On a typical Thursday afternoon as Steve sat at his desk to create yet another series of auto-erotic paragraphs meant to inflate his self worth through the proxy of the page, he stopped to look out of the dirtied window of his tenth-storey apartment. The rain had made a grand mess of the landscape as the threads of water skewed the concrete jungle with all the finesse of a first year art student venturing to mimic Dali’s early work and brought the fine lines and contrast of the triumphant sunlight against the bleak grey of the mundane world to a halt. The distortion caused by the droplets brought that which may have done well to remain hidden magnified much like a funhouse mirror; the ornate and municipal funded floral arrangements which hung from each streetlight clung to the golden rays, yet seemed sad and forlorn when viewed through the creeping vines of precipitation. He was forced to ask himself if he had always had this keen sense of defeat, to acknowledge the beauty of the simple things in life while in the same breath manage to dismiss the notion as little more than a passing dalliance with a fantasy wherein beauty and aesthetic perfection still mattered. The answer was no, of course. He had a simple weakness that came in the form of his life partner; whenever the two of them were apart, he could do little more than brood and curse the very fabric of the universe as it denied the ability to transpose himself to his heart’s immediate vicinity with utter contempt towards the laws of space and time. As it was, Steve had ruminated on how in the hell a stoic queer like himself could ever hope to retain the affections of a flighty and altogether whimsical creature like Hank, but the absence of the gentleman that Steve himself referred to as ‘the biggest disaster to ever grace his time on Earth’ worried him immensely. He had to remind himself that Hank was a grown man. Not quite an adult, but age appropriate for the role.
Every day for the last five years, Hank would call the house on his lunch break simply to tell Steve that he loved him. It was sweet, the sort of thing that a girl in high school would do to feel secure about their relationship and remind their better half that they hadn’t forgotten about them. It was just the sort of juvenile activity which fit Hank to a tee; a tiny token of his affection presented in an all too feminine manner that juxtaposed his fae-like demeanour and adolescent personality. Steve struggled to hold the thoughts of a worst case scenario at bay, although his intuition had made it abundantly clear that the dam wouldn’t hold forever.
He rubbed at his temples in an attempt to calm his mind and stared at the mere five hundred or so words that he managed to scribe on the screen. Steve had only been awake for a few hours as he had slept through his alarm, an average occurrence that came to pass with every heavy rainfall. There was something about the roar of a torrential downpour that disagreed with his routine, the sound of the storm always managed to drag him into an even deeper sleep. Hank would have left in the morning to go to the office and probably had the good sense to avoid the grumpy and untoward commentary of the comatose beauty that shared his bed. Steve found it difficult to blame his partner for his refusal to rouse him from his rest, it had been mentioned several times in the past that his morning breath could be used as an agent in chemical warfare. Steve was anxious to hear from Hank, he couldn’t function without at least a word or two scattered throughout the day – even if he replied with a dismissive comment or passing mimicry. It was just so unlike Hank not to send something as trivial as a text.
It was two in the afternoon and the words simply wouldn’t come.
He had tried to get in contact with Hank earlier, just after his first cup of coffee, but the result had amounted to nothing. Steve came to the conclusion that his partner was tied up with work and couldn’t answer the phone or reply to the numerous text messages left on his phone. He stopped after the third try as he didn’t want to come off as overly possessive; Hank had made it clear when they first began dating that he didn’t want to be treated like a child and preferred to have his autonomy. It was a reasonable request as they were both in their mid-twenties, although there did seem to be an age gap when it came to the way the two of them behaved. Steve, with his hirsute face and rigid bone structure, could pass himself off as a man fifteen years his senior while Hank, with his lithe figure and lack of hair anywhere aside from the strawberry blonde mop that sat atop his head, might have had a career playing high school students if he ever went back into acting. The physical attributes eerily encapsulated the duo’s actions with Steve taking on the more serious and dire of the pair and Hank’s refusal to mature past his time in college.
Still, Steve loved the man as much as a laconic self-loathing writer could love anything.
“He’s fine,” he muttered to himself, “just get your head in the game and keep writing.”
His fingers sat atop the keys for a full three minutes before he caved and dialed Hank’s number for the fourth time. He needed to hear his voice, even if it were just to listen to Hank go off on how he didn’t want to be treated like a little kid. The voice-mail denied Steve his peace of mind, so he did what he always did in times of stress and lit a cigarette. When his phone rang, Steve was filled with so much excitement that he had nearly dropped it on the floor rather than answer and was prepared to give Hank the lengthiest tongue lashing that he had ever given anybody out of worry.
“Hello?” he spat, the butt of the cigarette hanging precariously from his lips.
“Is this Steve Killeen?” a woman’s voice asked.
Steve could already sense from the sensitive and administrative tone at the other end of the line that this was not a friendly call or telemarketer and began to cultivate an unhealthy seed of dread. “Yes,” he replied, “yes it is. Is something wrong?”
“This is Doreen Lim from Scarborough General,” the voice continued with mechanical recitation, “you were listed as Hank York’s contact in the case of an emergency. He’s currently here in ER.”
The thought of Hank being in the emergency room floored Steve as he mentally tripped over himself to process the information. “What happened? Is he okay? Was there an accident?” There were a million other questions that he wanted to ask, although he couldn’t quite articulate any of them aside from the three.
“He’s in stable condition and I’m afraid that I don’t have all the details on the incident at this time.” Doreen said.
“Oh…” he stammered, “…oh.” That was the best that he could manage, a monosyllabic utterance that fell short of the cascade that wanted to spill from his lips.
Steve slowly hung up on the woman as she continued to speak. The rest of her speech would have been irrelevant, anyway. He had everything he needed to know. Hank was in the hospital and something had happened.
He sat in the chair, wondering what to do first and stunned by the possibility that something had gone terribly wrong.