It must have been sometime in the afternoon, although it’s hard to say. There was definitely a sunbeam crossing the barrier of apartment buildings, reflecting from the old lady’s window across the patio to land triangularly shaped on the wall – right above the pillow-case bit that was visible out of the corner of the blue-ish linens. The bed was covered with a citric green blanket, and next to it was the bookshelf and the armchair – basically the only furniture in the room – apart, perhaps, from the leather futon across the room (although that wouldn’t really qualify as furniture). The heat – at least they thought it was the heat – was sucking all of the moisture out of the air.
Dean wasn’t paying much attention to Don’s guitar stroking, but his attentive look suggested otherwise. With his thumb, he persistently rubbed his pinky’s nails with a movement along the white line that separates it from the skin. He was barefoot and shirtless. As if suddenly aware of a leg cramp that had been building up and grew into numbness, Dean rose to his feet, only to take a step to the side and blend into the armchair cushion. “It’s hot in here”, he said without addressing Don, not necessarily at least. There’s was the audible sound of the clock they had found downstairs, by the entrance door, just a few days ago. Normally, you’d have to concentrate on the tic-tac in order to distinguish it in the midst of sirens and school bells. Despite facing the back of the building, Don’s apartment was not free from these daily reminders of whatever life or death was going on out there. That Saturday, however, there were no impediments to the battery-run clock. It ran wild.
In a non-responsive answer to a non-question, Don looked up at the ceiling to what could’ve been imaginary clouds of heat floating motionless and heavy above their heads. The gaze made him aware of the texture of his own hair resting on his shoulders and the heat, the dry heat it generated where it encountered his neck. “I should shave sometime this week”, he thought to himself, more as an excuse than as a goal, conscious of his own affection for facial hair – anyone’s facial hair, especially his own. The guitar pick felt different – heavier – between his fingers. The moisture between skin and plastic was a layer, a tangible layer of matter. “Shabop shalom”, Don let out with gentle picking movements that made the strings resonate and break the clock’s determined and unstoppable march. “But marching towards what?”, both of them might’ve thought at about the same time, suspicious of each other’s synchrony, but one can never be sure. The clock did not stop at their hesitation.
It seemed to Don that only now did Dean switch positions – from the bed to the flowered themed cushioned armchair – but somehow the feeling was misleading, he felt. “What?”, he asked Dean, who understood where he was coming from and what he was aiming at. It didn’t bring either of them to the realization – one they had both shared in their intimate so many times before, yet never spoken of it – of the silent and gentle choreography they performed. And had they been aware of this unrealized epiphany of theirs, it would’ve pleased them to recognize such coherence between thought and action, intention and gesture, for rationally acknowledging the feat defeated its purpose by all means. They were successful in their ignorance.
“Another one?”, was Dean’s reply to the texturally aware Don. The question – not so much in search of approval as much as an awakening to his own desires – might have been a statement. “Another one.” It was too late now, for the words had already come out of his lips with an inescapable question mark. Paralyzed on the cushioned armchair, Dean knew that even so it wouldn’t have corresponded to his deep inner yearnings. Silence had done it; followed – shortly, perhaps – by the breaking of immobility that most faithfully revealed his wishes. He saw the movement he was about to perform; first in his head. Time moved thus.
“I can’t feel my hands”, Dean heard Don whisper, unsurprised and unconcerned, while playing the part he had been rehearsing in meditation. Staring at the pick in his hand – small, pizza-shaped, fading blue – he tried to remember the random information found on Wikipedia about the guy who first started commercializing CDs. The music had stopped flowing from his hands to the strings and from it, to fill the room, crowded by clouds of humid smoke. Again the clock was ticking. Dean too had heard it, he looked over at Don. “We’re out.” The words made Don look away from the guitar pick to the sunbeam – now fractured in cubic forms – and smile.
Their looks met half way. Not their hands. The tic-tac suggested not so, but time stopped and sped up simultaneously. It caught up to itself. They knew not how long afterwards their lids – all four of them – responded to both of their brains and, in vertical closing and opening, blinked. The pick was nowhere to be seen, although the guitar had been carefully placed by the armchair. The heat had dissipated into the breeze; windows open all the way. There was no tic-tac to be heard. The streets spoke and so did some neighbors, partying downstairs – a record playing piano jazz filled the bathroom with its resonance. But Don and Dean were not there to hear it. It was already Sunday. It was still summer, and with the evening, they had left the room and the smoke. Out there and in here, time was the same.