A/N: I revamped this a little. It's about 600 words longer and hints a little bit more at the "other thing" going on in it. Although it's still not very obvious. I think I like it better. It's more of a story, less of a vignette.
I haven't put up anything worthwhile in a…er…long time. Plus, I decided not to do NaNo this year because I already suck at writing quickly, and updating. Instead I'm finishing up a story that I can post at a consistent rate. It's the story I've been writing instead of doing my other things, like Faith or PSoG. I'd say in two weeks I'll start posting chapters, probably one a week.
Enough of that, onto THIS.
Title: Sincerely, Yours Truly remix
Author: Alyn Drasil
Rating: PG (still)
Disclaimer: Mine (still)
Warnings: none. (again)
Sincerely, Yours Truly
By the time Y.T. left him, two days before Christmas, he already had fourteen fish. They swam tirelessly in a large salt-water fish tank, glinting colors, quiet and undemanding. They also listened quite well, and when Y.T. walked out of his kitchen a day before Christmas Eve, he had quite a lot to say.
He had bought the first fish the day of their first argument, half a year ago. It had been the same argument that would arise again and again for the next six months. The fish had been a spur of the moment purchase, and along with the fish came the tank, the smooth stones to rest at the bottom, the waving plastic plants. One black fish with trailing fins, drifting peacefully in the softly glowing tank that now sat opposite the television.
The addition to the apartment was not missed when Y.T. had walked in the next day, quite naturally, with a bag of groceries.
A puzzled look. "Fish."
And that had been all. Y.T. had put the groceries away and come to the couch and together they had watched the fish named Stranger drift around in its square, watery world. There was forgiveness as soon as he put his arm around Y.T.'s shoulders. That had been six months ago.
Ever since then, it had become a habit to channel his problems into fish. Two small yellow fish, Patience and Forgiveness, when Y.T. got his car towed for the second time in a month, a Moorish Idol bought on the one-year anniversary of his father's death, a fish he shamefully named Secret when a friend asked if someone was living with him and he answered no reflexively.
Somewhere along the line, he'd acquired a larger tank. It was the centerpiece of the apartment now, a softly humming blue core of troubles. Y.T. didn't like his fish as much as he did, and said one night, laughing, that a cooked fish was the only good kind. The next night he had carefully placed Patience into Y.T.'s bedside water glass, and when it was discovered Y.T. smothered him with a pillow.
The next morning, a note was tied to the index finger of his right hand with mint dental floss.
Love is what we call the situation which occurs when two people who are sexually compatible discover that they can also tolerate one another in various other circumstances.
P.S. I ate all your fish for breakfast.
A moment of gullibility and a quick dash to the living room showed his fish to be fine, under the laughing eyes of Y.T.
He has five damsel fish, one each for the nights Y.T. had been out, hadn't called and hadn't reappeared until late the next day, bleary-eyed and apologetic. And four Lyretail Anthias respectively called L, O, V, and E, for the first time he said I love you, and Y.T. didn't say anything back.
He would have a fish for every time he has tried to guess Y.T.'s real name, but he would need a tank the size of his apartment.
He has only known Y.T. by those initials, the two letters standing side by side the only name Y.T. will give him. He has guessed more names than he can count, but he has counted, because he keeps a list. It was the subject of their first argument, most of the middle arguments, what might be their last argument.
In the days before Christmas, he puts in overtime at work. He knows Y.T. doesn't like it, he doesn't much either, and he entertains the idea of a fish called Overtime. Y.T. tells him he should call one Wanda and just get the inevitable over with. He asks if Wanda can be spelled with a Y.
It's been too long since he's called his mother.
"She'll mention Jamie," Y.T. tells him. They are curled up together on the couch with the fish behind them and something mindless on the television in front of them.
"She knows we broke up. She never liked Jamie, anyway." She never liked the idea of Jamie, he thinks, and that's closer to the truth. He knows that in some way, his mother thinks no one will ever be good enough for him. Sometimes he wonders if that's why he's with Y.T.
