Jacob emerged from Kelly's apartment building from a door near J&G Diner and
Press Grill. He didn't remember coming this way and it unnerved him to
emerge into an area where (while he recognized it) could not
have placed himself there the day before. He was relieved to be in familiar territory. If he'd
found himself in the middle
of suburbia then it would be more difficult to keep this encounter secret from
Olin. So far so good.
He reached into his pocket to make sure the Post-it was still
there, then turned to his right and walked south towards Olin's place.
The sun was up and bright. The heat and humidity hit him the moment he walked
onto the sidewalk. The air was sticky and uncomfortable. He was sweaty and
feeling dirty in just the twenty-foot walk to the corner. He stood for a
moment at the corner of High and Buttles, the aroma of freshly brewing coffee
emanating from The Coffee Table at his back, then crossed High Street to walk
down the east side of The Short North.
He wasn't sure what to think. He was scared that
perhaps Kelly had lied to him when he'd said they hadn't had sex but he got
the impression that Kelly wasn't a liar. He seemed trustworthy. Of course, Jacob admitted that he could just be seeing him through lust colored lenses. He
wasn't sure if it was a good idea to trust first impressions of a man who looked
that good wearing nothing but a sheet. Still, the rising dread he felt when he thought about what could have
happened made him glad that he had met someone who hadn't felt like taking
advantage of him. He could have ended up dead or raped. He could never do that
again.He continued south, repeating that mantra in his head, until he reached the apartment
Olin and Pete were gone.
Jacob found a note on the table telling him that
they were going up to Stonewall Union near 5th Avenue to prepare for the Gay Pride and ComFest. They would be gone most of the day. It seemed as if they hadn't even noticed his absence. He figured it was
because he'd left the door closed to his room when he left for Union Station
last night. Olin apparently didn't check on him. If he had then there would have
been some mention of it in the note. It was strange. He almost felt a little
disappointed that no one noticed. He set Olin's note aside and went into his bedroom stripping off his clothes
and emptying his pockets. He placed the pink note from Kelly on the dresser
next to his wallet, keys and some change and finished undressing. He was still
tired. He sat on the edge of the bed in his underwear and picked up the post-it.
"I like you, Jacob and I'm not Scotch" was written above Kelly's name and
number and "Call me..." was written below.
Jacob realized that he must have
mentioned Scotch (that little pissant from Axis) at Union Station with Kelly and
the others. What were their names again? He wished he remembered what they talked about; wondered if he had mentioned Ryan.
wondered if he had talked about his bizarre road trip from Texas or anything
leading up to it. He wondered if he'd made an ass of himself.
"You like me, huh?" He said aloud to the paper, "You don't even know me." He
he hadn't even offered Kelly his number in return.
He felt only mild guilt at this. Jacob had had encounters that were
punctuated by wooden goodbyes and reluctant, but firm, denials of phone numbers
or sometimes even real names. In a way, the experience this morning was not
too different than others. This one just had a more pleasant (if not
He set the number on the night stand and lay back in bed staring at the white
plaster ceiling. The the dusty ceiling fan spun slowly above him but
didn't seem to move the air.
"Who are you then, Kelly?" he closed his eyes to relive the memory of Kelly's
body, the amused look on his face and the scars on his arms, chest and
shoulders that had drawn his eyes. "...where did you get those?" He'd be lying if he'd tried to convince himself that he didn't
want to know. Ryan had scars like that and Jacob knew why. Kelly's skin didn't have the focused precision of Ryan's. There
didn't seem to be that specific pattern, just random scars that showed up
lighter pink against Kelly's dark skin. They were more defined. Ryan's sometimes
faded easily into tanned skin or the hid well beneath the dark hairs on his
forearms. Kelly's were far deeper... they intrigued Jacob.
Then there was what happened. Nothing!
Kelly had the opportunity to do just about anything to him while he had Jacob prone and
naked in his bed but they ended up sleeping. Doubt still cornered Jacob on this
and he kept trying to remember. Kelly could have been lying about not having
sex. Maybe the condoms were unopened because he didn't use one? Jacob clenched his eyes shut to push
that thought right out of his
head. Each possible outcome of
that scenario ticked in his head like
some sort of metronome keeping fast time with his insecurity. Each one
was worse that the last... tick tick tick.
No! that hadn't happened either.
He and Ryan never used condoms (stupidly enough) and he knew for certain that
he hadn't been fucked. Anyway, there would have been some form of lubricant left
even after a couple of hours and there wasn't. The closest thing to sex they
might have had was oral and giving head always made Jacob's jaw ache. That
took longer than a couple hours to go away. There was no sex. None.
Kelly was telling the truth.
