I dialed Robbie’s number the first evening I got home as soon as I could excuse myself from my mother’s dotage. I loved her but she doted on me—an undeserving me, I kept thinking. Robbie’s answering machine picked up. Where was he? Why wasn’t he waiting for my call? I dialed again fifteen minutes later. Still no Robbie. It finally dawned on me that while I knew there was a three-hour-time-zone difference, I was adding three hours instead of subtracting them. I was calling him at 4 p.m., his time, before he even got home from work instead of at 7 p.m. Doh! I felt like a jilted lover before I even had a chance to be jilted. How in hell’s name was I going to keep control of the situation if I was acting like a moonstruck teenager?
I waited till 10 p.m., Eastern, then called. Robbie picked the phone up.
“Hi,” I said.
“How are you?”
“Fine. How was your trip?”
“Long, but uneventful. How was your day?”
“Same old. Same old. I had an old lady who had no idea how much money she had. I could have stolen her blind. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t honest. How was your day?”
“Okay. I slept till noon, got bored around the house, called you at 4 in the afternoon, your time, and thought you were avoiding me, then called you again when I realized that there were such things as time zones and figured out how they really worked.”
“Look, I’d like to talk more, but I’ve got to make dinner for Alec.”
Well, that was very romantic, I thought. Absence hadn’t made the heart grow fond enough, I guessed, or the absence hadn’t been long enough.
The next few calls were just about as eventful as the first, and I had to initiate them. I was getting the feeling that distance was creating a separation that could not be bridged. At this rate, it was only a matter of time before I would just quit dialing. Actually, the time was going to be sooner rather than later. Finally, after only a week I couldn’t muster enough energy to call, so I lay on my bed, my hands behind my head, staring at the ceiling I had looked at every night for 18 years of my life. I just lay there brooding before I drifted into a fitful sleep.
The next day was a work day, and I bent my nose to the grindstone to get everything set for the company’s move to Seattle. I didn’t have much time to think about anything but endless details. Me? A detail man? I was surprising myself.
Dinner with Mom was quiet and pleasant. She saw how tired I looked and suggested I just go to bed. I lay on top of my covers again and just stared at the ceiling, and I fell into a light sleep.
“Jake?” I heard my mother’s voice calling from downstairs, breaking into whatever dream I had. “Jake! Telephone.”
“I’ve got it, Mom.” I picked up the extension beside my bed. “Hello!”
“Hello.” It was Robbie. I heard the phone downstairs being hung up. I waited for Robbie to say something. “Er, I missed your call last night.”
‘Well, why didn’t you call?’ I said to myself. I tried to control the annoyance I felt. “I guess I must have fallen asleep.”
There was silence on the line. “Jake, I didn’t realize how much I missed your voice until you didn’t call. I know we didn’t talk about much of interest, but I just liked to hear your voice. You could have been reading from the telephone book as far as I was concerned, and I would have enjoyed it.”
“I missed your voice, too. But our conversations haven’t been exactly scintillating.”
“I’m sorry. This is all so much like a 14-year-old calling his girlfriend; there’s no 8th grade football captain and the cheerleaders to gossip about for hours on end.
“Let me start over. So, how was your day?”
I spent the next half hour telling him all the small details of my day—the meeting with Drew, figuring out how to break the news to the staff, finishing up arrangements with the Seattle commercial-real-estate broker. He told me about the petty politics of his office. By the time all that was finished, it had been an hour—as if we had been sitting in his living room with glasses of wine in our hands. It felt so much more normal, and the ties between us began to rebuild themselves.
The next few days were similar: a much more personal and familiar tone to our minutes on the phone, and I began to close off with “I love you.” It was a few days later that Robbie began to reply, “I love you, too,” and I knew then that we had closed another gap between us.
I began to call him in the morning—early his time. He called me his erotic snooze alarm. We talked for a few minutes, and then I let him get ready for work, envisioning the bathroom towels making love to him.
I called him again that evening. “I love you. I miss you,” I said
“For Christ’s sake, I talked to you this morning.”
“Half a day is the first stage of eternity.” How’s that for corny?
“Jake, I can’t believe how corny that is.”
“I can. I already said that to myself.”
I heard a snicker on the other end of the line. Then: “How was your day?”
“Okay. I met this cute guy from Maine applying for a job.”
“If I was gay, that would bother me.”
“But you are gay.”
“Yes, you. I’ll show you.” I paused for effect, then hummed some Bolero. “Now, visualize my hand drifting through the soft black hairs of your chest.”
There was a pause. “But my shirt is buttoned.”
“Unbutton it, killjoy.”
The phone went silent for a few minutes, as I heard the rustle of clothes on Robbie’s end of the line.”
“Now, remove your shirt entirely,” I commanded. There was some quiet swishing of clothes at the other end. Robbie came back on the line. “Now, remove your undershirt.”
“Okay.” I could hear more swish of clothing being removed.
“Now visualize my hand drifting through the soft black hairs of your chest.”
“I am, but I see you fully clothed.” Amazing. He didn’t even have a video phone.
