No Remedy for Love Ch. 05bypodga©
Thomas and I had arranged to meet at JFK Thursday after work, in order to catch a late evening flight to Detroit. I had been making good time, but as Elaine famously said on Seinfeld, no one's ever beaten the Van Wyck. After advancing about two sub-compact-sized car lengths in twenty minutes, I became paranoid that I wouldn't make it and that Thomas would think I'd blown him off and never speak to me again.
I still had him on speed-dial.
"Hey, I got started late and now I'm stuck on the Van Wyck," he said breathlessly the moment he picked up, not giving me a chance to speak. I craned my neck to look in case the Camaro was among the cars basically parked around me.
"Yeah, me too," I said. "That's what I was calling to tell you."
"We're not going to make it, are we?"
"Let's just get there. We can change flights if we need to."
"It's not like I really want to go anyway," Thomas mumbled despondently.
"Buck up, little soldier, and chortle," I quoted. He obligingly made that fake sound we both imagined chortling was, and I laughed. "Hey, it looks like we're finally moving a bit. See you there."
"Great," Thomas said listlessly and hung up.
I arrived first and figured that if Thomas showed up in the next ten minutes we could still board. I made sure the gate knew we were almost there (and Thomas having booked business and already checked us in certainly helped) and he made it with one minute to spare. I watched him run towards me, long legs covering ground effortlessly, a leather duffel bumping against his hip. God, how I'd missed just being able to look at him. Not counting my trip to Garden City to pick up my stuff, this was the longest we'd ever been apart from each other since we first met, except for summer vacations in college and the roughly two years Thomas had spent in the Peace Corps.
I don't know how it is these days with so many ways to communicate, but in the mid-80s being in the Peace Corps meant you were completely out of touch for months on end. Most of the letters he sent me reached me after he came back (and for the most part they resembled exceptionally well-written newspaper articles rather than personal letters, but he did write to me and that's what counted) and only six of mine ever caught up with him, although I dutifully wrote him about every five to six weeks. We'd thought we were awfully mature at graduation; we both had things to do and places to be and it wasn't like we'd ever seriously figured on a long-term future together. Afterward I realized that we'd simply been young and unbelievably arrogant, that we placed so little value on what we had together, that we assumed that finding love (though we never called it that) and friendship (that we admitted to) was easy, even commonplace, instead of something rare to be cherished and protected at all costs.
"Thanks again for doing this," Thomas said after we settled in our seats.
"I'm happy to help if I can," I assured him. "You know that."
He looked at me sharply, and I blushed. My intentions must have been all too obvious, especially to someone, who knew me so well and for so many years. And my timing couldn't have been worse; my very presence on the plane was proof that Thomas had bigger things worrying him. Surprisingly, he reached out and squeezed my hand. It was only for a second, but I could swear I still felt the warmth of his palm hours later.
I'd been wondering about the hotel rooms. The whole trip was on Thomas, he wouldn't hear of my covering any part of it since I was only in Detroit at his request, and I wondered if he'd booked a double or two single rooms. At the death of his mother he'd come into a lot of money – that's why he'd kept the house, he'd paid off our mortgage years ago, overriding my objections and stating that it was stupid to pay interest when we didn't need to – and he could easily afford the singles, but I didn't like what that implied about where things stood between us, that we couldn't even share a room as friends anymore. On the other hand, he wouldn't have booked a double without checking with me first, I didn't think. Of course he wouldn't, I repeated firmly to myself, determinedly quashing my irrational disappointment.
As I found out, Thomas had opted for a compromise, two interconnecting singles, so that we each had our own space and either of us could shut and bolt the door between us, but there was still a tacit acknowledgment of our history.
It had been a full day, and we were both tired. I hung up my jacket and pulled off my tie, then lay back on my bed, my legs hanging off the end with my feet on the floor, and I listened to Thomas' quiet voice in the other room as he spoke on the phone, presumably to his father. After a while, he knocked on the door frame between our rooms and pushed the door, which had been ajar, fully open.
"I've arranged to meet my father at this breakfast place in the Ren Cen at eight tomorrow. I tried to make it later, but he's always been an early riser, and I didn't feel like adding sloth to all my other sins."
"Okay. Do you want me there with you?"
He nodded, then wandered into my room and started re-arranging the brochures and leaflets on the small desk, lining up the edges, then placing them by size, then back into their original positions. I sat up and reached for his wrist, pulling him down to sit beside me. He slumped over with his elbows on his knees, and I rubbed his back in a circular motion I knew relaxed him. I didn't ask what was wrong, because it was pretty obvious, but I also didn't know what to say that might make him feel better and I could think of anything to break the silence between us.
"I haven't told my father we're not together anymore," Thomas said.
"It's none of his business either way," I assured him, trying to ignore the jolt of hope I felt at his words.
"No, but..." He sighed and leaned into me a little, though I doubt he was aware of having done so. "I don't want him to know I failed at this."
