"Making love with his ego"
- David Bowie, "Ziggy Stardust"
In the end, he's left sitting on a neat bed in a tidied room with a young nurse smiling kindly at him. You can go, Mr Monaghan. Are you going to be OK?
Sure, he tells her. Yeah, I'll be fine.
They give him back his clothes like he was getting out of prison. They've been washed, of course, and luckily the t-shirt was brown and the jeans were old, stained and tattered anyway. With them, his 'personal effects'. He'd had a piece of paper in his pocket and for a minute he thought it was lost, atomised and gone the way of odd socks. But they'd put it in his wallet. Amazingly, the ink hasn't run.
In the entry foyer, a hundred feet squeaking behind him, Dom calls the number on the paper.
Hello? Cheery voice. American.
Lij man, it's Dom.
Dom! Hey, what's happened? I mean, I called but your landlady said you were in hospital? Are you OK?
Elijah doesn't sound convinced. But hospital, he says. Elijah has never had anyone tell him to butt out, because he's young and beautiful and irrepressible.
Dom can't be the first one to do it. It was just... nothing. I'm fine.
Yeah, whatever you say. You still coming out to visit?
He's forgotten about that. Or not forgotten, so much as not kept it at the forefront of his memory. Everything before yesterday morning feels a thousand miles away. As if it had happened to someone else and he'd just read about it, maybe in a newspaper that was just glanced at before it was cast aside.
What? Uh, yeah. Yeah, of course I'm still coming out. In fact - he's thought of something, or remembered it. Which? - I'm moving out there.
You're what? Elijah's excited and incredulous. Like someone's told him the new Star Wars movie is out now and guaranteed to be good. He has to repeat it: You're moving to LA?
Someone else has said it and Dom can't back down now. Besides, it sounds like a good idea when rendered in Elijah's voice. Sure, he confirms.
Fuck me! That's fucking fabulous! But don't you have that job over there?
I didn't get the part.
Oh, I'm sorry. But still, you're coming out! You got, I mean, you need somewhere to stay for a while?
No, Dom says, remembering the words even as they disappear into the phone. No, I've got someone to live with. A flatmate.
Someone else from England?
Just a guy I know. Sorry Elijah, someone's waiting for the phone, I have to go.
Just a guy Dom knew. Just a guy.
Bloom. Lando. Orli, he prefers that.
Same age as Dom, give or take about a month. They met... well, that doesn't really matter, does it? In a bar or at a party or on the train and there was alcohol or girls or terrorists or maybe an amusing animal and someone said something stupid or hilarious or threatening and it just happened. Bang. They met. And now they know each other.
They're both British. They're both actors. They both cheer for Man U. Orli's given up smoking and Dom's just started. They argue for hours on the relative merits of different brands of beer.
Orli's gorgeous. Everyone agrees. Just fucking drop-dead. Guys swear about it and girls ask Dom who his friend is.
Orli's friendly. He can talk to anyone, make anyone laugh. He cruises through life as his own social lubricant and people just like him.
Orli's going places. His career is taking off and he's landing roles left, right and centre. He's a hot young thing who's going to be on the cover of every magazine in the world this time next year.
Dom's not. None of the above. Not really. Orli's everything that Dom's not.
There's a knock at the door and Dom crosses the apartment shouting, Yeah, I'm coming, as he buttons up the cuffs of his shirt.
It's Elijah outside, with a six-pack of beer and a grin the size of the Grand Canyon. Dude, he shrieks. Lemme in, lemme see, it's like the mystery apartment.
Dom laughs and stands back, lets Elijah give him the beer, bottles clinking, and bounce into the main room. You want a guided tour?
There's not much to see in the apartment, but Lij is bright-eyed enough to double as a puppy, and everything's great, from the shabby loungeroom to the tiny bathroom. He bounces up on Dom's bed to peer out the porthole window in his bedroom.
When they're back in the main room he pauses, and Dom looks back quizzically.
What's behind the door? Elijah asks, waving a hand towards the closed door across the room.
Oh, that's Orli's room.
He gets the bigger room?
He pays more rent than me. Dom doesn't ask how Elijah knows it's bigger. It's easy enough to figure out with a little mental measuring.
There's not even a separate kitchen, just a benched-off area of the main room. Elijah finger-drums on the counter and asks: so where is this housemate of yours?
Dom shrugs. I dunno. Out somewhere. You want a beer?
Dom never sees Orli. They're both in and out, organising their new lives here in La La Land. They communicate through notes.
Whose turn is it to buy milk? Dom asks, leaving it on the counter weighted with an apple. When he comes home, Orli's added in the empty space at the bottom: Yours. And we need more apples. It's held down by an empty glass, and there's an apple core in the bin.
