This story contains poignant descriptions of male same-sex relationships which may be offensive to some readers. If such a matter is illegal for you, or unacceptable in your community, you should not read this or any other of the author’s stories.
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I wish to thank my fantastic editor Rubilacxe from Connecticut for suggesting edits and double proofreading.
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The dry autumn gusts rattle the ivory vertical window blinds that shut out the bleak, moonless evening. I pull off my dusty boots and drop my two hundred twenty-one pounds into my favorite brown leather chair. As I lift my dirty socks onto the foot stool, today’s mail slips off my too prominent gut. I think about going to the gym but after the day I just had, working out is not appealing. I reach to pick up the fallen mail and spy a shiny green postcard. Somehow I missed the card in my distraction when I flipped through the mail on the elevator. My forehead wrinkles trying to think who is traveling.
The picture on the card is a church. Turning the postcard over, I read Dublin, Ireland—St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The pencil scrawling on the back shakes me: “Jack, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. B”. The card is otherwise unsigned.
I turn the card over and gaze again at the magnificent Romanesque spires. I didn’t know he was religious. The soft leather comforts my head and inside my mind I hear his velvety tenor voice—the sweetest and richest I have ever heard. Tears settle on my lower eye lids. I close my eyes and remember those months with him.
The first time I noticed him was when he was sitting low in his seat at the back of the sanctuary of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral. This ornate Gothic space is Dallas’ reach for the Renaissance. The limestone walls and worn mahogany pews reverberate with our rich, masculine choral voices. In this place we sound like archangels.
During the break I watch him come forward and speak to our director Timothy Seelig. After a few minutes Tim hands him the music for “Blow Ye the Trumpet”.
He shyly takes an empty chair behind me, and the rehearsal continues. During “Blow Ye the Trumpet” I stop singing and listen. His voice is full and rich. The words flow with precision and warmth. His intonation is perfect. He knows the music. He pronounces a word or two unusually. All I can think about is his gaze on my thinning reddish blond hair. My hand touches my crown nervously hoping my hair has returned.
I don’t speak to him and I don’t know why. I am a bit jealous. Without a doubt, his voice is superior to any in our section. Only a tenor voice like his can make his way into our elite chorale without audition. It does not seem fair that someone can walk in off of the street and get a place in our glorious chorus. I waited for months.
Tall, festive banners hang from the rafters the following Saturday night. Some from the overflow audience lean against the sidewalls. I see him sitting directly in front of me between a woman with black hair and a dark skinned man. With his sandy hair and fair complexion he stands out. I assume the three are together. During intermission I see him standing alone, leaning against the wall with his foot cocked but his gaze intense. Our eyes meet momentarily and a slight smile escapes from his lips.
After the concert a group from the second tenor section is going up the hill to party and congratulate ourselves. I decline the invitation. I am tired and start walking down Sylvan Drive toward my apartment. The icy wind blows up dust from the gravel under the cottonwood trees that line Turtle Creek. The warmth of the concert disappears into the darkness.
A male figure steps onto the walkway and startles me. Just as I am ready to quickly escape across the street, he says, “Mind if’n I walk a ways with ya.” I can see his smile as the moonlight breaks through.
“Sure, I’m not going far. I live just up there. My apartment’s in the building with all the glass.”
“Mind if I know yer name?” he asks straightaway.
“No, I don’t mind. I feel like I know you. You sang right into my ear at the last rehearsal.”
“Sorry if’n I was too loud. I have a bit of a prob’lem with that.”
“No, no. It was beautiful. Where did you learn to sing like that? I’d give anything to sing so well. You are fantastic. Oh, my name’s Jack White. And you?”
“Robert Rose.” We walk on in silence. What am I going to do? I want to take a shower and get in bed. I really don’t want to invite him up but I can’t help myself.
“Would you like to come up for coffee or something to drink?” The words jump out of my mouth.
He hesitates. “No, no, yer verry kind. But, no, I’ll be goin’ down the road.”
“Do you live in Dallas?”
“Now I do, but I’m from Northern Ireland originally. I been in the States ’bout a year. Mainly Boston.”
“You going to sing with us? We rehearse every Tuesday at seven. We usually rehearse in the choir room under the sanctuary. Sure you won’t come in for a just a few minutes?”
“I’m not much ’o a coffee drinker. It’s tea or Coke.”
“I’ve got Diet. OK?”
“Sure? I really don’t have to come in. I’m sure yer tired.”
