As a child, he would look up at them with wide eyes and ask, How much do you love me?
He never got an answer.
no one falls gracefully;
The wind is freezing, icy water pelting against his skin, savage and unyielding. He pulls his jacket tighter around himself and keeps walking, under streetlights and black clouds. Inside every shop he passes, people are closing up, cleaning, locking doors and calling their family to say: Ill see you soon and I love you. The glow shuts off and, one by one, all the windows go dark.
He turns a corner and a hand wraps around his wrist. He jumps, startled, and Brendon says, Hey, shh, its just me.
He nods, throat dry, and they keep walking. Four blocks down, they stop outside a door, heavy music vibrating from the inside. Brendon squeezes his hand, and they go in.
There arent a lot of people, but Petes new band is playing and a small crowd has formed around the stage. The music is all drums and bass, thick beat flowing through the floor. Brendon says, Do you want a drink? Ryan doesnt. He never does; Brendon knows that, but asks every time, all the same.
They sit down, and when Pete spots them, he grins for a long moment, bass held high. He drops it back down and spins, jumps around like always, and everyone is screaming.
Brendon leans in close, asks, Will you dance with me?
Ryan thinks for a long moment, says, Its not a love song.
Brendon takes that as a yes.
(tired eyes and tired minds)
Brendon says, Lie down, hey and Ryan spreads his legs.
He chokes out, How much do you love me?
Brendon says, More than youll ever know.
(pretend with my memories and photographs)
Ryan sits on the bench with his notebook for hours, watching people walk by, coffee and hands held tight. He sketches them quietly and writes about everything another night alone in the city, pretty dreams and secret names, lights going out and staying that way. He calls Brendon and they stay on the phone not saying anything, silent, like always for an hour and a half.
He stands up and goes to the train station, rides to the city and stands in the rain.
(I hate the way you say my name, like its something secret)
Are you going to come back tonight? Brendon asks. He leans against the kitchen counter and watches Ryan shove a pack of inking pens into his bag.
How much do you love me? Ryan asks quietly. Brendon almost misses it.
What? A lot, you know that. What does that Brendon sighs, pinches the bridge of his nose. I just want to make sure youre going to be safe, okay?
On his way out the door, Ryan says, Ill see you later.
(when fear shows up at your front door)
Ryan comes home smelling like cinnamon and cigarette smoke. Brendon fits his fingers over the bruises on his hips, smiles sadly. He says, Its only in your head.
Ryan says, I know.
(wish you were here)
When the snow starts falling, Ryan asks, How much do you love me?
Im not going anywhere, Ry, Brendon says. Not ever.
Ryans pretty happy with that answer.