Derby Line Marriage Ch. 14byjtuf©
Benjamin passed by the film set on his way to Mark's office. The crew was attaching leather straps to the bedposts of a king sized bed. To the side, an actor was getting a temporary tattoo on his buttocks from a makeup artist. Benjamin knocked on the door to Mark's office.
"Come in," Mark called out.
Benjamin entered the office and handed Mark his time sheet. "Here are my hours. Remember, I need next week off for my trip to Montreal."
"That's fine. We're off for Labor Day anyway. I think we can manage without you during the rest of the week as well."
"Good. Is it OK for me hang up some things in my cubical? Mostly, pictures and a message board."
"Sure. Just don't make any permanent holes in the walls." Mark gave Benjamin a sympathetic look. "Did Columbia University give you a schedule for their demolition?"
"Well, have a good trip."
"Thanks. Enjoy your day at the beach."
Benjamin took the 32 bus from Queens to Times Square where he could catch the subway up to Harlem. Looking out the bus window, he considered how the neighborhood had changed. It used to be a Mecca for the porn industry. He remembered when sex shops had dotted every block. Now, those shops were few and far between. New zoning ordinances had played a big part in that change. Benjamin didn't realize back then that the Disneyfication of New York City's red light district would be the first step in a complete transformation of the entire city. Columbia University's expansion plan only continued the trend. First they went after the sex shops ...
Benjamin went below ground in the Theater District. The 1 and 9 took him uptown. He exited the subway one station early so that he could post more fliers as he walked the rest of the route. The guys at the Montreal Universal Freedom Foundation gave him much advice about stopping Columbia University's eminent domain abuse. Benjamin felt like David going after Goliath, but he had to at least try.
Benjamin kicked off his shoes the moment he entered his townhome. He was tired after a long day of web programming for Mark, but he still had to put in an hour of studying. Back in his college days, juggling a full course load with a job seemed easier. A decade latter, studying just an hour each day after work took significant willpower. Benjamin woke up his computer and plugged in his microphone. He started the language learning software. "Bonjour," it prompted.
"Bonjour," he replied into the microphone. An hour of drilling brought Benjamin a little bit closer to fluency. Last year, he had been unable to communicate with a Quebecois man. This time, he intended to be prepared. Besides, he was meeting someone much more important then a one night fling, someone who cared about him as a person. It was nice to have a friend who emailed him regularly and was involved in the non-sexual parts of his life. Always the lone wolf, Benjamin was not accustomed to that type of a relationship. He was beginning feel what people meant by "Platonic Love".
His ringing mobile phone snapped Benjamin out of his daydreaming. He looked at the caller ID on his phone screen and answered the call. "Hey Francis. I was just thinking about you."
"Hello, Benjamin. I wanted to set the plans for next week. Are you sure you don't want to stay at my house?"
"I'm certain. Maybe I'll accept your offer the next time I visit, but I would be more comfortable at a hotel for my first trip."
"No problem. Did you check the train schedule?"
"Yes. I'll get on the train around 8 am and arrive in Montreal a bit after 7 pm."
"I'll be there to pick you up. I know a great restaurant where we can have supper."
"Diner is on me," Benjamin offered.
"But you are traveling. I'll take care of the food."
"Francis, you and your coworkers at MUFF have put in so many hours helping me fight Columbia. I want to repay you."
"Let me buy the supper. There is another way that you can repay me."
"What?" Francis asked.
"Never mind. It's just an expression. So, what favor do you need?"
"It's a bit personal. I'll tell you when you're here."
"That sounds a bit ominous. If I didn't know you better, I would be worried. Anyway, I've got to start cooking tonight's dinner."
"Me too. Take care. I'm looking forward to seeing you in person for the first time."
"Right back at you. Bye." Benjamin pondered about Francis's request as he hung up the phone.