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Disappointment does not ask permission to enter one’s life; this was the irrefutable truth with which I was comfortably familiar. What I had forgotten was its stoic disregard for any pleasantness that may have entered before it.
Later that morning I had trouble focusing on anything besides the conversation that had transpired during the meeting with my supervisor.
She had smiled continually to the point that her face no longer appeared amiable. “We’re asking you and a few others whom we have not yet chosen to be moved to the offices in Fern Hill. This branch has taken on a few new senior-level employees and we’re short on room. You’ll have six weeks to prepare, and relocation costs will be accommodated, of course.”
Work passed slowly today. It marked the first time in recent memory that I had even glanced at the clock before lunch. Late-morning hours normally spent careening through paperwork were chained down by the unsettling nature of our exchange.
“Thank you,” I had said. “Thank you so much for finding a place for me. I appreciate this opportunity.”
The thought of waking each day in a small town four hours from the city, removed from all of this fantastic mayhem, proved difficult to digest. Six weeks would allow plenty of time for digestion, but a new and strange impermanence had already crept up over the edges of my desk and anchored itself there so that my job as I knew it, my livelihood in this city, that which I had finally trusted enough to hold onto, had transformed into something only temporary.
In a sense it was not unlike my summer abroad, constrained by two dates, bollards bolted into stone, one marking the birth of an experience onto which I would tether myself, the other signaling an inevitable end. I now had my another ending date, the terminus of next month, to ponder in quiet contrition during the days leading to its arrival.
I’m certain my productivity for the rest of the day could have been measured as inadequate, but I would imagine given the circumstances that no ruler was held up against me. I drifted through the final hours in lazy irresolution. Of course I would go. It was the natural path forward for anyone whose career was as young as mine. However, to assert this change as necessary and valuable not just to my career, but to my personal growth and wellbeing-once I discovered how to do that, I speculated, I would find piece.
I exited the building and made my way among the boundless flock of commuters, beneath a jungle of towering glass, steel and concrete, and came nearly to the bus stop before I remembered. Were my problems so immensely important that I had almost forgotten? Frustrated with myself even more than with the latest developments, I sat gloomily on a bench near where he had dropped me off and waited.
I couldn’t have sat longer than a minute before his silver Honda halted at the curb just feet from where I rested. His wild-haired form and broad smile, visible through the passenger window, compelled me into motion. My whole self desired simply to be back in the car, returned to that shared space with him.
And I was. The roar of the city died away and we were alone.
He shifted the car into first gear and turned to me. “I’m Mikey, by the way. Sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier.”
Mikey-such a fantastically handsome name, and somehow it fit him perfectly.
The car began to move and he steered out into traffic, so I did not try to shake his hand. “I’m Wyatt,” I said, “and don’t worry; I didn’t either.”
“Wyatt,” he said. “That’s a good name. Guess I can’t call you Chickadee forever.”
“You can call me whatever you want. It’s just a name,” I said in a tone more downtrodden than I expected. In this moment, still fettered by the idea of endings, forever sounded like a beautiful, superb length of time. Feeling a bit reckless I said, “Actually, I like it when you call me that.”
He was quiet for a few seconds, long enough to have me worried that what I’d said sounded strange. “That’s good to know.” He downshifted as we approached slower traffic. “So, how was the big meeting?”
“It was pretty good,” I told him. “Anyway, it’s over now, so there’s no more wondering what’s going to happen.” I paused for a second before saying, “But I want to know what a day at work is like for you. How is it to run your own company?”
He brushed back a group of course, black strands from in front of his eyes. “I guess there are a lot of ways to answer that. But today it was like operating some big, noisy machine that is not in very good repair. As the machine runs, it’s like some component of it stops working, and when you fix that component, it affects the functioning of another, so that becomes broken instead, and so on. It sounds awful,” he said, “but it’s really pretty great.”
“I don’t think it sounds awful,” I said. “Are you talking about fixing someone’s software?”
“Yes, exactly,” he said. “For me, running the company is ancillary to all of the actual work, like finding blocks of code that aren’t pendik escort serving a good purpose, or database structures that are poorly organized.”
“Ah, okay,” I said. “It sounds like you still do a lot of the hands-on work yourself.”
