Triptychs – Chapter 29
And so, my bizarre, bipolar, schizoid-life rolled on. Filled with some of the highest of highs – mostly centered around Noah – and, the lowest of lows. Which were centered around my asswipe father, of course.
I know ‘schizoid’ is wrong. Schizophrenia has nothing to do with multiple-personality disorder; it’s a real, serious mental illness, which hits young men, a lot – men around my age, actually – and it’s marked by delusions, and paranoia –
Come to think of it, maybe ‘schizoid’ did describe my life, right then. Pretty well, actually.
The night after that time at the ballpark with Noah – that time, that I learned so much about him – the night after, I was hunting for my dad, again.
The contrast was almost, almost enough to make me laugh.
Well, okay. I had to have SOMETHING to laugh about, in this whole reeking situation; right - ? There wasn’t much else.
It’d finally penetrated my skull, late, that maybe, just maybe – my dad still had access to that little car, the one with the one-dim-headlight.
The one I’d almost run down.
If my dad DID have access to it – and I couldn’t believe that he OWNED it, not unless somebody bought it for him; that’s just not his M.O. – if he had access to it, maybe, must maybe, he was hanging out in a bar a little farther away. Not-in-easy-walking-distance, farther away.
That he was hanging out in a bar, someplace, I didn’t doubt for a second. Driving, or not. Driving sober, or not; that’s his M.O. too, literally his M.O. He had a couple of DUI’s, Driving Under the Influence arrests that we knew about . . .
My mom had the truck with her, in Stockton; it was Friday night. So I went looking for him, on my bike. My bicycle.
And all in all, that gave me some advantages . . . like, it kept me off the sidewalk; mobile, faster than somebody on foot. In that sense, I was safer. That boxcutter in my pocket was just a little less likely to be needed, now.
But it had some disadvantages.
For one thing, the dark; and the weather. The usual, February, it’s either raining or about-to-rain; the cold, and the dark. Me, cycling on slippery, dark, city streets. Conditions were about as dangerous as you could get, for being out on two wheels and pedals.
And then, of course, there was the extra added, dad-factor.
Before I set out tonight, just like I’d done every other night that I’d cycled – I’d spent some long minutes, looking out the front windows, at the street; looking for small cars, looking for movement . . . just in case.
And when I’d rolled my bike out to the street, I’d mounted up, and done a quick, up-and-down run, both sides; looking into parked cars, looking to draw him out from a side street, maybe, if he was lurking there, waiting. Me, prepared to dump the bike, if I had to, and dodge between some parked cars –
After all, he knew where to find us. To find ME. And I didn’t know where to find HIM.
Which was the whole point of what I was doing, tonight.
Downhill, now, on a dark, wet, tree-lined street; going the wrong way on a one-way street, actually, just in case; again. Berkeley’s a great city for a bicyclist to lose a tail in a car, it’s a maze of one-way streets, and traffic circles and barriers . . .
The road water pelting my shoes, my bare ankles; drops of spray, in my headlight. I was going to be filthy-black wet, by the time I got home.
Me, thinking the usual, endless, useless thoughts.
Things like – well, what I’d almost done to my dad; the filmstrip of that, kept trying to play itself through my head, although I was getting better at pushing it away, keeping it in place . . .
But. I already knew, it was going to be one of those bad, vivid memories, one of those dark things that would come back to me, back AT me, time after time, during my really black times. I knew it.
I could push it away, though, I could, and I did . . . but that, in turn, led to the next step, the useless, endless speculation.
As in; was my dad still – a threat?
I mean, he’d been in that other car, he’d seen what I’d almost pulled . . . he saw it way up close, and if it scared me, it sure as FUCK must have scared him. He’d been on the receiving end; he’d almost died . . . it must have scared the living shit out of him.
I’d never stood up to him, before; not like that. Not violently. Not physically. My mom and I had never been a physical threat to him, before. Was there any chance, that I’d – scared him off - ?
