Slipping Through My Fingers
When he opened his eyes, he stared through a window into this big unknown city again. He just remained where he was. Blended by the daylight he blinked a few times. This room felt strange as well. Its looks, its smell...everything. He looked around without moving much, then closed his eyes again. He had hoped that maybe he could remember something when he was back in here. But it felt like the first time he's ever seen this office. There was nothing.
Max had been vanished into here shortly after they'd arrived last night. He didn't want to spent time with this lunatic stranger. Embarrassing silence made him feel uneasy somehow; at least when this guy was around. And he had been determined he didn't need him to regain his memory. But now... Opening his eyes again he stared at piles of books and there were posters displaying odd titles on the walls everywhere. Maybe they were plays...He couldn't tell.
After watching them for a while Max sat up. The rest of the room didn't look very different. His eyes wandered around. Slowly turning his head he discovered an old dark-brown closet standing there like a ghost; half opened. Suits? There were a dozen of them hanging casually in there. Some of them were laying on the ground, others sloppily flung over a chair. He had to smile seeing it.
"I'm obviously not very tidy," he thought. He regretted not having asked what exactly he was doing for a living the last night. It must be something important if he wore suits all the time.
But how important could it be, when he did it with a partner? He couldn't help it. This Mr. Bloom was crossing his mind again. He didn't say much yesterday and Max had been thankful for that. He couldn't help it. This guy seemed just too weird to him; timid somehow and almost as if he was scared of him. Yet, he was sure he'd never have any connections with people like that. Shy and introverted guys like him made him feel insecure himself. He could feel it. He felt it in the cab back to the office yesterday. He knew that Bloom had been watching him from the corner of his eyes, but he didn't know why. It felt weird. He could've said something, if he wanted to.
Max had known that instance that the young man wasn't really capable of speaking up.
He turned his head a bit, looking at the huge piles of books. How theatrical. He must be reading a lot... And all those pictures... "Seems a bit fanatic," he thought. All of a sudden his gaze fell on an empty spot on the wall. He looked closer. No, it wasn't just one. There were many of them. Looking around again, he noticed them now. Among all of this stuff, these empty spots weren't so obvious at first sight, yet they were there.
He stood up and walked over to the wall; studying them closely. It seemed there used to be pictures as well. "Someone must have taken them away," Max said this aloud. He stepped back a few inches just to get the full sight of it. This felt odd. "It's just like my life," Max thought sadly. "Just like a jigsaw-puzzle... Only with pieces missing." Maybe these pictures meant something. Why did he take them away? Didn't he like the memories of his life anymore? Or did he want to make room for new experiences and therefore new memories? What was it, that he wanted to eliminate here?
He turned in surprise, when all of a sudden he heard some noise coming from outside the room.
Max sighed. "He must be awake," he thought. He didn't feel the urge to talk to him again, but deep inside he knew, if he wanted to find out anything, there was no way around him.
"I'm living with this eccentric now, so he must know," Max thought. So, he decided to go outside.
He put on his pants and slipped over a pullover he found in the depths of this monster of wardrobe. It took him quite a while with just one arm he could move properly.
"He surely won't say much," he thought closing his eyes. "Or he'll pull out this blanket thing again. Talk about issues."
Max still couldn't cope with the image of a grown man and a blue baby-blanket. And he wasn't sure if he should ask him about that. But he knew he needed some answers. And if he was the only person he could talk to right now, so be it.
Max was practicing everything he wanted to say in his head over and over again.
"I need to know a few things and you must tell me... What happened? And don't tell me about this car-accident again. I want to know why I was in the streets and could've missed something as big as a car... What am I working as?...And why the hell with someone like you?"
Yes. He'd say exactly that. Without any shortcuts. Straight forward. The quicker he got the answers, the sooner he could leave again.
He moved over to the door, turning the doorknob around. Stepping outside he was quite determined to know exactly what he would find. A gray cowardly strange boy looking at him as though he'd eat him alive any time. Yet, he moved silently as a cat. He noticed in surprise. A quiet voice in the back of his head kept telling him not to scare this Bloom-boy away. It confused him deeply. Why would he care? It wasn't his choice to be bound to this man.
"So, why am I being so careful," he asked himself.
He walked through the office slowly, following the noises he kept hearing.
Finally arriving at what seemed to be a kitchen, Max stopped suddenly in astonishment. What he found there wasn't exactly what he had expected.
Before him a small table appeared, decorated with a bunch of flowers. Two place settings on a pearly white tablecloth had been carefully put there, together with a basket of fresh buns and a decanter of orange-juice.
Staring at it in surprise, Max flinched when he heard a voice coming from behind him.
