Chasing Darkened Skies Above You
by Oro

Last days of summer.

Back to school fashions and the smell of new shoes always remind you of autumn, beginnings and endings, and you haven't even noticed that August is no longer a possibility.

You never healed after the end of June, which left you suddenly, only after a month; you were busy doing the show to pay any attention that it slipped away silently. You talked to Casey about women and ice hockey, and then, inevitably, about women's ice hockey.

You wanted to talk about women, ice and hockey when it occurred to you that there is something you may have forgotten.

Casey was the one who started talking about women, ice and hockey separately. You attributed that to your long-lasting friendship or whatever. You took the earpiece out of your ear and Casey had that look he gets when he wants to fuck you on the anchors' desk. You smiled nonchalantly and asked, loudly enough, if everybody wanted to go have drinks.

Dana said yes and Casey looked confused for a moment.

It was nice, the way you wanted to make him wait longer. The way he didn't want to wait.

Dana started singing Red Red Wine. You started wishing Dana hadn't done that. Natalie dragged Jeremy by the hand, decisively, and said that they should go out more. Jeremy said nothing. Kim, Elliot and Dave came along, too, and Chris said he had a date and couldn't go. He smirked at Dave, and nobody believed him anyway.

You all went to Anthony's, because you never do go anywhere else.

It was tequila shots night. You put salt on your arm and licked it off before every shot. Casey put his hand on your knee under the table, and you nearly choked on the third. He grinned, and Natalie started making out with Jeremy.

Jeremy looked like he didn't want to be there in the first place. He and Natalie broke up right there, in front of everyone, and no one got overly excited because everybody knew it was just one of those things Natalie and Jeremy did.

You and Casey went back to his apartment and fucked all night. He tasted like tequila and salt, tequila with salt, salt with tequila. He asked if you wanted to tease him back then and you just stuck your tongue in his mouth.

When you woke up, it was July and Casey was already in the shower.

"Damn it," you muttered.

Natalie and Jeremy got back together that day, as everybody knew. You mocked Jeremy and he looked sheepish about it.

You spent July aching for June's return, frying in the heat of the sun, neutralized.

You and Casey alternated between your apartment and his. You thought it meant it was getting pretty serious, and you wanted to tell everyone, or at least Lisa. You didn't mention it until the moon was full and there was an anxiety building up inside.

It was your apartment, and the air conditioner was broken. You were lying in your bed watching Conan O'Brien, and Casey was talking about some bullshit you didn't care about. You tried to wait patiently until he was done so that you could go to sleep and dream about something cold. It's been a long, frustrating day. A slow news day. A Wednesday. You and Casey went to the men's room to make out that day with the door closed, and trying not to make too much noise that would draw attention to the double set of feet behind the door. When somebody entered the men's room and Casey signaled you not to breathe too loudly, you thought he was going too far. You got out of the bathroom and he didn't mention it afterwards, and yet you still went back to your apartment. It occurred to you that he didn't ask if it was alright; he just assumed. You didn't like him very much that day.

"Hey, are you listening?" he asked, forcing you to draw attention to him.


"I was saying how I thought we were funny tonight."

"We're funny a lot of the time, Case."

"I know."

"Then why did you mention it now?"

"I just did." Casey said, looking at his chest. His eyes were half- closed and his chin moved as he breathed. You didn't say anything. "I wasn't really saying that," he said, finally, killing the silence.

"Oh," there was a tang of guilt to your voice, but you were faking it just to please him. It was unbearably hot and you just wanted to sleep.

"I wasn't saying that at all."

"Okay," you propped up on your elbow, facing him. Your leg brushed against his and you were suddenly overly aware of your nakedness.

"You weren't listening right then, were you?"

"No," you looked down, and then back at him, "I'm sorry. I'm just tired."

"Okay," Casey said. He bit his lip. "I guess we should go to sleep, then." He turned off the television and closed the light. You liked the way he didn't mind that you were too tired to listen. The way it was like it's always been, only without your clothes on.

In the darkness, the moonlight traced his features and his moonlit hand drew you closer to him. It was sticky from sweat, and you were suddenly uncomfortable about the way you only do this at night. "We were funny tonight," you suddenly said.

"What?" Casey said sleepily.

"I think we should tell everyone about us," you said, and it wasn't what you were going to say at all.

"I think that's a bad idea."

"Well, fuck you. I'm tired of hiding in the men's room."

