that it matters. Just curious.”
“Yes.”, I smile.
“Jeez I never knew that.”
“Yeah. Completed a distance-learning Bible course and all.”
“I’d say Glen knew. Sorry.”
Though the four of us were friends, Glen and Tristan were best friends while me and Will were best friends.
“You’ll do him proud with the funeral.”
“I hope I do.”
“I know you will.”
Good old Will. Believing I can do this. I certainly am not sure that I can. It’s such a huge undertaking. I have never took on anything with this much responsibility. Me and Tristan came close once. While I’m not comparing our idea of holding a dinner party at the flat to his funeral, it is my only other point of reference for any type of organising. We decided to hold a dinner party and invite all our friends but Tristan had reservations and so we didn’t do it in the end. My mind wanders to the memory of when we decided finally not to hold the dinner party.
“Joshy, I’ve been thinking.”, he said.
This was always how Tristan started a conversation where he was unsure how to say something and I always responded jokingly the same way.
“Really? I didn’t know you knew how.”
He smiled and gently hit me in the arm.
“Get out of it.”
“So go on, you’ve been thinking …”
“Yeah, you know this thing we’re doing …”
This is another characteristic of Tristan. Everything is thing. We’re doing this thing. We’re going to this thing. I watched that thing. I ate that thing. I found it massively endearing apart from when he was looking for something and it took am hour just to figure out what he was looking for. I’m looking for that thing.
“Um yes, the dinner party.”, I reply.
“Yes. I think we should postpone it.”
“What?”, I reply.
To be honest I was disappointed. I think I seen myself as the host with the most. Life and soul of the party. Us known for been the couple to go to for the best dinner parties. More Truman Capote and Jack Dunphy than Come Dine With Me.
“I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I mean apart from Glen and Will these are all your friends. And even their your friends too.”
“But I was looking forward to it.”
“I know honey and if you want to do it I’ll grin it out but I would rather if we could cancel it. I thought it’d be a great challenge and you were so enthusiastic about it but the truth is that it’s not really my sort of thing.”
“How do you know? You’ve never thrown a dinner party.”
“You have to talk to people. That’s all I need to know.”
“But aren’t you working on that?”
“I’m trying. But I think a dinner party is a bit like throwing a trainee athlete into the Olimpics.”
“OK then what?”
“OK then. When your ready we’ll do it.”
He smiled. His smile was so warm. His face lit up when he smiled.
“Thank you sweetie.”
He gave a gentle kiss on the cheek and we went about ringing up the guests to cancel saying how Tristan was completely under the weather. I couldn’t help laughing while he put on the snuffles and a hourse voice. So much so that I had to leave the room on many occasions. That was three months ago.
I’m brought back to the present by Will tipping me in the arm.
“Are you listening to me mate?”
“Oh sorry mate I was far away.”
“Thinking of him?”
“Yeah. The dinner party.”
“Oh yeah, he wasn’t well that time. The poor pet.”
I suppress a smile.
“No he was under the weather then.”
“What was it he had again?”
“Did he know about …”
“Let’s not talk about that right now Will but no. He didn’t know.”
“OK. I’m glad about that.”
“I have to go to work tomorrow.”
“You can’t go to work! Tristan’s dead! I can drop in and tell Marcus on my way to the hospital for you …”
“I’d rather go in Will. If I have to stay in this flat all day, I’ll go insane. And don’t say anything please to Marcus or any of our colleagues there.”
“Mate, I really don’t think you should be working. I’m not going in.”
“That’s different! He’s alive. You still have hope. Why would I sit here driving myself insane knowing that he isn’t here. That we have a double bed. That there’s two toothbrushes in the bathroom. That the paint on the wall in the kitchen is the colour he searched the stores high and low for even though he took no interest otherwise in the flat. Why would I do that to myself? I don’t want to think Will.”
“Yes I have hope Josh but I’m still scared stiff. He could die. I have to be near him.”
“And Tristan is already dead. I’m going to work Will.”
“I care about you. Your not able for it. Please don’t do it.”
“Your husband has killed my boyfriend! Don’t you dare come into our home telling me what I am and am not able for!”
“OK. I’m sorry. Just look after yourself.”
“I’m sorry too Will. I just …”
“Don’t explain anything. I understand.”
“Why aren’t you at the hospital now?”
“I had to come and see you. I heard about Tristan and I needed to see how you were and to tell how very sorry I am for your loss and for … for how it happened.”
“I don’t blame you man. Would they not let you stay at the hospital overnight?”
“No. No rooms for overnight visitors. I told the nurse I’d sleep in the waiting-room but she wouldn’t let me. I’ll never turn off the machine.”
“I know. If it was Tristan I wouldn’t either.”
He takes me into a hug.
