by Lesa Soja
Lance is in the hospital again, but he walked in on his own two feet this time. Under his own steam. He came here for a reason, and though the visit hasn't exactly been fun, it seems to have been a success. He isn't sorry he came.
It hasn't been a long stay, and Lance is already ready to go, his bag packed and the room tidied up. The flowers are in the trash can, flowers and the card with a drawing of a nurse wielding a colossal rectal thermometer. Inside, the card says, "Get well fast." Lance knows because he read it, which is to say, he glanced briefly at the mock-handwritten font of the message, and stared for a long time at the illegible scrawl of Joey's signature.
Lance sits on the bed, dressed but with the covers pulled over his legs, and lets the phones ring. First his cell, and then, when he doesn't pick that up, the room phone. There's a small pause between when one call goes to voicemail and when the rings start up for the next one. Lance looks out the window and up at the clouds.
Joey will feel good about the flowers and the card and the phone calls. Joey will be able to say he did everything he could for Lance. He always does, everything he can think of, and Joey thinks of a lot. He hangs out with Lance, goes with him everywhere, to the movies, the grocery store, the tattoo parlor, the car wash. They travel a lot with the group and obviously they're together then, but Joey also likes to tag along during breaks when Lance goes to Clinton to see his folks or to LA to check in at A Happy Place. During tours, he sits with Lance in front of the TV on the bus, puts his arm around Lance's shoulders and pets Lance's hair. He comes over at lunchtime and brings Lance sandwiches with mustard and no mayonnaise, just the way Lance likes them. He follows Lance offstage and touches his trembling, sweaty back, murmuring solicitously, "You okay, man?" into Lance's ear.
Joey insists on going pretty much everywhere with Lance and that includes making Lance take him along to gay clubs. He dresses just as carefully as when he's going to a regular place, and once there he fits right in, flirts with the bartender and makes charming conversation with his neighbor and dances with a guy who asks him. He makes Lance dance with him next, their bodies swaying an inch apart, the music humming, Joey's eyes rich and warm in the dimmed lights, and when the song is done Joey thanks him and kisses him on the cheek. This all shows that Joey's okay with it. He's not offended. He and Lance are still friends, just like before, and he's not worried Lance would try anything again.
Lately, Lance has been trying to think of places he can go where Joey won't follow him. The hospital was one. It seems to have been a success.
Now he's just waiting for the taxi to take him to the airport.