The Adventure

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Booksie Classic
Set in 1960's New York City, Jack is easy-going and relaxed; Brad is not. Yet when Jack suggests to Brad that they venture into Newark to purchase a new typewriter, is there more than meets the eye in Brad's request?

Submitted: August 19, 2014

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Submitted: August 19, 2014

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What I admired the most about him was his stark indifference towards everyone. It wasn't the type of indifference that was steeped in ignorance, nor was it ignominious on his behalf. He simply had his beliefs, respected the beliefs of others and rarely spoke ill of an opinion he did not agree with. 

This air of ease between himself and others - both acquaintances and long term relations - was always relaxed. Among those who he had just met, he possessed a charm that could immediately stagnate any qualms one had against him. And he was prone to prejudgment.

Blessed with admirable good looks, many people assumed him to be self absorbed and slightly pompous. The type of man who spent two minutes too long in front of the mirror; the type that caught his own eye in the reflection of street side store windows and passing taxi cabs at crosswalks; the type of man who had gathered life's fortunes simply by smiling in the face of good luck.

But Jack did none of this. On the street he harbored a genuine interest in absorbing his surroundings. In bars he talked and flirted chiefly with the bartenders, unintentionally dismissing the pretty women he often found encroaching upon him. I asked him (some time after I had witnessed this occurrence too often to declare it circumstance) why it was he did such a thing. His response:

"I always find that barkeeps have the most extraordinary stories."

And that was it. That was Jack's style. Simple and to the point without a hint of condescension. And others, they sensed this as well. And as such, we all became fervent admirers of this man - of his all too idealistic view of life, his natural charm and good looks. He was the type of man that aroused the primal instinct of attraction in both men and women - women because they wanted to sleep with him; men because they wanted to be him. 

But what first attracted me to Jack was not his outlook on life. Nor was it his symmetrical face (although, that did first attract my eye). No, what first attracted me to the man was the ease and nonchalance to how he handled life. 

As I grew to know him, I would discover his idiosyncrasies. In this effort, I sometimes wondered if this was how the great explorers of history felt when they charted uncharted territories. When I discovered that he enjoyed milk at all hours of the day - even going so far as to be known infamously to chase his alcohol with calcium - I likened my discovery to Columbus landing on the Americas, eyes wide with lust and promise.

But when I learned that he was incorrigibly messy, leaving a slew of dusty clothes, dirty dishes and misplaced objects in his wake, I felt as though I were met up with exasperating failure. I was staring at the face of an enormous mountain which could not be conquered. 

For these things, these minute details which rendered him unique Jack never apologized, for his chief principle was to never apologize for being oneself. This outlook prevented him from maturing and kept him locked in the mindset of a young man in his early twenties. Mostly, this aided to his glorious aura. Sometimes, when he was handed responsibility (rent payments, the occasional RSVP to a family affair, or deadlines) he reacted with a nonchalance that was dreadful. But it was this outlook - this mindset of never apologizing - that produced his ease and simplicity. This very mantra, cursed as it may have been, was what attracted me to him like a moth to flame.

Yet, he was flawed and I remember the day he started getting under my skin vividly, for it was the day that I realized my view of Jack was immensely different from those obstinate individuals who walked through his life window shopping for relations.

We were seated in a small diner in Midtown, bustling with a lively morning crowd because of its proximity to Port Authority. We had been seated in the farthest rear booth, nearest the restrooms, and Jack was sitting with his back to the front door. His vantage was myself, the empty wall behind me, and whatever patrons decided to spring a leak in the middle of their breakfast meal. I was unexplainably fortunate, for my view was him.

The light that was tossed in the front windows of the cafe encircled him and enhanced his thick, jet black hair and rugged jaw. He had the looks of an all-American. He had played football in his younger years, was bred as a star player and had been offered multiple scholarships to the Ivy Leagues. As such his build was characteristically masculine - broad shoulders offset by a tapered waist. Only at the expense of liquor had he started growing soft, and even his softness was offset by his lean muscle, imbued into him as easily as though he were born with it. He was lanky, wiry and without inhibition.

I sometimes wondered if he would appear differently had he chosen the path of the nation's foremost universities. Would his hair be more finely combed? His teeth more straight? Would the cigarettes that dangled precariously on his lips be more expensive; taste more refined? But it was apparent that he hadn't been borne of the shores of the Charles River. He had opted the harder route - the route that would ultimately paint him a beatnik (a phrase which he despised) and as such he truly was a sight to behold.

Coming off a long night induced by reading, smoking and the all too familiar dinging of the typewriter in the apartment we shared in the Village, Jack had suggested the diner as a method in which to shake us from our nocturnal reverie. Too tired to sleep, I agreed and we made our way through the morning rush. 

