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Zeus and Aphrodite in His Ear
Duane Williams
A year into medical school, Josh was having doubts. Did he want to become a doctor or not? And if not a doctor, then what? After arranging to take a leave of absence, Bill made him an offer. "Come to Greece with me," Bill said. "I’ve always dreamed of going, but I don’t want to go by myself. You can look at it as pay for your company."

Josh was living in Bill’s basement apartment. Three months after meeting his new boyfriend, Christian, Josh was talking about living together. "Not here," Bill said. "It’s a single unit apartment. Besides, you can’t afford to pay the rent, let alone support your boyfriend." Josh gave Christian a thousand dollars. He was an artist and couldn’t afford what the dentist was charging to re-construct the tooth he chipped cracking walnuts. "I should mind my own business, but you’ve got a leech on your neck," Bill said. Even though they’d never met, Christian disliked Bill, too. He questioned Bill’s motives. He wondered why Josh agreed to go with him to Greece in the first place.

"You won’t be here for New Year’s either," Christian pointed out.

"Three weeks will fly. We’ll celebrate when I get back."

"If you survive the trip, that is." Christian was referring to Bill. Josh looked at him, but didn’t say anything. "What do you think of these ribbons anyhow?" They were decorating Christian’s tree with hundreds of AIDS ribbons.

"It’s not exactly festive, but it works."

"You think it’s morose?" Like every year, Christian was worried that this would be his last Christmas. Another purple lesion was flowering on his back.

"No. It’s fine. At least it’s not boring and traditional."

"Speaking of morose, does Mr. Morose know you’ll be sleeping in separate beds when you’re in Greece?"

"Yes. He does." Josh was getting annoyed. "You said you were okay with this."

"I am. I’m kidding. Go. Enjoy yourself. If nothing else, you could use some sun."

"Thanks," Josh said, offended. "Do I really look that pale?" Christian wasn’t answering. He was pinning more red ribbons. "You know, if you want me to back out, I will. I’ll stay and spend the holidays here, if that’s what’s most important."

Christian looked at him. "You’re kidding, right?"

"No. I’m serious. I’ll cancel."

Christian laughed a little in frustration. "You can’t cancel at this point." Now he wanted Josh to go. "Bill would kill you. And probably me too." If Josh cancelled, Bill would lose the money for both tickets since he wasn’t likely to go by himself. Josh owed Bill eight hundred dollars, the rent for August and September. Bill agreed to wait for the money, but with what was left of his student loan, Josh didn’t know how he was going to buy groceries, let alone pay back the rent. If it weren’t for Bill, he might be crawling back to live with his mother in Smithville.

"I’m sorry," Josh said, "It was a bad decision. I wish I could change it." Christian wouldn’t acknowledge his apology; he kept on pinning the ribbons, his eyes averted, fixed on the work of his deft, masculine fingers. "I’m not exactly thrilled about spending three weeks in Greece with Bill," Josh added.

It seemed like a good idea at first, escaping to the Mediterranean, where he could make a decision about medical school. "Your grandfather isn’t going to live much longer," his mother said. For forty-seven years, his grandfather served his country as a military doctor; he was decorated for saving the lives of hundreds of soldiers in Normandy. The ones who died were chasing him through the halls of the nursing home. "He has Alzheimer’s, mother. He wouldn’t even I know was there." Josh was calling to say he wouldn’t be home for Christmas. That made it two years in a row. When his mother asked where he was getting the money to go to Greece, he lied and told her that Bill won the tickets in a contest. "This way I can recharge my batteries before starting next semester." His mother was silent on the other end. Josh could hear her breathing through the phone. "We’re doing cardiology, which is extremely difficult." He wasn’t about to tell her that he might not become a doctor.

The more Josh learned in medical school, the more he knew how entirely possible it was to kill somebody. He might administer the wrong drug, overlook a critical symptom, drop a slippery baby on its head. He might misdiagnosis what appeared to be a minor medical problem, a headache that turned out to be a brain tumour, when it was too late to save the young child’s life. He had dreams and couldn’t sleep. In one dream, Christian was the patient, bleeding to death on an operating table after Josh snipped his carotid artery, mistaking it for the stem of a yellow rose in his mother’s garden. "Maybe the fear of killing Christian is what you need to leave medical school," Bill said. "It’s your sub-conscious mind telling you that becoming a doctor isn’t your destiny. That, or it’s telling you something significant about your boyfriend."

