Authors: Charlie David
Tags: #gay romance
“Ashley, no! We have to live together!” Michelle intercedes.
“How could I share a bedroom with him? I don’t care if we have two beds! It’s just too weird. Remember, we have the ‘wrong energy,’” I say bitterly.
“Let’s just wait and see what happens, all right? We’ll know at the end of the day who got in.” With that she stands and pulls me toward our next class, which we’re already late for. Easy to say. Wait and see. For the remainder of the day, my mind recaps my audition over and over, critiquing my performance. I know I did well… but maybe I’m not the right look…. Antonio, I need this job! I can’t go back and live in Alberta for the summer. What would I do? Take back my old job as a bag boy at the grocery store or wait tables? It’d kill me.
everyone, in your own time, roll up gently from your spine and you can go. Keep the awareness of this newly awakened chakra and any memories or feelings it has opened for you,” Millie, Ms. Enlightenment, instructs the class.
Michelle and I walk toward each other, simultaneously stretching our backs with one arm crooked behind for support. I have my mat and collection of rubber balls under the other arm. We’ve just finished MBS class. MBS stands for Mind, Body, Spirit, and today we’ve been lying on hard rubber balls specifically placed in pain-inducing areas. The purpose, we are told, is to connect to certain chakras or energy vortexes through breath and slow rhythmic movement. I felt a whole lot of pain for an hour. Millie assured me this was a good thing—part of the process.
I do enjoy these exercises however, and if I am going to be in pain it may as well be in a beautiful place. The auditorium where we hold MBS class is just that: a large hardwood hall with a soaring A-frame ceiling. Floor-to-ceiling windows swell the room with sunlight and a steady stream of colored rays dance down from stained glass just below the vertex of the arched walls.
“Oww! Oh my God! I haven’t hurt like this since my sister body-slammed me in third grade!” Michelle exclaims, still bracing her back. I laugh and scoop her up in my arms cradle-style.
“Here, princess, this better?”
“Oh yeah! Ridin’ in style!” she quips, smacking me in the ass. “Giddy up, little doggy!” As I run around with her spinning and laughing, I see the embodiment of pain walking toward us.
“Guess who’s doing the Butchart Gardens show this summer?” Chris asks, his face beaming. I set Michelle down, and she runs into his arms, shrieking.
“Yes! Right on, boy! When did you find out?”
“I just went home for dinner and there was a message on my machine,” Chris explains. “Come on! Let’s go see if you guys are in. I just know we all are. We
to be.” The three of us run downstairs to the phone, and I prod Michelle to go first. She starts to dial but Chris hangs up before she can finish. “Wait, before you do, let’s just say that we are best friends and whatever happens, happens. Regardless, we are spending the summer together, deal?”
“Deal!” Michelle chimes in.
I think of how great that would be, the three of us together. As I look from Michelle to Chris, I search for some kind of sign behind his eyes. I don’t want to be hurt again.
“Deal,” I say, grabbing Michelle’s hand as she starts to dial.
“Hello? Mandy, this is Michelle. I need you to check if I have any messages.”
“Uhhh… yeah…. Your mom called, and someone from Butchart Gardens wondering where to send you a contract.”
“Eeeeee! Thanks, Mandy!” Michelle squeals, hanging up the phone, “I’m in, I’m in!”
“I knew it!” Chris hugs her. “All right, Ashley, your turn, three’s a charm.”
I pick up the phone and dial hurriedly. No new messages.
“Hey, it’s cool, Ashley. I’m sure they’re just in the middle of doing their booking calls,” Michelle encourages me and rubs my back.
I try three more times in the following ten minutes and am greeted by the same taunting voice: “You have no new messages.”
“Hey, man, don’t sweat it. Let’s just get to class,” Chris says, putting an arm around my shoulders and leading me away from the phone. I feel angry, like the loser who didn’t make it even though I still don’t know. The evening classes drag on, and I habitually sneak out to use the phone. The end of the night comes with that annoying recorded voice ringing in my ears.
“I don’t think I made it, guys. I would have heard by now,” I vent to Chris and Michelle as we leave college for the night.
“It’s cool, you’ll make it. Listen, call me as soon as you hear,” Michelle implores, kissing me on the cheek.
“Yeah, me too, okay?” Chris says, looking at me intently. “Do you want me to go with you?”
