He was not at ninety-four. Ninety-four was the whispered words, “Thank you. You were amazing.” They echoed inside Andrew’s head over and over, like they were an offering, a prayer, a goodbye, like they were pushed out of his body with his dying breath. It was irritating and he was going to bring it up on the bus. He was going to spell it out nice and slow how Neil needed to stop living like he was dying and start living like the exy junkie he was.
Ninety-five was turning around and seeing nothing. Not nothing in the sense that Neil was nothing, but nothing in the sense of panic, of worry, of standing on the edge of the rooftop looking down thinking “Would it hurt if I fell?” The space where Neil should have been filled with emotions that Andrew swore he would never feel again.
Ninety-six was finding his bag. It wasn’t the bag that held his entire life, that was locked away in the Fox Tower, safe. It was the bag that held his future. A future he knew Neil wanted in the way he clutched the key he gave him back in August. A key that was left in the God forsaken bag with Neil nowhere in sight.
For ninety-seven, Kevin was there. The other foxes were there too but the words Kevin formed with his breath passing over his voice box and the movements of his tongue and jaw, were the only things that mattered. Kevin’s mouth moved, sound traveled in vibrations through the air, hit Andrew’s eardrums, and then his hands were around Kevin’s neck. There were lies and half-truths and Andrew hated those. Again not in the sense he hated Neil but in the sense that he hated the word ‘please’ and ‘misunderstanding’. He hated how he didn’t hate Neil because of all the lies. And for that, ninety-seven.
Ninety-eight was the phone call that Neil had been found.
Ninety-nine was walking through the hotel door and seeing him crumple in agony. It was the hissed “Don’t” as he did his best sooth away the pain. It was the eyes that were Nathaniel’s with hints of Neil peeking out behind his irises. It was the look of a man staring helplessly as the executioner readied the guillotine. It was the words “I’m sorry” like he had something to be sorry for. It was his attitude that no matter how beat up he got, remained impeccably intact. And it was the question he still had the gall to ask: “Am I at ninety-four yet?”