The screech of the tires, again, in my head; the stench of burnt rubber, a stench like nothing else on earth . . .
I slowed, at an intersection, looking both ways; no traffic, no headlights. No mismatched headlights, most importantly. I cruised through it, the splash of bike tires in wet puddles, the pings of spray, on my bare ankles.
I didn’t think so. I didn’t think it would scare my dad off; not permanently, anyway.
He got off on what he was doing to my mom. He got off on it, I was pretty sure, I really did think he was getting his rocks off, every time he did something to scare her . . . I knew him. Yeah; I was sure.
Fuck me. Fuck me, hard.
I really needed to find him. And then, the only question was – did my bastard-shit plan have a chance in hell of working - ?
Because, if it didn’t –
No. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to think of that, yet.
So, four bars that night. Four bars I’d googled, and done a little research on . . . and he wasn’t there. His car, as best I could remember it, wasn’t around any of them.
Results not guaranteed. Past performance is no indicator of future results.
Still. It was a process. There were only so many dive bars, in Alameda County. And tomorrow night, was another night . . .
* * *
So, those were the lows.
And then, there were the highs.
The highs tended to happen at school, on campus; and they seemed to hit when Noah and I were together. Well, duh.
The thing is, though – it wasn’t like before, between us.
I mean – the time before, when we’d just started – that had been pretty cool, it’d been good . . . kind of scary-exciting, and tentative on my side, and sort of deliciously-new, all overlaid with me worried about fucking him up –
Okay. Okay, so maybe I was still worried about that. Maybe it was the single, biggest doubt I still had about – us . . .
No, things were definitely different, between Noah and me; we’d gotten so much closer, we’d grown so CLOSE –
“Anything - ?” from Noah, at the Student Union coffee bar, the Monday morning after my latest crap-out of a bar-crawl search for my dad –
Yeah. I’d told him.
Well, actually, he’d figured it out; why I was never available Friday or Saturday nights, why I was so tired Sundays, when we usually got together . . .
I shrugged, a little. “No,” I went, simply; and I could just feel Noah scanning my face, intently –
He’d actually been mad at me, when he found out what I was pulling.
THAT was a new experience.
It’s not that he raised his voice, or anything; no. He’d just gone real quiet, for a couple of minutes – me, waiting, blinking; feeling absurdly guilty, like I’d done something wrong –
And then, still quietly, using well-chosen, reasonable words, more words than he usually used in a week, he’d told me exactly how stupid I was being, how much of an idiot I was, how much danger I was putting myself into –
And then, of course, he’d demanded to come with me.
“Or Cole,” he’d said. “Or Jeremy. Or all three of us; that would be best. But don’t go alone, god damn it!”
It was the first time I’d ever heard him swear, use profanity . . . .
No. No, wait; it was the second time.
I’d turned him down, gently. Like I said; it’s family business; and it’s my father. My blood.
“And what are you going to do when you find him? What possible good is it going to do, for you or your mother - ?” from Noah, after that; still attacking, however carefully, however reasonably.
“I’ll know where he hangs,” I’d said; off-guard, unprepared. “I’ll add it to our police file . . . and I’ll maybe know where to serve the restraining order . . . ”
Yeah. It was a lie . . . another lie. I had my plan, my plans; but there was no way I could possibly tell him. For his sake; fuck me, for my sake too, maybe. But definitely for his sake . . .
Yeah, Noah knew about my weekend Dad-hunts; and he wasn’t at all happy about them.
But we came up with a compromise. Before going out each night, I had to call or text him; and when I got home, I had to call or text him. And he got my mom’s cell number, and Cole’s, and my Uncle Ryan’s land-line number in Stockton; and if he didn’t hear from me by three in the morning – an hour after the bars closed – he’d raise holy hell with all three of them.
And, the GPS on my phone had to be enabled; which I don’t usually like to do. But it made sense; I had to admit.
