Once upon a time, Leon’s penthouse apartment was a huge, empty place, steel and glass and plush carpeting, a clutter of drug paraphernalia, and not much more. Occasionally he’d throw a party, filling the living room with dancers and the kitchen with cocaine and booze, piling spaced-out overnight guests into the spare bedrooms and choosing several to bring into his own. But much of the time it was nothing but a luxurious, grandiose echo chamber.
Now, suddenly, it teems with life. Simon and Enrique have moved into the front bedroom, and Sorrento into the back one. Another bed has been hastily set up in the maid’s room – yet another space Leon has never used – and taken by Diego. No-one is ever alone here anymore.
Diego stocks the kitchen, and one day real food simply starts appearing out of it, meatloafs and mashed potatoes, roasted chicken and steamed broccoli, oatmeal and pancakes and endless pots of tea.
“When did you learn to cook?” The ten-person dining table is in regular use for the first time in its life.
Diego shrugs. “When I had to start taking care of myself.” If Leon ever ventured in to look, he’d find a copy of the Good Housekeeping cookbook on the countertop, riddled with torn paper bookmarks.
Somehow amidst the tumult of rehearsals and performances and life in general, Leon forgot that Enrique is still a medical student, and that bartending was always just a gig on the side. He becomes the household advisor, teaching Sorrento and Diego to manage the medications he steals from the lab.
The doctor Sorrento finally made contact with comes occasionally as well, writing prescriptions for anti-nausea meds and codeine. He gives them the name of a pharmacist, another deeply-closeted gay man who will be discreet.
“We should tell people,” Sorrento says. Leon shakes his head. He no longer wants the public eye on him. It’s a strange feeling. “You can be the face of this thing,” Sorrento presses. “Get people to stand up, pay some fucking attention.”
“Tell them later. Tell them…” They still don’t want to speak the words aloud. Tell them after I’m gone.
They spend Christmas curled up in his home theater, a wedge-shaped room of leather sofas and wall-mounted speakers, a VCR and rear-projection screen, nowhere near true theater-sized but impressive nonetheless. Leon wonders when exactly this kind of excess had started seeming important to him.
“I don’t think I’m really following this,” he whispers to Rain, lounging against his side. “Why does the guy in the mask – ”
“Sure. Why does he want to blow up the planet?”
“… He just does, okay? He’s the villain, that’s what they do.”
“But – ”
“Just watch the movie.” Rain pokes him in the ribs and Leon winces, sucking in a breath through his teeth. “Fuck. I’m sorry.”
Simon leans over to whisper to him. “I don’t really get it either.” The two share a tiny smile of understanding.
Funny, Leon muses, how dying together really breeds solidarity.