Monday, July 21, 2014


I was a humdrum person
 leading a life apart

when love flew in through my window wide

and quickened my humdrum heart... 

I was so happy then

but after love had stayed a little while

love flew out again

what is this thing called love

this funny thing 
called love

just who can solve its mystery

why should it make
 a fool of me?

- Cole Porter

They were sitting in the kitchen, drinking tea and eating toast, chatting about the latest incident.

“It was embarrassing. I felt very lonely, and a bit ridiculous. And I’ve never really felt loneliness before, not like that. Up until now it has always been solitude, never loneliness.”

Dennis concealed his light laughter, and whispered, “It happens to everyone. Don’t worry about it.” Martin was not at all comforted by his words, and despite his closest friend’s effort to conceal his mirth he could tell that Dennis found it all very amusing.

“I can’t stop thinking about how sad it looked, just lying there on the floor, all soft and broken. It was humiliating.”

As he spoke he looked closely at the lines on Dennis’s face, and reached over to touch one of them, his favorite one - just like the old days when they were young lovers - the line just above the bridge of his nose, the first one he had noticed over a decade ago. It was deeper now, and cut across otherwise taut flesh like a tiny ravine - no longer a thoroughfare running seamlessly from above his beautiful eyebrows to the tip of his long, perfectly shaped, oddly aquiline proboscis - having become, metaphorically speaking, over the years, a bridge without bridge.

Dennis gently took Martin’s hand from his own brow and kissed it - “my dear, dear friend. You have so much to live for. Try not to let these little things bother you. Let’s just get ready for our weekend adventure and put the memory of soft broken things behind us. They’re incidental, just props filling our lives with material clutter. Forget them.”

But he couldn’t. Everything bothered Martin in those days. He would fidget and moan, all by himself, about the smallest things. Nothing seemed to work out the way he wanted it to, and when he dropped his breakfast on the floor that morning, all alone in his one bedroom apartment, it just seemed so sad. The plate had broken into four perfect pieces, like a pie, and the eggs were soft and runny on the worn out parquet floor.

“You’ve said it yourself Dennis. You know you have. Food, people handling and eating food. There is something very vulnerable and sad in that. We can dress ourselves up and go out to dinner and eat slowly and carefully and appear to be in complete control of everything around us - the knives and the forks, the spoons and the wine goblets, the perfectly laundered white napkins. But underneath it all is such a humiliating fragility, and when something unexpected and catastrophic does occur, and the food flies, well, there is nothing sadder than the look on people’s faces. One minute they are enjoying a meal and the next minute they are helpless and the menu is all over the bloody place, and more often than not, all over them, and that's the worst of it - on their clothes and their arms and God forbid, all over their face. 

And that is how I felt this morning, and I need you to take it seriously. I know there are more important things to consider, but it was my last free range egg and my last garlic poppyseed bagel and my last packet of ketchup stolen from Wendy’s, and I just wanted to enjoy them on my own before I embarked on this annual, ill-conceived weekend at the godforsaken beach with a bunch of close friends I’ve grown to barely tolerate. Couldn’t you have just gently consoled me and left it at that instead of some prosaic little bit of fluff about the memory of soft broken things. You are such a fucking poet sometimes.”

Dennis laughed out loud and made no attempt whatsoever to ameliorate his friend’s anxiety and mild disgust.

“You are such a diva my dear, such a diva. And you call me the poet! Now cut it out and get ready or I’ll leave without you.”

About an hour later Dennis left on his own. Martin was nowhere to be found in the tiny apartment. He must have stormed out. Funny, Dennis didn’t hear the door close. He just looked in all the rooms, through the glass on the balcony door, and then sat in the kitchen, finished his tea, and waited for half an hour, and when nothing happened he looked around and realized his friend was really gone. Then he heard some shouting on the street ten floors below and he got up and left, without him.


“You should have seen the look on his face. It was heartbreaking. But I couldn’t take it seriously. It was a goddamn egg on a bagel and he made such a fuss about it. And the plate broke - it was uncanny - broken in four perfect pieces, like a pie. I’m sure he’ll call soon and one of us can drive back into the city to get him. He is such a diva sometimes. But I wish he were here right now. Dinner conversation is never the same without him.”

