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I lean against him, one hand around his waist. He’s mostly quiet now, except for his sniffles punctuating the silence of our living room. The warm Florida sunlight streaming in through the windows is making me sleepy. I close my eyes, doing my best to emanate calmness and serenity. It took me nearly twenty minutes to get him to calm down, my boyfriend was that upset.

I was just congratulating myself on my ability to recover from such a turn of events when Quint’s thin facade crumbled again. I felt his shoulders tremble first. I opened my eyes and turned my head slightly him, just enough time to see his bottom lip tremble but not enough time to react.
“My gecko,” he wailed through a tight throat, and fresh tears began to fall. “My poor little Shovel.” He burst into fresh sobs.
“Oookay come here,” I cooed, using my hand on his waist to guide him sideways and into my arms. Quint crawled into my embrace and set to work on soaking my shirt again. I held him tight, wishing I could do something – anything – to lessen his pain.

The shock of coming back from a trip to the post office to find the little guy deceased had sunk in now, and Quint was now ruminating in his grief. I kissed his temple and rocked him. “Oh my poor baby.”
“I already miss him so much,” Quint babbled. “I am never gonna see his smiling face when I come to see him again. I’m never going to feed him another mealworm again, or watch him climb up the glass like Spiderman… he was just such a bro. Watching TV is never going to be same without him. He loved hockey.”
I try not to laugh. It’s not the right time. “Aww honey. Shovel had an excellent life with you. You said he was old wasn’t it?”
Quint nodded as he blew his nose with a tissue he pulled from the box to his side. “He was old for a leopard gecko. He was 17. I had him since I was 11. He was my birthday gift for getting straight As in school. I spent more of half my life with with-” At the end of that sentence, Quint’s voice goes up into a falsetto and clings to me hard, still crying. Shit, I shouldn’t have said that.
“There, there,” I say, knowing my words won’t do a thing.
“I had gotten him some new stuff for his terrarium for Christmas. What do I do with it now?”
“You can donate it to a reptile rescue, so some other lizard will get a nice life in Shovel’s name.”
I can’t tell if that upset Quint or made him happier, but the waterworks are in full gush mode right now. I hug him until I’m worried his ribs are going to break. My heart hurts for my boyfriend and I feel a little helpless that I can’t make this suck less.

Quint sniffles. “Two days before Christmas…why…”
“He just decided it was time,” I explain. “Shovel was very lucky to have you. I don’t want you blaming yourself now. He knew your schedule well. I think he passed when you were out at the post office because he couldn’t do it while you were around. Shovel knew how much you loved him.”
“Y-you think so?”
“Yes,” I say, with a nod. “He was an old gecko. He just took a nap and went. I’d say that’s the best you could have hoped for right? No pain, no lingering illness…”
“I loved that gecko.” Quint pauses for a loud hiccup. “I knew this was coming one day. I just thought there would be a sign…”
“Being 17 was a sign, love.” I insist.
“Still. I wanted more time,” Quint whines. He still hasn’t let go of me.
“I know, baby, but that wouldn’t be fair to Shovel. Shovel couldn’t give you more than that. He gave you all he could.”
Quint is quiet for a long moment, thinking about his beloved pet. “You are such a wonderful boyfriend, Marcus,” he says, surprising me. “I am blubbering like an idiot and crying all over you and you’re just putting up with me.”
“It’s part of loving you,” I say. “Being in a relationship means that you don’t just get the fun times and good sex-”
“Yeah the sex is pretty damn good,” admits Quint.
I chuff through my nose. “It is. But it also means being there when you need someone to get you through hard times. Shovel was part of our family. I’m not a total dick. I will put black bunting on his terrarium in mourning, if you want, and we can have a lovely funeral for the little guy.”
“Oh, I’d like that! I’d like that a lot.” Quint kisses me on the lips, then rests his head on my shoulder. “You are getting so many good boyfriend points right now.”
I smile. “Does that mean I’m getting extra Christmas presents?”
“Oh, it definitely does. And I’ll even let you be the little spoon in bed when we sleep.”
“Oh ho, I am a good boy on Santa’s list this year huh?”
Quint nods once more. “Uh-huh. Very good. God, I love you, Marcus.”
“I love you too, Quint. Why don’t we get you something cool to drink and you can wash your face?”
“Oh vodka. I need vodka.”
I laugh. “11 am vodka it is. A drink in Shovel’s memory?”
“To Shovel,” Quint agrees, all red-eyed and drained of energy.

I pat my lover on the shoulder, help him get up, and walk him to the kitchen. Again, I applaud myself for how well I handled the situation. I had been dangerously close to thinking Quint might be “the one”, but there were a few last tests to be done before I could make such a declaration. I was pretty sure we passed this one. There were a few more tests left, like talking about having children, and then I would know for sure if Quint could be mine for good. I was looking forward to them, because I was confident everything would work in our favor. I was confident in our love, because nothing could stop me from feeling the way I did about Quint – on good days, or bad ones.

Text is fictional.


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