And so, that’s how, at the end of the day, I wound up sharing a secret with Noah, that I hadn’t even shared with Cole. A piece of me, actually, and not a very attractive piece, that I hadn’t shared with Cole . . .
It was a weird feeling.
* * *
So that particular exchange, that particular time between us, didn’t exactly qualify as one of those, highs. Although, the concern on his face, that quiet anger on his face, as we’d gone around and around on the issue . . .
No, the real highs came from just being together; at work in the bookstore, in our Learning Group, and especially, hanging out, on campus . . . Simple, everyday times; just being near each other.
Like I said, things had changed, between us. Instead of the shy, sideways-looks I used to get from him, now, more and more often, it was a full-on smile; still a little shy, and knowing, with a kind of self-aware irony that was all Noah –
But most importantly of all, it was mostly a full-on, happy smile, these days. Overwhelmingly, happy.
Seeing Noah’s smile was like feeling a burst of warm sunshine; sometimes, when he smiled at me, he just glowed, and I could feel myself beam back at him, grinning, I so couldn’t help myself.
Nobody’d ever fallen in love with me, before. I’d never LET anybody fall in love with me, before. And in place of that growing comfort I’d felt with him, before, or on top of that comfort, anyway – now, my heart beat faster around him, and things just seemed, charged, along with the happiness . . .
Weirdly enough, oddly enough, in spite of all the ways we were changing – I didn’t get a lot more words out of him. And that alone, of course, was hilarious; I caught myself laughing at it, laughing with him about it, in a good way; often enough. I mean, it WAS hilarious.
No, he still used his words just as sparingly; in a way that was pure Noah. Pure Noah. Instead, it was the tilt of his head, his expressions, the whole, complex range of thoughts and emotions he could express, just with his face, his look . . .
Maybe I was reading him better. Maybe I was reading him, for the first time.
Maybe we both could be read . . . there was no way we could keep this secret, from our classmates, our workmates. Well, there really wasn’t any way, even before; but now –
I knew it; I knew it. But I let it slide.
When I pitched the idea of the documentary to him, I’d told him to sleep on it; to talk to his brother first, hell, to talk to as many of his old teammates as he could, first. I tried to impress on him, how complicated the whole thing would be, how intrusive it might wind up being . . .
He’d given me a complex, questioning Noah-look.
“Of course they’ll say yes. They’ve already seen your photos; they’re beautiful.” I watched him try to find the words. “To get their season on film – of course they’ll want to do that. Of COURSE they will. They already play for stands full of people, the more, the better.”
“But this won’t be like that,” I went, gently. “What I’m planning isn’t really a baseball documentary, an ESPN feature. It’s a lot more personal. It’s going to be more about your teammates – your brother’s teammates, I mean. It’s mostly going to be personal interviews, really up-close, personal interviews with as many of them as I can get . . . with views of practices, and the games, cut between them.” I looked at him, trying to get him to see it. “It’ll be a little bit like getting naked on YouTube; emotionally, anyway.” I paused. “You know - ?”
We’d been in the main library, in a study area; he’d just looked back at me, part-stubborn, part uncomprehending. A beam of sunlight from the window to his left shone on his face, turning his blue eyes liquid, his slender face, beautiful. To me, anyway.
“Here”, I’d said. I sorted through some files on my MacBook, found the one I was looking for, and launched it. I poked through it for a couple of seconds – I knew it by heart, I knew it better than my own face in the mirror, scar and all – then I’d pulled my earbuds out of my pocket, hooked them up, and I turned the notebook around to face him.
His eyes questioned me.
“This is my high-school graduation project,” I’d told him. “You remember me talking about it? It’s a documentary; about skateboarders, about a group of kids who hang out at the Berkeley Skate Park.” I looked at him, intently. “I’ll burn a copy for you; and, you should show it to your brother, and his teammates . . . ”
Those blue eyes, on mine.
