I sensed the sun through my closed eyelids before I even came to a fully-conscious state. Even in my sleep, I could tell that this wasn’t my bed, and I went rigid for a few seconds. My eyes opened and they stung.
When I first looked around the apartment, I didn’t recognize it. It looked like an entirely different place in the light, but my sore muscles then reminded me of what had happened the night before.
I stretched my arms behind my neck while I collected the details of this place. It was only one room with plain walls and a hardwood floor. The kitchenette area was in the far corner—nothing more than a stove, a refrigerator, and a few feet of counter space. There was a square table with stacks of books on top of it and two woven chairs underneath.
The couch sat in the center of the room and faced an old television set. Macon had posters all over the walls of bands that I didn’t recognize, and there was an acoustic guitar leaning up against the dresser by the door.
I noticed that Macon had made an effort to pick up some of his clothes; they were now draped over one of the chairs, and, although a bit cluttered, the apartment looked nice with the sun shining through the window in beams like that.
There had been a constant noise coming from somewhere in the room, but I hadn’t given any thought to it until it stopped. It shuddered to a halt with a hissing noise—a faucet being turned off. The door to the bathroom swung open and Macon smirked as his attention fell on me. “Morning, Sunshine.”
I rubbed my eyes; I’d fallen asleep with my contacts in, and they felt dry and uncomfortable. I grunted in response.
“I thought you left already,” I spoke, ignoring him and his sarcasm.
“Nah. Heading out to work in a couple minutes,” he said, his eyes snagging on the digital clock above the stove. “You want breakfast?”
I shook my head. I didn’t particularly like eating so early in the morning, but Macon went on anyway. “I would offer to make you an omelet or something, but I literally have nothing. I gotta go food shopping really bad. I’ve got some cereal. That’s about it. Corn Pops? Cheerios?”
“I’m fine, seriously. Thanks.”
Macon shrugged and crossed the room. He started to search through the pile of clothes on the chair. As I peered around the apartment for the second time with a clearer mind, I realized that he had no bed. “Where do you sleep?” I asked.
“Hm?” He looked over his shoulder. “Oh. Right there,” Macon said, motioning to the couch with a tilt of his head. “It pulls out, though. I usually sleep on the mattress.”
“Oh,” I said, lamely. “Sorry.”
Macon shrugged again. “It’s no worries. I don’t mind.” He seemingly found what he was looking for in the pile of clothes. He unfolded the fabric and pulled it over his head.
I raised an eyebrow at the seafoam-green apron. There was a logo on the left breast pocket that read something about a cookie, but I couldn’t really make out the needlework from where I was sitting. “Uh, Macon..?”
He wound the apron string around his waist and pulled it into a knot in the back. “I work in a bakery,” he announced curtly, as if he wanted to get the topic established and over with as quickly as possible. His voice was monotone and failed to possess an ounce of enjoyment.
“Do you really?”
“Shut up.” He grabbed his keys off of the table and shoved them in the pocket of his jeans. “I needed money, and it was the only job I could find that was flexible enough.” He didn’t give me any time to comment on it again, though. He changed the subject rather quickly. “You’re welcome to stay here and sleep some more, if you want. I can write out the directions to the bus stop for when you wake up. It’ll take you right to Penn Station.”
“What’re my other options?” I asked.
“You can come with me now,” he said. “I’m taking the same bus to get to work.”
“I’ll do that,” I agreed, getting to my feet. “My mom’s probably flipping a shit right about now. I should get home as soon as I can.”
Sure enough, as I peeked at my phone on the way out, the front screen said, “12 new voicemails.” I checked them as Macon and I walked to the bus stop. One of them was from Will. The other eleven were my mother, and those became increasingly more demanding as they went on. By the last message, my mother had come to the conclusion that I had been kidnapped by gang-members and she had no choice but to send out a search party.
I stared out the window of the transit bus, my eyes scanning over everything without taking any of it in. The last several hours had been a drawn-out blur, and it felt like Macon and I had been in each other’s company for nearly a week now. I could barely remember taking the train into Manhattan the previous morning.
Macon was facing forward, attentive to the people on the bus. I could tell that, just like I liked to analyze people’s names, Macon liked to analyze people’s actions. He was good at deciphering expressions and body language. Sometimes it would put me on edge—how he’d caught on to the lip-biting, for instance—but I’d soon realize that I appreciated his attentiveness to more than my words. It made me feel like he and I had a connection that wasn’t as shallow as a few passing discussions.
I sat back, enjoying the bus ride. I was going to miss it as soon as I got home. My mother was virtually going to pounce on me the second I put my key in the door. I turned my head toward Macon, shaking the visual from my mind. “So do you like living alone?” I asked, just to ask something.
Macon looked back over at me and it seemed to take a minute for the words to soak in; he’d been concentrating on something. “Oh. Yeah, I like it most of the time,” he said. “I mean, I like the privacy, and that I don’t have to keep my stuff in any particular order. But it does get kind of quiet sometimes, the lack of conversation and all.”
“How come you moved out so early?” I asked. I realized how straightforward the question was only after it’d left my mouth, and I hadn’t meant to seem like I was prying. Macon didn’t look fazed, though.
He shrugged. “My dad told me that as long as I was living under his roof, I wasn’t allowed to smoke, so I got my own roof to smoke under,” Macon explained. “I ended up quitting about two months later anyway, since my ex wouldn’t stop bitching at me for it and stuff,” he told me. Then he added, “Probably for the best, though.”