“Sure. I mean, we can walk together up to the corner of Pandora and Oak Bay,” I respond cautiously after a moment’s hesitation. I turn and wave to Michelle, who is already walking away from us, both hands in the air with her fingers crossed.
“God, I love her!” I exclaim, not so much to Chris as to myself. “That girl can make me laugh like no one else.”
Chris and I start to walk down Chaucer, one of the three “poet” streets that lead from the college to Foul Bay. I love to stroll the “poets” on my way home. Shakespeare and Milton join Chaucer to form the triumvirate. The streets are crowded with a mecca of tiny houses with neatly tailored gardens. The spring evening is dark and cool, in stark contrast to the unusually warm island day. Stars are beginning to peek out in clusters, and the moon is already high and full with eerie moon dogs encircling it.
“Listen, Chris, I don’t know what’s going to happen when I get home tonight. Maybe I’m in, maybe I’m not. You and Michelle made it, though. So I want you two to live together for the summer. It doesn’t make sense for me to be there with you. I still have a great place to live and you need one….”
“You and Michelle were moving in together first. It’s a two bedroom, and if we can’t share a room, there’s no choice. I can find somewhere else to stay.”
“If there isn’t a phone call for me when I get home, I’ll be packing for Alberta anyway. Just take the place, all right? I already spoke with Michelle about it. She’s cool.”
“What’s this about, Ashley? This is about us, isn’t it?”
“No, this isn’t about
. There is no
have the wrong energy. I think that’s how you put it?” I spew.
“Ashley, come on. It’s not like that. Try to understand where I’m coming from. How can I just break up with Jeremy? We’ve been together all year.”
“Why don’t you want to be with me? You’re scared. I was afraid too, hiding behind my girlfriend, but I took the risk. You told me you were going to break up with him. You told me you only wanted to be with me! How am I supposed to feel?” I demand, my anger rising dangerously.
“I don’t know what you’re supposed to feel. How am I supposed to feel when I see you straddling my boyfriend for a massage? How am I supposed to feel when all anyone talks about at college is how Michelle and you must be screwing? Instead of pointing your finger at me, maybe you should figure out who the hell
want to date,” Chris explodes.
A sudden wind whips down the street, tossing my hair across my forehead. The chill provokes me to cross my arms, bracing myself from Chris as much as the weather. I laugh in disbelief. “What are you talking about? I obviously do a bang-up job of disguising my feelings. It’s killing me not to be with you! That’s why we can’t live together. It just won’t work.”
“Ashley, come on. We’ve been planning it for months,” Chris interjects. “Look, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but please don’t throw this all away.”
all away? What is
? We don’t have anything! We might have had something, but you made another choice. A choice to stay somewhere you’re not happy. We might have been friends, but we’re really only connected through Michelle. We might in the least have been roommates. But how can you stand there and ask me to be just that? After we’ve had a taste of what it might have been like, you ask me to watch you with someone else. How could I share a place with you, let alone a room? Do you think I wouldn’t rot inside every time you brought Jeremy home?” I choke on my words and say a silent “thank you” because it has started to rain. The last thing I want is Chris to see me cry over him.
“Ashley, please. I’m in a rough spot right now. I’m just so confused about a lot of things. Your friendship means so much to me. Please, just trust me. I need time.”
I’m done fighting. I’ve said all I can say, all that’s been wrestling inside me. “Sure. Look, I gotta get home. We’re getting soaked out here. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” I manage to say in an even tone. My mask starts sliding into place over the torrential emotions. I turn and slip away without waiting for an answer. There are no more words right now. I used to love words, but now I’m beginning to despise them.
The rain drives down, creating walls of water, trapping me in, obscuring my vision. Or maybe it’s the pools gathering in my eyes. For no reason I start to run. I’m on autopilot, mindlessly breaking through the walls of water. The puddles send a wave up my body with each footfall until I can’t tell which way is up or down. Water seems to be drowning me from every angle.
I’m laughing! Laughing because I’m six years old, out in the rain with my walnut sailboats. Laughing because rain is wonderful and life is wonderful. Laughing because at six I’m normal, and I’m going to grow up and get married and have babies. Laughing because somewhere Antonio got it wrong. How funny this all is! This isn’t my life; this is an absurd dream, isn’t it?
“I’m ready to wake up!” I shout, still laughing at the sky. “I’m ready to wake up!” I choke on the rain and the sudden realization that I don’t get to. My laughter is now sobbing as I melt to the ground, butt on the curb and feet submerged in a puddle. At least no one is around to see me cry.
the type of day you’re having, life just keeps on walking, snapping its gum and giving attitude. It gives you no choice but to pick yourself up off the curb, dry off, and run to meet its pace.