“This is the kind of work I do. This is what our film will look like, when it’s done. It gets . . . personal. Revealing. For the kids in the film, I mean.” I tilted my head, a little, and grinned at him; a little weakly. “Go ahead . . . take a look. Just for starters . . . ”
A dubious look, from Noah; and a little head-tilt of his own, that meant, he’d try it. I watched, as he slipped the earbuds in, and clicked on the ‘play’ button. His eyes flicked open, and I saw the glow of the screen on the shadowed part of his face . . .
Okay. Here’s the thing.
People . . . most people . . . just don’t understand, how powerful the camera in a documentary really is. When it comes to interviews; when it comes to talking.
I mean, usually, in real life, when we talk, when we have conversations – it’s interactive; it’s back and forth, two or more people interacting with each other, thinking what to say next, watching for the other person’s reactions . . . it’s a process; and it’s easy to miss a lot. We actually screen out, a lot; it’s part of the process.
But in a documentary, the camera misses – NOTHING. Every word, every twitch of expression, every pause – it’s all there, in glorious close-up.
It’s twice, it’s ten times, more intimate than a face-to-face conversation. It’s revealing as hell, and it’s why ‘Sixty Minutes’ has been a hit show since way before I was born. Since almost before my mom was born.
Well, actually, there’s another reason why ‘Sixty Minutes’ is popular. Why it’s such a striking, interesting show to watch.
It’s the editing.
If you ever want to, or need to, get interviewed on camera, for whatever reason – there’s something you should know.
Basically – you’re putting yourself, your reputation, maybe your future, in the hands of the filmmaker. Meaning, really, the editor.
I mean it. The people doing the filming, and the editing – they can make you sympathetic, or they can make you a monster; they can make you look brilliant, or stupid, or like a liar, just by tweaking the lighting, or cutting out a sentence here, or including awkward pauses, or holding the camera on your face one beat, two beats, three beats too long, as your smile starts to fade . . .
I’m not saying ‘Sixty Minutes’ does that, necessarily –
I’m not saying it doesn’t.
I WILL say, that some filmmakers really, really like to show people at their worst, they get off on making people look ridiculous, and you have no idea how EASY it is, to do –
And I don’t do that. I don’t.
I think people are basically, in essence, beautiful . . . I mean, there’s something beautiful, and worthy, and worth exploring in most people; there sure as hell was a lot of beauty, and worth, and love, and fascinating detail, in the lives of the skateboarder kids at the Berkeley Skate Park –
And I think I did a decent job of capturing it all.
Some other people thought so, too, actually. I got some A’s for the project; and a couple of outside awards. And the school still mentions it, has a copy of it up, in the ‘achievements’ part of its website.
Still. I think – I KNOW – I can do better. I will.
But, before going ahead – it was important that Noah understand, what he was getting his team, into. What he was getting his brother, into. And, that February day, as he watched the interviews in my old documentary, and as I watched the reactions, the complicated play of subtle reactions, in his face, I could only hope that he’d get it.
That they’d all, get it; understand. Because, these weren’t just some stranger-kids whose lives I’d be filming; it was Noah’s family, really, his extended family.
And I wouldn’t do anything, anything in the world, to hurt Noah.
* * *
So. Highs and lows, alternating, one after another; Schizoid-Life, playing itself out, all that month of February.
Highs and lows; beginning, and endings, too.
Endings, as in Erik, and the inevitable Exit Interview, the formal end to whatever we’d had; I’d put it off as long as I could, a lot longer than I should’ve, and finally, it just, kind-of, happened.
Like I said; we’d grown up together, we had a whole community of friends and family members in common – like Cole; like Jason – and, it needed to be done; it needed to be finished. We both knew it.
We got together at Strada, this famous coffee shop in Berkeley. Berkeley; as in, neutral ground; part of our shared experience, growing up; and, miles and miles away from Erik and Jason’s apartment, and Erik’s bedroom.
