“Please, don’t ask me,” Jameson replies, and so very unsure, he continues his pacing from the living room’s sofa to its picture window and back again and again pausing two, three, four times at the window, trying to center himself in the calm of the gray-purple Brooklyn twilight just beyond. As he scans the street below, he realizes that he really does know all about their family friendly neighborhood, their newly renovated Brownstone, their Mission-styled interior, that, in fact, he really does know intimately all the ways of their life together, but only because he’s been told by others, never by either of them, over these past many and arduous months. It feels strange, both familiar and not, to finally be here, in Ryan and Stefan’s home. As he delays, putting off the inevitable, as he watches the quiet outside, he is also being watched. He feels Ryan’s eyes on him, also so unsure, yet patiently waiting for him to finally settle himself and explain why he‘s come.
So, he does. Eventually, Jameson curls into the corner of the sofa nearest to the slightly opened window, a warming fire close by in the fireplace, a black and white cat instantly sprawling across his lap and farthest away from Ryan, who sits curled into an overstuffed chair nearer to the staircase, a ginger cat sprawled across his lap, and he says, “Since you’ve let me in, let me come into your home, should I tell you now why I‘ve here? Are you ready now to hear my story?”
“You have come to tell me a story, I wasn’t sure. Yes, yes, as ready, I guess, as I’ll ever be.”
“I couldn’t help but notice your not too surprised reaction at finding me on your doorstep. I’m expected to some degree, aren’t I? Expected some day, for some unknown reason. So, what is this reason that elevates this day to that someday? Please, with your indulgence, I’d like to start at the place where I know how.”
“Please, Jamey. Start where you need.”
Jameson smiles, “I have your indulgence? Well, I guess where I know how would be within that room, within that very room which has always been such a problem for me. Notwithstanding its classic proportions and its tasteful appointments that room has always been…difficult. But since every third or fourth liberal - progressive - left-wing fundraiser is held there, in that very room at the heart of its beautiful marble and glass high-rise, I’ve been there a lot. As have you. As has he. An amFAR fundraiser was held there just last night, did you know? You didn‘t? Well…I did.
And as usual after 35 to 40 minutes of just being there, I‘m freaking, seriously. It’s like this itch, from some place deep inside me, crawls its way to the very surface of my skin until, well…what can I say? another minute or two, depending on the conversation and I go missing, searching for my salvation. What starts my itch on its journey and why, in turn, does that start me on mine? You may wonder, seems reasonable to do so, but that, in its entirety, is a story for another day. Or…has Stefan told you already? Your eyes are ambiguous. It’s strange, but I don’t really know what he’s told you already about me or my others, if anything actually, but no matter. Since you’ve agreed to indulge me, I’ll impart to you my story in my own way and let the chips fall where they may. What else, in all good conscious, can a caring man be expected to do? Rhetorical, man, rhetorical.
Understand, at its most basic, this itch, it crawls its way to the surface of my skin because, now get this, because there Are. No. Windows, none at all, in that…room. Big deal, right? So-the-fuck-what, you might thoughtfully inquire? But for me personally, that’s just not an option. Long term. Short term. Any term at all, really. Just does not matter, not in my reality. And did he tell you about the elevators? Ohmygod, I cannot stand fucking elevators and high-rises are simply awash with them. A necessary evil, I suppose, but still...I digress, because, understand, I have to see Out…Beyond…Away. I have to. And did he tell you about that, about my little neurosis, and, if he did, did he also tell you why? How much or how little of me has he laid open for you? Never mind. Please, forget that I asked. I’m sure I don’t even want to know.
So, naturally, since I’m there, in that very room, with its fabulous proportions and its stunning appointments and its windowless walls, like clockwork, like last night, I long ago found my way to the glass, to the vistas, to my salvation. I know that if I can just off-set every 35 to 40 minutes that I’m trapped within its claustrophobic-ness with 10 to 15 minutes of communion with the wide open urban vista, then I can hang on. I sense your skepticism, but really, it’s usually just fine.
And while there are several ways to the vistas, the best way, almost always the only way I use nowadays, depending on mood, of course, takes me out the left-side door of that elegantly decorated room, along a lengthy and seriously claustrophobic central hallway, around a couple of 45 degree turns until finally, finally I’m able to sprint through one last set of double-doors and I am arrived. I am where I’m supposed to be, where I need to be, so I can finally breathe. I see you smile, Ryan, yeah? You do know more, don’t you, then you let on?”