It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that he hadn't, but the truth was he had. We both had.
"We stayed together longer than a lot of couples and maybe against worse odds," I said instead. "That counts for something. Though since we're both men, probably not with Robert."
He laughed. "You're right. He'd have been a lot happier if we'd never met."
"I wouldn't have been, though," Thomas said in a low voice. "When we separated, right before, I said a lot of stuff I didn't mean and not enough of what I should have. You know that, right?"
He laughed again, a quiet huff. "My strong and silent Scott. Always so polite, from the first second I saw you, when you shook my hand, even though you looked about ready to puke at the thought of sharing a room with me."
"Not you specifically. Any guy with a Mohawk and nose ring. And I wasn't that obvious."
"You were extremely obvious. There you were, with the prettiest blue eyes I'd ever seen in my life, and you couldn't stand the sight of me."
I didn't object to the description, particularly the "pretty'' bit, like I usually had in the past. "Well, you were an ugly skinny thing, weren't you? But I eventually got used to you."
He grinned, then took a deep breath, straightened his back and clapped his palms against his knees. Obviously the trip down memory lane was over.
"I'll see you tomorrow, yeah? Seven thirty? That should give us plenty of time."
I nodded and watched him as he left the room. He carefully pulled the door back to its original position, so that it remained partially open.
Thomas called me from Frankfurt airport at 3:30 in the morning in order to tell me that he was about to catch a connecting flight to New York and to ask me if I could come pick him up and if he could stay with me for a few days. It was the first time I'd heard his voice in two years. After we hung up, I was too restless to fall asleep again and I spent the next few hours cleaning the apartment. When the time turned almost decent, I tracked down Kevin at his girlfriend's place, waking them both up, and asked him if I could borrow his car, which he agreed to provided I'd also fill the tank, then left a voice message at the office claiming a family emergency. I set off way too early, which left me cooling my heels in the arrivals area of JFK for almost two hours. Time had never passed so slowly.
And then he was standing in front of me, smiling broadly, his brown hair grown out from the buzz cut, so that for the first time I realized it was wavy and not straight like I'd always assumed. He smelled a little funny, a combination of cheap dispenser soap, not-quite-clean clothes and airplane, but that didn't stop me from flinging my arms around him and hugging him to me. He hugged me back and kissed my cheek, then we stepped away from each other, both smiling like fools.
We managed to stuff his backpack into the trunk of Kevin's tiny Civic and drove back to Hell's Kitchen, where Kevin and I rented a 3-room railroad apartment. At some point there might have been an internal hallway connecting the rooms, but a renovation and the addition of a kitchen and bathroom meant that we had to either walk through one room to get to the next, or had to exit the apartment at one end and walk back in at the other. Still, the price was right, and Kevin and I had taken the end rooms for ourselves and left the middle room as a sort of living/dining room, so we both had our privacy and could come and go as we pleased. I figured Thomas could have his choice of my room or the couch in the middle room; Kevin stayed at his girlfriend's place so often he basically lived there and wouldn't care either way.
"This is nice," Thomas said after I gave him the brief tour. I looked at him to check if he was being sarcastic, but he appeared very serious, and I wondered what kind of places he'd stayed at for the past couple of years.
The first thing he asked for was to take a shower and I showed him where everything was, then went to the kitchen to fix us some sandwiches and took them through to the middle room along with a couple of beers. When he finally emerged about half an hour later, a towel wrapped around his hips, I goggled. During college there had been no other word for Thomas than skinny. He was still thin, I don't suppose food had been that plentiful, but his shoulders, chest, arms and thighs had all filled in with lean muscle, and his abs were ripped. I'd always liked his body, but now he was breath-taking.
"Here, this is for you." He placed a bracelet woven with colorful beads on the table in front of me. I noticed he was wearing one that was similar.
"What is it?"
"A friendship bracelet. They make 'em in a lot of the villages and sell 'em to tourists, but these two," he also indicated the one he was wearing, "were a gift from the kids at the last school I taught."
I tried to put it around my right wrist, but I couldn't manage the fastening with my left hand, so Thomas leaned over to help me. I stared at his profile, then raised my free left hand and pushed his hair behind his ear, something I could have never done before due to its length.
"I missed you, Tommy," I said gruffly, and he looked at me and smiled.
"Well, I'm here now. And before long, you'll be wishing you could get rid of me."
"That's true, especially if you continue taking half-hour showers."
"And wait until you see how much I eat these days. Don't worry, I'll start looking for a place in a couple of days."
He sat down across from me, picked up his beer and toasted me before drinking.
"I'm going to have to re-teach you all about beer, aren't I?" he asked, making a face after the first swallow.
"Are you going to be around long enough to do so? You know what a slow learner I am."
"I hope so. There's a couple of NGOs based here in New York that might be looking for people. I figure I can work for a year or two, get some more experience and also study for the GMATs."
