The front door slammed. Gwen’s car cranked over after two tries, muffler like a motorboat, and she sped away. Devon lay in her bed until he could no longer hear her. Only then did he get up, dress, and begin the long, slow walk to the Newton T station, during which he dissected the corpse their relationship had become. Knowing in his still-beating heart that except for the recriminations and the blame and the drinking, it was essentially over. And probably had been for a while. So he continued his autopsy in the bar he and his roommates frequented in Central Square. Two beers later, it began to dawn on him that his reason for leaving Mass General was not, as he’d feared, the beginning of the end of him and Gwen, but a moment of clarity, of perspective about the inequality of their friendship. He’d grown so comfortable with being called upon when needed—as a handy sex partner or someone to pick up a check—that he hadn’t considered any other options. He hadn’t considered that he deserved better.
Thomas the Tank came in fresh off his shift and joined Devon for his third beer, and a shot, because the clarity was still breathing and he wanted to drown it.
“You remember the one about the frog?”
“The one that turned into a prince?” Thomas smirked. “Why, you got warts?”
“Frog in the soup pot,” Devon said. “Frog hops into a pot of water. Thinks, this isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s rather pleasant. And slowly, the temperature is raised. A little warm, thinks the frog, but still nice and relaxing. Soon and without his knowledge, because the increments have been so small and he has adjusted to each, he is soup.”
“How many of those have you had?”
“I don’t want to be soup.”
“None of us does, mate. Circle of life, though. We all end up cooked.”
Devon leaned back and sighed. “No. Not the way I meant. It’s—”
“Much as I’d love to stay and get all existential with you,” Thomas said, “I got a girl expecting me. You okay to get back home?”
Devon nodded. “Fine.”
Thomas made a slashing gesture to the bartender. Sure, cut me off. Might as well. I’m already soup.
He wasn’t aware of how long he’d sat, sipping on a glass of water that had arrived at his table. But eventually the room stopped swirling and he craved his own bed. Devon tossed a couple of bills on the counter and headed down the block toward home.
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