To clarify, I have arrived at one of the four intersections where the marble meets the glass, where the curved marble of one of the building’s four corners meets up with the unbroken glass of one of the building’s four curtain-walls. I’m speaking, naturally, only of that main corridor which girdles the hips of that building like a big wide shiny diamond-studded belt. So…so cool. It’s like 14 feet high, that glorious expanse of glass, from the floor where I am to the floor above and with nothing but Manhattan spreading away in front me. I am out…symbolically and, man, how awesome is that?
It’s like…like…oh I don’t know…it’s like Mondrian’s ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’ if he’d only painted from forty stories up instead of four and on black velvet instead of white canvas, like that could’ve ever happened, but still, you know what I mean. I just lay my body up against that glass cooled by the nighttime darkness, splayed out as flat as I can make myself with my feet like Charlie Chaplin and my arms like Jesus Christ. I let my forehead touch the one inch thick sheet of silica, which in that moment is all that separates me from my oblivion, while my hair falls gracefully forward just enough to protect me from my own deceptive peripheral vision. As you might imagine, I am one with the beyond and that’s how he finds me, knows where to find me because I’ve taken him there before, have had him splay his own self out in front of that black velvet vista of urbanity maybe once or twice. A long time ago now, it seems, but he hasn’t forgotten. And I am saved no longer.
Because he catches me, he captures me, he drags me away from the black velvet painting of my dreams and he slams me hard against the gray-veined and curved marble of my reality. I whimper. He smirks. It’s just this thing we do. And he holds me the way he knows how to hold me, so I can’t get away, at least not without hurting us both. I could get away, I simply choose not to. But only after some down and dirty calculating as to the probable cost in bruised tissue and broken bone if I try. Fairly high I decide and I really don’t feel like assuming that kind of responsibility. I’m just figuring, so much to lose, so little to gain. No offense.”
“Huh. Well, any…hoo, he takes me with his body laid over mine and he takes me with my hands trapped in his hands clutching tight into my hair and he takes me with his words, which he just starts pouring All. TheFuck. OverMe. Fuck, man…fuck, he is drowning me in those words of his and with them all just so warm and sticky sweet I wouldn‘t’ve so much minded dying just then if their song could’ve only been the last thing I ever heard. Man, that’s almost poetical. Hey, don’t chuckle…it is. That you can even think to chuckle is…well, never mind because everything is okay, really. Or that’s how I’d like to imagine everything is anyway, but you would probably know better than I would. I’m usually a little off, or so I’m told, when it comes to understanding these kinds of things. So, please I’m counting on you to make allowances for me whenever possible, ‘kay?”
“Good. So, carrying on, it’s like…like his words, they get all caught up in my hair, where they weave their way along each strand moving down a path that is just so fucking familiar that they know instinctively how to find their way to that deepest part of me where I have always loved him, where I always will. You don’t want to hear this; even I understand that, but can’t be helped, not really, not if I’m to tell you my story, not if I’m to sing you my song.
“Still, I keep my eyes shut; I know I don’t want to really see the truth shinning from him. Instead, when I catch my breath, his words bring the smell of him into my nose and when I gasp, his words bring the taste of him into in my mouth and, consequently, all high and drunk on those words of his, I mean, he is a writer after all, I get stupid. I forget what I’m never supposed to forget and I open my eyes where I can’t help but see the truth right there in front of me. As you could‘ve also, I’m sure. I imagine you’re probably already seeing the harsh truth that is our reality, Stefan’s and mine. Could it be that’s why you look so sad? If only I was able to understand, it might help, but no matter.
Because, it’s in his eyes, in his eyes that I see the truth, so I steel myself, I force out, ‘Your husband, he won’t let you fuck him, so you’ve come to me wanting nothing more than to get from me what you can’t get from him, yeah? I am…I really am nothing more to you than a warm, tight, familiar hole, am I?’ All so simple really and yeah, there was some other stuff said. And yeah, I suppose I may have taken my bitterness a little too far because, I swear to you, his right hand leaves my left and he slaps me so hard, so fast that his hand is back on mine before I can even register the change in air pressure. It’s as if spontaneously my cheek burns and my eyes water. Like there wasn’t any actual cause at all, only effect. The way of the new physics? Not really because that’s not the truth and we both know it. There is a cause and that cause is him. Just like old times, actually. He always was a little rougher with me than with any of our others. Strange, though, how I never thought to wonder why before now. Is what it is, I suppose. Not much use crying or spilt milk. Still with me?