I step inside and touch the rheostat. Light fills the hall. He stops to look at the photos of me horseback riding at my grandfather’s ranch in North Texas. I hang up our coats and lead him into the living room. The lights of downtown Dallas glitter in the crisp December air. I watch his five-foot, eight inches frame as he steps gracefully to the window wall. The overhead halogen highlights his sandy hair and accentuates his broad shoulders and narrow hips. He looks out into the silence of night. I brush my love handles wondering why he picked me out.
I walk to the kitchen and fill two glasses with Diet Coke. I hear him close the bathroom door. I hesitate before placing the Coke on the glass top that rests on a mesquite stump I found on my grandfather’s ranch. The Choctaw dream catcher dangles from a metal half-moon stand. I stare at it and then nervously straighten the magazine pile. Brad Pitt stares at me from the cover of People.
Robert returns and sits at the opposite end of my white leather sofa. “Hope you didn’t mind me using your loo.”
“Don’t think the towels are clean. I didn’t get around to laundry today.”
Our silence echoes the silence outside. We look at each other. My eyes lock onto his brilliant green eyes. “Been singing long?” I offer.
“Since I was a babe in my mother’s arms. We Irish all sing. Admittedly, some better than others. I’ve been singing a long time. Love to sing. Your chorus is fine. One of the best?”
“Modestly, we are the best. We regularly win national competitions. Many of our guys sing with the Dallas and Santa Fe opera companies.”
“Ta answer yer questun. Yes, the director asked me to come back Tuesday.”
He finishes the Coke quickly. “Gotta go. Thank you for the soda.”
As he turns to shake my hand, I ask, “Wanna have lunch downtown sometime? Nothing fancy. Do you work downtown?”
“All over town. But mainly in Highland Park.”
“What do you do in Highland Park?”
“I’m an interior designer. I think my uncle sent me down here because ’o my accent. I’ve never seen so much money and so little taste.” He looks at the floor. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult your city.”
“No offense taken. See you Tuesday then.”
He comes to rehearsal Tuesday and sits behind me. In song after song I marvel at his beautiful tenor tone. The following week our director asks Robert to sing a solo line in a new work. Within a couple of weeks Seelig names him one of the lead tenor soloists. He does not even have to compete like the other guys. This Irish guy comes waltzing into our chorus and takes the good solos. Most members snub him. He and I small talk but almost no one else speaks to him.
After Christmas, the rehearsals leading up to our spring concert are long and focused. In addition to the concert, a recording session is scheduled for our first CD in three years.
Every time Robert sings “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables, half the guys are in tears before he finishes. His interpretation is poignant and comes from deep inside him. After rehearsals, Robert declines to socialize with us, his excuse being early morning work. He and I never do lunch.
Two weeks before the spring concert, I invite Robert for Sunday brunch with Kerry and Charles, two other tenors. Somewhat surprised all accept my invitation. I splurge with Moet champagne served in my Baccarat flutes. Robert sips leaving three quarters in the glass. After a few minutes of social chatter the four of us sit at my glass-topped dining table set with my grandmother’s Havilland china as the sun streams in through the windows.
The asparagus is green and crisp. The hollandaise I made from scratch is smooth and pale yellow. The guinea fowls are seasoned with spice from Provence. New potatoes finish the plates. Everyone, especially Robert, is effusive with praise.
Late in the meal after mixed berries Robert speaks: “It would have taken me years to become accepted in such a group in Ireland. I love you guys.” Then he says, “I wish my kids could hear us.” Tears appear. Charles looks at Kerry and scowls. They graciously accepted my invitation but have been about as unfriendly to Robert as anyone. Kerry rises to change the subject. He walks to the Steinway concert grand I inherited from my grandmother and sits on the flag of Texas needle pointed on the cushioned bench.
He plays “Danny Boy” and, with a nod to Robert, says smiling, “This is for you.” He plays it in a sensuous cocktail bar style. When he finishes, he turns to me. “Now, Jack, a thank you for a fantastic brunch. Here’s one of your favorites.” His fingers caress the keys performing a classic 1920’s rendition of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love”.
Charles moves to stand behind Kerry. They both begin to sing. I invite Robert to join. Momentarily he is reluctant but cannot resist. We call out songs and Kerry transitions smoothly from one favorite to another.
Robert asks Kerry to play, “What Kind of Fool Am I?” Robert’s voice brings us into another realm. I wonder why Robert would request such a sad ballad. His song ends in a whisper. We are drained.