“But you never moved back in?”
“Nah. I didn’t see the need for it.” Macon folded his hands on his stomach and sunk down further in the bus seat. “I’ve got two younger brothers at home. I didn’t think my dad needed a third overgrown kid getting on his nerves all the time.”
“That’s one way to look at it, I guess.” When the discussion didn’t seem like it would be going any further, I turned back to the window and brought my eyes onto the street again. This time, though, I tried to absorb how striking the sunlight looked when it weaved in and out of the buildings like that.
“Talk to your friend Will?”
“Nah, I haven’t. He called me around three AM last night and I missed it,” I responded. “If I call him back now, though, I’ll probably wake him up.”
“Yeah. I’ll try when I get home.”
He nodded slowly with his eyes on the ribbed aisle floor, seemingly letting one thought circle around his mind a few times. “So you guys are pretty close, huh?”
“Me and Will? Yeah,” I answered. “We’re pretty close.”
“How long have you known him?”
I pursed my lips to the side. I’d met him during 9th period band; we were practicing our steps out on the field, and Will had decided it’d be a good idea to put down his sax and go run through the sprinklers. I’d been put in charge of accompanying him to the dean to make sure he made it that far. “Since my sophomore year in high school, I think. We were both in the marching band.”
Macon stared at me on an angle. “You were a band geek?”
“Still am,” I answered. “Proud constituent of my college’s trombone section.”
He paused for about a moment, reflected on this statement, and then informed me, “You’re a massive loser.”
“Shut your face, Macon,” I retaliated. I wanted to let him know that I wasn’t the one who worked in a bakery, but I didn’t know how he’d react if I did so.
The curves of his mouth faded until he looked serious again. He seemed to be wondering something, and I stayed quiet until he decided whether or not he was going to say it out loud.
“So you and Will,” he suggested. “Are you guys sort of like…” Macon’s voice faded and he scratched the back of his head, but his eyes stayed glued to me, prepared to read any expressions I might offer.
I stared back with a raised eyebrow until it clicked. “Oh!” I murmured, and my gaze widened before it fell. “Oh, no. No. We’re not.”
Macon had this look where all he had to do was narrow his eyes, and then his stare would create a lump in the back of my throat. “You looked away pretty quickly there.” That whole body-language-reading thing I just mentioned? Yeah, I didn’t appreciate it so much anymore.
“Did I?” I asked. “I didn’t notice.”
I wasn’t sure if it was intentional or not, but Macon leaned toward me in his seat. His elbow touched mine and I pretended not to feel it. “You like him or something?”
“Will?” I laughed. “Everyone likes Will. He’s Will. He can do no wrong. He could set someone on fire and everyone would get a kick out of it.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
Macon caught my gaze and locked it with his. I felt my face go hot. “No,” I answered. Then, when his eyebrow cocked, I changed my answer to, “It’s tough to explain.”
“You haven’t even tried.”
I stuttered for a moment. “Not anymore, is what I meant to say,” I decided. “I used to. Back when I first met him. I guess that’s why we got to be so close. But, I dunno, he kind of just put me in the best friend category and that was the end of that.”
“Well, did you ever tell him?”
“I think he sort of knew.” I shrugged. “It wasn’t easy to miss, even for his undersized brain.”
“And he still never did anything about it?” Macon was skeptical again. “He never tried to talk to you about it or something?”
I shook my head and scoffed lightheartedly. “You don’t know Will,” I told him. “He’s not like that. He doesn’t pay attention to much. He’s just one of those kids that lets things roll the way they want to, you know? He comes in and out of the picture when he remembers to.”
Macon gave me a look in place of the word ‘whatever.’ He commented, “Doesn’t seem like too great a best friend to me.”
In all actuality, that’d been the exact reason why Will was the perfect best friend for me. Still, I wasn’t sure Macon would understand unless I explained the whole situation to him, and I had absolutely no intention of doing that anytime soon. “You just don’t know him,” I repeated. “Will’s a good guy. Just a bit absentminded sometimes.”
“Alright,” Macon mumbled, but he didn’t seem convinced. “I just asked cause, you know, he seemed a little ticked off when you macked on me at the show.”
“He wasn’t ticked. Just surprised, really,” I answered. Then, after a short pause, “And goddammit, Macon. When are you going to stop bringing that up?”
Macon’s cynicism immediately switched to smugness as he crossed his arms and slumped down. “When you do something more intriguing,” he answered.
I didn’t get to ask him what he meant by it; the bus had stopped outside of Penn Station and was now unloading. We had just enough time to exchange cell phone numbers (despite Macon’s comments about the disconcerting voicemails I might leave him) and then I got off.
I had a fifty minute train ride to reflect on what he’d been insinuating, and I figured I had a firm grasp on it by the time the train overlooked the Massapequa platform. The entire conversation, however, was pushed out of my mind the second I walked through my front door. My mother was on top of me within one minute, asking every form of the question “where-were-you-all-night” and the phrase “to get an earful” was a tedious understatement at that point.
As I sat in my room after finally having managed to get her off my back, I came to two conclusions, number one being that I would never, ever again leave my cell phone unattended. The second was that, after all that had happened, I still hadn’t paid Macon back for what he’d done for me. If anything, I was now further in his debt.