“More or less.”
“Still good. But, that slap thing miffs me a little, so I struggle with some conviction, but when he lays his lips all cool and trembling on the burn-bruise he’s made on me, when he starts mouthing his confusion, his pain and especially his…have to have you…have to have you…have to have you…all into my hair with those words just following his others down so deep inside me, well, I decide…whatthefuck? Seemed best to just settle back and ride out the storm. Be honest, wouldn’t you’ve done the same? Yeah, I know, in this we share common ground. Stefan is kind of difficult to resist.
Anyway, his first kiss is so hard that I imagine, I can almost feel the molecules of my hair, of the back of my skull becoming intermingled with those of the gray-veined marble I’m being made a part of. Even if he were to let go of me, I couldn’t’ve run. We are becoming one, my calcite friend and I. Still, when his mouth leaves mine, I say, ‘NO‘, pretty emphatically, so aren’t you proud of me? Your scowl says ‘not so much’. Well, you could at least try and be a little proud of me; you must know how impossible it is for me to say no to him.
Whatever, because when he smiles at me and when he kisses me again, this second time isn’t nearly so harsh. This second time is more devouring than demanding with mounds of unintelligible sighs and murmurs piling up all around our boots, but with his need made just as plain as the nose on your face. He needs me because of you, only instead of you so, this time when his mouth leaves mine, I again manage to force out, “No.” Personally, I am stunned by my resiliency yet I cannot help but also notice that the resiliency of my ‘no’ has decreased in direct proportion to the increase in the hardness of my cock. All is doomed and, ultimately, is what it is, I suppose.
So, sensing my flagging resolve, he smiles at me…again and he comes at me…again because he knows me well. He may have left me long ago for you, but he knows me still. Beg me enough and I will cave. Pathetic yet charming in my own way or so I’m told. And, anyway, who the fuck we kiddin’? He feels me so hard against him that understanding couldn’t’ve been all that difficult to come by even if he didn’t know me from Adam, which he does.
Finishing up, his third kiss is nothing but tongue, all full in my mouth. He fills me to overflowing and with me just sucking on him like I’m some six month old baby and that tongue of his is this beautiful tit just full of the sweetest milk ever was. I can’t get enough, there isn’t enough, so this time when his mouth leaves mine, mine follows his…give me more…give me more…give me more. And he laughs, the little shit. My cock’s so freakin’ hard I ache down to my marrow and back out again to the very tips of my fingers. And, honestly, my ‘no’ isn’t anything more than a fading, a distant, a barely recalled memory from a time so very very long ago -- or like five minutes ago -- that the word has basically lost all its relevancy. Isn’t it just so sad when that happens?
And now, at long last, we reach the point in my story, in my song where, at least for a while, you lose because all of that equals only 12 to 15 minutes of last night, one entire day ago, a mini-lifetime ago and I only just now dropped him off at the airport on my way over here. Oh man, those eyes. I am sorry, but you do understand me correctly. When you called him this morning, he was with me even if I was in the next room and most definitely not with my ear to the door. Swear. And, while I can’t imagine I need to mention this, No Way he’s aware that I’m here.
Now you know as much as I’m willing to tell you, all you need to know really. Probably more than you need to know honestly, but since I am a sucker for a good story, a lover of a melodious song and since I am also determined to make you understand by employing just as much pain as I think you can handle, I tell a little too much, I sing a little too long.
Now, the ball’s in your court. What will you do when Stefan comes home tomorrow? He came to me last night thinking that at least I was safe, but see? I’m not even that safe because I’ve ratted him out to you, haven’t I? And I tell you this, if he comes to me again, I won’t cave, I won’t give in, I won’t let him in, regardless of how prettily he may beg because no matter how good it felt when he was inside me, it hurt a hundred times worse when he left me. I won’t give myself to him again, I won’t be his safe place again, his other…you.