On the plane to Greece, thousands of miles above the Atlantic Ocean, Josh was beginning to worry. Although he knew it would be far too soon, he checked the lymph nodes in his neck for swelling. He put on his headphones and looked at the clouds. Except for last night, Josh always insisted on using a condom. When he first met Christian, the HIV made fucking hotter and more intense, just latex to restrain the invisible but present danger.

One morning after sex, Christian said vaguely, "You can’t have everything in a relationship." After five months together, it was clear he wasn’t happy. Sex with Josh was predictable and limited. To make matters worse, Josh was flying off to Greece with Bill. "I know you’re just friends," Christian said about Bill. "But I didn’t think you’d be going to Greece with him."

Josh closed his eyes and held down the sick rumble in his stomach. The plane lurched, and lurched again. If they crashed into the Atlantic, it wouldn’t matter if Christian were planning to be rid of him. It wouldn’t even matter if the virus were inside his body, happily making a billion copies of itself.

"Good thing I brought Gravol," Bill said. The turbulence wasn’t letting up. It was getting worse.

"I need Valium," Josh replied.

"Well, then… You, my dear, need the candy man," Bill said, producing a baggie full of assorted drugs and vitamins. "Which colour would you like?"

They endured two straight hours of turbulence, the chaos of three international airports and a delayed flight from Germany, not to mention long hours at a stretch when Bill could not have a cigarette. When they landed in Greece, they were speaking to each other just enough to manage the logistics of arriving in a foreign country. "Downtown Athens. Take us to the closest, decent hotel," Bill told the cab driver. "Nothing too expensive." By coincidence, their flight attendant from Frankfurt to Athens was sitting in the front seat.

"Oh, yes, the vegetarian platter. Hello again," Kurt said, smiling, when he realized who they were. Kurt was a tall and beautiful god. On the plane, he made the mistake of taking Bill for Josh’s father. Bill was forty-three and going bald. "If he weren’t so hot, he’d be useless," Bill said, after Kurt brought him Beef Wellington instead of a vegetarian platter, which Bill specially ordered when he purchased the tickets in Toronto. As the cab raced off, Kurt turned and smiled at Josh in the backseat. "We need sleep," Bill said, raising an eyebrow.

The Odyssey Hotel, where the cab dropped them off, did not have an elevator. When Bill threatened to take his business elsewhere, the old man at the front desk picked up the phone. Whoever answered on the other end was already yelling. The man at the desk said something angry in Greek and banged down the phone. A minute later, an old man with no teeth appeared in the lobby. Except for their teeth, the two men were identical twins. The toothless brother smiled and escorted them up the four flights to their room, carrying the lightest of Bill’s bags. He smelled like cherry cigars and so did their room. As soon they walked in, Josh threw his bag on the bed by the window. "I’ll take that one."

"I’d rather be closer to the washroom anyhow," Bill said. He flopped on the other bed and kicked off his new, white tennis shoes. "I packed my chastity belt, so you don’t have to worry about me raping you in the middle of the night."

"Yeah, but did you leave the key at home?"

Shortly after Josh moved into Bill’s basement apartment, they were seeing movies together at the repertory cinema near the university. Usually Bill insisted on paying, which was fine by Josh. "When you’re a rich doctor, you can pay me back," Bill would say if Josh attempted to protest. They saw Persona twice, which Bill said was a true film experience. Because Josh was busy–if he wasn’t studying, he was swimming laps at the pool–Bill was one of the few gay men he’d met since moving to Toronto. Late one night, when Josh was studying, Bill made two flavored coffees and took them on a silver tray, downstairs, to Josh’s apartment.

Bill was in his plaid, terry-cloth bathrobe and slippers. "I’m not interrupting your studying, I hope."

Josh was memorizing the names of tiny, facial muscles. "Yes, you are, but that’s okay. Please interrupt me."

"Actually I’m here to rescue you. Somebody’s got to take care of the doctor," Bill said, moving a pile of textbooks off the kitchen table. "Because you’re obviously not."

"What I need is a good shrink."

"Dr. Freud at your service," Bill said, serving Josh a mug of rich, steaming coffee. "It’s Hazelnut Cream. I brought sweetener or sugar. Which would you like?"

