River did as he said. Despite my protest, he told his brother everything.
“You weren’t going to tell me?” Meat Head asked after pulling me into our bedroom.
He was fresh from work and hadn’t showered yet, but the rain he walked through kept the stench to a minimum.
“It’s not a big deal,” I said, helping him out of his wet clothes.
From his short hair down to his work shoes, he was soaked. Peeling each layer from his skin was like pulling dry glue from leather seats, but I did it because he was too tired to do it himself.
“You had an episode.”
“Your brother pushed me too far,” I argued.
“And I’ll kick his ass for that later, but you still had an episode.”
“I’m ok now.”
His face was worrying me. After getting his pants off, we moved into the bathroom, where he dropped his underwear. They made a splashing sound when they hit the tile that might have made me laugh had we not been talking.
“How’s the comic coming along,” he changed the subject without warning.
There was no way Meat Head was about to drop the conversation like that. Passive aggression wasn’t his style, so when he used it, I saw through the tactic.
I didn’t say anything. I wouldn’t say anything.
“You don’t want to talk about what happened? Fine, we won’t talk about it,” he added.
I was holding his wet clothes while he stood leaning against the sink with his arms crossed. If he wanted to play it that way, I was willing to avoid the subject for a moment.
“I’m gonna start looking for another job,” I said.
“But your comic?”
“I don’t know how to sell myself or my art to other people. I don’t have anyone else to talk to for help either,” I confessed and stepped around him to start the shower.
“You shouldn’t give up,” he said, stopping me from leaving the bathroom when I tried to turn away.
“Why am I the only one living their dream?” I asked.
“You’re not. I am too,” Tom said.
“You work for Beef Babies and take care of your Loser boyfriend. How is that living the dream,” I laughed at the painful honesty.
“I get to wake up to you every day,” he remarked, and to my surprise, started undressing me.
Since Meat Head wanted to share a bath, I dropped his wet soggy clothes.
“Knowing that I’ll always have you, that’s enough for me. Anything else is extra,” he added while getting me in the nude with him.
“You deserve extra,” I said.
“Why? Because I’m your boyfriend? I’m not special, Nick. I’m not smart, creative, or interesting. The only time I’ve ever been more than people expected was when I worked to make something for us. Something for you,” he argued.
We both stepped into the tub, but most of the water hit Tom at first. He shuddered at the sensation but tried to hide it.
“I don’t deserve extra. I probably don’t deserve good. I honestly don’t deserve you, but that’s why I’m willing to do anything for you,” he continued, and we switched places so the water could shower over me.
“You’re laying it on thick,” I joked.
“Don’t I always,” he laughed.
We both faced the water. I rested my hands on the wall leaning forward enough for Meat Head to hunch over me. He rested himself against my back, and we stood, letting the waves cascade down our joint body. He was exhausted. I could tell by the way he laid all of his weight on me. Had I moved too quickly, he would have fallen to the floor.
On an off day, that would have been prime time for shower sex, but he didn’t have it in him. We were naked, but there wasn’t an ounce of lustful energy in the air.
“You know I don’t drive,” I said.
“I know,” Tom answered.
“It never goes well.”
The steam felt good. His breathing against mine felt good. The water, the heat, the embrace, it was calm, almost tranquil. But there was something under it.
“Say it,” I demanded while turning around to look him in the eye.
I had to make an effort to hold him up, and he wasn’t making it any easier by pretending to be solid. My hands held his hips while his arms were around my neck.
“I think you should see someone,” he said.
“Fuck,” I thought to myself while his gaze pierced my eyes.
I shut the water off and got out. Our shower lasted only a few minutes, but it wasn’t the place for what we needed to discuss. In any case, as I expected, Meat Head nearly fell the moment I let go, but he sat in the tub before his legs gave out.
“I love you, but this problem,” he started, but I argued, “It’s not a problem.”
“You can’t drive,” he said.
“Plenty of people don’t drive.”
“But how many of them have panic attacks if they try?”
He didn’t get up. It must have been a long day.
“This is part of taking care of you. It’s the part that sucks, but you know I don’t want to hurt or embarrass you,” he added.
Lifeless didn’t come close to expressing how drained he looked. I couldn’t argue with him.
“Fine, I’ll see someone. But it won’t be cheap,” I said and came back to pick him up.
“Don’t worry about that,” he told me dismissively.