Ethan Is & Golden Watchman
In the beginning, he’s nothing more to me then a shock of dark chocolate curls tipped in sunlight standing far from me in a large-windowed and brightly-lit and nearly empty room. And for just one moment he catches my attention. And so, I step from my world into his. But only for that one moment because I’ve learned, having been thoroughly taught in my past the ways of straight boys, that I must refrain from indulging. I don’t know his name; I don’t even want to know his name. I leave him to his side of the nearly empty room while I return to mine. Which is just fine. Is just as it should be really. Live and learn, I always say and I have. Once too often.
But, and there always is a ‘but’, isn’t there? sometime later, a week, a month, finding him once again, only nearer to me this time, in a room more intimate and softly-lit and filled with people then the room from a week or a month ago, when he gives to me an over-the-shoulder gaze sweetly underscored by such a yielding, if uncertain smile, this time for just one moment he steps from his world into mine. But only for that one moment because, at his side, his wife oh-so-possessively tugs at his sleeve, her left hand, her ring finger made, her wedding band sparkling in the otherwise quiet light of the room and in so doing, pulls him back to her and their world of marital bliss and away from me and my world of temptation, I know I’ll forget him. Straight…one strike if a reasonably surmountable one, if desire runs deep. But straight and married…two strikes and most definitely not surmountable no matter how deep desire or want or need may run. It’s as if he never existed. And that’s just fine too.
Until, and there always is an ‘until’, isn’t there? a couple of weeks later when what I like to refer to as The Hotel Elevator Hijack takes place, a 30-story ride that might’ve been mine alone had he not somehow amazingly enough been going in just the same direction as me. More or less up. A ride together that begins with the 1st and that ends with the 31st floor with several stops of varying duration along the way. Standing closer to me than would be considered good manners if I’m a stranger, he also doesn’t stand quite close enough for me to be a friend. Which isn’t all that unreasonable given we’ve never even spoken. And I vow not to be the first.
Because thing is, I don’t so much mind taking on trouble, especially beautiful trouble, and most especially if that trouble is being handed, all trembling and so alive, into my willing arms, my waiting bed, if I can see that doing so makes sense, isn’t playing against the odds. But I also don’t so much understand why I should needlessly take on trouble, don’t so much understand why I should go mindlessly looking for the kind of trouble that can only ultimately complicate the already sublimely complicated labyrinth of my interpersonal relationships, if I do. So, I remain mute.
Apparently deciding the same, standing also so very quiet, leaning back against the brass handrail, he keeps his head bowed as if all that hair is just so too heavy for that frail neck of his to hold up. And thereby limiting himself to an apparently engaging examination of the multi-colored woven carpet beneath our feet as we drift serenely from floor to ever higher floor. Being denied his eyes, I spend our time together drowning in his curls, envisioning myself clutching them, so tightly gripping them, at the base of his skull. Dragging my fingertips up through all that luscious chocolate-brown tipped in sunlight so that, almost unnoticed, I slowly pull him to me, bringing his mouth to mine, his…but without warning, the mirror-brass doors slide open at apparently his destination, the aforementioned 31st floor and he makes as if to leave. And as abruptly as if I wasn’t even there.
Except, and there always an ‘except’, isn’t there? once nearly through the metallic shimmer but not quite, he half-turns back to me, murmuring, “I’d heard, Jayden, that you don’t like elevators, enclosed space and all, especially not all by yourself, right? So, I thought I’d keep you company, at least for most of the way, but now, I have to go. You’ll be alright, won’t you, for three more floors?”
I nod as he’s punching the Close Door button, as he’s stepping out, away, so that the last thing I see of him is when, slightly cocking his head, he gives to me a charmingly uncertain, very vulnerable half-smile. The hallway light causes his blonde-tips to shimmer and in just that moment, between the shimmering elevator doors and the shimmering hotel hallway, I am blinded. But then the doors slide closed and by the time I reach the 34th floor, my final destination, I am able to see quite clearly once more. And even if I am just a little confused as to why he should know such an intimate thing about me, about me and my others really. And why it is he should choose to act on that knowledge now? Should I try to find out? Or maybe not. He’s married, remember? He is married so, two strikes, just two, pretty baby, and you remain outta there.