Dom comes home one night to a note on his pillow. Your mother called. She says hi. He wonders if he can lose the note. He doesn't want to talk to his mother right now. PS, the note continues, you shouldn't leave your door open. I have licked one thing in your room.
After two weeks of this, Dom has to start thinking that it's rather ridiculous. He leaves a note taped to Orli's door that says, Howdy stranger. Want to go for a beer on Friday?
When he gets up the next morning, Orli's added scrawl reads: Can't. Got a date.
So, Orli has a girlfriend. Her name is Kate, and she's blonde, wholesomely American, almost as tall as he is.
It isn't surprising. Dom knows this. Gorgeous, remember? Friendly. Everyone loves Orli.
Dom answers the phone one day and it's her.
Hi, she says, chipper and sunny. Orli?
No, this is Dom.
Oh. Well, can you tell Orli I called?
Her voice is like Californian sun on fine sand, and it would go low and husky in passion. Dom stands for a moment with the receiver still at his ear after she hangs up.
He stays in the main room, reading a book, until Orli shows up.
Wow, Orli says, sounding pleased. This is a first.
Kate called, Dom says, because that's what he stayed up to say.
Great, Orli says. Or not great.
Dom looks up and wonders if he's transparent or Orli's psychic. Fast work, man. We've only been here three weeks.
Yeah well. She's not really your type, y'know. He laughs his easy laugh. Everyone loves Orli.
I know, Dom admits. He's puzzled. Why am I so pissed off at you?
Orli shrugs. I dunno.
She'll just break your heart, Dom warms.
Not every girl is Emma.
Emma. Sounds familiar. Rings a bell. Girlfriend. His. Before. Not any more.
Dom looks down at his hands palm-down in his lap. When he looks up, Orli's gone.
Dom goes to Elijah's every Sunday for brunch. They have coffee and croissants and this week Dom brings strawberries. They relax on Elijah's small balcony, in the sun. Elijah can smoke here without his mother complaining.
Aren't you hot, man? Elijah asks, gesturing with the cigarette.
Dom pulls the sleeve of his t-shirt down against the back of his hand. I'm fine, he says.
Elijah is squinting at him. Is that shirt new?
Dom looks at it. Really looks. It's Orli's, he remembers, tells Elijah. I must have grabbed it by mistake this morning.
Elijah's laughing. Dom throws the green debris of his strawberry binge at him. Shielding his coffee, Elijah asks: Am I ever going to meet this guy?
No, Santa Claus. Yes, Orli. Dom pulls a face and looks away, and Elijah adds: What's that look for?
I dunno. He's just annoying me.
Good question. Dom isn't sure. He's always admired Orli. What's not to admire? He feels... what? Proprietory? Stupid. He doesn't own Orlando. You don't own friends. Making friends isn't that sort of make.
Just... does it always have to be him?
Everyone loves Orli.
Elijah's clicking fingers make Dom blink. What? he demands, swatting them away.
Settling back in his chair, Elijah looks relieved. You totally spaced out on me there. You sure you're fully recovered?
Yeah. From whatever put you in hospital.
It takes a moment for Dom to remember. No, I told you, it was nothing. I'm fine.
But he's too annoyed to stay. Look, sorry, I'd better go. See you next week.
Orli's waiting when Dom gets home, one step in the door and a finger prodding his breastbone.
This isn't healthy, Orli states.
What isn't? Dom shoots back, pushing the hand away so he can step in further and close the door behind him.
Dom's speechless for a moment. You arrogant fucker. No, of course no one can hate you. And Dom does, at that moment. He really does hate, burning and spiralling.
Orli's grim. Implacable. He grabs Dom by both wrists, and somehow he's pushed the sleeves up Dom's forearms and Dom can't get away before he's bared his wrists. His grip is inescapable. He turns Dom's hands palm-up.
Who do you hate? he snarls, and storms out.
The scars aren't really scars yet, haven't had the time to fade that much. They're still angry reminders, slicing up not quite parallel to the tendons in his wrist. Jagged and sloped like the way your mouth presses when you think you're going to be sick. They're healed, they're healed. But not quite that much.
Dom feels dizzy.
He traces the wound on his left wrist with the forefinger of his right hand, and somewhere he hears the echo of the sensations of its cause.
He hadn't meant to, not really, it was almost an accident. Just wanted to shave, change the blades, and his fingers slipped. A sharp, clean cut and he looked at the bright line of blood across the mound of his thumb and wouldn't it be easy.
Wouldn't it be so fucking easy.
Light-headed and floating in a bloody bath feels like being born except for the part where he's fully clothed.