It was a wet, soaking-wet Sunday morning as I made my way up to Strada. A soaking-wet, rainy, Sunday morning, after a soaking-wet, Saturday night; a typical winter storm, the gutters running fast with rain, wind blowing sheets of rain sideways, across the street.
Well, that had one upside, I thought, as I leaned against the wind; the water running off my rain jacket.
I’d actually had enough sleep, for once in my life, for once in my recent, Saturday-night-life. It’d been way too wet, and wild, to go out looking for my dad; on my bike, or even on foot. Hell, I’d lay odds he’d stayed home, wherever ‘home’ was, for him, with a bottle of whiskey and his own right hand for company. Probably with a copy of ‘Domestic Abusers Monthly’ for company, too; I could just imagine the article titles, the table of contents –
No; no. Just, no.
I got to Strada, pretty well soaked below the waist, right at eleven in the morning.
And as I pushed the hood back from my face, and wiped the wet hair out of my eyes, and began scanning tables – I tried to keep from grinning.
I knew Erik would be there, waiting; I KNEW Erik, I knew his ways, his methods, he’d have gotten there early to stake out a good table, to wait for me, to be in control of the situation – he’d been like that our whole lives –
And of course, I was right.
“Hey, Trev,” from him; rising up from the little coffee table as I came in, streaming rivers of water from my coat, my clothes –
And for one, quick second, I thought about giving him a big hug, me in my sopping-wet clothes . . . I SO had the image of doing that, in my head . . . and I didn’t, of course, but it was enough to make me grin, really big, as I came to the table.
I think that grin made Erik a little – uncomfortable, maybe; he blinked at me, for a couple of beats.
But then I was getting out of my coat, trying not to spray water all over the place, and not exactly succeeding, and my grin turned kind of rueful because it was all kind of ridiculous-funny, and Erik helped me, some – and as he did, he leaned in and kissed me, gently, on the cheek.
And as I sat down at the little table, with the coffee smells and the steamed windows and the clash of knives and forks and spoons on dishes – he gave me one of his Hollywood-smiles. Only, it was kind of a Modified Hollywood Smile; a little subdued, a little sheepish.
“So, what’ll you have - ?” he started; then he stopped, a second. Green eyes, looking at me under his straight black hair. “No, wait. Your usual - ?”
“Uh-huh. Cappuccino and a blueberry muffin.” I grinned over at him. “And you’ll have a large coffee, room for cream, and a poppy seed bagel, toasted, with cream cheese.” I fished for my wallet.
“No; no, this one’s on me.” And he was up out of his chair, before I could stop him; all in dark, adult-looking clothes, as usual, over his muscular, wrestler’s body –
It was all a lot easier, a lot less awkward, than I’d figured.
Actually, no – it was good. It was good to reconnect, it was like reconnecting with a piece of my past, but it was such an IMPORTANT piece . . . after all, we had years of shared history, years of experience in common.
Well, a lot of that experience, I had to admit, was Jason and Cole and me being pain-in-the-ass kids. Erik’s kid brother and his equally snot-nosed friends; like, when we went snarking and interfering with Erik’s first-ever Real Date, for instance –
I winced, at that one.
“Oh, sh . . . Oh. I’d forgotten about that.” I shook my head. “I can’t BELIEVE we did that to you.”
Those green eyes of Erik’s on mine, sardonic. “I couldn’t believe it either. While you were doing it. But Jason sure as hell believed what I did to him, when I got home that night.”
Erik had been sixteen, going out on his first real date, with a college boy, really anxious to come off as adult and mature . . . I could still see him, in my head; dark, well-groomed, even back then he’d been a sharp dresser, a kind of adult-dresser . . .
And Jason and Cole and me had been thirteen, and little fucks; we thought we were so, so funny. We’d all been on our skateboards; we’d kind of followed them, at a safe distance; hanging out, watching them, Erik and his grown-up date together, the three of us snarking with each other . . .