“Yes, I still do. And I hope I always get to,” he said, smiling. “That’s where all the fun is, for me. It’s so nerdy, I know.”
I laughed. “Yeah, because accounting is so much more glamorous.”
“Hey, that’s right,” he said. “We’re not done talking about your job. What did they tell you in the meeting?”
“Well,” I said, “it didn’t go how I thought it would. Not at all, actually. They want to relocate me. I don’t think it’s permanent, but I’m pretty sure it’s for a while.”
“Fern Hill,” I said.
“As in the resort town? How far away is that?”
“Four hours,” I said.
“When you you go?”
“End of next month.”
“You’re serious?” He put a fist flat against his chest and made small seizing sounds, as if he had been physically wounded. “And just after we become friends. You’re killing me, Chickadee, you know that?”
“I know, I’m sorry,” I said. He had no idea how sorry I really was. And already he had called me his friend.
“I’ve heard it’s beautiful up there,” he said. “I’ve never been, though.”
“It really is. It’s a great place to visit. To live there, though, I’m just…I don’t know.” I stopped and looked at him. His eyes focused on the road, but I could have sworn that all of his attention had been diverted toward me. I looked away.
He turned and glanced at me for an instant before looking back at the road. “If I were in your shoes, I would be very upset right now,” he said. “How do you stay so calm?”
“I’m not calm. I mean, I definitely don’t feel calm,” I replied. “It must just not show.”
He took his time responding, staring ahead and making small adjustments to the car’s path of travel as we crossed the bridge out of downtown. “You know, even though we just met and all, you don’t have to hide that from me.”
“I don’t know if I’m hiding anything,” I said, although I suspected he might be right. “I am upset, that’s true.”
“So,” he said, “what do you think you’re going to do?”
“There isn’t much I can do,” I replied. “This is my career. In the whole scheme of things, like, later in life, ten years down the road, I think I would look back on it as a small sacrifice. A year or two away in exchange for long-term stability. I mean, that’s nothing, right?”
I sat in thought for a minute. He must have sense that I wasn’t finished, because he stayed silent.
“It’s just…this doesn’t feel like a small sacrifice. It feels like a massive sacrifice, if I’m honest. That’s how I feel right now. I can’t be me in ten years. I can’t get into that headspace.”
He started to say something but only a small amount of air escaped his mouth. We rode along without speaking for at least another minute before he moved his hands to the bottom of the steering wheel and said, “But the you in ten years isn’t a real thing. It literally does’t exist.”
It occurred to me that Mikey might fall in among those extraordinary people who wait to speak until they can say something in which they have full confidence. “Right,” I said. “Yes, that’s true.”
“You, sitting here, right now. That’s all.”
I smiled at him. “I’m not disagreeing with you.”
He laughed. “Well, I’m done. That’s all I have to offer you.”
“You’ve done enough listening to this garbage.” I noticed we had turned right, off the main road, and were closing in on his neighborhood.
“It isn’t garbage, and I will be here as long as you need to talk. But I think it would be rash to decide anything today, so maybe we do need to change the subject.”
“We’re out of time, aren’t we?” I asked. “I mean, you can just drop me off on Stratham. The 40 should come by soon.”
“Would you be violently opposed to me driving you all the way home? It would be nice to see Corbin again.”
I was beginning to feel that he enjoyed talking with me as much as I did with him.
“If you’re okay with it, I would very appreciative.”
“I am more than okay with it,” he said.
“Well, fuck the 40, then.”
He smacked the rim of the steering wheel. “Yeah, fuck the 40.”
After we had turned south I said, “If I had a car I don’t think I’d ever take the bus. Is that terrible?”
“No. If I had your commute, I would probably drive. I have a space in the garage under the office, so parking isn’t really an issue. It’s just that I live so close to the bus stop, and I don’t have to transfer like you do.”
“Still,” I said, “it seems like it would take a lot of willpower to get on the bus every single day, especially with a shiny new car at your disposal.”
He paused. “I do kind of have this thing about mass transit. Sustainability and all that. Cars may not be an option forever.”
I turned to him and said, “But Mikey, all we have is right here, right now.”
“Hey.” maltepe escort His lips spread into a massive grin and then he punched me on the shoulder.