I set the receiver down and pulled my shirt over my head. “Okay, that problem’s fixed. Now, prop the phone up on my pillow so you can use both hands.” I realize I had said ‘my pillow.’
“Before I do that I want my turn,” Robbie interrupted. “You prop your phone up. Now, I want you to count the hairs on your left nipple.” I heard a snicker in the telephone receiver.
“The other nipple.”
“Get a life, Robbie.”
“Now, let your hand trail down to your belly button.”
“Okay. You do the same.”
“Now lower. Twirl your fingers in your curls. Don’t touch your erection.”
“How do you know I have an erection?” I asked.
“You love me, don’t you?”
“And you can’t touch yours, either.”
“How do you know I have an erection?”
“You’re horny. You told me you’re always horny.”
“I don’t love you?”
“Well, do you?”
“Yes.” His answer was music to me.
“Now wrap your hand around my erection,” I said. “Do you still love me?”
Silence on the other end of the phone. “That’s not a fair question in my state.”
“Washington or excitement?”
“Both,” I said. “Do you have your lube?”
“Squirt some all around me.”
I heard a shuffle and a click on the other end.
“On my balls, too.” I continued. “Feel the softness.”
“Mmmm. I want you to do the same for me.”
I reached into my shaving kit and got the K-Y jelly, put a large dab on my palm and rubbed it all over my erection and my..er..his balls. I groaned with pleasure.
“Mmm,” I said.
“Okay, now, do as I do. Get some lube on the middle finger of your left hand. Rub it down the back of my balls and across my perineum. Just the right pressure, now.”
“With your right hand, start stroking me slowly.”
“Kiss me,” Robbie said.
“I’ve got my tongue in your mouth.”
“I’m rubbing my tongue against yours, and then I’m letting it slide across your lips, left to right and back left again.”
“The feeling is electric in my groin.”
“Squeeze me harder, now, and pick up the stroke.”
“I can’t believe how good you feel, Jake. Your hand has this wonderful grip—hard and soft at the same time. Oh, my God!”
“Stroke me! Stroke me! More! Faster! I’m getting to that point where I can’t turn back. I can’t turn back. I’m coming. I’m coming. Oh, God! Oh, God!”
“Keep pressing against me. Harder. Harder. Pull me into you. Yes! Yes! Yes!”
There was panting at two ends of the country.
“Hold me gently, Jake.”
“Hold me gently, too, Robbie.”
We both burst into laughter.
“I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
The line went dead.
* * * * *
The two months in Boston were exhausting as we began planning the rest of our move. We had announced the move itself a few weeks earlier. We told everybody about the relocation allowances we were giving out—substantial, if I say so myself—and asked them to make a commitment. The staff reaction was mixed, at best. Some showed elation, probably at going someplace new or having an excuse to leave their girlfriends or boyfriends or mothers and fathers. Others looked seriously dejected; maybe they had strong ties to family in the region, or maybe they were simply reluctant to change. At the end of it all, about two thirds of the staff elected to go with us; the rest were given a generous severance package and were allowed time off to seek new employment with another company.
Those moving were given airplane tickets and a week’s hotel accommodations to check out housing in Seattle. I was not happy to see that Dave decided to stay in Boston, and I told him so, even though his presence in Seattle might be a bit personally discomfiting. He smiled at me, shyly. I offered to point out the parts of Seattle he was likely to enjoy and encouraged him to fly out and take a look. But he shook his head and said he was going to stay put.
Everything necessary for the move was in motion. It was time to leave. I packed up my office, labeled the boxes, took one last look around and went home.
At nine, I dialed Robbie. “I’ve finished what I needed to do in Boston, so I’m heading west. I’m driving.” The moment of truth had come. I could feel the tension in the silence across the telephone wires. I visualized Robbie’s pacing—to the length of the phone cord and back. He always paced when he had to make a decision. I knew the pressure was on.
I heard a sigh. “Come back here, Jake. Come home.”
There was another pause. “Absolutely.”
It didn’t sound very ‘absolutely,’ but I’d take his word at face value.
“When do you leave, Jake?”
“I’ve missed you. I wasn’t sure that I would, but I have. I’m nervous and, maybe, I’m a bit scared about…us…about us living together. But I love you, Jake, and I want you here.”
“I love you, too.” I could feel my heart warming. “I need to pack, Robbie. Abstinence tonight, okay.”
I sat on the bed, looking around my room. I really didn’t have a lot to show for 33 years of life: what I had brought from Jakarta, a fair number of books, some tapes and records, some things tacked to the walls, a few trophies, some winter clothes that I didn’t need in Jakarta but might need in Seattle. I had a good bicycle in the garage that I would carry on the back of the car as well as a few weights that I could tuck into the trunk.
I climbed up into the attic to get some empty boxes and began to pack. Two hours later, I was almost done, and there was a pile of boxes near the door to my room.
Mom looked in on me a few times, sadness on her face. Once, she came up and put her hands on my shoulders as I was leaning over, emptying the bottom shelf of my bookcase. She bent over and kissed me on the cheek, then quietly got up and left me to my packing. I had met the commitment to my father; I felt my mother would be okay on her own, but leaving was still hard.