Making sure Erik knew we were there. Oh, fuck-me, we’d cracked each other up - !
The climax was at the little restaurant where they’d had dinner. Erik was facing the window; Jason and Cole and me parked ourselves outside the window, on the other side of the street, watching, and laughing, openly –
And at one point the three of us had lined up, front-to-back, holding each other’s waists, making big, simulated humping motions –
And as I remembered that part, looking into Erik’s eyes – I just lost it, I started spluttering with laughter, then covering my mouth, then busting out laughing, all over again.
“I’m sorry!” I went; then more laughter, and “I’m so sorry! I can’t believe we did that - !”
“Yeah, well,” Erik said, smiling, then looking away, a little; then back. A pause. “I’ll tell you a secret. I was pissed off, at the time . . . but it actually was pretty funny.” He raised his eyebrows, a fraction. His mouth twitched. “It really was.”
“Easy to say, all these years later.” I remembered how mad he’d been at Jason, after.
“Yeah . . . maybe.” I could see in his face, he was remembering the same thing. He shrugged. “Well, if you’d told me back then, I’d be sharing an apartment with Jason today, I’d have said you were insane.”
“Uh-huh,” I went; smiling at him, smiling at the both of them, really.
And then, as I watched . . . his face changed. That Hollywood-look getting a little long, a little serious; I could see him take a breath. He looked over at me, a little sideways.
“Actually . . . It’s not just me and Jason, anymore. We’ve got someone else living with us, now.” He paused, for just a second. A long second. “Well . . . it’s more like he’s living with me, than with the both of us . . . ”
I almost, almost grinned, at the awkward way he put it . . . but.
In the end, it was sympathy for him, and compassion, that won out. I mean, what he was doing wasn’t easy; you know - ? And, it was so, so the adult thing to be doing; right - ?
“Let me guess. Is he a little shorter than you?” I felt myself beginning to lose it, beginning to grin, in spite of myself; I just couldn’t resist. “Short brown hair, broad shoulders, lots of muscles; he likes tight shirts - ?”
“What the – ” His mouth was open, a second, then it snapped shut. “Did that little shit of a brother of mine – ”
“No, no, no.” I reached out and touched his arm; already sorry for shooting my mouth off. Fuck-me. “No, nothing like that . . . After our last date, at your place, I saw you guys together . . . ”
And I told him the whole story – well, the expurgated version of the story anyway – of me having some food at Cafe Reverie on Cole Street, as he and Jason and this other guy walked by, to the streetcar stop, on the way to their date.
I left out, how it all felt. I left out my own reactions; the pain. Hey, Erik’s not the only one who can be adult, on occasion.
“Ooooohhh, no . . . Oh, no, no.” Erik’s face went down into his hands; his head went from side to side, a little; slowly. “Oh, fuck . . . I’m so sorry, Trev.” His hands came down, and there was real pain in his eyes, as he looked up at me. “I wouldn’t ever – ”
“Hey. Hey,” I went; and I reached over, and put my hand over both of his, and I squeezed. “That’s okay; it’s okay. It was a long time ago. And I know it wasn’t deliberate, or anything.” I gave his hands an extra squeeze, and I tried for a crooked smile. “So, tell me about him - ?”
Those green eyes, looking at me, a little mournfully; and it was real, and I was all-at-once aware of the warm of his hands, under mine, and I pulled my hand back.
Erik looked away, a beat, then back at me, still a little sad, a little sheepish.
“C’mon,” I said. Another crooked grin. “I’ll tell you about mine, if you tell me about yours - ?”
A bloom of understanding, on Erik’s face. Maybe a just-slightly-complicated bloom of understanding?
I nodded. “Uh-huh.” A bigger grin on my face, now, I could feel it.
He looked off to one side, for a couple of beats; a couple of breaths, and then back at me, with a small smile.
