tagGay MaleMikey and the Chickadee Ch. 19

Mikey and the Chickadee Ch. 19

bykidboise©

My phone didn't make a sound all day, which was not entirely out of the ordinary. I didn't know whether to expect anything from Mikey. At work, I pushed back against this silence with indifference; already during the early-morning bus ride home I had cried at length, the front of my shirt no less than soaked in my sorrow. A meager assortment of riders had climbed on along the southbound stops, and I felt relief only because none came to sit near me.

It had been enough to carry me through the day. I made cheerful conversation with Jennifer about whose couch would be better-suited to our new living area. I slotted into my familiar productive groove and began clearing my desk of personal effects toward the end of the day.

I came home to a still, silent apartment and lay on my bed, the few items I had removed from the office spilling out around me. I looked at my phone, then placed it screen-down and scooted it across the blanket, over the edge. I heard it thud on the carpet below.

Mikey had fully respected my wish to be left alone, and maybe he wouldn't have tried to contact me anyway. If he was upset then he probably wanted to be left alone, too.

I lacked the self-control necessary to keep memories at a distance, and they flooded me now--most of all: his bare feet out on the sand, t-shirt clinging to the taut skin of his chest, black hair kicking up in the warm wind. I thought of the way his smile, in that moment, offered up the slightest amount of vacancy, awaiting fulfillment by wonders soon to arrive. This behavior was innocent. It did not calculate. He waited like a child would wait, because he understood that he could not know what mysteries these wonders would hold before their time.

With my head against the pillow, I looked up at the ceiling and started to cry again for the first time since early that morning. I imagined him alone now, wishing he could contact me but believing it to be something I didn't want. I remembered his plea, about how happy being together made him, and how he didn't want it to stop. He had described the feeling as a simple one, and he had been right.

But it didn't matter. I knew myself, and I knew what it would take for me to stay. Mikey was quick to admit to (and could probably have listed, had I asked) the things that scared him. I was frightened at least as much by other things, but they were more difficult to lay to paper, and whereas his fears were cause for me to stay, my own were the driving force in my departure.

The radio silence would last through the rest of the night. I got along by cooking dinner, then throwing myself into packing the apartment, chiseling out a significant portion of the job before I realized that if I continued at this rate, there would be nothing left to distract me on Thursday and Friday. I wanted to go to bed, but the hour was not suitably late and I knew I wouldn't sleep. I read until I could not focus anymore.

Whatever experience Mikey and I had shared, I stood just barely outside of it now. I had minimally but effectively decoupled myself from it. For a precious couple of minutes, I saw our relationship for that to which it amounted; it did not feel like a lifetime now, nor could it be compressed down to a single whirlwind day. Several weeks brought together two compatible people, each interested in the other, interesting to the other, to a decidedly extreme degree.

Objectivity was helpful now in a way, but I did not feel especially comforted by it, and I got the sense that it wasn't accessing something important--some overarching essence of what it was to be in the same place as him. After preparing for sleep I lay on my side, slightly off to the right portion of the bed. There was room left over for Mikey to lay facing me, and it was not hard to imagine it now. The feeling of assurance as his eyes looked deeply into mine from the other pillow, as our fingers fluttered lightly against one another's between us was powerful and complete.

His absence and his silence now dug into me. I had no less than demanded it, and I knew with some amount of incredulity that if I did nothing, Mikey would be gone, silenced forever. I had asked for it, and there was no doubt in my mind that he would honor it. This truth rattled me; I tucked up my knees, pulling my feet close to the rest of my body, and remembered nothing else besides crying in prolonged, wrenching sobs until I fell asleep.

I rode the bus into the city the next morning, imagining what it was like for Mikey to be driving alone in his car for yet another day. I wondered how quickly he would return to this groaning, shuddering beast once he knew for sure that I was gone. I hoped it would be easy for him to come back to it, to sit alone, smiling to himself from time to time, content in his quiet productivity, just as he had been before we ever met. I hoped he would soon feel calm and happy, back on his own, more aware of his own identity, and free.