This was some felicitous accident. He
didn't want to think of the alternatives again so he was simply grateful.
He imagined Kelly pulling up his boxer
shorts and the way the muscles in his stomach led Jacob's eyes downward. Kelly
was fit and long muscled. His body seemed to
hide strength alongside a lithe sleek form. Jacob wasn't obsessed. It wasn't as
if Kelly's body was all Jacob had noticed, it was what came easiest to mind as
he lay alone in bed, .
Jacob lay awake for a long time and relished that memory. Now that it was
morning and he was home, he was sorry he'd passed-out.
He called Kelly that afternoon. Yes, he knew how pathetic that was.
He woke early in the afternoon with Kelly on his mind and sat alone in
silence while he tried devising manipulative scenarios in his head. Could he
manage to get into Kelly's pants that night? Should he? The problem was that Jacob wasn't a manipulative person.
That had always been
Ryan's territory. Ryan spent a lot of time trying to figure people out, trace
the outlines of their heads and then work to unravel strings. Jacob
found this behavior tedious and unproductive but watching Ryan do
it for so long made it something that came first to mind.
He looked for something to distract him from thinking about Kelly but found only food, some leftover turkey sandwich box-lunches. Olin had left them
for Jacob from the catering bids on his Pride Fest party set for the following
Saturday night. So, Jacob ate one while watching a tedious "Real World" episode on MTV
and another after switching to The Science Channel to watch something on
extraterrestrial life. He stuffed himself and then felt guilty for wasting
good food on distraction rather than hunger.
By Four O'clock he was channel-surfing and glancing up at the clock every few
minutes. He kept wondering to himself how long he should wait before he
called. Should he wait until Five? Six? Should he give up and just invite
Kelly to brunch on Sunday?
This was new territory. First, Jacob never called anyone- let alone someone
who he just met that morning in bed. If the situation had been different he
would have trashed Kelly's number upon exiting his apartment. As
it was, he had worn it in his fingers until it resembled a soft pink piece
of Kleenex with faded writing.
He held off until 4:30...
...and got Kelly's answering machine.
There are those moments in your life when a couple of seconds of indecision
seem to last fucking years. Jacob stood beside the refrigerator with the phone
pressed against his head and his eyes clenched shut in dismay as he heard the beep
that followed Kelly's message. His first thought was "Who the fuck uses an answering machine these days?"
He took voicemail for granted.
The silence stretched out as he tried to think of something to say.
Gezus don't say ummm!
"...Hi Kelly. This is Jacob... we met this
morning at ..."
You idiot! he knows where you met him!
"...I mean last night
Quit fucking explaining!
"...anyway!" Jacob stopped, calmed and laughed weakly. "Sorry, I
sound like a complete idiot. When you wake up, or get home... or
whatever... give me a call." He looked back at Olin's rotary dial phone and read the number
on the paper disc in the center. He smiled. "I
should be around the house most of the day. I... I was thinking about doing something
tonight but I don't know what." He leaned against the refrigerator and knocked off
various cheesy magnets that Pete used to hold up his exhibit schedules. They
clattered noisily to the floor and Jacob immediately pulled the phone from his
ear and stooped to collect them.
"Hey, Jacob!" Kelly's voice came through clear and small from the receiver.
Jacob pulled the phone back to his ear and spoke. "Hey, sorry if I
"You didn't." Kelly said. "I just got out of the shower; I was
drying off and didn't get to the phone in time."
Jacob looked at the plastic vegetable-shaped magnets around his bare feet. "Ok,
well... are you hungry?" He turned and saw the two empty, box-lunch
containers in the trash can and rolled his eyes.
"A little." Kelly chuckled. "Actually, I've only been awake for about a half
an hour. I'm still a little tired."
"We can do something later if you want."
"No, that's not what I meant. I was thinking coffee." Kelly paused. "I'm not
worth shit until I've had some caffeine in me."
Jacob nodded. "Actually that sounds great."
"Good. How about I meet you down at the Coffee Table in about five minutes."
"Uhhh... Give me fifteen. I still have to shower."
"Ok, I'll see you there."
Jacob left the clutter of magnets on the floor in his haste.
Jacob stood at the T-intersection of Buttles and High Street and tried to
pick out Kelly from the varied people sitting at the ten odd tables in front of
The Coffee Table. He saw him sitting outside wearing a well-worn t-shirt and shorts
and sipping from a tall white cup. He wasn't sure if
Kelly noticed him approach because he couldn't see where he was looking.
Kelly wore perfectly
circular wire-frame sunglasses. They made his narrow, angular face and spiky
brown hair look almost cartoonishly hawkish. At that moment, Kelly reminded Jacob of a
mad scientist taking a break from the lab- an extremely hot, mad scientist.
