Authors: Charlie David
Tags: #gay romance
“So this is it? This is good-bye?” Michelle breaks my inner turmoil. Her eyes are wet, and she hurriedly brushes a tear away and tucks a disobedient blonde tress behind her ear.
“Ahh… come here,” I say, enveloping her in my arms and placing her head to rest on my shoulder. “It’s gonna be fine, Chris is gonna take care of you. What am I saying? You, lioness, can take care of yourself. And I’ll be back to visit soon and often.”
“I guess I can always post up pictures of you from the magazines in my locker, right? I’ll make a little Ashley shrine.”
“Michelle, we’ll always be awesome friends and you and Chris can come visit me in LA. It’s a short drive, like twenty-two hours driving fast.” I laugh.
“Promise me one thing,” she says, looking me in the eyes.
“That you won’t change. Because there is so much to love just as you are. Remember that.”
I nod. “I’m a little scared, Michelle.”
“Don’t be. We’re all really excited for you.”
his head back and sighs while staring at the ceiling. I watch him silently as he places one hand on his head and rubs it over his recently shaved scalp.
I roll into him and we lay looking up at his ceiling in satisfied silence. Silence because there are few words left to say. Silence because we yearn to stretch each moment and save those words until there is no choice but to give them breath. Rain pit-patters on the awning above the window, open and inviting in the cool night air. It slips in a silent stream from the ledge, drawing a line across the carpet and up onto the bed, where it tickles our feet. I draw my arm up and crook it over my head. Curiously running my fingers over Chris’s smooth skull, I mindlessly continue until he breaks our glass silence.
“Can you stop doing that? I hate that.”
“Stop what?” I ask, mystified.
“Stop touching my head. I hate it. Just leave it alone, okay?” Chris seethes with a harshness I’ve never heard before.
“All right, no problem. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it upset you.” I pause. “So where were you today? I missed you.”
“I couldn’t be there. I couldn’t stand that building today.”
“It was my last day, Chris. I wish you’d come.”
“I said I couldn’t do it, all right? Your last day…. Did you really think of me once today before coming over to mess around one last time?”
I bolt upright and start searching for my boxers. “I can’t believe you just said that. Do you think that’s what this was? A bon voyage screw?”
“Ashley, stop. Please. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m saying. I just can’t stand knowing you’ll be gone in the morning. How am I supposed to say good-bye?”
“Who says we have to? Chris, I’ve been waiting for the silence to be broken all night by that horrible word, and I can’t stand to look at you and say it.” He embraces me, and we stand locked, united against the surging sea, the dark clouds, the seething wind, and whatever the future will bring.
“Here, I made this for you. This is how I spent my day.” Chris hands me a blue box, exquisitely painted like the sky with clouds.
I nod, kiss him one last time, and turn. “I gotta go.”
Clutching the sky in my arms, I slowly walk away from Chris’s house. Leaving love for a new life; career is always first. I’ve prayed so long and sincerely for these two things, to find a best friend and lover. Is it possible I’ve finally found someone who loves me for who I am? My second equally compelling prayer has been to find the keys to unlock the doors of my ambitions. To catch a break.
Ironically Antonio has given me both at once. He’s handed me two great gifts, and I can’t manage to carry both. Bittersweet tears start forming in the corners of my eyes as I reach the top of a hill on Pembroke Street. A streetlight holds me transfixed in its sifted rays through the pink-blossomed trees. Gazing out over the city lights with memories of our time spent in this very spot, I sink to the sidewalk. Mourning for the future we had begun to weave, for the dreams and plans we had shared, for the best friend I had pined for only to be torn away.
I hold the blue box with painted clouds and through a blurry gaze slowly pull the ribbon. Under tissue paper, a handmade card, the cover painted with a little boat.
Opportunity couldn’t have knocked on the door of a better person. Grant yourself this short-term happiness. Remember, the little things matter most. All the love and happiness to your future. I hope we are always a part of each other’s lives.
I pull a little scroll out of the skybox and remove its tie. On beautiful flecked yellow paper burnt and dripped with wax around the edges, a letter:
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. All the glitz and glamour of childhood dreams are at your fingertips. It must be hard to believe, as if God is playing some absurd trick….
