David felt sure he’d never be able to sleep after a day so filled with glorious promise followed by a nearly silent parting. But he surprised himself by sleeping straight through until morning.
Once awake, he moved about in a kind of fog, showering, shaving, and dressing exactly as he always had. Everything in the same order, following the same precise routine that had guided his mornings for years. But a feeling of bewilderment chased his every action. How, he wondered, could everything still be the same when at the same time everything inside him had changed so completely?
He asked himself if it had all been a dream, then shook his head in self-annoyance. Their tickets from the Monticello tour were lying on the coffee table right where he’d tossed them the night before, and the jacket he’d worn lay draped over the living room chair. He felt irrationally grateful to the mementos which proved that the previous day’s events were more than wishful thinking on his part. At least he could prepare his breakfast secure in the knowledge that he hadn’t hallucinated the entire incident.
Yet, as he sat at his kitchen table drinking coffee and munching toast, he found himself focusing more on what hadn’t happened than what had. He hadn’t even gotten Nate’s phone number. He hadn’t asked for his email address. He hadn’t used his phone to take even one picture. He hadn’t asked even one of the million questions that were spinning wildly in his mind. He wondered if Nate were up yet and pondered whether or not he should call him.
Dammit! he thought angrily. I don’t even know what time his flight leaves! I only know it’s late morning. He chewed his lower lip, feeling his desire to call Nate morph into a creeping sense of anxiety. Would he feel pressured if David called him? Would he feel he was being pursued too persistently? Would he change his mind? The thought that he might scare Nate off filled him with apprehension.
This was an old habit for David, drifting into imaginings that were based more on his insecurities than his strengths. In the past, he had allowed these pessimistic flights of fancy to determine his choices in life. But not this time. Not in this situation. He might lose Nate in the long run, who could say? There were no guarantees in any relationship, and this one had scarcely begun. But whether his relationship with Nate turned out to be long or short, he wouldn’t let it be sabotaged by his overactive imagination.
He reined in his nervousness and grabbed his cell phone. Once connected to the motel, he punched in Nate’s room number and waited while it rang. No answer. Discouraged, he left a brief message: “It’s David. Just wanted to chat for a moment before you left. Give me a call before you head for the airport if you’ve got time. Bye.”
He sat the phone down with a sigh. I guess I missed him, he thought sadly. Maybe he’s already left for the airport.
A ringing sound interrupted his thoughts and signaled an incoming FAX. David rose to investigate, suspecting it would be the contract that Nate had promised to send, and discovered that he was correct. The document lay in the inbox, but of more interest was a second document: a cover letter written in a scrawling hand.
“Hi”, it read. “Here’s the contract. FAX your signed copy to the number in the upper right-hand corner.
P.S. I haven’t stopped thinking about you.”
He smiled when he read the postscript and was halfway back to the kitchen when his phone rang. He dove to answer it.
“Hi there!” Nate said, breathing heavily. “Got your message and wanted to give you a quick call before I left. Did you get the contract? Sorry I wasn’t here earlier. I was downstairs faxing it to you.”
Nate’s out-of-breath delivery put him completely at his ease. “Yes, I just got it. Thank you. And thanks, especially for the P.S. It meant a lot to me. I have to confess I woke up today wondering if I’d imagined the whole thing.”
Nate laughed. “I figured you would. Everything’s happening pretty fast, and that impression isn’t helped by the fact that I have to leave so quickly. I’m sorry about that, David. I wish it were different.”
“You’re working,” David replied warmly. “This isn’t a sightseeing trip. I know your time’s not your own right now. I was a little disgusted with myself that I didn’t think to get your cell phone number or take at least ONE picture of you.”
“You’ve got my number now,” Nate told him. “I called with my cell so it should be in your phone. And far as a picture goes…” suddenly his voice dropped to a low, husky murmur. “I’ll count on you to remember what I look like until I can send one to you.”
David felt his heart skip a beat. Damn! he thought. Everything he lights a fire inside me! “Now you’re not playing fair,” David told him, lowering his own voice. “You convince me we have to go slow, then use that seductive tone of voice on me? You’d best believe I could get to that motel before the echo dies if you keep it up.”
