Getting to Raa's house had taken Julian a bit longer than he originally thought it would. While Tonya was more than understanding after listening to the garbled conversation he'd had with Marcus, they had been more than an hour away in Dallas, enjoying not only the five star restaurant and live orchestra that entertained them while they dined, but also the thought of the hotel room they'd booked for later that night. Julian dropped Tonya off at her house when they arrived back in Plano, and headed straight to Raa's.
When he got there it was to the eerie sight of Raa’s car more on the sidewalk than on the street, the front door standing wide open and the house completely dark. He climbed out of the Bronco, tucking his arms closer to his body in a feeble attempt to stave off the cold as he jogged up the walk, pace slowing considerably when he was close enough to see the large crack that ran half way up the glass top of the front door, sheetrock chalk dusting the large beige tiles along the left entryway wall. He glanced around him cautiously, trying to gauge Raa’s exact mood by the amount of holes of the wall, but could see none.
“Raa?” he called, head cocked to the side as he listened for an answered, but heard nothing but repetitious thumping that sounded as though it was coming from the kitchen. He made his way toward it slowly, pausing again at the sight of the open basement door and the massive dent in the side of it where it had banged against the granite countertop.
“Two doors and one wall,” he said with a sigh as he walked down the basement stairs, pausing at the foot of them when Raa came into view. He couldn’t see Raa’s face, but he could see the rigid set of his shoulders and back, the line of sweat that ran between his shoulder blades from neck to the hem of his pants. Red droplets of blood littered the concrete floor around him from multiple splits in his knuckles as he struck the much abused bag again and again with his bare hands. “Not bad, all things considered.”
Raa didn’t answer him, and Julian didn’t expect him to, though there was a slight falter in his steady rhythm. He walked toward him, pausing to lean against the cold exposed brick at his side, far enough away that if Raa wanted to hit him, he’d at least have a second to prepare.
The expression on Raa’s face was one Julian had never seen before. Pissed didn’t cover it. Devastated didn’t describe it. It was like he was burning from the inside out. For a moment, Julian didn’t know who he was looking at.
“You want to talk about it?” he asked.
Raa snarled his answer, something that might have been a simple ‘no’, or a ‘go fuck yourself’, or something derogatory about his mother, Julian wasn’t sure.
“Good,” Julian said, crossing his arms lightly over his chest. “Because you may be all girly in your gayness, but I’m still a guy, and we grunt, spit, and punch each other on the shoulder. Not talk about things.” He scratched his nose, not surprised to find his breathing leveling out to the steady rhythm of Raa’s punches. Strangely soothing, really. “Tonya’s always trying to get me to talk, even when I tell her that guys just don’t do that type of thing. She wanted to come here, you know. Said that she could help better than I could, but I told her that trying to talk to you was like trying to talk a fish into not dying on dry land.
“She wants fish, you know, but her mother’s afraid she’ll be the one to clean the tank. Says there’s this fish that’s called a dog fish that looks sort of like a boxer if you catch it at the right angle that she’s always wanted, but, again, her mom says no. Got her a kitten instead, although I can’t really see the difference in cleaning a fish tank and cleaning a litter box, except that the litter box has to stink more. Although, fish do shit in their water so-“
“Will you shut up?!” Raa nearly screamed, whirling to face Juilan.
Julian scratched his nose. “Are you going to tell me what happened?”
“Tonya’s older sister lives in that specialized dorm at the University of Texas where you can have pets, and she has a fat little cat. I’m talking fat like the cat doesn’t walk, it rolls down the hallway, but Tonya says the cat has a thyroid problem-“
“Dude, I swear if you don’t shut up-“
“You gonna talk?”
“Go to hell!”
“Thyroid problem that requires medication everyday but the cat is still fa-“
“He broke up with me!” Raa snarled through his teeth, looking like the fire that burned him had just had more fuel thrown on it.
Julian lifted one eyebrow. He didn’t catch a hell of a lot of what Marcus said, but what he did catch didn’t jive with what Raa just said. “Why…?”
“I thought you said guys didn’t talk about this,” Raa hissed, balled fists shaking threateningly.
“We don’t,” Julian said, shrugging. “But if we don’t talk about you and Marcus, I can always go back to talking about Tonya. Your choice.”
