Authors: Rob Byrnes
was strange, Bart thought, as he turned the corner and walked west on Fifty-first Street. Three days, three different parts of Manhattan . . . what were the odds?
As he approached Seventh Avenue, he thought about those
odds a little bit more. Running into someone at Bar 51: common.
Seeing that person a second time near the Whitney: not common,
but not freakishly uncommon. But coming across the same man
the next day on Sixth Avenue? Unlikely.
Which left two possibilities: either Bart was meant to meet this
man, or this man was stalking him. He hoped that this wasn’t an-
other stalker. The last one—the guy he had merely kissed outside
an East Village bar one night, unfortunately after handing out his cell phone number—had called so frequently and persistently for
months afterward that Bart was finally forced to change his num-
So if this new guy was a stalker . . .
. Bart tried to put the thought out of his head. It was good to be cautious, but bad to close himself off. He felt he led too cloistered of a life as it was.
As he waited at the crosswalk for the light to change, so he could cross Seventh Avenue, he had the strongest impulse to dash back to Sixth, to see if the guy from the bar was still looking for him in the shadow of Radio City Music Hall. If he
a stalker, he might be as intrigued by the coincidences as Bart was. But he fought the impulse back. He had responsibilities.
He met his first—and, really, only—responsibility when he reached
Eighth Avenue, where he popped into the parking garage in which
he had hidden the car three days earlier for its five-night stay, check-ing it for any overnight dents or dings. He probably would have
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made this inspection if it were his own car; the fact that it was borrowed from his employer made the inspection imperative. After
finding the car and giving it a careful eyeballing, he left the garage, satisfied that it had made it through the night intact.
His next responsibility, the optional one, was at the video store
next to the garage, where he asked the clerk if some old movies were available yet on DVD. The clerk—young even to Bart, who still considered himself quite young—had never heard of the titles.
Darling, I’m Darling
“Yeah.” Bart was already impatient, having been on the hunt
without success for months.
“Let me check.”
The clerk went to work on his computer terminal, carefully con-
firming the spelling of the movies with Bart as he slowly typed.
Finally, he looked up from the screen.
“I found the
DVD,” he announced triumphantly.
“Is it out?”
“Mid-October. Part of the Kitty Randolph box set.”
Bart frowned. “Can I order it without the Kitty Randolph movies?”
He couldn’t; it was all or nothing, so—when the clerk couldn’t
tell him the names of the other titles in the set—Bart took nothing and let himself out of the store.
Responsibilities over, he walked another block west until he
reached Ninth Avenue. Bart hadn’t really intended to stop at Bar
51 again—not consciously, at least—but he had no better idea on
how to kill some time, and he liked the place. At least no one at Bar 51 had accused him of prostituting himself.
He knew he could always go back to Jon’s apartment but, much
as he liked his host, there was still the problem of “employer talk.”
And now that he was into the fourth day of what could charitably
be described as his worst vacation ever, Bart felt strongly that he had to take full advantage of the final forty-eight hours, especially since it was already Friday.
And, well . . . maybe that guy—Mr. Fate; Mr. Stalker, whatever—
would show up, and he could try to figure out this string of coincidences. True, he was leaving New York in two days and didn’t know
when he’d be back, but it could be a harmless diversion. If there
was something worth pursuing, he would only be a few hours away.
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Not perfect, but workable. It wasn’t as if there was a lot of competi-tion, living as he did in virtual isolation in the Hamptons.
And if the guy really
a stalker, well . . . Bart could always get the car out of the garage and leave New York that night.
he’d be certain not to give out his cell phone number prematurely, just in case.
When he walked through the front door of Bar 51, he saw that
the bartender he knew as Jason—“Young Jason,” the regulars had
informed him, as opposed to “Old Jason,” who was also young but
not as painfully young as Young Jason—was on duty. Bart ordered a
Corona and took a stool at the midpoint of the bar. He was one of
only a handful of people in the entire room, including Young
Although it was only 4:30 PM, he knew that he would have no
more than three beers . . . even though he wouldn’t even be driving.
Bart was proud of his responsible, methodical nature . . . proud
that he was always in control.
As the only child of strict midwestern parents, he was raised to
be responsible. It was like that where he grew up: you could go one of two ways. The strict upbringing resulted either in responsible, no-nonsense children, or it resulted in wild, rebellious children.
Bart was the former. He was babysitting while still almost a baby
himself; a lifeguard at twelve who saved a life at thirteen; an exem-plary son by any standard.
Any standard, that was, except that of his parents. They did not
react well when their only child came out to them as gay. True, they didn’t throw him out of the house or disown him, as so many others of their mindset would have done. But they dealt with the topic of homosexuality by strictly avoiding the subject, erecting an invisible wall in their house, behind which they hid away his sexuality.
In one sense, Bart was fine with the avoidance and neglect. He
had no interest in discussing his sex life with them, anyway, and if it met their comfort level, it made
—including Bart—comfortable. Still, there were times—new love, heartbreak—when it
would have been nice to share his life with his family.
Fortunately, he had a surrogate family to fill the emotional void
left by his biological one. Bart had never intended to leave Toledo, but a job led to a relocation, and suddenly he was in Suffolk County, 68
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New York, on the eastern tip of Long Island, the heart of the Hamptons, meeting yet another friend of a friend of a friend, leading
him to his dream job. Now he was tucked away in a comfortable, if
slightly lonely, life in Southampton, tending to the personal needs of a couple who were far too uncomplicated to need a personal assistant. But their money could afford one, so they thought.