Jacob crossed high street and smiled when Kelly turned his head
to face him.
"That was fast." Kelly said..
"I take fast showers." Jacob almost extended his hand for Kelly to shake then
thought better of it. He fumbled at the plastic chair beside the table "Our last
apartment had a shitty water heater. I always ended up taking showers last so
there was hardly any hot water for me. I learned." He sat down. The back of the chair was
hot in the sun and Jacob was already sweating. "...as if it did me any good."
"Why do you think I dressed in grubbies?" Kelly displayed the dingy red
t-shirt and its speckling of paint. "I figured that if we go somewhere it will be later on
and we can always change."
"OK." Jacob stood and looked into the wide windows at the
counter. He thumbed toward the glass. "You need anything?"
"I'm fine." Kelly sipped coffee and winced at the heat.
The Coffee Table made Jacob think of a badly conceived room design from
Trading Spaces. He pictured Doug mincing around the room trying to find the best
places to install the wavy wood and iron sculptures that masqueraded as booths
The art pieces on the wall were all college-fag goth photos with little depth
but lots of skin and penis. Hanging before the plate glass on the High
Street-side of the shop was a huge rainbow flag. This place seemed
defiantly gay - something that always irritated Jacob. This neighborhood was too
much a haven for homosexuals for someone to walk down the street yelling "We're
here, we're queer, get used to it!" without expecting someone to say "huh..
what's with her?" It wasn't that he disliked gay culture it was just that he had never related
to the rainbow flag waving, pink triangle wearing, militant, drag queen touting
elements of it. In all honesty, it just seemed so tacky and undignified.
Jacob moved to the counter, ordered a large cup of house to go and
retreated as fast as he could from the trendiness.
He emerged at the door at the corner of the building with a smirk on his face.
Kelly looked as if he were staring at the street but seemed to notice Jacob's
bemused expression. "What's funny?"
Jacob shook his head. "Nothing, really..." He sat in his chair and leaned
forward, his coffee steaming even in the sweltering heat. "Well... sometimes
it's annoying that, as gay people, we will revel in any old crap as long as it has
gay attached to it."
Kelly grinned and Jacob noticed again the slight broken turn to his nose. It made him look scrumptious. "You get that a lot around here."
Jacob tried not not to appear so distracted by Kelly. He shrugged. "It's not a local thing. It's all over...
I mean, here as well as back
"Maybe you just have better taste than most fags."
Jacob laughed. "God I hope not. I always thought we were here on this earth
to make things more interesting and beautiful, not tout every cliché or trite
concept as genius."
"You're fooling yourself if you think that the majority of gay men are out
for anything other than sucking cock."
Jacob nodded. "I was thinking something on those lines."
"Don't we all?" Kelly said. " Because I wouldn't want someone to get me wrong. I'm all for sucking cock
but it's not the soul of my existence."
"I can see how it can happen, though." Jacob shrugged.
"Sometimes it's either accept mediocrity or take the chance of becoming
invisible again. I guess I have to think of it that way sometimes but I still reject it in the end."
Kelly studied Jacob for a moment and sat back in chair still looking
thoughtfully at him. "You know, my sculptures might be just as mediocre as
the stuff in there." He motioned inside with his coffee cup.
"You're an artist?" Jacob smirked. He couldn't help it.
Kelly smiled. "I'm not really sure if that's the proper word for it."
Jacob wasn't sure what to say.
"I have a machine slash fabrication shop and sometimes do some artwork
with leftover scrap. I've sold
some of my stuff at ComFest and Gallery Hop. I'm not sure how good it is but
I enjoy it..." He set his cup on the table and
displayed his stained fingers. "...and it's kinda left its mark on me."
"Yea... umm.... I saw that this morning."
"We also talked about it last night." He added smirking. "But I wouldn't think you'd
Jacob laughed. "At least I'm was acting somewhat in character while
that fucked up."
Kelly turned his arm over on the table and showed the long scar that ran up
the underside of his forearm. "You were particularly fascinated with this last
Really acting in character. Jacob found himself blushing for some stupid reason.
"It's OK." Kelly said. "You said something about it reminding you of your
ex." He studied Jacob again in that thoughtful manner. The round mirrored
sunglasses betrayed no real emotion other than curiosity. "Do you remember any
Jacob shook his head. "Not really... although it sounds like
something I might have said."
"It was the corner edge of a sheet of 316 stainless steel I was going to
tool. It's sheared pretty abrasively."