Dennis had left Martin’s building by the side door, closer to where he had parked his car, so he had no idea what the ruckus was all about out front. Probably some vagrant having a full out fit on the sidewalk. He didn’t approve of the way Martin always stopped and chatted with them, gave them whatever change he had in his pockets, sometimes even bills, and he never seemed in the least put out by their presence and their scavenging ways.

“If people have not managed their affairs properly then they deserve to suffer.”

When Dennis had said this to Martin, the week before the egg & bagel incident, it had served as a liberating missive that Martin would take note of and refuse to forget for quite some time. Instead of paying Dennis back for the hundred-dollar loan to get his phone re-connected he freed himself from the drudgery of a minor debt to someone who didn’t need the money urgently and sent the cash to a friend who was having a difficult time making ends meet. She had lost fingers to a crippling form of arthritis and needed extra money in her hands right away, so she got it and Dennis didn’t. 

It seemed to make sense as far as Martin was concerned, and it made him feel like a contemporary Robin Hood. 

But Dennis was by no means rich, just a little comfortable, for the time being. Dennis and Martin and all their close friends were in for a challenging future as gay old men without an excess of resources and no savings to speak of. For now all they could do was go on living and enjoying whatever they could. A weekend at the beach in a rented cabin big enough for five, but shared by the seven of them. Of course, there were the two little tents and it would be a mad lovely midsummer treat they could ill afford. But now there were only six, and they spent a good deal of time lamenting Martin’s absence.

Kevin was the first to speak up.

“Dennis, you dickhead! Why the hell did you leave him there in the first place?”

Dennis tried to defend himself but felt sheepish and guilty. He knew it was all his fault. “I couldn’t find him. One minute he’s in the kitchen drinking tea and eating toast with me and the next minute he’s gone. I didn’t hear the door close. He must have just stormed out, quietly, like he does.”

Kevin knew they must have been fighting about something. They always did. “Well you shouldn’t have argued with him. We all came for him, and now he’s not even here, and it’s your fucking fault. Asshole!”

Dennis wiped a single tear from his eye and gulped back the rest of his hefty gin and tonic. “He’ll show up. Trust me. He always does, at the most unexpected moment."

Maev threw her arms in the air and laughed and laughed and told the two of them to shut the fuck up.

“Drink up boys. We’re having a bonfire soon, and you two are cut off. One hot dog each and a couple of marshmallows and then you’re both driving into the city and finding him and bringing him here.”

They knew there was no point in arguing. She always got her way, Maev did. And who had a name like that anyway? They were all such inbred waspy creatures. A woman in their midst, with a mind of her own and the body of an Amazonian huntress - tits the size of perfectly formed flotation devices - was a welcome distraction from their whiny ways. Kevin often remarked that they all objectified her and took her for granted, and all she had to say was, "Well sport, men always take me for granted, at least when they're gay I can objectify them too and feel really good about it. You're all gorgeous and funny and bitchy and kind and I just love being around you." And then she would kiss Kevin, long and sensuously, and thank God for bisexuality.  They all knew that the two of them screwed a few times over the course of their annual summer beach weekend but no one said a word, except for the odd remark over dinner and the obvious misogynist food metaphors, but that was another matter entirely, one that Maev always took complete control of.  "You're all a bunch of pussies but at least I've got one. Keep your clams shut while Kevin fills mine!" They were all a little jealous of him even though they had their reservations about what they mistook for his decidedly undecided sexuality. Kevin knew what he wanted, and got it whenever he put his mind to it.


Dennis grabbed the gin bottle and exclaimed - his baby-ish bravado trying to hide the fact that he did feel guilty for leaving Martin behind - “Fine we’ll go get him, while you all lounge around here sucking each other's cocks. But not before sunset. I’m not missing a single god damn sunset for anyone. And I wouldn't mind a blowjob, one for the road, in place of my second gin and tonic. Anybody handy?” They all just laughed but knew that Kevin would give him one in the driver's seat, on the straight and narrow of an empty highway, before they hit the city streets. Maev knew, everyone knew. The orgiastic nature of their seasonal festivities. It was just one of those things - those funny things, that flew in their windows wide, made them happy, then flew out again. What was this thing. They all knew exactly what it was, among them, thriving even in middle age. It was love.