Ironic this happens just when we were able to be together, I guess fate wasn’t “playing for the team” as we hoped, but we can’t let this stop us from our relationship. Maybe it’s just not supposed to happen—yet.
I honestly don’t think I can even consider being with anyone else. No one else could possibly compare to your spirit. It’d be like brushing your teeth and then drinking orange juice. If I were with anyone, I’d have to bite my lip to stop myself from screaming your name. We always have the phone and we can always write. This is not good-bye.
I love you. I’m sorry it has taken all this time to get here. It’s such a cliché. “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” It’s so incredibly true. I can’t help wishing we had spent more time together, can’t help but regret some of my poor choices. Things will work out, I promise. If you ever need me, know I will drop everything and be at your side the moment you call.
So here’s the temporary good-bye. I’ll see you soon. I mean it. Don’t ever question if I believe in you. Know it. Know that I trust and support you, as do all of your friends, and you have a lot. You’re a powerful person with great instincts. Trust them. Call and write your friends and family, so we can prove that we know you.
Know how much I miss you already. I love you, and that makes me happy. This is not a good-bye. Chris
Slowly I rise from the street curb and take a step away from love. And then another. Glancing back through my tear-stained eyes, I memorize the moment. “Good-bye.”
the luxuries Los Angeles offers, it does not boast rain. No, clear blue skies and sunshine for days are the norm. I’ve been here for five days keeping pace with every other busied Californian. Fittings, test shots, makeup, and shoots during the day. Reservations for Miyagi’s, Sushi Roku, or Del Frisco’s at night. Drinks at Chateau Marmont, Skybar, or a myriad of other “it” places on Sunset Boulevard. And if the boys are feeling rowdy, like tonight, we head to the Saddle Ranch to ride the mechanical bull amidst the cacophony of “Yee-haws,” clinking Heinekens and Sam Adams. The smell of college jocks, cowboys, and wannabe stars is intoxicating here as we squeeze our way through a pressing crowd.
Mikal is twenty-six and from Miami, six foot two, dark hair and startling green eyes. He is athletically built but not too bulky. Upon discovering I am just eighteen, Mikal immediately took on the role of older brother to me. Warning me on which shoots dressers will try to cop a feel, how to look toward the sun without blinking, and how to continually flex my abdominal muscles and still look like I’m having fun. Mikal has a little boy, Erik, who is six and lives with his mother, an ex-girlfriend in Fort Lauderdale.
Jordan, twenty-three, is New York—or at least what I imagine it to be. He has short-clipped brown hair and a hard but not uncompromising face. He is loud, hurried, and all about himself. With strong Italian features and built like a tank, Jordan looks like he’d just as soon beat the shit out of you as say hello.
Then he does. “Hellllllooooo! Oh, sweetie, you look fabulous! Where did you say you were from again, baby? Canada? Do all the boys wear little fur boots there? That’d be adorable!” A Muscle Mary. Gayer than the morning sun. And really fun once we got it clear I would not be sleeping with him.
And from Puerto Rico, Fernando, now a native Californian of six years. He has mocha skin, funky and spiky blond-tipped hair, and a devilish grin. When he took off his shirt the first day for our “fraternity beach volleyball” shoot, it became very apparent why he was here. Fernando has a Brad Pitt
physique, all cut up.
“That’s right, soak it in everyone, the party has arrived,” Jordan announces to himself as much as to anyone else who may hear him. “Good thing we hooked up the young one with ID. His looks are high currency around here.” He pinches my ass as we sidle up to the crowded circle bar.
“Hey, hands off, Jordan. Ashley’s not your groping toy,” Mikal commands, pushing between Jordan and me and acting as a human wall. “Go find another Mary to play with.” Turning to me and Fernando, he asks, “What are we drinking, boys? Couple tequila shots to get started?” Fernando and I nod, silly smiles pasted on our faces. The whole club scene is nothing new to me. I’ve been to clubs at home, but the thrill of being three years underage again adds some excitement. In Canada the legal age is eighteen or nineteen depending on the province, but down here twenty-one is the magic number.
“Hey, Mikal, thanks for stepping in there. Jordan is great but can be….” I search for the word.
“Pushy, full of himself, a little hands-on…,” Fernando finishes for me.