Nate laughed. “Sorry about that,” he said, still chuckling. “Couldn’t help myself. But don’t come to the motel. The shuttle’s outside waiting for me so I’d be gone by the time you arrived.”
“We’ve left so much unsaid, Nate.”
“I know,” Nate agreed. “I’ll call once I land, and we ARE going to Skype later aren’t we? I’ll send you my info.”
David nodded inaudibly but Nate somehow understood. “I hate for it to be this way, David, and believe me I wouldn’t leave if I didn’t have to. It’ll all be OK. Now, I’d better run.”
“Talk to you soon,” David told him. “Safe flight.”
“Tonight,” Nate promised in that same low, seductive voice, and hung up.
David carried the papers to his living room and sprawled lengthwise on his couch to look them over. It was a standard-issue contract, nothing fancy, nothing surprising. It simply restated the items that he and Nate had agreed upon previously, and David grabbed a pen and signed it without hesitation.
Then he turned his attention to the cover letter, re-reading Nate’s brief note and particularly the postscript. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift back to the moment when he had held Nate in his arms and kissed him. Thinking about it left him transported. Overnight his life had become a wave lifting him into a new awareness, frightening but undeniable, while his conscious mind, somehow left behind, was entirely focused on the memory of Nate’s kiss.
His lips had been soft and yielding, and David had lost himself immediately in their intoxicating allure. He would have happily stood there beside Jefferson’s pool until the sun rose the next morning, feeding on the sweetness of Nate’s kiss. And when his tongue had touched David’s lips in a moist caress, it had taken David’s breath away. That one kiss had been both an awakening and a confirmation, and David knew he would never forget what it did to him.
He remembered Nate’s hand as it rested in his. It was strong and beautiful formed. He remembered the toned muscles of his arms. Holding him had been an experience unlike any other. And yet the strength he felt as he held Nate in his arms was tempered by a sweetness of spirit that left him totally captivated.
He tried to rein in his feelings. He’d known Nate for only a day. How could he hope to know who he really was as a person? He couldn’t. Nor could Nate know him. Nate was younger than him. He wasn’t sure how much younger, but definitely younger. He wondered how much difference that reality would make and again there were no answers.
David had seldom engaged in gay sex but had always found it pleasurable. He called forth visions of putting Nate’s cock in his mouth, of engaging in anal sex with him, in Nate, perhaps, wanting to reciprocate. He sat silently letting these images play across his mind feeling him heart beating faster, his breathing becoming erratic.
He sighed. Kissing Nate had been one of the most thrilling and pleasurable experiences of his life. It had been a return…like coming home, and it had awakened an aching desire for ‘more’. But he felt frightened by his own inexperience. The thought of engaging in the acts which would take their kiss further awakened a crippling feeling of insecurity.
They had walked, together, into unknown territory and David felt he had walked into it without any kind of guide. It troubled him how readily he had succumbed but when he searched his heart, he knew that his attraction to Nate flowed from the honest and nearly irresistible magnetism between them. The fact that Nate felt that attraction as strongly as he did both surprised and thrilled him.
He shrugged in resignation. I’ll deal with my inexperience when the time comes,” he thought. Right now it’s all an unknown. I have to let things to develop naturally. I refuse to tie myself up in knots about it now. There’s no point.
“I’d better figure out this Skype stuff now though,” he grumbled, heaving himself off the couch. “He probably knows everything there is to know about it but I know almost nothing.”
Which perfectly reflects this relationship, his mind added dryly.
He sat down at his computer and opened his copy of Skype. He peered at the screen, trying to remember his username and password, then jumped when his phone signaled a text. He grabbed the phone, and seeing that the text was from Nate, he opened it eagerly and stared. In front of his face was a selfie that Nate had clearly just taken at the airport. The image wasn’t all that great, but it was good enough to make David’s heart skip a beat.
“Hi,” the text message read. “Hope this’ll tide you over ’til I can send you a better one.
