rand_alt (rand_alt) wrote,

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This is the longest moment of my life, watching him struggle to find the words. I can’t take it. I can’t believe I’m putting him through this. I push him aside, gently, and struggle to my feet. I limp over to the window, just wanting to put some space between us and prepare myself for his response. I won’t argue with him. I won’t beg. I have some pride. And beyond that, I respect his situation. I don’t want to be unfair.

But I don’t want to be alone, either.

I feel his hand on my shoulder. I don’t move, I don’t turn. He says, “I don’t want to lose you. Lose this, what we have. That much I know.”

Now, I turn. I stare into his baby blues. “Neither do I.”

“That’s a starting place, right?”

I nod. I guess it is. But where do we go from there? “I need to sit down,” I realize and lean on him a little as we walk over to the sofa. I must be getting better. I can sit a little easier now. He threads his fingers through mine. “Will you get me a cigarette?” I ask and he retrieves the pack and my lighter. He refuses one when offered. I inhale the soothing nicotine. It doesn’t help, much. My stomach hurts all of a sudden. I recognize this as stress. How can I be so stressed with someone I love?

“Let’s not talk about it now,” I try, pathetic of me, yes. He smiles.

“Shut up, Brian.”

“That’s my point exactly.”

“We can’t settle anything if we ignore it.”

“I know.”

“I don’t think this is the right time for me to leave New York.”

I draw my lips into a thin, tight line and use that as a cue to keep the rest of my expression dispassionate. Inside, something breaks. I nod. Say nothing. Voice is not to be trusted. I feel his hand on my arm, but I don’t look at him. He goes on. “Which isn’t to say I reject your need for us to be together.”

I glance at him. What the fuck? Now a little anger penetrates the pain. He can’t have this cake and devour it too. “I’ve already done the math. Kinnetik isn’t well established enough to survive a move to the city. All the big dogs play there. If I tried to re-launch my business in New York at this point in time, and gave up my home base here, I’d go down in flames. And not in a…”

“Yes, I know. Not in a positive, life affirming way. I’m not asking you to relocate your business.”

“So you think I should give up my own company and get a job flogging ads for a big dog?”

“Of course not. I know how much Kinnetik means to you. And you’ve turned it into a great business.”

“Then what are you saying?”

“I’m saying we both have to bend.”

I raise a brow. “You’re the one who bends over in this relationship.”

He smiles. “Only for your dick.”

“I could arrange that.”

“Let’s not get off the topic.”

I frown at his determination. “Ok, both bending means what in your pointed little head?”

“Not pointed, not little. It means it won’t be perfect.”

“Whatever is?”

“I know. We split our time.”

“How do we do that?”

“You come to the city, I come here.”

“You have a job, I have a job. We both need jobs.”

“Brian, how often are you in New York on business?”


“Right. And my job is menial labor in a poster shop, and waiting tables when I can get a gig. If I make a couple gallery sales, I’ll have the backup to be able to depend more on my art to support me. Which is my ultimate goal. There are no hours for an artist.”

“It’s not coming together in my mind, Justin.”

“Because you’re not letting it. For three months, we’ve been in a black hole of polite conversation and neither of us making the first move to see the other. Now we have an idea of what we both want and need. We accommodate, Brian.”

“Go on.”

“Admittedly, until I get a couple sales, and no, don’t even think about being the one to buy my canvases and give me the bankroll that way, I’ll know where they go, it will fall more heavily on you to travel. You come to New York on business, or you take a couple days off, or whatever. And I meet you and we stay together. Will we be living together? No. Not for awhile. But will we be together as a couple? Yes. And when I have more financial flexibility, I’ll come here, too. As soon as I have my feet under me as a painter, I’ll live wherever you want to live. I can paint anywhere. But first I have to get established.”

“I don’t know,” it’s not what I want. “It sounds like an occasional roll in the hay to me, not a relationship.”

He stares at me. “Since when is a roll in the hay not part of a relationship?”

“Active word being ‘part’.”

“Brian, work with me here. Are you asking me to move back? Is that the only thing that will work for you?”

Ouch. That’s a fair question. Yes, I want him to move back. But if he really feels he has to prove something to himself as an artist and that New York plays a part in that proof, then what the fuck am I doing? How could that make me happy to stop him from that goal? In the end, it could destroy us as a couple. I touch his face. “No.”

“Well then? The simple fact is you’re the one with the money, Brian. Not me. Not yet. I can’t travel as easily as you can. I can’t afford it and menial jobs don’t offer extravagant vacation schedules.”

I let that sink in. “There are some big accounts in New York that I’d like to spend more time pursuing.”

“Okay, keep talking.”

