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by E.P. Lee
May 10, 2021
AND the DOG BARKS... CHAPTERS # 43 - 48
“AND THE DOG BARKS..."
CHAPTERS #43 - 48
So this March when Mitch ran away, I was pretty cool with it.
And yet, we had a foundation under us now, and I knew Mitch would be back. I just knew it. So I wasn’t too upset this time. I simply called Gal immediately, and asked him to take Ziggy for a bit.
Based on when Gal could come get the dog I called the airline and made flight reservations. And then I booked the hotel. Next I packed my bags. And finally, two days later, right after Gal took Ziggy from me, I went up to NYC for two weeks.
It was all very routine.
A routine had formed…
Two days later I drove to Fort Lauderdale International Airport, to the parking terminal nearest the Jet Blue counter, handed my keys to the Valet with instructions to have the car deluxe washed and Simonized, detailed and immaculate for me on my return in two weeks, walked through the parking garage to the terminal itself, bought a cup of coffee, and waited to board my shuttle on up to LaGuardia.
At LaGuardia I was met by a driver with a black car who picked up my luggage and whisked me off to my all-suite hotel on the East Side of Manhattan. After check-in I went up to the 52nd story rooftop cocktail lounge, where there was a grand piano and an in house resident player, grabbed a window table, and began calling friends to announce my arrival, and plan for future evenings entertainment.
The first call I made was to Brad.
Brad and I had been speaking weekly, three times a month and sometimes twice a week all through this period. Unlike the last time, where I had consciously thrown all contact data away, this time I’d kept the lines of communication open. I just didn’t let the continued communications burden me with care.
But we had spoken often over the just-passed six months, and we’d always left open the possibility of seeing each other again, and so…
And here I am.
… that next evening…
… there he was.
And it was fine; the rest of the visit with him was pleasant too.
Though the visit was about as substantive as a cream puff for dessert after a big restaurant meal, but it was “pleasant”.
Every time I saw Brad after that “fated” meeting outside that Broadway Theater the second night of my first New York City run-away, our visits were always pleasant,
“Pleasant”. But “pleasant” drives me just the same way I might order a cream puff for dessert after a big dinner in a fine restaurant. And I rarely, very rarely, almost never, do that.
I only saw Brad one more time in all of the additional years Mitch and I carried on.
Only one more time, and that visit was “pleasant” too. There was only that one additional visit, but oh how “pleasant” and serendipitous that visit was.
Shit, all of these fucking memories…
That next, and only other time, I saw Brad was about 13 months later. Mitch and I had reconciled immediately upon my return from that previous New York trip. And with that reconciliation, all thoughts of Brad left my consciousness. And then some 11, 12, or 13, months later Mitch and I separated again.
Only this time it looked like we were separating for good, and not just for a moment.
Over the preceding few months, like months 10 to 13, Mitch had weaned himself down to one workday a week at Chez Moi for garden maintenance, and possibly one other liaison extra somewhere in the middle for a possible third get together every two weeks, or six in the preceding month. Only this current month there had been no contact for three weeks, and then a scheduled, and kept, appointment.
And it was an “appointment”, and it was “scheduled”, and this wasn’t our normal. But “normal” the way anyone else would use the term had never entered into our relationship before. Sadly, this wasn’t even“ournormal”.
Mitch had been scattered and desultory with me on and off for about five months by now, and I had chalked it up to hangovers, as Mitch still drank a lot, fights with the Bitch, work overload, and stress. His business was growing quickly, and Mitch had a lot to do. And because of the way he‘d set his life up, expense overload was rife. The happy couple had moved into a Number One Mid-Town doorman-attended one bedroom rental at some $1800 a month, and carrying that, from a previous rental nut of zero for a room at Alcee’s mother’s abode, was a big deal. And then there was all the tension in his mind over what he denied himself because of the decisions he’d made about the way he was spending the rest of his money.
And I was right, it was“all of the above”, led by work overload, those fights with the Bitch, worries over money, additional fights between them over how to spend HIS money, school work, and finally sex. Mitch was working so hard at everything he just wanted some peace for himself. And Mitch was going to find that peace at all costs. Mitch was going to show everyone, me, Alcee, his brother, his parents, his friends, himself, that he was straight.
There would be no more tension in his life over sex, no more lies, no more hidden desires, there would be only peace, “peace”. Contentment would reign supreme. So there would be no more gay sex. Mitch was“straight”, and that was all there was to it.
So I had to be dispatched.
I had to go.
And this day of the “scheduledappointment”, Mitch showed up as planned, on time, and in uniform: company logoed polo shirt, logoed shorts, sneakers with socks, got his tools out, and started working right away. Finished with the back garden some three plus hours later, he returned the tools to the big white van, grabbed his bag, and came upstairs to shower.
Nothing was abnormal yet, this had happened just this way 100’s of times before, but there’s distance here, a coolness, a missing warmth. Maybe it was the logoed uniform and sneakers instead of Guinea T, short-shorts, and flip-flops, but there’s no warmth present anywhere.