Well, I know his name…Ethan, but not much more by the time of what I like to refer to as The Busy Midtown Street Corner Waylay. A maneuver he pulls off with great skill and nerve because seriously, I’m just standing there, minding my own business, waiting for the light to go green, or for the traffic to slow, which ever comes first, when suddenly, and from out of nowhere, he’s at my side, actually listing into me. And I can only imagine that this guy must be some kind of crazy because, while there may be a million billion people living in this bright and beautiful burg and its somewhat less bright, somewhat less beautiful environs, you almost always bump into someone you know whenever you step out your door. It’s kismet and he’s making me jittery so, the instant the light changes, I long-leg it, as much as someone 5” 7’ can long-leg anything, through the crowded intersection only to find him still with me once I arrive at the other side.
I keep on walking and he keeps on walking right along with me for block after block after freakin’ New York City block until, at one particular intersection but for no discernible reason, he veers off due-east. I stop and I watch him stroll down to the next corner, until almost out of sight., where he turns back to me, hands deep in his pockets, a sweet-ass smile playing across his lips, and he gives me just the suggestion of a bow. Bending his shoulders, his head, his curls, gently down and when he’s heads-upt once again, I bow just the suggestion of a bow to him and he grins. He then turns and he is, blissfully, no longer my responsibility..
So, I continue my due-south stroll along the final block to my destination, a favorite café where a couple of my others, Caillen and Jameson are in town while Toby and Courtlan are in Chicago, are waiting for me. Along the way, I find myself whistling some nearly forgotten, or is it a half remembered, tune about keeping your feet on the sunny side of the street and I can’t help but wonder where the hell that came from? I find Caillen and Jameson easily enough at our favorite outdoor table, the weather being adequately lovely to sit under a brightly colored sidewalk umbrella. I explain to them this most recent adjunct to the sage that is becoming me and Ethan. As usual, they have very little sympathy, giving me some shit about how I’d be doing something about it, other than bitching, if I didn’t actually pretty much like his little attentions, his little interventions. I can only disagree while at the same time wondering as to the validity of their insight. Maybe. May…be.
Bottom-line, he’s trouble, Jameson reminds, and should be avoided at all costs. This I know. He is trouble and on so many levels that avoidance is mandatory. Sorry, sweet baby, but I can’t afford you so, you must remain nothing more than a periodically unanticipated collision with temptation never realized. A pleasant sensation when thought about, a quickening of the pulse when your name is overheard unexpectedly, an intriguing, if slightly uncomfortable, footnote to my otherwise contented life’s story. I are not for you. You am not for me.
Even still, somewhere along the way, pretty much by the time of what I unhappily refer to as The Comedy Club Bathroom Ambush, we’ve been actually introduced, him and his wife, Cheryl, and me. We have in fact exchanged a few words, have even shared a couple of laughs. Which is why, I tell myself, I’m so caught off guard when he finds me alone in the club’s moodily blue lit, dark walled, and shiny chrome-fixtured bathroom, just having finished my business, just concluding my buttoning up.
Slipping quietly in the door, he comes to me without any hesitation, ducking his head to my shoulder, murmuring my name once, twice then over and over again as he radiates his heat through my t-shirt and into my skin when he leans along my back. My heart flutters causing me to tremble, my body finally admitting the reality of Caillen and Jameson’s words even if my mind resists the truth of my need for him. Still, not forgetting the crystal clear reality, the fundamental obstacle, that his situation represents, I buck him away and leave, moving to the sink, but he follows, unwilling to understand or, if he does understand me, unwilling to care. Trapping me even as I try to do what’s right, holding me even as I try to just wash up and leave, he murmurs my name. Jayden. Jayden. Jayden, and for just one moment we are in each other’s world.
But only for that one moment because, in looking up from the disorienting glare of the silver basin to the shadowy mirror above, when I find a revelation, marveling at how his hair has now gone all jet-black tipped in the sharp cool blue of the mirror’s light, his warm brown eyes now gone coal-black, his soft lips almost mauve I, unintuitively,gather my resolve. Such trouble. Such trouble. Such trouble he is. I lock onto his mirror eyes, which seem to smolder with a kind of dark heat, and I refuse to play along even as he wraps his arms around me, grinding his cock against me, I buck him away again. And apparently as the fates desire it because just then voices are heard from outside coming in and so, he wills himself to stay away from me allowing me to bolt, leaving him alone with strangers. And I’m still feeling the heat of him as I finally fall asleep late that night, an uneasy feeling scratching, gnawing, demanding to be acknowledged coming from somewhere deep inside me. My sleep is uneasy because I know something needs to change, I’m just not sure what.