“Ouch,” I said, laughing. “Was that necessary?”
“If you can’t handle it, don’t dish it out.”
“I was dishing out words,” I insisted. “The proper response to words is opposing words.”
He laughed at this. “Well, I didn’t have any opposing words.” He attempted a pouting face, extending his bottom lip outward just a little before giving up and cracking a smile.
“Seriously, though, I get what you mean. Sustainability. That’s actually really noble.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “It feels like the right thing, most of the time. It’s a shame, though, because I really do like driving.”
“Is it hard to drive a manual? I never learned.”
“It took me about a week to get used to it,” he said. He shifted into another gear and then back again in absent demonstration. “Not on this car, but on one I had in high school. Do you want to try it?”
“No,” I said. “Well, not right now.”
“If you ever want to learn, tell me,” he said. “You’d be good at it.”
Mikey said things in a way that invoked visions of us spending time together in the future. I considered this while I watched the sun set out my window. Beyond houses, buildings and occasional open field, all of it racing by, I could catch flickers of open water and the far-off levee holding it at bay. The next few miles were peppered with conversation borne, still, out of an inscrutable dose of caution and unfamiliarity. How does one coax something from a void? What kind of enigmatic force conjures a friendship between strangers? How fragile those first times together must be, yet with so much depending on them. For one covert second, I swelled with sadness, not just because a continued relationship with this beautifully unchained boy was so improbable, but for the tragedy of all friendships that died in infancy. Then with a symmetric abruptness, I deflated back down to my normal self in time for him to ask, “Do you have your own place?”
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s pretty small. I don’t really need a lot of room, and I keep a few things at my parents. They don’t live very far away.”
“Same here,” he said. “Well, not about my parents, but my apartment. It’s just a studio.”
“Did your parents move out of Corbin?”
“Actually my parents passed,” he said. “It was a few years back.”
“Oh,” I said. “Wow, my god. I’m so sorry to hear that.” I turned slightly away from him, wishing I had sounded less affected.
“It’s okay,” he said, then seemed to ruminate for a few seconds before adding, “It feels like a very long time ago now.”
“Alright,” I said. I considered letting the road leading to my apartment pass us by, but then thought better of it. “Sorry, turn right at the intersection.”
“No problem,” he said.
“Hey, this is a lot faster than the bus. It’s still light out.”
He smiled. “I’m glad. Do you have any grand plans for the evening?”
“No. In fact,” I said, thinking quickly, “would you like to come up? At least I could get you a drink to say thanks.”
“I would like that,” he said.
I pointed out my building, and soon we left his car at the curb. I apologized for crumbling state of the wooden stairs leading to my third-floor apartment, and their unsettling tendency to shift underfoot. He showed no sign of aversion.
“It’s nice,” he said as I led him through the door.
“It’s small,” I told him, removing my coat, “and it hasn’t been updated in a long time.”
“You’ve done a really good job making it nice, though,” he said.
“You’re very polite,” I said, offering to place his coat on the bed with mine. “I should frame some of these posters if I really want to keep them. They look kind of tacky just pasted up on the walls like that.”
“In Rainbows,” he said, untying a dressy black pair of Vans. “I like that album.”
“Yeah, I’ll put it on if you want.”
“What a fantastic host you are,” he said, jerking at his tie and letting it hang loose around his neck.
My apartment was narrow with a cramped entryway near the bed and bathroom. It had wood floors throughout, which I’d partially obscured with two small area rugs. Past the bed lay an unceremonious living area, modular white couch on the left wall, flat television of modest dimensions the right. I had placed a broad, very low coffee table in the center of the room, or more cosmically, at the center of the whole apartment, and so did it possess its own gravitational pull, as many small items I owned were drawn to its surface. Along the far wall stood a small, complete kitchen. It was rarely put to good use because I wasn’t any good at cooking.
I told him to make himself at home. “Do you like wine at all?” I asked.
“Wine is just fine,” he said.
Glasses were poured, music was set to play, and I dragged over a wooden chair from the drop-leaf table that hugged the wall of the kitchen.
“It’s good,” kartal escort he said. “I know nothing about wine, though.”
“You can’t know any less that I do,” I said, holding up the bottle. “Thirteen dollars. Real top-shelf stuff.”
