(DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. It’s important to remember this is all totally fabricated, embellished, and exaggerated for entertainment purposes.)
Last night was a movie. The party was full of huge names and familiar faces, all smiles and incessant laughter; all imbibing. But mostly it felt like I was on the outside looking in, watching everyone teem inside a snow globe like agitated insects, unaware of me entirely. I walked the block a few times before it began (trying to catch a bit of air) observing them as they arrived. All were herded into the outdoor café of the restaurant that had been reserved for the exclusive guestlist. I studied them like a zoologist who’d newly discovered a frightfully humanoid species of apes, but ultimately remained unimpressed with my findings.
The private after party at the house the following afternoon had been even wilder. I drank too much and could barely see straight even as I lay here over 14 hours later. Brain fog was real, and it had only begun to disseminate after a short nap. As I awakened and gauged my surroundings, much of the haze remained. Tonight was quieter and more uneventful, which suited my present frame of mind. I was doing a lot of vacillating lately, unsure of everything. And I was troubled to find that I was alone when I awoke—top five worst feelings in the human condition. There was nothing like a warm body beside you to jumpstart the day. Someone to animate a room. Breathe life into the stillness. I was too still. I needed to shake things up. The room was uncomfortably dark and uncomfortably silent. Mute and colorless, like I was experiencing the very nadir of a bad dream. Still buzzing, I was in no condition to argue if this was reality or not. As I lay sleepless and gathered myself, I figured there was no real chance of slipping under again anytime soon.
The New Year had disturbed my sleeping habits, and as I was trying my hardest to abstain from medications to get me sorted again, I couldn’t help wishing for a few drops of melatonin to ease the illness of consciousness every now and then. Some nights I petitioned whatever God there may be to tranquilize me (if only for a few hours) but he never really heeded my prayers. I think I was hungry too, which always made it difficult to stay asleep after I’d fallen.It was well after midnight, as the massive view from the master suite illustrated for me, and I felt the sudden urge to write, but couldn’t gather my thoughts long enough to put pen to paper.
I kept remembering the party, since it was the inaugural public outing in a long list of them to come for the new year. Lots of carpets. Lots of obligations. Lots of countries. I shuddered, slipping a hand under my shirt to rest on the warmth of my stomach beneath the sheet. It was the most self-comforting thing I could think to do. My other arm was flung over my face in a half-hearted resignation.Flashes of leering faces played across my mind like vintage home movies. The footage was grainy, despite being recorded mere days ago. Insects flickered around the lights in these faint recollections. The weather had been ok. Nice for a nighttime get-together. A bit chilly for LA, but it was winter after all. As I perused the best images of the night in this disturbing little mind movie, I couldn’t help but conclude I didn’t miss the company or their small talk or the ceaseless voices seeping from within the reel after I’d shut it off and my thoughts had gone black.
I looked over at my phone on the nightstand and it was all of 3AM. Why the fuck was I awake? I was parched from the alcohol, which refused to leave my system, so I convinced my body (completely leaden) to carry me downstairs for a bottle of water. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be, so there was no coercing him to get up and grab it for me.
As I rounded the last step on the open stairwell, feet hitting the chill concrete (a familiar sensation) the yard greeted me in all its glory since the shade hadn’t been drawn over the floor-to-ceiling windows of the principal wall. Typically it gave the space a breathable indoor-outdoor vibe, but at the minute it was an unlit void; just plain eerie.
He was planted on the sofa, doing precisely what I’d considered doing only a moment ago; writing. Except, his head was cocked back over the couch and he had dozed off mid-sentence—mouth parted. His snores seemed to be the only sound around for miles. I went to him through the alien domain of early morning where everything was cloaked in shadow, and removed the pen from his hand. He came to slowly, eyeing me like he couldn’t tell if I was real or not.
“Hey…” he whispered, squinting to see me more clearly. All the lights were out behind me because I’d forgotten to turn them on. He’d been using the light from the open window to write, but the night had gone cloudy and the darkness surrounding us was intolerably black.
“Z?” he rasped.
“Mm-hm,” I nodded, straddling his lap.
