More days than not lately, something with Caleb had been off. Sure, he still looked sharp in his expensive suits and still kept his dark blond hair as carefully groomed, but I knew better. I knew him, and could easily see something wasn’t right. I was one of the few people in the whole world that Caleb actually let in enough to see who he really was. Maybe even the only person.
The two of us met in the marines more than ten years ago. Initially, we hated each other’s guts. I thought he was pompous jackass who believed he was superior to everyone around him. I didn’t discover until later that was how he protected himself from getting hurt.
It wasn’t until our squad was on a hike and I’d sprained my ankle so badly I couldn’t walk on it that we became friends. He’d been ahead of me and turned around to help me limp to the finish line. Caleb could have finished the exercise with the best score, but he didn’t believe in leaving anyone behind, even someone he disliked during a training exercise.
We didn’t become close overnight, but we did gain mutual respect for each other. He realized how much I appreciated his help and how hard it was for me to accept after growing up the runt of five boys. Over time, he became my best friend and knew me better than anyone. I moved from Texas to Las Vegas for him when our service ended and even opened a business with him because he believed in it so much.
And now, I knew Caleb was suffering. We’d seen a lot of bad shit overseas, nightmare-inducing shit, Caleb never quite learned to deal with it the way I did. He dwelled on it all, while I developed a live and let live kind of attitude. First hand, I saw how short life was and I wanted to live it to the fullest while I still could.
Caleb’s diagnosis with PTSD wasn’t a surprise to me, though after living in denial for so long, I think the diagnosis surprised him.
We sat in silence for some time during which I saw his depression settle back onto him like a heavy snowfall. He sat slumped back on the couch with his eyes downcast and brow furrowed, staring down into his drink like it was a cure.
This wasn’t the first time I’d found him in my house like that. It’d been happening more and more. Caleb always attempted to cover it up with a smile and a joke, though I’m pretty sure he knew I could see through it. I tried to tell myself that meant he wasn’t too far gone, not if he still cared what I thought about him.
“Do you want to head to the club?” I asked, breaking the silence.
It took Caleb a moment to look up, but when he did, his face was lost until he could mask. “Nah,” he said, “I think I’m just going to take a nap. I’m pretty tired.”
“It must be tiring having the ladies throwing themselves at you all the time,” I joked. It was an old inside joke from back in the marines, just something stupid we’d say to each other. I hoped it would make him laugh.
He didn’t, though he did manage a smile. “It’s the blond hair. They can’t resist.”
“Why don’t you sleep here?” I suggested. “You can take my room. I won’t be using it for hours.”
I prayed Caleb said yes. Though I didn’t know if he’d ever do anything to himself, I still didn’t like the idea of him being locked in his house, a slave to his own mind.
Caleb thought about it. “That’s a good idea,” he eventually replied. “I’m too tired to drive right now.”
“Cool. I’m going to the club for a few hours–I have a mountain of paperwork waiting for me–and when I get back, we can order some food. How does that sound?”
His mouth spread in the approximation of a smile. “Sounds great.”
We headed to my bedroom and he stripped down to his undershirt and boxers before flopping on my bed. “Thanks for everything, Jack,” he said, closing his eyes.
“Of course,” I replied. “You know I’d do anything for you.”
He didn’t say anything, probably uncomfortable by the sincerity of my words, but he nodded and settled in.
I walked into the bathroom right off my bedroom and turned the shower on and disrobed, tossing the dirty clothes in the hamper.
The shower was divine. As a six-feet, four-inches tall weightlifter, I’m a pretty big guy and tend to work up a huge sweat running in the afternoon Las Vegas heat.
The warm water soothed the ache in my muscles, loosening them up. I lingered in the shower a few minutes longer than I needed to before forcing myself to get out. After drying off, I wrapped a towel around my waist and walked back into my bedroom to grab clean clothes.