While Andrew scrubs the last plate in the kitchen sink, the sun outside the window starts to set. The sky is bright orange and pink. Red clouds hang above the surrounding tenement buildings and duplexes, and on the other street there are puddles of rain in potholes. Andrew stops scrubbing and looks outside. The parking spot next to his silver Volvo is empty.
Then there’s a knock at the front door.
Andrew wipes his hands with a dish towel and walks to the front door with a smile. When he opens the door, his smile fades. A delivery woman in a black T-shirt is standing with a pizza box in the doorway.
“Hi,” Andrew says. “How are you?”
“Doing good,” she says.
“What’s my total?”
“Twenty-four dollars and eighty-eight cents.”
“Isn’t that a lot for a pizza?”
“You ordered a large, sir.”
Andrew reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a twenty dollar and ten dollar bill.
“Keep the change.”
“Thank you.” She takes the money and gives Andrew the pizza. “Have a great night.”
“Thanks. I’ll try.”
Andrew closes the door and walks back into the kitchen, where he puts the pizza box onto the table. He opens a drawer near the kitchen sink and takes out two metallic knives and forks. He opens a drawer near the kitchen sink and takes out two metallic knives and forks. Then he turns toward the table, pauses, and glances at the knives, which he puts back into the drawer.
When he takes out a couple paper plates from the cabinet above the trash can, there’s another knock at the door. He looks out the kitchen window, and parked beside his Volvo there’s a matching car. He walks to the front door and opens it. Leo steps into the apartment, holding a satchel.
“Got one?” Leo sets the satchel onto the floor.
“You’re late,” Andrew says.
“Dr. Tippin wouldn’t stop asking me questions.”
“You should’ve called.”
“Never in the middle of therapy.”
“Screw Tippin’s rules.” Andrew kisses Leo on the lips. “How was it?”
“Horrible. Tippin made me kill a bear. There was blood everywhere.”
“Is that why you were late?” Andrew laughs.
“By the way, I did get one.”
“From the new pizzeria?”
“Yeah. It better be the world’s best pizza.”
“It was expensive as hell.”
They walk into the kitchen and sit down at the table. Andrew puts a slice of pizza on each plate while Leo leans back in his chair and scratches his right wrist with a sigh.
“Spoke with my father earlier today,” Leo says. “He called my cell.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Andrew says.
“He’s not a complete monster.”
“Only half a monster, then?”
“He still loves me. Deep down.”
“He still calls me your ‘friend.’ Just imagine how he’d react when I tell him that I’m just using you for sex.”
“It’s not funny, Drew.”
“Well, he’s always serious.”
“Tippin or your father?”
“Both,” Leo says, “but at least Tippin’s considerate most of the time.”
They begin to eat.
“What’s new with your father?” Andrew asks.
“Not much,” Leo says. “Just another checkup call.”
“What did you say to him?”
“Rather not say.”
“Don’t be upset. What I say between my father or Tippin is personal.”
“I know. And I’m not upset.”
They eat the rest of their first slices in silence.
“Work was a bitch,” Andrew says.
“Work’s always a bitch,” Leo says.
“Lexi ruined another Excel spreadsheet, so I had to fix it for her.”
“No. You chose to fix it for her.”
“Took at least a hundred years to get it right.”
“You shouldn’t help her as much.”
“You think I’m her crutch?”
“Maybe, but she’s nice and attentive and—”
“No. A lot.”
“Let’s not argue.”
They each take out another slice of pizza from the box.
Leo takes a bite out of the new slice. “Burnt on the bottom.”
“Cost us thirty bucks,” Andrew says.
“You want me to call the pizzeria and ask for a new—?”
“I didn’t mean to tell her about you.”
“I thought you didn’t want to argue.”
“So let’s talk. You start.”
“I haven’t spoken to you all day.”
“Have anything in mind?”
“I asked you about Tippin and your father.”
“Call me curious.”
“Lexi probably does.”
“What can I say? I guess I’m her crutch.”
Leo cuts into his pizza with his fork, then looks across the table. “Where are the knives?”