Because, frankly, this seemingly casual, yearlong escalation of his apparent need for me manifests itself in such a way that every second or third time I’m somewhere, anywhere, meaningful, Ethan’s there too, mainly sans wife but certainly not always. Is it simply that after having moved here from Toronto, shortly after we met I might add, they have somehow fortuitously and successfully aligned themselves with the very same social circle as me and my others. Or is it just that the whole of the universe is somehow constantly realigning itself just to shove us together? Cosmic intervention or premeditated across-borders relocation? I could go either way as both contain equally compelling, if grandiose, themes. Except that since neither theme bodes well for me, not unreasonably, I am concerned. What to do? What to do?
If I was Jameson, I would know what to do, this shit happens to him. Not to me. He drives all the little boys, of whatever orientation, wild. Not me. But when I ask him for his sage advice all he gives me is a wistful little smile while patting me on the shoulder and telling me that being a big boy, I can handle this ‘situation’ all on my own, that I should consider this yet another important ’learning’ experience. Oh and, he reminds, I should avoid bringing scandal to our burgeoning business empire. Thanks, sweetie, really. I’d almost forgotten.
So, I’m back to…what? What to do? I know! How about run? Seems reasonable so, for a time, I run back to the west coast, back to San Francisco, to home, where I’m able to go about my business without any concerns regarding dark chocolate curls tipped in…whatever for at least a little awhile. A time during which I have to assume he’s also forgetting all about me. But since my others are all now in New York, I must return eventually. And so I do.
I’m only about one week back, managing Gwynedd with Caillen on a busy Thursday night, when Ethan strolls in with several of their friends but without Cheryl. I go into hyper-avoid mode which only causes Caillen to tell me to relax. The boy ain’t stupid, she reminds. I ain’t so sure, I counter-remind, and she laughs. Still, it is at her suggestion that I go cool off in the restaurant’s alleyway, a good suggestion since even though I’m not so neurotic as Jameson or Courtlan or even Caillen, still I, like them, do start crawling the walls of any room I can’t get out of at regular intervals. Even those we own like Gwynedd. The lingering mind-shadows of our collective fuckedup childhoods? Oh, you can count on it. Still, is what it is. Cool air on the skin, sky vistas filling the eyes, it is also tragically something everyone knows about us. Who can ever forget The Hotel Elevator Hijack Incident? Our little group’s group-claustrophobia. Something about us not a few unscrupulous souls have taken advantage of over the years and why should this night be any exception?
Still, I’m safe, right? because Caillen’s watching out for me, right? even as I know she’s trying to manage a large dinner crowd all on her own since I’m out in the dark cool alleyway lingering and loitering, avoiding and basically hiding for way way…way too long. She’s bound to get distracted and so, he finds me. Ethan finds me and when he does, it’s the closest I’ve come yet to just giving in, but I don’t. I push him away. Eventually, I drive him back inside and once he’s gone, I lament and the night laments with me. When I go back in, he’s gone and several hours later, Caillen and I are too, home to our others and to sleep. But first I write a story, one about my nighttime alleyway entrapment titled ‘Golden Watchman’.
Once done, I tuck the original into a folder, one of several filled with other such 2 to 5,000 word missives about us I’ve scrawled out over the years, a folder that is equally tucked into a nearly filled-to-overflowing drawer in our mission-era desk. Leaving a copy with a note attached on top for all to find in the morning, I go to bed. Tucking myself down in between my partners, knowing that for at least one more night, we are safe.
All right, here’s the deal, I couldn’t sleep last night, as you may have noticed so, I wrote, including in my 2,000 or so words as many of the titles of Jaxon’s paintings as I could remember. Why Jaxon’s? Guess because I like his titles or maybe his just fit well within this story or whatever so, ready and set and go! Find as many as you can! This is my early morning challenge for you. Then, let me know what you think of this the newest of my little random stories about us. Oh, and as you know, there isn’t any ‘last time’ or any ‘as I have before’, I just added those in for dramatic effect even if the rest, if somewhat exaggerated, is true in its essence. I anxiously await your good opinions. And I beg of you, please don’t wake me. I am in such need of sleep I cannot even tell you :)
By Jayden Harker
…don’t touch me because when I tremble it makes a noise
like a Chinese wind-bell it’s that I’m seismographic is all…
For The Chinese New Year & For Bill Berkson
“Anything you want I’ll do…anything…anything you want please. Please. I’ll do anything” – hesitation – “anything you ask.”