“Yeah, it’s me…”
“Hey baby…” he sighed, wrapping his arms around my waist; crushing me so tight I thought my ribs would crack.
“Ready to goh to bed, then?”
“Mmm…” he groaned, burying his head in my chest. I dug my fingers into his hair, still coming to terms with how short it was. He looked like a different person.
“Hazza, Hazza…” I breathed dreamily, half asleep myself (unsure of how I had made it down the stairs without tripping and falling face-first.) I felt so heavy and lazy just now. “Let’s goh upstairs, babe.”
“M’not done,” he muttered.
“Yes.” I pulled his head back with two fistfuls of hair so that his eyes met mine. “Youh still drunk?”
“It’s been like a day, though…”
“Mm…” his eyelids drooped and he looked completely wasted. Vivid green irises peered out from beneath, seeming to house their own light, like they’d stored it up from the sun throughout the day. They watched me flatly and insensibly, like two cold emeralds. I wished they were alive and registering all that they saw, but I knew I wouldn’t get that again until he was sober.
“Haz? Youh hear me, babe? Sober up, okay?”
“Noh,” I planted a quick and noisy kiss to his mouth. “…you’re not, babe. Gotta be sharp today, remember? You’re finalizing everythin’.”
“What day is today? Saturday right?”
“Noh, Friday. It’s after midnight, so technically tomorrow is Saturday.”
“Fuck’s sake…I’m so confused.”
“Yeah youh are…” I laughed.
“I wanted it to be Saturday.”
“Youh already lookin’ past today? Why youh worried about Saturday, huh? Big plans?”
“No, just a few meetings…lunch with the label. I like Saturdays,” he cleared his throat. “They’re my lucky day.” He was talking nonsense. “You?”
“Yeah, noh, same. Few things to get sorted, but I guess it’ll be an alright day. But I wanna see youh again before I goh, yeah?” At that, he squeezed me.
“You’re not going back to New York. It’s not happening.”
“M’sorry. Gotta goh, babe. At least for a while. Youh’ll be there soon, yeah?”
“Eventually. Not soon enough.”
I kissed him again, toying lazily with his tongue. He tasted like Listerine. He grabbed my ass with both hands, squishing it absently before slinking them up the back of my shirt in search of my heat. When he found it, he sighed against my mouth, pressing his fingertips along my spine. Then his palms ran up and down the length of my back, scratching it until I shivered and broke the kiss with a laugh.
All I could think was how much I would miss him in the coming days, despite the fact that he was still right there in front of me, digging his nails into my flesh like he was scared I’d run away. So much would keep us apart for a while. Both of our plates were pretty full at the moment. My only offering was the video I’d filmed and edited for him yesterday, hoping the acoustic version of my latest single would tide him over until we met again.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’d be busy attending the Clive Davis gala (without him there to unearth all the memories of our reunion last year) then the Grammys themselves, and eventually a Billboard event before I returned to NYC to link up with G. He, however, had the album drop approaching, as well as the Dunkirk premiere, on top of lots of minor obligations riddling his schedule in between. We would be strangers for a while, unless one of us surprised the other and canceled a few things to make time. There was just no room to breathe, except for right here right now. But during the day, his place in the Hills became a madhouse, and if I didn’t want to get exposed, I needed to take my leave before the afternoon arrived.
This year was about to eat him alive (if 2016 had been any indication for me) but it would ultimately be a rewarding whirlwind that I wanted him to experience every second of. This was the year he took the world by the balls and reminded them of who he was, and he needed to be sober for it to progress as planned. He needed to be mindful and present, the importance of which I always tried to impress upon him.
“Don’t want youh to miss anythin’…” I whispered, mostly to myself. I was glad he couldn’t hear. It was a half-baked sentiment that would’ve seemed out of context if he’d picked up on it. I just liked to speak my thoughts sometimes, in hopes they’d come true. I’d given him a little break from sober living this week because it was his birthday, and he didn’t want to be a killjoy at his own party where he had been forced to take a dozen toasts, but now we were back to business and I needed him to sober up.