He turned around to find a smiling Leo standing next to him.
"You feeling better?" he asked without even losing his smile. Max didn't expect that and must have looked pretty strange, for Leo started to chuckle when he saw it.
"I...I guess so," he stammered. Leo just nodded without losing his happy face, passed him and pulled one chair forward; meaning for him to sit down. Max looked at him a bit taken aback.
"Only if you like," Leo said.
Max did as he was asked to, looking around a little absent-minded. Still, he felt the corners of his mouth lift into a smallish smile as well.
"Well, that was unexpected," he though by himself. "He doesn't appear as reserved as he was yesterday. Who would have thought that."
Leo bustled about. Max couldn't make out what exactly he was doing, so he simply observed him from where he was sitting. He sure appeared much more nervous when he was in motion, yet he spoke in a very soft and calm way to him just seconds ago. Had he been wrong about him?
Leo half turned to him, addressing him directly.
"Would you like some coffee?" he asked friendly. Max only nodded.
Leo smiled again. "Black, without sugar," he said, putting a cup of coffee in front of him. "Just the way you like it."
"If you say so," Max answered, but noticed his sarcastic tone right away. He looked at the cup. One more clue. Black coffee. He liked it that way?
Leo's smile had left his face. He sat down, looking at him. "You used to..."
Max lifted his head slightly and their eyes met.
"Well, I don't know anymore," he said, trying not to sound insulting. "I'll have to take your word for it." He forced himself into a smile, even though he felt as though he could scream. He didn't even know such simple, meaningless things. How on earth could he expect to remember a whole life within just a few hours?
Leo was watching him. And Max knew it. He couldn't explain it, but he felt the eyes of his 'so called partner' on him every time without even looking at him.
Neither of them said a word.
He could hear him sip his own coffee. What kind of odd situation this was. Max felt so strange. There he was, this young man, smiling at him and caring about him as if nothing ever did happen. Yet, it felt all so familiar somehow. And as hard as he tried, he couldn't make up his mind about the boy. He was crazy. He had seen it. He was confused and weird. Yet, none of these attributes were showing right now. And he knew. He knew how Max had been before. He could sense it. But somehow he didn't dare to ask him anymore. He wasn't sure why. A few minutes ago, he'd sooner beat some answer out of him than waiting for anything to come back to his memories, but now he didn't even know where to start.
Max looked at Leo again, who was sitting in front of him, supporting his head wit his arm which he had braced on the table. He was smiling again.
"Feels strange, right?" he said softly. Max looked at him questioning.
"I mean this here," Leo was pointing at the both of them. "I can only imagine, but it must be like trying to be nice to a stranger in the streets to you."
Unbelievable. "How did he manage to reverse roles so quickly," Max thought without looking away. Then again, he nodded.
"I will get used to it for sure", he answered. He thought about how to ask the question he had in mind. "I mean we're living together, right?" He tried to not make it sound like a question.
Unfortunately, Leo nodded. Damn! So, he was guessing right.
"For how long?" he asked a little uncertain.
"About a year now," Leo answered.
He took a deep breath. This couldn't be. Why on earth would he live with a man?
"Listen,...;" Max sighed, looking down. "We're not... I mean... Are we...?"
To his surprise Leo started to giggle and interrupted him.
"No, we're not," he answered. His eyes were sad, even though he smiled again. Max noticed immediately. But he had to grin as well. He felt a little silly asking something like that, but he didn't take it the wrong way.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"I thought I needed to ask that," Max was looking at him again. "After that queer couple back in the cab...well, you never know."
Leo gave a short laugh. "Yeah, I hope they didn't shock you too much," he said. "They're nice guys, really...I mean, once you get to know them."
"And how do I know them?"
"They're friends of yours," Leo answered calmly. "Close friends, actually."
That didn't help so much. Friends. Where the hell did he know them from? He could feel an impatience rising inside of him, just to feel it vanish the moment he noticed it. Funny. That must be one of his weaker points then.
"Are they always …," he didn't know how to explain it. He noticed Leo needed some more information for that answer. "...You know,...are they always that obvious?"
He nodded. "Yes," he seemed amused. " Yes, they're always like that... A little loud and rushing, but still nice people." He waited for Max to ask the next question. Leo could feel there was a lot more he wanted to know, but nothing came.
"I know how you feel," he finally said. Max didn't answer. "I found them very odd when I first met them, too. But, well...you'll grow to love them."
Max made an unbelieving face. "Well...if you say so," he answered. He started to relax a little. He'd never believed it, but he was beginning to enjoy the company of this Mr. Bloom. He turned out to be not as nerdy as he thought and even though, Max wished for him to tell a little more than only what was necessary, he felt like he's been sitting here with him before.