"You know I'm sorry about that, Danny..." his tone was suddenly edgy, tense; very similar to the one he had with Lisa towards the end of their marriage. You hated the comparison.

"Are you ashamed that you're gay?" You asked, just to piss him off.

"I'm not – I'm – Dan..." he wasn't even thinking towards saying bi, and you knew it meant yes.

You turned around and closed your eyes, determined on falling asleep angry. In the back of your mind, your mother's voice told you that it was bad for you; but then again, she said the same thing to your father and neither of you listened. You fell into a restless sleep.

You didn't go to his apartment the following night, and you also weren't that funny.

You couldn't wait for July to end.

There were nights with Ally McBeal reruns that made you feel like a woman, and 24 reruns that made you feel like a badass. Then there was regret about having been neither, and the munchies, and the occasional thought of pot that crossed your mind every now and then.

You did your taxes in the office so that you could avoid looking at him. He tried to joke about you being too cheap to spring the money to pay somebody else to do it, and he just came out looking like more of an asshole in your eyes.

And Dana said that the show was stiff.

"It's not stiff, Dana, it just sprained its neck or something." You said.

"Well, whatever the hell is wrong with you two, Danny, this is definitely not the place to sort it out!" She snapped.

"There's nothing wrong with—"

"Do I look like I care about your personal problems right now?"

"Not really, no. But, Dana. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Casey and I," you said, your tone calm and reassuring.

She gave you a look. "Whatever it is, Danny, stop fucking up my show."

You stuck your hands in your pockets and found a quarter.

Jeremy and Natalie broke up for the hundredth time, and from the look on Jeremy's face and the way Natalie's voice cracked all the damn time in your earpiece during the show, it was for good. Casey joked with you and you passed him the ball as usual, and he smiled like he thought you were getting over something you were never supposed to get over. This smile that says, you're so mature now, Danny. I like that.

You smiled back and thought, what an idiot.

July ended that night, and August lazily took over. You were slightly disappointed that it didn't feel better. You suggested drinks as you had last month, with not too many expectations, and nobody jumped at the offer.

You went home alone and thought of death. Not as an option, just as a thing that exists at the end of all months. The last thought on your mind before you drifted into sleep was that it is very optimistic of you to think that time changes anything for the better.

Guilt-induced dreams spattered like blood all over your subconscious, choking you in your sleep until you wake up in sticky, hot sweat. Kind of like sex only not as scary; it takes a half hour but you would end up falling back into a dreamless sleep.

Jeremy was just about the only guy there when you came into work early, just for the heck of it, and because it was too hot in your apartment. He told you it would get colder at the end of the month, and you got that feeling again of wanting to be over with something so badly.

You asked about Natalie and he shrugged. "Maybe I'm just not supposed to be with Natalie, Dan. And you know what? I'm fine with that. You wouldn't think that I would, but I'm actually feeling lighter. Younger, even. She made me feel a lot older than I really was and I'm only thirty-one," he said, looking like he was about to say something else but added nothing.

You gave him a look. "Well, Jeremy, if you ever feel like talking about it or anything..."

"I'm tired of talking, Dan." Jeremy straightened his glasses on his nose, and you remembered what they say about people who touch their face too much. Something about lying, but you didn't want to know. He looked edgy.

"Did you have any coffee today?" You asked, motioning for him to follow you to the coffeemaker. Because when it comes to coffee, it doesn't matter how hot it is in your apartment.

"No, it was too hot in my apartment to drink any," he said.

You bit your lip. "Alright, then."

Pete Sampras injured his wrist that day, or something; and you wondered if Jeremy had already realized things about Natalie that you just hadn't admitted to yourself about Casey. You almost put a pun in your report, but then your talent yelled at you to focus, so you did.

You didn't think about it at all that night, and everyone went out to Anthony's for Natalie's birthday. Dana even bought a piñata, because she's a dork and it was on sale or something. She bought a cake, and you heard Casey complain about its contents and Dana saying something about the cake's nutritional values. Casey whined.

It was already known around the office: Natalie's birthday, and Jeremy broke up with her for no evident reason. Nobody said anything about the previous weeks, when Natalie wouldn't shut up about being thirty, and nobody mentioned then the fact that Jeremy had already turned thirty-one. How Natalie suddenly got urges to go out to parties every single night and drag Jeremy alone, and then being mad about Jeremy sulking on a couch in some club's lounge or drinking too much in another club's bar. Everyone tended to side with Natalie, because it's been an unspoken rule since day one of the saga of Jeremy and Natalie.