Kerry breaks the spell, “I’ve got to get going. I play at church in half an hour.” He heads for the door with Charles on his heels. Goodbyes are over-the-shoulder waves but neither one makes an overt gesture to Robert. I close the door and step back into the living room where Robert stands staring toward the horizon.
“Want a Diet Coke?”
“Sure, let me help you clean up the kitchen.”
“No, I’ll do that later. I am having too much fun to clean the kitchen.”
“You know, Jack, I’m so happy. It has been years, seriously, years since my heart felt so happy. Today is a celebration. On Friday I finally got my divorce papers.”
“From what you said I assumed you were married?”
“Ya, for twelve years. But three years ago my wife got pregnant with another guy and left me.”
“You said kids, right?”
He laughs, “Jack, I’m Irish Catholic, what do you think? Yeah, three—thirteen, ten and four. I know the math doesn’t work. We got pregnant when we were eighteen. It has been hell for three years. I got
so depressed. I lost everything—my business, my house, my health—thank God for my family and hers.”
I am dumbfounded at his candor. I don’t say anything just listen.
“She was fuckin’ our car mechanic and everyone in town knew it but me. I had a complete breakdown. The doctors have me on medications but I am cutting back to one pill every other day. I came to Boston to start a new life. I have an uncle who let me stay with him. Coming to Dallas I feel I am getting back on my feet on the ground.”
“You seem OK now.”
“I’m better. I have to go on with my life.”
“Did you know you were gay?”
“I have always liked men but I like women, too. Since Norma did what she did to me, I have no interest in being with a woman. But I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I’d like to be with you.”
I sit back and take a deep breath. I thought I’d be the first one with my clothes off. I never imagined he would be doing the asking. I say, “We play by my rules. I want to undress you.” Robert nods.
I take his hand and lead him to my bedroom. I am glad I changed the sheets. He stands before me and I carefully unbutton each button and pull his shirt from his belted trousers. He sits down as I pull off his shoes and socks. Finally, I unsnap the trousers and slowly slide them down to the floor before pulling his thigh length briefs down and off. He stands unashamed before me as I quickly undress.
He draws my naked body into his. His warm, soft lips cover my mouth. I gently pull down the covers and lay him on my clean white sheets. We cuddle and kiss with passion in the dim late afternoon light. His white Irish skin feels like silk. Only small tufts of soft hair adorn his arm pits and pubic. I am intoxicated by his smell. His uncut dick is long and thin and quickly fills when I stroke it. He does the same for me. To say the sex was phenomenal is an understatement.
Three hours later I lead him to the shower. We are silent as we tenderly wash each other completely. After drying we embrace with him dressed for the outside and me for cleaning the kitchen. I kiss his rich full lips one more time at my front door. Smiling he slips out into the night.
I have replayed every moment of that afternoon hundreds of times in my mind. My body tingles just thinking about his touch. My feelings about Robert remain confused. I have been with other men before but no one like him. I know I want to be with him again.
Our time together after that Sunday was limited. The next three rehearsals leading up to the concert are intense. On a star-filled spring night we sing our concert, “From the Heart” to critical acclaim. Robert’s interpretation of “Bring Him Home” is unbelievable. Guys who have lost lovers and friends to AIDS cry with some noticeably sobbing. Two days later we record the CD. Robert never hears it as far as I know. After the recording session he disappears. He leaves me a voicemail saying he is going back to Ireland. An ill parent, the voicemail says. He leaves no address. When asked, “Where did Robert go?” I say I don’t know. He never writes or emails me. Guys ask if they can visit him when they travel to Ireland. I don’t know how to contact him. I just don’t know.
The postcard could open a wound but I say, “No.” I rise, open the CD folder, play his song, and sit back. After looking at the stony spires of St. Patrick’s, I fold the card and slip it into the CD case. Closing my eyes, I put my head back against the brown leather and imagine what might have happened if had Robert stayed. I listen to his song. Tears fill my eyes and again I experience the tingle of his touch as the chorus finishes the CD with “In This Very Room”.
Turtle Creek Chorale of Dallas, Texas
Album - Postcards
Colm Wilkinson, Soloist
Album – Broadway’s Greatest Leading Men
Jim Haskins, Pianist
Album - Cocktail Piano IV
George Gershwin, pianist
Album – Gershwin Performs Gershwin
Perry Como, Soloist
Album – Love Connection
Turtle Creek Chorale
Album – From the Heart
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus
Album – Our Gay Apparel