“The what?” Andrew says.
“Knives. Where are they?”
“In the drawer. Why’d you ask?”
Andrew watches Leo get a metallic knife from the drawer and return to the table. Noticing Andrew looking at him, Leo sets the knife onto his plate, leans back in his chair, and scratches his wrist again.
“What’s wrong?” Leo says.
“Nothing,” Andrew says.
“If you have something to say—”
“It’s not important.”
“If you have something to say, tell me.”
“It’s just a knife, Drew.”
They glance at the knife on Leo’s plate.
“To me, sure,” Drew says. “But to you…?”
“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
“That’s my point.”
Leo slices his pizza into pieces with his knife and fork. “My father’s fine, if you want to know.”
“We didn’t talk much. He asked me about you, about Tippin, about the medication.”
“You due up?”
“My new prescription’s in my satchel.”
“You can talk to me about what you said to your father,” Andrew says.
“It’s sometimes good to have another listening ear.”
“And sometimes it isn’t,” Leo says.
“For telling Lexi about the incident. I didn’t plan on her asking me a million questions about you.”
“If you give a mouse a cookie…”
“I’ve already apologized for that a million times,” Andrew says. “I won’t talk to her about you again. If that’s what you wish.”
“No. If that’s what you wish. You’re the one who has to work with her.”
“Now who’s upset?”
Leo clears his throat. “You spend more time with Lexi than you do with me, so you get to
decide what you want to talk to her about.”
“That makes no sense,” Andrew says.
“My problems are none of her business.”
“Talking to her about me was careless and stupid.”
“Your problems are my business too, okay! I’m sorry I told her about the skeleton in your closet, but I can only apologize so much before it prevents us from moving forward.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Leo says.
“It means,” Andrew says, “I have to speak less so that you have time to speak up more.”
“About what? My father? Tippin? No, I don’t have to talk about them, and I don’t have to explain myself, because I’m done explaining myself. What I did was stupid and now I have to live with the consequences.”
“You weren’t thinking straight at the time.”
“I was stressed and confused and…” Leo scratches his sleeved wrist again. “Doesn’t matter. Let’s talk about something else.”
“Take off your shirt,” Andrew says.
“Why?” Leo says.
“Take off your shirt. You don’t have to hide—”
“Are you afraid I might relapse?”
“I’m not afraid of knives, Drew.”
“I didn’t say you were.”
“You sure? Because you haven’t been giving me knives whenever we eat dinner.”
“You don’t need a knife to eat pizza. This pizza, maybe. But—”
“You think I’m still triggered by knives?”
Andrew doesn’t say anything.
“My father,” Leo continues, “he does love me. And it’s mean to call him a monster when he’s actually trying to understand me, his son. His only gay son. It makes me not want to talk to you about anything happening in my private life.”
“What are you talking about?” Andrew says.
“We share a private life. When you told your father about us, that wasn’t ‘private’ anymore. When you told me that you were having bad thoughts, that wasn’t ‘private’ anymore either. Keeping everything ‘private’—all your fears and secrets—would’ve killed you by now.”
“Even Lexi recommended Tippin, and he’s been helping you, hasn’t he? My only regret was finding Tippin too late, after I found you on the bathroom floor with that knife, carving…”
Andrew looks away.
“Drew, you saved me that night.”
“Barely saved you.” Andrew puts his slice of pizza into the box and throws his plate into the trash can. He remains standing, looking at Leo. There are tears in their eyes. “To be honest, a part of me thinks that knives do trigger you. Maybe I’m wrong.”
Leo stands up and walks over to Andrew.
“What’s this really about?”
“Take off your shirt.”
“Take off your shirt. Please.”
Leo removes his shirt and scratches the scars on his right wrist. “Tippin says the pain’s completely psychological. My father thinks so too.”
Andrew touches the scars. “You can talk to me about your feelings anytime you want.”
They start to hug.
“Anytime you want,” Andrew says. “I mean it.”
Leo holds Andrew tighter. “I know…”