"You're thinking of business school?" I asked surprised. "Joining the oppressive and abusive capitalist system? Indulging in filthy lucre at the expense of the poor?"
Thomas snorted. "I wasn't that bad, was I?"
"Yeah, well, I have to tell you that what I saw didn't exactly help change my mind about geopolitics or multinational corporations. On the other hand, you have to know the system in order to use its power for good."
"Well said, Uncle Ben."
Thomas grinned. "And if I read lowbrow comic books like you, I'm sure I'd know exactly what you're referring to, Petey."
After lunch, Thomas lay on the couch in front of the TV and basically didn't move for the next 48 hours, except for bathroom breaks. He slept more than he watched the boob tube, but he did plenty of that, too, conclusively proving that bad sitcoms are instantly addictive. Finally, Kevin and I had to forcibly throw him into the shower and then some clothes and drag him over to a Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood that made a mean burrito and even meaner margaritas. After our mini reunion, Kevin went back to his girlfriend's and I half-carried Thomas back to the apartment.
"Tha' was fun," Thomas slurred as we entered via my bedroom. He shook my supporting arm off, and took three unsteady steps towards the mattress on the floor, where he collapsed face down.
"Yeah," I agreed. "You're not going to throw up, are you?"
He rolled over onto his side so he could look at me.
"No. Can I stay here?"
"You know you can."
"Will you stay with me?"
I toed off my sneakers and dropped down next to him.
"Yeah. We only make people we don't like sleep on the couch."
He smiled, then reached for my wrist and held it up to study the bracelet he'd given me.
"I didn't think you'd wear this."
"Why not? I like it."
"I thought you'd say it's too gay."
"Well, it is too gay."
"I thought you'd go back to women once I left. Did you?"
"Are you out?"
"So you're not dating guys either?"
Still holding onto my wrist, he raised my hand to his cheek. I cupped it.
"I was waiting for you to come back," I told him, and it was the truth, even though I'd only consciously known it when I heard his voice at 3:30 in the morning three days ago.
"I'm glad," he told me, and closed his eyes. "I don't know what I would have done otherwise."
I moved closer to him and pulled him against me. I knew he was too drunk for us to do anything, too drunk to even censor himself (whether against letting me know the truth about his feelings for me or against a meaningless and maudlin response to what must have sounded like a meaningless and maudlin statement), but I still craved his touch and warmth. He was already three quarters asleep and he mumbled a protest at being moved, then wrapped himself around me, muttered my name, and went boneless.
In the morning he didn't show any sign of remembering what either of us had discussed the night before. I woke up to him pulling my jeans off. He was already naked and gloriously hard, and if he had a hangover, it didn't seem to be slowing him down.
"Morning," I mumbled, raising my hips obligingly to help him.
"Yeah, yeah, enough sweet talk," he growled and moved forward to pull off my T-shirt, as well, and toss it aside. Then he remained kneeling by my chest, staring at me, his eyes wide.
"What?" I asked self-consciously.
He reached out and stroked my pec. "You've changed."
I still swam and remained in good shape for a guy, who spent ten to twelve-hour days sitting at a desk, but was nowhere near as big as I'd been in college, and I'd stopped shaving. Thomas trailed his fingers through my sparse chest hair, then along my treasure trail. "You're all fuzzy, like a peach," he grinned.
"Oh, jeez," I muttered, rolling my eyes, and he laughed, then stretched out on top of me, lifting my arms and pressing my wrists to the mattress over my head. "Aww, and look at that, more peach fuzz." He nuzzled my armpit, then licked me there. "You're so fucking sexy."
I twisted my wrists against his grip, trying to release myself, but then Thomas raised his head and our mouths met, and I forgot about struggling. Thomas' kisses were as sweet and exciting as I remembered them. I wrapped my legs around him and hooked my ankles together in order to cradle his hips and keep him locked to me. After a while he lifted himself a little and looked down at me.
"Say it," he instructed, his voice husky, and I almost came right there and then.
"I want you. And I won't be a dick afterward."
He caught the slight change in the phrase I'd dutifully recited all those times in college, the replacement of 'this' with 'you' and his eyes narrowed, then he grinned. "Good enough."
He let go of my wrists, and I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, pulling him down on me and burying my head into the curve of his shoulder, meatier than I remembered, but still as sensitive if the way he writhed against me when I licked and nibbled there was anything to go by.
"There's no way in hell I'm going to last long enough to come in you," Thomas panted in my ear, then bit my earlobe.
"Next time then," I said, and rocked my hips up, rubbing my cock against his. We both moaned, and I did it again, over and over, until we both came. I let my legs fall open, but Thomas continued to grind against me, our cocks moving along slick, warm skin, until we both came again.
"Missed this," Thomas said, holding my face cupped in his hands, his whiskey-colored eyes bright. "Missed you, too," he smirked, his eyes sliding shyly away from mine a second later.
"You asshole," I told him and kissed him soundly, and if I hadn't had to get up and go to work, we would have started all over again.