Joey flicked the lighter on and watched the flame for a minute, then blew it out and released the button. Then he did it again. He was alone tonight, alone in his rec room with a sweet setup of electronics in front of him. Pirate radio. The secret hobby that no one knew about.
He'd seen this one a movie once, seen it and leaped up in his seat and said that, that's what I want to do, no matter what else i do with my life. I want to be that guy. I want to speak into the night, I want to be a voice, I want to share my thoughts with the open air. And no one will know who I am.
The tour was set to resume in two days...tonight would be the last night he'd be able to do this, be able to indulge in this secret life. The last night he would be able to become some anonymous alter ego, someone so disassociated with the Joey Fatone that everyone knew that no one would suspect the voice in the night was him.
He pulled a joint out of his jeans pocket and lit it, smoking half of it before stubbing off the end and sliding it onto the table for later. Half the guys would have his ass if they knew he was smoking--smoking anything--and the other half would be pissed that he didn't invite them to join him. But tonight was about him. Just him and his thoughts and the open air that he'd speak them to.
He started playing with the flame then, for a moment, passing the tip of his index finger through it. He swore as suddenly he felt the heat a bit too intensely, then lit a scented candle on the edge of the table to mask the scent of the pot should any of the guys decide to come by. He threw the traitorous lighter across the room and just watched the flame of the candle for a while.
Finally he closed his eyes and switched on the equipment. There was a chance that someone, somewhere out there was listening. There was a chance that there were dozens of people out there waiting for his pearls of wisdom. And there was a chance that no one was listening at all.
"Have you ever been in love?" he asked. "Have you ever been so in love that your chest hurts when you think about it, that your breath catches and your heart beats faster and your nerves jump? Have you ever wanted someone so badly that it made your body ache?
"I'm feeling that right now. I'm thinking about him, about his clear eyes and his shy smile and his smooth skin. I can feel my heart tightening, because i know that he can never be mine. It's that kind of destructive love that I'm talking about. The kind that will make you or break you and you feel like the world is going to end without it and the world will be reborn with it. And it kills you when it's just beyond your grasp.
"Some days I eat sleep and breathe him, we know one another inside out, there are only three other human beings that I'm nearly as close to, and there will never be any others.
"I can tell you his name, gentle listener, because you don't know me and you don't know him and you wouldn't give a fuck even if you did because to you they're just words, just ideas, not people. His name is Lance. Lance...like some hero out of a gothic romance.
"It's hard not to smile, when you say it. Lance. Lance. Lance." He shouted that last word at the ceiling, feeling the name and the love and the person in every part of his body. He wanted to scream and cry and laugh and kick and do anything and everything to either make the feeling intensify or make it vanish.
"That's it, I can't talk anymore," he said, his voice hoarse. "Listen to some music, and I'll come back." He threw on a Gershwin CD, for the hell of it, and set it to play "The Man I Love". Sap, but classy sap.
He lit the other half of the joint and started smoking it, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes. He didn't hear the door open, didn't hear the footsteps that approached him, didn't know someone else was there until he felt someone take the joint out of his hand. He opened his eyes and saw Lance standing there, sucking on the joint and then handing it back.
He took it with numb hands. Lance was silent for a moment, then leaned down and kissed Joey, hardly having to work to force his lips open. He exhaled the smoke he'd been holding in his mouth and smiled as the other man breathed it in deeply. Joey exhaled and stared at Lance mutely.
"I got this radio for my birthday when I was fifteen," said Lance leaning on the table and looking to Joey's side, away from his eyes. "I never had much use for it, but sometimes I fuck around and see what I can pick up..."
"Yeah, he said, nodding his head. "Funny how I've been staying in the same house, and I never knew... Funnier how you've been staying in the same house, and you never knew..."
"Never knew what...?"
Lance rolled his eyes. "Am I going to have to resort to passing you notes, Joe? Leaving you presents? Dipping your pigtails in the inkwell? Because obviously all the clues I've dropped so far have fallen on blind eyes and deaf ears..."
"Funny how you can be so articulate when you're alone, isn't it? But when you find yourself in front of someone, the words don't come, or get all jumbled up. What are you asking, Joey? What are you saying? I'm here in front of you now, can you say the same words you said to the rest of the world?"
"I love you," he said, his voice low. "I want you. I need you. I don't know what else to say." His eyes were wide as they looked into Lance's, afraid of the power of those simple words. Then the moment was shattered as he felt a fiery pain in his hand. "Damn!" he said, dropping what little remained of the joint on the floor and popping his burnt finger in his mouth.
Gently, Lance pulled the finger out of Joey's mouth and put it in his own, sucking the pain away. "I want you, too," he whispered as he pulled it out and blew on it.
Joey smiled, flipped off the radio, and blew out the candle.