Your words, coming from somewhere behind me so sudden and deep as the night, break over me, and I tremble. Your desire want need, and mine, all combine to splinter the stillness of this perilous night, and the silvery stars tremble with me. Their compassion is mine so, I follow their lead, not yours. “Like I told you last time, there’s nothing I want from you. Nothing.” False starts lead only to false endings; my words sounding a sham even to me.
“Lair.” I am and you know it. “You can’t even look at me” – anger frustration -- “Look at me.”
Racing thoughts, racing thoughts slamming through me, colliding together in me, shattering me into chaos. I can’t look at you. I can’t I can’t because, I do want you. have wanted you for so long. But I shouldn’t. I have begged for you in my sleep, in dreams so tangible, and I have longed for you, your hands, your mouth, your body, when I’m awake. But I shouldn’t. Not a man of any god, even I understand this is wrong, this shouldn’t be. The God-men say I can‘t understand. Without their God’s words, I have no morals, but I do understand. I understand it’s wrong to want you. It’s wrong to need you. It’s wrong to ache for you. But I do. “Go back inside.” -- calm concern -- “Before your friends miss you, go inside.”
“No, I won’t.” Closer, closer still, you sound even closer to me now. Reality? Or a trick of the air. Can’t know. “Look at me.”
I turn. I turn to look behind me, but I can’t see you, not quite, you remain hidden in back alleyway shadow, lost in nighttime obscurity. You haven’t really moved any closer to me at all. I focus back on my silvery stars sheltering above me “Go.” I almost sound, even to me, as if I mean what I say.
“No. I won’t” -- soft low even -- “Please. I won‘t.” There’s no hint now of the anger at rejection that I know lies just beneath your surface. Your voice sounds only of pain. “I want you. I want to be with you. Please”
Your words are closer to me now; soon they’ll be with me, surrounding me, binding me and I am at land’s end, there is no way forward. Racing thoughts, racing thoughts beg you please please just go. I don’t want to deal with this. With you. “Just go,” I say to the stars. Go and leave me alone. Don’t even think to touch me even if I know you already have in some other time, in some other place. If only in dreams. I scent you, know your need as mine, a need that blinds us to what is supposed to be, what can never be.
“Look at me” -- begged growled -- “I need you I need you please.” A whisper, “Look at me.”
I want to. I want to do more, so much more. I want to take you in my arms, and push you hard against my back alley wall, my body pressing against every inch of yours just so I can make you moan. I need to make you moan. I want to make you whimper and cry. I want to make sure you go on begging me, just like you are now. I want you. Fuck I want you. I turn away instead. Move further away. “Go back inside.” Watchman moon rises golden among silvery stars, arching across the blue-black sky reminding me of who I am, and of who you are. Of who you are supposed to be.
I feel your heat, and I move even more away from you, steadying, grounding myself against the cool stone wall of my alley. Moving into me, you find your place behind me. Shaping yourself to me, you wrap your arms around me, and I don’t push you away. You lay your hands over my heart, and I lean back into you.
“Don’t say no. Don’t say no to me. It’ll be alright baby it will. I promise. I promise you, this will be right.”
You beg your need into me, into my being, and I want you to. Please I want you to, but you are wrong. And I am wrong just by being here with you. “This can’t happen.”
“It can happen. I’ll make it be alright I will I promise.”
Your words smooth across my skin, they flutter into my mouth, they quiver over my eyes, and I almost sigh. I barely tremble. “You can’t, you can’t make this right.” Your silence confirms what we both know. We’re dancers on a plane, sparring across time, balanced between what‘s right…what is supposed to be and what‘s wrong…what can’t be. What is hungered after. But that would be betrayal. I lay my head back against your shoulder.
“So, where’s your wife? I notice that she isn’t here with you, with you and your friends, tonight. What? She doesn't like our little restaurant, the food, the atmosphere, the service? What?”
You are quick in front of me. You move like an atom does, as an electron of light would, in an instant from behind to in front of me. Between me and my stone alley wall and you look more desperate than you have ever sounded, so shaken to your core. Your eyes reveal only confusion. Like what? I’d forgotten she exists? What else could this be about? I’m sorry, so sorry, but I haven’t forgotten. And neither have you
“Home. She‘s…she isn’t feeling well, a cold, but she didn’t want me to miss out on dinner with our friends, so….” Your hands cradling my face, your thumbs stroking my eyebrows, you try to soothe me, to pacify me. You try to stave off what is yet to come. Your eyes now show fear. “Why?”
