Stay Inside and Live Forever by Matthew Chabe

Christopher’s crying in the stairwell. He’s been at it for hours. I’m concerned about what the neighbors will think, but also I don’t care, so I shut the door and fall back into bed. I turn and press my head into the pillow. I bury it so far, it’ll never be found, and just when I’ve reached the lowest point, the door across the landing opens then shuts, and there’s a knock.


It’s a mirage. I pull the blanket over my head.


Fitch stands outside the door in his tighty-whities. I can see more than I want.

“What, man?”



“Christopher.” He points to the body in the stairwell.

“Oh. Jeez. Yeah, I didn’t notice.”

He pauses and blinks.

“Do something.”

“What the fuck do you want me to do?” He looks at me like I hurt his stupid feelings, so I say, “Jesus Christ. Just go back to bed,” not because I have any vested interest in his well-being, like I’m his healthcare provider or anything, but sleep is the prescription for me, and with him gone I might partake of that drug, too, or at least be a step closer. He turns and his door clicks shut and I’m alone. It’s 5:23 a.m., my head is split, the birds are singing, and Christopher is yelling my name like I’m lost in the fucking woods. Like I stole his baby and now he wants it back. I poke my head around the corner. The stairs are a disaster of beer bottles and a torn Grateful Dead poster. A patch of red hair twitches. Someone has scalped Howdy Doody and left the mess in public view. Do you know what I mean? He shudders and stops and I think it’s done, but then his voice swells into a sound I’ve never heard before and he bellows

“Sam. Please. I loooove youuu…”

My heart skips. It’s not light or giddy. It’s something else. Something gross. I stand there long enough for him to gasp once, twice, and for a glorious, profound moment there’s nothing. The auditory environment is void. I think I’ve gotten away clean and step back into my room, but when the door closes, he goes off like a banshee and it all starts again. I lean against the door and breathe. The light from the streetlamp makes a path on the floor and I get on my knees and feel until I touch the blanket. When I get under the covers, she says:


Then her breath is on my face; in the glow of the streetlight, she is very pretty; photons dance across her jaw, and she says:

“Do you like me?”

And I say:

“Yeah,” and I think I mean it.

“That guy’s loud,” she murmurs. “Can’t you do something?” And I want to say:

Yes, I can do something. I can drag him out of the house and drive him to New Hampshire. I can hide him in a knapsack. I can enlist him in the Israeli Army and ship him away where I think he’ll never be found. But then I want to say: What the fuck do you WANT me to do? Christ—Fitch and you. I barely know him; he’s just some guy from work. A guy from the customer service desk.

But when I turn, she’s asleep again, so I lie there and stare at the sliver of light below the door. It’s all true. I mean, yeah, I knew him—pretty well, all things considered, comparatively that is, ha ha—but I won’t mention it. That thing we did. Twice, in fact. It was months ago—eons, even—and I want to forget it, but a poison balloon expands in my belly, and I hope he doesn’t start screaming about that, too. He’s still down there, after all, pounding on the floor, maybe quieter now, but I wish he’d shut up for good. All I want is to sleep, to drop into a dark hole and stay there forever, and I think Princess Diana has died, you asshole. It’s a tragedy. Go on and cry about THAT.

I guess I finally doze off because when we wake up, it’s noon and the sun comes through the clouds like a golden rose. The stairwell is quiet. Christopher doesn’t have a car, and I don’t know how he got home or even if he got home, but what I know is that he’s gone. In the outside world, beyond the window, a bird balances on the power line. I can just make out the oily sheen of its coat—its feathers?—its coat of feathers and I wonder what it’s like to fly away wherever you want. To just go somewhere and have quiet and sleep away the sticky crust that covers your eyeballs. 

She rolls over and yawns a big satisfying one, and I’m jealous.

“I’m hungry,” she says. “Let’s go to the restaurant. Go get Fitch.”

Outside, the sun is warm. The bird sings. Squirrels fuck. It’s a Mary Poppins morning. By the time we pull into the restaurant, my skull has fissured wide and the pain is immense. The only possible solution is to plug it with Advil and coffee and a mountain of corned beef hash. The lady at the restaurant seats us and serves the food. Fitch makes a mess like he always does, and it’s quiet for a while until she is like:

“What was that guy’s deal?”