“Okay . . . okay, I’ll hold you to that.” He paused, a long second. “His name’s Patrick, like your uncle . . . and he’s another student at SFSU, San Francisco State; he’s a senior, like me. We met in class, last year. And, you know – it all, just, kind of happened . . . ” A kind of complicated shrug from him, not-quite-meeting my eyes.
“Yeah,” I went. “It usually does . . . ” I watched him, as he winced, just a little, and I was sorry again. Me and my mouth; you know? “So,” I went, quick, to cover over it, “What’s his major? Psych, like you - ?”
Another expression from Erik. “No . . . no. Physio; as in, physiology. He’s going to get a master’s in Physio, and do Physical Therapy.”
I blinked at him for a couple of seconds; and then, as the realization hit, I just couldn’t help it, I felt my face splitting into a huge grin, and then I was trying, hard, not to laugh, I REALLY was –
“Physical Therapy - ? Would that include, massage therapy - ?”
A Hollywood-look on his face; embarrassment, chagrin, overlaid on the handsome. “Yeah . . . ”
And I lost it. Remembering the hot-oil massage I’d gotten on my last date with Erik, the wildly-sensual hot-oil massage that’d come out of nowhere – I’d thought –
And I could see him remembering the same thing, and the same day, and what came after – me seeing him with Patrick, Patrick giving him the shoulder-rub . . . so as soon as I could, after my laughter died down a little, I reached over one more time, to squeeze his hand. Hey, I wanted everything to be okay between us, you know?
So, after that, I told him about Noah.
And THAT was a slightly-weirder experience than I’d expected. I mean – he listened, close, intent, caring, as I told him about Noah’s Catholicism, his baseball, team-captain past, and, and, really WHO he was, how he didn’t talk so much, except with his expressions –
And I was really aware, as I talked – of our past. Erik’s and mine.
I mean, after all – the last time I’d seen Erik, before today . . . had been that Hot-Oil-Massage-Incident. Naked.
He’d been inside me.
He’d made me come, while he was inside me, he’d made me come really well, really FUCKING well . . . and here he was, all concerned, grown-up, nicely-dressed . . .
I was thinking, I could remember the feel of his body . . . I could remember, how he tasted.
Schizoid-life, on a whole new plane.
I came to a stop, finally; and he just looked at me, for a couple of seconds, and there was something – I don’t know; gentle, maybe in his face.
“So, you’re really solid? You’re really a couple - ?” he went, finally.
I didn’t even have to think about it; and that surprised me. “Yeah . . . Yeah.” I grinned, a little shame-facedly. “We’re actually getting together, this afternoon.” At the hot-tub place, I didn’t say.
The gentle look bloomed into a smile, a small one; with maybe just a tinge of that mournfulness, in it.
“He is one lucky boy . . . he really is.” His eyes said, he meant it.
And, I don’t know, just the idea of anyone being lucky, to be dating me –
He saw my reaction.
“Trev . . . hey.” This time his hand came out, and held mine. “Listen; I’m going to tell you something – ” And then, something in his face changed; and he looked aside for a couple of beats. “Although, I don’t know if I should . . . ” He let go of my hand.
“What - ?” I went, cautiously.
Nothing from Erik, for a couple of seconds; then he looked at me, really direct.
“Okay; okay. This gets pretty personal, but you really should know it.” A short pause, from him. “When we were growing up . . . all those years, when you were supposed to have a thing for me, and I totally ignored you - ?”
I just blinked at him; dumfounded. ‘Supposed to have’ a thing for him - ?
He nodded, at the look on my face. “Yeah; yeah. I just want you to know – I wasn’t really ignoring you, all that time. I was noticing you.” A long pause. “I was noticing you. And, if you’d been just a little more available, back then – and if I weren’t already kind-of dating Patrick, when we finally hooked up at that pool party . . . ” He trailed off, for a second, and looked away; and then, back in my eyes. “Well. Things might have gone a lot differently.” His face softened, a little. “They almost did, anyway . . . ”
Oh, fuck me. Oh, fuck me, hard.
