Neoteny

Kaidoh crawled into his closet, digging past the kotatsu and the old suitcase with the broken zipper and the takoyaki grill he’d only used twice in six years. Momo stood behind him, shifting uncertainly on his feet. “Can I help?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” Kaidoh said, or something like it, anyway. He tugged hard at the futon buried in the back and dislodged it with a crash that his neighbor was sure to passive-aggressively comment on in the morning. “You can use this,” he said, tossing it on the empty patch of floor between the coffee table and the wall.

“What about you?” Momo asked, kicking at the edges of the futon to unroll it. “Where you gonna sleep?”

Kaidoh’s mouth scrunched up and his brow wrinkled. “In my bed,” he said, with a condescension that Momo deserved.

“Oh.” Momo stood on top of the futon now, his eyes unfocused in that way they always were after a few beers. “You seem like a futon guy to me. You used to use one, right?”

Kaidoh remembered Momo sitting on his bedroom floor, playing video games, a million years ago. “I have a bed now,” he said.

Momo sat cross-legged on the floor. “Well, you should stay here until I fall asleep.”

“I’m not your babysitter.”

“Please.” Momo leaned over and grabbed Kaidoh by the ankles. “Please, please, please.”

Kaidoh sighed, and Momo let go of him, and Kaidoh sat beside him with his knees drawn up. “You’re such a child.”

“Yes.” Momo fell backwards onto the futon. “I’m lonely, I miss my son.”

“And your wife?” Kaidoh asked dryly.

“Her too,” Momo said. He pat the empty space beside himself and Kaidoh, after a moment’s hesitation, lay down. “Her mother’s not even sick, she does this all the time, it drives me crazy.”

Momo’s knee was touching Kaidoh’s. He swallowed. “They’ll be back in a couple of days.”

“I know.” Momo buried his head in Kaidoh’s shoulder. A long time ago, his hair smelled like citrus from the wax he used, but now it smelled like the floral shampoo his wife picked out. Kaidoh breathed in, and he remembered sharing a bed at an away tournament in high school, how he hadn’t been able to sleep and blew his first set.

“I worry about you, man,” Momo said, and Kaidoh could smell the alcohol on his breath when he spoke. “You should find a girl and start a family, it changes you. You could use it.”

Kaidoh remembered a cold night in September their first year of college, and how warm Momo’s hands had felt. ”I don’t want to change,” was all he said, and he felt a warm sigh on his neck.

“I know,” Momo told him.

The two of them lay there quietly, until Momo’s breathing became soft and steady, and then Kaidoh stood up and went to his bedroom. He shrugged off his suit jacket and pulled off his tie, and then he sat on his bed, and he cried.

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