By the end of the day, the thought of returning to my small, upended home was not yet bearable, so I did not text or call ahead, just departed from the 40 as usual and then crossed under the highway toward my parents' house. It would occur to me later that I had not showed up unannounced at their home in some time, and at first I could not comprehend my mom's surprise when I walked through the front door and began removing my shoes.

"How's packing going? Oh, and this was your last day downtown," she said. "Are you feeling overwhelmed at all?"

I took long enough to respond, stepping slowly over to the couch and resting my chin on my hands, that I was certain she sensed something was amiss already. "It's not the packing, Mom, or work. How is work going for you?"

She cleared her throat and said, "It's pretty good." She then came over and sat next to me. "Tell me what's wrong, sweetie."

I leaned against her, feeling very much like I needed to cry again, but holding it back. "It's been hard saying goodbye. Actually...it just didn't work. It fell apart. I think it's done."

She knew whom I referred to without asking and said nothing in response; she knew, too, that I would continue on my own after enough time. Her hair tickled my neck and I felt a thin curtain of safety rise up around me, blocking everything out except for her and the sunlight pouring in through the front window.

"When I left his place yesterday morning," I began slowly, "he didn't say much. He was crying, and he said something about how he didn't think it would ever end up like this. He said some things that I don't understand, and some things I don't agree with. But I agreed with him when he said that."

"Oh no. Did the two of you argue?"

I nodded. "He wants me to stay, Mom. He wants it so bad, and I kept thinking that it was so selfish of him. He always said he would support my decision to go. But when I was leaving, he just looked so sad that I couldn't see anything else--not selfishness, and nothing else he would be playing at. I don't think he operates that way. All I could see was his sadness. He was, like, shivering, Mom. It was very cold in the room. And he even said it--he said, 'I am so sad,' like that was the only thing he had left to say."

Her body shifted against me. "Wyatt, has he committed himself to you?"

"No." I paused. "Well, sometimes it feels like he kind of already did, in a way, but he can't say it. I don't think he could promise me anything like that, even if I wanted him to."

"You don't want him to?"

"I don't know," I said. "I don't think so. It's been a month, Mom. I'm not sure it's right to even be asking for any kind of promises." After saying this I waited for her response, but she offered none, and although she had turned toward me, I could not tell how she felt from her expression. "What do you think about that?" I asked.

"A lot of people say this," she started. "I think it's true, though. Every situation is different. Everyone is an individual. I can't tell you if a month is long enough, or too short a time for anything. I haven't lived in your experience with him. I don't know."

I waited to continue, gathering an inclination together in my mind which seemed simple in a way, but was difficult for me to articulate. "I think it kills me just as much to leave him as it kills him that I'm going...but still, we came up with two different decisions about it."

She nodded. "It's weird how things like that happen sometimes, isn't it?" She hesitated for a moment. "And there's no chance you could keep seeing him while you live up there?"

I took a long time to answer her, finally lowering my head and muttering, "I just can't have it that way. I don't want it. I don't know why."

"Some people just aren't built for that, and it's okay. I certainly don't think I could do it."

"In my last relationship, I was willing to try it." I paused and looked up at her. "Remember that?"

"I do. Maybe you've changed. I'm tempted to say change like that is more common at your age, but people can change at any time in their life. Or maybe it's just that you see it differently with Mikey. Maybe it's all or nothing with him."

"I guess so," I said. I thought for a moment. "Part of what bothered him was me letting on that I had some serious doubts about my career, then deciding to go through with the move anyway." I glanced over at her, anticipating her surprise--I rarely ever really talked to her about my job--but she barely reacted at all. "On top of everything," I continued, "he believes I'm not being true to myself if I go."

"He can't really say if you are or you aren't. Only you will know that."

"Yeah, I know. But it doesn't mean he shouldn't have brought it up, if it's how he feels."

"Alright, yes, I see that, too. Look, sweetie, I got a particular feeling from the two of you the other night. It seemed like you were awfully close...and it seemed like a good thing to me." She stopped and looked me in the eyes. "I'm just wondering if it's going to make you incredibly sad not to be around him. I believe in the potential for another person's presence to affect how happy you are. I know you probably already know that, but please consider it as you make your decision."