You couldn't help but marvel at the velocity at which a good piece of gossip can be spread around the office.

Casey went, and you didn't go because you didn't want to look at Casey. Jeremy didn't go because he wasn't invited.

You both ended up going to your place, watching an Ally McBeal rerun and feeling like women, watching a 24 rerun and feeling like badasses, having the munchies and a fleeting desire for some pot.

It felt good.

You caught yourself looking at him; just once, and then you looked away.

You didn't think that he would, but he came again; two weeks through the month and into a full moon. You've had your private jokes by then and would sometimes exchange a look or two in the office. It was a connection you both got from being rejected, willingly and otherwise, by your best friends. You weren't plotting revenge but simply seeking that company, and the thoughts of Casey's touch, smell, taste occurred less and less often. Something about time curing things, and sometimes you had to think long and hard to remember what it was like.

There was a full moon that night and he fell asleep on your couch, partly passed out from the heat. You didn't bother waking him up. He borrowed your shirt in the morning, and it was a little big.

He told you about Natalie every now and then, and you got a pretty good picture of what it was like to be him from his stories; the way he spoke loudly when he got excited, the way his mind worked, sort of. You tried to give him the same sense of knowing you better, sometimes even a little bit too much, but there was the reassurance that this was okay for you to do. At a point, you didn't have to try. You still hadn't told him about Casey and you, because you were still pissed off at Casey about the way it ended, and about the way he'd try to put his hand on your arm when you were alone in the office and hope you'd magically forgive him for being an ass. He said it wasn't like you to hold a grudge. Jeremy noticed you were preoccupied and you avoided his glance. You told him everything would be better at the end of the month, and he believed that. He made you believe it was true when you were really starting to think you've been lying to yourself all along.

There was a crescent, orange moon that night, and he didn't try to kiss you; but you wished he had. You went to sleep and Casey wasn't in your dreams. You woke up and thought you were cured. It was three weeks into the month of August and you've found peace; you called in sick and Dana got Bobbi Bernstein to fill in for you. You were fine with that. You stayed in bed all day, alternating between sleeping and staring at the ceiling, enjoying the emptiness of your mind. Jeremy's was the first name you thought of that day, and you saw it as a warning sign.

You made up a lame excuse about being sick so that he wouldn't come over. You thought about him until your stomach turned and you couldn't make the sickness go away. You threw up three times that night and in your mind you called yourself hit-and-run Danny. You told yourself you wouldn't be that guy again.

You were that guy again.

August 30th feels final; it's raining today for the first time since May, and that feels like the end of everything.

Last days of summer.

Jeremy is sitting on the couch in your living room. He hasn't been to your apartment since last week, when you got paranoid and distanced yourself from whatever it is you thought you felt. Whatever it is you have inside you're ashamed to admit. He says something that makes you think he might know, or might feel, too, or maybe you are just reading things wrong. You offer coffee and he stays for a half hour. He says he went to Shul today, that he hasn't done that since he moved to New York. That he thought of you. You don't know what to say.

You don't know what to say; you say excuse me, I'll be right back, and you go into the bathroom to throw up, and you curse yourself in your mind as you brush your teeth. You stare now at your reflection in the mirror and see the bad 80s haircut you got the day after Sam's funeral. You want to reach into the mirror with scissors and cut it modern, but the laws of physics determine you'd explode. At least bruise your hand pretty badly. They used to call you hit-and- run Danny, but nobody does now. You brush your teeth again; upper right, lower right, front teeth, upper left, lower left, spit.

He's still sitting on your couch, looking anxious.

"Everything will be better at the end of the month," you say.

"It is the end of the month." A shadow of a smile crosses his lips.

"There's still another day." You sit next to him.

"Does it really matter?" he asks, looking into your eyes.

"You'd think it would," you say quietly.

"Is everything better, Danny?" he calls you Danny now. His voice has a solemn tint to it, and he's not talking about what he's talking about at all. Then again, neither are you.

"It just might be," you say. You wait a few moments for him to get it.

He tastes like autumn when he kisses you; the smell of new shoes and back to school fashions and Jeremy, sitting on your couch on an otherwise mundane day that doesn't end anything. It reminds you of nothing in particular, and you're fine with that. It's raining outside and you've already said goodbye to summer in your subconscious. You don't think you'll miss it at all.

Neither of you will.


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