Tuesday, March 1, 2011

COMMON GROUND "The Toilet Seat" - Part 7

They made it to Miller and Nicholas’s place without much incident. Nicholas’s shoe came untied once and Miller fell off the curb, but nobody was injured. Getting inside the house proved to be a little more difficult.

Miller sat down on the sidewalk to search through his bag for his keys. The normally organized gay man couldn’t seem to find his way through its contents while under the influence. Max and Nicholas stood there and watched him. After nearly two minutes, Nicholas reached his hand into his coat pocket and pulled out his set of keys.

“I found my keys,” he proclaimed to Miller.

“Where were they?” asked Miller as he stopped searching in his bag.

“In my coat pocket.”

“Were they there the whole time?”

“Yeah. I just wasn’t looking for them. I was searching my brain like you were searching your bag. Once I remembered where they were, I pulled them out.”

“That’s stupid,” responded Miller. “Help me up.”

“Please,” said Max.

“Help me up, please,” said Miller peeved at Max’s need for niceties.

Nicholas opened the door very quietly as if in fear of waking someone inside.

“Come on,” he whispered.

Miller looked at Max then at Nicholas. “Why are we whispering?” he asked in a whisper.

“It’s late. I don’t want to wake anyone up,” responded Nicholas.

“The only people who live here are standing right here right now,” stated Miller. “Who’re we gonna wake up?”

“You two sure get snippy when you’re drunk,” said Max. “Can we just go inside?”

With the door shut and locked behind them, Miller went upstairs. Nicholas crossed through the living room and walked down the hall to the bathroom. Max just wanted to sit down. He made his way into the living room and plopped down on the sofa hard enough to scoot it back a little.

“Did you just move the sofa?” asked Miller from the top of the stairs.

“Did I?” asked Max in return.

Miller threw the sheets, comforter and pillow he had retrieved from the upstairs linen closet onto the sofa and stood back to look at it.

“Yes. You know I measure that shit to make sure it’s even. Remind me to fix it in the morning.”

“Sorry,” said Max.

Miller didn’t respond. It was unclear whether it was a silence due to defiance or non-hearing. He was already on his way to the kitchen so it was possible he hadn’t heard Max, who has a tendency to mumble.

“Good. Miller brought you the sheets,” said Nicholas as he walked back into the room. Miller then returned from the kitchen with three bottles of water and a bottle of aspirin.

“We each need to take two aspirin and drink the entire bottle of water,” he said as he handed them each a bottle then tried to open the aspirin.

Frustrated at his inability to get the cap off he took a deep breath and set the bottle down on the coffee table with a thud. Max picked up the bottle.

“Let me help you there, Buttercup,” he said as he removed the cap with ease.

“Damn childproof caps,” Miller retorted as the other two snickered. “Done,” he said as he swallowed his two aspirin and passed the bottle to Nicholas.

Hangover prevention was now complete. The three of them were sitting in the living room in silence. The drunken evening was coming to a close. The buzz and the high were both plummeting to the earth faster than a white sheet stains after being splattered with mud. Nicholas looked at Max who had already slumped over on himself and fallen asleep.

“Max,” yelled Miller to wake him.

Max jumped with a start.

“You’ve gotta wake up so we can make up the sofa for you,” said Miller a little frustrated. Miller might be a lightweight, but Max was an early bird.

Max stood up and moved out of the way as Miller and Nicholas started putting sheets on the sofa.

“Thank you guys for letting me crash here tonight,” said Max, sounding a little weepy as can happen when one drinks too much.

Nicholas looked at Miller then past him to see Max. They both stopped with the sheets and walked over to him to give him a hug. He was crying.

“Come on now, Max, it’s gonna be okay,” said Nicholas.

“Yeah,” said Miller. “Your drunk tears are showing and they are not attractive.”

Max blew a deep breath out of his mouth and wiped the tears.

“Okay,” he said. He walked over to the sofa and sat down. He pulled his shoes off, and then laid back. “I love you guys.”

“I love you, too,” said Miller as he picked up the empty water bottles and took them to the kitchen to recycle.

“I love you, three,” said Nicholas, mussing Max’s hair as he headed toward the stairs. “Miller, turn off the lights on your way up,” he said as he reached the top.