By November of Josh’s first year at medical school, Bill was coming down the stairs to the apartment several times a week in his slippers. He brought things for Josh, warm carrot muffins or recent issues of magazines he subscribed to, Playgirl and The Advocate. "I’m always thinking about you," Bill said. "You’re always on my mind." He invited Josh to spend Thanksgiving at his sister’s cottage in the Laurentians. "It will be just the two of us and the fireplace. You can relax or study, whatever you’d like. Nothing but peace and quiet." All weekend, Bill stoked the fire and joked about having sex with Josh, who was studying the autonomic nervous system for an exam. "Just let me know when you need to study anatomy," Bill said. Dark hairs were growing in Bill’s ears. It would be like having sex with his uncle. "We could play doctor. My prostate probably needs checking."

To Josh, Athens was a fast, choking city. During their stay, which blurred to a week, he welcomed the distractions of being a tourist. Bill wanted to visit the Acropolis first, where he bought a Melina Mercouri t-shirt and postcards of ancient statues, nude gods and warriors, a king’s lover in white marble. The smooth, male bodies were no longer perfect and complete. Some were missing their genitals. "Chopped off by the Christians," Bill said. "Or was it the surgeons?" Josh was amazed he could make light of it. When Bill turned forty, he found a lump on his testicle. After surgery and a few weeks in hospital, the cancer was gone, and so was his testicle. "Even in ruins, it’s a spectacular place," Bill said. Just a few other tourists were visiting the Parthenon, small groups of Japanese girls, writing quickly in notepads as they followed their guides. The wind carried their light, questioning voices.

At the Olympic ruins, the quiet was different and eerie. Josh wandered up the eroded stairs to the top of the stadium. A sea gull was suspended in the perfect, blue sky above his head. He closed his eyes and tried to hear the cheers, the stadium overflowing with a great Olympian’s victory, where now there was silence. Bill was the only other person in the stadium, or what was left of it. Although he was far below, Josh could hear him coughing. Bill looked lost and vulnerable, sitting there alone, looking out on what was left of history.

A part of Josh wished he could give Bill what he wanted, to somehow take away his loneliness. Except for his sister in Montreal, Bill’s family was dead and buried. "Can’t say I was too upset when the old man died." Bill’s father tripped down the stairs of the Horseshoe Hotel and broke his neck. Except for his three-year relationship with Henry, a co-worker, who turned out to be an alcoholic and a liar, Bill was chronically single, and always looking. Very early one morning, after accusing Josh of using him for the apartment, Bill came down the stairs in his bathrobe and knocked lightly. "I’m very sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have said what I did." Bill’s eyes were puffy and red. "I just need to know that you love me," Bill said. "Not that you’re in love with me, but that you love me." Josh couldn’t see the difference, not where Bill was concerned, but Bill was standing in the doorway, waiting for a response. "I do love you, Bill," Josh said. "I love all of my friends."

On their last day in Athens, Josh decided to buy an icon, a Christmas present for Christian, which he’d give him when he returned to Toronto. Christian was a painter. He loved Byzantine art. After three hours of searching the tourist galleries–Bill was counting–Josh finally found an icon he could afford. A small icon of the Virgin Mary. "It’s not a fake! Hand-painted on pure gold leaf," the salesman said, loudly to Bill, who had questioned its authenticity.

After the hours of searching Athens for Christian’s present, they stopped at an outdoor café by the waterfront to rest their feet. "Why don’t you ever buy me things?" Bill said, out of the blue, as he was stirring a fifth sugar cube into his cappuccino.

Josh tried to be gentle. "Because you’re not my boyfriend," he said. This, of course, lead to a long, complicated and, eventually, heated discussion, which was the third time, about whether or not Josh could ever be in love with Bill. "You know, I’m tired of talking about this," Josh said. "You obviously don’t respect what I want."

"You don’t even know what you want," Bill muttered.

Sometimes Josh wanted to hurt Bill, with cruel, unforgivable words, but he didn’t. In Greece, he was completely at Bill’s mercy. Bill was paying for everything. He was holding the traveler’s cheques and their return tickets. Josh had eighty-three American dollars and a maxed-out credit card in his wallet. That was it. Whether Josh liked it or not, for two more weeks, he wasn’t going anywhere without Bill.

"Trust me, Bill. I know what I want," Josh said. Across the street from the café, on the rocks by the harbour, a fisherman was flogging a squid. It thudded like rubber against the rock. "We’ve had this discussion a million times, Bill. Don’t you agree it’s getting a little tired? I just want to be your friend. How do I convince you of that? And is that such a bad thing anyhow?"

Bill was frozen in time, staring at his sticky pastry without blinking. When he was finished being silent, Bill looked over at the fisherman. "Makes it tender," he said.