Light-headed and bound in a hospital bed feels like failure except he can't remember what, why, how... Too hard.
They told his mother, and she overreacted, of course. He didn't really want to. Not really.
He just wanted not to be him for a while.
Dom raises a hand to knock on Orlando's door, but the knuckles never fall.
Orli isn't in there anyway. Dom doesn't know where he is. He has no control over him. Right?
Orlando isn't just a guy Dom knew.
But what is he? What is he?
He's his best mate, right? Because Orli knows all about Emma, and Dom knows all about Kate, and he thinks that the harder he tries the more he'll remember he knows about Orli, and the more Orli will know about him. Their lives are interwoven like that.
And he's his roommate now. They eat each other's food and wear each other's clothes and get in each other's personal spaces until their spheres are overlapping like some sort of mathematical model.
Orli's tangled up with all sorts of everything in Dom's head. There's the envy, of course, because he might be Dom's best mate but damn, Dom still wants what he's got. (And wasn't that kinda the point?) But there's also a different envy, directed towards every body circling the beaming light of Orli's sun. He wants what they've got. He wants it all.
He wants Orli. Every last little bit.
But Orli wouldn't want Dom. Why would he? Dom doesn't get the girl, doesn't get the part. Dom puts himself in hospital, halfway between dead and alive.
There has to be a reason he sticks around. There has to be a reason he's your best mate. Pity doesn't stretch that far.
C'mon, Dom, you can think of something.
You're... not a totally awful singer. That's ridiculous.
You always buy more than your fair share of drinks at the pub.
OK, so you're generous.
You give up time for your friends. But that's just... that's what you do, they're your friends.
You give up energy for your friends, too. Always up and ridiculous and laughing. Not so much recently, of course, because you've been a moody bugger, but you'll shake yourself out of that.
But I never really feel...
...I dunno. I'm not confident, not like that. I overanalyse everything once it's said and done. I go through life feeling like a dork and trying to be cool.
Like everyone else, then. But you still say and do it. You live. And that energy, when you're living, every moment, it just lights you up. Makes you gorgeous. Fucking irresistible. You know that, right?
When Dom looks up, Orli's standing in front of him.
How'm I going on the healthy thing? Dom asks.
Orli's smiling. You're getting closer, at least.
He steps lightly over the piles of junk on Dom's floor and slides a knee onto the bed beside Dom's legs. Swings his other knee up on the other side and Dom falls back flat under Orli leaning over him. Hovering above him. They're breathing in unison and Dom feels dizzy with Orli's eyes so close, so close. Vertigo.
He closes his eyes, and Orli touches him, soothing, smoothing hand on his chest. Fingers crawl along his ribs, rucking up his shirt so that the last two inches are fingertips on flesh before his waistband. Their breath is coming faster, short sharp puffs between his teeth. He pops the button on Dom's jeans and slides a hand inside, along muscles pulled taut by Dom arching upwards. Levering the zipper open, he's finger-curled around Dom in sure, slow, perfect strokes. Perfect, so perfect. Just right, and Dom's tilted his head back so far his neck is stretched and he'd pay for the feel of a mouth - teeth - right there, but that's just not possible...
God, so close.
Dom's sprawled on his bed. Alone. Sticky-fingered.
He cleans up in the bathroom, meeting his own gaze in the mirror. Afterwards, he crosses the main room of the apartment and opens the door that's been closed so long.
It's so bright, he's nearly blinded, staggering back two steps with his hand shielding his eyes from the nuclear-fallout strength sunlight reflected off white walls, pale floorboards, streaming in through curtainless windows in neverending abundance.
But he can still see.
The room is bare.
It always has been.
They sit back to back in the airport, and Orli might not even be there. Dom might be imagining the pressure of his head against Dom's own.
Are you sure you're going to be alright? Orli asks, his voice buzzing through Dom's head.
I'm fucking fine. Jesus, how many times do I have to say it? But Dom's grinning, and he knows Orli is too. Besides, Dom adds, anything you can do, I can do better.
I learned from the best.
The announcement system clicks on, an incomprehensible female voice garbling the boarding call for a flight to destination unintelligible.
That's mine, I guess, Orli notes.
Yeah. Dom pauses, fighting the urge to turn around. Uh. Take care.
But there's no head leaning against his. Orli's gone.
Split by dee
All stories are works of fan-fiction by Dee. "Fan-fiction" means that she does not own any of the core creative concepts and characters, but she does heap adulation, appreciation and awe upon those people who do hold the intellectual property rights to those concepts and characters. Further, any instances of real people are fictional, and the author does not wish to suggest any truth should be attached to the actions, emotions and words attributed to them in these fictional stories.