When I’m Gone

I’m fine. Stop fussing.”

Sorrento ignores him and continues tucking a blanket over and around Leon’s lap. He sits down around the curve of the wrapped sofa when he’s done, leaving room next to Leon for Rain, who is currently still standing at the window with his arms crossed, vibrating slightly as one heel bounces up and down.

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me,” he says to the city below.

“Tell you what?” Leon says. “That some funky purple shit showed up on my skin?” The lesion on his back has been joined by a few on his feet and more dotting his upper arms and lower shins. “They looked like bruises. They don’t even hurt.”

Rain spins around from the window, his face dark. “Bruises fucking, fucking – fucking everywhere? That didn’t seem even a little, little bit strange?”

Leon shrugs helplessly. “What do you want me to say?”

They’d all four spent the night – or, more accurately, the obscenely early morning and into the afternoon – sleeping at his place, Diego and Sorrento in spare bedrooms, and Rain wrapped around Leon and refusing to let go.

Diego comes in from the kitchen with a steaming bowl and sets it on the coffee table. “Eat that.” It appears to be chicken soup with the noodles strained out. Leon makes a face. “Now.” He walks back to the kitchen.

The hospital had filled him with IV fluids and nutrients, given him an antibiotic for the intestinal infection that’s made him sick the last few days, and then kicked him out with orders not to come back. The doctor who had finally entered his room and deigned to speak to him had worn a floor-to-neck paper sheath, hat and mask and rubber gloves, and disposable booties over his shoes.

“We don’t treat gays with AIDS here,” he’d said curtly. “Wear the mask and the gloves when you leave. You will receive a bill in the mail.” He’d laid the prescription slip on the sink counter, and left without another word.

Rain finally leaves the window and joins Leon on the sofa, picking up the bowl of soup. “Please.” His bright blue eyes are full of worry. “You need to eat.”

Leon accepts the bowl with a sigh and takes up the spoon. It’s actually not bad, but it burns when it hits the back of his throat. He eats it slowly, grimacing with each spoonful.

“Okay,” Sorrento says. “We’re going to find a place that will treat you. Last night they just took you to Presbyterian because it was close. Bunch of prejudiced fuckwads.”

“Treat what? They’re saying they don’t even know what causes it or what to do.”

“They can at least, at least – at least treat the, the – the infections,” Rain puts in. “What, what kind of, of – of hospital doesn’t help someone who’s, who’s sick?

“They’re afraid.” Diego comes in again with a plate of sandwiches. Sorrento and Rain take one each, but while Sorrento tears into his with ravenous bites, Rain merely picks at the crust. “You should have seen the doctor last night,” Diego continues, perching on the coffee table itself. “He couldn’t get rid of us fast enough.”

“Where did you even get food?” Leon says.

“I ran to the bodega, and stop trying to change the subject.”

Leon clangs the spoon into the bowl. “I’m a little annoyed with everyone talking over and around me right now, like I don’t get any fucking say in any of this.”

The room falls silent for awhile. Eventually Rain slips his hand into Leon’s. “I’m scared too,” he says. “I, I – I don’t know what to do. You’re… I…” He presses his forehead to Leon’s shoulder. “I love you.”

Leon sets the bowl back on the coffee table and wraps one arm around Rain, pulling him close. “I love you too. But I just want things to be… normal. As normal as they can be. I’m not…”

He trails off, unable to finish the sentence they’re all thinking.

I’m not dead yet.

“We’re going to play our show,” he continues. “Our music’s getting heard. We’re not throwing away everything we’ve put into it.” He hugs his love tighter. “And we’ll get some studio time. Lay it all down. So when…”

Another awkward silence. So when I’m gone

“We’re recording it,” he says in a tone that brooks no argument. “The second these antibiotics clear me up, I’ll book the time.”

Rain quietly nods, and nobody says anything else. There’s nothing else to say.

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