So, decide now, decide what really matters because if not me, then who? He will find someone else because he needs to and then what? You’ve made this ‘arrangement’ of yours work lo these many month, shows just how much he loves you that he’s put up with the inherent inequality of the situation for this long. I sure-as-shit wouldn’t’ve, no matter how beautiful you are, no matter how talented you are because for me, as for him, your ’arrangement’ is false. No need to look at me like that, he was after all with me, with us for seven years, I know. And the thing is, you think I want you and him to fail, but I don’t because if you do, then all this fucking shit we’ve been going through will have been for nothing. Shit can’t’ve all been for nothing, alright? It can’t--”
“You would take him back if he and I, if we--”
“No, you have no fear, no concerns there. He can’t come home to us, not in that way. Such a scenario couldn’t happen, Tari would never allow it, so pardon me, but I’m getting very tired and I need us to stay on point. Although, as I think on it, if you wanted to fuck me over with him, you now have my story to use against me. Play the betrayed-little-partner card and I can’t imagine he’ll ever want to even speak to me again let alone use me to satisfy his carnal lust. But I can assure you of this, he will find someone else. Believe it. And not someone else who’s mine, not someone else who‘s safe, but someone else who I can’t control. Did you just hear an ominous roll of thunder far off in the distance or was that only me? It wasn’t only me, wasn’t it? I can see the understanding in your eyes.
Or…or you can choose another way. Maybe like an arrangement that‘s more…well, that’s not my business…that’s not for me to judge. Everyone must live their life their own way and deal with the consequences, but reality? One of the consequences of the way you’re living your life brought him to me and that obviously doesn’t please you. So, what happens next is now up to you and, I should hope, him. And on that note, I‘m done.”
Jameson has curled and uncurled himself several times in his little corner of their sofa during his 15 minutes of relatively fine-tuned storytelling and his five minutes of basically thrown-together summation. Now he swooshes their cat away, he stands, he stretches, he gets ready to go. He walks to the quietly sitting, sadly hunched over young man and, cupping his chin in his palm, lifting his tear-filled blue eyes to his, he says, “I love him, but he loves you. I don’t want him to lose you, I don’t. And I don’t want you to lose him. You need to find another way.” Using the pads of his thumbs to brush away Ryan’s tears, Jameson drops his hands to comfort his still trembling shoulders.
And as he brushes his fingertips over the green-purple stain on pale skin of last night’s slap, Ryan whispers, “He still loves you, you know.”
“And yet he…he threw me away. Like I was nothing. For you.”
“Jamey, no, he never meant --”
“Don’t, okay? Just don’t because reality? Beyond that night we brought him Alexander at the Rooftop Lounge, he hasn‘t spoken to me, hasn’t acknowledged me, hasn’t anythinged me for the whole of this time and he only comes to me now because he needs something to fuck. Such respect, yeah?” And just then, in that one moment, he realizes he really has had enough. He takes his hands away, he walks away to their front door and opening it, he scans down their stoop to his car waiting for him on this quiet, tree-lined neighborhood of Manhattan suburbia. “Don’t fuck this up, please, Ryan, or we‘ll all live to regret the consequences,” he warns, never taking his eyes from the car. ”Look I…I have to go…I can‘t do this anymore…I just…” Faltering, his voice betraying him, forcing him to concede his pain, his vulnerability, he starts through the doorway towards his sanctuary.
“Stay,” Ryan says.
“What?” And Jameson turns toward him.
“Stay with me until he comes home.”
“Stay,” Ryan chuckles softly, standing, his head cocked vaguely to one side. “I mean it.”
“You want him to find me here?” He doesn’t move from the doorway. “With you?” His palm still clutching the door handle. “He really will hurt me if he --”
“No, Jamey, he won’t. I won’t let him, okay?” And Ryan smiles.
“Well, if you’re certain you can defend me in the trenches…maybe.”
“There are things you don’t understand, Jameson --”
“The hell you say.”
“Yeah, really, things I’d like to explain, tell you my own little story maybe because I actually wasn’t that surprised to find you here. I don’t know, maybe…maybe I’ve always known, like you said…expected one day. Look, be here when he comes home and we’ll see what happens. I can’t keep that you came here a secret from him. He‘ll just…know.”
“Yeah, anymore than he can keep what happened a secret from you. He‘ll be all like driven by guilt. It’s funny because we both -- you and us -- we mate for life, but since you basically adhere to that whole societally-imposed monogamy standard and we don’t, life becomes all the more complicated. For years he was a part of us, did things our way. Now, he’s a part of you, doing things your way or at least trying to. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong and yet I feel like he has. A wide schism we have.”
“Maybe not as wide as you believe. Look, I’ve always been so afraid of you, all of you. I thought you’d try and take him back if you --“
“I’m not that kind of man.”
“I know, I know you aren’t. I just didn’t know how not to be afraid. Now maybe I do. You came to me, you came and you confessed even when Stefan told you not to. Don’t think I don’t realize what you’ve done, your honesty means a--”
“Okay, thanks, but I let him fuck me, so really --”
“I know. And you know I’m bleeding inside, you know I am. But alright, truth? He does tell me things about you, he even teaches me things about your ways that--”
“That must be difficult.”