“Yes, Mom,” Miller said as he was turning off the hallway light.

He stopped for just a moment and watched Max sleeping on the sofa.

“Good night, Max,” he said tenderly as he turned the living room light off and started up the stairs.

Morning came too soon for Nicholas. He woke around 9am. He was surprised and pleased to discover that he did not have a hangover. Miller's aspirin-and-a-bottle-of-water trick seemed to be the miracle prevention.

He heard a cell phone ringing. It sounded like it was coming from Miller's room. Normally Miller turns his phone off when he goes to sleep, but last night they were all just a little too alcoholically challenged to complete their normal rituals.

Eventually the phone stopped ringing. In the silence the memory of Meghan calling Max last night flooded back to him. He chuckled at the thought of the three of them staring, paralyzed with fear or curiosity, at a ringing phone in the middle of the table.

He walked into the bathroom. As he stood in front of the toilet he contemplated sitting. "No," he said to himself. "I will not succumb to the pressure. I am a man and men stand." When he’d finished he flushed then walked to the sink and started washing his hands. He heard the doorbell.

He turned off the water and listened to make sure his ears hadn't deceived him. The doorbell rang again.

With two sleeping people in the house, he grabbed the hand towel and dried his hands as he ran down the stairs as fast as he could.

When he opened the door he was shocked to find Miller's mom, Maggie, standing outside.

“Maggie?” said Nicholas, surprised.

“Good morning, Nicholas,” she responded.

Maggie Reid was an early riser and a generally cheerful person at all times. Her jovial laugh was infectious. She was also a bit naïve especially when it came to her son’s life. It wasn’t that she had blinders on it was that she chose to not ask the questions to which she didn’t want the answers.

“Maggie?” said Nicholas again, more as a statement this time than a question.

“Yes, Nicholas,” she chuckled. “We’ve established that already. Were you still in bed?”

“Not still in bed, but just out of it,” he responded. “What gave it away?” he said as he yawned. “The pajamas? My hair? My breath?”

“Your breath.” Maggie nodded her head at the same time as she spoke her response to his question.

Nicholas cupped his hand to his mouth and exhaled. The foul odor of his morning breath made him gag.

“What time is it?” Nicholas asked her.

“It’s about 9:30am out here on the sidewalk,” she responded without having to look at her watch. “I’m sure it’s the same time in there,” she said indicating the inside of the townhouse.

“Oh crap, Maggie. I’m sorry,” Nicholas moved out of the way as he held the door for her to enter. “Come in. I’ll just go brush my teeth.”

Nicholas ran upstairs to brush his teeth as Maggie began to look around the room. She noticed the sheets on the sofa and called upstairs to Nicholas.

“Do you and Miller have company?”

“What?” Nicholas responded from the top of the stairs with the toothbrush still in his mouth, one hand under his chin to catch any drippage.

“I said do you and Miller have company?” She indicated the sheets. “I see sheets on the sofa.”

“Max spent the night,” he said as he ran back to the bathroom to spit and rinse. He then ran down the stairs to join Maggie in the living room.

“Just Max?” she asked. “Where’s Meghan?”

“She’s not here,” said Nicholas, trying to just answer the question without sounding like there was something to hide.

“Well then, where is Max?” she asked as she started folding the sheets.

“That’s a good question,” Nicholas responded, looking around the room as if it were so large he might have missed seeing Max hidden in one of its corners. “He must have gotten up early. Maybe he went for a run or a workout. I have no idea.” He looked up stairs. “Tell you what. I’ll see if Miller is awake. Maybe he knows where Max is. At any rate, he needs to know you’re here.”

“Okay sweetie. You go wake him up.” She smiled. “I want to see if he’ll go to the nursery with me. I need some new shrubbery. I’m thinking Boxwood’s.”

“Okay,” he said. “Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.”

As he ran up the stairs Nicholas laughed to himself when he thought of Miller’s reaction to the fact that his mom was in the house and wanted him to go shrub shopping.

Nicholas simultaneously knocked and opened the door. He was prepared for the humor of the situation he thought would follow his news flash; he was not prepared for the shocking image that awaited him.

©2011 Michael Rohrer