For a moment, Julian was sure he’d pushed it too far, that Raa would be across the scant space that separated them and in an instant Julian would be nursing a broken nose. His body thrummed with tension, shaking so badly he looked like his own personal earthquake. But then there was nothing. No shaking, no hissing breath, no remnant of the burning man Julian had first witnessed when he’d come in. Raa looked… broken.
“He found someone else, from another school,” Raa said so quietly Julian had to lean forward to catch his words. “He’s been lying about it for a while now, but the truth came out tonight.”
“Marcus found someone else,” Julian reiterated, dry disbelief coloring his tone. “Marcus. Who eats, sleeps, and breathes you, found someone else.”
Raa nodded, slumping down to the floor where he stood, head bowed. In the dim light of the single overhead light, Julian couldn’t be sure if the clear drops that fell onto the backs of Raa’s hands were tears, or sweat.
“And he told you this?”
Raa nodded, not lifting his head.
“Marcus said, ‘Raa, I don’t love you anymore. I’ve found someone new, and want to break up with you’,” Julian tried to clarify, disbelief evident. “He told you that?”
Raa shrugged, beginning to pick at one of the splits in his knuckles. “Not quite like that, but yeah.”
Julian slid down the wall, squatting in front of his friend, head tilted to one side as he struggled to understand. “What exactly did he say then?”
Raa sighed, his eyes closing, and this time as twin drops hit the backs of his hands, Julian was sure he was crying. He told him of what Derrick and Gwen had asked him, of what Kevin had said, and Marcus showing up an hour and a half late to dinner. By the time he got to the scene in the parking lot and what Marcus had said about not wanting his ring, Raa was crying so hard it was nearly impossible to understand him, and Julian had never been so uncomfortable in his life. But he did know that Derrick and Gwen were in deep shit the next time he had the chance to talk to them. And he was mad at Marcus, too, because what he’d said on the phone meant that his best friend was sitting on his cold basement floor bawling his eyes out because of a lie Marcus told.
“Okay, jock strap,” Julian sighed, running a hand through his hair as he tried to gather his thoughts. He felt so out of his depth he was actually fidgeting. Maybe he should have taken Tonya up on her offer to talk to Raa instead. Girls were supposed to be better at this crap anyway, right? “Absolutely no where in there have you said anything about Marcus being the one to say anything about breaking up. Derrick, Gwen, and Kevin, yes. But nothing about Marcus. Do you realize that?”
“He didn’t have to say it!” Raa spat, spittle and tears wetting his lips as his head jerked up, the glare on his face caught between anger and the burning man. But then it was gone, just as before, his face pale, his eyes shifting back and forth as though slowly reading over every aspect of tonight and the last week in his mind.
Marcus hadn’t actually said it. At least, not in so many words. His actions and his words on the phone to the anonymous Jesse outlined it like neon pink spray paint that glowed in the dark, but an outline was all it was.
But did he really want it filled in? A screaming childish part of him said no, he didn’t.
“Actually, yeah, he does,” Julian said, frowning as he ran his hand through his hair again. “Look, I know if it was me, I’d want to hear it from Tonya, because if we broke up based only on what I heard other people say that I found out was bullshit later on? No way. So you have two choices in the matter. You either get off your ass and come with me of your own free will so you can hear it straight out from him, or I knock you out and drag you to his house. So A or B?”
For a moment, Raa looked like he was going to fight him on it, hands back into fists, body shaking, shoulders a tense line that raised and fell with each rapid breath he took. But then he said, “Will you leave me the fuck alone if I do?” and Julian knew he’d won.
They were halfway to Marcus’ house when Derrick called, Julian hanging up on him without saying a word as he turned the Bronco around. Raa hadn’t said anything either, remaining strangely still and strangely quiet as he stared out the passenger side window, arms crossed tightly over his chest.
When they pulled up to the school’s back parking lot, closer to the tennis courts than any of the others, Julian had to walk around the car and open Raa’s door for him, standing there like a silent threat waiting for Raa to move, and it took an entire five minutes before he finally did, hands stuffed deep into his pockets, head hung defensively low.
"If he asks me what day of the week it is, I'll be sorely tempted to answer 'orange'." ~Chang WuFei,