“I’m leaving tomorrow, Tim.”
The last few days had been busy with work. Jason worked hard, pushing himself to get everything done so when he left he guilt wouldn’t weigh as heavy. Tim took his time. He wasn’t in any hurry for Jason to leave.
“I figured you were.”
The thought scared Tim and it was with effort that he retained his inscrutable expression.
“I think you’re set up pretty good here.”
“Sure. If you think so.”
Jason’s fingers drummed on the table.
“This how you want to leave it then?”
Tim shrugged, eyes fastening on a fly crawling on the wall. The bugs didn’t bother with him or Jason. Still, their presence never failed to fill him with ice.
“Alright.” Jason stood, slinging a backpack onto his shoulders. He paused, hoping Tim would say something. Jason sighed and said, “Well, it was good to know you kid. I hope we run into each other again. I hope you won’t be so angry with me anymore if we do.”
He chuckled without mirth, “I’m hoping for a lot of things.” He put a hand on Tim’s shoulder and was happy he didn’t cringe. “As long as the wifi is still working, I’ll send you emails whenever I can. Reply back to them would ya? Just a one liner. Even if is just to say ‘Fuck off,’ you know? So I know you’re alive?”
Still as stone, Tim offered no acknowledgment.
Jason’s eyes burned. He walked out, his boots clicking on the tile. Tim held his elbows. Tears gathered in his eyes. He tried. He tried so hard to hate Jason, but he couldn’t and to let him walk out believing he did wasn’t right. It was a coward’s move.
He got up, fast walked to the front door while peering out the slats of the barricaded windows. Jason wasn’t in sight. Panic clawed at his stomach. He pulled open the door, ready to charge out and yell Jason’s name and stopped, stunned, mouth open as wide as a barn door. Jason stood there, hands on his hips, smile stretching his lips, eyes shiny.
Jason said, “I knew you couldn’t stay mad at me.”
Tim laughed. It rolled out of him, beginning in his belly and echoing out into the silent street. The laugh was all teeth, shaking his body without control. Jason laughed with him and soon, they leaned onto each other, the laughter stealing their strength to stand. It felt good to laugh. Cleansing.
After the moment passed, Jason said with a thumb jerking over his shoulder, “Seriously though, I gotta go.”
Tim nodded, the thought of a smile touching his lips and said, “I know you do.”
“Cool.” Jason opened his arms, puppy look to his face, “You uh, wanna hug one out?”
Tim squinted, appraising Jason and nodded, “Sure.”
It was awkward, but it sealed their peace and Tim felt better for it.
Jason turned and Tim said, “I was only mad at you because I didn’t want to be alone. I still don’t.”
“Who the fuck does? Take care kid. Respond to my damn emails.”
It didn’t take long for Tim to miss Jason. The house echoed with emptiness broken by his soft footsteps and breathing. For no reason, fear would scurry down his spine like a spider. Crazy thoughts spun and when he caught them, they frightened him. He had no idea how to deal with them. What if the bugs were going to kill everyone and they just hadn’t gotten around to him yet? Why the hell were they doing what they were doing. This was real X-Files shit. There were billions of people on this planet. It would take them a while to get them all wouldn’t it? He imagined hairy legs in the shadows. Heard buzzing near his ears. Fucking Jason. Why’d he have to take off?
During the day, Tim played music as he roamed about the house and the garden. He did all the things his mother had pestered him to do, cleaning up the dishes, and putting everything in its place. Regret burned steadily. He was sad about how angry he used to get when she would ask him to do such simple things. Most times, he was lying on the couch, iPod in one hand and the TV remote in the other. He wasn’t doing anything then, not really, but it really got under his skin when his mom would ask him to tidy up his room so she could vacuum it. Her voice needled him and tickled his rage. So many times he’d yelled at her. For what? Over something so simple as putting his clothes on the bed so she could vacuum the floor in his room. Now, she’s dead and he burned with shame. Sometimes, when he cleaned dishes in the sink, it would take him a minute or so to realize he was crying. The surprise would dry up his ducts and he couldn’t remember what he was thinking about that started him off.
Three days after Jason’s departure the loneliness kept him in bed, vacuous eyes blurred the ceiling as the sun slanted in, stretching shadows.
He considered venturing out, needing to do something, maybe see someone. Make a trip to some of his friend’s homes, to see if they made it, but the fear of finding his friends’ bloated bodies the home of hatching bugs dissuaded him. Besides, he wasn’t ready for it.
The moon’s indifferent light silvered the ground when Tim first left his property. He watched a few DVD’s on the TV and drank a bit of rum. His body buzzed with warmth and he decided it would be a good idea to take a trip to the convenience store and grab a nudie mag. Something with class, like Playboy. Maybe they had chips and soda so he could gorge and overload on sugar and salt. He giggled with excitement. He wished Jason was there to share it with. He had no idea he’d have to kill someone when he got there. If he did, he wouldn’t have left without his gun.