"I did consider it. And I think I have already," I said.

"Wyatt, I need you to tell me this, because I'm worried you're holding it back from me. Are you are missing him as much as I would imagine you are?"

"I'm not sure that it's had time to sink in yet," I said. This was mostly a lie and there was no reason for me to have said it. "Everything just feels so quiet and empty right now."

I stopped talking, aware that I had shared more of myself with her in this one conversation than in all of the weeks leading to it. She was right; I missed Mikey so much that I felt ill. I nearly rejected the thought of having said goodbye to him forever. I began to consider the full gravity of it again, took one more look at my mom and started to cry.

She brought me into her arms, hugging me tightly and said, "I know." I believe she began to cry then as well. "I know, I know," she kept saying, aware, as some people are in these situations, that sometimes there is nothing else to say.

After a moment, when we had both calmed down a bit, she gripped my arm within her small hands and said, "Wyatt, I have something I need to tell you. But first I need to say that I know I haven't been very emotionally available."

"Come on, Mom, you've been--"

"No, just let me say this now. There have been times when you've wanted to talk about something and I've been distant with you, because whatever you brought up was making me encounter my own problems and I didn't like it. You want an example of selfishness--well that's it. All I can tell you is that I'm sorry."

"You don't have to be sorry for that, Mom."

She shook her head. "Yes I do. You won't change my mind. Wyatt, the last time we talked about your career was before it ever started--your senior year of college, over the winter break. You had some considerable doubts, and I told you to stick to it. I don't think I really said anything else. It destroys me because..." She paused and looked for a moment like she was about to cry again. She let go of me and straightened herself up. "It destroys me now because I had doubts about my own career back then, but made up my mind to ignore them. My only way to hold onto that conviction was to tell you to do the same. I feel responsible in that way, and it's very painful for me."

"It's not that simple," I told her. "I respected what you told me then. I still do. And besides, you aren't the only factor when I make those decisions. You must know that."

"I do know that. But I still feel responsible. I'll get over it eventually, but right now I just need you to know that I'm sorry. I put myself before you at that time. It's the worst thing a parent can do to their child."

"That's overdoing it a little. You gave me advice, that's all."

"I gave you self-interested, and therefore bad advice."

I managed a laugh. "Fine. If that's how you really feel, then I accept your apology."

She smiled at me. "Okay, well I'll keep this brief, because it's not about me right now, but next week will be my last at the hospital. I'm taking your advice and pursuing my passion. I'm doing it for me, and no one else."

"Oh my god. Are you kidding me? That is such good news, Mom."

"I wanted to tell you right away, yesterday, when I finally went through with it, but I figured with everything you have going on that I should wait."

"No you shouldn't," I said. "I'm just so happy for you."

"Well, thanks, sweetie." She gave me a hug and then sat back. "I can't believe I actually did it. Your little old mom takes care of business." She laughed, but before long some of the excitement had faded from her face. "You know, I really don't like to see you cry, Wyatt. Not like you did today. I just can't stand it."

"I know. This makes me feel better, though."

"So, will you think about it?"

"Think about what?"

She paused, laying her hands in her lap. "Think about what I did to make myself happy, and be sure that whatever you choose is going to make you happy."

I sat very still, staring at her for a moment. "Alright, Mom, I can try to do that."

She begged me to stay for dinner, but I insisted that I wasn't hungry.

"You're just like me," she said. "Your appetite vanishes when you're stressed. It's okay."

I promised her I would eat something later on.

That night I didn't cry. I didn't feel much of anything. I packed meticulously, tetrising over half of my belongings with great care into boxes and milk crates, following a methodical order of importance which would aid future retrieval.

"Do you own a television?" Jennifer texted around nine.

"Yes. I'll bring it up," I replied.

I left for a nearby corner store, where I purchased a small dinner and one felt-tipped marker. After eating I slowly, carefully labeled the containers with general respect to their contents. By ten o' clock I forced myself to stop everything, concerned that there would be nothing left to do the next day.