And the sunset was just such a breathtaking cliché.

The six of them sat in the sand at the edge of the front lawn and just stared in silence until Greg broke the perfect scene with his raffish bark. “Will you look at that eh. It’s bee-you-tee-full. Our Nana always said it like that, bee-yoo-tee-full, whether she was talking about a great view or the taste of apple pie. We would take her to a smorgasbord, she always pronounced it smogasborg, and she’d try one of every dessert, would put them all on the same plate, and then sit down at the table in the restaurant and pick away at them all, one at a time, until they were gone, like she was devouring the finest delicacies on earth, and it was usually just a bunch of green jello cubes and a tart and a dried up piece of cake.”

Billy dove right in to the middle of Greg’s monologue, like he always did. “You’re exaggerating you crazy old fuck. I was there. Our Nana was the sweetest woman on earth and those desserts were delicacies to her, and they weren’t dried up. She enjoyed them. Don’t make fun of her. And by the way, she hated jello.”

“I’m not making fun. I love that memory. We don’t have the same fuckin memory, okay. Have yours bitch and I’ll have mine, for Christ’s sake.”

“Oh you two just be quiet. Brothers in love. Fuck. You squabble like an old married couple. Enjoy the god damn sunset.”

And before Maev was finished admonishing two of her favorite men the last blaze of light dipped below the cloud and resonated in pale mauve highlights along the edge of the lake’s blurred horizon. It wasn’t a full sunset because of the clouds hanging low against the edge of the water. But it was just as beautiful, with the remnants of the sun giving the top edge of the clouds a piecing outline, like a line of flames sinking into the west. Gary was the quietest of them all and no one noticed when he took snapshots of those final moments - the laughing faces, the loving argumentative glances, the bee-yoo-tee-ful incomplete sunset and the barely defined horizon line. With a cheap digital camera, blighted by sand caught in the lens, he managed to capture those sentimental, grainy moments just before the orange became a soft yellow with hazy shafts of light shooting upward and making him feel silly because sunsets like this made Gary think of heaven, and he didn’t believe in heaven. But he liked to take pictures that reminded him of the things he couldn’t quite grasp - or even begin to imagine being possible.


No one knew who started it, the fire, just after midnight, that burned through the middle of the wooden steps to the empty cabin just beyond the edge of their rented property. But they were all afraid they would have to pay for it. The bonfire had been put out. Sparks would never have flown that far from the beach, everyone was a little drunk, and Dennis and Kevin had already left for the city to find Martin a full hour before the flames began. Luckily Billy caught it quickly and had it out with a small fire extinguisher within minutes. But it caused quite a stir among late night partiers who ran screaming from their own little patch of beach to the rental office to disclose their fear that someone’s cabin was burning to the ground. It could have been so much worse. They all awoke to the shouts of the rental manager’s wife banging on the front door of their cabin and demanding to be let in.

            “I want you all out of here.”

It might have been Billy shrieking in his out of tune bass to his favorite lyric, one that he felt defined this group of people that he loved so much, and was spending the weekend with. But he did get a couple of bizarre photos of the little porch on fire just before he doused it. He borrowed Gary’s little digital just after they finished making out, and grinding against the side of a tree, on their way to bed. They always flirted but never fucked. Gary headed straight to his room while Billy lingered outdoors.

“I just want to take a few shots of the moon. Please.”

He hated loaning his camera, but he couldn’t say no to Billy.

As he fell asleep Gary smiled at the memory of those loud, throaty, ghoulish sounds, made even more bizarre by Billy’s wavering low voice, making a decidedly butch/femme plea for membership in their bizarre little clan-

            “Sing around the campfire! Join the campfire girls!”  

Yes, indeed, that might have tipped someone off about the little fire and sent them running to the rental office with false ammunition. It wasn’t their fault. It was a match that one of the unknown lovers dropped as they left the empty cabin, lighting a cigarette and carelessly letting it fall under the steps as he quietly made his exit with his two unlikely bedfellows in tow.