“No problem. Drink up, boys!” Mikal says like a football chant. Slamming one, then a second shooter on the counter and pulling the lemon peel out of his teeth, he winks at me. “Besides, we don’t want any damaged goods.”
I’m still wincing from the tequila when Fernando pulls me by the shirt. “Get over here, man. They’re having wet T-shirt contests with girls on the mechanical bull! Yee-haw!”
A pretty blonde is navigating the bucking bull between her legs as a cowboy in jeans, no shirt, and a hat pours ice water on her. She squeals and puts on a great show for the crowd. No doubt a paid performance by an aspiring starlet.
“She is so hot!” Fernando gushes, drawing a quick breath between his teeth and reminding me of Chris. “So what’s your deal, man? You have a girlfriend back home?”
“Uh, no,” I stammer, trying to decide where to go with this.
Don’t trust him, he’s straight. He doesn’t get it, he’ll think you’re sick. You want to be hurt again? Shut it!
I’m tired of living the lie. I can start anew here. If he can’t handle it, he’s not worth my time.
Big mistake. I’m warning you. It’s safe in here.
“Actually, I kind of have a
friend back home, at college. His name is Chris.”
Fernando laughs. “Cool, well I never pegged you for guys, but what do I know? Really?” He laughs again.
“Yeah, really. We were just starting to get serious when I came down here.”
“Well I’ll keep my eye out for you if you keep one out for me. I like fun blonde honeys with perky breasts.” Fernando laughs again. He laughs a lot, always has a smile on his face like the world has never hurt him. Which is maybe why he’s so open, no reasons for hate.
“You’d love my friend Michelle. I’ll introduce you if she visits.”
“What’s your type, Ashley? Someone like Mikal?” he asks, pointing with his chin over to the bar where Mikal is under siege by two California blondes.
“What? I don’t know. I mean, I have Chris at home. I’m not even thinking of dating other people. Mikal? No. I mean, he’s older, and besides, he’s straight. He’s like an older brother to me here. Why?”
“All right, it’s all good. I just thought maybe. I mean Mikal is a super cool guy. I know he plays it straight and has his little boy and all, but I’ve seen the way he looks at you, man. It’s not brotherly.” Fernando turns his attention back to the buxom bronco rider, and shoving two fingers in his mouth, gives a long whistle of approval. I furtively glance toward the bar where Mikal is looking over the shoulder of his female companions at….
Me? His mouth curls into a precocious half smile and he shrugs. I instantly look at my shoes, feeling my face start to burn up.
Shit. What are you thinking? Get a grip.
Mikal may be gorgeous, the projection of my ideal man, but he’s straight.
And you love Chris. At least you did last week.
All right—this is just the tequila and Coronas thinking. Call Chris. That’s what I need to do: go call Chris, hear his voice. Know that everything is okay.
I steal out of the club and scroll through my cell phone to Chris. In the crowded valet lot, I look down this fantasyland they call Sunset Boulevard. How and why did I end up here? Now?
Chris Home. Send. Ring. Ring.
“Hey! What’s happening? I just wanted to hear your voice.”
“Ashley. Who’s this?”
“Blair. How’s it going down there, man? You likin’ the big city? Don’t forget about all us little people.”
“Oh, hey man. Yeah, I’m loving it. I miss all you guys at college, though. I’ve been trying to call you boys all week, must be busy there…. Hey, is Chris around?”
“No, man, you didn’t hear?”
“Hear what? I’ve been gone for five days,” I say.
“Chris was picked up by that cruise line. Remember that audition you went to Monday? Well, he flew out to Miami yesterday. Crazy, huh?”
“Yeah, crazy.” I’m shocked. Not that Chris got in the show. Shocked he didn’t call. “Well, do you have a number in Miami for him?”
“No man, sorry. He didn’t know where he could be reached. He said he’d call when he got a new number.”
“Well can you tell him that I called? Tell him I’d love to congratulate him,” I say, straining to sound unaffected and calm.
“Sure, no problem, Ashley. You take care of yourself, all right?”
“You bet. Later, man.”
Dumbfounded. Relief? Anger. Guilt lifted? Joy. Pain. Whuthafuck? Whutthafuuuuuck!