Even though I couldn’t join him openly at the cafe the other night, I’d gone with him to Malibu and stalked the neighborhood until he had made the rounds, rubbing elbows with his endless roster of celeb friends and industry darlings. Then I took him home for a private nightcap which spilled into the afternoon of the following day. Meaning, we were drunk off our asses and making love in the living room in plain view of anyone who approached the house. We’d gotten messy with his favorite tequila and later a smorgasbord of greasy Mexican takeout. It was our ideal kind of morning and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
“Hi, baby,” I breathed, gazing down at him as he struggled to stay awake. The only response was a flutter of his eyelids. Then he grinned up at me like he was trying to weasel out of a parking ticket. The eyes did all the talking. Sick eyes, I always thought. Cat eyes—as wicked as his smile. Arresting to the extreme like the rest of him. He captivated me anew every day. There was never a lack of things to observe and understand about him, like a kaleidoscope that continuously magnified his being into infinity.
He knew how dangerous that smile was and used it against me whenever I was upset with him. Dimples and all—he was way too self-adoring and well aware that those cheeks were the most irresistible part of him. But the eyes had me. As far as I was concerned, they could administer healing to the sick, facilitate long-standing peace in the remotest and most war-torn corners of the world, and exonerate him of murder in spite of the most damning indictments. The eyes were key, and I could never forget them no matter how long I’d been away.
They housed in them all the things he could never seem to convey. Sometimes he got too in his head when it came to saying how he felt, so every now and then he’d quit mid-sentence. Usually when he was speaking with someone unwilling to let him take his time to articulate. He still got really nervous when he spoke to me sometimes, even though we’d been at this thing a while now. Whenever that happened, he usually resorted to texting me lyrics or sending emails in hopes they could speak for him. I had to learn the hard way to listen to him through his music. It’s where he was the most open.
Leaning in to kiss his pretty, puffy lips, I exhaled into his mouth. It all felt too good to be true. We were us again. After everything, we were still us. 2017 had ushered in a new realm of understanding. I was beginning to grasp that no matter what stood in our way, we would always be who we were when we were alone, and not an ounce of that could be diminished by external forces.
He welcomed my tongue with renewed vigor; becoming vocal. He always hummed when we kissed, savoring every ounce of any contact we made. Touching was his drug and he needed that fix often, even when we were doing something as innocuous as having dinner or watching a movie. Some part of him always needed to be in contact with some part of me. Elbows bumping. Arms pressed together. Head to shoulder. Hand on my thigh. Fingers interlocked. Feet intertwined underneath the table or beneath the sheets. He couldn’t go without some version of it, and I was happy to oblige.
Kissing was his thing too. Long, slow, and sensual (like in the movies.) I never kissed anyone the way I kissed him. With others, kissing was a chore. A cold peck here and there throughout the day. An emotionless, ancillary part of sex. But with him, it was a necessity; and it became my favorite thing to do.
I was just worried about keeping him happy. The more vocal he became, the more I was sure I’d done my job. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t love it when he whimpered. It reminded me he was mine. That he needed me, despite how big he got, despite how sought after he was; despite how many Hollywood circles he navigated without me. At the end of the day I was still the only one who could make him weak. He was small for me and needed me to protect him, to hold him, to always be around. Only me.
Now he rose with me in his arms, locking my legs more firmly around his waist, and carried me up the stairs to the bedroom despite my protests. I laughed when our noses bumped, lifting my brows and gazing at him with all the love I could stomach. He was only half-coherent, and this is when he talked his craziest. He told me all the things he was getting ready to do to me, and had I been standing, my knees might’ve gave.
“Promise?” I whispered with a drowsy half-grin.
He went on, becoming more graphic as I egged him on; and I shivered with an eagerness to be undressed and spread apart. There was nothing better than when he got like this. Raw, forward, and unforgiving in his pursuit of me. I pressed my lips to his temple, mumbling how much I loved him, how much I needed him; breathing in his nighttime musk.
There was nothing left to say, there was only left to be. He and I. He and I. The night always felt unending. I was the least bit concerned about the sun coming up when we were together. The morning usually meant separation, and though he’d snuck out of bed after I fell asleep earlier, the last thing I was willing to do was let him go again.