The apartment was our haven and where several of my friends understood Jack as simply being my roommate, Jack wasn't as discreet about the manner. The crowds he ran with - the groundwork for the future hippies and proponents of "Make Love, not War" - were not judgmental of our lifestyle. In fact, more often than not, we were invited to sex parties - those infamous gatherings in which words like "experimental" and "taboo" were tossed around as hors d'oeuvres?; where ménage à trois was served as the entree; where dessert consisted of cannabis. 

Kindly, we always declined to the disappointment of our uninhibited friends. And even though we had never ventured to a party of such nature, I knew that inside of him the itch to experience it drove Jack wild. I knew that by my decision to not attend I inadvertently denied him the very thing he stood for - the experience - and this created oppression in his soul. 

Unlike me, Jack accepted his societal "flaw" outwardly. He understood his sexuality with a regard so keen that I often found myself wholly jealous. He, more so than me, recognized his attraction to the same sex (as well as the opposite) and in staying true to his chief mantra, never apologized. He never walked around tossing his beliefs on sexuality into the mix of dinner conversations, but should the topic arise - which it often did in the presence of those who regarded him amorously - he told them straight. He respected my desire to remain unknown and as such he never disclosed my secret. To those curious window shoppers he encountered, I merely remained in the story's background as his unnamed lover. 

Even in our most trusted circles I often found myself worrisome that I was liable to judgment - that someone would discover my secret and splash it on the front page of the newspaper or yell it from the top of Times Square. Of course this never happened and it took me years to realize that nobody cared as ferociously about my sexuality as I did; nobody cared.

No, what made me see Jack as a person, rather than a profound idealist, was the simple fact that he regarded me no differently than his friends. To me, albeit in secrecy, he existed as my lover. He was the person with whom I disclosed secrets through a thin barrier of bedsheets; the man who made my heart beat in admiration from across a crowded room. 

But to him I was a crony - a pal - in this wacky adventure he called life. I know now that this was brought upon by my distaste of disclosing our relationship publicly - that even among our closest friends I still harbored an air of secrecy. In clinging to this method of self preservation, I severely clipped Jack's wings; he was an affectionate man, not afraid to publicly hug or kiss. I know that he hid his desire to drag me from a party back to our apartment lustfully several times. It was this, the fact that I couldn't allow Jack to be himself, that created the indifferent attitude he regarded towards me. Ironically, I was the reason he bothered me.

This thought was brought upon by an old flame of his who was exiting the restroom that Jack had elected to stare at throughout breakfast. The flame was handsome but unkempt and long after he'd left I found myself jealously comparing my attributes to his. Even after the day had ended and the moon had taken her throne in the starless sky over Manhattan, I found my mind awake with worry over this run-in encounter. It was the first domino to tumble.

Jack introduced him to me as Peter Cartwright. As I shook his hand, still damp from the restroom's sink, he shortened his name to Pete.

"A pleasure to meet you, Brad." he smiled without reservation after I had introduced myself. He harbored no distaste or satisfaction of acting cruelly. As I returned to sit, Jack offered Pete a seat at the table.

In retrospect, I was overreacting, but it was this kind gesture that opened my eyes. In Jack's head there existed no such thing as bad blood or muddled pasts. There were no grudges to be held. Even in the presence of his current lover, he felt comfortable enough enough with himself to invite an ex back into his life, if even for a brief moment. 

Pete declined the invitation and promptly said his goodbyes - first to Jack and then to me. Even though I hadn't been introduced as an intimate friend of Jack's, I could feel that Peter sensed our relationship. I wondered what had given it away. Perhaps Pete had had his fair share of morning meals at this diner with Jack. Perhaps I was being paranoid.

One I noticed Pete had left the diner, I questioned the man across from me.

Taking his cup from his full lips, his mouth set in its natural boyish smirk, he responded, "We were together for a few months. It was a couple of years ago."

No affirmation of what a horrible person Pete was. Nothing to reassure me that this old, dead flame hadn't been rekindled in the past few minutes. It was typical of Jack - no elaboration and no mockery.

I wasn't sure what to ask next. I was worried and jealous, but I calmed down after I realized that Jack was smiling at me vehemently. He had an innate way of reading me, as though my eyes were large novels reserved for his sole consumption. 

"Don't be jealous, Bradley."

He winked; his voice was filled with playful candor. I stubbornly tried to fight the grin that was growing on my lips.

At this the topic closed and we were greeted next by our meals. I ate slowly and methodically, timing my bites so that when I was nearing completion I could satisfy each individual taste. Jack, however, ate with gusto. 

"You're going to get a stomachache." I chided, not realizing how nagging I sounded.

"C'est la vie," he chuckled through a slice of bacon and quickly topped it off with a forkful of pancake. When he was done swallowing, he continued. "What shall we do today? I've been itching to get my hands on a new typewriter."

"What's the matter with yours?"

"It's old and dings much too loudly to allow us to sleep."

I laughed and shook my head in agreement. "You could always come to bed, rather than pound those keys incessantly through all hours of the night."

