by Cody

"So, have you thought about what you're gonna do with the space?" Chris zig-zaggs across the floor. "Man, I never realized how big this room is. You could make this a billiard room, man; you could put a bar over there. Fuck, that would be awesome!"

You look around the empty room, remembering.


The house was brand new, your house. From the basement to the attic, all yours, one hundred percent. You didn't have to share any of this space with anyone ever. Unless, of course, you wanted to. And yes, you wanted to. JC had nowhere to stay, and you had spare rooms to, well, spare, so it only made sense that you would offer JC one, and that he would accept, and you would become housemates.

It was nice to wake up to the sounds and smells of someone else in the house, cooking breakfast or running the shower, or watching morning cartoons, or plinking out a new song on the piano. It was nice to have a second wardrobe right across the hall; even though most of JC's clothes were hideous, he always had a couple things you happily stole and didn't give back until he realized it was gone and flat out asked you for it. But he never got mad; he'd just laugh and pretend to slap you upside your head, and you'd laugh, too, and push him away.

So, that wasn't it, you didn't think. That wasn't why.


There had been definite perks to living together, sharing everything. You liked it when JC would say to the other guys, "Come over to our place." Or when he'd say to you, "We're out of milk." Or something. And on tour, in Chris's hotel room, half-drunk and completely high, when you were all watching that infomercial for Juice-Matic 3000, and JC had said, "We need one of those in our kitchen." You'd actually called in, laughing and incoherent, and ordered one. Six to eight weeks later it was on your doorstep, and for about a month he'd made gallons of pineapple-banana juice and watermelon-strawberry juice and any-kind-of-fruit-combo-he-could-think-of juice, until you were both juiced-out, and neither of you touched the thing ever again.

Except, that is, when he came back to pick up some boxes he'd had in the attic, and you insisted he take it with him. "I never even figured out how to work the thing," you lied, when really you just didn't want to have to look at it, because it sat by the toaster like an old photograph and you didn't want to be force-fed nostalgia every time you stepped into your kitchen.


You can't say for sure what the beginning of the end was, but you have your theories.

Maybe it was because you always drank all his white zinfandel even though he asked you not to repeatedly. "If you want some, put it on the grocery list and I'll pick it up, but every time I want some I go to the fridge and find an empty bottle." Or maybe it was because you never threw away empty bottles. Or maybe it was because you only did the dishes if you felt like it, otherwise you'd just leave them in the sink or on the table, and he'd let them sit for a day or two before finally giving in and washing them himself. Or maybe it was because, when he did that, you thought it was funny.

It probably wasn't any of those things, you know that. But it's easier to believe that it had built up over the months rather than to think that it had all fallen apart in a matter of days.


You didn't know why you were up; you didn't know what time it was or what you were doing; only that you had awoken suddenly and couldn't fall back asleep and that it was sometime post-midnight and pre-dawn, and you found yourself in JC's room, by his bed.

He'd fallen asleep with the bedside lamp on and a notebook open, facedown on his chest. You reached for the it, just to put it on his nightstand, not to read it or anything like that. Suddenly his fingers were clamped around your wrist and he was squinting up at you in sleepy suspicion. You felt like a kid caught stealing candy in a drugstore. You looked at each other, then at the notebook, then at each other again. "What are you doing?" he asked you, letting go of your wrist. You made a show of shaking your hand, letting him know he'd been holding you too tight, and told him you couldn't sleep. "Why'd you come in my room?" he asked, tucking the notebook under his pillow like he thought you were gonna try to fucking grab it or something.

"I wasn't gonna read it," you said. "I was just putting it on the nightstand for you."

"It's personal." The corners of his lips curving down like they always did when he was annoyed. "You should knock before you come into my room."

"I could read it if I really wanted to," you told him, to point out that even though you could, you didn't because, you know, you respect him. "It's not like I couldn't just come in here and read it while you were out or whatever."

He rolled onto his stomach, so his pillow muffled his voice when he told you again to get out of his room.


You finally fell back asleep, but were awoken by the sound of, like, drilling or something. You stumbled out of bed and into the hallway and there's JC, kneeling by his bedroom door, unscrewing the doorknob. A new doorknob laid by his feet, one with a lock. You asked him what the hell he thought he was doing and he said, "Putting a lock on my door." You asked him why and he said, "I need my privacy." Which was just such a load of bullshit.

"I give you all the privacy you want," you told him, kicking at the new doorknob. "I don't like locks on my doors."

