Tristan doesn’t particularly like to run. But he does anyway, to try and outrun the heat. He’s found a familiar path – one that takes him east of the apartment, up the hill and then around the reservoir, like a giant version of the loop de loop of his thoughts.
His breath is ragged and burning a hole straight through his chest by the time he reaches the shade of his favorite tree. There are prettier ones, with broader leaves and better views, but this one was privy to things, spread out among its grassy roots like seeds of a delightful secret.
It is dark by the time he returns home. He scuffs his shoes clean before slipping out of them just inside the door. He is in the midst of peeling off his T-shirt before he realizes that the house is dark and Will is sitting in one of the straight backed kitchen chairs with a mug on the table beside him.
He looks down at Will’s yellow mug. It’s empty, he says. But it doesn’t matter, because Will’s eyes are hollow.
It’s a Saturday when Gabrielle dies. The men wear black ties and the women pearls and veils. It’s a solid wall of black that Tristan feels he’s up against, but his tears are falling so hard and so fast he can barely see when it’s gone, and then it’s all he can do not to collapse to the floor and wish to be swallowed up.
Tristan doesn’t particularly like to run. So he decides to go for a swim; it’s a dip in the neighbor’s pool and then it’s a short jog to the beach, where he can submerge in blue relief until the sun sets.
It’s twilight when he returns home, his breath hot and heavy in his chest. He pads in the front door, barefoot and soggy and thirsty, and stops just long enough to stick his mouth under the kitchen faucet. From the kitchen it’s a short walk up the stairs to the shower, and then it’s easy to fall into bed, where Gabrielle is sitting cross-legged, waiting, eyes lined with something he’d rather not give name to.
It’s Will, she says.
The funeral is on a Sunday. The men wear black ties and the women pearls and veils. It’s a solid wall of black that Tristan feels he’s up against, and to spite them, Tristan does not cry, because he won’t shed tears for a best mate who didn’t even have the fucking decency to say a proper goodbye. He won’t he won’t he won’t won’t won’t won’t won’t.
Everyone leaves, and the tears come anyway.
Tristan has run all night to escape the heat, and it’s dawn when he returns home. The sun’s slanting rays pull at his shadow from where it’s sewn to the bottom of his feet, and he is reminded of childhood stories of pixie dust and pirate ships.
His shadow ushers him into the house, and Tristan laughs at the recollection. But his laugh rings hollowly in the empty hallway, and he hastily makes his way into the kitchen instead.
And then he’s not sure why he didn’t hear it, but Gabrielle is there, pulling dishes and plates from the cupboards and hurling them against the floor. There is something wet and fierce and savage in her face, and she walks across the broken ceramic on bare feet to smash the fine china from the wall opposite. Will watches her silently, one white-knuckled grip on the countertop, the other on a large picture frame ornamented with a large, black silk ribbon.
Tristan turns to his shadow in polite bewilderment, only to find his shadow unable to soften the grief of the two people he loved best in this world, and he turns away in shame. That’s when he sees the photo in the frame, ornamented with a black silk ribbon and Gabrielle’s tears and Will’s silence, and he has to fight the urge to be suddenly and violent sick, for it’s the same face he sees in the mirror every morning.