Remember me. xxoo”
“Like I could forget you,” David said to the image before his eyes. He hurriedly typed:
“Hi, yourself! Thank you for the picture. It doesn’t do you justice but then nothing could. And I shall have no trouble remembering you, believe me. Be safe. xxxooo”
He studied the photo after carefully saving it to his phone. The face that smiled back at him was incredibly beautiful. “Wow,” David whispered, still a bit startled that such a gorgeous creature would be interested in him. Then he checked his watch and rose. Skype lessons would have to wait. He had afternoon classes, and he was already late.
For the rest of the day there was an extra spring in his step and a smile on his face that even his students couldn’t help but notice. He wondered occasionally where Nate was and what he was doing, and he didn’t mind at all when he had to interrupt his fifth hour class–‘The Era of the New Republic 1789-1850’—to read a short text message.
“Hi there! Landed in LA safe and sound. Looking forward to our chat later on. Be nice, now. No naked Skyping allowed. 😉 Talk soon. xxxooo”
David’s chuckle drew a surprised look from his students. Their notice brought a blush to his cheeks, and after sending a brief reply to Nate, he quickly apologized and led them back to their ongoing discussion.
When he got home that afternoon he went immediately to his computer and spent the next half-hour figuring out how to use Skype. To his relief it was fairly straightforward, and he felt a burst of confidence as the time approached for their chat. He was still nervous and inclined to think that he would never be a fan of long-distance relationships, but when Nate’s face appeared before him on the screen, smiling and obviously happy to see him, he had to admit that it was better than nothing.
“Hi!!” David said happily. “I wasn’t sure this would work!”
Nate laughed merrily. “Ahh, Skype is old technology, but it works just fine. So how was your day?”
“Well, I faxed the contract as requested, but I’ve heard nothing back as yet.”
“Blame me for that,” Nate said with a grimace. “I’m the one who grabbed it from the fax machine, but I didn’t get enough time with Lance today to pass it along. I’ll do it tomorrow, never fear.”
“No worries,” David told him. “I was more anxious to talk to you than I was to hear from Lance.”
“Yeah,” Nate said softly. “Me too. Was wondering if you were having second thoughts about…well, about anything.”
“None,” David said firmly. “I’m scared, I confess it. But as far as you’re concerned, no second thoughts at all. You?”
Nate smiled. “None at all. I don’t know quite what we’re doing or where we’re going. But I’m…” he hesitated. “Well, I’m glad things went the way they did last night.”
“Nate, we know almost nothing about each other. That’s what scares me. What if you don’t like what you discover?”
“David…,” Nate drawled out. “I can’t imagine that happening.” Then he leaned back and shrugged. “As for myself, not much to know. I was born in California, studied cinematography and broadcast journalism at UCLA. I’m still studying, matter-of-fact. I’m taking a Doctorate course in Cinema and Media Studies.” He shrugged again. “I’ve been at it a long time and it’s slow-going.”
“Nate,” David said slowly, “may I ask, please…how old you are?”
Nate laughed softly and leaned toward the screen, his beautiful face growing larger before David’s eyes. “Been worrying you, hasn’t it,” he said softly.
David nodded. “Yeah.”
David swallowed hard. Six years! he thought, a muted sense of panic tightening his chest.
“Well?” Nate said. “No comment?”
“God, Nate, I’m 41. That’s six years,” David said quietly.
“I can count,” Nate replied.
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“No. It doesn’t. But if it’s a deal-breaker for you, David, now’s the time to tell me. Don’t wait ’til we’re more involved and then back away. I’ve had enough…” he drew in a deep breath and fell silent.
“You’ve had enough…,” David said encouragingly.
“I’ve had enough heartache in my life. I’d just as soon avoid any more if possible. So tell me now if…”
“It’s not a problem,” David interrupted. “Certainly it’s not a deal-breaker. Frankly, if you told me you were an axe murderer wanted in ten states I’m not sure it would be a deal-breaker.”
Nate laughed then eyed David carefully. Even through a computer screen his steady gaze spread heat across David’s cheeks. “Be sure, David,” he said soberly. “Be very sure.”
“I’m sure,” David said firmly. “I don’t give a damn how old you are… or for that matter how young you are.”
“Well, you did ask,” Nate reminded him, gently. “So it had to mean something to you.”