"Okay, can I ask something stupid?" he finally said.
"Of course," Leo smiled.
"Bloom, don't get me wrong, but...What exactly is my connection to you?"
"We work together..."
"I know that," Max interrupted. "But, don't you think it's a bit odd to share an apartment with a business-partner?"
Leo grinned and looked down. He was waiting for this question to come up. "We're friends as well... You let me stay here."
"So, this is mine, really?!"
Again, he nodded. "I ...I had to give up a few things and you were so kind as to allow me to stay here," Leo tried to explain. He was avoiding his eyes, for he didn't quite know if he should tell him everything. But Max seemed eager to get to know more.
"And, well...How did we meet...Erm...It's quite a longer story," he rubbed his head, saying that.
"So? No hurry... I've got all the time in the world."
There it was... That sarcastic smile, Max used to wear so often before. Leo recognized it in an instance and all of a sudden felt like crying again. But, he knew he had to stay strong. So, he took a deep breath and started to explain how they met to the man in front of him. He was telling everything. From his starts as an accountant to their ridiculous plan of producing the biggest flop in history just to get enough money to lead a good life in Rio. He even told him how it all went wrong; how they were arrested and how they got free again. He told him how they started to get rich afterwards and how they've reached the top again after sinking so deep down. Only thing he skipped was Ulla and how he came back for Max after leaving him with the police. Somehow he didn't think he needed to know...At least not yet.
Max on the other hand was looking at him wide-eyed, while he was talking.
"I'm a theatrical producer?" he asked once. Leo explained he used to be the most famous. He didn't think it was possible, but he somehow liked to talk about their actual first acquaintance. Max did laugh from time to time or ask something, but he hung on his every word.
"No," Max laughed out loud at some point. "we didn't actually do that?"
"Believe it or not," Leo laughed as well. "That's what happened."
It felt so much like talking to him before...well, before it happened. Leo almost forgot, that his opposite didn't remember any of that. They laughed so hard at times, he almost forgot not to tell him about the things that had happened. Max relaxed more and more and Leo's company suddenly didn't seem as strange as it was in the beginning. It was just the two of them again. Leo and Max... Just like old times.
They spent the morning talking about a lot of things...mostly about how they've met. Max seemed to be interested a lot in the story. Maybe because he heard it for what seemed the first time; but maybe... and Leo suspected this to be the more logical reason... because He just couldn't understand how the both of them ended up together. Leo knew they were so different and it must seem funny to others. He also thought of it as funny, when he thought about it.
The morning and the afternoon went fast, and he found himself casual leaning over a chair, watching Max who lay on the leather couch in their office.
"No, stop it," Max said, still laughing. "You're telling me, I got the money for these productions by hooking up some grandmothers with too much money to spare?"
"Yes, you did," Leo laughed. "Believe it or not... That's how it worked every time."
"Sounds like an easy-going thing to get some extra cash," he looked at Leo. "Why on earth did I give that up?"
Leo thought for a moment. "I...I don't know," he said softly, looking down.
"Don't know?" Max never thought there was something he wouldn't get to know.
Leo's face turned from amused to sincere. "You actually never told me," he said after a moment.
It was the truth. He never really thought about it until now, but he never knew a reason why Max stopped it. He just did. From one day to another. Leo had been noticing, of course, but he never asked him for a reason.
He stared at the ground, with a distance in his eyes Max recalled from the cab-ride.
Leo couldn't help it. He was so certain, he could tell him everything he asked for. Except for the things he didn't wanna talk about, to be exact. But now... He never once believed there was something he didn't know. And all of a sudden he felt an oppressive sadness crawling into his mind again. It wasn't like old times. Not at all. Max didn't remember any of this. All he did, was opening up to him a bit by listening to something that could be a made-up story as well.
Leo heard Max addressing him and looked up. If only, he'd stop that. Max had never called him by his last name. "It's Leo," he answered quietly.
"Forgive me, I only remembered they introduced you as Bloom," Max answered a bit embarrassed. "Leo, then."
Even though he wasn't looking at him, Leo felt his insides flip when he heard Max's voice saying his name. He noticed it in astonishment and didn't dare to move at all. It sounded so much like the Max he knew. But how much of him was left?
He hid his face behind his braced arms to prevent Max from seeing his watery eyes.
Then, he just listened. But there was silence. Why didn't he say, what he wanted to say?
Leo turned his head slightly again, just when he was sure he wouldn't start to cry again; just to find his partner looking at him in silence.
"You know, I thought you were a wreck," Max said. That came unexpected. Leo was surprised.
"But, of course, I don't really know ...you know... your habits and stuff. It was just... Well, I feel like I need to apologize."