Harry, Harry, Harry, I thought. His name answered every unvoiced question. He was all things familiar. All things good. He was my old and my new. My beginning and my endgame. With him, I didn’t have to talk all the time, and he didn’t bother to make me speak because he knew what we had transcended any and all convention. It lay beyond words, beyond conception; until there was nothing left to convey or be understood.
Upstairs we got in the shower and made out until we were out of breath. Water got in my eyes, so I shut them and let him take over. I hummed Tony Bennett’s “The Way You Look Tonight” while he washed my hair. He tried to join me, but didn’t know the lyrics well, so he laughed his way through them. After we dried off, I wrapped a towel around my waist and smoked a Marlboro on the terrace, watching the way the night sky seemed to surrender to the day.
I saw my time with him slipping away before my very eyes, measured by the return of the light. The wake-up calls would commence soon, from his team and mine. I crushed the filter in the tiny hotel ashtray he’d stolen for some reason months ago, and blew the last remnants of smoke from my nostrils like an angry despot.
Later he walked up behind me and presented two glasses of whiskey (mine on ice.) It wasn’t his typical choice, but it had been a birthday gift from a new friend and he wasn’t particularly wasteful.
“Again, babe?” I asked. “What happened to sober, remember?”
“Mate, c’mon, what do you want from me? It’s our last night.”
“Annnd, don’t give me shit, alright?” He was already so wasted. His eyes were only half-open. “It’s just to help me sleep.” He grabbed my face and squished my cheeks together, kissing me all over until I relented.
“You’re soh annoyin’…”
“Yeah, but you love it. I won’t sleep with you here otherwise. I miss you too much when I’m sleep.” We toasted and drank and he finished his one gulp. I sipped mine for a while before he took it from me and swallowed the last drop.
“I was drinkin’ that?!” I slapped him on his bare belly with the back of my hand (he was stark naked as usual.) He growled and lifted me again, carrying me back inside and shutting the sliding door with bang. He lay me across the mattress and climbed atop, burying his face into the crook of my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed his jaw. Biting his neck, his earlobe. His skin tasted sweet and salty from a faint post-shower perspiration.
His voice drawled on about what he’d been writing and I thought I could listen to him drone forever. I took pleasure in the way his heavy voice vibrated the bed, and the way I could feel it in the pit of my chest.
“It’ll be alright,” I said quietly. He was nervous about the album drop and kept switching around the title and tracklist every few hours; running loads of random titles by me. I vetoed everyone except his name. I thought it was perfect for his debut. He could lead with his name because it had always been an entity unto itself, well established in Hollywood before the band ever parted ways. Beyond that, he wouldn’t let me in on the thing. I was too close to the subject matter. He wouldn’t let me hear a single tune or melody no matter how much I begged. He wanted it to all be a surprise when the time came, because so much of it dealt with the time we were apart.
Jamaica helped a lot, which he told me a while back, thanking me for the recommendation. When filming had wrapped in France and he returned to LA, I was right in the beginning stages of making the move to NYC. At that point we still hadn’t seen each other since the second split in February earlier that year. From there in September 2016, he took off for Port Antonio. The exact place I had visited a few months before in June, creating a vibe in the studio with my cousins and a few producer friends. We’d gotten high every day; sometimes twice a day. Pigging out on the local cuisine, listening to local artists and attending parties with perfect strangers. Dark, sweaty rooms. Smoky dancefloors full of unintelligible shouting. Jamaica was a lit.
He’d gotten there a few months after me and stayed in my villa with a tight knit team of industry specialists. He said he had gotten out everything he’d put off since February because of filming, which had interrupted his writing at the beginning of the year. Beyond that, I got no inside information as to what took place or what he had gained out of his experiences there. Everything remained a mystery to be unveiled in May, and he was filming a documentary to make sure there’d be exclusive insight into the Jamaican getaway.
From the sound of it, I had cause to worry. I think the footage would prove to be a form of punishment for me, detailing what he had gone through both in 2015 and again in late 2016 when we were apart. Already I had left him twice now, and I was hella nervous to get a glimpse into what was like without me.