There was something more final about this packing than any other I had done. Maybe it was because I was packing my entire book collection for the first time. Maybe my books had been the anchor to Boston, and as I put them in the boxes, it was as if each book was a link removed from an anchor’s chain. I was more profoundly saddened by my packing than even by my father’s death. For me, there is something about departures that always brings tears to my eyes and a constriction in my throat. I knew that telling my mother goodbye in the morning would be as hard as anything I had ever done.
After a fitful sleep, I woke early and began to pack up my Honda Civic. I was all done by 8:00. I walked into the kitchen, where Mom had made me a breakfast of waffles with Vermont maple syrup, bacon, fresh fruit and coffee. We sat across from each other in silence. We both wanted to say something but no words came, because all the words and tears inside us would have come pouring out if we had.
We finished. I picked up my dishes and utensils and took them to the sink. Mom came up behind me and circled her arms around my waist. I turned around and hugged her tightly.
“Goodbye, Mom. Thanks for…tolerating me.”
“I’ll tolerate you anytime you want, Jakey.” We walked to the car. I opened the door and stood by it. She kissed me on the cheek and stuffed some money into my shirt pocket.
“Mom, please, I don’t need this,” I said as I pulled the money out of the pocket. But she put her hand on top of mine and slid it back to where I’d found it. Mom was always slipping money into my pockets.
“Take it. Splurge. Use it for the trip or for something in Seattle. Take it, Jakey.”
There was no way I could refuse. So I kissed her and said: “I’ll use it to come home.” My eyes glistened as did hers as I slid into the driver’s seat, closed the door and rolled down the window and took her hand for one last touch. Then, I let go, turned on the engine, put the car in gear and started off, giving one final wave.
I wound through the streets of Newton and got onto the turnpike to start the long journey west. My route would be I-90 all the way. It started in Boston and would end in Seattle if I didn’t leave it. I turned the radio on, found some good music and just let my thoughts drift as I drove. I had no idea how long the trip would take nor how I would pace it, but the attraction was in Seattle, and I couldn’t stop driving. I wasn’t in a hurry, really, but I was eager, and I found myself driving 18 hours that first day, with stops for meals and a late-night check-in at some a motel in Illinois.
I-90, however, got boring somewhere in western South Dakota. I’d had a full second day of driving, and the radio pickings had become slimmer and slimmer. In the morning of my third day on the road, I decided to dodge south into Wyoming, to see Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. I wasn’t planning to stop for longer than a wave, but the scenery would be better and would keep me awake.
My last night on the road was going to be in southern Idaho, a desolate place after leaving the Tetons, but I made the mistake of calling Robbie just before stopping for the night to tell him where I was. His voice was so welcome. After I told him I loved him and would see him the next evening and after he told me he loved me back, I decided not to stop, but to drive all night. I stopped at a convenience market and filled my thermos with coffee, then filled an extra-large cup to drink right then. I loaded up with junk food—doughnuts and other pastries, some chips, some candy bars.
I kicked the speed of my Honda up over 90 miles an hour, keeping a sharp eye out for the state patrol, turned on the night radio, opened the window and just drove like a bat out of hell. The radio reception was much better. I picked up all kinds of stations—all the way from Kansas to Mexico to California—and I sang along with all the songs that I knew at the top of my lungs. At the speed I was driving, the miles clicked by, and with a few short stops for coffee and leaks, I neared Seattle—at nearly 3:00 in the morning.
I drove towards Robbie’s, not waiting at times till the stoplights turned green, and arrived at his door. I locked the Civic and ran up the steps and rang the doorbell. My erection bloomed in my pants. Robbie opened the door with an apprehensive look on his face, and then saw me, relaxed and smiled, and we kissed. That was all I needed. I lifted him into my arms, closed the door with the back of my shoe and carried him up the stairs.
I dumped him on his bed, told him I was going to take a 30-second shower and disappeared into the bathroom. It is possible to take a 30-second shower, believe me, especially when you don’t have to dress afterwards—or to dry yourself fully.
Robbie lay on the bed, the sheet pulled up to his waist, or, as it happened, over the protuberance between his waist and his feet. I pulled the sheet back and climbed on top of him, burying my face into the area between his face and neck and breathing in his scent.
“You didn’t tell me that not drying was part of your 30-second promise,” he said.
Robbie crawled from under me and out of the bed and came back with a towel. He wrapped it around my head and dried my hair, then lay back down and scooted under me.
“You were dripping,” he said. “The rest of you I can handle, but your hair…it was like a mop just out of the bucket.”
“I’ve been dripping ever since Idaho Falls.”
“Not in the same way.” Robbie laughed. Our cocks lay nested together for the first time in two months, and our lips joined, too, in the same spirit of togetherness.
The first time was rough and tumble and short, as the expectations that had built up in the two months apart drove desire through our bodies. The second time, though, was sweet and long and mostly oral, as we began the new phase of our lives in a less frenetic style. At the end, we lay entwined—me, at least, in total contentment and, I think, Robbie, too—whispering sweet things to each other. I wish it could have stayed that way.