Mitch was still high when he woke up on Louis’ couch.
If nothing else, Gianna and Wil were fantastic agents of hedonism, and they supplied him with enough edibles to be rendered incomprehensible for the evening. Meanwhile, Louis held him tight, allowing Mitch to alternate between slobbering all over him and trying to eat his hair.
Mitch was fairly certain that he’d overshared enough trauma for a lifetime, but a solemn vow was made between the four of them that nothing said in that room would leave it.
He grabbed his phone to check the time, and nearly screamed when several new texts from Calvin were waiting. Vague memories resurfaced of Gianna going on a tangent full of vitriol after Mitch disclosed a particularly upsetting anecdote; in his despondent state, he must have taken that as a cue to speak his mind. He set the phone face down on the coffee table, as he could not yet handle whatever came from Calvin on top of every other thing that he was juggling.
The front door swung open, Louis stepped through with a brown paper bag full of greasy fast food. Mitch accepted a hashbrown and breakfast sandwich, then scooched over for Louis to take a seat. Aside from Mitch’s occasional sniffling, they ate in silence. “You can stay for as long as you need to,” Louis told him as he cleared away the trash. “But just so you know, Jodie messaged me earlier. She’s worried about you.”
“We’ll see how it goes,” Mitch shrugged. Once he sobered up, he announced that he was leaving and Louis gave him a bear hug tight enough to realign his spine. He finished three cigarettes on the way to Jodie’s and was ready to light a fourth one by the time he parked on the curb. Staring at the house, he was unsure what awaited him. Options were mulled over, but he knew it was pointless to strategize; yesterday was enough proof of that. So he abandoned the safety of his car and entered through the front door.
Jodie sat in the livingroom with a pair of knitting needles in her hands and a dusky purple skein of yarn at her side, which Estrella swatted at. She looked like she hadn’t slept all night. Mitch watched her with a lump in his throat, and she glanced up for a moment before returning her attention to her project. “So,” she spoke slowly. “I said some awful stuff last night.”
Mitch bit his bottom lip, unsure how to respond. Were her accusations from the night before wrong? No, not really. But it all hurt nevertheless. He moved across the room and took a seat on the other end of the sofa, but remained hunched forward in case he needed to make a quick exit. Estrella stared up at him, crosseyed as usual and giving the illusion that she was worried, but sprinted when his leg bounced up and down. Enough time passed that it seemed as though Jodie had nothing else to say, but then she followed up with, “I’m sorry, dude. I was an absolute bitch.”
Mitch hesitated with his response. “It’s…fine.”
“Is it?” Her head shot up, face fraught with concern.
“Jodie, I know that he’s not great. And I’m not in love with him, we’re nebulous at best right now,” he explained, and she nodded along, doing her best to feign support but obviously failing.
“Why him though?” she inquired, and Mitch mulled over every possible reason that wouldn’t make him sound utterly pathetic or deranged.
“I know what I’m getting into with him,” Mitch started with, satisfied with his own choice of words because they held an illusion of empowerment. “I know his buttons, I know when he’ll drop me because he can’t commit to save his own life. And it’s way too early for me to think about getting out there, so this is a good placeholder.”
“You can’t just do some random hookups? It’s gotta be Toby?” God bless her attempts, but she struggled.
“Toby…” Mitch trailed off, and the following words tumbled from his mouth before they could be filtered. Because neither he nor Jodie enjoyed this dance routine, and he couldn’t take it anymore. “Toby makes me feel wanted. Jo, I haven’t felt wanted in so goddamn long. And I don’t have to explain myself to him, like my past. Like why I can’t drink. There’s no stigma there.” His voice trembled as he pushed on. “He tells me that he misses me. He doesn’t try to-” he squeezed his eyes shut. “When I’ve been out of my head, he’s never tried to-“
“Mitch,” she slid towards him and wiped his eyes. Eventually the tears subsided, and he was hiccuping and horizontal, his head on Jodie’s leg while she smoothed out his hair.
“I get why you hate him, but I can’t,” Mitch lamented. “Trust me, I wish I could. But next to you, he’s been there for me the longest. I’m not ready to abandon that.”
“I know,” she sighed in defeat, which wasn’t the empathy that he needed but it was a form of compassion and he’d take it.
“You don’t have to be friends with him, I’m not asking for that. You don’t even have to acknowledge his presence, and I can relay that to him. But he wants to come to my shows and be supportive. And honestly? I kind of want him to be there,” he stressed. “I think it’s worth a shot.”
“OK,” Jodie spoke after a pause, and Mitch craned his neck to look up at her. “Let’s start small. Invite him to the unplugged show or something, as a trial. If he isn’t a total ass, we can talk about other spaces.”
“Thank you,” he murmured, and she lightly scratched at his scalp in response. The gentle clk clks of the metal needles resumed, and he made no effort to move as the yarn draped over his head.. “What’re you making?” he finally asked while suppressing a yawn.
“A matching scarf for your hat, like you asked,” Jodie answered. “Abuela had a whole stash of unused yarn, and I found the matching skein amongst it. Hope you don’t mind that it’s acrylic and not angora or whatever the pros use. I’ve only done this like 3 times.”
“If it’s not cashmere, what’s the point?” Mitch joked, and she flicked his forehead. “Just kidding,” he clarified.
“What’re you, Calvin?” She exclaimed. Hearing the name caused Mitch to stiffen, and the phone in his pocket became much heavier. He closed his eyes and ignored the dread that clawed at him, not yet prepared to manage that crisis.