Previous: Jacob, a week ago

Two: Alone


Olin was firmly convinced that the entire Harry Potter series was a huge "coming out" metaphor. He explained that Harry had spent most of his life alone, surrounded by a mundane, closed-minded family who persecuted him constantly for being different and kept him (quite literally) in the closet. There was the whole idea of self-discovery, when Harry found out he was actually a wizard, the whole concept of a community that was practically hidden from the rest of the world and most times looked down upon by the normal people. To him it was a story of a life of closeted misery followed by discovery, magical people, new and exciting places, the joy of finding one's people, and of course excellent parties.

"I'm telling you, Jacob, J. K. Rowling might be a mother, but the woman is dyke, through and through. No one could have put such huge clues in those books that didn't understand what it was like to live in the closet." Olin would tap the front cover of Chamber of Secrets and nod knowingly. "And no, I'm not just viewing the world through fag colored glasses, I know what I'm talking about." He flipped through page after dog-eared page pointing out this or that reference. "And that Snape, I'm telling you, he was in love with Harry's father. I don't care how much he sputters on about how much he hated him. Internalized homophobia, complete denial... total."

Jacob had gotten used to Olin's wild imagination before. Olin always saw what he wanted to see. It wasn't that Jacob didn't believe him; he just figured, as usual, that Olin was viewing the world with a little bias. Olin seemed convinced that somewhere in the hidden soul of the universe was a big gay God who dropped subtle homoeroticism into the fabric of reality.

On Sunday night they had gone to see Minority Report. During the pool scene Tom Cruise loses his son, and at that moment, Olin took a large breath and exclaimed in a loud voice "Oh my god! He IS gay!" Jacob gaped at him while others in the theater laughed or shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Olin was an endless source of uncomfortable public moments.

Later, as they were walking back to the Short North from the Arena Grand Theater, Jacob asked. "What the hell was that about back there? There are a thousand rumors that Tom Cruise is gay, he even sued a paper over it. Everyone knows it."

Olin shrugged. "I know Jake, but I'd never noticed it before. I was sitting there admiring his pecs and all of a sudden the gaydar just WENT - OFF!" He laughed a little. "Amazing, right under my nose the whole time... damn, I'm going to have to watch Legend again. I would bet serious cash that he's checking out Tim Curry in that devil outfit."

Olin's bizarre insights to things always got Jacob thinking and eventually made him check Olin's references to see if he could see the things that Olin had discovered. The next day he rented three Tom Cruise movies just to see if it made any sense to him. He rented Top Gun because it had always been annoying, Cocktail because it always made Jacob want to drink until he was blind, and All The Right Moves because it showed Tom's package - that was always entertaining. His gaydar, however, stayed quiet and disappointed.

The Harry Potter conversation had inspired him to start reading the books. He had missed the film because Ryan had refused to go with him, so Jacob rented it after the Tom Cruise Gay-a-thon. After watching the film, he devoured the first and second books in big bites. By Thursday, he was in book three with a vengeance and enjoyed it immensely.

Books had always been a great distraction for Jacob when he was lonely, and goddamn it, he was lonely. A week in Columbus had brought him nothing but long, bewildering conversations with Olin on the state of the world and Olin and Jacob's gay place in it. Most of the time Olin berated Jacob for not being friendlier with the neighbors or the guys at Union Station (where they had gone a few times for dinner or drinks).

Olin saw things rather simply. Jacob had been dumped, was coming out of a long, bad relationship and now he needed to get drunk, get laid, have fun and find someone new. At that point, Olin planned to whisk the dust off Jacob's mending heart and display it as a new piece of polished art for everyone to see. Simple!

Olin loved a challenge, so he ignored Jacob's pleas to be left alone and dragged him everywhere. He made a point to comment on every guy who crossed their path: "What about him? He's not bad" or "Not a good face, but look at those arms." Or "CLOSET CASE! He might have been with her, but did you see he way he was checking you out? Hell-oo!"

Jacob realized that he could not depend on Olin for a social life. Love him as he might, after a few hours, Jacob just wanted to punch him. He wanted to read and wallow in self-pity, not listen to Olin's constant, cheerful chatter and optimistic encouragement. Olin just didn't live on the same plane as Jacob at all.