"Or is it to get rid of the ink?" Josh asked. The squid thudded against the rock. "A squid has ink, doesn’t it?" Josh wanted to be talking, any subject would do. Not talking was ridiculous and exhausting. He was afraid he might blurt out that he hated Bill and didn’t know why the hell he was in Greece with him anyhow.

The squid thudded against the rock again. "I’m sorry if I’m ruining your trip," Bill said. "I do respect what you want, Josh. Your happiness means more to me than anything in the world." He reached over and squeezed Josh’s hand, smiling at him with true, complicated eyes. "My own happiness is important too," Bill added, because he needed to remind himself, "but you’ll always be next in line."

By the time the fisherman was finished flogging the squid, Bill was cheerful, eating the chocolate shavings off his pastry and listing off where else they could go in Greece. "Santorini’s a must," he said. "The lost city of Atlantis, or what’s left of it, that is." Josh slid back into the chair and held the sun on his face. Christian said not to call while he was away. It would be too expensive. "We should definitely go to Crete," Bill said. "It has fabulous ruins." Sitting there, listening to Bill, Josh couldn’t picture Christian’s face, not all of it. He could see the moon-shaped scar above Christian’s eyebrow and his eyes, so brown they pulled you in. He could see his own finger tracing the broken cartilage in Christian’s nose.

"Anyhow, I don’t think the ferry goes to Mykonos in the winter," Bill said. "We’d have to fly, which would be outrageously expensive."

It was not an unpleasant week in Crete, staying at a vacant hostel in Paleochora, nobody on the beach but the two of them. They walked in the cool sand until sunset, Josh collecting unusual stones for Christian’s aquarium, Bill reminiscing about things that had happened between them over the past year: the basement flooding, going as Sonny and Cher for Hallowe’en, their weekend at his sister’s cottage. Sometimes Bill laughed at himself for the shit and craziness of their relationship, which is what he called it. Josh said, "We’re both crazy, so don’t worry about it." Finally, they were getting along, enjoying one another’s company, making the best of it. Still, Josh was counting down the days.

Medical school seemed like a distant problem now, a problem going on in another country that didn’t directly involve him. He was thinking constantly about Christian, their last night playing over and over in his head. Wanting Christian to be happy. Releasing the danger. His own words: "Take the condom off." Christian hardly making a sound as they fucked, his eyes closed, lost in the deep pulse of his body into Josh’s. The condom on the floor.

In Paleochora, Bill asked that they not talk about Christian for the remainder of the trip, and Josh agreed. It would make the trip easier. Josh let it slip out that, occasionally, Christian wanted to fuck without a condom. "He’s getting tired of condoms," Josh said. "He’s been infected for eleven years." Bill was appalled. He was the bookkeeper at the AIDS hospice in Toronto. "I don’t really care if he’s selfish and thinks with his dick," Bill said. "I’m just concerned about you."

On Christmas morning, at the hostel, because they thought they should mark the occasion, Bill and Josh exchanged the small gifts they’d picked up for each other in Paleochora. A hand-painted mug for Josh. For Bill, Ouzo-filled chocolates. Also for Bill, because it seemed odd but useful, a blue glass ashtray, a tacky souvenir featuring the Acropolis, before it was in ruins, "Made in USA" written on the back. "I love it. It’s brilliant!" Bill said. Exchanging gifts made missing Christian even worse. When the day was over and Bill was asleep, Josh snuck down to the beach and jerked off into the Mediterranean.

Before leaving Crete, Bill suggested they take some photos of Josh on the beach. It was the excuse Josh needed to put on his new Burt Lancaster swimsuit. Besides, Christian had said he needed some sun. "Lie back a bit," Bill said. "You’re in a shadow." The sun was barely hot, but Josh was soaking up what he could. "Okay, flex." Bill snapped the photo. "Very hot. Burt couldn’t touch you." He snapped again. "You sure you don’t want to take it off?" Josh laughed at him. "I’m serious," Bill said. Josh was still laughing. "Nobody’s around." The beach was deserted. "I’ll give you the negatives." If Bill wanted to take some photos, why not? Josh pulled off the swimsuit and tossed it on the chaise-lounge. "Forget medicine," Bill said. "You could make a fortune in porno."

In Santorini, where they went after Crete, they were staying at a small hotel, carved into the black, volcanic cliffs of the island’s crater, overlooking the turquoise sea. It was a place on a postcard. According to Bill, the crater was the result of a cataclysmic explosion that destroyed Atlantis and changed the course of Western civilization. Now it was a great, volcanic scar, where they were spending their final days in Greece.

