14 Vanity, Vanity; Vanity Is All

Peter Pentalent, ex-boyfriend and ex-roommate of Hans, trainer at a downtown gym

Peter Pentalent, ex-boyfriend and ex-roommate of Hans, trainer at a downtown gym

Peter Pentalent knew he was vain. Anyone could see he had a good reason to be, he boasted to himself, with a physique like his. Rob, his latest roommate, thought so right from the beginning, when he’d come in on a trial membership offer to the gym where Peter worked. Peter met a lot of guys that way.

Rob asked Peter to move in. Peter agreed to because he’d just left Hans, with all the booty he could cram into his little car and no place to stash it. Rob’s place had only street parking, not the cushy, underground heated parking space at the POPS.

But Peter did have a whole bedroom, plus a closet, all to himself. A bedroom had to have a closet. It was a mantra with Hans, that rule. Here at Rob’s large apartment there was even room for a desk, not that Peter had one. Hans would envy Peter having exactly what he’d had wanted all along, a two bedroom place. Big space, no amenities, low fees. In their tiny POPS condo, the smallest unit in the whole building, they’d argued all the time about what was office or what was living space. But Rob and Peter still had to share a bathroom.

“Where’s my conditioner?” Peter dripped in the bathroom hallway. “Hey, Rob! Did you move it?”

“Under the sink, maybe?”

“Tell me next time you move my stuff, okay?” Shivering, Peter retreated, his huffing only adding to the steamy warmth of the bathroom. Hans never touched his stuff, only ever argued about where everything should go. Peter was puzzled why Hans hadn’t ever asked him to move back, even asked him about the all the stuff he’d taken away to make him sorry for what he had done and what he had not done, and to finally figure out that he’d be much less healthy, too, without Peter looking there after him. Maybe he should surprise him, use the keys and walk in on him one night, see the look on his face, that is if Hans ever stopped reading long enough to pay attention. He was always reading something or other, never paying nearly enough attention to him. It was why Peter left. Well that, and the fights, when Hans did pay attention.

Rob’s attentiveness was of a certain and not always welcome kind. He talked a lot more than Hans ever did. In small words, too. Words Peter understood.

“Can you cook, or just work out?” asked Rob.

“I’m vegetarian. You?”

“Not sure. Don’t cook, so don’t know if I am, or not.” Hans wasn’t a vegetarian but he always ate what Peter dished up for him.

“I can bake. I make great banana bread. Really healthy.” Peter liked the same thing every Sunday. Banana bread. Not just plain banana bread but a loaf loaded with organic ingredients from the co-op, provided courtesy of Hans, whose freezer was likely still full of Peter’s attempts to perfect his recipe. Rob had no ingredients at all on his shelves.

“I’ll be eating out. Catch you later.” This was typical Rob. And so Peter increasingly diverted his slim salary into take-outs for one. He was putting on weight. He missed the extra workout sessions at the POPS though not the teasing Hans used to put him through, asking him why a personal trainer who exercised at work needed to come home and do more. Hans just didn’t get it.

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Peter reveled in any chance to display his charms, did it for the boost it gave to his morale and his pectorals, despite the drain of the monthly condo fees. Hans had never gone down with him to exercise, never seen the admiring glances Peter got from the other hopelessly and mis-shapen equipment users frequenting the room. Well, except for that bitch that lived right across across the hall from them. She looked good but it ended there. He was in a relationship, wouldn’t look at anybody else he’d assured Hans. They could still look at him, couldn’t they?

“Yo, Panties.” Peter liked the nickname Rob gave him. Hans called him ‘Sissy,’ though Peter never understood why. Hans said it was another word for vain. Hans always used big words. Words Peter missed.

“What?”

“Your rent’s overdue. Again.”

“Is it? I can’t keep up.”

“Never thought that was your problem. But I want the money, this time.” Peter felt Rob’s ardor cooling. He was about to accuse Rob of only ever doing anything for the money, of wanting Peter, wanting anybody to live there, just to split the costs. Instead, he tried on a different tack.

“Rob, ever think of getting a condo?” Peter figured it never hurt to ask. “Hans had a really nice one.”

“If you liked this guy and his place so much, what did you leave for? I’m sick of you talking about him all the time.”

“Don’t get like that. I’m here, aren’t I? But we don’t have to stay here forever, do we? I mean, what’s wrong with indoor parking, and a pool? Why can’t we have it all?”

“I can’t afford it. And we won’t be here either, much longer, if you don’t pay your half.”

Peter shrugged and left for work, forced to contemplate finding a new partner. There was another, newer possibility on the horizon. Rusty. Rusty, the redhead. He’d always had a thing about redheads. Blondes were next favorite on his list—Hans was blond, Rob just a plain Jane brown—but he could never leave a redhead alone. He wasn’t quite sure the way the wind was blowing with Rusty. He needed more time with him to figure that out but Rusty only came in to work out twice a week. He arrived in a very nice car. A good sign. More money where that came from.

“Hey Rusty, you ever consider upping your hours here, after your trial membership is over? It would increase your progress.” Peter addressed Rusty’s fitness, not his finances.

“Starting to walk here and back.”

“A start, yes, but twice a week would never be enough for me. When I lived at my old condo, I worked my shift here and then went home and used those facilities, too. And I’m in pretty good shape, wouldn’t you say?” He preened, striking a pose.

“Oh yeah, and where was this ‘old condo’ of yours?”

“At the POPS.”

“The where?”

“The Prospect on Prospect, over by the lake. It has a pool and a big exercise room with lots of equipment.”

“I’d like to get in there, to see it. Never knew anybody who lived there, ’til now.” Serendipity swept over Peter. He took the bull by the horns.

“Oh well, if that’s what you want Rusty, I can get take you there. I just need a little time to sort it out for us and I’ll let you know.”