Olin had never really lived a life in the closet. His time had been a few short months of silent confusion followed by his mother's insistence that he just come out with it and live life as God had intended. "I won't have a boy of mine living under some kind of secret pain or acting like something he's not." Raena confronted him at the age of fourteen when he'd reluctantly asked to join the baseball team at school. "You can't play baseball to save your life, Olin, so quit trying to be like every other boy. Set down that damn bat." She refused to allow it, seeing it as an effort to fit in. She forced him to sort out his feelings, and then sent him on his way with books on being gay and the assurance that: "Only God could have made you like you are, Olin. I obviously didn’t have a damn thing to do with it. I think we should just trust His judgment."

Jacob wasn't ungrateful. Olin had helped him so much already. He'd managed to get him an interview with a consulting company in town the following week, had set him up with some cash (Olin and Pete did rather well). Hell, Olin had even given him the names of therapists in town that lived and practiced in the same block. But Jacob didn't want to live Olin's dream and couldn't relate to him half the time.

Olin continuously introduced him to other men and that wore on Jacob's nerves well enough. But it was the wave after wave of Olin's friends, most of them touchy feely-men who gave Jacob tired, lusty gazes, which pushed him over the edge. He had to find someone to talk to, someone who wasn't Olin. Jacob finally told Olin that he wanted to go out to some of the bars in town and meet a few people. Olin considered it a sign from the gods. That Friday night, with excitement that Jacob should have taken as a portent of bad tidings, Olin and Pete had taken him dancing at Axis, up the road from the apartment - and they left him alone.

Axis had been a nightmare. It was fairly standard as far as gay clubs were concerned: typical varied clientele, dance floor, balcony, platforms and flag wavers, and booze, lots of it. The upper bar held most of the "watchers" who stared down at the shirtless gym bunnies on the dance floor below, large lamps with fake flames lapped the ceiling from wide bowls and wallflowers drank Bud Light while seated at the benches along the walls.

His only interaction had been with a waifish boy named Scott, or "Scotch" - as he preferred to be called. Scotch had short bleach blond hair and a dark brown soul patch beneath his lip. When he smiled he gave Jacob the impression that he was planning to eat him whole at any moment.

He spent at least an hour plying Jacob with drinks, leaning forward and whispering pointless compliments in his ear, draping his spindly arm across Jacob's shoulder- pretty much annoying the shit out of him. Jacob's head was beginning to hurt from the pounding music and his head started to buzz.

Ryan would never have tolerated Scotch. For one thing, the name would have inspired massive ridicule and disdain; also, Ryan would have been pissed at the invasion of his personal space. Scotch was practically in Jacob's lap; twice he'd had to move his drink to keep the boy from spilling it.

Jacob felt invaded, felt as if he were cheating on Ryan somehow- despite the fact that the son-of-a-bitch had allowed him to integrate himself into Ryan's life and then drop him firmly on his ass. It didn't really matter that Ryan wouldn't speak to him at all, had changed the phone number, and wouldn't return his emails... Jacob went to work one morning and Ryan dropped off the face of the earth.

Scotch asked Jacob if he would like to dance, or maybe go back to his apartment, then leaned forward and kissed him on the neck and behind the ear. The feeling against his skin was nice, but unwelcome. Jacob tolerated it for about two seconds. He looked back toward the main bar to see a surprised and horrified Olin slapping Pete on the shoulder to get his attention. Both of them stared back just as Scotch attempted to kiss him.

"I really think I'd like to be alone for a while." Jacob pulled his head back, placed his wide palm across Scotch's pursing mouth, and forced him back onto his barstool. "And I really don't think I like you."

Scotch sat there in stunned silence, lifted his hand to his mouth and skulked away without a word.

Jacob could see Pete burst out laughing while Olin grabbed a bottle of water and trotted over, shaking his head. "That was appropriate." He watched Scotch's retreat with confusion and turned back to Jacob, handing him the water. "What was wrong with him? He was cuuuute."

Jacob sighed and twisted open the bottle, took a large drink. "He's..." Jacob watched as Scotch started hitting on some guy in the corner of the upper balcony. "...Pretty much a sleaze." Scotch looked back across the balcony at Jacob, meeting his eyes for a moment before dismissing him for another bit of prey. "What an arrogant ass"

"Ahh..." Olin followed Jacob's gaze to watch Scotch picking up his new prey's drink and taking a sip. "He doesn't seem too shaken by it."