"Doesn't stop her from asking."
"And if she does?"
Y.T. shrugs. Y.T. never met Jamie—they are two parallel people, running side by side and never touching.
As a hobby, Y.T. copies down proverbs, scribbles them on spare pieces of paper, leaves them everywhere for him to find.
Dangling from the kitchen light: Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.
Tucked between the pillows of the bed: Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Slipping from between sheets of paper as he opens his briefcase at work: If all else fails, stop using all else.
He never sees Y.T. writing them but they turn up everywhere, pockets of his clothes, inside coffee mugs, between pages of his books and once even rolled up and disguised as a cigarette in his half-empty pack. He had nearly tried to smoke it before he realized.
"Is this yours?" his boss asks one day after a meeting, holding out a ripped slip of paper. "It was in your report."
He takes it, reads it. The utmost extent of man's knowledge, is to know that he knows nothing.
"I thought it looked like your handwriting," his boss says.
Back at the apartment, Y.T. has told him he can guess for eternity and a day and never get it. Still he tries, sometimes on the second letter.
He only gets a laugh, and a shake of the head.
"Trowbridge. Townsend." He goes back to the first. "Yvonne. Yosef. Yorick."
"Alas, poor," Y.T. responds with a quick grin and a toss of dark hair.
He looks up names, searches baby books, on-line parenting sites. He disregards gender, simply to have more options, more chances to find the correct name. He has the largest list of Y names, he thinks, in existence. But never the one that he wants.
"Yeardly. Yonah. Yancy."
He first met Y.T. in a thrift store, a week after Jamie was gone. Because he was cheap, is cheap, and so is Y.T. He only buys good business suits for work. He thought it might be fitting, somehow a thrift store could be a paradigm for their relationship—cheap, fast, used. But despite the problems, despite the secrecy and the bizarreness and the fact that he sometimes feels like he is living with a stranger, he wouldn't give Y.T. for anyone else. He has L, O, V, and E for a reason, after all.
"Yvette. Yoshe. Yolan."
Y.T. is a rich blend of darks. Coal hair, chocolate eyes, mocha skin, soot eyelashes. Mexican, he thinks. Asian. Filipino. Soft hair he loves to run his hands through. Slender fingers—like a piano player. Or pick-pocket.
Jamie was small, slender, pale-haired. Delicate, fragile, made of glass. Y.T. is made of steel cables. Tough, unyielding, but not unreachable. He has reached, or tried to, but sometimes the connection is severed.
He forgets when it was, exactly, that Y.T. moved in. Time seems to blur and spread there, and now it seems as though Y.T. has always been here, in this apartment, with him. He doesn't remember even making a copy of his key. But Y.T. has one—he sees it, occasionally, flashing against dark fingers. It's silver, unlike his own dirty bronze version. He wonders if that should mean something.
He's feeling good about work that night, the night two days before Christmas, when he walks in to find Y.T. walking out. It is unexpected, abrupt, and he doesn't know what to say.
"I'm leaving. For a while." Y.T. shoulders a small duffel bag—enough possessions for a few days.
Speaking through shock is a challenge. "Why?"
"You don't need me right now."
Y.T. is wearing a bright striped scarf—he wants to grab it, hold the ends, nail them to the walls, tied them to the table so that Y.T. can't do this.
"Is this because I've been working so much…?"
Y.T. sends him an indecipherable look, but he is used to these now and knows this one is disappointment.
"You tell me."
And then, the kitchen door is shut, and Y.T's dark elegance is gone.
On Christmas Eve, he calls his mother. And they talk, perhaps more than ever since a year ago, since his father died. They are both alone on Christmas Eve, separated by several hundred miles of other cities and state lines, an entire time zone and the echoes of a fractured family.
He meanders the kitchen as he talks, phone tucked under his jaw to leave his hands free. He straightens things, stacks and restacks mugs. Pulls old receipts and reminders from the cork board propped near the sink.