“Was in the beginning, very difficult in the beginning, but not so much anymore because whenever he does, there’s this…this tranquility… this kind of harmony in him that I can almost understand, can maybe even envy a little. Look, just stay. When he comes home, we’ll take it from there. Please. I don’t want to be alone.”
“Swear this isn’t just tit-for-tat.”
“I‘m not that kind of man.”
“Yeah, well, alright, but I don’t know, I’m still not entirely convin--”
“I am begging, so now, you have to, according to your own words, ‘charmingly cave‘.”
“More like ‘pathetically’ cave, if you ask me.”
“Man, never give ‘em too much information,” Jameson mumbles, turning back to the street, “they will always use it against you. Usually not within 10 minutes, but always.” He throws a hand-signal into the night and Toby steps from their car
“You beckoned?” Toby says, and his voice breaks gently over the polished black surface of the car’s roof, then flows smoothly up the five-stepped stoop of the turn-of-the-century Brownstone, and, once at the landing, finally finds its way, both sought for and needed, into Jameson’s waiting ear.
“Go home, Toby, “Jameson says. “I’m staying here tonight so…”
“Yeah, I know, I’m confused as well, but I am staying nonetheless, so tell the others that I’ll call in the morning, okay?”
“Whatever you say, boss,” Toby laughs. “After all, I am only your very humble, incredibly sexy, always obedient --”
“Very humble…hardly. Incredibly sexy…ohmygod yes. Always obedient…only when I make you. And also, apparently, my fairly melodramatic lover, yeah?”
“Well, I was gonna say driver, but…”
“My driver, my business partner, my most level-headed counselor, my BFF for fucking Ev…Vuh--”
“Okay, just stop, Jameson,” Toby snarls. “Just…stop. Now who’s being melodramatic?”
“My anything else?” Jameson goads. “Maybe my everything else,” he reminds and he laughs when Toby snarks, “Oh, please.”
He watches while Toby slides back into the driver’s seat. He crouches low so he can see in while Toby starts up the engine and when man and machine drift thoughtfully away into the night, back to their Manhattan home, back to their others; he waves to him until there’s no longer any reason too, until he‘s completely gone from sight.
He stays outside a moment longer just getting his bearings, watching as a thousand stars begin to faintly crowd the blue-black sky over the city before finally going back inside and closing the front door behind him. He says, “So, listen, unless you really wanted to, y’know, tell me your story now, it is highly probable that I could come up with some silly little thing we both might find enjoyable.”
“Surprise me,” Ryan murmurs, holding out his hand and Jameson’s relief floods over him like a cleansing, phosphorescent wave. He didn’t fuckup, everything will be alright. Once Stefan comes home, once he finds out what he’s done, he won’t hate him unto death. The center will hold, all’s right with the world, so…YAY!!
He walks slowly to Ryan and stroking his fingertips along his palm, he takes his offered hand. Kneeling before him, he leans in to kiss him and just when their lips touch, when he seductively smirks, “Glad to,” and Ryan laughs, in that moment, Jameson hears only the sound of hope.
A few hours later, as Toby slowly pulls away from the curb and out into the quiet and still darkened Brooklyn street, Jameson sinks down into the comfortable passenger seat, closing his eyes, and he whispers, “Not to worry, happiness, in its entirety, did not ensue. He needed to talk so, I listened. He wanted warm arms around him so, I held him close. He asked for more, I persuaded him otherwise even if, initially, that hadn’t been my intent. So, nothing more, okay? Nothing more.”
“Why? Not feeling right about it.”
“Two wrongs do not a right make. As inappropriate as it was to sleep with Stefan, it would have been even more so to sleep with Ryan. If things are to take a better road than the one we now all find ourselves traveling on, this would not have been a good direction to take. I left him asleep, a brief note explaining my reasons why. When he comes home, Stefan will tell what he will tell when he will tell it and forewarned, I think, at the very least, Ryan will deal better. How their situation will resolve itself, how we will, if at all, factor into that, only time will tell. I believe I’ve done right. Are you in agreement?” And by his smile, Jameson can tell that Toby is.
“Everyone’s awake, awaiting our return, where, I am sure, with just the slightest of encouragement happiness, in all its entirety, will most definitely ensue. Are you in agreement?” And by his smile, he’s sure that Toby can easily tell that he really really is.