"Somehow I don't think it's possible to shake someone like that without using physical force." Jacob took another drink, trying to get some odd taste out of his mouth. "He kept asking me if I wanted to go back to his apartment."

"At least he was trying to take you home and not just to the parking lot." Olin's eye caught someone on the dance floor and he pointed him out to Jacob. "Is he more your type?"

Jacob shrugged.

"Are you sure you're gay?" Olin asked, smiling.

"Yes, very sure." Jacob laughed a little at this. "But I think I should probably go someplace a little less meat market."

"A little more meat market is what you need, Jake-ee." Olin drank his water and pointed back to Scotch with the bottle. "At least at a meat market you can be more choosy. You might meet up with that porn star I saw the other night."

Jacob sighed. "As if that would happen."

"You still don't believe me, do you?" Olin turned and smiled at Pete at the bar. "I'm telling you, I've seen the man fuck... and some faces you just don't mistake."

"Sometimes all of this sex shit gets on my nerves."

Olin turned back to face Jacob and shook his head. "It's not as if any of this comes as a surprise to you, Jake. You've gone out before. It kind of comes with the territory at a club. Plus, sometimes plain, revenge sex is all you need."

"I've never had revenge sex... and I don't have one night stands. I don't like them... at all."

Olin looked dubiously at Jacob and shrugged. He seemed to mouth something but it was drowned out by the music.

"Anyway, I haven't even thought about it. I haven't been alone for a long time." Jacob replied, a little disgusted at Olin, as if he were somehow justifying emotionless sex. "I've been with Ryan for almost a year now."

Jacob closed his mouth and looked away. He knew that he'd said the wrong words as soon as they left his mouth.

Olin simply stared at him, looking angry.

He sipped at his water, feeling strange. He stood. "I'm going back to the apartment."

Olin touched him on the shoulder and squeezed a bit, turning him back to face him. "You know what I'm going to say?" He held a finger up in front of him. He had put on his lecture face.

"Yea, goddamn it, I know." He shrugged.

"It's not as if everyone is as shallow as that little twit over there." He motioned back at Scotch again. "You're not going to find another Ryan... hell, you shouldn't ever try to find another one. That whole thing was just wrong, and you know it."

The thumping music around him seemed to batter that point into Jacob's head. He didn't like how he was feeling at all.

"I'm not looking for another Ryan, OK?" He said. "Look, I'm going home. I'll see you in the morning." Jacob motioned over towards the bar. "Tell Pete I said goodnight."

Olin softened. "Alright." He stood on his tiptoes, and kissed Jacob on the forehead. "We have to get you happy again, Jake. We need to fix what that idiot did to you."

Jacob frowned. "Not tonight, I don't feel like being remade." He headed toward the stairs. He'd winced when he heard Olin say "Idiot", and his brain replayed it over and over. He still loved Ryan and wondered if it was possible to stop. He started to think that maybe he was the idiot.

He reached the door, ignored the faces he passed, and then emerged from the building. It was warm and muggy outside and the heavy air stilled his mood a little. His head was spinning and his heart was pounding.

He concluded that they had just gone out far too early for him. Most times, he went to a bar he went to drink, not dance. They'd arrived around nine and he was feeling a little fucked up for only having a few drinks. It was unusual for him to want water by eleven. Jacob dropped the empty water bottle into a trash bin on High Street. He felt a little disgust at himself for thinking that he could enjoy himself at a dance club. Maybe he should have tried to dance.

Ryan had done that to him. Ryan hated dancing, hated clubs. He'd practically killed any sort of enjoyment that Jacob had for anything other than sitting and having another drink. In Texas, they would start on Friday night and not end until early Sunday morning. Ryan had formed the idea: Get drunk fast and hard, if they could stay conscious long enough to fuck then they would.

Jacob walked south along High Street, past the Greek shop, herb shop, J&G Diner and The Coffee Table. He followed a yellow tape path along the sidewalk and street construction, and then crossed the street to walk toward Union Station and the apartment.

He kept thinking to himself that Ryan would have loved the Short North. Ryan went weak in the knees for trendy art districts - one reason why they had paid such exorbitant rent on their small apartment. Jacob wished that he were there, walking with him. He'd always been able to point out the unusual, hidden gems of a location to Jacob's blundering eyes. Ryan would know where to go from the moment he stepped foot on the sidewalk. He would pull Jacob around, buying him odd trinkets and books, statues from "Great Things on High" or sit with him at Mac's getting plastered on Lemon Drop shots. After that they might stagger up the stairs to the apartment and lie in bed.