Leo lifted his head, wondering what would come next. Max apologized for something? Just like that?
And the older man seemed to notice his astonishment. "I guess I was wrong. You seem nice somehow... But...but I can't get why you are here..."
"What do you mean?" Lo asked a bit uncertain.
"Well, you are young and good-looking...Why don't you live with your girlfriend or something?" he asked.
Again, Leo felt a chill running down his spine. He didn't know what to say. How on earth should he explain that? How could he talk about Ulla and the way they parted? How should he explain why he came to Max? And why he left him again due to a fight about her...leading all this to happen?
"You don't have any...," he heard him say.
Leo shook his head. "I used to... But it didn't work out."
Max took a breath as if to ask something more, but decided not to do it. He leaned his head against the leather couch and stared outside the window.
The sunset was painting the buildings outside in bright orange. There was a light glow seemingly coming from below... most likely due to the snow on the ground, which reflected the last bit of daylight. It looked magical somehow...
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Max turned a bit. Leo had moved over to the couch and was kneeling next to him, looking in the same direction. Max nodded slightly.
"You used to love it," Leo explained.
"Oh yes. I remember, when you first told me about it. You showed me, you know...You were pulling me onto the balcony...You once called it 'your favorite time of the day'," he said.
Max listened to him with interest. He couldn't help it, but smile listening to Leo.
He spoke so passionate about it. Maybe he wasn't so much different from now before?
He tried to remember it... But there was nothing. So, he shook his head.
"I'm so sorry, Leo," he heard himself saying. "I don't remember."
He looked outside again. It made him feel sad. Something as nice as that...a favorite moment... Something like that simply must be a main thing to find in the depths of his memory somewhere. But it didn't ring any bells.
Max leaned against the couch again. His head felt heavy somehow.
"What kind of person have I been?" he asked.
It took a moment until he heard Leo answering.
"You were everything from sarcastic to selfish...You were loud and ignorant at times," he said. Geez, that was exactly what he'd been dreading.
"But then...," Leo started anew quietly. "...there were moments...You could be very calm and caring. You were compassionate and warm... You were ….well...just you."
Max looked at him and was almost trembling. He didn't expect so much of an honest answer. And the way Leo said it... He got the feeling a stronger bond was connecting them somehow. Or at least, it must have.
Leo was looking at him with the saddest eyes he had ever seen, but still he smiled.
"We all have different sides," he said. "... I used to be different, too... Still am sometimes. ...I guess that's why...why she left me..."
Max didn't dare to say something. He just kept on looking at the younger guy, who somehow managed to break his heart in so many ways; even though he couldn't explain a single one of them.
"I guess, I never loved her...so it must have been my fault entirely," Leo continued.
"You lived with a girl you didn't love?"
That sounded unbelievable to Max. He didn't know much about Leo, but he wasn't exactly the person to do something like that. From what he had learned until now, he was introverted, yes, but very strong when it came to emotional outbursts. So, why would he do it?
"It was you, right?" Max asked suddenly. Leo turned to look him straight in the eyes.
"...Who were there...in the hospital...the day I woke up... That was you! Crying over me?"
He could tell, Leo felt ashamed.
"Hm,...if it really was you... there must be something true about your story," Max said, smiling at the boy. Leo looked a bit confused.
"Maybe...maybe we were closer than just partners," Max thought.
Leo seemed sad. He took a look at him once more and it seemed he was fighting his own thoughts somehow. Max couldn't say why. All he knew was, he needed to know more. And he felt this guy was the key. Why? He didn't know.
He smiled again and softly poked him. To his relief, Leo started to smile at him again. Max reached out and ruffled through his hair.
"Hey, don't let that get you down," he said. "I think you will find someone new soon... You're not that bad, once you stay calm."
Leo looked a bit stunned and then laughed hard. Obviously, he didn't expect something like this.
But his laughter was infecting somehow. Max couldn't help but giggle as well.
"After all...," he continued, trying to catch some breath. "...I don't expect you're the kind of nerdy guy letting himself get down by some swedish Blonde.."
What? Max opened his eyes wide, thinking about what he just said. Why was he saying that? He didn't know. For a second, the picture of a blonde swedish girl was flashing in front of his eyes and somehow he must have connected it to Leo. Surely, his mind was playing tricks on him, for he couldn't find any reason to think about that. He tried to recover it. But no...he couldn't remember a girl... Why the hell did he say that then?
Not hearing a sound anymore, he turned to Leo, who was staring at him in shock as well. His eyes were wide open and his jaw dropped.
"What did you say?" he asked.
Max was rubbing his head.
"I...I don't know..."
~to be continued~