And what’s in that white plastic bag Mitch took out of his canvas carry-on? And why did Mitch go in to the master bedroom closet before moving on to the master bathroom?
So querulous I moved towards the master closet, and as I opened the door I saw a bunch of CD’s, 1960’s music basically, two books, and six T-shirts and various pairs of socks on the top of my dresser. Mitch was soaping up in the glass shower by now so I stripped down and joined him, and I said:
What’s with the stuff in the closet?”
To which Mitch replied:
“I had to bring it all back…
Alcee was asking questions as to why I had it all.”
Alcee was asking questions, I can understand that.
But why do it surreptitiously?
Why the big secret?
Because Mitch was giving me back everything of mine that he had in his possession, and running away for good. That is Mitch was fucking one last time, and then running away for good.
And he did, “run-away”, the very next day. Mitch stopped answering calls or texts then, and he completely ignored me for two weeks. And then when he did finally speak to me, in week three, he refused to acknowledge that any relationship existed between us, work or personal. Mitch wouldn’t recognize any relationship between us, past or present, at all.
Mitch was too busy with other work that paid him more than I did to work for me now. And he had too much other stuff going on with school, music practice, and friends, to see me socially.
At least that’s what he said.
And I tried every ruse, and I tried every ploy to get around his position, but Mitch would have none of it. Mitch was unyielding each time we spoke. He was going to show me, and everyone else, that he wasn’t Gay.
I remember, I remember, damn, but I remember.
I still remember.
After sex sometimes, and often, Mitch would say things like:
“You’re the last man I’ll ever sleep with…”
And I would say nothing.
Then Mitch would say it again, only louder, more forcefully:
“You’re the last man I’m ever going to sleep with…”
And I would reply:
… that’s nice to hear; but I don’t think it’ll be that way…”
Sad am I that it did work out that way.
But no matter any of that.
In Mitch’s mind Mitch wasn’t gay, and he was going to show that to everyone who thought otherwise, and most importantly to himself. And so I was let go, “dispatched”.
And I went crazy.
For the first four weeks I was obsessed with getting Mitch back, and Mitch would never yield. In those first phone calls where we spoke in week three he made his resolve plain. And there was no weak spot I could expand, no chink in his armor I could peel away. Mitch was firm in his belief that he could, and would, do this.
And he was going to do it.
And so he did it.
And in week four I acknowledged defeat to myself, and I tried to temper my obsession.
So in week five I booked another trip to NYC, to the same Hotel, via the same airline, with the same Fort Lauderdale Airport ritual and LaGuardia pick-up, a “routine”, I had a “routine”.
And after check-in at that same all-suite Hotel, and unpacking in my room, I went up to that same 52nd floor rooftop bar, and made those same phone calls, to all of the same people as before, and the next day Brad and I met for drinks, and then had dinner, and then rendezvoused in my suite for the next eight or nine nights.
So a “routine”, I had a “routine”.
And that “routine” sort of helped.
But back to that “serendipity”…
And all of those memories…
The routine helped. I was back in familiar surroundings, surroundings that I knew like the back of my own hand, the streets, the smells, the noise, the crowds. I knew it all. And I had no memories of Mitch here.
Mitch didn’t exist for me in New York City. In fact Mitch had denied being a NYC memory when he backed out of our first planned trip. So New York City was free of any memories of Mitch, and I had the space to heal and be distracted by all of the things I knew and remembered well.
So by day I did important things, I went to a Doctor, or two. Why not as I was there? And I took an old client out to lunch in the hopes that I could maintain an old business relationship for some possible future gain. And I went to lunch with old, but now somewhat distant, friends.
And I went to Bloomingdales and Saks,Macy’s once too, and MOMA and the Guggenheim, and the Cloisters for some peace in the courtyard where all the ancient herbs are grown and Gregorian Chants ring through the loudspeakers. But during the day I was mostly alone, except for those lunches, mostly alone.
And I was fine.
This was all familiar to me, “routine”, and the familiar eased the pain of the obsession I was trying to fight, and I was able to laugh, smile, and enjoy what I was doing.
Familiarity ruled at night too.
Nights were filled with close, close friends, going out for dinner, for drinks, and later, by myself, to the Club for music, and singing, and laughter. Mostly it was laughter at the bad singing, gay piano bars are like that, but it was “laughter”, and it was fun. And Brad would find me after he finished work on the pedicab and spend the late night back at my hotel room, and then sleep in until late mid-morning.
So the routine ruled until the last day when the morning papers were not at my hotel suite’s door, serendipitously.
Some early morning days the bellmen would leave the morning papers at my suite’s door, some days they wouldn’t. On the days that they didn’t I had two options, call the front desk and have the papers sent up, or go down to the concession stand and get them myself.
