Trevor leaves Alex in the bathroom, feeling good about revealing his unrequited feelings for sweet Leland and as quickly as Trevor and his odour of Will leaves the bathroom, the musk re-enters. This time on Will himself. Alex whines, "You too? What the hell?"
"Sorry. I thought maybe Trevor's exit signified the bathroom was up for grabs. What was he doing in here?"
"Nothing," Alex responds dismissively.
"I don't have the time, Will."
"Busy, huh?" he wisecracks.
Alex notices Will's relaxed posture—his hands in his pockets and a torso sagging slightly to one side without any irregular tension—and clues in to the fact that despite the bathroom being an understood private space since probably 3000 BC, Will doesn't seem to be leaving yet.
"Just because I don't have my nose in a book or something people think it's open season on my moment of peace and quiet and can just barge in here and ruin my bath? You come in here to ripple my waters too?!"
Just then Leland walks in. "Whoa, Alex, what's up in here?"
Alex sarcastically beams and says,"Oh, Will was just trimming his nose hairs in the mirror and I ran in totally in the buff like a raving lunatic. Crazy, huh? Yeah, privacy's a privilege, not a right, I guess. And just how are you?"
Leland ignores Alex's whimpering from the tub and asks, "Do either of you guys know where Welnot's gone?"
"My guess is he'll be here stopping by the tub any minute now." Alex says.
Will and Leland begin a small argument over what they should watch before bed that night and Alex observes (from the tub), that it seems like every relationship, no matter how substantial, sexually adventurous or romantic it may be, just eventually disintegrates into two pasty frumps sprawled over each other like corpses watching HBO night after night—only half-expecting either of them to acknowledge his scrutinization of their dull union, let alone the fact that he is, still, taking his bath and craning his neck like a two-year-old in a crib to look up at them.
"Well, it's a little too late in the night for a romantic picnic, I'd think." Leland says.
"By all means," Alex says, slapping suds for added emphasis, "take all the time you need in here to have a private confab about your date nights. If I'm bothering you I can just hold my breath for a few seconds under here. Big Bruiser Will, if I start to squirm, that's your cue to hold me under a little while longer. Don't mind me!"
With her hands on her shoulders, Leland scrunches up her face and asks, "What's his problem, huh?"
"Please leave," Alex pleads, fully annoyed now and at a loss with his head hanging.
Leland and Will both detect Alex's agitation and start to become a little more playful, like the way Trevor gets with drivers at the North and Agricola intersection when he gets ahold of someone's laser pointer. Will and Lee welcome his unwelcoming vibes.
"Maybe he's been potted in the bathwater so long he's sprouting some inhibitions? Grown shy around your roommates, Alex?"
"Maybe something else is growing, hmm, bud?" Will flicks the surface of the bubbly water pooling between his legs.
"Welnot is right to denounce this boheem-utopia communal treehouse hellhole. Are you guys done in here yet?"
"It takes a whole village to bathe a child," Leland says.
"And how many to smother it?"
Leland laughs and tousles Alex's wet hair before leaving the bathroom. He shakes his head away defiantly in that way a little kid does and sighs. "You get out of here too," he shoos, "I've already pruned up about 10 more minutes than I intended to thanks to Trevor's weird admission." He shudders thinking about him. "I can't stay in here much longer but I'd like to get some enjoyment out of it."
"Wait, what admission?" Will asks.
He could easily come up with something else on the fly to tell Will right now—to not exacerbate things or for no reason at all divulge the unfeigned truth about Trevor's surreptitious feelings and hard-ons for Leland. And herein lie the similarities in Welnot and Alex. They don't think of others as often as they should. With Welnot, it escaped him to realize that others weren't all that different from himself, or that they were standing before him at all. With Alex, when he chose to recognize others, he thought poorly of them. He actively chose to and believed that he was the smartest person in the room in most cases, and liked to think everyone else could easily just be running around with their heads cut off if he swung the axe swiftly enough. And so he swung.
The new chapter of Half-heard is published in The Coast—newspaper version—every Thursday. One week later it is published here online. So it's easy to catch up online, but best to stay ahead in print.