“You – knew?”
I couldn’t add the words that I should. ‘About me loving Cole. About me being hung up on Cole, for years.’
He was watching me, close; and there was something like compassion in his face.
“I saw both of you together, all the time . . . I’ve got eyes.”
Oh, fuck me.
I’ve had shocks, in my life, I’ve had some times – but I’d never felt so naked. So utterly, thoroughly, I’m-totally-fucked, naked.
And he saw that in my face too, of course. His hand came out to squeeze mine, again. “Oh, fuck, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything – ” His face, all scrunched-up, concerned –
“No, no, it’s okay.” I shook my head.
“I’ve never said anything to anybody else. Jason’s totally clueless. It’s just, like I said – I was paying attention.” A pause, for a second; and, a complicated expression on his face. “And, I wanted you to know, I was paying attention . . . ”
I just blinked over at him, for a few beats; big, Hollywood-beautiful Erik, with all our shared past, and now with all our might-have-beens; me, trying to deal with it.
Yeah; an ending. I knew I’d see him again, maybe even more, now; probably even more. And I figured, maybe we’d be friends, real friends, now, instead of, well, what we were.
But it was a Moment, it was a passage. And he was the only other person on earth who knew about me. Well, who knew about me and Cole, about how I felt for Cole, all those years.
I leaned across the little table, in all my gratitude, in all my confusion, and I kissed him on the cheek, fast; and I squeezed his hand, in mine.
“Thank you,” I managed to say. And I think it came out, a little funny.
* * *
So. Lows, and highs. Endings, and beginnings.
Highs . . . Unexpected highs, that changed things.
Three hours later; with Noah, at the hot-tub place in Berkeley.
The two of us, on our sides, on the deck; facing each other. Touching each other; warm, wet, naked, safe. Intimate.
We’d already come once, the first, frantic orgasm that happened whenever we got together, like this . . . now we were resting, catching our breath, getting ready for the next time.
Touching. Caressing. Kissing.
Noah, propped up on his elbow, looking down at me, a little . . . his curly black hair wet, slicked-back, almost-flat; the light from the frosted windows turning his blue eyes liquid; luminous.
His hard dick, wrapped comfortably in my hand; my top leg, over his.
And his face, as he looked down at me . . . oh, fuck-me. His face was full of wonder; mouth a little open, rapt. Shining.
And as I looked back up at him, wordless – he leaned down and kissed me, gently, on the lips . . . nuzzling me with his lips, the barest taste of his tongue on mine, the WARM of his lips, moving against mine, wet against mine, between mine –
Then back up and away from me, again; those luminous eyes, searching mine . . . and his free hand came up, and his fingers gently, gently began tracing my face, the contours of my face . . . his eyes, just full of wonder . . .
The steam from the hot tub, rising up in back of him; the sheer wonder in his eyes; the feel of his fingertips, soft on my face, searching my face –
Cole’s words, coming back to me. Erik’s words, from just now, coming back to me.
Maybe . . .
Maybe, I should trust those words.
Maybe, I wouldn’t be toxic, to Noah. Maybe I wouldn’t be bad, for him. Maybe . . . I should trust his judgment; trust whatever the fuck he saw in me.
His warm, hard dick, in my hand; his fingertips tracing the outlines of my face . . . Wordless. Rapt. Intense. Quintessentially Noah –
It was the single most erotic experience in my life, so far.
It was the single most intense experience in my life. Most loving experience, in my life.
Maybe it was okay, to let Noah love me.
Maybe it was okay, to love Noah back; the way he deserved.
Maybe I could try, to let it happen.
Maybe - ?
More steam, from the hot water; I squeezed his dick, just lightly, and he shivered. Those blue eyes on mine, silent, intense. Scary. Loving.
* * *
And so, the gods or goddesses having a sense of humor – or at least, some appreciation for contrasts – the very next time I went out looking for my dad, I found him.
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