“That guy. Christopher.” 

“I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe he can’t handle his beer. Maybe his dog died. Princess Diana’s dead. Maybe it’s that.”

“Maybe rent’s due,” says Fitch.

“Oooh. Maybe the Moon’s in conjunction with Jupiter,” she says.

“Saturn,” says Fitch.

I poke at the mountain of hash before me and let them go. It’s impossible to imagine their energy, this spark for idle chit-chat. We were in the same place, at the same time, with the same music and the alcohol and the shrieking. Maybe they are better at this than I am. Maybe I miscalculated. But that’s the thing about long nights: sometimes they get longer, then they escape you and you’re a hundred years into the future and you wonder what you did and why it’s weird. Not bad-weird; not always. Just removed from what’s normal. Sometimes, you even do a thing you don’t regret necessarily, but also don’t want pulled into the light of day. 

A car backfires in the street outside and I jump. When I look out the window there’s a bird on the wire here, too. It dances, it’s nervous, and I remember something I heard once, something about how birds don’t get zapped on the wire because both feet touch it at the same time. Do they ever sabotage each other? Can one bird push the other, knock him off balance, and break the circuit? Is there a secret contract to prohibit these things?

The girl turns to me. “What do you think?”

“About what?”

“Is he gay?”

“How would I know?”

“I can’t tell,” she says. She grips a potato wedge between thumb and forefinger and pops it between her lips.

“Why does it matter?”

“He is,” says Fitch. 

“How do you know?” she says.

“His voice,” says Fitch. He pulls a bottle from his jacket and twists the cap. “It’s not a stereotype. Reputable institutions have done studies.” He dumps pills into his palm in the most insipid way and I want to grab the bottle and throw it against the wall. Maybe I should chime in, just end this and say Yep, for sure—he’s one of ’em. Nailed it, as usual! Tie a bow on it or whatever, demolish the dots so that no one can ever connect them. Or—another option—I can run as hard and as fast as I can, simply disappear and put it all behind me. But I’m so fucking hung over and tired. I am battered, beaten, robbed of verve, and my joints are stone. Some guy on the radio tells me how fashion is a passion, and in this moment I hate him, the singer, with a passion that’s real.

“Are you frightened, Fitch?” she says. “Afraid he’s going to come to your room and sprinkle gay dust on you?” She twiddles her fingers.

“Not how it works,” says Fitch. 

She turns to me. “I think he, like, likes you or something. Like a little crush.” She rolls her eyes. Her lids are smeared with mascara. 

I press my fork into a lump of butter. It boils between the tines.

“It’s adorable,” she says.


“You are pretty cute.” She smiles and pokes my cheek. Fitch gulps his water. When he goes to put it down, he misses the table and the cup, cloudy and cracked from a zillion diners before, crashes to the floor. It bounces and clinks, and my head swells with a din like stones in a steel drum. The girl claps her hands and squeals, and every face in the restaurant turns to regard us, to lay judgement. A bead burns in my stomach so hot and heavy and I hiss:

“What the hell, man? What the fuck? So fucking smart about everything, huh? You are acting like children. The both of you. You talk about the stupidest shit. Just, I don’t know… inane shit. This is a fucking clown car, and we are careening off the edge of a cliff here. Get it together. Like, don’t you just feel terrible?”

Fitch looks at me, and the girl looks at me. She blinks, and the sun catches her lashes like the finest web of the most delicate spider. Oil glistens on the corner of her mouth and I don’t wipe it away. Fitch shakes his head and goes back to eating. I get up and go to the toilet, and when I return, they are both staring at the table like detectives searching for clues in the most confusing mess, the sun comes through the window in little sips, the bird on the wire is gone, and I just want to sleep.

Matthew Chabe‘s work has appeared in numerous literary publications, including The Coachella Review, Voices de la Luna, and Euphony Journal. He has contributed to national and regional publications such as Backpacker magazine,, and the Bangor Daily News, where he served as a senior and managing editor. His debut novel, “An Endless Setting Sun,” is currently seeking representation. A native of Bangor, Maine, he now resides abroad. Follow him on Instagram at @thematthewchabe or visit his website,