He finds a crumpled corner of notebook paper, a line of loopy writing, pinned between a reminder for a dental appointment and a coupon for discount Tofutti. Y.T. loves the stuff. He pulls it from the board.
It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.
He has not said anything for several seconds on the line. His mother talks about the weather in Boston and does not notice.
Then she asks how he managed to be alone on Christmas Eve. He tells her it was his own fault. His mother suggests a new girlfriend. He replies he is quite happy how he is, thank you very much. His mother implies that he is lonely. He says he has the perfect amount of company.
"Daniel, you live alone."
"No, I don't." I have Y.T. But he doesn't say it aloud, and he knows it's because he's not sure of the truth.
The new year comes, and goes, uneventfully. His fish continue to swim and he continues to go to work and pull overtime. More of it now, since there is nothing to come back to at the end of the day anymore. He sees a few friends, goes out for drinks, nothing more exciting. He doesn't have to try and guess a name every night over dinner. He doesn't find himself ambushed by scribbled paper fortunes. He can't think of a reason to buy more fish. And he misses it.
Granted, he thinks. Granted, granted. That's what he had taken Y.T. for. But he doesn't know how to atone, how to apologize, and worst…Y.T. doesn't come back. He can't make this right.
He declares a neatness on the apartment one day. He calls in sick to work, he cleans the apartment. He doesn't only clean—he purges. Anything, everything, all things that are reminders of Y.T. are shoved unceremoniously into black bags, left on the curb by the garbage cans to be picked up the next morning. All the proverbial papers he can find, all the lists of Y and T names, all the strange health food left in the refrigerator. Afterwards, his apartment seems remarkably empty. Strange, he thinks, because most of what Y.T. left behind wasn't visible.
Granted, he still thinks. The word won't leave his head. It's halfway into January now. Probably still snowing in Boston. Here, it's only chilly, the sky a constant muddled gray, and he can only think about the striped scarf Y.T. was wearing last. Granted.
The next week he goes back to the thrift store, the one where everything began, where the life to which he had grown accustomed started, months and months ago. He doesn't really expect anything, and he doesn't find anything either. No Y.T. No resolution. He watches a girl try on a too-big T-shirt featuring the Ramones, and wonders if all thrift stores worldwide carry that shirt. He's seen it everywhere. He thinks Y.T. has one. He might have one himself. Or maybe they shared it. Y.T. always fit into all of his clothing.
He finally buys a new fish, neon blue and yellow. A vibrancy he does not feel when Y.T. is gone. And a day later, Y.T. comes back.
He enters the apartment to find the living room lights glowing dimly, Y.T. reclining on the couch, slim fingers wrapped around small bottle of colored liquid. Liquor of some sort. The scene is so casual, so familiar, that it is as if Y.T. never left at all, as if this is once again two days before Christmas, not nearly February.
Dangling from the key rack is a crumpled receipt, familiar loopy handwriting scribbled across the back.
Relationships are complex because they are part real, part imaginary.
He leaves it there, crossing the room to the couch. Y.T. tilts dark eyes up at him.
"You have a new fish."
"Named it for you."
Y.T. doesn't ask. Condensation from the bottle slips over dark skin.
He sits down on the edge of the couch, and watches the fish, serene and disinterested. In a pile on the coffee table are all of Y.T.'s notes, scribbled axioms in a heap of crumpled paper wisdom. He doesn't know how they all got in one place. Most of them, he knows, he threw away.
Y.T. takes his hand gently, presses it against warm lips. In Y.T. language, this means I love you. It does not mean I won't leave again, it doesn't mean this is forever, it doesn't mean I'll still be here tomorrow.
"It means I'll be here when you need me," Y.T. finishes, and slowly he nods. He thinks he understands things better now. Y.T.'s name is not important. Y.T. is.
They sit on the couch together, in companionable silence. Y.T. is wearing the same striped scarf as four days ago. He mindlessly loops one end around his wrist while Y.T. watches.
Finally, Y.T. smiles, and settles back into the couch cushions.
"So. What's the fish named?"
You could tell me what you think, if you like.