Unlike Christmas, Bill insisted on celebrating New Year’s Eve. "We have to celebrate," Bill said. "If the wine’s not flowing, we’ll be cursed by the gods. We’re in the lost city of Atlantis, for chrissake. How could we not celebrate?" By that point, it didn’t much matter. Bill was paying for his company; he would do what Bill wanted.

For Bill’s sake, if not for his own, Josh was determined to be in a good mood. It was New Year’s Eve. He was in Greece. He was trying to be grateful. Back in Toronto, Bill made muffins for him and wasn’t asking for the overdue rent. After the trip was over, they would need to be friends. Josh shaved for the first time in a week and changed into a wrinkled dress shirt.

Except for a pack of stray dogs barking in the streets, Santorini was deserted. Eventually, they found the one restaurant on the island that was open. It was overflowing with hilarious laughter and celebration, the locals singing boldly in rounds. Bill pointed out that they were the only tourists in the place.

"May I take your order?" the waitress said, in perfect English without the trace of an accent. Bill asked what her name was and how she knew English. She lived in Santorini. Her father owned the restaurant. Every summer, Mary worked in London as a nanny so she could escape the flood of European tourists. The Americans, she didn’t mind.

"What would you and your son like for dinner?" Mary asked.

"He just looks young for his age," Bill explained. "Actually, I’m not even old enough to be his father." By this point, he was used to people asking. Bill was seventeen years older, which made him old enough to be Josh’s father.

Mary looked skeptical. "The squid is superb," she said. "Have you tried squid yet in Greece?"

"Yes. The squid it is," Bill said. "Another tough decision." In Greece, their decisions, for the most part, concerned straightforward, daily matters: what to eat, when to take a shower, which pair of shoes Bill should wear that day. Josh was hardly thinking about medical school, let alone making a decision.

After Mary brought their wine, Bill proposed a toast, "To New Year’s in Atlantis!" Josh summoned as much enthusiasm as he could, and their glasses clinked. "To the lost city!" Bill took a large swallow of wine and put down his glass. He sat there, squinting at Josh. "Are you okay?" he said. "You seem a little pre-occupied."

"I’ve just got a lot on my mind. I’m sorry."

"Medical school?"

"Yes and no. I don’t really want to talk about it." Josh was staring into his wine glass to avoid Bill’s eyes. The wine was dark and red.

"Your boyfriend, by any chance?"

Josh didn’t answer at first. Bill rarely referred to Christian by his name. "I thought we weren’t going to talk about my boyfriend?"

"Well, if we don’t talk about your boyfriend, I’m going to be looking at your pretty face go glum all night, and, frankly, my dear, I was hoping to have a pleasant evening."

"I’m sorry," Josh said. It was New Year’s Eve. "You’re right. I’m sorry." Josh sat up in the chair and gave Bill a smile. A man at the next table was standing on a chair, leading his table in boisterous song. Bill’s glass, Josh noticed, was already nearly empty. "More wine?" Josh asked, reaching for the bottle.

"Well, what’s going on?" Bill persisted. "Obviously, something’s biting your ass. Did you let him fuck you without a condom?" In the silence that followed, Josh was considering his answer. "You’re kidding me?" He stopped pouring wine into Bill’s glass and put down the bottle. "What the hell’s wrong with you, Josh?"

Josh thought to deny it, knowing that the truth would only make Bill angry. "Yes, I did. I let him fuck me without a condom," Josh said. It came out like a well-rehearsed confession. "I’m not sure what else I can say. I wanted his cum inside me." At the time, it didn’t matter to Josh. Getting infected from just one fuck seemed unlikely. If the virus slipped into his blood, it would link their bodies irrevocably, and give them a reason to stay together. "I know it was stupid, but I can’t change it now, and I don’t need a lecture."

"Actually, you know what? Good. Let’s not talk about this," Bill said. "I’m just going to end up getting pissed off." Bill called Mary over with a large wave of his arm, and he ordered another bottle of wine.

After they finished their dinner, which they agreed was the best squid they’d ever tasted, Bill said, "You know, Josh, what really hurts is that I would never, ever do anything to hurt you. I certainly would never ask to fuck you without a condom."

It was Josh’s idea. They were looking for a party in the rain. It was soon obvious that Mary had given them the wrong directions. They turned back and walked quickly up the dark road, looking for a small, white building with blue shutters, which described nearly all of them. Wherever they went, the pack of stray dogs followed, barking and barking. Bill wondered if the dogs were rabid. "Let’s try that other road," Josh said. "We can easily find it." They’d finished three bottles of wine at dinner; Josh was ready to go.

