I’ve been incarcerated a lot over the past thirteen years, so you’d think I’d get more comfortable with the idea of sleeping in jail. I never did, though. And so, this morning, thoughts of my pillow dragged my lifeless body across the length of Manhattan and up the stairs to my apartment.
The instant I shuffled into my room, however, my neighbor’s voice appeared from the fire escape. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick!”
I replied, “Have you been sitting outside my window all night?” I then found myself asking a more important question: “You’ve been worried sick about me?”
“I would have called,” she said, “but I don’t have your number.”
It had been some time since anyone had missed me. The sensation doused me both with confusion and excitement.
“I had another one of those days at work,” she continued. “I thought we could discuss it.”
I groaned, “I’m too wiped out for that right now.”
“How about you just sit back and let me do all the talking?”
I shook my head. “Not today, Em. I just spent a night in a holding cell, and I need sleep.”
She bit her lip. “You really got arrested?”
I didn’t reply as I pulled off my boots.
She crawled inside, slipped behind me, and began unbuttoning my shirt. “You going to jail is like an aphrodisiac to me.”
When her fingers loosened my belt and slipped my pants down my thighs, I said, “You doing that is like an aphrodisiac to me.”
“That’s something else we have in common,” she whispered.
A half-hour later, I stumbled out of my room toward the kitchen for an emergency infusion of protein and simple carbohydrates. I had so little energy that my roommate Cameron’s sudden ambush didn’t really faze me.
“Do you talk to Emma at all?” he asked.
“Why do you ask?” I replied cautiously.
“She has a new boyfriend, but she won’t bring him around.”
As far as I knew, nothing in my demeanor betrayed me, but I needed to play it cool. “What makes you think she has a boyfriend?”
“I think you of all people should know the answer to that.”
Now I was starting to worry. “Should I?”
“All of that carrying on all the time,” he told me, “it keeps Mitchell and I awake all night, and we’re on the other side of the apartment. You’re, like, right there.”
“You mean in the bedroom right next to hers,” I clarified, “in this apartment.”
“Because that would be crazy.”
“I mean, just now, it sounded like it was coming from your room.”
He leaned in close and whispered, “Between you and me, she’s never been this… vocal before. Whoever this guy is, he’s really pushing her buttons. I have to meet him.”
I was simultaneously honored and threatened by this line of questioning. “I’ll bet you a dollar,” I told him, “that when you finally meet this guy, you will not believe he’s the one doing that to her.” This is because the only reason I got this apartment is because I improbably convinced Cameron and his boyfriend I was as homosexual as they were—improbable because I have a lot of sex with a lot of women.
“It’s always the quiet ones,” he replied.
“Headphones,” I said.
“Headphones,” I repeated. “Noise-canceling headphones.” That sounded plausible.
He grinned. “Those must be amazing headphones.”
“They’re pretty high tech and shit.”
“I…” Oh, shit. “I. Don’t. Know. Because… they were a gift. And I never looked at the brand. Of the high-tech. Headphones.”
“Can I take a look?”
“Sure,” I replied. “I’ll go get them.” Oh, shit. Despite the sleep-deprivation and the numbing afterglow, I had to think fast. “Wait. Is that my phone?”
“I didn’t hear anything.”
“It’s on vibrate.” I put my cell to my ear and nodded my head, thinking of an excuse to get out of the apartment to find and purchase a pair of high-tech, noise-cancelling headphones. “Celebrity emergency,” I told Cameron before fleeing to my room. “Got to go.”
I slipped inside and shook a very naked Emma awake. “Cameron’s coming!”
“What?” she whispered.
“I need to pretend to leave, and you need to go home.”
She groaned, “I guess this is why we always use my bed.” She threw on her jeans and one of my shirts, wadded up the rest of her clothes, and escaped.
I tried to stroll nonchalantly to the door, but I couldn’t escape Cameron’s voice calling after me, “Max!”
“I just have to tell you,” he said, “that you are, by far, the strangest cat I’ve ever met. And I’m dating Mitchell.”
“Thanks,” I replied, “I put a lot of work into it.”
He laughed, “Go take care of that thing at work.”
By the time I’d locked the deadbolt behind me and theatrically stomped down a flight of stairs, Cameron had lost all interest in me. I waited an extra minute until I was extra sure the coast was clear before tiptoeing back to knock gently on Emma’s door. Giggling, she beckoned me inside.
“You got to admit, dude,” she said, “this is a little fun.”
I shrugged and smiled. I did have to admit it that it was.
“Wait right here,” she told me and disappeared into her room.
Unbuttoning my shirt, I asked, “Shall we go another round?”
“Dude,” she shouted, “are you fucking insane?”
I buttoned back up with a sigh.
She emerged wearing clothes that could be seen in public. “Let’s get a cup of coffee. I’m buying.”