“I wanted to know. I knew you were younger, I just didn’t know how much. When you told me I had a moment of panic, and I suppose it showed. But when you asked me if it was a deal-breaker, I knew it wasn’t. Not even close. So if you still want to be involved with an old duffer like me I’m totally up for it”
“OK,” Nate said quietly. “I’m glad. But let that be the last time you refer to yourself as an ‘old duffer’ please. Jesus!”
David chuckled, feeling himself relax. “You know, I’ve never met anyone I could talk with as easily as I can with you. It’s amazing to me.”
“I told you I’m not very terrifying,” Nate said, grinning. He leaned out of view of the computer screen, then reappeared with a wine glass in his hand. He lifted it toward David. “To you, my friend.”
“You like wine?” David asked, delightedly. He reached for his coffee cup and returned Nate’s toast. “And to you.”
“I LOVE wine!” Nate said, beaming. “I often take weekend trips to Napa Valley to visit some of the wineries there.”
“Well, we’ve something else in common then,” David told him. “Sorry I didn’t get to bring you to my house while you were here. I have a…” he paused and gave a self-deprecating shrug “semi-impressive wine cellar which you might enjoy.”
“Put it on the list,” Nate said, sipping again.
“The list of things we’re going to do together! One,” Nate intoned holding up one finger: Visit Napa Valley. Two,” he continued, “Visit your wine cellar. Though probably not on the same day.”
“Now,” David said quietly, “I’d like to hear a little bit about that heartache you spoke of earlier.”
Nate was silent for a moment.
“Unless you’d rather not talk about it,” David said quickly. “I didn’t mean to push.”
Nate smiled and shook his head. “Let’s set a couple ground rules,” he told David, leaning forward, his face once again filling screen. “First ground rule: Nothing is off-limits. You can ask me anything, and I’m going to assume I can do the same with you.”
“You can,” David said firmly.
“Second ground rule:,” Nate said “We’re always going to be honest with each other, even if we think the other one might not like it. It’s just better that way, don’t you think?” He leaned back in his chair and sipped his wine. “And if it’s something I can’t talk about, I’ll say so straight out, with as much explanation as possible. And you do the same. For my part, I can’t foresee having to invoke that rule, but there it is just in case.”
“I fully agree, and I accept your ground rules,” David said.
“OK,” Nate said. “The heartache was from a fairly long-term relationship I had with a man which ended rather badly about two years ago. He was cheating on me behind my back for months on end. I suspected it, of course, but he denied, denied, denied.” Nate shrugged and when he spoke his voice was bitter: “I fucking hate being lied to!”
“I won’t lie to you, Nate,” David assured him soberly.
Nate stared at him for a long moment as if evaluating his sincerity, then nodded. “OK.” He shook himself gently. “OK,” he said more confidently, and drew in a deep breath and leaned toward the computer screen. “Your turn.”
“Divorced for two years,” David told him. “I have two daughters, Sarah, eight, and Deborah, thirteen. I just found out yesterday that my ex is going to marry her current boyfriend sometime this summer.”
“Ouch!” Nate said sympathetically.
“Nah,” David assured him. “I honestly wish her well.” He shrugged. “Our marriage was never…” he hesitated, as if searching for the right words. “It was never really my passion,” he said finally. “I loved her. But I loved her more as a friend than a wife. I’m not even sure I realized it myself until the last few years of our marriage, but I feel certain she felt it long before then. I feel I shortchanged her in many ways, so I’m glad if she’s found someone who feels the passion for her that I couldn’t feel.”
“I’m sure you were a good husband,” Nate said softly.
“I was…I was OK,” David said reluctantly. “I was never mean or unfaithful or anything. I was a good provider. But, Nate, I wasn’t really THERE either. Not with all of me. Not with the parts of me that really mattered.” He sighed.
“No men in your life?” Nate asked gently.
“None recently,” David told him, laughing easily. “Oh, I’ve had a few short-term relationships. But none of them ever came to anything…mainly because I was scared to death to pursue them.”
“So I’m something relatively new for you.”
“You are indeed,” David said. “Brand new, very exciting, very scary, but also very…,” he hesitated, “…very special.” He could feel a blush creep across his cheeks and wondered if Nate could see it on his computer screen. He looked down at the keyboard.