Early in my stay I called on down and had the papers sent up. This particular morning, the morning of my pending departure, I was up, and ready early so I stirred a lazy Brad from under the covers, and left the room to go down to the concession stand and get what I wanted to read, those morning papers, and some magazines for the flight later that day.
As I stood staring at the various magazine covers: News and World Reports, Time, Newsweek, People, Architectural Digest, my cell phone rang and without looking at the display to see who it was, I answered:
And the earpiece shrieked back at me:
“How dare you!
How could you do that to me?
I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life!”
And meekly I replied:
Mitch, is that you?
And Mitch screamed back:
“Of course it’s me…
… who else?”
And I said something hesitant like:
“… Nice to hear from you…”
And Mitch screamed:
It’s not nice!”
And I said, only this time somewhat forcefully:
WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?”
… (As I’m starting to get pissed.) …
And Mitch said loudly:
“How dare you give your new boyfriend my phone number, and how dare he call ME about naked pictures on your computer?”
Only now I’m laughing, pretty loudly, and without a lot of control. But I pulled it together, controlled myself, and said mostly normally, but louder as needed:
I didn’t DO anything of the kind…
… Someone just took it upon themselves to go through my computer…
… And then do something else even more stupid than that.
Not that it matters, but he’s not my boyfriend.
And not to worry…
… It won’t happen again…
I’ll take care of it!
I’ll take care of it…
I’m sorry it happened.
I’ll take care of it…”
And finally, softly, I intoned:
“I’ll take care of it…”
That last part almost in a whisper, and all of this is in a fast blurt as I’m trying to stifle my laughter, and control my breathing, and sound sincere. And Mitch said something calmer, still indignant, but calmer. And I apologized for the absurdity again.
And the call terminated.
I still remember.
Breathless, I was breathless just then. I had to catch my breath for a moment before I could move forward. Did that conversation really happen? I stared at the cell phone in my hand in disbelief for a short minute, laughed again at the absurdity of it all, gathered my wits about me, purchased my reading material, and made my way to the elevators to go back to the suite.
Brad had some explaining to do.
Those pictures weren’t easily displayed on my computer; they weren’t in an obvious place, like a desktop file, or even in “pictures” at all.
… those naked pictures, three of them, were buried deep in my emails, deep, deep, deep in my email Inbox. Someone had to go into my computer, go into my mail program, and then trawl through months, and months, and months of undeleted, received emails to find them.
Three individual pictures in three individual emails.
How could Brad spot just those three emails?
And then I remembered. I had taken those three pictures on an old feature-phone (that’s a pre smart-phone cell phone), and then when I was no longer going to use that phone I sent the photos I wanted to save via email to my personal email account.
Well those three photos on that old phone I wanted to keep, to save, so I did. And there they were, saved, way down deep in my old emails. And when Brad went trawling through my Inbox he’d spotted the cell phone number attached to the email files that had sent those three pictures.
Those three email files had a local NYC area code.
More than that local area code, Brad had used that same phone, and number, for about two months way back in our beginning, and he recognized the number as previously being his. And when he saw that number he clicked on the email to see what had been emailed from “his” old number, and when he saw the first picture he couldn’t contain himself, and he called the number.
And Mitch answered the phone.
As I walked back into the suite, Brad was sitting on the living room sofa, naked with a cup of coffee by his side. Where nudity often inspires vulnerability, this nudity was defiant.
… (Brad was showing off his dick just then as if to say:
“Mine is just as big!”) …
But whatever that nudity was I ignored it, as I went right into the bathroom, grabbed a hotel bathrobe, threw it at Brad, and insisted that he put it on, and when Brad was finally suitably attired, and almost demur, I said loudly:
“That was pretty stupid!”
Brad said not a word so I continued:
“It’s bad enough that you were stupid enough to breach my privacy and go through my computer, my emails…
But it’s really dumb to call a number you don’t know…
And dumber still to say those things!
HOW COULD YOU?”
And Brad replied softly, but forcefully:
“How could you give your new boyfriend MY phone?”
I got quiet then.
If Brad’s thoughts were in that direction there was no place this could go. And I suppose I should have been expectant of just those thoughts because this should not have taken place at all.
But I said again, almost normally:
… that was dumb…
… just DUMB!
And he’s not my new boyfriend…
… and he’s not my "old" boyfriend.
I don’t have a boyfriend.
AND I DON’T HAVE TO EXPLAIN ANYTHING TO YOU ANYWAY!”
“That was a dumb thing for you to do.
HOW DARE YOU GO INTO MY COMPUTER!”
That last part was kind of shouted out.
And then I got quiet; this wasn’t going to go anywhere, obviously. And I moved forward to finish packing, and I insisted that Brad get ready for his day. Now I needed to escape from that room and maybe have lunch, if I could swallow, before the black car picked me up for that trip to the airport, and home. Now I was feeling claustrophobic in Brad’s company, and “claustrophobic” in that suite, and I needed space, I needed air.
And that was the last time I saw Brad while Mitch was alive.