“We’ll get through this together mate.”
“Yeah.”, I reply though I feel very differently on the inside. I feel like I’ll never get through this. The only person I want in my life isn’t in it anymore. He’s gone. He’s never coming back. I never even got to say goodbye to him.
“Remember that time you bought me that car?”
A smile comes over my face as my mind drifts to that time.
“Yeah, of course I do. I was sorry I did.”
It had been his twenty-first birthday. I’d been twenty-one three months before. And I had a car. I thought it’d be cool if he had a car too. I suppose a part of me was a bit ashamed that my boyfriend didn’t own a car. So I got him this nice, little car. And that is code for cheap. But it was reliable. I bought from my cousin. I’d never put Tristan in danger. We had this house party at his parents where he was living at the time and I brought him out from the party to surprise him with the car. I dragged hold of his hand and dragged him out is probably closer to the truth. He was giggling.
“What is it babe?”
“I got you a present.”
He raised his eyebrow.
“Why can’t you give it to me in the house? What on earth is it?”
He pulled his hand free from me and stopped.
“I’m serious now Josh. What is it?”
“It’s a car.”
“It’s just a cheap car.”
“You bought me a car?!”
“Yeah. Why not?”
“You know I don’t drive!”
“Well you could learn. Most twenty-one year olds I know have learned ages ago.”
“Oh right, that’s what this is about.”
“Your ashamed of me not having a car like Glen. Like Will. Like Jay. Like Mick. Like …”
“OK! OK! OK! I get the idea! But at this stage you should be able to drive.”
“Don’t even think about it Josh Lorcan Michael Mitchell.”
I gulped hard. Every time he used my entire name I knew I was in trouble.
“Don’t even think about what?”, I replied meekly if I’m been honest.
“Don’t even think of trying to control me.”
“I’m not trying to control you.”
“Oh yes you are. And I won’t let you.”
“Honey your overeacting. I just bought you a car because I love you.”
“Don’t honey me. You bought me a car so I’d look good for your mates.”
“At least I know how to make friends.”
I regretted what I said instantly.
“I’m sorry baby. I didn’t mean that.”
“You did but let’s forget it. Yeah?”
He was visibly hurt. I knew I hit a nerve because Tristan had told me he had trouble interacting.
“No. I’m sorry. That was me been an absolute twat.”
“Your acting like an absolute twat completely tonight.”
“It’s just a car sweetheart.”
“Do you love me Josh?”
“Of course I do.”
“As I am or the version you’ve dreamed up of your dream boyfriend?”
“Tristan, don’t be like that.”
“Been honest about how I feel?”
“Don’t be dramatic!”
“I’m not been dramatic. Your dating a nerd. Deal with it or dump me.”
He began to walk inside. I grabbed his arm.
“I just want you to be normal. Like the other boyfriends.”
“Excuse me? Normal?!”
“You know what I mean.”
“No. I’m afriad you shall have to enlighten me.”
His eyes are now stern. They are boring into me. The first of many times that he’s scared the living shit out of me just by looking at him.
“Into cars. Cool, young things to like. Not the likes of Cabaret from the 1940s.”
“Whatever. And why can’t you afford cars like other lads in town. Even I can.”
“I’m a working-class, unemployed guy …”
“And why don’t you just get a bloody job? Even I have a job!”
“Good for you.”, he said sarcastically.
“I asked you a question.”
“Recession. I thought you’d work that out.”
“That’s a cop out! Your using the recession.”
“You work at your father’s bar! You probably wouldn’t have a job either if he didn’t own a bar! Look I’m sorry your ashamed of my financal situations, my job status and my bloody personality. I’m sorry if the next question is stupid. If you dislike me so much why the hell are you dating me?”
“I don’t dislike you Tristan. I love you.”
“Well you have a funny way of showing it.”
“Don’t be mad at me. It’s just so difficult been surrounded by mates whose boyfriends whisk them off on holidays and drive them places.”
“No. Don’t be. I’m been cruel. One day you’ll be able to do it.”
A wicked smile spreads across his face. I am curious as to what has caused this smile to come on his face.
“What is it?”, I ask.
“I never knew you wanted to be a kept man.”
“No! No, I don’t want to be.”
“Yeah. Tristan stop grinning like that.”
“Why don’t you whisk me away on holiday? Or drive me around big man?”
“Because you’d hate it. Like I knew you’d hate the car but I thought I’d chance it.”
“I can’t accept it. It’s too much.”
“It didn’t cost me that much for a car. Please just take it.”
“I can’t Josh.”
“Your still your own man. Just take it graciously. Please.”
“OK, if it means that much to you. I’ll try to get a licence and drive you around in it in front of your friends if it makes you happy. Thank you.”
“No. Thank you.”