Boys in Summer
David and Christopher loitered over brunch's remains, their rumpled waiter having disappeared without giving them the check. The a/c was off, but the restaurant was dark and deserted, making the liquid heat bearable. David gazed out through the window to the glinting street; his boyfriend rolled the cheap paper napkin into sweaty balls, lined them up next to his plate. Their knees touched beneath the table, but they kept themselves fixed across from each other, like two points on a line.
Christopher looked at his watch. "What's the plan for today? Are we meeting Eddie and Stephen for dinner, or what?"
David's head followed a shirtless boy passing the window. Christopher snorted. "He's not even eighteen yet."
"Yeah, nice scenery."
"Stick with literature, you won't get arrested." He reached across and grasped David's hand, pulled it midway across the table. He studied the white horseshoe in an otherwise perfect fingernail. "You know what I think we should do today? I think we should pretend we're the only two people in New York. Just you and me. No work or unnecessary people for the rest of the afternoon. What do you think?" Christopher looked up slowly, trying to gauge his boyfriend's reaction. "David?"
The dark-haired man turned back slowly; shit-eating grin muted by shadow.
"Can you spare me one ounce of your attention today? Or should I give up and go back to the apartment?"
"I'm just looking."
"Looking for what? You're always looking, every goddamn place we go." Christopher shielded his eyes from the sun burning through the window; stared at his boyfriend through the screen of his fingers.
"I've never been with anyone else, not in five years. I want you to know that."
"Where did that come from?"
"Do you believe me?"
Christopher balled his hands in his lap. "Should I?"
"I think about it, that's all."
"I'm not stupid. You should see the look on your face."
"I haven't done anything, Chris."
"I'm not in the mood for your shit today." The younger man slipped his hands over his jeans, rubbing his palms dry, then fetched David's hand back. "Let's try this again. Let me settle the bill when whatshisface gets back, and then we can get out, spend the rest of the day together, just us."
"What's the rush? Look, let's have a drink first."
"It's not even two o'clock."
"I'm going to have a beer. Then we'll do whatever you want."
Christopher shook his head slightly. "All right."
David stood up; a pristine napkin wilted off his lap to the table. "Let me go find him." He disappeared behind the bar into the kitchen beyond. Christopher counted off the seconds, then minutes, waiting for them to return.
When David emerged he gave Christopher an a-ok. "He'll be back in a sec."
"Where was he?"
"In the kitchen. Reading Hemingway. Who would'a thought, huh?"
The couple sat passively as the rumpled man cleared the table, asked if they wanted anything else. David ordered two beers with a wink and a boyish grin.
"You're such a flirt."
"I thought you liked that."
"When it was me."
"It's always been you, Chris."
The lean waiter returned with two sweating bottles, leaned over the table to set them down. Christopher monitored his boyfriend's reaction to the rumpled guy; his eyes bounced over the lump of his crotch, rode up his lean torso to sample the texture of his lips. Christopher covered his partner's hand with his own. "Mr. Shaw?"
"Yes, Mr. Donohue?"
"You are out of control today."
"What are you talking about?"
Christopher polished off half of his beer with long, pensive swallows. "Nothing." He swiped the damp napkin from beneath the bottle and dabbed his forehead. "It's hot."
"I know it's August. We should be out on the island with everyone else."
"You never want to go."
"You always blame me for everything we don't do."
"What do you want to do then?"
"Let's get out of here. It's too hot to think."
"You know what I want? I want a cigarette." David stood, drying his lips with the side of his hand. "You want one?"
"We quit a year ago, remember?"
"One cigarette. For old times' sake."
Christopher watched his partner return to the bar and engage the waiter in secret conversation. The flash of a paperback book. The rumpled man laughed, sliding a pack of cigarettes across the bar, David slid something back. Christopher finished his beer.
"He said it's OK, since it's just us." David put an ashtray and a half-empty pack of cigarettes on the table.
"You know what I mean."
David lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply, exhaled with a sigh. He smoked half of it and stamped it out in the ashtray. Blue haze hovered in the air, drifted towards the bar. The waiter put his finger to his lips, flared his eyes, then lit his own cigarette from a fresh pack. He turned back to his book.
"Let's sit here all afternoon, get drunk and smoke, just you and me, like you said."
