Okay, nobody robbed me. I just need to pack one single bag. And how am I supposed to choose from my whole life what should fit in there?
What would you take with you to a desert island? Three things only! Damn... I always hated such stupid riddles. And now I’m trying to solve something similar. Of course, I’m not going to an island.
College awaits me, a dormitory! Life of a young and carefree student...
“Where did you put your documents? It’s the first thing you need to show to a dorm supervisor, or do you immediately want to impress everyone with your collection of panties?” says Mark. When I want to annoy him, I call him Marco.
“My God, Mark, you’re such a bore! It feels like you’re about to turn forty! I hope there won’t be people like you!”
Mark laughs, “There will be dozens more like me, and they will be hundreds of times more boring.”
“Then I changed my mind. I stay.”
I start unpacking but only to pull out the folder with documents and put it on top of things, as Mark told me.
“Hell no!” He makes an angry face and begins to shove my things hastily back.
But he already grabbed my bag and slammed the door in the hallway. I’m standing in the middle of the room with the folder in my hands. I’m not sad. Maybe a little. But that’s okay, isn’t it?
Come on! The dorm is not so far from home! I can always come here. But on the threshold, for a moment, I forget why I wanted to leave so much...
I didn’t feel bad here. I just desperately wanted a change. For some reason.
In a car, I constantly skip songs. Mark is pissed off but silent, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel when we stop at traffic lights. He seemed to have gone deep into himself, in his thoughts. Even his farewell smile looks somehow forced.
“Don’t do stupid things, okay?” he throws one last thing and drives off, leaving me on the street in front of a three-story dormitory. And after a minute, I feel a rush of power from the freedom that has fallen on me. I can’t help smiling.
The supervisor does not appreciate my joy and meticulously checks the documents without even glancing at me.
And finally, the keys to the cherished room. A door. And... an empty room, where sunlight is pouring from a large window. A bunk bed, a table, and a chair, a large wardrobe.
I drop my bag to the floor, climb onto the top bed, and lean back on the pillows. Before I had time to think about anything, someone else entered the room. How did I forget? I have a roommate now...
The roommate is a tall and gloomy guy. He looks younger than me, but he is sullen as if he needs to pay a mortgage. Although, how do I know? Maybe he does...
“Hi,” I say, breaking the awkward pause as he stares at my face. “I’m Ray. Ray Connor.”
“Ted Morris,” he mutters and sits on the lower bed.
Not very friendly.
So my college life started. Ted Morris is no longer such a bore. It turned out that we had many classes together, and little by little, we got along. Mark only called me occasionally, but I never called him. It’s hard for me to explain why... It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to him. Or I had nothing to say...
A couple of months flew by, like one day. Endless activities, then parties. I finally became normal. Nothing and no one reminded me otherwise.
Sometimes I felt a pang of guilt for excluding Mark from my life so abruptly... But the more time passed, the higher this wall became. The wall of my silence, behind which I was calm. Mark stopped calling, hearing no enthusiasm in my voice and short answers to his questions. But I still thought about him sometimes. And those thoughts always made me feel guilty. Eventually, it forced me to go to his house for the weekend. Without any warning.
No one answered my knock on the door. Mark sometimes slept until noon, and now it was only 12. So I just opened the door with my key. The apartment was quiet. I smelled a familiar smell - the smell of a home. You can feel it only when you were away for some time. Then you understand what you were missing.
I amble to the kitchen and put a box with cakes on a table. Mark always was a sweet tooth. He loves chocolate cream biscuits. So I bought him a couple. I thought we would have dinner, talk about things... I’m a student now! I guess I wanted to do something mature. And it was hard for me to say, was I an adult? I’m eighteen (still underage), but eighteen is a lot, right? How demanding of myself should I be? Mark is twenty-eight. Is he an adult? He has a job. He pays the bills and everything.
I chuckle at the thought. This is not a bad topic for a conversation. Maybe a bit strange after so many weeks of my silence... I turn to go to Mark’s room to wake him up but notice a silhouette behind me. Mark must have heard my steps.
“Well, finally!” I exclaim. “And I thought it was time to set your bed on fire...”
The words stuck in my throat as I turned to see that behind me was not Mark at all, but some unfamiliar man in pajama pants. I even thought for a moment that I’d broken into someone else’s apartment, but I quickly remembered that I had opened the door with my key. Maybe it’s a robber?! In pajamas... Am I a complete idiot? Maybe this is Mark’s friend? But I’ve never met him.
Mark has moved out, and this is a new tenant who did not have time to change locks?!
The stranger continues to stare at my face, which, I hope, does not reflect my guesses one after another.
“Where is Mark?” I finally blurt out.
“You must be Ray,” the man says calmly.
“And you are... a man in pajamas?”
He doesn’t like my remark, pressing his lips together tightly and frowning. I didn’t mean to be rude...
While we are standing there, I survey him. He is... how can I put it right?... well built. I would even say impeccably built. His hair is light, a little disheveled.
Wait a minute... Did he come out of Mark’s room? Did he sleep here? He didn’t come here in his pajamas, right? Did he sleep in Mark’s room? Slept with Mark in the same room? Slept with Mark?!
Thoughts start to burn my skull. And at that moment, Mark enters the apartment. I immediately turn to him. I wanted him to say something to save me from the growing feeling inside which threatened to turn my whole life upside down.
“Ray!” Mark, seeing me, frowns, and his greeting comes out not very cordial. “You should’ve called...”
“Well, how was I supposed to know that you were not alone here?!” This is not the voice I wanted to speak. But for some reason, I could not find another.
“Marco?” pajama-man says. And to my surprise, “Marco” is not annoyed at all. My God, did I even know him?..
“What’s the matter, Ray?” Mark asks in a suddenly calm voice.
“No, no, no. Don’t play my older brother now. I want to know what’s going on! Who the hell is that? Why did he come out of your room? Answer me, Mark!” I probably shouldn’t have yelled at him. Mark’s eyes turn into two narrow slits.
“Ian, please leave us,” he refers to the one in the pajamas, and he reluctantly walks back to Mark’s room.
My hands begin to shake. Why do I feel so angry? As if I was betrayed.
“So, did my brother know about you? Did he know who you were?” I say in a trembling voice. I can no longer stop myself. Therefore, I am raising my voice. “Did he?! He couldn’t have known! If he had known, he would never have entrusted me to you! He would have despised you! Just as I despise you now!”
In contrast to me, Mark’s anger looks like an ice block. He does not take his eyes off me, and his words ring like metal, “Your brother made his choice about me. You, too, are free to make your own.”
“Oh, believe me! I will make my choice, be sure! And it will be better than my brother’s!”
Now Mark breaks into a scream, “Yes, you try it! And first of all, try not to be such an idiot as your brother! Try not to die as stupidly as he did!”
“Don’t you dare talk about my brother like that!”
“What was good about your brother if he left you in my care, huh?!”
“Don’t blame him! It’s all you! It’s your fault! You deceived him and me! Tell me, Mark. Sorry, Marco,” it seems that now poison will start dripping from my tongue. “Your lover waited a day or immediately jumped into your bed as I left?!”
A sudden blow made my jaw click, and I hear ringing in my ears. Mark kicks me out of the apartment. Only in five minutes I find the strength to get to my feet. I spit blood right into the stairwell and stagger down the stairs.