“I could do the rainmaking thing, part time, write off my expenses.”


“But not sure how your staying with me in some nice W hotel suite and ordering room service would aid your self help cause?”

He winces. “That’s a point.”

“So, I’ll stay with you when I come to New York.”

He laughed. “Sheeya, right. In my fourth floor walk up with three roommates, no privacy, bad heating, no style, and sharing a single bed in a room where a straight guy sleeps on the futon on the floor?”

“Couldn’t we trade him for the futon? Five minutes in a room with us, any straight guy will either switch teams or go running for the door.”

He laughs. “This is so true, but…”

“But what?”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to share you with them.”

“Justin, you have to bend, too. If I’m doing all this travel to keep the flame alive, you have to give in, too.”

“I know. But that apartment is a hole.”

“Okay, here’s my second and final offer on this subject. I’ll find a cheap, but acceptable studio apartment in Manhattan. Furnished. I’ll find a way to call it my corporate suite and I’ll write it off. You can’t live there because I have to keep it real for the IRS. And I’ll make it available to big clients or to other people who work for me. But when I’m in town, that’s where we’ll stay. It’s not a suite at the Westin with hot and cold running room service waiters and pay for porn, but it’s not your fucking walk up either.”

He nods. “I like it. Look for the downtown area, since that’s where my job and my working studio are located,” he reads my expression and retreats a little. “Try.”

I nod. “And you, goldilocks? What are the milestones you’re establishing to determine when you’re ready to join me on a more permanent basis?”

“I want to be able to afford to rent my own studio with running water, heat and a bathroom, the rest doesn’t matter. In Pittsburgh, wherever you choose to live. I want to know I can support that workspace on my own talent. And pay half your rent.”

“I don’t have rent.”

“Your mortgage.”

“I don’t have a mortgage. I paid it off.”

He glares at me. “Work with me, Brian.”

“My condo fees? My utilities? The cost of condoms and lube?”

“Man, this will be years away!” he says with a laugh. “Ok, half of all that.”

“I understand about your studio, I do. But I don’t need your help with the rest.”

“I know. But I need to contribute.”

I look at his prideful little face and I have to smile. I love the fire in his belly. I never want to do anything to dampen that passion for his art, for his life. Compromise. The name of the game is to make compromises you both feel good about. “I’ll tally it up and give you an estimate of half of my expenses, excluding my wardrobe, of course.”

He laughs. “I could never afford to dress you.”

“I know. It’s an addiction. This will probably bomb big time, Justin.”


“Because we’ll still have long periods where we’ll be apart. I can’t get to New York for business reasons, or you have a longer delay in being sold than you expected. I don’t know.”

“If it’s important enough, we’ll find a way. The difference is we’re trying, Brian. We haven’t gone dark on each other. Neither of us could exist with a rigid schedule, where I travel one week and you the next. We’d both get rebellious about that. I don’t love New York for the sake of living in New York. It’s a great city but no city is greater than how I feel with you. But I have to have time to do what I need to do. You get that, right?”


“And you know I would rather be with you, even when I’m not, right?”

“If you say so.”

“I do say so, Brian!”

His irritation amuses me. I smile. “Okay, okay, off your high horse, Hopalong.”

“Don’t put a doubting spin on my love for you. I’m sick of your always expecting the worst, always expecting to be hurt.”


“Well, get the fuck over it.”

I smile and kiss his tense neck. “I’m trying.”

He relaxes slightly and says, “Me too.”

“I know. Thanks.”

We kiss. The kiss is perfect. The compromise is still in play, and is imperfect. But it is a start. It is hope. It is something out of nothing. The phone rings. He picks it up. He glances at me and then says, “Hi, Mom. How’d you know I’d be here?” He glares into space. “Don’t you dare be smug. You interfered. You meddled. It was wrong and it could have blown up in your face!” He sighs as I chuckle. “That was pure luck. He’s been better, he hurt himself on the slopes. No, not serious, just painful and stupid.” He glances at me and grins. “Yeah, I know.”

She must have said that sounds like Brian, or something like that, and I have to agree. He goes on. “I don’t know, maybe. I’ll talk to him and call you tomorrow. Okay, bye.”

“I notice you didn’t mention your own stupidity on the slopes,” I say as he hangs up.

He shrugs. “It was nothing.”


“She invited us to dinner at her house tomorrow night.”

I sigh. Dinner with the in-laws. Who’d a thunk it? “Up to you.”

“Are you well enough?”

“Do I have to slay my own elk and skin it?”

“Maybe,” he says with a grin.

“Let’s compromise. I’ll eat the bread and veggies.”

He smiles and leans back on the sofa as I cover his mouth in a wet, sloppy kiss.
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