Kelly pointed at the start of the scar at the palm edge of his hand. "I was
pushing it into place and it slipped. I should have been smart
enough to wear my mesh gloves instead of my leather ones, but I didn't
realize it was so sharp. The jagged shear caught
me right here when it slipped..." He took his rough skinned finger and drew
along that line to where it curled toward the side of his arm just before the
bend at the elbow. "... and it cut its way out here." He pulled his elbow up to
show the backside of his arm. "It almost killed me
because it cut right to the bone and slashed a lot of veins."
He flexed his fingers as if it were something he did a lot.
"I still don't have all of the feeling in this hand."
Jacob leaned forward to
touch the scar with fascination. He examined it with his
hands and enjoyed that momentary closeness with Kelly and his skin again.
"Funny thing... it hurt bad but I didn't realize how much it was bleeding until I saw the
floor and my shoes. My arm looked like hammered dogshit."
"Wow..." Jacob slowly withdrew his fingers from the smooth skin and
sat back in his chair. He sipped at his coffee. "It almost looks
"I get that a lot but it's kind of the reason why I don't have a problem
displaying it." He looked up at Jacob and grinned again. "It makes me look
weathered." He then turned his arm this way and that. "...as if I need more scars to look weathered."
Jacob laughed. He felt a relief regarding Kelly's candid response. "My
ex had some weird issues with scars."
"I remember you talking about that last night."
"Yea?" Jacob chuckled. "what did I say about him?"
Kelly smirked and sat back in his chair. "Among other things... you said
that was one of the sexier
things about him."
Jacob flushed and gaped at Kelly in surprise.
Kelly nodded. "I can't say that I haven't heard that before." He said. "I've
had guys go head-over-nuts about mine." He shrugged. "Not sure why."
Jacob exhaled. "I'm not either."
"Well, it's no big deal..." he said. "I'm sure that, what was his name?"
"I'm sure that Ryan had some other qualities about him that you liked."
Jacob shrugged but agreed. Ryan
had a lot of decent qualities. The unfortunate thing was that Jacob couldn't think of a single one,
at that moment, that didn't have
to do with how Ryan looked. He hoped that he was not so superficial.
"We didn't have a good break-up."
Jacob pressed his lips together in a tight, stressful frown. "I say a lot
when I'm really drunk apparently."
"Heh... drunk?" Kelly cocked his head. "I thought for sure you were on
something else... ecstasy or something. You were drunk, yea, but you were also really
handsy and forward," he laughed. "I don't think we would have woke up in bed
together had you been shy."
"What! that was MY idea?" Jacob was visibly dismayed. "Gezus. What the hell?"
"Well, we both drank a lot." Kelly paused. "Are you sure
you didn't take something by mistake, or that
someone didn't slip you something?"
Jacob thought back to the night before and what he COULD remember and his
little interaction with Scotch.
"Maybe I shouldn't think about this too much."
"Why's that?" Kelly asked. "Do you remember something?"
"Well, I talked about that Scotch guy, right?"
"He may have put something in my drink."
Kelly looked repulsed. "That's possible."
Jacob was quiet and stared down at his cup, thinking about how easy it would
have been for Scotch to slip something into his drink that night. He'd even picked it
up and drank out of it.
Kelly smirked and shook his head. "Well, I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure that if he
had actually been around when it kicked in you wouldn't have done anything with
him anyway... at least not from the way you spoke of him."
"That's not quite the point."
"Oh, I understand, the little queerbait tried to take advantage of you.
"If I ever see him again I'm going to beat the shit out of him."
"I wouldn't blame you." Kelly said. "But you don't have any proof
that it was him and even if it was you'd still go to jail for assault."
Jacob listened thoughtfully to Kelly's logic. "True."
"Besides," An eyebrow cocked above the mirror of Kelly's glasses. "If he
hadn't done that I might never have seen you naked."
Jacob blushed and laughed. "What was that we were saying about gay guys only
thinking of cock?"
Kelly laughed loudly. "I never claimed to be an artist but I don't
have any problem at all claiming that I like guys."
"...and all that comes with that?"
Kelly sipped again at his coffee and shrugged innocently. Beads of bright
sweat dripped down his face in the heat. "I guess you'll have to draw your own
conclusions." He smiled and lowered his glasses so that Jacob could see his
Jacob had already drawn those conclusions earlier that day, now they seemed
to be presented before him.
He was tempted. He liked it.
The mirrors moved back to cover Kelly's green eyes and he leaned back in his
chair. He seemed to enjoy the sexual tension between them and grinned
wolfishly at Jacob. "Let's finish these and go for a walk."
"Where?" Jacob asked.
Kelly downed the rest of his coffee in a gulp and set the cup on the table. "I know just the place."