Benjamin & Bassel: Autumn Leaves
love story. street life. mood swings. looking for home.
Compromises come with consequences. Not everything breaks equally. I can manage the angry and the moody but Baz’s latest temperament has been hard to read. Silence. That’s new. Same as his preoccupation with collecting manuals of extinct technology. The collection that grew through the summer. “New project,” Baz quirked and now he rampages through vintage and thrift stores for the treasure.
The consumption of history and its course has been a large topic in Baz’s therapy and this store of manuals seems to feed the need to hold onto something familiar.
“Some of it is useful. I can repair…” and he trails off in his thought. “I can fix what’s broken.” He lifts his arms and drops them with acknowledged defeat.
“Okay,” I take a seat on the floor reaching his toes with mine surrounded by a pile of aged paper and worn-out ink cut to leaves varying in shape and size. The rustle beneath our feet as I shift.
Baz’s vague smile, somewhat reassuring but the injury in his eyes punctuates the air. “I don’t know where I’m at. Everything went wrong. I don’t know what was worse, my diagnosis or my sexuality… This whole thing.”
“What whole thing?” I wait for him to elaborate.
“Me,” the one painful word. “At least your parents accepted you before they died. Mine won’t even acknowledge my existence… They have no son… Tossed out like trash… One suitcase. My life in one suitcase. Where was I to go?” He protests angry and hurt.
Into my arms. That’s where he ended up. No matter that I had nothing to give besides warmth, love, and kindness.
“Where would I be without you?” Baz asks.
I don’t want to answer and only say, “I’m sorry.”
“I have a plan.”
“Just don’t throw away the key,” the words puncture through Baz’s mess and he lays his head on his knees.
Today the silence broke and for the first time in weeks, we take a walk. Baz’s self-deprecating mood seems to be evaporating with every step. The changes in the season lift his spirit a little. Mud is his favourite colour. That’s what he says. Not brown or earthy. But mud.
He unhides his face from behind the scarf that’s covering most of his head. Being seen at times is a predicament but we’re working on it. “When the invisible becomes visible,” Baz at times will comment with disgust. Disgust at the thought at what others might have thought of us when we slept on the sidewalks. He tried not to show it but I know it bothered him, no more than the begging. “Equally degrading,” he would conclude.
Now he likes the smell of lavender and musk. The room is infused with one almost daily as if he is trying to cast out the stench and the ghosts of the past.
“Where we going?” Baz asks with slight excitement. He likes and despises surprises at the same time. He cherishes the thought of a gift but worries about the harm that may come from it. A trauma from finding the one piece of luggage at the doorstep of his parent’s home with a note and changed locks. That night he ended up finding shelter at the nearest church, although he’s not even Catholic. But the nun was kind and offered him food. Everyone’s welcome, the sign said. That morning he woke up with everything stolen, except the wallet in the back of his pocket. The nun offered him some replacement clothes and banned the man who took Baz’s stuff. But the experience was enough to tarnish the belief that people are good, that family is safe, that love is unconditional.
“Burgers and French fries,” I reply. “You must be hungry.”
“I haven’t thought of it… I was cutting out the leaves. I’m thinking of suspending them from the ceiling. You know. Snowing leaves.”
“That’s wonderful. The whole apartment?”
“No. Just our bedroom.”
The mess accumulates and then in swift decluttering, the rooms get purged of the unnecessary trash. The apartment becomes clean again. Similarly, the scent of lavender or musk fills the rooms then the next day it will dissipate because Baz would have enough. No discussion or argument. It gets done because it’s how it’s supposed to be. One minute madness, the next neatness. I don’t complain. I may usher or suggest, but not complain. A settlement to a dispute that is never unearthed because it makes Baz happy. As long as he takes his meds to keep stability and balance.
“But that’s not the plan,” Baz adds. “The plan… is… I want to contribute. I want to learn,” he snaps his fingers as if it was the moment when the lightbulb lights up and then he swings the door open quite widely to our frequently visited burger spot. “We can figure this out, right?” And he ends with doubt and uncertainty.
“Yes,” I reply.
He grabs two menus from the hostess and follows her to an empty table; although, he will order his usual, double patty burger and unsalted fries.
© Jacob Greb — 2022
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