It was late at night when Sers woke up from the sound of a slammed door. Upon first waking, he didn’t know where he was - then he remembered the evening before: he was watching a film and had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room while he was waiting for Duke to come home. The thin ginger had disappeared six days ago and after three days, they filed a missing person's report, the police immediately searching for him.
One of the more caring souls, probably Lodger, had switched off the TV and had covered Sers with a blanket. He waited, straining to hear any sign that Duke might have come home and maybe had just gone up to his room unnoticed, and he just wanted to turn around to continue sleeping - when he heard something else. He closed his eyes and listened, yes... it could only be Duke, who must have come in just a few moments ago – nobody else in the household had what seemed to be a permanent cold. But what was he doing?
With a sigh, Sers got up from the couch, yawned, stretching his arms, and threw the blanket to the side.
The noise was coming from the kitchen. He remembered that sometimes, though this rarely happened, Duke was hungry after one of his wild cocaine-tours… So that may be him in the kitchen.
His suspicion was confirmed when he saw a dimmed light shining out of that room. He peeked around the corner and a small smile of relief appeared on his face, tugging on his lips.
It really was the Thin White Duke, sitting on the table with crossed legs. He looked pretty worn with his filthy black coat, his unkempt blonde and red hair hanging into his gaunt face, wolfing down yoghurt he’d found in the fridge. Without noticing he was observed by his housemate, Duke scratched the last dregs of the yoghurt out of its cup and opened the door of the fridge for another one. As he opened the next cup, Sers cleared his throat to get his attention and walked into the kitchen.
“Have you finally decided to come home?” he asked patiently. The younger man turned his head very slowly, obviously taking a moment to recognize the bleach-blonde before him. Instead of giving an answer, he just pushed the spoon into his mouth and looked at Sers the way a lonely and frightened child would do. “Do you know we’ve alarmed the police to search after you? How come you’ve been gone for so long, this time?” He spoke very low and soft, not wanting to scare Duke, who looked much like a cornered animal. He wanted to yell and shout, but he just couldn’t find it in himself to be angry with the waif. Well, not at that moment.
Duke shrugged slowly. “I was hungry… and I had no more money. I walked home, because I couldn’t even afford a taxi. Luckily nobody tried to rob me. Hey, look at me!” he scoffed, gesturing to himself. “I look like a pathetic beggar…” he sighed and continued, pulling the damp coat closer around his shoulders: “The yoghurt was the first food I’ve seen in a while, and… that’s about it...” He shrugged – or was he shivering? – and continued spooning the rose coloured cream into his mouth. Sers analysed him for a moment, lips open in wonder, as it was very rare to see him consume anything but milk, red peppers, or more cocaine.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” was all he could ask after the ginger’s poor explanation, seating himself next to Duke on the table, moving the empty yoghurt cup aside.
“Do you think I’m ill when I’m eating?” He snapped. “Of course I’m okay. I’m just cold and tired, and there was…Argh, forget about it!” He seemed almost insulted, but Sers didn’t want to give up on his inquiry just yet.
“What exactly happened to you? Do you want to tell me?... Maybe I can help you.” he asked, now worried about his housemate. He never talked about his tours through the night life and drug scene, but there must have been a reason why Duke needed almost a week to find his way back home. So, Sers put one arm around Duke’s shoulders in what he hoped to be a rather fatherly manner. “I mean it”, he said. “You need help and the sooner you –…“ He was interrupted by the other man.
“How could you ever help me? No one in this house likes me, and when you talk to me, it’s only because you tell me to shut up!” The bitterness in Duke's voice was unmistakable and Sers couldn’t help to pity his housemate for the misery he was stuck in.
“You have to be serious, Duke...your behaviour doesn’t make it easy to like you. See, you’re very aggressive sometimes, and the way you treat Ziggy and Tommy, for example, is in fact rude.” He said very calmly, sighing.
“That’s not my problem!” Duke protested, hands raised. “Hey, you agree with me, Ziggy is a pain in the ass, don’t you? And the Anthean doesn’t defend himself. It’s fun to annoy him…!” admitted the thin ginger and stirred his yoghurt, distracted.
“No, Duke, this is your problem! You disappear without saying a word to us, take drugs that will kill you one day and ruin your whole life with your stubbornness and your egocentrism!” Sers tamped his fury down, afraid of bringing the whole house into this conversation. “Tell me, what exactly happened to you?” asked he measuredly after a few moments of awkward silence.
Duke couldn’t stop the words that flew from his mouth, though he didn’t want to say them. “I went to my dealer on Saturday and he said had really good dope that day. It was a bit more expensive than usually, but, hey, it wasn’t cut that much. As I said – really good dope. Anyway, after I’d snorted a few lines, I felt brilliant and went clubbing.” He raised his eyebrows and looked down. “I really forgot the time and it seemed like I was out for only a few hours, when I realised all my money was spent. I know some people downtown, so I went there. I thought I could borrow at least $ 40 for a taxi back home, but on my way there, I almost got into a bloody raid, and when I arrived, the neighbours told me my friends had moved. Fine friends they are! I had to sleep in a phone box because the only club down there closed at 4 am and not even the waitress there would allow me to stay for the night, and when I woke up, I felt...so terrible...“ He sighed and shivered again and Sers wondered just how much coke Duke had consumed, and marvelled that he was even alive, let alone not hospitalised. He tried to imagine the skeletal body underneath the thick black coat. He was only skin and bones and when he looked in Duke’s face, he recognised a kind of feverish glow beneath the tears rolling down his hollow cheeks. Placing his palm on Duke’s bony forehead, his fear was confirmed. “Hey, what are you doing? I haven’t caught flu. I’m fine...” complained the younger and sniffed again, searching for a handkerchief in his pockets.
“You’re glowing like an oven!” Returned Sers and looked bewildered now about the indifference with which Duke blew his nose. “You are ill and you’ll go to bed now, hear me? Don’t tell me you’re feeling fine, you’re lying or at least, your mind is lying to you.” Sers exhaled sharply. “You weren’t healthy when you left, and now you’ve a very high temperature. I’ll inform the police, tell them you’ve finally arrived home and they can stop the search.” Sers looked into Duke’s pale eyes. “And I’m taking you to the doctor tomorrow. You have to go to a therapist - and if no one else does, I will definitively help you.”
“Would you… really do th-that... for m-me?” was all Duke could find the words to say after Sers had finished his speech.
“Of course I’ll do this for you. You are a part of my family and we stick it out together.”