? And Bart, as the beneficiary of the unneeded position, couldn’t disagree.
Bart also quickly decided that he should enjoy it. A good salary,
a huge house, a low-maintenance job, at least most of the time . . .
they even let him borrow one of their cars on his occasional forays to Manhattan, which they called “Bart’s Sanity Tour” to further
prove their good humor. What was not to love?
It was perfect, he thought.
Except . . . well, it would have been nice to share it with some-
But Bart was only twenty-eight years old. There would be time
for all that.
And in any event, it was time for another Corona.
Tricia grabbed Noah by the arm as soon as he walked through
the front door and onto the marble floor of the foyer.
“We’re going out,” she said. It was not a question, and it was not a request. It was an order.
“He’s home,” she said, referring to Max. “And he’s making me
“He’s home already? But . . .”
She clenched her jaw. “I
that we’re going out.”
“But . . .”
She waved him away. “Dr. Golden from 11G is with him. He can
take care of any needs
” not her husband; his father—“has.
I’ve already cleared this with him.”
“I should at least poke my head in,” said Noah.
Tricia glanced at her watch. “You’ve got five minutes.”
Noah walked down the corridor to his father’s bedroom and,
after knocking gently, quietly entered. The eighty-six-year-old Dr.
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Golden from 11G sat next to the ailing Max, making his father look comparably healthy. Noah wondered if it was wise to leave his father in such decrepit hands.
Max’s eyes were closed. Noah looked to Dr. Golden for permis-
sion to interrupt.
“He’s awake,” the old man grumbled, and Max’s eyes opened.
“Dad? How are you feeling?”
“Not bad for an old guy who just had all sorts of tubes and
catheters and balloons snaking through him.” He smiled. “Tired,
Noah offered him a faint smile. “Welcome home.”
Max shifted, trying to find a comfortable position, and said, “So . . .
how long are you staying?”
“Until I know we can leave you alone.”
“No. I meant this afternoon.” Noah didn’t answer, so Max con-
tinued. “I know that Tricia wants to get out of the house. Why don’t you take her somewhere?”
“Uh . . .”
“Go back to that bar you took her to the other night.”
“She told you that?”
“I could see it on her face,” he said. “In her eyes. I know she
doesn’t drink alone—a husband can tell that sort of thing—so she
had to have gotten that hangover somewhere else.”
“Uh . . .” Noah felt himself blush, outed as a co-conspirator in
his father’s wife’s drunken evening at Bar 51.
“Please just take her out.” He paused, and tilted his head con-
spiratorially. “Maybe she could drink a bit less, but still . . .”
Although Noah had already been dragooned into taking Tricia
out, he was reluctant to admit it. There was something about the
way the younger residents of the Abraham house were interacting
that felt almost as if they were excluding the patient from their
plans. Noah decided that another bar crawl with Tricia could wait
for a day or two.
“I think I should stay here,” he said finally.
“Noah.” His father’s voice took on the tone he always adopted—
with family as well as in court—when he wanted to be obeyed. He
dropped the volume a notch and said, “Your stepmother is making
me a little crazy here, okay? I
you to take her out. I want a few hours without her hovering over me. Understand?”
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“I can watch him, Noah,” added Dr. Golden.
“See? It’s that easy. Go out for a while and unwind. There’s
money on the top of the dresser.”
Noah shook his head. “I have money.”
“So take some more.” Max shifted again, discomfort on his face.
When he saw that Noah wasn’t making the effort to take his cash,
he again ordered him to take it.
“You’re all crazy,” said Noah, slowly backing toward the door, and, in the process, reaching out to take the wad of cash from the top of the dresser.
“Thank you,” said his father. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s
said to me in . . . well, at least one week. So where are you taking her?”
Noah thought about Bar 51, and about that handsome man who
seemed to be everywhere, but who, of course, had not been in the
bar the one time he went to look for him.
“I don’t know.” And he didn’t.
“Meaning, back to that gay bar?”
“Uh . . .” Noah glanced at Dr. Golden, who suddenly seemed
very interested in that month’s issue of
. “I don’t think so.”
“Do it. Let her see her Stooges again . . . have a few cigarettes and unwind . . .”
Noah was shocked. It was one thing for Tricia to be obviously
hung over; quite another for her to tell him about the Stooges and confess bad habits that only appeared when she was drinking.
“You know a lot of things,” Noah said, with appreciation.
“I’m a very good lawyer, which means I ask some questions, and
very few things get past me.”
“Agreed. But I don’t know where I’m going to take her.”
“Just do me a favor,” said Max, as Noah prepared to make his exit.
“Don’t let her get so comfortable there that she becomes a lesbian.
I’m sixty-four years old . . . too old to find a fourth wife.”
No magazine had ever been studied as intently as the
in Dr. Golden’s liver-spotted hands.
“So where would you like to go?” he asked Tricia, as they de-
scended in the elevator. “Downtown? Uptown?”
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She was decisive. “Bar 51.”
In the lobby, the tiny Mrs. Levy eyed the couple carefully as they exited the elevator and crossed the lobby.
“Going out, Mrs. Abraham?”
“Barhopping,” was Tricia’s reply, and Mrs. Levy’s jaw sagged as
far as her breasts had.
“You really shouldn’t do that,” Noah whispered, as they walked
out to the sidewalk.
“But it’s fun.”
He hailed a cab, and soon they were heading west toward Central
tells me that I should take you back to Bar 51,”
is right. In which case, why did you give the driver an address on the Upper West Side?”