I arrive home and play the message welcoming me to the cast of Butchart Gardens, but feel no joy or relief, only a wry sense of irony and deepened confusion. Antonio gave me what I wanted; what I had prayed for so diligently, for Chris, Michelle, and me to be accepted together. Did He miss the part about us being friends or being in love? I obviously need to be more specific.
The three of us sign the contracts the following day and mail them in one envelope, thereby sealing ourselves together for at least four months. Enough. Enough. Forget about that. Forget about
Despite my resolve to stay holed up in my room and remain miserable, after almost a week spent focused on finishing my grad requirements, I decide to join the world of the living again and do what every other college kid is doing—partying.
I take a deep breath and head out to a house party, excited at the possibility of seeing Chris as much as I try to convince myself that I’m officially over him. The only problem is there’s no one else of interest to me, nowhere for me to divert my affections. So what’s a guy to do?
Vodka cranberry. Over and over. Ten o’clock and there’s still no sign of Chris. Jeremy is here, though, running around with his video camera and generally causing a ruckus. Stepping into one of the bedrooms strewn with couples making out, he sticks the camera in my face.
“Ashley! How’s it going? Are you up for that wrestling match you’re always threatening me with?” Jeremy laughs.
“You wouldn’t stand a chance! I’d nail you down so fast your head would spin,” I drunkenly threaten, brandishing a wicked smile.
“I’d like to see you try that, but let’s up the stakes. We wrestle naked,” Jeremy dares. The few people standing or lying around the room laugh, now intrigued.
“I don’t know how well Chris would like that. Where is your boy tonight anyway?” I ask.
“At home, he wanted to be alone. Told me to go party but I’m going over there later.”
“All right, big shot, put your camera down and let’s have at it. Clothes on though, I don’t wrestle naked guys,” I say, as much to the rest of the room as to Jeremy.
“Not what I heard. Can you all excuse us? Ashley and I need to have a little chat. Don’t worry, you’ll all get tickets to the main event.”
There is a little grumbling but everyone exits the room, leaving Jeremy and I alone. He closes the door and turns the lock. He looks back with a coy smile, then suddenly bull rushes and tackles me around the waist before I know what’s going on. We crash down on the hardwood. My tailbone is driven into the floor as his weight lands squarely on top. My face contorts into a grimace, and I moan in pain. Jeremy grabs my arms and pins them above my head. He straddles my left thigh, squeezing it with his own, and smiles viciously.
“I know what you’re up to,” he sneers. “You don’t have anyone fooled, especially me.” Relying on one arm to keep mine pinned, he claws my balls, lifting them forcefully. “I know you like cock, Ashley,” Jeremy purrs as he returns his hand to restraining me and drives his own hard member into my thigh. Moving his mouth to mine, he brushes my lips as he says, “Come on, Chris won’t mind. He’ll never have to know.”
“Yeah, well I will,” I spit and writhe to free myself. “Jeremy, fuck off. I’m not into it.”
“Suit yourself, sailor,” he quips, freeing me. “Could’ve been fun.”
“Do you even love him?” I ask, suddenly distraught as I get to my feet.
“Who? What do you mean?” Jeremy asks, straightening his clothes and fixing his hair in the boudoir mirror.
“Chris. Isn’t he important to you?”
“Yeah, of course he is. I love him,” Jeremy answers, examining me. “I just thought you wanted to fuck.”
“Forget it, dude. Do me a favor, okay?” I say as I unlock the door, ready to exit. “Treat Chris well.”
ass really hurts and not for any good reason. No pleasure led up to this pain. The little wrestling match with Jeremy on Saturday night still has me hobbling. I knocked my tailbone good.
Another day closer to graduation
, I think, filling my backpack with sheet music, my
Complete Works of William Shakespeare
, and a couple plays. It’s about 8:00 p.m., and as usual I’m one of the last students still on campus, having just finished accompanying some friends on piano after rehearsing my own songs for the week. No rest for the wicked. I have a monologue from
Henry the Fifth
to memorize for tomorrow, and as I ponder this and pull on my jacket Chris walks into the locker room, visibly shaken. I start to say something about missing him at the party when I meet his eyes, brimming with tears and red from efforts to wipe them away.