When I do return to the living room, Lyle is ready to take me to the mat. I can tell by looking at him that he’s itching for a fight. It saddens me because I like him very much, and I don’t want to ruin our budding friendship. He demands to know why he has to hear from the inspector that I’ve fucked his boyfriend, and while I understand his pain, I’m not about to roll over and play dead. If he has a beef, it’s with Paris for not telling him as I haven’t slept with Paris in years. I hope that Lyle will let it go, but he won’t. It’s not enough to know that Paris and I haven’t slept together in a long time; he has to know exactly when was the last time I had sex with Paris. He also insists on knowing how many times Paris and I have slept together, which is even more of an asinine request—order. I press my lips together; I’ll be damned if I let Lyle browbeat me into ‘confessing’ my sins.
Lyle throws a fit when I refuse to answer his questions. I suggest that he get over himself because whatever happened between Paris and me is in the past. Furthermore, perhaps Paris was right not to tell Lyle seeing how he’s reacted to the information. I dress him down completely, the tension of the past few days suddenly releasing. I know I’m not saying the right things nor am I being tactful, but I’m tired beyond belief and cannot control what I’m saying. Lyle starts ranting that the inspector is right about me fucking anybody if I’ll fuck my own best friend. That does it! Any vestige of guilt or pity I have for him because he hadn’t known about Paris and me has vanished. He’s acting like a prima donna over something that happened a lifetime ago, and it’s beginning to piss me off. I bound across the room and slap him soundly across his face.
“You listen to me, Lyle Kingston, and you listen good,” I hiss at him. I’m fed up with his pettiness. My best friend is in the hospital, and I don’t need to dig up ancient history. “Paris and I have slept together, yes. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, but it’s not something that I flaunt, either. We know we are not good partners; we know we are infinitely better as friends. You want to know the last time I had sex with Paris? The night he watched Brett die, that’s when!” Lyle’s face changes, and he tries to speak, but I won’t let him. He wants to hear the gory details, then he’s going to hear them. “The last year was total agony, but I expect you know that. Paris had to do everything for Brett and didn’t dare leave him for more than an hour at a time. You remember that, don’t you, Lyle? How absolutely draining it is to watch a lover die from AIDS? Little things like changing the catheter? Big things like waking up in the middle of the night afraid your lover is dead? First the body goes, then the mind goes until he’s nothing more than a walking corpse. He should have died six months before he did, but his body just wouldn’t give up. Paris was there every step of the way. I helped out as much as I could, but it wasn’t enough.” By now, there are tears running down Lyle’s cheeks as well as my own. It had been so hard to stand helplessly by and watch my best friend go through such excruciating pain. I see that same pain on Lyle’s face and wish I hadn’t reminded him. However, I knew he wouldn’t be able to understand about Paris and me if I hadn’t put it in the proper context.