Alex smiled but it wasn’t necessarily happy. “You didn’t have to get me anything. We don’t have to do anything special either.” All things I knew but I was going to do anyway. It was the day he was born, the day he came into the world so he could be a big part of my life. It was all about him no matter what he said.
I pulled the bacon out of the oven, and made Alex a quick plate. “Strawberry ice cream is in the freezer.” I said and slipped off into the bedroom. “I’ll be right back.”
My head was still in the middle of trying to get around all the things I did wrong this morning. All the things that could have gone better. But one thing about me and Alex was that we were getting through it all. I wasn’t easy to deal with on a regular basis, and Alex lived with me, he slept with me and for whatever constituted for work, we worked together almost eighty percent of the time.
Alex and I saw a lot of each other. And he got the brunt of my mess. Not only in the physical world, in the dream and in my head. Please stop. came the thought that was not my own. Alex was always hearing me and was especially disheartened by my own self thoughts. But I couldn’t help being me. I tried, I knew I was better than I thought. I knew, but it didn’t help the way it played out in my head. Alex knew, and he tried to get me to do better. But times like today I wanted to shut him out, let him see the happy/fake side just to make the day better.
Alex walked into our bedroom while I set the guitar on the bed. I’d been hiding it under the bed with a veil so no one would know it was there. Ryan and I had been practicing on a less expensive one so I didn’t ruin it. But Alex was focused on his plate of pancakes bacon and ice cream covered in syrup. “What did you do to the pancakes?” He looked up at me and blinked at the guitar sitting on the bed. “They are better than usual.” He added absently. “What’s that?”
“What does it look like?” I teased. “I didn’t do anything different.” I added about the pancakes. I flipped open the case and showed Alex the dark wood and the signature of the artist I had no idea who it was. It was legible in the way that signatures were but also in the way of signatures it was really hard to know who had signed it. I picked the guitar up gently by the neck and sat on the edge of the bed since Alex was here. I could at least play it for him though I’d rather he was sitting down to eat and not standing in our bedroom dripping ice cream and syrup on the floor. I tried not to let it bother me as I looked down to set my fingers and started playing.
The whole thing was just a bunch of memorized patterns, the words included but I’d known them almost from the beginning. But I’d practiced to get it all right. My voice was quiet in the dim light of our bedroom. My eyes were closed and I focused on the words, the finger movements. I sang Stand By Me to the love of my life on his birthday, and focused on nothing but him. The song had more meaning than I could ever put into words. It was a memory I had of Alex of the dream that I’d not realized I hadn’t remembered until this moment. He’d picked me up so many times with his voice. With this song.
Tears were streaming down my face when I finished the last verse and took a deep breath. Alex plucked the guitar from my hands and sat down next to me. “You learned to play a guitar you were giving me?”
I shrugged, “I only played it once, Ryan had others in his studio.”
“Ryan has a studio?”
I laughed, “Ryan has a lot of things.”
Alex sat down next to me and wrapped me in his arms and I felt more tears falling. Happy, sad, frustrated it didn’t matter what they were they fell. “One more question?” I nodded and he went on, “The one you recorded, did you play that one too?”
I nodded with a weak smile. “How long have you been learning?” Alex looked at me in shock.
“A couple of weeks.”
“You learned two complete songs in a couple of weeks?”
I shrugged, “It’s just patterns.”
“What doesn’t come easy to you.” Alex shook his head and wrapped his arms around me and sighed, “It took me months to learn Stand By Me to play for you.”
“I’m sorry.” I mumbled. Nothing about the day was going well.
“I didn’t mean it like that Nox.” Alex sighed. “I’m proud of you. Fuck, I love the whole thing. I love you.”
“I know. I love you too.” But it didn’t sound like I was happy. The whole fucking day was shot now.
“No, it’s not.” Alex said out loud. “Let me go clean up the mess in the kitchen and the drips on the floor. You stay here, I’ll be right back.”
Alex left and I stayed right where I was, my elbows on my knees with my hands hanging between my legs, bent over and taking slow deep breathes. Today wasn’t going to be about Alex now, my head was gone, my body felt broken. I was going to be a mess and that meant that Alex was going to end up taking care of me. I fucking hated myself sometimes.