When Gage finally lifted his head, feeling as if he’d just taken a downhill trek on a steep rollercoaster, he looked into Daksha’s eyes and said, “I have to leave in a few minutes. There’s something I have to do in Brooklyn.”
“Are you coming back later today?” Daksha asked. “I’ve never been in the hospital before.”
Gage smiled and lifted his arm. He brushed a thick shock of dark wavy hair away from Daksha’s forehead and said, “I’ll be back later. You can count on it.” He caressed his forehead gently and said, “I’ll make sure the nurses know I’m coming back, so they treat you better.”
“I want to get to know you better,” Daksha said.
“I want to get to know you better, too,” Gage said.
After that, he kissed Daksha goodbye one last time. On his way out of the hospital, he stopped and told the nurse he’d be returning later that afternoon to check in on Daksha. After all the horror stories he’d heard about gay couples not being able to visit each other in the hospital, Gage was slightly amazed at how receptive everyone seemed to be. They welcomed him and treated him just like Daksha’s family. He found it was quite the opposite from what he’d read and heard; the nurses were more than eager to accept him as Daksha’s lover and allow him access to Daksha. They actually seemed glad to see him. It made Gage feel stronger and more hopeful about the future.
Gage took the subway to Brooklyn and walked to his building. The rain had stopped, but the sky was still dark gray and the air felt colder than normal for that time of year. Gage walked slowly, with his shoulders hunched and his hands buried in the pockets of Luis’s sweatpants. He still wasn’t sure what he was going to do about Luis, and he wasn’t looking forward to listening to Luis complain about how he’d locked him up all weekend.
As he approached his building, Billy from the grocery store was outside sweeping the sidewalk with the same old cornhusk broom he’d been using for years. Billy swore there was hing like a cornhusk broom; he’d never part with his. When he saw Gage, he looked up, blinked, and said, “Where have you been? And what the hell happened to your hair?” He set the broom against the front door and stood there gaping at Gage’s new haircut.
Gage shrugged. “I went away for the weekend,” he said. “I got a haircut. Did I miss anything important?” Nothing important ever happened there; he was trying to be sarcastic. And he didn’t feel as though he owed anyone an explanation about why he’d changed his hair. Besides, his hair was getting lighter on its own. It was dark blond now. He must have used a semi-permanent dye instead of a permanent one. He’d bought the hair color so fast he probably hadn’t noticed. By the end of the week, after more shampooing, he knew he’d be blond again.
But Billy’s head went back. “I’ll say. Our landlord has been trying to get in touch with you all weekend about something important. And that friend of yours, Donny, the big guy with the dark hair, has been looking everywhere for you. And this guy who says he’s your boss came by twice on Saturday looking for you.”
Gage knew why Donny was looking for him. Knowing Donny, the horny cop, he probably had time off and wanted sex. But Gage had no idea why his landlord or his boss would be trying to contact him. “Did the landlord say why he wanted to see me?”
“He said he left a few messages on your cell phone. And he sent you a few e-mails,” Billy said. “It sounded important.”
Gage hadn’t checked his e-mail in a week, and he hadn’t taken his cell phone with him while he was pretending to be his twin brother. It was still upstairs on his kitchen counter. “I can’t imagine what he wants. I’ll go up and check my voice mail right now.” Before he turned to leave, he asked, “Did my boss say what he wanted?” He didn’t mention it was really his former boss.
Billy shook his head. “He didn’t say anything. He just told me to let you know it was very important and for you to call him back.”
Gage patted Billy on the back and said, “I’d better go upstairs now and take care of these things.”
Billy reached for the broom and smiled. “The big guy is up there right now.”
Billy smiled and started sweeping, as if he knew Gage didn’t want to see Donny that day. “He said he wanted to go up and wait on the steps for a while, just in case you came back.”
Gage rolled his eyes. He knew how he would deal with Donny Vitelli. But he thought he would be able to wait a while. “I’d better go up,” Gage said. “This isn’t going to be easy. Thanks, Billy.”
Billy smiled and looked up from the sidewalk. “If you need me, just yell.”
“Thanks, Billy. I appreciate it. But I’ll be fine.”
Then Gage crossed through the small grocery store, passing piles of pre-sliced American cheese at the deli counter Billy was planning to sell that day, and walked up the back steps. When he reached the second floor, he glanced up and saw that the door to the third-floor apartment where he’d locked up his twin brother seemed untouched. He found Donny Vitelli sitting on the top step, just outside the door of his second-floor apartment. Donny wore a dark suit and tie again, and sat there with his elbows resting on his knees, as if killing time before he had to go to work.
Donny stood up and smoothed out his pants. Gage was two steps down and Donny’s crotch was practically in his face. “Where have you been all weekend?” Donny asked.
Gage smiled and stepped to the side. He went up the steps, around Donny’s large body, and invited Donny into his apartment. Before the door was even shut, Donny grabbed Gage by the waist and started groping Gage’s ass with his massive hands. But Gage pressed his palms to Donny’s hard chest and he pushed him away with all his strength. Then he told Donny part of the truth. He didn’t tell Donny he’d locked up his identical twin brother in the apartment above them, or that he’d pretended to be his identical twin brother all weekend. He didn’t mention he’d blown his twin brother’s handyman or that he’d let his twin brother’s neighbor who looked just like Prince Harry fuck him senseless in something called a stirrup belt. But he did look Donny directly in the eye when he told him he’d met a guy on Thursday night and he thought he was falling in love. He said the guy was a taxi driver, with warm brown eyes and a nice accent. He said the guy was in the hospital now because he’d been run over by a hit-and-run driver at the end of his shift.