"My mother told me when I was a boy that nothing good ever happens after two o'clock in the morning. If I could speak to her now, I'd remind her that my best prose is often created just before the sun begins its ascent."

"Your mother despised the idea of you becoming an author."

"Such a pessimist, Bradley."

He always called me by my full name in jest. With his personality, which was rarely serious, he called me Bradley more often than Brad. Sometimes he did it to belittle me, though comically. Sometimes he did it out of affection - to remind me that he had control over me in a loving manner that others did not. I never scolded him, for he had discovered my birth name to be his personal pet name. I never called him anything but Jack.

"Where are you hoping to buy this new typewriter?" I asked.

"Let's go to Newark. We haven't been off this island in months."

"We went to Queens the other week to visit Ruth and Evelyn."

Ruth and Evelyn, mutual friends of ours, had invited us to a small gathering at their apartment in Queens weeks prior. We had attended even though it took us quite some time to return to Manhattan once the shindig had concluded. To the sober soul, New York City subways exist as tangled menageries of commuter confusion; to the drunken soul, they exist as impasses.

"That's not out of the city though. I want to experience something wild! Something with excitement tacked on it! Something dangerous and worthwhile."

"So you want to go to New Jersey?"

He smiled coyly, half seductively. Whether he was trying to seduce my emotions, or my mind into venturing across the river with him, I wasn't sure.

"Precisely."

Anything outside of his stomping ground he regarded with excitement. Even the droll haze of Newark captivated his mind with whimsy and wonder. I knew as much about New Jersey as he (which was very little) and once we found ourselves at Port Authority purchasing our bus tickets to Newark, I asked if he knew of anywhere specific to buy the typewriter.

"Of course not. Isn't that part of the adventure?"

"We haven't slept all night, Jack. We're going to call this adventure quits long before the bus even boards."

The ticket clerk handed Jack two passes, one of which was handed to me. "We'll sleep on the bus, Brad. Besides it leaves in a few minutes. We'll be in Newark within the hour."

We were walking through the terminal now, myself beside him. We were equal in height although I often felt shorter. That was the effect he had on people. Even though he hovered around five foot eleven inches, he had the power to seem giant. It was entirely wrought of his confidence. 

"An hour of sleep isn't sufficient for us to romp a foreign city in hopes of finding an unknown location for a typewriter."

He turned his head towards me, his brown eyes piercing my blue ones with a slight sense of anger. "Don't be such a worry-wart, Bradley. This is part of the adventure."

"And who's to say that you'll actually purchase a typewriter? Can you even afford a typewriter?"

He stopped and once I had stopped to face him he grabbed my arms. He wasn't prone to touching me in public, but this unannounced movement, this personally taboo gesture thrilled me. Grabbing me stiffly as though I were under his care and about to be scolded, he spoke: "What does it matter if I can or can't afford the typewriter? Don't you see that the typewriter is simply a metaphor?"

"A metaphor for what?"

"God, you're dense." he teased.

"But we have responsibilities back here, Jack. I have to be at work this evening."

Flustered, he gathered his thoughts before continuing. I could see that I was truly testing his patience with my flippant attitude towards his adventurous streak. Jack thrived off adventure. It was his lifeblood. The attitude I currently harbored towards him was damming not only his morning, but his being.

I half expected him to concede the point with martyrdom and sulk all the way back to our apartment. In an instant I could sense the remainder of the day being spiced simply with quick conversations, essential to the ebb and flow of our relationship. But he didn't concede. And Jack was not a martyr.

"Come with me Brad. Come with me to Newark. Come with me to look for a new typewriter. And if you miss work, then you miss work. And if we miss the rent, then we miss the rent. But years from now, we'll smile from wherever we may be with reverence upon that typewriter. And we'll think to ourselves: 'God, the story tied into that hunk of mechanical typing junk'".

"Can't you find someone without responsibility to accompany you?"

This hurt him and he looked away from me momentarily. I immediately regretted the words, but he took the punch in stride. And this was when I was struck with the epiphany. It blossomed for me like a flower at the sun's first rays.

"I want you with me, Bradley. I want this adventure to be ours."

Realizing the impact of his words, I no longer felt like his friend. He had selected me for this adventure - this metaphorical outing that echoed of life - and he had picked this manner in which to understand if I was willing to join him. I was in the midst of his test. 

I tore my eyes from his and looked around at those who were passing by us without regard. There were plenty of suits and ties, even more in casual clothes and ratty sneakers. It was a typical day in the city. Nobody looked around in awe, yet every singe one of them was excited at the fact that they were in the throes of Manhattan.

When I returned my gaze to him, after I lingered on the figure of a Pan Am stewardess hastily making her way for the West 42nd Street exit, his gaze hadn't changed.

"Let's go to Newark," I agreed. "Lets get a typewriter. Let's have an adventure so grand that when you type it up it makes you thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Let's go, Jack. Let's have an adventure."


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