It had just been a tiny illegal bonfire. They shielded it with their beach umbrellas and only let it blaze for less than half an hour, long enough for a few marshmallows each and a couple of campfire ditties. But it was enough to make everyone think it was all their fault, and send them packing in the middle of the night in search of a motel during a busy summer weekend.

When Dennis and Kevin got back to the lake without Martin they were already frantic. The empty cabin, and the absence of their friends, was just too much for them to take in. The manager heard them shouting around three a.m. and came running over to their cabin, still anxious over the fire and his wife’s rage about these loud, negligent summer guests he always gave a discount for no good reason at all.

“Your friends are gone, to the Bluewater Motel, just down the road. Tell them I’m sorry, it wasn’t their fault. I figured it out. There was a little fire. Don’t ask. Trust me. I won’t charge you the rental fee. Now get out of here. I’ve had enough summer fun bullshit for one night.”

Kevin was crying by this time and the manager felt bad that his wife had unwittingly put the blame in the wrong place. He looked sheepish, and very recent memories filled his heart.

“Okay, get them. Bring them back here. I’ll give you the weekend free, and next summer too. Okay? Sorry.”

Dennis put his arm on Kevin’s shoulder, thanked the manager, and tried to comfort his friend.

“I’ll call Billy on his cell. We won’t have to go there. They’ll come back, and we can tell them then. I hope he has it turned on.”

They were back within twenty minutes. The front room lights to the cabin were all on as they straggled in, still a little drunk and very tired.

Maev was the first to speak. “Well, this weekend is really turning out well. Where’s Martin?”

Kevin was trying to suppress his grief but Maev’s voice always made him emotional, at the best of times. He just started sobbing.

Gary rushed over to comfort Kevin and blurted out, “What the fuck’s going on? Where is he? What’s happened? Is he okay?”

If there had been a staircase in the cabin it would have made Martin’s entrance so much more thrilling -

“I’m fine. But I seem to be the one who always gets called the diva. You bunch of depraved queens. What on earth are you going on about? I’m fine, see - me, my robe, and all my luggage, and my very generous picnic basket that I lugged here on public transportation, it was disgusting - we  are all perfectly fine, and we’re thrilled to finally be here among all you glorious assholes.”

Martin had come out of the small bedroom in his underwear, dragging a satin robe behind him, looking very thin, yet elegant, just at that stage where one looks like they’ve lost a bit of weight, before the gaunt unhealthy period threatens to set in. But he would bounce back. He always did, so far.

Dennis’s first impulse was anger.

“We thought you were dead you prick. Where the fuck were you when I left the co-op?”

“I was on the balcony shithead.”

“You were not. I looked there. You were gone.”

“The roof balcony. I went to cut some basil to bring up here and when I got back I figured you just threw one of your random fits and left without me. So I took the fucking bus. And there was bit of a, well, ruckus, downstairs when I got back and I couldn’t rush out to find you. It was awful. But I am not going to talk about any of that. Let’s salvage what’s left of this little weekend fiasco.”

“What happened?”

“Someone jumped. Okay, are you happy now? Someone jumped from their fucking balcony in the middle of a hot summer afternoon and landed in the goddamn flowerbed. It was just awful. And the poor victim was just so badly dressed. There, are  you satisfied? I told you. And it’s made me feel sick and I’m going to bed.”

“Thank God. We all thought it was you.”


Dennis pointed accusingly at the rest of them as he lowered his voice and began to feel relief and sympathy for the whole incredible series of events. “They all made us, me and Kevin, go back to the city to find you, and when we got there some people were still up, sitting on the curb at the front of your place, drinking and chatting and some of them were crying. We overheard them talking. We thought they meant you. They were talking about a suicide. They didn’t even know the person. One of them thought it was you but had no idea where the body had been taken. So we just came back here, to break the news to everyone.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake. You know I’m not suicidal. I took the depression test  and scored very high on the non-depressive side, and I told all of you all about it at the bar last friday. I just have very infrequent suicidal thoughts. That’s normal. I’ve lived long enough, longer than I expected to. My life has been thrilling. It’s been just great, but I just would like it to end, while I am still moderately young - quietly, beautifully, like a movie, like a fucking sunset!. But I’m not going to make it end in some broken bloody heap in a poorly manicured flower bed. The poor dear. Oh God. That’s tacky, and way too glamourous for assholes like all of you to understand.”