"Really? Then what do you call the dead bolt on the front door; a welcome mat?" He doesn't do it often, and he rarely does it well, but you still hate it when he gets sarcastic.

"That's completely fucking different, JC, and you know it. That's to keep the crazies out, not my friends." It's like a slap in the face, this new lock, because, really, that's what he's trying to do: lock you out.

"I just want a little privacy, okay? I want to make sure that nobody goes through my things while I'm not here, all right? Is that okay?" The drill, or screwdriver, whatever, the noise was driving you nuts. You yanked it out of his hand and he glared at you.

"You mean you want to make sure I don't go through your things." Pointing accusingly with the stupid screwdriver.

"Yhea, well." He quirked an eyebrow at you, and you're so fucking mad you could cry.

"I can't believe you, you asshole." Fuck your voice for wavering. "You really think I would invade your privacy? You think I would go through your stupid fucking shit? You don't fucking trust me at all."

"If you're not going to go through my shit anyway, what does it matter if I put a lock on my door?" he said, which just proved how much he didn't get it.

You tried to be reasonable. You picked up the lock and said, "I won't go through your things. You don't need a lock."

"You don't call all the shots, Justin. It's my fucking room; I can put a lock on my door if I fucking feel like it." So, let the record show, he started it. You just retaliated.

"Every room in this goddamn house is my fucking room." Which is true, right? So, fuck him. "I own this fucking door, and if I say I don't want a fucking lock on it, you're not gonna put a fucking lock on it. I let you live here but it's still my house, you got that?" And you stomped down the hall, stairs, hall, into the garage, and got in your car.

You drove to Chris's house and played Playstation and watched movies and drank too much and ate a lot of ice cream and went to bed with a headache. You woke up the next day feeling queasy, and you and Chris played basketball all afternoon, then ordered a pizza and one of Chris's friends showed up, some guy he went to college with who you think is annoying and has bad breath, but you didn't want to go home so you put up with him.

Another night passed in a blur of drinking and video games, and the next afternoon you were ready to go home. JC would be calm by now, you thought, but just in case, you brought Chris with you. Because if JC's rude to you, you wanted Chris to be there so you could take some beers up to your room and make fun of his clothes.

The minute you walked in you knew he was gone. Maybe your subconscious mind picked up on the lack of stray baseball caps, or sheet music, or maybe there were picture frames missing, but some part of you wasn't surprised when you walked upstairs and found his room empty.

"JC moved out?" Chris said, shocked you hadn't told him. "When did this happen?" You shrugged, because you didn't want to tell him you didn't know.

The room was empty, bare, nothing. JC had taken every last remnant of himself, all his furniture, wall decorations, the closet was completely cleared. He hadn't even forgotten his toothbrush or anything, 'cause you checked his bathroom, just in case.


You didn't want to call him, and he didn't call you, so it was three more days before you saw each other at Lance's place. You and Chris stopped by just for the hell of it, and he answered the door, looking like a deer caught in headlights when he saw you, and you're sure you looked the same. Chris wandered off to the backyard, where Lance and a loud, laughing group were drinking and grilling hamburgers, and you stayed behind to talk to JC.

"You...moved out," you said, because he had.

"Yhea," he said. "I're right. It's your house."

Not sure what to say to that, you asked, "Where are you staying?"

"Here, for now. Lance is letting me crash in a guest room, but I've already got my eye on a couple places, so." He's looking at your chest, which was weird. He's usually big on eye contact; one of those active listeners.

"You can..." How do you say this? "I mean, I didn't...mess with your room. It's just, you know," Waiting. "There."

Still not looking you in the eye, he shook his head. "Yhea, but I think. I think it's about time I got my own place, anyway. You know."

You didn't know. You wanted to beg him to come back, say he can put a lock on every door in the house if he wants to; just please don't leave. You wanted to promise to never again borrow his things without asking, or drink his white zinfandel, or laugh when he cleans your dirty dishes, but you didn't.

You just nodded your head like you knew what he meant and joined the crowd in the backyard because, suddenly, you're dying for a drink.


Now, here you are with Chris, looking at the bare walls and floor. Chris is excited over the possibilities, urging you not to make it into another guest room, to do something really cool with it. He throws suggestions at you a mile a minute, but you're not really listening. Finally he says, "So, what are you gonna do with the space?"

You wave your hand through the air, the atmosphere so thick with memory that you can hardly breathe. "I can't do anything," you say, knowing this could never be a billiard room or a studio. "There's no room."


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