Before falling asleep, I attempted to clear my mind of all thoughts, but settled for new imaginings of my mom, upstairs in my old bedroom--now her sewing room--smiling and working away.

The next day I realized I would have been much better off working through Friday. I tried to slow myself down as I continued boxing and labeling, to become even more methodical, more meticulous, but I could only take it so far. I had too much time on my hands, and pounced on my phone once I noticed Marie had texted. She had just finished up at work and asked if I needed help packing, or at least some company.

"I could use some company," I replied. "I'll borrow my mom's car and pick you up at Southgate if you want."

She didn't respond to this, which was her customary way of deflecting offers. She showed up at the door an hour and a half later.

We hugged and she began poking around the apartment like a cat in a newly-discovered room. "Oh, wow," she said. "I haven't been here in too long. I'm a little sad to see it in this state."

I sat on the edge of my bed and listened to her remark at the packed containers, as well as a few larger items that would be carried out individually.

"Oh, Wyatt, remember this couch? Remember your record player?" she asked, lifting the transparent lid on its hinge and then setting it back down.

"Yes, I remember them," I said with a small smile. "I live here."

"I just can't believe you won't be in the city anymore."

"Me neither, Marie."

She regarded me in complete silence for a moment and then sat down on the edge of the couch nearest me, crossing her legs. "Please tell me how things are."

I sighed. "I let myself feel it all, Marie. I did what you said."

"And what happened?"

I invoked a miniature explosion with my hands. "The battle. Like you told me. It happened two days ago. And in the end, moving away won out." My voice quivered now. "I think I lost him, Marie. I don't know if I'll ever see him again."

"Oh no. That's not good. I told you to give each a fair shot."

"I tried, Marie. I really think I did."

"I take it you're not talking to him now? Have you been thinking about him?"

"I've been trying not to."

"Stop that," she said. "It's not giving him a fair shot."

"I know. You keep saying that. But he's not ready for a relationship with me. He won't call me his boyfriend, and I don't know how to feel secure in him sticking around. The only way he could ever be worth...you know, not leaving, is if I knew for certain that things with him would last."

She smirked. "Well, let's ignore that fact that you can't know that yet, and maybe not ever, no matter what he says. Do you really need him to say he'll be your boyfriend to feel secure with him? Do you actually think he won't get there? The guy seems to like you an awful lot--I mean, this bleeds with irony right now. You're worried about commitment from him, when he's the one begging you to stay."

I frowned at this, then drew in a slow breath. "In a way, I just wish he could put aside the raw feeling of wanting me to stay, and stop to consider that I'll be losing my job. I'll have nothing. What does he want me to do--go back to my summer job? And where the fuck will I live? I can't get it out of my head that it's a selfish point of view on his part, and I didn't know he could be that way."

She paused. "Maybe it's not so much about whether he's worth it, or not worth it, or whether he's selfish or not. I think it has more to do with you and your personal needs. Take a look at your job. If you move to keep it, who are you doing that for? I really hope you're doing it for yourself, and no one else. I'm a little skeptical about that part, to be perfectly honest with you. Now, if you stay to be with Mikey, I'm pretty sure you'd be doing it at least as much for yourself as for him. Probably more."

"Oh god, Marie. How do I even figure that out for sure? Jesus, maybe you're right. I don't know."

"Maybe I'm not," she said. "Maybe this is just the disturbing form my eleventh-hour pleading has chosen to take on. See? Everybody's fighting to get what they want. We're all selfish, Wyatt. I think it's doable to just accept that about people, and chase after what you want. Keep others in mind, but also keep looking out for number one."

I smiled a little. "Right. Riding a train and two busses clear across the city to help a friend in his time of need--that's really selfish, Marie."

She stayed silent, smiling and shrugging. I went over the couch, sat down next to her and pulled her into a long hug. She patted my shoulder and said, "Everything will be okay, Wyatt."

"Marie," I said shakily, "I mean, if I...fuck. If I actually don't go, then every second passing right now is just pointless torture for him. How can I live with myself knowing that?"

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