“You’re really cute when you go all shy like that,” Nate said, and his voice dropped suddenly into that low murmur that invariably drove David crazy.
“And you’re really cute when you use that seductive tone of voice on me,” he replied, grinning at Nate and fanning his face in a comic gesture. “Now stop it. You said no naked Skyping!”
Nate laughed. “I did at that. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be very good at that kind of lovemaking. I prefer to be with the person I’m having sex with.”
Feeling even more embarrassed, David looked beyond Nate at what appeared to be a well-stocked bookcase. “You read a lot?” he asked.
“Oh!” Nate glanced quickly behind him. “Yeah. I do. A lot of it is reference material for college and for some of the work I’ve done.” He suddenly stood and lifted the computer. “Let me give you a tour.”
He wandered around his apartment, pointing the computer’s camera at his small office area, surrounded by books, the living room with a fairly large flat-screen TV, a small kitchen, and finally the bedroom with a suitcase lying open, spilling its contents onto the bed. “As you can see,” he heard Nate’s disembodied voice say with a chuckle, “I haven’t unpacked yet.”
“Looks cozy,” David told him.
“Looks messy,” Nate replied, wandering back to his desk. “I’m not here a lot so the place is in a perpetual state of untidiness.”
“I can give you a tour of my house if you like.”
“Next time,” Nate told him as his face reappeared before David’s eyes. “I can’t talk anymore tonight. I’ve got a class, and if I leave right this minute I may just make it on time. I’m sorry about that, but I can’t skip it.”
“And I don’t want you to,” David said firmly. “I’m a professor! How would it look if tried to talk a college student into playing hooky!”
“I enjoyed this,” Nate told him. “I hope we can do it again soon. My schedule is a bit hectic this week, but I’ll keep in touch through email and what have you. When I have an evening off, I’ll let you know.”
“OK,” David said, his tone showing how downhearted he felt. No question about it. He was going to hate having a long-distance relationship.
“David, I know this is…” Nate sighed. “It’s unsatisfactory. It sucks. I know. But at this point I’m not sure what to do about it.”
“Nothing to do but what we’re doing. Don’t worry about it. We’ve got a whole country between us right now. We simply have to do the best we can.”
“Well, I’m willing if you are,” Nate said with a smile.
“And I am,” David affirmed. “I absolutely am.”
“OK. I’ll be in touch then.” He hesitated as if he wanted to say more, then spoke quickly: “Take care. Bye for now.”
“Bye,” David replied as he saw Nate’s hand reaching toward the computer to shut down the Skype session. Then the screen went blank. David ended the program and sat for a few minutes, thinking about their conversation.
Unsatisfactory didn’t begin to describe it. It was nice to talk to Nate and actually see him while doing so. But the desire David felt for a more intimate conversation consumed him. He’d never felt this kind of loneliness before. It wasn’t sex that he yearned for, though he certainly hoped that lovemaking was in their future. What he wanted was the kind of closeness that could only be achieved when you were actually with the other person. For him that was the kind of intimacy that builds lasting relationships.
David pushed his computer away and glared at it. “I won’t get that kind of intimacy with you,” he told the machine. Then, feeling slightly silly, he stood and walked toward the stairs leading to his bedroom. Stop being a jackass! his thoughts commanded. You’re lucky to have him in your life at all. Show a little gratitude.
The admonishment leveled by his psyche went straight to his heart. If he started feeling resentful now, he and Nate would never last. He vowed to be more positive in the future. For Nate’s sake…and his own.
But he also promised himself that he was going to find a way for he and Nate to be together again. Seeing him on Skype was pleasant enough, but every fiber of David’s being ached for more. He didn’t want to rush him or push him too fast. But he couldn’t help but believe that their relationship couldn’t evolve into anything more lasting until they were physically together again. He saw every moment of their time together in a kind of golden glow. Being in Nate’s presence had brought the kind of zest for living that he thought he’d never feel again. Ever since then everything about his life was bleaker.
“I need to see him again and I’m going to make it happen,” he vowed as he got ready for bed. “I swear I’m going to make it happen.
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