Jacob could imagine this always, the heat from Ryan's body, and his presence beside him. Ryan could exude sex, even slurry and red eyed, and Jacob was always thankful for even his meaningless kisses. There might not be sex; but there was always be talk - long conversations that would last until they were almost sober.

He pulled out his keys at the door and entered 666 High Street.

He wasn't tired at all, and decided to lose himself in a book. He grabbed the next Harry Potter book, "Prisoner of Azkaban" and tried to read more of it. His head buzzed and popped, he stared at the pages, enjoying the texture of the edges and the feel of the thick paper between his fingers. He tried to read but ended up staring at the words, reading one page over and over... finally the words seemed to bleed into life and he felt like he was just reading the past.

"Okay," said Harry. He took a bite of the chocolate and watched Lupin extinguishing the lamps that had rekindled with the disappearance of the dementor. A thought had just occurred to him.

"Professor Lupin?" he said. "If you knew my dad, you must've known Sirius Black as well."

Lupin turned very quickly.

"What about my dad?" Ryan asked. He grabbed the serving dish, turned to the sink and began washing more dishes. "He's not really a part of this conversation, is he?"

"I just meant that the last time your dad came up, you lied to him." Jacob said this quietly. He wasn't in the mood to start an argument, but he knew that he had to say something if Richard Jackson were coming to stay with them again. Ryan needed to stop hiding everything from his family.

"I didn't lie." Ryan said. He chuckled to himself a little. "I just didn't tell him everything." He looked at Jacob and smiled. "What is there to say?"

Jacob scowled. "You haven't told your family a goddamn thing, have you?"

"Whatever," Ryan spoke with an annoyed tone in his voice. "It's none of their business." He arranged the clean glasses upside-down in the dish rack.

"Fine." Jacob clenched his jaw and spoke in tight words "If your life is none of their business then I don't want them here anymore, especially your sputtering, homophobe of a father."

Ryan's shoulders tensed and he dropped them back as if taking a deep breath.

"What do you want?" Ryan asked, he was angry now.

Jacob felt his resolve begin to crack but stood his ground, determined, trembling.

"I'd like you to start acting like we're together, like we're a team, here... remember? I love you... but you act like don't want them to know that." Jacob played with the fork left in his plate. He swirled a lone strand of angel hair pasta around in its bloody red sauce. "I just don't get it."

"You don't get what? That I don't feel like letting them in on this?" Ryan stopped glared at Jacob. "This is none of their business, Jacob. What difference does it make if they know or not?"

"I just don't understand where I fit in sometimes. Especially when you refer to you and I as 'This'. This what? This dirty little secret?" Jacob didn't want to talk about it anymore. He scoffed and slid his plate towards the side of the countertop. "I just - " Jacob stopped.

"What?" Ryan asked. "What were you going to say?"

Jacob shook his head and stood. He walked over to the couch and sat down, turned on the TV. "Nothing." He said. "Forget it."

 

Jacob sat the book down and stared at the ceiling. He was getting nowhere. He kept reliving everything with Ryan and he was tired of it. He'd spent too much time trying to make excuses for the things they'd done together. In a way he seemed to think that Ryan trying to make some kind of clean break so that they could both get past their mistakes.

Maybe the whole idea of coming to, of all places, Ohio, was a mistake. He felt guilty for just picking up everything and leaving Texas, but he'd had enough with Texas, the case, and the guilt. He could've probably been persistent enough to convince Ryan to take him back but he didn't even try.

He struggled to come to a decision with it. No, it wasn't a mistake at all. Ryan had thrown him out and Olin was the only family he had that understood anything about him. This was the right place to be, it was the right time to be here. He knew that but didn't have a clue as to why.

He looked over at the googly-eyed kit-kat clock, and saw that it was eleven forty-five. Ryan would have said, "It's too fucking early for us to be at home on a Friday. Fuck Harry Potter, Jacob. Get up, it's time for us to get something to drink."

Jacob forced himself to his feet. His head still felt strange but he was determined to drink tonight. He left the apartment and went back outside, then made the immediate left and went into Union Station. It was time to forget.

Next: Ryan: There is no answer; there is no question

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