He grabbed it from me. “2012,” he said in a silly, elevated tone. “A good year for grapes. I’m sensing some oaky undertones here.”
“Give me that,” I said, laughing and snatching back the bottle.
He’d undone the top button of his white dress shirt, just as I had. His tie was loosened even more so that it looped down over his chest like a sash. I could make out definition in the muscles of his torso underneath and then had to deliberately restrict my gaze to his face. I realized this was the most casually dressed I had ever seen him.
“If I was by own boss I don’t think I could dress as well as you do,” I said.
“I like dressing up. Besides, we’re always having unplanned meetings with customers. I’m never sure when I’ll need to look nice,” he said.
“That makes sense.”
He sipped his wine and asked, “So, you’re gay, right? Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No,” I said, “not right now.”
I tried to detect some hint of feeling in his reaction, but came up with nothing. “What about you?” I asked. “Are you seeing anyone?”
“No. Until recently I had almost no free time. But I had to take a step back from that, or they would have found me in a ditch somewhere. These days I’m not really sure what I’m doing, in that arena, anyway.”
I gathered some courage and asked, “Do you prefer guys or girls?”
“Girls. I mean, well, yeah, my girlfriend and I broke up about a year ago.” He took a drink of his wine.
I forcefully suppressed all urges to read into this statement. I still did not know him very well. In fact this showed me that I hardly knew him at all. “That’s cool,” I said. “Yeah, relationships are hard.”
“Relationships turn you completely batshit crazy.”
“Right,” I said, grinning. “That’s what I meant to say.”
“So have you ever dated a guy long-term?” he asked.
I told him I had been with someone for a little over two years in college. “He graduated,” I said, “and he moved away. I asked him if he’d consider long distance until I could move to be with him and he said no. So that was that.”
“It really sucks, doesn’t it?” He traced the rim of his glass and stared off at some point on the surface of the coffee table. “You care for someone, and they don’t feel the same way. Seems like such an uncomplicated thing. But it’s not.”
“That’s true,” I said. “It’s a problem without a solution. But I spent a long time trying to find one.”
“Me too,” he said. “When my parents died, she was all I had. After she broke it off, I would spend hours wondering if she had only stayed with me because she felt sorry for me.”
“I’m sure it was more than that.”
He took another sip. “It doesn’t matter anymore.” He leaned forward a picked up a large piece of white sea glass from the coffee table. I watched him stare intently at it and turn it over a few times in his hand. “You have a very nice home,” he said. “Some people really don’t, but you do.”
I laughed a little. “Thanks. I’m sure you do, too.”
He finished his glass of wine and looked around the room. “You’ll have to come over sometime. You can be the judge.”
“I would really like that,” I told him.
“This has been nice, right?” he asked. “Us talking, I mean. There’s something about it. I don’t know.”
“I know what you mean,” I said. “I’ve had a really good time today.”
He stood up and walked over to the kitchen. Radiohead continued to play quietly. “Would you consider hugging me right now?”
“Yeah, is that asking a lot? Is it crazy if I think we both could use it?”
I stood up. “I don’t think so.”
He motioned me over with both hands, so I approached and pulled myself close to him. His body was very warm, even more so than I had expected, now that it was pressed against mine. He leaned slightly back against the edge of the sink and I fell into him a little, allowing him to support just the smallest amount of my weight. He drew in a quick break and then exhaled slowly, almost imperceptibly. I felt his hands wander the expanse of my back through the fabric of my shirt, fingers exploring the tiny rifts between muscles. “If it’s okay, I just need to do this,” he said. His voice, barely above a whisper, nonetheless transmitted through our joined torsos, and I felt it profoundly. “It’s okay,” I said. His arms and chest became known to me, unmistakably now, as considerable and robust. I attempted to feel, so that it could be locked away and recalled later, when I was alone, the smooth olive skin of his neck, pressed delicately against my own.
I do not know who became erect first, but by the time I felt the bulking presence of him at my waist, I, too, had expanded significantly into the same space. He pressed himself firmly into me and I countered with equal vigor. He backed off slightly and then rebounded with even more force. Then he receded once again and became still. I felt our bodies decouple just slightly. He whispered in my ear, so that I could barely hear above the music, “I better go home now, Chickadee.”
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