“You were just so sad this morning, about dropping your breakfast on the floor.”

“Yes. I was, and you were no help, so I just left the apartment to take my mind off of your very predictable insensitivity and I picked a shit load of fresh basil, in a cute little basket with a calico napkin to line it. We can have it tomorrow with tomatoes and bocconcini. I hope someone brought balsamic and olive oil. I told someone to. I can’t remember who.”

“Dennis hugged Martin and whispered in his ear, “I brought the oil and vinegar sweetheart. It’s all good.”

“Well then, perfect, I’m making omelettes with fresh salmon, Caesar salad, and cubed canteloupe. We’ll have a very late brunch, around five.”

Between bouts of laughter Maev was yawning, and interjected, as she kissed Martin on the cheek - “Okay boys, I’m off to bed. This has been a fabulous first evening. A fire, an unfashionable, faux suicide, and the promise of a delicious late brunch. Nothing can top this.”

Topping the events that had already taken place would be difficult, but three secret lovers were trying to do just that. Topping, bottoming, sucking, kissing, the whole eight-and-a-half yards. They had jumped up into the little landing at the top of the burned broken steps and scrambled back into the cabin. Naked on the soft sandy floorboards where their initial meeting had begun, laughing softly, they all agreed it was time to turn on their signature tune on the little CD player, very low so no one would hear. Debby Boone sang out loud and clear, like the naughty zealot she was raised to be by her Hollywood daddy and her tongues speaking Mama.

Rolling at sea,
 Adrift on the waters.

Could it be finally 
I'm turning for home?
Finally, a chance
 too say, "Hey, I love you,"

Never again
 to be all alone.
It can't be wrong,
 when it feels so right.

'Cause you...
You light up my life

Their lips were full and damp as their arms and legs became a triangular bacchanalian retreat from everything their lives expected of them. It wasn’t unusual, when they were together, to find more than one member installed in a single orifice. The cabin was risky but they couldn’t resist. They would just lock themselves in the back bedroom and let loose, quietly and passionately. It had always been the same set of cabins, for ten summers now. They thought of looking into other rentals but this one was known, predictable, comfortable, and cheap. Only two of them knew that the rates were much higher for other renters. Their first summer there had started the tryst and it just never let up. Even as they grew older their lust never faltered. He would even come into the city once or twice during the winter to see them at their bar and it would end in a hotel room nearby. It wasn’t something he expected so late in life, but it was a thrilling respite from the comfort of a small, tourist town life he loved but was a little bored with. 

Even in their drunken summer reveries it was always safe, more romantic than sexual, more kind than kin. They knew each others bodies well,  and fit together like a womb of forbidden comfort. The grooves and fissures that made their erotic affections complete were carefully and tenderly navigated with fingers, mouths, flavored lubricant and durable condoms - lips and tongues so fully integrated into each others bodies it was hard to tell, at certain moments, who was who. Yes indeed, there was always a risk, but they had felt, from the very beginning, that is was well worth the effortless effort.

And after Martin’s safe return - they saw him from their tents as he straggled in - no one cared who was absent when Dennis & Kevin returned and the whole misunderstanding was cleared up. 

They - the secret lovers - always brought their own little tents and slept at the edge of the property - just got out of the car after arriving form the motel and fled to their canvas solitudes. And the stocky, sexy, hairy little rental manager would quietly slip out of bed, like clockwork, his wife of thirty years sound asleep beside him, and join the unlikely campers in the only unrented cabin on site, always set aside for their secret rendezvous. They didn't usually do it twice in a single night. And he only hoped, after all the ruckus about the little fire, that this time he would not light a cigarette and drop the match carelessly under the broken steps once they had finished making love. Hopefully the snapshots from Gary’s cheap little borrowed digital wouldn’t reveal the names embossed in gold on the matchbook from the bar that two of them owned together.

A book of matches - the incidental material trappings of a successful family business. It had its perks - and its drawbacks.

No comments:

Post a Comment