Bill wasn’t sure. The rain was persistent and cold. "I say we head back to the hotel," he said. "The rain’s getting worse and I’m freezing."

They argued over Josh not wanting to go back to the hotel. By the time they found the party down another dark, muddy road, they were soaked, and barely talking. They sat inside a loud bar, dripping wet. Red and blue light bounced off the walls. The place was empty, except for the bartender, and what appeared to be a seven-foot tall drag queen with a yellow boa. The bartender’s t-shirt was stretched tight over muscle. When he came to get their order, he said, "Yes, please."

"When does the party get going?" Josh inquired. The bartender leaned over and shouted into Josh’s ear in broken English. Josh smiled and shouted back, "Thank you." They were too early. Josh understood that much. "We could hang around for a drink and see what happens," Josh shouted, over the music, to Bill.

Bill looked at his watch. "Fifty-three minutes to midnight. Let’s go back to the room," he said. Josh was noticing the bartender’s thick, hairy forearms. They sat there for a minute, not making a decision as the bartender wiped their table clean. "I come soon," he shouted into Josh’s ear, before he turned his beautiful ass, and walked back to the bar.

"This place is dead," Bill said. "Let’s go back to the room. I’m soaking wet and I don’t want to stay here."

"But I do."

Bill gave a short, derisive laugh. "You want the bartender."

"No, just his ass."

"There’s a bottle of wine in the room, Josh. We’ll get drunk. Drunker. You can strip down and I’ll give you a massage."

Even though he was soaked, Josh was pleasantly intoxicated and happy. In a few days, they would be back in Toronto. The bartender was a definite possibility. Christian might be at the bathhouse, getting it without a condom, for all Josh knew. He couldn’t sit in the room again, another endless night, New Year’s Eve, listening to Bill wheezing and snoring. "I’m going to stay," Josh finally said. "You go ahead, if you want, but I’m going to hang around and see what happens."

Bill sat there for a minute, not saying anything, but Josh could feel him starting to boil. He leaned over and shouted into Josh’s ear, "You’ve got a boyfriend, don’t forget."

Josh wasn’t going to argue. "Can’t hurt to flirt a little."

That twitch started going in Bill’s upper lip. Now he was glaring at Josh. "If you’re planning to pick up, don’t bother bringing your trick back to my hotel room." He stood up, in one gesture, with his whole body, and made for the door. Bill could have shamed Bette Davis. In a minute, the bartender came over, sheepishly, and asked Josh if everything was okay.

"Everything’s fine," Josh said. "Can I get a beer please?"

Near the end of his beer, the place was still empty, and they were still playing Madonna. Josh sat at the bar, in wet clothes, thinking about Christian, missing him, wondering what he was doing at that very moment. He finished his beer and said good-bye to the bartender, whose boyfriend, unfortunately, was the drag queen.

When Josh left the bar, the moon was an imposing, white spotlight. It was no longer raining. The stray dogs were quiet now, sleeping in a huddle on the road. If he ran, he’d make it back in time to ring in midnight with Bill. He could raise a toast: To Greece! To the lost city of Atlantis! A few minutes before midnight, Josh was hurrying down the illuminated cliff, down the steep stairs to their hotel, moonlight reflecting off the black, still water in the crater.

Bill was probably still awake. They still had an unopened bottle of wine. They could use the water glasses in the washroom. Josh knocked once and waited. That was their agreement, a gesture of respect in case one of them was masturbating. "It’s me, Bill. Hello! Happy New..."

As Josh opened the door, Bill was lunging toward him. From there, Josh wasn’t sure what was happening. In an instant, his heart was racing. He was pinning Bill to the bed, restraining him, Bill panting and gasping, kicking to break free, a desperate, trapped animal. A fire was burning in Josh’s ear. Again, it came. Again, Josh could see the rage in Bill’s eyes as Bill lunged toward him with the ashtray, that unreal moment, that blur after opening the door and stepping into the room. There were blue shards of glass on the floor, blood running from Josh’s ear. He was struggling, using all his weight to hold Bill down. The white sheets soaked up drops of Josh’s blood. Then, just as suddenly as it started, Bill went silent and limp. Deep sobs of grief started shaking from his body. At first, without words, and then with the words "I love you, Josh. I love you so much."

"I love you too." Josh said. He repeated the words as he held Bill down.


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