“You live what, ten minutes away?” I look into your eyes, your warm brown eyes, your bedroom eyes, I look at your lips, your soft sweet lips, your slightly parted lips, and you barely nod. “Then – eager glad -- here’s our plan. We'll go by your place, it‘s early yet, she won‘t be asleep, yes? and we’ll tell her how you want to fuck me and how you want me to fuck you because once--”
“No.” As breath. As nothing more. Your hands tighten, your fingertips digging into my temples. Your eyes now show panic.
”But why not because once she agrees then, don’t you see? then I can give you everything that you want to have. Then I can take from you everything that you want to give. Then there won’t be any guilt. All she has to do is agree. Easy freakin’ peasy.” Your panic vibrates sharp from you, scaring me. I want nothing more than for this to be done. “Then what you want between us won’t be wrong. Then, like you said, it’ll all be alright. Once your wife agrees.”
“There’s no need.” Your fingertips digging even harder into my skin, there will be bruises tomorrow. Your mouth teasing, barely an inch from mine, just a flick of my tongue and I would taste you. “She’s my responsibility so--”
“Yes?” My hands on your chest, pushing shoving me away from you, you away from me, getting that teasing mouth away from mine, getting those bedroom eyes the fuck away from mine. “Well, the thing is, I can’t have your woman come screaming into our restaurant, especially about what I’m doing with her husband. This is a well respected business; we are well-respected businessmen so, such behavior would be unseemly.” Self-preservation is one of my main motivations; just ask anyone, always all about the self-preservation. Except, “And another thing, you made a promise, not me. You took a fucking vow. Not me. So, fucking live up to your promise, live up to your own vow.” Go away please please before I can’t let you go. We’re dancers on a broken plane, travelers without a bridge across, with no possible way to each other without the stain of guilt and of shame.Of recrimination and of scandal. Of betrayal.
“You don’t give a fuck about promises, about vows. You don’t any of you give a fuck about any marriage bull--”
“While I don’t know as to the rest, you are right about one of your accusations. I don't give a fuck about any marriage bullshit, but you baby, you do, yes? You give a fuck, and so does she. So be a man and go home, go home to your woman. Go home to your wife, and leave me alone.” I can’t let you into me; the odds aren’t in my favor. Why should I play if the odds aren’t in my favor? “Ethan, go back inside before someone comes looking for you. I don’t want any trouble.”
“Jayden please please want me, I need--”
“You made your choice, right? so you tell me, what do I want with some fucking married man, huh? What do I want with some vow-taking, promise-making partner in wedded bliss? What the hell do I need with that? Tell me, Ethan, tell me, what thefuck do I need with you?” You shrink back, you shrink away, down into yourself and I scent your defeat as I have before, as I hope never to again. “Get the hell away from me. Now. And stay the hell away. Got it?” You want to say more, you want to beg more, but I can’t let you in. “Go. Thefuck. Away.”
You walk past me and I turn with you, following you with my eyes. And just as you are nearly past, you turn back and shove me -- pain frustration rejection -- hard against the stone alley wall And for just one second, the silvery stars are not only above but also inside me. But only for just that one second. Then my vision clears as I watch you leave. Alone with the emptiness of you no longer with me, I focus into the swirling universe over Manhattan, and I mourn. Silvery stars mourn with me even as I can see that golden watchman moon is proud. When it begins to rain, I go back inside where I find that you have gone, even if your friends, her friends, haven’t. I should be satisfied that you’ve left. I should be relieved. I should even be grateful. But somehow I’m not.
Jayd, darling, even as we find the writing up to your usual standards, a story compellingly told and lovingly crafted, you whipped this puppy out just last night, did you? we nonetheless find ourselves vaguely concerned if, as you say, it is, in its essence, only SOMETWHAT of an exaggeration. Still, trust is trust and ours is undying in you so, all we ask is you keep a level head and not allow this situation to escalate further, ‘kay? Oh, and in total, we found seven of our dear Jaxon’s titles. You’re a clever, dude, really. How you worked those in! We are loving you most profoundly and can’t help but wonder when you’re going to get these sweet missives published. Names changed of course, to protect the not-so-innocent. Always and forever
My others --Published? Never as in never. Yours in forever –Jayd