To my dismay, we hadn’t been in touch a lot after Dunkirk. We’d kept our distance after the big blow-up with G earlier that year. Rightfully, she’d taken a long time to be alright with me again. I’d given her major trust issues and now she felt a little insecure about what she could offer me. I guess she didn’t understand how separate those things were in my mind. That one had nothing to do with the other, and that there was no need to compare. But her heart was fragile and her worries wouldn’t abate on my word alone.
I, however, was just confused. Depleted, torn—pulled in two polar opposite directions. There was no room for myself in my own head, since I constantly concerned for other people. Lately it was like my heart was in a never-ending battle of tug-of-war, and my arteries threatened to explode at any moment.
Theoretically, my life would be so uncomplicated if I just stayed away from him for good. But I missed him all the fucking time. Sickeningly so. Having had him for that brief spell in 2016, only for him to be ripped away again felt like I’d broken the same bone twice, and any chances of it healing were out of the question. The broken ends had fused together improperly and rendered the whole thing of little use. What good was my love to anyone? I was no good at it. I’d fucked it up so many times in the past. Who wanted it anymore? It was ugly and twisted and had depreciated beyond any modicum of value. So had my word and my credibility.
I wanted to call off our second break-up in 2016 and get a one-way jet to France to make love to him on set (just the way he had begged me to.) But each time I looked at G, I couldn’t help but feel I at least owed it to her to try. That was the decent thing to do. Avoid self-indulgence at all costs and make penance for what I’d done to her. Try and honor my previous commitment, whatever the hell that may have been.
Harry had erased everything to do with her the instant he reappeared at that gala. Even so, I knew I still needed to try, even if it came down to pretending. And I owed it to myself not to make the same mistakes over and over again. They said that’s a sure sign of insanity. To keep doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. But hell if he and I weren’t the epitome of insane.
After about an hour of him venting his fears for the coming weeks, we made out some more and lay facing each other across the center of the mattress. Pillow-talk was still our go-to, even after all these years. Always in the dead of night when we should’ve been asleep. I could imagine us doing this exact same thing in 20 years’ time. A little older, a little more grim. Our faces aged and our voices a bit more distinguished. Every time we were ripped apart, coming back together felt like we got to relive our first time again and again. I wondered how many ‘first times’ we’d have in the future.
He was asleep now, sprawled out beside me spread-eagle. All talk and no play. He hadn’t touched me after we got in bed. Too drunk and exhausted, I presume. I pulled a sheet over him and stepped back on the balcony for another smoke. Twilight kept me company, assuaging me with its tranquil tints. I flicked through my phone and Googled my name, along with March 2015. I did it from time to time to revisit the headlines and see how far I’d come.
After I left, I’d read the news obsessively, keeping up with every tiny thing involving the band because it meant keeping up with him. At his urging, the hiatus was approved mere months after my exit, then he left to follow me (still unsure whether I would accept him or not.) He sacrificed for me, yes, but most of all he waited. I was confident he would wait for the rest of his life while I figured my shit out. And when I finally returned to him, I’m convinced his love for me wouldn’t have waned in the least.
In the traditional sense, we were the slightest bit complementary. Not on paper like G and I, and no more ideally in practice itself. I know this got to him more than it should have. I tried to tell him he and I were attuned on a cosmic scale, one incapable of being understood from a finite perspective. We couldn’t understand the thing that brought us together, because it was not of this world. We only knew that whatever lie between us was meant to be, in all it’s appalling incompatibility.
I liked to think he and I were diverging opposites that depended on each other to keep the world afloat. Our separations mattered just as much as our togetherness. It was all about balance. Yin and yang. Fire and ice. Oftentimes like oil and water, repelling each other for the common good of the people in our vicinity.
G may have garnished my world and made me look presentable public-facing; understanding my keenest anxieties despite being powerless to alleviate them. But he was my serotonin. The center of my gravity. He was more me than the carbon and oxygen that comprised my flesh. Our love was changeful, yes, but it was real. As mercurial as the brimstone that filled the livid bowels of the Earth, but it was eternal.
We were that which burned deep and unseen. Unfelt by the common or the mindless or the mediocre. We were that which could not be confined, even by each other. He was not my soulmate—he was my soul. He and I were each other.
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