Christopher grabbed David's beer and polished it off. "Get me another."
David flagged the waiter, raised his boyfriend's empty bottle. "Two more."
"You like him."
"I think he's attractive. I won't apologize for it."
"I'm not asking for an apology."
"I didn't say anything."
The waiter set the bottles down, cleared the empties.
Christopher swallowed sharply, the cold beer sliced into his head. He pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I like to look at them, Chris. There's nothing wrong in that."
"Like I'm not even there. That's how it feels."
"Look at our waiter, how he tilts his head. He reminds me of you a little bit."
Christopher fiddled with his green bottle; rubbed the damp label off with his thumb. "It's all over, just like that, isn't it?"
"You know I love you, Chris."
"You don't act like it." Christopher slammed the bottle down. "Those guys don't give a shit about you like I do. They don't know what a damn good writer you are."
David took a sip of beer as his boyfriend drained his. "Remember when this used to be fun? When the city used to be such an adventure?"
"And that's my fault?"
"I'm not saying anything. Lighten up, Chris, stop taking everything so personally."
Christopher caressed the headache behind his temples. "Don't make this into my problem. This is about you, so stop acting like it's my problem."
David lit a cigarette and exhaled gently, the cloud of smoke thickening the blue haze. The waiter lit a fresh one too, glanced over like a coconspirator. "I can't pretend we're the only two people in the world, Chris, I won't place that limit on my life."
"You said you loved me."
"I do, Chris, you know I do. I've never loved anyone more."
The waiter called over, asked if they needed anything else. "Not yet." David smiled at him, snubbed out his cigarette.
"Bring me another," Christopher said, not turning around. The waiter approached stealthily, brushed against him as he set the beer down on the table, then stepped away.
Christopher stared at the table. "I'm not going to start from scratch, not now, not because you're bored." He twisted the silver ring on his finger, pushing it up to the bump of his knuckle. "I don't want to know, David. I don't want to know what you're going to do."
David looked at him, then tipped his head toward the bar. "You don't think he's attractive?"
Christopher's lips tightened into a firm line. "I'm good for you, David. We've always been good together. Everyone says so, everyone says what a nice couple we make."
"They're right, Chris. We are good together."
"We made a commitment to each other."
"We make our own rules, Christopher. Do whatever makes us happy." David lit a cigarette, inched his knee into his boyfriend's, sustained the pressure. "Whatever makes both of us happy."
Christopher stood up quickly, pushing his chair back with a sharp report. "I'm going to call Eddie and Stephen, we'll meet them for dinner, like we promised. All right? OK?"
David sipped his beer and put the empty bottle down on the table. He extinguished his cigarette, crushing the embers in the glass ashtray. "Whatever you want to do. I'm going to have another beer first. You want one?"
His partner narrowed his watering eyes and nodded slowly. He reached down and yanked his napkin off the table, sending his half-empty bottle rolling over the side. It exploded across the tiled floor, obscuring the lines with sizzling froth.
"I'm sorry. It was an accident. I didn't mean to."
The waiter approached with a mop and dustpan, squatted down to pick up the large chunks of green glass, then swirled the mop into the liquid, leaving a damp trail back to the bar. He tossed the fragments into the garbage and returned with two fresh beers. "On the house," he said with a smile. David accepted both beers with a lopsided grin.
Christopher stared at the line drawn between the waiter and his boyfriend, coveting the play of energy between them. He reached out and cupped the rumpled man's elbow, slid his fingers up his arm with a numb detachment. The rumpled man allowed his fingers to crawl up encircle his neck; tilted his head wistfully. Christopher leaned in, forming a clumsy triangle as his lips touched the stranger's, tasting the flat ashy flavor of his mouth. The man broke the kiss with a confused smile, tossed a questioning glance back to David; he smiled at the two men standing together. Christopher pulled away, righted his chair and sat down heavily. He lit a cigarette with a staccato cough. The waiter withdrew, back-peddled to the bar. David turned back to the window, watched the blurred flash of color parade by.
"You OK?" David asked, watching a young man saunter past the window.
"I'll be fine. Just fine." Turning in towards the bar, catching the eye of the waiter. "I'm sorry for making a scene." Christopher smiled, the waiter smiled back.
"My fault. My fault entirely."